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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“Our human spirits are immortal... I have matched my human spirit agains their emptiness, and I have won!” - Marnie
Tonight on True Blood, Antonia decided to let the sunshine in. Which is great- I was expecting them to drag the “meet the sun” plot out until the season finale. Three cheers for well-paced plotting! It makes sense that in the face of certainish death, our vampires would choose to stay close to those they love. Bill and Jessica hunker down for some sweet maker bonding before chaining themselves up in the basement (which sounds WAY dirtier than I meant, sorry.) Sookie and Eric do the same, endulging in another one of those sappy conversations assembled entirely from Livejournal icons.
Unfortunately, Tara isn’t feeling the love, as she must soldier on without her new girlfriend. She teams up with Marnie/Antonia, who may be a better replacement for “vampire hunting”, but not the “hotness” category which is so vital in a relationship. Tara seems to be falling for Mantonia’s female empowerment/wanton murder spiel, helping her assemble a crack team of idiots to power her spell circle. Tara says that vampires have killed every person that she’s loved, but to be honest readers, I’m drawing a blank. Jason and Sam are both (relatively) fine. Her only boyfriend who died (that I remember) is Eggs, and he got shot by Jason, not the undead. Undoubtedly, her relationship with Franklin was disturbing and awful, but I don’t remember him going after anyone but her. Is there someone obvious I’m forgetting? Or is Tara being a tad melodramatic?
Ep. 43 - Recap
“We’re seriously having this conversation? Now?” - Alcide
To be fair, it was a melodramatic episode on all counts, with all of the vampires chaining themselves up in the basement and crying and stuff. The newly-cuddly Eric is enjoyable, but his dialogue is getting embarrassingly sappy. Maybe for next week, I’ll compile a list of his quotes and mix them in with some of Edward’s from Twilight, and we’ll see who can tell them apart. But he also gets the funniest moment of the episode, having sex with Sookie all the way to the door of their house. Odds are there are some very confused boy scouts out in the woods getting a “birds and the vampire bees” talk. Maybe a “birds and mosquitos” talk. Who knows what wanton damage their love life will cause?
For instance, Eric and Sookie’s sexcapades puts a dent in Alcide and Debbie’s still-fragile relationship. After their werewolf bar-mitzvah, they go back into the conveniently small woods to make sure that Sookie isn’t getting murdered. Instead, they stumble into her glowey sex scene, which leads to some performance anxiety later on. It’s okay, Alcide, not everyone can have soft-focus sex scenes with a Neko Case-soundtrack. You’ve just got to make due.
“I wish I could forget every fucking thing about you.” - Sam. Also, the audience.
Sam gets an unpleasant surprise when his advances towards Luna are rebuffed, on account of Tommy’s shapeshifting sexytimes. Fortunately, the crack team figures it out, and while Luna runs off to take a whole lot of showers, Sam heads back to beat up Tommy. Tommy claims that the shapeshifting was an accident, which it was, but it’s not like his penis accidentally fell into Luna’s vagina.
Lafayette and Jesus finally left the brujo grampa behind, but not before establishing that Lafayette’s a medium- a witch who can speak to, and channel, spirits of the dead. Including the ghost lady who’s been following Arlene’s kid around, singing to him in french, and generally being disturbing.
“I am going to eat that fucking witch, starting with her face.” - Jessica
Ep. 44 - Preview
Despite Lala’s witchy prowess, he doesn’t get involved in Mantonia’s kind of crazy vampire murder plan. I have to assume that Tara, and the other people involved in the circle, don’t know exactly what’s going on, since they seem fairly cavalier about the whole thing. And Marnie’s speech, while dramatic, was vague on specifics. Tara’s been a bit of a jerk this season (for warranted reasons, sure), but it’s hard to imagine that she’d actually try to murder Jessica, and even Bill, in cold blood. I get that she’s afraid of Pam, but at this point, couldn’t Sookie ask Eric to order her not to kill Tara? I don’t know if Pam would listen, but Pam is honestly not the most intimidating vampire right now. She has no skin! Kudos to the makeup department for that incredibly cringe-worthy scene.
And it is Jessica who ends up in the most danger from Mantonia’s spell. Well, Jessica and that one vampire with the curlers who Hoyt’s mom knows. She has a sweet conversation with Bill, where she thanks him for being a good vampire dad, but he goes easy on her with the silver, out of sympathy. It ends up costing him, as Jessica breaks free, kills Bucky (not Bucky!) and walks out into the sun. Jason’s currently running to her rescue, and Bill spent something like half an hour in the sun that one time in the first season without any long-term damage, so I’m not too worried. I think for the first time, Russell Edgington might actually be happy that he’s trapped in concrete underground.
Looks like next week we’ll finally be getting that shower scene everyone’s been talking about.
“Holy crap, now there’s zombies?”
Sookie spends most of the episode in a sheer white shirt and a very pink bra. Someone call the fashion police!
“I’m going to shove my fist up your cunt and wear you like a hand warmer.”
“I swear to God I will burn this fucking taco stand to the ground!” You can’t blame Lafayette for being pissy, he still doesn’t speak Spanish, and must have no idea what’s going on half the time.
Good callback to the last time Eric got silvered, in season 2.
This week’s Eggs Benedict Memorial Award For The Biggest Waste Of Screen-Time goes to Andy’s date with Holly, which ended quickly and accomplished nothing. We get it, Andy’s addicted to V. Either come up with a better plot, or let poor Chris Bauer go. The man was on The Wire, for chrissake.
S4E6:Tonight's episode of True Blood was the midpoint for the season, and the plot finally seems to be picking up steam. Lafayette taps into some of his magic mojo with the help of Jesus's creepy grandpa, Marnie gets even closer with the Spanish witch who's been controlling her, and Bill is getting sucked even deeper into vampire politics. But let's not forget the most important part- Sookie and Eric have sex! In the woods! Which seems uncomfortable, but seeing as how she had sex in a graveyard with Bill that one time, everything's relative. Yes, after seasons of sexual tension, and some very sweet speechifying from the imprisoned Eric, he and Sookie finally get it on. So, audience, what say you? Are you glad that the sexual tension finally went somewhere, or are you in the Bill+Sookie=ForEVUR camp? And how long do you think it will be until Eric regains his memory at a dramatically appropriate moment?
Ep. 42 Clip - Lafayette and Jesus Visit His Grandfather
“Sorry, it’s hard to keep track of which of y’all hate each other.” -Sookie
Of course, because this is True Blood, eight thousand other plots happened tonight. Terry and Arlene’s house burned down, courtesy of what Arlene thinks is Rene’s ghost. Odds are that it has nothing to do with Rene, since they make a point of saying that the spooky baby doll survived the fire, and a mysterious African-American woman appears at the crime scene. My guess is that she’s a ghost, along the lines of the one that Lafayette runs into at Jesus’s grandfather’s house. Jesus’s grandpa continues to be creepy, sending the boys on a quest to find an animal sacrifice. Half of his scenes take place entirely in spanish, which is good for recappers like me who like subtitles, and bad for Lafayette, who has no idea what’s going on. Fortunately, he steps up to the plate when Jesus gets rattlesnake’d in the face and channels his uncle in order to heal him.
Marnie also improves her ghost-channeling abilities, allowing Antonia to possess her in prison. She also has more flashbacks to Antonia’s life, including her curse that sent the vampires into the sun the first time around. Antonia’s a surprisingly interesting character- in the flashbacks we see of her life, it’s easy to sympathize with her, but it’s clear that she’s going to make life for our vamp friends rather difficult. Not that Bill doesn’t deserve it, it’s fun watching him throw around his kingly authority, but it’s also turned him into more of a jerk than usual- he breaks up Sookie and Eric’s makeout session, insults her, and throws her off the property. Luckily, he’s still nice enough to listen as Eric gives him the world’s sappiest love speech, and lets him go afterwards. I’m sure that will come back to bite him in the ass once Nan Flannigan comes back to town, but even Bill cannot resist the charms of adorable amnesia Eric.
“I’ll be here to help you, any way I can. Except shooting you in the head.” -Sookie
When not rounding the bases with Eric, Sookie spends the episode with Jason, who’s scared of becoming a were-panther during the full moon. Jason’s fears come to nothing, as it’s impossible to be turned into a shapeshifter. Which manages to make the ridiculous hillbilly stereotypes even more ridiculous, how in the world did they not know that? I mean, I know that they’ve done a lot of meth and have a family tree more convoluted than the Hapsburgs, but they still should have been able to notice that biting people NEVER turned them into panthers. The existential crisis this brings on for Jason is pretty cute, though, and leads to him having a panic attack in the woods with Jessica. I’m not looking forward to the “Jason loves Jessica! But Hoyt’s his best friend! How can he possibly make the moral choice not to put his dick in something?” plot that’s going to result from their sexual tension, but Jason and Jessica are two of my favorite characters, so I’m okay for the moment.
“If you don’t stop fucking with me, I will turn into a doberman and bite off your face.” -Sam
Sam decides to let Tommy open Merlotte’s for the day, despite the fact that Tommy is underage, severely depressed from killing his parents, and a complete idiot. It’s inevitable that something will go wrong, and that something is Tommy discovering that he can turn into other people, specifically Sam. While this plot development had been kind of inevitable, it did lead to some entertaining moments. Especially the one where Tommy fires Sookie for being the world’s worst waitress. Seriously, she’s only gone to work once this whole season. The act was less funny, however, when Tommy uses it to sleep with Luna, Sam’s badly-timed but otherwise kind of charming girlfriend. Human shapeshifting seems to have some negative side-effects, other than the overwhelming creepiness, of course, but it’s probably too much to hope for that Tommy’s dead. At the very least, I hope this will teach him a valuable lesson about not ruining other people’s lives.
Ep. 43 – Preview
Speaking of ruining people’s lives, Tara and her girlfriend are back! Okay, that’s not really being fair, they’re boring, but not nearly as boring as some of the other story lines we’ve seen over the years. Tara gives her GF a tour of the town, which is abruptly curtailed when Pam shows up to get revenge for her current decomposition. My guess- Pam will kill Tara’s girlfriend (who I swear has a name, but I can’t remember it) and Tara will team up with Marnie to become a vamp-hunting extremist. I hope I’m predicting wrong, since I do look down on women in refrigerator plots.
“Is he is a danger to everyone, or is he just faking it to get into his pants?” -Sookie
Sookie’s become a surprisingly compelling character this season, mostly by not acting like a complete moron. (The bar’s not super high on this show). She even got all three page quotes! She’s been quick to forgive Amnesia Eric for his sins, even ones he’s done post-amnesia, like killing her fairy godmother, but I can buy her change of heart. If anything, I think Eric’s transformation into noble martyr is a bit much to take- even if he’s lost his memory, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he should have a completely different personality. Perhaps True Blood is meditating on the philosophical conundrum of nature versus nurture, of personality being learned and taught by society rather than innate. That, or they thought it would be hot.
“Believe it or not, my entire existence does not revolve around what or who is between your legs.” Damn, Bill. You bitchy.
Terry’s armadillo made it out of the fire alright! Hooray!
“Self-loathing, power hungry, pompus little dork!” An accurate, if unkind, description of Bill.
Apparently, Jessica’s boobs make Jason feel warm and safe.
“Tell her I was born the night she found me” That sound you can hear is me, projectile vomiting into the bushes.