Captain America: Civil War Review: Braun vs. Iron


Directors: Joe & Anthony Russo

Writers: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

Stars: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan

Civil_War_Final_Poster


Release date: April 28th, 2016

Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 147 minutes


4½/5

Best part: The airport showdown.

Worst part: Minor leaps of logic.

Let’s face it, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has eclipsed everything DC Comics/Warner Bros. could possibly hope to achieve. In its 13-blockbuster run, this franchise has set the bar for every other studio now clamouring for their own extended universes. With Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice turning from promising idea into jumbled, obnoxious mess, Marvel is still going strong. Can you believe it’s been eight whole years since Iron Man came out? Neither can I, neither can they.

instaCaptain America: Civil War looks set to be the most fulfilling blockbuster of 2016. The movie succeeds on every level, delivering on its promises and refusing to show fear or cynicism. The plot itself is more intricate and meaningful than your average MCU installment. Following up from the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Civil War opens up with the new, unique Avengers squad on its latest mission in Lagos. Tracking down weapons trader Brock Rumlow/Crossbones (Frank Grillo), their efforts end with multiple civilian casualties.

The world looks set to turn against our troupe of sexy, spandex warriors, convinced humanity is better off without them. Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie), and Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) are scalded by US Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) for their shocking collateral damage, aiming to push United Nations sanctions into effect. Whereas the team feels justified in their actions, Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), James Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle), Vision (Paul Bettany), and Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) side with the government. After Steve’s frenemy Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) is blamed for a catastrophe, Cap goes on a one-man mission to find answers.insta

Directors Joe and Anthony Russo along with long-standing screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, coming back after The Winter Soldier, have successfully taken the reigns from Joss Whedon. Their latest provides a sense of balance most blockbusters either avoid or can’t quite grasp. Its plot, unlike most cluttered superhero epics, follows one streamlined path from beginning to end. From the prologue and opening action sequence onwards, its character turns and narrative twists remain steady. Like the original Civil War storyline in the comics, the UN bill – titled the Sokovia Accords here – starts a ticking time bomb to the team’s obliteration. The conflict splits the story between both sides evenly – fusing its narrative, thematic, and emotional resonance throughout the exhaustive 147-minute run-time.

Team Cap and Team Iron Man have significant points of view. Cap and co. believe it’s their responsibility to protect the world and bring justice to anyone on the wrong side of the law. Cap – divided between the worlds of yesterday, today, and tomorrow – believes a bit of ‘ol’ fashioned’ goes a long way in this paranoid, surveillance state era. Stark’s troupe, however, points out the mass casualties already caused. The former weapons/tech. giant turned humanitarian warrior puts his foot down, outlining the escalation in worldinstawide violence and shady bureaucratic border-hopping. Both agendas are reasonable, literally and figuratively tearing the franchise’s two most beloved characters apart.

The Russos take on the monstrous task of following on from previous installments and setting up new ones. The pre-established characters and talented performers are given their due, with all sub-plots fitting together like intricate jigsaw pieces. Threads including Steve and Sharon Carter/Agent 13(Emily VanCamp)’s dynamic, Natasha’s diplomatic work, Sam and Bucky’s quarrels, Vision and Wanda’s impending relationship, Stark and Rhodes’ everlasting friendship and Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Scott Lang/Ant-Man(Paul Rudd)’s involvement make for numerous light-hearted gags and soul-crushing moments simultaneously. It even throws in new characters including vengeful Wakandan prince T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), spunky youngster Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and scheming, sympathetic human villain Helmut Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) with textbook precision.

This globe-trotting, ambitious adventure delivers some of the MCU and modern Hollywood’s most inventive action sequences. The much-talked-about airport set-piece marks the franchise at its absolute peak. This impressive sequence brings our 12 major superhero characters together with aplomb, showcasing the astonishing array of fighting styles, abilities, and personalities. Pouring gravy onto instathis already hearty steak, the opening sequence, car chase, and heart-wrenching finale provide some ass-kicking delight in between the political discussions and character-driven interludes.

Captain America: Civil War successfully highlights Cap’s never-ending conflict with the 21st Century and The Avengers’ struggle to reassure the human race of its importance in the universe. Thanks to esteemed direction, a stacked cast, fun character-actor cameos, big laughs, and even bigger emotional rifts, this is the franchise’s most mature and momentous installment yet. Fingers crossed Infinity War Parts 1 and 2 can live up to our ridiculous expectations.

Verdict: Another rich superhero epic/fulfilling MCU installment.

Miles Ahead Audio Review: Cheadle In Charge


Director: Don Cheadle

Writers: Steven Baigelman, Don Cheadle

Stars: Don Cheadle, Ewan McGregor, Emayatzy Corinealdi, LaKeith Lee Stanfield

miles_ahead_poster


Release date: April 1st, 2016

Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

Country: USA

Running time: 100 minutes


4/5

Review:

Iron Man 3 Review – Stark Contrast


Director: Shane Black

Writers: Drew Pearce, Shane Black

Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Ben Kingsley


Release date: April 25th, 2013

Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Country USA

Running time: 130 minutes


4/5

Best part: Black’s direction.

Worst part: The underdeveloped supporting characters.

Ever since 2008’s Iron Man, Tony Stark has become a pop-culture icon and beloved Marvel Universe character. In The Avengers, Captain America orders Stark to list his special qualities. Stark simply looks him in the eye and, with a straight face, replies “Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.”. His tone and dry wit have now pulled him through four hit blockbusters. The latest, Iron Man 3, is a thrill-ride in every sense.

Robert Downey, Jr. & Don Cheadle.

It’s a fun and enlightening superhero flick that focuses on the series’ core ingredients. This instalment is also vastly different to the previous two Iron Man Flicks. Set after the near-apocalyptic events of The Avengers, Iron Man 3 picks up with Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) recoiling from memories of magic, monsters, and aliens. His trip through the wormhole, during the Avenger’s New York battle, has left him with post-traumatic stress disorder. However, anxiety attacks and insomnia are the least of his problems. Stark must now contend with The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), Leader of a terrorist group known as the ‘Ten Rings’. He sets off horrific explosions within the US and publicly boasts about it. Also gumming up the works is Advanced Idea Mechanics (AIM) founder and ultra-smart-ass Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce). Stark, Killian, and fellow scientist Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) have a history. In 1999, Stark rejected Killian’s ground-breaking ideas. This was a bad move! After his house is destroyed, Stark must find the motives behind the Mandarin’s attacks whilst keeping his girlfriend, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), and best friend, Lt. Col. James Rhodes a.k.a. The Iron Patriot (Don Cheadle), out of harm’s way.

Guy Pearce.

Iron Man 3 may lack the focus and charm of the original, but it’s still much better than 2010’s Iron Man 2. Whereas Iron Man 2 suffered from story, character, and pacing issues, Iron Man 3 smartly balances drama, action, and character. Despite the glitz and glamour that comes with casting Robert Downey jr. in a lead role, the biggest star of this instalment is Shane Black (writer of Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout, director of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang). As you can tell, his filmography is both commendable and extensive. This is Downey jr. and Black’s first collaboration since Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. The amusing and grimy film noir is similar to Iron Man 3 in many ways. These two men clearly work well together. They provide a wink-and-nudge style of humour that many big-budget flicks desperately need. Black commands this movie the same way that Joss Whedon took control of The Avengers. Black has a strong love for both smart storytelling/screen-writing and the original material. His film will appeal to both film-goers and comic book aficionados. His writing/directorial style has many idiosyncrasies. Much like his previous efforts, Iron Man 3 has a Christmassy theme, tough heroes, spectacular action set-pieces, a buddy-cop style team up, and slimy villains.

Ben Kingsley.

Ben Kingsley.

Iron Man 3, despite its convoluted story and multitude of characters, moves at a good pace. It pumps up the volume when it needs to whilst taking time to focus on Stark’s human side. The first third moves quickly. It establishes how every character fits into this expansive universe and what they represent (war on terror, patriotism etc.). After the first spectacular action set piece, in which Stark’s luxurious Malibu house is obliterated, the film suddenly slows down. All three acts are separate from each other in both subject matter and tone. The second third is a charming buddy-cop/detective flick. Stark’s new friendship with a young boy, Harley (Ty Simpkins), is both refreshing and hilarious. Stark, whilst talking down to the young boy, realises that he is a hypocrite. He also admits that he is an extremely vulnerable individual. It’s fun to see Downey Jr. play another detective character; applying Stark’s knowledge to this dangerous mission. The film’s special effects and gadgets are stellar. The action sequences are fresh and vibrant. Mixing fun choreography with inventive cinematography, each set-piece is both memorable and thrilling. His new suit, made up of multiple, inter-locking parts, is both a neat invention and the subject of many comedic moments. The mix of dramatic and cartoonish elements is important to this exciting and visceral experience.

“That’s the thing about smart guys: we cover our asses!” (Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), Iron Man 3).

Gwyneth Patrow.

Gwyneth Paltrow.

Black needed to create some interesting characters for this instalment. Unlike Iron Man 2, the characters here are well developed, necessary and empathetic. Stark is as entertaining as ever. Instead of being arrogant and/or selfish, he is an entrepreneur with a thirst for vengeance and thrills. His relationship with Potts brings him back down to Earth and gives us a reason to care about him. We like Iron Man, but we love the man underneath the suit. Downey Jr. is at his charismatic best here. Much like his performance in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, he uses charm and sensitivity to bring his character to life. Don Cheadle fits more comfortably into his role than he did in Iron Man 2. Stark and Rhodes’ friendship works similarly to the buddy-cop partnerships seen in Black’s previous works. I wish they had more time together on-screen. Paltrow is effective as Stark’s better half and the film’s strongest female character. Pearce is slimy yet sympathetic as a man looking for revenge. Kingsley is magnetic as the menacing lead villain. The twists and turns involving his character are some of the film’s best moments. Unfortunately, Hall is sorely underused as Stark’s old flame. Her character has charm, but no real reason to be in this film.

Stepping out of The Avengers‘ gigantic shadow, Iron Man 3 is nothing short of awesome. Many people will be bothered by its emphasis on drama over action. However, the story, characters, humour, and visuals collaborate to create an enjoyable blockbuster. Marvel’s Phase 2 is off to a cracking start.

Verdict: A witty and entertaining third instalment.

Flight Review – Denzel’s Divulgence


Director: Robert Zemeckis

Writer: John Gatins

Stars: Denzel Washington, John Goodman, Don Cheadle, Bruce Greenwood


Release date: November 2nd, 2012

Distributor: Paramount Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 138 minutes


 

4½/5

Best part: The plane crash sequence.

Worst part: Some awkward religious preachings.

Remember the events of January 15, 2009? US Airways Flight 1549 departed from New York City’s LaGuadia Airport. Shortly after take-off, fortuitous circumstances forced the pilot, Capt. Chesley Sullenburger, to ditch the plane into the Hudson River. Flight depicts a similar story of a brush with death and destiny. It’s a stirring achievement, capturing every detail of a startling and emotional narrative.

Denzel Washington.

Thankfully, this particular story is fictional. The idea of capturing a disastrous event from one person’s perspective is certainly an alluring one. Here, the pilot of a fateful flight is put on the chopping block. Captain Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) wakes up early one morning with a raging hangover, bottles strewn all over his hotel room and a naked air hostess, Katerina (Nadine Velazquez), waltzing out of his bed. After an angering phone call, he snorts a line of cocaine and makes his way to the airport. His decrepit state is no match for flying, but he does it anyway. Obtaining a wink of shut-eye and tiny Vodka bottles on the flight, his fun times are disrupted by a heart-wrenching jolt. Rolling the plane in mid air before crash landing in an open field, his miraculous actions save 96 out of the 102 souls on board. Despite being labelled a hero, his issues are far from over. Whip must then collide with various ‘acts of god’ and the demons of his past, before incriminating evidence sends him into a deeper emotional spiral.

Washington & Kelly Reilly.

Washington & Kelly Reilly.

Flight is a profound and engaging film that is definitely not for the faint of heart. This character study, sure to anger some and scare others, is a truly vital experience for anyone used to being under the influence or in over their heads. This story of temptation is one of many to deal with mental instability and intoxication. It succeeds due to its compelling story of faith and well-being. Washington’s intense performance adds poignancy to his already solid character. Whitaker is clearly a troubled individual. The outcome of this investigation rests almost entirely on his behaviour. He never means to fail, yet alcohol and illicit drugs continually draw him back into making the same pathetic mistakes. Every time he looks into a bottle he sees a shining light which briefly takes him away from his gruelling problems. As a man without a family, hope or true identity, his story is about acceptance more so than finding a miraculous cure. Issues concerning trust and father/son relationships also become part of this heart-wrenching journey. He must find freedom before the press and airline officials take it away.

John Goodman.

John Goodman.

This story deals with faith in a way that never talks down to religion nor elevates it. This ‘act of god’ is merely a sign of something much greater for Whitaker. It allows him to make up his own mind about faith and humanity. But the film is not without its over-bearing moments. At one point, a cancer patient hammers home preachings about fate. It’s a funny scene, but one that could’ve finished with a much less abrasive conclusion. The accident helps Whitaker find solace through other individuals. Sub-plots, though effective in establishing Whitaker’s emotional complexity, fail to develop beyond a certain point. At one stage, he becomes intimately acquainted with a down-on-her-luck addict, Nicole (Kelly Reilly). The first half-hour provides a window into her degraded existence. She struggles to pay rent, frequently injects herself with illicit substances and almost falls into pornography. It seems she may become a much more important character. However, her involvement ceases when Whitaker is depicted in a more enlightening manner.

“Hey, don’t tell me how to lie about my drinking, okay? I know how to lie about my drinking. I’ve been lying about my drinking my whole life.” (Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington), Flight).

Washington, Bruce Greenwood & Don Cheadle.

Washington, Bruce Greenwood & Don Cheadle.

Director Robert Zemeckis is, arguably, one of the most versatile directors in film history. He has gone from classic action-adventure (Romancing the Stone, the Back to the Future series), to uplifting drama (Forrest Gump, Cast Away), to imaginative motion capture-driven animation (Beowulf). Flight combines Zemeckis’ talents into a moving and thought-provoking experience. The plane crash sequence is one of the most vertigo and tension-inducing set pieces since Cast Away (his last live-action film). Zemeckis smartly concentrates on the emotions flowing through this unpredictable event. It should leave any viewer biting their nails or tightly holding the arm rest. This claustrophobic sequence, ironically, launches the film sky high. The supporting cast is vital to this personal drama. Bruce Greenwood is his usual charismatic self as Whitaker’s frustrated friend. Don Cheadle is an enlightening presence as Whitaker’s determined lawyer. In their first film together since Devil in a Blue Dress, Washington and Cheadle create a comfortable dynamic here. While the ubiquitous John Goodman steals the show as Whitaker’s vulgar and hilarious hippie-esque Drug dealer. He breathes a sigh of relief into an otherwise dark narrative.

Washington has delivered his most ground-breaking work in years. Flight is an electric and potent story of hope and redemption. Denzel, delivering his best performance since Training Day, grapples his A-list statues and never lets go. With so many intimate elements, Zemeckis’ new film is flying high.

Verdict: An intense and potent drama.