Tag Archives: Cobie Smulders

Super-Stuffed

New ‘Avengers’ is full of most everything—including itself

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Avengers: Age of Ultron

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson & Jeremy Renner

Directed by Josh Whedon

PG-13

Summer is when Hollywood rolls out its big guns, and this star-packed, superhero-stuffed eruption certainly starts things off with a bang.

The second movie in Marvel’s Avengers franchise, it’s full of just about everything, including itself. It’s got all six of the do-gooders from the first movie, plus a couple of newbies. It’s dense with character backstories, relationship dramas and plot points that zip and zing in every direction, including forward—to more movies to come—and backward, riffing on things that happened in previous ones. It begins with one extended mega-wallop of a fight, a castle siege in a snowy forest, and ends with an even larger one, on a crumbling island city in the sky. And it crams even more in between, including a dyna-whopper that rips up most of Manhattan.

I imagine insurance premiums for the Avengers are through the roof.

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James Spader provides the voice of Ultron.

Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), the Hulk/Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and the Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) band together again, this time to fight an evil, smack-talking robot, Ultron (voiced by James Spader), who quotes the Bible and sings a ditty from Pinocchio as he goes about his mission of global annihilation.

Two new characters, the genetically altered twins Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), also come aboard—but only after playing freaky and fast for the other team first. Samuel L. Jackson, Don Cheadle, Stellan Skarsgård, Anthony Mackie and Cobie Smulders return for cameos. Look—there’s Andy Serkis, who played Gollum in Lord of the Rings! Paul Bettany, previously unseen as the voice of Tony Stark’s computer system, Jarvis, materializes anew as a floating, red-faced uber-android named Vision.

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Paul Bettany

If you’re a Marvelite, you’ll probably be in fan-gasm heaven. Otherwise, you might find the constant, crashing swirl and whirl of imagery and the barrage of inside references overwhelming and exhausting.

The cast is top-notch, and returning writer-director Josh Whedon packs the script and the screen with cleverness as well as ka-pow. But even at a lengthy 141 minutes, things still feel jammed and crammed. All the busy CGI huffing and puffing make the quieter moments stand out even more, like a scene in which the other Avengers, a bit tipsy after a party, humorously try (unsuccessfully) to lift Thor’s hammer from a coffee table, or the romantic subplot between Natasha Romanoff and Bruce Banner, in which she reveals a deep secret about her past and he painfully admits why his raging alter ego makes him less than ideal as a boyfriend.

It’s all part of the Marvel long game, a studiously crafted, mega-million-dollar maneuver in which comic-book characters are morphed from page to screen, connected, separated, then re-combined in various combos for a seemingly endless chain of box-office catnip. Coming up: Ant Man on July 15, a new Captain America next summer, the third Thor plus Dr. Strange in 2017 and another Avengers in 2018.

“Someone’s been playing an intricate game and made pawns of all of us,” muses Thor as Ultron draws to a close. True that, in more ways than one.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Oh, Daddy!

Vince Vaughn goes for warm & fuzzy as a fantastically fertile father

DELIVERY MANDelivery Man

Starring Vince Vaughn, Chris Pratt and Cobie Smulders

Directed by Ken Scott

PG-13, 105 min.

When Brooklyn meat delivery-truck driver David Wozniak (Vince Vaughn) discovers that anonymous sperm donations he made to a fertility clinic some decades ago have resulted in more than 500 now-adult children, he decides to check them out. Not all of them—just the 142 New Yorkers who are suing to find out the true identity of their dad.

So the deliveryman who’s sewn his seeds over the Big Apple goes off to see how they’ve sprouted—without letting any of them know who he really is.

DELIVERY MANThis remake—by the same director—of a 2011 French-Canadian flick called Starbuck (after a champion stud breeding bull) follows Wozniak as he interacts with his offspring. He encourages the street musician, cheers for the historical reenactor, gets a manicure from the salon worker, and subs for the barista at a coffee shop so the aspiring actor can skip work and go to an audition.

He even saves the heroin addict from an overdose.

There’s also a subplot about how Wozniak’s latest get-rich scheme has resulted in a massive debt to some sleazy loan sharks, and about his girlfriend (Cobie Smulders of How I Met Your Mother), who’s pregnant with his baby but not really expecting her screw-up of a partner to be much of a co-parent.

Can “Starbuck” turn his life around and become the man he needs to be—and the father he already is, 500 times over?

Vaughn, whose acting career has generally been defined by playing slouchy, raunchy man-child slackers, takes a decided turn toward the warm and fuzzy here, but still retains enough of his trademark comedic brand to not totally surprise anyone expecting to see a “Vince Vaughn movie.” It’s Chris Pratt, however, a supporting player on TV’s Parks and Recreation, who snatches most of the laughs right out from under him as his best friend and lawyer buddy.

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Chris Pratt, from TV’s ‘Parks and Recreation,’ gets most of the laughs as Vaughn’s best buddy and lawyer.

There’s something creepy about a grown man sneaking around, spying on dozens of barely 20-somethings, sneakily tweaking their lives. There’s something implausible about just how swell, well adjusted and full of sunshine all these kids are, even the heroin addict. And the scenes in which Vaughn interacts with his severely disabled son (Sébastien René, reprising his role from the original movie), meant to show Wozniak’s love for all his kids, instead come off as manipulative and mawkish.

Ultimately, this tall tale of a fantastically fertile lug and his epic leap into the nether-reaches of fatherhood has a message about family, connectivity and belonging that wraps around its comic center like one giant group hug. But Delivery Man makes you slog down a long road of soppy, artificially sweet goop to get to it.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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