Saturday, November 5, 2011

Movie Reviews-Captain America, Horrible Bosses and Blood Creek

Captain America:The First Avenger
Marvel is moving merrily along making movies out of all of its major and some of its minor comic book superheroes, with an eye towards releasing a later Avengers movie (a sort of supergroup of superheroes-kinda like if the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Hendrix and The Beatles all got together to save the world).

So Captain America was next on my list to watch. If you're not familiar with the storyline, well first of all where have you been for the past 40-50 years. Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a literal 90 lb weakling in wartime Brooklyn New York.

He has no luck with women and is constantly picked on by bullies. Steve never backs down from a fight though he often has to be saved by his best friend Bucky (Sebastian Stan) a much larger US soldier who has been cheerfully rescuing Steve since they were kids. But their friendship is about to be interrupted as the patriotic but sickly Rogers can't convince any Army recruiters to accept him.

Fortuitously, Rogers' plight is discovered by the secretive German refugee Dr. Erskine, (Stanley Tucci) who is working with the Army on a super-serum to produce soldiers of fantastic ability. Rogers undergoes the treatment and goes from zero to hero in a matter of minutes. Now he's ready to go to war for real, not only because it's the right thing to do but also because the painfully shy Rogers finds that he wouldn't mind getting to know (and impress) British Bombshell agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). And if that means leading suicide missions behind enemy lines, gosh darn it he's ready to do it.

Of course every hero must have an opposite and Captain America's is of course The Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) a Nazi who has discovered and collected magical and scientific artifacts to produce super-weapons for Hitler, but mostly of course, for himself.

I liked this movie. Unlike Thor, which looked good but had a pretty sleepy storyline with not much chemistry between the male and female leads, Captain America has more action with much better interplay between Atwell and Evans. The only drawback of this film is of course its selling point-the complete and total ahistoricity.

There were women officers in WW2 but few and far between. They certainly weren't involved in training male combat soldiers. There were virtually no black combat soldiers or airmen; Blacks were all segregated, no matter their role. Black officers were extremely rare and were generally placed so that no whites had to take orders from them-period. Whites attacked black soldiers in the South. There were also racial incidents between black and white Americans when they went overseas. Black officers were NOT allowed to use the officer's club-that being reserved for whites.

The film happily ignores all of this for an integrated team that is reminiscent of Hogan's Heroes.

I guess this is good if we want to make the audience as big as possible and have every viewer feel included. The film does that well. But I wonder if we shouldn't keep the uglier truth in mind.

How you feel about this will depend on your preference for escapism. Chris Evans plays Steve Rogers as totally unironic. He is serious about always doing the right thing. Captain America is very entertaining and about 20 minutes too long. This film also stars Tommy Lee Jones, Samuel L. Jackson, Derek Luke, Dominc Cooper, and Neal McDonough.

Horrible Bosses
This film has a story which has been told before but it's usually fun to watch.
Three friends, Nick (Jason Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day) and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) are all in bad situations at work. Nick, an MBA, works for the tyrannical Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey) who enjoys humiliating people if they are 2 minutes late to work. Dale, a little mouse of a man engaged to be married, labors as a dental assistant for the sexually voracious Dr. Julia Harris (Jennifer Anniston in a very provocative role-yowsa!!) who makes it clear that she wants Dale in every way a woman could want a man and then some. And if Dale wants his job he had better rise to the occasion.

 Kurt, an account manager at an industrial chemical supply company, had a good spot as heir apparent to his boss Jack Pellitt (Donald Sutherland) but things go south when Jack dies and power passes to his drug-addled, hair-plug wearing, prostitute patronizing son Bobby (Colin Farrell-initially almost unrecognizable) who deeply resents Kurt for being a better son to his father than he was. The film outlines most of this in pretty broad strokes. It moves a little TOO quickly in detailing the characters' frustrations and building a case as to why they don't simply get new jobs. So I didn't quite believe that murder was the only way out.

And as Nick and Kurt constantly remind Dale, his situation is only a problem because of his fidelity, because they would certainly love to be chased around the office by a beautiful woman in cleavage revealing outfits. Anyway the trio agree to the plan and after a few abortive attempts at trying to hire a hit man, they go to the black area of town (that of course makes total sense because everyone knows blacks are more criminal, right) where they hire a "murder consultant" Jones (Jamie Foxx) who will walk them thru the difficult steps of killing someone and getting away with it.

Obviously things start to go belly up and unforeseen events muck up their original plans. All three men make some critical mistakes and it appears that they may wind up in prison. This causes an argument to break out as to who among them would be the most likely to be assaulted in prison.

And there is similar such crude raunchy humor throughout the film. It was quite funny at times. This won't win any Oscars but if you are just looking for something silly to watch this could fit the bill. Kevin Spacey played a similar role in Swimming with Sharks. Anniston seems to be doing her damn best to show Brad Pitt he made a mistake. Assuming that's all her and not body doubles I might have to agree. Spacey and Anniston almost steal the show. Bateman's sly subtley and understated delivery is a nice little contrast to the over the top Spacey/Anniston/Sudeikis roles. This film was well cast. Ioan Gruffudd, Wendell Pierce, Isaiah Mustafa, Julie Bowen, Ron White, and Bob Newhart also have roles.

Blood Creek
This was another film directed by Joel Schumacher that I may not have watched if I had known he was the director. Unlike Trespass though, this was actually a halfway decent film.

The Nazis were interested in the occult and speculative science. So this film has the benefit of being at least somewhat based in reality. In 1936, a West Virginia German-American family, the Wollners, is contacted by the German embassy to ask them to host visiting scholar Richard Wirth (Michael Fassbender).

Wirth is not only a scholar but also a scientist/magician very much in the mold of the Red Skull. He has identified places around the globe where Viking Runestones of great magical power are located.

One such place is this farm in West Virginia. For the man who knows how to use these powers, time and death are no longer meaningful. In modern day West Virginia Evan Marshall (Henry Cavill) is stumbling around depressed because his big brother Victor Marshall (Dominic Purcell) disappeared on a hunting trip two years back and hasn't been seen since. So imagine his surprise when one night a badly wounded Victor stumbles in, asks for a drink and tells baby brother to get all the guns he has and follow him, they have some people to kill. And no, he can't ask any questions. Ultimately this turns into a siege movie and slows down near the end but it was fun. The 1936 movie scenes are in black and white which adds to the creepiness.
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