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: Cabin in the Woods

Cabin in the Woods
Directed by: Drew Goddard
Written by: Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard (screenplay)
Starring: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Fran Kranz and Anna Hutchison

Slasher films are just realistic slapstick with uglier, less funny comedians.  Whack someone over the head, and if they don’t bleed it’s funny; if they do, it’s terrifying.  Since Wes Craven clued teenagers in on the gruesome joke in Scream, countless conceptual spin-offs (many made by Craven in increasingly meta sequels) have emerged from the over-done ashes of a seemingly dead genre.

Cabin in the Woods takes meta horror one step further, first by taking the dead teenager scenario, spinning it on its head and then almost taking the spin-off seriously.  When it works, and it often does, it’s an innovative in-joke that makes the audience feel smart even if it is rather simple.  Five slasher stereotypes- the jock, the brains, the whore, the moron the virgin- venture to the cabin of the title for a vacation away from technology.  They are warned away from doing it by an ominous gas station attendee, but of course decide to go.  Then, they are subsequently slaughtered one by one.

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Summer Movie Awards 2011

The Most Ambitious: The Tree of Life The goal of Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life is no less than to funnel the creation of the universe through a child.  That that child and his family closely resembles the director’s own makes this his most personal film to date as well.  With some of the most stunning cinematography you’ll ever see in a movie, Malick captures something elemental in this movie.  You may not have liked it, but you’ll never forget it.

The Most Laughs: Bridesmaids With one of the best comedic ensembles in recent memory, writers Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumalo paired up with director Paul Feig and producer Judd Apatow to create this hilarious, raunchy comedy about the bond among women.  Bridesmaids proves that an ensemble of females can spit vomit and shit just as well as men, which is something Hollywood needed to be force-fed.

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REVIEW: Captain America

Captain America: The First Avenger
Directed by: Joe Johnston
Written by: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (screenplay), Joe Simon & Jack Kirby (comic books)
Starring: Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Hugo Weaving, and Tommy Lee Jones

If you’re sick of super hero or war movies, it might be wise to avoid the inevitable screen adaptation of Captain America.  Slated as the last prequel before next year’s The Avengers, Captain America: The First Avenger takes place the furthest back in time: during World War II.

What’s most curious about The Avenger prequels- Iron Man & Iron Man II, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, this movie-  is how different they are stylistically.  That’s because they were all headed by different directors with different talents.  Thor was at its best when it showed the “fish out of water” aspect of its viking, while the Iron Man movies worked best as vehicles for Robert Downey Jr.’s motormouth delivery.

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Summer 2011: Here we are now, entertain us

“Why do we go to the movies?” is the film industry equivalent of “What is the meaning of life?”  It’s a question that everyone with varying degrees of passion for the subject has a different answer to.

Often, the meaning of the movies reflect the season they are released in, because people have different desires at the theater.  The summer is often associated with the kind of movie that gets people out of the heat and makes them relax.  Something for the kids to go to while the parents are at work, or the whole family to enjoy when everyone is home.

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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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Summer Box Office Predictions 2011

1. Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Release date: June 29

Plot summary: The Autobots are back in action after discovering a Cybertronian spacecraft hidden on the Moon. They find themselves racing with the Decepticons to reach it and learn its secrets in order to ultimately save the human race in some form.

Why it will rule: The first Transformers movie was a $320 million hit and the second skyrocketed to a $410 million hit. Both of those movies were without the third dimension however, which is likely to add somewhere near an additional 25% to box office receipts. Dark of the Moon will enjoy a few of the finer luxuries summer has to offer: an IMAX slot and the Fourth of July weekend it usually dons. Director Michael Bay promises to not necessarily make the third film bigger than Revenge of the Fallen, but darker and more emotional, getting into the mythos and character development, something Nolan has faired well from at the box office.

Why it will fail: Michael Bay has never made a dark, emotional movie with character development in his career. Audiences saw what a car wreck Revenge of the Fallen was and it was panned by every known critic. Given what information is known about the plot and teaser, we have no reason to believe Dark of the Moon will be any different from the first two, except that it will be sans Megan Fox, the eye candy that seemed to bring in salivating young males by the droves. Another critical disaster and story-less film may not be a box office pounding for Bay, but it also isn’t going to be the same out of the world hit unless the trailer is another Linkin Park jammed visual trip.

Estimated box office: $120 million OW / $385 million domestic

2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II

Release date: July 15

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