Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Original Theatrical Release: April 4, 2014
Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) struggles with the morality issues that accompany the new world he’s awakened to. He finds the United States Government takes a back seat to the power of S.H.I.E.L.D. and he wonders if he should continue the fight or step away from the underhanded dealings of his new employers. However, after Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is targeted by a mysterious assassin known only as The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Rogers must team up with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) to get to the bottom of the new assassin’s identity and motives before it’s too late.

This film was an excellent sequel to the first film, Captain America: The First Avenger and a nice follow up to events in The Avengers.

Action, action, action – there was a ton of it here and since the film wasn’t primarily set in the 1940’s, we really get to see how Cap handles modern day threats….and he sure looks cool doing it.

Anthony Mackie gives an impressive performance as Sam Wilson/Falcon, and he pretty much stole the show as far as I’m concerned. I hope he shows up for Avengers 2! He’s that cool. Sebastian Stan also impressed with his portrayal of Winter Soldier, who provides a great antagonist to Cap and his team. Scarlett Johansson, of course, sizzled as Black Widow. She’s been doing a great job in that role. And on top of all that we get to see ROBERT REDFORD in a Marvel film? What? That’s so cool! One curious omission was Hawkeye. Where the heck was he in this film? As a member of S.H.I.E.L.D. I would’ve thought he’d be called in for all this governmental hullaballoo.

There was a lot of focus on Hydra in this film, so it was nice to re-touch on where they ended up in the modern world after the events in World War II.

This is a great film overall,  so go see it and make sure to stay for the extra scenes after the credits. There are a couple of teaser after-credits shorts, so make sure to stay for ’em all if you want to get all the tasty Cap morsels you can for your money. This film should tide everyone over until Guardians of the Galaxy comes out – I’m beyond excited for that movie to drop on us.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Comics, Comix & Graphic Novels: A History Of Comic Art (1996)

Comics, Comix & Graphic Novels: A History Of Comic Art (1996)

Author Roger Sabin weaves together a tight narrative of the entire history of the comic book medium, moving from its beginnings in the Middle Ages (yes, that’s right, way back in medieval times) and how it has evolved into the art form and pop culture powerhouse we know and love today. Explore how the comic book moved from being newspaper fodder to hard-hitting social commentary and how it fell from grace before rising like a phoenix once the comic book witch hunt ended after the 1950’s. With plenty of great full-cover photo references to go along with the narrative, Sabin creates a helpful tome of comic book knowledge that will give you a one-up on all of your nerdy comic book friends who THINK they’ve heard everything there is to hear about comic books. I picked this book up at the library because I was writing a research paper and was pleased with just how much information was packed into its pages. It provided a good chunk of my research content and on top of that, I learned a ton of new stuff.

I have seen some folks posting about this, saying it was biased or what have you, but I didn’t really get any of those vibes from anything within. It was a great trip down memory lane, too, seeing all the old comic book covers and comic book pages displayed throughout the entirety of the book.

Give this a shot if you can find it. I think it’s on Amazon.com. It would make a killer addition to the coffee table collection, or in an office somewhere.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

47 Ronin (2013)

47 Ronin (2013)

After a treacherous and brutal warlord, Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano), has their master assassinated and banishes them all from their land, a band of 47 ronin (masterless samurai) assemble once again with the aid of an outcast half-breed, Kai (Keanu Reeves), to take revenge for their fallen leader and restore honor to their province.

Before I begin this review, let me just say that this is not the worst movie I’ve ever seen. It’s based, largely in part, on actual events. Unfortunately, it was only “based” on actual events and the film got a bunch of things incorrect. It’s too long to go into here, but if you check out this post on the History News Network, you’ll see what I mean ===> CLICK HERE

Now, with that out of the way, and disregarding all of the historical inaccuracies, I’ll get into just reviewing it on the basis of film conventions.

Story: There isn’t a ton of substance here. I’m sure if they stuck with the actual tale, it might have been more compelling. As it is, I think most American movie-goers will have a cultural disconnect and not be able to take it as seriously as, say, someone in Japan. Not sure how true that is, but there is only one connection for American audiences and that connection comes in the form of Keanu Reeves’ character, Kai. One interesting aspect is that Keanu wasn’t made to steal the show. It reminded me of how Antonio Banderas’ character in 13th Warrior was essential but didn’t drive all of the forward action. I liked that, in both films. BUT – since there wasn’t a ton of great story, it watched more like a very well-shot music video. Think about the movie Sucker Punch. Yeah, it has that kind of vibe.

Acting: The stony-faced Keanu Reeves did an okay job. Most of the other talented cast were amazing, but all were reduced to their base components and so weren’t able to develop much as characters. Rinko Kikuchi played an amazing foil to the main characters, being both seductive and evil, equally.

Special Effects: They were actually really, really good for the most part – but they were overused and as a result took me out of the movie at some points.

Length: It was a bit too long for my tastes. It would have been tolerable if there had been more action, but the few fight scenes there were took place sort of at the beginning and end of the film, with sparse scenes of a similar nature in-between.

Overall, I didn’t enjoy this film but it was nice to look at. I bet that’s how it’d be to live with Megan Fox.

JOE Rating: ★★

Forrest Gump (1994)

Forrest Gump (1994)

Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) lives a charmed life, despite being born with a lower I.Q. than most – as well as a physical deformity of the spine which forces him to wear corrective leg braces. Gump’s mother (Sally Field) pushes and encourages him enough that he eventually sets out on his own and ends up witnessing lots of events in recent history that have shaped the world. On his journey of self, he chases love – in the form of Jenny Curran (Robin Wright), his childhood friend and crush – and also experiences war, happiness, loss and the gamut of the human experience, proving that despite his setbacks, Gump is wiser than most of us can say we are.

I remember seeing this back around the time it first came out, and I remember being blown away. So, I figured I’d revisit it, since it’s on Netflix, and to tell you the truth – Forrest Gump holds up pretty well over time.

Forrest Gump, the character, is one of Tom Hanks’ better roles. I’m no Hanks hater by any means, but he has a particular style that doesn’t lend to camouflaging his own personality. When I see him in films, I have a hard time separating film Hanks from real-life Hanks that I’ve seen. In Forrest Gump, this isn’t a problem.

Much like Billy Bob Thornton’s role in Slingblade, this is one of those times where you wonder if they’d have been able to make a film like this nowadays. There are some questionable messages in the film that critics would pounce on in present times, but for the time it was made it was a nice reflection on the Baby Boomer generation.

The movie is based, of course, on the novel of the same name by Winston Groom from 1986, although in the book, Forrest Gump is a pretty different character. Also, there are a few different events in the book that never made it to the movie version – like when Forrest went to space (would’ve been strange to see Hanks in space in Forrest Gump as well as in Apollo 13, amirite?!)

The only thing that didn’t really hold up too well was when it showed footage of Forrest in the old newsreels and footage from things and events that Forrest was privy to witnessing as history in the film progressed. You could really notice it. Other than that, though, the cinematography was great and the pacing of the film was really well done.

If you haven’t seen this one yet – do. It’s a classic.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Hell On Wheels: Season 1 (2011)

Hell On Wheels: Season 1 (2011)

Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount) is a former Confederate soldier in a country that’s healing after the American Civil War and the assassination of president Abraham Lincoln – and he’s searching for his wife’s killers, most of whom were Union soldiers during the war. Leaving a bunch of corpses in his wake, Cullen finds himself one of the individuals living in Hell On Wheels – the temporary, mobile town following the progress of the Transcontinental Railroad as it spreads west.

When I first saw the description of this show on Netflix, I thought it might be some sort of cheesy programming reserved for late nights at home. I was wrong on that count.

Hell On Wheels, at least the first season, was pretty enjoyable overall. The main character, Cullen, shrugs off traditional southern “Rebel” stereotypes and in a way flips it so that the Union has a few bad eggs in it, too. Cullen has his low points but overall seems to use his own code of honor.

One thing I have to say is that for a man searching for his wife’s killers, he seems to take a while to really get into the hunt. We have a few instances early on in the season where he really digs in but then it almost seems as if he forgets his mission while he’s moving on down the rails.

Since Deadwood hasn’t been on the air, I’ve been looking for similar programming and while this show isn’t as great as Deadwood, it has some of the same, dusty, late 1800’s flavoring that made Deadwood so cool. I’ll definitely be checking out the second season. Hell On Wheels, like many of its characters, is likable even if it has some flaws.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

The Man From Earth (2007)

The Man From Earth (2007)

Professor John Oldman (David Lee Smith) is moving away from everything he knows after ten years or so. He says that he just has the itch to leave and get out, to go somewhere new…but his friends are skeptical and after interrogating him, John reveals to them a secret that he’s been holding on to for 14,000 years: He’s a cro-magnon man who has never aged past 35.

A friend recommended this film to me and I watched it the other night on Netflix. It was pretty enjoyable for the most part.

The movie was probably better off as being a play, It was lots of sedentary characters sitting around talking and not doing much, so it’s kind of hard to watch it as a straight movie probably, for people who wouldn’t normally have the patience for stage plays.

However, the writing was very good so every conversation led to some new revelation that made me say “what’s next?” I didn’t get bored much at all. It was maybe a teensy bit too long. Other than that, the acting could have used a touch-up, too.

Overall, this is pretty entertaining. It has the feeling of one of those late-night conversations you have with your friends around a bonfire.

JOE Rating: ★★★★