The Avengers (2012) Is Awesome

I’m 29 this year. When I was a kid and falling in love with comics, I didn’t have a lot of good comic book movies to fall in love with. I didn’t really get into Batman, but wound up loving Batman Returns. The Superman movies never did it for me because they were just so far away from the Superman I knew from the comics. Heck, I remember getting excited about the Generation X and Nick Fury TV movies. Then we got Blade and X-Men and things changed. Eventually X2, Batman Begins, Dark Knight and Iron Man really made the comic book-based movie a thing to be reckoned with both in the box office and compared to other movies.

As the movies got better, I found the mediocre ones less interesting, but a little more disappointing. If you know how to do these things well, why not just keep doing them well. Is it so difficult to get someone who understands the material to make something good on a proper budget? Christopher Nolan did it, Jon Favreau did it and god damn, did Joss Whedon do it with Avengers.

My wife and I decided to head to the drive-in with some friends to see it. It kind of snuck up on my how excited I wound up being for this flick. I really like the Iron Man movies, didn’t like Ed Norton in Incredible Hulk, kinda sorta liked Thor and had a pretty good time with Captain America: The First Avenger, but the ad campaign, plus the fact that I wrote about the movie a bit for Spinoff Online got me pretty excited. Then I started hearing people I know and respect coming back raving about the movie. People were comparing it to Return of the Jedi and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Note that both of them are die hard Marvel fans and, like me, never thought they’d see a movie like this in the real world, on the big screen, done this well.

And man, this movie is done well. Whedon did an amazing job trying together the very different movies, bringing in new characters, pumping up ones we’d only seen briefly and making them all work in ways that make sense. It just makes sense that Tony Stark’s flip attitude toward everything would eventually rub Captain America the wrong way or that Thor would find the petty complaints of mortals well, petty. But, this movie is so much more than great character beats. The action is spectacular in every sense of the word. The attack on the hellicarrier? Wow. I wasn’t sure if the rest of the movie could top that, but the end battle was magnificent. Those long tracking shots that don’t cut away moving throughout the city from small battle to small battle with different characters flying in and out and wrecking shop in different ways was one of the coolest things I’ve seen. Ever.

I could go on and on. The moments with the Hulk? Amazing and hilarious. Possibly my favorite Hulk of all time. That small moment where Iron Man shoots his repulsors off of Cap’s shield or the shockwave sent out when Thor hit the shied? So awesome. Hawkeye calling the shots and using his ingenious bow and quiver? So cool. My wife poked fun at me for giggling with excitement throughout half the movie. I wasn’t sorry, I reveled in it. I really can’t remember having more fun at a movie in a long time. It was basically Expendables, but instead of starring actors I’ve known forever, this was characters.

Okay, now someone needs to get me a Justice League movie.

Season Premiere: How I Met Your Mother Season 6 “Big Days”

Good fiction is like a house. Complex characters make up the foundation of the house and then the story is built on top of them. Good storytellers really engineer this and crappy ones kind of pile things up making shakey houses that might seem okay, but don’t hold up. If the characters aren’t solid the house falls down. Luckily CBS’s How I Met Your Mother has an incredibly solid foundation with it’s leads Lily (Alyson Hannigan), Marshall (Jason Segel), Ted (Josh Randor), Robin (Colbie Smulders) and Barney (Neil Patrick Harris). What worries me is that series creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas are spending TOO much time solidifying the foundation and working on the walls, but don’t have a plan for the roof.

Okay, I should explain myself. The conceit behind HIMYM is that Ted in the future (voiced by Bob Saget) is explaining to his son and daughter how he met their mother. It’s been going on for six seasons starting tonight. I love the show because the characters are fantastic and the show has a lot of heart without being too corny. They also use a lot of storytelling methods that really borrow well from previous works in film and television. We’ve seen Ted move his way through plenty of relationships with many of hints as to the identity of his future wife. In Season 3 we were told that Ted’s future wife would have a yellow umbrella. In 4 Ted got the umbrella. That same season we also found out that Ted’s one-time girlfriend Cindy lived with the woman who would be his wife.

So, tonight’s season premiere started with quite the tease (SPOILERS AHEAD): some time in the future we see Ted in a tux at a wedding and Marshall bringing him a beer. It appears to be his wedding. Then, the episode jumps to the present. Most of the episode takes place in MacLaren’s (the bar our characters frequent). Lily and Marshall were planning on trying to conceive that night, but Marshall’s dad sent a crib and Lily got angry that Marshall was talking to him about their baby plans. Out of nowhere, we find out that Marshall’s really close to his dad (I don’t believe this was an aspect of the character before today, more foundation building). There’s lots of fun here with Marshall doing a little Cyrus-from-The-Warriors impression and bits with Marshall warning everyone from touching him because he’s been saving up for the night. There’s also a really sweet moment at the end where Marshall tells Lily she could never disappoint him.

The thrust of the episode involves Ted scoping a hottie at the bar out for a while. Barney comes in and calls dibs. Then, it turns out that the girl knows Ted’s ex Cindy. Is this the wife?! Nope, it’s not. Turns out, Ted never saw the roommate (just her ankles and she was wearing boots at the bar, so no chance of IDing her) and his breakup with Cindy made her reevaluate her life. She tells Ted this and it all felt very obvious that she was now a lesbian, presumably with the girl at the bar, but they wait another commercial break to tell us this. Meanwhile, Robin’s still bummed that her boyfriend Don left and has turned into what looks and apparently smells like a homeless person. Barney gives her some trouble, saying she’s lost her hotness. Robin disappears and comes back all sundressed-up. Methinks Barney did all this on purpose and might be smitten with Robin again (the two dated for a while, but broke up).

But then, we get the big surprise at the end (I think they telegraphed the lesbian thing, so you’d guess that and then not expect yet another surprise). Future Ted explains to his kids that he didn’t meet their mother that night, he met her at a wedding. They then cut to the wedding from the beginning of the episode and it turns out that Ted’s the best man at the wedding, not the groom. So, unless Bays and Thomas want to bring up another character who would randomly have Marshall and Ted as groomsmen (they were wearing matching tuxes) and Lily as a bridesmaid (ugly purple dress with a bouquet of flowers), it’s got to be Barney, right? Let’s hope so. The missus and I are hoping he’s marrying Robin who was conspicuously missing from the flashforward (it’s weird how Lost-like the show is starting to feel in my head).

Back to my initial metaphor, we got a lot more foundation with some more structure building. There’s enough to support that damn roof, so it’s got to be time soon to put it on right? Contrary to the title of the show, I don’t think it needs to end once Ted meets the wife. Part of the mystery might be gone, but then we get to see what happens between Young Ted and his new bride, plus all those other characters who can support their own roof. Hell, you can always put an addition on right? On the other hand, I’m a big fan of the British Office model of finishing a show when it makes sense. Much as I would miss How I Met Your Mother if it were to end, I’d be more upset if it ended poorly and I felt like I wasted all these seasons watching (something that some Lost fans felt, though not me). Here’s hoping the sixth season actually introduces the friggin’ wife!

Quick Movie Review: The Slammin’ Salmon (2009)

I haven’t been super impressed with The Broken Lizard flicks aside from Super Troopers. To be fair, I haven’t seen Club Dread and I loved Beerfest…when I saw it buzzed, watching it again later, it was a too-long bore and their first flick Puddle Cruiser was pretty much amateur hour (of course, it was a college indie film, but a good script doesn’t raise the budget). I actually didn’t even realize they had a new movie out in The Slammin’ Salmon, so its very existence surprised me along with how freaking great it is.

The plot revolves around a restaurant owned by a former boxer (Michael Clarke Duncan) who needs the place to make $20,000 so he can pay off a gambling debt. The manager pushes the waiters (most of the Broken Lizard crew with How I Met Your Mother’s Cobie Smulders and April Bowlby who also popped up on a few episodes of HIMYM apparently) to sell like crazy and, as you might expect, shenanigans ensue. One of the wait staff gets pretty badly burned, one goes off his meds and an alternate personality takes over, the new guy gets hazed and someone eats an expensive diamond engagement ring. It’s the kind of comedy goodness you should come to expect from the gang.

It’s hard to compare this movie to Super Troopers which has taken on a pretty high spot in my mental list of great comedies from the last 10-15 years, but I do think that this might be the first time the guys live up to the high standards they showed us they could reach with that flick.

Seanson Finales: How I Met Your Mother

So, as Ben so astutely pointed out last week, this week actually had the How I Met Your Mother season finale (hey, we all make mistakes, right?).

So, we got the full cast back for the season finale which actually didn’t deal with Ted’s search/discovery of his future childrens’ mother, but on the other characters. We had Barney and Robin dealing with their potentially budding relationship, Ted trying to design a BBQ restaurant, Marshall wanting to take a literal leap of faith, Ted fighting a goat and, most importantly, Ted deciding to take on a new career, a career we are promised will lead directly to meeting the woman he will marry.

I liked the season finale because I like all these characters (Marshall really got to shine in my opinion) and it even referred back to its own continuity (the goat and Ted’s birthday). I do feel a little peeved at the fact that we’re kind of left at the same place we were last season. Last season they showed us that Ted’s future wife would be sporting a yellow umbrella like his. Then we got teased with Stella coming back, but she doesn’t have the right umbrella. So now, we end another season by showing us a big space and telling us that the mother is in the group.

It’s not a huge deal, and like I said I really like the show, but I hope they actually introduce the mother early next season. I’ve talked to some people who say that that will be the end of the show, but come on, it’s just the basic premise and that can change. As a fan, I’d have no problem watching Ted and his future wife go through all the bullshit that couples do, especially if the writing stays consistent and we get to see even more development with all the characters. I’ve got faith because I think these guys put on a really good, well-thought-out show. In a weird way, it’s actually kind of like Lost because you’re got these interesting ways of telling a story and playing with structure telling a long-term story with an end goal in mind that will take some twists and turns along the way, while always remember where it came from. Good stuff.