If you’re looking for a really good Avengers sequel, Captain America: Civil War fits the bill nicely. It’s a dramatic payoff for the past eight years of character development in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and feels like a natural progression for their stories. However, if you were hoping for another really strong, unique Captain America film, well, Civil War falls a bit short in that category. While Cap is definitely at the story’s core, he almost gets lost in his own movie. Almost. Overall, Civil War does a good job of not letting its title character get overshadowed, but there are times where it’s easy to forget this was supposed to be a Captain America movie, and not another Avengers movie; especially when a certain webhead shows up.
The jungle is a dark and scary place. Oh, it didn’t really seem that way back in 1967. Then it was more of a swinging place full of quirky characters and memorable music. Almost fifty years later, however, things in the jungle have gotten a bit edgier and more dangerous; and yet, despite that, it’s still a place of fun adventures and warm friendships. Disney’s update of their own classic take on Rudyard Kipling’s short stories re-captures much of the magic of the animated original while adding the darker tone of the stories it was based on, and that mixture works really well; for the most part.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is the most theological superhero movie I think I’ve seen. It explores topics such as whether the world truly needs a savior, can anyone truly be good in a world so filled with evil, and whether or not an all-powerful God can also be all-good. They are fascinating themes explored through the lens of Superman’s struggle to do what’s right in a world that’s struggling to trust him, and through Batman’s struggle with cynicism and distrust in a world where he’s seen so much pain and destruction that’s he’s been powerless to prevent. Eventually these two heroes find themselves confronting each other (and not necessarily for the reasons you might think), and then the movie quickly dives into an almost entirely different plot, (too) quickly resolving character arcs and plot developments in order to move on with the world-building that both Warner Bros. and DC hope will lead to a rival cinematic universe with Marvel’s. It’s hard to say that any movie approaching three hours moves too quickly, but Batman v Superman (BvS) teeters on the side of being overstuffed, which leaves much of its more interesting philosophical musings and character development feeling frustratingly rushed while it pushed forward with its Justice League-building mandate.
Disney has always done an excellent job of marketing; they are truly one of the best at it. Still, I’m still in awe at the marketing coup they’ve pulled with their most recent movie, Zootopia. Coming right on the tail (pun intended) of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, Disney is releasing a film that, not so subtlety, addresses issues of prejudice; albeit with talking animals. The timing for the release really couldn’t be more apropos (how they pulled that off, considering that animated movies take a couple years or more to complete, still baffles me), but politics aside, Zootopia is also a fun and entertaining movie for all ages.
Perhaps the biggest testament to the quality of Olympus Has Fallen is the fact that it got a sequel, while the bigger, more star powered White House Down did not. Personally, I think what set the two apart was Olympus hailed back to an era where over-the-top action movies were taken seriously, where as White House Down tried to be a mis-matched buddy version of a Die Hard movie. Olympus was tightly paced, had stellar action sequences that were gritty and brutal but also gleefully over-the-top, and while for the most part a serious film, it knew exactly when to stop for a well-timed, tough-guy action movie one-liner. London Has Fallen follow that formula for success, but as is often the problem with action sequels, it’s also compelled to go bigger, which causes the delicate balance that the first movie achieved to teeter precariously.
Where’s the body? Everyone saw him die. The body was put in a tomb; a tomb that was sealed, no less. The problem is now that tomb is empty, and there are some who say he’s risen from the dead. The facts are clear; the man was dead, he was buried in the tomb, and now the tomb is empty. So what is the real answer? Why is the tomb empty? Was it some elaborate plot to help perpetuate a movement? Was it some sort of grand hoax? Or could have the man in that tomb really walked out; alive? That’s the challenge facing one Roman Tribune Clavius as he’s tasked by Pilate to get to the bottom of one of the most spectacular, and most debated, events in history.
The best way to sum up the experience of watching Deadpool is to quote a line from The Dark Knight. (Which I know is mixing Marvel and DC, but isn’t that exactly the kind of anarchistic movie that Deadpool would like?) This is the Deadpool movie fans deserve, but not necessarily the Deadpool movie the rest of us need. It’s as wacky, violent, and over-the-top as any fan could want from a Deadpool movie. It’s also gratuitous, and unfortunately, quite salacious as well. Now, I’ve heard the argument that’s also what one would expect from a “properly” made Deadpool film, and while the point is taken, that doesn’t make it necessary, or even proper, for that matter. Truthfully, I did enjoy Deadpool for the most part (it’s funny and has some epic action sequences), even though ultimately I felt wrong for doing so.
13 Hours tells the story of the Benghazi attack in which a US Ambassador was killed and US forces were called to defend a secret compound in Libya. Most viewers have probably seen or at least heard what a political screw up the Benghazi situation was in 2012. Thankfully, this movie avoids the political maelstrom and instead focuses on the six heroes who defended American citizens from overwhelming opposition. That’s the first bit of good news, the second is the movie is not overly “Bayified”. One can imagine countless slow motion scenes of explosions, over the top action sequences with impossible stunts, and maybe even some hyper weapons thrown in to boot. Thankfully, the movie avoids these over dramatizations and delivers a solid story of the soldiers who go above and beyond the call of duty.
I love the NFL. I‘ve been watching the Denver Broncos for pretty much all my life. However, after watching Concussion, I’m now rethinking my devotion to the NFL. Now don’t hear me wrong; I’ll still watch my Broncos, I’ll still watch football, but I’m rethinking just how much support and devotion I’ll show to the business of the NFL. Concussion is one of those rare movies that is not only powerful and emotional as a drama, but is one that may also have you rethinking how you approach some things in the real world. Anchored by a stupendous performance from Will Smith, Concussion entertains as much as it informs and challenges what we think we know about the NFL, and even some of the ideals of this nation we know as America.
“Based on a true story” shows up in movies and TV so often these days that it’s no longer the hook for watching a particular story that it used to be. Seems like anything not involving superheroes is “based on a true story” these days. However, that’s not a recent story-telling convention. In fact, a couple hundred years ago a young novelist by the name of Herman Melville used a similar approach in penning is classic, Moby Dick. What’s that? You didn’t know that Moby Dick was also “based on a true story”? Well it was, and as is sometimes the case with such tales, the truth may actually be more fascinating than the fiction. In the Heart of the Sea doesn’t quite capture that fact as well as it could, but it is a fascinating epic in its own right as it reveals the story behind the story of Moby Dick.