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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British actress/singer Samantha Barks has moved in with her boyfriend, actor-turned-singer Richard Fleeshman. The Les Miserables star was first linked to Fleeshman late last year (13), and now she has revealed the romance has already turned serious as the pair is living together.
Speaking ahead of Friday's (14Feb14) Valentine's Day celebration, Barks told Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper, "Actually, we've just moved in together and I'm looking forward to spending the day (Valentine's day) with him."
Barks previously dated model David Gandy and Welsh TV presenter Matt Johnson.
Summit via Everett Collection
You can imagine that Renny Harlin, director and one quadrant of the writing team for The Legend of Hercules, began his pitch as such: We'll start with a war, because lots of these things start with wars. It feels like this was the principal maxim behind a good deal of the creative choices in this latest update of the Ancient Greek myth. There are always horse riding scenes. There are generally arena battles. There are CGI lions, when you can afford 'em. Oh, and you've got to have a romantic couple canoodling at the base of a waterfall. Weaving them all together cohesively would be a waste of time — just let the common threads take form in a remarkably shouldered Kellan Lutz and action sequences that transubstantiate abjectly to and fro slow-motion.
But pervading through Lutz's shirtless smirks and accent continuity that calls envy from Johnny Depp's Alice in Wonderland performance is the obtrusive lack of thought that went into this picture. A proverbial grab bag of "the basics" of the classic epic genre, The Legend of Hercules boasts familiarity over originality. So much so that the filmmakers didn't stop at Hercules mythology... they barely started with it, in fact. There's more Jesus Christ in the character than there is the Ancient Greek demigod, with no lack of Gladiator to keep things moreover relevant. But even more outrageous than the void of imagination in the construct of Hercules' world is its script — a piece so comically dim, thin, and idiotic that you will laugh. So we can't exactly say this is a totally joyless time at the movies.
Summit via Everett Collection
Surrounding Hercules, a character whose arc takes him from being a nice enough strong dude to a nice enough strong dude who kills people and finally owns up to his fate — "Okay, fine, yes, I guess I'm a god" — are a legion of characters whose makeup and motivations are instituted in their opening scenes and never change thereafter. His de facto stepdad, the teeth-baring King Amphitryon (Scott Adkins), despises the boy for being a living tribute to his supernatural cuckolding; his half-brother Iphicles (Liam Garrigan) is the archetypical scheming, neutered, jealous brother figure right down to the facial scar. The dialogue this family of mongoloids tosses around is stunningly brainless, ditto their character beats. Hercules can't understand how a mystical stranger knows his identity, even though he just moments ago exited a packed coliseum chanting his name. Iphicles defies villainy and menace when he threatens his betrothed Hebe (Gaia Weiss), long in love with Hercules, with the terrible fate of "accepting [him] and loving [their] children equally!" And the dad... jeez, that guy must really be proud of his teeth.
With no artistic feat successfully accomplished (or even braved, really) by this movie, we can at the very least call it inoffensive. There is nothing in The Legend of Hercules with which to take issue beyond its dismal intellect, and in a genre especially prone to regressive activity, this is a noteworthy triumph. But you might not have enough energy by the end to award The Legend of Hercules with this superlative. Either because you'll have laughed yourself into a coma at the film's idiocy, or because you'll have lost all strength trying to fend it off.
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Former Pussycat Dolls star Ashley Roberts has struck up a romance with actress Samantha Barks' TV star ex. The Les Miserables beauty called off her romance with Welsh presenter Matt Johnson earlier this year (13) and quickly moved on with hunky model David Gandy.
Johnson has since revealed he was "devastated" by the rejection, but he's now dating Roberts, who has been living and working in the U.K. since starring in reality show I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! last year (12).
The pair was spotted enjoying an intimate night out together at London hotspot Mahiki on Wednesday (02Oct13).
A source tells Britain's Daily Mirror, "They were being really flirty and playful all night. It was obvious by their relaxed body language that they're really comfortable with each other.
"They were dancing together one-on-one, before stealing a kiss."
Ellie Goulding has scored a second week atop the U.K. pop charts with her new single Burn. The track is the singer's first ever U.K. number one, and she keeps former chart-topper Avicii from returning to the top spot with Wake Me Up.
Klangkarussell and Will Heard's Sonnentanz (Sun Don't Shine), DJ Fresh and Diplo's Earthquake and Summertime Sadness by Lana Del Rey round out the new top five,
Meanwhile, talent show finalists Richard and Adam Johnson have held off challenges from Rudimental, Travis and John Mayer to hold on to the number one spot on the Official Albums Chart for a fourth successive week.
The brothers' debut album, titled The Impossible Dream, has now tied with The Motion Picture Cast Recording of Les Miserables for the longest run at the top of the countdown this year (13).
Rudimental's home stays put at two, while Travis debut Where You Stand at three and John Mayer's Paradise Valley and Stereophonics' Graffiti On The Train round out the new top five.
U.K. TV host Matt Johnson has told of his heartbreak at discovering his movie star ex-girlfriend Samantha Barks had moved on with top male model David Gandy just weeks after their split. The Les Miserables beauty called off her romance with the Welsh presenter earlier this year (13) and was subsequently linked to Dolce & Gabbana hunk Gandy.
Barks' brief relationship with Gandy reportedly finished last month (Jul13), but Johnson admits it was tough for him to see the actress in the arms of another man.
He tells Britain's The Sun, "Sam and I cared for each other and the decision to break up was hard. When you genuinely have love for somebody it is hard to walk away. But it hurt when she upgraded to David Gandy. F**k Gandy!
"They were photographed together about three weeks after we split up, which was difficult to take. That's why it's a closed door between the two of us.
"My first reaction was to go: 'Get off her'. Then I was just thinking: 'Not Gandy'. I've seen his adverts - the man's got abs of steel. Anybody who is honest would think: 'He's a handsome man, I get it.' But it still burns, it really does."
Johnson goes on to reveal the reasons behind his split from Barks, adding, "Sam is amazing - she is so talented, gorgeous and sweet. But she's at a point of her career when she's just got to go for it and strike while the iron is hot. And it gradually got a bit more stressful because we never saw each other. We finally made the call to end it while drunk in a restaurant at 3am. It was really sad."
Les Miserables star Samantha Barks has split from top male model David Gandy after a brief romance. The singer/actress reportedly began dating the British hunk in May (13), but Gandy, who previously romanced The Saturdays pop star Mollie King, has now confirmed he is single again.
He tells Britain's Mail on Sunday, "I am single at the moment. This summer I am going to L.A. and then New York. Samantha's gone to L.A. now and if I see her in L.A. then I see her in L.A. I am not going to go out of my way to see her, but if I bump into her, I bump into her."
The split is the second this year (13) for Barks, who parted from Welsh TV presenter Matt Johnson before she started dating Gandy.
Ella Fitzgerald's former pianist Paul Smith has passed away at the age of 91. He died of heart failure at the Torrance Memorial Medical Center in California on Saturday (29Jun13).
Born in San Diego, California, Smith began studying piano at a young age and joined the Johnny Richards band in 1941.
He left the group to become a member of the Les Paul Trio in 1946 and he later moved to Los Angeles to launch a career as a studio musician and solo artist.
During his lifetime, he recorded more than five dozen records and performed with a string of music greats, including Bing Cosby, Nat King Cole and Doris Day. He also spent 11 years with Fitzgerald, and another four years with Sammy Davis, Jr., working as their conductor and pianist.
The star continued performing up until his death and over the last few years toured with his singer wife, Annette Warren. The couple was slated to headline a show at the Catalina Bar & Grill in Los Angeles on 17 July (13).
Smith is survived by his two sons Gary and Paul, as well as a daughter, actress Lauri Johnson, who starred in Meg Ryan's City of Angels and Keri Russell's Waitress.
Eddie Redmayne showed off his serving skills on Sunday (16Jun13) as he took to a tennis court for a charity match at the Aegon Championships in London. The Les Miserables star joined London's Mayor Boris Johnson, U.K. TV host Jonathan Ross, tycoon Sir Richard Branson and comedians Michael McIntyre and Jimmy Carr for the Rally Against Cancer charity game.
The famous faces donned their whites for a tag-team match, which pitted them against professionals Andy Murray and Tim Henman.
The money raised from tickets sales will go to The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, where British tennis player Ross Hutchins is receiving treatment following his Hodgkin's lymphoma diagnosis in December (12).
Before the charity match, Murray beat Croatian Marin Cilic to win the tournament.
Les Miserables star Samantha Barks is dating top male model David Gandy, according to a U.K. report. The singer/actress split from Welsh TV presenter Matt Johnson earlier this year (13) and has since moved on with the British hunk, who she has been dating for a month.
Gandy is said to have introduced Barks as "my girlfriend" at a yacht party in Monaco in May (13), while an insider tells Britain's Mail on Sunday, "They can't keep their hands off one another. They kept it quiet at first but now they're happy to publicly display affection."
Gandy previously dated The Saturdays pop star Mollie King.