Avengers: Age of Ultron Plot Revealed…CAUTION: SPOILERS BELOW

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In the Eastern European country of Sokovia, the Avengers – Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Thor, Bruce Banner, Natasha Romanoff, and Clint Barton – raid a Hydra outpost led by Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, who has been experimenting on humans using the scepter previously wielded by Loki. They encounter two of Strucker’s experiments – twins Pietro, who has superhuman speed, and Wanda Maximoff, who can manipulate minds and throw energy blasts – and apprehend Strucker, while Stark retrieves Loki’s scepter.

Stark and Banner discover an artificial intelligence within the scepter’s gem, and secretly use it to complete Stark’s “Ultron” global defense program. The unexpectedly sentient Ultron, believing he must eradicate humanity to save Earth, eliminates Stark’s A.I. J.A.R.V.I.S. and attacks the Avengers during a victory party at their headquarters. Escaping with the scepter, Ultron uses the resources in Strucker’s Sokovia base to upgrade his rudimentary body and build an army of robot drones. He recruits the Maximoff twins, who want revenge against Stark for their parents’ deaths from his company’s weapons. Together, they visit the base of arms dealer Ulysses Klaue in an African shipyard to obtain vibranium. The Avengers battle them, but Wanda subdues the heroes with haunting visions, causing the Hulk to run ramped and forcing Stark to use his powerful “Veronica” armor to stop him.

A worldwide backlash over the resulting destruction, and the fears Wanda’s hallucinations incited, send the team into hiding at Barton’s safe house farm, where they meet his wife, Laura, and children. Thor departs to consult with Dr. Erik Selvig on the meaning of the apocalyptic future he saw in his hallucination. Realizing an attraction between them, Romanoff and Banner plan to flee together after fighting Ultron. Nick Fury arrives and encourages the team to form a plan to stop Ultron. In Seoul, South Korea, Ultron forces Banner’s friend Dr. Helen Cho to use her synthetic tissue technology, vibranium, and the scepter’s gem to create the perfect body for him. When Ultron begins uploading himself into the body, Wanda is able to read his mind; discovering his plan for human extinction, the Maximoffs turn on Ultron. Rogers, Romanoff, and Barton hunt Ultron and retrieve the synthetic body, but Ultron captures Romanoff.

The Avengers fight amongst themselves when Stark secretly uploads J.A.R.V.I.S. – who is still operational after hiding from Ultron inside the Internet – into the synthetic body. Thor returns to help activate the body with lightning, explaining that the gem on its brow – the Mind Stone, one of the six Infinity Stones and one of the most powerful objects in existence – was part of his vision. The synthetic being, now referred to as the Vision, and the Maximoffs accompany the Avengers to Sokovia, where Ultron has used the remaining vibranium to build a machine that lifts a large part of the city skyward, intending to crash it into the ground and cause global extinction. As the city begins to lift, Banner rescues Romanoff, who awakens the Hulk for the battle. The Avengers fight Ultron’s army while delaying Ultron from activating his plan’s final procedure. Fury arrives in a Helicarrier with Maria Hill, James Rhodes, and S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to assist in evacuating civilians, but Pietro dies when he shields Barton from a barrage of fire. A grieving Wanda abandons her post to destroy Ultron’s primary body in revenge, inadvertently allowing one of his drones to activate the machine. The landmass plummets, but Stark and Thor overload the machine and shatter the city into pieces. In the aftermath, the Hulk, unwilling to endanger Romanoff by being with her, departs in a Quinjet, while the Vision confronts Ultron’s last remaining body.

Later, the Avengers have established a new base in upstate New York, run by Fury, Hill, Cho, and Selvig. Believing the Mind Stone is safe with the Vision, Thor returns to Asgard to learn more about the forces he suspects have manipulated recent events. As Stark and Barton also retire from the team, Rogers and Romanoff prepare to train new Avengers: Rhodes, Wanda, the Vision, and Sam Wilson.

In a mid-credits scene, Thanos retrieves the Infinity Gauntlet2 and, dissatisfied with the failures of his pawns, vows to hunt for the Infinity Stones personally.


Oscar Winner Michael Keaton?

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In My Humble Opinion: Michael Keaton should certainly walk away with the Oscar for Best Actor; if not based solely on his performance in Birdman, but for the years of work he has put into his career and the memorable roles he has given us. I know, I know, it’s not about how much work an individual has done or how many projects he/she has completed; it’s about the performance he/she is nominated for that particular year…or at least that’s what some people will theorize. Should I bring up Peter Jackson’s Best Director snubs for LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, but finally winning for The Return of the King? Or maybe George Clooney being snubbed for Best Director for Good Night and Good Luck, but the Academy not wanting him to leave empty-handed so they gave him Best Supporting Actor for Syriana, robbing Paul Giamatti, William Hurt, and Jake Gyllenhaal who I feel gave better performances.

Anyway, back to Michael Keaton and his nomination for Birdman. Let’s take a look at everyone that’s nominated for Best Actor to gain some perspective. First you have good ole Beetlejuice himself Michael Keaton, who has been entertaining audiences for the last 40 years. The next actor who has a good chance of walking away with the statue is Eddie Redmayne for his role in The Theory of Everything. This young lad has been in the game for 23 years (I know, I was surprised he’s been acting that long too). Next is Benedict Cumberbatch who is nominated for his role in The Imitation Game. Benedict has been acting for about 15 years and will surely have many more nominations down the road. Bradley Cooper makes history by being one of a handful of actors receiving an Oscar nomination three years in a row, not bad for someone that’s been acting for 16 years. This year he is nominated for his role in American Sniper. Lastly we have Steve Carell…yes you read that right. The funny man who has been acting for 29 years received a nomination for his serious performance in Foxcatcher.

Every actor listed above is obviously talented, and will surely continue to receive accolades and recognition for their performances in the years to come. I just feel that with Mr. Keaton’s extensive career in acting and his strong performance in Birdman that maybe he deserves a little more recognition this year, in the form of an Oscar. Maybe some of the performances by other actors listed above were better, like I said, this is my opinion. It’s always a tricky thing when you try to decide who the “frontrunner” is and who may be that dark horse that comes from behind and takes home the trophy…right Giamatti, Hurt, and Gyllenhaal? Surely we all remember when Cuba Gooding Jr. won for Jerry Maguire. He beat out Edward Norton for his role in Primal Fear which in my opinion was a gross oversight…Norton should have clearly walked away with a statue that night.

 

Here’s hoping the powers that be will recognize an actor that’s been in the game for over half his life and has given us some memorable performances. The list could go on and on but to name a few: Beetlejuice, Jack Butler in Mr. Mom, Carter Hayes in Pacific Heights, Robert Jones in My Life, Douglass Kinney in Multiplicity, Bruce Wayne in Batman, and now Riggan Thompson in Birdman. Here’s hoping the powers that be will honor this seasoned performer and that Michael Keaton can soon add “Oscar Winner” to his list of achievements!


A VETERAN’S DAY MOVIE RUNDOWN

In My Humble Opinion:  There is no way to make a definitive list of, “the best war movies” ever made.  Hell, you can even argue with what constitutes a “war” movie itself.  With that in mind, I humbly submit this list of movies that I believe fit the bill of great war movies or great movies with military themes.  Please feel free to comment below with any movies I may have left off the list that you feel should have made the cut.  Dedicated to all that have borne the battle on this Veteran’s Day.

 

In no particular order:

 

1.  We Were Soldiers

 

2. Full Metal Jacket

 

3. Jarhead

 

4. Glory

 

5. Saving Private Ryan

 

6. Platoon

 

7. Black Hawk Down

 

8. Stalag 17

 

9. The Messenger

 

10. The Deer Hunter

 


Login Successful: Halt and Catch Fire Renewed For Second Season

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In My Humble Opinion:  Halt and Catch Fire being renewed for a second season may be the best news the AMC  network has had for a while.  Yeah you read that right, I’m more excited about a Season Two of Halt and Catch Fire than I am about the news of a Walking Dead spin-off, because frankly…Halt and Catch Fire is a much better show.  Now, before you go all crazy Rick Grimes on me, I will say, The Walking Dead is a good show okay, but if you haven’t checked out Halt and Catch Fire yet, Alt+Tab / switch screens and make it a point to do so.  I may be partial because the show takes place during the PC boom of the 80’s, a decade near and dear to my heart but there are plenty of other reasons as well.  The writing is great, the characters are complicated, and the pace (yes I mean both the speed of the show and the lead actor Lee Pace) are just spot on.  In fact, I will say this here and now, Lee Pace’s Joe MacMillan could easily fill the void once filled by Jon Hamm’s Don Draper.  Both characters could sell ice to Eskimos, and have mysterious backgrounds that capture the viewer’s interest from the get go.  Hmmmmm, Joe ‘Mac’Millan…little nod to Mac computers?  Anyway, in addition to the work by Lee Pace, the rest of the cast turns in superb performances as well.  Mackenzie Davis as the young protegé/rebel Cameron Howe can’t decide whether she wants to buy into the system or maintain her counter-culture mentality (though it looks by the season finale she’s definitely leaning towards the latter).  Her love/work relationship with Joe MacMillan was a focal point not only her character for in Season One but MacMillan’s as well.  Two other fascinating characters are those played by Scoot McNairy and Kerry Bishe.  McNairy and Bishe play married couple Gordon and Donna Clark who both realize that they’ve grown up and have responsibilities but long for the days when they were young, adventurous, and the world was theirs for the taking.  Side Note: McNairy and Bishe also played a married couple in the film Argo…there go impress your friends.  While you’re at it, tell your friends to check out Halt and Catch Fire!


Dredd…Let’s Hope For A Sequel

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In My Humble Opinion: Dredd, starring Karl Urban was a violent, gritty adaptation that captured the essence of the comic book character.  As always, I will be up front and honest and say that I didn’t read much Judge Dredd, but was turned onto the character by the god awful movie starring Sylvester Stallone.  The movie was horrible, but the concept was intriguing.  Thank goodness my good friend Travis Becker was a Judge Dredd fan and assured me that the movie was so far off the mark it wasn’t funny.  This led to many conversations between the two of us and lots of research online with regards to the character.

Once the movie Dredd was announced I was pretty stoked to see what it would be all about.  When I first I heard the movie would predominantly take place in one building, a la Die Hard, I was a little disheartened.  I wasn’t sure how the movie would be able to keep the suspense going all while taking place in one building.  Then of course I remembered that the buildings in Mega City One were referred to as “blocks” and were immense structures spanning an entire city block…not to mention 200 stories high.  First viewing I was somewhat split, but upon watching it a second time I really gained an appreciation for it.  Karl Urban seemed to have Dredd down to a T, not to mention he had this perfect chin quality that allowed him to fill the characters helmet perfectly lol.  Another performance you need to be on the look out for is Ma-Ma played by Lena Headey.  If you think she’s bad ass in HBO’s Game of Thrones, you’ll be blown away by her performance in this movie.

The movie was violent sure, but it also had some great cinematic scenes (Ma-Ma being forced to inhale the drug Slo-Mo towards the end of the film springs to mind)  The film unfortunately wasn’t a strong performer at the box office, but has found an audience on Home Video and is now being labeled a “cult film.”  Despite the underwhelming box office results, Dredd received very favorable reviews and currently sits at 78% on Rotten Tomatoes.  Talks of a sequel have been going on since the films release in Sept. 2012 but no final decision has been made as of yet.  Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the word of mouth and strong following the film has received since being released on DVD / Home Video will garner another installment.  If for anything else, because Karl Urban’s chin is just too perfect to be denied another outing as Judge Dredd!

 

Read More At:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dredd

 


Blast Off With Rocket From The Crypt

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Travis Becker offers up his Humble Opinion.

Saturday April 5, 2014, legendary San Diego band Rocket from the Crypt wrapped up the east coast dates of their reunion tour in Washington DC in front of a capacity crowd of about 700 fans at Black Cat in Washington DC’s U Street neighborhood. While this may not really qualify as a pop culture event in the broadest sense, Sean and I were in attendance, so here are a few of my humble opinions about how it went down.

Rocket from the Crypt certainly isn’t a household name musically.  Formed in the early 90’s, the band released a prolific output of music, much of it on limited edition vinyl singles released on many different independent labels.  They almost broke through in the mid-90’s with a pair of releases on Interscope Records (Scream, Dracula, Scream and RFTC), but it was not to be and the band continued on in obscurity until 2005 when they disbanded to allow Speedo, ND, Petey X, Apollo 9, JC 2000 and Ruby Mars to pursue other projects.  The band’s influence, however, never really diminished among those in the know.  Eventually, the band reunited for an appearance on the children’s television show, Yo Gabba Gabba, a show on which band singer, guitarist and found John “Speedo” Reis had previously appeared as a character known as, “The Swami” .  A few dates in Europe followed and then, to the joy of their legion of devoted fans, a tour of the U.S.

Personally, I discovered Rocket from the Crypt around 1996.  I was working at a music store while attending college and in one shipment of cut-out product (CD’s discontinued by record labels that are then sold to retail stores at a discount to be sold in bargain bins and such), I found a CD with a gnarly-looking scorpion on the front.  I hadn’t heard of the band, but the cover was enough for me.  As soon as I played Scream, Dracula, Scream for the first time I was hooked.  The power and density of the sound was like nothing I had ever heard.  It was a wall of guitars, drums and to my great surprise, even horns.  It wasn’t long before I owned all of their records I could find and even had a tattoo of their logo done, my first tattoo experience.  The one thing that continued to elude me, however, was the live power of Rocket from the Crypt, and when they disbanded in 2005, I just assumed that seeing them in concert was a dream I would have to put away forever.  Until one fateful date last December, that was, when I saw the tour dates for the East Coast come through on an Internet presale.  I didn’t hesitate at all, even though the show was a couple of hours away in Washington, I knew I was going, no matter what.

Saturday’s performance did not disappoint the eighteen years’ worth of lofty expectations I had built up.  The band hit the stage following a short performance by opener Dan Sartain, an entertaining Rockabilly and Blues singer who recalled Dick Dale, Chuck Berry and the Ramones in equal measure through his set.  Resplendent in matching black and white outfits, Rocket from the Crypt wasted no time, launching immediately into a group of songs from their 1995 EP, the State of the Art is on Fire.  They segued into many of their better known songs from Circa: Now! right up through their most recent studio offering, Live from Camp X-Ray.  Highlights for me included the desperate sounding Young Livers, and the show closer, Glazed, which I half expected them to jam out and extend, but which worked just as well in the tight arrangement they went with.  The band played like the seasoned vets they are and the in-house sound was spot-on, but there was a loose, fun feeling throughout.  Adding to this was Speedo’s between song banter, which had me cracking up all night.

I hadn’t been to Black Cat in years, and the neighborhood has certainly grown up in the time I’ve been gone.  The lonely Domino’s Pizza I remembered was gone, replaced by a Trader Joe’s and at least a dozen restaurants that looked out of my price range and dress code.  Perhaps the only disappointment for me was the DC crowd which seemed fairly sedate for the joyous revival happening in their midst.  This is, of course, with the exception for the one guy in front of Sean and I for the first few songs who was either the most enthusiastic air-guitar player I have ever witnessed or was having some kind of seizure.  All things taken together, in my humble opinion, a great time was had by all, and in Speedo’s words, “Everybody say yeah!  Alright, the concert was a success!”  Hopefully this little reunion was successful enough to keep Rocket from the Crypt around for a few more tours and dare I dream – a new record down the road sometime.


A Captain America: The Winter Soldier Review

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By: Joshua Fargason

A Captain America: The Winter Soldier review written by our very own Captain America, Captain Joshua Fargason

 

Josh’s Humble Opinion:  Like many, I have eagerly anticipated Marvel Studios latest release, Captain America: The Winter Soldier (CA:TWS). I’ve been a diehard fan of Captain America since childhood. Having seen the movie, I have to say Marvel has not let its audience down in the least. The latest installment of their “megafranchise” continues to build the momentum built up thus far by its predecessors.

Bottom line up front for those who are wondering: there are two post-credits scenes. If that’s all you were wondering before heading off to the movie, there you go. You’re set. Enjoy!

For those who want to know more, here we go:

I could go on at length about Evans, Johansson, Jackson, & Redford, but for the sake of brevity I will just say they all turned in excellent performances worthy of their caliber. Casting director Sarah Finn and her team did their job well with the entire cast. Standouts, for me, were two new faces in the franchise. Anthony Mackie delivers a very real and human portrayal of a military veteran who continues to serve, both as a Veteran’s Affairs counselor and later as The Falcon. Emily VanCamp’s part, though small in scope for this movie, sets her up for future work in the Marvel universe and she is also involved in what I deem the most heroic moment of the movie. More on that later. One humorous note: the stand-in for Chris Evans is named Jordan Coulson. Just can’t keep a Coulson out of a Marvel movie, I guess.

Director of Photography Trent Opaloch (District 9, Elysium) and Production Designer Peter Wenham (Blood Diamond, The Queen) and their respective teams deserve mention for excellent work that creates a believable world for this conspiracy thriller. Given that there are fantastical elements to the story, it still looks and feels realistic. I suspect re-watching this in the future will yield some pleasant surprises; I missed some dialogue because I was laughing so hard at an unexpected Pulp Fiction reference planted in a scene (see if you notice it toward the end).

The story itself keeps a great tempo. The production team and editor Jeffrey Ford (The Avengers, Iron Man 3) give enough time for great human moments between Cap & the rest of the cast that establish these characters as people without slowing down the pace. One can tell that the characters give a damn about each other throughout. The various scenes between Captain America and the Black Widow set up the multiple levels of tension in that relationship very well. Evans and Johansson’s chemistry create belief that the two characters have worked together and gotten comfortable around each other since we saw them last. Scenes between Cap and Sam Wilson, meanwhile, have a very humanizing effect on the perception of Steve Rogers: he sees himself as just another veteran and relates to other vets as brothers-in-arms, there isn’t any of the celebrity attitude one finds in Tony Stark. Meanwhile, the bits of character we get from Bucky Barnes really leave me wanting more.   While great credit goes to the actors, I feel the directing team and editor deserve accolades for how well they’ve handled these relationships.

I feel great credit for this movie’s excellence goes to fight coordinator Chris Carnel (American History X, Iron Man) and the directing team of Anthony and Joe Russo (You, Me, & Dupree; Community). The fights and action sequences in CA:TWS are BRUTAL. The chief critique I have with hand to hand sequences in movies like the Bourne series is that while they are impressive, they are too fast in action and in the way they are shot to actually follow the story of what is happening in the fight. Not so in this movie: the fight sequences are a completely essential element of character and story development in CA:TWS. One sees from the very beginning just how hard Captain America hits with fist and shield which sets up just how dangerous the Winter Soldier is when they fight. The fights also set up that while Cap is a super-human, he’s still a mortal man who feels a punch and is not bullet proof. There is real danger for the heroes.

Without giving away too much of the story, I do want to mention my favorite moment of the movie had nothing to do with the “supers.” Right at the climax of the story, we see “normal” SHIELD techs & agents (to include Emily VanCamp’s Sharon Carter) faced with having to decide for themselves whether or not to do the right thing in the face of death. One particular technician becomes the biggest hero in the movie in my opinion because he lacks any sort of superpower in a superhero movie yet still decides to risk death for what’s right. This also leads to my chief critique of the movie: after that point the movie is full of regular humans fighting their hardest to do what’s right and sacrificing for it, but in the end none of them are effectual. It still comes down to just the superheroes. I think having those regular humans make more of a difference makes a greater testament to real heroism. That’s just me, though, and this is a movie about a superhero.

Having said that, CA:TWS is an excellent movie full of some very human moments, great action sequences, and heroism on many scales. It certainly changes the Marvel movie universe on a fundamental level. I believe it is a must-see for anyone interested in film for both the handling of the storytelling and to keep track of how this “megafranchise” beast that is likely to become the new paradigm works out. I’m anxious for the next installment.


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