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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Top Story: Crosby Arrested on Gun and Drug Charges
Rock musician David Crosby was arrested early Saturday on marijuana and felony gun possession charges at a New York hotel, Reuters reports. According to the police report, a hotel manager at the Doubletree Guest Suites hotel called police after a maid searching for identification in a green canvas bag Crosby left after checking out of his room discovered a small quantity of marijuana, a .45-caliber gun, ammunition and knives. The 62-year-old musician, who rose to fame with the Byrds and later Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in the late 1960s and 1970s, was charged with the third-degree felony of criminal possession of a weapon and unlawful drug possession, Manhattan District Attorney spokeswoman Barbara Thompson told Reuters. Crosby, who spent a year in prison after a drug charge conviction in 1985, could serve up to seven years in jail if convicted of the gun charge. He was freed after appearing in court and posting bail of $3,500.
Return of the King DVD Bows in May
The Lord of the Rings enthusiasts can look forward to the DVD and VHS release of The Return of the King May 25, three months earlier in the year than its predecessors, The Associated Press reports. In recent years, New Line had held off until August to release The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers to generate anticipation for the trilogy's next theatrical release. Now, with the trilogy concluded--and riding high on the 11 Oscars the film won at the Academy Awards--New Line has decided to roll out the third and final installment earlier. AP reports the initial DVD release of The Return of the King will include a bevy of behind-the-scenes material--and, as with the other two installments, an extended version of King will be released sometime around the holidays. The three extended versions will push the saga's running time to more than 11 hours.
Schwarzenegger Heads Up Fitness Weekend
Arnold Schwarzenegger's got a busy schedule, what with running the nation's largest state and all, but still managed to take time out for his first love--bodybuilding. Reuters reports the Governator visited Columbus, Ohio, last weekend to officiate the Arnold Schwarzenegger Fitness Weekend and its centerpiece, the Arnold Classic bodybuilding contest. The three-day event--which dates back to 1989 and includes 600 exhibitors, 11,000 athletes and some 80,000 attendees--coincided with Schwarzenegger's appointment as executive editor of Muscle & Fitness and Flex magazines, two American Media-owned bodybuilding mags that have featured the former Mr. Universe on their covers some 50 times, Reuters reports.
Lost in Translation Feted at Comedy Fest
The Oscar-winning Lost in Translation was one of the big winners at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colo. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Sofia Coppola's film about two lost souls in Tokyo won the audience award, along with best performance (Bill Murray), first-time director and screenplay prizes at the festival's second annual Comedy Film Honors. Al Madrigal took the jury award for best standup performer, while Dave Gorman won for the second time in the best one-person show category.
Role Call, Part I: McConaughey Swings Hammer, Universal in 11th Hour
Matthew McConaughey is in negotiations to star in Hammer Down for DreamWorks, a story about a disgraced NASCAR driver who becomes a wheel man in a heist in hopes to get his life back on track, Variety reports… Universal Pictures has acquired the project The 11th Hour, by first-time director and Shattered Glass scribe Billy Ray. According to Variety, the biopic tells the story of Robert Hanssen, the traitorous FBI agent who sold government secrets to the Soviet Union and centers on Hanssen's assistant Eric O'Neil. No cast as been set as yet.
Role Call, Part II: Malick Postpones Che
The trades also report eccentric director Terrence Malick (The Thin Red Line) has abruptly shelved his biopic project Che, about Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara, and will instead direct The New World, a drama about Pocahontas and the cultural collision of European explorers and Native American tribes starring Colin Farrell. Che was due to start filming in July 2004 in Bolivia with Benicio Del Toro set as the title character and Franka Potente, Javier Bardem, Benjamin Bratt and Ryan Gosling as his lieutenants. Malick, who co-wrote the Che script with Del Toro and Ben Vanderveen, has told the film's producers, Laura Bickford and Steven Soderbergh (Traffic), and financiers that he still intends to direct the film in July 2005, Variety reports. Despite the delay, Del Toro plans to stick with it. He and Bickford came up with the project in 1997, and they and Soderbergh own it. According to Variety, Del Toro is already fielding acting offers to fill his sudden summer vacancy, and Che will apparently wait until Malick returns.