Tag Archives: Scarlett Johansson

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014) – Review

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Writers:  Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely

Directors:  Anthony & Joe Russo

Stars:  Chris Evans, Sebastian Stan, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, and Robert Redford

IMDb Log Line:  Steve Rogers struggles to embrace his role in the modern world and battles a new threat from old history:  the Soviet agent known as the Winter Soldier.

Pros:

  1. Topical story that does not beat you over the head with morality  but makes you think.
  2. Human scale to the conflict
  3. Chemistry between the cast
  4. Great Ed Brubaker source material

Cons:  

  1. When you actually think about the end goal of the enemies plan, after their initial surprise attack they can be easily defeated with conventional forces.

Review:  A surprisingly emotional sequel that supersedes the original, and does not suffer any of the sophomore slump of the other Marvel Studio second franchise films.  Captain America:  The Winter Soldier is their best effort to date delivering emotion, character development, good story telling, and action you can follow and not be overwhelmed with; all while maintaining respect to the source material.  The greatest feat by the filmmakers is establishing the emotional connection between Steve Rogers and the Winter Soldier in only one film, where the comics had literal decades of history to work with.

Grade = A-

Click on image to view trailer.

Click on image to view trailer.

 

*  Thanks to “filmhipster” for the new style of my reviews.  My free time for my blog has been much reduced, and the length of my previous reviews hindered my abilities to keep-up with my movie watching.  All that being said, I decided to adapt this short form “Consumer Reports” type of review to get back on track.


“Don Jon” (2013) – Review

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Click for the very good and long interview w/ JGL on the Howard Stern Show (50 minutes)

Writer / Director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, Rob Brown, Jeremy Lake, and Glenne Headly

Jon is a person that knows what he likes. He likes his pad, his ride, his friends, his family, his church, his body, and most of all he loves his porn. So much so he loves masturbating to porn more than actually having sex with a woman. It’s not that he can’t get women–he has a new one every weekend–he just prefers porn.

Out at a club with his friends Bobby (Rob Brown) and Danny (Jeremy Lake), he spots his dime (10) for the night, Barbara (Scarlett Johansson). Barbara is not immediately impressed with Jon and eventually gives him the blow-off. Unaffected, Jon meets and gets another woman. Back at his place they have bad sex–more his fault than hers–and go to bed. Later, as usual, Jon leaves his conquest in bed to go to his computer, watch porn, and then jerk-off.

But something about Barbara stays with him. After some investigating and cyber stalking through Facebook, Jon discovers Barbara’s name and how to get in contact with her. Impressed with his drive to meet her, Barbara agrees to go out with Jon but sex is not immediately on the table. Over time she begins to encourage Jon to go back to school and get a degree, wants them both to meet each others family, and overall becomes a positive influence in his life.

Eventually they do have sex, but for Jon it still is not better than porn. Unfortunately for him she catches Jon watching it and jerking-off to it after their session. In convincing her not to leave him Jon agrees to give-up porn. And as time goes by that is not all Jon needs to give-up if he wants to stay with her.

Don Jon is Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s first effort as a writer and director. The inexperience shows more with the direction than the writing. The story is not your typical romantic comedy, and in fact is more a coming of age story–a child becoming an adult. Jon’s character should not be sympathetic but he is. He is self-centered and self-absorbed, but he is not an ass. Barbara too is well-developed. She is a strong woman who knows what she wants and plans to get it. Though ultimately unsympathetic, she never crosses that line to bitch.

As a director, Gordon-Levitt is rough around the edges. Jon’s Sunday ritual, though useful to help establish time passing and when we are, becomes too repetitive with the constant use of the same setup. In other words, the scene of the family sitting in the pew at Church and then Jon’s confessional are funny, the shots before of Jon being a hot-head while driving, walking across the street to Church, and the image of the monk and boy statue at the top of the Church become boring after the third time we have seen them.

On the positive side Gordon-Levitt does a great job revealing character by showing instead of telling. We know Jon is neat freak and meticulous not because someone said so, but because we see the time he takes to make his bed and smooth out the wrinkles, as well as him scratching out tough stains while he washes his dishes.

Don Jon is a film with a well-developed story and good direction. Though it won’t change your life, you will leave the theatre feeling better for having watched it.

Grade = B

Click on image to view trailer.

Click on image to view trailer.

 


“The Avengers” (2012) – Movie Review

Click on image to view trailer

Director:  Joss Whedon

Writers:  Joss Whedon and Zak Penn

Stars:  Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Clark Gregg, Stellan Skarsgard, and Tom Hiddleston

S.H.I.E.L.D., an international counter-espionage organization headed by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), plans to harness the power of the Tesseract (Cosmic Cube).  But before they can discover its secrets, the Tesseract is activated by an outside force and brings Loki (Tom Hiddleston) from another dimension.  Though weakened by the travel, Loki is able to brainwash Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) & Prof. Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard), steal the Tesseract, and destroy the S.H.I.E.L.D. base.

Faced with the clear & present danger of Loki, Fury begins to assemble The Avengers:  Capt. America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), and Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson).  In short order Loki is willingly captured, the Black Widow brings in Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) comes from Asgard.  Though The Avengers are assembled, they are not a team.  Before long Loki has exploited their clashing egos to his advantage:  The Hulk is unleashed, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Helicarrier disabled, and his plan to unleash an extraterrestrial attack on Earth unleashed.

To say The Avengers is packed with action is an understatement, but to say it has life is a different story.  Though Joss Whedon does an excellent job in showcasing each character, you do not emotionally connect with anyone.  I was ambivalent about the characters and the story until the Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) scene; after which I was emotionally invested in the team’s coalescence.  Watching each hero assume their role in thwarting Loki’s plan was a delight.

Joss Whedon did an overall good job bringing the film to life.  What prevented it from being great was the sometimes slapstick approach to some of the Hulk’s actions:  such as with Loki near the end of the film and with Thor after a joint fight against the aliens.  Also, though much better, the final alien attack on New York was basically the same as in Transformers 3.  Where Whedon did an excellent job was in juggling all the characters.

Though none of the actors will be nominated for an Academy Award, all are comfortable in their roles.  Chris Evans and Robert Downey, Jr. bicker with each other convincingly as two people with very different codes of conduct and motivations.  Both later gain respect for each other as brothers-in-arms.  Chris Hemsworth picks-up where he left off with character development from Thor.  As the new kids on the block Jeremy Renner and Scarlett Johansson do solid jobs; Johansson fortunate enough to be given a bit of back story to develop as opposed to Renner who was one-dimensional.  Samuel L. Jackson is given the job of walking around like a badass and does so.  And Tom Hiddleston?  He delivers as the heavy.  You understand his motivations, feel his menace, but also see his vulnerability.

Then there is Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson.  Upon his performance stands the emotional weight of the movie.  Without him all we have is a tale, “full of sound and fury signifying nothing.”  With him we have a reason to watch it again and again.

Grade = B