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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Hayek Vies For a Rock: Jack Donaghy's rock, to be specific. Salma Hayek will appear on the Jan. 31 series finale of 30 Rock, reprising her Season 3 role as Elisa, a women Jack almost married. Also returning is Julianne Moore as Nancy, who also has quite the scandalous romantic past with Jack. May the best woman win? [EW]
Curing a Hangover With Mixology: The writers behind The Hangover (Jon Lucas and Scott Moore) are mixing up a pilot order for ABC for a high-concept single-camera comedy that follows a group of singles over the course of one night. Mixology takes place in a sexy Manhattan bar while the main characters search for love... or lust, all in one night. [THR]
Trading In His Scalpel For a Badge: Castle's annual February sweeps two-part episode has recruited Dylan Walsh for a huge role. The Nip/Tuck alum will play Agent Harris, an even-keeled FBI investigator who works with Rick and Kate when a murder investigation exposes a plot to kidnap the daughter of a wealthy Middle Eastern businessman. “Our two-parters are always about big tension with personal stakes, so we have a story that we like," showrunner Andrew Marlowe says. "[I'm] not quite ready to advertise what it’s going to be, but we’re excited about it and I think it has some fun twists and turns.” [TVLine]
Cold Justice To Heat Summer 2013: TNT has ordered eight episodes of an unscripted procedural drama from Law & Order boss Dick Wolf. Cold Justice follows Texas prosecutor Kelly Siegler and Yolanda McClary, a crime-scene investigator for the Las Vegas Police Department, as they help local law-enforcement agencies in small towns across the country solve violent crimes that have sat cold because of lack of funding and proper forensic technology. The partners will take on a different case each week, re-examining the evidence and questioning suspects and witnesses to finally solve the dormant cases. Cold Justice is slated for late summer 2013. [The Wrap]
Coach Sue Gets Anger-y: Seems like Coach Sue might take a hiatus from the halls of McKinley High to deal with her anger issues. Jane Lynch may guest-star on Charlie Sheen's FX sitcom Anger Management, the star revealed at Fox's winter TV preview event Tuesday night. "We have Jane Lynch coming on, maybe," Sheen told reporters. Lynch recurred as Dr. Linda Freeman, Sheen's therapist, for nine seasons on Two and a Half Men, earning her an Emmy nomination. No word yet on when she might appear. [TV Guide]
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