Tag Archives: Sebastian Stan

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (2021) TV Review

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The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon
Sebastian Stan as James “Bucky” Barnes/Winter Soldier/White Wolf
Wyatt Russell as John Walker/Captain America
Erin Kellyman as Karli Morgenthau
Danny Ramirez as Joaquin Torres
Georges St-Pierre as Georges Batroc
Adepero Oduye as Sarah Wilson
Daniel Brühl as Helmut Zemo
Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter
Florence Kasumba as Ayo
Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Valentina Allegra de Fontaine
Director: Kari Skogland

Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) are a mismatched duo who team up for a global adventure that will test their survival skills — as well as their patience.

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Following immediately onwards after WandaVision, Disney and Marvel released their next MCU series, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. I didn’t know what the plot was about, I just knew it was going to involve Falcon and the Winter Soldier teaming up to deal with something, simple enough. Overall I liked it, much more than I was expecting to, even if looking back on it there are at least a couple of notable issues.

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There are going to be a lot of comparisons between WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier a number of times in this review. With regard to overall quality though, WandaVision has higher highs and does more special things, but The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is more consistently good and generally doesn’t really have a notable drop in quality throughout. Compared to WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is much shorter at 6 episodes instead of 9. However, each episode also lasts between 50 to 60 minutes. That means that you have enough in each episode, so you actually feel like things are happening. There are no points where you feel cheated when an episode cuts to credits. To a degree, it does feel like a Marvel movie just at 3 times the length. So in a way like Wandavision, it’s a show that really could’ve benefited from having all the episodes released all at once and watching a number of them at a time, but in a different way. For WandaVision, it is because the episodes are short and for Falcon and Winter Soldier, it’s because they are all part of this one story and so they all felt continuous (not to mention every episode follows on directly from where the previous episode finished). That could lead to the question of “why didn’t they just make it a movie?”. However, if it was a movie it wouldn’t have gotten into much depth as it did, whether it be the plot, the characters, or the themes. The plot was stretched nicely across all 6 episodes, something is always happening, and it also makes sure to slow down for important character moments and development. The plot had me quite invested, every week I was looking forward to watching the next episode of the show.

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The first episode is really more setting the stage of things to come, with a glimpse of the antagonists, and establishing the current lives of the lead characters. After that point though, it really picks up, and you’re locked in with this story. It doesn’t do anything special necessarily as far as the MCU goes, it’s mostly familiar territory. Many of the twists weren’t that surprising, but I learned to not place too much stock or anticipation into those twists and just follow the story for what it was. There are some surprise appearances from other MCU characters that actually gelled well with the story instead of just being there to remind you that they exist. The actual conclusion as to be expected is another MCU climax, but this actually feels in line with the rest of the show. Something worth noting about The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is that it actually touches on topics. including politics and racism. The results are a bit of a mixed bag (see the Flag Smashers for more on that), and quite often it just dances around the politics. There are some moments where it does work, mostly when they stop and actually be direct about it instead of being vague. Looking at the series as a whole, it doesn’t really say anything meaningful by the end, and its own politics is pretty confused. Generally, it didn’t bother me and again some parts were done well, it’s just something where you notice more issues the more you think deeply about it. The tone is a little over the place, at times quite dark, and at times very humorous. It’s not terrible but it is noticeable from time to time. I am actually curious to see where many of the characters and the plot continues on from here. Just so you know, the last two episodes have mid credits scenes that are worth sticking around for (or fast forwarding to at least).

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The acting from the cast is quite strong. First you have Anthony Mackie as Falcon/Sam Wilson, and Sebastian Stan as Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes, both of whom are showcased much better here than in their past film appearances, and you get to learn much more about them. In the first episode alone, you get to see more of their lives and it does a great job at showing you that these characters have a lot more to them than just being the sidekicks of Steve Rodgers. With Sam Wilson you get to learn about him and his family life, and you also see his conflict after the end of Endgame in which Steve Rodgers gave him the Captain America shield. It’s in the first episode so it’s not much of spoilers, but he gives up the shield, and as a result someone else is made Captain America. You can probably tell what happens with him by the end of the season, but I think it was a great arc for him, and it was probably the show’s strongest aspect. I liked him much more as a character after seeing him in this show, and I’m actually looking forward to his next appearance. As for Bucky Barnes, you also learn more about him as a person. You actually see that he’s still haunted from being the Winter Soldier and trying to make amends, at the same time he has much more personality now beyond just being ex-Winter Soldier. I also liked Bucky much more as a character after this show. Mackie and Stan play off each other quite well. They have the quips and banter that you would expect in an MCU project, but by the end of the show, you do buy the friendship between the two characters.

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Daniel Bruhl returns to the role of Zemo from his last appearance in Captain America: Civil War. Zemo in Civil War was a decent enough albeit underused villain, unique in just being a normal human without any powers but still being able to break apart the Avengers. Getting this out of the way, he’s not the villain of this series and he’s in a different sort of role. His dynamic and interactions with Sam and Bucky are great, and Zemo himself turns out to be an entertaining and interesting presence, especially with his mindset and perspective. He definitely steals just about every scene that he’s in. There’s definitely potential for him to have future appearances in other MCU projects, and I’m looking forward to them. Wyatt Russell plays John Walker (also known as US Agent in the comics), the new Captain America, who is surprisingly one of the most interesting characters in this show. While at first it seemed like the show would have him as just Evil Captain America or something else cartoonish, this show actually shows him as a complicated person and more someone who is not right for the role rather than being the absolute worst. Russell plays the character quite well, and in the hands in a lesser actor he could’ve come across as rather 2 dimensional. I’m interested to see more of him in the future too. Emily VanCamp also returns as Sharon Carter from the previous two Captain America movies. She’s not in this show a ton, but enough to play an important part. She was a decent inclusion, and it was nice to see her actually be somewhat relevant to the plot, interested to see what role Carter plays next in the MCU.

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The biggest standout problem with the show is the villains. The villains are a group called the Flag Smashers, and here they are yet another one of those villains who have good intentions, but use bad methods to do them, Disney particularly likes using that trope a lot. Honestly for the first few episodes I thought there was going to be some twist in which it turns out that they aren’t really the main villains of the show but no, they’re the antagonists after all. The Flag Smashers don’t have a clearly defined ideology, just vaguely leftist and anti-government. It honestly does feel like the writers were trying to position them as the Antifa stand-in (which doesn’t work on multiple levels never mind them not even being an organisation or group really). In the first episode, Sam’s military friend gives some exposition about what the Flag Smashers believe in, and it’s something about how they believe in a world without borders (which was written with the intention that this is somehow bad?). Literally the only thing about the Flag Smashers that are bad is just that they are violent and take their stance “too far”, it’s nothing inherently about their ideology. A lot of their actions especially towards the end of the show that result in the harm, death, or danger of innocent people seems very contrived and forced, and were just hard to buy. The random acts of violence really did feel like the writer’s wrote themselves into a corner by making their goals too reasonable and so just added them in just to make sure that we don’t like them too much. Erin Kellyman plays Karli, the leader of the Flag Smashers, she does perform the role quite well and the character did seem to have some complexity and conflict especially with the interactions with Sam in the middle part of the season. However, she and the rest of the Flag Smashers are kind of held back by the writing. I was willing to give them a pass for most of the season because I thought there would be some kind of further development in them or the plot, but when it got to the finale it was pretty clear that they weren’t going to change. By the end, the Flag Smashers were by far the weakest part of the show. As it turns out, supposedly a lot of their plot got re-written and edited because it originally revolved around a bio weapon or virus… and given COVID they changed it. It is quite unfortunate, because I’m pretty sure that keeping that aspect might’ve at least added some further depth or development to these characters that are meant to be the antagonists to the main characters.

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On the whole, the show is directed quite well, with Kari Skogland being the director for all the episodes. It is shot like a big budget Marvel movie, which was actually quite distracting when watching it at home on the small screen. The action sequences are great, and actually more intense than expected, certainly on the higher end of the PG-13 rating. Henry Jackman who composed the scores for the last two Captain America movies return to compose the score here, and once again its pretty good.

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There’s some faults to be seen in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier thinking back on it. Some of the themes and topics it doesn’t quite nail the landings on, and the main villains weren’t handled the best. However, on the whole I quite enjoyed the show. I enjoyed most of the characters and performances, I was engaged with the plot, and there were some thrilling and satisfying moments. With the ending, unlike WandaVision, it seems like the show could have another season. Whether it be through a second season, a different show, or a new movie, I’m looking forward to seeing the story and these characters progress further.

The Devil All the Time (2020) Review

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The Devil All the Time

Time: 138 Minutes
Cast:
Tom Holland as Arvin Eugene Russell
Bill Skarsgård as Willard Russell
Robert Pattinson as Reverend Preston Teagardin
Riley Keough as Sandy Henderson
Jason Clarke as Carl Henderson
Sebastian Stan as Sheriff Lee Bodecker
Eliza Scanlen as Lenora Laferty
Haley Bennett as Charlotte Russell
Mia Wasikowska as Helen Hatton Laferty
Harry Melling as Roy Laferty
Director: Antonio Campos

A young man (Tom Holland) is devoted to protecting his loved ones in a town full of corruption and sinister characters.

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The Devil All the Time was one of my most anticipated movies of 2020. First of all it has one of the biggest casts of the year, with it including Tom Holland, Bill Skarsgard, Robert Pattinson, Jason Clarke, and Riley Keough, so naturally that had my curiosity. On top of that though, the prospect of a psychological thriller with a large group of characters sounded quite appealing and very much my kind of film. Having seen it, I can see why some people are mixed on it, it’s not for everyone, but I’m glad to say that I really liked the movie and it really worked for me.

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You could describe The Devil All the Time as like The Place Beyond the Pines as written by Cormac McCarthy or The Coen Brothers. It spans a number of decades and generations, and features a large number of characters with intertwining storylines. It can feel like it’s not driving towards something for most of the movie, it’s very much a character driven story. For me though it works, I found the story and characters compelling, and I was invested with what was happening. As mentioned earlier it is not for everyone. It is a very grim and bleak movie, a lot of graphic, violent and gruesome acts happen, there are some pretty dark themes and subject matter touched on throughout, and almost all of the main characters are pretty far from what you’d call ‘a good person’ to say the least. So it’s likely to turn a lot of people off. The movie is also just under 2 hours and 20 minutes long, it does feel quite long and it is slowly paced for sure. You could make the argument that some parts could’ve been trimmed. At the same time there are some plotlines that could’ve done with some fleshing out, particularly those of Jason Clarke, Riley Keough and Sebastian Stan. Maybe a mini series might’ve been able to flesh out all the aspects of the story while not feeling too drawn out, but I’m fine with how it is as a movie. One point of contention will be with the narration by Donald Ray Pollock, the author of the book the movie was based on. It will work for some, and others will hate it, I have very mixed feelings on it. It really did add something to the tone of the movie, making it feel like a gothic folk tale, and it also added some context to the characters and the story that it sometimes needed. So I wouldn’t say that it should’ve been completely removed or anything. However, it really needed to be cut back a ton. There’s many moments that would’ve been more effective if they didn’t have narration, it just explains way too much, including what some characters are doing and why they are doing it, and it just takes me out of the movie. This may be a nitpick but there are a few characters who are around from the 40s through to the 60s, and don’t look like they aged a day, and it can be a bit distracting.

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The cast are of course the standouts from the movie, and everyone is great on their part. Riley Keough and Jason Clarke play a serial killer couple, Sebastian Stan plays a corrupt sheriff, and Harry Melling plays a fanatical preacher, the later of whom was one of the biggest surprises of the movie, delivering a truly memorable performance. Although their characters aren’t given much to do, Eliza Scanlen, Haley Bennett, Mia Wasikowska do well on their parts, and Scanlen particularly gave an effective performance. Even amongst an ensemble of great performances, there were three actors that stood out. First of all is Tom Holland, as the main character of the story (despite appearing for the first time like 40 minutes into the movie) Arvin Russell. This was quite a different role for him, a much darker and emotional role for him, and he was actually great on his part. While I like him in the movies I’ve seen of his, I’d say that this is so far the best performance of his career thus far. I hope Holland branches out to more indie movies like this, because he’s definitely got a lot of range. Bill Skarsgard is also great as Arvin’s father, he really leaves a strong impression despite being in the movie for only like 30 minutes. He gives an intense and emotional performance, and possibly the best work I’ve seen from him thus far. Robert Pattinson is also a scene stealer as a sleezy, deranged and sinister reverend. He’s not even in the movie a ton but he makes the most of his screentime. His performance could’ve so easily failed, it is definitely over the top. However it actually really works, and he really did well at portraying the most hateable character in the film, and considering the lineup of characters in this story that is saying a lot. A particular scene between him and Holland is one of the best scenes of the year.

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This is the first movie I watched from Antonio Campos, and from this I can tell that he’s a great director, and I do want to watch his other movies. It’s very well put together. The cinematography is great and really sells the environment and time period effectively. The 35mm and the grain really also really fit the movie and tone. You really get the gothic rural feeling throughout. The use of music was pretty great, both the song choices and the score, and really worked particularly well in some certain scenes. The violence and brutality is really effective and impactful, it feels very realistic, and there are some moments and particularly some imagery that really stick with you.

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The Devil All the Time has some issues with some of the executions of its ideas and with its writing, but on the whole I think it’s great. I was invested throughout, it’s very well directed, and it features some fantastic acting, particularly from Tom Holland, Bill Skarsgard and Robert Pattinson. It’s not for everyone, the aimless story might drag for some, and the grim tone might turn some people off. With that said I think that it might be worth watching for the ensemble of great performances alone.

Captain America: Civil War (2016) Retrospective Review

Time: 147 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America
Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man
Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow
Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier
Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon
Don Cheadle as James “Rhodey” Rhodes/War Machine
Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye
Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther
Paul Bettany as Vision
Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch
Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man
Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter
Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man
Frank Grillo as Brock Rumlow/Crossbones
William Hurt as Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross
Daniel Brühl as Helmut Zemo
Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability when the actions of the Avengers lead to collateral damage. The new status quo deeply divides members of the team. Captain America (Chris Evans) believes superheroes should remain free to defend humanity without government interference. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) sharply disagrees and supports oversight. As the debate escalates into an all-out feud, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) must pick a side.

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Captain America: Civil War was a movie I was meaning to re-watch for some time now. Every time I thought about Civil War, I just got this incredibly underwhelmed feeling. I didn’t dislike it but after greatly anticipating it, I was relatively disappointed by it. Now that it’s been years and I decided to give it a rewatch in the lead up to Endgame, I was hoping for a turnaround on it like what happened with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. While I definitely do like the movie more than when I last watched it, I still have some issues with it, and it’s a real shame because there are a lot of parts about the movie which are legitimately great.

As this is a retrospective review, this will be spoiler filled, it’s the only way I can talk in depth about what I think about the movie. Generally, at around 2 hours and a half the movie is paced pretty well all things considering, and I was surprised that most of the humour didn’t detract from the more dramatic moments. The highest praise that I can give in terms of plot is the third act, which is largely done well. None of the ‘twists’ really hit hard at all for me but I really liked certain reveals, such as the subversion of the randomly introduced extra Winter Soldiers as just red herrings. You really feel the emotion with every character, Rogers, Stark, Barnes, T’Challa and even Zemo, and it was all handled very well. There are a lot of great parts to Civil War as well, however they also don’t handle it in the best way and so it detracts from the movie. For example, while I liked the idea of the Sokovia Accords, the introduction of them in the movie was pretty messy. One explosion during a mission by the Avengers is what sets off the creation of the Accords, which is something I really don’t get. There’s even a bit where during a meeting, General Ross showed a montage to the Avengers of the amount of destruction that the past films have caused, considerably higher casualties and damage, however this one relatively smaller even is what got the world thinking “these guys need some oversight”. It wouldn’t be so bad if almost all of the MCU movies didn’t have some large destruction during it and most people just brushing it aside easily. Age of Ultron was the most destructive, so it was the perfect Segway into Civil War. I’m not quite sure why they didn’t directly link it with the Sokovia events (you’d think they would given the title of the Accords), after all it’s what led Tony Stark and Zemo to make their decisions over the course of the movie. With all that being said, I do like the debates about the Accords with all the characters, and they do make some interesting points. I do like how they managed to make the change from ‘superhero registration’ to ‘Avengers Oversight’, the superhero registration thing definitely wouldn’t work in the MCU, even the large amount of characters that exist in it would be too small for an event of that size.

The problem is that despite all this, this still ends up being a movie about Bucky. Both of the major ‘versus’ battles, the Airport scene and the Cap, Iron Man and Bucky fight at the end, are all surrounding Bucky. While people are split into ‘teams’ because of the Sovokia Accords, they aren’t battling because of their positions on it, that’s just a background event that coincidentally splits them on the sides fighting during the airport scene. It feels like there was no point in having it in the story, even without the Sokovia Accords, the idea of Bucky Barnes being framed and on the run with Cap trying to protect him would’ve worked well (on a side note though, wasn’t that invested in the Bucky Barnes story in this movie either). I’m not making this a MCU vs DCEU thing, but it’s worth pointing out that once WB announced that they would be making Batman v Superman, Marvel gave the Russo Brothers the go to do Civil War. I don’t know for certain what their plans for the third Captain America movie were beforehand but I’m guessing it would’ve been more consistent than what we got at least. As for the impact of the Sokovia Accords on the other movies, I guess it’s mentioned briefly like in Ant Man and the Wasp and maybe some of the other movies, but all in all really didn’t have too much impact on the other characters and movies that much. The reason I’m mentioning this is because I’m wondering how much impact Civil War really had on the MCU, and it doesn’t seem to have much, there really weren’t many consequences, any problem that was raised, many of the characters seemed to bounce back from pretty easily. Even when Rhodes crash landed at the end of the airport battle and needed exo-sketal leg braces to walk again, in Infinity War he’s back flying and fighting in the suit like nothing ever happened. The only thing that was really impacted was the relationship between Steve and Tony, which was fractured during the last act of the movie. The thing is that at the end it almost feels like they resolved it and that they regret fighting each other at the end, and they aren’t at odds with each other anymore, as evidence by that message from Cap at the end and Tony’s lllleaction to it, so even then it doesn’t feel significantly damaged. Not to mention by the time the events from Endgame come around, what happened between them in Civil War will be relatively unimportant in Endgame considering The Snap and the aftermath. That last bit however is just speculation, maybe Endgame addresses those events (I hope so at least).

The cast generally do a good job in their roles. Chris Evans once again does a commendable job playing Captain America, though I can’t help but feel like he was robbed of a proper conclusion to his trilogy. While The First Avenger and The Winter Soldier were definitely Captain America movies, Civil War doesn’t feel like that, even if he definitely is the main character of it. His story arc was relatively weaker as well and he didn’t seem to go through as much in comparison. Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Don Cheadle as War Machine and the rest of the Avengers cast that appear here do well once again. Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye and Paul Rudd Ant Man feel shoe horned into the movie just for the airport scene (even if both actors played their roles as best as they could), but at least Hawkeye has a reason for being there, with him repaying a favour to Scarlet Witch after the events of Age of Ultron. Ant Man was just sort of put there in the scene with really no motivation behind his actions. When I first watched Civil War, I was very mixed about Tom Holland as Spider-Man, he just felt so out of place. Now after watching Homecoming I’m much more into his version of Spider-Man and so he came across better here, however like Ant Man, still feels a little forced into this movie just for an action scene. I think the part that annoys me so much about his appearance in the airport scene is because he’s only there because Tony Stark wanted another person to help him stop Cap, if he at least knew what was going on and why everything was happening, it would’ve been a lot more tolerable. Let’s just say that I liked him a lot better in his Peter Parker scenes, based off those scenes along he’s a perfect Peter Parker. Robert Downey Jr. gives one of his best performances as Iron Man, even if his sudden change in character was a little shaky. For whatever reason I guess he never realised that people died in Sokovia and it took Alfre Woodward’s character to confront him about her dead son to actually realise it. With that being said, Downey is fantastic in the role as usual and was one of the highlights from the movie. Chadwick Boseman made his strong debut as Black Panther here, and it was actually a great storyline for him, with him starting out wanting revenge for the death of his father and when he does find the man responsible, he chooses to stop him from killing himself. It’s by far the best character arc/story in the movie, as well as the best character in the whole movie. Daniel Bruhl is the main villain Zemo and a lot of people have questioned whether we even needed a villain for the movie, given that it’s mainly Cap vs Iron Man, while I get that perspective, he set the events of the movie into motion and I was fine with him. It’s a very different kind of antagonist compared to the other villains, with almost all of them being super powered beings, and if not that they’d have powerful suits or something. He’s much more of a human based villain, very intelligent and making well laid plans and successfully breaking The Avengers apart (sort of). Also he’s driven by revenge, and it’s a revenge story you can really buy. Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot to him outside of that, however Bruhl did such a good job at playing him that I’d be open to seeing him again in another movie (even if I don’t think there’s much more you could really do with him).

Most of the Russo Brothers’ direction is pretty good here. The action scenes are mostly good and I appreciated it a lot more than the last time I saw them. The opening action scene in Lagos was better than I remember it being, it is a little too shaky but still good. There’s the Bucky chase scene with him, Captain America and Black Panther, also very good. Most of the other action scenes were also well done. The final fight is one of the highlight action scenes from the MCU, you really feel the weight of every blow and it was all handled very well. The cinematography is not as grey as a lot of people have said it was, it’s actually pretty good for the most part. The score by Henry Jackman is also much better than I remembered it being, with most of the themes being quite memorable, even if some of his other scores are a little better.

The one scene you’ve probably noticed I left off mentioning was the Airport Scene, it’s so far removed from the rest of the movie and I have so much to say about that I had to dedicate an entire paragraph talking about it. Generally, it is widely known as one of the best scenes in Civil War and one of the best scenes of the MCU. Many people have described the scene as the cinematic version of smashing action figures together, and I can’t think of a more apt description, though you can probably tell where I’m going with this that I mean it in a bad way. It honestly brought down the movie for me, it doesn’t feel like it belongs in the movie at all. The tone is completely different, even if the some of the other action scenes have some humour, it still managed to maintain a sense of tension and weight throughout, just like what the Russo Brothers did with The Winter Soldier. This scene on the other hand was like cheesy ‘fun’ comic book mayhem that doesn’t particularly progress the story like the other action scenes did. Really everyone is pulling their punches too (except for Black Panther of course, who’s trying to kill Bucky), so you feel no tension whatsoever. Even on a technical level it’s a bit of a downgrade from the rest of the movies. As I said earlier, most of the movie isn’t that grey but this particular scene definitely is, it’s not visually appealing to look at, even with all the battles that are going on. Most of the CGI in the movie is actually pretty good but in that scene, it is hit or miss, whether it be the green screen backgrounds, Giant Man or even the effects on Iron Man and War Machine. The best part about the scene I guess is that it does show off everyone’s abilities well, particularly Scarlet Witch and even War Machine gets to show off more than in previous film appearances. Despite its issues, on its own the scene isn’t terrible, and it would’ve fitted in a much more lighthearted movie, like the first Avengers. In Civil War however, it doesn’t belong there at all and the movie would’ve been better if it didn’t have it.

What gets me about Captain America Civil War is that there are some legitimately great parts to it. Even if you remove the frustrating Airport scene, it’s got some issues in its story which keeps the movie back from how it could’ve been. It’s not bad by any means, it’s decent, just unfortunately with a lot of problems. With talk about how Endgame makes the previous MCU movies even better in hindsight, I really hope that it’ll retroactively improve Civil War too.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018) Review

Time: 149 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man
Chris Hemsworth as Thor
Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk
Chris Evans as Steve Rogers
Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow
Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange
Don Cheadle as James “Rhodey” Rhodes/War Machine
Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man
Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther
Paul Bettany as Vision
Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch
Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon
Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes/White Wolf
Tom Hiddleston as Loki
Idris Elba as Heimdall
Peter Dinklage as Eitri the Dwarf King
Benedict Wong as Wong
Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord
Pom Klementieff as Mantis
Karen Gillan as Nebula
Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer
Zoe Saldana as Gamora
Vin Diesel as Groot
Bradley Cooper as Rocket
Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts
Benicio del Toro as Taneleer Tivan/The Collector
Josh Brolin as Thanos
Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and the rest of the Avengers unite to battle their most powerful enemy yet — the evil Thanos (Josh Brolin). On a mission to collect all six Infinity Stones, Thanos plans to use the artifacts to inflict his twisted will on reality. The fate of the planet and existence itself has never been more uncertain as everything the Avengers have fought for has led up to this moment.

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Avengers: Infinity War wasn’t just one of the most anticipated films of 2018, it’s also one of the most anticipated films ever. I’ll admit that in the lead up to the release of this film, I had mixed feelings. On one hand, the Russo Brothers directed Captain America: The Winter Soldier, one of the best films in the MCU. On the other hand, they also directed Captain America Civil War, and while it was decent it was rather underwhelming compared to what it could have been, and felt a bit disappointing. Even without taking into account their previous movie, there was still a lot they had to achieve: they have to handle so many characters, and this is the culmination of about a decade’s worth of films building up to it. It is easy for Infinity War to end up being a disappointment. So I went in with my expectations in check, expecting a decent and entertaining movie. However, Infinity War truly blew me away, The Russo Brothers have truly achieved something amazing here.

I need to preface that although there is a lot of things I want to say, there’s a lot about this movie that I can’t say. So I will do my best to avoid spoilers. First thing that is worth noting is that unless you are heavily into the MCU movies, you probably won’t enjoy this as much as other people. Not just because of the amount of backstory in the other movies, but also because of the characters and build up, it might not feel as impactful. As a fan of the MCU and someone who likes all of the movies, I was thoroughly satisfied with the story here. All the moments that were meant to be impactful, really was impactful. I wasn’t spoiled at all before watching Infinity War and there were a lot of surprises, I won’t reveal any of them here because they really were effective. This movie does jump around with places and characters and with that the tonal and style shift is very apparent and it actually works. When it jumps from Thor or any of the other Avengers characters to the Guardians of the Galaxy, it really feels like a Guardians of the Galaxy movie.Infinity War is around 2 hours and 30 minutes long, making it Marvel’s longest movie. The pacing was done very well, I never got bored once. It was actually hard to get bored because there was so much happening, so much to take in. Most of the characters get to do something but some get more focus and attention than others. While this means a lot of characters not getting as much development despite the long running time, that is of no fault to the Russos, it’s a very difficult task to balance out all these characters, and what they have done here is truly commendable.

There is something I know that will concern some and that is the use of humour here. The MCU has recently been having a lot of humour, and sometimes that humour kind of diffuses some of the drama, and for Infinity War, it seemed like it would negatively affect a lot of the emotional moments. There is a lot of comedy here, and it really does work, it worked for me at least. If you’re worried about the humour ruining some of the drama or not, don’t worry, it doesn’t. During the truly impactful moments, no humour is playing during that scene. Besides, the tonal shifts, the jumping from different places is jarring already so it wouldn’t be too much of an issue. Speaking of impactful moments, there are a lot of them here, some of the most memorable in the entire MCU. I’ll just say that if you were disappointed by the lack of things happening in Civil War, you will be pleased by what happens here. And the ending…. I’m not even sure I can describe it. All I will say is that it is a very bold decision and I applaud the Russos for going in this direction. Now make no mistake, this movie isn’t called Infinity War Part 1, but it is a part 1 of 2 movies. Some of this movie’s quality and ambitious quality could change depending on the decisions made in part 2. On a side note, there is one (not two) end credits scene, I won’t say what it’s about but it does get me really hyped. It also (unlike some other MCU films) really feels like it belongs after the credits as a teaser instead of being easily insertable into the end of the actual film.

The cast to Infinity War is absolutely massive, I could probably take up a whole paragraph just listing the entire cast list and who they play. One thing that The Russo Brothers had said was that Thanos, the big villain of Infinity War, was the main character of Infinity War and I didn’t really believe it. I have to say that they were completely right, he has the most screentime of all the characters and the entire film is surrounding him. Thanos has been built up for 6 years, ever since The Avengers in 2012, he seemed like he wouldn’t live up to all the hype that has been built all around him. However he absolutely delivers. Josh Brolin delivers an incredible motion capture performance (the motion capture on him is amazing, more on that later) and really makes this character work. Something I wasn’t expecting from him is that they don’t treat him like a villain, he has reasons for doing what he does. From what I heard his motives differ from the comics but it worked in this movie at least. Thanos not only might just be the best villain in the MCU, but he’s also one of the best comic book movie villains. Threatening, powerful, interesting to watch and surprisingly full of depth, Thanos more than lives up to the hype. All the other actors do quite great in their roles. Most of the other main characters get to have at least one moment to shine. However, some characters are more utilised than others. It’s quite possible that the characters that you expect or want to have a lot of screentime or things to do doesn’t really end up doing that a lot. Stand outs include Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange and Zoe Saldana as Gamora.

The action sequences are really great, Infinity War has some of the best action sequences of the entire MCU. In the Captain America movies, the Russo Brothers’ often used some jump cuts in their action scenes, and while most of them worked well, it was a little too much. That was cut down a little bit in Infinity War, there’s still a little cutting in the fight scenes but the jump cutting was lessened. Most of the special effects looked good. There are occasionally parts that didn’t look so great, one of the big large action sequences in the third act had some minor CGI issues (mostly in the background), and certain things like occasionally Iron Man’s suit look a little fakish. One impressive CGI aspect however is the motion capture work on Josh Brolin to create Thanos, motion captured and CGI comic book villains are rather common nowadays but the effects here make him among the best, every expression on Brolin’s face is translated by the motion capture, it really enhanced his performance.

Avengers: Infinity War was more than a good movie, it was a great movie. I don’t know where I would rank it among the MCU, but I can say with certainty that it’s top tier Marvel, top 3 at least. I will need to rewatch it so I can be absolutely sure about my thoughts because there is a lot to take in (plus, the quality of this movie will depend on how part 2 fares). What I can say is that it’s entertaining, funny, impactful, shocking and ambitious, and I was more than satisfied with what I got. Stay away from all spoilers, there are so many surprises that you don’t want to have ruined for you. I can’t wait till Avengers 4.

I, Tonya (2017) Review

Time: 120 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Domestic violence, sexual violence, sex scenes & offensive language
Cast
Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding
Sebastian Stan as Jeff Gillooly
Allison Janney as LaVona Fay Golden
Julianne Nicholson as Diane Rawlinson
Caitlin Carver as Nancy Kerrigan
Bojana Novakovic as Dody Teachman
Paul Walter Hauser as Shawn Eckhardt
Bobby Cannavale as Martin Maddox
Dan Triandiflou as Bob Rawlinson
Director: Craig Gillespie

Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) rises through the ranks of competitive figure skating only to find disgrace when her husband (Sebastian Stan) tries to eliminate her rival.

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I, Tonya had my interest because of the cast (with Margot Robbie and Sebastian Stan), premise and the trailers. I wasn’t very familiar about Tonya Harding and going into it had a very vague knowledge about the incident with her and Nancy Kerrigan. I was expecting from I, Tonya great performances and I definitely got that. But I didn’t expect this to be one of my favourite films of the year. The style, the story, everything somehow worked together to make a great biopic that surprised me on many levels.

I, Tonya covers more than just the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan incident, it also covers Tonya’s life in chronological order, so we actually get to know her before “the incident” occurs. From start to finish it cuts to many of the characters/people in interview tapes who tell their side of the story, sometimes there are conflicting stories, especially between Tonya and her ex husband Jeff. One of the best strengths that the film has is that it is a dark comedy, it makes the film a lot more entertaining than if it just showed the events play out. The comedy somehow works and works seamlessly, it doesn’t feel forced at all. Some of the comedy comes from just how ridiculous some events were and how stupid many of the people were (particularly Tonya’s bodyguard played by Paul Walter Hauser). However, despite the comedy and entertaining style, it doesn’t hold back on a lot of the darker things that happened. A lot of it is quite hard to watch with Tonya having to deal with things such as abuse from both her mother and her husband, and of course the end of Tonya’s career because of the incident with Nancy Kerrigan. As someone who didn’t know a lot about Tonya Harding, let’s just say that events played out like how I didn’t think they would, so I was invested from start to finish, and barely anything took me out of the movie.

Margot Robbie has already proved herself to be a great actress in the past 5 years but with I, Tonya she has delivered her best work yet, she was absolutely phenomenal as Tonya Harding. Margot really transformed into Tonya and brought her to the big screen, a lot of the time you will probably forget that it’s Margot who’s playing her. While we don’t always agree with what Tonya does, we can understand why she does the things she does. There are particularly some scenes that Margot has in the last act which are some of the best pieces of acting that she’s ever done, particularly two certain moments. This is one of the best performances of the year for sure. Sebastian Stan really surprised me as Tonya’s ex husband Jeff Gillooly. Throughout the majority of the film I actually forgot that it was Sebastian Stan who was playing him. His performance shouldn’t be overlooked. Allison Janney is also incredible as Tonya’s abusive mother, she is a force to be reckoned with and steals every scene that she’s in. Although she has some moments which are funny, on the whole she is at times frightening in the way she acts towards Tonya, she really leaves a strong impact. Other actors like Julianne Nicholson and Paul Walter Hauser were also great and played their part well.

The direction by Craig Gillespie was solid, very stylistic. Some people have accused the film of stealing the style from Martin Scorsese’s many crime movies, often calling it Goodfellas on ice and I can see a lot of similarities and why they would say that. It breaks the fourth wall multiple times, many of the characters at times talk to the camera (especially when it cuts to present day in the interview room scenes) and there is a lot of narration. However, something about it just worked here that I didn’t mind that it was essentially trying to imitate a Scorsese style. The one aspect that didn’t work so well however was the use of music, at times the song choices felt a little on the nose and convenient and it was distracting occasionally. The ice skating scenes themselves were great, some of the ice skating was probably not done by Margot but at least for me, I thought they did a good job hiding that.

I, Tonya manages to bring to the big screen not only the story behind Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan incident, but also Tonya’s life story and it was done so well, better than I thought it would be. The way it was directed and portrayed was great and the performances from everyone, especially from Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan and Allison Janney were outstanding and some of the best of the year. One of the biggest things I can say about it is that I’m also pretty sure that Gillespie and the cast and crew have redefined who Tonya Harding is, she is no longer known as just the infamous ice-skater who “supposedly” had another skater’s knee bashed in. I, Tonya is one of the best films of the year and shouldn’t be missed.

Captain America: Civil War (2016) Review

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Captain America Civil War

Time: 147 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America
Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man
Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow
Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier
Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon
Don Cheadle as James “Rhodey” Rhodes/War Machine
Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye
Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther
Paul Bettany as Vision
Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch
Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man
Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter
Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man
Frank Grillo as Brock Rumlow/Crossbones
William Hurt as Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross
Daniel Brühl as Helmut Zemo
Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability when actions of the Avengers lead to collateral damage. The new status quo divides members of the team. Captain America (Chris Evans) believes superheroes should remain free to defend humanity without government interference. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) disagrees and supports oversight. As the debate escalates into an all-out feud, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) must pick a side.

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Captain America: Civil War was one of my most anticipated movies of 2016. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is my favourite movie of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the directors of that movie, the Russo Brothers, are returning for this film. Not only that but it featured most of the Avengers. Ever since its’ release, Civil War has been met with critical acclaim. After seeing this movie, I can say that it is good, it does have a lot of great aspects from the excellent acting, entertaining action scenes and many moments of the story making a big impact. Overall I think that if you liked the other films in the series, you should definitely check Civil War out. But there are a lot of aspects that could’ve been improved that would’ve made the film significantly better.

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In terms of the pacing, the first act was quite slow as it set up the story, by the second act though it picks up, however I will say the film definitely does feel its length of 2 hours and 30 minutes. Even though I would’ve preferred the overall story go in a different direction (which I’ll talk about later), I thought that the final act was done quite well, it actually goes quite dark, much darker than I’d expect it to be. One thing that was quite unfortunate was that most of the story was quite predictable. For example, there is a revelation in the final act that was supposed to be significant, however I could see it coming within the first few scenes of the movie. However the story was still decent enough and kept me interested throughout the movie. Another thing I should mention is the humour. Some of the humour worked quite well and was entertaining, other times it didn’t, sometimes the jokes didn’t hit, sometimes there were too many jokes and sometimes the jokes even interrupted actually emotional scenes. This was quite unfortunate as these moments could’ve been much better without the poorly placed humour.

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There is an issue I have to mention. One of the main selling points of this movie is that it will have the Avengers fight against each other. I should warn you, don’t go into this movie expecting the Civil War storyline just slightly changed. In the first act the Sovakia Accords (the agreement for government oversight over the Avengers) does play a part and the film does well at illustrating both sides. Even though coming into this movie I was on Steve’s side, there were some points made by Tony which were quite valid. However by the 2nd act the film almost ditches that plotline and the mains source of conflict between Steve and Tony are no longer related to the Accords, it’s related to Bucky. So it almost feels pointless calling the movie Civil War other than the fact that it gives an excuse for most of the characters to return and to draw attention to it because it’s the name of a significant Marvel storyline. It would’ve been a lot more ambitious to stick with this setup and have them fight each other because of their ideological differences. Another result of the need to make the Avengers fight each other is that some of the characters don’t really play a significant part of the story. Some of the characters like Hawkeye and Ant Man are in this movie simply for the airport scene and they seem to feel quite out of place, but they are still good in the couple scenes they’re in. As I said earlier though, the plot is done reasonably well, it’s just that I think that it would’ve been better in taking it in a different direction.

Marvel's Captain America: Civil War L to R: Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) Photo Credit: Zade Rosenthal © Marvel 2016

Almost all the Avengers return and they are great, it’s surprising that most of them have their own mini arcs in the movie. There are a few notable stand outs. The first is Tom Holland as Spiderman. It is way too early to tell whether he’s the best Spiderman as we haven’t seen him in his own movie, but I can at least say that he is a good Spiderman (CHECK BOTTOM OF REVIEW FOR UPDATED THOUGHTS). Another standout was Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther. One of the best parts of the movie is that it set up his character quite well, he was one of the most interesting characters in the story. He’s actually one of my favourite Avengers now and I can’t wait to see him in his own movie in 2018. Now there is one performance which I think isn’t getting enough attention and that is Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man, who steals this entire movie. The few moments in Civil War where I felt emotionally impacted by a scene featured Downey Jr, and it was him who made the scene significantly better. I know that he has a reputation of just playing himself in this role, but here he proves how great of an actor he is and how well cast he was. This is the best performance I’ve seen from him since Iron Man. Now there’s one character that’s going to divide people and that is Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) who is the main villain. On one hand he’s not the most memorable villain and he’s absolutely nothing like the character in the comics, but on the other he is written quite well, with actual reasons behind his actions. He could’ve been made better by not having him in the movie (since there doesn’t really need to be a villain for Civil War) or by having him in more scenes and making him more memorable. But either way, he’s still one of the better Marvel villains, though that’s not saying a lot.

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The action for the most part is good. The first scene has a lot of unnecessary shaky cam which made the action hard to comprehend but the rest of the action is pretty steady and easy to be entertained by. The airport scene, which has been hyped up quite a bit is decent enough and showcased all the Avengers’ abilities and skills greatly, Ant Man for me stole that entire scene. I’d be lying though if I didn’t say I wasn’t underwhelmed after all the hype. There were a couple of problems I had however, first is that there were far too many jokes that felt like an overload, especially when it came to Spiderman. It did feel really odd for the Avengers to be cracking jokes while beating up their former friends, in fact they didn’t seem that concerned that they are now divided and fighting each other. Another complaint is some of the CGI, it works quite well in most of the film but there are a couple moments of bad CGI, both of which were in the airport scene. One is Spiderman, although his action was good the CGI on him looks incredibly fake. The other is, where I swear the filmmakers photoshopped Downey’s face onto an Iron Man suit, but those are really the only times that the CGI was fake. The best action scene however for me is the final fight in the last act. As I said the final act goes quite dark, but the fight scene is a lot more dirty and rough than you’d expect, the direction of that scene is the direction I wanted the airport scene to go in.

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Despite many of my problems with it, Captain America: Civil War is still one of the better Marvel movies. It has great action scenes, very good performances and some ambitious ideas, some of which I never expected at all to come from this movie. It’s just some of the aspects of the plot that weigh down the film. It felt like it could’ve gone further than it did, some of the humour didn’t land and the direction of the plot could’ve been handled a lot better. I have a feeling that a lot of that is due to the fact that the Russos’ had so much that they had to handle, that not everything integrated perfectly. I do think however that this movie is worth watching, I just don’t think it’s as flawless as some are making it out to be.

UPDATED THOUGHTS ON SPIDERMAN

My thoughts on Civil War are pretty much the same as in this review. However something that had changed was my thoughts on Spiderman.

After watching Civil War I didn’t really know what to think of Holland’s Spiderman, I had mixed feelings. I ended up just saying that I liked him in the review (as I wanted to get the review up as soon as possible), which was a bad idea. I felt like I should’ve waited to collect my thoughts before posting the review. So months later, here are my current thoughts on him:

I loved Tom Holland’s Peter Parker, I have only seen one scene of him but out of all the Peter Parkers, he’s my favourite. That’s absolutely impressive. I did not expect that.

As for his Spiderman… I have mixed feelings. He was honestly quite annoying to me, and not in a good way. There wasn’t really any moment in the Airport scene (the only scene in Civil War where you see Spiderman) which made me like him, not one joke that worked. However I don’t think it was the way that Holland played him, Spiderman just wasn’t used well in the scene or the movie for that matter. He feels completely forced in and wasn’t given much depth. He didn’t even work on an entertaining level.

Now I will say that Holland will have a lot more to work with when his solo movie comes around. I felt like if Spiderman was integrated throughout Civil War and had his own arc like Black Panther, I might’ve liked him. The best thing I can say about him in Civil War is that Holland shows potential. He definitely has the potential to be the best live action Spiderman. But we’ll just have to see.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) Review

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Captain America The Winter Soldier

Time: 136 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America
Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow
Sebastian Stan as The Winter Soldier
Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon
Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill
Frank Grillo as Brock Rumlow
Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter/Agent 13
Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter
Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury
Director: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo

After the cataclysmic events in New York with his fellow Avengers, Steve Rogers, aka Captain America (Chris Evans), lives in the nation’s capital as he tries to adjust to modern times. An attack on an S.H.I.E.L.D. colleague throws Rogers into a web of intrigue that places the whole world at risk. Joining forces with the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and a new ally, the Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Rogers struggles to expose an ever-widening conspiracy, but he and his team soon come up against an unexpected enemy.

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I said this in the past, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is my favourite Marvel movie. The Winter Soldier is a realistic take (or the most realistic take) on Captain America and is more of a spy/espionage thriller than a superhero film. The Winter Soldier pretty much gets everything right, the plot is very well written, the acting is great, the action scenes are fantastic and this is wasn’t just a filler movie, it changed the Marvel universe as we knew it.

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Without spoiling anything, The Winter Soldier has great consequences of the Marvel Universe. This movie was more spy and espionage than any other movies in the Marvel universe. The tone of this movie is also quite serious, this movie is probably the darkest Marvel movie. With that said it’s not completely dark, the humour was quite good, particularly between Captain America, Black Widow and Falcon. Although the Winter Soldier is in the title of the film, he’s used more as an occasional villain, so the film really didn’t need to be named after him. But I will say that he was used well in the story, especially in how he relates to Captain America.

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Chris Evans once again returns as Captain America and as usual is great. Scarlett Johansson returns as Black Widow and is an even stronger character than in Iron Man 2 and The Avengers as it put her in the forefront of the film. This was the movie that convinced me that there should be a Black Widow movie but it’s probably too late for it to happen at this point, with all of these next movies going big like Captain Marvel and Doctor Strange. There is particularly great chemistry between Evans and Johansson and play off each other really well. Another great addition was Anthony Mackie as Falcon, the film really integrated him well in the story with all the other plot points going on. Other actors like Robert Redford and Samuel L. Jackson also do great jobs. Without spoiling anything for those who don’t know, I’ll say that The Winter Soldier is also one of the better Marvel villains.

"Marvel's Captain America: The Winter Soldier"..Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan)..Ph: Zade Rosenthal..© 2014 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.

The action is filmed much more realistically, as the tone of the film is more realistic. I think it’s also worth mentioning the stunt team, the fight scenes were truly great and thrilling. I particularly like how the film incorporated Captain America’s shield into the action. Sure I liked what they did with The First Avenger and The Avengers but as this has a more realistic tone they had to come up with a realistic way of using the shield, and they surprisingly made it work. Captain America’s costume thankfully changed from The Avengers’ fake costume look to a much more fitting and realistic look.

"Marvel's Captain America: The Winter Soldier" L to R: Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) & Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) Ph: Zade Rosenthal © 2014 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is truly a great movie and for me is currently the best Marvel movie. It took a more realistic take on the classic character, had great twists and turns and has great impact on the Marvel universe on the whole. It’s not just a great comic book movie, but it’s also a great movie on its own. This year we’ll have to see if Captain America: Civil War or Doctor Strange can top it, it will not be an easy task.

The Martian (2015) Review

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The Martian

Time: 144 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive Language
Cast:
Matt Damon as Mark Watney
Jessica Chastain as Melissa Lewis
Kristen Wiig as Annie Montrose
Jeff Daniels as Theodore “Teddy” Sanders
Michael Peña as Major Rick Martinez
Kate Mara as Beth Johanssen
Sean Bean as Mitch Henderson
Sebastian Stan as Dr. Chris Beck
Aksel Hennie as Dr. Alex Vogel
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Vincent Kapoor
Director: Ridley Scott

During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. Millions of miles away, NASA and a team of international scientists work tirelessly to bring “the Martian” home, while his crewmates concurrently plot a daring, if not impossible, rescue mission. As these stories of incredible bravery unfold, the world comes together to root for Watney’s safe return.

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I was interested in The Martian ever since I heard about it, mostly because of the cast, director and the praise about the book which I haven’t read. When it comes to director Ridley Scott, even though I liked Prometheus, most of his recent work hasn’t been that good (The Counsellor). The Martian is a return to form for him and it’s one of the best films of 2015. The Martian has excellent special effects, an interesting story and great acting from Matt Damon and the rest of the cast. After everything I’ve seen here, I want to check out the book.

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The film jumps between Mark Watney, the people on earth and Watney’s old crew who are now on a different mission. All of these stories I thought were well done but the most interesting and overall best one out of all of them is of course is the one involving Mark. One thing I liked about this movie is that it could’ve just been dark, gloomy and depressing but it’s actually kind of a funny movie. It also helps that Mark is quite a likable character, and we are on board with him as he tries to survive all of this. Also the fact that he is a competent character helped, which separated this movie from a lot of the other stranded survivor movies. I also don’t know if this film is scientifically accurate in the things that Mark does to stay alive but the film does make it all feel real, which is one of the highest praises I can give to a science fiction movie.

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Matt Damon is fantastic in this movie. In this sort of movie you need a lead actor who can hold so much of the story on his own and Damon does that and much more. Also like I said before, his character is very likable and it works to the film’s advantage as we are with him pretty much through the entire film. The supporting cast which consists of Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Sean Bean and others add quite a lot to this movie. Every actor gets their chance to shine but it’s really Matt Damon’s show here.

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The special effects are excellent, The Martian overall is a beautiful looking movie. A lot of the environments on Mars looked so real. I might even go so far as to say that it was actually worth watching this movie in 3D, which is such a rare thing for me to do. The 3D really captured what it would be like to be on Mars, and of course it’s mainly to the credit of the movie but the 3D should really be mentioned as well.

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The Martian is definitely worth watching and is a return to form for Ridley Scott. I haven’t read the book that it was based on but after this movie, now I really want to. Matt Damon, the rest of the cast and Ridley Scott have made a really great Sci-Fi movie that I want to revisit. The Martian is definitely one of the best movies of the year and is definitely worth a watch if you haven’t seen it already.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) Review

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Captain America

Time: 124 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America
Tommy Lee Jones as Colonel Chester Phillips
Hugo Weaving as Johann Schmidt/Red Skull
Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter
Sebastian Stan as Sergeant James “Bucky” Barnes
Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark
Neal McDonough as Timothy “Dum Dum” Dugan
Derek Luke as Gabe Jones
Stanley Tucci as Dr. Abraham Erskine
Director: Joe Johnston

It is 1941 and the world is in the throes of war. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) wants to do his part and join America’s armed forces, but the military rejects him because of his small stature. Finally, Steve gets his chance when he is accepted into an experimental program that turns him into a supersoldier called Captain America. Joining forces with Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), Captain America leads the fight against the Nazi-backed HYDRA organization.

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Although making a Captain America movie isn’t as big of a risk as making a Thor movie, it is still pretty hard creating a Captain America movie that takes him seriously. The 1990 film didn’t help this movie’s chances. However like Thor, Captain America is a surprisingly good entry in the Marvel universe. It’s not one of the best, but it is enjoyable, well-made and it does have an engaging story and establishes one of The Avengers’ key members.

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One of the best parts about this movie is of course the fact that it actually manages to take Captain America seriously. There are actually stages of Steve Rodgers becoming Captain America, as well as explanations for all the things that happen, for example there’s a reason Captain America decided to use a shield over other weapons. It’s not like the 1990 film where he becomes Captain America and suddenly has this design. I also thought it was a strong decision to have Captain America’s first appearance be in a World War 2 setting. It would be so easy to just have Captain America created and then rush his appearance into Modern day (again like the 1990 film) but it was a great idea to have him in this setting. A lot of the supporting characters end up playing roles in later movies so these characters aren’t just wasted being in the 1940s.

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Chris Evans is really believable as Captain America. It is so easy just to have Steve Rodgers be this generic good guy character but Evans makes this character feel believable. The supporting cast is also good, consisting of Stanley Tucci, Tommy Lee Jones, Sebastian Stan, Dominic Cooper and Hayley Atwell (the latter of which did a particularly good job). Hugo Weaving plays the main villain Red Skull and although he is good (and better than most of the other Marvel villains) he does seem like a standard villain. I don’t know much about Red Skull but I know that he’s basically Captain America’s biggest enemy so it’s unfortunate that he’s not very interesting here.

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The action scenes of course are well filmed, I especially liked how they incorporated Captain America’s shield. I also liked the look of Captain America’s suit, it feels like a war suit than a goofy looking outfit, something that the first Avengers didn’t get right. The only thing production wise that could’ve been improved was Red Skull’s head. It looked a little goofy and even the 1990 film version looked better. An effect that’s worth mentioning is that at the beginning of the movie, Steve Rodgers looks really skinny before he goes through the experiment and I thought that the effects used to show his change was really impressive.

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Captain America: The First Avenger was a really good movie. Its sequel, The Winter Soldier, was the movie that really advanced the Marvel series but this first film did do what it set out to do: make audiences take Captain America seriously. Not only that, it had a pretty engaging and interesting story, with good acting and good action. The film could’ve been better if they improved Red Skull but for the most part Captain America: The First Avenger achieves what it set out to do.