“Lincoln” is Steven Spielberg at his best.
It’s a big film with a big cast and it makes no apologies for it.
The film recounts President Lincoln’s efforts to pass the Thirteenth Amendment, which would formally abolish slavery in the US. Fearing that the courts will not recognize his Emancipation Proclamation once the Civil War has ended, Lincoln is eager to pass the amendment since the war is quickly drawing to a close.
While the film’s name suggests a focus on this legendary president, ”Lincoln” also shows the political landscape during our nation’s darkest time. It’s amazing how little has changed in over 150 years. Read the rest of this entry
In a universe full of sequels and remakes it’s easy to lose faith in the presence of intelligent life out there among the mess of blockbusters thrown at the masses on a regular basis. In the case of “Men in Black III” its third movie status was working against it as well. The trilogy curse is nothing to scoff at and this third film embraces its history.
This time around (still under the direction of Barry Sonnenfeld) Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) are back and keeping the universe in line. Aliens are still live among us and someone has to make sure we don’t know about it.
Unbeknownst to them an old foe of K’s, the awesomely named Boris the Animal (the almost unrecognizable Jemaine Clement), has escaped his lunar prison and set off to kill K. Sounds simple and sinister enough. Of course it isn’t, Boris doesn’t just want to kill K, he wants to kill him before he has the chance to shoot his arm off and imprison him. He succeeds and K vanishes from his time stream. The end.
Just kidding. This is where it gets time-travel complicated. The only trace of Agent K’s existence (beyond his recent/not so recent death) lies with Agent J, who miraculously remembers his old partner. With the help of Agent O (Emma Thompson) he travels back in time to correct the past and save his partner.
The past happens to be 1969, just days before the first moon walk, and the recently revised death of Agent K. Despite warnings to avoid the young Agent K (Josh Brolin) at all costs. Agent J quickly finds himself in the custody of his future partner. Once J reveals most of the truth to K (another no no), they’re off again (or for the first time) to save the universe and K.
There’s just one more piece that makes this puzzle of time and space work. It’s with the help of Griffin (Michael Stuhlbarg), a being with the ability to see all possible futures, that “Men in Black III” manages to be a rather sweet story about the impact of one person and the influence the smallest of choices can have. It’s epic, it’s funny, and although not as flashy (aside from the occasional neuralizer) as it’s predecessors (to its credit) it’s a welcome and heartwarming addition to the franchise.
This movie works because they know their strengths and use them. Few can deny who the foundation of this franchise is. No offense to Mr. Smith, he is a valuable part of the equation; however, the prospect of a Men in Black universe without Tommy Lee Jones, the essential premise of this film, is a bleak one indeed.
Of course, Josh Brolin as the younger Agent K only needs about five seconds of screen time to prove that he is up to the challenge. In a frighteningly accurate portrayal of 29 year old K (who’s clearly seen several rough decades) Mr. Brolin steals the show, until Tommy Lee Jones shows up again of course. It’s not a caricature, it’s not an impersonation, it’s an unbelievably brilliant performance found in an unlikely place. I wouldn’t be even remotely shocked if the next Men in Black film turned out to be a prequel. He’s that good.
“Men in Black III” has history, two movies of it, yet it manages to stand on its own just fine. Fans of the franchise will like this film. Those who haven’t seen any of the Men in Black trilogy, give it a try. It might surprise you. It’s an intergalactic story with heart and humor and history. What’s not to like?
Steve Rogers, a small, sickly but outrageously courageous kid, is a patriotic dream, risking everything to serve his country.
What red,white, and blue-blooded American doesn’t love this story? It’s a story of patriotism, an underdog, mutant Nazi’s, and drug trials (courtesy of Tony Stark’s father).
The transformation of course is the stuff of gamma ray exposed super mutant dreams… seriously, the Hulk must really hate this guy.
Of course, although historically (in the comic book universe sense of the word) Captain America was first, be it was only last summer that Chris Evans exchanged the flaming unitard of the Human Torch for the star-spangled unitard of Captain America thus violating the unspoken rule of comic book acting: YOU CANNOT PLAY TWO SUPERHEROES WHO EXIST IN THE SAME COMIC BOOK UNIVERSE!!!
That’s right Marvel gods, you have been called out. Johnny Storm and Steve Rogers can now never meet…until someone launches another franchise, of course.
But we the forgiving American audience that we are, will let this one slide. Maybe it’s our patriotism, our understanding nature, the fact that most audience members didn’t even notice, or perhaps it’s because “Captain America: The First Avenger” was awesome.
Just don’t do it again Marvel.
There’s no mistaking from the first moment what “Captain America: The First Avenger” really is:
The final piece.
As an added bonus this last piece in “The Avengers” puzzle is also a decent film, and an excellent example of a comic book movie done right. Director Joe Johnston’s film takes the human and the supernatural elements, mixes them together and doesn’t leave us scratching our heads.
After volunteering multiple times, and being deemed unfit for military service, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) catches a break when Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) picks him for top-secret research project that turns him into Captain America. It’s not long before Rogers meets up with the villain, Johann Schmidt/ Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), a failed experiment of Dr. Erskine’s and, of course, a Nazi. And from there, well, you can probably guess how it goes.
One surprising thing about this film is what it’s missing—America.
Okay, maybe “missing” isn’t the right word.
Despite its name and title character, Captain America does not spend over two hours jamming American pride down your throat. Now don’t get too nervous all you patriots out there. What many would consider to be the American ideals (although I like to think they’re universal) are still there. There’s plenty of courage, selflessness, pride and strength.
But there’s also humility, quiet service and most importantly, no cheesy “this one’s for America” lines. In fact, the only American “patriotism” shown in the film is cartoon-like, shallow and superficial.
As is the case with any successful film, a lot of the credit goes to the acting. Captain America owes a lot to its supporting cast with Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark (future father of Tony Stark), Sebastian Stan as Bucky (Rogers’ best friend), Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter (the love interest), are some of the lesser known names (if you don’t know them, you should). Plus, as an added bonus, there’s Stanley Tucci as Dr. Erskine and Tommy Lee Jones as Colonel Chester Philips. Jones’ dry humor and flawless delivery save the film more than once from getting too sappy or serious.
With this kind of back up, it’s a good thing that Chris Evans’ does not disappoint. His star-spangled suit is the flashiest thing about Evans’ performance as Steve Rogers/Captain America, and that’s a good thing. He may transform into a superhuman, but he keeps his performance real, subtle and genuine.
Of course, what is any superhero without a descent arch nemesis? Hugo Weaving as Johann Schmidt/Red Skull does what he does best, plays the villain we love to hate.
It’s a beautiful movie to watch with a balanced blend of video game like action sequences, acting and compelling story telling.
If you are not already ticking off the days till “The Avengers” release, prepare to start counting.
Check out other Crusade movie reviews: The Crusade on Cinema
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