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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In just about every one of Kevin Hart's scenes in Ride Along, there's a joke that is just aching to find its way out of the diminutive, rascally comic actor. Hart is a small-scale physical comedian — of the same ilk as Jack Black — who puts nuclear-degree energy into his facial contortions, anatomical outbursts, and the delivery of every gag in general. If only he had material that was crafted with the same energy.
Unfortunately, nothing else about Ride Along seems at all "hard at work." Not the script, which pads a lifeless story with lazy comedy, and certainly not his screen partner Ice Cube, whose only stage direction seems to be "frown, and be taller than Kevin Hart." So lifeless is Ice Cube that even his machismo-obsessed straight man bit doesn't really work. Instead of the virile and intimidating "bad cop," he comes off as a disapproving middle aged dad without much to show for his own life.
But the script pairs the wily, overzealous high school security guard and video game junkie Ben (Hart) with no-nonsense lawman James (Ice Cube) on the titular ride along, with the scrappy cop-wannabe hoping to prove to the force veteran that he's good enough to marry the latter's younger sister. In earnest, he's not. Ben never puts any respectable effort into learning the tools of the trade, insisting on employing his amateur style and controlling the radio despite his proclamations that he wants, and deserves, James' trust. And James is no saint either — he's irresponsible on crime scenes, violent with perps, and disgruntled to the point of being unable to work with anybody else on the force. These are not good police officers... of course, you'll say, this is a comedy. But where are the laughs, then?
They're not absent entirely, you just have to look for them. In a movie so focused with big, broad humor, it's the smaller comedy that actually lands best. Hart's background mutterings and fumblings, his emoticon-laden texts to girlfriend Angela (Tika Sumpter, whose only stage direction seems to be "smile, and never wear a full outfit of clothing"), and a bizarre repetition of the word "weird" from supporting player John Leguizamo. All good for unexpected chuckles, while jokes like Hart facing off with a pre-teen or being blown backwards into a brick wall after firing a large gun are all lazy, familiar, and flat.
Structurally, the script is a mess. Ride Along spends far too much time on set up — we get it, Hart and his soon-to-be-brother-in-law Ice Cube don't get along — and far too much time on wrap-up — there's a gigantic, dramatic warehouse shootout that, in any other movie, would be the climax, but there's plenty more to go after that — without any cohesive middle to make the movie feel like... a movie.
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Hart, who leaps at every comic opportunity like a kangaroo (wallaby would be more appropriate), is suited just right for a buddy cop comedy, but he needs something fresh with which to work — a real character, an interesting story, actually funny jokes. Even just one of these would be fine!
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A kids’ movie without the cheeky jokes for adults is like a big juicy BLT without the B… or the T. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted may have a title that sounds like it was made up in a cartoon sequel laboratory but when it comes to serving up laughs just think of the film as a BLT with enough extra bacon to satisfy even the wildest of animals — or even a parent with a gaggle of tots in tow. Yes even with that whole "Afro Circus" nonsense.
It’s not often that we find exhaustively franchised films like the Madagascar set that still work after almost seven years. Despite being spun off into TV shows and Christmas specials in addition to its big screen adventures the series has not only maintained its momentum it has maintained the part we were pleasantly surprised by the first time around: great jokes.
In this third installment of the series – the trilogy-maker if you will – directing duo Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath add Conrad Vernon (director Monsters Vs. Aliens) to the helm as our trusty gang swings back into action. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) are stuck in Africa after the hullaballoo of Madagascar 2 and they’ll do anything to get back to their beloved New York. Just a hop skip and a jump away in Monte Carlo the penguins are doing their usual greedy schtick but the zoo animals catch up with them just in time to catch the eye of the sinister animal control stickler Captain Dubois (Frances McDormand). And just like that the practically super human captain is chasing them through Monte Carlo and the rest of Europe in hopes of planting Alex’s perfectly coifed lion head on her wall of prized animals.
Luckily for pint-sized viewers Dubois’ terrifying presence is balanced out by her sheer inhuman strength uncanny guiles and Stretch Armstrong flexibility (ah the wonder of cartoons) as well as Alex’s escape plan: the New Yorkers run away with the European circus. While Dubois’ terrifying Doberman-like presence looms over the entire film a sense of levity (which is a word the kiddies might learn from Stiller’s eloquent lion) comes from the plan for salvation in which the circus animals and the zoo animals band together to revamp the circus and catch the eye of a big-time American agent. Sure the pacing throughout the first act is practically nonexistent running like a stampede through the jungle but by the time we're palling around under the big top the film finds its footing.
The visual splendor of the film (and man is there a champion size serving of it) the magnificent danger and suspense is enhanced to great effect by the addition of 3D technology – and not once is there a gratuitous beverage or desperate Crocodile Dundee knife waved in our faces to prove its worth. The caveat is that the soundtrack employs a certain infectious Katy Perry ditty at the height of the 3D spectacular so parents get ready to hear that on repeat until the leaves turn yellow.
But visual delights and adventurous zoo animals aside Madagascar 3’s real strength is in its script. With the addition of Noah Baumbach (Greenberg The Squid and the Whale) to the screenwriting team the script is infused with a heightened level of almost sarcastic gravitas – a welcome addition to the characteristically adult-friendly reference-heavy humor of the other Madagascar films. To bring the script to life Paramount enlisted three more than able actors: Vitaly the Siberian tiger (Bryan Cranston) Gia the Leopard (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the Italian Sealion (Martin Short). With all three actors draped in European accents it might take viewers a minute to realize that the cantankerous tiger is one and the same as the man who plays an Albuquerque drug lord on Breaking Bad but that makes it that much sweeter to hear him utter slant-curse words like “Bolshevik” with his usual gusto.
Between the laughs the terror of McDormand’s Captain Dubois and the breathtaking virtual European tour the Zoosters’ accidental vacation is one worth taking. Madagascar 3 is by no means an insta-classic but it’s a perfectly suited for your Summer-at-the-movies oasis.
In the cinematic desert that is the January-February movie-release schedule one gains a greater appreciation for mere competence. And that’s precisely what you’ll get with Man on a Ledge a mid-budget thriller with modest aspirations and genuine popcorn appeal. Sam Worthington (Avatar Clash of the Titans) stars as Nick Cassidy a former New York City cop wrongly convicted for the theft of a prized diamond. After exhausting all judicial avenues for exoneration he takes the unusual and seemingly desperate next step of planting himself on a ledge outside the penthouse of midtown’s Roosevelt Hotel and threatening to jump. An NYPD psychologist (Elizabeth Banks) is summoned to talk him down unaware that Nick harbors an ulterior motive. From his perch above midtown he is secretly orchestrating a scheme to take revenge against the corrupt corporate chieftain (Ed Harris) who engineered his demise and prove his innocence once and for all.
Director Asger Leth making his U.S. feature-film debut with Man on a Ledge keeps the pace brisk and never allows the tone to stray into self-seriousness which is crucial for a movie whose premise is so devoutly ridiculous. The script from Pablo F. Fenjves provides enough feints and twists to keep us engaged. Jamie Bell and Genesis Rodriguez aren’t the most believable of couples but there’s a screwball charm to their comic routine as amateur thieves charged with aiding Nick’s scheme. (Leth can’t resist inserting an entirely superfluous – but nonetheless greatly appreciated – scene of the criminally gorgeous Rodriguez stripping down to a thong in the middle of a heist.) Worthington makes for a likable populist protagonist even if his Australian accent betrays him on copious occasions and Harris’ disturbingly emaciated frame lends an added menace to his devious plutocrat villain.
Will Ferrell's added two cast members to his Spanish-language comedy: Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna, stars of the acclaimed 2001 drama Y tu mama tambien.
And, oh yeah, if you haven't heard, Will Ferrell is making a Spanish-language comedy. Yep, you read that right. A Spanish-language comedy. It's called Casa de mi padre and will be directed by former SNL writer Matt Piedmont. Just when we thought that Ferrell had figured out how to be funny again (The Other Guys), he goes and proves us wrong with this.
Right now, there are few details available about Padre. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the story will be told in an "overly dramatic telenovela style and feature English subtitles." So, yeah. The movie will basically be Will Ferrell, partially or fully nude, running around and screaming Spanish. Oh joy! Um, hello? Doesn't anyone else remember when Jack Black had this idea a few years ago with Nacho Libre, and it turned into the most horrible thing ever made? We can't help but assume that Padre won't be much better -- and probably more racist. Good luck with this one, Will.
At least there are a pair of very talented co-stars to look forward to. Bernal and Luna are very exciting to watch on screen and if we're lucky, maybe even Sofia Vergara will stop by for a role. Hell, why stop there?! Let's make this a Spanish-style Expendables and get Clifton Collins Jr., George Lopez and Eva Longoria-Parker and Freddy Rodriguez up in this joint!
Source: The Hollywood Reporter
English school teacher David Edwards can now retire from teaching.
Edwards, a physics teacher from Denstone, has become the second person to win the £1 million jackpot on Britain's Who Wants to be a Millionaire, BBC News reports. The first person to win the jackpot was garden designer Judith Keppel in November.
The big win had still not quite sunk in yet, Edwards said at a press conference.
"One afternoon, I had a couple of hours of smug contentment. I had some idea of what is going on," said Edwards, whose win aired Saturday.
The new millionaire and his wife, who have two children in college, plan to go on vacation
Host Chris Tarrant said Edwards "was so cool and had an amazing general knowledge."
Martin is no "Zorro"
Ricky Martin will not wear the mask of Zorro. Martin's reps have dismissed British tabloid reports claiming that the Latin singer would star as Zorro in a new West End musical.
" [He's] not planning on taking over the lead in the show and has had no discussions with its producers," a rep for his record company said, according to ABC News reports.
The singer has had some acting experience, first as an actor in soap General Hospital and in Les Miserables.
David Lee Roth and Van Halen reunite
Former Van Halen singer David Lee Roth recorded three songs last year at Van Halen's private studio, ABC News reports.
"About a year ago, myself and the great Van Halen band played together once or twice and it sounded amazing, phenomenal," Roth said on his Web site.
The recording was made in July, but he hasn't made music or kept in touch with the band since, Roth said.
"But I am holding forth. I'm in the shape of my life and I got the high note. I'm ready to go," Roth said.
Van Halen fans hoped to see a such a reunion after Roth joined the band to present an award at the 1996 MTV Video Music Awards. Roth also recorded two songs for a Van Halen's compilation album, but soon departed ways again with his former bandmates.
Producer Jack Haley dead
Jack Haley Jr., longtime Hollywood producer, actor, writer and the former husband of Liza Minnelli, died early Saturday of respiratory failure, The Associated Press reports. He was 67.
Haley, who had been in poor health, was admitted to the UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, Calif., on Friday in a semi-comatose condition, said his assistant, Kelly Brandt. He died Saturday at the hospital.
During his 30-year career, Haley produced numerous films and television specials, including a number of the Academy Awards presentations. He also produced The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, a 1990 documentary on the making of the classic movie. His father, actor Jack Haley, starred in The Wizard of Oz as the Tin Man.
The Oz connection did not end there. In 1974, Haley married Minnelli, the daughter of Judy Garland, who played Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Haley and Minnelli divorced in 1979, but remained close friends.
" I fell in love with him the first time I met him, and I have loved him with all my heart ever since," Minnelli said in a statement released Saturday.
Conductor Giuseppe Sinopoli dead
Italian conductor Giuseppe Sinopoli, best known for his daring interpretations of the works of Verdi and Puccini, died late Friday after suffering a heart attack while conducting at a Berlin opera house, The Associated Press reports. He was 54.
Sinopoli was rushed to the city's German Heart Center clinic after collapsing during the third act of Giuseppe Verdi's four-act Aida. Doctors first tried to resuscitate Sinopoli at the Opera house and then at the hospital. The opera house sent home its shocked audience members.
Sinopoli founded the Bruno Maderna ensemble in 1975. He began his career as an avant-garde composer before turning to conducting.
Poland to sell unpublished Monroe pictures
The Polish state treasury will sell thousands of unpublished photographs of Marilyn Monroe and other Hollywood legends, Reuters reports.
Celebrated photographer Milton Greene's collection, which also features Marlene Dietrich, Elizabeth Taylor and Frank Sinatra, was acquired in 1995 by Poland's foreign debt agency from an American businessman.
" The time is ripe to turn it into cash,'' said Piotr Grzeskiewicz, an administrator of the assets of the liquidated Foreign Debt Servicing Fund.
Greene worked for such magazines such as Life and Vogue. He died in 1985.
The collection contains about 300,000 negatives from the 1950s and is valued at least several million dollars. Grzeskiewicz said he hopes the collection arouses strong interest from Monroe collectors.
" We have to decide on the best way to sell the collection. We do not want to spoil the market by flooding it with the photos,'' he told Reuters.
Stax Museum breaks ground
Numerous R&B musicians gathered Friday at the site of Stax Records in Memphis, Tenn., to reminisce and celebrate the groundbreaking of the museum and music conservatory honoring the former label.
A crowd of 3,000 met on the empty lot where Stax's famed recording studio - dubbed "Soulsville, USA" - once stood, The Associated Press reported.
The planned $20 million Stax Museum of American Music and adjoining Stax Academy and Performing Arts Center will serve tourists and budding musicians, said Deanie Parker, president of Soulsville, the nonprofit group behind the project.
"All around the world, this is the stamp of approval of what we did back in the '60s," said Steve Cropper, one-time guitarist for organist Booker T. Jones and his Memphis Group (MG's). "It will educate the people, and especially the kids, about the music."
"Boys Don't Cry" mother deserves more compensation
The mother of murdered cross-dresser Teena Brandon - the inspiration behind Boys Don't Cry - deserves more compensation, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled Friday. The Supreme Court determined that a lower court had blundered by awarding $17,361 in damages to JoAnn Brandon for official negligence in the death of her daughter. The Supreme Court remanded the case to a District Court to determine new damages. The damages were awarded against Richardson County, Neb., and its sheriff, Charles Laux.
In his review of the case, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Hendry said Judge Orville Coady's decision not to award damages to Brandon's mother for the loss of her daughter's companionship "shocks the conscience."
"Nothing will bring Teena back, but I will sleep better knowing that we found some justice for her, and because of this case, fewer parents will find their children abused and exposed to danger by law enforcement officials," Brandon told the Omaha World-Herald.
Hilary Swank won an Oscar for her portrayal of Teena Brandon in the 1999 film, Boys Don't Cry.
Actor Bill Bellamy to host Miami soul festival
Actor and comedian Bill Bellamy will host the inaugural Soul Beach Music Festival at the Orange Bowl in Miami, The Associated Press reports.
Among the performers are: Angie Stone, Eric Benet, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Musiq and the Isley Brothers.
The concert shows how much the city's racial climate has improved since the early 1990s, Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas said. At the time, Miami was boycotted by black tourists after the Miami City Commission snubbed visiting anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela for his refusal to repudiate Cuban President Fidel Castro.
``We have overcome some very painful experiences in this community,'' Penelas said.
The festival runs from May 30 through June 3.
Rapper Suge Knight leaves jail
Rapper Suge Knight, the co-founder of rap music label Death Row Records has been paroled five days earlier than expected, at Mule Creek State Prison, The Associated Press reports.
Knight told Sacramento, Calif., television station KXTV before his parole that prison had been a good experience for him and hopes to persuade young people not to follow his path.
" I had everything. I still do," he told the station. "But I had everything I could possibly have and I had six of the best lawyers and I still got nine years."
Death Row Records remains successful despite Knight's incarceration. The late Tupac Shakur's newly released album has been at the top of Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop chart for three weeks.
"Wind" parody publication blocked
U.S. District Judge Charles Pannell on Friday blocked the publication of a novel that he said borrows too liberally from Gone With the Wind and infringes on the copyright of Margaret Mitchell's classic novel.
Alice Randall's novel The Wind Done Gone is essentially a retelling of Gone With the Wind from a different point of view using the same fictional characters and places, Pannell wrote.
Publisher Houghton Mifflin argued that the story, told from the point of view of Scarlett O'Hara's mulatto half-sister on the plantation Tara, was a political parody. Pannell disagreed, writing that Randall's "recitation of so much of the earlier work is overwhelming'' and constitutes an unauthorized sequel.
Attorneys for Mitchell's estate had sued to stop publication of Randall's book.
" It's a wonderful decision," said Martin Garbus, a lawyer representing the Mitchell trust. "It protects authors and publishers."
Writers, such as Pat Conroy, Harper Lee and Toni Morrison, who signed a petition in support of Randall's novel, were surprised.
" I can't believe the book will be suppressed,'' historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. said. "The Mitchell estate is doing a wonderful job of advertising for Houghton Mifflin."