Captain America: The Winter Soldier

…written by Christopher Marcus and Stephen McFeely, based on an Ed Brubaker story; directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo; starring Chris Evans, Scarlet Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, and Robert Redford.

These Marvel movies just keep hitting the target.  Thor – The Dark World was excellent, X-Men – Days of Futures Past looks fantastic based on the trailers, and we’re optimistic for the next Spider-man movie this summer as well.  The only one we’ve panned of late was Iron Man 3 (because, gah.)  So with the the great early buzz, we were anticipating Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and we weren’t disappointed.  This is another great super hero movie.

It’s a different kind of super hero movie, though.  Based on comics by Ed Brubaker, the story involves serpentine conspiracies and secrets and healthy mistrust of those in power.  Pretty much par for the course with Hollywood’s take on the espionage game.  This movie features Cap and Black Widow as Shield’s two prime field agents, chasing down bad guys and running ops for Nick Fury.  When one of these ops goes sideways, Cap gets suspicious of Fury’s motives and goals.  He becomes even more concerned when Fury shows him the strategic plan to launch three additional heli-carriers capable of linking up with surveillance satellites and securing Shield’s military dominance in the world.

But Fury has concerns as well.  He’s noticed something anomalous, a security breach, and confides in the Chief of Allied Defense, Alexander Pierce (Redford).  About this time, the Winter Soldier shows up and takes a crack at Fury.  Black Widow tells Cap about the Winter Soldier: a legendary KGB assassin rumored to have conducted the most dangerous and sensitive assignments for over 50 years.

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Review: Thor – God Butcher – God Bomb

In Brief:  These first two volumes of Thor, God of Thunder, written by Jason Aaron with principal art by Esad Ribic,  give us three versions of Marvel’s Thor from three separate eras.  Thor must track down and face the God Butcher, a foe from his distant past, present, and future.  It’s cosmic comics adventure that takes full advantage of the current Avengers cross-over appeal.

Pros:  The story is first rate – epoch-spanning, with bits of Asgardian and Marvel Universe lore, while clearly being centered on Thor.  Ribic’s art has a Dark Horse/Conan flavor that effectively captures galactic grandeur and Middle Age Norse grit.

Cons:  Well, the price.  The two hardbound volumes retail at $25 apiece.  But that’s a problem the comics industry continues to face.  Also, movie fans hoping to see Loki won’t find him here.

Review:  Reading comics as a kid, Thor was always just kind of there.  He was an Avenger.  He had a hammer.  He talked funny.  I never really picked up any Thor comics, which is weird because I really liked mythology.  Of course the character has enjoyed something of a revival recently, with a couple of  good super-hero movies and the Avengers tie-in.  At Marvel Comics they’re no doubt acutely aware of this, and their Disney masters are on them to capitalize.  Books like The God Butcher and The God Bomb fit the bill.  They can also serve as a reminder to the corporate types (hopefully) that the comics medium still tells stories of high adventure with the best of them. This tale begins in Medieval Iceland, with a younger, brasher God of Thunder enjoying his time among the Vikings.  Thor the Younger has not yet proven worthy of lifting the hammer, Mjolnir, but it’s not for lack of effort on the battle field.  In Iceland, the Vikings find the decapitated head of a god washed ashore – a god of the American Indians – and Thor wonders who or what is responsible.   Continue reading

By the Beard of Odin

We did not expect our favorite super-hero/action movie of 2013 to be Thor: The Dark Worldand yet there it is.  Iron Man 3 was not good, Man of Steel was problematic and should have been better…  We have not yet seen The Wolverine, but based on the reviews and chatter, we doubt it will eclipse the son of Odin.  Thor: TDW had the right blend of humor, action, and Asgardian mayhem, as well as an imminently watchable Loki and Thor dynamic and some Avengers 2 easter eggs.  If you’re into the superheroes, you should check it out.

And, of course, it hath spawned another excellent ‘How it Should Have Ended’, this time featuring the Villain Pub.

Iron Man 3 – CBG Complaints

We took in Iron Man 3 this weekend for family movie night.  Mostly, it was what you’d expect: a fun comics themed actioner aimed squarely at the mass markets.  The kids and wife enjoyed it.  I mostly enjoyed it.  And we understand and fully support Disney/Marvel’s approach here.  We’re glad to have shared-world Avengers movies with a sense of continuity, big budgets, and A-list talent.  However….

However, and not to go all Comic Book Guy here, because Iron Man was never a personal favorite or anything, but I do have to go CBG here.  Because just like Man of Steel, the writers/director sort of missed some key elements with Iron Man 3 and kind of blew it to the point of ludicrousity.

Which isn’t really a word, but you get our point.  Major spoilers below…

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Movies: The Avengers

…based on Marvel Comics characters created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, written by Zak Penn, directed by Joss Whedon, starring Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Chris Evans (Captain America), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Mark Ruffalo (Hulk), Scarlett Johannson (Black Widow), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), and Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury).

By now, after Hulk-smashing 1st and 2nd week box office records, nearly everyone who reads this blog has seen Marvel’s The Avengers.  It’s the greatest team super-hero movie of all time.  After the last few years’ series of Avengers solo movies, starting with Iron Man up to last summer’s Thor and Captain America, the geeks of the planet have had this date circled.  We’ve watched the short Nick Fury cut-scenes at the end of the movies.  We’ve debated on the internets.  We’ve all hoped it could somehow live up to expectations, seeing Earth’s mightiest heroes together on the big screen.

And Joss Whedon’s super-powered popcorn epic hits the mark.

Yes, the first act is a little slow and awkward at points, introducing the characters with their back stories from the other movies, while setting up Loki and his quest for the Cosmic Cube (the Tesseract in the movie, don’t know why they had to call it that).  No, Black Widow doesn’t really belong on the team, and the Agent Coulson-uniting-the-team card is one Whedon has used over and over again.  Yes, the Chitauri alien villains were pretty generic and definitely had some storm trooper factor.  However…

Joss Whedon

Whedon has been lobbying to do super hero movies for years.  At one point he was linked with an attempt to bring back Wonder Woman and he recently helped the Marvel Comic Astonishing X-Men refocus on that team’s roots.  Beemsville has been a fan of Whedon going back to Buffy the Vampire Slayer (still the superior teen-angst with monsters TV series), Angel, and Firefly.   Other than the Firefly-spin-off movie, Serenity, a modest success, Whedon hasn’t directed a blockbuster type movie.  Until now.  He is, however, a lifelong comic fan; a guy who grew up with these characters, reading and re-reading their origins, marveling at the great cross-over four-color stories.  He gets it – he understands the source material, the importance of certain interplays between characters and their symbolic moments.  Contrast this movie to something like Batman and Robin – another big-budget ensemble with a director, Joel Schumacher, who certainly did not get it, and you gain even better appreciation. Continue reading

Super XLVI

As far as the actual game – what more do you want than to come down to the 4th quarter, the final drive, the very last play…  A rooting interest, perhaps?  We had virtually none.  The Giants have two Illini on their roster, so we’re pleased with the result.

Madonna half-time.  Meh.  Now about those Super Bowl ads…  First you have the summer blockbuster build-up:

“We have a Hulk.”  Heh.

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Movies: Thor

…written by J. Michael Straczynski, Ashley Miller, Zach Stentz, directed by Kenneth Branagh, starring Chris Helmsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, and Tom Hiddleston.

Pros: Super-hero action adventure in the Mighty Marvel tradition.  A fun adaptation of Thor from the comics and mythology.

Cons:  Someone needs to come up with a different plot boiler plate for these movies.  Would’ve liked to have seen a little more of Thor in action and at least one scene with the old winged helmet.

Review:  Marvel’s version of the Norse God of Thunder was always an odd character to approach – especially for a kid interested in mythology.  Growing up, I was always trying to reconcile the comic version with what I’d read in other books.  He was fun because Stan the Man and other always had him speaking in a kind of Middle English Shakespearean dialect and he was always one of the most powerful dudes out there.  At the same time, I never really had a sense of the actual character. Continue reading