FlixChatter Review – Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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It’s always nice when a movie lives up to one’s expectations, even better when it exceeds it. As a big fan of the first film, I’m already invested in the character of Steve Rogers, aka Captain America. I think director Joe Johnston did an outstanding job in introducing a superhero who’s not inherently cool like most of his peers, but his origins story has its undeniable charm and intrigue, not to mention that it perfectly sets up the larger universe of The Avengers. Naturally I was slightly dismayed that Johnston was replaced by a relatively *unknown* pair of directors, Joe & Anthony Russo have done mostly TV work, but as it turns out, I needn’t worry.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier picks up where the first film left off and immediately hits the ground running. Literally. Cap and his future ally Sam ‘The Falcon’ Wilson (Anthony Mackie) *meets cute* during a morning jog near the Washington Monument. It’s a humorous scene filled with all kinds of patriotic symbolism and an efficient throwback to our formerly frozen hero adjusting to modern society, what with his notebook filled with pop culture references he’s missed out on and his ride Black Widow calling him a old fossil. It’s tough living as a man out of his time, the only place he’s most familiar with is the Smithsonian which puts the bygone era on display. The ideals Rogers fought for and believed in has been long gone. “S.H.I.E.L.D. takes the world as it is, not as we’d like to be!” Nick Fury tells him, and he’s given a tour to the monstrous helicarrier hangar that reminds me of the Shatterdome (Jaeger-making factory) in Pacific Rim.

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The conspiracy theory stuff harkens us to the 70s paranoia thrillers, which also borrows some themes from Minority Report when Cap quipped ‘I thought the punishment usually came AFTER the crime.’ Yet somehow the story feels so timely thanks to the Edward Snowden NSA scandal about how the Big Brother style government is still very much with us.

Fans of espionage movies like me would love the story arc here where Cap struggles with a moral dilemma and trust issues, but action fans should be pleased with the amount of exciting fight sequences, hand-to-hand combat, and one of the most relentless car chases in history! It’s an exhilarating, adrenaline-pumping scene of the geek-gasm variety. Nice to see Samuel L. Jackson given more screen time here, instead of merely showing up to berate the Avengers or give out orders. But he also gets to do his usual scenery-chewing best. The dynamic between Cap and Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson sporting a sleek new haircut) is fun to watch as well. They couldn’t be more different from each other. Cap with his straight-as-an-arrow sensibilities where he sees things as black or while, whilst ex-KGB Romanoff practically lives in a gray area all her life. It’s an unlikely Avenger-pairing, as she also volunteers to be his matchmaker, that works quite well here as she unrelentingly tries to brings Cap out of his shell. Anthony Mackie is delightfully charming as The Falcon, I secretly cheer every time he came on screen. The interaction between him & Cap provides some of the biggest laughs, but there are also moments that highlights our hero’s humanity.

I overheard someone complain right after the screening that there were too much drama and not enough action. Now I couldn’t disagree more with whoever said that, as I definitely think there’s a nice balance of thrilling action and engaging dramatic tension throughout. Even the decidedly quieter moments has its purpose, and without giving anything away, it’s one I was particularly looking forward to. Even during the most action-packed fight scenes, there’s emotional moments that keeps the blam, whack, pow punches from ringing hollow, especially the moment Cap realizes who The Winter Soldier turns out to be. The action stuff looks quite spectacular all around, which I’ve come to expect from the $170 mil budget. I’m glad to say I didn’t get dizzy from slo-mo or shaky-cam techniques and there’s just the right amount of CGI as the fight sequences felt pretty realistic.

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Kudos to Chris Evans for truly bringing the character to life in such a compelling way. He seems far more confident in the role as well as an actor, which makes Steve Rogers’ journey all the more intriguing. He comes across as someone who’ve seen a lot and been through a lot, a broken-hearted man who somehow doesn’t become embittered by it all. He’s not just a hero because he’s a super soldier with perfect human specimen physique, but it’s his unapologetic goodness and abiding principles that makes him truly worth rooting for. That said, we still get to see plenty of cool scenes that shows what Cap is really capable of physically that’s amplified even more than the first film. He and his seemingly indestructible shield are truly pushed to their limit this time around. There are lots of action-packed scenes worth rewinding for once I get my hands on the Blu-ray!

The supporting cast is first rate all around. Robert Redford effortlessly adds gravitas as the S.H.I.E.L.D. big honcho Alexander Pierce. It’s shrewd casting given how a few of his early espionage films inspired the screenwriters of this film. He serves as a nice contrast to the more larger-than-life villain [but perhaps deemed too cartoonish] of the first Captain America film. Nary of a maniacal laugh or anything of the sort, Pierce is quite a sinister figure. There is one particular scene in his house that actually makes my blood run cold. Sebastian Stan gets most of the action scenes and perhaps not as much of the dramatic stuff, but I do think he has the chops. That’s a good thing as the actor signs multiple-picture deals with Marvel as the inevitable successor of the franchise. I also have to mention Frank Grillo who elevates his character way above the typical thug-ish bad guy. He’s one reliable character actor who I wish would get more prominent roles in Hollywood.

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I think it’s brilliant that this sequel is set in the political thriller genre and not focusing too much on the fish-out-of-water cliché of Cap’s existence. I applaud the studio for making bold choices in the plot, which has been aptly called ‘a game changer’ in terms of its effects to the future Marvel movies. The story gives a nod to his past but also boldly moves the story forward.  I feel that there’s truly something huge at stake here, not just for Cap but for everyone in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Final Thoughts: Thanks to screenwriters Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely and the spirited direction of the Russo brothers, this has become my favorite Marvel stand-alone feature and Cap my favorite Marvel superhero. It’s nice to see that the story and character still take center stage here and not get drowned out by ultra-bombastic and unnecessary action scenes. I’m thrilled that the Russos will be back for the third film. I think by the time that one wraps, the Captain America franchise could be the most cohesive one as its storyline flows as one unit from one to the next. Hail to the Cap!

4.5 out of 5 reels

P.S. Make sure you stay until the second post-credit scene. Trust me, it’s worth the wait!


What do you think of this movie? Did you like it more or less than I did?

The Avengers Initiative: Profile on Agent Phil Coulson

Happy Sunday all!

It’s The Avengers Week over at The Focused Filmographer blog as part of the countdown to the Marvel movie’s US release. My pal Terrence asked me to participate in The Avengers Initiative, so today I present you the profile on the least likely hero of all — but certainly just as valiant — the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson. Find out more about the actor who portrayed Coulson, Clark Gregg, what Joss Whedon said about the agent’s man-crush on Captain America, and much more!

Read the full post on Terrence’s blog by clicking the banner below!

Are you as excited as I am for this movie? What are your thoughts on Agent Coulson?

THIS JUST IN: ‘The Avengers’ Full Trailer #2

HAPPY LEAP DAY everybody!! Somehow I knew the studios are going to take advantage of this day to release something BIG. Well, it doesn’t get any bigger this Summer than The Avengers!

So take a look at all the Marvel superheroes Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye and Black Widow leaping all over themselves to counter against the evil Asgaard villain Loki and save humanity:


I must say Marvel’s producing yet another pure geekgasm-worthy trailer that REALLY gets me more pumped up to see this in less than 3 months! Yes it does get a bit Transformer-y towards the end, especially that giant snake-like metal thing-y coming out of the skyscraper. What the frak is THAT thing??! Does anyone know if that’s part of Loki’s army? ‘Cause it looks a bit like the Destroyer that Loki sent to earth to kill Thor and his earthly co-horts.

What the-?

Can’t wait to see more banters between the ‘volatile, self obsessed and don’t play well with others’ Tony Stark and everyone else on the team, especially Loki. Oh and I’m also excited to see Clark Gregg getting a bigger part in this flick as Agent Coulson


Oh and have you seen this one? Someone actually made a silent film spoof of The Avengers trailer… and it actually is pretty darn good. I really enjoyed watching all those fun title cards like “Egads. It’s Loki. God of Mischief.” It’s interesting too the fact that Robert Downey Jr. once played the most celebrated silent film star Charlie Chaplin.


Anyway, The Avengers is slated to hit US theaters on May 4. All right, BRING. IT. ON. Joss Whedon!!

Well, what say you folks? Are you ready for this?

Iron Man 2 Review & Highlights from the Movie

Two years ago, when the trailer of Iron Man first came out, I thought it was just ridiculous and juvenile that I had no interest in seeing it. Not sure why I ended up seeing it but let’s just say I absolutely loved it. It was such a fun and enjoyable flick from start to finish and Robert Downey Jr. in the title role carries the movie with his effortless charm. It’s irrefutable that the sequel became one of my highly anticipated flicks this year, and the buzz and trailers only enhanced my enthusiasm.

So? Does it live up to the original?

The short answer is: not quite. Yet, the movie is not completely without merit

This sequel picks up exactly where the first left off when billionaire inventor Tony Stark declared to the world that he is indeed the man inside that Iron Man suit. Borrowing from fellow Marvel superhero Spiderman: ‘with great power comes great responsibility,’ thus the mounting pressure from the government, the press and the public to share his weapon technology with the military. As if that weren’t enough, it’s also revealed early on that the chemical element used in his arc reactor – the one used to keep him alive after the shrapnel wound – is toxic to his blood and the seemingly-untouchable hero is dying. That is, if the vengeful Russian physicist Ivan Vanko doesn’t destroy him first. Seriously, is every single Russian bad guy has to be named Ivan?? As someone married to one bearing that name who doesn’t happen to be Russian, I resent that!

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The film veers off Transformers territory at times with the noisy clink-clank sounds of metal clanging with each other, and the only thing that reminds me this wasn’t a Michael Bay flick is the presence of the RDJ and the strong supporting cast. He is able to elevate the hedonistic, egotistical Stark  from being an utter and complete jerk because he is just that charismatic. But yet, there’s barely any emotional connection with any of the characters. Despite his health condition and daddy issues though, it’s tough to feel sympathy for the ultra-flamboyant Tony. At times I feel like the secretary-turned-CEO-plus-covert-love-interest Pepper Potts who’s constantly exasperated by his boss’ antics.

Potts is just one of the few familiar faces that are overrun by too many new characters with no real arc. Even the returning character of Capt. James Rhodes feels new because Don Cheadle takes over from Terrence Howard – who I thought was terrific in the role. Cheadle did fine here but I still much prefer Howard, but it doesn’t bother me as much as the completely wasted Samuel L. Jackson as the much-hyped Nick Fury (he appeared in the end credits of the first). His role just comes across pointless and forgettable, which is a shame because SLJ isn’t a ‘forgettable’ kind of a guy. I mean his abrupt death scene in the shark thriller Deep Blue Sea was far more memorable! Scarlett Johansson as the supposedly va-va-voom Russian spy doesn’t have much to do besides slinking around flaunting her curvaceous body on screen.

The poor narrative also makes the film feel disjointed, it doesn’t move from scene to scene in a cohesive fashion. Screenwriter Justin Theroux couldn’t decide whether he wanted to make an Avengers prequel or a follow up to Iron Man, so by trying to fit in the two, he falls short on both counts. I agree with Castor that  “… this movie feels more like an Avenger prequel than an Iron Man sequel.” Last but not the least of the movie’s problems is the last battle scene, which lacks a sense of real danger for the protagonists, despite being surrounded by lethal droids created and controlled by Vanko. It’s also far too brief that it really undermines the buildup of what Mickey Rourke did with his villainous role.

Now, despite all the low points I mentioned, it’s still quite fun to watch this movie, and the one liners did make me laugh. For the fun of it, here are what I think are the five best things of the movie:

  1. RDJ – the only reason I’d even watch the original and he’s still the reason this one is so enjoyable despite its flaws.
  2. Sam Rockwell's scene-stealing weapon demo scene

    Sam Rockwell as Stark’s rival Justin Hammer – it takes a formidable actor to outshine RDJ, but this massively talented actor did just that and stole every scene he was in. I LOVE the hilarious weapon demonstration scene, I’ve got to admit I really like his character almost as much as Tony!

  3. The briefcase armor – This scene alone is worth the price of admission … well ok, perhaps a matinee admission. Man, it was such a high watching the cool red and silver armor slowly envelopes Stark’s body just by kicking the case open. Freakin’ awesome!

    Courtesy of gifbin.com
    Briefcase Iron Suit animation
  4. The Monaco action sequence. The location itself is breathtaking, but as soon as Rourke’s Whiplash shows up looking all menacing and uber bad-ass, I was ready for an exhilarating, full-throttle action and Favreau delivers! I think this is the best battle scene in the whole movie and every once in a while, it’s nice to see a hero – or god as Vanko calls it – bleed.
  5. Mickey Rourke makes for a menacing, sinister villain, but some of his scenes are funny as heck. I almost choke from restraining my laughter in the whole ‘I want my bird’ scene that left Rockwell mystified.

    The villain and his beloved bird 🙂

    Ivan Vanko (thick Russian accent): I want my bird.
    Justin Hammer: Yeah sure. We can get you a bird
    Ivan Vanko: You don’t understand. I want *my* bird. *My* bird.

    Classic!