Monday, April 7, 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America: The Winter Soldier
(2014) PG-13

Starring: Chris Evans, Samuel L Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Robert Redford, Cobie Smulders, and Anthony Mackie

Plot: With this being the third post-Avengers movie from Marvel, this is the closest that could be considered a "sequel". The plot picks up with Cap working as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. performing covert missions, and trying to figure out his place in the new millennium. But with wars being fought less by soldiers, and more by spies in the modern age, Cap has some trust issues with...well, everyone.

I shouldn't have to say this, but if you are reading this and you haven't seen any of the past 9+ Marvel cinematic universe movies, (Iron Man 1-3, Thor 1-2, Hulk, Avengers, etc.) I'm not going to be explaining the events of all of them here. This review assumes that you have seen all the past movies, so there are some possible SPOILERS from previous movies, NOT from this one.
You have been warned!

The Good:
Seriously? Where do I start! It is no secret that I'm a huge fan of not only the Avengers, but specifically Captain America. I loved the first Cap movie, and adored Avengers, and I dare say this movie puts those to shame. Marvel studios is definitely in their prime, and taking full advantage of that!

The action in this movie kicks the living crap out of the fight scenes from Captain America: The First Avenger. Of course I'm not saying that the first movie wasn't good, but it is clear that they took a very different approach to this movie, whereas the first was more of a World War II movie with superheroes. In an interview, Chris Evans (Captain America) stated that they based Cap's fighting more off of his moves in the video game, making him more fluid, faster, and more ass-kicky....(because that's totally a word).

Steve Rogers: Director of
comic book uniform
Captain America:
The Winter Soldier
"stealth suit"
As a comic book fan, I was really worried when I heard that they were going to redo Cap's costume, and changed it to look like his "Director of S.H.I.E.L.D." costume (several years ago in the comic books, Steve Rogers hung up his Captain America costume, and took over Nick Fury's job as director of S.H.I.E.L.D.) but the transition was not only done very well, but explained well too. Cap uses this costume as his "stealth" suit, as is displayed in the first action sequence of the movie.

For you die-hards like me, don't worry, you'll see the stars-and-stripes later in the movie, but when he dons it, I honestly somewhat missed his stealth suit. Because the action is so much more fast-paced and close up, the old WWII uniform (shown in the movie's trailer) feels bulkier, and almost out of place by the time he puts it on again.

There is so much more great about this movie, however. From just a film stand-point, the acting is top notch, and there isn't a weak link in the bunch. Personally, I really didn't like Scarlett Johannson's acting in The Avengers, but here, her character no longer feels like a walking cardboard cut-out. Samuel L Jackson's reprising role as Nick Fury doesn't disappoint, but after this many movies, you basically know how his character is going to act. Finally, Robert Redford, newcomer to the Marvel cast, provides a very rich character, and even though he doesn't throw any punches, some of my favorite scenes had him in them.

The Bad:
I really do want to try to think of some type of criticism, to prove I'm not just a rabid fan-boy, so I'll do my best here.

At this point, there have been multiple movies based on multiple individual characters, and their sidekicks, love interests, antagonists, etc. resulting in probably at least a hundred notable characters throughout all the movies. That said, there was plenty to go off of in this movie. So I do have to wonder why some of these characters were included at all.

One prime example is Emily VanCamp's character, Agent 13. I followed this movie from day one of production until release day, and only days before the movie's release, a poster was released with Agent 13 on it, and my only reaction was, "Wait...who?" Now I know that the point of this movie is that you never know  who you can trust, but holy cow do they pack a LOT of characters in this movie. Some have been in past Marvel movies, some in the television show "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.", and some even in just the Marvel One-Shot short films you find on the special features of the DVDs. But unless you watch every single one of these shows, movies, etc. in a row all at once, you're bound to lose track of more than a few of the characters, which can dull the experience a bit. Granted, that is extremely nit-picky, but hey, I'm trying!

10 out of 10.
Go see this movie. I've talked to multiple people who have very different levels of interest in these movies, and they've all loved it. Don't argue, just go see it.

Also, yes there are both MID-CREDITS AND POST CREDITS SCENES so stick around and finish your popcorn!

Bonus Easter Egg breakdown, and
explanation of mid-and-post credits scenes:

(do not read this at all, until after you've seen the movie.
This section contains HEAVY SPOILERS)

This movie in particular seems to be taking advantage of packing in as many easter eggs as it can, linking the whole universe together. I just wanted to offer a quick breakdown of the ones I caught, just for fun. Now I didn't look these up on any web site, so I'm sure I've missed some, these are just ones that I personally noticed:

Batroc the Leaper
Serving as the beginning of the movie's antagonist, Batroc, a.k.a. Batroc the Leaper, is a comic book villain whose power comes from his legs. No, really, he's a French supervillain who has very powerful kicks, and wears a purple and yellow costume, which they did a great job nodding to in the movie. His inclusion seems to be more for fun, as it doesn't look like we should expect him to be in any future Marvel movies.

Avengers Tower
Referred to as "Stark Tower" during the first Avengers movie, the building can very briefly be seen towards the end of the movie. Instead of the full name of "STARK" being on the side, instead there's just the Avengers' "A" referencing that it will most likely just be called Avengers Tower in the coming movies.

Natasha's necklace charm
This was a fun one, though I'll admit I heard about it online a few months ago. In a few scenes throughout the movie, you can see that Natasha (Black Widow) is wearing an arrow charm on her necklace, which could easily be a nod to a romantic bond between her character, and Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye.

Doctor Strange
At one point, when the group is interrogating Agent Sitwell, he breaks down, and mentions a list of "notable" people that may be a threat to public security. One name he mentions is Stephen Strange (better known as Doctor Strange). Strange is a character in the Marvel universe whose title is "The Sorcerer Supreme", a character with magical powers, who is on the list of characters getting a movie after Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Casting rumors at one point showed that Johnny Depp stood a chance for the role, but such rumors have not been proven at this time. Mads Mikkelsen's name was also mentioned, but again, all just rumors.

Pulp Fiction reference
At the very end of the movie, when the characters are all looking down at *HUUUUUUGE SPOILER* Nick Fury's tombstone, there is a passage on the stone that reads:
" 'The path of the righteous man' -Ezekiel 25:17"

This is a nod to Samuel L Jackson's character in Pulp Fiction, who reads that (fake) Bible passage several times in the movie. 

Brock Rumlow / Crossbones
After the final fight, Rumlow's body is shown badly charred, but still alive. Rumlow, in the comics, goes on to become the villain/assassin known as Crossbones. His costume in his final fight scene could be a nod to this as well! No word on his future in the Marvel cinematic universe yet though. (Fun fact: In the comics, Crossbones is the character that shoots and "kills" Captain America after the Marvel Civil War)

The Twins (Mid-credits scene)
So who are the mysterious "twins" that mister monacle-face was looking so deviously at? Well, the monacle-wearing German is a villain named Baron Von Strucker. It has been confirmed that he will play an important role in the first few scenes of Avengers: Age of Ultron. His two captives? A brother/sister duo of mutants from both X-Men and the Avengers, named Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, both of which will have a very prominent place in Avengers: Age of Ultron!

Bucky's fate (Post-credits scene)
Two big game-changers were recently revealed by actors from Captain America: 
1. Chris Evans (Cap) will be retiring from acting after his stint with Marvel (which goes for two more movies)
2. Sebastian Stan (Bucky/Winter Soldier) has a multi-movie deal with Marvel, that will keep him in the game long after this movie.
So what does all that mean? Well, in the comic books, after Captain America is "killed", Bucky, now a good guy, steps up to the plate and takes over the mantle of Captain America, with a new costume, but Cap's old shield. I'm going to take an educated guess that they won't KILL Captain America, but it would make sense that Bucky could potentially don the stars and stripes as the new Captain America! We'll have to wait for Cap 3 to know for sure, but I'm definitely not ruling it out!

Did anyone else catch any easter eggs that I may have missed? If so, let me know and I'll include them in my overall list!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Top 5 Worst Comic Book Movies

It's almost here! The most wonderful time of the year for movie lovers...The summer movie blockbuster season! And you know what makes good movies even better? Reflecting on the WORST movies before you see them!

This year, like the past few before, will be packed full of huge comic book adventures, including Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Amazing Spider-Man 2, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and Guardians of the Galaxy. But before we feast our eyes, let's take a look at some of the dregs of the comic book movie universe.

5. Fantastic Four (1994, unreleased)
I'd love to put this one higher on my list, but just mentioning it feels kind of unfair. It wasn't released in theaters, and there's very good reason for that. This movie has had such a sordid, on-and-off production history that it has become somewhat of a joking myth to some comic fans, and even has a documentary being made about it's production life, and eventual death. I can talk about how bad it is until judgement day, but why not click this link and check out the original trailer for yourself? As we all know, the series was eventually rebooted about ten years after this train wreck, and is even seeing another reboot in 2017. This "movie" is a great example of mismanagement, and cash-whoring of franchises that deserve so much better.

Yeeeah...that's not conspicuous at all.
4. Daredevil (2003) / Elektra (2005)
Before he was "Batfleck", pretty boy Ben Affleck donned the cowl of the blind superhero Daredevil. The movie also featured Daredevil's anti-heroic love interest, Elektra, played by Jennifer Garner. The movie featured supervillain Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. The Kingpin, who honestly wasn't terrible, and even had Colin Farrell portraying Daredevil's arch rival Bullseye, who sported a big fleshy bullseye stuck to his forehead...*sigh*

For whatever reason, after the non-existent success of Daredevil, the movie execs thought it would be a good idea to give Elektra a movie of her own.An uninteresting spin-off of a failed movie's worst acted character? How could that NOT be fantastic, right? Well, at it's time the movie performed lower than any previously released Marvel movie to date. It did perform above it's budget, but not exactly with any impressive numbers. Reviews were extremely lack luster as well, and on a personal note, this movie SUCKED. The acting is crap, the action is crap, heck the whole thing could have been made into a half hour extra on the Daredevil DVD, that I still wouldn't have watched. Daredevil will actually see a Netflix-exclusive reboot of its own starting next year. Thank the stars they're not bringing him back to theaters again!

3. Steel (1997)
Aaah yes. One of Shaq's several 90's forays into the film industry. What I was not aware of when I first saw this as a kid is that this movie was actually based on a DC comics character, though the movie is absolutely nothing like the comics, with the exception of character names. So, the guy was a great basketball player, and Space Jam became a cult classic, so how could this not fail, right? ....Right?

Well,  the movie's entire box office gross totaled less than 1/10 of the movie's overall budget. But how?! How could a co-star like Judd Nelson (The Breakfast Club) not redeem this? Because the movie is CRAP. They somehow skipped any potential A-list comic characters, hell even the B-listers like Catwoman, and went straight to one of the newest, most publicly unaware heroes. And then they cast a non-actor to play him. And THEN they took away any comic book elements, and basically made this a black Robocop! I mean just check out that costume. It looks like Shaq really wanted to go to Comic Con, bought a Captain America mask from Target, and painted over it...and yet, I saw this movie...a few times.

What we wanted...
2. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)
The Silver Surfer. Fan-favorite herald of the great and mighty Galactus, the towering planet eater that every single comic book fan wanted to see portrayed on the big screen. Can't you just picture it? A 400-foot tall powerhouse who steps on anything in his path and eats entire planets?! How could this not be totally...awesome.....he's a cloud. He's a f$%&ing CLOUD?!?! No, seriously. Ya got us. He's probably just hiding inside the cloud or something, right? Oh...he's not?

What we got.
The original plan was that after this movie, Fox was going to make a Silver Surfer spin-off movie, and they were saving the "real" Galactus for that. The problem is, this movie bombed so hard (and rightly so, it was TERRIBLE!) that the movie never happened. I remember seeing this movie for the first time at an employee showing at the movie theater I used to work at. The manager that night was the biggest Fantastic Four fan I've ever seen, and he was speechless when the credits started to roll. And I don't blame him. The movie surpassed its budget by the skin of it's teeth, and no sequel or spin-offs were made. And nobody cared.

1. Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. (1998)
Nowadays everybody knows Nick Fury as being portrayed by Samuel L Jackson, but what most moviegoers don't realize is that the version portrayed in the newest Iron Man, Avengers, and Captain America movies is actually the "Ultimates" version of Nick Fury, whose comic book appearance was actually modeled after Samuel L Jackson, with the agreement that if a movie was ever made, Jackson was going to play him. (true story)

In actuality, Nick Fury is white, and in this movie he was portrayed by David Hasselhoff. No, really! This movie was made for TV, and was intended to be a pilot for a Nick Fury / S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show in the late 90's. Personally, I love this movie because of how fricking horrid it is. To me, the best part is that when they cast Jackson to play Nick Fury in the Avengers movie, David Hasselhoff actually spoke out and was very angry that he was not approached to star in the role. To be honest, he really does look the part. They did the costume design great for this movie, but the acting was...oh man it was so bad I really can't describe it here. You've got to see it for yourself here, in the movie's trailer. If you can find a copy, grab it, buy a six-pack, and enjoy!