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Movie Review Monday: Captain America

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Mike Finkelstein wanted to become the greatest superhero in the world.  Hell, he wanted to be a symbol of everything that is good.  So one day, he dressed himself up in an American flag and ran around downtown Manhattan.  People looked at him funny…Here is his review of “Captain America: The First Avenger.”

PLOT: Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a skinny kid from Brooklyn whose only dream is to fight for his country in WWII.  When he is picked to be the subject in an experimental procedure to create a new breed of super soldiers, he gets that chance.  But when the procedure can’t be repeated, Rogers (now known as Captain America by his peers) takes it upon himself to go after the Naxis, and more specifically, Hydra—a Nazi cult commanded by Johann Schmidt, aka the Red Skull.

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW: CAPTAIN AMERICA: our first superhero.  He is the man that got it done before Howard Stark, Bruce Banner and Nick Fury were even a glisten in their respective father’s eye.  And somehow, even with such a heavy reputation to uphold and four superhero movies coming before him, the Captain has given us yet another damn good origin tale to add to our list.

The events of CAPTAIN AMERICA take place, appropriately, during WWII.  If the Captain’s patriotism were introduced today, I sadly think it would have come across just cheesy and awkward (What does that say about the country?), but luckily, in this 1940s environment that Joe Johnston magnificently envelops us in, a bit of cheese works.  It’s a time where young boys were being shipped off to fight a man trying to take over the world, and Steve Rogers fits in perfectly as the skinny kid from Brooklyn who just wants to do his part.

What makes Rogers’ road to glory so much fun is he doesn’t automatically become a superhero.  First, he’s a sideshow…a joke.  He’s that dumb traveling act that’s supposed to motivate young men to enlist, complete with commercials, screaming little kids asking for autographs, and comic books (the actual issue #1 of “Captain America” makes a cameo).  We don’t see him as invincible.  We see him as one of us, just trying to prove himself.

And then, Rogers really becomes Captain America, and the action kicks in.  From the first assault to save Bucky and the rest of the 107 to the end, it doesn’t stop.  We suddenly are those screaming little kids, rooting our hero on.  And all the while, Rogers is never taken too seriously.  Yes, he’s called the Captain by his comrades (the Howling Commandos are all here), but the soldiers are still having fun, Bucky is still his best friend, and everyone around him still has the same goal: kill those Nazis.

Chris Evans is no stranger to comic books (FANTASTIC FOUR, PUSH), and here, he fit very easily into the skin of our country-loving Captain.  Granted, I would have liked to get a bit more emotion out of him at points, but playing it down the middle of the road never hurt anybody.  The heart and goodness we see in Skinny Steve (what the crew called the version of Evans void of any muscle definition) is there throughout, and that’s what matters.

As for the supporting cast, Hayley Atwell brought a lot of spunk and soul to Rogers’ love interest, Peggy Carter.  She is absolutely gorgeous yet simple—a don’t take nothing from nobody kind of gal—and all we wanted was for them to share one dance.  Hopefully, they’ll be given that chance in a future sequel. Stanley Tucci is mesmerizing as always, disappearing into Dr. Erskine’s German father figure. I wanted him to be my dad by the end of it!  If only he were able to stick around a little more…

I think the two that stood out the most, though, had to be Tommy Lee Jones and Dominic Cooper.  Colonel Chester Phillips could have easily been a one-note character, but Jones brought a surprisingly lighthearted touch to the role, and even gave the audience a few good laughs with his sarcasm.  As for Cooper, I just saw THE DEVIL’S DOUBLE, and between these two movies, I saw three completely different people.  He’s amazing and will easily be the next big thing…mark my words.

Switching over to the Nazis, when you’re casting a villain, whether it be Agent Smith, Megatron, or in this case, Johann Schmidt and the Red Skull, you cannot go wrong with Hugo Weaving.  The man oozes sinister, and he played up the Red Skull beautifully.   I do, however, wish we really felt as if the Red Skull was any sort of dangerous.  It was fairly easy to mess up his plans, and even though he had this power worthy of the Gods in his hands, the extent of that power never seemed to be fully realized or explained.

The rest of my few bones to pick: At times, the green screen was over the top, especially with some ridiculously far jumps by the Captain looking just strange.  And I know they probably had to get rid of him since Rogers had to get to the future for THE AVENGERS, but Bucky was disposed of pretty damn quickly.  For such an important character in the comics, he was more of an afterthought here.  Also, I found it hysterical that this guy with no major superpowers to stop bullets couldn’t be hit by one damn shot of enemy fire, despite basically being a walking stars-and-stripes bulls eye.   But rest assured, all of these were little bumps in the road on an otherwise great time at the movies.

I can officially say that Marvel has produced four excellent superhero origin movies (THOR, IRON MAN, INCREDIBLE HULK and CAPTAIN AMERICA), and somehow, just like Pixar, has kept each one fresh and fun.  Joe Johnston has created and painted yet another stunning period piece, just like OCTOBER SKY and THE ROCKETEER, except this time, he’s also made a great stand-alone superhero movie, and a worthy addition to the Marvel Universe.  Not too bad of a treatment for a skinny kid from Brooklyn.

GRADE: B+

Mike’s LIKES:

1) PERIOD FEEL: Johnston really got the WWII adventure feel down.  Everything from the costumes to the color schemes to the innocence and patriotism of the script.

2) DOMINIC COOPER: Cooper is going to be the next big thing.  The guy does an unbelievable job in THE DEVIL’S DOUBLE, and here, he plays yet another complete different part with the iconic Howard Stark.  He’s funny, amusing, and a leader you trust all in one.  I look forward to many good roles coming from this man.

3) STANLEY TUCCI: Tucci is someone you could always count on for a great supporting character.  He delivers in spades here as Dr. Abraham Erskine—the German father figure to our hero.

4) CHEESE CAPTAIN AMERICA: I love how they were able to poke a bit of fun at the corniness and patriotism of Captain America.  He wasn’t immediately this perfect hero, but a sideshow…perfect explanation for the costume.  Also, keep an eye out for the original Captain America comic cover!

5) CHRIS EVANS: My critique of Evans is twofold.  First, the good…he had the look and the innocence of Steve Rogers.  He was patriotic and fit the role pretty damn well.  I’ll take him as Captain America.

Mike’s DISLIKES:

1) CGI OVERFLOW: The actions scenes were filled with CGI.  Granted, it wasn’t horrible, but you could definitely tell something wasn’t right and there was a lot of green screen involved.

2) CLEAR TARGET, YET NO ONE COULD HIT HIM?: When you’re walking in the depths of the Nazi underground with a bright blue and red American Flag shield, do you really think no one is going to see you?  And speaking of which, not one person could hit him with a bullet?  Ever?  Woah, they suck at shooting…

3) WHAT DOES THE CUBE REALLY DO?: Yes, I know it was an all powerful source from the Gods, and it was shown after the end credits of THOR, but I didn’t completely get what the Cube could do that was so amazing.  Yes, the guns, and it destroyed humans when they touched it, but I wish there was a bit more clarification on where it came from/the extent of it’s power.

4) CHRIS EVANS: With the pros above, I realized at the end that the man really didn’t extend himself too far in any scenes.  His emotions were basic, and he stayed pretty much down the middle of the road…no anger, no fear, no sadness (just a very sad face at one point).  Evans can definitely do more than what he did here, and I just wish I saw it.

EXTRA FACTS:

1) Jon Favreau was originally chosen to direct, but chose to direct IRON MAN instead. Joe Johnston, known for his period pieces, including THE ROCKETEER and OCTOBER SKY was finally chosen.

2) Chris Evans declined the role three times.  After a meeting with the director and producers, and much therapy to help him with insecurities of living up to the character, he finally accepted.

 

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REVIEW: “Sing Street” Will Put a Song in Your Heart… and Your iPod

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“I have just seen an instant classic.”

That’s what I said to myself as I left the theater, with the music and adrenaline of “Sing Street” still coursing through my veins.

It’s the kind of movie you want to turn around and see again, immediately. Right after you download the soundtrack. Yes, it’s that good.

Haven’t heard anything about it? I’m not surprised. I wouldn’t have known about this film either, except that my Regal Crown Club card finally paid off in the form of free tickets to an advanced screening. (Never mind the $25 popcorn.) Anyway, let’s watch!

Hooked yet? You will be.

Irish writer/director John Carney (“Once,” “Begin Again”) has conjured a nearly perfect coming-of-age tale set in 1980s Dublin. Think “The Commitments meets “Sixteen Candles meets “Footloose,” but all in one glorious package that manages to be both fresh and nostalgic at the same time. Drawing from his own teenage years at the real Synge Street school, Carney avoids the trap of creating a pure fluff piece by infusing the story with real heart.

A large part of that is due to the breakout talent and hero of Sing Street,” 16-year-old Ferdia Walsh-Peelo. As “Connor Lalor” navigates the tricky currents of a new school, family drama, and first love, Walsh-Peelo is heartbreakingly earnest, predictably awkward, and unexpectedly optimistic. Everything about his performance rings true. No small feat, considering that this is his acting debut.

Thanks to Carney’s non-actor, open casting approach, Walsh-Peelo is also joined by some equally promising new faces. Lucy Boynton is luminous as his love interest, “Raphina,” and Mark McKenna is quietly compelling as Conor’s songwriting partner, “Eamon.”

One of the most satisfying pairings, though, is anchored by the more experienced Jack Reynor (“Transformers:Age of Extinction”).  He shines as Conor’s older brother, “Brendan.”  Dealing with the angst of his own stalled dreams, Brendan tackles his brotherly mentoring role with gusto. Conor soaks up the advice like a ruddy-cheeked sponge, then begins to find his own way as his confidence grows.  Rarely do we see the underlying affection between two brothers played so simply and honestly,  so the relationship between Conor and Brendan is a lovely surprise.

The other undeniable star of “Sing Street” is the music.  While the story could have easily been told with the band only performing covers of ’80s hits,  Carney had a bigger vision for the film.  He collaborated with Scottish songwriter Gary Clark to craft 8 original tunes that not only add layers of light and shade to the storyline, but could be stand-alone chart toppers today.  From the gleefully retro “The Riddle of the Model,” to the Cure-tastic “Beautiful Sea,”  to the EMO ballad “To Find You,”  there’s something for everyone. Welcome to your summer soundtrack, people.

There are few darker notes to the plot, and the ending feels slightly of place, but in general “Sing Street” will leave you feeling as light and fizzy as a packet of Pop Rocks.

The movie poster reads: “Boy Meets Girl. Girl Unimpressed. Boy Starts Band.”  That’s it in a nutshell, of course, but happily, this film is so much more.

SING STREET opens in New York April 15th, and is in theaters nationwide on April 29th.

 

 

 

 

 

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Celebrate The Fourth With Our Picks For Great American Movies!

What makes a film distinctly American? Sometimes it recollects the spirit of our patriotism, and other times it is so iconic and popular that it defines an entire generation of our culture. Here are our picks for some great American movies! Why not celebrate your Independence Day holiday by popping up some popcorn and enjoying one?

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What makes a film distinctly American? Sometimes it recollects the spirit of our patriotism, and other times it is so iconic and popular that it defines an entire generation of our culture. Here are our picks for some great American movies! Why not celebrate your Independence Day holiday by popping up some popcorn and enjoying one?

It’s impossible to list them all… this is just a handfull! Scroll down and tell us what your favorites are!!!

Let’s start at the beginning!

Do you have what it takes to watch a black and white classic? (Don’t break my heart by replying if the answer is no.) Yankee Doodle Dandy is a 1942 classic starring James Cagney – telling the story of the great entertainer George M Cohan. He’s the man behind the songs “The Yankee Doodle Boy” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”  A true classic with distinctly American music and showmanship. Watch the trailer!

There’s something about the fifties and sixties that still plucks at the nostalgic heartstrings of America. And yet, two of the most iconic movies about that period were actually shot decades later, with a heartfelt look back at those times.

Both American Graffiti and Grease come to mind. While American Graffiti can take bragging rights for bringing us more breakout stars, (and being written and directed by George Lucas), Grease seems to enjoy more clout as a family friendly favorite.

1986 was a  good year for Tom Cruise, and a good year for movies. Top Gun starred Tom Cruise stars as a student at Top Gun Naval Academy. It sparked a sense of patriotism, and the continued ascent of Cruise’s career. (If you’re watching with your kids, you might wanna skip ahead once you start hearing the song “Take My Breath Away.” Love scene ahead! Still, some might argue it’s pretty tame by today’s standards.)

Forrest Gump (1994) proved not only to be an excellent movie, but also an impromptu history lesson.
The story follows an unlikely hero (played by Tom Hanks) as he journeys through life, finding himself witnessing (and sometimes even influencing) a series of historic events, but is largely unaware of their significance. A true classic.

Before the luster of Mel Gibson had worn off, he portrayed Benjamin Martin, a man who becomes embroiled in the Revolutionary War. The late Heath Ledger plays his son, who fights in the Continental Army.

The most recent of patriotic classics is 2012’s Lincoln. Daniel Day Lewis delivers a flawless performance as our 16th President under the directorial brilliance of Steven Spielberg. A new classic for the ages.

SHARE YOU PICKS BELOW! AND TWEET YOUR FAVORITES TOO!

For more movies updates, follow @BrianBalthazar on twitter!

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MOVIE REVIEW- WORLD WAR Z Is a Messy, Relentless Zombie Horror Flick That Really Works

Check Out Steven’s review for one of the biggest surprises of 2013, the epic zombie flick WORLD WAR Z.

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world-war-z-posterWORLD WAR Z

Paramount Pictures

Director- Marc Forster

Starring-Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale. Abigail Hargrove, Sterling Jerins, David Morse, David Andrews.

Steven’s Quick Review- Yes its production was messy, but WORLD WAR Z might be the biggest surprise of the summer movies in 2013. Thanks to relentless action, a number of good scares, and an on-target performance from Brad Pitt, WORLD WAR Z is an excellent zombie film. Even though it is barely based on its source material, Damon Lindelof’s rewritten third act will keep audiences guessing and add some scares to your summer movie slate.

Steven’s Review- Brad Pitt has become the kind of actor who now only does movies he truly wants to do, and only takes roles that challenge him. So when Pitt and his Plan B studios initially won the rights to Max Brooks bestselling novel WORLD WAR Z the options were endless. Yet from the start of production the movie had issues, between the initial script lacking invention, a director in Marc Forster (QUANTUM OF SOLACE) who was found it difficult to make important decisions and the very public spat between Pitt and Forster that nearly sidelined the film indefinitely.  There were also the on-set issues, besides the arguments between the actor and director, there were problems on set in Hungary when government officials stormed the set and removed live weapons. Also, forced re-shoots that moved WWZ from a winter release to a summer tentpole. It’s easy to assume WORLD WAR Z was doomed from the start. But something happened along the way, something that shocked plenty during our screening of the film in May. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, Pitt, Forster, and crew actually made a darn good zombie flick. With help from Damon Lindelof (“Lost”, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS) who came to the rescue and reworked an ending  after the studio deemed the initial conclusion was not good enough for release.  Following Lindelof’s changes and a massive marketing campaign Brad Pitt’s newest pet project was ready to show the world.

WORLD WAR Z the book takes place in a post zombie war setting, when a journalist and U.N investigator goes all over the globe talking to survivors and getting their stories.  The film adaptation written by Drew Goddard (CABIN IN THE WOODS), Matthew Michael Carnahan (STATE OF PLAY), J. Michael Straczynski (THOR) and Damon Lindelof  has little to nothing to do with Brooks acclaimed novel. We begin meeting Gerry Lane(Pitt) , a former UN investigator who lives with his family somewhere outside Philadelphia.  Within 5 minutes of the opening credits, we are thrown into a full on zombie invasion, with riots in super markets and speedy zombies chasing people down. WWZ Starts off with a bang. Gerry’s wife Karin(“The Killings” Mireille Enos), and his daughters Constance(Sterling Jerins) and Rachel (Abigail Hargrove) desperately leave the city and head towards New York, finding themselves in the streets of  Newark, New Jersey where they pick up supplies and await a helicopter pick-up thanks to Gerry’s old friends at the United Nations.

WORLD WAR Z is in no way a perfect movie; every now and then it finds itself deep into horror cliché, only to drag itself out with one big sequence after another. Pitt carries the film as he finds himself in worse situations every moment, but without being totally indestructible (meaning as an audience you never quite know whether Gerry Lane will make it out alive). Pitt’s performance feels dressed in reality, while he searches the globe for reasons why this zombie apocalypse is happening, worries for his safety and hopes to return to his family.

WORLD WAR Z is a suspenseful zombie flick that contains a few scares, but has the advantage of almost never slowing down.  The filmmakers found a way to protray a lot of violence and still receive a PG-13 rating – they show you enough death and destruction without maimed bodies and severed limbs. I enjoyed the fast paced nature of WWZ and the fact it never drags, it allows characters to develop and story to move forward without forsaking the zombie action fan in all of us.

As far as adaptations go, WORLD WAR Z could be considered one of the worst, it barely contains any connection to Max Brooks brilliant novel, other than a few characters names and one or two plot points. As far as summer surprises, WORLD WAR Z is a welcome break from comedies and super hero flicks that take up most of our time. But the pressure is on: it needs to bring in $500 million dollars to turn a profit for everyone involved. I enjoyed WORLD WAR Z and hope they can find a way to make some cash, so we can get more zombie action just like it.

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