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'Avengers' lives up to hype

Posted: May 9, 2012 - 11:02pm

Correct is not the word. Rather, “seems about right.” That’s the automatic reaction to various goings on in life.

Bizarre lawsuit in Hollywood that seems about equal parts shady and weirdly believable (see Travolta, John)? Seems about right. Eli Manning hosting “Saturday Night Live” and not quite living up to his big brother Peyton’s turn? Seems about right. Metta World Peace (formerly Ron Artest) viciously, violently elbowing an opponent in the head and then claiming it was an accident? Seems about right. Or turning 30, playing basketball that same night, coming home with an injured leg and hearing your wife tease, “You know these injuries are going to take longer to heal now, don’t you?”

Yep. Seems about right.

“Marvel’s The Avengers,” culminating from several successful summer blockbusters featuring one superhero at a time, is a flat-out fun-as-hell big screen movie. And that definitely seems about right.

Put aside the fact that reviewing a movie like “The Avengers” (let’s assume from here on out everyone understands it’s Marvel’s and not, say, Burger King’s) is about as impactful as killing a single mosquito. “The Avengers” is already setting box office records, and the world’s mosquito population is already recovered from losing one of their own.

For the non-comic book nerds out there, including the movie-converted nerds like me, here’s the gist of the prerequisite knowledge for “The Avengers”: In the Marvel universe, there are plenty of superheroes. Several of them wind up reluctantly teaming up to defend Earth from bad guys. The offshoots and subplots in the comic book world are infinite. For this movie, the team is Dr. Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). The group is more-or-less put together and monitored by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). The villain for this go-around? Loki (Tom Hiddleston), adopted brother of Thor, only evil.

Whew! If that sounds confusing, blame me. Joss Whedon and Zak Penn wrote “The Avengers” and they’re pretty damned impressive at cramming all of the above into two and a half hours and doing so coherently. Both men are quite well versed in the comic-book world, of course. Whedon created TV hits “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel,” while Penn penned (ha!) 2008’s “The Incredible Hulk,” “X-Men: The Last Stand” (2006) and “Elektra” (2005). Whedon also directs, and while the blockbuster doesn’t disappoint with numerous set action pieces, the best part of “The Avengers” is the dialogue.

What is remarkably consistent from beginning to end with “The Avengers” is that the lines this sparkly cast delivers are just plain good. There’s nothing quite like a full movie theater audience laughing in unison throughout a movie without the “aid” of a laugh track. In a relatively quiet mano-a-mano scene between Loki and Tony Stark, Loki smirks as he confidently taps his magic spear on Stark’s chest. We have already seen him use this trick effectively on Hawkeye, the effect being the superhero being touched by the spear falls immediately and totally under Loki’s control. It doesn’t work on Stark. Confused, Loki taps his spear a couple more times on Stark’s chest. Stark looks amused, Loki perplexed. “That usually works,” says Loki.

It’s good stuff. And it’s sprinkled liberally throughout the film. So, thankfully, is The Hulk, who is quite obviously an audience favorite. Mark Ruffalo is perfection as Dr. Banner, referring sarcastically to The Hulk as “the other guy.” When “the other guy” is in top form, “The Avengers” is as well. The audience clapped and whistled when The Hulk, ahem, smashed the crap out of Loki. They laughed the loudest when The Hulk playfully punched Thor right out of the screen after they subdued several bad guys together.

Two and a half hours zip by and frankly, I could have easily watched another two and a half and enjoyed myself immensely. Throw in the in-credits setup for the next installment, an after-the-final credits bonus scene and the whole audience practically giving the movie a standing ovation… seems about right.

•••

The boob tube scattershot at the Carson household is eclectic as always, ranging from go-to time killers (USA Network’s “In Plain Sight” via Netflix streaming) to shows the Mrs. and I gobble up as soon as new episodes come out each week (NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice” and ABC’s “Once Upon a Time”). We’re also winding down toward the finish line of NBC’s “Heroes,” another show I can’t imagine waiting weeks or months between episodes to catch when it was airing.

Netflix isn’t perfect, but the instant streaming subscription from them (less than $10/month) has to be one of the better bargains out there.

Instead of touching on every show currently on the playlist, there’s one show that has just recently won me over I wanted to highlight: “Battleground.” Haven’t seen a promo for it? Haven’t ever heard of it? Alright, confession: it ain’t, technically, a TV show. Rather, it’s Hulu’s first foray into original scripted programming. It took me a couple of episodes to graduate “Battleground” from background noise/time killer to truly enjoyable status. I’m on board now, though.

In the documentary-style dramedy go-to style of the day, the show follows political campaign staffers working to elect a dark horse candidate to the U.S. Senate in Wisconsin. It’s lighthearted, although it occasionally dips its toes into darker waters (like campaign manager Tak Davis’ crumbling marriage). What makes it work is the pleasant interplay between the various staffers coupled with the built-in drama of trying to get the underdog into the U.S. Senate. The theme song will absolutely get stuck in your head, too.

Worth a look if you utilize Hulu or, like us, don’t have a TV.

That said, the wife has yet to get on board (“It’s too slow!”). And it is very possible that I’m only watching “Battleground” to quench my thirst for documentary-style dramedy that the increasingly unwatchable “The Office” no longer satisfies.

I miss Michael Scott.

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