Trailer Trash: Avengers: Age of Ultron

Let’s face it – this time of year for movies is fucking shit. Awards season is gone, it’s still too early for the spring/summer blockbusters and the Valentines Day Rom-Com dross is still clinging on in multiplexes everywhere, causing even the most devoted of couples question whether it’s really worth it.

It’s not all bad news though, as it’s around about now that the year’s most exciting trailers start coming thick and fast, so what better time for another edition of Trailer Trash? A long awaited Marvel sequel; George Clooney; The Rock in a helicopter; Finland. What more could you possibly want?

Avengers: Age of Ultron, released 23rd April

Whenever a new Marvel film is released it’s about as close to a box office sure thing as you can get – little wonder then that the Avengers Assemble sequel will be the 11th Marvel Studios release in 7 years. The Marvel executives are so cocksure and delirious as they roll around on their piles of cash that they’re even releasing something called Ant Man, just for a fucking laugh.

Recent output from the studio (the terrifically fun Guardians of the Galaxy notwithstanding) has been a little disappointing if we’re honest with ourselves, even given the orgasms of explosions and CGI they are always chock-full of.

Avengers Assemble though, helmed brilliantly by Joss Whedon, was an exception, and so it is with more than a degree of excitement that this preview smashes us in the face like a huge cyborg dildo. With AI.

The whole gang is back together – this time with the addition of none other than Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany and Idris Elba to name just a few – and Ultron looks like it has the potential to be a great villain.

San Andreas, released 29th May

Speaking of humanity getting a hammering, San Andreas will arrive kicking, screaming and generally making a right old fuss in May.

We’ve seen a few films here at TOTB that have made us wish the ground would open up and swallow Hollywood whole, and in this latest offering from Brad Peyton – a director whose previous output includes Journey 2: The Mysterious Island and Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, and not much else – looks to do just that.

It’s more than a little reminiscent of 2012, the movie that bored the infamous Mayan prophecy into not happening, except this one’s got Dwayne Johnson in it! The bloody Rock, flying a helicopter, dragging women out of rubble, dodging earthquakes and punching tsunamis square in the face.

It probably won’t take itself too seriously, but then these big budget disaster movies rarely do, and it’s still typically not enough to stop them from being as dull as they are loud. Stay in and watch Sharknado instead.

Tomorrowland: A World Beyond, released 22nd May

“What if there was a place. A secret place – where NOTHING was impossible?”

If that line isn’t enough to make you want to reach inside your brain and take out whichever bit is responsible for hearing before you are subjected to anymore of it, then the fact that Tomorrowland: A World Beyond is based on one of Disney World’s five theme parks just might tip you over the edge.

This of course isn’t the first time Disney has based a film around one of their attractions – the fifth instalment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is due in 2017 – and we probably have a certain Ms. Everdeen to thank, at least in part, for spawning this George Clooney vehicle. An unlikely young heroine chosen to fight against… something or other. It’s the sort of narrative that Hollywood has been gorging itself on recently, and a full franchise is no doubt planned if this becomes a commercial success.

Big Game, released 8th May

Absolutely everything about Big Game looks completely, intelligence-insultingly ridiculous – from the leather-attired bad guy to Samuel L. Jackson being the President – so how come we’re sort of looking forward to it?

It debuted at last year’s Toronto film festival and was reasonably well received by critics – considering how low it’s aiming – who embraced its over-the-top entertainment value.

Big Game may well hit that particular ‘So-good-it’s-bad’ sweet spot which made Snakes on a Plane such a cult favourite.

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REVIEW: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

As a general rule, money and greed pretty much fuck up everything society holds dear. Marriage, democracy, Space Raiders going up to 15p – and cinema is no exception.

Hell Michael Bay is allowed to create his risible, putrid film output as much as he wants, all because they rake in a shit load of cash at the Box Office – regardless of to what extent they poison our collective consciousness.

It is the motivation of money that leads movie studios to take decisions such as splitting The Hobbit – a book of 300-odd pages – into a trilogy of three hour films, or, as we’re about to discuss, the final Hunger Games book into two parts.

With this in mind you’d be forgiven for expecting The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 to be somewhat inconsequential and frustrating, like indulging in some foreplay before your partner turns to you and says, “Okay that was great, we’ll reconvene next Christmas”. So how does THG:MP1 – that acronym is sure to catch on – get away with it?

We pick up the story with Katniss Everdeen not looking very happy at all, and why would she? After all, we have all just seen her boobs. She was of course rescued from the Games’ arena by the District 13-based rebels, although the mental scars of battle have left her not so much surly and aloof like before, but rather surly and kind of sad. Just wait until she realises her home, District 12, has been transformed into an episode of Time Team. That’s a combination of rubble and skeletons, non-archaeology fans.

As the first half of a greater narrative it goes without saying that the story doesn’t progress massively, and in terms of ‘stuff happening’ it doesn’t match either of the previous two installments, however it is in creating a general dystopic feeling of dread and tension that it really excels.

Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

Jennifer Lawrence’s face oscillates between kind of upset to really quite upset.

 

The overall tone of Mockingjay Part 1 is incredibly dark for a 12A, and it is any wonder they managed to retain the certificate with such constant levels of distress and threat, as well as the odd grisly moment. It’s refreshing to see a big budget movie realise that excitement doesn’t equate to blowing the shit out of everything in sight for 45 minutes, a la the likes of Man of Steel or many of the Marvel franchise.

There’s strong performances across the board too, with Jennifer Lawrence delivering a boat load of tumultuous emotion, the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman effortlessly cool as usual, and even the previously whiny Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) suddenly becomes a far more interesting protagonist. Julianne Moore’s somewhat staid performance belies her character’s presidential title, although she does spend the entire film alongside Hoffman.

If Mockingjay does a great job of developing an atmosphere, it perhaps doesn’t expand on the Panem world to a great extent, with the hinted at civil disobedience and acts of rebellion that occur outside of District 13 merely depicted with a couple of brief action set pieces. This may be a consequence of the fact that the final book is written solely from Katniss’ perspective, however if they weren’t going to stick with this dynamic religiously throughout the film anyway, the uprising could’ve been developed further. The District 13 rebels spend much of the movie filming propaganda material, although at times you can’t help wondering if anyone’s actually watching it.

It’s a minor issue really in what is an otherwise satisfying sequel. The caveat however is that, although Mockingjay Part 1 may very well be an enjoyable 2 hours that does an excellent job of setting up next year’s finale, we can’t help thinking that it could have made for an altogether better film experience had it never been split up in the first place.