Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—From One Second to the Next (2013) ****

NR, 34 min.
Director: Werner Herzog

I’m not going to say much about this one because the movie should speak for itself. I must, however, mention that fact that renowned filmmaker Werner Herzog has directed this short documentary about texting and driving. It’s remarkable how a master craftsman and artist can draw power into what is essentially a public service or educational movie. Every driver should be required to watch this movie.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—A Fantastic Fear of Everything (2014) ***

R, 100 min.
Directors: Crispian Mills, Chris Hopewell
Writer: Crispian Mills
Starring: Simon Pegg, Alan Drake, Clare Higgins, Paul Freeman, Amara Karan, Golda John, Tuyet Le, Tamzin Griffin, JJ Stanness, Jacqui Chan

It appears that playing Scotty in the “Star Trek” movies hasn’t gone to Simon Pegg’s head. He’s still willing to run around in disgusting looking underwear and make an all around arse of himself in a British indie comedy. While “A Fantastic Fear of Everything” opened in British theaters in the summer of 2012, it didn’t make it to the states until this February in a very limited theatrical run. Now, it’s available on Netflix Instant and makes for a surprisingly enjoyable Brit-humor horror/comedy.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—X-Men (2000) ***

PG-13, 104 min.
Director: Bryan Singer
Writers: David Hayter, Tom DeSanto, Bryan Singer
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Famke Jansen, James Marsden, Halle Berry, Anna Paquin, Tyler Mane, Ray Park, Rebecca Romijn, Bruce Davidson, Shawn Ashmore

It’s easy to forget that “X-Men” was really the first of this current wave of comic book cinema to get it right. The first two “Spider-Man” movies and “The Dark Knight” trilogy really overshadowed it in the years that followed, and once “The Avengers” Phase One movies came along “X-Men” became old news, and yet somehow has managed to put out six installments with a seventh on the way in about a month. “X-Men: First Class” jump started the flagging series two years ago, and it seems Fox is determined to ride the franchise to Avengers style success, with even a Marvel style cameo for Mystique at the end of Sony’s “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”, opening this week. But, it was way back in 2000 that comic books finally got past the stylistic stumblings of the original Batman franchise with this movie.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Ebert Thoughts ‘14—Born on the Fourth of July (1989) ***

R, 145 min.
Director: Oliver Stone
Writers: Ron Kovic (also memoir), Oliver Stone
Starring: Tom Cruise, Raymond J. Barry, Caroline Kava, Josh Evans, Samantha Larkin, Tom Berenger, Frank Whaley, Jerry Levine, Stephen Baldwin, Kyra Sedgwick, Karen Newman, Willem Dafoe, Tom Sizemore, Michael Wincott, Ed Lauter, Dale Dye, Oliver Stone, Bryan Larkin, John Getz, Willie Minor, Rocky Carroll, Billie Neal, Richard Poe, Bob Gunton, Lili Taylor

It’s interesting that “Do the Right Thing” and “Born on the Fourth of July” were invited to Ebertfest the same year. They were each released the same year. Both had Oscar implications. ’89 was one of the first years that I made a point to see the Oscar nominees. I was disappointed with both “Do the Right Thing” and “Born on the Fourth of July” at that time. I later watch them each again and totally changed my opinion of “Do the Right Thing”. I liked “Born on the Fourth of July” better upon a second screening as well, but I still never thought it was Oscar-level, especially considering Oliver Stone’s other Oscar-nominated films.

Ebert Thoughts ‘14—A Simple Life (2012) ***

NR, 118 min.
Director: Ann Hui
Writers: Susan Chan, Yan-lam Lee
Starring: Deanie Ip, Andy Lau, Hailu Qin, Fuli Wang, Paul Chun, Tin Leung, Wendy Yu, Eman Lam, Elena Kong

The truth is I don’t always love the Ebertfest entries as much as the organizers do. Although, it’s a very rare entry that I don’t like at all. I liked “A Simple Life”, but it seemed to lack that special something that allows me to praise it as a truly great movie. It’s very well made and very well performed. It’s well written and tells a story that I haven’t seen before. Perhaps it does it too well.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Ebert Thoughts ‘14—Goodbye Solo (2009) ****

R, 91 min.
Director: Ramin Bahrani
Writers: Ramin Bahrani, Bahareh Azimi
Staring: Souleymane Sy Savane, Red West, Diana Franco Galindo, Lane ‘Roc’ Williams, Mamadou Lam, Carmen Leyva

Usually when I attend Ebertfest in person, I try not to just write reviews of the movies I see. I often try to pick up on themes I see in the festival or comment on some incident I witness or people I meet there. One thing that has happened on a few occasions—only once at Ebertfest that I recall—is falling asleep during a screening. Now, I love watching movies, so this has only happened when I’ve been quite sleep deprived. I think that’s probably a common enough problem when attending a film festival.

Ebert Thoughts ‘14—Wadjda (2013) ****

PG, 98 min.
Director/Writer: Haifaa Al Mansour
Starring: Waad Mohammed, Reem Abdullah, Abdullrahman Algohani, Ahd, Sultan Al Assaf

In the early days of Ebertfest—when it was called the Overlooked Film Festival—they used to have a free family matinee on Saturdays. I don’t belive the first film of the day is still called a family matinee, and I don’t believe it is free any more. Of course, it may be. I haven’t been there in five years. Anyway, It was usually a film like “Wadjda”. Sometimes a foreign film, always a strong story about a child, the 1st Saturday matinee was a movie you might expect children to struggle with, but it always held great fascination for them because it involved children.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Ebert Thoughts ‘14—Do the Right Thing (1989) ****

R, 120 min.
Director/Writer: Spike Lee
Starring Spike Lee, Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Richard Edson, Giancarlo Esposito, Bill Nunn, John Turturro, Paul Benjamin, Frankie Faison, Robin Harris, Joie Lee, Miguel Sandoval, Rick Aiello, John Savage, Samuel L. Jackson, Rosie Perez, Roger Guenveur Smith, Steve White, Martin Lawrence, Leonard Thomas, Christa Rivers, Frank Vincent, Luis Ramos, Richard Habersham, Gwen McGee, Steve Park, Ginny Yang

I’m sure I’ve written about this before, but since it speaks to the vast misunderstanding a good deal of people have about racism, I think it bears repeating. The first time I saw Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” I didn’t like it. I couldn’t understand Mookie’s choice in the end to throw the garbage can into the pizzeria and start the riot that destroyed a family institution that for the most part only served the community around it. I thought it was a betrayal of that community to allow racism to get the upper hand on one ethnic group by another, no matter which group it was. Mookie’s action seemed just as fueled by racism as Pino’s and the cops’ action against Radio Raheem. Of course, Mookie really was doing the right thing by letting the anger out before more people died.

Ebert Thoughts ‘14—Capote (2005) ****

R, 114 min.
Director: Bennett Miller
Writer: Dan Futterman, Gerald Clarke (book)
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Clifton Collins Jr., Chris Cooper, Bruce Greenwood, Mark Pellegrino, Amy Ryan, Bob Balaban, Marshall Bell, Allie Mickelson

I imagine “Capote” was chosen for this year’s festival to honor the work of Philip Seymour Hoffman, who passed away earlier this year from a drug overdose. Director/producer Bennett Miller is the panel guest for the movie, but much of the talk this afternoon will surely revolve around Hoffman and his body of work.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Ebert Thoughts ‘14—Young Adult (2011) ****

R, 94 min.
Director: Jason Reitman
Writer: Diablo Cody
Starring: Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt, Patrick Wilson, Elizabeth Reaser, Collette Wolfe

“Young Adult” is the movie directed by Jason Reitman and written by Diablo Cody that people didn’t watch. The heroine of “Young Adult” is much harder to like than the heroine of “Juno”. In many ways, this makes “Young Adult” a much more keen observation on human behavior than their previous collaboration.

Ebert Thoughts ‘14—Short Term 12 (2013) ****

R, 96 min.
Director/Writer: Destin Daniel Cretton
Starring: Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr., Kaitlyn Dever, Keith Stanfield, Stephanie Beatriz, Rami Malek, Alex Calloway, Kevin Hernandez, Lydia Du Veaux, Frantz Turner, Diana Maria Riva

At every Ebertfest there is one film that I walk away from the festival saying what a treasure it was to have been introduced to. All the films at Ebertfest are treasures. Some I’ve already encountered. Some are more difficult. But, there’s always that one that just strikes some deep core chord of my heart and my artistic brain. “Short Term 12” strikes this year’s power chord.

Ebert Thoughts ‘14—Museum Hours (2013) ****

NR, 107 min.
Director/Writer: Jem Cohen
Starring: Mary Margaret O’Hara, Bobby Sommer, Ela Piplits

Jem Cohen’s “Museum Hours” is one of those quite, intimate movies that help to define Ebertfest as a unique and truly original film festival. It’s an unobtrusive film that might seem too quite outside the Ebertfest atmosphere, but makes for a perfect second day afternoon film. It doesn’t bang at the audience. It just exists and through it you can discover a piece of humanity.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Ebert Thoughts ‘14—Life Itself (2014)

NR, 114 min.
Director: Steve James
Featuring: Roger Ebert, Martin Scorsese, Werner Herzog, Errol Morris, Ramin Bahrani, Chaz Ebert, Ava Duvernay, Stephen Stanton (voice), A.O. Scott, Marlene Iglitzen

When I wrote my review for the 15th Annual Roger Ebert Film Festival, the first without the man for whom it is named, a documentary filmmaker contacted me on my blogsite. Her name is Karen Gehres and had been invited to the film festival in 2009 to screen her incredible documentary “Begging Naked”. She just wanted to express to me how much she wished to experience another Ebertfest. We challenged each other to make it to this year’s festival. I hope she was more successful in her plans than I was.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Ebert Thoughts ‘14—The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) ****

Director: Joseph Sargent
Writers: Peter Stone, John Godey (novel)
Starring: Walter Matthau, Robert Shaw, Martin Balsam, Hector Elizondo, Earl Hindman, James Broderick, Dick O’Neill, Lee Wallace, Tony Roberts, Tom Pedi, Beatrice Winde, Jerry Stiller, Nathan George, Rudy Bond, Kenneth McMillan, Doris Roberts, Julius Harris, Anna Berger, Mari Gorman, Michael Gorrin, Maria Landa, George Lee Miles

The 16th Annual Roger Ebert Film Festival unofficially begins today in Champaign, Ill. It is the first to be entirely organized without Roger’s involvement. Suddenly the profound loss the cinematic community felt last year when he passed just a couple weeks before the 15th Annual is felt all over again.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Get a Horse! (2013) ****

G, 6 min.
Director: Lauren MacMullan
Writers: Paul Briggs, Nancy Kruse, Lauren MacMullan, Raymond S. Persi
Voices: Walt Disney, Marcellite Garner, Russi Taylor, Billy Bletcher, Will Ryan

Since I never saw “Frozen” until this past week, I also never got a chance to see the Academy Award nominated short that accompanied it in theaters. Although I hadn’t seen it, I thought for sure the Academy would award Disney for going back to their roots with this retro-transformation animation that involves an classic style Mickey Mouse cartoon come to life in the new CGI world of animation through a clever plot that pits Mickey against his old nemesis Peg-Leg Pete, who is eventually thwarted when Mickey and his pals quite literally break the fourth wall to enter the modern world and used Pete’s mere two dimensions against him. I was wrong, but they could’ve.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Transcendence / ** (PG-13)

Will Caster: Johnny Depp
Evelyn Caster: Rebecca Hall
Max Waters: Paul Bettany
Bree: Kate Mara
Joseph Tagger: Morgan Freeman
Agent Buchanan: Cillian Murphy
Martin: Clifton Collins, Jr.
Colonel Stevens: Cole Hauser

Warner Bros. presents a film directed by Wally Pfister. Written by Jack Paglen. Running time: 119 min. Rated PG-13 (for sci-fi action and violence, some bloody images, brief strong language and sensuality).

Before I get to the review of the new sci-fi movie “Transcendence”, I’d like to pose a little common sense question to any scientists or screenwriters out there. I had a psych teacher who told me once that there wasn’t any such thing as common sense, but humor me. Let’s say you want to create some sort of area that is blocked off from all sorts of electronic transmissions and something like a copper mesh can actually do this. Does it make sense to hang the mesh from the ceiling of a structure you wanted to protect, or would it be a whole lot easier to encase the exterior of that structure?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Frozen (2013) ****

PG, 102 min.
Directors: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
Writers: Jennifer Lee, Chris Buck, Shane Morris, Dean Wellins, Hans Christian Anderson (story “The Snow Queen”)
Voices: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Goff, Josh Gad, Santino Fontana, Alan Tudyk, Ciarán Hinds

“Frozen” is a remarkably entertaining instant animation classic. I know that’s not exactly news, but as the father of boys—and one girl who has no interest in movies—“Frozen” wasn’t exactly on anyone’s must see list in theaters. And yet, somehow everybody seemed to nonchalantly vote to see the movie for our family movie night this week. Imagine the boys. “Whatever. I don’t care,” as they stared intently at the screen.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Rake, season 1 (2014) ***

TV-14, 13 43-min. episodes
Developers: Peter Duncan (also creator for original Australian TV series), Peter Tolan

Directors: Sam Raimi, Scott Winant, Jon Avnet, Cherie Nowlan, Adam Davidson, Amy Heckerling, Adam Arkin, Rosemary Rodriguez, Roxanne Dawson, Jeffery Walker, Paul A. Edwards

Writers: Peter Duncan, Peter Tolan, Richard Roxburgh (creator for original Australian TV series), Charles Waterstreet (creator for original Australian TV series), Allison Abner, Sara Goodman, Kit Boss, Kevin J. Hynes, Sam Catlin

Starring: Greg Kinnear, John Ortiz, Miranda Otto, Necar Zadegan, Bojana Novakovic, Tara Summers, David Harbour, Ian Colletti, Omar J. Dorsey, Kim Hawthorne

Guest starring: Peter Stromare, Bill Smitrovich, Damon Gupton, Jeffrey Nordling, Anne Gee Byrd, Alexandra Breckinridge, Catherine Dent, Tony Hawk, Cedric Yarbrough, Elizabeth Ho, Jama Williamson, Lisa Pelican, Denis O’Hare, Bill Cobbs, Ayelet Zurer, Bess Armstrong, Michael Bofshever, Bruce Thomas, Chelsey Crisp, David Gautreaux, Mary Kay Place, Trisha LaFache, Anthony Anderson, Michael Ironside, Kelly Frye, Kate Burton, Marco Sanchez, Peter Jacobson, Dorian Missick, Pamela Adlon, Rob Moran, Kim Estes, Alix Angelis, Philip Baker Hall, Kris Angelis, Mark Moses, Melora Walters, Michelle Krusiec, River Alexander, Michelle Bernard, Thomas Crawford, Michelle Forbes, Rick Overton

Now, the title says “season 1”, but unfortunately I fear the fate is sealed on “Rake”. There will be no season 2. This is not because it wasn’t any good. It’s simply because nobody watched it. It’s based off a hit television series in Australia of the same name. Fox never really seemed too committed to this American remake, however. A lawyer show with some big name movie stars and directors attached to it, “Rake” should’ve been given a major fall launch with high expectations. Instead it was relegated to a midseason replacement series that launched just a couple weeks before the Olympics and was forced to compete against that NBC juggernaut while most regular series were playing repeats. Then, when the ratings tanked upon launch, it was moved to the throwaway timeslot (except for the success of “Grimm”) of Fridays. Later, it was moved again for its death knell on Saturday nights, and it’s still unclear as to whether its final episode even aired at all.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—The Clash: The Last Gang in Town (2013) ***½

NR, 7 min.
Director/Writer: Fred Armisen
Starring: Fred Armisen, Paul Simonon, Mick Jones

Last week I reviewed a new short mockumentary featuring Fred Armisen reprising his fake punk rocker Ian Rubbish from Saturday Night Live. The film, titled “The Sexiest Elbows in Rock”, featured the frontman from the band Split as the owner of the titular body parts. It’s a fun send up of the rockumentary format with many real rockers participating for authenticity. “The Clash: The Last Gang in Town” is another fake rock documentary by Armisen in which his Ian Rubbish interviews two of the members of the iconic punk band The Clash. It’s been nominated for a Webby Award.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life (2013) ***½

NR, 38 min.
Director: Malcolm Clarke
Writers: Malcolm Clarke, Carl Freed
Featuring: Aliza Sommer-Herz

The Best Documentary Short Oscar-winner for 2014 saved me from going 0-3 in the short categories of the Oscar pool this year. That movie was “The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life”. I don’t really know why I picked it. Perhaps I connected with its subtitle. Perhaps I just thought the Oscar voters couldn’t resist giving an award to a movie about a sweet elderly woman. I didn’t even know if she was sweet. I just assumed because—like all the films of the shorts categories—I hadn’t seen it; nor had most people who didn’t meet the strict voting criterion of the Academy rules on such films.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—The Grandmaster (2013) ***

PG-13, 130 min.
Director: Kar Wai Wong
Writers: Kar Wai Wong, Jingzhi Zou, Haofeng Xu
Starring: Tony Chui Wai Leong, Ziyi Zhang, Qingxiang Wang, Jin Zhang, Hye-kyo Song

“The Grandmaster” tells the true-life tale of Ip Man, a master martial artist who came out of the final era of feudal China from a Southern clan. He held a challenge against a Northern successor to become the country’s Grandmaster when World War II got in the way. The invasion of China by Japan led to the end of the old Empire and the end of the martial arts clans. Ip Man continued to practice and teach martial arts in the new age. He most famous disciple was Bruce Lee.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay (2013) ***½

NR, 88 min.
Director: Molly Bernstein
Narrator: Dick Cavett
Featuring: Ricky Jay

I haven’t really been fascinated by magic since I was a kid. I remember being extremely fascinated as a child, however. It seems anytime there was a magic special on TV, I was sitting in front of it. That was when the networks used to put things like magic specials on TV. I’m not sure just what it was that disinterested me in magic. I think it was the discovery that it truly was a trick. I think I wanted magic to be real. Once I knew it wasn’t, I looked for magic in different places.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Draft Day / *** (PG-13)

Sonny Weaver, Jr.: Kevin Costner
Ali: Jennifer Garner
Coach Penn: Denis Leary
Anthony Molina: Frank Langella
Vontae Mack: Chadwick Boseman
Chris Crawford: Sean Combs
Bo Callahan: Josh Pence
Tom Michaels: Patrick St. Esprit
Earl Jennings: Terry Crews
Ray Jennings: Arian Foster
Barb Weaver: Ellen Burstyn

Summit Entertainment presents a film directed by Ivan Reitman. Written by Scott Rothman & Rajiv Joseph. Running time: 109 min. Rated PG-13 (for brief strong language and sexual references).

Oh man, do I love football! I just can’t get enough of it. I wasn’t always this way. As a kid, I remember watching my father and his zeal for the game. He brainwashed us. We watched the New York Football Giants every Sunday in the fall. He plastered our walls with posters. The Super Bowl was a family event every year. He taped games and watched them over again. It’s the only reason he knew how to work the VCR.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—12 Years a Slave (2013) ****

R, 134 min.
Director: Steve McQueen
Writers: John Ridley, Solomon Northup (memoir)
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Adepero Oduye, Sarah Paulson, Brad Pitt, Michael K. Williams, J.D. Evermore, Paul Giamatti, Christopher Berry, Scoot McNairy, Taran Killam, Tony Bentley, Liza J. Bennett, Scott M. Jefferson, Alfre Woodard,  Garrett Dillahunt

“12 Years a Slave” won the Oscar for Best Picture of 2013. It’s a worthy film. It isn’t your average slave film, although I’m not sure there really have been enough films about that dark time in our country’s history that any could be considered average. It tells the true story of Solomon Northup, who was a free man who was kidnapped in Washington D.C. and sold into slavery, where he remained in service for twelve years before he could finally find someone to contact his family in the North to confirm his free status.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—The Natural History of the Chicken (2000) ****

NR, 54 min.
Director/Writer: Mark Lewis
Featuring: Janet Bonney, Karin Estrada, David Forrester, Clyde ‘Babe’ Gore, Ray Johnson, Elwynjohn ‘Bud’ Johnston, John Kogge, Harold ‘Doc’ Lloyd, Joseph Martinez, John Simak, Leslye Simak, Pastor Joseph Tauer

Werner Herzog has called the chicken one of the stupidest creatures on Earth. He hates chickens and isn’t shy about it. He’s even featured the vile creatures in some of his films to make negative points about his characters. I don’t believe Werner Herzog would be a fan of the movie “The Natural History of the Chicken”. It is a movie that celebrates the chicken through the very strange people who also celebrate them.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—August: Osage County (2013) ***

R, 121 min.
Director: John Wells
Writer: Tracy Letts (also play)
Starring: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor, Margo Martindale, Sam Shepard, Dermot Mulroney, Julianne Nicholson, Juliette Lewis, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Misty Upham

“I love you.” The phrase you are all looking for is, “I love you.” If you have the urge to say, “Fuck you,” just stop for a second and say, “I love you,” instead.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Ender’s Game (2013) ***½

PG-13, 114 min.
Director: Gavin Hood
Writers: Gavin Hood, Orson Scott Card (novel)
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin, Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis, Aramis Knight, Suraj Partha, Moises Arias, Nonso Anozie

“Ender’s Game” is a surprisingly fresh and powerful science fiction film. Based on the popular book series by Orson Scott Card, the film is singularly focused on its story and message. That story tells of a future when an alien invasion that nearly decimated the planet 50 years earlier has lead to a new approach to warfare. The military uses children with gifted minds to coordinate their battles in a virtual environment that seems inspired by video game play.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—20 Feet From Stardom (2013) ****

PG-13, 91 min.
Director: Morgan Neville
Featuring: Darlene Love, Lisa Fischer, Merry Clayton, Claudia Lennear, Judith Hill, Táta Vega, Patti Austin, Julia Waters, Maxine Waters, Oren Waters, Stevvi Alexander, Lou Adler, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Sting, Mick Jagger, Bette Midler, Sheryl Crow, Dr. Mable John

Best Documentary Feature was one of my misses during this year’s Oscar predictions. “20 Feet From Stardom” was the winner. It was the only one of the bunch I hadn’t seen before the Oscars. I thought it was the fluff piece of the bunch. I was wrong. This stuff is nearly as depressing as oppression in Egypt and Indonesia, playing dirty in the Middle East, or an artist’s lifelong struggles. Well, “20 Feet From Stardom” is about many artists’ lifelong struggles.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier / *** (PG-13)

Steve Rogers/Captain America: Chris Evans
Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow: Scarlett Johansson
Sam Wilson/Falcon: Anthony Mackie
The Winter Soldier: Sebastian Stan
Brock Rumlow: Frank Grillo
Kate/Agent 13: Emily VanCamp
Jasper Sitwell: Maximiliano Hernández
Maria Hill: Cobie Smulders
Alexander Pierce: Robert Redford
Nick Fury: Samuel L. Jackson

Marvel Studios presents a film directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo. Written by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely. Based on a concept and story by Ed Brubaker and characters created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Running time: 136 min. Rated PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence, gun play and action throughout).

The best comic book storylines, and movie storylines for that matter, are those that don’t hold to what is “sacred” in any particular mythology. “Batman: Year One”, “The Dark Knight Returns”, “The Death of Superman”, “The Death of Captain America”, “The Saga of the Swamp Thing”, even the recent “Superior Spider-Man” developments and numerous other great comic book storylines have rewritten all that had come before them. This is what made “The Winter Soldier” storyline in the Captain America comic books so substantial. Now, for the first Captain America movie sequel, the filmmakers have adapted parts of that storyline to send a considerable shake up through the Marvel cinematic universe. They do it by pulling the carpet out from under everything they spent so much time developing over the course of the first phase of the Marvel movies that culminated in “The Avengers”.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) ***½

PG-13, 124 min.
Director: Joe Johnston
Writers: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, Joe Simon (comic book), Jack Kirby (comic book)
Starring: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, Tommy Lee Jones, Toby Jones, Sebastian Stan, Dominic Cooper, Stanley Tucci, Richard Armitage, Bruno Ricci, Neal McDonough, Derek Luke, Kenneth Choi, JJ Field, Samuel L. Jackson

This marks the third time I’ve watched “Captain America: The First Avenger”, and it doesn’t lose its effectiveness. In the promotion for the new “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” the writers have made a point to express how they wished to reflect different cinematic action subgenres in their construction of the two screenplays. The new Cap is supposed to be a modern espionage type of picture inspired by such classics as “3 Days of the Condor” and other 70s politically critical spy flicks. The first was more inspired by adventure serials of the 40s and 50s depicting the American heroism of World War II, although my guess is it was most influenced by Steven Spielberg’s 1981 movie “Raiders of the Lost Ark”.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Yellow Sticky Notes: Canadian Anijam (2013) ***½

NR, 8 min.
Directors: Marv Newland, Alison Snowden, David Fine, Cordell Barker, Janet Perlman, Chris Hinton, Paul Driessen, Jeff Chiba Stearns, Jonathan Ng, Malcolm Sutherland, and others

“Yellow Sticky Notes” brings together 15 of Canada’s finest animators, including several Academy Award Winners and Nominees, in a neat little animation challenge. The animators were invited to “self reflect on one day of their lives using only a ‘to do’ list and animated meditation.” The shorts films are presented as if doodled on… what else? yellow sticky notes.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013) **

UR, 143 min.
Director: Adam McKay
Writers: Will Ferrell, Adam McKay
Starring: Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner, Christina Applegate, Dylan Baker, Megan Good, Judah Nelson, James Marsden, Greg Kinnear, Josh Lawson, Kristen Wiig, Fred Willard, Chris Parnell, Harrison Ford, June Diane Raphael
Narrator: Bill Kurtis

Well, the soundtrack was good.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—The Sexiest Elbows in Rock Music (2014) ***

NR, 4 min.
Director: Rod Blackhurst
Starring: Jason Narducy, Fred Armisen, Britt Daniel, Jon Wurster, Bob Mould, Tim Meadows, Margaret Cho, David Grohl

One of the greatest somewhat recent Saturday Night Live skits was a mockumentary about a fake forgotten British punk band called Ian Rubbish & the Bizzaros. Fred Armisen played Ian Rubbish with a pitch perfect impression of a typical punk frontman from the late 70s, equal parts Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious. The reason his band had been forgotten, however, was because of the fact that Ian embraced Thatcherism, a decidedly un-punk stance. He had a thing for the Iron Lady.