Captain America: The Winter Soldier caps off the spring season and sets the bar high for the rest of the summer blockbusters to follow. Chris Evans returns to the red, white and blue as America’s most-admired superhero, Captain America. To catch you up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger, directed by Joe Johnson (October Sky), we meet a 1940s Steve Rogers (Evans). Rogers is a scrawny Brooklyn kid who is transformed into an elite supersoldier to fight off the Nazis. Rogers ends the war but is frozen in the process. Later, he wakes up in present day to finally suit up with Iron Man, Thor and The Hulk for director Joss Whedon’s (TV show Firefly) Marvel's The Avengers. Together they help fight off Loki, who has the Tesseract (a blue cube like thing) that can destroy the world.
Now, in The Winter Soldier we see how the Cap adjusts to society after being asleep for about 70 years. Rogers has his own to-do list, including disco, Rocky and Star Trek/Star Wars. Evans is solid in the red, white and blue and digs deeper into his human side. The film is directed by Anthony and Joe Russo (directed episodes from Arrested Development and Community), who together know how to pace the film and still deliver exhilarating action. The Russo brothers also use handheld cameras to give the film a more close-up feel. The Winter Soldier is one of the more crafted films since the first Iron Man. This script is nicely written together by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (The Chronicles of Narnia series and Captain America: The First Avenger), who grapple with real political issues. The Winter Soldier is more than your average superhero flick; it’s a spy thriller, action adventure and superhero movie all combined into one film. Markus and McFreely also know how to throw in the right kind humor at the right time. The Cap stays witty without being cheesy.
The plot focuses on S.H.I.E.L.D. and its troubled past. The Cap is protected under the watchful eye of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), who tells him there is a rat in the system. This is Jackson’s sixth film in the series and probably his best performance out of all of them. After S.H.I.E.L.D. is compromised from the deadly and mysterious Winter Soldier (whose name I won’t give away for spoilers) the Cap, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) have to go on the run from their own agency. Of course, we have to accept the fact that even in a dangerous situation like this the Cap does not need the rest of his Avenger buddies to help him out. This is an ongoing plot hole in the series but we can look past it. The film turns into a delicious cat-and-mouse thriller and also exposes S.H.I.E.L.D.’s haunted past.
Other noteworthy performances are by a sneaky Robert Redford, who plays the senior leader within S.H.I.E.L.D., Alexander Pierce. He believes we can destroy hostiles before they become hostiles, and accomplishes this through the program, Project Insight. Now it’s up to the Cap and the rest of his pals to find out S.H.I.E.L.D.’s true past, while also taking down the baddies and this mysterious Winter Soldier. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a solid blockbuster film that sets the bar high for the rest to follow this summer. It delivers exhilarating action plus that spy thriller feel. Overall, this is one of Marvel’s most well-crafted films to date. It’s good to have you back Cap … it’s good to have you back.
Sadly, I don’t believe our kids or our kids’ kids will ever experience what a true spoof film is with all the recent so-called 'spoof' garbage that’s being made. Take me back to the good old days of Mel Brooks (Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein), the Zucker brothers (Airplane! and The Naked Gun) and Leslie Nielsen (Airplane! and The Naked Gun). These guys know how to make good quality spoof movies that actually make the audience laugh. Nowadays, I feel like spoof movies are trying too hard to squeeze in laughs, it’s painful to watch.
Brooks’ Blazing Saddles is considered to be one of the greatest comedies ever made. It was a satire on racism and Western films. It also had the classic Gene Wilder (Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory) in it. Brooks incorporated the right humor in the right places to keep you laughing until your insides hurt. Now, we have director Michael Tiddes who knows nothing about the spoof genre or comedies in general. His direction is sloppy and all of the jokes in this film fall flat on their face. It’s not a spoof film, instead just a string of pop culture references and crude gags. The worst part is Marlon Wayans (White Chicks and Little Man) writes and stars in this turd of a film. He can’t act, write or direct to save his life. The film is supposed to parody films like The Conjuring, Insidious: Chapter 2, Evil Dead and the Paranormal Activity series, but instead it makes a total fool of itself.
I am not even going to explain the plot because I feel like your IQ will drop by the time I get done. It’s a movie that only morons would find appealing and in the end it’s an appalling waste of time. Spoof films have declined in quality over the last decade thanks to films like Date Movie, Meet the Spartans, Epic Movie, Disaster Movie, Movie 43 and the entire Scary Movie series. These films use cheap gags, toilet humor and pop culture references that drown the audience instead of making them laugh. The Zucker brothers and Brooks know how to make spoof movies. They both love and appreciate the source of material that they are spoofing. They are professional about it and know when and where to drop in jokes to make the audience laugh. Tiddes and Wayans do the opposite of this and instead shove garbage down the viewer’s throat.
There is no care or effort put into these films and I am still shocked that they get paid to make these kinds of movies. They need to go on the blacklist with other awful directors like Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer (Date Movie and Epic Movie), who have also destroyed this genre. Heck, I would rather watch a Michael Bay (Transformers series) film before this garbage and that’s saying a lot. I know I’m harping on this film, but it’s just sad to see such a great genre decline progressively over the last decade. It’s a genre that’s supposed to make you laugh, not feel dread after watching it. It’s supposed to bring you joy not disgust. Do yourself a favor and stay far away from this film. If you want to watch good spoof movies go watch Blazing Saddles or Airplane!. Hopefully someday there will be hope for this genre, but for now watch spoof movies from the past. A Haunted House 2 is so bad it will leave you with nightmares and for that it’s barely even star worthy.
Wes Anderson currently is one of Hollywood’s most creative directors and shows us his true imagination in The Grand Budapest Hotel. He is best known for his visual and narrative style and digs even deeper in this film. This is probably the most oddball film he’s put onto the big screen. This imaginative script is inspired from Viennese writer Stefan Zweig, which is co-written by Anderson and Hugo Guinness.
Take a journey with Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes) and Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori) through their grand adventure of a dissolved past, hotel wars, murder, theft and most importantly, friendship. Anderson first introduces his film with an older Zero (F. Murray Abraham), who tells his adventures as a lobby boy to a young writer (Jude Law). Law will later write the book, The Grand Budapest Hotel. Now, back to Gustave. Fiennes gives us one his best performances to date as the quirky yet witty hotel concierge, Monsieur Gustave H. His manners are not always a match with his morals. Gustave believes he’s the one to help and even pleasure his guests of both sexes. In Gustave’s own words, “I go to bed with all my friends.”
Later, Gustave takes Zero under his wing and he becomes the new lobby boy. Newcomer Revolori is brilliant as the courageous and loyal lobby boy. Zero falls in love with Agatha (Saoirse Ronan) who works in Mendl’s bakery. Here she makes her most famous dessert Courtesan au chocolat. This pastry becomes important later on in the film. The plot thickens when Madame Céline Villeneuve Desgoffe (Tina Swinton), who has a huge crush on Gustave, is found murdered at her home. Gustave and Zero go to her funeral to show respect but Gustave is also busy trying to make out what type of cream the morgue used on her. When Madame D gives most of her prized possessions, including Boy with Apple painting, to Gustave, her ruthless son, Dmitri (Adrien Brody), has a cow. Gustave and Zero steal the painting and are framed for the murder of Madame D. Now, they are on the run from the cops, led by Inspector Henckels (Edward Norton). Dmitri’s henchman Jopling (Willem Dafoe) also goes after Gustave and Zero. Dafoe is killer-funny … literally. He throws cats out the window for fun. The film takes a dramatic turn to a crime caper, including a hilarious prison escape.
Throughout the film a tumble of actors also pop out including a humorous Bill Murray, a confused Owen Wilson, a mustached happy Jason Schwartzman, a cat-less/fingerless Jeff Goldblum, and a tattooed Harvey Keitel. Anderson creates more than a movie; he creates his own past and brings it to life through the eyes of these characters. By doing this he also explores deep emotional ideas. He is more than a filmmaker. He is an artist and knows how to craft his movies. Anderson creates his own wonderland and throws us into the middle of it. Through all of Gustave and Zero’s mischief and quirkiness we find a heart-warming story. In this film we see love, murder, heartbreak and, most importantly, friendship.
The most important message from this film is the friendship of Gustave and Zero banding together to prove their innocence and also have an adventure at the same time. Anderson shows us his keen artistic skill through The Grand Budapest Hotel and gives the dying past life. He does this through fast camera movements, a deeply enriched plot, elaborate/colorful costume designs and charming characters. Through these quirky characters we find a grand adventure waiting to unfold.
Wait — before you put Aronofsky’s head on a platter hear me out on his interpretation of Noah. This is not an average happy Sunday school lesson of Noah’s ark. Instead, Aronofsky’s vision is dark, gritty and artistic. The book of Genesis tells the story of Noah, a righteous man who obeyed God’s command to build an ark. God wanted to redo creation because of the wickedness and sinfulness of man. What we do not know from this story is what Noah was thinking, and this can be pretty hard when translating it up onto the big screen. This is where Aronofsky and writer Ari Handel come into the picture. The story of Noah is only three chapters in Genesis, so Aronofsky and Handel had to fill in the gaps and give Noah a character arc.
Our story begins with Noah (Russell Crowe) and his family — humble caretakers of Earth. There is a slight environmental message here but it’s Hollywood and that’s expected. Crowe shows us Noah’s humanity and nails it. He is at the top of his game giving us one of his best performances since Gladiator. Later, the Creator (God) gives Noah a vision about the flood through a dream. Noah travels to a mountain where Noah’s grandfather, Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins), lives. Methuselah, who has a constant craving for berries, gives Noah a hallucinogen where he has another vision about the flood and sees that he needs to build an ark. Noah receives a seed from Methuselah to plant and to grow a forest for the ark. Noah and his family also get help from the Watchers (fallen angels or stone giants that do God’s bidding).
While, the Bible does not talk about stone giants it does mention giants roaming the Earth. This is where Aronofsky’s creative spark comes into play. The Watchers at times can be often silly but they are also entertaining. The antagonist of course is the rest of humanity, but we need a face for the film and that’s where the character Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone) comes into play. Tubal-cain is the vicious leader who wants on the ark. He gathers an army to overtake Noah. Winstone fits the part perfectly and shows us the evil haunting his character. The visual effects in this film are stellar and bring a sense of realism to the film. The cinematography by Matthew Libatique (Pi and Black Swan) is beautiful and breathtaking. The scene where the animals enter the ark is beautifully shot and enlightens the film from some of its darker tones. My favorite scene from the film was when Noah told his family the story of creation. Aronofsky uses more of his artistic keen by using time-lapse footage to journey through the creation of the universe. While Noah does come with its flaws by sometimes cramming in too much stuff for one film or straying at times from Scripture, Aronofsky’s version is still worth seeing.
This is also not the first Biblical epic that has strayed from the Bible. Cecil B. DeMille’s film The Ten Commandments (1956) is to be considered one of the greatest Biblical epics ever put on screen. Many Christians still praise this film and highly recommend it to believers and nonbelievers alike. However, the film still did take out and add in some parts from the Bible. The film only showed four of the 10 plagues (Blood, Hail, Darkness and Death of the Firstborn). DeMille also added in romances between main characters that may have never existed. Some other noble performances are from a strong Jennifer Connelly, a stern Logan Lerman and a knockout Emma Watson. Aronofsky’s version shows us the deep struggles that Noah may have wrestled with internally. He also brings a sense of deep theological elements to the film.
The story could have ended once they board the ark but the film continues. I wanted to know what would happen next and if Aronofsky had any more tricks up his sleeve. Noah also shows us themes of love, mercy, obedience and courage. Aronofsky’s version is a creative interpretation of the Scripture. It’s a film that I recommend seeing with an open mind and if you don’t like it that’s fine because everyone has a right to their opinion, but don’t omit this film. It’s a film you need to have a conversation about after seeing it. In the end, Noah still gets the message across that is present in the Scripture. Noah has its highs and lows but never sinks.
Street racer framed, wants revenge, wants redemption, and joins a cross-country race … blah blah blah. We have seen this all before. Need for Speed recycles old racing movie ideas, giving us a bland and lifeless film adaption. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am all for car racing movies as long as they are well made, including Bullit, Drive, Rush, Smokey and The Bandit, Fast Five and Speed. Sadly, Aaron Paul (formerly known as Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad) stars as the lead actor in this mess of a film. Paul, who won two Emmys from Breaking Bad, does just a half-baked job here (pun intended).
Here’s the plot: Tony Marshall (Paul), a street racer who just got out of prison for a crime he did not commit, wants revenge on his rival Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper) for setting him up. Now, Marshall wants to beat Brewster on his own tracks at the De Leon, a two-day cross-country racing contest. The plot is clichéd and at times it becomes preposterous. While, cool and shiny cars overpower the rest of the cast. Director Scott Waugh (XXX and Act of Valor) knows nothing about character development or a decent script and just focuses more on explosions and racing scenes. Waugh tries to bring the game to life but it is excruciating to see and sit through. Yes, at times it fills a need for speed but nothing else. We don’t care for these characters because they are left in the dust from the cars. I would of rather have watched someone else play the video game instead of seeing this film. Need for Speed gets last place.
For Your Consideration:
In Their Own League
Mashley at the Movies
Mike, Mike, and Oscar
Next Best Picture
The Movie Oracle
Untitled Cinema Gals Project