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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The hits just keep on coming.
It seems like the Gallaghers continue to sink lower and lower into their respective death spirals (literally and figuratively) – will it ever end? (No). Frank, of course, is the literal example here. After his ill-advised stint in the sweat lodge last week, he wakes up in the hospital. His doctor is strangely upbeat, but he still tells it like it is: Frank doesn't have much time left, and his best option is hospice care. At the behest of Sammi, he agrees to take a look at some of the heavily-religious options (the only ones that in his price range – AKA free). Once he sees an unconcious stage 4 pancreatic cancer patient getting a foot rub and a woman in a coma (who does nothing but moan in pain) listening to an embellished folk version of "Amazing Grace," he's out of there like a shot. Guess he's hoping Sammi will be his hospice – and seeing the amount of narcotics she's loaded him up with, it might not be so bad.
Lip has it marginally better, but barely. Remember the ice in his eyes at the end of the previous episode? Well, it's still there. We see it when he tells the doctor he's the closest thing to a "responsible adult" that the family's got, and we really see it when Fiona uses her one phone call on him. He tells her that Liam was restrained and heavily sedated with possible brain damage without batting an eye at her subsequent hysterical sobs, and then hangs up on her to boot. It's a tough episode for him, though: he spends much of it trying track down Frank and keep the family together – two Herculean tasks rolled into one. Finally, near the end of the episode, he gets some victory (a hard-earned B+ on a paper), which gives him a brief moment of happiness, chased by a longer stretch of existentialism. A long shot of him camped out in the hospital lobby surrounded by textbooks tells us all we need to know: this is not a sustainable option.
Fiona has the toughest episode of all (even tougher than her cirrhosis-riddled, death-approaching father). She's transported like cattle, strip searched (the warden even ominously snaps on rubber gloves), and locked in a freezing jail cell – and after hours of begging for a phone call, she gets hung up on by Lip. Her public defender might just inch into competence (at least, that's the hint I got), but other than that, things are not looking good; she just barely manages to squeeze out the words "not guilty" for the judge – no meager feat, especially as she's spent the entirety of the episode wracked with soul-crushing guilt. The judge sets bail at $100,000, and Fiona knows that's not something her family (or Kev and V) can afford. But just as she's despondently poking at gray oatmeal and black toast, she learns that someone has posted bail. And that someone is Mike (I was genuinely surprised). With a promise of no further contact, he drops her off at the Gallagher house, and her homecoming may just be the toughest pill to swallow yet – she returns to a completely empty house. A bleak ending to an even bleaker episode.
Oh, and guess what we have to look forward to? Social workers (who were not impressed by a barely-conscious Frank) are coming back to the Gallagher home: buckle your seatbelts.
* I've always loved the fact that Sheila's the type of person that needs to be busy taking care of other people – it explains why she put up for Frank for so many years. The juxtaposition between a house full of Running Tree and his relatives and an empty one illustrates that perfectly.
* Also delightful: each separate Gallagher who needed introduction to Sammi and her weird son got a very truncated explanation – "new big sister" and "nephew."
* So Debs is back with her 20-year-old boyfriend. Where is that storyline going?
* I kind of love Kev. His simultaneous guilt for being a "responsible adult" in the room when Liam OD'd and absolution of Fiona is heartbreakingly sweet.
* Will Mike return? Let's hope so.
Maybe the Gallagher family on Showtime’s Shameless is a little rough around the edges — they curse like sailors and keep their savings in a jar — but they make for good entertainment. The new season of Shameless premieres on Jan. 12, a mere month away, and we can’t control our excitement.
When last we left the Gallaghers, bad-dad Frank was hospitalized with a long list of possibly life-threatening medical conditions while Fiona was acclimating to full-time employment and a respectable boyfriend. (Also, Jimmy the car thief is definitely dead despite his vague exit from the show.) Lip had graduated high school and planned to go to college, but younger brother Ian used Lip’s identity to enlist in the army when his relationship with Mickey Milkovich went sour.
Since season four picks up only a few weeks after the show left off, we’ll be able to get right back into the lives of the Gallagher clan. Based on the first promo released for the new season, it seems Fiona, Frank, and Lip will be rebelling against employment, health care, and education. Meanwhile, based on casting announcements, Debbie, the youngest Gallagher girl will continue her transition to adulthood that began in season three.
However the biggest surprise of the third season finale was Ian enlisting and leaving his siblings behind. If there is one Gahllagher rule, it’s that you don’t abandon the family. Plus, we really wish Ian and Mickey could work out their relationship issues. (That’s going to be hard since Mickey is married now, but we’re still hopeful.)
If nothing else, at least Fiona officially has custody over her siblings now. We wonder if that will actually change anything though. We’ll have to tune in on Jan. 12 to find out.
Take This Waltz is beautiful maddening and sexy just like its protagonist Margot (Michelle Williams). Margot speaks like a toddler to her husband Lou (Seth Rogen). She's moody but playful and she has cutesy and symbolic neuroses like insisting on taking a wheelchair at the airport because trying to make her flight is the sort of limbo that makes her anxious. As she explains to a handsome stranger named Daniel (Luke Kirby) she's afraid of connections she's afraid she'll get lost and no one will ever find her. Almost everything about her is childish from her bright yellow raincoat to her junior high insults ("retard " "gaylord") to her shrieking embarrassment when she pees in the pool during a water exercise class.
"What's the matter with you " asks Daniel "generally?" That's the crux of the movie. What is the matter with Margot? Even Margot doesn't know the root of her restlessness. It seems the only person willing to call her on it is her sister-in-law Geraldine an alcoholic in recovery who is already anticipating her own failure.
Take This Waltz relies heavily on chance and metaphor but the emotional intensity can make you willing to take that leap. Williams carries the film as Margot while Rogen gets an excellent chance to show his emotional side as Lou a lovable bear of a man. Kirby plays Daniel with an easy heady sexuality that makes Margot's decision understandably difficult. Sarah Silverman drops her bad girl comedian persona and really shines as acerbic but insightful Geraldine.
After Daniel and Margot meet at a historic village (she's rewriting the tour book for the tourist destination and he's who knows a fan of colonial history) Daniel is seated next to her on the plane. He also happens to live down the street from her and Lou. By the time he's began to wonder what Margot's deal really is they're knee deep in a heated emotional affair. Their attraction is immediate and palpable an irresistible force felt off screen. Daniel verbally consummates their affair with an unforgettably hot monologue.
Lou on the other hand isn't quite on the same page as Margot when it comes to their sex life or future children. He's knee-deep in a chicken cookbook so the couple and their family and friends eat almost nothing but different chicken dishes at every mean. You can only eat so much chicken right? Daniel on the other hand is new. "New things are shiny " Geraldine tells her in the communal gym shower as the women are soaping up after that pool incident. "New things get old " comments a woman nearby. This is one of the strongest scenes in the movie where women of all ages shapes and colors scrub down unapologetically and talk amongst themselves in a private/public space.
Take This Waltz is a more realistic portrayal of an erratic young woman who in a different writer's hands would be one of those Manic Pixie Dream Girls. Even though Margot wears adorable onesies and has the playfulness of a child she also hurts a lot of people and is screwed up for no apparent reason. It's not always clear why these men are attracted to her and you can tell they aren't sure themselves but it's interesting and painful to watch it all unfold. Take This Waltz is beautifully shot full of buttery sunlight and lush parks and sweetly decorated abodes. Polley rolled the dice on a difficult protagonist and comes up a winner.