Tag Archives: Anthony Russo

War Torn


by Hope Madden

Ohio is trying to kill Tom Holland.

Last year we lured this sweety pie to Knockemstiff with the sole purpose of, well, knocking him stiff in Antonio Campos’s big screen adaptation of Donald Pollack’s novel The Devil All the Time.

And now Cleveland.

Filmmakers and brothers Joe and Anthony Russo—both fans of The Land, having filmed many of their Marvel films there—bring Nico Walker’s Cleveland-based semi-autobiographical novel to the screen. Cherry sees a young man, nameless through most of the film, make a bad decision and then pay for it dearly for the rest of his life.

That young man is played with as much humanity and tenderness as you’ve come to expect from Holland. You cannot root against this kid.

Walker himself, whose novel was adapted for the screen by Angela Russo-Otstot and Jessica Goldberg, apparently wrote what he knew. The Russos take his tale and, in their best moments, inject a cynical visual commentary to offset Holland’s earnest good nature.

The star draws support from some impressive ensemble work. Forrest Goodluck (The Revenant) and Jack Raynor (Midsommar) deliver an excellent mix of tragedy and comedy, while Ciara Bravo gives love interest Emily a believably bruised soul.

The combination, when it works, generates a knowing story about a screwup who paid too high a price for one mistake but never lost his humanity.

It doesn’t always work, though.

Cherry clocks in at a hefty 2:20 and it feels for all the world like the Russos and their writers simply didn’t know how or where to cut Walker’s story down. The movie lacks focus.

And while there are clever stylistic choices made—the names of the banks as written on walls and other nods toward a subversive side commentary—the structure is far, far too standard. This should feel like no other movie you’ve ever seen because Walker’s story is really unusual.

Instead, Cherry seems too much like a string of broken person meets terrible consequences before facing personal demons thrillers.

Stark and the Captain Make it Happen

Captain America: Civil War

by Hope Madden


Cap (Chris Evans) and his besties battle their own in a fight to save the Avengers. In-fighting is rarely this entertaining.

Who would have guessed that the best stand-alone Avengers series would be Captain America’s? He lacks the edge of Iron Man or the SciFi sex appeal of Thor. Still – whether it’s because the series remains true to the nature of the character, or because Christopher Marcus and Stephen McFeely know how to pen a compelling superhero flick – Steve Rogers shoulders the most reliable Avengers franchise.

Civil War even manages to succeed where most superhero sequels fail by squeezing in a fully ridiculous number of characters without over-burdening the narrative. Minimizing the number and presence of villains helps, because, while there is a baddie in Civil War, the majority of combat comes courtesy of Hero V Hero.

The film begs comparison to the much maligned DC superhero standoff Batman V Superman for obvious reasons. Our heroes are mad at each other; collateral damage and the need for oversight are to blame; mommy issues run deep. Certainly, Civil War handles the material better, but part of that is because of the film’s affection for established characters.

McFeely and Marcus’s humorous screenplay allows the natural chemistry among the players to shine brighter than their individual star power.

Directors Anthony and Joe Russo – following up their success with the Winter Soldier – lens many of the action sequences with great movement and punch, but the climactic battle between the biggies should feel bigger. The camera captures individual pairings to make the most of character expression, one-liners, and fun, but the brothers behind the camera never step back far enough to give us a look at at the larger-than-life battle taking place.

Are there other flaws? Sure. I mean, you and I know that it’s pointless to disbelieve or distrust Captain America. Of course he’s right – he’s the conscience of the Marvel universe. So why doesn’t Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) know it? Also, Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) never find a groove as characters, but the new Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and a wildly enjoyable Spider-Man (Tom Holland) more than make up for that. Plus, Ant Man (Paul Rudd) is a hoot, regardless of the fact that he clearly has no idea why he’s fighting against other good guys.

Civil War stands out as certainly the biggest of the stand alones, and among the best because of what it has in common with the better films in the Marvel universe: the conflict is deeply human, told humorously, and best enjoyed if you don’t overthink it.