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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You know the old adage that famous people don't eat? Not true, America! While the days of ice chips, coffee, and cigarette diets may exist for some, others are getting in on the noms. But even still--some of those celebrities felt their love of food and eating wasn't being heard. So, they decided to take it a step further and write cookbooks.
Celebrity cookbooks are a funny thing: unless you're a celebrity chef, they seem like a strange career choice. So why do they keep making them? Well, it's a pretty easy way to convey who you are as a person to your fans without doing much of anything. Compile some family recipes (or get another chef to do it for you!). Take some pretty pictures and TA-DA! In that vein, it seems only likely that if you can judge a celebrity on their cookbook, you can definitely judge the reader, as well. So now's your chance to finally know the truth about yourself, thanks to your favorite celebrity cookbook.
If The Tucci Cookbook is Your Favorite Celebrity Cookbook...
You enjoy a sturdy red wine and a little Sinatra in the afternoons. When cooking a pasta dish (handpicked by the Tucc himself), you like to hum "A Little Night Music" to your stewing tomatoes. You own pajama sets. You indulge in the occasional cigar on your porch on late autumnal evenings. Most of your furniture enjoys a cherry wood finish.
You frequently host dinner parties with your friends and always make a point to try and cook the best food that anyone's ever had. You laugh it off with a "oh, this old recipe? Wasn't my best!" You don't drive a Prius, but rather a high-end hybrid like a Lexus. You go on vacations that solely occur for the purpose of trying new food and wine. You read the New York Times cover to cover every weekend. Sometimes you even finish the crossword. At least once a month a couple you know ends up with their photo in the Style section.
You watch MSNBC and Rachel Maddow is your dream dinner guest. You regularly buy and then donate books to a local independent bookstore. Your favorite weekend activity involves sitting down with the new New Yorker after a day of outdoor activities. On Sundays, you season your cast iron skillets.
If Fabulicious is Your Favorite Celebrity Cookbook...
You love the finer things in life! Your favorite apron is a bedazzled leopard print with a ruffled hem. You have matching ones for your daughters. On Saturdays you have "GIRLS' NIGHT!" where you keep the pinot grigio flowing while old Bon Jovi tunes blast. After a couple glasses, your husband drives you and the ladies to Luckie's Karaoke Bar and for a moment, you feel young again. And oh, what a sweet moment it is--it brings wistful sigh to your lips and a twinkle to your eye.
Your best friends are also your worst enemies because they know you so well. You hate them when they're right, but love them when they support you. You jokingly call spaghetti "spaghett!" just to get on everyone's nerves.
For you, though, family is everything. You love spending weekends with everyone, having craft corners with the kids, dress-up parties, and crazy weekend cabin getaways where everyone can let it all hang out. At the end of the day, you're a simple person: you only want the best! It's not complicated, is it?
If Don't Fill Up on the Antipasto is Your Favorite Celebrity Cookbook...
Sometimes you accent your everyday conversations with over-ennunciated Italian to prove your heritage. Your best friends are nicknamed Gumba, Luig, GabbaGool, and The Godfather. You're a family-oriented person who loves your small-town neighborhood away from all of the urban hullabaloo--though you will go to Arthur Avenue to get the good bread when you have the chance. You own a sporty car and love to rev your engine and pretend to race people at red lights. Your favorite brewski (you don't say beer) is whatever's coldest and you don't have time for knowing what sort of red wine you like. Whichever one ya got!
You're not a huge hit in the kitchen, but you know how to put a few things together and make it semi-edible (just don't ask Uncle Vinny about that one time you made the meatballs!). Your favorite sports team is your religion and when they lose you just, well, sort of fall to pieces. Life is hard when your guys aren't #1, huh?
At the end of the day, sitting down to watch some local news while you figure out the coaching schedule for the peewee baseball squad is your bread and butter in life.
If My Father's Daughter is Your Favorite Celebrity Cookbook...
You love Martha Stewart, but find her craftiness utterly plebeian. You love Ina Garten and have pictures of her home in the Hamptons pasted in your Dream Diary. Your whole home is white, with touches of neutral pastel throw pillows here and there. You're not very happy but you hide it really well: it's all in the flair! You go the extra mile to make sure everything you have (and everything you do!) is absolutely the creme de la creme.
You pride yourself on your ability to speak multiple languages fluently, but you don't like to be showy about it. You window-shop at ETSY but find the quality of the crafts to be just so, ugh. Unrefined: that's it! Unrefined. Everything around you just feels so ho-hum. Sometimes you wonder if that's your own fault--am I an effigy or a human?--but when that feeling sets in, you get to work!
You work out like crazy, and make sure nary a hair is out of place. When you're with your friends, you try desperately to emote in a way that mirrors their own, but it's hard. Being folksy is not your forte, but you get an A for effort!
If If It Makes You Healthy is Your Favorite Celebrity Cookbook...
You love really cute wordplay: like the book's title! So clever! You ride your bike every Saturday to take a break from your normal 3-hour-a-day workout routine. You're a bit of a health freak, but you can't help yourself when there are multiple dessert options. "Just a taste!" you say, while you swipe another mini-tart off the table.
You're unmarried but hopeful that The One is out there--if only you just work a little bit harder! You put yourself out there, but maybe not enough. Maybe you should go to two singles mixers a week instead of one. Your friend Jennifer said she knows a really great guy, but he works at her local Whole Foods. You're not sure (though the discount on quinoa would be amazing!), but consider her offer.
You have six different boards on Pinterest (totally addicted!) but your "One Day..." dream wedding board is the only one you actually pin to. Late at night, you log into your The Knot profile, occasionally changing the wedding date and guy's name. This month, you believe you should only date guys named Jared. Guys named Jared are so reliable--Jared is like the architect of names (No one is actually an architect--they're only in the movies! You laugh at your own funny observation).
You bake cookies, contemplate eating one, and then immediately package them up for your coworkers. "Treats for my office peeps!" you yell the next morning, smiling maniacally.
If The Tammy Wynette Southern Cookbook is Your Favorite Celebrity Cookbook...
YEE HAW, y'all! You are an old school, down-home country guy or gal. Your favorite artist is Dolly Parton, but Tammy Wynette is totally second place in your heart. You never knew the days of petticoats, but you imagine that they were the best. You wear cowboy boots and frilly dresses (or smart jeans and a great gingham shirt) every day--this is your uniform. A variation on a theme!
You cook with your parents every Sunday--your dad loves chicken fried steak, but you just can't stand the deep-fried aspect of it. You won't say no to your mom's sausage gravy and biscuits at breakfast, though! Guilty pleasures are A-OK by you.
You have a really active social life: extracurricular activities aren't just for collegiates! You are a member of the local beautification committee and volunteer at an animal shelter on Saturday mornings. Your little sister is your best friend, though, and you spend every Friday night watching 90s romantic comedies while eating lo mein. Your favorite drink is a whisky sour--extra cherries when the cute bartender is working. You love flirting with this bartender and always get your drinks free if you can't find someone else to buy them for you.
Tailgates, local football games, and line-dancing are your favorite activities, and make you feel like real America is still alive and well. When you have a son you will name him Bud.
If Great Food, All Year Long is Your Favorite Celebrity Cookbook...
You spend most of your days reading. Food is nourishment for the body, but in its best form, it's feeds the soul as well. You are a philosophical thinker, and feel your own life experiences speak metaphorical volumes about the state of the world. You love to talk to people and give them advice. You have a moderately-impressive wine collection, and love a good port on a blustery February evening. Staring out into space, you imagine that the stars are symbolism for the opportunities we're all presented with and fail to take. You live in the city because you love the hustle and bustle of thousands of human bodies strategically maneuvering around each other at any given second.
You don't have many friends, but the few you do have are very dear. You often have extensive email conversations about the latest episode of This American Life or Fresh Air. Oh that Terry Gross! Sometimes when you're taking a mental break from your tedious but creative career, you listen to her questions and mute the response so that you can pretend you're having a conversation with Terry yourself. Your friends find you very wise and insightful. And your Shepherd's Pie is the stuff of legend.
Oh, you also know why the caged bird sings.
If Karma Cookbook is Your Favorite Celebrity Cookbook...
You used to do a lot of drugs in the 80s and picked this up hungover at The Strand one day. You've never opened it once. What the f**k even is this book? Macrobiotics? You find the book on your shelf after years of neglect. You put it in a box with several others and head down to The Strand to sell the books for some money to buy groceries for the week. After making back a paltry $27.59, you buy a pack of cigarettes and a Red Bull at Walgreens and call your best friend. Maybe you'll get some take-out thai tonight.
[Photo Credit: The Stanley Tucci Cookbook – Gallery Books; My Father's Daughter by Gwyneth Paltrow – Grand Central Publishing; Fabulicious! by Teresa Giudice – Running Press; The Tammy Wynette Southern Cookbook – Pelican Publishing Company; Great Food, All Day Long: Cook Splendidly, Eat Smart by Maya Angelou – Random House; If It Makes You Healthy by Sheryl Crow – St. Martin's Press; Karma Cookbook by Boy George – Carroll & Brown Publishers; Don't Fill Up on the Antipasto by Tony Danza – Simon & Schuster]
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The magical R-rating is both a gift and a curse to Adam Sandler's signature brand of lowbrow humor. In That's My Boy the comedian returns to the dim-witted roots that made him a star in early outings like Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore (complete with high-pitched mushmouth accent) but with a ramped up "ew" factor. Unrestrained Sandler piles on as many expletives and gross-out scenarios as a two-hour movie can hold — and it works out quite well. With costar Samberg nailing the disgusted straight man role Sandler's penchant for acting like a fool is enhanced by the sick stylings of director Sean Anders (Sex Drive) and only occasionally teetering into truly offensive territory. Laughs aren't guaranteed but the movie provokes (which is a big step up from Jack and Jill).
Back in the '80s Donny had a secret relationship with his teacher Ms. McGarricle that resulted in a son Han Solo (he's a middle schooler what do you expect?). The torrid affair put McGarricle in jail Donny into celebrity tabloid spotlight and Han Solo in the hands of a tween father. Thirty years later everyone's screwed up: Donny (Adam Sandler) is a drunk on the brink of jail time for tax evasion McGarricle's still in jail and Han Solo (Andy Samberg) now "Todd " is a successful number-cruncher with severe social issues. On the weekend of Todd's wedding Donny reenters his life hoping to bring revive their relationship and reunite him with his mother — that is on camera so Donny can make $50 000 from a gossip TV show and stay out of the slammer. Posing as Todd's long-lost best friend Donny stirs up trouble becoming buddies with Todd's friends and family and acting like a imbecile.
The wedding setup is overdone but always prime for comedy: plenty for a numbskull to screw up logical progression (there's a wedding at the end!) and a bachelor party scene to squeeze in the most disgusting bits and have them make sense. That's My Boy makes the most of its conventions — including what we all know and expect from a Sandler comedy — by continually one-upping itself. After a night of heavy drinking at the local strip club/omelette bar that results in do-it-yourself ear piercing and robbing a convenience store with Vanilla Ice Todd returns home to expel the night's worth of drinking all over his fiancee's wedding dress. Then he makes love to the dress. Then his fiancee (Leighton Meester) wakes up to find the dress. Then it goes even further than one would care to imagine. Grossed out yet? Amazingly lower-than-low brow material is handled with clever timing and great delivery. It's just that the foundation is bodily fluids.
That's My Boy falters when it throws in gags that serve zero purpose to the story. Strange racist humor a mentally retarded bar patron played by Nick Swardson (a Sandler mainstay) random allusions to Todd Bridges' drug habits — barrel-scraping one-offs that have nothing to do with the movie. At two hours the movie needs slimming and the fat is apparent. Thankfully the main ensemble goes to great lengths to make the hard R comedy click with Sandler and Samberg playing well off each other (although Samberg doesn't have the making of a leading man after this movie) and SNL alums like Will Forte Rachel Dratch and Ana Gasteyer driving by to bring the funny. Even Vanilla Ice's extended cameo fits the anything-goes tone playing a version of himself that befriended Donny in his celebrity days. Now he works at an ice skating rink.
After a few lame ducks That's My Boy is a return to form for Sandler. It wavers in quality but it has energy and color. A cash-in this is not and for any Sandler fan with a stomach for hardcore bathroom humor it's a must-see.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.