Review of Captain America : The Winter Soldier (Obligatory spoiler klaxon)

Captain_America_The_Winter_Soldier_Teaser_poster_2If somebody asked me how to describe and review Captain America : The Winter Soldier probably the first thing I’d do is pause. The second thing I’d probably do would be to go “um”. In many ways I feel this response says everything you need to know about Captain America : The Winter Soldier.

Since I’m bothering to write up a review though I’ll try (and likely fail) to put things more eloquently. So here we go. Watching Captain America I never felt bored but then I never really felt entertained either.

With blockbusters or franchise films the temptation is to describe them as being like empty calories or fast food. You enjoy it at the time but they aren’t really filling. This isn’t the case with Captain America though.

The film didn’t feel like insubstantial fluff but neither did it seem like a proper meal. It was like a heavy pie or cake that hasn’t risen fully in the oven. It was stodgy.

The problem is that there is little in the film to truly anchor you to the action. Captain America isn’t an especially interesting or cool superhero. He is vanilla. This is fine if either you have a great plot or great villain, ideally both, but Captain America doesn’t really have either.

The plot has events but it never really shocks you. Characters drop in and out. They disappear for a time and then reappear. If you have seen actions films previously or really any films these entrances and exits are not in the least bit surprising.

So if the plot isn’t delivering then you look to the bad guys to hold your attention. To bring a sense of threat and charisma to proceedings. To introduce a little anarchy into the system. The villains completely fail to do this.

Robert Redford is doing a great impression of a man scooping up a really big paycheck. Even when he shoots a poor maid who forgot her phone his heart doesn’t seem to really be in it. Or maybe I just can’t find Redford menacing.

The semi-titular “Winter Soldier” is incipiently threatening with his cool robotic arm but then is neutered by the reveal that he is the long lost (brainwashed) best bud of Steve Rodgers. Whilst the traitorous mercenary is so forgettable that I can’t remember his name.

The most interesting villain is the Nazi scientist AI who not only feels genuinely evil but also has a retro “Wargames” style aesthetic which I enjoyed and the film (credit to it) actually calls out. Sadly though he is only there briefly and basically functions as Basil Exposition.


I’m guessing this was from the comic

As I said though I wasn’t bored. The actions trucks along at a fast enough click to keep you paying attention. Captain America shield smashes and pancakes more disposable bad guys then you can easily count. Plus there is a cool new sidekick with metal wings and a jetpack.

Added to this are Nick Fury and Natasha Romanoff. Two genuinely interesting characters who just steal every scene they are in. Not only are Jackson and Johansson great actors but their characters hint at the more nuanced and darker film that I wished this film was. Johansson in particular was mesmeric (and no I’m not being pervy although she is gorgeous). She acts circles around Chris Evans. I haven’t seen such a mismatch of acting talent since I caught an old episode of King of Queens which had Byran Cranston and Kevin James in the same scene.

This of course is part of the problem though. I was more interested in a side character and a supporting character than I was in the main protagonist or antagonist. This then brings me to the end of the film which is of course a huge battle scene.

Like the film it is by the numbers. I only mention it because, something puzzled me. The Winter Soldier is shooting Captain America who looks to be unable to switch out the targeting microchips. It is check and mate.

Except. Wait a minute. One moment the Winter Soldier is slaying a helpless Captain America. The next Captain America is rallying to switch out the microchips and save the day. We cut back and now the Winter Soldier is prostrate under falling debris. WTF?

It’s possible I missed something but if I did so did the person I went with. At worse (and its unlikely) something was missed. At best the editing was shoddy and writing poor. I mean it is never good if your hero is saved by falling rubble. And it is even worse if said lame ending isn’t shown on screen.

So overall it is fair to say I wasn’t wowed. As a Marvel film it was better than Iron Man 2, 3 and Captain America 1 but worse than Thor and Thor 2. It was very average. I should say though that when Nick Fury is dead but (spoiler) not really dead a young eight year old child was sobbing very audibly in my packed screening.

I mention this because, that audience member was obviously really taken with the film. I reckon 7-12 boys would love this film. I know I would have. As a bonus I think that it is pitched at and suitable for that age group as well. The violence is mild, bloodless and (crucially for 7-12 year old boys) frequent.  For parents there is no swearing and I don’t remember there being any porny Michael Bayesque shots of female cast members.

So there you have it average. It does nothing really well and nothing really badly but, for the most part it holds your attention.

Review Season 5 Episode 3 : Archer Vice : A Debt of Honour (Spoilers!!!)

Cokey Monster

Cokey Monster

So despite Mallory’s comments at the end of episode one it turns out that setting yourself up as a drug cartel isn’t that easy. I guess those Mexican’s know a thing or two (just in case it isn’t obvious I’m paraphrasing the show here not making crudely stereotypical statement about race. Although those Irish.)

After debacle down in Florida the Archer drug clan are down 2 kilo’s of cocaine (not including whatever Pam ‘The Cokey Monster’ Poovey has gobbled down) and have $1 million of counterfeit money.

Don’t worry though because whilst Cyril is searching for the “Scrooge McDuckian Vault” and Archer and Lana are buying guns and bullets Pam has swapped the counterfeit money for some highly tradeable commodities.

What’s that? The phone is ringing. I wonder who it could be?

Oh it’s the Yukuza. They want their pills (I don’t think I can spell Amphetamines, but there goes spell check making me a liar again) back plus since it’s a debt of honour Pam’s head.

Yep, it’s a great set up for a highly enjoyable episode of Archer. Not only did I enjoy the plot of this episode much more than the last one, but I also thought the jokes hit home more.

No doubt in part this is because the trailer from the end of episode 1 seemed to have far fewer clips from this episode than it did the second.

Highlights from this episode include the insights into the Tunt family history. Such as the uncle who bankrupted himself digging for the Underground Railroad so he could sell slaves back to the South in 1890 and the great grandad who filled the natural history museum with all the animals.

The standout bits however, go to the increasing number of visual gags that they seem to be including in this season. Little body language bits that really add an extra dimension to things.

“What kind of Mother do you want to be Lana?” Mallory says whilst nudging her with a glass full of scotch.

So overall this was an immensely enjoyable episode of Archer Vice. I’d give it an A- or  4 and 3/4 floor model Cadillacs filled with pills (didn’t make me a liar that time did you spell check)

Review Archer Season 5 Episode 2 – Archer Vice: A Kiss While Dying (spoilers ahoy!)

"Kind of like the A-team but we sell drugs"

“Kind of like the A-team but we sell drugs”

This episode was good but sadly not as good as the above line (although that line is from this episode). I’ve watched this episode twice now. Well,l one and a half times and I’m still not quite sure what to make of it. After the previous episode (see review here) really set the stage for the season and was amazingly bold I am left wondering if there was any need for a lot of the stuff in this episode.

The episode begins with Pam bringing in a huge forklift full of cocaine that was last seen at the ISIS office. The rest of the gang Kreiger, Cyril, Lana etc are moving into the “enormous gilded aged mansion” (Archer’s words) that is going to be the HQ from now on. The hook for the rest of the episode is now set up as Archer, Lana and Pam are all going to Miami to sell some of the coke.

Now this is the point where the trailer from the end of the last episode really steps what would have been a great joke. Mallory announces Pam is going to Miami with them to which Pam says “like the three musketeers” to which Mallory replies “kinda”. Que cut to Pam in a full body cast made of cocaine (I know its a visual gag and doesn’t work when I’m writing it here but read generously). I would have laughed if the trailer from the end of s5ep1 had not already shown this and Pam’s ‘snacking’.

This moment kind of explains my ambigous feelings towards this episode. Much of it could have been done better. For a show that trusts its audience so much and is so clever they could have had Archer and co start off in Miami going to see the contact. Then there could have been cuts back to the new HQ to bring in the other characters like Cheryl or it is Carol who remembers. It would have made for a much tighter episode.

Anyway, there are some good moments in the rest of the episode including the laugh out loud line of Archers “Potato, Patreason” and Cryil calling out Mallory

“only if you promise to periodically micromanage it and emascualte me”

Mallory “I thought that went without saying”

I have a sneaking suspicion that the episode will grow on me the next time I watch it, but for now it was not a favourite. A 3.75 stars out of 5 or a B. Still worth watching though.