By now I expect you’ve seen Avengers Assemble. I hope and expect it was good for you too. Besides receiving an uncommonly warm critical reception, the movie’s opening four-day weekend saw it pull in an astonishing £15.8 million at the box office. Besides scoring the biggest opening ever for a superhero movie in the UK, in its first four days alone it made more money than the entire box office runs of Thor, Captain America and the last solo Hulk put together. Internationally, Avengers Assemble was the number one movie in every one of the 39 countries it opened in. And when it debuts in the States, on Friday May 4, its legend and box office is only going to grow.
While I’m generally happy for Marvel, Disney, Joss Whedon and everyone else who has profit participation in this entertainment juggernaut, I’m specifically delighted for superhero fans as a hit like this guarantees years of mighty Marvel movies to come. That’s what’s really important. So come on then, Iron Man 3, Thor 2, Captain America 2, Untitled Mark Ruffalo Hulk Reboot and Avengers Assembled. We’re ready for you. Until then, let’s all go see Avengers Assemble again, and help it beat Avatar to the position of Number One All-Time Box Office Champ. Because it deserves it.
In other news, a bunch of new movies came out this week. One of which I really liked and many of which I review below. Welcome to Cinemascape!
Back in the day when old school action movies were known more simply as action movies… Back when Arnold was King and the likes of Jean-Claude, Sly, Chuck, Bruce, Steve and Clint his Princes… Back when violence was gratuitous, nudity mandatory and body counts grotesquely elevated… Back when stupidity was not so much tolerated, as it was celebrated… Back in that otherwise awful decade widely known as the Eighties…
There was nothing that made me happier than the sight of a grown man, or gang of men, strapping loaded weaponry, grenades and sharpened blades to their persons… Than the spectacle of a vengeful hero cleansing his town of the scum who kidnapped his family/killed his family/went back in time and prevented his family from ever being born… Than giddy violence, breezy thrills, nonsensical plotting, panto acting and one-liners so harsh and hilarious, they filled our hearts with joy.
All of these feelings, and many more besides, came flooding back to me as I sat, smiling broadly, watching Safe, the best damn Jason Statham movie ever. The tale of a New York cop with a special forces past who, having been pushed too far by scores of slimy, dirty cops, evil Russian mobsters, wicked Chinese gangsters and mentally challenged pickpockets, wages a devastating war upon the lot of ‘em, Safe embraces the psychotic naïveté of an earlier age, pushing the proverbial pedal to the metal in a bullet-spraying, bone-snapping, tyre-burning, bystander-screaming, scenery-chewing, gag-spouting extravaganza of (early) Schwarzenegger proportions. In years to come I believe we’ll look back on it as the Commando of its generation.
Did I mention there’s this 10 year-old Chinese maths wiz (Catherine Chan) with a head full of secrets who the bad guys are desperate to capture? And that only Stath can save her? But enough about the plot, already. As with the actioners of my youth, the story’s only there to set up the carnage. And what carnage! You can colour me impressed with the action exploding from the screen. And that colour is red. Blood red. Because this movie is so stratospherically over-the-top, it gave me vertigo looking down upon the glorious gunplay and sack-cracking martial artistry of it all.
It made me laugh. Cry tears of joy, even. It’s a pick-me-up. A genuine laugh. A welcome distraction from common sense that’s so gloriously, perfectly stupid in every respect, it’s actually rather clever. Deceptively so, because even if you spend half the movie laughing at it, rather than with it, even scoffing from time to time at how incredibly crass it all is, the fact is, you’re still laughing. And clapping. And cheering. And generally having a grand old time. Which is what the action movies of my youth aimed to deliver. And what Safe delivers in spades.
Also at the Cinema…
Inspired by Dawn of the Dead and Sean of the Dead, here comes Cuba’s Juan of the Dead (15), a cheeky take on the zomcom with a dash of social and political subtext. A fiftysomething slacker who cares for nothing, except for maybe his estranged daughter (Andrea Duro) and deranged best mate (Jorge Molina), Juan (Alexis Dias de Villegas) treats the Cuban zombie apocalypse as he has all previous conflicts: first he ignores it and then he tries to make money out of it.
A rude, irreverent satire with lots of colourful characters and a frankly bonkers screenplay, Juan of the Dead is prime cult material, though it definitely drags in the middle, so late night shows might see you snoozing before the end. Though neither scary nor even tense, it’s a winning, creative effort with some memorable moments and a great running joke about accidental harpooning. Held together by a grindhouse-style Cuban jazz score and a ‘never say die’ attitude, it’s a flawed but foolishly fun, low budget bloodfest and a welcome addition to International Zombie Cinema.
This week’s unnecessary English-language remake of a foreign horror hit is Silent House (15), a slow but sometimes spooky three-hander about a girl (Elizabeth Olsen) trapped in a big, dark house full of secrets and stuff that goes bump in the night. Much like the original version, Uruguay’s La Casa Muda (2010), the U.S. version is largely notable for being shot in one continuous, 85-minute take. Technically then, it’s quite interesting to follow the filmmakers’ efforts to stage and shoot the movie without any cuts, though I’m certain they cheated from time to time with a few hidden edits.
Unfortunately this approach, when applied not to a single scene but to a whole movie, often results in several long, tedious sequences that frankly could have used cutting down. It also stifles the acting to some extent, as the stars have to try so hard not to screw up, it can’t help but inhibit their performance. While Olsen fares rather well on this count, the same cannot be said of her co-stars, Adam Trese and Eric Sheffer Stevens, both of whom are just awful in this. Ultimately, for all its bells and whistles, Silent House is drawn out, repetitious and frankly boring.
For my money, the teenage sex comedy began and ended with John Landis’s seminal ‘78 shocker, Animal House. Of the thousands of like-minded movies that followed in its wake, nothing came even close to replicating its abandoned, anarchic, joyful glee. Certainly not the American Pie movies which, though they clearly have a certain charm, was hardly hilarious enough to warrant three sequels and four straight-to-DVD spin-offs. Still, if you liked any of those, chances are you’ll enjoy catching up with the original gang in American Pie: Reunion (15), a nostalgic, boob-fuelled dumb-a-thon in which thirtysomethings strive to get laid.
Although I’m no more enamoured with 3D than your average moviegoing cyclops, it’s still a thrill to see Disney’s splendid Beauty and the Beast 3D (U) back in cinemas after 21 years… Unlike me, you are the lucky one, as you have not yet seen The Lucky One (12A). Nor should you ever dare witness this cheesy romdram from Dear John ‘author’ Nicholas Sparks. If you’re not yet put off the project by the previous 42 words, allow me to add another four: it stars Zac Efron. Now let that be an end to it.