FAREWELL AND R.I.P. HEATHER MENZIES-URICH!

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HEATHER MENZIES-URICH 1949-2017

It’s especially sad to have to report a loss at this time of year. Last year it was the legendary Carrie Fisher and this year, sadly, it is Sssssss and Piranha actress Heather Menzies-Urich, passing after a battle with brain cancer. The veteran film and television actress worked mainly in the late 60s through the 70s and also appeared in The Sound of Music, Captain America and the single season of the Logan’s Run TV show. She was married to late veteran TV and film actor Robert Urich. Our thoughts are with her family.

-MonsterZero NJ

Source: internet

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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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SCARLETT SIZZLES IN NEW BLACK WIDOW CHARACTER POSTER!

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The lovely Scarlett Johansson sizzles in this new Black Widow character poster from Captain America: The Winter Soldier …

UPDATE: A new poster at the bottom features a combo shot of characters and a better shot of Cap’s costume but, still no Falcon!…

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There are a couple of other posters if anyone cares…

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1ap7  7bj4

(click on all posters to enlarge)

Source: Yahoo Movies

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REVIEW: THE AVENGERS (2012)

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THE AVENGERS (2012)

What better way to follow up a double feature of Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger then with the movie they all lead up to!…

One of the most anticipated movies in years, The Avengers blasts onto the screen and lives up to every bit of the hype and delivers more of the goods, then any fanboy/girl could hope for. The story picks up from the earlier Marvel films with Thor’s brother Loki (the scene stealing Tom Hiddleston) stealing the Tesseract, the cube last seen in the hands of Captain America’s villain, The Red Skull, and plotting with an aggressive alien race to use it to conquer Earth and beyond. It’s up to Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), along with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and S.H.E.I.L.D. to save the world… if they don’t kill each other first. Joss Whedon (TV’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Firefly) is no stranger to ensemble pieces and he perfectly handles the large number of characters, giving each their fair share of the spotlight and adding some nice background to those not focused on in previous films. Black Widow in particular is given some nice depth and some solid scenes after her small role in Iron Man 2. Whedon, who also wrote the script, brings his trademark humor to full use here providing some laugh out loud funny lines and hilarious moments between characters… none of which I will spoil. Joss also weaves in some intense drama and shows a gift for large scale action with the climactic confrontation in NYC being a cinematic spectacle as are the numerous action sequences that precede it. Avengers is a massive epic movie and Whedon’s camera captures it all without forgetting his characters. The cast all shine in their roles including new Bruce Banner, Mark Ruffalo, whose motion capture Hulk has some scene stealing moments, and Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye seen only as a cameo in Thor. The Avenger’s can take it’s place as one of the greatest superhero movies yet and is the perfect summer blockbuster providing not only spectacular action and mind blowing SPFX but, a smart and witty story to give weight to all the eye candy. Sure it has some flaws and there are some plot holes but, with all the film does give us, those can be easily forgiven and forgotten. This is how films like this should be made. Awesome entertainment! Avengers also stars Cobie Smulders as Agent Maria Hill and Clark Gregg and Stellan Skarsgård returning as Agent Coulson and Erik Selvig respectively with a cameo by Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts. In true Marvel film fashion stay through the entire credits for not one but, two post-credits scenes. A real fun blast!

4 sexy superheroines!

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Drat! I was hoping for at least a cautionary spanking…

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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!

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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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