Sunday, April 27, 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Be advised there are 2 post credit scenes, one that lasts about 2 minutes and one that is about 30 seconds. The first is after the initial credits that have artwork behind them. The 2nd after the longer version of the credits that is simply text.

When Chris Evans first played Cap back in 2011, I was not sold on the idea. To me he was still Johny Storm, or Lucas Lee from Scott Pilgrim. He usually played a cocky jerk, and was not really associated with leading roles. But that movie changed my opinion of him, and probably a lot of other peoples to. Evans really has been fantastic in that role. Cap is not a greatly unique hero, but he is a very impactful one. In the Avengers he pretty much plays second fiddle to everybody else. However in his solo films, you really get to see and understand who Steve Rogers really is. I think there is a reason these films are some of the strongest Marvel has put out, and Evans should be really proud of his work within them.

The first movie felt almost like a homage to the action films of the past. It reminded me of Indiana Jones in a way. It had great action, a decent story, but it still had a good sense of humor. It came off corny, but in a positive way. It still felt like a big budget film, but it had the vibe of one released from the same time period the movie took place in. It was such a great effect and really added to the overall feeling of the film. This movie however takes place in modern times, and as such that feeling is gone. But that while it does feel like a very different film, it still has a lot of ties to the original. It still tries to play off of your emotions, and patriotism. Though this time it does not paint america in the greatest light. Cap 2 also sets the stage for the rest of marvel movies, and by far has the biggest impact on that universe then any of the films so far.

The story for this movie picks up awhile after the avengers. Cap and Widow are trying to save some hostages from a terrorist group who attacked a S.H.I.E.L.D. boat. During the mission Cap finds out Furry had other objects on the ship, and he starts to debate whether or not he can be trusted. This is a common theme in the movie, and one that really helps create a lot of the tension. There is almost the feel of a mystery movie here. There is something going on, and when it finally happens you are still not sure who exactly falls on either side. The story is easily one of the strongest aspects of the movie, and one of the best marvel has put out yet. It helps that they drew inspiration from the source material, something DC should try and do better with in their movies. That being said, if you are a fan of the tv show S.H.I.E.L.D. and some how have fallen behind or not had the big spoiler in Winter Soldier ruined yet....stop watching until after you see the movie. That is my one gripe with that show, it takes place along side the movies. With Thor it only spoiled that he didn't die...not exactly a big plot point. This time they ruined the big reveal in Winter Soldier. It didn't really detract from the movie, but it easily made a big scene less meaningful. Though if you read  the comics, chances are you also saw that one coming long ago. 

This movie also tends to try and bring out certain emotions at multiple times. The first movie was very patriotic, and really tried to work off of that feeling...assuming you were american. This movie goes a different route and tries to make you question what freedom is, and what it is worth. It does not paint America in the same light that the original did, but it does a great job accomplishing what it sets out to do. There is one point near the end that was quite powerful, and without giving anything away, did get a few tears from me. 

This was more of a team up movie, as Cap always had others working with him. So it was nice to see they also introduced one of Cap's old partners, The Falcon. Thankfully they did not include his power to telepathically talk to birds, or really any of his back story. In the books Falcon was one of the heroes that just made me shake my head, but they pulled him off quite well in the movie. They never gave him the awful red suit, and instead kept him in a more modern militaristic look. He was easily one of the more memorable parts of the film, and I really hope they continue to include him moving forward. Another role that stood out was Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill. She did not have a lot of screen time, but it was nice to see them using the character more. I don't know how much they will follow the comics moving forward, but don't be surprised if you see her more and more in the future. 

One thing I really enjoyed about the movie, was the fight scenes. Marvel movies usually have a lot of action, but they don't always have the best choreography. In Thor he constantly used the hammer in ways that seemed as if they would actually lessen the blows, or would just be quite awkward to use effectively. Iron man is usually just a lot of shooting, with very little in the way of great hand to hand fighting. Cap though really did quite well though mixing both long range and close range fighting. There are quite a few gun fights, and they always have great weight behind them. Whether its the Winter Soldier using some heavy weaponry to take out some vehicles, or the anti air guns trying to shoot the Falcon out of the sky, everything just looks and sounds great. The few hand to hand fights though were where the action really shined. The Winter Soldier often fought with a knife that he would flip though the air while delivering or blocking attacks. Everything just looked so crips, and well executed. And even Cap's Shield, which would be a odd offensive weapon to wield, never really looked out of place. I also really enjoyed how each person had their own style of fighting. Widow had the more acrobatic style with the submissions and kicks, while Winter Soldier was more straight up brawling with the knife and Bionic arm assists for example. If you like action movies, this one will keep you quite happy

So we have a strong story with some mystery wrapped into it. Good actors and great action. One thing I kept hearing before finally being able to make it to the theaters, was this movie was better then the Avengers. That was something I could not easily believe, but after seeing it I have to agree. I would say this was easily the best movie Marvel has put out, at least in my opinion. I know moviegoers love Iron Man, but he does not have the depth of character that Steve Rogers does. I also don't recall any of the other marvel movies making feel quite as emotional as this one did, let alone that it pulled that off multiple times. Cap 2 was a great film, and if like me you somehow have managed to not see it before now, go fix that. 

I started thinking about my rating system, I don't do half stars. Since that puts this movie along side the new Thor, I may have to rethink that. It is not a 5 star movie, but it was better then the other films I have given 4 stars to.
It is getting pretty difficult to find spoiler free Previews these days....this one, well it does not completely fit that description. Won't give to much away, but be warned. it does kind of show some things. On the plus side you get to see Winter Soldier flip his knife about 2 minutes in.


Also a lego version, because why not.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Veronica Mars (2014)

A long time ago

We used to be friends

But I haven't thought of you lately at all

If ever again
A greeting I send to you
Short and sweet to the soul I intend 

That was the opening to the theme song of the show, by the Dandy Warhols. It does a odd job of representing the movie and the relationship most fans will have with it. The show stopped airing early 2007, just over 7 years ago. For that period of time very little info was given out as to what happened to the different characters. In April 2013 a kickstarter was successfully funded for the new movie to finally occur. The fans themselves donated over 5 million dollars in order to get another chapter in Veronica's story. Earlier this month the movie was released in a limited amount of theaters, and the fans who helped fund it were given a digital copy. Sadly no theater in my area picked it up, but I was able to buy it off of amazon instant video. So the question is, will the movie make the fans happy? Or a better question would be, will the movie make the non fans happy? Sadly, the answers to those questions are going to be different.

If you have seen the show, you can skip this paragraph. The show was about a high school girl named Veronica. At the age of 18 she was given her Private Investigator's license, and she started working along side her father as his assistant. In the show, her best friend was killed and the first season revolved around her trying to piece that mystery together. It had dark humor, drama, and great writing. One thing the show did very well though was develop its own characters. As the seasons progressed you came to learn quite a bit about the residents of Neptune, and appreciate them all in one way or another. Veronica had a hard life though during those seasons, from being almost killed, being raped, and betrayed by those close to her. Every season took its toll on her. I think that is why the fans rallied behind this project so much. They all wanted to see her finally come out ahead, and in a good place.

The story for the movie picks up 9 years after the show ended. Veronica is now about to become a Lawyer, and is living in New York with her boyfriend Piz. There is a theme about her escaping Neptune and her chaotic past for something simpler and safer. Piz is a big part of that, he is viewed as a safe relationship for her. However her ex boyfriend Logan, is being accused of murder. He is being accused of murdering his Girlfriend Carrie Bishop who was a well known pop star. Veronica drops everything to head back to Neptune to help Logan pick out a lawyer, but ends up staying on to work the case. The overall story is about the murder investigation, but the overall theme is about Veronica trying to figure out who she wants to be.

Seeing a television show go to the big screen is a odd thing. In some cases it works wonderfully, however you never know if the magic will be there. With Veronica Mars, you were given a entire season to piece together the big mystery. You were excited for every new clue, and tried to put it all together as the show went on. With 22 episodes per season, that is something like 15 hours of mystery time. Trying to recreate that feeling in just under 2 hours leaves something to be desired. The movie is for the fans, and as such it does not spend much time if any building up the characters. They assume you know who they are, and how they relate to each other. This was not a issue for me, but my wife did seem to have trouble remembering who certain people were. And if you never saw the show, you may have trouble becoming invested in what is happening. You will also miss a lot of the humor and little references. The movie is very self aware, and likes to reference things that happened both in and out of the show. From the opening sequence where Veronica calls herself a "Marshmallow" to a throw away line about somebody hearing she was in the FBI. Marshmallow being the name given to the fans as well as a throwback to the first episode, and FBI being a reference to the previous movie idea that never got made. As a non fan, you will not appreciate everything the movie brings with it. That is not to say you can't find enjoyment from it, but you will be at a disadvantage.

Is that really a good way to go? Well the movie was pretty much funded by the fans. So giving them what they want does make some sense. Also if you have not seen the tv show, you should probably remedy that. However I do think it should have been more accessible. Something as simple as filling out the intro scene that was supposed to cover the back story. We get a very quick recap of season 1, with not much else thrown it. Making that sequence a few moments longer would have helped out immensely. Still if Veronica Mars is new to you, but you like mystery movies, you should find enough here to keep you happy. 

This movie was shot in 23 days, I don't know how long a movie normally takes, but that seems pretty short. There are no great special effects to talk about. The acting was pretty solid overall, and the dark humor from the original series was fully intact. They did try to fit every single character back into the movie, or at least it felt like they did. While it was nice to see what everybody was up to, it did seem more like a negative situation to me. We are given a brief glimpse at some of our favorites, but we don't really get to much time with them. It almost felt like, if we don't get to learn what they have been doing, and where they are in their life now....why bother. It felt like each time somebody was introduced, it was just a short tease. While given the run time of a film, you really can't fault them for going that route. But it did make me wish another season would come around.

Veronica slides back into her old ways easy enough. And the formula still works very well. For the fans, this movie will be a great addition. Like the song, it is a greeting, short and sweet. For the non fans, it is a solid mystery movie that is very well written. However you will feel like you are missing out at times, and some of the details will be lost on you, as the movie does not explain everything. It has some great moments, and a wonderful appearance from James Franco as himself. If you are a Marshmallow, chances are you have already seen this. But if you missed it, or simply did not know about it yet, you will be quite happy with the movie. For everybody else, a rental is probably your best option.