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

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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

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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!!!

Scott Pilgrim vs The World


Scott Pilgrim is mad as hell and he’s not gonna take it anymore!!!

Half movie, half video game, “Scott Pilgrim vs The World” isn’t so much a love story as it is a brand new way to interface! Chock full of  imagery, lots of great music and a cast that is easy to love, this little movie is this year’s “Nick & Norah’s Infinit Playlist.” Which makes sense considering Michael Cera is in THIS movie also.

Cera plays Scott Pilgrim, a 22-year old bassist who lives with his gay friend and who has had several girlfriends that haven’t exactly made the cut. Enter Knives Chau, a 17-year old high schooler who falls for Scott and follows him around like a puppy. Knives and Scott get along just fine until one night Scott has a vision of his dream girl and soon discovers that she actually exists. This, of course, sets him on a quest to date her and when he finally gets her, he finds that he must literally fight her 7 ex-boyfriends in order to move ahead to the next stage of the game.

When I say “move ahead in the game,” I literally mean it because everything in this film is made out like a hyper-action video game. From the cool graphics to the fast editing to the music, this movie doesn’t sit still for a second! And the dialogue is whip smart as characters bounce one-liners and flirt with silliness. Everyone is perfect for their roll, from Cera to Mary Elizabeth Winstead as his vision, Ramona Flowers, down to the evil band of exes, played by Chris Evans, Brandon Routh and Jason Schwartman. All are excellent and all play their rolls with tongue in cheek perfection.

If I had one complaint about this movie it’s that the effect of the fighting that goes on gets a little stale after about the 5th time, but that is such a minor complaint that it’s hardly worth mentioning. The amazing art direction in this movie has GOT to get noticed this year for the Oscars! This film is one of the highlights of 2010 and is definitely one of the more creative movies that I’ve seen in many years!

Overall Rating: A

“Push” It Aside…


The movie poster is the coolest part of the film…

Ya know when you see a magician and he pulls the rabbit out of the hat. It’s pretty cool, right? Especially when he does it right in front of you and there seems to be no way that he could have done it without you seeing it. This same amazement does not apply to movies. The problem with a movie like “Push” is that it expects you to put believe that it is making magic, but the magician isn’t just standing in front of you. The magician is moving around, jumping from place to place and is basically all over the editing room floor. And this movie has been hacked up to the point of annoyance.

Originally I went to see this film because it kind of looked like an offshoot of the television show “Heroes”. Regular people gifted with extraordinary powers. But once it got started, I could tell that it was going to become a basic, by the books thriller that copies the editing style of the “Bourne” series and tries to be something its not. And…that’s pretty much what it did.

Lots of walking around, lots of talking, little action. Sure…some of the effects are cool (nothing you haven’t seen in the X-Men series though), but the characters are dreadfully boring and I have no idea what the point of this movie was. The good guys are supposed to find this syrum that the bad guys don’t want the government to know about. So Chris Evans & Dakota Fanning enlist the help of a group of other “gifted” people and fight the bad guys, which includes an Asian mob and Djimon Hounsou, who can make people think and do things by turning his eyes black and looking menacing. I don’t buy it.

And the plot was horrible! So many twists and turns that are then “answered” because the producers & writers have an easy out…these “heroes” can make reality NOT reality. They can shift things and make you think you are seeing something when you are not. And so…this is where the magic trick is supposed to happen! But it never does. It all seems fake. And that’s really where this film crashes & burns.

I can handle being fooled once or twice. But when the plot starts looking like swiss cheese and I’m supposed to believe it all comes together in the end all nice & neat, I start to get irritated. And this film had me boiling by the end of it.

Needless to say, “Push” isn’t getting a good rating from me. It’s over edited, overblown and under-acted. Not a glowing recommendation. Maybe for the next trick the magician can pull out a buzzsaw and hack right through this mess of a film? I’m sure the producers could figure out a way to make you believe that it was all still in one piece!

Overall Rating: C-