Tag Archives: Chris Evans

We Won’t Tell You Who Dies

Avengers: Infinity War

by Hope Madden and George Wolf

Let’s say you recently penned Captain America: Civil War, an exceedingly successful comic book franchise effort weighed down by the mushrooming of heroes. So. Many. Heroes.

And let’s say it went so well that you are now tasked with the new Avengers movie—the film that takes very nearly every hero from your last effort and tacks on, say, 7 or 8 more. You would almost have to immediately think about thinning the herd, right?

Yes.

Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (who’ve penned all three Captain America films) weave a Marvel Universe-spanning tale that asks whether or not things would work out better if we had about half as many people to deal with. That seems like writerly self-reflection right there.

Thanos (Josh Brolin, who villains it up for Deadpool 2 next) believes in balance. He’s been collecting Infinity Stones across all the different Marvel movies so he can create this Justice Friends adventure and rid the universe of half its inhabitants.

Wait, Thanos is a Guardians of the Galaxy villain, right? Does that mean Starlord’s entire rag-tag crew will join the Avengers (and Dr. Strange and Black Panther and Spiderman and on and on)? So, Chris Pratt, Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth?

Correct.

All we need to defeat Thanos is Chris Pine. No way six Infinity Stones can outshine the wattage of all the Chrisses!

The screenplay offers smart comic moments that suit individual characters (Drax! Teenaged Groot!) and never undermine the drama, of which there is plenty. And balance is clearly on the minds of the writers as well as directors Anthony and Joe Russo (who helmed the last two Captain American films and love Cleveland). The storyline divides up nicely to allow the plethora of personalities to shine, each in their own way.

Though the film runs a full 2 ½ hours with the end-of-credits stinger, it never drags. Plenty happens, all of it rooted in character and held together by Brolin, who gives the film a layered epicenter through his memorable CGI/voice performance.

The Thanos facial effects rank somewhere between Planet of the Apes and Superman’s mustache, while the outlying worlds and creatures sport satisfactory shine.

But we cannot get behind what they’re doing with Hulk. Not digging it.

The very best films in the Marvel universe excel in nuanced big thinking (Black Panther, Winter Soldier) or bullseye tonality (Spider-Man: Homecoming). Infinity War gets close on both battlegrounds, but lays up to bet on its own long game.

True, that sounds like cliched word salad, but we’re steering clear of planet spoiler.

Infinity War tackles some big ideas and makes some brave choices that may cause you to reassess the entire Marvel franchise.

Not everyone will be pleased.

But props to Markus, McFeely and the Russos, for being unmoved by the Last Jedi fanboy uproar and following an ambitious vision. And their film does entertain. There’s not a minute of bloat and there is plenty of thought-provoking story likely to make this a movie earning more respect through time and space.

Girl with All the Gifts

Gifted

by Hope Madden

A pensive charmer tries to raise a child prodigy on his own. Gifted offers a premise as rife with possibilities as it is weighed down by likely cliché and melodrama, and it strangely meanders somewhere between the two.

Chris Evans attempts the gruff everyman with some success, playing Uncle Frank, guardian to math genius Mary (Mckenna Grace – very solid). Against the advice of his landlord and Mary’s bestie Roberta (Octavia Spencer), Frank enrolls Mary as a first grader in a local public school.

There Mary wows her good natured teacher (Jenny Slate), and draws the attention of her grandmother (Lindsay Duncan), who’s been MIA since Mary’s mother – another family genius – died when the girl was just a babe.

What’s the best way to care for a gifted child? This is the conundrum at the heart of the film. In rooting out the answer, writer Tom Flynn wisely keeps Mary at the center of the story. She’s an actual character, not a prop for evangelizing one course of action over another.

Luckily, Grace is up to the task, and her chemistry with Evans feels genuine enough to make you invest in their story.

Perhaps more important is Duncan, a formidable talent who elevates a tough role. She, too, shares a warm chemistry with Evans, and it’s that kind of unexpected character layering that helps Gifted transcend its overcooked family dramedy leanings.

On occasion, Gifted is Little Man Tate without the pathos. At other times, it’s Good Will Hunting for first graders.

Strong performances help the film navigate sentimental trappings, but Flynn’s script veers off in too many underdeveloped and downright needless directions, and director Marc Webb ((500) Days of Summer) can’t find a tone.

Gifted is warm without being too sweet. Though it knows the answer to the question it’s asking, the film resists oversimplification and never stoops to pitting one-dimensional characters against each other in service of a sermon.

Though the final decision about what’s best for Mary is really never in doubt, in getting to that revelation, the film acknowledges nuance in the choice.

That’s not to say Gifted avoids cliché altogether, or that it embraces understatement. It does not – on either count. But it does present an intriguing dilemma, populates its story with thoughtful, almost realistic characters, and refuses to condescend to its audience or its characters.

Verdict-3-0-Stars

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.

Verdict-3-5-Stars

Snow and Ice for Your Queue

One of the best films of 2014 releases to DVD and BluRay today, and if you haven’t seen Snowpiercer, you should do so now. Well told, fast paced, and tense, the entire action flick is confined to the claustrophobic innards of a high speed train. It’s a post apocalyptic cautionary tale that boasts savvy writing and wry humor, plus a handful of stand out performances – none better than Tilda Swinton’s. Chris Evans anchors the film, though, proving again that he is more than a pretty face and a nice set of abs.

If you’re looking for another reason to believe in Chris Evans, try 2012’s The Iceman. The gritty biopic tells of mob killer Richard Kuklinski as portrayed by the always phenomenal Michael Shannon. Evans is almost unrecognizable as Kuklinski’s cohort in crime Mr. Freezy, and together the two actors create a strangely sympathetic yet cold image of crime’s underbelly and a criminal’s fractured world.

Occupy the Bar Car

 

Snowpiercer

by George Wolf

 

Those pinhead libs in Hollywood are at it again! This time, they’ve got something called Snowpiercer, and are trying to distract us with simmering tension, a smart script and terrific action, but the hidden agenda is clearly just another unwarranted attack on our job creators!

Actually, the agenda is far from hidden, in fact, it might as well be a deadly-aimed snowball right to the face of John Galt.

And damn, it’s well done.

Adapted from a 1982 French graphic novel, Snowpiercer drops us in the year 2031, 17 years after a desperate attempt to curb global warming instead resulted in a new ice age. What’s left of humanity travels the globe on a high speed train, where a very specific social order is enforced. Can you guess?

Makers in the luxurious front, takers in the squalid back.

But there’s a revolution brewing, reluctantly led by the cunning, pensive Curtis (Chris Evans, solid again) and his eager, impulsive sideman Edgar (Jamie Bell). After another degrading “know your place” speech by Minister Mason (Tilda Swinton, gloriously over-the-top), the charge to take over the train begins.

In his English-language debut, South Korean director/co-writer Joon-ho Bong flexes some serious filmmaking muscle. Bong (The Host, Mother) takes full advantage of the claustrophobic setting, both as a metaphor for the ills of society and as a springboard for spectacularly realized action sequences.

His pacing is impeccable as well, ratcheting up the tension incrementally as the rebels advance one train car at a time.

Snowpiercer is a film that’s also very aware of the well-worn path it treads. The story, born in the days of Reaganomics, employs a very high-concept premise to illustrate its still-relevant themes. Bong suspends any disbelief with a mixture of B-movie earnestness and black comedy, as well as constant nods to today’s political climate (notice how Swinton enunciates “occupy”) and classic films of years past (from Soylent Green to The Shining).

It’s all completely captivating, and downright refreshing in the way Bong and his game cast (also featuring John Hurt, Octavia Spencer and South Korean film vet Kang-ho Song) respect both the material and their audience. Even the most fervent critics of the “Hollywood elite” may appreciate the questions raised about personal sacrifice and abuse of power.

By the time the Twilight Zone-style dominoes start falling near film’s end, you realize the most thrilling ride of the summer may not be at the amusement park after all.

 

Verdict-4-0-Stars

 

 

Captain Fantastic

 

Captain America:  The Winter Soldier

by George Wolf

 

Robert Redford’s appearance as S.H.I.E.L.D director Alexander Pierce not only brings a boost of legendary star power to Captain America:  The Winter Soldier, but also provides a direct link to thrillers of old that the film recalls.

The new Captain adventure has its feet firmly planted in the world of spies and political intrigue. Think Redford classics such as Three Days of the Condor or All the President’s Men with a healthy dose of Avenging, and you’re getting warm.

Much of what made Captain America:  The First Avenger work was the way it fully embraced the bygone era and dogged earnestness of Captain Steve Rogers. This time out, First Avenger screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely return to successfully bring their hero into the present while casting a knowing eye toward the future. The tandem also wrote Thor:  The Dark World, and they clearly have impressive instincts for how to foster superpowers.

Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans, effortlessly charming) is adjusting to his new time period, partly by embracing the internet and keeping a notebook of things he missed that deserve attention (like the birth of Apple and classic Marvin Gaye).  After an exciting rescue of high seas hostages, murderous events lead Cap, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, effortlessly sexy) and Nick Fury (Sam Jackson, effortlessly badass) to realize someone is dirty in the land of S.H.I.E.L.D, and they have a secret weapon of their own.

He’s the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) an assassin with a familiar backstory and an ambitious target list:  Cap and his crew, including new superfriend Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie).

The Winter Soldier is witty and clever (be sure to read that gravestone) but it may also be the most cerebral of the Marvel movies. It respects the past while confronting the complexities of modern life and wondering what they mean for our future.

For some of the youngest audience members, that may mean some stretches of restlessness. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo do provide impressive and well-paced action sequences, but it’s what comes between the fisticuffs that gives The Winter Soldier a weighty, dare I say realistic relevance.

And, per the Marvel way, stay in your seat for some extra shawarma midway through the credits, and another serving at the very end.

 

Verdict-3-5-Stars