Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season Two the Story Continues

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season Two the Story Continues

On September 23, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season two starts and the story continues that began last year and ended on a tie-in with the big screen Marvel feature Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The entire first season of the Marvel small screen Joss Whedon program seemed to border on being slammed by the “Whedon Curse” every other episode. The curse, which struck Firefly, Dollhouse, and to a degree, Angel was avoided even though fans of the show wavered between being disgruntled and excited.

Efrem Zimbalist Jr Surprising Comic and Video Game Connection

Efrem Zimbalist Jr Surprising Comic and Video Game Connection

The news that Efrem Zimbalist Jr. has died at age 95 is saddening, this man was the face associated with the F.B.I. for years and a part of television history, but he also had a surprising comic book and video game connection. The deep-voiced cultured characters that made up so many of Zimbalist’s performances was pushed to the side after he left television screens as Inspector Lewis Erskine on the long running TV program The FBI.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005): A Gay Buddy Film

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After being told by numerous people (well, two at least) that Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was a dynamite film that showed implicitly that Shane Black was an awesome director before Iron Man 3, I decided to watch it. Especially after seeing a clip from the film that featured Val Kilmer, Robert Downey Jr and Evan Parke where Downey shoots Parke in the head.

Despite that sounding bad, it was actually quite funny and after being told by my soon-to-be illustrious director Natasha Harmer that, “Oh, it gets even better.” Watching the film became a “done deal.” Just for the record the other “fan” of this film is my daughter Meg’s significant other Max.

Based, in part, on a Brett Halliday novel titled Bodies are Where You Find Them (whatever that means) and with a screen story/screenplay written by Shane Black and directed by same, – And yes, it’s the Shane Black who wrote the Lethal Weapon films, plural, and other great bits of movie magic – Kiss Kiss Bang Bang or KKBB as I’ll refer to it for the rest of this post, is a kick ass, funny film with just enough tongue in cheek humour directed at the audience to take the sting of the sadder bits of the film.

Whew! Try reading that last marathon of a sentence with one breath. Go ahead, try! I dare you!

Narrated by Downey, KKBB is a journey through the Los Angeles movie crowd as dictated by every movie ever made about Hollywood. It abounds with stereotypes, clichés and enough two-dimensional characters to populate a Top Cat cartoon.

But…

These have all been done on purpose. At the beginning of the film, Downey is introducing himself as our narrator and cheerfully telling us how bad he is going to be and then proceeds to show us. He also starts the film standing by a heated swimming pool, occasionally dipping his shoes into the water.

The reference to Sunset Boulevard is obvious and if you didn’t see it? Shame on you! Now go out now and watch Sunset Boulevard and tell me you can’t see the reference. I’ll wait.

Gay Perry and Harry...There must be a joke there somewhere...
Gay Perry and Harry…There must be a joke there somewhere…

Downey plays Harold a cheap thief who gets to Hollywood and the fabulous party with the pool via a  perfectly timed escape from east coast cops where he bursts into an audition and gets hired. While at the party he meets Val Kilmer, a gay private detective who goes by the name of Gay Perry. He meets the host who is mega rich and mega rich Harlan Dexter (played by Corben Bernsen who makes a great bad guy) and sees a girl that piques his interest.

Later he finds out that this intriguing girl is non-other than Harmony Faith Lane (Michelle Monaghan), a childhood crush from his hometown. While trying to win the girl, Harold gets involved with Gay Perry to learn how to be a detective. This “one-night-stand” results in a murder mystery that serpentines through the entire film involving all the main characters.

Love interest Harmony. I will resist all temptation to make jokes about Christmas Stockings...
Love interest Harmony. I will resist all temptation to make jokes about Christmas Stockings…

Downey was, as usual, brilliant. How anyone can put themselves through so much substance abuse hell and still continually “knock it out of the park” is beyond me, but we’re glad he can.

Val Kilmer actually entertained me for once and I actually liked his character.  So kudos to the man who I’ve never really liked much except for  his Doc Holliday in Tombstone and  his role in the  film Red Planet, where he also knocked his role(s) out of the park.

Michelle Monaghan was quirky and cute and funny. She was also sad and funny as the girl who “didn’t make it.” Her bear/beer commercial was sadly funny as well, although having actor Laurence Fishburne voicing said bear in the commercial didn’t hurt.

This film is a real 5 out of 5 stars effort by all concerned. It didn’t quite make me feel a full range of emotion. I cannot, hand on heart, say that, “I laughed, I cried, blah blah.” But laugh I did and the film delivered so adequately on that score that sometimes I even laughed when it wasn’t politically correct to do so.

A great film, that shows that Shane Black is more than a one trick pony.

Simply Great.

Downey Jr and Black...Bromance...
Downey Jr and Black…Bromance…

 

Iron Man 3 Downey Rocks and Paltrow Pops

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I was supposed to go see Oblivion today. My daughter Meg insisted that it would be money well spent because Tom Cruise shines in the film. But when facing the fact that Iron Man 3 was showing as well, it was no contest. That and the fact that Max (Meg’s significant other) was super excited about the film weighted the balance towards Team Downey and Paltrow.

I have seen all the Iron Man films and loved each and every one. But, third time lucky on a sequel that’s actually better than its two predecessors. That’s not to denigrate what director Jon Favreau accomplished with the first two films, but Shane Black‘s production was action packed mayhem that left you gasping.

Iron Man 3 sees Pepper Potts (Paltrow) and Tony Stark (Downey)  as a pretty solid couple. We have Stark narrating a sequence of events that start back in 1999 at Bern, Switzerland. Stark is attending a New Years Eve celebration and he “blows off” scientist super-geek Alldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) and this “inconsiderate” action comes back to haunt Stark later on.

*On a side note here; is there anything that Guy Pearce isn’t in? The boy from Ely, Suffolk, England seems to be in everything recently.*

Super villain Mandarin (Ben Kingsley in a role so far removed from his award-winning Ghandi it’s not even funny) is terrorising the world and worse than that, he’s controlling the television stations as well. When Mandarin harms Happy Hogan (Favreau) Tony takes it personally and not only does he taunt Mandarin on the “live” news, but tells him his address. 

Proving to be too much of a temptation, Mandarin attacks Stark’s home and blows it into the sea.

One of the best things about Iron Man 3 Ben Kingsley.
One of the best things about Iron Man 3 Ben Kingsley.

Don Cheadle is  back as Colonel James Rhodes aka War Machine aka Patriot Man. Rebecca Hall plays ex-girlfriend (one night stand) Maya Henson who, like Aldrich Killian, shows up to “haunt” Stark in the present.

This film was a real run-a-way express train of a film. It featured more action and explosions than the first two films in the series. It featured a villain that seems indestructible, as well as his minions, and had some brilliant bits of humour as well.

For the first time in ages, I actually heard an English audience laughing out loud! I was so shocked, I almost dropped my popcorn.

With a run time of 130 minutes (2 hours and 10 minutes) the film moves so quickly that it doesn’t  feel that long. Iron Man 3 has it all; pacing, action, great performances, brilliant plot and great story.

My only complaint came at the end of the film when it almost seemed like Shane Black looked at his watch and went, “Shit! Is that the time? We’d better wrap this thing up. Now!” The details of the ending will have to be “un-revealed” (no spoilers from me friends and neighbours) but suffice to say, it had a rushed feel to it.

So while I sit here drooling for the new “Avengers” releases that are upcoming, I’ll re-live the film I saw today and rate it at a 5 our of 5 stars for delivering an Iron Man that allowed Downey to rock it like never before and Paltrow to pop her part (sounds rude doesn’t it?) up into the stratosphere.

Don’t wait for the DVD or VoD, watch it now! This is a big screen experience you don’t want to miss!

Iron Man and Patriot Man.
Iron Man and Patriot Man.

The Avengers Assemble (2012): Heroes Whedon Style.

Could there possibly be anyone out there who isn’t aware of writer/director Joss Whedon‘s Avengers AssembleUnless you live in a place with no television, radio, or newspapers, or you have been  shipwrecked on a deserted island for the last two years, you have probably been aware of it for some time. Apparently as long ago as 2008 when both The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man were distributed, Joss had been pencilled in to direct this epic feature.

Epic is probably too small a word, but in the world of terms, it fits. The cast list alone qualifies the film in the category of ‘Wow’ and in the world of cinema, you have to go all out to get those bums on the seats. *or conversely guarantee future sales and rentals of the DVD.

I might just point out that in the US the film is titled Marvel’s The Avengers, while in the UK and Ireland the title has been changed to Avengers Assemble.  I have never understood the English preoccupation with re-naming films. I am fairly certain that the audience that this film is aimed at will know who Marvel’s The Avengers are. Perhaps it has to do with the company logo of Marvel, although I doubt it. I have seen other films retitled for no apparent reason before. I think it might have to do with the fact that the English censors have had a jolly good go at hacking the film and have changed  it from it’s original released form. I do know that the Teaser at the very end of the credits, which show the Avengers in an American fast food restaurant was missing from the print I saw last night.

I will not go into any detail of the plot. Like I said before, unless you’ve been totally removed from civilization you will know it anyway.

So, in true Readers Digest form, here is the plot. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is the head of the espionage agency S.H.I.E.L.D. which has the responsibility of guarding the Tesseract, an extremely powerful blue cube which is in essence a doorway to the far reaches of space. Evil villain Loki  (Tom Hiddleston) shows up, steals the Tesseract and three of Fury’s men, one of whom is Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). He escapes causing huge amounts of devastation to S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters.

Nick then gets permission from the ‘Council’ to recruit the following super-heroes to help get the Tesseract back: The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and eventually Thor ( Chris Hemsworth). Cue a long set of montages (scenes) which show what the super-heroes are doing when they get Nick’s call.

Some old favourites of mine reappear, Agent Phil (Clark Gregg playing one of the most low-key super agents in the world), Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow and how does this lady manage to keep looking so good?) Plus cameos from the Great Stan “the man” Lee, and my personal favourite, Harry Dean Stanton. I was also amazed to see at the end that Alexis Denisof had a role of The Other, one of the aliens that make a deal with Loki. I’ve got a fondness for Denisof, we both worked on the same film in the late 80’s.

This is a film that is packed with so many ‘star’ names it feels like a sort of awards ceremony prelude. But what this film does best is remind the world, in case they forgot, of the genius that is Joss Whedon. Just the snappy up-to-date topical dialogue alone is worth the price of admission. I found my self laughing out loud several times at the interaction between the players.

Agent Phil and his “fan-boy” dealings with Captain America. Iron Man poking Dr Banner (the Hulk) with a sharp pen-like object to see if it will cause Banner to “Hulk-out” and the bickering between Captain America and Iron Man. All the characters had that “touch of Whedon” in the way they interacted with each other. I completely fell apart when Loki first meets the Hulk for the first time. Loki informs the Hulk with disdain that all the Avengers are puny and cannot possibly cause him, A God, any problems. The Hulk wordlessly grabs Loki by the ankles and proceeds to swing him back and forth into the floor, leaving Loki whimpering in pain. The Hulk strides off  muttering, “Puny God.” I also loved the Black Widow putting Agent Phil on hold while she deals with the criminals who have her tied to a chair and, in their minds, about to die.

My only complaint was that the film, necessarily, spent a large amount of screen time getting the Avengers together and getting them to start working as a team. But that was needed as each of the super heroes was a “solo” act. That screen time was essential to show them bonding and realizing that they could work as a team.

I only hope that when the sequels start, Joss Wedon is in the drivers seat again.