Tag Archives: Scarlett Johansson

Captain America: Civil War – Movie Review

Captain America: Civil War manages to do everything Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice failed to do. That tells a fantastic story involving way too many superheroes and introduce new characters in a meaningful and exciting way.

Release Date: May 6, 2016
Writer: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Director: Joe & Anthony Russo
Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Mackie, Scarlett Johansson

Similar to the Marvel Comics event that pitted hero against hero, Captain America: Civil War pits Captain America (Chris Evans) against Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) in a physical and moral battle. After the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, the United Nations demand that all powered humans register with their governments and submit to its authority as well.

Iron Man is for hero registration because even the most powerful hero needed to be kept in check and held responsible for collateral damage when acting alone. Captain America is for civil liberties and can not submit to a government agency, especially when lives are at stake.

A crisis occurs when the debate over the matter is interrupted when a bomb is set off next to the U.N. Headquarters. The explosion kills many including the leader of Wakanda, King T’Chaka (John Kani). Video footage shows that the bomb was set by the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). The U.S. decides to engage supporting heroes to capture and even kill the Winter Soldier. This includes the new hero, Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), who decides to avenge the death of his father.

Captain America knows that if the Winter Soldier did set the bomb, he did not do it of his own free will. In fact, a new villain reveals himself in the shadows, Zemo (Daniel Bruhl). Zemo was the one who reactivated the Winter Soldier and turned him once again into a killing machine. Zemo is intent on bringing down an empire and his plan involves finding the secret lab that created ten other Winter Soldiers.

Teams have been formed. Team Iron Man consists of Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Vision (Paul Bettany), Black Panther, War Machine (Don Cheadle) and amazingly Spider-Man (Tom Holland) (pun intended). Team Captain America is Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).

Captain America: Civil War features three amazing chase/battle scenes. The ultimate battle between the heroes at an airport feel like it leaps directly from a comic book. It’s fun and incredible. The final battle between Captain America and Iron Man is both sad and satisfying.

The tight story from Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely makes this long movie feel like you want more. It succeeds in so many ways. First, Let’s face it, this movie has a lot of heroes and it’s easy to be lost in the sauce, but every character has a moment to shine, not only in battle but as individual characters.

Second, the story introduces two characters: Black Panther and Spider-Man. Both characters make a bold statement in the movie. Black Panther is a prince avenging the death of his father as well as donning the new responsibility as the leader of a nation. His motivations of anger are justified and his character arc leaves you excited for the upcoming Black Panther movie.

Spider-man is also interesting in the sense that he really isn’t needed in the movie. Clearly, he was added because Marvel wanted to show off that they have Spider-Man back in the Marvel fold. The movie could have done without Spider-Man. Give credit to Markus and McFeely, they tell the Spider-Man story in a way that is fun and exciting. Tom Holland brings an element of Spider-Man that we haven’t seen in the other films and that’s Peter Parker’s need to constantly comment and make smart remarks throughout an entire fight. His moments with Tony Stark are hilarious, especially the moment that Stark makes Peter admit the kid is “Spider-Man.”

Zemo, played by Daniel Bruhl, is one of the most understated villains so far. Without throwing a punch or threatening to destroy the world, his actions are slowly revealed and the impact of his plan is everything you expect from a villain. He is the reason Captain America and Iron Man fight to the death, making him one of the best villains in the MCU, even though you’ll forget Zemo when you walk out of the movie.

Making a movie like Captain America: Civil War has challenges that need to be faced or the movie will fail. Under the direction of Anthony and Joe Russo, those challenges are met from beginning to end. These challenges include the problem of too many heroes. Everyone has a moment to shine. The reason for the heroes to battle one another are solid and make sense. There is no clear hero. Both Iron Man and Captain America is morally right to do what they are doing and you find yourself shifting back-and-forth regarding who is right. Also a story that has as many holes plugged up as possible.

Captain America: Civil War is the best Marvel movie to date, but it clearly could not have been great without the films before it. Solid story and stunning action pieces with an ambiguous sense of right and wrong make this film the one you see over and over again.

Jungle Book – Movie Review

In the 2016 Disney adaptation of Jungle Book, director Jon Favreau brings stunning beauty and realism to the 1967 classic.

Release Date: April 15, 2016
Writer: Justin Marks
Director: Jon Favreau
Cast: Neel Sethi, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Christopher Walken

Jungle Book is more a remake of the classic animated feature rather than the writings of Rudyard Kipling. What a writer, like Justin Marks, does is take the animated feature and fill in the missing gaps of story logic and adds more meat to the story.

For example, in the animated feature Shir Khan is a villain from a far off place. He comes to the jungle to kill Mowgli. In this film, the jungle is experiencing an extreme drought and the only source of water is the peace rock. As long as the peace rock exists and the water is scare, no animal will kill another around the watering hole. Shir Khan (Idris Elba) uses this location to demonstrate his fierceness and threaten all the animal kingdom not to allow a human to live amongst them.

As the story of the Jungle Book unfolds, you can’t help but think, that make sense and so does that. Why do the wolves take in Mowgli (Neel Sethi) as their cub? Why are they so willing to defend him? How did Mowgli come to the jungle in the first place? It is clear that story and story logic are important to the overall story.

Where to movie falls short of perfection is the moment it becomes a musical. I loved the original songs from the Sherman Brothers, but half way through the film, no one sings and as viewers we’re immersed in the world and story of the Jungle Book. The first song, Bare Necessities, I can forgive. Baloo (Bill Murray) and Mowgli recreated the iconic lazy river journey and in a moment of peace, Baloo hums Bare Necessities. This is a nice homage to the original. But when Mowgli is face-to-face with King Louie (Christopher Walken), the encounter becomes an elaborate musical number. It literally takes you out of the movie and feels out of place. They should have kept the story dramatic.

The Jungle Book is also a visually-stunning movie. The sets feel real as if they leap off the animation cells of the original. There have been numerous talking animal movies in the past, and Jungle Book feels the most real. Animal mouth movements are real for that specific species as well as emotions from facial expressions.

The Jungle Book is also available in 3-D and I have talked a lot about how 3-D is a waste of money and should be avoided. The Jungle Book is that rare exception. Objects are crisp and clean. This is especially true for the ending credits. Individual scenes from the movie are presented as a pop-up book. Movies watched in 3-D should have added value, because you pay extra for it. Only in The Jungle Book does the 3-D truly immerse you in the landscape of the story.

The real star of the movie is Neel Sethi as Mowgli. The way a film is made should have nothing to do with how a movie is reviewed critically, but this kid is literally the entire movie. Sethi is perfect in the role and comes across as a real boy, who is a child of the Jungle. I can not think of many children who can pull off not only being in every scene of the film but also act entirely on a sound stage with green screen and also have to act with imaginary actors. Sethi was the solid choice of the film and he along made it work.

Hail Ceasar! – Movie Review

Fans of the Coen brothers are sure to have a good time with their latest offering, Hail Caesar!. The film tells the story of studio head, Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) running an entire studio, while leading man, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) of its biggest budget feature has been kidnapped and held for ransom.

Release Date: February 5, 2016
Writer: Ethan & Joel Coen
Director: Ethan & Joel Coen
Cast: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Alden Ehrenreich

Hail Caesar! follows a single day for Capital Pictures head, Eddie Mannix, who must juggle crisis after crisis while keeping the movie making machine rolling. First there is newcomer, Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich). Hobie is a naïve stuntman, who is being touted as the next up-and-coming star. After a series of successful singing cowboy movies, Doyle is being moved to dramatic roles. In the film’s funniest scene, Doyle’s heavy western accent is not working for director Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes).

Actress DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) is the studio’s swimming beauty and she finds herself pregnant out wedlock. Mannix must spin the story as to not become a tabloid scandal. He enlists the help of professional “person” Joseph Silverman (Jonah Hill). He also needs to deflect studio rumors from tabloid journalist Thora Thacker (Tilda Swinton) and her competitive identical sister, Thessaly Thacker (Tilda Swinton).

The studio’s biggest problem is the abduction of its biggest star, Baird Whitlock. Whitlock is literally in the middle of filming a scene in Capital Pictures largest budget movie, “Hail Caesar!” He is kidnapped by two extras and being held ransom for $100,000. Mannix figures out who kidnapped his star, how to get him back and keep the news out of the tabloids.

The Coen brothers have managed to create an amusing film that is more or less a throwback to the movie studios of old. They produce a stunning water ballet scene featuring Scarlett Johansson, a whimsical song and dance routine with an amazing Channing Tatum and an old school Biblical epic with George Clooney.

The main problem with Hail Caesar! is that it’s being sold as a studio thriller. In actuality, the movie serves as a slice of life. That’s not to say that being a slife-of-life movie is bad. The movie is fun to watch, but the subplots are low stakes and the kipnapping story is not an exciting story. The Coen brothers have captured the whimsical world of the early studio days and that about it.

As the studio head, Josh Brolin is clearly the lead of the movie. He’s a likable studio head and his struggle to balances the craziness of the studio with his personal life is quite charming. There are a lot of big stars in this movie, but the real shining moment of the film is Alden Ehrenrich as Hobie Doyle. His portrayal as the young naïve actor, who wants to be a team player, is sweet and endearing. Where did this guy come from and can we see him in more movies?

If you are a fan of the Coen brothers, Hail Caesar is distinctly the work of the Coen Brothers in terms of tone and humor. But compared to their other film it’s definitely a light movie, missing a dark edge and violence.

Avengers: Age of Ultron – Movie Review

It is never an easy task to top a great movie. Avengers: Age of Ultron would possibly be a great movie if it were a sequel to the original. You’re going to have a great time, but you’ll always have the first movie in the back of your mind to remind you it’s a sequel.

Release Date: May 1, 2015
Rated PG-13
Writer/Director: Joss Whedon
Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Paul Bettany, James Spader.

Avengers Age of Ultron 01

There is a lot going on in Avengers: Age of Ultron. If you follow Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., you know that the final remnant of Hydra has Loki’s Sceptre, been experimenting on power people (i.e. Inhumans) and building some kind of an army. The movie opens as the Avengers assemble to rid once and for all Hydra and regain the scepter.

After the battle, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) allows Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) to study the scepter. Stark discovers the scepter contains a form of high-level alien artificial intelligence. Stark and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) decide to see if they can leverage this new technology and create an army of robot “bouncers” that will protect the earth from alien invaders.

Unbeknownst to Tony, he accidently succeeds in this dream and creates Ultron (James Spader). Long story short, Ultron believes man is the earth’s greatest enemy and that the Avengers have to be destroyed first. In order to ensure success, Ultron convinces the two damaged power people, Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), to slow the Avengers down.

Avengers Age of Ultron 05That’s the big story, but it wouldn’t be a Joss Whedon movie if it didn’t have more b-story. Banner and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) have a budding romance brewing. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) has a bigger role in Age of Ultron, and we learn a little about his real life. Captain America (Chris Evans) is ready to accept the cards life has dealt him. The Vision (Paul Bettany) is born into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Joss Whedon manages to recreate the team dynamic from the first movie. He again succeeds the balancing the stories of the large cast. He’s also a master of telling a giant earth-threatening story and bring a great deal of humor to the cast. No one stages big fights than Joss Whedon. Whedon lso addressed the issues of collateral damage when a battle of titans go at it in a heavily populated city. Take that Man of Steel.

Clearly, the best part of Avengers: Age of Ultron is the villain, Ultron (James Spader). The tone of Spader’s voice is ominous, intelligent, theatrical and menacing. I doubt he’ll get an Oscar nomination for this performance, but I’m sure people will bring it up.

Avengers: Age of Ultron is a great action adventure and in its greatness still falls short of the nostalgia of the first movie.