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 actor Orlando Bloom has thrown his backing behind a campaign to name his home region as a prime example of U.K. culture. The Pirates of the Caribbean star grew up in Canterbury, in the eastern region of Kent, and he wants the area to win the coveted title of U.K. City of Culture in 2017.
The honour would bring a series of high-profile cultural events to towns in the area, and Bloom is adamant East Kent deserves to win.
He says, "East Kent's bid to become U.K. City of Culture 2017 is the next stage in its creative journey - and it's one I'm delighted to support.
"Born and raised in Canterbury, it was here that I first discovered my love for acting. One of my earliest memories is of being spellbound by performers I would pass on (my local town's) high street - before long I was having a go myself as a four-year-old hopeful on the Marlowe Theatre stage.
"Like myself, many have found their inspiration here. East Kent has always had a strong reputation for cultural excellence - be it in the field of theatre or literature, the visual arts or dance - and developments over the last few years have only served to cement that relationship. Growing up in East Kent awakened my passion - I hope this bid can do the same for generations to come."
The East Kent area is among 11 contenders for the title and a shortlist for the prize will be announced in June (13).
Kings of Leon drummer Nathan Followill and singer-songwriter wife Jessie Baylin, 28, welcomed their first child, a healthy baby girl on December 26.
The 33-year-old new dad tweeted about their happy arrival, on the 27th: "I can proudly announce the birth of my sweet angel Violet Marlowe Followill. My heart has been stolen and it feels so good."
The baby was born in Nashville at 4:01 pm, weighing 7 pounds, 13 ounces, says a rep for the Grammy-winning "Sex Is on Fire" band.
Violet is the latest addition to the band's Followill family, with singer Caleb Followill welcoming daughter Dixie Pearl in June with his model wife Lily Aldridge and guitarist Matthew Followill welcoming son, Knox Cameron, last May.
The band canceled their U.S. tour due to exhaustion last year. With so many babies and a new album expected next year, try and get some sleep, guys.
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