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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October, 2012: a time for frights and scares, ghouls and dares—it's Halloween on Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, family of America's favorite pageant queen, Honey Boo Boo/Smoochie/Alana Thompson. Everyone was here! Uncle Poodle, all the girls, and Sugar Bear—who has been renamed Spooky Bear for the holiday festivities in 2013's post-holiday world. It was over-the-top, ridiculous, and everything you'd expect from one of the most unconventional families on television.
And, as is the way with the McIntyre, Georgia clan: s**t got real messy. In fact, messes of all kinds seemed to punctuate the episode, from Pumkin's penchant for grossing people out unidentifiable objects from the outdoors! June was a mess! Uncle Poodle was a mess! Pumkin was a mess! Poor Sugar Bear's legs, too, were also a mess. But that's life, eh? Messy. The family, of course, threw in some costumes and candy for good measure. Lots of candy. Pumpkins and Pumpkins! This family was made for days like Halloween.
The episode is sure to spawn a thousand GIFs, as the family's no-holds-barred attitude was on full display—even Sugar Bear (who we saw in the hospital and unable to walk at the beginning of the episode) was letting his feelings be heard. And for that, June was ready for him to get back to work.
But a lot of planning goes into a Very Honey Boo Boo Halloween (you better redneckognize!): there are pumpkins to be picked, costumes to be worn, and candy to be consumed. But not without a few side-stories along the way. First, the family goes pumpkin picking on a farm equipped with metal barrel cows to cart them all around the farm. Chants of "Corn!" and "We're gonna die!" filled the crisp autumnal air.
It is here that we learn the definition of wop-sided. You see, to be wop-sided means to be just like Mama June: flat in the back with a big belly. But Mama cries foul: she's not wop-sided, she's curveous. The nerve of family, huh? It didn't stop there, though, as the family's seemingly-ritualistic antics of throwing things at each other continues with balls. The balls, they went flying. Balls everywhere. So many balls, so little time! Poor Mama June went and got herself a ball to the face. That's when it was game over. The girls tried to escape the wrath of Mama, and left Sugar Bear and Kaitlyn behind to fend for themselves in the process—up a thumb, but down two working legs.
Before Halloween's evening of costumery and dress-up, June wanted a bit of a makeover for herself. The girls help her go blonde, which was...a mistake. Let's just be frank and state what all the girls said, and what we're all thinking: she looks a mess. June, blonde is so not your color. Go for a warm chestnut brown if you want a makeover! Something with a lot of depth of tone to it: blonde just washes you out, Coupon Queen. Though this was not the only opinion in the room: June actually loved it. And Sugar Bear really loved it.
"Seeing June as a blonde would definitely make my loins perk up." Frisky McBrisky over here was ready to go—all episode long Sugar Bear was in the mood for some affection from his lady. June was not having it, though. Even threats of a black-crusted biscuit wouldn't deter the fire of Sugar Bear's desire.
But enough of all that mushy love stuff: it's time to get messy again! Bring on the pumpkins and an Uncle Poodle for good measure. Almost immediately, pumpkin seeds and guts went flying. They were shoved, caressed, smooshed, and flung onto every body part, and into several orifices. Caught in the crossfire and then used as a plaything, Kaitlyn's face was covered in seeds: she looked like a sesame seed bun and inspired cravings for burgers. Uncle Poodle put the wop-sided pumpkin on his head and, of course, got stuck.
After Uncle Poodle bashed his own, giant pumpkin head in The Great Mayonnaise Experiment began. Mayonnaise, you see, is the devil, according to Mama June. Unless it's in a potato or tuna salad that somebody else makes (then she'll eat it and it's OK), but mostly, it holds a great psychological power. Long ago when June was just a wee bairn, June had a babysitter who was possibly part monster (because there's really no excuse for this) or alien, as she would only feed them mayonnaise sandwiches for every.single.meal. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, sketti time: mayonnaise on white bread and nothing else. It's time to face the fear, Mama June—there are so many coupons for mayonnaise, Coupon Queen! You have to overcome it for the good of the DEALS!
Alana is on a mission to cure her mother. It is her quest to bring peace and joy to every member of her family: quelling every fear with the flick of her wrist and the shake of her head. Her mama will not be afraid of no mayonnaise Honey Boo Boo, child! So she empties three jumbo-sized jars of mayo into a bowl and presents it to her mother, who immediately retches. June's chest tightens and her throat closes up as she covers her eyes, aquiver with fear. Get thee mayo away! She rushes from the room, overcome with what we can only imagine to be post-traumatic stress disorder. Alana's verdict? "It tastes like vanilla ice cream." Hmmm…they must be a Cool Whip family. In the end, all was not lost, as we did learn something: the jury might still be out on the vegetarianess of mayonnaise, but marannaise does not have meat in it—this we know definitively.
Then came time for the ancient tale of the Fart Ghost. You know Fart Ghost, of course, don't you? It's Fart Ghost! The ghost that you can smell before he enters a room. I believe his origins begin in 1640s era Paris, France. His name was Pepe LePew (I'll pause here for the sake of your uproarious, never-ending laughter at that joke). Fart Ghost seems to follow the family wherever they go. Perhaps he feels a kindred spirit in this flatulent family.
Down at Kackleberry Farms, a corn maze finds itself playing the role of outdoor bathroom for Mama June, who—while stuck in the seemingly never-ending maze—needs to pee, real bad. So she blazes a trail to the middle of the maze's corny barriers and takes a quick pee. Oh, there was also a giant bouncy pillow, some bellowing, and a zip line.
But this was just a precursor to: Costumes! Alana wants a costume made of bacon, but they're fresh out. Aww shucks! She settles for a blue "power wig" (Shh! It's a wig!) to help her make the right decision. They decide that Kaitlyn needs to either be a cheeseball or a crab (you know, because her extra thumb looks like crab claw. Their words, not mine! I don't like to make fun of children). Then Sugar Bear and Mama dress up with afros and caftans and call themselves "village people" in a moment that was seconds away from feeling sort of racist? The show moves on quickly, thankfully.
In the end, the family decided on the following: a hot dog costume for Kaitlyn, with coordinating ketchup and mustard bottles for her mom and aunt Jessica. Alana was a gothic vampire. Sugar Bear was an actual bear that Alana accessorized with a pound of sugar. June was Marilyn Monroe for 3 seconds, which turned Sugar Bear into Horny Bear. But June was not a fan of the dress' lack of modesty, so Mama became a Mummy…or a crap paper monster, according to the girls.
Pumkin got hit in the face with keys thanks to Sugar Bear, and is on bedrest and antibiotics to stop her eye from bleeding. So she can't go trick-or-treating. But have no fear! Alana gets her an eyepatch with a mini-pumpkin bucket covering the eye—enough for a few pieces of candy! They promise to bring back extra candy for Pumkin. And did they ever! Alana and Co. ended up in the rich part of town, with a mission: to bogart as much of the best candy as possible. Four bags each (!!!) later, it wasn't all confectioner's delights: somebody gave them dental floss! (The horror, the horror!) There were even a few pieces of fruit (the horror, continued!), but the family knew what to do with those: throw 'em to the deer before s** gets messy.
What did you think of tonight's Halloween-themed episode of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo? Let us know in the comments!
[Photo Credit: TLC]
Follow Alicia on Twitter @alicialutes
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The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.