Archive for the 'One Week Late Movie Reviews' Category

14
Apr
14

One Week Late Movie Reviews: Captain America—Winter Soldier

Welcome to another edition of One Week Late Movie Reviews at DMR.

As always we’re here for those of you who don’t get out to see movies during the opening few weeks. Because once you’re a dad (or mom), how the heck do you have time?

Captain America: Winter Soldier is the type of movie you might see with your kids, depending on age and how they handle violence.

And there is plenty of violence, as is the case with most superhero movies. There’s some blood and some gunshots and whereas it is fine for my 12 and 8 year olds, it might not be for yours. As I always say—don’t assume because there are superheroes that the movie is appropriate for every kid.

Before we get into this—you’ve almost all seen Marvel movies at this point. Why are you leaving the theater before the credits end?

Don’t do that.

Stuff always happens during and after the credits. The same is true for this offering.

And of course, the requisite warning.

seriously kids don't open that door if you don't want them

seriously kids don’t open that door if you don’t want them

First of all, if you’ve read the comic version of the Winter Soldier story, you should be very happy. The team behind this movie captured the feel of Ed Brubaker’s tale perfectly, even if the content had to be shifted here and there.

Cap aka Steve Rogers aka Popsicle Man has always been a tough character. For much of my comic-reading life (and it’s vast) he hasn’t really grabbed my attention. Most of it has been the way he’s written—people tend to not know what to do with him. There have been very good storylines in the past, but he seemed most interesting pummeling Nazis.

Enter writer Ed Brubaker in 2005. Perhaps somewhat influenced by The Ultimates in 2002, Brubaker took Cap in a slightly more serious direction. While supervillians were still in evidence, everything was muted, more serious from a tone standpoint.

image via Forbes

Working with SHIELD, Cap was one part spy, one part living legend and superhero. While he would still do big superhero things, he also worked “behind the scenes” fighting threats who were bent on controlling the world through more subtle means as much as through the normal tropes of comics—you know, big, bad killer robots and evil satellites.

But here was a Cap who made sense to me—not just some guy who was wearing a flag but a guy desperate to keep his country safe while wearing it.

And always, always wondering where the line was. Cap also had a sort of weight to him often frequent in other characterizations. What does it mean to be Captain America in today’s world? What does it mean to be a guy who essentially took a six decade nap? How does that weigh on you? Where do you fit.

Like the Cap in comics, Chris Evans Cap in the movies is a guy trying to figure out all of the above.

Thrust into a world of spies and ulterior motives, grays instead of black and white (where WWII he lived in the first movie), Cap finds himself increasingly uncomfortable with the world we—and now he—lives in.

After having it out with SHIELD boss Nick Fury over a side mission and pondering whether he should call it quits (including a very sad scene with one of the few remaining links from his past), all Hell breaks lose. Fury shows up at his apartment, battered and bruised, tells him not to trust anyone and then is shot—seemingly to die, though let’s be honest, we all know that old SHIELD directors don’t die, they burn their eye-patch and fade away.

image via WednesdaysHeroes.com

What follows is an interesting thriller-style take on superhero shenanigans. HYDRA has subverted SHIELD (acronyms are fun!) for their own nefarious purposes, Cap and Black Widow are on the run (with Cap’s new BFF The Falcon who is AWESOME) and just when you think it can’t get more tangled, we find out that the Winter Soldier—a deadly assassin working for HYDRA—is actually Bucky Barnes, Cap’s lifelong friend who appeared to have died in WWII.

He survived, HYDRA brainwashed him and replaced his wounded left arm with a cybernetic attachment and have used him to cause chaos since.

In the end the good guys win—kind of. Because this is a Marvel movie and a “spy” movie, nobody totally wins.

Least of all Cap, who must confront his brainwashed friend in order to save the day. And even in this, the movie (like the comic) makes the situation anything but straightforward. Cap owes Bucky a ton and loves him like a brother—in the end when his friend might die, Cap saves him even though he knows the guy isn’t really the same person he knew. Even when Buck-Bot is pounding on him, Cap will not fight his friend.

image via ComicVine.com

There has been some interesting compare and contrast between this moment and the one at the end of last summer’s Man of Steel which I won’t rehash, though I agree with much of it, including this piece at ScreenCrush.com. While Cap works with people who will kill (and has done so himself), he is, at heart, someone who feels that there has to be an alternative.

The movie also has some fantastic subtext. The idea of a Government/Big Brother/SHIELD profiling people. The grey landscape of politics. Even the difficulty of our soldiers returning from combat and the problems they face fitting in.

There’s a lot going on here for the price of your ticket.

Whether you like watching guys in tights punch each other or are a fan of thrillers, this is a movie which delivers, but doesn’t settle for the basics. It’s a flick which is worth watching, and probably more than once.

image via DailyNews.com

Marvel is churning out movies I never expected to see in my life. If they can get a few strong female characters in solo flicks, they’ll have absolutely buried the vast majority of DC/Warner Bros superhero offerings.

Also, this film was given super-high marks by both Alpha Tween and The Professor who both loved it.

30
Jun
13

One Week Late Movie Review – World War Z

I can't have any of this crap on my current diet so I am just torturing myself now

I can’t have any of this crap on my current diet so I am just torturing myself now

So I was thinking, who ever gets to the movies on opening night anymore? Once they have kids?

Sometimes you can get a sitter and sometimes it’s worth it, but honestly, the hassle and crowds and your kids often make it easier to wait. And as they get older, sometimes you want to wait because it’s something the kids might enjoy.

For example , I don’t often make it out to any Marvel Superhero movie on opening weekend because the boys are always really eager to see it as well. So at times, I have to wait.

It seems then, I am always a week late.

How about a review that’s a week late then? After the hype has died down and all the reviews which said the same thing over and over again, how about a fresh pair of eyes to tell you whether it’s worth your time?

Welcome then to the One Week Late Movie Review.

Don’t expect this to be too regular because I’m a parent and I don’t get out all that much, right?

Tonight we’re talking World War Z, the Brad Pitt Zombie movie inspired by the fabulous Max Brooks book of the same name – which I can’t recommend highly enough (but that’s a whole different column).

WWZ is PG-13, runs about 116 minutes (minus the 45 minutes of ads, commercials and trailers prior to the film) and also stars… well honestly nobody much you’d recognize. Really this movie is all about Pitt.

Oh Matthew Fox is in it (you know, the dude from LOST?) but if you blink you miss him.

By the way, from here on out there be spoilers, so beware!

seriously kids don't open that door if you don't want them

seriously kids don’t open that door if you don’t want them

THE CLIFF NOTES

The plot revolves around family man and ex-United Nations employee/trouble shooter Gerry Lane (Pitt) as he tries to figure out how to counter or at least slow the zombie plague.

And oh yes, they call them zombies. Not “infected”, not “diseased” – these are zombies. There’s even a nice little moment when the concept of zombies gets scoffed at, but really only by the science geeks “safe” on the flotilla cobbled together from US Navy ships.

As always the grunt on the ground embrace the reality facing them more quickly.

We follow Lane as he and his family flee Philadelphia, fight their way out of Newark (which really didn’t look much different than usual zing!), and meet the flotilla. We then follow Lane solo as he hops around the globe (South Korea, Israel, Cardiff) in the hopes that somewhere lies an answer.

As I said, this is Pitt/Lane’s movie – nearly everyone around him is cannon fodder until the final act – but the writers (and there were many) did a fair job making you give a damn what happens to him.

In the end, Lane notices a pattern amongst those the “zekes” (a nice nod to the book) don’t try to attack and is able to formulate a plan to camouflage the rest of us from the living dead, if only for a while.

IS IT WORTH THE SITTER MONEY?

I think so. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, despite grave reservations because even from the trailers I knew it wasn’t going to resemble the book at all.

And then Beppo understood what they had told him at Clown College - helicopters and clown car tricks don't mix

And then Beppo understood what they had told him at Clown College – helicopters and clown car tricks don’t mix

By the way, this is absolutely not a horror movie. I can see an argument for it as a thriller or an action movie, but it isn’t a scare flick. It trades on tension, which builds right from the beginning and ebbs and flows throughout the whole movie.

The opening act is about as tense a sequence as I’ve seen in a movie like this in some time and the movie does a good job building and releasing tension throughout. It slows down a little near the end, although given a lot of the final act slow might be a poor choice of words.

World War Z is almost completely bloodless, by the way – for a zombie movie, ridiculously so. For the most part, because it trades in tension, not horror, it works. But there are times it doesn’t, such as when Lane gets his crowbar stuck in a zombie’s head.

As Lane attempts to yank it out, another zombie is heading towards him. Lane sees the guy and keeps yanking at the crowbar.

The problem is, the director and editor clearly cropped the shot so we couldn’t see the crowbar stuck in the head. They didn’t want the younger audience to throw up, I guess, as the brains and gore came out.

Which is fine for about five seconds and then, really, it gets silly and completely ruins the moment. You can’t see what Lane is doing, even in wide shots and reverse angles.

I understand the desire for a wider audience and I get why a studio would want it so bloodless. But then make sure you shoot it in a way where we don’t realize it in such an obvious manner.

On the other hand, the movie is high paced, fun and definitely got the packed house I was in going. While some sniggered at a few points, everyone enjoyed themselves quite a bit.

That’s in large part due to Pitt’s performance. I’m a huge fan of him – he has some tremendous range and a lot of charisma and it’s the force of his personality which really pulls you through the movie. With so many other interchangeable “red shirts” in the flick, he had to be.

Props to the writers too, for some nice touches which sucked you into caring about Lane.

Honey, I think those Justin Bieber fans might be rabid

Honey, I think those Justin Bieber fans might be rabid

The opening act, as I mentioned, is incredibly tense and throughout it you get the sense of how much he cares for his family and they him.

It’s also helped along by the all-too-believable government jerks which often serve as fulcrums to move us towards caring for a main character in movies like this.

The government/military really screws his family. I mean, totally bones them in a cold, hard fashion which I feel was pretty damned realistic. Lane doesn’t want to go on this mission once he makes the flotilla. He’s barely survived and wants to do nothing more than remain with his family – which any dad or mom can imagine being the case.

But the General in charge of the recovery/combat effort very quickly boxes him into a corner: you go on the mission, your family can stay. You decide against going and you and your family are ass out of luck. They’ll get sent to a relocation camp.

Faced the prospect that nowhere is as safe as a floating boat filled with armed soldiers, Lane goes. How could he not?

Then at one point, Lane has disappeared and is believed dead.  What happens? The captain and general toss the Lane’s out anyway.

Which you can believe because the military is all about resources and calculating what to spend them on. Once Lane is believed dead, wasting resources keeping his family on board a crowded aircraft carrier doesn’t make sense.

Still, it plays as cruel to the audience and makes it hard not to care for a character at that point.

Lane is smart too. Early on he gets jumped by a zombie which proceeds to drip blood and goop all over Lane’s face, including in his mouth. How he prepares himself to keep his family safe while he waits to potentially turn into a zombie is smart and almost takes you a second to realize why he’s doing what he’s doing.

Kids, the popcorn line is getting out of control. We may need to skip it.

Kids, the popcorn line is getting out of control. We may need to skip it.

They also do a great job with some of the supporting characters, short lived though they often are.

The army grunts in the South Korea base are marvelous and capture our conception of soldiers having to deal with civvies and outsiders playing catch-up perfectly. The Massad agent Lane hooks up with in Israel is also solid.

Sometimes they aren’t as flushed out – the Israeli soldier who makes it to Cardiff with him could have used more personality – but often the writers did a good job with little time to work with.

Overall, I really liked this movie. It was a great summer flick and probably above average from your usual fare like Transformers and the upcoming Pacific Rim which tend towards really loud and dumb.

This has some stupid moments (if you need to break into a base which has infected people in it and they are filling the main hallway you need to walk in, why not head to the roof to go over them?) but they aren’t too frequent and frankly they go by so fast you tend to forget them.

Again, if you are going to this hoping to see a film version of the book, don’t.

You will come away, if not angry, really annoyed. There are nods (soldiers calling the zombies “zeke”, the brief debate about whether a bat or axe is a better anti-zombie weapon, the Israeli wall) but that’s about it. I understand the very first draft or two were closer to the book, but I have to wonder if things like The Walking Dead scared them off.

Hopefully someday, somebody will make a miniseries of the book because it deserves that treatment.

And again, if you go looking for the usual horror and gore, you will come away equally unfulfilled.

But if you go looking for a fun action/thriller, you should walk away happy.

SHOULD I BRING THE KIDS?

Sometimes for these reviews I think it will be a very easy decision, but this isn’t. This is truly a matter of what your kid can handle in terms of both tension and visual stimuli (there is enough CGI to choke a CGI horse in this thing).

If at first you don't succeed, pile up more zombies

If at first you don’t succeed, pile up more zombies

As I said, it’s not horror and there is no real gore. The violence isn’t really hard core and aside from some blood when Lane gets hurt, it’s a very “off the screen” flick – a hand gets chopped off, the crowbar gets stuck, people get bit (though it never seems as if the zombies are eating them) but it always happens off camera.

So they won’t be exposed to tremendous blood and entrails, but as I said there is a high amount of tension. The threat of violence can almost be worse for some kids than actual violence. It’s PG13 so you know it’s not too bad, but it might be worth seeing it first.

I have gone back and forth with The Wife about taking the Alpha Tween to this movie. He’s seen Shaun of the Dead which is more gory and was fine with it (she says he had nightmares, he bristles at the accusation). However he recently sat through The Impossible with my wife and the tension really seemed to get to him.

So I don’t know if I would take him at this point. I usually err on the side of “why not” at his age, but given the Wife’s concerns, we’ll probably pass.

For your kids it all depends on how they handle that stress.

There’s little gore and very few scares though, so if that’s your main concern you should be fine.

Overall I enjoyed it and it’s worth a night out.

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What I’m Into:

Reading: Dead Beat by Jim Butcher Listening to: The Heist, Macklemore Watching: Damages