Tag Archives: Avengers

Captain America: The Fringe Libertarian Solider

captain america

That is the depressed look of someone who actually read the script.

 

So I waited a couple of days to see if my distaste for Captain America: The Winter Soldier would pass…it didn’t. In fact the more and more I think about it the angrier I get.

 

So the good news first. It’s better than the first Captain America. But that’s not a high bar to meet as the first one was so bad that watching just about anything else would have been better.

 

But even objectively if you’re looking for mindless entertainment it’s fun. Like Iron Man 3 and Thor 2 this movie did a good job of giving you an entertaining wild ride in a post Avengers world. The problem is that this movie seems to have addressed my complaint that while The Avengers seemed to start delivering into deeper territory, the Iron Man and Thor sequels went back to mindless entertainment (even more so than their predecessors). The problem is that while this film attempted to actually be deeper and actually have a message, it was the wrong message.

 

Okay past this point there are spoilers…if you’re just looking for fun and never look at any deeper level, go see the movie, but after this sentence I reveal all the secrets.

 

First off, for a movie called The Winter Soldier, the Winter Soldier is in remarkably few scenes. Further he’s little more than the hired muscle. It would be like renaming Goldfinger, James Bond: Odd Job…or advertising a whole movie on a villain who really isn’t even there (oh wait, they already did that with the Mandarin in Iron Man 3…I’m beginning to worry that at this rate Ultron may never actually be appearing in Avengers 2: The Age of Ultron). Who names a movie after the hired muscle who barely appears? And while there is supposedly the beginning of a major personal issue for Captain America…this whole mess depends on me caring about the relationship between Steve and Buckey in the first film…which I didn’t. And that one lame scene that was put in to tell me that Steve and Buckey were close didn’t do much either.

 

And this is now the third different character I’ve seen Scarlet Johnasson play in a Marvel film. I know they’re all supposed to be the same character but the personality between Iron Man 2, Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier are so wildly different I’m having a hard time really buying it. It’s like they think it doesn’t matter that we haven’t put any real character development into her, she’s pretty, so comic book nerds won’t care…oh, wait, they might be onto something there. Also am I the only one just not impressed by Scarlet Johansson…she’s not a bad actress…but she’s no where near as good as all the roles she gets.

 

 

But most of all this is Captain America where Captain America is played not by a patriot…or even the Human Torch…but by Edward Snowden. No really. So apparently S.H.I.E.L.D. has been taken over by Hydra (you remember the uberNazi’s from the first movie). Now I might be willing to forgive a lot about what this plot point implies about our actual intelligence and military services namely because this is a plot point they took from the comics…but they don’t let it just rest there. No. No. They go for completely making a political statement by saying that the only way to take down Hydra is to, like Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, steal all the S.H.I.E.L.D./Hydra files and put them on the internet. Ignoring how this actually hasn’t done much of anything to actually hurt any government agency, this makes a pretty bold statement that fascist supporting traitors deserving of a quick trial and quicker execution like Snowden are the real heroes. No. No. I will not put up with this bullshit. There was no need for the plot to go the Wikileaks/Snowden route so the only excuse for this plot point is they wanted to make Snowden a hero  Further the implication of this film that organizations like the NSA or any branch of the US military/intelligence community are deserving of comparisons to people too extreme for Nazi’s is just insulting. To the writers and directors of this film, a heartfelt !@#$ you. Yes, let’s attack the one branch of the federal government that doesn’t seem to be cooperating with Obama’s numerous attempts to harass his political allies. Now if you wanted to have a movie where the IRS led by a Lois Learner type character was infiltrated by the Nazi’s, I’d have no problem with that since the morals and sadistic tendencies of your average of IRS agent are already on par. Yes, in real life there needs to be more oversight and more controls…but you can’t point to a single piece of information where the information these groups have been collecting has actually been used against the innocent (beyond idiots using the data for personal reasons)…that’s quite a compliment to the self-control given the power these groups have with this information. But no, let’s compare the most controlled people in the government to Nazi’s. Thanks Marvel.

Yeah some idiots like to portray this only as an issue dealing with our rights to privacy, but while those concerns do need to be addressed, only a fool would suggest completely destroying the very needed intelligence gathering system we do need would end up well in the long run.

And then the directors said they wanted to say the whole movie was a commentary on drones. Oh shut up. Three flying death machines with bullet ranges well beyond the limits of the dumbest science-fiction is not comparable to drones. The problem with drones is not that they exist or that they kill the innocent…the problem with drones is that they’re being used by a inept arrogant son of bitch who uses what was designed as a precision instrument and waves it around like a Neanderthal with a club. Drones could be used efficiently with almost no collateral damage against targets that could not be reached any other way…but they’re not being used that way because of the jackass who is ordering the attacks. And the libertarians who loathe drones so much should remember that drones are tools. Drones don’t kill people, the politicians who use them do. And any libertarian should clearly remember that if they continue their hatred of drones they will have to hate all tools that could kill people if they wish to maintain any claim to intellectual consistency. But asking any liberal or libertarian to understand the difference between the tool and the person using the tool seems to be too much these days.

captain black widow

Black Widow: How can we make this movie worse? Captain America: We have Albert Brooks back…

 

Also I’m really happy that Captain America’s response to finding out the greatest threat to liberty is back, is to decide ‘I’m going to destroy the only agency that might have a chance at stopping them.’ Good call, Cap.

Some other observations. In Iron Man 2 Tony was quite clear that he privatized world peace and the world was much more stable now with Iron Man on the case (and certainly far more safe when in Iron Man 3 the biggest worry was what translated to minor bombing…no really think about it, it is what possibly made Mandarin even on par with even the current actions of the Taliban).   Yet somehow with all this, Hydra claims to have consistently made the world less stable and more chaotic. Which is it?

Or maybe when Hydra makes it clear they were responsible for the death of Howard Stark…and you only have two superheroes to take out three flying supercarriers…no one thought to give Tony a call…maybe for some closure…I mean just pragmatics here…this is not the kind of situation you want to leave to chance…of course when you have control of the first two ships you could have just blown the third out of the sky…but that would have meant we didn’t need to waste the last 20 minutes in a pointless battle between Captain America and the seldom seen Winter Soldier.

 

And a really minor point…there seemed to be a lot of knocking Nazis unconscious. But a lot of hesitation about shooting them. Umm….these are Nazis.   I feel more for all the dead Chitari than I do for Nazi…why did everyone in S.H.I.E.L.D. (beside Maria Hill) seem to have such issues with giving them a one way ticket to Hell….I just didn’t get that point.

 

But more than anything it’s the suggestion that the men and women in our intelligence agencies are Nazi while traitors like Snowden are heroes. This is a revolting idea and ensures that I will never watch this film or anything from these writers or directors again.

 

If you like mindless entertainment, you’ll enjoy the film (in this sense I’ll give the film a B-).   If you look for something deeper and have a sense of morals you’ll be disgusted (in this sense I’ll give it an F.)

 

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The best and worst movies of 2012

So I have had time to reflect on the few gems among the tripe from this year and once again prepared to offer my Top 10 List of movies of 2012. And like previous years,  I can’t find 10.

I was hoping for a full list this year. But The Hobbit ran too long, focused too much on dwarves eating, paid more attention to effects than character, and then didn’t have an ending. I wanted a dragon, goddamnit, not as a tease but as a character! The Odd Life of Timothy Green was cute, would make a good date movie, but I can’t justify it on a top list. Red Dawn was great in terms of the patriotism and mood, but I’ll admit the production quality, while certainly higher than the first, is still a bit shaky. Brave, while well done, is not as good as some of its other Pixar counterparts. And I know I may be the only one, but I find John Carter endlessly entertaining.

Now just as a quick reminder I have 4 criteria for great art.
Remember I have 4 basic criteria for great art.
1. It must be enjoyable (I have some kind of positive emotional reaction)…so that throws out most of the critic’s picks out.

2. It must understand human nature
3. It must use the tools of the medium well
4. It must have a meaningful and correct theme.

So here we go. The top 7 films of 2012. (For the movies that I’ve done full reviews of, I have them linked in the titles.)

#7. Cabin in the Woods

“Cleanse them. Cleanse the world of their ignorance and sin. Bathe them in the crimson of – Am I on speakerphone?”

Usually you wouldn’t see a horror movie on any top list because it’s a silly genre. But Cabin in the Woods is a merciless critique of the horror genre and all its stupid tropes. And it is done with wit, with skill and with a wonderful mocking of the horror genre.
This is obviously a little weak at meeting my 4 criteria, but it’s lambasting a genre that never lives up to them, so I think the weakness comes from the source not the material itself.

The Avengers6. The Avengers

“With everything that’s happening, the things that are about to come to light, people might just need a little old fashioned.”

We all love this film. We all waited for the several years for it to come out. We doubted if it would be any good after we saw how bad Captain America was. But Whedon pulled it out and gave a film that was not only entreating but developed the characters in ways we had not seen in the previous films.

Right, wrong, or indifferent, comic book characters have replaced the myths and legends that pervious societies used to convey ideals of heroism and virtue, and for all the flaws of the individual Avengers, we see something to strive for in terms of human nature within them.

M Bond5. Skyfall

M: Not very comfortable, is it?
Bond: You gonna complain all the way?
M: Go on! Eject me! See if I care!

I would say this is both the best Craig Bond film yet, and the most mature Bond film of all time (I still say that GoldenEye is the best Bond, but that is certainly up for debate). The movie offers us a deeply moving closure to the Bond/M relationship, a chance for Bond to grow as a person, and of course all the final pieces of the Bond mythology (Moneypenny, Q, Martini’s shaken not stirred, not to mention the car from Goldfinger). And at last we had a Bond villain that was both frightening and over the top in the way only a Bond villain can be.

Its only flaw is that it didn’t continue with the plot that the last two films with the Quantum (SPECTRE?) organization. Just one line from Bardem of “I got information from your friends at Quantum, they really hate you Mr. Bond” or something like those lines, it would have kept the plot line alive without ruining the pacing of the film. I can only hope we come back to this plot in the next film.

Now some have complained about the pacing of this film, but I think it’s because they made this film a five act story instead of the three acts we have become so used to. It’s a more complex story requiring a more complex structure.

But this movie quotes my favorite part of my favorite poem. How can I not love that:

Though much is taken, much abides, and though we are not now that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are… One equal temper of heroic hearts, made weak by time and fate, but strong in will to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

4. Trouble with the Curve

Trouble with the Curve
“Now get out of here before I have a heart attack trying to kill you.”

Not Eastwood’s best performance of the year (that would involve a chair), but it is still a great movie. It serves as a great counterpart to last year’s best film Moneyball. Moneyball showed up that in life we must adapt or die. Trouble with the Curve shows that any new innovation shouldn’t throw out all the old tried and true methods—that life is more than just numbers. That there needs to be balance. And it does this with three very unbalanced characters who together grow and learn from each other.

Okay those are the also rans who are on the list because a Top 3 would be rather sad…now let’s get to the three I actually had a hard time ordering.

3. ArgoArgo

“Bad news, bad news. Even when it’s good news, it’s bad news. John Wayne in the ground 6 months and this is what is left of America.”

This is the movie that the best director Academy Award should have gone to (stupid Academy). Affleck manages to have this movie go from a good thriller to a hilarious dark comedy and back to great thriller seamlessly. The skill required to take the tone of movie in radically different directions without making it jarring or seem forced is something most directors are smart enough to not even try. Affleck does it without flaw.
Maybe it’s that Hollywood hates Ben Affleck. Yes he’s made some very questionable acting choices (he’s not a terrible actor but he does pick terrible scripts on occasion). But between Gone Baby, Gone, The Town, and now Argo Affleck has cemented in my mind as one of the great actors of this generation. While I disagree with him on most politics I am more pleased that he is not running for the Senate because this means there will still be more great movies to come.
Anyway Argo is a great film. It shows the creativity of our people in the intelligence services. It shows the unscrupulous and inept people whom an anti-Semite like Carter surrounded himself with (oh, let’s leave them all hanging because of the optics on a mission). Affleck manages to gives us excellent characterization on a large cast for a movie this short. The only reason I would say that this is not the best film is that the theme of this film is not as momentous as the next two films.

2. The Dark Knight Risesdark-knight-rises-cast-1920x1080

“A hero can be anyone. Even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat around a little boy’s shoulder to let him know that the world hadn’t ended.”

Christopher Nolan outdid himself again with this film. In this retelling of A Tale of Two Cities we have a skillful critique of the philosophy that says all wealth is evil and an equally damning critique of those who would use this lie to gain power over. And to top it off they give us a philosophical discussion of the nature of fear, heroism and living the good life. I only give Affleck my call for best director by mere fractions due to his ability to switch tones in the film so well, but Nolan is also a truly great director who took a story that was little more than fluff and action and gave us three films of depth and soul. He made us care about Bruce Wayne the person, not just the costume, and he showed us what a hero is and can be.
This film should win best screenplay, but again I fear it won’t.

1. Les Miserables

“To love another person is to see the face of God.”

Les Miserables Posters
This film does stand a good chance of winning the best picture award it so richly deserves. While I have previously commented on some flaws in the directing and editing this movie still soars above the rest. It gives us salvation and redemption, tragedy and comedy, passion and vengeance. And it does it in possibly the hardest form to work in, the musical. It is without question the best film of 2012.

So what was the worst film of 2012? Promised Land for bad politics? Lincoln for finally proving Spielberg has only hype left and no talent? Life of Pi for taking a book with an infantile understanding of religion and spirituality (I liked the points it made, but it made them so poorly) and let it be directed by one of film’s worst directors? Taken 2 for the plot line of, dad didn’t want daughter to go to Paris because it’s unsafe, but hey, let’s have a family get together in Istanbul, because that’s gotta be safe? Atlas Shrugged II for being even more poorly made than the first even though it had more money (oh please let them recast everyone again for the third)? Cloud Atlas for being a pretentious and tedious attempt to redo The Fountain? Zero Dark Thirty for breaking more federal intelligence laws than any other film in history? Twilight for, well, being Twilight? The Lorax for being useless bullshit? Safe House and Flight for making me realize the glory days of Denzel are over, and I have no hope of them coming back.

No this dishonor of worst film of 2012 goes to Prometheus. Prometheus? Yes, Prometheus. This may come as a bit of a shock. After all, while not the best prequel ever, it wasn’t that bad. It was a great thriller, kept me on the edge of the seat nearly the entire time. It had some pretty good character development. It was well done. So why is it the worst film of the year? Well first I thought the movie was flawed because it asked massive questions about the nature of life, the universe and everything…but it failed to provide even a hint of answer. Which made it unbelievably dissatisfying. But that was only why it wasn’t going on the top of the list. Little did I know when I first saw it that there were answers in the original script. I’m not going to go into how bizarre these answers are, (I only have two words and a link, follow at your own risk: Space Jesus ) but let me just say that if that was the original intent of Ridley Scott then this is by far the dumbest movie I have ever heard of. Ridley Scott has made some of the best films ever created… this is not one of them.

Which movies am I looking forward to?
A Good Day To Die Hard (Mindless fun), 42 (could be pointlessly preachy, I hope not), Oblivion (I’m still unsure what this is about), Iron Man 3 (mindless fun), Thor 2 (mindless fun), Much Ado About Nothing (Whedon does Shakespeare, need I say more), Man of Steel (Nolan please give me a fourth great superhero movie), Red 2 (mindless fun), Ender’s Game (this all depends on the visuals for the game).

As you can see not exactly a list composed primarily of deep films. So it will be a short list again next year in all likelihood.

What do I have no intention of seeing?
Star Trek and Hangover III

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Most Patriotic Films #27: Iron Man 2

“I’m not saying I’m responsible for this country’s longest run of uninterrupted peace in 35 years! I’m not saying that from the ashes of captivity, never has a Phoenix metaphor been more personified! I’m not saying Uncle Sam can kick back on a lawn chair, sipping on an iced tea, because I haven’t come across anyone man enough to go toe to toe with me on my best day! It’s not about me. It’s not about you, either. It’s about legacy, the legacy left behind for future generations. It’s not about us! “

…Humble Tony, real humble.

Let me first say that it’s disgraceful that the most patriotic film in the lead up to The Avengers is not Captain America.  That piece of crap movie was a disgrace to the idea of patriotism…and made worse when we saw under Whedon that it wasn’t because of it being miscast.

That said, why is Iron Man 2 such a great movie?

Like with Stripes and the next couple of movies it’s mostly because of a single scene.  In this case Tony Stark testifying before a Senate subcommittee chaired by the corrupt and incompetent Senator Stern (Gary Shandling). Tony is his usual lovable self and Stern is a corrupt, ignorant, arrogant, slimy, degenerate, piece of shit…in other words he’s a Senator of the United States Senate.  (Unlike Whedon, director Jon Favereau did not have the guts to put an R or D after Stern’s name in the supposed C-SPAN feed, but I can think of only one party that acts this stupidly at all times).

As I can’t seem to find a video clip of it on youtube*, I will simply pull two parts of the whole scene:

Senator Stern: My priority is to get the Iron Man weapon turned over to the people of the United States of America.

Tony Stark: Well, you can forget it. I am Iron Man. The suit and I are one. To turn over the Iron Man suit would be to turn over myself, which is tantamount to indentured servitude or prostitution, depending on what state you’re in. You can’t have it.

Senator Stern: Look, I’m no expert…

Tony Stark: In prostitution? Of course not, you’re a senator. Come on.

The typical worthless loser who gets himself elected to the Senate…maybe I’m just bitter but I’m from Arizona where we have the most worthless RINO on Earth (McCain) in the Senate.

Senator Stern: I think we’re done with the point that he’s making. I don’t think there’s any reason…

Tony Stark: The point is you’re welcome, I guess.

Senator Stern: For what?

Tony Stark: Because I’m your nuclear deterrent. It’s working. We’re safe. America is secure. You want my property? You can’t have it. But I did you a big favor.  I’ve successfully privatized world peace. What more do you want? For now! I tried to play ball with these ass-clowns.

Senator Stern: [Bleep] … you, Mr. Stark.  [Bleep] … you, buddy.

Why is this scene so patriotic?  Because it shows two great things about America.

The first is our desire and love of people who don’t rely on the government.  Tony sets down very clearly that his property is his property and in America property is a part of yourself (more so in Tony’s case).   And while a bit exaggerated by the nature of a comic book, unlike the whiners in Greece…and Spain…and London…and France (can I just say that France lowering the retirement age thus hastening their demise was stupid, doing it on D-day was a slap in the face…why exactly did we rescue your Nazi collaborating asses if all you are going to do is destroy yourselves?)…a good portion of Europe in general really, we Americans, when at our best, do not rely on the government to provide us with things. At our best we just do it ourselves.  Granted, Iron Man providing private international security is a bit extreme, but you get the point.

The second is how little respect we have for the “ass-clowns” that pass as our leaders.  Go up to Hu Jintao and call him the Chinese equivalent of an “ass-clown.”  Go up to Ayatollah and insinuate that he frequents prostitutes or possibly his Ahmadinejad (an obvious closet case).  In either case you’ll wind up dead within hours.  Hell, go up to Queen Elizabeth and viciously insult her on national TV and I guarantee you’ll be ostracized within minutes.  But here I can say that in a just world Jimmy Carter should be tried for treason and crimes against humanity, convicted, and hanging from a gallows.  I can insult any public figure without fear of repercussion and I can even accuse them of crimes (which they’re often actually guilty of) and not be thrown in prison.  Why?  Because more than any other country we understand that our leaders are public servants, and in the way the term was conceived, servants are at the bottom of the hierarchy, not the top.  They work for us, and it is not only our right, but our responsibility to call them out on all their flaws.

And it’s all there in that one little scene.

*I would like to congratulate Paramount on making sure that I could not find a single clip of Tony Stark’s Congressional Testimony.  Paramount I applaud your copyright department in their completeness in keeping a tight lid on all things that are theirs.  Thanks guys.  I was going to give you some free advertising, get people to go back see a movie they may have forgotten how much they enjoyed…you just made my job a lot harder.

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