DVD Reviews: 50/50 fights The Avengers

A film about a cancer victim and a film about a gaggle of super-heroes. What do they have in common, you ask? 1. They are both recent DVD releases. 2. They are both awesome.

I had been looking forward to 50/50 for a while, having heard positive buzz and also loving the films’ leads – Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anna Kendrick – in pretty much anything. The plot doesn’t really sound like a marketer’s dream (which may explain why it didn’t get a cinema release here) – a 27 year old guy finds out he has cancer, and deals with its impact on not just him, but also his friends and family. From the pre-buzz and trailer the thing that differentiated this film from others of its ilk appeared to be the light-hearted and humorous way in which it treated a very serious and delicate subject. And to an extent that was true. But to be honest, although the amusing moments were indeed that, it didn’t try and bring the laughs at the expense of poignant moments – there was poignance (is that a word? If not, I deem it so) aplenty.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt – yes, the kid from 3rd Rock from the Sun – delivered a suitably measured and depth-filled performance as Adam, who is given a 50/50 chance to survive a particularly rare type of spinal cancer. The way he struggled with not just the disease, but the impact of his illness on his friends and family, were the heart to this story. Seth Rogen was suitably Seth Rogen-esque as Adam’s best friend – and provided many of the lighter moments but then arguably one of the most emotional moments too. Anjelica Houston and Bryce Dallas Howard provided able support as mother and girlfriend respectively.

But it was Anna Kendrick who really almost stole the show here. Playing trainee therapist, and potential love interest, Katherine – she not only allowed Joseph the chance to really show his dramatic chops, but also showed her own. Walking the fine line between therapist and friend, while also learning the difference between theory and practice, Anna had a lot to play with in this character – and it was arguably her best performance since her Oscar-nominated role in the fantastic Up in the Air.

So, overall, I have to give this film a very positive diagnosis. It gets four M&Ms from me.

I have spent a while trying to work out how to segue way nicely into a review of The Avengers but, aside from the two things mentioned above, the films have very little in common. So I won’t try and force it. I should say I was VERY excited about seeing The Avengers, mostly because they had well and truly hyped it up and the marketing had worked on me. All the super heroes together? Hell yeah! Joss Whedon – geek god and creator of all things awesome – writing and directing? Hell yeah! And it’s all in 3D? Hell yeah! And I wasn’t disappointed.

However, the film did succeed in surprising me. The main surprise came in the form of Mr Tom Hiddleston – playing bad guy Loki. Although I had noticed him in Thor – also playing bad guy Loki – he really hit his strides in the Avengers, largely due to not only his own tremendous talent but the words put in his mouth by Joss Whedon (mewling quim anyone???). Everyone had said it was going to take something huge to cause ALL the Avengers to pull out their suits/hammers/arrows/angry side, and Loki – with his alien allies – were worthy adversaries.

I was also surprised by how freaking funny it was – though I shouldn’t have been. Not only do you have funny writers and a funny director, but you also have some pretty funny characters and people on set. What I would have given to have been on set the day they filmed the big Avenger argument in the laboratory – where everyone was shouting at someone about something. I mean, of course! You put together six superheroes, plus Samuel L.Jackson (is Nick Fury a super hero? I think he is more a rounder up of superheroes, but the fanboys will probably tell me otherwise), in a room together and of course sparks are gonna fly. And some of those sparks are going to be pretty damn hilarious. ‘Point Break’, ‘Reindeer games’, and The Hulk’s casual and completely unexpected left jab to Thor being some of the highlights.

The other surprise for me came in the form of some of the smaller characters – especially Agent Coulson. Clark Gregg is a delight – and I still remember him from when he was a FBI agent in The West Wing (clearly he does ‘agent’, well). His character was much more thoroughly developed in The Avengers – which was obviously necessary for what came later (no, I won’t ruin it for you crazy people who may not have seen it yet) – and his boy-like worship of Steve Rogers aka Captain America provided a few more laugh out loud moments. I was also impressed with the hilariously named Cobie Smulders as Agent Maria Hill, who I thought put in a suitably straight but tough performance and upped her game from her How I Met Your Mother days.

I should confess I saw this film three times at the cinema – and every time was worth the ticket price (if not more). It definitely loses something on DVD – for once it is a movie where the 3D really does add value – but it is still a worthy addition to my collection, and won’t be collecting dust that’s for sure. A solid 5 M&Ms. And roll on Avengers 2 (please Joss, bring back Loki!).

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