Tag Archives: Chris Evans


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.


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.

Movies Based on Graphic Novels\Comics (No Superheroes, Sean!)

TMPWe’re always glad when another Thursday rolls around because our dear friend Wanderer over at Wondering Through The Shelves has provided us with yet another opportunity to rip each other’s heads off. Agreeing or disagreeing never seems to matter because we do both so vehemently you can hardly tell the difference! This week we’re talking about movies based on graphic novels or comics – but they CAN’T be about superheroes, which is a caveat that is no doubt making Sean break out into cold sweats. “No superheroes?”, he’s probably thinking, “Then what’s the point?”


Wrinkles (Arrugas) – This is originally a Spanish movie, an animated one actually, but there’s a dubbed English version featuring the voice work of Martin Sheen and Matthew Modine. It’s based on the comic book Arrugas by Paco Roca. I hadn’t heard of this movie until someone from this very blogging community reviewed it on her site and it sent my little radar to wrinkles_2885994bsniffing. Imagine a comic book about old people, if you will, some of them shuffling around with the whiff of Alzheimer’s infusing their comings and goings in a retirement residence where not everyone is pleased to be confined. It’s at times very sad, but never sentimental. It’s very smartly done and the dedication that comes at the end – to all the old people of today, and of tomorrow – is a subtle elbow to the ribs.

Snowpiercer – This one’s based on a French graphic novel called Le Transperceneige by Jacques snowpiercerLob. I came across mention of this movie in a magazine and got Sean all hopped up about this crazy movie that’s about a perpetually-moving train filled with feuding classes of people. Raw, brutal, stabby: just the kind of movie that gives him a chubby. But then the movie never opened. We searched high and low, and the movie just never came because Evil Lord Weinstein decided that suppressing a movie with vision and ambition would be a nifty way to wield his power and remind people that dumb Americans need his help to watch and interpret movies.

Old Boy – I’m watching the Spike Lee 2013 version starring Josh Brolin because I’d seen the Korean one a million years ago but never this one (I was still recovering) – in any case, they’re both obviously based on the Japanese manga of the same name by Nobuaki Minegishi and oldboyGaron Tsuchiya. So this guy gets kidnapped and imprisoned for twenty years in some hotel room. He has no idea why, or who, but one day he’s suddenly released and given 82 hours to figure out who’s been behind the whole thing. It’s a bloody movie. Like, if you think Drive is a little much, well, it’s actually a sunny stroll in the park compared to this. It’s fucking twisted. The American remake is a little soulless, comparatively, but it gets the job done and will make you want to seek out the source material, in which case, well – good luck with that.


Blade – sometimes vampires are also supervilllains, or very rarely, superheroes.  But in the interest of including this movie in my picks this week, let’s just agree that Blade is pretty much a regular guy with no superpowers except being the near-invincible Daywalker hybrid.  Kind of like how Superman is just a regular guy on Krypton so when you get right down to it, he has no special powers, he’s just not human.  Which obviously doesn’t help out my argument at all.  Anyway, Blade is a very good movie that more or less inspired Marvel to make lots and lots of superhero movies.  Which again does not help out my argument but it’s still a great movie.

Men in Black – sometimes regular people get put in situations that call for a superhero.  And either they get eaten by a giant bug or they get creative.  Or both.  Men in Black is a ton of fun and so tongue-in-cheek it hurts (in a good way).  This is your chance to see Will Smith, in his prime, in his best role (with sincere apologies to Mike Lowry), and the pairing of Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones is as good as it gets.  The two of them make it up as they go along and somehow make it work, saving the world along the way.  The best part is K’s attitude about it all: the world is always in danger, so keep doing your job but make sure to keep it down so we can go about our business.  Thanks, Men in Black, for keeping Earth safe.

Ghost World – sometimes I enjoy movies that don’t have a hint of superhero and have no explosions or car chases.  It’s rare but it happens, and Ghost World is one such movie.  It’s a strange movie, no doubt about it, but it’s strange in the right ways.  It reminds me a little of Mad Max: Fury Road in that regard. Both take us to worlds that are different than ours that have their own logic, and that we come to understand as we meander through them with our leads.  Both draw us in right from the start, make us want to keep watching and see this through to the end, and while the endings serve up good payoffs, in both movies the journey is its own reward.

Jay: Sean, wow. Just fucking wow. Mad Max? Really? You’re either really brilliant, or…you know, you’re really brilliant. Well done sir.


I love comics. It may have started with Batman for me but, as much as I love badass costumes and bone-crunching violence, I’;m always so proud of them when they aim higher. This week we pay tribute to graphic novel adaptations that helped show the world what the medium can really accomplish without relying on comic book logic.

Regardless of its subject, the key to any good comic book is to create a world of its own that is both distinctive and relatable. I thought of this in the shower this mroning and was surprised to Ghost Worldread that Sean had a similar thought about Ghost World (2001), a movie that I’ve been dying to mention for months now. There’s nothing remotely supernatural about Ghost World but it seems to exist in its own universe. Strange, given how many characters I can recognize from my own life. Both a little surreal and painfully real, this movie is filled with uncomfortable moments that my friend and I used to cringe over and then immediately rewind and watch again.

Comics can address politics in the real world too. In Persepolis (2007) , a young girl grows up during the Islamic Revolution in Iran anPersepolisd, like Enid in Ghost World, finds solace in punk music as everything around her seems to be changing. Apart from the black and white animation and the fact that I was completely blown away by it, that’s about all I cacn remember. I so wanted to rewatch it this week but wasn’t able to track it down in time for Thursday.

blue is the warmest colorBlue is the Warmest Color (2013), on the other hand, is fresh in my mind and will likely remain so for some time. I finally got around to watching it last night and was delighted- and surprised- to learn that it was based on a graphic novel so that I would have an excuse to check it out. I can’t picture this story as a comic at all and honestly have no idea what the source material could have looked like. I will probably have to check it out. All I know is that the story is simple, even if the feelings aren’t. What I found most impressive about this film was that, even though it is prepared to address homophoibia and how scary it can be to come out, this is really a story about how exciting it is to find love and how painful it is to watch it fade away and eventually burn out. The fact that they’re gay is almost incidental.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Avengers: Age of Ultron is great! Not Oscar-great but blockbuster-great. No need to think or feel creeped out about A.I. like in Ex Machina, just enjoy the ride with moody Ultron as he carries out his plan to kill all humans. But fear not!  Earth’s Mightiest Heroes are on the case.

One of the things Age of Ultron does best is give us lots of new characters. That fits well with the revolving door that is the Avengers comic book roster. So we are introduced/reintroduced to many characters we know are, or will become, Avengers, like War Machine, Falcon, Scarlet Witch, Vision, and in unfortunate licencing loophole, Quicksilver. Jay found that super confusing having already seen a different Quicksilver, without an accent, in X-Men: Days of Future Past, and I agree. It shouldn’t have happened and it takes away from the movie. Still better to have him here, I think, because Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are great together (this movie captured their relationship well) but it’s time for a deal with Fox. At least Marvel got Spider-Man back from Sony, but let’s get the rest of these movies working together too.

Seeing Vision pop up was an unexpected surprise for me. I liked that he made an appearance and thought he was used well, both as a source of conflict between the Avengers and then as a contrast to Ultron, though they share the same view on humanity’s likely future (i.e., not promising). Really, all the new characters were handled well and I feel like we are well on our way to the Infinity Gauntlet saga.

The disappointing thing is there are now four or five other Marvel movies on the way between now and Avengers 3. I’m excited for Captain America 3, especially with Spidey on board, but beyond that, it’s way too much. Especially when I use Vision’s introduction as a comparison; Ant-Man, Black Panther, and Dr. Strange could all be brought in as part of an Avengers movie, and I wish that’s what was being done. But since there’s money on the table we get separate movies for each. Let’s be honest, I will probably see all those, so you can expect to hear this same complaint every few months between now and the next Avengers movie.

I can’t hold that against this movie though. Avengers: Age of Ultron itself does things exactly right. I thoroughly enjoyed it and wouldn’t have changed a thing so it gets ten Infinity Gems out of ten.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain-America-The-Winter-Soldier-HD-Wallpaper1Maybe 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.

shield punch

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.