2014 Reviews

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

I decided to catch one of the screenings Thursday night instead of waiting until Friday or Saturday.  I wish I had just waited.  Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a complete mess.  When I saw the trailer for the first time I saw that Marvel was not using the corny style and retro look that was in Captain America: The First Avenger.  I found the first film to be cheesy, especially in its dialogue.  I felt the film was overall mediocre.  The trailer for The Winter Soldier showed that the studio had switched to a modern style, similar to that of Iron Man.  Ironically, I thought The Winter Soldier was actually darker, in terms of lighting and colors, than Iron Man.  What I found even stranger is that it seemed like the writers were trying to crack more jokes than the other Marvel films, as if they were trying to get in all of the one-liners they possibly could.  Ultimately, they had a movie that looked dark, but dialogue that was actually more light-hearted, which to me seemed pretty conflicting.

My problems with the film have nothing with to do with the acting.  All of the actors in the movie do a good job.  I am a huge fan of Anthony Mackie and found him to be a great addition to the cast and cannot wait to see more from him.  Acting aside, my problem with the movie is its screenplay.

To be honest I don’t really know where to start.  The screenplay just seemed to be a jumbled mess.  Number one, so many elements of the movie are unrealistic.  Yes, I realize I’m saying that about a superhero movie.  Sometimes during a movie it bothers me, sometimes it doesn’t.  It depends on the movie and I think the reason it bothered me so much with The Winter Soldier was the fact that the filmmakers appeared to try really hard to make it look realistic.  However, this caused me to be more judgmental towards the craziness.  I’ll give you an example.  If you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want it spoiled for you, STOP READING NOW.  The most implausible part of the movie to me was when Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) is running across a high floor of a building that is being demolished by a Hydra aircraft.  At this moment he does not have his Falcon wings on because the Winter Soldier destroyed them.  He’s calling to Nick Fury and Black Widow for help.  They are in a helicopter and he asks them to pick him up.  Right before the floor is demolished, he jumps from the building.  Fury sees where he jumps and tilts the helicopter to the right.  Wilson falls probably over ten floors and lands straight into the helicopter, and suffers no injuries.  WHAT?!  For a brief moment I thought I was watching a Fast & Furious movie.  The writers seemed to forget that Sam Wilson wasn’t superhuman like Captain America for a second, which is funny because they make it pretty clear in the beginning of the movie that he is not.  Sam Wilson is essentially like Tony Stark.  Which means he’s only a superhero if he has his technological device.  So, when he’s jumping from a collapsing building without his wings he is an ordinary man.  He does not have the ability to grasp onto a helicopter to safety after falling more than ten floors, especially without getting hurt.

The second aspect where I think the movie fails is being consistent with elements it had previously established.  I’ll give you an example.  There is a part in the movie where Captain America jumps from a S.H.I.E.L.D aircraft without a parachute.  He hits the water and doesn’t experience any pain, to our knowledge.  Scientifically, based on how high he is the air, it should be like hitting concrete.  That’s not the problem though.  Later in the movie, the Captain jumps out of an elevator and hits the concrete of the bottom floor below.  It’s important that I mention that the distance he fell was not nearly as high as he was in the aircraft jump.  When he hits the concrete after diving out of the elevator, he appears hurt by his fall.  He falls a few other times throughout the movie at less greater altitudes than the aircraft and appears hurt, but there are also times when he doesn’t.

What also bugged me about the movie is that Hydra and Alexander Pierce completely overshadowed the Winter Soldier.  Maybe I’m alone here, but the Winter Soldier was the enemy that I was most interested in.  Hydra went from being a subplot to the whole movie and I didn’t find it that interesting.  It was as if the Winter Soldier was merely a plot device.  The writers needed someone for Captain America to fight so it would still be an action movie.  Captain America: The Winter Soldier seemed to go from being a Marvel movie to being Transcendence, which doesn’t even come out until April 18th.

Several parts of the movie didn’t seem to make sense.  It seemed like the writers wrote what they wanted and whenever they ran into a problem they just solved it with whatever, no matter how little sense it made.  The part where Black Widow pretended to be the councilwoman and beat up all of the Hydra henchmen is an example.  After she defeats the men, she reveals herself by removing a tool/device from her face.  I thought I was having a X-Men flashback when that happened.  Mystique is that you?  Also, where did Black Widow get this device?  It looked like the masks used by the Kryptonian villains in Man of Steel.  I would have preferred to be given some background on how she came to acquire the device and maybe where it came from.  It’s important to note that that is not the only moment in the film like that.

Keep in mind I don’t read the comic books.  I just watch the movies.  So I apologize for my huge gaps in knowledge.  That aside, it is a writer’s job to properly inform the audience on elements in their movies that require more in-depth explanations.  There were way too many moments where certain things appeared to happen only because it’d look cool.  One of them would be shield ricochets that were mathematically unrealistic, but that’s something not worth getting into.  Let’s just say the Captain’s shield has a mind of its own and leave it at that.

In conclusion, I did not like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but I think that’s pretty obvious based on what I have said in the past several paragraphs.  I do not believe I expected too much from this movie.  I could probably go on about the movie, but this review is long enough.  I’m not supposed to be writing a novel.  I know it’s weird to say because Man of Steel came out last summer, but Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the biggest superhero movie disappointment since then.  The upside is at least The Winter Soldier was more watchable.  So if you’re in some weird position where you have to decide between the two, watch The Winter Soldier.  Nevertheless, you should probably see it if you plan on seeing Avengers: Age of Ultron.  Waiting for the Blu-Ray or DVD wouldn’t necessarily be a bad idea though.  Still, I’m not telling you to do one or the other because it’s a movie you would probably get more out of by seeing on the big screen, but at the same time its movie you may not want to spent $10-13 dollars on.  The decision is yours, as it always should be.  You might even like The Winter Soldier.  There’s actually a really good chance you will, because based on what I’m seeing, I’m in the minority here.


2014 Reviews

Divergent (2014)

When I saw the reviews sprinkling in over the course of the week leading up to its release, I got a little worried.  I was afraid it would disappoint me like The Spiderwick Chronicles did several years ago.  It was troubling for me to see the poor reviews because it was so widely advertised. Divergent ran a pretty extensive advertising campaign as far as I’m concerned.  For two months you could not see a movie at Regal Cinemas without seeing an exclusive look at it.  Of course, that was not the only way they got the word out.  They used television, social media, and billboards to promote it, but that’s the one that affected me the most.  Usually when a movie has that many advertisements it’s destined to be well-liked among critics, such as both Hunger Games movies.  After seeing the reviews, I was afraid that Divergent wouldn’t lead up to my expectations.  I can gladly say that Divergent lived up to its hype. Divergent captured me right away with its premise.  Although I believe that the introduction to the world it takes place in is a little rushed, it was very easy to keep up.  The details the film talked about in the beginning were exemplified throughout the film.  For the most part, I found the screenplay to be well-written.  The parts with Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) alone together were not awkward like the scenes between Ender and Petra in Ender’s Game.  There were very few cheesy moments. For me, Divergent‘s greatest component is its pacing.  Given how fast the story moves along, it is remarkable how well the film flows without ever feeling rushed.  Unfortunately, its brilliant pacing collapsed in the last twenty minutes.  It felt like the screenwriters crammed too much into a very little amount of time.  However, I still give it great praise for what it was able to accomplish for the two hours leading up to that point. Another aspect of the film that really stood out to me was its theme and message.  It was more apparent, at least on screen, than The Hunger Games.  I think its focus on conformity and how people should not strive to conform is very important, especially to the film’s targeted demographic.  A person should be encouraged to think the way he or she wants to think, not the way everyone else does. All in all, Divergent is a really good movie.  It is packed with plenty of action and fun and I highly recommend that you go see it!  If you’re a fan of The Hunger Games or dystopian movies you should not miss this one.  Do not diverge from Divergent!  Sorry.  Once again, I had to say it… 7.4/10.0

2014 Reviews

Non-Stop (2014)

I found it important that my first review ever was on a movie that recently came out that I rather liked, so here I am.  When this movie came out most people probably said, “You had me at Liam Neeson!”  I have to admit, when I first saw the trailer I rolled my eyes.  It’s Liam Neeson, he’s searching for the truth, and he’s a bad ass.  That seems to be his M.O. these days.  Which erupted after Taken swept the nation.  I have no problem with actors being type-casted and it would honestly be hard to watch movies consistently if I did hate type-casting.  I am by no means against it and sometimes rather prefer it.  However, there’s something about the “bad ass” type that I feel gets overused and old really fast.  I believe few can pull it off for an extended period of time.  I think one of the reasons why Neeson’s type has not completely aggravated me is because he’s actually a good actor and not constantly trying to prove he’s a bad ass, which is something Sylvester Stallone has done since Rocky came out.

Liam Neeson is a likable guy and that can be proven based on his box office track record for the last few years when he’s the main character.  Taken, The Grey, Unknown, and even Taken 2 were box office successes.  After Non-Stop‘s box office success, I think it’s fair to say that Liam Neeson can guarantee a fifty million box office haul as the lead character in a film.  He is one of the few lucky stars to have fans among all generations.  The young and the old like him and that helps tremendously at the box office.

Before seeing Non-Stop I thought it was going to be something along the lines of Snakes on a Plane meets Unknown meets Flight.  I’m not going to say it isn’t because it definitely is similar to them on certain levels, but it makes its own movie by blending them all fairly well.

As the movie started, I was slightly disappointed because the cinematography was stereotyping.  I say that because as the camera shows you people around the airport, the minority passengers (specifically a Muslim man) is shown rather negatively based on the camerawork and the way he is behaving.  I was happy that the opening was merely a portrayal of how most people perceive other people at airports, such as Muslims being seen as potential threats.  Luckily, the writers break the stereotypes by showing that the Muslim man is a well-respected doctor and that the other people on the plane do not fit the stereotypes that they are popularly identified with.  Therefore, I give credit to Flavio Martinez Labiano, the cinematographer, because a big theme in the film is preconceptions.  Labiano did a great job as director of photography.  I found it hard to look away and his shots had a good flow to them.  I say this because I feel that nowadays cinematographers of action movies are getting lost in shaky-cam.  Although I understand the use of it, too much can prove to be tiresome.  Labiano had a great balance of shots and I never overused any particular styles.

The main piece of the puzzle that leads to its success is its screenplay.  The mystery that the film centers on had me interested the whole time.  What I really liked is that the movie never made you suspect a great number of characters for an extended period of time.  For the most part, the film introduces you to the characters and allows you to draw your own conclusions.  My favorite trait of the screenplay is its reveal of the people behind the crime. It took a turn I didn’t expect, just like Scream did years ago.  Not only that, but the reasons for their actions were better and more original than other criminals and villains in other action movies.  The screenplay does have one major flaw.  The last fifteen to twenty minutes of the movie are incredibly unrealistic, but because the screenwriters had already won me over, I cared less than I would have if I thought the movie was bad already.

In conclusion, Non-Stop is a non-stop thrill ride.  Sorry, I had to say it.  Liam Neeson gives a good performance and he’s surrounded by actors and actresses who do the same.  The cinematography and the editing combine to form a well-paced film that has a great flow.  Lastly, the screenplay delivers an intriguing mystery with a surprising reveal.  Non-Stop is definitely an action thriller worth seeing!