Friday, April 25, 2014

Movie Review - Captain America: The Winter Soldier

While I"m a huge superhero fan, I was never a big Captain America fan until I saw the first Captain America movie. After that I fell in love with the character. So when the sequel hit theaters, I was a little worried it wouldn't live up to the high expectations set up by the first movie. I had nothing to worry about.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a 2014 live-action action adventure scifi film rated PG-13 and is appropriate for most ages. There is intense action and some killing so you may want to leave the very little ones at home. It is the second Captain America movie in this franchise.

The Good

The Story. The movie has a solid story and tight plot that perfectly picked up where the first movie and The Avengers left off. Everything that happened had a reason and tied into the film. At the same time, this was a very different movie so while it felt like it was part of the same story and universe, it did not feel like we were watching a remake of the first for even a second, something that almost never happens in sequels.

The Themes. This movie had two major themes -- 1) what does a soldier do after the war is over and he comes home, and 2) when does protection become oppression -- and both were fully developed and integral to the plot and the action and very appropriate for the characters and larger story.

The Cast. I was a little nervous when I heard Chris Evans was cast as Captain America thinking he was too much of a goof off to pull off the role, but for the third time he's proven he is the perfect choice for the role. I can't imagine anyone else playing it. Scarlett Johanson as Black Widow was brilliant as usual. Robert Redford did an excellent job as the Director playing it both as a friendly guy you can trust and evil madman bent on taking over the world without missing a beat. The only character that wasn't excellent was Samuel Jackson's portrayal of Nick Fury. He played him like he plays every character -- over the top and angry. Sam could use a few acting lessons.

Falcon. Marvel is well known for their racism such as creating uninteresting, two-dimensional cardboard cutout ripoffs of established heroes that happen to be black and act as stereotypical as possible so everyone knows it (such as Falcon and War Machine in the comics) and putting existing characters in black face (such as Nick Fury in Iron Man, or Heimdall in Thor, or Spider-man in the Ultimate Spider-man comics). So when I saw Falcon in the previews, I naturally thought, "Oh, boy, the racists at Marvel have struck again." But unlike almost every previous "diversity hire" stunt, Falcon was a real character who was well developed. The actor they chose was very likeable, and the character added to and helped develop the theme of a soldier coming home after war. I believed he was someone Cap would confide in. But they didn't stop there. Falcon was an integral part of the action to preserve freedom without pulling a Super Friends "look, I just magically saved everyone by my simple act after everyone else uncharacteristically failed" plot twist. The movie wouldn't have worked without him.

The Action. I was so impressed with the level of action and how I never got bored of it. The fight scenes were carefully choreographed to match the look and feel of the fights in the comic book without becoming silly.

The Visuals. This movie was big and visually stunning. The cinematography stepped back enough to really showed off the environments, something most modern films eschew in favor of trying to make the viewer feel like he's getting punched in the face.

The Bad

There were only two small parts that weren't absolute perfection.

The first was upon finding Zola in the computer, Zola spills the whole plot for apparently no reason. For the viewer this was great, because it tied everything up quickly and neatly, but it seemed unbelievable, because it gave Captain America the information he needed to thwart Hydra. No genius scientist would willingly do that no matter how large his ego.

The second was the final action scene where Captain America and Winter Soldier are fighting on the helicarrier to put the McGuffin in its place. The action looked over the top and unbelievable it took me out of the move, which is a shame because everything else was so carefully done and so believable.

But these are minor complaints and too insignificant to ruin the overall movie.

What I Would Like to Have Seen

Honestly, I saw everything I wanted to see and more. I was left wanting for nothing.

Except for another sequel.


Overall this was a thoroughly entertaining movie that had me at the edge of my seat from start to finish. It succeeded on every level a movie can from story to casting to acting to script to action to theme to message to pure enjoyment. It had action, it had drama, it had romance, it had friendship, it had philosophical meanderings, and it had brilliant visuals. It's no surprise this movie has been number one for three weeks in a row. I highly recommend Captain America: The Winter Soldier to everyone. It is well worth your time. I give it a solid 5 out of 5 boxes of popcorn.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Movie Review: Muppets Most Wanted

I've loved the Muppets for as long as I can remember. Saturday afternoons were often spent watching reruns of The Muppet Show. And while I was too young to recognize almost all of the guest stars, I was still enchanted and entranced by the whole experience. The show was made for adults, but it was quickly embraced and beloved by children as well.

Muppets Most Wanted is a 2014 live-action comedy adventure rated PG and is appropriate for all ages. It is the second in the relaunch of the franchise, although as one of the characters noted in the movie, this is actually the seventh sequel to the original film.

The Good

The Story and Plot. The movie was clever and very true to the spirit of past Muppet movies. It had a good solid story that moved at a good pace and never left me bored or looking at my watch.

The Jokes. The jokes were your typical puns, gags, and physical comedy one comes to expect from the Muppets, and yet they're still as funny today as they were in the 70s when Muppets first debuted. They've kept the tone of the humor the same, but the jokes definitely referenced the current world. And while I saw the Usher joke coming, I was still rolling on the ground laughing when it came.

The Casting. Guest stars are a staple of any Muppets production, and this one did not disappoint. It was filled with current stars and celebrities from music, movies, and more. The main characters were funny and played everything just right with the proper mix of silly and serious.

As I stated before, The Muppet Show was meant for adults, but it had so much charm that all ages fell in love with it. This movie is no different. There is plenty to entertain small children, teenagers, and adults alike. This is truly an all-ages film, which is a rarity in today's world.

The Bad

The only complaint I have is there was nothing really surprising or unique about this movie. It felt just like past Muppet movies; it brought nothing new to the table. It makes one wonder why this movie was made and would it really be worth ones time to see the next one if it's going to be more of the same. While I'm glad they didn't mess with the formula and ruin the franchise, that doesn't mean you can't expand on the magic.

And Tina Fay's accent was way too fake and kind of distracting.

What I Would Like to Have Seen

I remember being quite awed by the special effects in Muppet's Christmas Carol. That movie was very true to everything we've come to love about Muppets, but it introduced new elements that were very appropriate and fitting and added to the story instead of being just a gimmick. I was hoping to have a similar experience with this movie. I'm not saying they needed to have ultra modern special effects, but it would have been nice to bring something new to the table that expanded on the magic whether it was with the writing, the humor, the guest stars, or some completely new element.


Overall this was a very funny movie with jokes, gags, and enough action and excitement to keep me entertained from start to finish. It felt like the classic movies Jim Henson himself made, which after disasters like Muppets in Space or that strange Christmas special I never thought I'd see again. I give it 4.5 out of 5 boxes of popcorn.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Movie Review: The Lego Movie

I grew up with Legos and have always loved them. They were fun to build with, but I also loved the story that went with them. When I was young, Legos were marketed under the Legoland name with three worlds: Space, Town, and Castle. Space were always my favorite (especially the Fururon and Blacktron sublines), but I did have a lot of Castle Legos too (the Forestmen were my favorites). Later they added Pirates, Boats, and later licensed properties. While playing with them, I always imaged an animated TV series, comic book, or a movie about Legos and wondered why no one ever made one. Apparently I wasn't the only one who thought that.

The Lego Movie is a 2014 computer generated action adventure comedy film shown in both 2D and 3D. It features many big name stars doing the voices of the characters, and features many big name characters from other universes such as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Michelangelo of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and others. It is rated PG and is appropriate for all ages.

The Good

The story was very strong, with a good solid plot. There weren't really any big twists, but the end where they acknowledged Legos were toys was a nice touch and added to the overall theme, story, and plot.

The characters were very likable from the unknown main characters to the guest starts like Batman who wasn't your traditional caped crusader but enjoyable nonetheless.

The tone of the movie was fun, adventurous, and hilarious that stayed true to the spirit of Legos.

The jokes were plentiful and funny with a variety that will appeal to different age groups. The pop culture references many but were done in such a way that you could still enjoy the movie even if you didn't get them

What's nice about The Lego Movie is it isn't a kids movie or a family movie; it is a truly all ages movie, which means children and adults with both really enjoy it. The language, action, and jokes are not too offensive for children, but the story, jokes, and adventures wasn't watered down or dumbed down so adults will enjoy seeing it to. This is a rare--and welcomed--find.

The Bad

With all the hype, positive reviews, and great trailers, I was expecting to be blown away by the film's brilliance. I wasn't. I really enjoyed the movie and felt it was an excellent film, but it didn't quite live up to all the hype. It could have been funnier with a little more wit in the writing.

What I Would Liked to Have Seen

Being a fan of Legoland, I would have liked to have seen them visit the space worlds (especially Furureon) and castle worlds (especially the Forestmen). Instead they opted for a big city, the Old West, and licensed properties. I'm sure the licensed properties brought in a lot more fans, so I don't fault them for that. And this may open the door for more shows that do explore the classic Legoland worlds.


Overall I felt this was an excellent movie that has a lot for moviegoers of all ages to enjoy. It was completely appropriate for young children while being smart, clever, and exciting enough for older viewers. This movie is well worth your time, and I highly recommend it for all audiences. I give it 4.5 out of 5 bags of popcorn.