“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” Review

_1393970563

“Get me…off…the grid!”

This is just what Marvel needed. As someone who was getting tired of their recent films, which usually delivered so much comic relief that it overpowered the film, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is smart enough to stray off just the right amount so that it changes up the norm that we’ve come to expect from these movies, but also enough to keep us intrigued and make sure we have a good time watching.

Let me just start off by saying this is Marvel’s darkest film. And by Marvel, I mean this “Cinematic Universe”, not Marvel in general. Gone are all the silly one-liners that always fall flat on their faces. Instead, we get a fiercely complex political thriller that only even so often falls into the usual superhero tropes.

captain-america-winter-soldier-trailer-image-24

The source of this darkness comes mostly from the antagonist of the film (well, one of them), the Winter Soldier. Without spoiling much, let’s just say that he’s pretty damn good at his job, and even though his “power” might seem a bit pointless to the casual viewer, he sure does utilize it to the fullest and is responsible for some of the films greatest set-pieces.

But, mostly, the men that aren’t superhuman are the most dangerous here. Again, I don’t want to spoil too much, but let’s just say that you can’t trust anyone, and some find that out the hard way. This is where the film uses its political angle perfectly; it does, at times, feel like an espionage film from the ’70s, but equipped with a much larger scope and budget.

Captain-America-The-Winter-Soldier-Official-Photo-Bucky-punching-Shield 2

But, the film isn’t all dark. Directors Anthony Russo and Joe Russo (Arrested Development,You, Me and Depree) balanced the seriousness and the laughs perfectly, something that this universe hasn’t been able to do since the first Iron Man. Now, don’t go in expecting any huge belly laughs, but like I said, there’s just the right amount where it doesn’t feel forced or overbearing.

Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson get the job done in the lead roles. I was never really fond of either of their characters, but both of them proved themselves in this film. Evans is able to have a sweet moment early on in the film that’s great for fans of the original and Johansson kicks even more ass in this movie than in any of the other Marvel films. I, however, still don’t think she could lead a whole movie by herself. But that’s just me. And all I’ll say is thank god they gave Samuel L. Jackson something to do this time around.

captain-america-winter-soldier-trailer-image-slice

However, that isn’t to say the film doesn’t tread into familiar/generic territory every so often. Anthony Mackie, as much as I like the guy, was nothing more than your stereotypical sidekick, akin to Rhodey from the Iron Man franchise. Also, the finale has one of the most cliched plot devices in modern-day action films, but managed to recover a bit with it’s great special effects afterwards.

I really don’t want to dwelve into some of the film’s juicer details because this is one where it’s better to go in not knowing much. Marvel fans will clearly enjoy and appreciate this one more than others, but that isn’t to say the general audience won’t like it. There’s enough twists and turns to keep even the broadest of audiences entertained in this taut thriller. This is, as of right now, the best the Marvel Cinematic Universe has had to offer thus far. You better watch out, X-Men: Days of Future Past.

“You’ve gotta keep both eyes open.”

4.5 out of 5

RANKED: The Films of Wes Anderson

anderson_3

Until this year, I wasn’t very familiar with him or his work. I was first introduced to his work when I saw his stop-motion feature The Fantastic Mr. Fox. That’s when I was introduced to the quirkiness. At that time, I was just starting to take film seriously, so I just shrugged it off without a second thought. But this year, in preparation for The Grand Budapest Hotel, I thought I’d be good to sit down and venture through all of his films. Thank god I did, as Wes Anderson has turned out to be one of my favorite directors working today. Below are how I’d rank this auteur’s filmography.

#8: Moonrise Kingdom

"What kind of bird...are you?"
“What kind of bird…are you?”

This is the only film from Wes Anderson that I didn’t like. I didn’t hate it, per say, but it felt too quirky and weird for my tastes and almost veered towards self-parody several times. I hate the “beach portion” (you know what I’m talking about) and the whole third act just felt off compared to the rest of the film.

However, that’s not to say it’s all bad. Edward Norton and Bill Murray are great here, and even though I hate Bruce Willis, I have to admit he was good here as well. Sadly, they’re stuck in a film where the lead kids are lifeless and the film is too weird, and that’s saying a lot when it comes to Wes’ films.

#7: The Darjeeling Limited

"Is that my belt?"
“Is that my belt?”

These next few films are so close in quality that it’s hard to really rank them. But at this time, The Darjeeling Limited pulled the short stick. I personally think it’s Wes’ most mature film to date, despite what many say (with Tenenbaums and Steve Zissou close behind). I also find the trio in this movie to have great chemistry, especially towards the end.

However, this is probably Anderson’s ugliest looking film. It also doesn’t have the usual charm or wit that accompanies most of his other films. But, this film was a more serious film, like I said, and even though it’s far from Wes’ most beautiful film, it’s still much better looking than most films out today.

#6: The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

"I wonder if he remembers me."
“I wonder if he remembers me.”

Quite possibly the best scene Wes has shot in his entire career pictured above. Despite the fact that the film is all over the place and loses its focus much more than it ought to, I still enjoy the hell out of this movie. Bill Murray is spectacular in this and so is Willem Dafoe.

However, I HATED the romance between Owen Wilson and Cate Blanchett’s characters. Talk about forced. Yeesh. And even though I was confused about the hijacking scene, it’s slowing growing on me and has one of the film’s better quotes in it.

#5: Bottle Rocket

"They'll never catch me...because I'm fucking innocent."
“They’ll never catch me…because I’m fucking innocent.”

Probably Wes’ least liked film (even though Rotten Tomatoes would say otherwise). But, some thing about this film just draws it in. Maybe it’s the awkward relationship between Luke Wilson and that maid at the motel, or maybe it’s the wacky climax, or maybe it’s Owen Wilson, in what easily his best performance to date.

It is a bit slow at times, but the moment that Owen’s character is getting bullied while talking to Luke’ character, this film elevated from decent to pretty damn good to me. And I love the ending so much. Go in with an open mind, and you might enjoy this one. It’s probably Wes’ most “normal” film, but it’s still not normal. No Wes film is normal.

#4: Fantastic Mr. Fox

"If you're gonna cuss with somebody, you're not gonna cuss with me, you little cuss!
“If you’re gonna cuss with somebody, you’re not gonna cuss with me, you little cuss!

My first Wes Anderson film, like I said earlier, was very odd to me the first time watching it. I wasn’t used to Wes’ weird style and the stop-motion kind of creeped me out, but I didn’t hate it. But, on a re-watch, I absolutely fell in love with this movie.

Even though I haven’t read the Roald Dahl novel in which this film is based, I already know that Anderson was the perfect choice to do this film. He isn’t afraid to be weird with his films, and this film was just a great cussing time because of it.

#3: Rushmore

"I saved Latin! What did you ever do?"
“I saved Latin! What did you ever do?”

I’m not necessarily a fan of Jason Schwartzman, but he is absolutely great in this. He, like Bill Murray fit with Wes’ style perfectly, and maybe that’s why I love this film so much. It’s pretty much Anderson’s two best actors going at each other for a whole film. It sounds almost too good to be true.

Granted, it does veer off a bit into the absurd (but come on, it’s a Wes Anderson film) and none of the other characters besides Schwartzman and Murray have much to do, but those are minor nitpicks. This would be your typical director’s masterpiece, but not for Anderson. I think that says something about him as a filmmaker.

#2: The Royal Tenenbaums

"Anyone interesting in grabbing a couple of burgers and hittin' the cemetery?"
“Anyone interesting in grabbing a couple of burgers and hittin’ the cemetery?”

I have to give it to Wes, he knows how to gather up a fantastic cast. Everyone here (except for maybe Gwyneth Paltrow) is phenomenal and serves a purpose in the film. I especially liked Ben Stiller’s arc in this, and he’s an actor that I usually find to overreact a lot when it comes to actual acting. The infamous line of dialogue between him and Hackman towards the end is still great and heartbreaking today.

But, I didn’t like the situation between Luke Wilson and Gwyneth Paltrow until the very end, which is why this isn’t ranked first. For the whole film, this segment felt very out-of-place until that bathroom scene, which is easily the darkest Wes’ has ever been. After that, I warmed up to the subplot, but I just had to remind myself this was all a part of Anderson’s goofy little universe. A near-masterpiece though.

#1: The Grand Budapest Hotel

"I thought I was a fucking faggot?"
“I thought I was a fucking faggot?”

I know what you’re thinking; you just saw this, how can it be his best film? Well, I will be re-watching it again very soon, but I’m confident this one isn’t moving from the top spot. What it lacks in emotional development it makes up with it’s unbelievable visuals and high level of fun that no other Wes film has managed to come close to.

Ralph Fiennes is marvelous as the Gustave H. and steals the show. He seriously needs to be in more Wes films. As does Willem Dafoe. Along with the compelling mystery and Wes’ usual wit and charm, The Grand Budapest Hotel makes its way to the top of my list, being my favorite Wes Anderson film to date.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know how you feel about these rankings.