Category Archives: Popcorn Tuesdays

Fear the Walking Dead

It’s not always easy accepting newcomers with open arms. There’s an uncertainty, a fear of the unknown.

As an avid fan of The Walking Dead – the comics, the TV show, the TellTale Games – I approached Fear the Walking Dead with a great sense of unease. Perfectly content with my monthly comic purchase and the stress of a new season every October completely satisfies my Kirkman-centred zombie craving. This new show – the spin off, with no roots in the original material – is something I did not want, but felt a duty to the fandom to watch it.

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The Walking Dead is set in a universe where pop-culture zombies did not exist. The Romero films hadn’t been made; Shaun didn’t go round mums, get Liz back, and sort his life out; and no-one was Left 4 Dead. In the comics, “zombies” is uttered only by accident, as pointed out in the occasional letters page where it’s accidentally slipped from the lips of a character. There were no zombies before the first zombie: the one that started it all. And that’s what makes Fear the Walking Dead so very creepy.

In a world where the dead stay dead, in fiction and reality, it’s hard to understand what exactly is going on when you witness people tearing and clawing one another apart, or defying mortal injury. Surely, if you were to witness these things, you must be crazy – an inventive, and dark imagination, delightfully overactive, particularly if, say, you were a heroin addict.

The premier episode of Fear the Walking Dead focuses on precisely that. Nick, a young adult sleeping rough and battling drug addiction, wakes up to find his friend Gloria snacking on another of their camp-mates. Running, afraid, he’s taken to hospital and questioned by the police. Sure, something bad clearly happened in the church they were hiding in, but people don’t just eat other people. The drugs have rotted his brain, right?

The remainder of the episode works to unsettle this notion of normality. It can’t be anything as crazy as Nick proclaims, but something’s clearly not right. We follow Nick’s family in California: his mother, Madison, his sister, Alicia, and his mother’s new partner, Travis. It’s nice to see a zombie outbreak which focuses on a family unit, rather than randy teenagers or helpless victims. There’s a strong unit at play here, and it will be interesting to see how it develops. These people aren’t looking to save themselves, but each other – on levels much deeper than fleeing flesh-eaters.

Barely any walkers make an appearance in this first episode, which plays to the overall strength of the Walking Dead franchise. It’s about the destruction of an old world and the creation of new community; fight or flight; survival of the fittest – and usually the scariest monsters are the ones who are still breathing.

The cinematography is gorgeous, with some truly stunning shots. The grotesque paradox of the blood-stained drug den within a collapsed church was disturbingly wonderful. Like the Walking Dead, everything is deliberate, with the smallest of details serving significance.

Fear the Walking Dead has kicked off on a high note. The pathway leading to the explosive new season of the Walking Dead, it has big shoes to fill, and a vocal audience to appease, but it looks as if Fear the Walking Dead can measure up. Developed and flawed characters we can care about; seeds of Government deception sown, and a morbid foreshadowing as the audience is only too aware of the future that awaits any characters capable enough to survive, this new installment holds plenty of promise. So, maybe it’s okay to accept these newcomers – to follow new stories down the dark rabbit hole of the apocalypse.

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The Gift

Occasionally, hidden among the brash blockbusters of summer, comes a film so brilliantly inspired and original that it deserves a fairer chance than it will inevitably get. Such is the case for Joel Edgerton’s thriller/mystery, The Gift – unfortunately left lurking in the shadows of Mission Impossible and Fantastic Four.

This review will be as spoiler-free as possible, as I urge you all to check it out for yourselves.

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When I first saw the trailer, I wasn’t in the slightest bit interested. I love a good thriller, but the story looked laughable, and highly predictable. But as reviews rolled in, my intrigue grew. Something about this seemed special, and the thought of seeing it played heavily on my mind.

For the first twenty minutes or so, my heart sank as I believed I’d been drawn into the run-of-the-mill predictable home-invasion thriller. A well-to-do husband (Jason Bateman) and wife (Rebecca Hall) move to a new home to start a new life and family. They run into an old acquaintance (Joel Edgerton), one of the husband’s old, estranged classmates, and an awkward friendship quickly turns into unwelcome company.

But as quickly as the original set ups are established, they’re torn down again. Completely enthralling, it’s impossible to tell where the next twist will come from – or where it will lead. There’s no chase through the house, with the heroine crouched in a dark corner desperately trying to call the police – only for her battery to die; there’s no ignorant character curiosity, where they can’t even turn lights on to check a weird noise; there isn’t an axe-wielding, knife-waving maniac chasing anyone. No. The Gift is a slow, subtle unravelling – a true edge-of-the-seat psychological thriller that Hitchcock himself would be proud of.

The performances are fantastic, with Bateman arguably giving the performance of his career. Far from the brilliantly blundering comedy of the Bluth family in Arrested Development, Bateman (as Simon) creates a truly believable character, becoming increasingly unsettling as we delve deeper into the rabbit hole. Rebecca Hall (as Robyn) was so engaging that she frequently stole the scene: a fascinating heroine of modern suburban imprisonment, trapped by fear and anxiety. And with The Gift, Joel Edgerton firmly establishes himself as a cinematic triple threat: writer, director, and actor. Edgerton created such an enthralling and weird character in Gordo that it was difficult not to feel empathy for him whilst also shifting uncomfortably at his presence.

As The Gift unravels, it pushes beyond the unexpected. The twists and turns become inevitably darker, blurring the boundaries between right and wrong, good and bad, demonstrating the true destructive power of suggestion. It questions of the cost of (what we perceive to be) power. The grand life, good job, beautiful wife. The true price is perfectly connoted in the motif of the glass house. Glass goes two ways: everyone can look into your perfect life, but you’re enclosed: trapped, left isolated – looking out at the rest of the world.

Every action has a consequence, with the past catching up to us all eventually. Tremendous and troubling, The Gift is not to be missed.

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Mad Max: Furiosa’s Road

Since first seeing Mad Max: Fury Road, I have not been able to get it out of my mind. Now, after multiple viewings, a week of blaring nothing but the soundtrack, and raving about it with anyone that will listen, I’ve talked myself out of shaving my head and driving a war rig across the desert, and have finally been able to put my thoughts into coherent words. Spoilers lie ahead!

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What a lovely day!

The latest Mad Max sequel/reboot is a full-throttle triumph, kicking into high gear and keeping its foot on the accelerator until the credits roll two hours later. A beautiful piece of cinema which is only heightened by breath-taking live-action stunts and a rocking soundtrack, Fury Road hits you like a sudden adrenaline rush, becoming everything you want in a summer popcorn movie, and then some. Behind the fast cars, the stunning scenery, the outlandish explosions and high-flying stunts is real depth. After two viewings, I still barely feel as if I have scratched the surface. But what I can tell you is there are lessons to be learned from this blockbuster.

Who killed the world?

Mad Max: Fury Road would surely have served better being titled Furiosa’s Road, because that’s exactly what it is. George Miller’s return to the post-apocalyptic wasteland of the future is Imperator Furiosa’s story – Mad Max is merely along for the ride. In fact, his one big heroic action scene in which he confronts and kills the Bullet Farmer happens off-screen as the audience stays with Furiosa and the girls.

Charlize Theron steals the show as Imperator Furiosa: the one-armed badass on a mission of redemption. Lesson One: George Miller knows how to write women – like they’re people. Usually in action movies, the heroine is either hyper-feminised: running in heels and firing weapons without a hair out of place; or masculinised until it may as well be a guy in drag. Not in Fury Road. Instead we have a whole host of amazing characters who are surprisingly fleshed out in a movie with such a lack of dialogue.

Furiosa is not held back by her femininity. Instead, it pushes her forward: it is her source of power. In a world where everything has died, where warlords rule the roads, she cares about making a change; about pursuing a non-barbaric life. Her mission to rescue Immortan Joe’s wives and take them to the fabled Green Place is not only a maternal drive, but it is one which longs to create new life.

This is true of all the women in the movie. Their hope and capability to start again keeps them driven under extreme circumstances. It’s a responsibility. From their ability to have children – which “will not be warlords” – to their carrying of seeds. New life lies within these women, and they’re capable of making it happen. They just need to win the world back from the warlords.

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It’s repeatedly asked throughout the movie: “who killed the world?” The answer? Toxic masculinity. (That is: a harmful patriarchy which is violent, unemotional, and sexually aggressive). This is clear from the nature of the movie itself: the thrill the warboys get from brutal kills, the excessive violence, the extreme explosions. Joe’s son, Rictus, expresses anger by firing bullets repeatedly into the air rather than communicating. Indeed, it’s interesting that male characters, including Max, are muzzled during the movie, and many communicate in little more than grunts. Perhaps a comment on the modern day approach of attacking first and asking questions later. Max himself recognises his place in this new world. At the end of the movie, Max doesn’t stay with the girls at the citadel. Why? Because he knows he doesn’t belong in their new world of creation, growth, and renewal. His “world is one of fire. Of blood.”

It’s incredibly refreshing for a movie to portray a variety of women, each representing different things, but are definitely more than just a body to ogle at. When the wives are originally revealed, unclipping their belts, freeing themselves from Joe’s ownership, an unnerving sense of ‘here we go’ settled over the room. Eye-rolling ensued. Max is going to have to save them there bimbos. But no. Fury Road gives a big middle finger to typical action movie tropes before darting off in the opposite direction. We know the terrible circumstances these women are running from without having to be shown. You don’t need to abuse women on screen for entertainment: the idea should be – and is – bad enough. There’s no relationships or romance, only compassion and respect. These girls are completely competent in handling themselves, stepping up when it’s needed. Because that’s what Fury Road is about: survival.

Just as the stereotypical roles of women in action movies veers into the unexpected, the tropes of the male action hero are also confronted. Max is not the lone soldier, punching his way through a world alone. He can’t be. His solo escape attempt failed. In this world, survival is the only objective. Gender, race, class, sexuality – none of it matters. Instead, it’s people helping other people escape from unthinkable circumstances. If Furiosa needs to use Max’s shoulder to steady her gun, so be it. Get the job done, no matter what.

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The Anti-Seed: “Plant it and watch something die.”

In a post-apocalyptic world, where little but sand and salt are left on the earth, bullets are in ample supply. The destructive nature of humanity takes hold, and the power-hungry thrive. Fury Road acts as a warning. Who killed the world? We did.

It’s no surprise the higher up the power-chain you see in Fury Road, the more grotesque people are. The literal fat cats. War destroys beauty. But it also makes beauty valuable, hence Immortan Joe’s pride in his wives. These girls will help him father healthy male heirs whilst being his prized possessions – one even has all of her teeth!  Their value is particularly well demonstrated when Splendid uses her pregnant body as a human shield. She knows Joe will not sacrifice his favourite wife, particularly as she is carrying an heir. This idea is paralleled in the warboys, who are portrayed as being ultimately disposable. As one anonymous warboy dives in front of a bullet to save Immortan Joe, his body is shaken from the car, and his sacrifice goes seemingly unnoticed. He is deemed less valuable than Splendid, or any of the other wives.

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I cannot fully express my admiration and adoration for Mad Max: Fury Road, but I do believe it has opened doors for a new wave of action movie, and that’s a great thing. We may now see the rise of the realistic female action hero; a new portrayal of how men and women can work side by side, no matter their gender, for a common goal. Fury Road has blasted right through the expectations that men won’t go and see female-fronted action movies, or that they’d hate every second of it. And it disproves that women just don’t like that kind of thing. Well, Hollywood, I for one would much rather sit through Mad Max: Fury Road multiple times a day than Pitch Perfect 2 just once (I imagine it’s just more laughing at the fat one, but it’s okay, cause she laughs at her being fat as well, right?!). Who killed the world? We might. But there’s still time to save it.

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Agent Carter

I was rather sceptical about watching Marvel’s Agent Carter, given that it was heavily promoted as ‘Peggy’s life after Cap’. Perhaps I was afraid I was going to be offered 8 episodes of sulking and crying, with some other soldier swooping in and showing her it’s okay: there’s still a fella out there for her! But with all the Age of Ultron backlash, I was determined to find something out there that Marvel had gotten “right”. And boy, have they got Agent Carter right!

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I instantly fell in love with the series. Instead of being everything I feared it would be, it was everything I was hoping it would be – and then some! Yes, we pick up Peggy right where Cap left her, and of course she’s upset. But this dame ain’t got no time for wallowing, see. We’re whirled straight into post-war 1940s America, where the boys are returning home and the women are being pushed out of their jobs. The one and only left clinging onto the SSR, in hope of making some kind of difference, is Agent Peggy Carter.

Agent Carter tackles a lot of the issues post-war America faced, particularly focusing on how the people were effected: everyone, not just the women. Injuries merely scratch the surface in this show, as Marvel delves deeper into the impact of emotional trauma and mental stress that soldiers faced in the warzone: seeing their friends die, killing – and all for what? It’s brave for a television show, particularly one led by a female, to focus on men being afraid, or startled, or upset by their experiences. But it only adds to the power of the show. It’s okay for boys to be upset, to feel frightened, or to need help. It’s not weak – it’s human.

Similarly, the show focuses heavily on the consequential return of women to the home as men return from war looking for work.  As Peggy continues to boldly walk into work every day, she not only faces the challenges of being an agent, but being a woman in the workplace. Instead of being given assignments, she’s told to make the coffee or get the lunch order; to do the paperwork and maintain the files. She’s reduced to little more than a secretary despite her capabilities. But it’s not only in the workplace that we see these changes – it’s also demonstrated in post-war accommodation for single women who no longer lived with family in women’s hotel, The Griffith. The ‘independent’ women living within these walls were anything but. Governed by an old crone who dictated their visitors, commanded their eating hours, kept a close eye on all of their actions and comings-and-goings, it was incredibly difficult to be your own woman in the 1940s. Luckily, the girls in Agent Carter have that fun rebellious side, mimicking the naughty adolescent behaviour you’d likely see in a classroom as children sneak sweets in class as their headmistress’ back is turned.

“No man will ever consider you as an equal… It’s sad, but it’s true.”

My biggest admiration in regards to Agent Carter was how apt, appropriate and relative it was. Despite being set in the 1940s, much of the message felt rather familiar. As Peggy battled daily to be taken seriously, to do something right, and to live her own life, she was continually undermined and ridiculed. Despite her amazing abilities as an agent, she just could not break that glass ceiling.

One episode I found to be particularly poignant in subtly reflecting the portrayal of women was in the second episode, throughout which the popular radio show: The Captain America Adventure Program was frequently ‘aired’. In it, Betty Carver (Peggy’s pop-culture portrayal) was a weak, whimpering woman: the damsel in distress the media so often enjoys portraying ladies as being. However, during one broadcast, as Captain America beats up the Nazis to save Betty, Peggy is busy beating up the real bad guys in real time to save the world. The parallel yet paradoxical nature of this scene was incredibly effective. We see the real woman pitted against what the media wants us, the audience, to perceive as real. And it’s through this power the media holds over us that our preconceptions of gender are born. But here we see the reality, head on confronting and contradicting what we’re supposed to believe – and it’s amazing.

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“There’s a difference between being an independent woman and a spinster.”

There is no love interest for Agent Carter. Her heart belongs completely to Steve Rogers, and he’s sadly on ice. But that means Peggy is not driven by love, or trying to impress a boy. And how refreshing that is! Instead, she’s determined, driven by her desire to honour Captain America’s memory, do the right thing, and uphold democracy. That’s not to say heroines don’t need a partner to be awesome. Let’s just look at Black Widow in Age of Ultron (yes, I went there. And I think the above quote is particularly apt in that argument!). But to not be solely driven by the desire to impress a mate is so rarely seen in film and television, particularly those targeted at a female audience, that it added a whole new dimension to Agent Carter.

Any hints of objectification are also absent. The show is so classy, I could see my face in its neatly polished shoes. Hayley Atwell is absolutely stunning, and it’s amazing to see that she has a figure. Not just a stick in a dress, there are actual curves which accentuates the gorgeous style of the 1940s. I aspire to one day pull off wearing a skirt suit like her! In the one scene where Peggy is caught changing, there’s no creepy lingering on her body, or a close up of her backside, or anything remotely sexualised. Instead, it focuses on her battlescars. Women can be beautiful with ‘imperfections’, and they don’t need to parade around half naked! So many healthy life-lessons!

One of my favourite aspects was the stereotype-swaps in the series. Two of our leading male protagonists, Howard Stark and Jarvis, donned the typical roles of women in TV series. In Howard, we found the damsel – the man needing to be saved. Of course, he also embodies the ‘slut’, but that’s the Starks for you. And in Jarvis, we have the whipped house-wife with a strict routine of cooking and cleaning for his wife before they settle down and listen to their radio shows before a prompt bedtime. He even knows how to sew buttons. The bumbling butler stereotype has been done before, but Jarvis in Agent Carter presents something truly different. And although he may take on the guise of the ‘weak’ house-wife figure, he also emerges a hero, empowered by his adventures with Peggy, proving anyone can be a hero as long as they’re fighting for the right thing.

I would urge every person reading this to please watch Agent Carter. Watch it yourselves, pass it to your friends and family, show it to your children. Only eight episodes long, with a second series on the way, it is vital this show gains and maintains the support it deserves. Not only is it a thrilling adventure series about spies and secret agents, but it’s potentially the strongest piece of work Marvel has created for the television or movie theatres so far. A charming show with class, style, and sophistication, its characters are more than punching bags: they’re complex – the men and women – showing the difficulties and trauma caused by war. What this show does for everyone is open doors. It’s okay to be upset, or need help. It’s okay to be a man, and it’s okay to be a woman.  There’s been a lot of outcry online recently about how poorly represented women are in the Marvel cinematic universe. Well, here she is. Agent Carter is right at the other end of your remote control. A woman who is strong, in control, and a role model to anyone: I’d say Marvel have got this totally right.

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The Brilliance of Birdman

Subtitled The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance, Alejandro G Iñárritu’s Birdman is anything but. A fully self-aware work of art, Birdman is an astounding black comedy which resonates strongly in our modern culture. Birdman follows Riggan Thompson, a has-been superhero movie-star who has put everything on the line to pursuit ‘real’ art and prove his true talent as an actor, desperate to leave his life as Birdman firmly behind.

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It’s rather odd that leading actor Michael Keaton delivered the best performance of his career in a movie where he depicts a man desperate to give the best performance of his career and prove his worth as an artist. Keaton delivers a very honest role, embodying the frantic determination of a man who has dedicated his entire being to proving he is worth more than a bird suit as he struggles to shake the feathers of his past from his shoulders.

His supporting cast is just as powerful in their individual roles. Edward Norton’s portrayal of an egotistical broadway actor with an increasingly unpredictable temperament acts as a dark mirror for Riggan: Mike is everything Riggan hopes to become with his broadway success story – relevant, talented, a ‘true artist’. But the harsh reality is Mike’s celebrated artistic status comes at a cost: his true self can only be found onstage. This becomes increasingly complicated when you begin to think about the many roles an actor may take in his or her lifetime. Does this mean Mike can never really be his true self? Similarly, Emma Stone perfectly personifies our disinterested generation, pretending they don’t care when they really do. Disconnected from reality by living through viral videos and social media, it’s no wonder people feel increasingly smaller every day.

Birdman is beautifully shot, seemingly in a single take, which gives the movie the fast-flowing pace of reality. We follow characters from one scene to the next, rarely stopping for breath. Indeed, we’re literally following these characters on their journey, observing in ‘real time’. The decision to film in this manner added to the film’s unique sense of oddity. It revelled in seeming a little too close to home, trying to be as real as possible whilst being completely aware that it’s a story. This is only added to by the bizarre jazz drum soundtrack, which occasionally falls off-beat.

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What struck me most about Birdman is its relevance, and how haunting an echo of modern society it is. The movie presents an interesting paradox: power no longer lies in art. It lies in the viral videos, the Kim Kardashians and Miley Cyruses of the world. It’s about controversy and money; ridiculing and belittling; franchises over substance. Today’s audiences: “They love blood – the love action.” We no longer pay the overpriced cinema tickets to see an independent art movie: we want the big, the bold, the obnoxious exploding onto our screens. Yet, to make this point, Birdman is everything modern audiences shouldn’t love. The very thing that cannot thrive within the movie’s universe is the thing that holds the power in our own, which drives home the message that art is not dead.

Riggan’s struggle is relatable on many levels, but most importantly, the fear that we will be forgotten. When we leave this earth, what do we leave behind? Stone’s passionate outburst directly – or indirectly – tells us what we all dread to hear: “You don’t matter.” In a world as fickle as ours, it’s hard to believe that that’s not true. It’s so compelling that Riggan continues his battle to complete his play, to get a good review, to mean something more than the birdsuit. And in the end, is he defeated? Well, that’s open to personal interpretation.

Birdman is a triumph, and deserves every ounce of praise it has received. It’s passionate, funny, moving and intelligent, with layers upon layers of connotations and deeper meaning than purely a black comedy about a failing actor. And what has become of Riggan, we don’t know. The ambiguous ending parallels the ambiguity of the artist: do they live on after their life is complete, or are they simply forgotten in the next wave of cinema history?

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Age of Ultron

The comic book movie event of the year has arrived. Avengers: Age of Ultron burst into UK cinemas last week, and I was first in line to see it. Attending one of Cineworld’s triple bill screenings was the perfect way to experience the long awaited sequel to 2009’s Avengers (or Avengers Assemble for us Brits). Sitting through the Avengers and Captain America: Winter Soldier – two of the best Marvel movies to date – only added to the anticipation, rather than draining the life from you. Without further ado, let’s take a closer look at Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead.

Let’s get the critical stuff out the way first.

Right from the get-go, Age of Ultron is an action-packed, laugh-a-minute thrill ride. The opening scene sets the tone for the entire film: buckle up, cause there’s no stopping. Literally. The film does not stop to catch a breath. The audience is thrown into one thing after another after another. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There’s no room to be bored; there’s no space for unnecessary plot lines; there’s no time to question tiny flaws in an otherwise fantastic storyline. As soon as Earth’s Mightiest Heroes burst on screen, the audience is swept along on the journey, pulling them out of their seats and into the world of the Avengers: firing lasers, kicking ass, hulking out. And that’s great – because, really, that’s what these films are for. They’re ginormous, fun, super films! The bad guy threatens the world: the heroes save it! And that’s what we go to the cinema to see these movies for.

However, the Quicksilver pacing of Age of Ultron sadly left some scenes lacking. Joss Whedon’s original cut is over 3 hours long (yes please for the DVD/Blu-Ray release, I say!), and I feel some of the important scenes may have been lost in the editing room. For example, I found Black Widow’s relationship with the Hulk completely unnecessary. Not because ‘there’s no room for romance’ in the Avengers, just that the backstory was so completely washed over that I found it difficult to go along with. Sure, it’s sweet that they’ve found a way to calm Banner down. And why shouldn’t the ‘cold-hearted killer’ Black Widow find love in the ‘monstrous’ Hulk? But the plot moved so fast that the chemistry seemed forced, and I found it laughable rather than loveable.

Similarly, Stark had no time for penance. He created Ultron – threatened the world – and all he got was a stern talking to from Cap?! Yes, he was trying to do the right thing. And yes, he’s in a bad place after the climax of Avengers Assemble. But that doesn’t really excuse creating a robot bent on world domination – which is achieved by destroying mankind.

Finally, we didn’t really get to know the twins. Their screen time was so little that – during that shocking twist finale (it was totally setting up to be Hawkeye) – it was hard to be overly distressed when Quicksilver fell. I loved how creepy they were during their introductory scenes, and I wish they’d been used more.

BUT – this didn’t detract from the overall impact of the movie. Age of Ultron definitely impressed, and is a perfect companion to the first instalment. It’s fantastically written (and directed, obviously – thank you, Whedon!) and the jokes are laugh-out-loud funny. They come thick and fast, too. Particularly with Ultron, played by James Spader. His timing was fantastic and portraying Ultron as almost being human: a twisted soul with no compassion, only added to the character. A character who, perhaps, reflected Stark in this movie. Tony Stark – again played wonderfully by Robert Downey Jr – wanted Ultron to save the world, not to destroy it. The both believe Ultron has the ability to save the world – it’s the method that causes the problems.

The special effects have come screaming on since 2009 alone. Ultron looked great, particularly as the partially assembled Iron Man suit – a terrifying Frankenstein’s monster: a puppet without his strings. The Hulk’s effects have also vastly improved. Ruffalo’s emotion shone through the CGI and really added heart to the scientist’s violent alter-ego. I strongly believe the time for a stand-alone Hulk film has arrived, and Mark Ruffalo is the man to pull it off! The battle between Hulk and Iron Man in his Hulk-Buster suit was fantastic – metal on monster, with each as determined as the other to come out on top. And Vision was, well, exactly that! His make-up was so flawless I really believed there was a multi-coloured android on screen rather than an actor.

One of the things that most impressed me about Avengers Assemble was the equal amount of screen time given to each of the characters. No one felt left out or left behind. This was again the case for Age of Ultron. Each character had their moment to be developed; whether in a monologue or a nightmare vision; we learned a little more about each one. And each had time to beat up bad guys in a totally awesome manner (ladies and gentlemen). There was even room for cameos galore, which was great! And so much referencing that I’ve undoubtedly missed about 20 different things. You can really see the continuity of the films and television shows come together in Age of Ultron as well. The MCU is growing at a rapid pace, yet Marvel clearly have it so tightly planned that it feels organic. Nothing forced, just subtle harks back to previous events.

Ultimately, Age of Ultron was a blast: a Hulk-sized super smash that I’ll gladly watch again and again! It isn’t quite up to par with its prequel and Winter Soldier, but it definitely ranks high in the MCU and lays solid foundations for Captain America 3: Civil War. Scoring it a super 8 out of 10, it’s another high flying hit from Marvel. When you can complete a full day of work after just 3 hours sleep – running purely on Avenger adrenaline – you know it’s a good movie!

Now the wait begins for Ant-Man…

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Veronica Mars with Brains – Literally!

Last week I sat myself down and talked myself into watching the CW’s new comic adaptation, iZombie. Based (loosely) on the Vertigo comic book series by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred, the show’s received positive reviews and fan interest, but I have to admit – I was a very reluctant viewer.

The premise alone sounds cheesy. Liv – whose life is going super-duper-dandy (perfect fiancé, amazing job, super pretty, fantastic everything) – gets caught up in an isolated zombie attack. She awakens to find that she’s now a zombie, who can prevent turning into a complete monster as long as she snacks regularly on brains. Side-effect: by eating these brains, she connects with the person it belonged to – a literal you-are-what-you-eat. So, she uses this for good. She works in the morgue (free snacks) and helps solve crimes. Without much more information than that, it sounds like an awful version of Chew.

But, to my pleasant surprise, iZombie turned out to be so much more than that. I thoroughly enjoyed it. So, today – my experience watching the first 3 episodes.

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Oh God, this really is super cheesy.

The first five minutes of iZombie embodies everything I feared the show would be. It’s cheesy, it’s embarrassing, it’s just…. No. But luckily, the whole Liv-becoming-the-unLiving thing is turned around pretty quick. There’s no dwelling on those six months where she tries to figure her life out. We jump straight in to where the good stuff is. We know she broke up with her fiancé to keep him safe, she sunk into a zombie-like depression, and she struggled to get herself on track. But that’s it. We find ourselves confronting Liv’s life when she realises she can use this undead thing to her advantage. She can actually help people.

Okay, I take it back – this is great.

Before I knew it, I was actually settled in and enjoying it. I was laughing – out loud – at the jokes. It’s essentially a police drama with a twist – and a fun one at that, even if it’s slightly silly. But iZombie knows it’s silly, and that’s what’s great! It’s comedy-drama with a heart – nothing groundbreaking, but one that you can sink into for 40 minutes, enjoy, and then carry on with your day. (Plus, the title sequence is really cool).

Rose McIver is fantastic as Liv. She completely owns the snarky, slightly-confused-by-the-whole-situation character Liv needs to be relatable. And every one of her accompanying cast members are as strong. There’s no annoying, whiny, idiotic characters – they all add depth. They’re not all likeable – oh no – I hate Blaine who is clearly up to something, but in that fantastic way that I love to hate him, rather than it making the show unbearable. The cast are so clearly in to what they’re doing, it makes it all the more fun to watch.

It’s also great to have a show that doesn’t skimp on the drama in favour of pushing other plot points through. iZombie successfully combines Liv’s personal struggles with the police drama, and both are thrown into the mixing pot with something that’s clearly so much bigger. But it’s not overwhelming – there’s just enough to be procedural but with an ever expanding intrigue. And it’s incredibly fast-paced. There’s no major dwelling points, no pausing for 10 minutes to have an argument about something. Even when Liv’s been upset, it’s been a passing voiceover – yet not passé. And so far, she’s always overcome her problems. She has an amazingly positive outlook for a zombie, and is able to transfer her energy into doing something productive.

My one complaint is that the show must be sponsored by Instagram. Seriously – how many times can you mention it in one episode?! Having said that, the show successfully uses social media in portraying the difficulties in growing up in the digital age.

I wanted to keep the events of the show as minimal as possible. I entered the show relatively blind, and came out with a positive view. I suggest you do the same. Shake off the worries, keep in mind the first five minutes are just the first five minutes, and embrace the life of the undead!

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