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

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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.

The Jungle Book Review: Bill’s Necessities


Director: Jon Favreau

Writers: Justin Marks (screenplay), Rudyard Kipling (novel)

Stars: Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba

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Release date: April 7th, 2016

Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 105 minutes


3½/5

Review: The Jungle Book

 

 

 

Hail, Caesar! Review: Ode to Old School


Directors: Joel & Ethan Coen

Writers: Joel & Ethan Coen

Stars: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes

hail-caesar-poster


Release date: February 25th, 2016

Distributor: Universal Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 106 minutes


 

3½/5

Review: Hail, Caesar!

2014’s Blockbuster Season: Conquerers & Wimps


Article: 

2014’s Blockbuster Season: Conquerers & Wimps

Lucy Review – Running on Empty


Director: Luc Besson

Writer: Luc Besson

Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Amr Waked, Choi Min-sik

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Release date: July 25th, 2014

Distributor: Universal Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 89 minutes


 

 

 

3/5

Best part: Johansson’s touching performance.

Worst part: The overblown final third.

French cinematic endeavours, to the common moviegoer, illicit significant emotional and psychological responses whenever they come to light. For most people, this movement sits on a certain pedestal. With that said, one writer/director/producer extraordinaire has spent the past decade turning these stereotypes inside out. With sci-fi extravaganza Lucy, Luc Besson (La Femme Nikita, Leon: The Professional) aims to bolster his wavering reputation.

ScarJo training for Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Relying on past successes to green-light future projects, Besson’s career now resembles a dying animal. Compared to his more substantial efforts, this cinema icon’s recent career turns are pitiful and tiresome. However, with Lucy, Besson is taking appropriate steps toward celluloid salvation. Tackling everything around him, this filmmaker is now embracing his darkest thoughts and pseudo-radical beliefs. Lucy, carrying a tried-and-true premise, tries to be more than the sum of its parts. The narrative takes hold as our lead character brightens up her first frame. As a struggling student, Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is feeling the pinch of inner-city living. Pushed around by a sketchy boyfriend and overbearing responsibilities, she finds herself drifting off mid-conversation. However, with her will-power lower than her IQ, she becomes the unfortunate Guinea Pig of a bizarre and potentially- revolutionary drug trafficking scheme. Forcing Lucy into the drug-mule game, the local mob, headed-up by Kang (Choi Min-sik), push our lead’s resolve to breaking point. After a daring escape, Lucy forms a bond with determined French Policeman Pierre Del Rio (Amr Waked). Fortunately, this information covers only a tiny part of Lucy‘s intricate and intensifying narrative. Exposed to a mind-bending new drug, Lucy is transformed into a gun-toting, super-powered badass with nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Lucy - Morgan Freeman Wallpaper

Morgan Freeman as ‘The Voice’.

Unsurprisingly, this is one of modern cinema’s most overused and undercooked concepts. Everyone knows we use only 10% of our brains, so why does this fact appeal to big-name filmmakers? Well, according to Besson, accessing a higher percentage of brain power will cause worlds to collapse. Admittedly, it’s difficult not to compliment Besson for thinking outside the box. Unlike similar psychological thriller Limitless, Lucy reaches for weightier ideas and motifs. With that said, Lucy is still one of this decade’s most perplexing and laughable action flicks (and that’s saying something). Mixing existential sci-fi drama and mindless action-thriller tropes, Besson’s screenplay comes off like the result of an extended Red Bull marathon. Fusing unique concepts together, the first-two thirds deliver solid emotional moments and fun set pieces. Explaining itself, Lucy‘s narrative discusses the universe’s most valuable puzzle (or so Besson would have you believe). With Lucy Forming an alliance with Professor Samuel Morton (Morgan Freeman), this gripping thriller becomes the year’s most intriguing woman-on-a-mission flick. Sadly, the first-two thirds are undone by a woeful climax and nonsensical resolution. Resembling this year’s sci-fi dud Transcendence, the final half-hour spoils everything that came before it. As is Besson’s tendency, the writer/director’s popcorn-chomping-action side takes over.

“Ignorance brings chaos, not knowledge.” (Lucy (Scarlett Johansson), Lucy).

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Amr Waked as France’s least idiotic cop.

With our heroes going up against Asian gangsters and French police, the climactic action sequence lends little depth or personality to the final product. Despite this, I should give credit where it’s due. Unlike his preceding effort The Family, Besson’s latest dares to explore otherworldly realms. Looking past its conventional premise, Lucy’s overbearing message responds to everything effecting our world. Explaining Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, Besson uses stock footage to explain the smallest details. Overdosing on visual metaphors, Lucy comes off like a stoned philosophy major shoving his/her theories in our faces. Matching gripping sequences with dodgy CGI, Lucy is certainly a mixed bag. However, certain highlights save it from critical and commercial lashings. The action and torture sequences, though over-emphasised, deliver enjoyable moments whilst bolstering its tight pace. The Parisian car chase injects adrenaline into Lucy‘s veins. However, eclipsing the whiz-bang set pieces, Johansson elevates this sci-fi flick above similar fare. With just a handful of expressions, Johansson’s searing performance lends a solid core to her inconsistent character. Unfortunately, Freeman and Min-sik are stranded in thankless roles.

From the opening scene – depicting Earth’s first primate/human inhabitant – onward, its clear that Lucy is not for the strictly religious or simple minded. Despite the big-budget spectacle and A-list stars, Besson’s latest forces us to revel in his warped mindset. However, like with similarly surreal The Fifth Element, his ideas don’t gel like they should. Like our lead character, Lucy is an inconsistent yet alluring creation.

Verdict: Like Lucy herself – slick but insecure.

Chef Review – A Hearty Meal


Director: Jon Favreau 

Writer: Jon Favreau

Stars: Jon Favreau, Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johansson

chef-movie-poster-2014


Release date: May 9th, 2014

Distributor: Open Road Films

Country: USA

Running time: 114 minutes


 

 

Best part: The unending food porn.

Worst part: The excessive length.

Review: Chef

Verdict: Favreau’s affable return to form.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier – The Super-Bourne Ultimatium


Directors: Anthony and Joe Russo

Writers: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

Stars: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Redford, Samuel L. Jackson


Release date: April 4th, 2014

Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 136 minutes


4½/5

Best part: The inventive action sequences.

Worst part: Garry Shandling’s cameo.

Set two years after the spectacular yet catastrophic Battle of New York in mega-smash The Avengers, Marvel latest Phase 2 juggernaut, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, looks up into the universe for ideas. No, unfortunately, this instalment has nothing to do with Thor, Thor: The Dark World, or Guardians of the Galaxy. Honourably, aiming to become truly extraordinary, the movie seeks recognition. This instalment, ignoring the massive success stories that came before it, changes the game for future sequels, adaptations, and TV series’.

Chris Evans.

So, what did I think of the final Product? Well, I have to commend Marvel Studios, and Captain America: The Winter Soldiers cast and crew for pulling off a visceral and all-encompassing sequel. Eviscerating the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s preceding sequels, this movie shows Hollywood exactly how it’s done. Watch out Spider-man, X-Men, and Guardians of the Galaxy, the “star-spangled man with a plan” means business. Ascending above Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a lively and ambitious effort unafraid of The Avengers’  conquering shadow. Here, aliens, gods, and monsters aren’t even mentioned. Some may believe this to be an idiotic decision. However, this instalment seeks to pull apart everything we’ve already learnt about this franchise. Here, unlike the kitsch 2011 original, there are no guidelines, black-and-white strokes, and corny dialogue. In fact, the movie kicks into overdrive at exactly the right moments. Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), now completely thawed out of his icy tomb, finds the 21st century to be an even greater threat than Loki, alien hordes, and the Tesseract combined. Transitioning from 1940s Brooklyn to 2010s Washington D.C., Rogers feels uncomfortable even in seemingly normal surroundings and situations.

Scarlett Johansson.

Sensitively, despite Cap’s red, white, and blue facade, this instalment strips stars and stripes off the flag before dousing it in shades of grey. Carrying around a to-do list listing pop-culture’s most transcendent aspects (Steve Irwin, Rocky etc.), Rogers looks to others for guidance. From the opening scene, in which Rogers overlaps selfless war veteran Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie) on their morning jog, Rogers’ character arc becomes insatiably potent. The movie re-introduces us to this straight-laced superhero in a succinct fashion. Sporting an enviable physique and approachable personality, Rogers overshadows Cap’s star power and superhuman abilities. From there, the movie delivers many shocking and tangible twists and turns before the explosive finale. With athletic agent Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) by his side, Rogers notices several peculiar occurrences. Unsure of whom to trust, Rogers and Romanoff suspect security agency SHIELD, led by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) in their Triskelion headquarters, of carrying out ethically questionable actions. Soon enough, tempers and allegiances reach breaking point before Rogers and Romanoff are branded as threats to democracy. Thankfully, before even the titular assassin is introduced, Captain America: The Winter Soldier strives to be the most intelligent and thought-provoking instalment yet.

Samuel L. Jackson vs. The Winter Soldier.

Thanks to politically-charged overtones and pragmatic characters, the movie draws the line between worldwide peace and overwhelming chaos. Seeking a 70s conspiracy-thriller vibe, the narrative throws in several unexpected chills, thrills, and kills. Despite being comparable to All the Presidents Men (thanks mostly to Redford’s inclusion), the relevant socio-political commentary makes it, essentially, the year’s best Jack Ryan flick. In this instalment, each character’s actions spark major ramifications that could potentially re-configure entire governmental, economic, and social layouts. Rogers, introduced to a paranoid and cynical version of his stouthearted country, brings 40s ideals to every motivation, action, and judgement. In fact, the original feature’s hearty messages are seamlessly injected into its slick and ultra-relentless sequel. However, unlike the original, this instalment doesn’t rely on bubbly supporting characters, boisterous montages, or light hearted moments. This sequel, significantly darker than expected, delivers gritty and momentous tonal currents. Beyond these energetic and revelatory surprises, this series’ over-arching narrative has been radically altered by this instalment’s fundamental revelations. Shifting this series from popcorn-starved schlock to adrenaline-charged, character-based drama, Captain America: The Winter Soldier systematically adapts to preconceptions and delivers an enthusiastically purposeful experience.

“You hold a gun on everyone on Earth and call it protection.” (Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Captain America: The Winter Soldier).

Anthony Mackie.

Of course, despite its thorough examination of the First World’s shattered political state and endless desire for information, audiences turn out to see Marvel’s 90-something military-trained badass hit people with his custom-built shield. Fortunately, Captain America: The Winter Soldier’s action sequences don’t disappoint. Oddly enough, the movie’s directorial flair delivers several intense and enlightening sequences. With Jon Favreau creating indie-dramas, Kenneth Branagh heading back to Shakespeare, and Shane Black planning his next hysterical actioner, whom did Marvel Studios get this time? Why, TV directors, of course. Despite Anthony and Joe Russo’s previous credits (Community, Arrested Development), their meticulous action-direction is startlingly effective. The first sequence, displaying Cap’s awe-inspiring fighting style on a hijacked cargo ship, throws this action-adventure into a steady ascension. In addition, Falcon’s outlandish abilities and Romanoff’s extraordinary martial arts bolster this instalment’s immense “WOW” factor. Despite the final third’s occasional plot-holes, the well-crafted set pieces distract from minor gripes. In addition, like with the other successful instalments, the characters elevate and define certain scenes. Evans grips onto his role differently to Chris Hemsworth, Robert Downey Jr., and Mark Ruffalo. Switching from glorious symbol, to no-nonsense hero, to idealistic spy, his performance provides the movie’s most touching moments. Johansson and Mackie deliver enjoyable turns in well-meaning supporting roles. Meanwhile, Redford accustomed to the spy-thriller genre, relishes in his role’s more impactful conceits.

Whether you think it praises liberal principles or right-wing motivations, audiences will lap up Captain America: The Winter Soldier’s analysis of the US Government’s most pressing issues. Brave enough to be intelligent, the movie’s greatest sequences deliver depth, intense action beats, and glorious characterisations. The movie, speeding past previous Phase 2 instalments, justifies its existence. Appropriately, Marvel Studios has defined the similarities and differences between the world’s “good guys” and “bad guys”. If only our real-life public figures could do the same.

Verdict: The best Phase 2 instalment yet!