The Weekend Warrior: Avengers: Age of Ultron

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This week is potentially one of the biggest weekends of the year thanks to the release of one of the most anticipated superhero sequels ever, which will help kickstart the lucrative summer movie season in a big way. This is where things start to get exciting!

Whatever you do this week, make sure to check out the Weekend Warrior’s Summer Box Office Preview, and if you’re a fan of trying to guess the summer box office yourself, then you should check out EZ1 Productions  annual summer game, which starts this week.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Distributor: Marvel Studios/Disney
Writer/Director: Joss Whedon
Cast:
Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, James Spader, Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Paul Bettany, Stellan Skarsgård, Thomas Kretschmann, Idris Elba, Cobie Smulders, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Mackie
What It’s About: It’s the sequel to the blockbuster Marvel’s The Avengers with all of everyone’s favorite Marvel superheroes fighting a killer robot voiced by James Spader. What more do you need to know?

Benefits:

It honestly seems pointless to write too much about this movie because if you read ComingSoon.net or SuperHeroHype you probably know everything you need to know about the movie to decide whether you want to see it or not. The only real question on most minds is whether it will beat the box office record set by Marvel’s The Avengers when it opened on the same summer kick-off weekend in 2012 with a new opening record of $207.4 million or $47,698 per theater. Very few movies have come close to that amount with Iron Man 3 getting a bump the following year and still only opening to $175 million. So the only questions is whether Avengers: Age of Ultron will open with that amount or higher and if higher, how much higher?

Part of the success of Marvel’s The Avengers was the fact that it brought together so many superstars including Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson and Chris Hemsworth, along with Mark Ruffalo and Jeremy Renner, but Age of Ultron adds even more stars including Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson who were in last year’s hit Godzilla, veteran actor James Spader who has made a huge comeback with NBC’s “The Blacklist” and Paul Bettany, who finally appears in a Marvel movie in human form as The Vision.

Since the last Avengers, Marvel Studios has had huge hits with their three previous sequels — Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier — all of which grossed more than their previous installment proving that there are even more Marvel movie fans now than there were three years ago.

Some of the characters, like Mark Ruffalo’s The Hulk and Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye that proved popular in The Avengers, haven’t appeared in a Marvel movie since that one, so their fans will be excited to see them getting more focus in the sequel.

Reviews will generally be favorable and even the slightly negative reviewers will probably give the movie a pass being that it’s the first blockbuster of the summer. Don’t believe us? Spider-Man 3 ended up with a 63% on Rotten Tomatoes despite being universally despised by so many people. (Honestly, I didn’t hate the movie, but let’s not drag up old debates, okay?)

Drawbacks: 

There are a couple other things going on this weekend that could take away from the opening weekend of Age of Ultron, the most high-profile one being the boxing match between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, which is looking to be one of the most watched events in the history of the sport. That could take a chunk out of the movie’s Saturday night business for sure, although it should earn enough on Friday to make up for it. The Kentucky Derby on Saturday, another big betting event, probably won’t have nearly as much effect although that is another thing that could cut into business. 

The other thing that one might think could hurt Avengers: Age of Ultron is the fact that it already opened in 55% of the world last week, which means that there’s a better chance of high-quality bootlegs being out there and online. Many of Marvel’s movies have opened in other territories before North America and the potential piracy hasn’t really had any effect on the box office since most people want to see these movies in theaters and that should be the case with Age of Ultron as well.

Although all the Marvel movies have done decent business, many of the actors’ movies in between have failed to connect, whether it’s Robert Downey Jr.’s The Judge or Chris Hemsworth’s Rush and blackhat, but others have had big hits, most notably Scarlett Johansson, who starred in last year’s action hit Lucy, showing that maybe Black Widow should finally be given her own movie.

Prediction:

I’m definitely thinking that Age of Ultron will top the opening of the original Avengers, but I’m not going to go crazy and I think it will be a modest bump of $8 to 10 million over the original, so $215 million with the majority on Friday (including Thursday previews). It should remain #1 for at least two to three weekends, which will bring its domestic total to somewhere around $500 million, slightly more or less.

What I Thought…Avengers

It’s hard not be cynical writing about this sequel, because I could literally write “blah blah blah” a hundred times and it will have absolutely no impact on whether you go to see this movie or not. And everyone involved with making the movie knows that. 

Writing a lot of “blah blah blah” wouldn’t exactly make me Joss Whedon, who really should have dropped the mic after Marvel’s The Avengers, because as hard as he tries, any attempt to make a bigger or better movie was bound to fail. At its worst, Age of Ultron completely forgets what worked so well about that movie but also what’s so great about the comics. And yet surprisingly, you’ll probably walk away from the movie thinking, “Yeah, that was okay.” But is okay really enough when you’re delivering the follow-up to great movies like The Avengers, let alone Captain America: The Winter Soldier or Guardians of the Galaxy? Probably not.

Chances are that you already know more about the plot than you need to know, but much of what happens comes out of the Avengers trying to recover Loki’s scepter. Within the first few minutes, we meet the “twins” Pietro and Wanda Maximoff (never called by their code names, mind you) and shortly after that, one of Tony Stark’s Brother Eye-like experiments goes wrong and Ultron is born. From there, it doesn’t take a comic book reader to figure out the three villains will team-up before the twins realize that Ultron’s ultimate plan goes against their own beliefs.

The biggest problem is that from the get-go, Whedon overcomplicates the idea of the film’s title villain. Ultron being a sentient robot that can control electronics is cool enough that it shouldn’t be hard to explain. Even his voice being so obviously James Spader is more distracting than effective, so as a villain, he pales in comparison to Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. I honesty didn’t understand half of what was going on in the movie, particularly when it came to Ultron’s motivations and his plot which leads to an exciting last act sequence that’s also fairly stupid if you think about it too long.

The confusion doesn’t just come from the amount of exposition, but also because the action scenes are just as convoluted compared to the clean and simple design of the action scenes in the first Avengers. When the Hulk runs wild, you basically have Tony Stark in his “Hulkbuster” armor (though it’s never called that) going toe-to-toe with him, while the other Avengers are dealing with nightmarish flashbacks instilled by Scarlet Witch, sending Thor off on a quest… to have a soak? (I told you I didn’t understand what was going on!) It’s a very convenient way to break-up the Avengers so they can all reunite against Ultron later, but it’s the most obvious way, and it’s such lazy storytelling it even makes it hard to enjoy the Avengers squabbling that was such fun in the first movie.

Marvel Studios is getting further and further away from the comics as they try to fortify their own coordinated look and feel, and I’m not 100% sure it’s all working, because so much of it feels like they’re making things up as they go along, hoping people will forget previous movies. In this case, you can’t do that because there were so many implications in the solo movies that are virtually ignored. The movie also has tonal issues since the constant joke-cracking by Downey’s Tony Stark takes away from the intensity of the drama, making the stakes seem lower than they should be. Other Marvel movies have been smoother at integrating the humor.

Where Age of Ultron does succeed is when it finally introduces The Vision, perfectly realized visually and beautifully portrayed by Paul Bettany, which makes a lot of the earlier blather pay off in a big way. Lizzy Olsen’s Wanda also started to grow on me, especially as her powers began to be used in more interesting ways than just causing nightmares. Sadly, Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury is barely in the movie, although every time he shows up, it’s quite significant. Don Cheadle’s Rhodey is another nice addition but other cameos from the solo movies don’t work as well.

Avengers: Age of Ultron is a perfectly respectable summer action movie if not slightly unmemorable. Its problems may not have been so evident if it wasn’t trying so hard to surpass the far better movies that preceded it, but they really were the proverbial “tough acts to follow.”

Rating: 6.5/10


This Weekend Last Year

file_117798_0_spiderman2thursboLast summer also kicked off with a superhero movie sequel (which shouldn’t be surprising since it’s become a standard practice to start off the month of May with a superhero movie) and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Sony) had a decent opening with $91.6 million in 4,324 theaters or $21,181 per theater. Reviews weren’t great and it ended up grossing just $203 million domestically and even its $500 million international was only slightly higher than the original. The Top 10 grossed $141 million which should be well overshadowed by the opening weekend take of Avengers: Age of Ultron alone.

This Week’s Updated Predictions

1. Avengers: Age of Ultron (Marvel Studios/Disney) – $214.6 million N/A
2. Furious 7 (Universal) – $8.4 million -53%
3. Paul Blart Mall Cop 2 (Sony) – $8.0 million -46%
4. The Age of Adaline (Summit/Lionsgate) – $7.0 million -47%
5. Home (DreamWorks Animation/Fox) – $4.8 million -39%
6. Unfriended (Universal) – $2.7 million -56% (down .1 million)
7. Ex Machina (A24) – $2.6 million -52%
8. The Longest Ride (20th Century Fox) – $2.1 million -50% (down .2 million)
9. Woman in Gold (The Weinstein Company) – $2.0 million -40% (down .2 million)
10. Get Hard (Warner Bros.) – $2 million -49%

Next Week:

Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara are paired for the buddy comedy Hot Pursuit (New Line/WB) although Avengers: Age of Ultron shouldn’t have any problem remaining #1.


 This Week’s Must-Sees

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Soul Boys of the Western World (Sundance Selects)
Director:
George Hencken
Stars: Spandau Ballet
Genre: Documentary, Music
What It’s About: The ‘80s New Wave band best known for their hit ballad “True” reunited last year when this film premiered at the South by SouthWest Film Festival, but this documentary follows the band from their early roots in punk before becoming part of the London fashion scene and become one of the top New Wave bands alongside Duran Duran. Besides this movie, which opens at the IFC Center on Wednesday with a special appearance by Spandau Ballet, the band are also embarking on their first U.S. tour in over thirty years, and guess what? I’m going to see them on Saturday night at the Beacon Theater! 

SXSW Video interview with Spandau Ballet

Far from the Madding Crowd (Fox Searchlight)
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Stars: Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge, Juno Temple
Genre: Drama
What It’s About: Adapted from the novel by Thomas Hardy, telling the story of Bathsheba Everdeen (Mulligan), a young literate woman who inherits her uncle’s farm and ends up attracting three very different suitors: a shepherd named Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenarts), a good-looking but lecherous military sergeant (Tom Sturridge) and a timid but wealthy land owner (Sheen). A fantastic and beautiful period film from the Danish director of The Hunt and The Celebration. 

Interview with Carey Mulligan (Coming Soon)

Interview with Thomas Vinterberg (Coming Soon)

Iris (Magnolia Pictures)
Director: Albert Maysles
Stars: Iris Apfel
Genre: Documentary
What It’s About: 90-year-old fashion icon Iris Apfel, best known for her ability to put together some of the most outrageous outfits and accessories, is profiled in the late Albert Maysles’ second-to-last film which catches up with the beloved woman in the years following her 2005 rediscovery after her archive of costume jewelry was showcased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It opens on Wednesday for a two-week run at the Film Forum in New York. 

Reality (IFC Midnight)
Writer/Director: Quentin Dupieux
Stars: Jon Heder, Alain Chabat, Elodie Bouchez, Jonathan Lambert, Kyla Kennedy, John Glover
Genre: Comedy
What It’s About: The filmmaker also known in the DJ world as Mr. Ouizo returns with his latest feature film about a TV cameraman (Chabat) whose chances of making his first feature film depends on him selling the producer (Lambert) that he can come up with the perfect groan, one that could win an Oscar, but the stress and nightmares this causes puts him over the edge. This may be one of Dupieux’s weirdest film yet.

Although it’s not getting a theatrical release, I have to give a shout-out to Film Society of Lincoln Center publicist John Widman, whose directorial debut The Ladies of the House is getting a VOD release on Friday. You can find out more including how you can see the movie on the film’s Facebook page.

Other Limited Releases of Note:

Welcome to Me (Alchemy)
Director: Shira Piven
Stars: Kristen Wiig, Linda Cardellini, James Marsden, Alan Tudyk, Tim Robbins, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Joan Cusack, Wes Bentley
Genre: Drama, Comedy
What It’s About: Kristen Wiig plays Alice Klieg, a woman with a personality order who goes off her meds just before she wins the lottery. Following in the footsteps of her idol, Oprah, she buys time on a local television station to host her own television show where she can voice her opinion on relationships and neutering pets… and shows how to do the latter. (It’s a very weird film.)

Hyena (Tribeca Film)
Writer/Director: Gerard Johnson
Stars: Peter Ferdinando, Stephen Graham, Neil Maskell, Myanna Buring, Richard Dormer, Gordon Brown, Elisa Lasowski, Tony Pitts
Genre: Crime, Thriller
What It’s About: A ruthless undercover cop (Peter Ferdinando) going after London’s most violent drug traffickers is secretly taking money from the criminals he’s investigating until someone threatens to expose his corruption which forces him to shift loyalties. 

Far from Men (Tribeca Film)
Writer/Director: David Oelhoffen
Stars: Viggo Mortensen, Reda Kateb, Jeremie Vigot, Nicolas Giraud
Genre: Drama
What It’s About: An adaptation of Albert Camus’ short story “The Guest” starring Viggo Mortensen as a French teach living in an Algerian village during the war who forms a friendship with a dissident, who he’s expected to turn into the authorities.

Ride (Screen Media Films)
Writer/Director: Helen Hunt
Stars: Luke Wilson, Helen Hunt, David Zayas, Brenton Thwaites
Genre: Comedy
What It’s About: Helen writes, directs and stars as a New Yorker editor who follows her son (Brenton Thwaites) to L.A. after he drops out of college to surf. There, she becomes friends with a limo driver and begins a sexual relationship with a younger surf instructor (Luke Wilson). 

Days of Grace (Cinema Libre)
Director: Everardo Valerio Gout
Stars: Carlos Bardem, Kristyan Ferrer, Tenoch Huerta Mejía, Dolores Heredia, Eileen Yañez
Genre: Crime, Thriller
What It’s About: Taking place in Mexico City during the three World Cups in 2002, 2006 and 2010, when everyone is watching soccer leaving the streets ungarded, this crime-thriller involves the relationship between a cop, a housewife and a street kid. 

Cas & Dylan (eOne Films)
Director: Jason Priestley
Stars: Richard Dreyfuss, Tatiana Maslany
Genre: Comedy
What It’s About: Richard Dreyfuss plays a dying doctor who ends up on the run with a 22-year-old girl (“Orphan Black” star Tatinana Maslany) in Jason Priestley’s 2013 feature film debut. 

You can post any comments or questions below, or you can get in touch with the Weekend Warrior on Twitter.

Copyright 2015 Edward Douglas

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