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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Derek Rose, 32, and Jakir Uddin, 19, allegedly warned the TV star's agent Dana Malmstrom they would go to the press with a story about Ecclestone's relationship unless they received the six-figure sum.
The daughter of billionaire Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone turned to cops in December (11) after her would-be extortionists sent an email demanding the money.
The men were arrested on 5 April (12) and bailed at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London with a condition that they do not contact either Tamara or Malmstrom.
Prosecutor Tony Connell told the court, "This offence involves a blackmail made by email to Tamara Ecclestone's agent to the sum of £200,000."
Rose and Uddin are each charged with a single count of blackmail and will appear at Southwark Crown Court on 19 June (12).
In This Means War – a stylish action/rom-com hybrid from director McG – Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises) and Chris Pine (Star Trek) star as CIA operatives whose close friendship is strained by the fires of romantic rivalry. Best pals FDR (Pine) and Tuck (Hardy) are equally accomplished at the spy game but their fortunes diverge dramatically in the dating realm: FDR (so nicknamed for his obvious resemblance to our 32nd president) is a smooth-talking player with an endless string of conquests while Tuck is a straight-laced introvert whose love life has stalled since his divorce. Enter Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) a pretty plucky consumer-products evaluator who piques both their interests in separate unrelated encounters. Tuck meets her via an online-dating site FDR at a video-rental store. (That Lauren is tech-savvy enough to date online but still rents movies in video stores is either a testament to her fascinating mix of contradictions or more likely an example of lazy screenwriting.)
When Tuck and FDR realize they’re pursuing the same girl it sparks their respective competitive natures and they decide to make a friendly game of it. But what begins as a good-natured rivalry swiftly devolves into romantic bloodsport with both men using the vast array of espionage tools at their disposal – from digital surveillance to poison darts – to gain an edge in the battle for Lauren’s affections. If her constitutional rights happen to be violated repeatedly in the process then so be it.
Lauren for her part remains oblivious to the clandestine machinations of her dueling suitors and happily basks in the sudden attention from two gorgeous men. Herein we find the Reese Witherspoon Dilemma: While certainly desirable Lauren is far from the irresistible Helen of Troy type that would inspire the likes of Tuck and FDR to risk their friendship their careers and potential incarceration for. At several points in This Means War I found myself wondering if there were no other peppy blondes in Los Angeles (where the film is primarily set) for these men to pursue. Then again this is a film that wishes us to believe that Tom Hardy would have trouble finding a date so perhaps plausibility is not its strong point.
When Lauren needs advice she looks to her boozy foul-mouthed best friend Trish (Chelsea Handler). Essentially an extension of Handler’s talk-show persona – an acquired taste if there ever was one – Trish’s dialogue consists almost exclusively of filthy one-liners delivered in rapid-fire succession. Handler does have some choice lines – indeed they’re practically the centerpiece of This Means War’s ad campaign – but the film derives the bulk of its humor from the outrageous lengths Tuck and FDR go to sabotage each others’ efforts a raucous game of spy-versus-spy that carries the film long after Handler’s shtick has grown stale.
Business occasionally intrudes upon matters in the guise of Heinrich (Til Schweiger) a Teutonic arms dealer bent on revenge for the death of his brother. The subplot is largely an afterthought existing primarily as a means to provide third-act fireworks – and to allow McGenius an outlet for his ADD-inspired aesthetic proclivities. The film’s action scenes are edited in such a manic quick-cut fashion that they become almost laughably incoherent. In fairness to McG he does stage a rather marvelous sequence in the middle of the film in which Tuck and FDR surreptitiously skulk about Lauren's apartment unaware of each other's presence carefully avoiding detection by Lauren who grooves absentmindedly to Montel Jordan's "This Is How We Do It." The whole scene unfolds in one continuous take – or is at least craftily constructed to appear as such – captured by one very agile steadicam operator.
Whatever his flaws as a director McG is at least smart enough to know how much a witty script and appealing leads can compensate for a film’s structural and logical deficiencies. He proved as much with Charlie’s Angels a film that enjoys a permanent spot on many a critic’s Guilty Pleasures list and does so again with This Means War. The film coasts on the chemistry of its three co-stars and only runs into trouble when the time comes to resolve its romantic competition which by the end has driven its male protagonists to engage in all manner of underhanded and duplicitous activities. This Means War being a commercial film – and likely an expensive one at that – Witherspoon's heroine is mandated to make a choice and McG all but sidesteps the whole thorny matter of Tuck and FDR’s unwavering dishonesty not to mention their craven disregard for her privacy. (They regularly eavesdrop on her activities.) For all their obvious charms the truth is that neither deserves Lauren – or anything other than a lengthy jail sentence for that matter.
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The Lady Penelope marionette, one of the lead characters from the 1960s adventure show, will go up for sale at Bonhams auction house in London on 29 June (11).
The 20-inch (50-centimetre) figure features a complicated electronics system in its head, which allows the mouth to move.
Stephanie Connell of auctioneer Bonhams says, "(The puppet is) super-rare and important. This is an original Lady Penelope and there can be few, if any, left."
The model previously belonged to puppet maker Christine Glanville, who died in 1999.
Also up for grabs are Lady Penelope's writing desk, chair and bookcase, which are set to fetch $8,000 (£5,000).
You would think that after last summer's insane brouhaha that was "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace", the masses would breathe a sigh of relief.
But the commotion is brewing for the second prequel (yet to be titled), which won't be released until summer 2002. Although it isn't inspiring 'round-the-block lines just yet, it is scheduled to begin filming at Fox Studios Australia this June, so this brings us to the most talked-about casting decision of the year: Who will play the grown-up Anakin Skywalker?
We'll know soon enough. Casting for "Episode II" is going on right this second, according to Jeanne Cole, spokeswoman for Lucasfilm. Casting director Robin Gurland has been seeing "hundreds of actors" for the past month, but no decision has been made yet.
A casting memo that circulated around the Internet -- and was confirmed to be true, according to USA Today -- described to talent agents that candidates should look around 19, since the film takes place 10 years after "Episode I." They should be "self-determined, extremely intelligent and forthright" and "should resemble Jake Lloyd [who played "Episode I's" Anakin]." "Episode II," which is still being written by George Lucas, will focus on the love story between Anakin and Queen Amidala, played by Natalie Portman. As the story goes, Anakin and Amidala eventually marry and spawn Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. By "Episode III," Anakin turns to the Dark Side and becomes the ominously wheezing Darth Vader.
Now before die-hards eager to romance Portman onscreen run out and get their headshots, we're sorry to say that only professional actors with an agent are being considered. This narrows the field to actors who remotely look the part, everyone from Christian Bale to Jude Law to those sons from "Home Improvement."
Now, distinguishing "Star Wars" fact from fiction is harder than distinguishing any phrase out of Jar Jar Binks' Gungan tongue. But we're gonna try our best and give you the rundown of the most talked-about names connected to the Anakin role -- the famous ones, because they're the most amusing -- and what they've reportedly said about it. (For the record, Lucasfilm says the reports of the casting of these actors are "all rumors.")
Name:Leonardo DiCaprio Age: 25 Who?: Star of the upcoming "The Beach" and, uh, that Big Sinking Boat movie. Status: He confirms that he once spoke to Lucas about the role, but not recently, according to the Calgary (Alberta) Sun. "I don't know where I stand for that project," DiCaprio has said. He told IGN Movies that he thought the first prequel "was interesting. I think there's more that can be done, though" and said he was waiting to see the script. Likelihood:: Leo's celebrity power contradicts Lucas' tradition of casting no-names in main roles. Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford were unknowns at the time of the first "Star Wars." But DiCaprio can look younger if he wants to, he bears passing resemblance to Lloyd, and he's proven he can play dark-hero roles.
Name: Jonathan Jackson Age: 17 Who?: Brooding Lucky Spencer on the soap opera "General Hospital" and Michelle Pfeiffer's brooding son in "Deep End of the Ocean." Status: According to the United Kingdom's Empire magazine, Jackson recently let slip on the set of his latest film that he's supposed to meet Lucas in Los Angeles to discuss the role. Initially, he dismissed casting reports as rumors, but because he accidentally said "I haven't even met George Lucas ... yet," according to the magazine, Jackson finally admitted his plans. "Well, yeah, of course I'll take it if I'm offered. Who wouldn't?" he reportedly said. Likelihood: He's not a big name, he's the right age, and he has the face that can emote innocence and danger at the same time. He's won three Daytime Emmys for "General Hospital," so he has acting chops. Newsweek has reportedly said he's the one to beat. We're saying his chances are pretty good.
Name: Jesse Spencer Age: 20 Who?: Recently left popular Aussie soap opera "Neighbours." Status: Rumors ran that Spencer was already on the list as Anakin, and that it was all timed to his departure from the show and his move to a house in Sydney which is apparently only five minutes from Fox Studios Australia. But Spencer's Internet publicist (yeah, the guy has an Internet publicist), Luke Connell, reportedly says it's all false and that he won't be in "Episode II." Likelihood: He's the right age and is virtually unknown in the United States. We had to look him up to see what he looked like, and the Aussie actor looks like a cross between Ryan Phillippe and Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys. We can't tell from his smiling photos whether he can play dark or not.
THE (RUMORED) LONGSHOTS
Names: James Van Der Beek and Joshua Jackson Age: 22/21 Who?: Hunky stars of the WB's "Dawson's Creek." Van Der Beek, who plays the idealistic, earnest Dawson Leary, starred in "Varsity Blues," while Jackson, the wisecracking Pacey, appears in the upcoming "Skulls." Status: Names were thrown out very, very early in the "Episode II" rumor mill, but no one has named them as remote possibilities of late. Said Van Der Beek in a chat with ET Online: "I can neither confirm nor deny that report. Best way of saying that." Jackson was more forthright in Big Hit Magazine: "I could see how it would be OK for me to play Darth Vader. I would be OK with that. I think there would be many capital offenses that I would be willing to commit for that. But as far as being approached by Mr. George Lucas, it hasn't happened yet. But the door is always open. If he is listening or watching from anywhere nearby ... please?" Likelihood: They're around the right age, but wouldn't working for Lucas contradict Dawson's idolization of Steven Spielberg?
Names: Jonathan Brandis and Ryan Phillippe Age: 23/25 Who?: Blond star of former TV show "SeaQuest DSV" and blond star of "Cruel Intentions," respectively. Status: Both were early mentions. Brandis reportedly told a college paper a while back that he read for the role, but that's unlikely since casting just started. Likelihood: Very slim. Brandis looks nothing like Jake Lloyd, and Phillippe -- well, his baby face is so fragile-looking we're afraid a disapproving look from Yoda alone might kill him.
Names: Matt Damon and Ben Affleck Age: 29/27 Who?: Best friends and hunky stars of "Good Will Hunting"; Damon's in "The Talented Mr. Ripley" while Affleck's in the upcoming "Boiler Room." Status: "No one's called me about that," Affleck told Hollywood.com at the Sundance Film Festival. But if they did, the young Darth Vader wouldn't be his first role of choice. "I think [I'd like to play] Chewie -- you know what I mean? He's a nice anonymous thing." Likelihood: Very, very unlikely -- they're too famous, too old, and we don't want to risk those Boston-bred voice inflections showing up: "I am a Jedi! I'll never turn to the Dahk Sah-ide!"
Names: Russell Crowe, Rick Schroder and Sean Patrick Flanery Age: 35/29/34 Who?: Likely Oscar nominee for "The Insider," former "Silver Spoons" child star-turned "NYPD Blue" tough detective and former "Young Indiana Jones Chronicles" star, respectively. Status: Again, names thrown out by wishful thinkers only. Likelihood: Are you kidding us?
After nearly a week of trying to make contact with the $165 million Mars Polar Lander, scientists and NASA officials have all but given up the mission as a failure. Never an industry to shy away from big-money crap shoots, the motion picture community is putting a great deal of faith in a pair of Mars-related pictures that it hopes will generate substantially more interest and success than the recent NASA fiasco.
Disney is putting a great deal of time and strength behind its summer 2000 offering "Mission to Mars." Directed by Brian DePalma and starring Gary Sinise, Tim Robbins, Don Cheadle, Kim Delaney and Jerry O'Connell, "Mars" surrounds a seemingly failed manned mission to the red planet. As rescue operations are put in place, it is quickly discovered that an even greater menace may be waiting for them on Mars.
Competing for summer box office bucks in the Mars arena will be Warner Bros.' "Red Planet." Directed by Antony Hoffman and slated for a June 16 bow, "Red Planet" stars Val Kilmer, Carrie-Anne Moss, Tom Sizemore and Terence Stamp in the story of a disastrous journey to Mars. While exploring the planet, most of the crew becomes stranded, leaving the ship's captain to decide whether to return to Earth without them or attempt a near-impossible rescue.
Much like the battle of the volcanoes a few years back, 2000 is shaping up to be the war for Martian domination. Yet while the interest in the current Mars debacle is something studio folks are not likely to overlook as the marketing machines begin to rev around these two high-profile features, Exhibitor Relations' Paul Dergarabedian is quick to point out that timing is still everything.
"I don't think [the Mars probe news] will have much effect on these films," he said. "Events in the news need to be timely to really have much impact on a film's success. Certainly it puts Mars in the minds of people."
With both studios taking a decidedly futuristic approach (both missions are manned, and the lives of the crew are quickly put in extreme danger), the films are hoping to bring audiences a great deal closer to the action than even a working space probe could ever dream of. Though the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's apparent failure and the fates of the crews in both films seem questionable, space exploration in cinema should still be a slam-dunk.
"People love this stuff," said Dergarabedian. "They eat it up. Each of these films has its strong selling points and will be marketed in their own special way."
As to the possibility that too much Mars might spell disaster for both at the box office, Dergarabedian sees no such reason to fret.
"Look at "Deep Impact" and "Armageddon," he said. "These films came out very close to one another and still did tremendous business. Films with similar subject matter can do really well at the box office."
"Mission to Mars" is expected to launch March 10, and "Red Planet" expects to blast off June 16.