SYNOPSIS: If you’re like the Reel Guys you don’t see the long weekend as the last chance to head up to the cottage for a final blast of summer, but more of a three day sprint to catch up on all the movies you missed over the last three months while you were too busy jumping off docks, BBQing or basking in the wondrousness of warm weather. With this list the Reel Guys say sayōnara to the silly season and serve up one last refreshing sip of the summer’s best air-conditioner movies we took in while the rest of you were slathering on SPF 110.
Richard: Mark, the summer’s biggest hit, Guardians of the Galaxy, is a lot of fun and deserves all the attention it’s getting, but for me the two best sci fi films of the season were Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Snowpiercer. Apes is a smart movie about race, gun usage and xenophobia that doesn’t shy away from big ideas while Snowpiercer is an environmental thriller about a revolution on a train that is unapologetically weird. For me it’s the nerviest actioner to come along in a season crowded with movies that go crash, boom, bang. What grabbed you this summer?
Mark: Richard, I usually cringe at the beginning of the summer expecting nothing but comic book adaptations and sequels. But this summer those kinds of films turned out to be among the best. The three you mentioned were excellent, but I’d also like to add X-Men: Days of Future Past and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, both of which were smart, exciting, and had time travel motifs. Heck, even the latest installment of Transformers was a major step forward: I didn’t run screaming for the exit. But here are two smaller films that I thoroughly enjoyed: Begin Again, about a burnt out music producer trying to reinvent himself in hipster New York, and Chef, the story of a burnt out gourmet cook who is fired and is forced to start over with his own broken down food truck. Hey, notice a theme here?
RC: Then there was the story of the burned out comic. Obvious Child came to theatres with a reputation. In its film festival run it got labeled “the abortion rom com.” While that shorthand description is technically accurate, it’s also reductive, ignoring the film’s well-crafted and hilarious coming-of-age story about accepting responsibility, to concentrate on the more sensational aspect of the story. I know you weren’t a fan, but I liked it and thought Jenny Slate was terrific in the lead role.
MB: Didn’t work for me, but I did like the James Brown biopic Get On Up. The movie lurches around trying to find its groove but Chadwick Bozeman deserves an Oscar nomination for his total immersion in the role. 22 Jump Street was a pleasant surprise. I didn’t care for 21, but this one had a sharper, funnier script and more evolved performances from Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. And I mostly liked Zach Braff’s unofficial sequel to Garden State, Wish I Was Here. The kickstarter funded indie had too much going on to succeed but there were some great sequences that a lot of critics seemed to miss.
RC: I started off talking about Guardians, which, deservedly so, has become the biggest hit of the summer. But another movie gave it a run for its money in the entertainment department, but not in the money department. Edge of Tomorrow may sound like the title of a soap opera, but it’s actually the name of a Tom Cruise alien invasion flick. In it Cruise battles nasty space bugs called Mimics but the story is more Groundhog Day than it is War of the Worlds. The first two reels are packed with energy and invention it’s only when the conventions that made the story enticing are put aside in the last reel that the movie becomes a standard Cruise action flick. But it’s still a good Cruise action flick and deserved a bigger audience.
MB: I know I’m going to like Boyhood. Haven’t seen it yet because I’ ve been too busy raising an actual boy.
When the Reel Guys aren’t at the movies, one of their favourite things to do is talk about going to the movies. This week Richard and Mark have a look at talking apes, a vengeful Scarlett Johansson, and a singer with a papier-mâché head and a talking raccoon. So throw some popcorn on the BBQ, crank up the air conditioning and enjoy the Reel Guys’ most anticipated films of the summer season.
Richard: Mark, I was a huge Planet of the Apes fan as a kid. Loved the rubber masks, the twisty endings and the “YOU MANIACS! YOU BLEW IT UP!” scene still blows my mind. Saw them over and over, and even enjoyed the bad ones like Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. Today, as an adult, I have a full-sized Cornelius bust with faux chimpanzee hair in my office. So, given my obsession with simian cinema, my inner 14-year-old goes a bit ape every time I see the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer. What’s got you excited this summer?
Mark: I’m a Planet of the Apes fan, too, Richard. The idea of animals acting like humans is a welcome change from my life in show business, where humans act like animals. I’m really looking forward to Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson in a Luc Besson revenge/action flick. This is Scarlett’s moment, and this is going to be the movie to make her a megastar. The trailer made me spill my popcorn!
RC: Johansson is doing interesting work these days, splitting her time between rock ’em, sock ’em movies like Captain America: The Winter Soldier and smaller movies like Chef and Under the Skin. Michael Fassbender has a similar career arc. We last saw him in X-Men: Days of Future Past. Next up he’s in Frank, a strange indie based on the life of Frank Sidebottom, a real-life English musician who wore a giant papier-mâché head complete with painted-on eyes, ruby red lips and slicked-back hair.
I love Fassbender for still taking chances on movies like this when he could easily cash big Hollywood paycheques time after time.
MB: Sounds like one strange biopic, Richard! A more commercial variant I’m looking forward to is Get On Up, the James Brown story starring Chadwick Boseman. The Godfather of Soul never wore a papier-mâché head, but he was big on ermine capes and tantrums, so this should be a lot of fun. And what a soundtrack it will be!
For life lessons and laughs, there’s And So It Goes, a mature rom-com starring Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton. Bring your CARP card for discounts on soft-chew treats from the concession stand.
RC: I don’t have a CARP card …. yet. I do like soft chew candies, however. As far as movies go, I’m curious about Guardians of the Galaxy. So many of the summer’s blockbusters have been oh-so-serious affairs that I think this one promises some good laughs and action.
MB: The cast suggests it might be more than your typical sci-fi adventure. But it’s Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz in Sex Tape that gets me hot. Big laughs, lots of action, at least of the horizontal variety.
“Must have freaked you out, coming back after the defrosting.” If that bit of dialogue, spoken by war veteran Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” makes sense then you already have all the backstory you need to enjoy the movie.
For those who don’t, here’s the scoop. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) was a ninety-pound über patriot, too scrawny to enlist in World War II. Not to be deterred he allowed himself to be a guinea pig in the top-secret “super-soldier” experiment. Transformed into a ripped, heroic warrior he (and his trusty shield) took on risky missions and kept the world safe from the terrorist organization HYDRA. On one operation he crash landed in the Arctic and spent decades frozen in a block of ice in a state of suspended animation.
Thawed out in modern day, the MIA soldier is pressed into service by the folks at S.H.I.E.L.D. to protect freedom and the American way.
When we meet up with him in the new film he’s still catching up with the modern world. The extremely well preserved 95 year old is making a list of all the things he missed out on in seven decades of suspended animation. He likely won’t have time to get up to date—take in “Rocky” or listen to Marvin Gaye’s “Trouble Man” for instance—before having to deal with the chrome-armed Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), a villain from Cap’s long distant past and battle against a threat from deep inside S.H.I.E.L.D., his own spy network.
With his new world collapsing around him the good Captain must determine who can be trusted. Will it be S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the flirty but deadly Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) or World Security Council bigwig Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford)? The decisions he makes could save his life and the lives of 20 million civilians.
Movie by movie Marvel has created an interconnected universe. Like a giant jigsaw puzzle the comic book company has pieced together something quite unprecedented; a series of films that aren’t sequels to one another but when combined form a loud, brash whole.
Captain America was a latecomer to the party, and while the first film was a solid introduction, it didn’t have the sparkle of say, the first “Iron Man” movie. The character seemed a bit beige; a do-gooder with no rough edges. “The Winter Soldier” addresses those concerns, fleshing out the character and providing some very good action sequences.
Evans has grown into the character. Physically he’s one big rippling muscle, but it is his personality and attitude that make him interesting. This time around he’s still a do-gooder but one who questions his missions. “You’re holding a gun to everyone on Earth and calling it protection,” he says after learning of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s violent plan to bring peace to the world. “This isn’t freedom, this is fear.”
It’s an edgy message from a Greatest Generation type to a world where drones have become common and Edward Snowden rides the line between patriot and traitor. The message permeates the plot, which is ripe with twists and turns and some genuinely thrilling moments.
Adding to the intrigue is some high powered star wattage. Robert Redford, who, if this was 1973 might have played the title role, brings credibility to Pierce. He’s an enigma, a man who turned down the Nobel Peace Prize, but also helped create a world so chaotic that he believes people are willing to give up freedom for peace. He brings some old school gravitas to the part and his very presence in the movie made me want to re-watch “Three Days of the Condor.”
Johansson is mad, bad and dangerous to know as Romanoff, and kicks so high it’s only a matter of time until she gets her own Avenger’s movie.
Of course, this is a comic book movie so for all the high-minded subtext there are still big action scenes every ten minutes or so, each one larger and louder than the last. The biggest and brashest is saved for the climax, which is where “The Winter Soldier” packs the inventiveness of its first two acts away and becomes a standard Marvel action movie. Up until that point, however, it is a funny (pay attention for a good “Pulp Fiction” gag involving Jackson), fast paced movie that is a cut above the usual super hero fare.
SYNOPSIS: When we meet up with Captain America (Chris Evans), the recently defrosted superhero is catching up with the modern world. The extremely well preserved 95 year old likely won’t have time to get up to date before having to deal with the chrome-armed Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), a villain from Cap’s long distant past and battle against a threat from deep inside S.H.I.E.L.D., his own spy network. With his new world collapsing around him the good Captain must determine who can be trusted. Will it be S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the flirty but deadly Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) or World Security Council bigwig Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford)? The decisions he makes could save his life and the lives of 20 million civilians.
Richard: 4 Stars
Mark: 4 Stars
Richard: Mark, movie-by-movie Marvel is creating an interconnected universe. Like a giant jigsaw puzzle the comic book company has pieced together something quite unprecedented; a series of films that aren’t sequels to one another but when combined form a loud, brash whole. Captain America was a latecomer to the party, and while the first film was a solid introduction, it didn’t have the sparkle of say, the first Iron Man movie. The character seemed a bit beige; a do-gooder with no rough edges. The Winter Soldier addresses those concerns, fleshing out the character and providing some very good action sequences. What did you think?
Mark: I’m not sure the word “think” applies much to the movie. But I did enjoy it, much more than the first installment. The plot seemed rooted in some reality, in a kind of paranoid thriller way, like Enemy of the State and Three Days of the Condor, and Robert Redford’s presence makes the connection even more explicit. But I still don’t feel I knew Captain America any better in this one. He’s still a cypher to me—a sphynx with a very powerful garbage can lid.
RC: This time out I thought Evans got deeper into into the character. Physically he’s one big rippling muscle, but it’s his personality and attitude that make him interesting. He’s still a do-gooder but one who questions his missions. “You’re holding a gun to everyone on Earth and calling it protection,” he says after learning of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s violent plan to bring peace to the world. It’s an edgy message from a Greatest Generation type to a world where drones have become common and Edward Snowden rides the line between patriot and traitor. The message permeates the plot, which is ripe with twists and turns and some genuinely thrilling moments.
MB: Dunno about the message, but there were two long memorable car chases, and that’s enough for me! Loved the cast- Redford, Samuel Jackson, Anthony Mackie, all great fun, but Scarlett Johannsen was the cherry on the top of this sundae. She plays a lot of scenes without much makeup, which made me beleive she was actually on an op. In the fight scenes, I’m sure Evans and Johannsen used stunt doubles, but it looked they were doing their own work. Nice directing.
RC: I enjoyed the performances. Johansson, in particular, is mad, bad and dangerous to know as Romanoff, and kicks so high it’s only a matter of time until she gets her own Avenger’s movie.
MB: I’m looking forward to the next installment: Captain America and Tennille, where he saves the world AND sings poppy Seventies love ballads.
Captain America, played by Chris Evans in this weekend’s superhero flick Captain America: The Winter Soldier, was almost tagged with a different patriotic name by creator Joe Simon.
In 1940, when he first imagined the character, he dubbed his creation Super American. Then he had a change of heart.
“There were too many ‘Supers’ around,” he said. “Captain America had a good sound to it. There weren’t a lot of captains in comics.”
The first issue of the new Captain America comic was an instant hit. Released on December 20, 1940, and featuring Cap giving Adolph Hitler a knuckle sandwich, it sold almost one million copies.
Numbers like that should have attracted Hollywood’s attention, but Captain America’s screen debut was inauspicious. In 1943, Republic Films decided to launch a superhero serial based either on the mysterious masked character The Copperhead or the caped do-gooder Mr. Scarlet. Scripts were prepared, but before cameras rolled, the decision was made to insert Captain America into the story without radically altering the screenplays.
As a result, the character bares only a passing resemblance to the comics. In the serials he has a different secret identity and fights evildoer The Scarab instead of Nazis. His famous invincible shield is missing, as is his sidekick Bucky and there is no mention of the Super-Soldier Serum that transformed him from zero to hero.
Nonetheless, the 15-part serial — which featured exciting titles like Blade of Wrath and Vault of Vengeance — was very popular, but unfortunately did little to further the career of its star Dick Purcell. Legend has it that the strain of playing the active character was too much for him and he passed away just three weeks after filming was complete.
Despite the success of the serial, it would be half a century until Captain America was featured in another story shot for the big screen. In 1990’s Captain America, Cappy is played by Matt Salinger, son of author J. D. Salinger, who beat out Dolph Lundgren and Arnold Schwarzenegger for the part.
The movie returned the character to his comic book roots, and was originally set for a 1990 release to coincide with 50th anniversary of the character but was shelved until 1992 — perhaps because of what Entertainment Weekly called a “shapeless blob of a plot” — when it was released on home video.
Captain America is possibly the most patriotic of all superheroes, but the name also pops up in one of the most famous counterculture movies of the 1960s. In Easy Rider, Peter Fonda’s character Wyatt is nick-named Captain America after his Harley Davidson Captain America chopper.