Captain America: Civil War

Captain America appears once again in a movie with his name as the banner. Strangely however, a legion of other stories and superheroes weave through this film and it watches more like the next Avengers film. Cap has a backseat purpose.

movie

Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Cast

Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America
Robert Downey Jr., Tony Stark/Iron Man
Scarlett Johanssen as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow

Directed by

Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Written by

Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeeley (Screenplay writers)

Other Info

Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Rated PG-13
2h 27min

Comic books are fun, but they’re hard to get and I mean that on two levels. A good comic book tells a story in 2 dimensions. A good movie made from a comic book, transfers that “good stuff,” for example the story and superheroes, and translates that into a movie experience. 

Because I read a lot of reviews, I can see there is an either/or in comic book movies: some say they stayed true to the comic and the movie excelled as a result. The other one is when a comic book connosieur slashes and trashes the director for taking too much license in the making o the movie. I  don’t know comic books well, which might explain why I didn’t like this film as much as the critics as large. Maybe I should read more comics?

My first question was: “Why so many superheroes when this is a movie called “Captain America?””

I binge watched the two prequels to Civil War before seeing it at the cinema, as did my wife. I can tell you the first two really held my attention and Cap (as he is called in all of them) is the focal hero of the movies. That made it a lot easier to follow and get on board with. Civil War has too many superheroes exhibiting their individual strengths and weaknesses.

All the while there is a ploy by politicians to gain control of the Avengers due to their reckless modus operandi. Cap’s reins from the other two movies is named “Bucky” and I don’t want to give any spoilers but there is so much back story and attention given to him you might as well have named it “Bucky: Civil War.” Still, he has some interesting abilities and his interplay with Cap is somewhat interesting. I’d call that part of the story “just above a snore.”

We do get to see some action. There is an almost unforgivable about of people having dialog and no action. This to me was a crime. All I can imagine is that it would make more sense if I only read the comics. Because I felt the movie did not live up to its name “Captain America” and should have been named “Avengers,” and because of some laboriously long dialog with no action, it lost two stars with me. I have to say, enough comic book aficionados will go see this no matter what I say but to all the others I cannot recommend this film. I have high hopes for the next one though.

The Baytown Outlaws

“All right you got a job. You clean toilets or cut grass or whatever the hell it is you do. This is what I do. I shoot people in the face.” Brick Oodie

Info from: IMDB
The Baytown Outlaws (2012)
R | 1h 38min | Action, Comedy, Crime

When three redneck brothers agree to help a woman save her godson from an abusive stepfather, they become targets on the run from an odd cast of characters.

Director: Barry Battles
Writers: Barry Battles, Griffin Hood
Stars: Billy Bob Thornton, Eva Longoria, Thomas Brodie-Sangster

This film is for uncomfortable silences with dates for your daughter as you’re waiting for her to get ready. It’s a Jim Dandy way to get the message across that you see the wisdom in violence and you will do no more than chuckle after he’s been killed. I’ll have to keep it around for when my two girls start dating.

“The Baytown Outlaws’ is no Tarantino film. Still, it clearly aspires to be with the subject matter, twangy bass string guittar solos, and the like. For such poor acting and script, I was impressed so many famous actors are in it: Billy Bob Thornton, Eva Langoria, and Thomas Brodie-Sangster all grace the screen. As I said earlier, there may be appeal with very young boys, say 10-15. You know the ones who only recently put down their cap guns and bows and arrows.

Beyond that I see very little that would hold the long term attention of Tarantino fans. Thornton is frightfully bad as the boss, that needs to be said. It didn’t get me interested in “Bad Santa 2” he’s filming now. For bad acting, almost no believability (for example where are the cop cars?) and little originality, the film lost some points with me. I don’t recommend it.

It might have done better as an HBO series where the characters had time to develop and the audience could care over time. As a full length movie, it’s a B movie, I don’t care who they cast in it. I aim to promote and sell people on original ideas. For example, “10 Cloverfield Lane.” I’m getting weary as a critic go to see the same movies played with different title again and again. There are a few moments that are memorable, (see below.

This short scene is my favorite gag, a near success at a Tarantino moment:

Seventh Son

“Seventh Son” is a masterpiece replete with witches, dragons, shape shifters, “spooks,” creatures, and other engaging remnants from medieval mythology.

Seventh_Son_Poster

Seventh Son (2014)
Cast

Jeff Bridges as Master Gregory
Ben Barnes as Tom Ward
Julianne Moore as Mother Malkin

Directed by

Sergei Bodrov

Written by

Charles Leavitt, Steven Knight

Other Info

Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Rated PG-13
1h 24min

Can witches save the day? I suppose in “Seventh Son” they can try. Our age-old fascination with witches is shown on the big screen here. There is a new concept I hadn’t heard of called the “spook” profession. These are basically witch hunters. They are endowed and recruited through generations to destroy bad witches. Jeff Bridges is a powerful one. Ironically we find he once had a romance with a witch but he is evermore hateful of witches and his occupation is to burn them so they don’t cause cataclysmic trouble.

And so we have the backdrop for this epic tale. It’s more sorcery than good and evil. We learn that sometimes good witches watch over the land as other times, evil humans do more hard than any evil witch could ever do. This story line requires your full attention so if you’re a “multitasker” as you watch films, you’ll need to set your phone down and take in the foundation of the story which are very interesting indeed.

Like so many movies these days, it is based on a book. I can’t imagine a book being as visually stunning as this film is. I felt like I was on a swashbuckling roller coaster most the time. The effects didn’t come cheap, the film cost almost 100 million dollars to make. The good news for them is that it did well at the box office earning well above and beyond its costs. I gave this quasi-medieval action, adventure, fantasy a perfect 5 stars. I recommend it!

Zootopia

Disney has made a fun, innovative, colorful, and well scripted film here. Don’t let the little rabbit make you think of “HOP,” it’s a ton better than that. Plus, there’s a fox voiced by Jason Bateman so right there you are already out of the “HOP” solar system.

Zootopia (2016)
Cast
Ginnifer Goodwin

as Judy Hopps

Jason Bateman

as Nick Wilde

Idris Elba

as Chief Bogo

Directed by
Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush

 

Written by
Jared Bush

 

Genre, Rating, Length, etc.

Animation, Action, Adventure
Rated PG
1h 48min

Of course I give this film 5 stars, a perfect score. I’d give it more but I don’t want to appear as if I’m gushing. And this over a rabbit and a fox nonetheless. Well, actually there are a whole zoo of animals, hence the title. While we’re on the subject of the film’s name, I can’t help but wonder it this is Disney’s way of describing the Animal Kingdom theme park history. Actually I mean a fictional history like they did with the films “Tomorrowland” and “The Haunted Mansion.”

It’s a story of a police cadet that gets an assignment in Zootopia, the Los Angeles of cartoon cities. This police officer is a small female rabbit with not much for brawn but she makes up for it in enthusiasm. Through a strange course of events, she befriends a crooked fox and the two have adventures. They are the only ones who can stop a crooked plan to zombify the citizens.

There is a lot here and all of it is wonderful. I loved the elephant ice cream clerk and fox’s “baby” that turns out to be a deep voiced pygmy fox, a partner in crime. The critics are loving this film and so am I. I love the voice actors. Jason Bateman should get an Oscar, his fox character is pure genius. I recommend this film for any age.

Final Girl

Something different for the girl-kicks-ass genre.

Some movies give you backstory. Others expect you to fill in the blanks of why, when, and how. The truth is, “The Final Girl” doesn’t need much backstory, it starts with the action right away.

Final Girl (2015)
Cast
Abigail Breslin

as Veronica

Wes Bentley

as William

Logan Huffman

as Danny

Directed by
Tyler Shields
Written by
Adam Prince, Stephen Scarlata, Alejandro Seri, Johnny Silver
Other Info

Action, Drama, Horror
Rated R
1h 30min

I love low budget, simple, action-filled horror films like this. The story may not be plausible but you get what they are trying to do. It’s something about vengeance and something about victory … good triumphing over evil.

Abigail Breslin has truly grown up and shows how she can act and fight in her role as Veronica. I loved her in “Signs” as a little one and more recently in “Maggie.” She played a zombie great in that. She’s one to watch! The story consists of a group of popular scumbags in high school who “hunt girls.” I mean that literally, not that they are ferociously seeking sex. A man loses his wife and daughter to them and decides to train a young girl to defeat these truly evil and disturbed young men.

Most the action is at night. It unfolds more or less as you would expect. Like a james bond movie, it’s fun to see Veronica use her techniques in the real arena. For those who dig girl-kick-ass films, this is right up your alley. I loved every minute of it. It is simple, cool, hip, a little scary, and full of vengeance. How can you NOT like a movie with all that in it? This is a perfect movie, I highly recommend it.

Baby Driver (2017)

This film has done extremely well at the box office. It’s an exciting tale of a young man with an interesting history and an uncanny talent for driving a getaway car. I’d be remiss to not mention there is some great music in the background here.

Baby Driver (2017)
R | 1h 52min | Action, Crime, Music | 28 June 2017 (USA)

After being coerced into working for a crime boss, a young getaway driver finds himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail.
Director: Edgar Wright
Writer: Edgar Wright
Stars: Ansel Elgort, Jon Bernthal, Jon Hamm

The director had this idea for quite some time before it became a film. I always enjoy movies where the director had a long term vision he fought for. Before this film, his accolades include Shaun of the Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz (2007), and The World’s End (2013), made with recurrent collaborators Simon Pegg, Nira Park and Nick Frost. While still in the prime of his career, he has proven he is a capable director.

The casting was effective but perhaps one of the weaker aspects. Kevin Spacey sort of worked as the killer boss who grows a heart. We needed more hate for Baby from Jamie Foxx, that could have saved his impression with me. The actor who played “Baby,” Ansel Elgort, is 23 but appears to be much much younger in his skinny jeans and RayBans. I think some younger viewers will identify with his character because he is in fact so young looking and doing such a crafted thing as driving a getaway car. It’s fantasy on so many levels.

I loved the choice to cast Lily James. She is the most normal, well developed, character in the film. And mind you, there is very little character development here: it’s a car chase film.

The story is, in a shortened way, that a boy is an orphan and learns to drive really really well. Then he becomes a getaway driver. Then he wants out and meets a waitress. He doesn’t get out. There are several heists and exhibitions of speed. He gets arrested. The girl dotes on him. The boy gets out. His name is not really Baby (big surprise) it’s Miles and the movie ends in a dreamlike sequence of Miles driving off into the sunset with the girl.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I really had fun watching this film. I was actually surprised how much I liked it, the title was a little off-putting. There are lots of car chase movies out there and as time moves forward there are likely to be more. This is a cool movie. I don’t know if it’s as “special” as a lot of people are saying. It is probably because some scenes are synchronized to the music and that is undeniably cool. The story of the protagonist was lacking for me, I didn’t buy in. I didn’t like most the songs chosen and I felt the bad guys were miscast. Those aren’t important issues though, this is a winner film. If you go for a fun car chase and heist film, you’ll get your money’s worth. I recommend it.

7/10

The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises was a failure in my opinion, even in spite of its awesome motorcycle, due to boring and pointless scenes and under-developed characters.

The Dark Knight Rises was a failure in my opinion, even in spite of its awesome motorcycle, due to boring and pointless scenes and under-developed characters. Excessively long and pointless scenes follow an initial airplane hijacking that is admittedly one of the few innovative and exciting scenes. Unfortunately however, the boring stuff begins immediately after that and really never stops throughout the course of its seemingly unending 2hr 44min runtime. I think a lot of these boring scenes are due to the fact that the director didn’t try as hard because it’s part of such a successful franchise. Once a franchise is famous like the Dark Knight, movie makers boosted my McDonalds Value Meal Deals, action figures, and clothing lines likely lose their inner conscience about just making a good movie. They think whatever they do under that banner will be accepted and will make money. It appears that is the situation in this case, which is unfortunate. I think movie makers should always strive to make a movie interesting and engaging, regardless of the coattails of its predecessor. I found The Dark Knight Rises to be uninspired and completely off the mark of the 2 other prequels.

Under-developed motives for Bruce Wayne also left me cold on this one. There is little or no chemistry or motive in his love relationship with cat woman. In fact, cat woman nearly kills him a couple of times. His response to this is to fall in love with her and make her his partner? Bruce Wayne’s fortune is another bone of contention with me. He has lost every cent at the hands of his enemy and yet he has the means to appear healthy and relaxed drinking coffee and winking at Alfred at the end of the movie. What money bought the latte Bruce? We are in this scene as well as so many others expected to suspend disbelief. I have to say I grew tired of that mental exercise after the first hour. Besides that, the return wasn’t much to speak of.

Based on my negative impression of this film, I am not planning on seeing the next sequel which clearly will contain a Robin figure. That’s right, believe it or not, I am still not interested.

Men in Black 3

Fans of the Men in Black franchise recently became thrilled to know there is now a 3rd installment. Like its predecessors, the third movie has all the slime, goofy special effects, and laser guns you could ask for in a sci-fi action comedy. It also has some really good actors and that is what ultimately makes this movie franchise a winner.

Men in Black 3 was directed by Barry Sonnenfield, known for Pushing Daisies and the Lemony Snicket … children’s movie (among others). He has created an exciting movie here that includes a powerfully written twist at the end. The film stars Will Smith as Agent J, Tommy Lee Jones as agent K, and Josh Brolin as a younger agent K. By way of trivia, IMDB reveals that Sacha Baron Cohen was considered but not chosen for the role of Boris. He would have been great no doubt but as it stands, the character they got to play Boris does an excellent job. Based on the acting, special effects, and clever twist at the end, I gave this movie a high rating. It was a fun roller coaster ride that provoked thinking about stuff like time travel. I love sci fi movies that make me think.

By way of summary: Agent J is transported back in time to help save Agent K from Boris’ deadly actions. As he goes back, we see the slime and future devices in retrospect … “retro-furtristic” if you will. It could have been a film on Roswell or Area 51 as it presented the retro cars of the 40’s and 50’s. Horrible Boris the Animal is at his worst here. We witness him murder and commit crimes through time and up to the present. Nevertheless, through a series of events, Boris is defeated and Agent J returns to the present day victorious. He has saved K’s life by going back in time. I won’t reveal the twist here but fans of the franchise are going to love it. I think anyone, pre-existing fan or not, will find it both touching and exciting at the same time.

In my final analysis, I found Men in Black 3 to be a wild and crazy ride that I might consider going on a second time. The actors and the writing deserve the most credit I think. And of course, let’s not underestimate the power of slime. For a fun night out at the movies (kids or adults) I recommend Men in Black 3.

Marvel’s The Avengers

Never have I seen more marketing precede a movie than I did for the Avengers. In fact, most the recent superhero movies of the last 2-3 years have included a cameo of an Avenger making reference to the upcoming film. For that reason, I expected something very exciting and well thought out. I didn’t get that but the box office shows unprecedented success for the mammoth marketing onslaught. The Avengers was directed by Josh Whedon, known for The Cabin in the Woods and Buffy the Vampire Slayer among other films. The movie has an all star cast of actors known for their Marvel comic movies such as Thor, Captain America, and the Hulk just to name a few. The most screen time is given to Robert Downey Junior as Iron Man. An interesting factoid to consider is that this movie is the Highest-grossing Disney film ever. That’s nothing to sneeze at. One refreshing cameo was seeing Agent Maria Hill, Cobie Smulder, from How I met your Mother. I had to do a double take since I’m not used to seeing her on the big screen. She did a great job I thought.

I certainly enjoyed going on a date with my lovely wife to see the Avengers. Unfortunately, I am not a huge fan of comic book action movies and this one, in my opinion, catered 100% to that audience. Apparently though, according to ticket sales, Disney should have no regrets. The story begins with Nick Fury, Samuel Jackson, calling together the Avengers, a group of superheroes acting as a team to save the world from the evil force named Loki, Tom Hiddleston. The first half of the movie consists of the Avengers fighting with each other. Why they suddenly decide to work together is unclear and they do not work well together. I felt like it was catering to a “Comic-con” type audience so I didn’t judge it based on a normal action fantasy movie. There are many holes in this one and the special effects were not enough to invest my interest. My wife made a great point that the roots of a sequel were being planted throughout. In the end, instead of being a compelling adventure superhero film, it became simply a $220,000,000 ad for the inevitable sequel. There were great effects which I would tout as the only reason to go see this movie. From the hoots and hollers from the trekkies Comic-con types in the audience, I would say that was enough to deliver as planned. I know a lot of people are loving this so don’t flog me all at once. I’m choosing to be a black sheep on this one and go against the popular opinions.

My final analysis is that this film has great effects and therefore will appeal to Transformers and Comic-con Marvel types. Having said that, I suspect it will come up short of “marvelous” to many due to bad acting, and mediocre writing .

John Carter

Make no mistake, it is a visually stunning piece in many ways. Unfortunately, the implausible plot and cheesy screenplay overshadow the visual triumphs of John Carter.

This movie was directed by Andrew Stanton, known for Wall*E and Finding Nemo. He took a giant step out into the adventure epic genre with this one. The question is: “should he have?” This is a Disney creation and as a result has state of the art graphics and cgi. It stars Taylor Kitsch as John Carter, a relatively new actor known for the TV series Friday Night Lights. Clearly he worked out with weights for the role. His character flexes muscles like the best action stars extant. Lynn Collins plays Dejah Thoris, the princess. She also “gives good flesh” onscreen. Let me just say, she looks really hot in her costumes. They cast her well. Make no mistake, it is a visually stunning piece in many ways. Unfortunately, the implausible plot and cheesy screenplay overshadow the visual triumphs of John Carter. I forgot it was 3D in about 15 minutes as its sorry plot just kept dragging on.

The character John Carter is a captain set in the Civil War and he appears to be running from all forms of duty. We are never told why but we do find out at one point his wife and daughter have been burned inside his home. Perhaps that is why he runs? Again, we are not told why. The movie is based on a beloved turn-of-the-century novel so I can only assume the book explains these things. The movie moves quickly from Earth to Mars leaving no space for explanation. John Carter comes into the possession of a pendant that transports him to Mars. Once there, he discovers he has a new ability to jump ridiculously high over long distances. This makes him a sort of hero among a colony of 12 foot tall beings that each have 4 human like arms and tusks. They are uncomfortably similar to the tribes in James Cameron’s Avatar only they are flesh colored. The even have their own language like the creatures in Avatar. Things happen and there are all sorts of special effects that go on. There is a dog-like creature that runs blindingly fast, I found this creature quite cool. However stunning everything may look in this movie, make no mistake that none of it makes any sense. The story is preposterous, even from a fantasy standpoint. I hoped against hope it eventually would make sense and engage me but it decidedly never did.

There is a princess and John becomes her savior. There is a gladiator scene where John is thrown to a set of giant white gorillas. John defeats the mammoth beasts. It then becomes a struggle for John to get back to his planet but he really has no motive to do so. He decides to become a Martian and marries the princess. The romance writing is terse and the characterization underdeveloped. The love between them is not believable nor is much of anything written in John Carter. I must say, I hardly even know how to be sarcastic about this movie, it’s like a poorly made scif-fi channel movie. Disney knows how to make hero/princess stories, shame on Disney for this one. Oh, and I must inform you that if you persist in your desire to see this movie after reading  … it is 2 1/2 hours long so be warned. For my wife and I out on a date, it was movie watching torture. This movie may appeal to some but for me, it was a real waste of 2.5 hours. Having said all that, I am sure Disney is already starting to plan the sequel. If they make John Carter 2, let’s hope it’s better than this.