The Death of Captain America

Death of Captain America

The Death of Captain America is a wonderful Marvel comics storyline from Ed Brubaker. His run on Captain America was incredibly well-written. For non-comics fans, Brubaker wrote the stories that led to The Winter Soldier, which Marvel made into one of their best movies.

Captain America

Captain America (1979)

A recipient of an experimental body enhancement chemical retaliates against his would be killers as a star spangled superhero.”

The American ideal. It’s a little tough to find these days, isn’t it?” – “Not if you know where to look” – “Right on”

Captain America II: Death Too Soon (1979)

The star spangled hero must battle a villain’s plan to poison America with a chemical that horrifically accelerates the aging process.”

I want your number when you get out of jail pal! The old people in this town are my friends. And if I hear they’re having problems again, I’m comin’ after you! You got that!”

This is not about that death. I recently purchased the above DVD double feature from Amazon for $3.74. That is just $1.87 per film! It was so not worth it.

These movies are just awful. Clearly intended to capitalize on the success of The Incredible Hulk (itself a ripoff of The Fugitive but at least it was well done), the Captain America movies are just goofy.

First, they are a complete ripoff of, believe it or not, The Six Million Dollar Man. Whenever Steve Rogers/Captain America lifts something, we get the Steve Austin bionic man sound complete with slow motion video. His powers also seem to be nearly the same – fast running, heavy lifting, great eyesight, and super hearing, the last borrowed from The Bionic Woman. Strangely, star Reb Brown had two small parts on The Six Million Dollar Man.

By the way, Steve Rogers is the son of Captain America, though he does don the persona once he too gets super powers. The donning is also part of the problem. Here is Captain America in all his glory:

Captain America

His shield is a painted clear plastic frisbee:

Captain America

I had to watch this at some point because the second film features Christopher Lee as the villain, Miguel. I have now scratched that one off his filmography. I guess I should be thankful that this never made it to series.

Reb Brown did get another shot at stardom. He was Yor in Yor, The Hunter from the Future.

Do yourself a favor and spend the extra bucks to get one of the Chris Evans movies. Your time is too valuable to waste on this bargain bin enterprise.

Superheroes – The Tick Returns!

Every year on September 11th, I take the day off and watch superhero movies and eat pizza. I usually post a tribute here to my dear departed friend, Patrick Grady. He always loved superhero movies but died before some of the best ones (The Dark Knight, Iron Man, The Avengers) came out. The last thing he was able to eat was my beloved father-in-law’s pizza hence my commemoration of him with pizza (also a nod to Poppa, whose name was indeed John, but whose pizza was vastly superior to that chain but I digress) and superhero movies.

Arrow

Patrick would have been thrilled with the current state of superhero movies over the past few years. This year marks a major shift to television. The success of Arrow has spawned The Flash, Gotham, and Constantine so, at least for a small period of time, there will be four DC comics television series and one Marvel (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.). Marvel also has/had plans to develop Agent Carter.

The Tick

The big news to me though is that Amazon is bringing back The Tick! Writer Ben Edlund is on board as is Patrick Warburton (who simply is The Tick). No word yet on Arthur, Captain Liberty, or Bat-Manuel. Amazon is ordering a pilot and, as usual, will invite folks to vote on whether to fund this series. The original series is currently on Netflix and is only nine episodes long so why aren’t you watching it.

Captain America Winter Soldier

My plan for today is to watch Captain America, The Avengers (currently on Netflix), and Captain America: Winter Soldier which just came out on Tuesday. It was a good comic book year with X-Men: Days of Future Past, The (not so) Amazing Spider-Man 2, Captain America: Winter Soldier, and The Guardians of the Galaxy but, for my money, Winter Soldier was the best of the lot.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

The same day I took off from work to see the dreadful Sabotage, I was able to catch a Captain America double feature. It really helped wash the taste of Sabotage out.

Captain America Winter Soldier

 

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) – Rated PG-13

Steve Rogers struggles to embrace his role in the modern world and battles a new threat from old history: the Soviet agent known as the Winter Soldier.

Wow. I was beginning to be disheartened. I enjoy all the Marvel movies but after The Avengers, Iron Man 3 was exciting but a bit of a letdown. Besides all the tomfoolery with one of my favorite villains, they seem to have written the script based on focus groups and added a cute kid sidekick.

Thor 2 was even more of a letdown. A movie about Norse gods should have just a bit less lasers and space ships. I like Christopher Eccleston but he didn’t make much of an impression as a villain. Even the humor was less.

They took Natalie Portman’s scientist Jane Foster and turned her into a pathetic god-stalker, someone who is only defined by her relationship to Thor. She was a strong character in the first movie and in the second, she just becomes a catalyst. Ah well enough whining – I honestly enjoy all of the Marvel films even if I nitpick them.

One Line Review: Superb storytelling allows all characters room to breathe.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier begins with a wonderful script. While the focus is obviously Captain America, the Black Widow, the Falcon, and Nick Fury receive ample time and a good fleshing out. Agents Jasper Sitwell and Maria Hill return from earlier movies. Robert Redford makes a rare appearance as Alexander Pierce, Nick Fury’s boss.

The scriptwriters, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely threw in a lot of callbacks and natural consequences. We find out what happened to Arnim Zola after the first movie and re-encounter the shadowy figures in charge of S.H.I.E.L.D. from The Avengers. Fans of the comic book will have a hard time spotting all of the references and in-jokes but there are some obvious ones clearly planned for the future such as Brock Rumlow and Agent 13.

The direction by brothers Anthony and Joe Russo keeps things moving at a brisk pace. There is a lot of nice humor and banter in the early going before paranoia sets in. I did enjoy how much smarter Black Widow seemed than Captain America.

The action scenes are fine but there aren’t any real showstoppers. This actually works as the directors keep the film grounded and focused on the paranoia. We do get to see plenty of Cap, The Falcon, Nick Fury, and Black Widow kicking butt but it seems more martial arts oriented than superhero focused.

Oh and stay through the credits for two extra scenes as seems to be the new Marvel norm (Thor The Dark World and The Avengers each had two extra scenes). The first is a very nice teaser but the second seemed an unnecessary coda.

Off to the Movies I Will Go…

…where I learned everything that I know. (paraphrasing)

No news here today – just a rambling train of thought as I head out for a day at the movies.

I love going to the movies.

Unfinished Mural

I keep trying to make my movie room like a theater. There are movie posters plastering the walls, including some prized ones like an original Last Man on Earth, several Etsy Hammer posters, several signed posters, and one from Mister White, the movie one of my daughters worked on. We’re in the process of having a mural done based on an old poster of Quatermass and the Pit. I love my movie room.

I have the largest television we could afford, a 60″ plasma. We sit just a few feet away from it. Of course everyone wants larger but mine is a good size and does the job well (insert your own joke here). We have comfortable seating for three and can squeeze a couple more in but it is not a very large room.

Popcorn

The latest addition was the popcorn machine and, properly utilized, the popcorn tastes better than theater popcorn and is much better for you. For those of you with a machine at home, use the Great Northern portion packs, available from Amazon. We also bought a case of 500 popcorn bags which we are not quite out of.

Captain America: Winter Soldier

Still even though I love my room, I still love going TO the movies. Once a month or so, I run off for a day at the movies. As I write this I’m about to go to Subway for lunch. followed by Noah, Sabotage, and ‘capped off’ by a Captain America double feature. I was lucky enough to find out that my local theater, Epic, was doing a double feature as I hadn’t seen any advertising for it. Also thank goodness that they have unlimited refills on their, admittedly overpriced, plastic tubs of soda and popcorn. Dare I say that today will be Epic?

So why can’t I stay home and buy the movies when they come out? Honestly, you don’t have to wait that long any more – usually about three months. Purchasing a brand new movie on Blu-Ray is usually about $20 on release week so that’s less than two evening tickets.

I think part of it is the enforced setting. At home, we all watch movies but our electronic devices run non-stop. Interruptions are constant from conversations and phone calls to knocks on the door. We pause the movies to do various things, which is normally a plus but pulls you out of the story. I’m getting up every fifteen minutes or so to refill drinks, provide meals/snacks, use the restroom, help four-year-old, et cetera.

At the theater, the lights go down and the magic begins. If one is lucky, no one ruins the movie by being on their phone or otherwise rude. Two hours later, you return to your normal, drab life (which is probably why I schedule marathon sessions).

So I have the best of both worlds. I can watch movies in the comfort of my home with a fabulous meal and periodically I can go to the theater. My life is pretty blessed.

 

AMC Best Picture Showcase – AMC 3, Regal 0, Carolina Cinemas Yumm

AMC Oscar

 

AMC Theaters is doing their Oscar nominee marathon again this year. Participating theaters are in the link above.

On Saturday, February 22nd, you can see four movies (Philomena, Dallas Buyer’s Club, The Wolf of Wall Street, and 12 Years a Slave) for $30.

On Saturday, March 1st, you can watch the five remaining Best Picture nominees (Nebraska, Captain Phillips, Her, American Hustle, and Gravity) for $40.

If you want to go both days, the combo ticket is $60. Each day gives you $5 bonus bucks on your Stubs card. A few markets are doing a one-day blitz of all nine movies on March 1st. Of course, if you do that you are unlikely to be awake for the Oscars the next day.

We do not have an AMC theater in our area. Regal, which had an Oscar marathon last year, declined to do it this year, citing that most of the movies were still in theaters anyway (a rather weak excuse in my opinion, especially since we have two Regal theaters comprising 22 screens and only Philomena is playing at them – the other eight nominees having been and gone).

/sigh I love movie marathons. I’m hoping Regal has a marathon of Captain America, The Avengers, and Captain America: Winter Soldier like the one they did for Thor: Dark World.

Regal Cinemas

 

* Speaking of Regal Cinemas, I have a Regal Cinema Club card that I use every time I attend to earn the usual popcorn, soda, and movie tickets. They have a special Elite card that they can give out when you reach 10,000 points. I say can because they have to pick you for Elite status, you don’t automatically earn it at 10,000.

Searching the internet, I found several people who had gotten the card but none who talked about the swag package that supposedly comes with it. I won’t reach that lofty total any time soon because I split my time between Regal Biltmore Grande, Carolina Cinemas, and Epic in Hendersonville with occasional side trips when I’m out of town.

Carolina Cinemas

 

* Speaking of Carolina Cinemas, as if they weren’t already my number one choice, they have just introduced a new menu. This new menu includes locally sourced meats, vegetables, and cheeses as well as breads from Carolina Mountain Bakery. Many of the new options are Gluten-Free and/or Vegetarian (this is Asheville).

The one I’m looking forward to trying: Asheville Cheese Plate ($9) – 2 selected cheeses from local producers, fresh bread from Carolina Mountain Bakery, selected local fruit, and a rotating seasonal accompaniment.

Captain America

Captain America just became available on instant Netflix.

One-Line Review: An earnest family-friendly superhero adventure that is a little long and a little slow but quite enjoyable.

Captain America (2011) – Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action.

“It is 1942, America has entered World War II, and sickly but determined Steve Rogers is frustrated at being rejected yet again for military service. Everything changes when Dr. Erskine recruits him for the secret Project Rebirth. Proving his extraordinary courage, wits and conscience, Rogers undergoes the experiment and his weak body is suddenly enhanced into the maximum human potential. When Dr. Erskine is then immediately assassinated by an agent of Nazi Germany’s head of its secret HYDRA research department, Johann Schmidt aka the Red Skull, Rogers is left as a unique man who is initially misused as a propaganda mascot. However, when his comrades need him, Rogers goes on a successful adventure that truly makes him Captain America and his war against Schmidt begins. “

I find Joe Johnston to be a very problematic director. His Jurassic Park III was a quick fun romp but it had very little of the majesty that infused the two Spielberg outings. Johnston’s The Wolfman had some very good scenes and actors but was ultimately a mess. On the other hand, way back in 1991, he directed the adorable pre-WWII saga, The Rocketeer and did a very good job of bringing the Dave Stevens graphic novel to the screen.

The Rocketeer would seem to make Johnston the ideal choice for Captain America as the stories are not all that different. A naive but earnest young man discovers a rocket pack/secret formula that allows him to fight Nazis as a masked superhero.

Chris Evans is great as Steve Rogers/ Captain America. I love the visual wizardry used to portray him as the proverbial 98-lb. weakling prior to his transformation. In the after shots, you will be wondering if those abs are real. Evans does a fine job of being earnest and brave and a little naive.

One of the biggest problems I had with Captain America was actually one of the things I had most been looking forward to. Hugo Weaving is a fantastic orator and his creations of Elrond (from the LOTR trilogy) and Mr. Smith (from The Matrix trilogy) are indelibly etched in my mind as is his voice in V for Vendetta. Unfortunately Hugo Weaving appears to have studied his German accent so hard here that his dramatic cadences are lost. His version of The Red Skull is good but just doesn’t quite gel.

Hydra is the villain organization and they have an army of Nazis with laser rifles. This also doesn’t gel well and comes across as silly in some of the scenes. Thankfully, Toby Jones is great as The Red Skull’s underling, Arnim Zola.

Stanley Tucci is excellent as always as the erstwhile Dr. Erskine but has very little screen time. Tommy Lee Jones is his usual fun craggy self as Colonel Chester Phillips. Hayley Atwell and Sebastian Stan are okay as Rogers’ best gal and pal respectively.

Pacing is a little uneven. I appreciate the logic behind using Captain America to sell war bonds but it sidelines him for too much of the movie and the battle montages will either make you shrug your shoulders or wish that they had included the actual battle. Corporate pressure from Marvel may have had an effect here as Captain America had to be ready and in the present for The Avengers this year – thus limiting his time in World War II.

Joe Johnston does a great job of conveying the feel of the time and characters (without the terrible Hollywood shorthand of sepia-toning everything). There is very little cursing and everyone is so earnest and not snarky.

Marvel fans will have plenty to umm marvel at. We get a look at Tony Stark’s father Howard (Dominic Cooper) in action as well as Dum-Dum Dugan (Neal McDonough) and the requisite appearance of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). There is a great visual joke with Arnim Zola and the plot revolves around the cosmic cube/ tesseract. Don’t forget to stay for the post-credits sequence.

Future Watch: Although Joe Johnston will not be back for it, look for Captain America: Winter Soldier in theaters April 4th, 2014 (Chris Evans, Sebastian Stan and Samuel L. Jackson will be reprising their roles). Joe Johnston is rumored to be working on Jurassic Park IV. Hugo Weaving will once again be seen as Elrond in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey this Christmas.

Avengers Assemble! Epix edition

Okay I was going to do this post closer to next Friday when The Avengers opens but Epix has a special deal right now. This weekend they will be showing three (Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man 2 but not The Incredible Hulk or the first Iron Man) of the five canon films leading up to the Avengers.

April 27-29 is Marvel Heroes Weekend on Epix. If you have a Roku box then Marvel Heroes Weekend is FREE (even if you have used up the FREE trial). Epix can also be viewed on the Xbox 360 or your home computer. If you have never signed up for Epix, a two-week FREE trial is available at www.epixhd.com

Thor (2011) – PG-13

“When the god of thunder angers his father, he is cast out of the fantastical realm of Asgard and banished to a life among the lowly humans on Earth. (Wait, should we be offended?) But Thor soon discovers the 21st century is pretty fantastical, too, from first loves to Facebook. As his newfound home is threatened by Asgard’s most ominous villain, Thor must use his courage – and his mighty hammer – to become the noble warrior he’s destined to be.”

Thor is a lot of fun. Chris Hemsworth is fantastically cut as the title character and is ably supported by Natalie Portman, Stellan Skargard, and especially Kat Dennings on Earth and by Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba, Com Feore, Rene Russo, Jaimie Alexander and Ray Stevenson in Asgard. The Asgard segments are more serious than the Earth segments but I enjoyed the self-deprecating humor of the Earth segments more.

Look for a cameo by Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye (setting up his role in The Avengers) and don’t forget the after-credit sequence (again setting up The Avengers).

Iron Man 2 (2010) – Rated PG-13

“If 2008’s Iron Man rocked your socks off, get ready – because the sequel just might melt your fillings. Robert Downey Jr. returns as Tony Stark, a billionaire weapons mogul now committed to maintaining world peace as his own mechanically enhanced alter ego. But our hero is definitely up against it this time around: not only does the U.S. government want control of his super suit, but he’ll also go toe to toe with Scarlett Johansson and (gulp) Mickey Rourke. This is rock’em sock’em popcorn fare at its finest.”

Iron Man 2 is not as much fun and nowhere near as tight the first Iron Man but it is still a blast. Black Widow/Natalie/Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) gets a fair amount of screen time to set up her role in The Avengers.

Robert Downey Jr. swaggers his way through this one – he makes a great Tony Stark. Gwyneth Paltrow and Jon Favreau return as Pepper Potts and Happy Hogan but Terence Howard is replaced by Don Cheadle as James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes. It’s a shame but both are fine actors.

Don’t forget the after credits scene that sets up Thor.

Captain America (2011) – Rated PG-13

“Patriotic but frail young man Steve Rogers wants nothing more than to serve his country, so he volunteers for a top-secret experimental military program. One hearty dose of Super Soldier Serum later, and Captain America is born. With his indestructible red-white-and-blue shield and rippling man muscles (wowsa!), Marvel Comics’ first Avenger springs into action to take on the deadly terrorist organization HYDRA, led by evil mastermind Red Skull.”

Captain America is NOT available until Sunday (8 pm I believe) but is a part of Marvel Heroes Weekend. Captain America is a bit slower paced than the other two movies but is still quite enjoyable. Strangely while the thing I most looked forward to in Captain America was Hugo Weaving as The Red Skull, he turned out to be not very impressive. Hugo Weaving was fantastic in The Matrix series, The Lord of the Rings series, and V for Vendetta but his German accent here is very jarring and undercuts his normally powerful delivery. On the other hand, Chris Evans was a lot better than I expected and Captain America’s earnestness is not played tongue-in-cheek.

With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story (2012)

“With Great Power explores the life of Stan Lee from the early days of his Depression era upbringing through the Marvel age of comics! The film uncovers original transcripts, illustrations, photographs and stories of Lee’s journey from his early years at Timely Comics, his military service, the comic book industry’s censorship battle of the 1950’s, the dawn of Marvel Comics and the legendary characters Stan co-created, to his current company POW! Entertainment.”

I have not seen this but look forward to catching it sometime this weekend.

Captain America & Marvel Superhero week

You might guess from the Captain America shirt that I was looking forward to the Captain America movie and you would be right. I went to see it with my honey today and I really enjoyed it (although both Thor and X-Men First Class were better).  It was a real throwback to the idealistic Captain America of my youth – not the grittier yet superb vision of Ed Brubaker. Strangely not many people stayed until the credits were over to see the “sneak peek” of The Avengers. I always love the bonus scenes for staying through the credits.

We also saw a preview for The Amazing Spider-Man but to me it really seemed like Green Lantern 2012. It looks like a retread of the Spider-Man origin story by a lesser director and with a less appealing cast. I love the plethora of comic book movies each year but I do recognize they have a wide range of quality associated with them. In fact I often feel relieved after I have seen a bad one (Green Lantern, either Fantastic Four movie) as I feel I have “disaster-proofed” the others for the year.

By the way if anyone has not seen Captain America yet, I got FREE tickets for my wife and I by buying Iron Man and Iron Man 2 on Blu-Ray at Best Buy. I love free movie ticket offers.