5 Things We Love About “The Avengers,” No Spoilers


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The Avengers” hits theaters this weekend, uniting solo-film superheroes Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and Hulk on the same screen in a cinematic team-up of epic proportions.

You can read my spoiler-free early review of “The Avengers” that went up earlier this week, but just in case you’re still on the fence about Marvel’s blockbuster (and because I enjoyed it so much I still have lots to say about it), I came up with a list of five elements — free of spoilers — that really stood out as the high achievements of Joss Whedon’s new superhero adventure.

What They Say & How They Say It

We’ve come to expect clever, quirky dialogue from Whedon’s projects, but there was some concern early on that his style might not mesh with the established tone of the films that preceded “The Avengers.” All that worry was laid to rest about five minutes into “The Avengers,” though, as the characters have only gotten better under Whedon’s guiding eye. It’s no small feat to make the conversational moments in a film like this just as interesting as the action scenes, but co-writers Whedon and Zak Penn have done just that, and given fans quite a bit of cheer-worthy material that doesn’t involve any smashing, flying, or trading punches. Some of the scenes featuring Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) are particularly great, though it’s Loki’s scene with a different character that really stole the show. You’ll know it when you see it, trust me.

The Incredible Hulk

Edward who? I enjoyed “The Incredible Hulk” and Edward Norton’s portrayal of Dr. Bruce Banner, the mild-mannered scientist who becomes a raging behemoth when he gets stressed out, but the Hulk of “The Avengers” is by far the best version of Marvel’s green giant that I’ve seen on the big screen so far. As Norton’s replacement, Ruffalo does a nice job of making us forget that he’s the third actor to play Bruce Banner in the last 10 years, and his scenes alongside Downey and the rest of the “Avengers” cast are some of the film’s best moments. I’ve never been a big fan of Hulk as a character, but if I had to identify one breakout character in “The Avengers,” it would be Hulk — and if I had to choose my favorite scene in the film, it would involve Hulk and Loki. That says a lot.

The Hero/Villain Permutations

Early on, I tried to keep track of all the different ways the “Avengers” creative team combined the various heroes and villains in the film, from the inevitable fights between the good guys to their super-powered, cooperative attacks on the bad guys. I stopped about halfway through the movie, as the list just got too long. Basically, if there’s a combination you wanted to see in the film, you’ll get it. What’s more, all of the team-ups (and brawls) feel organic to the story, which is something that can’t be said of many other films that feature a cast of characters this large and this high-profile.

The Trickster God

I said it in my review of “The Avengers” and I’ll say it again: the smartest move Marvel made for “The Avengers” was to bring back Tom Hiddleston as Loki. From the moment the god of mischief appears on the screen to his final scenes in the film, Hiddleston embodies everything a live-action version of the character should be. And while we got a taste of how good he was in the role during “Thor,” his role in “The Avengers” gives him an opportunity to play off actors like Downey and Samuel L. Jackson — and it’s an understatement to say he simply holds his own. Hiddleston manages to combine the great Shakespearean elements of the character with a sense of bitter malevolence that makes him a pitch-perfect villain for the team to tackle, and I can’t help hoping to see more of him in future Marvel movies.

The Post-Credits Scene

Naturally, I won’t spoil anything about the scene here. Just know that the now-expected post-credits scene signals big things for the Marvel movie-verse in the years to come, and the introduction of one of the Avengers — nay, the entire Marvel universe’s — greatest villains.

How psyched are you to see “The Avengers”? Let us know in the comments below.

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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Byrning Down the House

Everything You Need to Know About the Film That Inspired “Final Transmission”

Documentary Now! pays tribute to "Stop Making Sense" this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Cinecom/courtesy Everett Collection

This week Documentary Now! is with the band. For everyone who’s ever wanted to be a roadie without leaving the couch, “Final Transmission” pulls back the curtain on experimental rock group Test Pattern’s final concert. Before you tune in Wednesday at 10P on IFC, plug your amp into this guide for Stop Making Sense, the acclaimed 1984 Talking Heads concert documentary.

Put on Your Dancing Shoes

Hailed as one of the best concert films ever created, director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) captured the energy and eccentricities of a band known for pushing the limits of music and performance.

Make an Entrance

Lead singer David Byrne treats the concert like a story: He enters an empty stage with a boom box and sings the first song on the setlist solo, then welcomes the other members of the group to the stage one song at a time.

Steal the Spotlight

David Byrne Dancing
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Always a physical performer, Byrne infuses the stage and the film with contagious joy — jogging in place, dancing with lamps, and generally carrying the show’s high energy on his shoulders.

Suit Yourself

Byrne makes a splash in his “big suit,” a boxy business suit that grows with each song until he looks like a boy who raided his father’s closet. Don’t overthink it; on the DVD, the singer explains, “Music is very physical, and often the body understands it before the head.”

View from the Front Row

Stop Making Sense Band On Stage
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Demme (who also helmed 1987’s Swimming to Cambodia, the inspiration for this season’s Documentary Now! episode “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”) films the show by putting viewers in the audience’s shoes. The camera rarely shows the crowd and never cuts to interviews or talking heads — except the ones onstage.

Let’s Get Digital

Tina Weymouth Keyboard
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Stop Making Sense isn’t just a good time — it’s also the first rock movie to be recorded entirely using digital audio techniques. The sound holds up more than 30 years later.

Out of Pocket

Talk about investing in your art: Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz told Rolling Stone that the members of the band “basically put [their] life savings” into the movie, and they didn’t regret it.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Stop Making Sense when “Final Transmission” premieres Wednesday, October 12 at 10P on IFC.

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