Captain America: The Winter Soldier is filled — and I mean jam-packed — with genre-bending, action-heavy, sportily tense and relentlessly sinuous, sky-high-concept and maniacally bonkers stuff. Polygonal mayhem that aims, and impressively so, to top the Marvel lot in ideas, deconstructing every thriller staple from government corruption to talking computers to odd couple agents gone rogue. But oddly enough, the moment in the Cap sequel that I find most arresting several weeks after seeing the film is our peaceful reunion with Steve Rogers, trotting merrily around the Washington Monument as the sun rises on our nation's capital.
The scene is shot from far overhead, a low pulse/high spirits Chris Evans reduced to a shapeless blur as he repeatedly (but politely!) laps fellow jogger and veteran Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie)... and yet it might be the closest we feel to Cap throughout the movie.
The Winter Soldier has a lot to worry about in the delivery of its content. Managing a plot as ambitious and multifaceted as its own, with themes as grand as the scope of the American mentality — as represented by Steve Rogers, raised in the good old days of gee-golly-jingoism — it doesn't always have the faculties to devote to humanizing its central troupe. Cap isn't left hollow, but his battles with the dark cloud of contemporary skepticism play more like an intriguing Socratic discussion than an emotional arc. Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow, a character who ran circles around her Avengers co-players in flavor, feels a bit shortchanged in that department here (in her closest thing to a starring role yet, no less).
Mackie's Falcon, a regular joe who is roped into the calamity thanks largely to his willingness to chat with a fellow runner — a rare skill, honestly — is less of a problem. He doesn't have much to do, but he does it all well enough. Dynamic though he may be, Mackie keeps things bridled as Cap's ad-hoc sidekick, playing up the along-for-the-ride shtick rather than going full (or even half) superhero. We might want more from him, knowing just how fun he can be, but it's a sating dose. The real hunger is for more in the way of Black Widow, Cap, and — perhaps most of all — the titular villain.
Still, these palpable holes pierce through a film that gets plenty right. As elegantly as Joe Johnston did the Spielberg thing back in 2011, Joe and Anthony Russo take on the ballots of post-innocence. They aren't afraid to get wild and weird, taking The Winter Soldier through valleys that feel unprecedented in superhero cinema. We're grateful for the invention here — for Robert Redford's buttoned-up Tom Clancy villain, for the directors' aggressive tunneling through a wide underworld of subterranean corruption, and especially for one scene in an army bunker that amounts to the most charmingly bats**t crazy reveal in any Marvel movie yet. We might be most grateful, though, for a new take on Nick Fury; here, the franchise gives Samuel L. Jackson his best material by a mile.
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But in the absence of definitive work done in our heroing couple, a pair rich in fibers but relegated to broad strokes and easy quips in this turn, most of it amounts to a fairly good spy thriller, not an ace-in-the-whole neo-superhero masterpiece... which, justly or otherwise, is what we've come to expect and demand from these things.
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Top Story: Peter Jackson Goes Ape-Crazy!
Now that The Lord of the Rings trilogy is behind him, Peter Jackson is moving on to bigger and better things--namely a big monkey named King Kong. The director is fulfilling his childhood dream of remaking the classic King Kong story about a giant ape who wreaks havoc on New York City. "I'm making movies today because I saw this film when I was nine years old. It has been my sustained dream to reinterpret this classic story for a new age," Jackson said in the statement issued on Monday, AFP reports. The new version will be filmed in New Zealand.
Reporter Arnett Fired Over War Comments
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David Letterman will return to his popular CBS late-night show this week after fully recovering from a case of shingles, Reuters reports. The 55-year-old comedian has been off the show since Feb. 25 when he complained on air about a visible inflammation of his right eye. The ratings during Letterman's absence--where guests such as Bruce Willis and Regis Philbin took over hosting duties--were spotty but the network hopes for a big tune-in for Letterman's first night back Monday.
South Park Will Go On
Comedy Central has renewed their deal with South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone for another two-years. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the pact calls for Parker and Stone to produce 15 episodes per season next spring. Originals will be spread out through the spring and fall. The deal also includes an option for a third year that would take the duo through 2006.
Cher Criticizes Jacko
Cher has had it with Michael Jackson. The singer-actress once hailed Jackson as a "great artist" but now has a different opinion about him personally. "I don't really care what he does to his face. He could just erase it as far as I'm concerned," Cher told TV Guide for its April 5 issue. "But I don't like him anymore. And it's because of his children. I cannot imagine putting my children through what he put his children through."
Diva Ross Wants To Tell It All
Diana Ross plans to write a memoir detailing her most recent woes, including being picked up for drunk driving in Arizona, the breakup of her marriage and her disastrous Supremes reunion tour, The Associated Press reports. Upside Down: Wrong Turns, Right Turns and the Road Ahead is scheduled for release this spring from ReganBooks, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Ross has also agreed to a one-hour interview on Fox, scheduled to air in May.
Playwright Nick Enright Dies
Australian playwright/screenwriter Nick Enright, best known for co-writing the 1993 Lorenzo's Oil for which is he got an Oscar nomination, died Sunday of cancer in Sydney, Australia. He was 52.
Role Call: Scooby-Doo Part II; Bates Joins 80 Days
Ro-boy-o-boy-o-boy! Warner Bros. announced Monday that production on the sequel to their hit Scooby-Doo--with original cast members Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Linda Cardellini and Matthew Lillard--will begin April 14. In the new mystery, Scooby and the gang confront an anonymous villain who is plotting to take over the city of Coolsville by creating Mystery, Inc. classic foes such as Captain Cutler and the 10,000 Volt Ghost...meanwhile, Oscar nominee Kathy Bates has joined the cast of Around the World in 80 Days. Based on the Jules Verne classic, the remake stars Steve Coogan as Phileas Fogg and Jackie Chan as Passepartout, two adventurers on a journey to circle the globe in 80 days. Bates will play Queen Victoria.