“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” vs “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”

20140514-081453.jpg

It’s the summer showcase movie season. Multi-gazillion dollar blockbusters hit the theaters to highlight a weekend and then disappear into oblivion when the “Next Big Thing” comes out 7 days later. Every year it seems as if the “summer” season begins earlier and earlier as Hollywood stretches the summer months from as early as late March, hoping to get some early cash and extend their sales through August. And that’s okay by me! I love me some action-packed popcorn flicks! It’s why the big screen was made, after all! Who wants to see August: Osage County on a ginormous IMAX screen in 3D? Nobody. So…let’s get the aliens invading, firearms blasting, superheroes fighting movies rolling, shall we? And this summer, we start with 2 superheroes that everyone knows and loves!

First out of the gate was “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” It opened to huge numbers and is, by all accounts, a hit. It’s got everything you want in a summer superhero movie. It has action, it has drama, it’s got espionage, it’s got Robert Redford and it has the extremely likable Chris Evans, reprising the Cap role. Now…I have to be honest, Captain America, to me anyway, is NOT the most exciting superhero. I never read the comics when I was a kid so I don’t have the knowledge of Cap as some but I have to say…of ALL the superhero movies out there? The first 2 Captain America movies are EXACTLY what I want in a superhero movie. The first film introduced us to the PERSON that Steve Rogers is and this movie, coupled with “The Avengers,” shows us the type of hero that Cap really is!

At this point, “The Winter Soldier” has been out for quite some time so I don’t know if I’d be giving anything away as far as spoilers go but this new Captain America has our hero once again battling a Hydra takeover of SHIELD and our planet. Along the way, he faces off against a villain very much his equal and, in a major plot twist, someone from Cap’s past. It’s all done very stylishly with well-written dialogue (lots of humor in this one) and great action sequences (the opening sequence alone is worth the price of admission). Every actor involved in this film does a remarkable job and I have to say, other than “The Avengers” itself, I think this may be the best of the bunch as far as Marvel movies go. It’s everything I wanted in a comic book movie and more! I highly recommend it!

Aaaaaaaand then came a spider.

Cut to a couple of weeks later, “Captain America” had laid waste to every other movie to come out until “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” hit theaters with a promise of new villains and a hip Spider-Man. With so many rumors flying about the “possibility” of a Sinister Six movie in the future and the death of Gwen Stacy, I was all jacked up for this installment, especially since I really liked the last one! But sad to say, this may be the biggest debacle of a superhero movie since 1997’s “Batman & Robin” which, ironically enough, ALSO featured a blue villain. In THAT movie, it was Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze. In THIS film, it’s Jamie Foxx as a disgruntled Oscorp employee who finds himself being electrocuted in a giant water tank filled with electric eels. If that idea doesn’t seem lame enough, let’s throw in a dash of Doctor Manhattan from “Watchmen” because…well…because he’s blue also and can seemingly zip from place to place, and you have this poorly constructed supervillain. So Spider-Man, who has MANY issues to deal with (his love affair with Gwen Stacy, Gwen’s dead father, HIS dead parents, his dead uncle, his Aunt May’s uncertainty, graduation, Gwen moving to England, etc & so forth), must now face off against this new foe who, for whatever reason, hates him. The REASON behind this hate is so poorly written that I can’t believe it ever made it on the big screen. You wanna know WHY Foxx’s villain (called Electro) hates Spider-Man? Because Spider-Man is famous.

Yep. That’s why.

Seems like a good reason for a villain, right? So THAT storyline goes on too long (much like this critique) and then an old friend comes into the mix. Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) returns to New York when his father, the CEO of Oscorp, dies. He must now run the company. Little does Harry know that he carries a genetic disease that will eventually kill him. What can save him? How about spider blood? And so, now we have poorly constructed villain #2 who wants to kill our hero. In the comics, the Green Goblin was Spidey’s arch-nemesis. In this flick, he’s a spoiled brat with power issues and weird hair.

So there you have it. Spider-Man faces two poorly constructed bad guys, one that gets too much screen time and the other who doesn’t get enough to qualify him as a “arch nemesis” and that’s that. HOWEVER…there’s MORE! As promoted in the movie trailers, there’s a THIRD villain who may, or may not, be a part of the Sinister Six who is literally THROWN IN at the end to whet the superfan’s appetite and that is a 3 minute appearance by The Rhino, which is basically Paul Giamatti doing his best Russian mobster impersonation in a giant mechanical suit. It’s silly and a slap in the face of one of Spider-Man’s best villains.

Needless to say, I hated “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” It’s not amazing. Actually, other than the snappy repertoire between the two leads (it’s been well documented that Andrew Garfield & Emma Stone are now a real couple), this film is a complete Hollywood mess. It’s everything I hate about the machine that cranks out movie after movie with no interest in solidifying a storyline or establishing quality personalities. What this film has done is completely obliterate whatever the first film had set out to do, which was establish a franchise that had already been set not too long before with Tobey McGuire’s Spiderman character. As good as Garfield is as Spider-Man, and I DO like him more than McGuire in this role, he can’t save this disaster. It’s poorly constructed in every way and deserves to be sent straight to DVD to sit in the $3 bins at WalMart.

OVERALL RATINGS:
Captain America: The Winter Soldier: A

The Amazing Spider-Man 2: F

Advertisements

The Avengers

It’s officially the start of summer blockbuster season and following closely behind “The Hunger Games” is this massive green monster that has hit the floor running by bringing in a $300 million haul before it even arrived in the United States! Fanboys and comic junkies have been craving for this momentous occasion ever since it was hinted in Iron Man I that Dr. Evil…er…I mean, Nick Fury was gonna bring together the greatest fighting team of superheroes the world had ever seen and LO & BEHOLD! Here it is! Now the BIG, GREEN QUESTION…Does it hold up? If you’ve read all the reviews…absolutely! It’s big, it’s loud and it packs quite a punch! But wait! It ALSO has a good script, a great villain (Tom Hiddleston reprises his role as “Loki” from last summer’s “Thor” with a glee that makes him ALMOST the best reason to see the movie!), a lot of characters in tights and silly outfits and…Scarlett Johansson. Oh…and the JOLLIEST green giant you’ve EVER seen that TOTALLY steals the movie!

So…what’s it about? Well…that’s a good question! And thankfully, unlike some summer superhero blockbusters that seem to be all about the CGI effects (Transformers) or can get bloated with too much talking (Green Lantern) or that don’t live up to the hype (Wolverine), THIS film DOES live up to the hype by allowing our cast of characters to have some personality. Here’s the lineup…

  • Captain America (Chris Evans) – the frozen super-soldier who has been dethawed in the 21st century. He’s lagging a little bit in the past but is catching up quickly and has got a new fan base that has him feeling good about himself. Oh…and he has a cool shield.
  • Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr) – the brilliant multi-gazillionaire Tony Stark who has created an iron suit that was showcased in 2 previous films that not only highlighted his amazing ability to create just about anything and make it work, but who also has a sarcastic wit and smartass personality that is unrivaled in the Marvel universe.
  • Thor (Chris Hemsworth) – the demigod who has found his humility among the human race and who cherishes a woman here on Earth. This, in turn, makes him want to protect our kind from mass destruction (thankfully). He’s got a big hammer and he knows how to use it!
  • The Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson) – a super spy who can kick your ass and all your buddies also. She may or may not have psychological issues…just so ya know.
  • Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) – a sharpshooter with a bow & arrow. Also good at hand-to-hand combat.
  • Hulk (CGI) – one ugly, green muthaf$%@er who will kick ANYONE’S butt and he doesn’t seem to care one way or another WHO you are. Good guy, bad guy, whoever…you get in his way? He’ll take you out. The hard way.

So there you have The Avengers. So now…how does this ragtag team of superheroes band together and for what reason? Well…let me try to explain without giving away too much…

Loki, Thor’s brother, has banded together with an alien race to try to take over the world. He needs the glowing blue box (last seen in “Captain America” last summer) to open a portal that will allow the alien race’s army to enter our dimension and take over Earth. Needless to say, Loki succeeds and then…well…

A WHOLE LOTTA AWESOMENESS HAPPENS!!! In what has got to be one of the greatest action scenes ever we get to see all of our beloved heroes take on the alien baddies in Manhattan! Things get so out of control that the United States decides to drop a nuclear bomb on the city in hopes of cleaning it all up! Will our heroes rescue the city and defeat the bad guys?

Does Iron Man wear a steel banana hammock?

Uh…I dunno about that. Aaaanyway…that is the meat of the movie and it is every bit as spectacular as everyone is saying it is. The effects are dizzying, the character development is pretty damn good for a summer action flick and it moves at a pretty good clip, keeping the action first and foremost despite there being a couple of scenes that probably could have been cut but…whatever. It’s summer movie making at its best and with the death of a major minor character and a post credit hint at a sequel, there are a few surprises to keep all the fans salivating for the next installment of Iron Man/Thor/Captain America/…

Ok…hang on…let’s discuss the REAL reason you should see this movie. He’s big. He’s green. And he TOTALLY steals this flick from the slick talkin’ Tony Stark. It’s The Hulk’s film, no matter what anyone tries to tell you and Mark Ruffalo as the green giant was perfect casting! If you’ve seen the 2 previous Hulk films, you know what I’m talking about. There was something missing from those movies. I don’t know if it was the character development or the way they made Bruce Banner seem too whimpy or what, but in THIS movie, they treat Banner as if he’s a ticking time bomb, and that makes the wait to see Hulk one of the pleasant surprises. It takes a while but when it DOES happen…it’s awesome! And come to find out…the Hulk has a sense of humor! Who knew?

So is it the greatest superhero film EVER? Uh…I could argue that it’s not. My brother and I BOTH agree that “Watchmen” is our benchmark for superhero movies. But it’s more of an adult superhero film (hellooooo big blue penis. Where was the banana hammock for THAT dude? Yeesh…) so I don’t know if you can compare the two. And then you also have “The Dark Knight” and “Ghost Rider” (just kidding). “Avengers” is all about the action and even though there is plenty of it, it also includes lots of humor and lots of good writing. Oh…and the director, Joss Whedon, does a great job of letting ALL the characters stand on their own merit, never once becoming caricatures or too “cartoony” and this makes it all feel realistic in its own way.

Go see “Avengers,” buy some popcorn (but no soda. This flick is LONG) and kick back and enjoy the start of a long action blockbuster summer. This is very much worthy of your hard-earned bucks!

Overall Rating: A

See this movie or HULK SMASH!!!

Captain America: The First Avenger

At its heart, the story of Captain America has always been about the underdog fighting the good fight against evil. In this film’s case, the underdog is Steve Rogers, a 30-pound weakling whose only dream is to join the army and fight for his country. The “evil” is a red faced Nazi who is out to take over the world with a combination of science and magic. What could have amounted to a cheesy rendition of an old fashioned hero actually takes a 3D twist and transfers to the big screen quite well. Not really knowing what I was in for, this film was a pleasant surprise with lots of great performances and a plot that never gets heavy-handed or cheesy.

Playing our hero is Chris Evans, hot off his turn as Johnny Storm (the Human Flame) of the “Fantastic Four.” When I heard he was gonna be playing Cap, I immediately thought he would play it with a sly grin and a bit of arrogance. But he surprised me with a very charismatic yet humble turn as the anemic Rogers and then later as the bulked up Captain America. With the help of some serious CGI, the director and his special effects crew somehow manage to take Evans’ head and put it on the body of someone who is probably a 12-year old kid. How they did it, I don’t know but it totally works and never once did I think it looked fake or cheesy. As the story goes, Rogers is recruited by Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci) for his good heart and his underdog status to take a super serum that will make him into a super soldier.

For whatever reason, Col. Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) decides NOT to put the new super soldier into battle right away so Cap decides to go on tour with a traveling group to get the country excited about buying bonds to help the soldiers at war. After a few months of performing on stage, it becomes obvious that Captain America needs to get to work and so the Colonel ‘s assistant, Peggy Carter (played by a stunning Hayley Atwell) and Iron Man’s father, Howard Stark (played cooly by Dominic Cooper), find him and send him on a mission to rescue a captured platoon of soldiers. It is on this mission that Cap meets his nemesis for the first time and The Red Skull is as much a super soldier as he is. The Skull (Hugo Weaving) is a menacing maniac and as with his evil Agent Smith in the Matrix movies, Weaving brings a special amount of snarl to the character.

As with all super hero movies, there are plot holes and I’m not a fan of the ending of “Captain America” even though I know why they did what they did. All of the Marvel movies (Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Hulk) are leading up to next summer’s “The Avengers” and so they had to get Steve Rogers into the modern age somehow but still the ending is a bit contrite. Overall though, compared to “Thor,” I found this film to be a lot more “believable” (as far as comic book movies go) and I was thoroughly entertained throughout the entire movie! And I can finally say…go see this movie in 3D!!! It’s the first movie in a while that actually looks great with all the tanks and planes and lazer guns and such. And the art deco from the 40’s really pops with the 3D. The end credits are really cool with Rosie The Riveter and other 40’s icons making an appearance and don’t leave too early because there is a sweet trailer for “The Avengers” movie at the end!

OVERALL RATING: A