REVIEW: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America Winter Soldier 2

Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Directed by: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo
Written by: Christopher Maruks and Stephen McFeely (screenplay), Ed Brubaker (story), Joe Simon and Jack Kirby (comic book)
Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Redford

Even with an admittedly heavy case of Marvel fatigue, I enjoyed the second installment in Captain America’s part of the franchise.  There was an edge and spontaneity to both the story and its telling that made it feel like more than just an obligatory stepping stone to another Avengers.  Hell, I enjoyed this one more than The Avengers. 

The Winter Soldier centers on an internal struggle involving mass surveillance and gigantic drones.  None of the characters are who they initially appear to be, except of course the good Captain (Chris Evans).  He is the one consistent element in a story with twists that are often obvious but never obnoxious.  (Spoilers) Yes, a major character who dies didn’t actually die.  Yes, with just seconds left, the world is saved again.

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REVIEW: Thor

Thor
Directed by: Kenneth Branagh
Written by: Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, & Don Payne (screenplay), Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, & Jack Kirby (comic)
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, and Tom Hiddleston

It’s almost hard not to write off Thor as the beginning of an onslaught of mindless summer action movies.  However, with its welcome injection of humor and a toned-down scale, it rises above that classification if only by a little bit.

The best moments of Thor occur outside Asgard, the homeworld of its hero, in a small town in New Mexico.  He arrives there much like many movie aliens, and director Kenneth Branagh riffs off this aspect quite well.  Thor (Chris Hemsworth) brings alien customs (which closely resembles stereotypical viking culture) to such places as small-town diners and hospital rooms.  In one hilarious instance, he smashes a glass down on the floor and demands a refill.

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REVIEW: Iron Man 2

Iron Man 2
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Written by: Justin Theroux (screenplay), Stan Lee (comic book)
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwenyth Paltrow, Mickey Rourke, and Scarlett Johansson

The thing that made the first Iron Man film such a hit in the summer of 2008 was how much of a fresh breath of air it was.  Here you had Roberty Downey Jr., a washed-up ex-convict of a small-time actor stepping into the iron-clad suit of a summer blockbuster.  Mixing that with a unique screenplay, a dynamic cast and the action-ready direction of Jon Favreau, and you had yourself an offbeat charmer of a superhero movie.  Sadly, that charm was overshadowed by the brilliance of technique and ultimate reinvention of the superhero movie in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight.

With the inevitable sequel, we find no genre contenders to the pathos-driven narcissism of Tony Stark this summer.  Downey is now a bona fide superstar, thanks in no part to the revitalization his career received from the first film in this now-franchise.  Now that everything was done in the first one, as is the problem with most unique first installments, not much of it feels new in the sequel, Downey included.

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TRAILER: Iron Man 2

Iron Man 2
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Written by: Justin Theroux (screenplay), Stan Lee (comics)
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mickey Rourke, and Don Cheadle

Part of what made the first Iron Man such a breath of fresh air was the devotion to excellence from everyone in the cast, most notably Robert Downey Jr. It wasn’t exactly anything new and original, and was overshadowed by Christopher Nolan’s box-office/critical superior The Dark Knight.  This summer, the now-franchise is launching its second installment with no Caped Crusader in sight.

The trailer for the film looks like it will hit all of the summer action bells and whistles.  Downey Jr. reprises his role as the man in iron, as does Gwyneth Paltrow as his love interest and assistant.  The rest of the cast is mostly new.  Don Cheadle steps in for Terrence Howard.  Scarlett Johansson arrives, hopefully to give Paltrow a run for her money, but you can’t tell much from the trailer.

The biggest gripe I have in the casting is Mickey Rourke.  Based on the trailer alone, his character appears corny, badly written, and has a just plain stupid Russian accent.  It may not turn out that way, but it appears that there will be at least one glaring error in the casting.

As far as plot goes, not too much is revealed.  Tony Stark is now out of the closet as a super hero, which may offer some unique takes on the genre.  He’s out to stop Whiplash (Rourke) from taking over the world or something.  The trailer is decent, but the content in it just makes this seem like it will be a typical sequel.

Highs: Downey jumping off an airplane after talking to Paltrow and Downey and Cheadle suiting up together in Iron Man suits.

Lows: Mickey Rourke’s Russian accent/character and the lack of Scarlett Johansson footage.

Trailer Grade: C