Mad Max Fury road is the fourth entry in the Australian apocalyptic Mad Max series. It is also the first entry in the series in 30 years. Mad Max, still haunted by the death’s of his wife and family and by others he could not save, helps a group of women escaping from an evil warlord.

It starts out with Max getting captured. His memories that haunt him of his dead family play a hand in preventing him from escaping. He’s in the hands of a cult like figure that has a group of women that serve as his wives. The wives escape on a supply run intended to get precious gasoline.

90% of this movie is a chase scene, huge battles through the Australian outback as Max, this group of women, the wives, and other female warriors that are helping them, fight off their pursuers. The action is nonstop and over the top. Between some of the outrageous costumes, the vehicles, and the guy riding around with a fire shooting electric guitar, it’s all pretty wild. The cinematography is great, with the desert sandstorms, the blue hues at night, and the rocky terrain. It creates an otherworldly feel.

Max is almost a minor character in the story, he’s not even the one who dispatches the main villain. This is not necessarily a complain though. Fury road is a great ride that pulls you into this other world. It’s not just mindless action, there’s consequences and pain to be felt. Characters on both sides die during this journey.

Mad Mad Fury road is perhaps the surprise hit of the year, and probably the best movie I’ve seen so far in 2015.

Avengers; Age of Ultron opens immediately with an action scene in a fictional European country. Apparently for some time the Avengers have been taking out Hydra bases around the world, and this is what we open with. The action is fast and CGI heavy, often resembling a video game.

Their mission is to find the scepter Loki had in the last Avengers movie. They’ve now found the base where the scepter is located, and Hydra has used it to experiment on people. The results are the twins, Wanda and Pietro Maximoff. Wanda has telekinetic and other mental powers (making much more sense than her comic book counterpart’s ability of reality manipulation) and Pietro has super speed. They are never called Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver in the movie, though Iron Man refers to Wanda as a witch at one point. Her powers lead to some of the deepest parts of the film, as several of their heroes are forced to mentally confront their past and their fears.

Once the scepter is found, it plays a role in a project Tony Stark/Iron Man has been working on for some time. Dreaming of a world at peace, where the Avengers don’t have to fight anymore, he’s been working on and Artificial Intelligence called Ultron. We never learn what Ultron means or where the word comes from, going into the movie I assumed it would be an acronym, but it’s not. His plan for it was a global defense network that would protect Earth from alien attacks that he feels are coming for sure.

Anyway naturally Ultron gains sentience and wants to destroy humanity like all AI robots do.(By the way Ultron does pre-date Terminator). The rest of the movie moves from here. We see the moment of Ultron’s birth/awakening, coming to life in a void of darkness, with Tony’s AI program JARVIS leading Ultron into the light. That was a pretty fascinating scene.

Ultron has personality, he’s smart mouthed, witty, and genuinely chilling. A nice departure from the cold logical AI characters of 2001’s HAL or the Terminator. He basically has all the knowledge of the world, but is still curious and confused about human nature. Money/finances are something that is strange to him. He’s apparently very knowledgeable on pop culture as well, as he makes a joke about how the villain in movies always reveals their evil plot.

In the comics Hank Pym of the upcoming Ant Man movie created Ultron. I think it makes much more sense that Tony Stark created him. Plus Hank Pym creates AI, plus a device to talk to ants, plus finds away to shrink and grow the human body. Those are three distinct fields of science. I never liked how comics did science where one person is super smart at everything. Science just doesn’t work like that.

Along the way we get a surprising revelation about Hawkeye, conflict between Iron Man and Captain America, another new AI character the Vision. The Vision makes his own cape for some reason (he has a cape in the comics). The twins have their own dynamics, as a childhood tragedy they share causes them to hate Tony Stark. The most intriguing character work is the budding relationship between Hulk and Black Widow. Banner is still torn and doesn’t want to fight as the Hulk, fearing the destruction he can bring. This leads to hesitancy in pursuing a relationship. There’s a general theme that all the Avengers are monsters in one way or another. The highlight of the movie is a scene between Natasha and Banner where she reveals a very painful secret about herself.

There is a part with Thor where he goes to find out something and it seems to be pulled out of nowhere/dues ex machina. Also it seems both movies have Hawkeye get hurt/taken out in the very beginning.

The action wraps up in a third act that is pretty interesting. It may be a bit too much that Ultron made all these duplicates of himself, but it works for the most part. One thing I liked is that we have more that one character that legitimately dies, so there’s real consequence to all this.

While the first movie took place mostly in the United States, Age of Ultron jumps locations more. There’s a scene on the African coast, as well as an action sequence in Seoul South Korea. Given that I lived in Korea I was excited to see it on film. Though I do wish they would have shown some of Seoul’s landmarks like Namsan tower, one of the palaces, or the Yi Soon Shin statue,

There is no post credit scene, but there is a mid credit scene. Nothing too surprising though.

Avengers: Age of Ultron is an improvement over it’s predecessor. It opens with action from the get go and is deeper than it needs to be. I’m not sure if it’s better than Winter Soldier, but it’s not their best film, it’s at least one of their best.

Unfriended is a horror film that is sort of a deviation of the found footage genre. The entire film takes place from the view of a teenage girl’s computer screen. Blaire and her boyfriend and a handful of other friends are in a group chat on Skype, when a mysterious party enters the conversation. In the group chat the icon is blank/no picture, and no matter what they do from a technical standpoint they can’t get rid of this person.

Assuming it’s a hacker, they realize this Skype account is from Laura, Blaire’s childhood friend who killed herself one year ago. Blaire is also getting Facebook messages from Laura’s account. As they try to investigate, it is suggested that it is actually Laura’s ghost out for revenge. At one point a forum post is read about not answering electronic messages from dead people, as it appears what is happening to them is a world-wide phenomenon. This supernatural phenomenon is not extrapolated on much further, there’s not much of a plot angle to suggest a logical explanation. The movie simply gives the audience this concept and runs with it.

As events unfold secrets are revealed about each character, and slowly we see each one of them die via the webcam. There’s a few death scenes that are quick but pretty gruesome. Unfriended doesn’t give much in the actual scare department, partly because the characters are unlikable, and as you find out, not nice people. It does provide some real emotionally intense moments. The highlight being the “Never Have I Ever” game in which each person has five fingers up, and must put one down if they’ve ever done an action mentioned in the game. For example, “Never have I ever roofied a girl.” One male character puts a finger down who has done that.

The theme of the story is modern cyber bullying. There was an embarrassing video of a drunk Laura on Youtube that lead to her suicide, and each of the characters had a part to play in her misery.

Unfriended offers a new way of storytelling for this generation. The whole story is told via Skype, Facebook, and instant messenger, with I-tunes occasionally providing a soundtrack. Some background information is also provided by what Blaire begins to type, but then erases to say something else.

While not exactly frightening, Unfriended offers possibilities in this offshoot of the found footage genre. I’m curious to see what direction filmmakers can take it from here, and how scary this idea can be in the future.

Marvel’s Daredevil is the first of four Netflix exclusive shows from Marvel comics set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Daredevil is set in Hell’s Kitchen, as the other three shows presumably will be. It opens with a 9 year old Matt Murdock, who was blinded in an accident after pushing an old man out of the way of a truck full of chemicals. While he was blinded, his other senses have been heightened to superhuman ability. Flashbacks of his childhood are interspersed throughout the course of several episodes. He is raised by his single father, a boxer who meets a tragic end after refusing to throw a fight. Later Matt is trained in the martial arts by a blind swordsman, who returns into Matt’s life as an adult.

The adult Matt Murdock has opened a law practice in Hell’s Kitchen with his best friend Foggy Nelson. In their first case they defend Karen Page, a woman who was falsely accused of murder and ends up working for Matt’s law office. What Matt’s partners don’t know is that Matt stalks the streets at night as a vigilante. (He’s not called Daredevil until the very last episode and is called that by the press.)

This show takes full advantage of the creative freedom offered by Netflix, and is a stark departure from the MCU films. It is a strictly R rated show with brutal violence. Daredevil deals with real world problems of human trafficking, drugs, child abuse etc. The spark that drove him from taking the law into his own hands was not inspiration from heroes like Captain America, but from accidently stumbling across a horrible crime that he could not ignore.

Like all great comic book films adaptations, the villain steals the show. Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. the Kingpin, is perhaps the most intriguing character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. At first he’s in the background, slowly revealed like a movie monster. Your first shot of him you just see his arm inside a limo. For the first few episodes his name is not even in spoken. That is actually a rule for anyone that works for him, they are not allowed to say his name.

Kingpin in the MCU is just as he is in the comics, a dangerous beast who is always one step ahead. In his first act of on screen violence he comes at someone like bear. He is a shark who preys upon anyone he chooses. However, perhaps unlike the comics, Wilson Fisk is an extremely vulnerable man filled with pain, haunted by his childhood. Even his manner of speaking reflects the incredible hurt inside of him. Vanessa, from the comics, is an art dealer and Fisk’s love interest. She provides healing to his troubled soul, she is, as he says, his heart. The relationship between Wilson and Vanessa is in fact highlight of the series.

In classic comic book style Wilson Fisk is a mirror image of Matt Murdock, the two had fathers that are polar opposites. You could even argue that Wilson Fisk and Matt Murdock have the same goals. Both were raised in Hell’s Kitchen and both have a vision of Hell’s Kitchen being a better place. The plot of the show involves Kingpin taking over Hell’s Kitchen via a real estate scheme. Hell’s Kitchen was devastated during “the incident” which is what people refer to when the Avengers had their battle in New York. Fisk takes this opportunity to rebuild the city in his image.

There aren’t many Easter Eggs to the wider MCU, I think, like the first Iron Man, they wanted to keep things focused on Daredevil. There are old newspapers shown that mention the battle of New York as well as the Hulk fighting in Harlem from his movie.

The supporting cast is great with intriguing characters on both sides of the law. Real actual characters die too, giving the story a sense of real consequences the films sometimes lack.

As beautifully violent as this show is there are times when it gets a little ridiculous, same goes for Matt’s superhuman senses. The end of the second episode has a great fight scene, but we are to believe Matt did all that with two broken ribs. There’s also a scene where someone tazers Daredevil, who then collapses. It was a lot for me to believe he didn’t get shot. During one great fight sequence with a ninja (whose costume looked a little goofy) Daredevil is truly outmatched, but ends up winning almost by pure dumb luck.

Still this is a fantastic show from the get go. The first half of the serious is brutally violent filled with yell out loud moments. The later half turns up the drama, although it’s not lacking in the beginning either. The episode about Fisk’s childhood is probably the standout episode of the series.

Marvel’s Daredevil is arguably the best single unit of story telling produced so far in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is at least better than most, if not all, of the MCU films. Looking forward to the rest of the Marvel Netflix shows.

I was a latecomer to the Fast and Furious series. I didn’t see any of them until just a few years ago, but I enjoyed what I saw. In particular I thought Fast 6 was exceptionally good.

Unfortunately Fast 7 doesn’t live up to it’s predecessors. Following up directly from the last film, Jason Statham plays Deckard, a super ex-special forces bad guy, whose younger brother Owen was the villain in the last movie. Owen is apparently in a coma, and Deckard has seems to have wiped out an entire unit of special forces so he can tell his comatose brother that he will get revenge. I don’t think Owen heard him though.

This super ex special forces guy is only able to kill one of the heroes, which we already saw happen in the bumper scene of the last one. The remainder of the story is something about Statham teaming with some terrorist to steal God’s Eye, a super surveillance/hacking program that can basically find anyone in the world. The good guys are helped out by the government in the form of new character played by Kurt Russel.

This tangent of the God’s Eye plot allows the characters to travel around to cool locations like Abu Dhabi and we get the usual party scenes with hot chics etc. UFC champ Rhonda Rousey appears for a good fight scene in this locale. In Abu Dhabi it turns out they have to steal this flash drive and guess what, said flash drive is hidden in this super sports car near the top of the Etihad Towers. How convenient is that, that the McGuffin is hidden inside something that’s the basis of this franchise? That’d be like if they were in a sequel to the 1987 Stallone classic Over the Top. Only this time the flash drive is hidden inside a semi truck that is the prize for a professional arm wrestling contest! Cue to the montage of Vin Diesel grunting while arm wrestling to the sound of “Winner Takes it All” by Sammy Hagar, perhaps remade with a techno/hip hop beat. Yeah, really.

There is a nice send off to Paul Walker, which is very touching and is easily the highlight of the film.

The Fast and Furious series always had fun over the top action, but this one was just too ridiculous. There’s at least one or two entries of this series I haven’t seen, but I think 7 is the worst of the ones I’ve seen. I’d say this series has officially jumped the shark.

basis of this franchise

At the end of Captain America: Winter Soldier, it is revealed that Hydra has possession of the scepter that Loki had during Avengers. How Hydra acquired the scepter is the focus of Age of Ultron Prelude: This Scepter’d Isle. It is a digitally exclusive comic that serves as a prelude to the upcoming Age of Ultron film.

According to this story SHIELD initially had the scepter, as they acquired a lot of the alien technology after the Battle of New York in Avengers. They are analyzing it at S.T.A.T.I.O.N. the Scientific Tactical Intelligence Operating Network. SHIELD agents are named, including Mark Smith, Nicholas Cooper, and Mark Basso. I don’t believe that these are pre-existing characters. There’s a certain SHIELD agent who is disgruntled with the agency,and gets recruited by Baron Strucker (who apparently has hair in the MCU) to join Hydra. They steal the scepter and take it to their lab in Sokovia, a fictional politically unstable European country.

There’s a Dr. List character that runs experiments on the scepter (which I suppose the audience knows contains an infinity gem) and they use its energies to experiment on people. Looking for test subjects they turn to the student demonstrators that protest against the Sokovian government. They tell the students that they need power themselves to affect change, the kind of power the Avengers have. Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, twin siblings who eventually become Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, are among the demonstrators.

It ends with a recreation of the post credit scene in Winter Soldier, where some of the human volunteers have died from the experiment, but the twins have developed powers.

This Scepter’d Isle is a nice one in done story that fills in some interesting background to the upcoming Age of Ultron film, which is what is set out to do.

The comic can be purchased here on Comixology.

This two issue series that ties into the Marvel Cinematic Universe takes place in the 1980s. The specific year/date is not set, but the story involves Hank Pym crossing the Berlin Wall on a secret mission. The Berlin Wall came down in 1989, so at the latest this story takes place in the 1980s.

Hank Pym is a SHIELD scientist, and has apparently discovered what will be the Pym particle, which allows him to shrink his body to be just a few inches tall. Howard Stark, Tony Stark’s/Iron Man’s father and founder of SHIELD wants a covert team to use the Pym Particles to sneak across the Berlin Wall on a mission. Pym doesn’t want to share the secrets of the Pym particle to fall into the wrong hands, and insists that if anyone should use the particle it’s him.

We get a nice surprise appearance from Agent Carter, who is still with SHIELD and obviously drawn to look older. She agrees to prep him for his solo mission and gives a nice use of the “I think it works” line from the first Captain America film. There’s also some Davis character with Pym in the lab but I don’t know who that was.

The first issue ends with a cliffhanger that to some may be reminiscent of Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy. The second issue deals mainly with the mission and is filled with action beats. The mission is that some radical group SHIELD was watching got a hold of old Hydra tech and are reverse engineering it. The villains in this book are faceless/not actual characters, but while Peggy states that Hydra was cut down decades ago one of them does say Hail Hydra and they are in Hydra uniforms. The technology in question is a memory wiping device reminiscent of what was used on Winter Soldier. This group apparently kidnapped some poor victim to test it on.

The story ends with Pym realizing there’s important work out there in the field that only the Pym particle can handle, but his experiences reinforced the idea that only he should use the particle. This implies that, as Ant Man, he’ll be an active field agent for SHIELD.

The Ant Man prelude set’s the stage for the Ant Man prelude and establishes Pym as an active field agent. It would be cool to see more comics and maybe a video game about Ant Man missions for SHIELD, but for now the stage is set for the Ant Man movie.