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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Chilling the champagne? Setting out the party platters? Trying to figure out how many passed-out friends can fit on your guest room floor? That must mean the New Year is upon us. As we usher in 2013, it is once again time to make our resolutions: you know, those things we’re dead set on maintaining until... oh, let's say, March. Filmmakers and performers are also readying their resolutions, and based on the closing as well as the burgeoning cinematic year, we’re doing our best to predict what they will be. Should old acquaintance be forgot, these celebs should still endeavor to remember these resolutions…that we’re totally making for them.
Adam Sandler: To Renew His Deal With The Devil
It’s amazing that ever since Adam Sandler made the self-effacing Funny People, he’s actually starred in real movies far worse than his character’s fake absurd, satirical comedy projects. After all, could Merman really be any worse than That's My Boy? But then again, did we think anything could top (rather, sink lower than) Jack & Jill? On top of that, he continues to bankroll projects for sensationally unfunny boobs like Nick Swardson and Kevin James? Sandler resolves to perpetuate his Faustian contract in order to keep profiting from comedies that are unburdened of any actual comedy.
Joss Whedon, Sam Mendes, and Christopher Nolan: To Call Dibs On Plot Devices
If there was one thing that defined the cinematic landscape of 2012, it was super villains who weren’t playing hard to get. Thanks to movies like The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, and Skyfall, it seemed like every bad guy from London to Asgard worked an intentional incarceration into their devious scheme. It became something of a joke circulating the web, and the trio of prominent filmmakers who utilized the trope in 2012 are resolved to powwow before future projects to ensure no further embarrassing overlap.
The Rock: To Be The Matthew McConaughey Of 2013
This year’s breakout star, without question, was Matthew McConaughey. He appeared in several major films in 2012, thankfully none of which costarred Kate Hudson. He frightened us (at least away from ever eating friend chicken again) in Killer Joe, made us laugh (and swoon) in Magic Mike, and reteamed with his pal Richard Linklater for the darkly comedic gem Bernie. In 2013, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson will be appearing in G.I. Joe: Retaliation, The Fast and the Furious 6, Pain & Gain, and Snitch. He is shaping up to be the workhorse of the coming year and is resolved that at least one of those movies will bring him a McConaughey-like resurgence.
Peter Berg: To Only Make One Bad Movie At A Time
Battleship topped many a Worst Movies of 2012 list, and deservedly so. It’s not often a director can take the adaptation of a board game and create something that ends up…being even worse than we would expect the adaptation of a board game to look like. The most bizarre thing about Battleship is how it cobbled together elements form several other schlockbusters into one atrocious hybrid. In the future, Peter Berg will resolve to focus his efforts on making a singular subpar submarine instead of a giant carrier overrun with the numerous trappings of other people’s shipwrecks.
Bradley Cooper: To Wear Even More Trash Bags If It’ll Land Him An Oscar
Proving you are more than just a pretty face in Hollywood is never easy, especially if you happen to be as pretty as Bradley Cooper. In 2012, however, one trip into bipolar disorder — and one very unflattering wardrobe choice — may just have pushed him over the edge into fully legit actor territory. His character in David O. Russell’s Silver Lining Playbooks dealt with his psychological demons, in part, by regularly jogging while wearing a trash bag sweat suit. If the Hefty hijinks actually succeed in landing Cooper on the list of Best Actor nominees, expect plenty more garbage chic workout attire in all his future roles.
Damon Lindelof: To Proofread Scripts Before Handing Them In
Prometheus began 2012 as one of the year’s most promising movies, and ended up as one of its biggest disappointments. The return to the Alien universe was packed to the gills with plot holes that ate through our enthusiasm like xenomorph blood through the hull of the Nostromo. Not to beat a dead cartographer, but how does the character in charge of mapping the temple, who has the benefit of 3D imaging and communication with a ship full of people who can also see the layout, get himself lost? In the future, screenwriter Damon Lindelof resolves to make at least take a second glance at his scripts before sending them in to the studio.
Peter Jackson: To Make Six More Lord Of The Rings Films
Remember when Peter Jackson wasn’t going to make The Hobbit? And then when he was only making one Hobbit movie? And then just two? Terrified to leave the comfortable confines of Middle Earth, Jackson may in fact never stop making films based in The Lord of the Rings universe. It may take some creative license, i.e. incorporating elements of other fantasy properties like Game of Thrones into Tolkien’s stories and hoping no one notices, but if he plays his cards right, Jackson may be able to squeeze one or two more trilogies out of the deal. There may even be one film completely devoted to Gandalf’s first year at Hogwarts. Wait...[Photo credit: Columbia Pictures]
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Widening the thematic scope without sacrificing too much of the claustrophobia that made the original 1979 Alien universally spooky Prometheus takes the trophy for this summer's most adult-oriented blockbuster entertainment. The movie will leave your mouth agape for its entire runtime first with its majestic exploration of an alien planet and conjectures on the origins of the human race second with its gross-out body horror that leaves no spilled gut to the imagination. Thin characters feel more like pawns in Scott's sci-fi prequel but stunning visuals shocking turns and grand questions more than make up for the shallow ensemble. "Epic" comes in many forms. Prometheus sports all of them.
Based on their discovery of a series of cave drawings all sharing a similar painted design Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) are recruited by Weyland to head a mission to another planet one they believe holds the answers to the creation of life on Earth. Along for the journey are Vickers (Charlize Theron) the ruthless Weyland proxy Janek (Idris Elba) a blue collar captain a slew of faceless scientists and David (Michael Fassbender) HAL 9000-esque resident android who awakens the crew of spaceship Prometheus when they arrive to their destination. Immediately upon descent there's a discovery: a giant mound that's anything but natural. The crew immediately prepares to scope out the scene zipping up high-tech spacesuits jumping in futuristic humvees and heading out to the site. What they discover are the awe-inspiring creations of another race. What they bring back to the ship is what they realize may kill their own.
The first half of Prometheus could be easily mistaken for Steven Spielberg's Alien a sense of wonder glowing from every frame not too unlike Close Encounters. Scott takes full advantage of his fictional settings and imbues them with a reality that makes them even more tantalizing. He shoots the vistas of space and the alien planet like National Geographic porn and savors the interior moments on board the Prometheus full of hologram maps sleeping pods and do-it-yourself surgery modules with the same attention. Prometheus is beautiful shot in immersive 3D that never dampers Dariusz Wolski's sharp photography. Scott's direction seems less interested in the run-or-die scenario set up in the latter half of the film but the film maintains tension and mood from beginning to end. It all just gets a bit…bloodier.
Jon Spaihts' and Damon Lindelof's script doesn't do the performers any favors shuffling them to and fro between the ship and the alien construction without much room for development. Reveals are shoehorned in without much setup (one involving Theron's Vickers that's shockingly mishandled) but for the most part the ensemble is ready to chomp into the script's bigger picture conceits. Rapace is a physical performer capable of pulling off a grisly scene involving an alien some sharp objects and a painful procedure (sure to be the scene of the blockbuster season. Among the rest of the crew Fassbender's David stands out as the film's revelatory performance delivering a digestible ambiguity to his mechanical man that playfully toys with expectations from his first entrance. The creature effects in Prometheus will wow you but even Fassbender's smallest gesture can send the mind spinning. The power of his smile packs more of a punch than any facehugger.
Much like Lindelof's Lost Prometheus aims to explore the idea of asking questions and seeking answers and on Scott's scale it's a tremendous unexpected ride. A few ideas introduced to spur action fall to the way side in the logic department but with a clear mission and end point Prometheus works as a sweeping sci-fi that doesn't require choppy editing or endless explosions to keep us on the edge of our seats. Prometheus isn't too far off from the Alien xenomorphs: born from existing DNA of another creature the movie breaks out as its own beast. And it's wilder than ever.