Age of Ultron: What to Expect

Age of Ultron: What to Expect
Posted by on Oct 30, 2014

This post will deal largely with Age of Ultron and how it will setup future Marvel films and what will happen to our heroes. Expect another post in the coming weeks about the phase 3 films recently confirmed and their possible focus. Most of my analysis is conjecture based on rumors, the recent trailer, and in some cases the confirmed phase 3 films. Regardless, a lot of this is based on the comics and are POTENTIAL SPOILERS so consider yourself warned!

In order to address the numerous rumors and recent confirmations, I will focus on each of the original Avengers (Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye) and the two newest “heroes” Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch

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Iron Man/Tony Stark:

It only seems right to start off with the golden boy. Tony Stark, and more importantly Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal, is the centerpiece of the MCU. He was the start of this whole crazy ride and his role is only supposed to grow bigger. After recent negotiations, we now know that we will at least see Tony Stark in major roles in Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War Pt. 1.

We have fairly recent confirmation that the Avengers line up will be altered in some way after Age of Ultron (AoU). Even before the official title for AoU was revealed, Director Joss Whedon openly stated that he was toying with the idea of death in AoU. So, it is very possible that we could get the first permanent death of the MCU.

Hopping back to Tony Stark and his placement in the MCU. His role in AoU will basically be as the new face of global security. With S.H.I.E.L.D. gone who better than Stark Industries to pick up the bill. His main idea, is to resurrect a dormant peace keeping program, which eventually becomes Ultron. By combining this program with his own AI Jarvis, Ultron gains a new level of sentience and comes down with a bad case of the crazies. Ultron’s first appearance in the trailer shows that his first incarnation will be pieced together from other robots. I would guess this would be from the opening battle with Baron Von Strucker, the Hydra commander at the end of Winter Soldier. This seems to be confirmed by the Eastern European setting, castle, and forces seen in glimpses in the trailer. These were the snow covered scenes in the trailer in case you were wondering.

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This doesn’t appear to go so well as we see The Avengers in a rather somber mood on their flight back. This could be because Tony Stark is missing in action since he doesn’t seem to be present in the Quinjet with his fellow Avengers. His sudden reappearance would give the team a worthy cause for celebration as we see in the trailer.

The majority of glimpses we see of Tony Stark are those of guilt. It seems he is just oozing with it and is eager to some how rectify his mistakes. His choices also don’t seem too popular with the god of thunder who we see hoisting him by the throat.

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What these confrontations and the guilt he is feeling means for the rest of the MCU is a call to organize the superheroes of Earth. In the Civil War event, Tony Stark is among the most vocal advocates for the superhuman registration act. An act that would turn all the superheroes into S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and make them public figures with very little to no secret identities. This splits the superhero community down the middle with Captain America on the other side of the confrontation. We’ll get to him a little later. It looks like Civil War will focus on this confrontation, most likely with a different focus since secret identities aren’t really a thing. The struggle will most likely be over how strict the regulation of superheroes should be. Civil War will leave Earth’s heroes weak and defenseless, ripe for an attack from Thanos in Infinity War Pt. 1.

Infinity Pt. 1 will be the defeat of Earth’s heroes leaving us with a pretty grim situation. Pt. 2 will be all about the rallying of forces and the defeat of Thanos. More immediately, it seems AoU could perfectly setup the Ant-man film. In the comics, Hank Pym (Ant-man) is the original creator of Ultron. Since we know that Tony Stark is resurrecting a dormant program, it could be that Hank Pym is responsible for the original program. We would then see at the very least a nod in AoU towards this and at the very least a subplot regarding Ultron’s creation in Ant-man. This would help to bring Ant-man to the fore front of the MCU and showcase his importance.

Captain America/Steve Rogers:

At first glance in the trailer, it seems pretty obvious that Steve is going to have a hard time in AoU. He is metaphorically homeless now that S.H.I.E.L.D. is gone, still adjusting to his new surroundings, and it even appears his shield is broken at some point in the film. His recent adventures and those yet to come in AoU could very easily drive him towards a pessimistic attitude toward the current state of the superhero world. This could lead him to form his own team, which we could see teased in AoU or see realized in Civil War.

In regards to AoU, not much can be seen of Steve in the trailer. He definitely seems focused and determined when they are in the castle/fortress setting. This also lends credence to the idea that it is a base for Baron Von Strucker. Then there is also the scene where he appears to be playing piano for some ballerinas. This particular scene could be caused by Scarlet With (Wanda Maximoff) and the nature of her on screen powers. I think it has more to do with Black widow but we’ll come back to this a little later.

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During AoU, I think we can expect Steve to conflict with the signature style of Tony Stark like they did in the first Avengers. Especially if Tony’s actions with either creating Ultron or trying to destroy him cause a terribly destructive event. Tony’s reaction will be the on-screen version of the Superhuman Registration Act while Steve’s will be something of the opposite. Not that heroes need to be controlled to become some private army for Tony but instead should be trained and trusted to help save the world. With the newest additions of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, I think that this option is pretty likely and that they could be Steve’s first recruits.

Civil War (0r possibly the end of AoU) will see Steve’s team fully assembled and dealing with their first major threat, with Tony Stark acting as an additional antagonist trying to control them. *MAJOR POSSIBLE SPOILERS* Civil War will see the confrontation between the two Avenger teams and more importantly the death of Captain America. This is a likely event since Chris Evans’s contract ends with Avengers 3. With the introduction of the Winter Soldier, we also have the solution for his death. In the comics for a time, Bucky Barnes picks up the shield and carries on. With a 9 picture contract with Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes) this seems pretty likely. While the comics brought Steve back to life, the MCU could keep him dead. We have already seen many characters come back to life including Nick Fury, Agent Coulson, Bucky Barnes, Loki (twice), and Groot. With such a major figure in the MCU, keeping his death permanent could raise the stakes in a way to help shake up the MCU in a big way. *END OF SPOILERS*

For Civil War, you can expect to see an epic throw down between Steve and Tony’s Avengers which will lead in some way to the death of Steve either at the end of Civil War or in Infinity War Pt. 1.

Thor/Thor:

The biggest thing to note from the AoU trailer is the distressed appearance of our resident god of thunder. We see multiple shots of him dropping Mjolnir, screaming to the high heavens, hoisting Tony Stark by the throat, and what appears to be his arm next to Steve’s broken shield. From the leaked scene of Steve and Tony discussing each Avengers reaction to Scarlet Witch’s powers, we know they were shown something akin to their worst fear. I imagine this will tie into Thor: Ragnarok which spurns him to take a quick trip back to Asgard to make sure everything is okay. Combine all of this with each Avenger’s Mjolnir test and Steve’s near success, you start to see Thor possibly doubting his worthiness before he is even shown the possible end of Asgard.

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In regards to Civil War his involvement is pretty minor. In the comics at this point he is really absent from Earth, which spurns Tony Stark to attempt to clone Thor. This goes extremely poorly and when Thor does show up again, he condemns Tony’s actions essentially stating that you don’t turn your back on your friends. Since his absence could easily be explained by him dealing with the threat to Asgard, you can begin to see why he may be absent from Civil War. If the end of Asgard is in the near future, you can see the power vacuum they would leave that leaves earth very vulnerable. After all Earth, or Midgard, is a part of their empire in the comics and under their “protection”. My bet, the end of Asgard will lead to an opening for Thanos to attack Earth, which was previously at the very least in the space owned by Asgard.

This attack on Earth will come in Infinity Part 1 and finished in Part 2. However it plays out, I have the utmost confidence that it will be on an epic scale the likes we have not seen before.

Bruce Banner/Hulk:

Much like Thor, Bruce Banner seems to be having a tough time. From stumbling around in the woods to fighting his fellow science bro Tony stark. The first scene we see is him stumbling around in some wintry woods, possibly after a confrontation with Baron Von Strucker. He is obviously distraught for some reason following the battle which is further cemented by the fact that we see him holding himself in some sort of blanket or sweater on the Quinjet. What appears to be another important scene in this winter setting is what appears to be a touching scene between Hulk and Black Widow. We know that these have some form of a special relationship in the film. I would guess it will be based off of their interactions from the first Avengers film. It could also take a romantic note but I think this is less likely. Essentially, I think since they share this bond from the first film, Black Widow is going to act as a calming agent for the Hulk.

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What is sure to be one of the most epic throw downs in the history of the genre is the fight between Iron Man and Hulk. Based on the fact that Scarlet Witch show’s the Avengers something upsetting/terrifying to them individually, I can easily see how this could set Bruce Banner on a rampage as the Hulk. I hope that we see Hulk just utterly smash Iron Man and when all hopes seems lost we see Black Widow lay down a little smack down. It could be possible with creative use of acrobatics and remaining quick on her feet. Even better if she just stands up to the Hulk without even flinching and stares him down.

While we don’t get a Hulk solo film, there are rumors that Hulk will be more present in Phase 3. Possibly being sent into space as he is in the comics or even having a cameo in Civil War as prisoner of sorts after Age of Ultron.

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Natasha Romanov/Black Widow:

Black Widow doesn’t get much screen time in the first trailer for Age of Ultron, but she is nonetheless going to have a big part. Putting aside her relationship with the Hulk, she could be leaving the Avengers to help Nick Fury. Her one line of dialogue “all things come to an end” seems to signal this. She is a super spy who has survived by hopping around and not remaining tied down. With Civil War coming up, I would put my money on her joining Steve and his team of Avengers. Whether it is because she believes in his cause or simply because of loyalty, she will be opposing Tony in some way.

Another interesting little tidbit in the trailer is the fact that we might get a little more back story of the enigmatic Black Widow. The ballerina scene could be a flashback of hers, whether it is a glimpse of her early years or not I would bank on that much more then a Steve Rogers flashback which is the other major rumor. Her solitary scene of her in a spacious warehouse alone is also intriguing. Is it part of the Scarlet Witch’s mind game? Is she on some mission? Who knows but I look forward to this character gaining more depth.

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Clint Barton/Hawkeye:

What we know for sure is that Jeremy Renner has stated that he has yet to play the Hawkeye he signed up for. He spent most of the Avengers being a puppet and didn’t get a chance to strut his stuff. Age of Ultron is supposed to change that. Everything that has been said about this character is that he is going to have a much bigger role other than a shorter more high tech Legolas.

My prediction is that just like Black Widow, Hawkeye will side with Steve instead of Tony. Especially since he and Black Widow have a close relationship.

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Quicksilver (Peter Maximoff)/Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff):

I put these two together since they will have the same purpose in this film, messing with the Avengers. They are seen first in the trailer at the front of an angry mob most likely protesting the Avengers most recent handling of their conflict with Baron Von Strucker. This gives them plenty of motive to side with Ultron. We also see Quicksilver tackling Ultron to save Steve so we know that they will eventually switch sides, which also happened in the comics, multiple times. I would guess that after they experience Ultron’s particular brand of crazy turned to 11 is when they decide to make their switch.

With Civil War coming up, their loyalties are going to be a little fresher than the other heroes. They will most likely stick together and really they could go either way. Without more information I am merely giving you my wishful thinking, which would be for them to side with Tony.

With all of these heroes, it is unclear who exactly will appear in Civil War. All of these actors have multiple picture contracts and little else has been confirmed outside of Captain America, Iron Man, and Black Panther.

 

Fury

Fury
Posted by on Oct 23, 2014

Don Collier (Brad Pitt) is a WWII tank commander who is dedicated to bringing his crew home. Boyd “Bible” Swan (Shia Lebeouf), Norman “Machine” Ellison (Logan Lehrman), Trini “Gordo” (Michael Peña), and Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis (Jon Bernthal) are Don’s crew and they are tasked with stopping a Nazi force from joining one of the most pivotal battles in the war.

Fury was written and directed by David Ayer (Training Day, End of Watch) has truly create a war masterpiece. To start off, when I walked out of this film I had the incredible urge to write a paper on the directorial and cinematography choices made in this film. Don’t worry I will restrict my review to a reasonable length. Nonetheless, what stood out the most about how much David Ayer was able to pack into his film. Filled with themes and metaphors that would take an academic level of analysis to unpack.

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Beyond that, it was a very well directed shot. Too often these days directors forget that they completely control the medium. David Ayer uses the camera and the fact that we as the audience have to view it from whatever perspective he chooses to add a layer of emotion that wouldn’t otherwise be achieved. Another director who does a great job of utilizing the camera is Edgar Wright, the writer and director of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End. This video does an excellent job of going into detail about this concept. Everything that Wright does Ayer accomplishes in a dramatic setting.

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What was also surprising to me was the quality of the performances within the film. I expected a great performance from Brad Pitt and Logan Lehrman, who I might add is on my stars to watch list. However, the other actors while definitely not unknown I didn’t have the highest expectations for. I was completely blown away by their performances and how well they played off of each other. It honestly seemed as though in preparation for this film they lived inside a tank for a period of time.  Their characters were also quite memorable and separate from each other. From their nicknames which set them apart or their own little idiosyncrasies each character was truly separate from each other.

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Lastly, what set this film apart from other war dramas is the fact that it did not glorify either side. Sure, we knew the Nazis were the bad guys and their level of evil was apparent. However, this group of men who are supposed to be the heroes are not much better. They are truly men who have seen the horrors of war and have responded in kind. Men who have been fighting evil and have responded in kind. Ayer and the actors do not shy away from this concept and in fact embrace it. This is what stuck with me the most after I walked out of the theater. That these heroes of war adapted to fit the circumstances.

Fury is a must and the only reason I didn’t give it a perfect score is simply because it didn’t quite blow me away.

My Rating: 9.5/10

5 Marvel Questions Answered

5 Marvel Questions Answered
Posted by on Oct 16, 2014

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If you haven’t heard this week, Marvel pretty much blew the minds of fans everywhere.  They announced that Captain America 3 as well as possibly Avengers 3 will adapt the massively popular Civil War story line.  This is huge for a couple of reasons.

1.  I thought Robert Downey Jr.’s contract ended with Age Of Ultron?

The two central characters in this story line are Captain America and Iron Man.  If you didn’t know, Robert Downey Jr.’s contract with Marvel was supposed to end with Avengers 3.  Last week it seemed RDJ had decided to troll fans everywhere by first confirming Iron Man 4, then stating only if Mel Gibson would direct, then stating he was in talks about other Marvel projects, until finally the news broke about the latest deal.  This is huge since RDJ has received a massive pay out from films in the past making Marvel hesitant about renegotiating.  This led to rumors about recasting Iron Man or even ending the character altogether.  Thankfully, for the sake of fans everywhere it seems they were able to reach some form of agreement.

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2.  Why won’t all the Marvel heroes appear in this film?

The original story line in the comics was a massive crossover event involving every superhero in the Marvel Universe.  It brought about the question of whether or not superheroes should forego their secret identities and be public agents or if their personal rights were more important.  The issue that the original story holds  is the fact that other pivotal characters involved are not able to appear in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (MCU).  These characters include Spider-man (Owned by Sony), The X-men (Fox), and The Fantastic Four (Fox).  While studios are somewhat open to the idea of sharing characters it would be a miracle for this to actually happen.  It appears that true to the original story, Captain America and Iron Man will represent the two sides.  Captain America is anti-public registration and Iron Man is pro-registration.  They will each form their own teams and face off.  Captain America 3 will establish Captain America’s team with the two teams facing off in Avengers 3.  Avengers 4 would be most likely where Thanos takes advantage of a weakened and vulnerable Earth to strike.

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3.  What’s going to happen between Captain America 3 and Avengers 4?

The films from Captain America 3 through Avengers 4 would deal with the fall out of having such divided heroes.  Not to mention that (spoiler warning!) in the comics Captain America is killed directly after Civil War and that their is a secret invasion from an alien force due to the weakened state of the worlds superhero force (end spoiler).  This whole arc would be kick started in Avengers: Age Of Ultron where we know that the Avengers are going to be facing their most deadly villain in more ways than one.

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4.  Doesn’t Civil War deal with secret identities?

Another deviation is that for now in the MCU, there are no secret identities.  Everyone know’s the Avengers secrets except for possibly who the Hulk is under the green skin.  So, what would the central conflict be about?  Most likely something very similar to the conflict in the Winter Soldier.  There you saw how Captain America was so against the new project Insight and how sacrificing freedom for protection was not the way to go.  This will probably rehashed with Iron Man filling in for Nick Fury.

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5.  Can Marvel really pull this off?

What this means overall is that Avengers 4 will simply be massive.  Having both Cap’s and Iron Man’s teams as well as possibly the Guardians of the Galaxy facing off against Thanos.  All of this just proves that Marvel is willing to think outside of the box.  Where most studios would be stingy about offering RDJ more money, they stepped up to the plate.  Where certain other 2 letter comic studios are looking for the instant pay off, Marvel is taking the time to build the characters.  From my humble vantage point, I see Marvel Studios as a company that was created by fans because they wanted to see their favorite characters be brought to the screen as faithfully as possible.  Some might say that they’re are too many superhero movies, even RDJ said something similar.  They might be right, however that is not Marvel’s fault.  Out of all the studios, Marvel is doing it right where money may be the motivator but it is not the bottom line.

With all this, be sure to expect Marvel to drop even more major news in the following weeks.

 

4 Reasons to Look Forward to Inside Out

4 Reasons to Look Forward to Inside Out
Posted by on Oct 9, 2014

Last week, Pixar released their first teaser trailer for Inside Outtheir next film coming Summer 2015.  You’ll notice that this teaser holds very little in actual footage of their new film.  Instead, we see an emotional roller coaster of a montage revealing some of the most memorable moments from Pixar’s catalog of films.  The only one that I counted missing was a moment from Carl and Ellie’s heart wrenching story, otherwise the range of emotions experienced in such a short clip is quite large and varied.

This is clearly intentional considering the focus of their next film.  Inside Out tells the story of a young girl, Reilly (Kaitlyn Dias), who moves across country leaving her friends behind and forced to start life a new in San Francisco.  However, instead of getting the perspective of Reilly, we actually get an inside look into her mind and her emotions.  Each one asserting their personality, this film looks to take a very personal look into the inner thoughts of a child.  Her emotions are made up of Joy (Amy Poehler), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Fear (Bill Hader), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), and Anger (Lewis Black).

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1.  This brings us to reason number one, the actors/actresses they have gathered to portray Reilly’s emotions could not be better.  Some of the funniest people in film today will be coming together to bring these emotions to life.  If you haven’t heard of these wonderful people, let me enlighten you.  Amy Poehler whom you might recognize from Saturday Night Live or more recently her role as the bright, happy, and motivated Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation.  Mindy Kaling has her own show, The Mindy Project which she started after her time on The Office.  Bill Hader is another Saturday Night Alum who has slowly started to expand into more mainstream film.  Phyllis Smith is most recognizable from her part on The Office but she has made an appearance in some smaller films since then.  Lewis Black is most famous from his time on The Daily Show and has recently gathered quite a number of parts in the animated industry.  The point is, all of these actors are comedy veterans who have also had experience with dramatic roles.  They will be able to bring us as high as possible and then bring us crashing down.

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2.  Pete Docter is the writer and the director who has been with Pixar since the beginning.  He has had a direct hand in some of the most memorable Pixar films (Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc., Wall-E, and Up) whether it be directing or writing.  He is no stranger to pulling on the heart strings of the audience.  With this cast at his control, he will have an unprecedented amount of potential to mess with the emotions of the audience.

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3.  Pixar is stepping outside of its comfort zone.  The only possible criticism I could think to give Pixar is that they keep to a pretty standard story telling style.  Here, instead of having a protagonist or two to follow around we will be going inside the protagonist themselves.  My hope is that this will turn the protagonist into the antagonist as well, after all we are our own worst enemies.  While difficult to pull off, this idea could pay off in a mind-bendingly big way.  Just imagine a time in your life when you were conflicted about something and how you felt on the inside.  Now imagine those forces personified and reacting to your current situation.

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4.  Pixar’s specialty is playing off of your emotions.  They will build you up before bringing you down.  So, it only makes sense that they now that they tell the story of those emotions.  I can already see it now, when Reilly is at a low point, Happiness is going to be trying to keep things balanced but it won’t work.  I would even go as far to say that at some point during the lowest point in the film, we will see Happiness die, or whatever the equivalent is for an emotion.  They will be giving a literal visual representation of a hopeless situation.  This would basically be like the opening montage in Up and have a balloon that slowly deflates around him has the situation gets worse.  Honestly, depending on how dark Pixar want’s to go, this film has the potential to be the most emotionally gutting yet.  Despite this possibility, I am excited beyond belief and a small part hopes that they will push the limits of the genre like they have in the past.

My Old Lady

My Old Lady
Posted by on Oct 2, 2014

Mathias Gold (Kevin Kline) has hit rock bottom.  Alone and destitute, he travels to Paris using the last of his money in order to claim his inheritance from his father.  A townhouse in the center of Paris is all his estranged father left him from his large estate.  Looking to sell it to a hotel tycoon, he begins to appraise it the moment he arrives only to find that his inheritance is currently occupied by two stubborn french women.  Mathilda Girard (Maggie Smith) and her daughter, Chloé Girard (Kristin Scott Thomas), are in a special arrangement.  Instead of Mathias’ father purchasing the townhouse outright from Mathilda long ago, he instead formed a contract where he would pay her a monthly fee until she died.  That contract was signed nearly 70 years ago.  Mathias begins to reconsider his original plan and may just find out that he isn’t as alone in this world as he thought.

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My Old Lady is based on the play by the same name written by Israel Horovitz.  What is incredibly refreshing is that not only did Israel adapt the screenplay himself but he also directed the film.  So, while I may never see his play in its original format, I do believe I have seen a true representation of his original work.  I at the very least hope this is true since the film held many twists and turns along the way that I would be disheartened to find out where either rushed or incomplete compared to their stage counterparts.  I say this since these twists and turns are really what I remember most about the film.  You never really know what is exactly going to happen next as startling revelation after startling revelation continue to emerge.  These help to keep the story fresh as it would otherwise lack much more than the natural conflict that would arise when one is waiting for a “tenant” to die to claim multi-million dollar investment.

As is usually the case with me, the second part that really brought this film to life is the actors character portrayals.  Maggie Smith channels more than a little of her Professor McGonagall in her performance of a stern, stubborn, french woman.  With a performance that easily and gracefully slides between gracious host and irate business partner.  At certain times she seems to empathize with Mathias and his run of bad luck while other times she reveals no sympathy while firmly defending her position blaming Mathias for most of her troubles.  It really is truly entertaining to watch Maggie Smith work with a character that she seems to fit her so well.

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Kevin Kline and Kristin Thomas do pretty well themselves.  Most of the movie, they spend their time trading insults back and forth while slowly learning about the each other’s true intentions.  Not to mention that their relationship is what holds the majority of the twists and turns of this film.  To be honest (spoiler ahead), Israel makes it appear that they aren’t going to end up together.  For more than a moment, I truly thought that Israel would divert from the traditional model and end the film with a somber twist.  He doesn’t but nonetheless, he keeps you guessing throughout the film.

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Now, one thing that I have always found evident in film adaptations of plays is the amount monologues or scenes of extended dialogue.  This is where Kevin Kline truly shines with his acting prowess.  Giving more than a few powerful speeches and monologues that fully capture the characters forlorn attitude.  It is the kind of performance in fact that makes me want to go through his filmography to find more gems showcasing his skill.  His performance especially stands-out considering that the film has only three major characters.  Not unusual but the disparity between main and secondary characters is so great that one could easily only include the main three.  It would make for an interesting experiment but wouldn’t be that much of a risk to do.

Once again, I have not seen a stage production of the play but I feel that this is as close to the real thing as you will get.  With a great cast, plot, and direction this is definitely a must see.

My Rating 8/10

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