Review – Can This Possibly Live Up to Its Hype? (“The Avengers,” “Battle Beyond the Stars”)

To answer the burning question right up front: YES, the film lives up to all the hype…and then some! Being a Marvel fan and general fanboy and geek at heart, I loved this movie from start to finish, so forgive me while I blush as I write this.

Director/screenwriter Joss Whedon must’ve had SO much fun writing, what truly in a sense, is a comic book fan’s wet dream. And they’re all here, boys and girls, so let’s read the line up: Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr. who nearly steals the movie), Captain America (Chris Evans), Dr. Bruce Banner/the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, giving the good doctor a soul…finally!), Thor (Chris Hemsworth,) super kick-ass spy Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and bow & arrow ace Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner,) along with their “boss”, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson–always great.)

The first half of the movie is the set-up: Thor’s nasty, evil adopted half-brother Loki (Tom Hiddleson–excellent) makes a deal with a race of intergalactic bad guys – the Chituari – to take out Earth so he can rule there. BUT to do this, Loki must posses a super-powered blue cube called the Tesseract. Once Loki steals it, the “team” is assembled, but not before ego’s are tested within the group, and boy, do these guys have egos!! That’s the fun part of act one: seeing superhero pitted against superhero. Iron Man vs Thor, Thor vs Hulk, Captain America vs …, well, you get the idea.

After the boys learn to play nice and focus on capturing Loki & getting the Tesseract back, things get back to normal…kinda. Loki has sinister plans and they include using the blue cube to open a worm hole and let the evil Chitauri creatures into New York! Act 2 is exactly that: Loki is captured (and then escapes), the Tesseract is activated and the Chitauri run amok in NYC while all the Avengers team up to fight them on such a grand scale that it dwarfs the screen.

Running a butt-numbing 2hrs/22min, Whedon gives each superhero icon their own story without glossing over another – a neat hat trick considering that each superhero had their own stand-alone movie. Then, of course, you have the creator of all the magic here, Joss Whedon, the man who gave us “Firefly” and “Buffy, the Vampire Hunter”. His wit and style is all over the movie along with his signature direction that moves along with a lightning pace, only stopping for those intimate moments between characters. Very nice touches in an otherwise LOUD movie with enough explosions to satisfy any Michael Bay fan.

I don’t know about you, but I’m gonna go back for seconds… see ya!!

BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS (1980)

Richard Thomas (from “the Waltons” TV show) wanted to do a movie, so his agent suggested this one. I hear he fired his agent afterwards.

What is a blatant rip-off of 1954’s “the Seven Samurai” (which itself has been ripped-off to infinity), this incarnation is set in space and deals with the all-to familiar setting of a planet named Akir (loving named after “Samurai” director Akira Kurosawa). Young farmer Shad (Thomas) and his people are threatened by intergalactic bad guy Sador (John Saxon) to surrender their planet or be destroyed! What to do? Oh, what to do?

Shad volunteers to take the only star cruiser they have and seek help to defend their planet. His adventures in space and neighboring planets has him meet up with a rogues gallery of bizarre and weird mercenaries that take Shad up on his offer. Amongst his “samurai” are George Peppard (as Space Cowboy from Earth–no kidding, that’s his NAME!), a wealthy assassin called Gelt (Robert Vaughn–a “Magnificent Seven” movie alumni–nice touch), Saint-Exmin (a very buxom Sybil Danning) a Valkyrie warrior who longs to die to battle, and Nestor 1 of 5 (Earl Boen) an alien being who speaks for his fellow beings and takes up Shad’s request to keep from “being bored to death”. Shad also meets the pretty Nanelia (Darlanne Fluegel), the daughter of crazy Dr. Hephaestus (Sam Jaffee). Wait for the “campfire” scene, it’s a hoot.

And so on, and so forth.

The great battle in space then begins with the great and powerful Sador vs the seven ragtag heroes who battle and die off one by one, but Shad naturally wins the day and gets the girl. It’s pure 80’s cheese with tongue-in-cheek dialoge, 80’s silly FX, and a witty and fun storyline that (thank God) doesn’t take itself seriously. All in all, it’s a great popcorn movie to rent from Netflix or Blockbuster.com.

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