On Screen

On Screen: Crimson Peak

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Crimson_PeakDirector: Guillermo del Toro

Cast:
Tom Hiddleston
Mia Wasikowska
Jessica Chastain
Charlie Hunnam
Jim Beaver

In the aftermath of a family tragedy, an aspiring author is torn between love for her childhood friend and the temptation of a mysterious outsider. Trying to escape the ghosts of her past, she is swept away to a house that breathes, bleeds – and remembers. (IMDb)

The first thing to keep in mind about this film is that it is definitely a Gothic Romance, not a Horror film. If you go in expecting horror, you may be disappointed, but as a Gothic Romance it is extremely well done.

Crimson Peak has all the tropes that make it a perfect gothic film – family tragedy, a dark mysterious stranger, and a creepy old house. There are also ghosts. While the ghostly appearances do at times cause a few scares, this film isn’t about the scares so much as it creates a wonderfully creepy atmosphere as you watch the film. There’s also the element of suspense as you wait for something else to happen or appear.

The plot of Crimson Peak is honestly quite predictable – I don’t think there was a single reveal that I didn’t see coming – but that predictability didn’t take away from the film at all. What makes this film great for viewing isn’t the twists or the surprises, but rather the ride it takes you on as you get to those twists and turns. As I mentioned above, this film has an atmosphere and del Toro is a master at building tension and creating that creepy feeling as you’re watching the film.

The cast of the film is excellent. There are many familiar faces, and every one of them puts in a terrific performance. As a Supernatural fan I have a particular fondness for Jim Beaver and it was fun to see him on a movie screen for once. He is a terrific actor and I’m so excited for him in this movie. I will admit I am also a little biased where Tom Hiddleston is concerned – I would probably love him in anything – but he really did put in a great performance. I am particularly excited for him as this is likely his biggest non-Marvel film release to date. It’s about time audiences start seeing how excellent an actor he is outside of the MCU.

It wasn’t until I was home from viewing the movie that I recalled that Hiddleston had actually replaced Benedict Cumberbatch in this film. As much as I also love Cumberbatch, I cannot picture him in the role at all. Hiddleston definitely owned it and did a wonderful job. He brought a level of depth to the character that made the overall story that much more compelling.

The visuals in this film are also beautiful. Every scene is wonderfully set up and composed; del Toro truly is a masterful filmmaker. Despite the dark and dreary setting, del Toro uses color brilliantly. I have read that the entire house was actually built on the sound stage, and I can only imagine what it must have felt like to walk onto that set for the first time. It is impressive to know that the house actually existed and isn’t just CGI.

While discussing the movie afterward, a friend of mine described it as Edgar Allan Poe with a touch of V.C. Andrews. While I have never read Flowers in the Attic, I suspect that to be an accurate description, especially as the house definitely had a House of Usher vibe.

If you’re interested in Gothic Romance, and can handle some minor disturbing imagery (the ghosts may not be terrifying, but they are somewhat disturbing) and mild violence, then I highly recommend this film. It was extremely well done from beginning to end with terrific writing and imagery, and a wonderful cast. It’s a perfect film for the Halloween season.

On Screen: Avengers: Age of Ultron

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age of ultronA word about spoilers: I hate spoilers. I avoid them at all cost. In return, I avoid spoiling anyone. Therefore I will attempt to make this review spoiler-free, but everyone has their own definition of what constitutes a “spoiler” so proceed at your own risk.

Now where was I? Right, The Avengers: Age of Ultron.

I have been looking forward to this movie for the past three years – almost exactly because three years ago today the first Avengers movie was released. I knew there was no way the follow up would disappoint, especially if Joss Whedon were still at the helm. Every film in Phase III just made me that much more excited about the movie.So the question becomes, did it live up to the hype? Was it worth waiting for? I believe the answer to both those questions is a definite “YES.” It’s not a perfect movie – it had some flaws, which I will get to – but the film as a whole was fast-paced, action-packed, hilarious, and just plain fun to watch.

Age of Ultron begins with the Avengers already assembled and searching for Loki’s scepter, which is in the hands of Baron von Strucker. Their intel tells them Strucker has been experimenting on “enhanced” humans, so they’re not that surprised when they run into two of those individuals on the mission. While I loved this sequence, and it contained one of my favorite moments of humor (which then gets carried through the rest of the film) this also presents the first flaw in the film. Prior to Age of Ultron, Strucker was only ever seen in a post-credits scene for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and there isn’t a lot of explanation as to who he is, what he’s up to, or how the Avengers received the intel to even lead them to Strucker. If you’ve been watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. the past few weeks you probably wouldn’t have even asked those questions. Which is the first weakness of this film – the Strucker plot seems ill-used and really only makes sense if you’ve been following the whole of the MCU, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. included.

I was a little uncertain about the use of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch in this film, mostly because Marvel is extremely limited in how they are able to use those characters. Unfortunately, the fact that Marvel doesn’t own the rights to mutants or Magneto, and possibly even the names “Scarlet Witch” and “Quicksilver” means that the Maximoffs origin story gets rewritten. I was hoping for some sort of Easter Egg type nod to Magneto, but if there was one I missed it. I ended up really liking these characters and the arc they had in the film. In some ways I even liked this version of Quicksilver better than the one that appeared in X-Men: Days of Future Past, though part of that could be just because I liked the actor better.

The Vision was the other addition to the team in this film, and I just wish we could have seen more of him in action. I did like the few scenes we had with him, and he even got a few humorous beats (more situational humor than actual lines) but I like what I’ve seen so far. I’m hoping we’ll get to see much more of him in Infinity War, if not sooner.

One of my favorite parts of this film was the expanded role Hawkeye plays this time around. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I was pleasantly surprised with what we learned about Hawkeye – and Clint Barton – in this film, and I found myself liking him even more. Considering Hawkeye has had the least amount of screen time in any of the standalone films (only appearing for about five minutes in Thor) it’s about time we actually got to learn more about the Avenger we knew the least up until this time.

Which brings me to another aspect of this movie that I enjoyed. The first Avengers was about the team coming together and learning to work together and be a team. By this movie they are already a team, and you can see that they’ve grown as a team. This movie lets us get to know each of them a little more, and get to know how they feel about their place in the team. There’s a more personal feel to each characters’ arc in this movie, and you get to see how the relationships and dynamics of the team come into play and I really liked that.

As much I loved this movie overall, it wasn’t perfect (as I stated above). If you look at The Avengers in general as a trilogy (with both parts of the Infinity War counting as a single film) this movie fell into the typical second movie trap. You come into the story already in the middle of the action – there’s no more origin stories to tell, unless you count the twins and Ultron – and a lot of the film seems to be devoted to moving pieces into position for Phase III. Don’t get me wrong, I really did love this movie, but there was a distinct lack of focus with a lot of threads going off in random directions.and not all of them gathered together again.

If you thought Andy Serkis‘ appearance as Ulysses Klaue was short-lived and took note of his escape, that’s probably because he and all the references to Wakanda were there to set-up Black Panther. Thor’s vision of Heimdall could be heralding the arrival of Ragnarok in the next Thor film, and the frequent reference to the Infinity Gems is setting up the two-part Infinity War. Meanwhile, the animosity between Captain America and Iron Man was there to foreshadow the events of Civil War. The first Avengers film was able to focus just on bringing the team together and defeating Loki’s army, while this one spent more time setting the stage for what’s coming which left it feeling a little disjointed at times.

However, despite its flaws, Age of Ultron is still a lot of fun to watch, and I definitely plan to see it again (and again…). I wouldn’t be surprised if you still think The Avengers was better, but I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with Age of Ultron either. The one thing Whedon does masterfully is insert just the right amount of humor at exactly the right times. Even in the height of battle the heroes toss out one-liners that feel entirely natural and well-placed. Age of Ultron certainly has that patented Whedon blend of humor, action, drama, and heart. It’s one of the reasons I love everything he does, and it’s one of the reasons I love both Avengers movies so much.