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Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

4 months ago via Flixster

Having enjoyed The Avengers, and a number of the other Marvel movies, and having heard very good reports about this one, my wife and I went to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier at the cinema... and I'm very glad we did as it was excellent!

First, by way of a caveat, I don't really know a lot about Captain America, outside of the movies we've seen him in.. First Avenger and Avengers Assemble... so I wasn't sure what to expect. In a lot of other Superhero movies there's a Super Villain (or perhaps 2 or 3) that the hero must face, and while that is still kind of true again here, with Bucky, the Winter Soldier.. he's more just a pawn of a much larger enemy organisation, that our hero comes up against... so a lot of the action is actually the Cap against lots of tough (but not super human) guys, with guns!

Chris Evans delivers a really solid performance as Steve Rogers, the titular Captain America, and is ably supported by returning Avenger's cast members Samuel L Jackson and Scarlett Johansson.. as well as new faces Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce and Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson, aka The Falcon... who is a very cool character.

The plot is interesting, but I won't say too much so as not to spoil any surprises.. though it does require a certain amount of suspension of disbelief (yes I know it's a superhero movie, but still it's hard to believe that certain things went unnoticed by Shield for so long) ... also certain casting choices, as they so often do, gave away some of what was going on.

Naturally, there are some incredible action and special effects sequences too: lots of hand to hand combat (and having just finished playing Batman: Arkham Origins, there were some things I'd love to see translated into another Batman movie), like when Cap storms the ship, at the beginning of the movie, to rescue some hostages; lots of bullet dodging and use of the shield; some really cool Falcon flying sequences; and some decent Car chases too.

I also loved the look of the tech in the movie too... the modern gunships etc. contrasted with the old reel to reel data centre in the abandoned bunker.

Overall I really enjoyed The Winter Soldier... and I'm gonna go out on a limb and say it's possibly my favourite of the individual Avengers movies... better than Iron Man... though I'm undecided if it beats Thor.

Star Trek Into Darkness

Star Trek Into Darkness

5 months ago via Flixster

I would definitely class myself as a Star Trek fan.. and particularly of the original series, which I have watched every episode of in the past. And while I can see that the writers and director JJ Abrams have taken some liberties with the continuity of the mythos and to some extent the philosophy of Star Trek, I can totally embrace what they've done with this movie and thought it was really very good.

The casting is, to my mind, genius... Quinto and Urban in particular, and to a lesser extent Pine, Pegg, really manage to embody the original characters perfectly... as do many of the supporting cast: Saldana; Cho; Yelchin etc. There are some great scenes where the characters play off each other, and the classic Star Trek lines are littered amongst some really great dialogue, which often times I found to be very funny. Cumberbatch is excellent as the film's bad guy, a ruthless killer whom we're even allowed to feel some sympathy for, and I also enjoyed Robocop Peter Weller's performance as Admiral Marcus.

It did surprise me that certain things were switched around from the original source material and there was a bigish change to the ending. However I thought the overall story was pretty good, and there was plenty of action, interspersed with good character development, so overall I enjoyed the movie a lot and I personally don't see a lot to gripe about.

Man of Steel

Man of Steel

14 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

With a young family I don't get to the cinema as often as I'd like, and of the current releases, Man of Steel was lower down my list of priorities, however some very generous friends got tickets for me and my wife to see Man of Steel with them at the IMAX in Manchester, so I could hardly refuse. Thankfully I really enjoyed the movie.

Firstly I have to admit that I did enjoy the previous Superman reboot, with Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor, despite its flaws... however, if you're going to re-boot Superman, this is how you do it!

Although it could be considered unnecesary and excessive by many people, I really enjoyed the extended opening sequence set on Krypton. I thought it gave a good insight into a supposedly more advanced civilisation on the brink of destruction. It showed Jor-El's motivation for sending Kal-El to Earth, and how General Zod became the enemy despite only striving for the protection of his people.

I saw the 1980s movie Superman II in the cinema when I was 6 years old, and over the years, when I re-watched it, I really enjoyed Terence Stamp's portrayal of Zod... so when I discovered he was the enemy in this movie, I was apprehensive about what they would do with the character... and to begin with I didn't really think Michael Shannon looked right or was up to the task... however over the course of the movie I warmed to him as the misguided General who sets himself on a path to the genocide of the human race.

I enjoyed the story, which I thought was an excellent treatment of the origins of Superman, with an interesting plot of terraforming the earth to be a new Krypton. It came as no surprise to discover afterwards that it was written by Goyer and Nolan, the same team that penned the excellent Batman movies. It was also interesting to see Clarke as a young boy struggling with his powers... similar to Toby Macguire's spiderman... and then later to see Zod and the other Kryptonians with similar difficulties. I found Henry Cavill to be convincing as Superman, showing power and emotion as the outsider in a world that fears him because he's different. I thought Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner gave pretty good supporting performances as his natural and adoptive fathers respectively... And although he is no J.K. Simmons (J Jonah Jameson from Spiderman), I enjoyed Laurence Fishburne's portrayal of Perry White. I did feel that the character of Lois Lane was a bit of a let down.. I don't think this was Amy Adams fault, as she did a decent job, but I thought the character was not fleshed out enough.. and I especially thought her change of mind early on in the reporting of the Superman story was a bit out of character for her, even though it was required by the plot.

I really liked the visual style of Krypton and their technology... it actually reminded me a bit of Matrix: Revolutions... particularly their suits, ships and the World Engine that they use for terraforming. A few other things reminded of that series too.. obviously the presence of Morpheus... but also a supporting role by Harry Lennix (commander Lock in Matrix Revolutions) as General Swanwick... and the final fight between Kal and Zod is very reminiscent of Neo fighting Smith.

The special effects and action sequences are very impressive, and definitely on a par with The Avengers (though Superman doesn't quite come up to the level set by that movie)... however I did feel the final battle was drawn out a little bit too long, and I couldn't help thinking that they were making quite a mess of Metropolis!

With seeing it in IMAX, we watched the 3D version, and although it was fairly impressive, especially scenes heavily reliant on CGI, being a post-production 3D treatment, it was definitely not as good as a movie filmed in 3D. (Dredd being my personal poster-child for real 3D movies!)

Overall I had a blast with this re-boot of Superman... however I'm not really a superman fanboy, so your mileage may vary in terms of this treatmen of the literary source.

Source Code

Source Code

16 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Source Code is a sort of Quantum Leap for the big screen... and a bit of a cross between Groundhog day, The Matrix and Final Destination...

Jake Gyllenhaal is an air force pilot who wakes up on a train to Chicago in another man's body... he has 8 minutes familiarising himself with where he is before the train suddenly blows up.. whereupon he regains consciousness and finds himself in a decaying yet futuristic capsule, where he is debriefed by some unknown agency via a videolink... he is asked about the bombing and whether he identified the bomber, and when he is unable to provide the information he is sent back to the train to re-live those same 8 minutes again.

As the movie progresses we find out that by some "Hollywood Science" this agency is able to create a simulation using the last 8 minutes of memories from one of the victims on the train and use it to explore the events further.

It's an interesting concept, reusing ideas that have cropped up particularly in Quantum Leap, but also in episodes of shows like Stargate and in other movies too.

There's plenty of action, and some decent character development too, as we get to know the girlfriend (Monaghan) and the other passengers on the train. While Gyllenhaal does a good job portraying the confused airman forced on a mission that he does not understand for an agency he neither knows nor trusts.

Overall a good movie worthy of a 4 with a decent ending... that unfortunately comes about 20 minutes before the end of the movie! And for me that coda, which presumably is necessary to provide the requisite Hollywood Happy Ending, spoilt the movie, and is the reason I'm only rating it 3.

The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises

16 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Dark Knight Rises picks up '8 years after' the events of its predecessor The Dark Knight... Batman is in hiding, having taken the fall for Harvey Dent's death, and is branded a killer by the people of Gotham... meanwhile Bruce Wayne has become a recluse and is struggling to recover from the injuries he sustained. And now, thanks to the "Dent Act" which was brought in, in memory of the peoples hero, the streets of Gotham are a much safer place, and the cities criminal population are mostly housed in Black Gate Prison...

Enter Bane, a super-strong mercenary with connections to the League of Shadows, who intends to bring about Gotham's reckoning. This continues the story arc from Batman Begins in which Ra's Al Ghul was trying to bring about the destruction of Gotham... however this time there's a bit of a flavour of "Occupy Gotham" as the rich and powerful 1% are the first to be targeted, and indeed there's a line in the film about Bruce Wayne's set "Living it so large and leaving so little for the rest".

The character of Bane is also interesting here, as he is not dependant on the performance enhancing drug venom, but is still incredibly strong and physically superior to Batman. He's also pretty intimidating with his Mask and his booming voice. Tom Hardy does an excellent job in the role, but I won't say much more about the character to avoid any spoilers.

The film is long, and has a definite slow burn to begin with, being quite character driven, as we see how the events of the previous movie have affected Batman/Bruce and those around him. But despite the length and early pace of the movie it did not feel like it overstayed its welcome. Later in the movie there is a ton of action and some amazing special effects... especially when the football field collapses (as seen in the trailer).

The plot is well written, and there's a pretty decent twist near the end, which I should have seen coming based on my knowledge of the Dark Knight mythos (mostly from the Arkham series of videogames), but thankfully I didn't twig, so I was as surprised as most people. I also thought the ending was really good.. predictable, but quite emotional and very clever.

I really don't want to say too much for fear of spoiling parts of the movie, so it just remains for me to say I really enjoyed this movie and it's probably my favourite of the trilogy, ahead of Batman Begins and Dark Knight (both very good movies).

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Intel Hollywood Star Program (July 2012 - December 2012)
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