Welcome to The Mundane Adventures of a Fangirl

I consider myself a Fangirl. What does that mean, you ask? A "fanboy" in the most common understanding is a hardcore fan of 'genre' based entertainment in particular. In my case - science-fiction and comic book based movies and television. Because I'm a chick - it's fangirl, not fanboy. There you have it! I am a big movie fan, however, not necessarily a 'film' fan. And now - I have the forum to present my opinions to the public! These will mainly be movie reviews -that will always be my opinion - repeat OPINION. Just what I think, and in no way do I present my opinion as fact. I hope you enjoy and maybe it will help you decide what to see at the movie theater this weekend!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Movie Review: Men In Black III (PG13 - 103 minutes)

This one will be short!
The original Men In Black came out in 1997, during the stretch of years where Will Smith owned the Fourth of July holiday movie weekend.  He had a stretch of hits on that weekend every year, including Bad Boys (1995), Independence Day (1996), and (sort of) Wild Wild West (1998).  My favorite of these was Independence Day, which really benefitted from amazing marketing - you knew almost nothing about the movie before it opened - a great cast - and a really cool premise. 
My second favorite of his string-o-hits is probably Bad Boys.  But a close tie with that is the original Men In Black.  A sharp, quick-witted picture with the truly unlikely pairing of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones and superbly directed by Barry Sonnenfeld.   The movie was an absolute treat for practical effects and digital effects junkies alike, with special props to Rick Baker and his team for some of the most amazing practical alien effects ever put together and, as always, props to ILM for some amazing digital effects.
The second Men in Black movie came out in 2002, and while not anywhere near as good as the original, was entertaining in bits.  It built a bit more on the relationship between Jones's crochety K and Smith's slick J.
The third installment features many of the pieces from the first two that everyone loved:  amazing practical and digital effects, Danny Elfman's signature quirky score, Sonnenfeld's excellent directing, and Smith and Jones doing nothing new, but delivering what they do best.
A summary of the plot can be done quickly:  An evil alien that K put away years ago, breaks out of a lunar prison, and hell-bent on revenge, goes back in time to kill K, which wipes him out in the now.  J, being the only person that remembers K in the now, must travel back in time to save him before he gets pre-killed.  Simple enough, right? 
Simple can be good if exceuted properly, and this movie definitely is.  Smith and Jones are very good - again, doing nothing new, but we don't really want new in this, we want them to be the same alien-fighting odd couple they always are.  Emma Thompson is wonderful as the new boss, O, check out her speech at Zed's memorial in the beginning - funny.  There are several little cameos of random people here and there, be on the lookout.  Bill Hader is funny as Andy Warhol. 
Jermaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) is the villian Boris the Animal.  The effects on his makeup are very cool, and he plays a good villian, and is very over the top - but that seems to be what is called for here.  I am a fan of his, and can't tell if I wanted more or less from him, but I wanted a little something different. 
The true scene stealer in this, which you can tell from the trailer, is Josh Brolin as a young K.  His Tommy Lee Jones mannerisms and speech patterns are epic and perfect.  He brings fun to the young K that J is confused by, as the older K has no fun.
Sonnenfeld directs this with great ease, because he's familiar with these characters, and even more familiar with this style.  Quirky fun is his cup of tea.  If you haven't watched his live-action Tick tv show featuring the genius that is Patrick Warburton - check it out...my favorite is the episode with Ron Perlman.  The other movie by Sonnenfeld that you should see is Big Trouble - quirky and fun.  He does cameo in this movie on a couch - as he has in other movies he's done.
All in all I really enjoyed this movie - it was short, but that did not bother me.  I did feel like it was a lot of buildup for a little payoff.  It's difficult to explain that without spoilering, so I'll just say that the movie does explain a lot in terms of the relationship between K and J, and the orgins of it, in a very quiet and touching scene, that I felt could have been longer with a little more explaination that would have served the story equally well - but it wasn't bad the way it was done.
7 out of 10 - very good, probably would have been really good in a year that didn't have the Avengers in it!
Bonus Video 1:  Flight of the Conchords - Hiphopopotamus and Rymenocerus.  If you have never watched this show - Netflix it now, it is just too bizarre.  This is one of my favorite songs...but I have lots - I especially love the confused pause after, "my lyrics are bottomless...."

Bonus Video 2: The Tick!  Netflix this now too!

Bonus Video 3: MIB3 interviews - yay!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Movie Review: Battleship (PG-13, 131 minutes)

In case you are unfamiliar with the original Battleship game, it was first played worldwide prior to World War I as a pencil and paper game. It was published by Milton Bradley in 1943 as the pad-and-pencil game "Broadsides, the Game of Naval Strategy", and again as a board game in 1967. 
The game is played on four grids, two for each player. The grids are typically square and labeled with letters and numbers. On one grid the player arranges ships and records the shots by the opponent. On the other grid the player records his/her own shots as either "hits" or "misses".  Before play begins, each player secretly arranges their ships on their primary grid. Each ship occupies a number of consecutive squares on the grid, arranged either horizontally or vertically. The number of squares for each ship is determined by the type of the ship:  aircraft carrier, submarine, cruiser/destroyer, patrol boat, and battleship.

Each ship is a different size, taking up different amounts of squares.  The goal is to sink all of your opponents ships before yours get sunk, by taking turns guessing a numbered square.  Simple and straightforward.  So how do you turn this game into a major summer blockbuster?  The very idea is laughable.

Enter Peter Berg, who I first saw in Chicago Hope and through a guest spot on Alias (I loved that show!).  He started his directing career with a few episodes of Chicago Hope in 1997, then moved on to Very Bad Things - which I would describe as an earlier, darker version of The Hangover.  His other directorial pieces are:  The Rundown (2003), Friday Night Lights (2004), then the FNL TV show (2006 - 2009), The Kingdom (2007), and Hancock (2008).  I really enjoyed the Rundown - it's the Rock running through Brazil after Sean William Scott, while Rosario Dawson pretends to be Brazilian and Christopher Walken plays Christopher Walken in Brazil.  It's a very straightforward buddy action/comedy romp. 

The most quality of Berg's movies was Hancock.  It suffered from being marketed wrong.  They attemped to sell it as a comedy starring Will Smith as an amnesiac super powered man, however, the movie and serious and deeper undertones.  It was well done and well played by Smith, Charlize Theron, and the always wonderful Jason Bateman.

Hancock is the best one of Berg's movies to use as a start of a discussion of Battleship.  He has done a good job with all of his movies, and proven to be a very competent action director, but I was still skeptical when he was announced as the director of Battleship.  Although, I was suprised anyone was announed as the director for Battleship - how is that a movie?
Similar to Hancock, the marketing for Battleship has been a bit, well, unconvincing at best.  It looked awful.  Cheesy, over-the-top Transformers rip-off to fill the space between Avengers and Batman.  It is all of those things, but here's the true surprise:  it's a good, fun movie!

Taylor Kitsch (Gambit and John Carter) plays a screwup living on his naval officer brother's couch.  His brother (Alexander Skaaaaaarsgaaaaaaard), fed up with his shenanigans, gets him enlisted in the Navy.  Along the way he starts dating the Admiral's (Liam Neeson) daughter (Brooklyn Decker), and still screws up things.  He is about to get kicked out of the Navy after particpating in RIMPAC, a multi-country collaborative training excercise.  During said exercise, 5 alien ships crash down in the Pacific ocean, responding to a communications signal we sent out to an Earth-like distant planet we discovered years earlier.  The alien ships seal off Hawaii and the surrounding waters in a bubble-like forcefield, (which might be the same one that the Gungans used in Episode 1) and set out trying to take over the communications array we used to send the original signal to send a signal back to wherever they came from - to whoever they left behind.  The ships that end up sealed inside the bubble with the alien ships attempt to defeat them before they can send that signal.
It's a fairly straightfoward plot - and does play into bringing the original board game idea really well. 

Apparently Berg has taken a Michael Bay filmmaking crash course, because this movie looks amazing.  There are plenty of Bay-trademarks: long slow shots of groups of heroes from below, sweeping arial shots of military craft and landscapes, and a shot of a scantily-clad chick.  Aside from that last one - I am not complaining.  I love the way Bay movies look and I loved the way this movie looks. 

Everyone did a fine job in their role, which is not saying much, not a ton of work was required.

  • Kitsch is slowly improving - still slightly wooden, but it fits right in with his character in this.  The opening scene of him attempting to woo Brooklyn Decker's character is very entertaining, plus, results with him mostly naked in a bathtub, no complaints there.  He is on his way to a promising B-level action career.  Someone get on that Gambit movie already...
  • Liam Neeson is barely in this - and essentially is playing Liam Neeson in a Naval uniform - he's good, but then, he always is.
  • Decker is in this and the currently playing What to Expect When You're Expecting.  I have never seen her in anything else, and in a role that could have fallen into the typical 'hot chick' Bay-style role, is better because she does have some stuff to do in the middle of the movie that give her character a little more depth. 
  • There is the obvious stunt casting of pop star (notice I did not say singer) Rhianna. She's fine as a battleship gunner, but really, she's just playing Michelle Rodriguez. Is there another actress out there that can convincingly pull off the 'tough chick' role? Is Rodriguez all we have? Maybe Milla Jovovich, but they are both shooting RE5 right now, and couldn't do this role.  Zoe Saldana?  maybe?
  • Tandanobu Asano, who we last saw in Thor, steps in as Kitsch's rival Japanese naval captain and helps to save the day once they learn to work together - no spoiler there, it's predictable.
  • Hamish Linkletter (New Adventures of Old Christine) plays the geeky scientist. There's always one in this movie - and his level of geeky is pretty good.
  • I did love the character Mick, played by real-life army vet and double amputee Gregory D. Gadson.  His general attitude of "the hell with this" throughout the majority of the movie provides equal parts comedy and genuine touching moments.

The majority of the extras in the film are either current or retired Navy, which does help lend a little believability.  The other piece that I really loved is that when our heroes are running out of ships - they decide to use the retired USS Missouri battleship as their final fighting chance.  They get to team up with the WWII Navy vetrans who are currently working on board the battleship as it has been turned into a museum.  A little cheesy, but also unbelievably touching, in my opinion, and easily my favorite moment.
You should see this - on the big screen, and for memorial day.  Don't expect too much from it, it's just silly, superficial, good-looking, popcorn fun!
8 out of 10.

Bonus Video 1:  Peter Berg discussing this movie - his stars - the navy - a bunch of stuff.

Bonus Video 2:  Liam Neeson on "Get in The Cage" on SNL...hilarious!
Bonus Video 3:  Double your Skarsgards...

Monday, May 14, 2012

Movie Review: Dark Shadows (PG13 - 113 minutes)

At the top of this one, I'm going to plug the Podcast I'm now doing with my friend Keith, in case you'd like to hear me discuss movies with a friend, instead of just reading my movie-based thoughts!  It's pretty entertaining!  Check us out at http://www.hesawshesawfilm.wordpress.com/

Dark Shawdows was a soap opera that aired between 1966 and 1971.  It depicted the wealthy Collins family in Collinsport, Maine as they dealt with strange occurrances in their family starting with Vampires and going on through witches, werewolves, etc. 

The show is available on DVD if you'd like to check it out, and just as an interesting note, Johnathan Frid's Barnabas Collins does not show up until episode 210.  It was filmed live in New York, like any other soap opera, and had a loyal following.  Two membersof that loyal following were Tim Burton and Johnny Depp.

Tim Burton and Johnny Depp are really good friends and feed off each others creative weirdness.  Also, Burton seems to be one of the the only people who will completely let Depp dissappear into a costume/makeup, which he loves to do.  He's gained enough of a reputation now that many directors will let him do it, but in the early part of his career, Burton was one of the few, mainly because, he's equally as weird as Depp. 
Their joint career started in 1990 with Edward Scissorhands and continued through the following:  Ed Wood (1994), Sleepy Hollow (1999), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), Corpse Bride (2005), Sweeny Todd (2007), Alice in Wonderland (2010), and Dark Shadows (2012).  These films all have a similar theme/vibe to them, slightly offbeat and a little bit weird, allowing Depp to stretch into a memorable character, while Burton crafts a uniquely dark story around it.  My personal favorite of this list is Sleepy Hollow.  I really enjoyed their take on Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman.
It has the same tone that the two have been able to bring to most of their collaborations:  genuine creepiness, some actual horror moments, some tender sweet moments, and finally, but perhaps most important, a cheeky sense of humor.  I have seen almost all of their collaborations (only pieces of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and none of Ed Wood, and pieces of Corpse Bride).   But Sleepy Hollow was definitely my favorite. 

It was with some trepidation that I went to see the new Burton/Depp Dark Shadows.  I have found their last few collaborations to be somewhat self-indulgent and a little pretentious.  But then, I almost always find Depp a little pretentious.  I was concerned with the marketing of this particular movie, because every commercial made it look like a hilarious comedy - and being familiar with the previous collaborations, I knew that it would not be all comedy. 
I liked the movie - it was okay.  To sum up the story:  Barnabas Collins left England as a young man with his parents in 1772 ish.  They settled in Maine, established a profitable fishing company and built their family mansion - Collinswood.  Barnabas spurns the affections of the housekeeper, Angelique, who happens to be a powerful witch, and she proceeds to curse the family with bizarre miseries.  In a final act of vengenance, she kills Barnabas's new love, turns him into a vampire, encourages the townspeople to bury him, and builds her own fishing empire (because, why wouldn't she?).  In 1972ish, a workcrew is building a new McDonalds and unleashes Barnabas, who sets out to fit in to this new strange time, and rebuild his family and their fortune, which has fallen into some disrepair. 
It maintained the sense of humor all the way through, but it also had the creepy tone that I was expecting.  As with all Tim Burton movies, the sets and scenes are beatiful, and look like amazing gothic paintings brought to life.  The house, Collinswood, is gorgeous and lavishly decorated.  The sets they built for Collinsport (yes, the town is named after them too), really look enough like a little New England fishing town that I expected a shark attack at any time.  Thank you, Spielberg, for ensuring that I never think of New England in a pleasant way again.  There were a shocking amount of shots of the ocean slamming against rocks, and by the dozenth time, I was really wondering why they kept showing the ocean.  Watching the original opening for the show above does clarify that, but it probably could have been cut down a little. 

Depp does a wonderful job with Barnabas's "man outside of time" dilemma, all the more increased in it's awkwardness because he's also a Vampire.  Say what you want about him, the man is a good actor - apparently ageless (he still looks 20ish, what is the deal? maybe he really is a vampire?), and knows how to enjoy playing in great costuming and makeup, which this movie definitely has.  I also really enjoyed his conviction to bring his family back to it's former glory - which is Barnabas's main motivation once revived.
Michelle Pfeiffer plays one of the 1972 Collins's, I'm not entirely sure of the relation, I could have almost used a family tree diagram at one point.  She is fantastic as the current matriarch of the family who is trying to hold them together.  Pfeiffer has been very careful about recent choices and is as strong as she has ever been.  Again, if you haven't seen Stardust - netflix it now. 
Johnny Lee Miller (Sick Boy from Trainspotting - and Eli Stone from Eli Stone) is barely in this as Roger Collins.  He does an good job of making Roger irritating, but if you want to see him at his best, rent Hackers again, or Plunkett and McLeane, or really watch Eli Stone - which was underrated. 
Helena Bonham Carter plays the drunken live-in physchiatrist, Dr. Hoffman.  She's very good, and it seems she just keeps getting better, but then she's always good in Burton pieces.  They've been an item since they met making his Planet of the Apes reboot in 2001, and share connecting homes in London and have two children together.  She's equally as weird as he is, and truly understands the tone of his movies and is always entertaining in them (probably the same reason Rebecca Pidgeon is always good in David Mamet pieces - and for the record, the tone in those is difficult to get right, not to mention dialogue pace, but Pidgeon does every time). 
Bella Heathcote does a good job of playing Victoria Winters, which is difficult, because her character was significant, but seemed to get one line of backstory/development. 
Jackie Earle Haley is underused as the drunken butler/family member?  Honestly - I needed that family tree diagram. 
The two children were good, but honestly, I just got really annoyed with Chole Grace Moretz's stoned rebelling 70s teen.  So, perhaps she did a good job?  I don't care what you say, I didn't like KickAss, and I don't like her.  Moving on....
The true scene-stealer in this is Eva Green as the witch, Angelique.  The only other thing I had seen her in was Casino Royale, the first Craig Bond.  She is going to be in the 300 sequel (no, I don't know why they're doing that), and was in The Golden Compass (no, I can't explain why I saw that - the marketing people lied and made it look good - easily one of the worst movies I've ever seen).  I was mostly unfamiliar with her,which is why I found her so entertaining in this.  She is over the top, evil and slinks her way through the movie, harassing Barnabas and Co. while demanding his love and affection.  I particularly enjoyed the scenes in her fishing company board room.  The make-up effects on her during the final battle are amazing and really well done.
There wasn't anything I can pick out as strongly disliking in this movie, except for the fact that it has a good cast, it's billed as an ensemble, and really everyone in the movie is underused with the exception of Depp.  So, it's not an ensemble, it's a Depp movie.  If you're a fan of his, that doesn't bother you.  If you were looking for more from the great cast (which could have been capable of so much more), and more of the family interaction, and a little less Depp, perhaps wait for the sequel (I can't support that, but it seems inevitable).
All in all, entertaining, just not amazing.  Unfortunately, anything released after the Avengers is just going to be, meh.  It's just shy of two hours, and really, might have been stronger at 90 minutes.  If you're a Depp/Burton fan, see it, you'll love it.  If you're not a fan of them - don't, you won't.
6 out of 10.  Gained points for Eva Green - I really thought she was great.  Lost points for the Christopher Lee cameo (at least he wasn't wearing Dooku's short cape).  Gained points for the Alice Cooper cameo.  Lost points for not using the cast to the full of their potential. 
Bonus Video 1:  Clip from the original TV show:
Bonus Video 2:  My all time favorite Tim Burton Movie is Batman (does that even count?).  Second is Beetlejuice.  It's creepy and weird and hilarious. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Movie Review: The Avengers! (PG13 - 142 mins)

Here's the short version of this review:  This is the best movie of this year - if not of the last few years - go see it now!  As big as possible!  And in 3D!  Now, feel free to read on if you'd like more detail.  And, I'll warn you here, this is going to be a long one! 

The Avengers were a team of Marvel Superheroes that first came together in Avengers #1 in 1963 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby inspired by DCs Justice League.  Their tag line was : "Earth's Mightiest Heroes", and the original members were Iron Man, Ant Man (Henry Pym), Wasp (Janet Van Dyne - later to become Janet Pym), Thor and Hulk.  Captain America was discovered by the team in issue #4, trapped in ice, and he joined the group when they revived him. The Avengers have become known for a rotating roster that has essentaily included almost every Marvel character at one point or another.  The team, famous for its battle cry of "Avengers Assemble!", has featured humans, mutants, robots, gods, aliens, supernatural beings, and even former villains.  The point of the Avengers has always been to fight "the foes no single superhero can withstand".  This allows them to "assemble" when needed, but also allows each individual character to break off and have their own adventures, returning to the Avengers when needed.  If you are curious as to more of the backstory of the comics - and it is worth a read - here is the Wikipedia link:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avengers_(comics). 
In 2006, Marvel released the Animated movie, Ultimate Avengers - and shortly thereafter, Ultimate Avengers 2.  They are really well done, and worth Netflixing (I'm making Netflix a verb, just like I'm doing with Palpatine).  In 2010, Marvel began a new Avengers Animated series - The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes.  Season one is available streaming from Netflix in it's entirety, Season 2 is currently airing.  This series features great stories, tons of Marvel Characters, and a really catchy theme song.  I recommend it highly.

There have been many Marvel Character movies released under various studios:  Blade 1,2,and 3, Fantastic Four 1, and 2, Spider Man 1,2,and 3, Ghost Rider 1, and 2, Punisher 1, and 2, Daredevil, Elektra, etc.  The was even a David Hasslehoff Nick Fury movie released a long time ago.  Disney acquired Marvel and Marvel Studios became an independantly operating piece of Walt Disney Studios, able to control it's own property, and back in 2007 announced plans to release several movies featuring some of their biggests characters to culminate in the Avengers in 2012.  Hearing this, I was excited, but concerned.  Putting a hard date on all the releases really kept them on pace, but what if some of the movies weren't good, and people didn't like them?  Ang Lee's Hulk from 2003 was terrible - not because of the story, but because Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) was the worst possible choice to direct a Hulk movie.  Then Marvel chose Jon Favreau to direct Iron Man, cast Robert Downey Jr., and any questions I had were eliminated.  RDJ was the perfect person to play the snarky, hard-drinking, womanizing Tony Stark ("billionaire, genius, playboy, philanthopist?").  The movie was outstanding, fun, action packed, and featured what has become a Marvel Staple, the post-credit tag that teases the next movie and continuing storyline. In this movie - it established Samuel L. baddest Jedi in the galaxy Jackson's new ultimate Nick Fury.
There has long been an opinion by the snooty Hollywood Artistic Community (the oscar-y type folks) that comicbook hero movies cannot be quality films; they can be entertaining movies, but not quality films.  Christopher Nolan has proved this wrong with his Dark Knight films and Marvel has continued to prove it wrong.  The key is simple:  amazing writing, quality directors, and casting really talented actors.   The Incredible Hulk, released late 2008, starring Edward Norton and directed by Louis Leterrier (Transporter) continued this trend.  Norton is amazing (in the movie, not in real life - he's notoriously difficult to work with and likes to argue with the director and demand editing rights) and the movie is wonderful - and this is coming from a Hulk non-fan.  It contined to establish the cross-character relationships, mentioning Stark Industries, S.H.I.E.L.D., and the Captain America super-soldier formula.
This was followed by Iron Man 2 in 2010, and Thor in early 2011.  I have never been a Thor fan...he's basically a demi-god, and therefore, not all that relatable or interesting.  But then, Marvel hired Kenneth Branagh to direct and there could not have been a better choice.  Branagh has made his career by making Shakespeare into interesting movies (who knew Shakespeare could be interesting?).  See his version of Othello - it's impressive, but even better is his version of Much Ado About Nothing, which has been my favorite Shakespeare thing ever (You should also check out the movie he did with then wife Emma Thompson called Dead Again - it is absolutely fantastic).  He treated Thor's story like a Shakespeare work - and the result was so good, I was really pleasantly surprised.

The final entry into the pre-Avenger codex in late 2011 was Captain America: the First Avenger.  Directed by Joe Johnston, a Spielberg protege, with great skill.  It was the perfect orgin story, and surprise of surprises:  despite much doubt, Chris Evans was perfect as Captain America. 
That brings us up to the present, and the cinematic perfection that is the Avengers.  When they announced Joss Whedon as the writer/director, I literally jumped up and down with joy.  If you are, for some reason, not a fan of his work (Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse), you are missing out.  There is no one, NO ONE, that writes a group of strangers that come together to form a strong family unit better than him.  It is a recurring theme in all of his work, and is perfectly suited to the Avengers.  However, I did question one thing.  Joss, by his own admission is a writer first and foremost.  He can get very very talky.  Critics mentioned this so often with the Buffy series, he countered with the Emmy-winning episode "Hush", in which all characters lose their voices, and are unable to talk for the episode.  It is genius, so while I originally thought the Avengers would be the most talky superhero movie ever, I also knew he was capable of doing visuals.
This movie delivers on every level.  It is an insane undertaking to get 7 heros in one movie and still give each one their due.  And yet, somehow it happens. Each character has an "entrance" and is treated as important.  There is just enough story on each that you probably could see this and understand it without seeing any of the individuals films.  Each character is established - each one is clear about not necessarily wanting to work together, but they soon see that the threat is so real, there is no choice but to suck it up, and work together.
The movie is long - 22 minutes past two hours, but I never felt the length.  In terms of tone - it maintains the same tone that the previous movies have established.  The threat is real, and the action serious, but there are tons of jokes sprinkled in throughout.  There are some moments so funny, I missed the next line because I was laughing so hard.  Even the scenes that you saw in the trailers delivered in the movie, nothing was ruined.   All the actors delivered - even Scarlett Johanssen, who I personally cannot stand - did a great job, and was given a great couple of scenes.  She and Jeremy Renner both did well with characters that have previously shown up briefly, but haven't really had establishing moments (please do not give them their own movie, though - not interested).  And for all the complaining that Renner's Hawkeye was not used enough - I disagree, I thought he was perfectly used.  Evans, RDJ, Hemsworth, were all fantastic.  Wisconsin native (yay!) Mark Ruffalo did a wonderful job with the difficult task of taking over Bruce Banner from Edward Norton, and I have to say - if any one of the heroes stood out in this - it was the Hulk.  He was built up and built up, and when he finally goes green - the payoff is amazing!  Also impressive, because I was concerned, was the fact that Evans did go toe to toe with RDJ, and held his ground.  RDJ has nailed Tony Stark and is such a big presence, I was concerned he would overwhelm the other actors....that did not happen.
If there is another stand-out performance, it is from Tom Hiddleston, who plays Loki.  He did a good job with Loki in Thor, but really grows the character in this movie.  It takes a great deal to carry off a villian who is a serious threat for 7 heroes, but he does turn the volume up on his Malkovich-y-ness just enough to be creepy, weird, over-the-top, and threatening.   Also, he is hilariously pompus, to which the Hulk has an appropriately hilarious response ("puny god"). 
In terms of Whedon-y style, it's all over the movie, and if you are a fan of his work, you will see it in the long single shots through impressive sets (remember the opening shot of Serenity?), mulit-character dialogue scenes, the humor - it's really funny, and the credits post script.  Stay all the way til the very, very end.
Okay - I'm not going to get into the story in depth.  SHIELD has the tesseract, which was seen in both Thor and Captain America.  Loki is getting backed from some mysterious person who is supplying him with a "chitari" (skrull?) army.  He comes to earth and proceeds to raise all kinds of hell in the process of stealing the tesseract and creating a doorway to bring forth this army to conquer/destroy the humans.  Only by working together can the Avengers defeat such well-planned crazy.  The first end credit post script sets up the villian for the next Avengers movie (I wasn't familiar with him - but I looked him up, and he's a big time heavy-hitting threat.  And his gauntlet, which he will doubtlessly start looking for, was pictured in Thor in the vault.)  The second end credit post script is just plain fun and very Whedon.
If you haven't seen it already - you should soon - and in 3D.  Yes, I know the glasses make it darker and they hurt your head, and the fast motion makes you nauseous, etc. etc. Those of us who have worn glasses all our lives don't have those first two issues, and in terms of the motion sickness - sit further back in the theater, and don't go see the new Spider-Man in 3D.  Because from what I hear, that makes you feel like you are web-swinging, but there's nothing that drastic in Avengers.  See it - you'll love it.
11 out of 10.  It was everything I wanted it to be and more.
Bonus video - this whole blog has been videos...but - everyone loves videos, right?  This is the DVD extras blurb about the Buffy episode "Hush", which, in my opinion, was the best episode of the series.  Yes, I know you loved "Once More With Feeling", but having already seen the 'musical' plot device done on Xena, I didn't think that one was all that amazing.  Plus, "Hush" featured Doug Jones as one of the Gentlemen (the tall one), and I love him, and guess what?  He played Silver Surfer in Fantastic Four 2! Ha! Another cyclical movie connection!
Bonus Video 2:  Joss Whedon talking :)