MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: CAPTAIN AMERICA I & II

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I know I have covered both these films before but, it is 4th of July weekend and what is more appropriate then Captain America!

(Remember you can click on the highlighted links to see articles and film reviews posted here previously on the Movie Madhouse!)

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CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (2012)

Captain America is a good flick and there definitely is some fun to be had and I enjoyed it but, It’s not quite the great popcorn flick it could have been. The film is well directed by veteran Joe Johnston with some nice, nostalgic old fashioned war movie touches but, it’s in how the film is structured that is where the weaknesses lie. The biggest chink in Cap’s shield is the pacing. The film takes a lot of time with his origin and while what we watch is entertaining, it takes far too long to send him on his first mission to rescue POWs from a Hydra instillation. Once he does officially take on the mantle of superhero and supersoldier, there is a quick montage of him in action and then the film slows down for more dialog until the final confrontation and that itself is underwhelming and over too quick. Why is Hydra thought of as such a threat if they can be defeated so easily? And I shouldn’t have to read the comics to find out what this glowing cube is that Hydra uses to power it’s forces. It’s origins are vague and we don’t really learn about it until The Avengers.

Another big problem is that they take so much time to develop the character of Steve Rodgers (Chris Evans), that everyone else is short changed. Main villain Red Skull, played by the always good Hugo Weaving, hasn’t enough screen time to develop a threatening enough screen presence. He’s a pretty generic villain for a classic comic character and Cap’s arch villain. The showdown between Cap and Skull is also far too short and leaves not enough impact though, the scene that follows does have some nice emotional resonance to it. Of course a lot of this has to do with how Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely’s script is written as Johnston does the best he can with it. It’s not a bad script but, a bit of an underwritten one on a character level.

The cast is good with what little they have to do. Evans makes a very humble and noble hero. Hayley Atwell looks serious and pretty as Agent Peggy Carter who is Rodgers’ love interest and is a tough cookie when she needs to be. Tommy Lee Jones barks alot of orders as Col. Phillips who doesn’t quite believe in Rodgers’ abilities at first but, not given much else to do and the charm of the actor helps expand the role and make him endearing. Cap’s sidekick and old friend Bucky (Sebastian Stan) might have 10 minutes screen time, if that so, Stan is given little time to make an impression. The Howling Mad Commandos also have very little screen time and you need to watch the credits to find out all their names. Dum Dum Dugan (a perfectly cast Neal McDonough) is another classic character wasted with little to do.

All in all, it is entertaining but, at the same time, also somewhat disappointing. Also stars Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark and Stanley Tucci as Dr. Abraham Erskine, who creates the super soldier serum that turns Rodgers into Captain America. As with all Marvel flicks stay though the credits.

3 shields!

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CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (2014)

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a rare breed much like it’s noble hero, Steve Rodgers (Chris Evans). It’s an intelligent, mature, action/thriller that is also a kick-ass popcorn movie and one that lives up to it’s hype and more. Cap’s latest solo adventure finds him still trying to adjust to modern life and more importantly to being a member of S.H.I.E.L.D. whose methods are getting less and less to his liking. Steve Rodgers is a man of old-fashion values and he is seeing echos of an enemy he has fought before in the intelligence organization’s practices. Especially it’s plan to launch three heavily armed heli-carriers into the air for constant surveillance and “threat removal”. And be wary he should, as more then one specter from his past are about to rear their heads, one deeply rooted in the organization he works for and the other close to his heart. And when Cap, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) begin to suspect a serpent in the nest, a mysterious metal-armed assassin known only as the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) marks them for death. But, this may be one adversary Captain America may not be able to fight.

All I can say is that Marvel has delivered one hell of a solid movie. Certainly one of the best of the Marvel film series so far. The script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely is smart, complex yet, incredibly easy to follow and is loaded with some really nice character touches, not only with our cast of familiar faces, including Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) but, with new characters such as Sam ‘The Falcon’ Wilson (Anthony Mackie), a new hero, Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) a high level S.H.I.E.L.D. head and the mysterious Winter Soldier, a deadly assassin not without his own secrets and complexities. The film is expertly directed by Anthony and Joe Russo who boldly give this film a more moderate pace to give the story time to develop and our heroes time to unravel the twisted web they find surrounding them. I loved that the film simply told a good story and didn’t sacrifice that story or character development for action… not that there isn’t plenty of that, cause there is. And the action is fast paced and spectacular when it does come, with good old-fashioned chase scenes, shoot-outs, hand to hand fights and a literal war above Washington D.C. that rivals the ending of The AvengersAnd the Russos never loose track of the multiple characters or scenarios during that action especially at the climax where our heroes are spread quite thin in their attempts to thwart a plan that runs deep with treachery and betrayal. The film also has some really nice surprises and cameos that help round out the story and take it to the next level and is not without a sly but, unobtrusive sense of humor. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a film that had so much to offer yet, remained so entertaining. In terms of the Marvel series, this film is a grand slam among home runs. Maybe not as consistently fun as The Avengers but, it has a lot more substance and still provides the thrills and series references we come to expect. The slow moments have just as much to offer as the explosive ones, the way it should be.

And the cast are all guided well by the Russos and give their best portrayals yet in their perspective roles. Evans truly shines giving us a noble and headstrong hero who is learning to deal with the modern world and how things are done in his line of work but, without sacrificing who he is and what he stands for. Cap is Cap and he’s going to do things his way even if it means going it alone. Scarlett Johansson gives her best turn yet as Natasha “Black Widow” Romanoff. Not sure who is to credit, be it the actress finally locking in on her character or the filmmakers for giving her the guidance and script material to do it. Her Widow is strong, tough, a bit aloof but, she has a dry sense of humor and her exposure to Rodger’s old school sense of honor brings a little of the woman out from underneath the cold spy. I like that the character finally had some development and Johansson portrayed it well. Jackson’s performance is what we’d expect from the veteran actor and his Fury finally also gets more to do then in the previous films and we get to see a little more of what makes him tick and I hope it continues. Mackie is a wonderful edition to the cast as a war veteran with special skills who will valiantly join this new fight and he works very well with Evans and Johansson and they make a solid trio of heroes to root for against all odds. Sebastian Stan does a really good job with not only creating a formidable and dangerous adversary in his phantom-like Winter Soldier but, gives the character some nice depth and a touch of conflict that I won’t spoil for those not familiar with the comic character. Redford is an acting legend and is perfectly cast as Pierce, a man of character and secrets and it’s great to see him in a film like this. Rounding out is Frank Grillo as Brock Rumlow, a strong secondary villain who is a thorn in Rodgers’ side, Cobie Smolders once again is fun as the tough Maria Hill and Emily VanCamp shows some moxie as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who takes a shine to Steve Rodgers and believes in him when doubt is cast by scheming villains. There are also a couple of nice touch cameos too, that I won’t spoil here… and, as usual, stay through the credits for not one but, two post credits scenes.

An absolute blast of a movie that delivers the action, as well as, a smart story loaded with intrigue, suspense, surprises and some really strong character moments mixed in. Bravo Marvel, Bravo! I loved it!

4 shields.

captain america winter soldier rating

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REVIEW: THOR: THE DARK WORLD (2013)

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THOR: THE DARK WORLD (2013)

Thor was one of my favorites of the Marvel Phase 1 movies. I loved it’s fun mix of fantasy and real world adventure and thought Hemsworth made a noble and very likable hero. And now the Norse God turned superhero is back in his second solo adventure and a welcome return it is. Thor: The Dark World opens 5000 years earlier with an alignment of the planets being taken advantage of by the Dark Elves and their leader Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) to unleash a weapon called The Aether which will convert all the worlds into dark matter where only the Dark Elves may exist. Thor’s grandfather Bor (Tony Curran) defeats the invaders and they are assumed destroyed and The Aether is hidden away never to be found… or so Bor hoped. But, in the present, the worlds are aligning again and the long dormant Malekith and the remaining Dark Elves seek to destroy all once more and, as fate would have it, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) stumbles upon the hidden weapon and it is absorbed within her. Now hunted by Malekith, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) brings Jane to Asgard against Odin’s (Anthony Hopkins) wishes and must somehow find a way to stop Malekith, banish The Aether and save the woman he loves and all the known worlds… and the only one who can help him is his devious stepbrother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) imprisoned in Asgard’s dungeons by Thor’s own hand. This second solo adventure is this time directed by Game Of Thrones and Deadwood director Alan Taylor who creates a much grittier and down to Earth version of Asgard then the bright and magic kingdom-ish version we saw in the delightful first feature directed by Kenneth Branagh. It’s still recognizable as Asgard and it blends perfectly with the first Thor but, we get to see far deeper into the city and into it’s halls and pubs and get a more lived in and functional look at Thor’s homeland. The tone of the film is also darker at times and that was a nice change from the upbeat first film and Avengers but, so not to get too dark or grim, the film is punctuated with a lot of fun and humorous sequences especially those involving Darcy (Kat Dennings) and Eric Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard), the latter’s trip to Stonehenge being especially hilarious. I thought the humor and the darker story elements were blended just fine and there was plenty of action and strong drama throughout till the big free-for-all ending set in London where Thor and Malekith finally get to throw down. And the action and special effects do not disappoint, they are top notch as with all the previous Marvel films. The budget is onscreen in all aspects of the production from sets to costumes to FX. Taylor gets good work from all the cast. There are some nice character moments in between the drama and destruction and all the actors are now very comfortable in their roles and work very well together. Hemsworth is once again a noble hero who has grown since his first visit and the battle in New York. He and Portman still have a nice chemistry together and I liked their scenes especially when Thor has to explain where he’s been for two years. Dennings gets a bit more screen time and handles it well getting some of the bigger laughs and Hiddleston is once again scene stealing as Loki. It was also nice to see Rene Russo finally get a big scene and have a bit bigger part this time and Hopkins is still endearing as the weary but, majestic Odin. We also get some nice scenes with supporting characters Heimdall (Idris Elba), Sith (Jaimie Alexander), Volstagg (Ray Stevenson), Fandral (now Zachary Levi) and Hogun (Tadanobu Asano) but, those expecting expanded roles from this bunch will be disappointed. Newcomer to Thor’s world Christopher Ecceleston, is OK as villain Malekith but, he really doesn’t make a strong impression or stay with you after the film is over. To me his somewhat tepid villain is the film’s only real stand out weak point and a stronger villain or more screen time to really establish Malekith as a threat would have made this flick even better. Taylor’s interpretation of Don Payne and Robert Rodat’s script is highlighted by a moody score from Brian Tyler and some nice cinematography by Kramer Morgenthau. Overall, Thor: The Dark World is a very entertaining follow-up that gives us enough of the action, drama and suspense we are looking for and takes it in enough of a different direction to keep it fresh but, not straying too far as to alienate us. It’s not perfect, as stated the villain could have been stronger, there are a few slow spots here and there, especially in the first half and we can tell there was a bit of editing to manage the running time but, for all the entertainment we get, those minor flaws can be overlooked. A fun and worthy sequel to both Thor and The Avengers and certainly less schizophrenic then the mixed bag that was Iron Man 3. As with all Marvel films stay through the entire credits for not one but, two additional sequences and keep an eye out for a couple of really fun cameos. Another solid bit of entertainment from Marvel and Disney.

3 and 1/2 hammers!

thor TDW rating

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JAMES SPADER TO PLAY THE VILLAINOUS ‘ULTRON’ IN AVENGERS SEQUEL!

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Marvel has just issued a press release stating that veteran actor James Spader will play the robotic villain in the upcoming Avengers sequel “The Avengers: Age Of Ultron”!

JAMES SPADER

The press release reads as follows:

James Spader will face off against Earth’s Mightiest Heroes as the villain in Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” the sequel to 2012’s record-breaking “Marvel’s The Avengers.” The Emmy Award-winning actor will play Ultron in the Avengers’ much anticipated return to the big screen from writer/director Joss Whedon. The film comes to theaters on May 1, 2015.

Spader earned three Emmy Awards for his role as Alan Shore on “Boston Legal” and “The Practice,” and will return to television this fall in NBC’s highly anticipated series “The Blacklist.” Most recently Spader was seen in the critically-acclaimed film “Lincoln” directed by Steven Spielberg and has previously worked with a long list of accomplished film directors including David Cronenberg, Curtis Hansen, Sidney Lumet, Mike Nichols, Tim Robbins, Robert Rodriguez, Steven Soderbergh, and Oliver Stone. David Mamet also directed Spader in the Broadway play Race.

“Avengers: Age of Ultron” will bring the Marvel Universe’s biggest heroes together again to face one of their biggest villains, with “Marvel’s The Avengers” director Joss Whedon returning to write and direct the sequel. “Marvel’s The Avengers” was released in 2012 and went on to earn $1.5 billion worldwide, making it the third-largest grossing movie of all time. “

Source: CBM

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: THOR and CAPTAIN AMERICA

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THOR (2011)

I’m not that familiar with the Marvel comics version of Thor, so, I have to take the movie at face value and as such, Thor is a lot of fun. The film takes place both on Earth and in Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) home realm of Asgard and Kenneth Branagh does a nice job of switching back and forth between both worlds and keeping the tone even and the narrative flow fairly smooth (more on that later). The film fits in very nicely with the world created in the Iron Man films and yet has it’s own style and flavor as it tells the story of arrogant Prince Thor and his path from banished and disgraced warrior to hero of both Earth and Asgard. The cast works really well together and in filling their roles. Hemsworth brings a nobility to Thor, as well as, keeps him charming during his arrogant beginings and then makes believable his humble awakening during the course of the film. Natalie Portman is energetic as the pretty scientist and love interest, Jane Foster and she and Hemsworth have a nice screen chemistry together that actually gave their growing relatrionship a realistic touch despite the fantasy story elements. Tom Hiddleston makes a good villain as the devious Loki and Anthony Hopkins is a regal and strong Odin. Kat Dennings is cute as Portman’s sidekick, Darcy and her antics are just enough to provide humor without being annoying and Stellan Skarsgard is fine as a fellow scientist, Dr. Selvig who grew up with norse mythology and provides some exposition for those not in the know. There is plenty of action and the SPFX are top notch especially in the portrayal of the mystical Asgard which is beautifully designed and realized. Thor’s flying was the hardest thing to pull off and they smartly keep it to a minimum and it works withing the context of the scenes. My only gripes are minor. The middle of the film slows down for about 20 minutes but soon picks up as the film heads toward it action filled last act. The earth sequences don’t quite flow as smoothly as the Asgard sequences leaving me to believe there was some editing to get the fim under 2 hrs but, it is not jarring. And, the set of the New Mexican town just doesn’t quite look like a real town, it’s lay out does make it look like a set, well built, but still a set. But these problems are small and don’t ruin what is an overall very fun and entertaining movie that has some nice fairy tale touches as well as plenty of action. Stay through the credits as usual with these films.

A solid 3 and 1/2 hammers!

Thor rating

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CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (2012)

Captain America is a good flick and there definitely is some fun to be had and I enjoyed it but, It’s not quite the great popcorn flick it could have been. The film is well directed by veteran Joe Johnston with some nice, nostalgic old fashioned war movie touches but, it’s in how the film is structured that is where the weaknesses lie. The biggest chink in Cap’s shield is the pacing. The film takes a lot of time with his origin and while what we watch is entertaining, it takes far too long to send him on his first mission to rescue POWs from a Hydra instillation. Once he does officially take on the mantle of superhero and supersoldier, there is a quick montage of him in action and then the film slows down for more dialog until the final confrontation and that itself is underwhelming and over too quick. Why is Hydra thought of as such a threat if they can be defeated so easily? And I shouldn’t have to read the comics to find out what this glowing cube is that Hydra uses to power it’s forces. It’s origins are vague and we don’t really learn about it until The Avengers. Another big problem is that they take so much time to develop the character of Steve Rodgers (Chris Evans), that everyone else is short changed. Main villain Red Skull, played by the always good Hugo Weaving, hasn’t enough screen time to develop a threatening enough screen presence. He’s a pretty generic villain for a classic comic character and Cap’s arch villain. The showdown between Cap and Skull is also far too short and leaves not enough impact though, the scene that follows does have some nice emotional resonance to it. The cast is good with what little they have to do.  Hayley Atwell looks serious and pretty as Agent Peggy Carter who is Rodgers’ love interest and Tommy Lee Jones barks alot of orders as Col. Phillips who doesn’t quite believe in Rodgers’ abilities at first. Cap’s sidekick and old friend Bucky (Sebastian Stan) might have 10 minutes screen time, if that. The Howling Mad Commandos also have very little screen time and you need to watch the credits to find out all their names. Dum Dum Dugan (a perfectly cast Neal McDonough) is another classic character wasted with little to do. All in all it is entertaining but, at the same time, also somewhat disappointing. Also stars Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark and Stanley Tucci as Dr. Abraham Erskine, who creates the super soldier serum that turns Rodgers into Captain America. As with all Marvel flicks stay though the credits.

3 shields!

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ROBERT DOWNEY Jr. SIGNS ON FOR AVENGERS 2 & 3!

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A  slow movie news day but, what little news there is, happens to be good news for fans of Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark/ Iron Man and the Avengers as Marvel and RDJ have reached an agreement for the actor to return for not only Avengers 2 but, a third Avengers adventure as well. The actor has implied his days of solo Iron Man adventures are done… at least for now… and the absence of a fourth Iron Man flick in the deal would seem to indicate this as so. Still, we can expect to see Mr. Downey in his armor at least twice more and that is good news indeed!

Source: CBM

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