The Hate U Give

I have heard about The Hate U Give at least two years ago as a teacher in middle school. I had not read it yet, but I did want to read it. I just never got around to it. You know, movies and all.

I knew I had to wait until after I saw the movie. Maybe it would be like this year´s Wonder, in terms of book lovers all excited. Wonder was decent, and the book was decent. I assume there were a lot of fears about turning this allegedly very great book into a mediocre or shit movie. It has a big uphill battle, but at least its subject matter has been making good strides in cinema lately.

This year we already got Blindspotting and Sorry To Bother You, but neither of them are from the kid perspective. Of course, if there are already great movies on similar topics, it has a lot to live up to.

The Hate U Give has a lot of battles to climb, so on its own, it is its own representation of race relations. Another way to examine this is the IMDB rating, which at the time of writing is a 4.6, weeks before it comes out. Why? Oh, almost 200 votes for 1/10. Either this movie is very polarizing, or you know, racism.

Stare
Pretty sure we all know what she thinks.

A few years ago, the Carter family had to have ¨the talk.¨ So Lisa (Regina Hall) and Mav (Russell Hornsby) sat down their three kids, Seven (Lamar Johnson), Starr (Amandla Stenberg), and Sekani (TJ Wright). The oldest are just in their pre-teens, but it is time. No, this talk isn´t about sex. It is about what to do if they are in a situation where they are detained or pulled over by the cops.

This is a real talk that black families are starting to have to talk to, due to the violence and targeting that is going on in our country. It is not a great talk, but for families that care for each other, who know they cannot always be there to protect them, it is necessary.

It is the type of loving family that Starr grew up in, full of knowledge and strength. And now she goes to school outside of the hood she lives in. It is a white school, with white friends, white boyfriends (K.J. Apa) who won´t ever understand what she is going through at home. She has to balance these two lives. But it is when tragedy strikes her life and her friend Khalil (Algee Smith), she has her worlds start to crash together, giving her a whole new insight to this thing called life.

Also starring Common, Issa Rae, Sabrina Carpenter, Dominique Fishback, Megan Lawless, and Anthony Mackie as a bad guy drug dealer. Been awhile since he has turned south in his roles.

Hands Up
Hands up won´t protect her on its own, but that Carolina Blue shirt will help.

The Hate U Give is a powerhouse from start to finish. From ¨the talk¨ at the start of the film, to the different worlds, to the cop tragedy, to the protests, to the speeches, to the riots. It is full of emotion from unexpected places. My first cry was because the father was by his daughters side after a nightmare. She wasn´t screaming causing him to run in the door. No, she woke up panicked and he was already there. Just subtle clues to show that clearly he had fallen asleep in a chair by her side to protect her, to help her with the morning after, and just be a goddamn amazing father. And that is the type of stuff that gets me.

Sure, I did cry a few other times, not just a one and done deal. It is hard not to get wrapped up in the story. Hell, at over 2 hours it almost doesn´t feel long enough. I need more of the story, I need to be there to help comfort the characters, to rage against the machine or whatever it takes. I am definitely going to grab the book, and it is going to make me upset just like the movie.

And more importantly, it is going to get me more upset about real life. I am white, if my writing doesn´t make that obvious. I am a man, if you cannot tell with my boob tags. And this is the type of movie that can get people to see the other side of the fence if they come to it with any amount of openness.

Stenberg was fantastic in the lead role. She wasn´t great in The Darkest Minds, but no one was. She was good in Everything, Everything despite the fact that I didn´t like the movie. But she was outstanding in this film. She carries a lot of weight and emotion in her face. Hornsby as the dad is my goddamn hero. I hope I can one day grow into a worldly intelligent and caring man like him.

Just so much of this film is relevant, at this point, it is practically essential viewing. It deals with heavy topics that kids in their pre-teens can better handle unlike other films and will be seen in schools throughout the nation within the next year.

4 out of 4.

Avengers: Infinity War

I really don’t have to spend a lot of information on this intro, do I?

Avengers: Infinity War (originally called Avengers: Infinity War Part 1, but people were nervous about half movies, and now the next one’s title is a secret because of spoilers or something.

I was an ecstatic little girl when the first Avengers film came out, waiting for it as soon as the first Iron Man film finished. Since then, things have been a bit more middling. My reviews have generally always been positive, none of them ever received under a 2 out of 4, and some of which are maybe too highly rated. Not everything I am extremely excited for, but most I definitely have a higher interest.

Last year, no superhero movies made my top of the year list (although one of them was about a super hero, sort of). This year, I already had Black Panther as a 4. And yet this film, this one right here, has me just as giddy as the first one for so many reasons.

So let’s just get into it.

Group 2
Oh yeah, look at these folks. Maybe this is just Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3?

At the end of Thor: Ragnarok, we had a surprise for Thor and his crew. This film takes place right after that point. Bad news for the Asgardians, Thanos (Josh Brolin) is here. At this point he has one of the infinity stones, out of six total. His goal? To wipe out half of the life in the universe.

Now presumably this just means sentient life forms who walk around and have languages. I don’t think he has anything against puppies. Or plants. He isn’t doing it out of spite, he is calling it mercy. It is sort of his thing. He has been doing it manually with his own crew for a while, but he wants the stones to do it instantly, so that the survivors can flourish. You know, by having more resources, more space, less crime, whatever. He is a benevolent God.

It turns out some people have some issues with him wanting to do this though. And with two of the stones (that we know of) being on Earth, he is going to have to come crashing down, where a few people down there are decently strong and going to have to put up a little fight.

Starring every goddamn person ever. You know, Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, Karen Gillan, Danai Gurira, Bradley Cooper, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Benedict Wong, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Zoe Saldana, Tom Hiddleston, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Idris Elba, Pom Klementieff, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Chris Pratt, and Benicio Del Toro.

Also featuring some newbies, like Peter Dinklage and Carrie Coon! Two whole people! Wow! And some technically regular people like Gwyneth Paltrow and William Hurt. Damn, did I get them all?

Group
What is this a crossover episode?

What’s to say that isn’t already all over the internet?

Avengers: Infinity War is a fan pleasing romp across the universe, adding most of the cast we have come to love into a few surprising show downs, where the stakes have never been higher. It is certainly one of the darker and serious Marvel films at this point. People are going to get hurt, people are going to be sad, and people are going to cry. Well, maybe. I know I cried near the end, and almost another time before then.

Acting wise, a lot of the stars gave their A-game. Shout out to Cumberbatch who really felt like a leader of this group, despite being one of the most recent additions. Holland was brought in for his acting ability, and it really showed by the end. A lot of pain was on Evans’ face throughout the film. Hemsworth is so goddamn Thor-y, its fantastic, and I am glad we got so much of him in the last few movies. And finally, Saldana, who is normally a low point from the acting carried a lot.

Of course I also have to talk about Brolin as Thanos, a role we have been waiting for for years and it really paid off well. This is a goddamn villain right here. It is really great writing when you sympathize with someone who is trying to kill half of the universe.

I don´t entirely know where Marvel is going with its ending, but I do have a feeling I will be incredibly annoyed by it in the next film. I think they are going to take what they did great here and ruin it with the second part, but that is just a gut feeling.

Avengers: Infinity Wars has some of the best fight scenes and team ups yet, and is just pure fan service through and through while giving an incredible story as well. I wish this film was longer.

I don´t have to tell you to go see this one, I know you will, and I can´t see anyone who likes the series to be disappointed with this milestone achievement.

If there is anything to be disappointed in, it is Marvel´s poor decisions to not include their other people. I haven´t seen Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in forever, but it seemed to react to the movies but never impact them, but someone from there might have been involved. And the Netflix shows? Come on, there was stuff happening in New York. If the Netflix shows ignore this event (which they didn´t ignore the first Avengers movie…) then they are just making poor decisions.

Group
You’d think with three group shots I’d have gotten all the heroes. But nope.

4 out of 4.

Captain America: Civil War

Captain America: The Winter Soldier before 2016 was the best Marvel movie to date. It was solid all around, had the best action, the biggest stakes, and was nearly perfect. Before that, Captain America: The First Avenger was probably the second most solid solo film of Phase 1, behind Iron Man and also behind The Avengers.

Despite the resounding success of Captain America films and the Russo Brothers at directing, I was worried about Captain America: Civil War. Like, really really worried.

First of all, it is one of the only full plot lines I have actually read the comics for, so it holds a special place in my heart.

Second, I had seen a few trailers and I was worried about a lot of things. If the trailers gave too much away. That the plot felt forced (unnatural) and the big fight between the two groups would be cheesy. That the previous films didn’t set things up enough for the resentment to be believable.

A huge list of worries. I only need to state them out clear so I am not shown to be a fanboy. Especially after Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, I was ready for disappointment.

Shield
And no matter what happened, I would be Team Cap all the way.

This movie will make more sense if you saw Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man. I assume you did, because come on, Marvel.

The film actually starts out, after some flashbacks, in Lagos, Nigeria! Some current avengers (Captain America (Chris Evans), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen)) are staking out important buildings, looking for Crossbones (Frank Grillo). Needless to say, not everything goes perfectly and some civilians get hurt. Namely, a group of missionaries!

Based on those events, the events in NYC, in Sokovia, and more, the world has decided to stand up in unity and demand action. Over 100 countries have signed the Sokovia Accords, which states that the Avengers will now only act if they have permission from a UN Panel, and of course, have to act if they deem it necessary. A few of the Avengers agree with these accords. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is feeling guilty and War Machine (Don Cheadle) is on his side. Hell, even Vision (Paul Bettany) feels it is necessary to avoid problems in the future.

But not Captain. He has trust issues with these sorts of groups now, and doesn’t want to be forced to step aside if he sees wrong doing, or be forced to do something he sees as wrong. So he doesn’t sign the papers. The papers are led by the King of Wakanda, T’Chaka (John Kani), who is especially pissed that their primary export was used to make Ultron. And sure enough, more bad things happen. Apparently The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) is at it again!

Fuck, so much shit. Captain believes Bucky is just brainwashed and wants to protect his old friend and not let the government kill him. So yeah, there is some conflict here. Captain and a few others agree to help him out, to get to the bottom of all of this, while the other guys have to stop them for negligently doing bad things to the UN and other officers. Fuck, who is right, I don’t know?!

Also featuring the return of Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), and Agent 13 (Emily VanCamp). And of course, introducing Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther, Tom Holland as Spider-Man, Marisa Tomei as Aunt May, and Daniel Brühl as Baron Zemo. William Hurt plays the Secretary of State and Martin Freeman as the head of the UN Avengers Council thing.

Shield2
Shit Spider-Man, why do you gotta go and steal my boy’s shield like that?

Captain America: Civil War is two and a half hours long, but I found myself wanting more. I needed more. More of everything! I could spend the next 500 words just comparing it to BvS, but that wouldn’t be a review of this film, it’d just be a shitty comparison. So I will keep it short: Civil War did a lot of things right that BvS did not.

Civil War turns out to be a fanboy’s wet dream. The action is incredible throughout most of the film. For each and every spout of athleticism, you can understand the fight. There aren’t a thousand quick cuts or shaky cameras. You will not only see well choreographed fighting skill sets before your eyes, but each character fights true to their persona and powers, so no one ends up fighting the same. Of course, a lot of heroes end up fighting and battling with other heroes. We also get tons of team ups you haven’t seen before. All of this creates for some intense scenes with a whole lot of fan service.

Now now, I know what you are thinking. If basically everyone is a good guy with future films, the tension can’t be real. Well, for the most part you shouldn’t expect people to die. Because it is a comic book movie and all that reason. I am not saying people don’t die, but I am saying for sure a lot of people do get hurt, both physically and emotionally. This is not a movie that wraps up everything with a nice big bow, it changes the future landscape of the films…much like The Winter Soldier did.

On another note, Civil War doesn’t go the obvious route throughout the plot. It didn’t go the typical Marvel movie route. It didn’t just keep escalating the odds to ridiculous levels. It had emotional backing behind it, on every side and even on the villain side. Some can complain that the villain is too calculating, but when I compare his plan to someone like Lex Luther’s (fuck I did it again), his makes a lot more sense without ridiculous stretches.

Shield3
Thank’s Black Panther. You are clearly just aggressively giving the shield back here.

Now here, allow me to hype things.

Black Panther HYPE! What a great introduction to this guy. He was shown to be strong, agile, moral with conflicting issues given his royal upbringing. His inclusion in this film was well written and explained, along with why he chose to fight. He is in this film a bunch, more than most of the other Avengers. I am so excited for this eventual film and future roles.

Spider-Man HYPE! Spider-Man was in this film a lot more than I expected as well. We got to see him as Peter Parker a bit as well for an introduction. His fighting was very spider like, along with his normal combat quips. They also showed his age really well, when compared to the old ass fuckers on the team, giving a clear and distinct gap in knowledge bases and general attitude.

Future films HYPE! I can’t wait for more. Like I said originally, I wasn’t looking forward to Civil War. After BvS, I certaintly wasn’t looking forward to Suicide Squad. All of my hopes were riding with X-Men: Apocalypse, which I don’t see as being good as the last two, and Doctor Strange, which I am pretty excited for. But now I have higher hopes for the future of Marvel films. Higher than I already anticipated.

On a final note, despite the large cast and significance of the plot, Civil War was worthy of being called a Captain America film. It wasn’t just Avengers 2.5. His characters was largely the focus of the film, but at the same time he wasn’t a simple protagonist. Chris Evans is GOAT, hooray movies.

4 out of 4.

Triple 9

Say what you will about Triple 9‘s vague title, but I think we can all agree that it is a better title than just 999.

This is one of the rare fun times where I actually know nothing about the film outside of movie posters and actors involved! But the director is John Hillcoat, who also directed Lawless and The Road, two films I adore.

And the cover gives a nice terrorist/angry gunman feel to it. A bit dark, something that feels more like a September film, not a February film.

Cops
Some rumors say this is actually the real True Detective Season 2.

Michael Atwood (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and his group (Norman Reedus, Aaron Paul, Anthony Mackie, Clifton Collins Jr.) are robbing a bank. Why? Well, working for a client. They are all friends, but more importantly, they are all ex-military, special forces, or cops. Current cops.

So they know how to get shit done. However, when they deliver the package to Irina Vlaslov (Kate Winslet), they don’t get paid, she demands a second, harder job (for more money), and also ends up killing one of the crew to shows he is serious. Michael can’t walk away, because his son is basically a hostage in this situation.

However, the second job involves breaking into a Department of Homeland Security building. They have guards, private security, and the cops have it on speed dial. So they decide that the only way they can pull off the heist is to do a code 999. Kill a cop. Then everyone in the area will report, because every cop wants to get a cop killer. They know who to pick too. Chris Allen (Casey Affleck), who is one of their new partners, just transferred over, and the son of Sergeant Detective Jeffrey Allen (Woody Harrelson) who is also on their case.

But can they do it? The team is a unique group of individuals. Some are shit, some are good guys deep down in bad circumstances, and some are just train wrecks.

Also starring Gal Gadot, Teresa Palmer, E. Roger Mitchell, Luis Da Silva Jr., Michelle Ang, and Michael Kenneth Williams a transgendered prostitute.

Heist
That last note is really all the reason you need to see this film. Even if it is just one scene.

First of all, let me just talk about Kate Winslet. She is a goddamn chameleon. I had no idea it was her in this movie. Just like I had no idea it was her in Steve Jobs. Her role wasn’t as good as it was in Steve Jobs, but it was unique and I just couldn’t tell it was her at all. I love these surprises in the credits.

Triple 9 has a lot of twists and turns, and honestly, most of them were not easy to predict at all. It was keeping me on the edge of the seat throughout the film. In fact, it begins like we are already in the middle of a story. It can take awhile to catch up, but it gradually gives you bits and pieces to help put the whole story together, to find out why these men know each other and why they are in this situation.

It is a great way of doing things, but it is perhaps its biggest downfall.

Triple 9 is also a crowded film. There are a few plot lines going on, all at the same time, and not everything makes sense. Not just unexplained plot points, but character actions. For the life of me, I don’t understand how a criminal organization, wanting an almost impossible job to be done, would kill one of the five member crew before hand to show they are serious, making it even more impossible. Dumb criminals are the worst, especially when on screen they are played off as being intelligent and calculating.

Harrelson was also disappointing in this movie. His character felt like a shit version of his character from True Blood. Less accent, but all the self destructive behavior. There was no way this man was the lead detective for any precinct, as he acted like some beat cop the whole time.

The action is great, the twists are good, but in all honesty a lot of the plot is generic/incomprehensible. Worth watching at least once, just from the comfort of your own home.

2 out of 4.

Black Or White

The middle day of Blackweek and also the last expected review for this theme. I had said three movies came out in January with Black in the title, and you probably could figure them out. Day 4 and 5 are a mystery though!

Black or White is the first (and only? We will seeee) of the movies in this theme to actually have anything to do with race. Who the fuck even know what Blackhat was about, title wise. Some hacking shit.

This movie however does not feature the Michael Jackson song of the same name, nor a Macaulay Culkin cameo. Such a shame.

Girl
“If you’re thinking about my baby it don’t matter if it is while watching Black Or White!”

This movie isn’t about your ordinary child custody case. This one involves mostly grandparents. Elliot (Kevin Costner) and his wife Carol (Jennifer Ehle) have been looking after their granddaughter, Eloise (Jillian Estell). Her mom, their daughter, died during child birth due to complications. Complications that could have been stopped if hey were there, but she gave birth in secret hiding it from them, because the parents wouldn’t have approved of her relationship. Not just because it was interracial, but because of age differences and more.

Well, now Carol is dead too. So Elliot is over his head. He is also an alcoholic. Either way, he does the best he can, gets a tutor (Mpho Koaho), and takes time off work. But it might not be good enough. So, Eloise’s other grandmother, Rowena (Octavia Spencer) wants to sue for custody. She has a big support network, has culture and experience and believes has the better interest for the girl. Heck, she eventually even has the father (André Holland), out of prison and off drugs now, ready to be a daddy (maybe).

So let the digging up of dirt and lawyer shenanigans begin!

And maybe. Just maybe. Some life lessons along the way to learn to be good to people and not be racist. Or something.

Also with Bill Burr, Anthony Mackie, Gillian Jacobs, and Paula Newsome.

Family
I am half tempted to give a tag to “sweet ass lawyer table.”

I will just go out and say it, Black or White was better than I gave it credit for. On the outside, it looks like a cliche family movie treading very lightly on the subject of race relations. I figured it would end with everyone hugging saying “Give Peace A Chance!” and warm happy rainbows. And hey it doesn’t have a 100% happy ending. It is more complicated. People get dragged through the mud and not everyone is a great person. Fantastic.

My other concern was Kostner. Last year at the beginning of the year he had Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, 3 Days To Kill, and Draft Day, all of various meh to lame movies. So when I saw he had multiple movies within a month or so of each other, I figured we were in for a repeat.

I am not saying his performance was fantastic by any means. It was okay. But the characters and the story made this a worth while movie, not Costner getting old.

3 out of 4.

Avengers: Age Of Ultron

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

Do I even have to write an intro? Yes? Well. Fuck. Okay.

The Avengers was stupidly successful. I knew it would be in 2008 or so. Everything Marvel has done has been covered in molten gold, but in a good way, not a Game of Thrones way. So of course everyone is excited about Avengers: Age of Ultron. Honestly, I am more excited about the next Captain America movie and some of the new heroes like Black Panther and Doctor Strange.

But hey. Ultron is cool too. I will take what I can get before we get 3 Marvel and 3 DC movies a year, plus random other franchises.

Ultron
Cool to the touch that is. HA HA HA HA HA.
Shits crazy. If you haven’t seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier yet, then I can’t really help you. Spoilers on that front.

S.H.I.E.L.D. is gone, unless you watch the TV show then who knows. Hydra is fucking shit up. The Avengers have gotten together to stop them.

Our friends are all back, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).

Remember the twins after the credits of the movie I just mentioned? Well, Quicksilver/Pietro Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) are also thrown into the fray. An evil fray.

Here’s the important facts though. The Avengers get Loki’s staff back pretty dang quick. And using its power, Tony Stark wants to return peace to the world. He would love to disband the Avengers because he doesn’t want there to be a need for them. So he uses the staff to help begin to build some AI to help protect the world from more outside threats. Shit goes badly. We got a robot that wants to take out all the Avengers now. The Avengers bring threats. They are dangerous. Without them the world would be better. Tony accidentally made an Ultron (James Spader).

What? Is that not enough characters for you? Well fine. We have some other appearances of course, and I won’t tell you how big or small their roles are. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Heimdall (Idris Elba), and Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard). We also have newbie, Dr. Helen Cho (Claudia Kim), and of course Paul Bettany and ANDY SERKIS.

Thor
But Thor is my favorite so he gets his own picture, damn it.
For movies like this, there is no way I can get through these things without rambling and talking so much. So fuck it. Let’s go classic here. A simple pros and cons list of the movie. Well, a likes and dislikes. Yeah. And with fancy bullet technology!

Likes:

  • Hawkeye. They heard the complaints about him in previous films and they made sure he was an important character. A lot was added to him. He had probably two of the best lines, did cool things, and was fantastic. Everyone should love him.
  • Hulkbuster. Hulkbuster guys. Hulkbuster. Amazing fight.
  • The plot elements in the film are definitely related to the first Avengers. Characters decisions are constantly determined to make sure they don’t redo what was done in NYC.
  • Characters shared the screen. It wasn’t just a one man show and his friends. A lot of characters got a lot of screen time. Most of the new guys got their motivations and back stories. Everyone got to fight and everyone fought hard.
  • It wasn’t an exact repeat of the first movie. There are similar elements, but the threats feel different, the arguments are different, and the jokes are different.
  • They didn’t dick around in the beginning, it starts with action and goes quickly into Ultron time.

Dislikes:

  • Um. Ultron. I think. I mean. It is iffy. But from the many trailers, I expected him to be a bit scarier overall. He had creepy elements. Especially early on. But then he seemed to turn into a mostly joke cracking villain without the fear.
  • Vision. I liked him but I don’t think they did a good enough job explaining him or giving him more things to do. He felt a bit wasted.
  • Time. The movie is 140 minutes or so, but there are several times when the thing still feels rushed, especially in the 2nd and 3rd acts. There is a lot going on and a lot I liked, but some things made no real sense. Better explanation or more cutting would have helped a ton.
  • Love. There is a romance in this movie. It feels…forced and awkward the entire time. It helps lead to some of these moments where you’d like more explanation.

Also, under both categories I could say the Future. This movie does a lot to set up future movies. Future Thanos battle. Elements for the Black Panther movie. Elements for the next Thor and the Civil War (Although I thought they should have gone way stronger on that side). At the same time, this film kind of feels like a big stepping stone for the future instead of its own amazing event. Too much focus on the later movies, which we know the next many years for and not enough about Ultron.

Overall, AoU is really fucking entertaining. Make no mistake. It was a nice ride, and good action and all of that. The characters are the ones we love with new ones you will love as well. But I think it had enough disappointing aspects associated with it to make me not as excited as I had hoped. With all the set up, I think the Civil War movie will be the one that all this hype has been leading up to. Makes sense, because after it is when we start getting all the new characters outside of Ant-Man.

Go see it. Go see it multiple times. I will buy it as soon as I can for sure. But you know, not perfect.

 

3 out of 4.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Ah, Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I will be honest. I wasn’t really looking forward to this movie when it was first announced.

I like the Captain, sure. But the next two movies are Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: Age of Ultron. This one was just giving me more of an already established character. Still, I was excited enough about it to make a fake review for April Fools Day.

Being a comic book fan is sort of a double edged sword with these type of movies. On one side, it is great experiencing the comics come to life with large enough budgets to make every fanboy cry out in glee. But on the other side, we know the stories they are inspired by, so most likely the bigger plot twists and turns won’t be surprises to us.

Unless of course they create new unexpected ones like Iron Man 3, but that is a different story.

Hand grab
“Hey, stop moving so the camera can focus on your backside.”

The Winter Soldier begins by showing us what life is like for the one and only Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), a national hero and now high up in S.H.I.E.L.D. He is doing missions around the world! But S.H.I.E.L.D. and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) have their secrets and Steve doesn’t really like secrets.

So when things start to get a little bit feisty at the headquarters in DC, Steve isn’t sure who he can trust. Can he trust the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) who is known for half-truths and deception? Can he trust Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) head of the World Security Council? How bout Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders)?

Yeah, he is kind of in a sticky situation. The spy game sure has ramped up its deception since the 1940’s, so if he is going to protect the world from a hidden threat, he will need all the help he can get. This movie introduces a few future characters as well, like the titular villain The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Sam “The Falcon” Wilson (Anthony Mackie), Brock Rumlow (Frank Grillo) and Agent 13 (Emily VanCamp).

Vulture? Falcon? Whatever
Holy shit the Vult-err.. Falcon. Sorry. Good Guy Falcon, Bad Guy Vulture. Got it.

Being the fanboy that I am, I have been trying to be more critical of Marvel movies lately. Just because I squeal in delight over almost every one doesn’t mean they are perfect. They don’t all deserve perfect marks.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier deserves perfect marks.

Everything about this movie is so spot on spectacular that I have a hard time believing it is even real. Captain America: The First Avenger was a good movie on its own right, but one I have never really been in the mood to watch again. I can see myself watching The Winter Soldier many times once it releases, maybe more than I saw the first Iron Man. It literally might be my new favorite Marvel movie.

It is hard to find something that is negative about the movie. It is over two hours, but never drags. There is maybe only one scene I thought was a bit pointless, but it doesn’t affect the overall movie. There is a lot of action and all of it is so well put together, from the choreography to sound editing. The movie itself is a lot more serious than other Marvel films, but it still has the nice jokes and references throughout it to keep you happy.

Did I know the big reveal? Yeah. But knowing it didn’t take away from my experience at all in the movie. This excites me because it means I will likely enjoy future viewings.

My last point I guess would be about acting. Evans gave a strong performance as the lead, but the side characters as well were all quite good. Mackie didn’t have too big of a role, but he kicked its butt and I actually enjoyed the Falcon. Redford was great, Jackson was great. Everyone was great.

To me, this movie is like an Avengers 1.5. I don’t expect Guardians of the Galaxy to have too much impact on the current Marvel universe, so this is the perfect lead up to next May. This movie has made me beyond excited for the Marvel future, and definitely for the third Captain America in 2016. Although, knowing the comic plots, I kind of already know what is likely to happen.

4 out of 4.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Yep, I am awesome. I got to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier as a special promotion over a whole week before it came out. They just told me I couldn’t release a review on it til April.

Fine by me, early movies are early. The first Captain America I really enjoyed, but didn’t feel patriotic enough. There was a severe lack of American flags throughout the movie and I just couldn’t accept it. There was a lot of Nazi stuff too, which is silly. I want America stuff, not Nazi German stuff.

Stare-ing
Uniform looks diluted. Patriotism failed.

This movie takes place dozens of months after The Avengers. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is living a sad life. Sure, he lives in Washington D.C., a patriotic city if any, but is bored. He is still working for S.H.I.E.L.D., but he isn’t killing Hitler, so what’s the point of it all?

Which is when Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) comes back. What a shifty character. Fury has some information regarding Rogers and his family. Turns out Rogers’ brother had a son a few years after World War II. That’s right, the Captain has a nephew. But the weird way time travel works, the nephew, Alexander (Robert Redford) is of course now much older than him. Hah, how silly.

But Alex also helps run the council that oversees the world in the Marvel Universe. Pretty baller. He is the one that lets him know about The Winter Soldier (Jeremy Renner). He apparently just came out of Russia, another classic enemy, has some robot parts and really wants to fuck some shit up.

Good. Steve doesn’t understand technology much anyways, so he is happy to do battle. Of course, when he realizes his true identity, he might have some moral convictions.

Chatting
Or they might just stand there chatting about the good times a couple years ago.

Man, if people were upset by the changes to the lore in Iron Man 3, they would probably be even more furious at these changes. To change the identity of The Winter Soldier like that to Hawkeye? Man. Why do they keep making him the badguy? No one even really likes Mr. Renner.

There were far too many plot twists involving who was related to who. First Steve Rogers and his nephew, then Nick Fury and his son (Anthony Mackie) it kind of got ridiculous.

This movie was supposed to be a pseudo Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) movie as well, but if I had to guess, she probably had like 3 minutes of screen time, everything you saw in the trailer, all at the end too. Must have been too busy voicing sexy robots again.

I am pretty sure this is second longest Marvel movie too, after The Avengers, and a lot of it drags on. They kept introducing other side villains who got barely any screen time that it kind of took away from the overall plot, reminding me of Spider-Man 3. Hell, it even had a strange emo dance scene in it as well.

Overall, this movie feels like a big lie. Both to the Marvel continuity, through its advertising, through so much. I am glad I guess that they killed off Steve Rogers at the end, bringing in a different Captain America story. Can’t wait to see how they spin this for The Avengers: Age of Ultron. But that was about the only cool aspect.

1 out of 4.

The Fifth Estate

Movies based on true events are always a tricky endeavor, especially if those events are within the last few years. If they are based on a single person, who happens to be alive, then it can get all sorts of awkward.

Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks is currently living in the Ecuadorian Assembly in London. If he ever leaves, London is going to send him off to Sweden for what he claims are bogus charges, who are then going to send him back to the US for all sorts of “War crimes.” If you never heard his name, and don’t know who he is, then The Fifth Estate is probably the movie for you!

Thinkers
I wouldn’t describe this as a thinking movie, but there are a lot of thinking scenes.

Despite being about Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch), this film is told from the perspective of Daniel Berg (Daniel Bruhl, who was also just in Rush). Daniel started to work with Julian in 2007, drawn into the idea of Wikileaks, which was a way for whistle blowers to anonymously report wrong doings and keep their identity secret so that they can not face repercussions.

A nice idea. They want to make the world more transparent, allow everyone to have secret information, and protect those that give that information. But what if WikiLeaks becomes more about Julian Assange than the original message? What if they don’t care about protecting lives anymore?

It should be noted that the movie is based on two books that came out in 2011, one written by Daniel, who was no longer with the company, both with a negative bias towards Wikileaks. Because of that, it is hard to say how much of the events in this film are accurate in their portrayal.

Despite their now aggressive relationship with each other, we get to see into the workings of the early years of Wikileaks, their volunteer army, their expansion of servers across Europe, their battle against banks and in the courts for free speech and some of their biggest scoops. It also tells the story up to including the famous Afghan War Diary, its biggest scoop, that was taken from the government by Bradley Manning.

As far as other actors, I guess they are important enough to mention. Laura LinneyAnthony Mackie, and Stanley Tucci all play various US Government employees, Lydia Leonard and Moritz Bleibtreu (from Run Lola Run / In July fame!) play other members of Wikileaks, and David Thewlis the main reporter for The Guardian who is covering Wikileaks.

Lookers
Bunch of lookers too, but not in the way that phrase normally means.

Needless to say, Julian has gone on record to say he doesn’t agree with his own betrayal in this movie, calls it one sided and a smear campaign against Wikileaks. He has at least one point going for him: If powerful organizations want to discredit Wikileaks and cause it to lose trust in citizens of the world, then discrediting Julian as a bad person is one way to go about it. They mention it in the movie, and he says it in real life a lot.

In fact, the ending of the film is Benedict recreating an interview that was done with Julian, about his thoughts on the film. Sure, it made the movie end weirdly, but encouraged the viewer to do their own research on the subject. Kind of meta, kind of cool.

Of course, Julian also hasn’t seen the film, just read several scripts, so I can’t take his word completely either.

The Fifth Estate definitely makes Julian look like a dick, but also a guy who more or less has his heart in the right place. He wants to make the world a better place, but at the same time he is only human.

I think the main problem with this film is they made this story far too melodramatic that it almost made it seem either over the top, or just no longer real. The film even comes complete with “visual metaphors” because making movies about the internet and data is pretty hard without making it look silly. So there are many scenes of a warehouse, almost infinite in size, with desks and computers showing the Wikileaks army at work. What I am getting at is they still end up just looking silly.

Benedict did an excellent job at acting as always, really doing his best to imitate Julian and also seems to be a fan of the man from interviews. There is a documentary coming out eventually, We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks, which may give a more accurate portrayal of events. But until then, we are only left with this okay melodrama, about a man and his website.

2 out of 4.

Runner Runner

The title Runner Runner at first glance is a strange one. Initially I figured the film would be about people who were always getting chased, on the run, or cowards. Or a combination of the three!

It turns out it is a Texas Hold ‘Em term. It is when you don’t have anything good in your hand or the initial three cards on the table, but gain a better hand after the fourth and fifth cards have been laid down. It is a risky situation that most poker players do not rely on, because that would be ridiculous and more often than not, a waste of money. Let’s just call it synonymous with extremely lucky and stupid.

Enough foreshadowing? Alright, plot time.

 

Hands
“I’m not sure what to do with my hands..”

Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake), besides having a very strange name, is a masters student in finance at Princeton. He used to work on Wall Street out of college, and was about a year away from reaching that seven figure income, before it all blew up in his face and he lost everything with the economic crash.

Because of his past, he cannot receive financial aid, and has to literally gamble his life savings to pay for tuition. Until he loses it all on the website Midnight Black. According to his data and math skills, he clearly got scammed out his money, and he wants it back, so he decides to fly down to Costa Rica and talk to the website owner personally.

Ivan Block (Ben Affleck) is wanted by the FBI and world famous for his online poker sites, but he does enjoy making his business better through smart Princeton students. He ends up offering Richie a job, and Richie starts earning the money he thinks he deserves.

Hooray money! Money of course never comes at a cost, and there is surely nothing illegal at foot down here! Gemma Arterton plays the one woman who has a speaking role in this film, and Anthony Mackie a hardass FBI agent who really wants to take Ivan down, no matter the cost.

Walk
Here is a picture of these men walking. You know, not running, and for sure not running running.

It turns out my original guess about this movie wasn’t entirely incorrect. By the end, a lot of characters do go on the run: whether it is from the law (US or Costa Rican), from Ivan Block, or from other thugs. There is definitely a lot more running in this film than fighting or relaxing.

What I will say positively about Runner Runner is that it started out with an interesting concept and had a lot of potential. Who doesn’t love a good story about corruption and money?

The problem lies with how fast this movie moves, basically too fast to care about any of the characters and too fast to really feel the fear of the situation they have placed themselves in. At most I would describe the film as mildly entertaining, but I didn’t get any real value out of it due to how it was set up. All of the problems presented in the film were either solved instantly, or kept hidden like a Scooby-Doo plot point until they happened. I am not complaining that they kept some information secret, just that when the reveal happened, it was met with some mix of confusion and boredom.

The acting wasn’t spectacular, nor were any of the twists or turns. But I think both of those instances can be blamed squarely on the directing/editing. The last movie the director did was The Lincoln Lawyer, which I enjoyed. Unfortunately, Runner Runner seems to be a step in the wrong direction.

I did like watching Affleck as a man too rich to know what is good for him. It is a good stepping stone before he plays Batman, another man too rich to know what is good for him.

 

1 out of 4.

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