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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Rockers Phoenix had to postpone two shows in their native France this week (begs11Nov13) after frontman Thomas Mars experienced problems with his voice. The illness prompted the band to axe a gig in Lyon on Thursday (14Nov13) and another in Nantes on Friday (15Nov13) as doctors advised Mars to rest his vocals.
The 1901 hitmakers are due to continue their European tour in Toulouse on Saturday (16Nov13), although it is not yet known if that show will have to be pulled too.
The members of Phoenix's supporting act Haim took to their Twitter.com blog on Friday to send their best wishes to Mars, writing, "Really bummed these last 2 Phoenix shows were canceled (sic)... Sending Thomas lots of good vibes so his voice gets better! See you in Toulouse."
It's not the first time Mars' vocal issues have forced the cancellation of shows - the singer fell sick in September (13), resulting in the group bowing out of a planned performance at London's iTunes Music Festival.
Uma Thurman reunited with Harvey Keitel and Tim Roth on Friday (18Oct13) to honour their Pulp Fiction director Quentin Tarantino at an emotional tribute in France. The filmmaker was praised by colleagues and collaborators at a ceremony in Lyon as he received the prestigious Prix Lumiere accolade in recognition of his Hollywood career.
Keitel was moved to tears as he spoke about his relationship with Tarantino, telling the audience, "Damn, I'm not going to make it through this... I always felt we were meant for each other and nothing could keep us apart. Maybe if he had been a woman we could have gotten married, had kids! Working with Quentin is like reading a great novel or hearing a great symphony or piece of music - it changes you. You don't know how, but it has."
Handing the Prix Lumiere to Tarantino, Thurman gushed, "For all your wildness, your work always has aspirations for justice, freedom from oppression, courage, and most of all love and passion... You have been an explosion of dynamite in the art of cinema itself."
Tarantino thanked the stars for making his scripts come to life, declaring, "I don't have words for how I feel - probably one of the first times that has happened to me. I have always thought of myself as a lone wolf, but always because I never really had a family, but these people are my family. Their affection and respect is all I ever want."
Previous recipients of the Prix Lumiere include Clint Eastwood, Milos Forman, Gerard Depardieu and Ken Loach.
Backstage, Tarantino was later handed France's highest cultural honour as he was made a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters (Ordre des Arts et des Lettres) by culture minister Aurelie Filippetti, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Meek Mill's rap protege Louie V Gutta is refusing to co-operate with police after he was robbed at gunpoint in Atlanta, Georgia last month (Sep13). The aspiring hip-hop star, real name Vincent Lamar Robinson, had $40,000 (£26,700)-worth of jewellery stolen during the incident, but he decided against reporting the crime to cops.
He tells the Philadelphia Daily News, "There's no reason for the police to be involved. If I heard on the streets tomorrow who did it, I wouldn't go to the police... That kind of stuff happens every day. It's unfortunate this time it was on me, but I don't want nobody locked up behind it (sic). I don't really live by that."
Officers in Atlanta have already launched an investigation into the robbery, but police spokesman Sergeant Gregory Lyon reveals that without Robinson's help, progress has stalled because they are "having a hard time reaching the victims".
Moviemaker Quentin Tarantino is set to pick up a lifetime achievement award at France's upcoming Lumiere Film Festival. The Pulp Fiction director will be feted for his "radiant passion for cinema" when he picks up the prestigious Lumiere Award at a ceremony in Lyon on 18 October (13).
A statement from organisers reads, "Although worldwide audiences know his films by heart, Tarantino, who is just coming off a great success with Django Unchained, remains a filmmaker whose work is personal, unique, brilliant and mysterious."
Tarantino is the fifth winner of the accolade, following in the footsteps of Clint Eastwood, Milos Forman, Gerard Depardieu and last year's (12) recipient, Ken Loach.
The Viva Maria! star has been a staunch animal advocate for years and after allegedly sending "numerous proposals" to authorities begging them to save Baby and Nepal, who are dying of tuberculosis at a zoo in Lyon, she has vowed to leave the country as a sign of protest if they don't heed her request.
Explaining her decision in a statement on her website, Bardot insists she refuses to live in a place that is simply a "graveyard for animals."
This is the second time the European nation has earned bad press from a celebrity as of late - Oscar-winning actor Gerard Depardieu is in the process of becoming a self-imposed exile in a bid to avoid plans to heavily tax France's richest people.
The moviemaker will receive the prestigious Lumiere Award at the upcoming Lumiere Festival in Lyon, France in October (12), following in the footsteps of previous winners including Clint Eastwood and Gerard Depardieu.
Bertrand Tavernier, president of the Institut Lumiere, says, "The Lumiere Award is, first of all, a way of celebrating a magnificent body of work that includes numerous successes. It is also an expression of gratitude toward a man who remains loyal to his ideals, in a time when refusals are worn on jackets like decorations."
The news comes just weeks after it was announced Loach will receive a lifetime achievement award at the Turin Film Festival in Italy in November (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 movie star has teamed up with bosses at top coffee company La Colombe to create a new Lyon line to benefit his Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation.
All profits from sales will help DiCaprio's organisation support green awareness issues.
The Lyon blend will be available for purchase online.
The director and film aficionado made over 100 movies including Mysteries of Lisbon, Klimt, Time Regained, Shattered Image and The Golden Boat.
He made his feature film debut in 1968 with the movie Tres tristes tigres, and he quickly became a leading figure in Chilean cinema.
Ruiz was forced to flee his homeland for political reasons in the mid-1970s and he spent the rest of his life living in exile in France.
Often described as a cinematic genius, Ruiz was also a theatre director and playwright, and he taught at Harvard University.
Among his many accolades, the director was awarded the title of Docteur Honoris Causa by the Ecole Normale Superieure de Lyon in 2005 and he also holds a Professorship at the University of Aberdeen and a Doctor Honoris Causa honour from the Universidad de Valparaiso, which he received earlier this year (11).
Ruiz was also presented with Chile's National Prize of Arts.
He is survived by his wife, Valeria Sarmiento, a Chilean writer-director.