FlixChatter Review: Black Widow (2021)

When Natasha Romanoff was first introduced in the MCU 11 years ago in Iron Man 2, I didn’t immediately warm up to the character. Even Scarlett Johansson herself admitted Romanoff was portrayed more as a sex object, albeit a bad ass one. Thankfully, she continues to evolve for the better in the subsequent movies, as she becomes quite a formidable member of the Avengers.

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Natasha has always been feisty, as shown in flashback as a tomboy preteen girl with blue hair (Ever Anderson, apparently she’s Milla Jovovich’s daughter!), growing up with her 6-year-old sister Yelena. It seems like a happy existence with their loving mom Melina (Rachel Weisz) and dad Alexei (David Harbour) in an idyllic Ohio suburbs. But one fateful day, they suddenly have to leave everything behind and make a run for it, barely eluding authorities in the process. Soon young Natasha learn just who her parents truly are, a la The Americans who are Russian spies posing as a regular American family. We even meet Alexei’s boss, General Dreykov (Ray Winstone) who leads the top secret Soviet training program known as the Red Room.

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Astute MCU fans would remember that Natasha’s past has been teased several times in various films, Loki even specifically mentions Dreykov’s daughter in the first Avenger. Given she’s trained by a covert organization also means there are other Black Widows just like her. In the long opening credits, we are shown the rigorous training that turn girls like Natasha into powerful sleeper agents and assassins. One of those trained by the Red Room program is her own sister Yelena (Florence Pugh). While Natasha is on the run from Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) for breaking the Sokovia accord and goes into hiding in Norway, Yelena is having her own moment of revelation in Morocco about the Black Widow program. Their reunion is one of the most action-packed moments that’s fun to watch.

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Though Black Widow is one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, the movie plays out more like an espionage thriller more than a fantastical superhero movie. Not quite as bad ass as Bourne but more akin to Captain America: The Winter Soldier (still my favorite standalone MCU movie thus far). Even the tone, pacing and the way the large title cards reveal a new filming location reminds me of that movie. Perhaps it’s a nod to Natasha’s close association and friendship to Steve Rogers. After all, it’s because she chose to save him in Civil War that Ross is after her, and this movie takes place directly after that third Captain America film. Now, the film’s storyline doesn’t exactly move the MCU’s overall story forward the way other standalone movies did, it’s more of an extension of its vast universe, which I think makes it a unique film.

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This movie marks the eighth time Scarlett Johansson’s played the Black Widow character and reportedly her last. Well, if that were true, she’d have ended on a high note. We have seen her fight alongside superheroes, displaying her mastery in the arts of espionage as well as exceptional weaponry and athletic abilities. It’s great to finally see not just her emotional side but also her valor and sense of nobility… which in a way is a harbinger to the moment she sacrifice her life for the good of mankind in Avengers: Endgame. Knowing her future fate doesn’t lessen the emotional value of Natasha’s story however, in fact it deepens it as we’re now given a glimpse into what makes her who she is.

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Aussie filmmaker Cate Shortland was apparently hand picked by Scarlett herself (who’s listed as one of the executive producers) as she’s a fan of her sophomore indie film Lore, a historical WWII drama. Shortland might be new to the action genre but she proves herself adept in filming the dynamic action scenes. There are plenty of hand-to-hand combat and gritty fighting styles that feels more raw and chaotic than when she was fighting with the Avengers. She is fighting amongst mere mortals after all. Even Yelena makes a point of it after an intense fight/motorbike chase, ‘gods of thunder probably won’t need an aspirin after a fight,’ ha!

Some of the action are pretty brutal though, especially when they fight against a mysterious enemy in full armored suit called Taskmaster who can seem to mimic the fighting styles of various Avengers. The identity of the Taskmaster who reports to Dreykov is kept under wraps until the end, and I’m glad I wasn’t spoiled before watching it so I’m not going to mention it here either. My favorite fight scenes are between the two sisters in Budapest and the one where Natasha had to fight a whole bunch of fellow Black Widows!

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What I didn’t expect is the amount of levity and humor which I find refreshing. I love that Scarlet isn’t above poking fun of her own character she’s played for over a decade. The way Yelena teases her relentlessly about her power pose (the full squat with one leg extended and throwing her head back) is hilarious! She calls her sister ‘a total poser’ and even tried to mimic the pose at one point. I love how she’s unfazed that Natasha is an Avenger and constantly makes sarcastic quips at her expense. Speaking of Yelena, I absolutely adore Florence Pugh!! I’ve seen her in four movies + one terrific miniseries and she’s such an effortless scene stealer! She’s charismatic, spunky with a strong screen presence, you just can’t take your eyes off her! Nice to see that she has a great rapport with Scarlett and I think she’d be a terrific actress to hand off the baton to.

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Harbour provides a bunch of comedic moments and practically spoofing the fact that he’s also a super soldier and perhaps secretly wish he’d be an Avenger. He’s not ashamed that he’s kind of a fan-boy of his own daughter and constantly asking Natasha if her friend Steve aka Capt. ever asks about him. I love seeing Weisz as part of the MCU, that’s such inspired casting and both she and Harbour have some memorable moments here. One supporting character I wasn’t too familiar with is Mason (O-T Fagbenle) whose flirtatious banter with Natasha suggests he’s more than just a friendly ally who assist her with her ‘necessities’ while in hiding.

As for Winstone, I’m used to seeing him as a tough, working class bloke. Well, he swapped his Cockney accent with a dodgy Russian one and he doesn’t get much to do here. The relatively brief scene between him and Natasha isn’t really that memorable, so he’s akin to the villain in Thor 2. Can’t remember who it was? Most likely you won’t remember Winstone either, but thankfully the two female leads have plenty of memorable moments to make up for it.

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I have to mention the rousing score by Lorne Balfe that I enjoyed quite a bit. I became familiar with Balfe through this indie rom-com Not Another Happy Ending starring Karen Gillan. I like how they use contemporary songs sparingly that fits nicely with the scenes. I particularly enjoy Malia J’s melancholic cover of Nirvana’s Smell Like Teen Spirit that’s played during the opening credits.

Overall there are lots to love here, the screenplay by Eric Pearson manages to balance the action, humor and emotional moments pretty well. It’s interesting how the major themes of behemoth franchises with the most bombastic action sequences (Star Wars, MCU, Fast & Furious) is ‘all about family’ and not necessarily those you’re born with. Black Widow is a fun mix of spy thriller and superhero genre that’s essentially about family ties. The movie looks great on the big screen so I’m glad it’s released when we can actually go back to cinemas again. I had so much fun watching this that I don’t mind watching it again.

Oh, be sure to stay for the end credits as Marvel shrewdly promote what to expect in the next MCU series on Disney+ coming later this year.

4.5/5 stars


Have you seen BLACK WIDOW? I’d love to hear what you think!

TCFF19 Review: JOJO RABBIT (2019)

JoJo Rabbit is one of those films that I’d call deceptively-flippant. If you’ve seen at least one trailer or promo clip, you’d automatically assume this would be a bizarre comedy. Well you wouldn’t be wrong either, but there is so much more in this than meets the eye. That’s the beauty of Taika Waititi‘s work, who’s quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood (though it has been a long journey for him as a New Zealand filmmaker). This work is perhaps more akin to Hunt For The Wilderpeople a comedy/drama with a young boy at the center of the story.

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The movie started out as rather bizarre… I mean seeing Taika playing a pudgy, halfwitted version of Adolf Hitler takes a while to get used to even after seeing all the promo photos of him in that role. I also think some of the comedic bits of the Nazi soldiers in the Hitler’s youth camp are deliberately fantastical, as is the nature of a satire. Young Johannes aka JoJo (Roman Griffin Davis) is bullied at camp, but kids are more resilient than one thinks. His imaginary friend Adolf somehow helps him cope. The story is contrasted with the kind of resiliency young Jewish girl Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) has to endure, the girl JoJo’s own mother (Scarlett Johansson) hides in her attic. Now, I feel like the less you know going in the better you’d enjoy this film, so I’m not going to reveal anything else other than what’s shown in the trailer.

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Taika sure has a gift in casting. In his debut role, Roman is perfect as the innocent JoJo who’s brain-washed to hate something he doesn’t even comprehend. He has a certain natural charm about him, not as riotous as Julian Dennison was in Hunt For the Wilderpeople, but just as affecting. I love seeing Thomasin here as a smart, defiant survivor after her amazing performance in Leave No Trace, I hope she continues to get more prominent work.  The tentative bond between JoJo and Elsa is truly the heart and soul of the film. There is real pathos in the conversations between them, and also between JoJo and his mother. And so it’s wise for Taika to keep the screen time of famous actors like Scarlett Johansson and Sam Rockwell relatively small, but with compelling and unexpected character arc. SPOILER ALERT [highlight text to read] I think by making Rockwell’s Captain Klenzendorf who runs a Hitler Youth camp as a closeted gay man is perhaps a way to humanize some of the Nazi soldiers, who might have been trapped in a society who also don’t welcome them. The only one actor who I think is rather wasted here in a deliberately role is Rebel Wilson, but she is so hilarious that she’s still fun to watch. Oh can I just say I absolutely adore fellow newbie young actor Archie Yates who plays Yorki, JoJo’s bespectacled BFF. He’s such a fantastic comic relief a la Taika’s Korg in Thor: Ragnarok.

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I thoroughly enjoy this film and I will champion it come award season. The story is adapted from Caging Skies novel by Christine Leunens, Taika said it was given to him by his mother. I think it’s tricky to make a satire and it’s definitely not for everyone. I think some of the earlier scenes that seemingly make light of the Holocaust and how horrible the Nazis were (set in a famous Beatles’ song no less) might ruffle some feathers, and I wouldn’t blame them. But if people could get through 15-20 minutes and finally get to the heart of the story, it’s so well worth the journey. Naturally some scenes are tough to watch, even the comical ‘interrogation’ scene with the Gestapo secret police (led by Stephen Merchant) made my skin crawl. SPOILER ALERT [highlight text to read]: JoJo compiles a journal about the Jewish people that are filled with the terrible lies and brainwashing stuff the youth camp are teaching him, and he’d often hurl insulting stuff at Elsa.

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Now as for Taika himself. Well, to say he’s the perfect Hitler would likely NOT what he’d like to hear. He’s said in interviews that he had to play the role given most actors would shy away from playing such an audacious character. But yet, even despite how flashy the role is, the filmmaker is able to make us focus on what matters–JoJo’s journey in overcoming hatred and bigotry… and better yet, learn to love someone who’s different from himself. That alone I think is quite a feat. A brilliant balancing act of tragedy and comedy in a bizarre yet poignant style… that’s definitely Taika’s unique gift of storytelling. I sure hope he gets to create more original films in addition to all his work for Disney/Marvel.


Have you seen JOJO RABBIT? If so, I’d love to hear what you think!

FlixChatter Review – AVENGERS: ENDGAME (2019)

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call the release of AVENGERS: ENDGAME as an event, at least to fans of the MCU. If you don’t know what that acronym stands for, but yet you’re curious enough to finally check out just what the fuss is about, I suggest watching a few Marvel movies first in order to fully appreciate what’s going on in this movie. There are 21 MCU movies up until this point, broken down in three phases. ENDGAME, as the title suggest, is the cumulation of the most of the heroes’ journey.

As I was watching the movie, I thought about how much I have come to care about these characters and what they have gone through. Since the release of Iron Man 11 years ago in 2008, there have been multiple new characters being introduced, but in the end, the film pretty much focused on the original six Avengers who survived Thanos’ snap in Avengers: Infinity War. Now, I know there have been calls NOT to spoil the major plot points, though it should go without saying for every movie. FlixChatter readers know I’m very careful about spoilers. That said, it’d be tough to review this film without potentially revealing some key things, so if you prefer to go into the film completely blind, you should stop reading this now [consider yourself warned].

The movie clocks in at 3 hours 1 minute. It’s perhaps the longest superhero movie ever, but there’s just SO much to cover. It actually goes by relatively fast, but that’s not to say there aren’t any slow moments. If the Marvel Cinematic Universe is organized in phases, this movie is comprised of three specific ‘chapters’ if you will. The surviving superheroes (and a powerful new ally) only have one thing in their mind, that is to go after Thanos. It’s quite amusing to see the supreme villain is actually living a rather domesticated life, seemingly not losing much sleep after wiping out half of all living creatures. I’m not going to say how that ‘avenging’ business goes, but the movie then jumps ahead five years.

The second act is perhaps the slowest part of the movie, but I feel like the quieter moments are necessary. Naturally those who survived the snap are in mourning, some have lost more than others… some lost absolutely everything they hold dear. It’s not something people can just move onward and upward, not even those as mighty as the Avengers. As Steve Rogers said in the trailer, ‘Some people move on, but not us.’ Some are dealing with this new ‘post-Thanos snap’ era better than others. One could say they’re all dealing with an intense case of PTSD. Rogers is shown in a therapy session, while Hawkeye and Thor are dealing with this trauma in very different ways. I actually love how this movie is playing with our expectations of certain characters. Let’s just say, some of their um, evolution, for a lack of a better word, is truly amusing and not at all what I expected.

Themes of loss, anguish, regret, vengefulness, sacrifice are all we expect in a film that promises to be ‘the end of the line.’ Those themes are explored well here by writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, brought to life brilliantly by Joe & Anthony Russo. By this time, most of the actors have convincingly embodied their characters. Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth and Jeremy Renner who made up the original six are particularly strong here, with Josh Brolin’s Thanos as the perfect villain. This movie has plenty of genuine emotional moments without being too heavy handed. It’s dark at times without being too brooding or overly gloomy. In fact, there are plenty of funny, witty scenes that provide the perfect levity to balance out the heartbreaking moments.

I’m glad my bladder held out well despite the three-hour running time, so I didn’t miss anything. I have to say though, the level of satisfaction this movie is would depend on how much you care about the characters that have been carefully crafted in the past decade. By the same token, if you’re not familiar with the previous movies, especially the previous Avengers movie, you’d find this movie utterly discombobulating. Even I find the plot rather convoluted and some things don’t make any sense. But most movies involving SPOILER ALERT (highlight if you want to read) time travel, especially involving quantum physics, is bound to be a head-scratcher. Yet that plot device also allows for backstory for certain characters, a walk down memory lane for others and perhaps even a farewell of sort given that the ‘end is near.’ If I were to nitpick however, I find the action spectacle in its finale to be too bombastic for me. It’s a problem for most superhero movies that even the best ones can’t seem to overcome. Fortunately, the Russos remain focused on the characters and what they have lost/stand to lose, which keeps the story grounded despite some overblown action sequences.

We all have our favorite character(s), and mine happens to be the first Avenger. My heart constantly went pitter-patter wondering what’s to become of Captain America. I have avoided reading all the incessant fan theories, and I’m glad I did. Part of the journey is the end. This movie delivers on that premise and it completes many of the characters’ arc in such an emotional way. It also lives up to the ‘whatever it takes’ premise as the Avengers face one impossible odds after another. Thor’s line ‘because that’s what heroes do’ was delivered facetiously in Thor Ragnarok, but here it holds a whole new meaning.

What made the MCU franchise so successful and gratifying to fans is that there’s a unifying thread throughout the movies. Yes, there are parts that have continuity problems–I mean what happened to Wanda aka Scarlet Witch’s Russian accent after Avengers: Age of Ultron?? But in the grand scheme of things, the storylines are so tightly-interwoven that by the time they all assembled in Endgame, we know just how high the stakes are for these characters. It also helps that earth mightiest heroes have a worthy adversary to fight against, which in and of itself is quite a feat. For a movie with such a compelling premise and a humongous build-up, it would be a shame if the payoff is weak. Thankfully that’s not the case here and for that I’m grateful. I’m also glad I packed tissues as it’s an emotional roller coaster of the best kind. Endgame made me laugh out loud one moment, then bawl my eyes out the next.

The film is an artistic and technical marvel. The set pieces are great, which is to be expected for a film of this scale. Alan Silvestri, the original composer of The Avengers, delivers rousing music with his iconic score, but it also sounds perfectly melancholy when it needs to be. What a bittersweet and worthy send-off for a bunch of beloved characters. I don’t even mind watching it again before its theatrical run is over, it’s THAT good.

Bravo to the Russos once again for completing a satisfying finale to such a behemoth franchise. There must have been an enormous pressure on them to deliver and I think, all things considered, they did an astounding job.


What do you think of AVENGERS: ENDGAME? Let’s hear it!

Guest Review – Rough Night (2017)

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Directed By: Lucia Aniello
Written By: Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs
Runtime: 1 hr 41 minutes

I’ve been lucky enough to have had two amazing friends in my life since elementary school: Sarah and Annalise. We’ve seen one another at our most awkward, share the same stupid sense of humor, and can talk to each other about anything. Despite school and work-related distances separating us throughout the years, we’ve remained close, and now that we’re all finally living and working in the same area for the first time since high school, we’re trying to spend more time together. So when I had the opportunity to go to a screening of Rough Night, a movie about long-time friends getting into serious hijinks, I knew I wanted to see it with two of my favorite ladies. While my expectations for this film weren’t high, the casting had me hopeful that we’d get at least a few laughs.

Rough Night follows bride-to-be Jess (Scarlett Johansson) and her college besties Alice (Jillian Bell), Frankie (Ilana Glazer), Blair (Zoe Kravitz), and Pippa (Kate McKinnon) on a bachelorette weekend in Miami that goes horribly wrong when hiring a stripper from Craigslist leads to a dead body in their beach house.

This movie’s biggest problem is its tonal confusion. It can’t decide if it wants to be a raunchy ensemble flick or a dark comedy (which could have been so much fun with a plot like this), so it halfheartedly attempts both. If the movie had stuck with one tone, they might have been able to pace the movie better, but because they don’t and try to fit too much into an hour and a half movie, it just feels lazy and messy.

Some of that has to do with the expository writing of the characters as well. A lot of the information we’re given about our leads is done very heavy-handedly. At first, I worried this was too harsh a critique for a comedy, but the genre isn’t an excuse for a lack of decent character development. There are plenty of comedies that manage to be hilarious and have interesting characters the audience can connect to. Bridesmaids immediately comes to my mind as an example, mainly because a lot of the radio ads I’ve heard for Rough Night announce that Elle Magazine has called it better than Bridesmaids (which makes me wonder how much the movie’s marketing team paid Elle, because….no). Bridesmaids manages to develop interesting, flawed but likable characters and share information about their pasts without dumping it all in a few seconds of sloppy dialogue. The same can’t be said for Rough Night.

That said, this was still a surprisingly enjoyable movie, mostly thanks to a strong cast that can take a weak script and make it funny. Kate McKinnon is a treasure and always makes me laugh, and her performance in this is no exception. Scarlett Johansson is a little underwhelming, as she isn’t really known for comedy, but she has a couple stand-out moments. Zoe Kravitz and Ilana Glazer have fantastic chemistry, and Zoe’s comedic timing is especially impressive. Jillian Bell does a good job at being hilarious, obnoxious, and sympathetic all at once. Jess’s fiancé Peter (Paul W. Downs) and his bachelor party buddies (Patrick Carlyle as Patrick, Eric Andre as Jake, and Bo Burnham as Tobey) made me laugh the hardest, flipping the bachelor party bro stereotype around hilariously. I also really enjoyed the soundtrack; because the group of friends met back in the mid-2000’s, there’s a lot of pop and hip-hop music from that time, which is really fun and nostalgic.

While I wouldn’t pay to see this in theaters, it’s still a fun film, so if you’re looking for something for a girls’ night in Red Box or Netflix or something, check it out.

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Have you seen ‘Rough Night’? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review: SING (2016)

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Directed by Garth Jennings, Christophe L0urdelet | Written by Garth Jennings

Featuring the voices of: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Seth McFarlane, John C. Reilly, Taron Edgerton

The end of the year holiday season is always prime for finding movies kids can go to. After all, school’s out, and they need things to do to hold their attention. In my case, I needed to get them out of the house and a screening of an upcoming animated movie (courtesy of Flixchatter) would give my wife a couple hours of well-earned breathing time. My kids (7 and 9) are pretty picky about the movies we go to (my oldest held off seeing any of the Star Wars movies until after X-Mas) so I was a bit surprised after seeing the trailer that they were all-in.

Sing, directed by Garth Jennings (Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), brings us to a world inhabited by animals, namely a Koala: Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey), an ambitious, if not overzealous theater owner working to keep his run-down theater afloat amid a string of failed shows and financial crisis. About to be evicted, he comes up with a plan to host a singing contest (a-la American Idol) with prize money of $1000. However, Buster’s aging and loveable Iguana assistant, Mrs. Crawley, mistypes the prize at $100,000. Animals from all over the city flock to Buster’s audition where we meet our main characters: Mike the mouse (Seth McFarlane), a devious but talented crooner; Ash (Scarlett Johansson), the punk rock porcupine; Rosalita the pig (Reese Witherspoon), a lovable domestic wife/closet singer; Johnny (Taron Egerton), a cockney accented Gorilla with the sweetest voice and finally Meena the elephant (Tori Kelly), a shy but talented singer with very low self-esteem. During and after the audition process, Buster hides the fact that the prize money isn’t what it seems and does whatever is necessary to keep the show going and revitalize his theater.

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The most interesting part of Sing is when the story hones in on the contestant’s private lives. Rosalita with 25 piglets, Meena with her encouraging family, Mike’s run in with the underworld, Ash’s arrogant boyfriend and Johnny’s criminal dad add a bit of dimension to these otherwise one dimensional characters. As with most movies of this genre, it’s filled with pop culture music references, many of which went over my head but trivial in the scope of things.

The animation is tight and frenetic. The music is loud and bombastic. There is enough slapstick to elicit the laughs and giggles throughout. However there are some key dramatic moments involving Johnny and his relationship with his father and a little bit with Rosalita and Meena that resonated with my kids in a positive way. While my youngest was up from his seat dancing to the tunes and performances, my oldest cried a bit at the tender moments with Johnny and his dad. This was a good thing in my book.

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Finally, Sing avoids the predictable and loathsome culture of winning it all (American Idol, The Voice) to its credit. There are no Simon Cowells here which is a good decision on Illumination’s part. It’s really about finding your voice (literally and figuratively) and being true to yourself that really matters in the end. While that makes Sing as cheesy as it implies, it’s true – Sing is as light and cheesy as you would expect. But sometimes, with kid’s movies, that’s just what the doctor ordered.


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So what do you think of SING? Let us know what you think!

FlixChatter Review – Captain America: Civil War (2016)

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The buzz over the latest Marvel blockbuster has been through the roof. It’s already made over $200 mil internationally before it even opened here in the US, so no doubt it will wipe out any competition here this weekend.

I have to say that despite my increasing superhero fatigue, I was still looking forward to this one mostly because I love the first two Captain America films, and I have faith in the Russo brothers’ direction. Like Zack Snyder with Batman V Superman, Anthony & Joe Russo had the tricky task of not only continuing the thread of the Avenger story, pulling off a large ensemble cast AND help launch/introduce individual standalone films (Black Panther, Spider-man). Suffice to say the Russos did a much, much better job than Snyder in delivering an entertaining Summer blockbuster that’s actually has depth and thought-provoking ideas. Interesting that The Avengers and Superman share a similar predicament in their effort to safeguard humanity, and how the DC and Marvel tentpole movies are dealing with the issue of accountability.

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The ‘Civil War’ in the title stems from an ideological conflict about what should be done in that issue of accountability and collateral damage, and whether a governing body (in this case the UN) should oversee them. Now, the fact that the perceived common enemy happens to be Steve Rogers’ (Chris Evans) BFF Bucky a.k.a. The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), it’s easy to see which side the Cap is on. The events in The Winter Soldier has undoubtedly made Cap wary of big government and how a centralized power could be manipulative and corrupt. So it makes sense that he won’t be so easily persuaded to sign something like The Sokovia Accords that’d essentially put the Avengers under UN control.

Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow: Just because it’s the path of least resistance doesn’t mean it’s the wrong path. Staying together is more important than how we stay together.

Steve Rogers/Captain America: What are we giving up to do it?


Whilst the motive behind Captain firmly believing in self-regulation is more clear cut, I’m not as convinced why Tony Stark would support it with little resistance. A cameo by Alfre Woodard briefly reveals the burden of guilt on Tony’s part as the Stark companies supplies most of the weaponry (including Captain himself who was created in the lab of his dad Howard), but still I’d think he’d be more apprehensive about government interference in the Avengers.

I have to say that the film has a pretty slow start. I understand they’d have to establish the conflict and a reason for all the fighting, but it went on a bit too long for my liking and frankly, it all feels a bit tedious. Thankfully, things do pick up as soon as an incident happens at the UN meeting and before you know it, Captain becomes a hunted man wanted by the government along with Bucky. It’s there that we meet new Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)’s member Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and he certainly looks the part. This is perhaps one of the most diverse cast in a Marvel film aside from the X-Men franchise.

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I think the fact that the same writers, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, are involved in the Captain America trilogy so far makes the film flow nicely and has a cohesive storyline. They also did a decent job showing the events in previous films to viewers who might not be familiar with the Avengers story, i.e. the battle in the fictional Eastern European country Sokovia in Avenger: Age of Ultron that caused massive collateral damage. Marvel fans would especially enjoy the references and inside jokes, especially during the actual civil war battle involving a dozen MCU superheroes. This is also the first time we see the new Spider-man (Tom Holland) as part of MCU and he’s definitely a highlight. Spidey is supposed to be a wisecrackin’ teenager and Holland’s captured that. All his comments as he’s fighting the other heroes, like referencing Empire Strikes Back and saluting Cap before he fights him, are a hoot.

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Spider-Man (to Bucky): You have a metal arm? That is awesome, dude.

The intro to the appropriately-aged character is full of good humor as he’s fanboying over Iron Man, who somehow still has time to flirt with aunt May (Marisa Tomei, Robert Downey Jr’s co-star in the rom-com Only You) despite a brief 36-hour deadline to arrest Cap. There’s a lot of fanboy-ing going on in this movie that’s so hilarious. My fave part is when Ant-Man (the immensely affable Paul Rudd) meets Cap which got one of the biggest laughs in the theater.

Scott Lang/Ant-Man: Look, man, I know you know a lot of super people so… thinks for thanking of me.

Captain America: Civil War is commendable for having the right balance of story, character, emotion, humor AND high-octane action. The fight scenes are well-choreographed that you can actually see the action despite the sheer number of people fighting. It wasn’t so bombastic that it’s headache-inducing. The story never feels cartoonish even with SO many characters involved and the battles feel sprightly and fun without being frivolous or silly. When one character is injured, we feel the emotion of fellow team members and the sense of solidarity is definitely there. The Captain America trilogy benefits from the strong base of Steve/Bucky relationship established in the first film. I totally believe why Cap would go to such length to protect his best friend and stand by his side regardless of what he’s done, and I think Bucky would’ve done the same if the situation were reversed. I love Evans and Stan even more as they become more at ease in their respective roles, and Anthony Mackie is always so charming and fun as Falcon. I also have to mention how I appreciate Scarlett Johansson‘s Black Widow more and more, and the fact that she’s undeniably torn between the two sides is a testament to her intriguing character arc.

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The key in making a huge ensemble cast work is they have to have a reason for us to care for the characters. It’s getting immensely tricky here but I think keeping the focus on just a small group helps. The final battle between Cap, Iron Man & Winter Soldier is not only cool to watch but it also carries a certain emotional weight because there’s something personal that affects the three of them. It’s perhaps one of the most compelling dramatic moments from RDJ that I’ve seen in all the Iron Man & Avengers movies so far.

That said, I don’t think this film is perfect and I don’t think it’s the greatest MCU film so far, as many critics have said. I’ve mentioned about the rather sluggish start, but there are also moments that don’t really work. Daniel Brühl is a perfectly capable actor but he barely makes a dent here amongst an ocean of characters, though I think the character’s motive is a pretty decent one. The romance between Cap and Sharon Carter also feels so obligatory and the lack of chemistry between Evans and Emily VanCamp doesn’t help. Oh how I miss Hayley Atwell‘s Agent Carter who’s such a strong female character who doesn’t need any superpowers to make a difference. I also find the music unmemorable as I barely remember any of it, which is odd given I LOVE what Henry Jackman did with The Winter Soldier.

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All in all, it’s a VERY good film that ties all three Captain American movies superbly well and would rank amongst the best film trilogies. After this, I’m even more confident in the Russo brothers’ directing talent and MCU is definitely in capable hands if they continue to make Marvel movies. I love the end credits of the first two Captain America movies and they did an excellent job here as well. In terms of replay-ability value, this one ranks third after The Winter Soldier and The First Avenger, both of which I actually just re-watched last night and I still enjoyed them immensely!

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So have you seen ‘Captain America: Civil War’? Let me know what you think!

Trailers Spotlight: Hail, Caesar! + Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Hey, so maybe February isn’t a dead movie month after all. Here are two movies coming out on February 5 that I’m actually looking forward to seeing!

HAIL, CAESAR!

Sometimes a trailer came along and you’ve instantly become obsessed with it though you haven’t even heard of it before. Hail, Caesar! is such a movie and I’ve seen it three times since this morning. Glad to see the Coens working on their own movie after a couple of years absence (though they wrote Unbroken last year and also on the TV show FARGO, so they’re still keeping busy).

I have to say that I LOVE the Coens’ dark comedies and this definitely has their quirky and wacky brand of humor all over it.

A Hollywood fixer in the 1950s works to keep the studio’s stars in line.



The star-studded cast is appropriately-filled with today’s movie stars, perfect for a satire about Hollywood golden age: George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Ralph Fiennes, Josh Brolin, Tilda Swinton, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill and the Coens’ perennial favorite Frances McDormand. This marks McDormand’s eighth collaboration with her husband Joel Coen and brother-in-law Ethan. It’s got a lot of actors reunions too: Fiennes & Swinton were in Grand Budapest Hotel & A Bigger Splash and of course Tatum & Hill in the Jump Street movies.

Clooney seems to be channeling/spoofing Richard Burton? That part when he can’t remember his lines is just hilarious, love Clooney in comedies and even Josh Brolin looks like a hoot here. I always love seeing serious actors in comedic roles, so I’m thrilled to see Fiennes doing more of that lately.


Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Now, this one I’ve been anticipating in a while and though it may not be a great flick, it sure looks like fun. You already know I’m a big fan of period dramas, and so the bizarre twist of combining Jane Austen’s classic with zombies is just impossible to resist!

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Lily James seems ready for some knife action bad-assery here. “Have courage and be kind” is her motto as Cinderella, well she seems to abide by the first part, but I don’t think even her gentle mother would advise her to be kind to flesh-eating zombies!!


I’m one of the few people who enjoyed the preposterous silliness of previous Seth Grahame-Smith’s adaptation Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter so I think I’d enjoy this one, too. Lena Headey is listed in the cast, but no character name is mentioned on IMDb but I have a feeling she’ll play Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Mr. Darcy’s super bitchy aunt and that’d be perfect casting. I’m also looking forward to seeing Jack Huston as the dastardly Wickham.

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Thoughts? Are you excited for either one of these movies?