‘Captain America: Civil War’ Review

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Directors: Joe and Anthony Russo

Writers: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely

Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Emily VanCamp, Tom Holland, Daniel Bruhl, Frank Grillo, Martin Freeman, Marisa Tomei, and William Hurt

Synopsis: Political interference in the Avengers’ activities causes a rift between former allies Captain America and Iron Man.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: I think it goes without saying, stay for the credits*

 

After all the buzz, hype, and anticipation, Captain America: Civil War is here! And boy was it worth the wait. The concept is, of course, taken from the popular storyline in the comics that inspires the events in the film, but not a direct adaptation considering Marvel doesn’t own the movie rights to all their characters, and it would be really, really busy. However, that doesn’t change how great Civil War is, and how it handles its busy lineup.

Captain America: Civil War now follows Steve Rogers/Captain America (Evans) with his New Avengers in Falcon (Mackie), Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Olsen), and Natasha Romaonoff/Black Widow (Johansson) on a mission in Lagos as they hunt down Crossbones (Grillo) who’s trying to steal something. However, an accident happens that, to the world, is the final straw for The Avengers and causes the UN to create The Sokovia Accords. The Accords is a law that would make The Avengers essentially government agents who will go where they send them, and that’s it. No more Avengers going to a foreign land and acting as our saviors, if they sign, they will go where the UN sends them.

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This causes a rift between the team, more specifically, between leaders Captain America and Tony Stark/Iron Man (Downey Jr.). Stark believes the Avengers need to be put in check and the cost of innocent lives has become too high, while Cap thinks that the “safest hands are still our own,” and that the Avengers should be free to go where the danger is instead of others. The argument becomes more of an issue when a deadly attack happens and Bucky/Winter Soldier (Stan) looks to have done it. Cap, of course, jumps at the opportunity to protect his old friend and save him despite the circumstances and the Accords. With all that going on, a mysterious figure in Zemo (Bruhl) appears, and has his own plan in mind.

Despite the crowed feel and look to it, writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and directors Joe and Anthony Russo really make Civil War work. Even with the inclusion of two new big characters in T’Challa/Black Panther (Boseman) and Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Holland), they give every character their moment to shine, without making it feel forced or unnecessary. That’s a pretty big achievement considering this isn’t really an Avengers movie, but a Captain America movie.

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“Hey everyone”

Not only that, but the concern that many people had when the movie was announced about the Avengers not really having a fight, but just a “disagreement” that would resolve itself by saying “sorry I hit you so hard, man,” is not really there. There are consequences for the actions these characters make and the dynamic has certainly changed among the team, and even the public, just like the events in The Winter Soldier did. Sure there is the quirky back-and-forth between Hawkeye (Renner) and Black Widow during the big brawl, but you kind of suspect that from these two, well, at least I could.

However, here is the big thing McFeely/Marcus and the Russo’s where able to do, that was extremely important for Civil War to work. They were able to make us – the audience – see both sides of the argument. You understand where Tony is coming from and why he decides to sign The Accords, and you can see why Steve doesn’t and chooses to fight them. There is no black and white, there is a lot, and I mean a lot, of grey. Nothing feels forced and everything has its place. Even if you’re Team Cap or Team Iron Man, you can feel yourself being persuaded to switch sides. Neither side is more right than the other, that’s why the film works on the drama and political side of things. It also helps that we’ve come to know the characters. After all these years, you kind of hate that everyone is fighting each other, but that same time, you may not be too surprised. Obviously, the first time we saw Avengers together, they fought each other.

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So when it comes to the cast, everyone is on their A-game. Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark is still the same Tony, but he’s more matured and headstrong than we’ve ever seen him before. Evan’s truly is Captain America at this point, if there was ever any doubt, it is going to be squashed after watching this. Chadwick Boseman carries T’Challa/Black Panther which such ease, that you forget for a minute that this is the character’s debut. Daniel Bruhl’s Zemo is likely, and already, being called one of Marvel’s great villains in sometime, which is hard to argue. His reasoning isn’t revealed until the very end, but everything he does up until that point is very slow and when it’s revealed why he’s doing what he is doing, you find it a bit genius, and leads to one most impactful moments of Civil War.

Everyone else, like I said that’s their moments, but this is a Captain America movie, so they don’t completely steal the show. Unless you’re Spider-Man. Tom Holland, who has a descent amount – not too much – screen time is great. You get a good feel for what we’re going to expect in Spider-Man: Homecoming. We should save our judgment for what we think of Holland as the character until we actually watch Homecoming, but so far, I really like what we have so far.

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All right, so the big brawl that has been promoted in all the ads was pretty damn great. Matter of fact, all the action in the film is pretty top notch. Not only that, all the action sequences feel and are very personal. I won’t get into why, but watching the film you’ll know why. But the big brawl that happens at the airport is one of the best parts of the whole film, and one of the best action sequences in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There are a lot of surprises in there as well, which I obviously won’t spoil here, but as a fan, I didn’t think they would go there. However, after the brawl, a lot of steam and momentum gets sucked out of the film, which to me, is the only real misstep of the film.

All in all, Captain America: Civil War is one of the best films that Marvel has done. It also shouldn’t have worked with all its moving parts, but what a tremendous job by everyone involved to make it work, to make it fun, and make it emotionally challenging to watch. There a only a couple of missteps, but overall, I would not hesitant a minute to put Captain America: Civil War on my top five best Marvel films of all time. Maybe, even the top five comic book movies of all time.

Missing Spider-Man of course

Missing Spider-Man of course

Captain America: Civil War

4.5 out of 5

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‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ Review

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Dir: Peter Jackson

Cast: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Aidan Turner, Ken Stott, Graham McTavish, Dean O’Gorman, Lee Pace, Evangeline Lilly, Luke Evans, Orlando Bloom, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee and Cate Blanchett

Synopsis: Bilbo and Company are forced to engage in a war against an array of combatants and keep the Lonely Mountain from falling into the hands of a rising darkness.

 

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review. As much as a spoiler free review goes on a movie based on a popular book and a prequel to popular series.*

 

 

Peter Jackson has done it. He has bought the world of Middle-Earth that J.R.R. Tolkein created to life on the big screen. Of course, he added in another whole movie that really seemed unnecessary but, hey what the hell right? The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies should have felt – and for some part does – as a grand finale to another ambitious trilogy that we could have only originally only imagined. The film has great moments but after a while the final film of The Hobbit series is slightly an underwhelming one.

 

Hobbit Smaug

 

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug left things on a cliffhanger with Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) flying toward Lake-town to cause havoc. The Battle of the Five Armies picks up right after that as we see Smaug raining down fire upon the citizens of Lake-town. It’s a great set-piece to start off but judging how short the scene was I really couldn’t see why they decided not to put it in as the finale in the last film. Yes, more money, but even so, I really couldn’t see any reason they couldn’t have squeezed in an extra ten minutes.

 

The “real” beginning of the film would have been a great start, which is the rescue of Gandalf (McKellen), by Galadriel (Blanchett), Elrond (Weaving), and Saruman (Lee). The scene is cool because it gives Blanchett, Weaving and Lee more to do than just sit around a table and talk about the “Darkness that is coming.” Also, the scene is a bit anti-climatic, which can be said for the whole film series in some way. It is a prequel after all, and while I’m good at suspending disbelief, I couldn’t help but have the thought in my mind: “they’re going to be okay!”

 

Hobbit Gand and Gala

 

But this is the problem with prequel series and older fans. We know how the story is going to, so we do have to suspend our disbelief a lot more than fans that maybe don’t know about the original series (I’m looking at you Star Wars prequels!). However, one of the great things that Peter Jackson has done with The Hobbit films is that he has created a series that is some way is new and creates great moments that you forget the previous films. Desolation of Smaug is a great example of that but The Battle of the Five Armies juggles that throughout the whole film. When the film is on full cylinders it’s an amazing experience, but when it starts to slow down and gives the audiences some winks to the future (or is it past, I don’t know) it becomes a little jarring.

 

Hobbit Thorin 2

 

Anyway back to the film. Thorin (Armitage), Bilbo and Company have finally secured their homeland and have gotten the room full of gold. Unfortunately, their celebration is cut short by Thorin, who becomes obsessed on getting the “Arkenstone.” So much that he starts to act like his grandfather before him. The obsession is described by Balin (Stott) to Bilbo as “dragon sickness,” as Thorin starts to turn on his own thinking one of his own people is hiding his birthright. Thorin starts to act brash and when the people of Lake Town come for shelter and some of the gold that was promised to them by Thorin himself in the previous movie, he tells them to leave or else. Things don’t get any better when Thranduil (Pace) comes and wants to claim the mountain as well.

 

Hobbit Thraduil

 

This puts the sides on opposite ends as Bard (Evans) tries to reason with Thorin, but again he’s having none of it. Thranduil sees this as an act of war and the Elvin army is ready to attack when Thorin’s cousin Dain (Billy Connolly) comes to help him. But before any of them can attack each other, the Orc army makes itself known and thus begins the titled Battle of the Five Armies.

 

Hobbit battle

 

Here is where Peter Jackson success and fails. Jackson gave us some great and dare I say mesmerizing battle scenes in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, especially The Return of the King, and while I don’t want to compare the two final films, The Battle of the Five Armies does have title to hold to. Now, I’m all for a good battle scene and while we have to sit through about an hour or so of build up for that actual battle and characters constantly reminding us that a war is coming or about to begin, when the battle actually starts, it is only okay. Again, don’t get me wrong, Jackson is one of the best directors that can put together a grand set-piece like a war (again look at the LotR films) but unlike those previous battles, Jackson relies more heavily on CGI with The Battle of the Five Armies. Of course since casting millions of people, controlling them in just an open space would be a pain in the ass, and there aren’t any huge goblins out there, CG is reasonably the best way to go. However, at the same time it feels like we’re watching an animating film instead of a live-action film, which again sucks because of the great battles Jackson has given us in the past. And yes, I know Jackson used CG in the LotR films, but he was able to hide it more in those films than these.

 

Despite that, it’s certain characters that save (and I used that word very strongly) the film. Martin Freeman’s Bilbo and Richard Armitage’s Thorin Oakenshield character’s come full circle. You can arguably say that The Hobbit movies are as much a Thorin movie as it is a Bilbo movie. Thorin goes from sympathetic and heroic character in the past films to this crazed and troubled character for three-fourths of the movie back to being character we love. Thorin’s arc is touching, heartbreaking and an great experience to watch unfold and Armitage does an amazing job of being able to fill those shoes.

 

Hobbit Biblbo

 

Freeman is also great and while he doesn’t spend so much time on screen the scenes he has are touching and great to watch. Whether it’s a scene of him trying to bring Thorin back to normal or a simple scene of him and Gandalf sitting down not saying a word to each other because at that point there is nothing to say, Freeman has given the character of Bilbo more life than one of could have imagined.

 

The rest of the cast kind of gets thrown at the wayside, which tends to happen when you have such a huge cast. All the actors that play the other Dwarves don’t really have moments to shine expect for Aidan Turner’s Kili who continues and finishes his romance arc with Evangeline Lilly’s Tauriel. Luke Evans has more to do as Bard the Bowman acting as new leader and gets to show off his fighting ability. Lee Pace has about the same amount of screen time he had in last movie as the Elvin king Thranduil but finally gets to show more of his ability to fight. Finally, Orlando Bloom as Legolas is just in the movie for the action as he doesn’t really serve a purpose for the movie other than show how he got on his adventure at the start of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

 

Hobbit Tauriel and Legolas

 

All in all, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is not a bad movie but considering that there was going to be only two movies and the previous Hobbit movies built up to this, it does leave a little bit to be desired and was a bit underwhelming. If anything, The Battle of Five Armies and the other Hobbit movies are all about the adventure and characters, and on that end it succeeds with flying colors. But when it comes to the titular Battle of the Five Armies and a final film of a trilogy, it’s only okay.

 

 

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

3.5 out of 5

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‘The World’s End’ Review

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Dir: Edgar Wright

Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan, and Rosamund Pike

Synopsis: Five friends who reunite in an attempt to top their epic pub crawl from 20 years earlier unwittingly become humankind’s only hope for survival.

 

*Review Note: This is a non-spoiler review as always.”

 

All good things must come to an end, and in this case, with a pint of beer. Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost bring an end to their so called “Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy” (or The Cornetto Trilogy) with The World’s End. The trilogy started with Shaun of the Dead then to Hot Fuzz and while the movies aren’t sequels or share the same universe (besides all being set in the U.K and have the ice cream Cornetto) the movies do share the same themes. Every movie has theme of friendship and growing up in some senses.

In the early nineties a group of five friends, led by fearless schoolboy rebel Gary King (Pegg), attempted to complete the infamous “Golden Mile.” It consists of twelve pubs and the goal for Gary is to have one beer at each. But, they have never made it to the end. Now an adult Gary convinces and drags his now estranged friends Andy (Frost), Oliver (Freeman), Peter (Marsan), and Steven (Considine) complete the journey from years past. Unfortunately for Gary all of them have grown up and are successful businessmen, husbands, and fathers but they reluctantly follow him back to their small town of Newton Haven.

But during the crawl they realize that the townsfolk are a bit different and odd. Eventually finding out (the hard way) the town has been taken over by robots impersonating their former neighbors. Already a bit buzzed at this point they decide to finish the crawl thinking they’ll be safe, but of course their not.

It’s probably going to be a bit hard for people to not compare this with the previous films and you shouldn’t. Unlike the other films, Pegg is the oddball here and not Frost. Pegg even though an adult still acts like he’s a teenager and may make him unlikeable to many viewers, which is okay. That’s kind of the point. It’s Pegg’s performance however that so great it’s fun to watch. It’s near the end that his performance shows Pegg isn’t just a comedic actor.

Interestingly at the other end, its Frost that is cast against type in the role of Andy, a corporate lawyer, a rugby player, and family man. He was once Gary’s best friend but something happened that made them drift apart. It a nice change to see the switch around and the tension between the two is fun, different, and more mature to see.

The film features plenty of familiar faces, but it’s the core of five friends that really carry it. Eddie Marsan, Paddy Considine, and Martin Freeman are all given individual moments to shine, but fit in well within the larger ensemble. Rosamund Pike is great when on screen but is given relatively little to do, though she really shows just how Gary never really grew up.

Of course, as with all of Wright’s films, everything is wrapped in a genre shell. There’s always time for a dramatic moment (that surprisingly doesn’t slow down the movie much) even if blue-blooded robots are looking to hurt our heroes. But it’s the robot design that’s pretty cool. The robots are kind of ceramic/plastic filled vessels with blue blood, and shine blue light from their eyes and mouth when angered. To an average moviegoer, it might seem lazy but combine it with Wright’s sense of style it’s pretty smart.

All in all, The World’s End is very different from the past films and steps up the game acting wise and action wise. Seriously the fights scenes in the movie caught me off guard. However, this being the last film of the Cornetto Trilogy it is truly a great way to go out.

 

 

The World’s End

4.5 out of 5