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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James Gandolfini's friends, family members and former co-stars turned out to remember the actor at a ceremony in his hometown on Sunday (01Dec13) to rename a street in his honour. The Sopranos star, who died in June (13) at the age of 51, was honoured by officials and residents of Park Ridge, New Jersey who dedicated a section of road to the actor in the area where he grew up.
The actor's wife, Deborah Lin, and his 14-year-old son, Michael Gandolfini, were on hand for the ceremony, along with The Sopranos castmembers including Steve Schirripa, Vincent Curatola, Tony Sirico, Dominic Chianese, Vincent Pastore and John Ventimiglia.
Michael Gandolfini addressed the crowd and told them he will never forget spending time with his father in the town, saying, "He just told me every story about every place here... (he) definitely made a point of coming here... (and) would be more honoured than anything to be known as a true Jersey guy."
Chianese was also among those who spoke at the ceremony, while the local council declared Sunday to be James Gandolfini Day, according to Northjersey.com.
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When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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James Gandolfini's wife and family members scored a private screening of the actor's final film weeks before it opened at the Toronto International Film Festival in Canada on 7 September (13). Deborah Lin and those closest to The Sopranos star joined director Nicole Holofcener for the special showing of Enough Said.
The filmmaker tells The Hollywood Reporter, "They really liked it. I'm so happy. They felt like they got to spend more time with him in a way that was close to what he really was."
Gandolfini passed away after suffering a heart attack while in Italy in June (13).
The will of late actor James Gandolfini has been filed for probate in New York. The Sopranos star suffered a fatal heart attack in June (13) while on vacation in Italy, and on Friday (06Sep13), the documents for his will were lodged in court.
According to the legal papers, his 13-year-old son Michael will receive a trust that includes a $7 million (£4.6 million) life insurance payout, while his infant daughter Lila, with his widow Deborah Lin, will also receive a percentage of his estate, which is valued at $70 million (£46.6 million).
A guardian appointed by a Surrogate Court judge to protect the children's interests made no objections to the star's final wishes.
Gandolfini also left his two sisters up to $12 million (£8 million) each and created a separate trust for Lin.
James Gandolfini's college friend was stunned to learn his late pal had left him $50,000 (£32,258) in his will to help him take care of his autistic son. The Sopranos star, who suffered a fatal heart attack in Rome, Italy last month (Jun13), bequeathed the bulk of his estimated $70 million (£45.1 million) fortune to his 13-year-old boy Michael, but he made sure his circle of close friends were also well looked after - and Doug Katz is in awe of the actor's generosity.
Katz was notified of the gift by Gandolfini's widow, Deborah Lin, and he plans to put the money in a trust fund for his 12-year-old son Andrew, who suffers from the developmental disorder.
He tells the New York Post, "I was shocked. He's my son's guardian angel."
Katz, who was the star's roommate during their time at Rutgers University in New Jersey, reveals Gandolfini was always looking out for Andrew.
Katz says, "He got him nutritional supplements, anything Andrew needed to help him lead a better life. Jim sponsored gymnastics for my son. He always said, 'How can we help? How can we make it better?' And none of it was lip service.
"I'd rather have Jim alive than his money. You could never meet a nicer guy in the world."
The Sopranos star James Gandolfini has made sure his loved ones are well cared for by leaving the bulk of his estimated $70 million (£45.1 million) fortune to his "beloved" son. The actor suffered a fatal heart attack in Rome, Italy last month (Jun13) while on vacation with 13-year-old Michael, who called hotel staff for help after his father fell ill.
In his will, filed at Manhattan Surrogate's Court in New York City on Tuesday (02Jul13), the star stipulated the teen will inherit the bulk of his estate through a trust set aside for him until he turns 21. He also gets his father's clothing, jewellery and the majority of his property.
Gandolfini's eight-month-old daughter Liliana, from his second marriage to Deborah Lin, will also inherit the actor's estate in Italy along with Michael when she turns 25, but he wrote in his will: "It is my hope and desire that they will continue to own said property and keep it in our family for as long as possible."
The generous star also bequeathed large sums of money to close friends, including personal assistant Paulette Flynn Bourne and friend Doug Katz, whom he hoped would use the money for his son.
The Sopranos creator David Chase paid a heartwarming tribute to late star James Gandolfini by writing his eulogy in the form of a letter to the tragic actor at his funeral in New York on Thursday (27Jun13). The executive producer remembered his friend as a man who never lost touch with his inner child as he addressed mourners at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, but admitted it was the sadness behind his eyes which helped him to bring his most famous character, mob boss Tony Soprano, to life on the small screen.
He said, "You were a good boy... A sad boy, amazed and confused. You could see it in your eyes. That's why I think you were such a great actor, because of that boy inside.
"I think your talent is that you can take the immensity of humankind and the universe and shine it right back at us."
Gandolfini's widow, Deborah Lin, the mother of his nine-month-old daughter Lily, also spoke at the service, telling the congregation, "My husband was an honest, kind and loving man. He cared more about others than himself... Thank you for the memories of the beautiful life we spent together. I love you Jim, and I always will. Rest in peace."
A host of stars from the actor's TV family turned out for the memorial, such as his onscreen wife Edie Falco and daughter Jamie-Lynn Sigler, as well as Steve Buscemi, Steve Schirripa, Lorraine Bracco, Vincent Curatola, Joe Pantoliano, Tony Sirico, Dominic Chianese, Aida Turturro, Michael Imperioli and Vincent Pastore, while other guests included Alec Baldwin and his heavily pregnant wife Hilaria, and Chris Christie, governor of Gandolfini's native New Jersey.
Gandolfini's sisters, Leta and Johanna, his son Michael, 13, and his ex-wife Marcy Wudarski were also in attendance for the 90-minute ceremony, which was led by Reverend James A. Kowalski.
Speaking before the funeral, Sirico expressed his sympathies for Gandolfini's baby girl having to grow up without her father, saying, "He's a great actor and he was a great guy... He's got a new baby. She'll grow up and have to be told who he was by her mum. It's sad."
And actor David Rasche, who appeared alongside Gandolfini in 2009 film In the Loop, added: "He was such a terrific guy and a terrific actor... He was a huge presence, huge... He was kind and loving and generous, but he was a really big presence; he really filled a role."
Gandolfini died of a heart attack in Rome, Italy last Wednesday (19Jun13) at the age of 51.
The Sopranos actors Edie Falco and Steve Buscemi are among the mourners who have gathered at a New York church to bid farewell to their tragic co-star James Gandolfini at his funeral on Thursday (27Jun13). Other members of his TV family, including Michael Imperioli, Tony Sirico, Dominic Chianese and Aida Turturro, were also photographed arriving at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, while pal Alec Baldwin and Chris Christie, governor of Gandolfini's native New Jersey, were in attendance too.
Members of the public wanting to pay their respects to the late actor were allowed to take seats in the church after the invited guests had arrived.
The service, led by Reverend James A. Kowalski, is expected to last 90 minutes and will feature eulogies from David Chase, the creator of the hit mob drama, Gandolfini's widow Deborah Lin, and two family friends.
The funeral is being filmed by bosses at cable channel HBO, which aired The Sopranos, for a special family video, and network executives are believed to have also covered the costs of the ceremony.
Gandolfini died of a heart attack in Rome, Italy last Wednesday (19Jun13) at the age of 51.