Movie Review: “Captain America: Civil War”

Starring
Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Chadwick Boseman, Daniel Brühl, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Don Cheadle, Emily VanCamp
Directors
Anthony & Joe Russo

By all rights, Captain America should be the lamest, worst Avenger. He came of age decades before the topic of segregation was even entertained. Rock & roll hadn’t been invented yet. If Steve Rogers is a real person, he’s likely a racist crank, yelling at the other Avengers to get off his lawn.

Thankfully, the Cap in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is none of those things. Steve Rogers is an open-minded skeptic, for whom Japanese internment camps are still a recent event. (It is not a coincidence that the word ‘internment’ is used in a crucial scene here.) He is mistrustful of the government — and who can blame him, after the events of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” – and therefore loath to see the country he loves overstep its bounds a second time. This makes him a perfect foil for Iron Man/Tony Stark, a man whose genius is eclipsed only by his ego, and for whom reparations and accountability make sense, as long as everyone else pitches in to help him pay his bar tab.

This is the crux of “Captain America: Civil War.” The plot is more streamlined than the ’70s-era, conspiracy-minded “Winter Soldier,” but there are still some unsettling themes at play here, chief among them the concepts of freedom and safety, and the fear of compromising one for the other. The comics on which this film is based were written 10 years ago, presumably to point a finger at the George W. Bush administration for overreaching in terms of surveillance. Sadly, they’re even more prescient now.

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Movie Review: “A Bigger Splash”

Starring
Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Matthias Schoenaerts, Dakota Johnson
Director
Luca Guadagnino

At first, “A Bigger Splash” is a feast for the senses. The gorgeous locations, thrilling tunes, and nothing but good times with Tilda Swinton’s rock star feels like paradise. Midway through director Luca Guadagono’s hypnotic film, however, the dream begins to turn into an equally exciting and unnerving nightmare.

Marianne Lane (Swinton), unlike her former lover Harry (Ralph Fiennes), is speechless. After the rock star undergoes a potentially career-ruining procedure, she seeks some peace and quiet with her boyfriend Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts). They lie about in the sun, make love any chance they get, and, at least on the surface, the two couldn’t look happier. Their brief moments of peace and quiet are interrupted when Harry stops by with his “daughter” Penelope (Dakota Johnson). Harry, Paul and Marianne all share a history together — one that slowly reveals itself over the course of the narrative.

Until the surprising but inevitable third act, that’s about as much plot as there is in “A Bigger Splash,” a film that’s driven far more by atmosphere and character. David Kajganich’s script may feel like a rambling assortment of scenes, but they’re all of a piece, always serving a purpose or revealing something about the characters. When Harry lets loose to some Rolling Stones in a joyful three-minute dance sequence, we see the man Marianne used to love. That man, the one that always tries to live his life to the fullest, comes and goes throughout the film, like all four of the central characters.

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Mommy Fearest: A look at the toughest mothers in cinema

mommy_fearest

Motherhood is unquestionably the hardest job in the world. Even putting aside the crap hours and wages, the physical and emotional turmoil of pregnancy and birth is daunting enough, let alone raising a child and instilling in him proper virtues and morals to avoid raising a psychopath. Parenting eats up time, energy and resources like a ravenous Pac-Man devouring all in its path, but it also gives back immensely satisfying rewards. And rest assured, if anyone threatens a cub, it’s the mama bear that rears up and tears that intruder to shreds. So while every mom in cinema (and around the world) is a badass in their own right, there are some who have answered the call above and beyond their duty to protect (or avenge) their child. This is a list of those sweat- and blood-drenched mothers who personify to extremes the rigors of being a mom and raising a child.

Sarah Connor, “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”

Imagine having a baby with a time traveler, who is then killed by a psychotic robot, and then have the baby taken away from you after you are sent to a mental institution when no one believes any of this time traveling robot nonsense. It would be a bit of a strain on anyone’s mental state. Yet the one thing that shines through all of the psychological wear and tear is Sarah Connor’s (Linda Hamilton) devotion to her son, John. She has to team up with the fuel for her nightmares to take on an even deadlier robot, but is willing to do so all for the sake of protecting her son. While people think that Arnold’s T-800 is a relentless killing machine, clearly they haven’t seen anything yet when John Connor is put in jeopardy.

terminator_2

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Blu Tuesday: Joy, The 5th Wave and Easy Rider

Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on Facebook and Twitter with your friends.

“Joy”

WHAT: After giving up her dreams to help take care of her family, Joy (Jennifer Lawrence) gets a second chance to make something of herself when she invents a self-wringing mop that has the potential to launch a business empire… if only her destructive family would get out of the way.

WHY: Writer/director David O. Russell could seemingly do no wrong after the one-two-three punch of “The Fighter,” “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle,” but that hot streak has finally ended with this surprisingly joyless dramedy that’s all over the place. Though his films have always been slightly offbeat, Russell’s latest effort is a tonally inconsistent mess that bounces between family farce and soap opera, sometimes quite literally. The first 30 minutes are particularly bad as it figures out what kind of movie it wants to be, and while “Joy” eventually finds its groove once the titular character gets her big break at QVC, it makes you wish that more of the film was set within that world. Jennifer Lawrence is great as usual, showcasing her full range of talent, but the rest of the cast is hindered by shallow, underwritten characters. There’s a really great movie in here somewhere (perhaps one that more closely follows co-writer Annie Mumolo’s original biopic idea about HSN queen Joy Mangano), but unfortunately, this isn’t it.

EXTRAS: There’s a making-of featurette and a TimesTalk interview with director David O. Russell and star Jennifer Lawrence.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to May

may

The next month is an interesting mixed bag of some would-be summer blockbusters, a few festival favorites and a couple of very promising comedies. Will “Captain America: Civil War” live up to its hype and buzz when it hits theaters? Can an “Alice in Wonderland” sequel actually be entertaining and not some Hot Topic-infused nightmare like its predecessor? Whether you’re interested in social commentary, buddy cop shenanigans or large cataclysmic affairs with things that go boom, there’s a little something for everyone.

“Captain America: Civil War”

Who: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Chadwick Boseman, Elizabeth Olsen, Jeremy Renner and Daniel Brühl
What: Political interference in the Avengers’ activities causes a rift between former allies Captain America and Iron Man.
When: May 6th
Why: After their impressive work on “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” the Russo brothers return with this culmination of two Captain America films and two Avengers films. The storyline finds the Marvel Cinematic Universe at a crossroads and alliances tested on a personal level, while the action in the trailers looks larger in scope with many moving parts. This film also features the introduction of both the Black Panther (Boseman) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland) to the MCU, and based on early reviews, promises to be a thrilling ride that offers real emotional stakes for the audience. Plus, who doesn’t love superhero on superhero fisticuffs?

“Money Monster”

Who: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O’Connell and Dominic West
What: Financial TV host Lee Gates and his producer Patty are put into an explosive situation when an irate investor takes over their studio.
When: May 13th
Why: While this topic, taking Wall Street and its subcultures to task for their hubris, may be a little stale eight years out from the market crash, it’s sadly still relevant today for many people in the country. The trailer seemingly gives away most of the film, but it looks like a serious take on the repercussions of politics and financial institutions failing the common people, but with a real-time ticking clock (attached to a bomb) involved to make the tension even more palpable. Plus, it’s been five years since Jodie Foster last directed a film, so it’ll be interesting to see how she fares with this stellar cast and potentially hot-button topic.

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