SUNDAY RUNDOWN – THAT’S WHAT SHE READ

book haul, books, Chris Evans, currently reading, Elisabeth Moss, Harry Potter, Jane Austen, Netflix, recently watched

What a week it’s been. My social life has blown up in the last 7 days. I went out for drinks not once but twice. I’m a social butterfly. It’s exhausting being this in demand. I’m more used to just being inside and reading/binge watching some shit. Still, I just about coped, which is good because I’m no longer alone at home. Aside from work, I’ve not really spoken to people much in the last 2 weeks. Other than myself of course. I’d wander around the house having conversations with myself to fill the silence. That’s probably the most depressing thing I’ve ever written but it’s true. I still find myself doing it not despite the fact that there are actual living people I can talk to now. I just need to get used to the whole response part of talking now. It’s such a good job I don’t live alone. I’d literally never talk to anyone but my colleagues. I already have something of a lax attitude towards socialising as it is. At least I’d always have time to read, though.

Currently Reading

  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
I’m not the biggest Jane Austen fan, as I’ve probably mentioned, but my bookstagram friend is hosting a read along for her #austenaugust2017 tag. So I’m reading it again. The beginning bits of any Austen novel are just fairly tedious so I’m still waiting to get to the good stuff.
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling
In favour of the bookstagram read along, I’ve had to put this to one side for a while. I’m still not in the mood for this. I honestly think Chamber is the worst and it’s not the easiest to read. Maybe I can just skip it?
  • The 7th Function of Language by Laurent Binet
I’ve read some of this but my focus has certainly been on rereading Sense and Sensibility. It’s been ages since I was a student so my days of being able to multi-task with books has long since ended. I’ll hopefully finish this one by the end of the month but I need to actually do some reading for that to happen!
Recently Purchased 
  • Animal: The Autobiography of a Female Body by Sara Pascoe
I love Sara Pascoe as a comedian. I think she’s incredibly funny in a way that someone like Amy Schumer isn’t. She manages to be funny without trying to act like a man. I’m not a fan of Schumer anyway because (accusations of joke stealing aside) I find that Amy Schumer tries to hard to appear “laddish” to make it seem okay that she’s making jokes. It’s really fucking annoying and goes with the idea that women can’t be funny. Sara Pascoe makes jokes about being a woman in a way that a woman would. Anyway, I love her and have wanted to read her book for ages. So I finally bought it and am really looking forward to it.
Recently Watched 
  • Netflix Binges: Teachers, Top of the Lake
I have some news, I recently cancelled my Netflix subscription. It’s only briefly but I decided that Now TV was the better one these days because it means I can watch Game of Thrones legally. I’m enjoying it for now though because there are so many great boxsets to watch. Including the whole of Teachers which I’m nearly done with. I don’t think I ever watched Season 4 because, by that point, most of the original cast were gone so I didn’t care. It’s nice to finally see it. It’s the shittest season by far but it’s nice. Then, on the recommendation of a coworker, I watched the whole of the second series of the BBC’s epic drama Top of the Lake in a couple of days. It was an intense and awful story but the series is so good. I hope there’s a 3rd. Elisabeth Moss is fantastic and we need to see her more. 
  • Gifted
I only saw this because of all the adorable interviews that Chris Evans has done with his young co-star. Was it worth it? Find out in my Tuesday review this week.

  • Scott Pilgrim vs the World
I’ve had a craving to watch this again for a while now. I decided that my TBT review this week was the perfect excuse.

TBT – Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza, Brie Larson, Chris Evans, Edgar Wright, films, fuck yeah, Michael Cera, review, TBT


When I was writing one of my recent Chris Evans’ reviews I remembered that he appeared in 2010s adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim. I know why I forget Evans is in this film: it’s cause he’s so good and I wasn’t used to that feeling 7 years ago. It does mean that I’ve had a deep-seated desire to watch this film ever since so I decided it would be the perfect film to talk about this TBT. It’s been a while since I saw this but I absolutely love this film. I’m also a fan of the graphic novels that it is based on. Really, Scott Pilgrim is the reason that I often get the desire to dye my hair bright pink or blue every now and then. I’ve always wanted to be more like Ramona Flowers. I mean, without the crippling emotional detachment and stuff but, you know, the coolness. It’s no wonder Scott falls in love with her at first sight. I certainly did.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is the adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s series of graphic novels. It is a special effects dream that plays out like a video game. It sees Hollywood’s favourite geek, Michael Cera, take on the role of Canadian slacker, Scott. He is living an uneventful and uninspiring life until he meets Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and falls head over heels. In order to win Ramona’s heart Scott discovers that he must first battle her 7 evil exes in a series of fantastic showdowns.

The genius of Scott Pilgrim is that it places itself firmly in reality whilst also amping everything up to ridiculous proportions. The characters and relationships are all very believable but every dispute is solved in an epic showdown where one combatant inevitably ends up as a pile of coins. The world of Scott Pilgrim is just that little bit more technicolor than ours and there are different laws regarding injuries and death. It’s a weird setting, then, but, director, Edgar Wright manages to pull it off.

He manages to do this by sticking fairly closely to original text and mimicking their style. It expertly mixes the crazed action sequences with the quieter moments of Scott’s slacker lifestyle. The action cuts seamlessly from one venue to another and the use of on screen captions and cartoony sound effects help to remind the audience what’s going on. Scott Pilgrim has more in common with Wright’s tv show Spaced and it’s endless supply of pop culture references than it does with his Cornetto trilogy. But the end results is smarter, sharper, and more relaxed than any of his previous work.

Wright manages to capture the mood with his manga-styling and picks up on the comedy and the drama on screen. He uses whip-pans, extreme close-ups, split screens, and changes in speed to get things moving in the right direction. The evil exes are introduced with animated sequences accompanied by Ramona’s voiceover. The game also embraces everything good about video games and becomes one of the few successful video game movies. Who can’t help but feel joy in the references to Street Fighter and 8-bit animation that keep cropping up? It’s a film that loves the world of gaming and will feel familiar to pretty much anyone who has had any contact with a game.Scott Pilgrim is a triumph of visual effects and style. It is a treat to watch and is an absolute hoot. It never takes itself seriously but it never makes the mistake of being too derisive.

The source material is treated with the utmost respect and the film works because of it. However, the fact remains that there are moments when the scipt and the narrative just don’t live up the visuals. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of the series of graphic novels but there can be no denying that a lot is lost in translation here. Scott’s story plays itself out over 6 volumes but the film chops it all up to fit into a neat 112 minutes. It all feels a bit rushed and simplistic in this form. The battles become rather repetitive and confusing here. You don’t really get any time with the exes before they explode into currency.

Of course, this isn’t enough of a problem to dampen the film. It’s sometimes difficult to connect this with the series in which it originated but, as a film in itself, it is perfect. The cast are all really well chosen and bring something fantastic to their characters. With a host of actors who have since become big or even bigger names, it’s wonderful to revisit. I keep forgetting that Chris Evans plays Lucas Lee, Ramona’s second ex, and he absolutely steals the show. He plays a brash and egotistical actor who talks a bit like Christian Bale as Batman. It’s amazing. Kieran Culkin is hilarious as Scott’s gay roommate, Wallace, and Captain Marvel herself, Brie Larson, turns up as Scott’s ex-girlfriend.

Scott Pilgrim may not be the film that fans of the comic books necessarily wanted it to be but the source material is in safe hands with Edgar Wright. The film is funny and an absolute wonder to watch. I defy anyone to watch it and not feel better afterwards.

Tuesday’s Reviews – Gifted (2017)

Chris Evans, films, fucking adorable, fucking sweet, maths, meh


When I reviewed Snowpiercer in my post last week, I mentioned my new love of Chris Evans. It hasn’t always been this way, of course. For years, I didn’t really rate Evans as an actor. Having now seen the first Fantastic Four film about 3 times recently, I realise that it wasn’t necessarily his fault. Yes, he agreed to do some shit films but he probably had to take whatever he could get. Fantastic Four isn’t a bad film because of Chris Evans; it’s a terrible film because it’s so badly written. The character of Johnny Storm wasn’t an awful and annoying version of the comic book character but that isn’t Evans’ fault. I’m not trying to suggest that he’s the next Daniel Day Lewis or some shit but he’s proved he can be really good. Look at Snowpiercer for an example of how good he can be. He just needs to start taking more serious roles and not people who run around in Lycra for a living. Which I’m guessing was the appeal of Gifted. It’s probably as far away from Captain America as he can get.

I wasn’t exactly thrilled by the idea of Gifted. On paper, it sounded like the kind of bullshit that Nicholas Sparks would write. And, to be fair, it is. But… I found that I couldn’t help but like this film. There is something about the performances from the main cast that make it so compelling. Chris Evans is lovely as Frank Adler, the man who ends up raising his child-prodigy niece, Mary. It helps that his co-star Mckenna Grace is superb as the brilliant 7 year old that he is trying to give a normal life. The chemistry between the pair is beautiful and I swear my biological clock started getting louder every time Chris Evans performed another fatherly task.

The problems arise from the narrative itself which is as obvious as they come. Frank takes guardianship of Mary following the suicide of her mother. Frank’s sister, Diane, was a mathematical genius who dedicated her life to solving one of the Millennium Prize Problems set by the Clay Mathematics Institute. She had been pushed by her over-bearing mother, Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan) for most of her life so Frank decides to ensure that Mary will have a more social upbringing. He moves the child to Florida away from his mother. He wants her to lead a normal school life and refuses to send her to an institute for gifted children. It is at that point that Evenly comes back into their lives and demands custody of Mary.

This isn’t the kind of film that will surprise you in any way. You know where the film is going from the outset and every cliche in the book is utilised. It is sheer melodrama that just keeps upping the emotional and dramatic ante. What started as a lovable tale of a man and his genius niece quickly descends into a typical courtroom drama where barbs are slung every possible way and things don’t go well for anyone. It also limits the time that we get to see Frank and Mary together and, after all, it is there chemistry that really drives this film. Watching Frank go head-to-head with his icy mother just isn’t the same. Evelyn is never given the chance to really become anything more than the villain. She has one or two moments of human behaviour but never really gets beyond Disney villain status.

Still, as I already mentioned, I liked this film more than I expected. I cried when it wanted me to cry and I was happy with the outcome. It’s a heartwarming tale of familial love and it has a one-eye cat as an added bonus. It’s difficult not to get carried away. There is an awful lot of greatness coming from the connection between Chris Evans his young co-star and the scenes where the two interact alone are just adorable. Cheesy, obviously, but delightful non-the-less. This is the kind of film that falls into every trap that this narrative could have. It never really pushes itself to be anything other than it’s basic self. It could, and should, have been so much more. In (500) Days of Summer, director Marc Webb gave us a great and realistic insight into adult relationships. Here, he just gives us mindless drivel that tugs on the heartstrings but offers very little to excite. If it weren’t for the main cast putting so much in, Gifted would have been a forgettable mess. In fact, with a totally different cast, this wouldn’t even have been on anyone’s radar.

TBT – Snowpiercer (2014)

Chris Evans, films, fucking beautiful, John Hurt, post-apocalyptic, reviews, TBT, Tilda Swinton

I have a bit of a problem guys: I’m in love with a man who is completely unattainable. That man is Chris Evans. It hasn’t always been this way. No no. Back in the Fantastic Four days I couldn’t have cared less. Even the first Captain American film didn’t do anything for me… I assume it’s down to the creepy tiny Steve CGI. Yeah, I happily denied any attraction to Chris Evans for years and even presented arguments with my friend about why Robert Downey Jr. was a more attractive member of the Avengers. Then bloody Winter Solider went and got really good and suddenly Chris Evans starts to look better and better. By the time Civil War came out I was hooked. Seeing him do interviews with his Gifted co-star kind of made my ovaries explode. I don’t know what’s happening to me. It was because of my deep-seated interest in Chris Evans that I was so desperate to see Snowpiercer. I knew very little about it but had heard great things. Unfortunately, that proved difficult because the bloody thing wasn’t released in UK cinemas. Then I managed to miss it on Netflix because I’m a bloody idiot. I became invigorated after seeing Okja earlier this week so went on a hunt to find a copy of Snowpiercer.

Now I’ve watched both Captain America and Snowpiercer, it’s safe to say I won’t be getting on a train with Chris Evans any time soon. It never seems to go well for his second in command. In the first his childhood friend Bucky Barnes fell to his death after being blasted out of the train. In Bong Joon-ho’s adaptation of the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige, Jamie Bell doesn’t exactly come out on top after saving Evans’ life. The film takes place in a post-apocalyptic world in which the vast majority of humanity were killed in a new ice age. After spreading a cooling chemical over the Earth to combat global warming went terribly wrong, a number of humans were given passage on a constantly moving train which circles the globe and keeps them safe from the cold. The passengers are split into the elites at the front and the undesirables in the final carriages. The elite are given all the luxuries that the train has to offer whilst the rear-passengers are forced to survive on the dregs.

Understandably, they are pretty pissed off at this and are eager to take over the train for their own benefit. With the help of his elderly mentor, Gilliam (John Hurt), Curtis Everett (Chris Evans) plans to lead his fellow passengers through the train to the engine. Curtis wants to stand face-to-face with the train’s creator, Minister Wilford (Ed Harris) and find out what he is up to. Gilliam expects Curtis to take over driving the train and bring peace to the rear-carriages. To do this he must first free a prisoner, Namgoong Minsu (Song Kang-ho), who knows how to open the doors between carriages. They must fight their way through the train whilst being chased by guards. As they progress, Curtis finds out that there is more to the running of the train than meets the eye.

Snowpiercer is one of those refreshing films that takes something as pedestrian as a post-apocalyptic ice age and makes it utterly new. On the surface is sounds like something you’ve seen a thousand times: a band of disillusioned people band together to take over from their mysterious and uncaring leader. This film is so much more than that. Bong Joon-ho takes the conventions for this kind of film and uses them in ways that make them seem incredibly different. He’s had fun with the scenario and created a haunting and exciting narrative. It is the opposite of the usual big budget action movies that explode in your face without having much substance behind it. The scope is obviously fair limited because the action takes place on a train. It feels very claustrophobic and the action sequences fence you in further. Snowpiercer draws you in to its bizarre new world and presents something so completely different to anything you’ll ever have seen before. The shots that show the train travelling through a vast, snowy landscape are breathtaking and perfectly counter the dark and dingy interior of the rear-section of the train.

Like the train, the passengers are constantly moving forward but never getting anywhere. As they move further down the train we see carriages full of amazing little details. The car that has become the train’s greenhouse or the aquarium are breathtaking. This film is clever and so beautifully made that is demands multiple viewings. All I really wanted to do after I watched it was to sit down and watch it all again. It is down to the superb direction and an amazing cast that this film keeps moving. Chris Evans is a strong lead in the role and is given a greater chance to show depth than he ever was as Steve Rogers. As Curtis makes his way nearer the train we see startling revelations that Evan’s handles like a pro. Although, he comes a close second in terms of memorable performances thanks to Tilda Swinton’s turn as Minister Mason, the train’s second in command. She has the air of a smarmy politician but with the wicked streak of an out of control dictator. Swinton plays the character wonderfully and Mason becomes a spine-chilling adversary for Curtis.

The rest of the cast all play their own parts in making Snowpiercer so special. It’s an incredible film that should have been given a wider release. It is the antidote to every thoughtless and obnoxious action blockbuster that comes out each year. The film has been crafted by people who really care and want to make a compelling and important story. It is the kind of thing that feels so similar whilst also feeling so unusual. I’m so glad that I finally got round to seeing this but am also incredibly annoyed with myself that it took so bloody long. If you haven’t see it, then I suggest you hunt down a copy as soon as possible. You won’t regret it.

TOP 10 WEN-SDAY – RANKING MCU MOVIES

Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, comic book, comic books, Edward Norton, list, Mark Ruffalo, Marvel, Paul Rudd, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hiddleston

Tomorrow I’m watching Spider-Man: Homecoming and I couldn’t be more excited. I’ve enjoyed the majority of Spider-Man films that have been released, probably only really excluding Toby Maguire’s third outing, but none of them have really done fantastic things. I think Andrew Garfield was perfectly cast but the stories just didn’t cut it. Toby Maguire was fine for the time and his films are still astonishing in terms of that era. However, his portrayal of Peter Parker just seems flat nowadays. With this film being the third time a new actor has taken up the spidey suit in 15 years, it’s starting to feel like every young-ish actor will eventually get the chance to play him. Still, I have high hopes for Tom Holland. His brief appearance in Civil War was an absolute treat within all of the heavy shit going on and proved that a solo film could be full of geeky fun. To get myself in the mood for watching this new film I spent today watching some past Marvel films: namely Civil War and Ant-Man. Both were great, obviously, but it got me thinking about my ranking of the films in the MCU. It’s something I’ve tried to avoid doing because it’s such a changeable thing. However, with another Top 10 Wen-sday upon us, I decided it was time to give it a go. Expect this to have changed by tomorrow.
Fifteen: Iron Man 2

Iron Man 2 was the first of man disappointing MCU sequels and it is still the worst of the bunch. I understand that it had a lot to live up to because Iron Man was the film that gave the MCU life. Still, this is just a lacklustre film. It is only saved thanks to Robert Downey Jr’s charm. The film offers us two underwhelming villains (wasting the talents of the wonderful Sam Rockwell) and spends too much time showboating to offer anything real. It’s just dreadful.

Fourteen: Thor the Dark World

I think I always look favourably on The Dark World because it contains Tom Hiddleston’s face. Ever since his brief romance with Taylor Swift I’ve kind of gone off the guy. I know it’s fickle but how can I be a massive fan of someone who made that choice? Anyway, as such I now no longer see all of his films through rose-tinted glasses and can see how awful this film really was. The dark elves are not fleshed out in the slightest and Thor becomes a supporting character in his own film. This was a let down from start to finish.

Thirteen: The Incredible Hulk

Before Mark Ruffalo came along I was more than happy to have an Edward Norton shaped Hulk. I mean, yes, you couldn’t have got much worse than Eric Bana (who I assume was only hired because of his name) but Norton brought depth to the character of Bruce Banner. He wanted to explore the pain and suffering that lay behind the huge green rage monsters and it was a welcome change. The problem that this film really faced was that it’s just not going to be easy to make a solo Hulk film. This is something that has become more apparent as time went on but, clearly, having a main character who is silent and ragey most of the time just isn’t a workable formula.

Twelve: Avengers: Age of Ultron

I so wanted to love Age of Ultron. It had everything: Avengers had set us up with a great team full of banter; we were going to see Vision, Scarlett Witch and Quicksilver; and it had James Spader as the voice of Ultron. How could it go wrong? Well, apparently quite easily. Age of Ultron was exciting, maybe, but it was a huge mess of a film. The narrative was all over the place and it was basically just a Michael Bay-esque feast of explosion porn. With every viewing this film pains me more. Not just for how bad it is but for how much it let me down.

Eleven: Captain America

I realise that Captain America is a much better film than I give it credit for but, personally, I just didn’t love this film. I admit that I liked it much better on my second viewing for my TBT post but I still find it difficult to get too excited about Steve’s first outing. Hayley Atwell is amazing and there are some great moments but it all feels a bit rushed. Considering what followed in Steve’s solo outings, this film just doesn’t quite cut it.

Ten: Thor

As with above, this is primarily on personal taste and I’m sure most people would have this film higher up. I get it. Thor isn’t the typical Marvel film but I adore it. Kenneth Branagh may not be the most obvious choice to direct a comic book movie but I loved what he did with Thor. He turned it into a Shakespeare play and I think it worked. He was on firmer ground and Tom Hiddleston excelled at playing Loki as though he was Edmund in King Lear. It’s not perfect and there are some incredibly dodgy moments but Thor always makes me feel full of joy. I don’t care if I’m the only one.

Nine: Iron Man 3

I kind of wanted to put Iron Man 3 higher up the list because of how badly it treated The Mandarin character. That would have been petty though because, all in all, this is a pretty good film. Shane Black did a great job co-writing the script and directing the whole thing. It’s funny, exciting and dramatic. A huge improvement on the second film in the series. Black and Robert Downey Jr. have a great working relationship and Tony Stark is at his best. There were a few moments I could have done without but, for the most part, this was a winner.

Eight: Ant Man

It might just be because I’ve only just finished watching this film but Ant Man is much better than people give it credit. Paul Rudd is fantastic in the role of Scott Lang and there is plenty of fun to be had. It takes a character that nobody really wanted a film about but shows just how good of a decision it was. Yes, I still wish Edgar Wright had directed the story that he had wanted but this definitely showed the potential of the more random Marvel characters.

 Seven: Iron Man

When Iron Man came out way, way back in 2008 there wasn’t an MCU and Robert Downey Jr. was that drug addict from Ally McBeal. This film changed everything for the better. Downey Jr. became a household name and the MCU kicked off in style. This was a brash and exciting film that showed comic book movies could be a spectacle and also a really good film. As important as this film may be in terms of historical importance, it has to be said that it has been overshadowed by future releases. It’s still a great film but there are now better ones out there.

Six: Dr Strange

I can’t say that I was exactly overjoyed to hear that Dr Strange was coming to the big screen because I didn’t know enough about the character. Then I heard the immortal words: Benedict Cumberbatch. I will freely admit that my interest in the film was mostly linked to the face of this great actor but I think that’s reason enough to watch it. There are some fantastic moments in this film and breathtaking sequences where the laws of physics are just ripped to pieces. It’s a visual feast but I wanted this to be better. Dr Strange feels as though it wasn’t give the freedom to be everything it could be and was forced to fit into a Marvel template to keep everyone happy. I hope future films are given more of a chance.

Five: Guardians of the Galaxy 2

The second Guardians film was a great continuation of the series but it made the same mistake that most sequels tend to do. It wanted to make thing bigger and better. Yes, this still has the same funny and relaxed feeling that the first one did but there was something confused about it. The effects were too big and the fights too confusing. However, this was an emotionally charged film that finally added some consequences to the MCU. I adored this film but I wish it had been slicker.

Four: Captain America: Civil War

Again, it might be because I watched this today but Civil War is a fantastic film. It is the film that Avengers 2 wishes it could have been. Watching this film makes me truly sad that the Russo brothers weren’t allowed to direct Age of Ultron because it would have been a massive improvement. Yes, it still runs into the same problems as Ultron has because it deals with so many characters. Yes, the narrative isn’t exactly wonderful considering the comic book story it comes from. And, yes, the villain’s plan doesn’t exactly make sense when you think about it too much. However, this has some of everything. It had the fun and banter of The Avengers, the darkness of Winter Soldier, and the emotional conflict that has followed Steve through all of his films. It could have been better but it was pretty damn good.

Three: The Avengers

This was the film that nobody thought would be possible; something that gathered together every big name in the MCU up until that point and made them work together. With that many egos in one room, how was anyone going to be able to come up with a decent story. Thankfully, somebody agreed to let the legendary Joss Whedon have a crack and he managed to make it work. This was a funny, clever and exciting film. It knew what it was and it worked with it’s problems not against them. It gave us more of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, which cemented him as best villain in the MCU, and gave us our first glimpse at Thanos. As with all Marvel films, the evil minions could have been better and it could have been a bit slicker but this is still one of the greatest film the MCU has produced.

Two: Guardians of the Galaxy

The best thing about Guardians was that it was such a breath of fresh air. It came after Thor: The Dark World and Winter Soldier had given us a supremely grim and dark set of Marvel films. It seemed to be following the Batman trend that dark and gritty was better when it came to superhero films. Guardians was always going to be something of an underdog because the source material wasn’t as well known to the general movie going public at the time. So it decided it wasn’t going to take itself too seriously and, boy, are we glad. This was the first comic book movie in such a long time to have a real sense of humour about itself. Director James Gunn managed to create something so full of joy that was also exciting enough for comic fans. This had it all.

One: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

I know a lot of people would put Guardians as their number one because it’s so watchable. I agree that it’s great but, in my heart, I know that Marvel as never been better than in Winter Soldier. Of course, it isn’t as fun or light-hearted but it’s really well crafted and it totally changed the landscape of Marvel’s future. It ramped up the emotional side thanks to Steve and Bucky’s friendship and it gave us the delightful Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson. It may have followed the Marvel staple of having a huge object fall to Earth in it’s finale but this film was so close to perfection. It deserves the top spot.

TBT – Captain America: The Winter Soldier (20

Chris Evans, comic book, comic books, films, fuck yeah, Marvel, reviews, Scarlett Johansson, TBT

After seeing Wonder Woman last week I claimed it was my favourite DC movie so far. It definitely is but, considering that it’s only the 4th, that isn’t really saying much. It’s not like the mind fuck of trying to work out which is the best Marvel movie. Most of the time my favourite will be whichever was the last film I saw but that’s only because my attention span is the same as a bloody goldfish. It also comes down to what you consider important for making a good film. I mean, a well-made film isn’t necessarily going to automatically entertain you the most. And, likewise, a super fun film isn’t necessarily going to be good. In a job interview a few years ago, whilst discussing this blog, I was asked what my favourite film was. Now, this is a terrible question to ask anyway but in an already stressed environment I almost collapsed. I ended up by garbling an answer like “I know it should be something classic like Citizen Kane but it’s probably more like Space Jam.” It’s a cop out but I think it raises a good point. The films that regularly grace the top of ‘the best films ever made’ lists aren’t necessarily the ones that you watch about 7 times a year. So do I chose something like Thor that I know isn’t the greatest but is so much fun to watch? Or do actually pick the greatest film in the franchise? Well, it’s been a while since I’ve seen that one so it’s probably time I revisited it. Oh, and fancy that, it happens to be Thursday too.

Oh what a difference a film makes. Before I saw Winter Solider I had very little interest in both Steve Rogers and Chris Evans. Now, he’s one of my favourite heroes in the MCU and my love of Chris Evans is threatening to overthrow my love of Chris Pratt. Hemsworth is still top and, I’m afraid, Chris Pine never really stood a chance. This was never a race for the top Chris spot in my heart but it was all about second place. The first Captain America film felt like a super rushed effort to get us to The Avengers before people got too distracted. It wasn’t a bad film by any stretch of the imagination but it certainly felt a bit too retro and hokey. So, as excited as I was to see Bucky return as the Winter Solider, I wasn’t exactly on the edge of my seat waiting for the sequel. What a fucking idiot I was back then.

The Winter Solider is, hands down, the greatest Marvel film that has ever been released. Don’t get my wrong, others come super close but this was the greatest all round film to come out of the studios. It was so unexpected. Not only did it completely change the tone of the character after the first movie but it broke the dreaded sequel curse that had afflicted both Iron Man and Thor. Yes, it might not have the relaxed and silly feel that Guardians has and or the great dialogue of Joss Whedon’s The Avengers; what it does have is everything else. It has a narrative that feels contemporary and relevant… or as relevant as a comic book movie can be. There are some great performances and a whole host of great new characters. It has action, excitement and emotional struggle. Cap has lost a lot of the campy feeling that weighed down the first film and is finally ready to show you what he can do. Turns out it’s fucking great.

After the events of The Avengers, Steve is trying to get to grips with the modern world whilst also helping out with any mission SHIELD needs his help with. Until Nick Fury discovers that the agency has actually been infiltrated by HYDRA agents. Turns out the group that Steve thought he had died stopping way back in the War have actually survived and waited until the perfect time to strike. They have possession of an algorithm that can reveal the identity of anyone who would potentially stand in their way and plan on unleashing deadly weapons to take them all out. There’s also the case of the mysterious super soldier that HYDRA seem to have at their disposal: a mam known only as the Winter Soldier. Cap must find out who he can and can’t trust as he tries to prevent the Nazi group carrying out their plan for mass murder. Thankfully, he has Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and new friend, Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) by his side, as well as a few more familiar faces.

The Winter Solider is a fantastic narrative that offers a suspense-filled political drama and an action-packed superhero movie. It also features plenty of soul searching for Steve as he comes face-to-face with people from his past. The story feels a lot more grown up than the Nazi chasing plot of the first film and, because it is based in the contemporary world, feels more relevant and cutting edge. There is plenty of action to keep you involved and the tension builds until the epic finale. Although, I will admit that there are certain issues and Winter Solider isn’t immune to the MCU’s final showdown rule where a huge structure falls to the Earth and causes untold amounts of damage. The narrative is full of great ideas but there is a lot going on. Certain sideline characters are introduced clumsily and not really given time to shine. There are a lot of parts to juggle and a lot of exposition to get in. However, for the most part, the film handles itself incredibly well.

Winter Solider is not the perfect film but it is the closest that Marvel has come to perfect. The Russo brothers do a great job taking over the reigns and allow the character to step out of his previously camp light. This is when Captain America stopped being a throwback and started being relevant in the landscape of contemporary film. It was a partnership that worked so well that the brothers returned to direct the equally great third film in Cap’s series, Civil War. I know there will always be disagreements about what is the greatest Marvel film but, for my part, The Winter Solider never fails to entertain me. And that’s all the really matters.

TBT – Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Chris Evans, comic book, films, Marvel, review, superhero, TBT

If it wasn’t for Iron Man 2 then I could safely say that Captain America is my least favourite film in the MCU. I’m not saying it’s the worst but it’s one of the ones I enjoyed the least. Prior to the hero’s first outing under the Marvel films banner, he was a comic book character I cared very little about. I knew about his major stories but, as a British comic book fan, I always found the patriotism too much to handle. Plus, he’s so fucking good and pure. It gets kind of boring you know. I like my heroes to be at least a little bit flawed and not so judgey. Then, of course, Winter Solider went and became one of the best Marvel movies of all time and I had to rethink my opinion on the whole thing. I’m not saying I’m completely head-over-heels about Cap but his trilogy of films is one of the best series of films Marvel has managed to create. So, with that in mind, I decided to rewatch the film that started everything off. Turns out I’d forgotten just how fucking creepy the CGI of tiny Steve actually is. I’m still having nightmares.

Watching this film again now, it becomes much more apparent that this was merely a way to rush forward to The Avengers. The release of Joss Whedon’s sensation was fast approaching and audiences had not yet met the leader of the super hero team. Although that is not to say that it was terrible but it lacked the precision and detail that we had seen in the likes of Iron Man. It feels like more of a nostalgia event than a slick super hero adventure. I guess one could argue that Captain America has always been somewhat camper than his fellow Avengers and the sort of hokey feel is incredibly fitting. Whatever excuses you can muster there is no denying that this is feels the most cartoonish of all the Marvel films to date.

The First Avenger presents the origin story of Captain America (Chris Evans) who started life as a skinny boy from Brooklyn and quickly became a symbol for America during the war. After desperately trying to sign up for the army and being rejected, Steve Rogers has a chance encounter with a scientist who promises to make his dreams come true. With the help of Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci) turns Steve into the greatest soldier the world has ever seen. Steve is strong, fast and, most importantly, good-hearted. He is quickly paraded in front of the nation to bring hope to the people and lift everyone’s spirits.

Captain America isn’t the big break in army that Steve hopes and the closest he gets to stopping Hitler is punching an actor in the face every night. That is until he discovers his childhood best friend Bucky (Sebastian Stan) and his entire division have been captured by the evil Nazi science division Hydra. When he single-handedly rescues the group Steve is allowed to bring together his best men to stop Hydra’s diabolical schemes. Unfortunately. the Nazi group aren’t just making military grade weapons. Under the leadership of the psychotic Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), Hydra have gone rogue and have their heart set on even more power.

I have to admit, I loved the 1940s setting for this film and would happily have held off on explaining how Steve came to join the Avengers in favour of more Nazi chasing. Some may find the mixture of classic 40s technology with science-fiction weirdness a bit off putting but I absolutely adored everything about the image of a super strong solider fighting a Nazi death ray. This is the kind of great twisting of historic events that has been used so effectively by the likes of The Watchmen and Inglorious Basterds. It’s great and I’d love to see much more of Steve and friends romping around in 1940s Europe.

The films narrative is fairly cohesive in comparison to many comic book movies and  has a fair few interesting twists. We see the progression of an honourable man turned from victim into hero and getting the chance he has strived for. It may be sentimental drivel but, in these hands, Steve’s story is worthy and inspiring. I even find that I can’t disagree with the fairly dicey romance plot because Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter is so darn adorable and badass that I see why Steve would fall for her so quickly. The First Avenger isn’t the most engaging or original origin story but it does what it needs to. It sets Cap up as the righteous hero that we will see him be for his next 3 films and tells us that he really fucking loves his best friend. It’s not the most memorable plot but it’ll do.

Much like the film as a whole. It’s enjoyable and, certainly, I found myself liking it more this time than I did after the first viewing. Chris Evans and Hayley Atwell are both fantastic in their roles and Tommy Lee Jones, as the gruff Colonel, does what he does perfectly. The action is as good as any comic book fan would want and the setting is well realised. However, there is so much here that could be better. Domic Cooper and Sebastian Stan are shunted into the background and not allowed to flourish as such key figures should. Hugo Weaving’s villain is very one-note and clichéd that I’m kind of embarrassed for him. The dialogue is cringey in a way that transcends the whole “getting to grips with the era” thing and there are some weird directorial choices throughout.

This is by no means a terrible film but is a film that, quite clearly hasn’t pushed itself. It needed to do a job and it needed to do it quickly. It goes as far as it needs to and no more. In a manner in keeping with the idea of rationing, each aspect of the film seems to have been pushed only as far as it needed to tell this story with no sense of embellishment or added excitement. It’s as serious as Steve when he’s standing up to a bully but without the depth, sophistication or deft touch as many films in this genre. It will never be my favourite film in the MCU but, as it turns out, it paved the way for many of them.

Tuesday’s Reviews – Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Chris Evans, comic book, films, Marvel, Paul Rudd, review, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson

There was plenty of ridiculous drama that went into me finally getting to see the third film in the Captain America trilogy that I’m loathe to bring up. However, I have no other way to introduce my new topic so I’m going to retell the whole petty tale. I have a friend whom I love unconditionally but she’s a huge fucking drama queen. She’s recently got into a new relationship and is, obviously, all about spending her time with her new boyfriend. As such, she’s difficult to tie down for cinema trips. I’d promised her I’d watch this film with her because her new man isn’t much of a film lover and hates comic book movies. Problem is, she won’t commit to a date because she doesn’t know when he’s free. Considering how desperate I was to see this film I got understandably annoyed about her unwillingness to pick a date. Not a problem you might think, I can go without her. Unfortunately, if she ever got wind of the fact that I was contemplating going with someone else then she’d start thinking I’d replaced her with someone else. You see, fucking drama! At 28 I really don’t have time for that school playground bff bullshit so I’m incredibly unsympathetic about the whole thing. Which is exactly why I snuck off to the cinema with a mutual friend behind her back and why I’ll never tell her I’ve seen it. I love my friends to the ends of the Earth but nobody keeps me from the MCU.

Marvel films seems to understand Captain America more than any of its other heroes. He’s the only hero who’s sequel was better than the first and is the only one that has the strongest overarching narrative. These films are built on the friendship between Steve and Bucky and it is Cap’s struggle to save his best friend that has made these films worth watching. Civil War marks the culmination of everything Captain America and Winter Soldier have been preparing us for. I love you Peggy but we all know that Steve’s real OTP is James Barnes.

Civil War pretty much picks up after the events of Age of Ultron where the new Avengers are on a mission in Lagos to prevent Crossbones high-tailing it out of town with a vial of some deadly disease. In the drama Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) inadvertently creates chaos trying to stop Captain American (Chris Evans) being blown up. As this is just the latest in a long line of destruction for the super team politicians of the World unite and attempt to restrict the movements of Earth’s heroes. Unfortunately, the pals don’t all agree to the Sokovia Accords, named after the country that suffered during the battle with Ultron.

Cap disagrees with government control and refuses to sign the accords, something that Iron Man, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) has an issue with. Cap and his ever loyal sidekick , Falcon (Anthony Mackie) are told to hand in their guns and badge and leave the super life behind. Unforunately, that is exactly the same time that a bomb explodes at the UN causing the death of the King of Wakanda supposedly by the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) himself. Captain goes against the government to find his friend first and discovers that Bucky has been set up.

This starts an increasingly ridiculous situation that pits superhero against superhero to either protect or capture dear old Buck. Both Iron Man and Captain America have their followers who are fighting for various and, quite often, flimsy reasons but, provided we see a massive punch-up, I guess it doesn’t matter. Team Cap includes: Bucky; Flacon; Scarlet Witch; Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner); Ant Man (Paul Rudd); and ex-shield agent Sharon Carter. Team Iron Man is made up of: Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson); War Machine (Don Cheadle); Vision (Paul Bettany); and the mysterious Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman). I have an issue with the need for people to take sides but I can’t deny it creates quite a spectacle. The airport showdown is, quite possibly, the greatest scene in the MCU so far.

Captain America: Civil War makes me feel quite conflicted if I’m honest. I totally enjoyed it and the fan girl in me squeed for the full 3000 hour run. However, I felt like it was trying to do too much to the extent that things weren’t as good as they could have been. The airport battle was fucking intense but getting there was difficult and never felt like the logical end to the events on screen. It was never explained in such a way that didn’t make it all feel like a massive stretch. Motivations aren’t clear and most of the choices just don’t make sense for the characters we know and love. I mean I still have no fucking clue why Hawkeye is even fighting. Didn’t he retire? Why does he give a shit?

Plus, there was the desire to introduce so many recurring and new characters that it seemed a bit messy and bloated. It’s a long film and there were time when it felt like it was dragging. Although, I don’t really know what I’d want to lose because Spider Man and Black Panther were two of the best things about the whole thing and I’m super excited about their solo outings. I just wish the whole thing about the Sokovia Accords had had been cut out and it came down to a fight centred on Cap and Bucky’s friendship. I mean that’s essentially what the trilogy has been all about and is the only real reason that Steve would turn his back on his fellow Avengers. The government twist just made things messier.

Still, this was the film that Avengers 2 should have been. It was a great meeting of so many characters and was funny, dark and emotional. The actors all did a great job. Paul Rudd managed to be funny during the most intense moments and Tom Holland looks set to be a great Peter Parker. Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans manage to play their familiar roles with added depth as both Tony and Steve find themselves going down dark paths due to recent events. Tony’s continued declining mental state is both devastating and fantastic to watch. In terms of the characters coming together Civil War gets it right and it feels like it makes amends for the sequel to The Avengers.

However, it tries to do too much and include too much. The overall big baddie is pretty unnecessary and there are a few plot twists that I think we could have done without. Still, despite all of my natural criticisms, I couldn’t help but love this film. It shows that Phase 3 is going to be wild. Thanks to the plot looking at the consequences of extreme power, it shows that we are moving into more grown-up territory and a more mature MCU in the future. It explores some great ideas and, at the end of the day, gives the audience what it wanted from this story. Super heroes beating the shit out of each other. And, if I’m honest, it fucking rocked.