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Captain America: The Winter Soldier

At The Movies

Captain America WSI love what Marvel are doing with their films and even though I never got into Cap in the comics I always liked the character when he appeared in crossovers. Captain America always seemed a more political character than the others which means his adventures perfectly transfer into the political thriller genre with espionage which is just what Marvel chose to do here

The film opens with Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Captain America, leading a squad of SHIELD agents on a mission to rescue a bunch of SHIELD techs from a SHIELD facility in the Indian Ocean that has been hijacked by pirates.  Fellow Avenger Black Widow, Natasha Romanov (Scarlett Johansson) is also along on the mission but she has her own orders that Steve knows nothing about and he’s not very happy about getting kept in the dark, especially as it endangers his own rescue mission. Seeing Cap in action in these scenes with his shield is just thrilling and the action is really well choreographed.

Back at the SHIELD Triskelion headquarters Steve wants a serious word with SHIELD director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) about what is going on. Fury takes Steve down to the basement to show him what they have been working on: three new helicarriers bristling with weapons due to be permanently stationed in the skies linked to spy satellites and able to attack anyone on Earth deemed a threat, called Project Insight. Steve is not happy about any of it and especially Fury’s feeble excuse that they have to take world as it is not as the want it to be. It is the all too familiar conflict between freedom and security and as the name suggests SHIELD is all about security and Cap’s not sure he wants anything to do with it.

There a nice scene where Steve goes to a museum a sees an exhibition all about him and there is hint that the second half of the first film had a lengthy period of time compressed in those scenes since it mentions his adventures with the Howling Commandos and his best friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) which we only got in a montage in that film.  I hope we get to see some of that history in more detail in a future film or TV series. Cap also visits the very old Peggy Carter for a bit of closure

There are a couple of new characters his film needs to introduce and the first is Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) Chairman of the World Security Council, who are those shadowy outlines we saw giving Fury orders in The Avengers. Pierce is an old friend of Fury’s and he actually persuaded Pierce to take the job. Fury wants them to halt the launch of Project Insight while he investigates the data Black Widow retrieved and Pierce agrees.

Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) gets introduced when he befriends Steve when they are out jogging and Steve laps Sam several times with the words “on the left” .  Sam is an Afghan War vet who now runs a support group for vets to help them cope with the psychological stresses of joining the real world again. It is no secret that he is also the superhero called Falcon who fights bad guys using a pair of mechanical wings and jets that seem to use repulsor technology like Tony Stark’s.

Nick Fury comes under attack by a very well organised group led by a mysterious assassin called The Winter Soldier and it is clear that not everyone in SHIELD can be trusted so it is up to Steve and Natasha to find out who is behind it. SHIELD has many enemies and it seems when they cut off one two more grow its place. Winter Soldier is someone Natasha has come across before and she knows he is deadly, skilled and relentless.

This film has a plot with many twists and turns and secrets getting uncovered so it really would be risking spoilers to talk much more about the plot but this film really has a lot of call-outs that will please fans of the comic books. It is also a story that whose events are going to have a major impact on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Even though the film is mainly about Captain America it was nice to see a lot more attention paid to the SHIELD organisation with real questions being asked about what its role is and what is was intended to be. We see Nick Fury getting involved in the action and we get to see a lot more from Natasha Romanov and even Maria Hill gets a bit more to do

This film is just what I wanted to see with a great story that works as an entertaining political thriller while still having all the action elements expected from a comic book story. This film is really plugged into the Marvel Universe much more than the other solo films and ties the present into past with revelations that have ramifications not just for the future but the past too. I know some people are wondering about where Tony Stark and Bruce Banner were but I never got he impression that they were needed or even in the loop enough to be called in by SHIELD to sort out its internal problem.s Any fans of the Marvel film will probably love this but I’m sure it will appeal to anyone who likes action thrillers too.

Rating 9.0/10

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Posted by on April 6, 2014 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: The Wolverine

The Blu-Ray Shelf

The Wolverine Bluray 001I didn’t catch this at the cinema but I got it on Blu-ray as soon as it came out. I had heard the reviews and it was generally positive and certainly more positive that the other Wolverine film. I’m glad to say that is a major improvement in many ways and I enjoyed the film a lot more than I expected to. The story has a smaller scale to it though it’s still full of highly improbable, highly enjoyable action scenes.and is a more intimate story for he most part though the comic book antics do get a bit carried away at the end

We see Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is a prisoner in Japan during the Second World War when he rescues a young Japanese soldier called Yashida (Ken Yamamura) when the atomic bomb gets dropped on the nearby city of Nagasaki. Yashida is fascinated by Wolverine’s mutant ability to recover from the heat blast from the bomb and is extremely grateful to Wolverine for saving him.

Forward to the present or a least some time after X Men Last Stand and Wolverine is dreaming about being with Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) the woman who he loved but was [SPOILER] forced to kill to stop her destroying the world (or San Francisco – they never did quite get the cosmic scale of the comic book Phoenix). Wolverine wakes from the dream and he’s really somewhere cold and mountainous in North America living like wild mountain man. He’s give up on being an X Man and just wants to be left alone but when he has a run in with group of dangerously incompetent hunters he has to get involved. This is when a young Japanese woman that was following him comes to his aid taking on the hunter’s friends. Her name is Yukio (Rila Fukushima) and she has come to find him with a message from Yashida who is dying and wants to see Wolverine one last time

The rest of the film is set in Japan in a world that is a paradox of ultramodern technology but with deep roots of family and tradition especially when it comes to Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi) and his family. Yashida is one the wealthiest and most powerful men in Japan but he worries about will happen to his empire when he dies. Yashida tells Wolverine that he can give him the gift of death while taking from him the curse of eternal life. Wolverine rejects his ‘kind’ offer very quickly but Yashida asks for one more favour: he wants Wolverine to protect his grand-daughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto).

The reason Mariko needs protection is that Yashida has left everything to her in his will, enraging her father Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada). Wolverine is going back home next day but that night while he sleeps he gets a visit from Yashida’s tall blonde doctor Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova) who poisons him with a kiss. That night Yashida dies so Wolverine is obliged to stay for the funeral.

At the funeral is where the shit really kicks off when Yakuza assassins dressed as monks go all out trying to kill Mariko while Wolverine, Yukio, Mariko and a mysterious ninja bowman called Harada (Will Yun Lee) fight off the assassins. This is when Wolverine notices that he’s not instantly healing from his wounds. It’s the old “hero losing his abilities” trope that has often been used in superhero films but then it is also a frequent theme in the comics too and Wolverine’s powers do need to be taken down a few notches to make the human threat even look plausible. There is a long exciting chase through Tokyo with Mariko and Wolverine fighting off the Yakuza but they get away and hold up in a “love hotel”

The middle section is Wolverine and Mariko trying to keep away from the Yakuza and includes an over the top fight sequence on the top of a bullet train. This part of course has the obligatory scenes of Mariko and Wolverine alone and the relationship moving from mistrust to affection for each other and Wolverine even considers allowing himself to love again.

The film does a have big comic book climax with Wolverine in a showdown with the Silver Samurai and while it’s not terrible it is a bit of a let-down after the big build up. Treachery is revealed and alliances shift as choices are made. Overall I thought it was a great fun film that gives Wolverine the showcase he deserves but didn’t really get in the Origins film. Hugh Jackman inhabits the role of Wolverine so well once again. The supporting cast is convincing enough though Viper was like an evil baddie from Saturday morning cartoon series. I liked the scene at the end that was a major set-up for the X-men Days of Future past film and it made me a little bit more excited about it..

Rating 8.0/10

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Posted by on November 20, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Iron Man 3

Cinema Review

Iron_Man_3_theatrical_posterMarvel have launched what they are calling phase 2 with Iron Man 3 and while it can’t match the sheer exuberance of The Avengers it still maintains all the elements that made Iron Man such a hit such as the high octane comic book action you could want and Robert Downey Jr. giving the role a touch of swagger and wit. It is certainly a better story than Iron Man 2 and I think it might be better than the first one though I’ll wait until I have seen it again to decide.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is still haunted by the memories of his brush with death at the end of The Avengers film and sine he can’t sleep he has thrown himself into developing Iron Man suits. We get a flashback to years before Tony became Iron Man in Switzerland. Being Tony he is fascinated by an attractive female scientist Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) but gives a geeky male scientist Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) the brush-off. This all comes back to bite him on the ass in the present which is only to be expected since a large number of the evil villains superheroes have to battle are disgruntled scientists with a chip on their shoulder from having their genius ignored by the hero. The organisation that Killian wants help in founding is called Advanced Idea Mechanics or A.I.M. This organisation will be familiar to people who read Marvel comics as antagonists of The Avengers.

A new terrorist called The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) has appeared on the world scene attacking American targets with some new type of bomb that leaves absolutely no trace and so of course Colonel James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) is put on the job in his War Machine armour but the government have decided to give the armour a tacky paint job and renamed him Iron Patriot. This does lead to lots of piss-taking by Tony.

Tony himself gets right on the Mandarin’s case when Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) gets seriously injured in an explosion outside the Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles. After the Mandarin does one of his videos taking credit for the blast Tony holds a press conference outside the hospital where Happy is lying unconscious. Tony tells the Mandarin that he’s coming for him and dares the Mandarin to attack him, even giving out his home address.

Tony is at home with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and he gets a visit from Maya Hansen who he barely remembers. She wants to warn him about Aldrich Killian but before she has a chance to say anything three helicopters full of the Mandarin’s henchmen start blowing up the place. This leads to a big action scene where Tony has to get Pepper and Maya to safety while the helicopters are destroying his house. Tony takes out two copters but ends up knocked into the sea and covered in rubble by the third which flies off.

When Tony escapes the rubble and flies up into the air but the damage to his suit results in it losing power and crashing in the middle of the countryside, hundreds of miles away. The world thinks Tony is dead so he lets Pepper and Rhodey know he’s still alive. He has to get his suit fixed and recharged and he gets help from a young boy called Harley (Ty Simpkins) with access to a garage and a neglectful mother. With Rhodey’s help he investigates the explosion and finds himself up against the Mandarin’s enhanced super-soldiers without his suit or his computer. This part of the film has Tony realises he’s not just a man in a can but without his suit he is still a technical genius.

I think that the villains in this film are the weakest part of it and they have no convincing motivation for what they are doing. Guy Pearce plays the sleazy sociopathic Killian very well and Ben Kingsley was a revelation in the role of the Mandarin but the main weapon on their side was secrecy and once their secrets were out they were no real threat to Tony and Rhodey. This means the climax had to rely on the predictable damsel in distress trope and of course that means Killian kidnapping Pepper, forcing a confrontation with Tony. Despite being such a hoary old cliché they managed to make it pretty exciting with whole of lot of robots and explosions.

I know people were wondering if Marvel could keep up the standard set by The Avengers and I think that with this film they haven’t tried to do that. I am glad they are keeping the solo films separate while not ignoring events happening in the others. The story is fairly straightforward and though Tony does have tough time it never sees too tough for him to handle without needing to call in help. There is a very controversial character revelation that will be very divisive but it didn’t give me any problem, but then I’m not really a big fan of Iron Man comics. I can totally understand if people feel differently about it. I know it’s a big brash expensive block buster with lots of special effects but it’s also a lot of fun and a lot of the time that is what I want from a film.

Rating 8.0/10

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Posted by on May 2, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Avengers Assemble

There has been a lot of preparation for this film with origin stories for four of the main characters or five if you include Loki’s introduction as the villain in Thor so now the film has finally been released it is a great relief that the preparation has really paid off in a film that the delivers the best translation of a comic book into a film so far.

In a continuing comic book series the job of setting up the characters and some of the plot has been done in previous issues or even in issues of separate solo series. This film is in that same position so it can get straight down to the plot from the start. Villainous Asgardian Loki (Tom Hiddleston) plots with the leader of the alien Chitauri race. He offers them a tesseract if they give him army to conquer Earth, the planet it is on. This tesseract is a source of almost limitless power and was left on Earth by Odin, king of the Asgardians and Loki’s adopted father. The tesseract was tracked down by Johan Schmidt, a Nazi scientist better known as the Red Skull who used it to power his own attempt to create weapons he would use to conquer the Earth for himself. His plans were thwarted by Captain America who crashed Red Skull’s plane into the Arctic where he was frozen in ice for 70 years. A search at the time failed to recover Captain America’s body but they did recover the tesseract.

The tesseract is currently in a SHIELD research facility, being worked on by physicist Dr Eric Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) when it starts putting out bursts of energy and drawing the attention of SHIELD director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) The tesseract has the power to open portals to other worlds and Loki uses this to teleport himself right into the lab. He uses his power staff to attack Nick Fury and the SHIELD agents guarding the lab. He also uses his staff to turn Selvig and several agents into his obedient slaves, including sharp shooting hi-tech archer Clint Barton or Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). With his new slaves he escapes with the tesseract.

Fury needs help to retrieve the tesseract from someone as powerful as Loki and to that end he first calls in his best field agent Natasha Romanov or Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and sends her to bring in the world’s foremost expert in gamma radiation Dr Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo)  and the Hulk to help them find a way to locate the tesseract by tracing the gamma radiation it gives off. He also calls in billionaire hi-tech manufacturer and Iron Man Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Captain America Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) to take down Loki when they find him. It doesn’t take long for Stark and Banner to locate the tesseract and it’s very easy to trace Loki when he attacks people at a wealthy dinner party in Germany. Iron Man and Captain America manage to capture him but not the tesseract so they are taking him back to the SHIELD heli-carrier to be interrogated. Suddenly they get attacked by Thor (Chris Hemsworth) Loki’s adopted brother who wants to take Loki back to Asgard. Iron Man and Thor battles for while but Captain America interrupts the fight and talks some sense into them. There really is fantastic interplay of the characters of this very mismatched team and there is a lot of big egos and butting heads before they pull together at the end to fight to save Earth from Loki’s mad schemes

This story could be lifted right from an issue of the Avengers comic and the film really is the closest I’ve seen to a film with the authentic feel of a comic book. The whole thing plays out just the stories in the comic books and the characters are very well written and directed by someone who understands how to translate the insane action sequences of a comic book like The Avengers onto film. There is a so much going in the climactic battle but I managed to follow everything easily.

Like a comic it spends very little time on back story, diving straight into the plot with the luxury of having most of their character development done on earlier episodes but this shows the characters learning to interact as a team. We learn a bit more about Hawkeye and Black Widow and we get to see how even though they are “only” highly trained humans they get to play a part in team of powerhouses like Iron Man, Hulk and Thor. In particular I’d say the surprise for me was really how right the Hulk and Banner are in this film and I’m glad that Mark Ruffalo has agreed to do more films featuring the Hulk. As Banner he is very carefully calm and quiet with a wry humour. As the Hulk we get to see him on a raging rampage but also later as the calmer powerhouse easily ripping through the enemy ranks. He also has more brutal sense of humour with some excellent scenes that really stand out and I’m not surprised the general reaction after seeing the film is a desire for more Hulk.

This really is a must see film for fans of superhero comic books as well as anyone who enjoys big science fiction adventure films. The dialogue is full of humour but nothing goes too over the top.

Rating 9/10

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

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