With such a hostile political climate existing beyond the scope of cinema, it takes a good deal of skill to keep the spy genre of today feeling exciting, original, and up-to-date. Director Roger Donaldson aims for this with The November Man, a film that draws from the best traditions of the genre — packing twists an employing none other than James Bond, Pierce Brosnan, to play the lead role — and employs new devices as well (this might be the first film we ever saw to use drone technology to catch a criminal). We chatted with Donaldson about the state of the genre, what role it plays in contemporary pop culture, and how films like November Man reach beyond the screen to contribute to the political scope.
Roger Donaldson: I’ve done a few films in the genre. I did No Way Out many years ago, I did The Recruit with Al Pacino and Colin Farrell. I think what I love about making these sort of films, as well as seeing them, is the suspense. I'm intrigued by characters [pretending to be] somebody other than they really are ... Espionage is very much a part of our world, the real world.
Where does the real world meet the world of the spy genre?
RD: I think the two are sort of intertwined. I was definitely intrigued by the idea of shooting this film in Serbia. Serbia having been at the crossroads of history, monumental moments of history, for many years. You know, the Ottoman Empire up against the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Now the influences of Russia South, various parts of Europe moving towards the East. Turkish influences. Muslims moving up from Albania, Turkey. It’s still right at the crosshairs of international politics as part of the world.
And yet I was sort of appalled at how ignorant I was about Serbia and Belgrade, having not been there. I’ve been to Croatia before, but my knowledge sort of came out of reporting that happened around the war 10 or 15 years ago. The reality now is very different. They’ve moved on, Croatia is now in the EU. Serbia will soon be, probably. There are still those underlying currents that are still working their way — Hungary is up against Serbia, and Austria, and Slovenia… so it’s still a fascinating part of the world.
Do these kinds of movies work to teach us anything about our political climate?
RD: Well, I think political thrillers often have a sense of irony, and they’re a little cynical about the goings on of how countries and interact with another. When we made this film, it was a year ago. Just in that last year, the geopolitical events that have been happening… while this movie is not ... 100 percent [reality, it] speaks to the monumental changes that are always ongoing in the world of politics.
Relativity Media via Everett Collection
Speaking of real world advancements, this might be the first movie I have ever seen to use drones.
RD: I know. As a matter of fact, when we decided to put drones into the film, it was stuff that wasn’t quite like it is right now. I anticipated, I guess, that this sort of technology was going to become more and more important. Both in filmmaking and in [politics]. That’s one of the reasons I put it in the film; I thought it was technology that we’d see more and more of.
That’s the challenge of making films about what’s happening right now. The technology is such a part of a spy story, one has to try and embrace it. You know that the technology is probably ahead of where we are already. Now, when I did No Way Out, we talked about a stealth submarine. That was just pure fiction that came out of writing the script. Some time later I was talking to somebody who was in the know, and he was like, ‘How did you know about this stealth submarine?’ Well… we didn’t! We just assumed that there would be that sort of technology and development, and that you’d try and keep things a secret. One tries to guess, sometimes, what’s out there, and sometimes when you think of the need, what technology could provide, you put it into the story… and suddenly, it does exist, because there is that need for it ... There was a period of time when military would talk to filmmakers and say, “Hey, what bright ideas have you got that could become of interest to us?”
You mentioned earlier your love of twists. Is it difficult to pull off movie twists when audiences are so savvy now, and are always expecting them?
RD: It is a challenge to surprise. When [people] sit down to watch a movie like this, they know there are twists in the story, and they know that twists can only come from characters that are in front of them. So they start to try and put together the scenarios of who’s going to do what to whom. So it’s a challenge as a filmmaker to keep the audience guessing, and part of the pleasure of watching a film like this is trying to be ahead of the story. “I know where it’s going to go,” and when it doesn’t go there that’s always a feeling of satisfaction from the audience, like, “I didn’t see that coming!” And yet, you also try to do it with logic, so that when it does happen, they don’t go, “Well, that was a load of bulls**t, wasn’t it?” It’s got to make sense as well as surprise them. How do you surprise the audience, how do you entertain them? And how do you, at the very end of a movie, keep it going right through?
Was there ever a twist that didn't work out for you?
RD: There was a twist in [No Way Out], after I had made the film, a studio executive said, “If you didn’t have that twist on the end I think you would have done more business.” And I was like, “But I wouldn’t have made the film!” That twist was what I was attracted to about doing the film. Maybe he just felt like it just didn’t need that extra twist on the end. But for me, that was the pleasure of that whole film. It surprised right up to the end.
Did you ever worry that a Pierce Brosnan spy thriller would suffer from the shadow of Bond?
RD: I hope it doesn’t. To me, this film has nothing to do with Bond. Pierce has real star attraction. I think there’s a side to Pierce that hasn’t been exposed in his work, and I think this film shows what an interesting, complicated character he can pull off onscreen. That was the appeal to me about working with him on this movie. Of course, that's why he's a star. Bond's one of those movies [that made him a star], and he was a spy in that movie. But the truth is, this is a very different sort of spy movie to a Bond movie.
He's playing a character who's got sort of a dark side to him, too. He's been through hell and seen all sorts of things. That sort of cynicism comes to the forefront. In the scene where he's confronting the [character] that he's got hostage, that's a very demanding scene to do as an actor. I think that scene really helps the movie [become such that] you don't really know where the movie's going to go.
The November Man is in theaters now.
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IFC Films via Everett Collection
If you take a gander at the top grossing films of 2002, you'll find a wholly unsurprising bunch: epic fantasy sequel — variety: Tolkien, epic fantasy sequel — variety: Potter, superhero movie, Star Wars, Will Smith, James Bond, alien thriller, sweeping animated schlock, and... wait a minute. A family-oriented culture clash rom-com written by and starring a complete unknown? Coming in ninth for the year and grossing almost $370 million? How the heck did My Big Fat Greek Wedding happen?
We'll never be quite sure, save to theorize that maybe, just maybe, it was pretty good, so people liked it (hogwash). But 12 years later, multihyphenate Nia Vardalos is attempting to recreate this unprecedented magic (via Variety) with a sequel to her breakout role/career ender. The questions ignite. Can Vardalos scale the same box office mountain in the post-Avengers era? And, more importantly, what exactly will My Big Fat Greequel be about?
My Big Fat Greek MarriageWe've already seen the Big Fat Greek Life shtick take form in three cameras, airing as a sitcom (with dry toast husband I-yan Mill-er recast) on CBS for exactly seven episodes. But that doesn't necessarily rule out the possibility of your typical ain't-marriage-hard! dramedy.
My Big Fat Greek ChildVexing title aside, an ain't-parenting-hard! dramedy might be preferable.
My Big Fat Greek DivorceSomber, yes, but it happens. Now that Toula is a single woman once again, it's time to hit the town with her promiscuous couisin.
My Big Fat Greek VacationYou thought being married to Greece was tough, I-yan? What about uprooting altogether from your Chicago homestead and shoving off to Ioannina?
My Big Fat Greek Mortgage CrisisThis economy is effecting everyone! When the Portokaloses (Portokali?) have to sell their beloved eatery and get office jobs in the corporate world, they learn that maybe the non-Greek lifestyle isn't so bad after all.
My Big Fat Greek Music CareerShifting focus to cousin Angelo (Joey Fatone), we watch Greek culture pervade the American zeitgeist as all the tweens go nuts for the latest pop band Nu-Sync.
My Big Fat Greek ScandalThe Greek ambassador is caught in bed with the First Lady, and only Toula Portokalos has the appropriate footing in both camps to save the world from international warfare.
My Big Fat Greek ApocalypseAgain offset by the mortgage crisis, Toula channels her people's history with various odysseys and illiads and hiding in wooden horses to win a nationwide battle royale for herself and her family.
My Big Fat Greek Dawn of JusticeWhen crime hits the Illinois suburbs, Toula organizes a team of Greek vigilantes to ensure that no crime goes unpunished. No spanakopita goes unfeta'd.
How I Met Your Big Fat Greek MotherThis time, we get the story from I-yan's point of view, going back through the decade before he met Toula, which he spent sleeping around in Chicago.
My Big Fat Greek WeedingA simple 25-minute gardening video, hosted by the lovable John Corbett.
It seems only natural that My Big Fat Greek Wedding get a sequel, seeing as every other dominating property from 2002 is coming back into play. We're in the age of a second Spider-Man series, more Star Wars films, a follow-up Tolkien trilogy, a neverending supply of Bond movies and cartoon mayhem, and even more Rowling in the works. No telling how well My Big Fat Greek Funeral/Dance-Off/Temple of Doom will fare in the modern climate, but at least there's hope now for a Connie and Carla franchise.
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Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection
With only a week and change having passed since the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, we no doubt feel the question living fresh in our minds: can we ever judge a remake without considering its predecessors? The conversation about the stark contrast in critical favor between Marc Webb's release and Sam Raimi's trilogy (the second installment of his franchise in particular) buzzed loudly, and we imagine the volume will keep in regards to Gareth Edwards' Godzilla. But it'll be a different sound altogether.
The original Godzilla, a Japanese film released in 1954, reinvented the identity of the monster movie, launched a 30-film legacy, and spoke legions about the political climate of its era. The most recent of these films — Roland Emmerich's 1998 American production — is universally bemoaned as a bigger disaster than anything to befall Tokyo at the hands of the giant reptile. With these two entries likely standing out as the most prominent in the minds of contemporary audiences, Edwards' Godzilla has some long shadows cast before it. And in approaching the new movie, one might not be able to avoid comparisons to either. It's fair — by taking on an existing property, a filmmaker knowingly takes on the connotations of that property. But the 2014 installment's great success is that it isn't much like any Godzilla movie we've seen before. In a great, great way.
This isn't 1954's Godzilla, a dire and occasionally dreary allegory that uses the supernatural to tell an important story about nuclear holocaust. A complete reversal, in fact, first and foremost Edwards' Godzilla is about its monsters. Any grand themes strewn throughout — the perseverence of nature, the follies of mankind, fatherhood, madness, faith — are all in service to the very simple mission to give us some cool, weighty, articulate sci-fi disaster. Elements of gravity are plotted all over the film's surface, with scientists, military men (kudos to Edwards for not going the typical "scientists = good/smart, military = bad/dumb" route in this film — everybody here is at least open to suggestion), doctors, police officers, and a compassionate bus driver all wrestling with options in the face of behemoth danger. The humanity is everpresent, but never especially intrusive. To reiterate, this isn't a film about any of these people, or what they do.
Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection
The closest thing to a helping of thematic (or human) significance comes with Ken Watanabe's Dr. Serizawa, who spouts awe-stricken maxims about cryptozoology, the Earth, and the inevitable powerlessness of man. He might not be supplying anything more substantial than our central heroes (soft-hearted soldier Aaron Taylor-Johnson, dutiful medic and mom Elizabeth Olsen, right-all-along conspiracy theorist Bryan Cranston), but Watanabe's bonkers performance as the harried scientist is so bizarrely good that you might actually believe, for a scene or two, that it all does mean something.
Ultimately, the beauty of our latest taste of Godzilla lies not in the commitment to a message that made the original so important nor in the commitment to levity that made Emmerich's so pointless, but in its commitment to imagination. Edwards' creature design is dazzling, his deus ex machina are riveting, and the ultimate payoff to which he treats his audience is the sort of gangbusters crowd-pleaser that your average contemporary monster movie is too afraid to consider.
In fairness, this year's Godzilla might not be considered an adequate remake, not quite reciprocating the ideals, tone, or importance of the original. Sure, anyone looking for a 2014 answer to 1954's game-changing paragon will find sincere philosophy traded for pulsing adventure... but they'd have a hard time ignoring the emphatic charm of this new lens for the 60-year-old lizard, both a highly original composition and a tribute in its way to the very history of monster movies (a history that owes so much to the creature in question). So does Godzilla '14 successfully fill the shoes of Godzilla '54? No — it rips them apart and dons a totally new pair... though it still has a lot of nice things to say about the first kicks.
Oh, and the '98 Godzilla? Yeah, it's better than that.
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On the web, filmmakers from around the world are releasing short films to express themselves and to garner a wide audience. Each month, we present 10 of the best short films that you can watch online immediately. Below are our picks for May 2014 (click the title of a film to watch on YouTube or Vimeo).
Who made it? Conor Byrne
What is it? A visually striking coming of age film
How long is it? 12 minutes and 54 seconds
Who made it? Sam Alex Kay
What is it? An experimental cautionary tale about climate change
How long is it? 13 minutes and 28 seconds
Who made it? Sebastian Klinger
What is it? A film about love
How long is it? 8 minutes and 8 seconds
4. My Man - Pittsburg, PA
Who made it? Matt Landry
What is it? Possibly the best music video ever made
How long is it? 2 minutes and 31 seconds
5. Memories of the Mothman
Who made it? Austin Birtch
What is it? An intriguing mystery about the mothman myth
How long is it? 7 minutes and 22 seconds
Who made it? Noémie David
What is it? A wonderful animation about insects
How long is it? 1 minute
7. The Girl and the Wolf
Who made it? Eva Q Månsson
What is it? A reimagining of Little Red Riding Hood
How long is it? 13 minutes and 39 seconds
Who made it? Guilherme Petry
What is it? A musical glimpse into NYC subways
How long is it? 2 minutes and 24 seconds
9. Through the Looking Glass: One Second a Day
Who made it? Alex Penate
What is it? A year in the life of Penate, one second of video recorded each day on his iPhone
How long is it? 6 minutes and 47 seconds
10. Sunday Playtime
Who made it? Chantel Beam
What is it? An ode to freedom
How long is it? 2 minutes and 39 seconds
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
In the run-up to the Sochi Olympics, which officially kicks off on Friday with the Opening Ceremony, there has been a great deal of concern over whether Russia would be able to pull off the Winter Games successfully. So far, there have been protests and controversy over the country's anti-gay laws, worries over security, concerns over the surprisingly warm climate, and most famously, terrible housing conditions for the visiting journalists, who have been chronicling the unfortunate state of their hotels to the delight of the Internet. But even though we've spent months under the impression that the Sochi Olympics are going to be a complete and total disaster, it turns out that, well, things might not be that bad after all.
Don't get us wrong, these games definitely still have their issues, but underneath all of the hilarious tweets and viral images, it seems like the Olympics might actually be coming together just in time for the competition. Just in case you don't believe us, we've pulled together all of the way that the 2014 Sochi Olympics might not be as horrific as we all expected, as well as some of the reasons to get excited about this year's games. Although it goes without saying that the main one is watching the games from the comfort of your own home, where you presumably have hot water.
It's Not Actually That Bad: Based solely on what we've learned from the Internet, it appears that the Winter Games are poised to be a mess of Olympic proportions. However, while there are still plenty of legitimate concerns over what's happening in Sochi, things might not be as horrific as they appear.
Security: Any major international event is bound to raise concern over the possibility of a large-scale terrorist attack, or individual attacks on the athletes gathered there to compete, and constant photographs of the poverty-stricken region has only caused more stress. However, both journalists and athletes have reported feeling very safe in Sochi - the games are boasting that they are the "safest Olympics ever" - and security is tight. In addition, the US has offered to help the Russian government protect the athletes and spectators, by working to dispel unnecessary threats and providing two Navy warships to sit in the Black Sea in case of emergencies. And since nothing says "safety" like a giant metal death ship, it looks like things are going to be just fine on the security front.
Housing: Yes, there are a lot of legitimate issues with many for the hotels that foreign journalists are staying in. However, that doesn't mean that all of them are Russian hell-holes. Athletes haven't reported any major problems with the Olympic Village, which was completely finished with construction by the time the competitors arrived, and there are many journalists that haven't had any issues at all with their hotels for the games. Of course, that doesn't negate the fact that plenty of people can't wash their face with the tap water, but at least it's not all bad in Sochi. You might not have a doorknob on your hotel room, but you do have three light bulbs. Now, that's luxury.
The Games Themselves: The first three events of the 2014 Winter Games, which were qualifying runs for slopestyle, team skating, and women's moguls (a kind of freestyle skiing), went off without a hitch. In fact, the biggest issue that the events faced on Thursday was the lingering shadow of snowboarder Shaun White, who pulled out of the slopestyle competition earlier this week to focus on the half pipe. The stadium is complete, the competition is fierce, and everything seems to be running smoothly when it comes to the actual Winter Games - and everything should continue on in that fashion as long as the snow doesn't melt. But don't worry, they got Siberian shamans praying for snow, so that's completely under control.
The Protests: There are still likely going to be plenty of protests against Russia's reprehensible denial of human rights and equality, and the organizers have set aside an area of the park specifically for protesters. Well, we say "park"; the designated protest area is actually about seven miles away from the main Olympic park. However, there are still plenty of people using the press and social media to call out the host country's injustices, and some of the athletes are even getting in on the action. Russian snowboarder Alexey Sobolev showed off an interesting design on his snowboard after finishing his qualifying run at the slopestyle competition, which featured a woman wearing a ski mask and holding a knife. The design is thought to represent a member of the band Pussy Riot, the feminist punk band that has famously denounced President Putin. Sobolev wouldn't confirm his support for the band, instead opting to admit that "anything's possible" when it comes to interpreting the design.
Nobody's Ever Ready in Time: The world has spent a lot of time worrying about Sochi's preparedness for the games, but one of the things that isn't often taken into consideration is that no host city is ever completely ready in time for the Olympics to begin. London had city-wide construction so bad that the athletes were stuck in traffic for hours when they first arrived to compete, and when Athens hosted in 2004, they were forced to spray paint the dirt green because they didn't have enough time to install grass outside the stadium. The Olympics are major undertaking, and since these games are the most expensive of all time, there are so many tiny details to account for, and not a lot of in which to deal with them. At least Sochi has grass. It's sparse and covered in man-made snow, but it's still there. The Olympic committee is trying their best. They might not win a gold medal for preparedness, but hey, at least they'll take home that participation trophy.
What to Look Forward To: Between the bad news, protests and photographs of showers that might actually be death traps, the Olympics themselves seem to have gotten lost in the shuffle. As with most Olympics, once the games officially kick off, we'll set aside many of our issues in favor of obsessively tracking medal counts and hoping for another ice hockey victory, but in the meantime, we thought we'd shed some light on some athletes and events to pay attention to during this Olympics.
The Opening Ceremony: Russia may not have as many legendary rock stars and international pop stars as England did, but the one thing you can expect from the Sochi Opening Ceremony is plenty of classical music. The ceremony is set to feature several artists who are superstars in the classical world, who will showcase the long classical history that Russia has. Also, there will be a ton of dancing; from interpretative to modern to ballet, this ceremony will essentially be one giant dance recital, all choreographed by one of the guys behind the Broadway show Spider Man: Turn Off the Dark, which, if you'll remember, had absolutely no problems at all during its run. None. But, hey, look on the bright side: 80 percent of the Olympic rings opened correctly. That's almost all of them! This can't be that bad.
The National Costumes: If you catch the Opening Ceremony, keep an eye out for the official Team USA uniform, which is insane in the best possible way. The design, which was created by Ralph Lauren, as is Olympic tradition, features what appears to be about six different sweaters all sewn together in a jigsaw puzzle of patriotism and comfortable warmth. However, when it comes to truly memorable uniforms, the team to watch is the Norwegian Curling squad, who will take to the ice in red, white and blue zig-zag printed suits. Perfect for every occasion.
New Events: There are several new events being unveiled at this years Olympics, but the two most interesting are slopestyle and team ice skating. Slopestyle involves a downhill course that competitors travel through, all while doing insane tricks in a combination of skill and speed. It grabbed the media's attention due to the presence of White, possibly the most famous snowboarder currently competing, and his departure from the event earlier in the week, due to an injured wrist. Despite the controversy surrounding his decision, the real competitor to watch this year is Torah Bright, an Australian snowboarder who is the only female snowboarding triple threat - meaning she will compete in slopestyle, snowboard cross and the half pipe - and she's both the defending gold medal winner in the half pipe and the current favorite to win again. This time, though she's got the chance to take home three golds, and she's favored to do just that. In addition, 2014 is the first year that women will be allowed to compete in ski jumping, and 19 year-old American Sarah Hendrickson is the far-and-away favorite to take home gold, even after suffering a major knee injury six months ago.
Returning Veterans: Every Olympics features new hopefuls and returning vets, all vying for their shot at a medal, but few stories are as exciting as the return of the Jamaican bobsleigh team, who ahve qualified for the Olympics for the first time since 2002. When the team didn't have the money to fund their trip to Sochi, however, the Internet donated money on their behalf, and raised enough to send them all the way to Russia within a matter of days. If you enjoyed Cool Runnings, you'll love the real deal even more. Over on the ice, long track speed skater Shani Davis is returning to his fourth, and possibly his final, Olympics. He's won the gold medal two Olympics in a row, and he's gunning for a hat trick. It's always great to see a talented vet hold their own against the younger guys, but Davis is not just any old four-time Olympian. He's also the inspiration for the character FroZone in the Pixar film The Incredibles, which means that a win for Davis is a win for fans of animated superheroes everywhere.
See? It's not so bad in Sochi after all. But then again, when everyone is expecting the whole Olympic park to fall apart at any second, everything that does go right is a victory, no matter how small.
Paramount via Everett Collection
Even though there's still three months to go before Captain America: The Winter Soldier will be released in theaters, Marvel is reportedly already working on a third installment of the franchise. Though it was only a matter of time before another sequel was announced - like the rest of Marvel's recent films, The Winter Solider is expected to be a box office smash — the studio has decided to move more quickly than usual in an attempt to lock down the film's directors, Joe and Anthony Russo, for the third film. Though everything is still in the early planning stages, footage from the film has impressed both Marvel and test audiences, which propelled the studio into moving forward with the new project.
The biggest doubt as of right now seems to be whether or not The Winter Solider will actually live up to its hype, but it seems highly likely that the film will continue the studio's long line of successes. Cap is one of Marvel's most beloved characters, and Chris Evans' performance in The Avengers has helped win over any moviegoers who may not have enjoyed the first Captain America film. That kind of pedigree alone means that there should be no problems attracting an audience for the sequel, but it will be helped by forcing Cap to deal head-on with the way that society has changed in the 70 years that he was frozen. Introducing the emotional and psychological ramifications that come with the Avengers' jobs and histories received rave reviews from both critics and fans in Iron Man 3, and continuing that thread in The Winter Soldier will help to not only add depth and substance to the action sequences, but also to help make the character and his philosophy more timely.
In addition, the film will see the return of plenty of familiar faces, including Black Widow, Nick Fury and Bucky Barnes, and since all three are fan favorites despite not having any solo films, that will certainly help attract a larger audience. There will also be a new love interest, S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Sharon Carter, and a new sidekick for Cap, Stan Wilson, a.k.a. Falcon. The presence of these new characters, coupled with the emotional hurdles that Cap will have to face, open up new storyline possibilities for the character, both in the larger Marvel universe and, perhaps more importantly, in the third Captain America installment.
Though he joined the team for a while in the comic books, the Avengers lineup is already pretty crowded, so it's hard to see anyone adding Falcon into any of the upcoming Avengers films, other than in a supporting role. Therefore, the third Captain America film would be the ideal place to expand the character's screentime and explore his character further. It's already been revealed that he and Cap will bond over their shared history in the military and sense of duty, and it would be great to see that backstory fleshed out in a way that helps establish Falcon as his own, distinct character. The films have proven relatively adept at creating three-dimensional characters despite a lack of screentime, and often find ways to discuss and explore Natasha and Black Widow's past despite her only playing a supporting role in other hero's films. In the comics, Falcon had an important presence as Cap's partner, and it would be nice to see the films do justice to his importance, even if they can only do it through the Captain America films.
Similarly, The Winter Soldier seems set to forge a bond between Black Widow and Cap, both platonically and romantically, which could cause a problem with both Hawkeye and Sharon Carter. The Avengers seemed to establish some romantic tension between Black Widow and Hawkeye, and so having her and Cap become involved could either be a sign of Hawkeye's diminishing importance in the Avengers lineup, or it could set up a conflict amongst teammates, as Cap doesn't seem the type to be comfortable with overstepping those kinds of personal boundaries. Meanwhile, Sharon Carter plays a significant role in the comics, and she and Cap have a long, if somewhat tumultuous, relationship. It seems like Sharon will be appearing in several films within the universe, which means that the studio might be establishing a love triangle. It's a plot development that they've tried before, most notably in the two Thor films with Thor, Lady Sif and Jane, but it has never been particularly well received by audiences. These two women are well-written, smart, and interesting characters in their own right, so the last thing we would want for either one of them would be to see the third Captain America film taken over by a love triangle that pits them against one another. It not only takes away from what would probably be an exciting, compelling storyline, but it would negatively impact both characters.
The other major character introduction that will be occurring in The Winter Soldier is Bucky Barnes, Cap's best friend who has been brainwashed into a Soviet assassin. Although the main villain will be played by Robert Redford, the Winter Soldier will likely be a recurring villain, like Loki, and appear in multiple films throughout the universe. Both the bad guys in Cap's films are strongly to their time period and the political climate of the day, which makes it impossible for them to flit across the various planets and times that make up the Marvel universe. Bucky, however, is bot bound by those same laws, and like Loki, can move through those different universes and films in a way that seems to hint at the possibility of him being the main villain of either an Avengers film or the third Captain America. Setting him up to be the villain of the third film would be a good idea, as it forces Cap to confront the idea of fighting against his best friend, rather than beside him, which, again, helps give the film some depth. The implications and consequences of a character that has been brainwashed into evil are too interesting to be brushed off at the end of the film, and so we'd love to see the Winter Soldier be the big bad of the third film, if only to learn more about what Bucky has gone through.
The down side to news of the third film is that Marvel won't be giving a solo film to any of the other major characters, but Cap's position as one of the leaders of the Avengers allows them to incorporate those characters into his storylines, and give them more screen time. It would be really interesting to see Hawkeye or the Hulk team up with Cap on his next mission, instead of simply having Black Widow play the supporting role in every film, especially since neither character got to interact with him much in The Avengers. The fact that Marvel is expanding Cap's universe and history so much makes bringing in outside characters difficult, but since anything the Avengers do will affect them as well, it seems like it would be worth the effort.
Of course, since nothing has been officially confirmed by Marvel as of yet, there's still a chance that all of this can change, and characters like Falcon and Bucky could end up being significantly less important or interesting than we thought. But since there's nothing to do until Captain America: The Winter Soldier is released on April 4, there's no harm in trying to guess what the studio has up its sleeve.
Walt Disney via Everett Collection
Since it’s January and there are bound to be some big snowstorms — unless you live in a warm enough climate that you never get any snow — we’ve compiled a list of the best movies for a snowy day. Make some hot chocolate, add some of those little marshmallows, and curl up under a blanket to keep warm while you watch these chilly flicks.
Grumpy Old Men
Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau were at their best when they played two feuding neighbors fighting over a new girl on the block in Grumpy Old Men. It’s perfect for a good laugh.
A classic from the '90s, Cool Runnings tells the semi-true story of a Jamaican bobsled team debuting at the Olympics. It’s sure to be at least as entertaining as the Sochi Olympics (if not more).
The Day After Tomorrow
Watch other people freeze to death while you’re nice and warm inside during a non-apocalypse.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
A bunch of kids travel to a magical land trapped in a never-ending winter and save the day. Plus James McAvoy is shirtless for a brief bit in the beginning.
For horror and Stephen King fans, Dreamcatcher is the perfect winter movie about friends camping in Maine during the winter. Also aliens.
The Coen brothers’ Fargo is perfect for anyone who can put up with a Minnesotan accent and likes crime dramas in snowy towns.
Another childhood classic — though not necessarily a fantastic movie — is Snow Dogs. It stars Cuba Gooding Jr. as a Miami man who inherits a team of sled dogs, then wackiness ensues.
Liam Neeson’s recent thriller about a man surviving in the Alaskan wilderness is both entertaining and educational — in case you’re ever stranded in Alaska.
If you’re in the mood for animation and some very, very, very vague history, Ice Age is the way to go. Besides, Sid the sloth is our spirit animal on lazy days.
If you’re taking a snow day, you might as well watch Snow Day. It’s the age-old tale of kids who don’t want to go to school versus the creepy guy that drives the snowplow — classic.
Action man Arnold Schwarzenegger has been named an honorary ranger by officials at the U.S. Forest Service. The actor, who served as California governor from 2003 to 2011, has been recognised for his continued efforts to combat climate change.
A statement from agency bosses reads, "Thanks to Governor Schwarzenegger, California is now well on its way to meeting its targets through a ground-breaking mix of measures, including a low carbon fuel standard, a renewable energy portfolio, and a cap-and-trade program.
"Governor Schwarzenegger also approved tough new vehicle fuel economy standards that have since been adopted at the national level."
The Terminator star, who co-founded the non-profit R20 Regions of Climate Change organisation, joins Betty White and Rolling Stones keyboardist Chuck Leavell as the only other honorary rangers in the agency's history, according to the Huffington Post.
The first look at Captain America: The Winter Soldier shows Marvel heading in a darker, grittier direction, which pits Cap (Chris Evans) against everything he thought he stood for. According to the official synopsis, Cap is just trying to lay low in Washington DC after the destruction of New York, but he finds himself embroiled in a major political conspiracy after he attempts to rescue a fellow S.H.I.E.L.D. member from attack. He then teams up with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and The Falcon (Anthony Mackie), who is making his Marvel-film debut, in order to expose the conspiracy and fight off the Winter Soldier. The film also features Robert Redford as the new bad guy in Washington, and brings back fan favorite Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury.
The most notable thing that the trailer reveals about the upcoming sequel is the film's much darker tone. This time, Cap isn't fighting aliens or criminal masterminds, but is instead taking on the U.S. government itself. It also appears that Marvel intends to continue its trend of exploring the more internal aspects of the characters, like when Iron Man 3 explored the PTSD that Tony struggled with following the attacks on New York. However, it looks like Cap will be struggling with his whole identity, as he grapples with the idea that everything he stands and fights for could actually be his enemy.
It would be impossible for Marvel to make the kind of film or send the kind of message that The Winter Soldier sends with any of the other Avengers. For one, Captain America has always been the most closely tied to reality, with both his in-world and real-world origins so entwined with World War II. Cap may fight aliens or criminal masterminds with the Avengers, but on his own, he leads soldiers in wars and goes head-to-head with dictators. He was created to be the embodiment of patriotism, fighting for freedom, democracy, and above all, America. However, the political climate of 2013 is vastly different than that of 1940, and so audiences might be less likely to accept a character who is so idealistic in terms of fighting for his country. In general, the country is much more skeptical and wary of the government and the idea of going to war, which causes a direct conflict with the character that Captain America was created to be.
In order for Cap to hold up over time, he needs to evolve with society. It makes sense that he would need to reconcile the parts of himself that believes purely in the good of the country and the good of people with the skepticism that modern Americans have towards the government. Our perspective of "the enemy" has changed over time, and people are just as likely to view the people in Washington as enemies as they are to find enemies overseas. The shifting perspectives of our world and society affect the Marvel universe as well, and Cap is the most equipped to address those changes and concerns simply because of the connotations that come with being the superhero that represents America and its ideals. In addition, the fact that he spent several decades frozen in ice makes it easier to contrast the differences between then and now by showing Cap's struggle with them.
Superheroes were created as a form of wish-fulfillment that allows artists and readers to see the things that make them different as things that could potentially make them special. Captain America was created as a conscious counter to the rise of the Nazi party, and a way for Americans to fight back against fascism and have a say in the inevitable road to war. With several unsuccessful wars behind us, and a political divide in Washington powerful enough to bring the whole government to a halt, it's probably safe to assume that Americans don't feel as patriotic as they once did. Captain America couldn't be created with the same kind of success today, and though audiences may still identify with his version of truth and justice, it's important that they become slightly less intertwined with America as an institution in order to fulfill the more modern wishes of Captain America fans.
It's a risky move for Marvel to undertake a political thriller when, ostensibly, all audiences are expecting from them are explosions and physics-defying fight sequences. But if there's any time to take a risk it's now, when there's been such a surge in popularity that even Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is staying alive despite unfavorable reviews. There's no doubt that the film will do well at the box office, regardless of how realistic or relevant the character of Captain America feels, but it feels like Marvel has found the right time and character in order to make a statement with their movies.
Captain America 2: The Winter Solider hits theaters April 4.
Parks and Recreation is determined to come up with a season long arc, and so far, Leslie's (Amy Poehler) idea for a merger with rival town Eagleton is proving to be a good one. This week, the department took on their Eagleton counterparts in order to learn the lay of the land. Ultimately, the episode feels a little light because no matter how much we may want to see more of the Eagleton Parks Department, there was no way the cast was going to double in size, but the conceit was funny enough that it doesn't matter whatsoever.
April (Aubrey Plaza) is back to full agent-of-chaos mode, first rebranding Jerry (whose actual name is Gary) as "Larry Gengrich," and then torturing her doppleganger, Tynnyfer (June Diane Raphael) by mimicing her vapid cluelessness and tricking her into quitting her job and breaking into Dwayne Wade's house in Miami. Ron (Nick Offerman) slowly realizes that his counterpart, played by Sam Elliott and also named Ron, might be another mustachioed man of few words with a love of the outdoors, but while Ron is a libertarian suvivalist and meat-lover, Eagleton Ron is a vegan enviornmental crusader and nut nut ("They make wonderful milks"). They go from instant friends to instant enemies, and it's nice to see the slow build of things our Ron hates coming out of an increasingly gleeful Alterna-Ron's mouth. The only downside to so many great day players was that aside from Leslie's attempts to figure out who to fire, we didn't get to see any of our usual inter-character chemisty. Tom (Aziz Ansari), in particular, was stranded alone in his struggle to conceal that his doppleganger was a super-efficient computer program called E.R.I.C by constructing a fictional drug-dealing, racist, messy jerk identity for Eric who does, indeed, get fired.
And despite all these machinations, Leslie would have never fired someone from the main cast tonight, not just because they are under contract for the rest of the season, but because after recieving the news that Chris (Rob Lowe) and Ann (Rashida Jones) are planning to move out of Pawnee, she becomes hyper loyal, panicking about the loss of a friend by hanging on desperately to her employees, even attempting to get them to sign a Loyalty Agreement that binds them to the town for 50 years. Though Ann tries to soften the bad news with a plate of waffles and a picture of a shirtless Joe Biden riding a horse, Leslie still feels betrayed.
If only things were as easy as they are for Chris and Ben (Adam Scott), who have become close again over the last few episodes but dealt with the news in a mature and kind way. But Leslie's panic is understandable and totally in character. Additionally, Ann is pretty much nowhere to be found in what should have been a much bigger episode for her. Even as Leslie constantly reminds us how they are best friends who love working together, she spends far more time seeking advice from Ron and working with the rest of the department. If there was ever a time to show their friendship and its tightness, it was here. And with Pawnee becoming extreme in its unhealthiness (Chris orders a "salad" filled with gummy worms, cheese, a gumball, and toffee) and this merger giving her a natural break in her job, it's hard to tell exactly how she feels about leaving or about starting a new life with Chris. While it does seem best for the show to lose Ann as Ben becomes a more logical anchor in Leslie's life, that doesn't mean Ann should be unceremoniously shipped off. And the abrupt ending of the episode, which cuts to black just as Ann and Leslie sit down to talk, felt confusing, as the audience doesn't really know the answers to what they're talking about. Hopefully, next week we'll get a chance to hang out with both characters as they think about how to say goodbye.
Questions, Comments, Concerns:This week's stray observations will be used as a shrine to Craig, Donna's doppleganger, who was played by Billy Eichner, was the only Eagleton member left on the "maybe" side of returning vs. being fired, and was by far the most quotable. Case in point:"Donna? That is the perfect name for you. I love it, don't ever change it.""I wanted to be a Spanish man named Terrance, but that didn't happen." "I carried the Eagleton Department on my back and I loved every second of it, you don't even know!" (You have to imagine that this is at a shrill, manic pitch capable of waking the dead.)"You want me to put Bermuda grass in a continental climate that's a six on the Beauford scale in a park with zero drainage? I want Kentucky Bluegrass, I want a 10 percent discount, and I want you to apologize to my best friend Donna!" "I have a medical condition all right. It's called caring too much... and it's incurable! Also I have excema." "I'm halfway through designing a bamboo gazebo as a tribute to the founders of Motown.""My DVR is pregnant with 13 months' worth of Scandal."
A three-part series focusing on how weather systems work, and how humans and climate have affected each other. Program also features in-depth interviews with leading scientists and other experts who offer insight into global warming.