Tag Archives: Chris Evans

Spider-Man: Homecoming

spidey11.pngSpider-Man: Homecoming may not be the best movie in the franchise (since my favourite Spidey villain is Doc Ock, I have a soft spot for Spider-Man 2) and may not even be the best superhero movie of the summer (Wonder Woman is undeniably great).  But the fact that those were the conversations the assholes were having after we saw Spider-Man: Homecoming last night shows that Homecoming is a great movie in its own right.

Most importantly, Homecoming GETS Spider-Man.  This is a movie that is fan service from start to finish.  The Marvel Cinematic Universe features prominently in the story as the events in the Avengers and Civil War are built on (and Iron Man plays a pretty big role).  There are also a ton of familiar names for fans to find, from Ned Leeds to Flash Thompson to Mac Gargan, and one or two more that I’ll let you discover for yourself.

Even better, the story calls back to several classic comic moments, including this one from Amazing Spider-Man #33 (1966), which is a defining moment for Spidey:

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I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that Spider-Man finds a way to succeed even when it seems there’s no chance, and the final battle in Homecoming is a great display of what I love about Spidey, from start to finish.  The conclusion of that battle especially reminded me of the first Spidey comic I ever read, and really, every Spidey comic since.  Spider-Man’s desire to do the right thing is what makes him my favourite and I was extremely happy to see that made a focus of the film (“with great power comes great responsibility” is never actually said, but it’s the movie’s underlying theme and that’s a far better approach than giving us another depiction of Uncle Ben’s death).

Fittingly for Spider-Man, the hero who can’t stop saying corny one-liners as he fights the bad guys, this may also be the funniest superhero movie ever made.  It captures the light-hearted, good-natured awkwardness of Peter Parker and the awkwardness of high school in general.  There are a lot of laughs from start to finish, and like Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy before it, Homecoming always finds a way to entertain the audience in between the action (often at our hero’s expense, as it should be with Spidey).

(SPOILER: sometimes the humour even comes at the audience’s expense, as you will find out if you stick around to the very end.)

Spider-Man: Homecoming met my high expectations, and then some.  This is how you make a great superhero movie, by staying true to the character, and when that character is your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, you’re in for a treat.

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Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Edgar Wright, I think I love you.

And Edgar Wright loves movies. It’s clear from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World that Wright pours love into his film by loading it with details that’ll take you several watches to truly absorb.

Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is a young dude in a band. He’s dating a high school student 9d0uzolbut is ready to drop her the moment he meets his dream girl, Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). The catch? Catches? Well, his ex-girlfriend is in town, giving him a serious drought of self-confidence, and Romona actually has 7 exes, er, 7 evil exes, whom Scott must fight in order to “win” her favour. The movie kind of asks: what would happen if a random guy suddenly had the ability to fight as if he were in a video game? And you know what? The results are pretty fantastic.

Edgar Wright soaks this movie in video game references. He got permission to use the 500fulltheme song from The Legend of Zelda by writing a flowery letter to Nintendo, calling it “the nursery rhyme of this generation.” The more you know video games, the more you’ll appreciate this, but even I can concede its greatness.

Moreover, Wright has a knack for casting that you can’t help but admire. He picked a whole bunch of young kids who would launch into stardom. Brie Larson went on to win an Oscar just a few years later, and Anna Kendrick a nomination.

Of course, my favourite part of the movie is how carefully Wright, an Englishman, preserves the Toronto locale. Toronto is a cheap place to make movies so it often stands in for other places, notably New York City. For once, Toronto gets to be Toronto, giphyunapologetically Toronto, with the TTC, Honest Ed’s, Casa Loma, and even dirty, dirty Pizza Pizza. This movie feels like home. In a meta moment, a fake New York City backdrop is literally ripped open to reveal the glorious Toronto skyline. When Scott Pilgrim earns points, the coins that rain down upon him are loonies and twonies, Canadian style.

And Wright, who is an excellent curator of music, finds some excellent Canadian bands to do the heavy lifting for him. Broken Social Scene wrote two of the 4-second songs played by Crash and the Boys (“We hate you, please die” and “Im so sad, so very, very sad”). Metric wrote the song performed by The Clash at Demonhead. And Chris Murphy vocalist and bassist for Sloan, served as the music performance supervisor, which I think means he made sure the actors held their guitars the right way and stuff. (Non-Canadian Beck wrote the music for Pilgrim’s band, Sex Bob-Omb).

Scott Pilgrim vs The World is ultra-stylized and brilliant to watch. It’s incredibly fast-paced and feels hyper real. It’s almost unbearably quotable, fresh, and inventive. The script can’t always keep up with the film’s flash and charm but darn if it doesn’t try. I’ve been in love with this movie for 7 years or so, and a recent re-watch confirmed that I’m still crushing hard.

 

What movies do you love to re-watch?

 

Gifted

Apart from dramatic courtroom confessions, dick jokes, and Shia LaBeouf, there’s nothing more obnoxious onscreen than smart kids.

The smart kid in Gifted- Marc Webb’s first non-Spiderman film since 2009’s 500 Days of Mckenna Grace as “Mary Adler” and Chris Evans as “Frank AdSummer- is a 7 year-old math prodigy named Mary. Mary (Mckenna Grace) has been doing just fine being home schooled by her uncle Frank (a bearded Chris Evans) and hanging out with their neighbour (Octavia Spencer) until Frank decides she needs friends her own age and sends her to public school. It doesn’t take long for her first-grade teacher (Jenny Slate) to discover that she’s a genius and word travels fast to Mary’s estranged but suddenly very interested British grandmother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan).

For a child prodigy in a movie called Gifted, Mary isn’t that bright. And, believe it or not, that’s a good thing. Compared to the smartass, impossibly wise and witty kids in most Hollywood movies, she’s surprisingly and refreshingly childish. She acts like a kid, talks like a kid, and plays like a kid. She’s just crazy good at math. Like Rain Man good at math. But apart from the advanced calculations that she can do in her head, she’s just an ordinary 7 year-old. And, as played by the also very gifted Mckenna Grace, she’s the best thing about this movie and is much more convincing than an uncharacteristically charismaless Evans.

Chris-Evan-GiftedScreenwriter Tom Flynn doesn’t handle complex problems quite as well as Mary does. Because the question of how best to raise any child, never mind such an unusual one, can’t be as easy as his script seems to think. The drama unfolds at a tense custody battle between Frank (who just wants Mary to have a normal childhood) and Evelyn (who wants her to go to some fancy school and dedicate herself to reaching her full potential). There are interesting questions to be had here but Flynn comes up with enough sneaky screenwriting tricks and twists to get out of having to have any of them.

If you can forgive Evans’ bland performance and Flynn’s sentimental approach, there’s a lot to like about Gifted. Actually, I’m quite confident that most people will love it and even be annoyed with me for nitpicking at it. The local audience at Wednesday’s preview screening applauded wildly at at least a half-dozen zingers and speeches. Which is my only real problem with it. It’s an entertaining movie about characters that we care about but it’s more interested in soliciting applause than it is provoking discussion.

Sunshine

50 years into the future, the sun is a dying star, and Earth will die along with it. We send a ship of astronauts to bomb the sun back into shining but the team goes awol somewhere out in the million miles of space. So we send another one, but this IS IT. Mankind’s last hope. We’ve officially mined all of Earth’s resources for this motherload. No pressure!

sunshine02The new team includes Rose Byrne, Chris Evans, and Cillian Murphy. They’re clearly already under stress when we meet them several years into their trip to the sun, but shit’s about to get a whole lot messier. Just as they’re approaching the most dangerous part of the mission, they receive a signal. It’s a ping from the lost ship. It’s been 7 years since anyone’s heard from them…they can’t still be alive, can they?

The crew debates whether they should divert their mission to find out. But this is not a democracy, the captain reminds them. They’re scientists, and he gives the decision to the person most qualified to make it, the ship’s physicist, played by Cillian Murphy. No matter what he decides, he’s fucked. No matter what he decides, his crew will hold him responsible for the lives and the mission he’s risked. Classic lose-lose scenario. Fun!

Okay, fun is the wrong word. Writer Alex Garland and director Danny Boyle are reteamed after Sunshine_spacesuitbring us The Beach and 28 Days Later. Danny Boyle has more recently done Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours, and Steve Jobs. Alex Garland wrote Ex Machina. These boys don’t do fun. They do: harrowing, intense, suspenseful. Sun-psychosis. The closer the ship gets to its goal, the more things fall apart. Fall apart literally and psychologically. And philosophically.

It starts out as an interesting, cerebral sci-fi adventure, on the lower end of the action scale, but not without daring stunts. But in Sunshine, getting closer to the sun is like getting closer to god. And reality unravels a bit like we’ve seen in Interstellar. Sunshine is ambitious. Boyle and Garland are asking us to consider some hot and heavy questions. Big Questions. Boyle manages to put story and character ahead of special effects, making this a very worthy, brainy, thoughtful entry into the sci-fi genre (and likely his last – he found this film to be extremely draining). The film makers actually want to make us understand what it’s like to get so close to our most glorious star. The increasingly fractured and subliminal scenes are almost reminiscent of some of the more hallucinogenic stuff from Boyle’s Trainspotting days, and the glimpses from inside sunshine-murphy-sunthe helmets of the striking gold space suits clutch at your throat. I had some very real autonomic responses to this film and I swear I could feel the heat. Boyle wisely uses actors who can take the heat and radiate some of their own. He even more wisely stays away from the love triangle cliché and sticks to things that feel very real for a set of humans staring into the sun and seeing their own deaths. There’s fear and panic and bravery and resolve.

If this movie was American, it would doubtless be a bunch of American cowboys being sent up with fireworks and catch phrases, but Sunshine includes an appropriately global response, which helps to underline the fact that in space, with human extinction on the line, there is no race or culture. It’s about those decisions to make sacrifices, to act for the greater good, to reach beyond which you think yourself capable. Sunshine stumbles in its final act – things get so weighty it seems to buckle a bit, but this remains a movie that is criminally underrated. Many thanks to my fellow film bloggers who pointed me toward this, and I hope maybe I’ve done the same for some of you.

Before We Go

Captain America made a movie that feels like a cheap knock-off Richard Linklater.

Chris Evans directs himself in a starring role as Nick, a trumpet player busking in Grand Central Station one night when he can’t help but notice Brooke (Alice Eve) in distress when she misses the last train by a fraction of a second. Her purse has been stolen and now she can’t get home to Boston, and her tears tell us it’s imperative that she does.

Structurally similar to Linklater’s Before Sunrise movies, the couple spend one romantic night together roaming the streets of New York City, talking and getting to know one 1297744296232_ORIGINALanother. Like any first date, the movie doesn’t play all its cards right away. It flirts with us a bit, hinting at what’s still unsaid. The unfortunate thing is that this movie never puts out. It teases a lot of things that never actually develop. When our pants are down, nothing’s doing. This movie turns out to be a disappointing date: there’s no heat, no essential spark. It never delivers on its promise. And I was really frustrated with it dropping the ball so often. That’s just lazy.

Evans and Eve are charming, but not charming enough to overcome the sometimes cheesy script and the frankly unlikely scenario. Have you ever been on a first date and wished there was a big red button that you could push to end it? Like, you don’t want to hurt their feelings, they’re not really a bad person, just not the right person. You’re already bored 10 minutes in and you’re dying to abort, but now you’re stuck – and god forbid they order dessert. You want an out.

While real-life dates don’t have big red buttons, Netflix kind of does. It’s called STOP. I could have stopped this movie at any time and I didn’t. I kept willing it to get better. I thought I might warm up to it. That maybe I was just nervous, and it couldn’t possibly be this dull. But it was. Lesson learned. You gave me cinematic blue balls once, Captain America. Shame on you. I will not be going back to his place for “coffee” any time soon.

Captain America: Civil War

captain-america-civil-war-teamSpider-Man. Ant-Man. Falcon. Black Panther. These are the top four characters, in order, in Captain America: Civil War. You might think it’s a bad sign that neither Captain America nor Iron Man is on that list, but you’d be wrong!  Although you would be right in thinking I wish this had been a Spider-Man movie with a Captain America/Iron Man cameo, rather than the other way around.

The downside to all of this is we’ve seen it all before. Not only in the sense that it’s roughly the six hundredth comic book movie that came out this year, but also because DC’s eulogy to the millions of fictional civilians killed every year by superheroes came out just six weeks ago.

One big difference between the two movies: Marvel’s is far better. Though like Batman v. Superman, Civil War is too long.  With that said, I’m willing to forgive Marvel since that extra run time was used to shoehorn in Spider-Man. Who, as mentioned at the start, was AWESOME.

Another big difference: Marvel’s movie is way funnier. Civil War would have won by default anyway since there were no laughs at all in BvS, but Civil War is legitimately funny in between the dead family member melodrama.

But as with BvS, don’t expect anything new, don’t expect a good villain, and don’t expect the story to make any goddamned sense. Really, the only differences between the two movies are that (a) we’re glad to see/meet Marvel’s supporting heroes while DC’s just felt like filler; and (b) most of Marvel’s heroes are eager to make us laugh even while fighting, which is a welcome change from DC’s rainy night fights between surly mumbling demigods. Spider-Man is the perfect example of Marvel’s success in both categories, and that’s enough to make this movie worth watching.

Mostly, that’s because Spidey is the best superhero ever and I’m pumped he’s back in the MCU, where he belongs. Though I am suffering from chronic end-credit-scene-fatigue, as a Spider-Man fan I’m glad I stuck around ’til the very end. Hint, hint.

Captain America: Civil War gets a score of eight webslinging vigilantes out of ten.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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Maybe my expectations were too high.  Which is a bit weird to say because Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a comic book movie, so basically I should have known what I was going to get.  And as a comic book movie, it does its job.  It gives us lots of really fast and strong heroes who jump out of planes and off buildings, endless bad guys with unlimited bullets who shoot at those heroes for half the movie, and a head bad guy with a mask and metal arm who may not even be the mastermind behind all this mayhem.  What it does not give us, and why I was ultimately let down, is any real change to the formula that we have seen from Marvel in its ten (ten!) movies and counting.  It’s all the same and it’s getting a little tired.

The problem is, I’m a comic book guy and an action movie guy.  I should have enjoyed this movie a lot more than I did.  I’m still excited to see Avengers 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy 2.  But now I’m a lot less excited.  I wonder, am I just going to get a rehash of what I’ve seen before like I did in Captain America 2, a story that really begins at the same place it started without advancing the greater plot I thought was underlying these movies in the Marvel Universe?  Before watching this movie I had felt that maybe I should go back and watch the Captain America movies as well as the two Thor movies, but now I feel confident I don’t need to and certainly don’t have any desire to since this movie was so forgettable and so self-contained.

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Is this just a middling installment in the Marvel movie juggernaut?  Or is it a sign that we’ve used up all the good ideas for now and it’s time to wait for the inevitable reboots of all these characters, since their origins are the only stories from which Hollywood can consistently make decent movies?  I guess we’ll have a better idea in just a few months because Avengers: Age of Ultron opens May 1 and Ant-Man follows shortly after.  My gut says making a movie about Ant-Man is overkill at this point, and then I look and see that there are 16 more Marvel-related movies (including Fox and Sony ones) scheduled to come out between now and 2019.  That’s way too many.  One a year might be too many.  The worst part is, I know there are better movies to be made that have been passed over in favour of these big-budget, low-risk, no-art movies.  I would like to have seen those and 18 more Marvel movies, plus whatever DC is doing, is a poor trade and a loss for all of us.

Big picture aside, I’m still not satisfied with what I was given here.  This movie is a tolerable distraction but leaves you with nothing memorable.  It gets five indestructible shields out of ten.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

I liked but didn’t love Guardians of the Galaxy. Having complained in the review that I posted yesterday that I found it sometimes hard to follow, I starteed to worry that I was becoming a bit of a wet blanket. In hopes of repairing my image of being no fun at all, I am prepared to go all in in my support of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Captain America

I didn’t even like the first Captain American all that much. In fairness, I suspect I might have nodded off at one point. As far as I can remember, a scrawny Chris Evans gets an injection of something to become supersoldier Chris Evans so he can go overseas and fight with the Allies in World War II. IN the sequel, Captain America isn’t just super strong but has been cryogenically frozen so he can fight for SHIELD in Marvel’s version of the present.

It’s this fish out of water story that makes Winter Soldier such an improvement. And it’s not just played for laughs. Sure, there’s the usual confusion over the internet and modern music. But what does the iconic war hero Captain America think of how America fights its wars now? I won’t go so far as to call Winter Soldier The Thinking Man’s Superhero Movie or anything like that but like, Iron Man, it takes just enough from real life to make the world that Cap is trying to save more relatable than usual. In fact, this is probably the best Iron Manless Avengers movie so far.

The first half or so of The Winter Soldier almost feels like a thriller, with the action getting bigger and bigger until it becomes unmistakably Marvel. The action scenes are a step above most of the other movies in the Avengers series, although I did wish that the directors wouldn’t cut away so fast sometimes so we could see what’s going on. Chris Evans, who I thought was so boring in both the first Captain America and in The Avengers, has a lot more to work with this timepulls it Winter Soldieroff. Or maybe I have just started thinking of Evans differently after having seen and loved last year’s Snowpiercer. Anthony Mackie is a great addition as somebody named Falcon. And Samuel L. Jackson, in his sixth appearance as Nick Fury, finally has something to do. Early scenes where he clashes with Captain America over modern warfare are a big part of what makes it feel like something important is happening and it was refreshing to finally start to get an idea of who Fury is.

If you don’t think you’ll like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, I didn’t think I would either. Check it out. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Snow Piercer

An experiment to save the world actually destroys it, sending the world into a deep freeze. The few survivors board a train that constantly whizzes around the globe, smashing through ice and snow, in perpetual motion. The train is strictly divided according to class, with the very rich poshly appointed in the front and the poor kept in dismal conditions in the back until cryptic messages filter through to them, inciting them to rebellion.snow

Curtis (bushy bearded Chris Evans) is the reluctant leader of the great unwashed in a brutal, gruesome battle toward the front, and the train’s inventor\conductor, Wilford. Wilford sends his minions to do his dirty work, including a nightmarish Tilda Swinton.

I heard about this movie from several sources in late spring of 2014 and looked forward to finding it in theatres, though I never did. Why did such a fascinating movie disappear? It’s because of a little dick named Harvey Weinstein. The Weinstein Company owned the rights but didn’t believe that North American audiences were smart enough to “get” the movie, insisting on a 20-minute slaughter of the film, as well as the addition of opening and closing monologues. To punish director Bong Joon-ho for sticking up for his movie, Weinstein buried the movie. But guess what? We found it, lots of us did, and you can too.

This movie works on many levels – as an allegory, as social commentary, as an action flick, as an intense, thrilling drama.  I love how the progress of the underclass from the back of the train to the front is literally transformative, from the darkest quarters, to bright, lush, and sumptuous toward the front, with devastating frosty beauty outside the windows. This film is visionary, but it declares a certain urgency in setting year 0 at 2014. The editing is tight, it keeps the motion pressing forward, keeps the pace brisk  and exhilarating (and sometimes terrifying). This is a real trick of cinematography, to use the train’s inherent claustrophobia as an asset, and to use the momentum as a character and not byproduct of the plot. The scenes are literally compartmentalized but they fit together to make a really  nice, fluid picture that you’ll enjoy watching, enjoy rewatching, and really enjoy discussing.