Tag Archives: Captain America

Failed Critics Podcast: Civil War

civil war

Battle lines have been drawn. Treaties are being drafted. The U.N. were informed.

It’s Steve ‘Captain Anyway’ Norman on one side, using his sense of justice and principles to determine what’s right. Opposite is Owen ‘Irony Man’ Hughes, putting his logic and rational thinking to the test. Listeners, choose your side as Civil War erupts on this week’s Failed Critics Podcast!

Andrew Brooker and Brian Plank are caught in the crossfire, therefore rather than being referred to as “guests” this week, you can legitimately call them Failed Critics collateral damage.

If you haven’t guessed what the main review on the latest episode is yet, then go speak to your doctor. But just for clarification, it is indeed the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe blockbuster, Captain America: Civil War – and boy do we talk, and talk, and talk about this one. We have our usual spoiler-free review later in the show, followed by a Spoiler Alert after the end credits, where the team go into more depth without worrying about ruining the plot, twists, characters… or anything else for that matter.

It’s not only Marvel on the pod this week, although the show does kick off with a chat about a potential Punisher solo-series on Netflix after a short hastily prepared quiz. Speaking of, Steve sinks his teeth into the latest Netflix movie Special Correspondents, starring Ricky Gervais. Owen and Brooker also review the latest James Cullen Bressack / Zack Ward indie-thriller Restoration (out today (3rd May!)), before Brooker also tackles video-game adaptation Ratchet & Clank and Brian has a look at cult classic Rollerball.

Join us again next week as we pray that our cinemas show something, anything, other than just Civil War for the next three months.

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Captain America: Civil War

Civil War

“Sorry” might always seem to be hardest word, Elton, but “accountability” might be the most unsexy. Particularly so if you’re trying to build a 147 minute long action movie around such a concept.

Let’s chuck in a few more terms, shall we? How about “legislation”, “treaty” and “U.N.-Accord”?

Captain America: Civil War could easily have suffered from dry, phlegmatic, po-faced earnestness, wallowing in miserableness as a collection of dumbfounded superheroes sit on the naughty step and think about what they’ve done.

Instead, fresh from the Sokovia fallout of the dreary misstepping Avengers: Age of Ultron, our eclectic band of merry super-powered chums begin the third instalment of Marvel’s Captain America trilogy with a skirmish in Lagos. As perpetually happens around these unregulated vigilantes / brave protectors (delete as applicable), chaos, destruction and collateral damage is never too far behind.

Just as they were after the hundreds of deaths from the New York alien-attack in Avengers Assemble, the crashing helicarriers in Washington DC during The Winter Soldier, and of course the omni-shambles of Age of Ultron‘s Sokovia rescue, it’s the Avengers who are held responsible for the loss of innocents’ lives in Nigeria. Thus begins a slow dissection of the role played by a group existing outside of the law, punctuated by enormous and often exceptionally well paced inter-fighting punch-ups.

Policing the planet as they see fit in this fantasy world of magic crystals, impenetrable metals and super soldiers, it takes no time at all for General Secretary of State Ross (William Hurt) to step in on behalf of a world scared half to death by a rogue, unregulated group of suited, walking, fighting nuclear bombs, tick-tocking their way towards a potential armageddon.

Although in name this is a Captain America sequel, it certainly feels much more comfortable as the Avengers follow-up many hoped for last year. Returning after a successful stint helming The Winter Soldier, directors Anthony and Joe Russo’s wizardry with a camera has thankfully kept consistency in tone with the franchise, as Civil War continues to be a hard-hitting, politically-charged commentary with genre-defining action sequences and equally solid performances from a cast slotting back into place like a well-worn suit made of iron with a robot friend called Friday inside of it.

Friends and ideologies clash frequently during the blockbuster – and only some of the time by using their words and not their vibranium inventions. OK, most of the time the hullabaloo breaks out into bouts of armour-clad blows, rather than democratic discussions. But it’s still much more “talky” for a blockbuster than perhaps one is used to. And, crucially, it just isn’t boring. It’s full of engaging and often thought-provoking dialogue. Quips and visual gags worm their way into some of the more serious conversations, but it still attempts to raise some tough topics.

Just as Mark Millar’s 2006 comicbook series (upon which this film is loosely based) dealt with a post-9/11 society, fearing a self-appointed world-police, too powerful to stop – or even if stopping them was the right or wrong thing to do – so too does the Russo’s version relate events to the real world. Civil War could quite passably be an analogy for gun control in the US, amongst other things.

For example, on one side, there’s Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr) position as the man doing his best to negotiate a fair deal for his pals, arguing that the best way to arm is to disarm and sign the UN’s proposed Sokovia Accord (akin to the “superhero registration act” in the comics). On the opposite side is Steve Rogers’s (Chris Evans) team who feel it’s their duty to step-up whenever they need to, operating without the bias of any government agendas.

It could be argued that one side represents the regulation and control of firearms, with the other in support of the people’s right to bear arms (albeit briefly). The moment that the two teams clash in an epic showdown – the likes of which we haven’t seen performed as accomplished as this since Whedon’s Phase One concluding team-up some four years and six movies ago – puts paid to this exact notion from that point onwards. But there’s still a lot to be read into this movie. Prepare for more astute observations crossing your path in the weeks and months to come from thousands of other bloggers and writers.

Anyway, let’s take a quick look at the teams on either side of the scrap:

Team Cap
Against the idea of becoming United Nations controlled agents, restricted to fighting only the causes upon which they determine suitable

  • Captain America / Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) – Leader of the movement and the main protaganist for whom the film’s perspective is mainly viewed from. Evans appears to be having a blast and his enthusiasm is infectious – but my God those are some seriously intimidatingly large muscles.
  • Falcon / Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) – Cap’s best friend and winged companion has an increased role in Civil War and benefits greatly from it. The first time that Falcon has been more than a bit-part character and Mackie handles the responsibility with aplomb. He actually appears to have a purpose on the team rather than being Cap’s fluffer.
  • Winter Soldier / Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) – Previously the ex-Hydra assassin was a feared villain, but Stan’s portrayal of the man, turned into a complex and emotionally fragile victim with an edge of danger, sees him sit comfortably alongside his former buddy in Rogers’ motley crew.
  • Scarlet Witch / Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) – The only Sokovian in the Avengers; traumatised and emotionally scarred by the events in her home country and those in Lagos, Wanda adds an extra dimension to the story, even if it is somewhat unrealised potential.
  • Hawkeye / Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) – Thank Christ there’s no longer any weak attempts to puff out Hawkeye’s background with side-plots about his family that go nowhere and add nothing. He’s about as close to writer Matt Fraction’s version of the character that we’ve had so far and, although brief, is Renner’s best turn as Hawkguy yet.
  • Ant Man / Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) – Continuing to surprise, despite only a small (excuse the pun) part to play in Civil War, what Rudd does, Rudd does well. Fantastically well, even. He’s a highlight in what was already the best scene in the entire movie.

Team Iron Man
In favour of the UN’s Sokovia Accord, ensuring the Avengers are regulated by defence experts in order to limit the civilian casualties from their endeavours to save mankind

  •  Iron Man / Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) – For all intents and purposes, RDJ might as well share equal billing. It’s as much Iron Man 4 as it is Captain America 3. His role shows just how much the former weapons manufacturer has developed since first outing himself as a superhero in 2008’s Iron Man, bringing things full circle.
  • War Machine / James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) – If Falcon plays the role of Captain America’s sidekick, then War Machine fits as Iron Man’s. Provides the logos to the debate relative to Falcon’s pathos. But man, Don Cheadle is looking old.
  • Black Widow / Natasha Romanov (Scarlett Johansson) – The cynical may say Black Widow is only on this side of the fence to balance the teams’ female quotas. Nevertheless, the role she plays provides a contrarian narrative and further develops her relationship with Rogers from The Winter Soldier.
  • Vision (Paul Bettany) – The suave-voiced red-skinned being is reduced to the role of babysitter for much of his screentime, but twice Bettany gets to show off his acting talents with moments of profundity that keep the near God-like being grounded and relatable.
  • Black Panther / T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) – Making his debut, the Prince of fictional African country Wakanda is forced to pick a side in his pursuit of vengeance. Boseman’s suitably unplaceable accent aside, he makes as much of an impact as one could hope for (if not more) in such a role. Bring on his solo film in 2018!
  • Spider-Man / Peter Parker (Tom Holland) – Yes. Yes, yes, yes. This is how to do Spider-Man. It’s only taken 14 years, but this is it. Holland is perfect as the web-slinging wall-crawler in a larger role than perhaps expected. Currently in pre-production ahead of release next year, Homecoming looks set to be the fun adventure that the character deserves, if Civil War is any evidence to go by.

Regardless of the fact that we already have twelve characters squished into the two-and-a-half-hour long film, some people might be wondering where the other chaps are. Where’s Thor, Hulk, Fury, Maria Hill, Phil Coulson (still) – heck, why are Ant Man and Spider-Man being invited to the big leagues but Daredevil, Jessica Jones, et al left un-namechecked?

It’d be pure speculation to suggest answers. It could have been a creative decision made by the Russo brothers or writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, with Thor and Hulk especially deemed too over-powered for a film like this.

It could have been Marvel big cheese Kevin Feige laying down the law. Ruffalo and Hemsworth might have been too busy with other projects. Who really knows? The same principle applies as it always does in these situations: It really doesn’t matter. These are the characters selected. This is all you’re getting. Deal with it, as the meme goes.

The biggest issue lies not with who isn’t in it, but with who it does include. Incorporating Daniel Brühl as Baron Zemo (an arch-nemesis of Captain America’s in the comics) structurally speaking makes a lot of sense when you lay out a blueprint for the entire movie.

However, the motivations behind his actions are at best understandable and at worst weak, predictable and a disservice to the character’s history. Also, he doesn’t wear purple pyiamas. What’s up with that?

Oh, right, yeah. It’s a bit naff.

Realistically, Zemo is somewhere in between the two, languishing around the “ordinary” mark. Hats off to Brühl for a competent account of himself as an actor, but Zemo is far from necessary in a film already overstuffed with characters. He adds nothing that couldn’t have been done equally well with, say, the returning Frank Grillo in a beefed up role as Crossbones.

Either way, it’s irrelevant as Captain America: Civil War is still very much worthy of your time. With a larger cast than any previous Marvel film, it somehow manages to balance screen time to an extraordinarily even degree, putting much of Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to shame.

Yes, it may gradually escalate towards a big climactic fight scene, as happens in every Marvel superhero comic book action film ever, but the route it takes to get there combined with the rationale behind it makes the deciding brawl more meaningful than your average crash-bang-wallop finale.

Civil War is interesting, exciting, often fun and slightly unconventional. It goes straight into the top tier of the studio’s output and will doubtless only improve on future rewatches.

Failed Critics Podcast: The Good Bridge of Dinosaur Spies

bridge of spies 15

We’re back to our normal routine today with Steve Norman and Owen Hughes joined by Callum Petch. There’s not a single professional comedian amongst them after the first episode of Paul Field and James Mullinger’s Underground Nights popped up in your podcast subscription software of choice this past weekend.

And what a bumper crop of new release reviews we have in store for you! Four new movies that have hit your cinema screens recently, including: The new Pixar dramedy, The Good Dinosaur; Black Mass, a crime biopic starring Johnny Depp; a film that Callum describes as “perfect” in Carol; and cold war drama Bridge of Spies, the latest Spielberg and Hanks collaboration.

All of this plus a look at the new Captain America: Civil War and Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice trailers and a bunch of other stuff that we’ve seen this past week. Callum boldly goes where millions of others have gone before and inducts himself into the Star Trek universe via the original motion picture. Meanwhile, Steve talks us through a post apocalyptic horror like so many more before it with Hidden and rounds up this season of The Walking Dead. There’s also still time for Owen to talk about a film that very few have seen before after attending the test screening of The Comedians Guide to Survival, a movie starring James Buckley (Jay from The Inbetweeners) about the life of James Mullinger (yes, that guy from Underground Nights).

Join Owen and Steve again for more “film related nonsense” with returning guest Andrew Brooker.

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Just Let Hope Do It

Winking self-acknowledgment is not an acceptable substitute for actual self-improvement.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

WARNING: The following article contains MAJOR SPOILERS for Ant-Man, and SPOILERS OF VARYING AMOUNTS for other films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

ant man 7Throughout most of Ant-Man, Hope van Dyne spends her time being considerably irritated by the fact that Scott Lang is the one stepping into the Ant-Man suit instead of her.  She has good reason to, though.  Hope is tougher than Scott, she’s smarter than Scott, she already knows Pym Technologies inside out, and she’s close enough to Derrick to be able to be kept in the loop at all times.  Essentially, there is no good reason for her not to be wearing that suit.  She knows it, everyone else knows it, and the film itself knows it.  Yet, she is told time and time again by her overprotective father that she can’t.  Instead, Scott is the one in the suit because he’s expendable, and Hank can’t bear to think about what would happen if things went bad with Hope in that suit.

In addition to being an arc for both Hank and Hope – him learning to accept that his wife (and Hope’s mother) Janet chose to sacrifice herself and that him trying to control the women in his life, even if he does genuinely think that it’s in their best interest, is wrong; her learning not resent her Dad for his decisions in life – the stuff with Hope also works as a meta-text for Marvel’s reticence to just allow women to suit up, kick ass, and headline their own damn movie already.  There’s a character that’s basically a stand-in for every single audience member who is sick of waiting for women to get their shot at the limelight, she is told by the hunky white guy that he’s there because he’s expendable if anything goes wrong, and a big part of big daddy Hank’s arc is learning that keeping women from being superheroes out of some misguided paternal instinct just breeds resentment.  The first of the film’s two big mid-credits scenes involves Hank revealing a prototype Wasp costume and giving Hope permission to use it, to which she responds with the big-hell-yes line, “It’s about damn time.”

Here’s the thing.  Yes, I really like Hope.  Yes, I agree with what Ant-Man is saying.  Yes, I appreciate that Marvel seems to understand the criticisms levelled against it.  And, yes, my heart did swell with joy at the reveal of the Wasp costume.  But, no, I don’t think that we should be giving Marvel credit or praise for any of this.  After all, they are part of the problem.  Kevin Feige has constantly shot down the idea of a Black Widow solo movie, Captain Marvel isn’t due until November 2018 (and every single one of these movies from now on is getting mentally marked-down if they don’t feature Carol Danvers in at least a 10 second post-credits sequence), and this franchise still hasn’t been making any particular strides towards bettering itself when it comes to its female characters.

Yet here’s Ant-Man, self-consciously pointing out how ridiculous this situation is and expecting a round of applause for doing so, instead of actually trying to fix the issue.  It’s like an architect of glass houses pointing out all of the structural dangers and safety concerns inherent in his work, and how ridiculous it is that he’s doing this, and then expecting a ticker-tape parade and a knighthood because at least he admitted to it, right?

Look, it’s not that I don’t approve of a big movie pointing out the fact that this is a problem that needs fixing, I just don’t think that Marvel are the people who should be doing so.  Black Widow is still one of only two Avengers to not have their own solo movie because… well, quite frankly, Kevin Feige can’t seem to come up with a genuine answer.  If the issue is brought up, he’ll instead spout some rhetoric about how they have “gone for the powerful woman versus the damsel in distress” as if that excuses them continually side-lining these characters over their male counterparts.

In fairness, Marvel films do typically have better-written female characters than most blockbusters, in that most of them do actually contribute to the plot in ways that aren’t solely “jumping into the hero’s pants”.  But they’re still not great.  For one, most of these “powerful women” arrive from the same school that most “powerful women” in popular media do: the ones who kick ass and/or snark but otherwise lack much distinctive personality.  Lady Sif, Gamora, Maria Hill, Sharon Carter…  My affection for these characters are born less out of what I’ve gotten to know about them in their respective films and more out of my love for their actresses and hints of what could possibly be done with them in the future.  Instead, they’re always the least-served characters in their respective movies, asked to do nothing more than occasionally beat people up and snark before getting out of the way of the men’s stuff.

Otherwise, despite Feige’s assertions, these women still mostly fall into the camps of “love interest” or “damsel”, and sometimes both!  Jane Foster’s main role in both Thor movies is “bland love interest” whilst her contributions to helping Thor save the world are forced at best.  Pepper Potts, despite spending much of the first two Iron Man movies being depicted as Tony Stark’s intellectual equal, is relegated to being just another damsel throughout Iron Man 3 with her last minute Extremis powers being an utterly laughable attempt to combat arguments like mine about the near-total destruction of her character.  (There’s also the fact that Iron Man 3 itself is borderline misogynistic, but that’s a whole other article.)  And despite acting as a walking meta-commentary on female marginalisation in the MCU and how this needs to change, Hope still spends the majority of Ant-Man on the sidelines and ends the movie as the girlfriend of Scott Lang, despite the only build-up being a begrudging respect for him and a flustered look at some fine Paul Rudd abs, because… that’s how these things are supposed to go, I guess.

Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t some really genuinely well-drawn female characters in the MCU – everybody keeps bringing up Black Widow for a reason (even if Age of Ultron dropped the ball by handing the sterilisation and Bruce Banner developments less-than-well), but Peggy Carter has also blossomed into an outstanding character, and Scarlet Witch is, in my opinion, the real star of Ultron – and I’m also not saying that strong female characters (how I hate that phrase) can’t also be love interests, pre-Iron Man 3 Pepper was absolutely one of the strongest and most well-written characters of this franchise regardless of gender.  But what I am saying is that this currently isn’t good enough and that there is room for substantial improvement.  And I do mean substantial; this is not something that can be fixed purely by the existence of Captain Marvel, although Feige worryingly gives off the impression that he thinks it can.

A female-led superhero movie is a good start, but it’s not a be-all-end-all.  These movies need more better-written women across the board.  It’s not just that Hope is better suited to the Ant-Man suit than Scott, it’s that her character is honestly not that interesting beyond her meta-text and Evangeline Lilly’s charm offensive.  It’s not that Gamora is boring, it’s that her few moments of genuine personality (which call to mind Starfire from DC’s Teen Titans, natch) are just that.  Moments, compared to the extensive character studies we get for Peter Quill and Rocket Raccoon in the rest of Guardians of the Galaxy.  It’s not that Jane can’t be Thor’s girlfriend, it’s the fact that she doesn’t really have a distinctive personality beyond being his girlfriend who occasionally quips about how ridiculous this world she’s been shunted into is, and she’s outperformed at that by Darcy.

The reason why everybody keeps calling for a Black Widow solo movie is not because we just want a movie in which a female superhero is fronting things instead of a man.  It’s because, through the four films that she’s appeared in so far, Black Widow is one of the most richly-drawn, well-defined, and just plain interesting characters in the MCU.  And she’s a woman, which makes that prior fact a goddamn miracle.  This is what everybody seems to misunderstand.  DC and Warner Bros. seem to be under the impression that throwing Wonder Woman into Batman v. Superman and giving her a prominent three-second shot in the trailer is going to be enough to get them showered in bouquets of roses.  And whilst it is more than nice to finally see Wonder Woman up on the big screen, it’s going to mean jack sh*t if she hasn’t got an interesting character with stuff to do and only shows up to kick arse and snark indiscriminately.  Because then she’s not Wonder Woman, she’s just yet another in a long line of quote-unquote ‘strong female characters’.

That’s why the Hope stuff in Ant-Man irritates me so.  Yes, it’s nice that everyone seems to recognise that this is a problem, and that they are going to put Hope in the Wasp suit at some unspecified point in the future assuming the inevitable heat-death of the universe doesn’t murder us all to death first.  It’s the fact that the film still doesn’t actually do anything to fix the problem, still mostly marginalising Hope’s role in the story, still giving her a rather interchangeable personality, and still shunts her far out of the way of the important concluding parts of the story.  Openly acknowledging a problem is not an acceptable substitute for actually trying to fix the problem, and the time and effort spent on this “look at us, we’re so self-aware and clever” routine is time and effort that could have been spent actually bettering the situation.

Hope’s “it’s about damn time” is meant to be a satisfying fist-pumping indicator that things may finally be turning a corner, but forgive me for holding off on the party poppers and champagne until I see actual evidence that things are getting better.  And, no, just throwing Carol Danvers into a post-credits sequence alone won’t be enough.

Callum Petch am Miss Icon, and he swore he saw.  Listen to Screen 1 on Hullfire Radio (site link) and follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

Avengers Minisodes: Episode 9 – Captain America: The Winter Soldier

In the run up to the latest hotly anticipated Marvel blockbuster Avengers: Age of Ultron, Steve and Owen have been busy putting together a series of short 20-25 minute long minisode podcasts. With clips from the films, trailers, retro reviews taken from our archived podcasts as well as brand new retrospective reviews featuring a varied mix of different guests for each episode, we’ll be running through all of the MCU movies thus far in chronological order.

In the penultimate podcast of our Avengers Minisode series, we take a look back at 2014’s espionage thriller, Captain America: The Winter Soldier. After a brief cameo from Chris Evans as Steve Rogers during Thor: The Dark World, here he returns to the role in full as catastrophe strikes when he uncovers a secret Hydra plot to take down SHIELD as his past comes back to haunt him.

Just as Iron Man did in his first sequel, Cap teams up with Natasha Romanov, aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), SHIELD agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) and new recruit Sam Wilson, aka Falcon (Anthony Mackie), in a showdown against the mysterious Winter Soldier that sent ripples through the MCU. It was such a smash hit for directors Joe and Anthony Russo that as well as returning to direct the first film in Marvel’s Phase 3 next year, Captain America: Civil War, as well as taking on the responsibility for the next two Avengers films (Infinity War parts 1 & 2) after Age of Ultron. Something that we’re incredibly excited and pleased about!

As ever, this episode will feature clips and trailers from the film, as well as our original retro review from an older archived podcast featuring Carole Petts – apologies for the slightly poor audio quality. Don’t worry, though! It’s much better during our new retrospective review with Andrew Brooker, a self-confessed huge fan of Winter Soldier, as per his entry in our Decade In Film series.

You can keep up with all of the episodes released so far and those to come here.

Warning: these Avengers Minisodes may contain spoilers

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(Hail Hydra)

Avengers Minisodes: Episode 6 – Avengers Assemble

In the run up to the latest hotly anticipated Marvel blockbuster Avengers: Age of Ultron, Steve and Owen have been busy putting together a series of short 20-25 minute long minisode podcasts. With clips from the films, trailers, retro reviews taken from our archived podcasts as well as brand new retrospective reviews featuring a varied mix of different guests for each episode, we’ll be running through all of the MCU movies thus far in chronological order.

The longest episode in our Avengers Minisode series sees us clock in at a bumper 30 minutes! But it’s worth it for Avengers Assemble, the film that truly cemented Marvel Studios as the groundbreaking film company they are today. The third highest grossing film of all time, earning over $1bn in ticket sales alone, The Avengers was an unstoppable juggernaut of a film that earned almost as much critical praise as it did in box office revenue.

It was the final stamp on a project that began all the way back in 2005 and closed out Marvel’s Phase 1 in style. The heroes we’d seen develop in the five preceding movies finally got together on screen for the first time under the direction of Joss Whedon.  To see Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), finally together alongside Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg), Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) of SHIELD as they tried to thwart an alien invasion, led by Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the movie was the massive pay-off that the franchise so richly deserved.

Long time listeners to the podcast will recognise our retro review here has been taken from the second ever episode of the Failed Critics Podcast with James, Steve and Gerry, back when the film was first released in 2012. Joining Owen for a brand new retrospective look back on the film is our special guest – and former podcast regular – Carole Petts to assess whether or not the film still holds up considering all that’s come after it in Phase 2.

You can keep up with all of the episodes released so far and those to come here.

Warning: our Avengers Minisodes may contain spoilers

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Avengers Minisodes: Episode 5 – Captain America: The First Avenger

In the run up to the latest hotly anticipated Marvel blockbuster Avengers: Age of Ultron, Steve and Owen have been busy putting together a series of short 20-25 minute long minisode podcasts. With clips from the films, trailers, retro reviews taken from our archived podcasts as well as brand new retrospective reviews featuring a varied mix of different guests for each episode, we’ll be running through all of the MCU movies thus far in chronological order.

Already at the half way point in our series, our fifth episode of the Avengers Minisode podcasts sees the team turn their attentions to 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger. The penultimate entry to phase one of the Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, it saw the emergence of the original super soldier as Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) donned the stars and stripes uniform to take on secret Nazi science terrorists Hydra, led by the inherently evil Red Skull (Hugo Weaving).

Like Thor before it, which saw a departure from the typical blockbuster fare of the Iron Man series and The Incredible Hulk, Captain America veered off in yet another direction towards the pulpy bombastic adventure genre you’d hope it would be from a director such as Joe Johnston. It also helped that the entire plot took place during the second world war, differentiating it even further from the standard superhero fare.

The First Avenger also saw the introduction of various important support characters to the MCU, such as: Toby Jones as Hydra’s Dr. Arnim Zola; Bucky Barnes, Captain America’s best friend, played by Sebastian Stan; and Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, who would eventually go on to feature in her own Marvel TV series, Agent Carter. All of whom were great in their roles, but perhaps none were more surprising than Chris Evans himself who perfectly captured the good-hearted nature of the shield carrying patriot, Captain America.

A topic that our guest for this episode, Callum Petch, picks up on and tries to dissect exactly why that might be in our retrospective review. We’ve also got a retro review with James Diamond from one of our older archived podcasts, as well as trailers, clips and more.

You can keep up with all of the episodes released so far and those to come here.

Warning: our Avengers Minisodes may contain spoilers

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The Week in Film – 15 August 2014: 26 Years Buried in the Deepest Darkest Jungle

The second entry into our weekly round up of all the weeks film news worth knowing about, as per Steve’s wont. Fury and sadness abound.

by Steve Norman (@StevePN86)

robin williamsRobin Williams: A Tribute

Only a short time ago we learnt of the sad and tragic death of Robin Williams. We have already paid tribute to him on our podcast but such a fine actor is worthy of being paid homage to in writing as well.

If you are, like me, in your mid to late 20’s you will have first come across the fast paced and quick witted actor in family films Jumanji, Mrs Doubtfire, Hook and as the voice of the Genie in Disney’s Aladdin.

A great comedian capable of improvising at the drop of the hat his roles brought joy and laughter to millions.

But he could act as well. He won an Oscar for his role in Good Will Hunting and put in stellar performances in the likes of Dead Poets Society, World’s Greatest Dad, Good Morning, Vietnam and Insomnia.

Williams was a versatile actor who could play a number of roles across a range of genres and was genuinely up there among the best in his craft.

On Failed Critics we made the decision not to discuss the reasons behind a person’s death a long time ago as frankly it is none of our business. However my thoughts and the thoughts of everyone associated with the website go out to Robin Williams’ family friends and anyone close to him.

Batman vs. Superman vs. Captain America

The big news coming out of the world of comic book movies this week is that Warner Bros. have bottled going head to head with Captain America 3 and moved forward the release date of Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

You cannot blame them really. Marvel are having a roaring success with their comic book movies with pretty much everything they touch turning to gold, Guardians of the Galaxy the newest in a long stream of examples.

Perhaps though the biggest mistake is moving it to come out before Caps next outing. Come the release of the first Avengers third instalment everyone will have stopped talking about Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent. If they had released it after CA3 it may well have had the same effect.power rangers

It’s Morphin Time

2016 will not only see Batman, Superman and Captain America return to the screen but the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers as well.

If it is at the same level as the Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja (or Hero, depending which side of the pond you hail from) Turtles movies then it will be yet another part of my childhood ruined.

Fury to Close London Film Festival

No not Nick Fury, although I would forgive you for thinking that after all the comic book chat.

The David Ayers/Brad Pitt World War 2 film will bring the curtain down on the October festival in the UK capital.

It looks more Band of Brothers/Saving Private Ryan than Pitt’s last venture in to Nazi occupied Europe in Inglorious Basterds. Also starring Michael Pena and Shia the Beef it looks set to be a cracker.

However the film did draw criticism for filming scenes with people in full Nazi garb on Remembrance Day last year.

Next week, Steve will return to give us another round up of the latest in film news. 

Failed Critics Podcast: Captain America, Major Spoilers, and General Shambles

Robert Redford in Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Robert Redford and Chris Evans in Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Welcome to this weeks Failed Critics Podcast, and in this episode we’re reviewing two of the most anticipated films of the early blockbuster season. Marvel Phase Two continues apace with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, while another sequel in the shape of Muppets Most Wanted also comes under the spotlight.

James is away this week, but we’re joined by our friend Carole Petts as the team not only review Captain America 2, but also delve into what it means for the MCU in Spoiler Alert. Owen also gives us a sneak preview of another highly anticipated sequel after he was lucky enough to gaze upon the brutal spectacle of The Raid 2.

We’re hopefully back to normal next week, with James back in the saddle and reviews of Noah and The Double.

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier

 

 

Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Captain America: The Winter Soldier

By Carole Petts

 

I liked the first Captain America. I mean, I really liked it. The attempt at welding a war film onto a modern superhero popcorn flick was appreciated because they got so much right – capturing the essence of Steve Rogers and summoning memories of Raiders of the Lost Ark into the bargain. But I fully appreciate that this isn’t a view shared by everyone. If you’re one of those people, the good news is that we’ve got the obligatory origin story out of the way now. The better news is that this film replaces the war component with an espionage thriller, with largely successful results. The even better news is it may well be the most important Marvel film to date.

Captain America was a little underused in Avengers if I’m honest. Maybe that was because he was the last Avenger to get his own standalone film, but I felt he was often relegated to comic relief for not understanding present day references. If you’ve seen the deleted scenes you’ll know that there was originally a lot more focus on him having to adjust to modern life, and that these were cut for pacing but with a promise that the theme would be expanded in Winter Soldier. The problem with that is, he’s been in the modern world for a while now – long enough that he greets every new popular culture recommendation with a weary smile and a fresh entry in his notepad.

Not long enough, however, to fathom the extent to which liberty itself has been devalued. The film wastes little time in getting to the crux of the story – freedom has a high price, and S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t prepared to pay it in the present climate. Of course, this directly conflicts with the very notion of what Cap was created for, and it makes for an effective analogy in these NSA-monitored times. But this is nothing compared to what happens next – a betrayal of enormous proportions rips the organisation apart, and Cap must decide who of his new-found compatriots he can trust.

The main issue facing anyone writing a Captain America film is the same as that facing a Superman writer – the character is cinematically boring, someone who will never have a moral dilemma because you know he will always choose the right path. Winter Soldier sensibly averts this problem by pairing Rogers with a strong ensemble cast who bring a moral flexibility – and therefore a welcome uncertainty – to proceedings. Even if we know he will always do the right thing, the same can’t be said of Black Widow or Nick Fury. Alongside the regulars is Falcon, a character familiar to Captain America readers and one who, I must confess, I wasn’t sure would work in this setting but absolutely does. This is due in large part to a winning performance by Anthony Mackie who brings a healthy dose of humour and sarcasm to proceedings.

There’s no getting around the fact that the less you know about the film, the more you will enjoy it. There are certain items that stuck in the craw a bit – the villain reveal was a bit silly to my mind, and its daftness will almost certainly be chalked up to being in the original comic storyline (it isn’t). Happily the ramifications are much, much greater than the mechanism itself, and this is swiftly forgotten in the ensuing political melee. There is a box-ticking final 20 minutes of fighting. Cap’s new helmet makes his ears stick out and he looks stupid. And his discovery of the Winter Soldier’s identity is dragged out a little long for my liking, despite the actor and character being prominently displayed in advertising up to this point and also the fact that this is a faithful translation of the story arc (I should point out that my non-comic reading partner thought this was well-paced though, so this may have been impatience on my part).

It sounds like I didn’t enjoy this film. That’s not the case. I loved it. But I can’t tell you why, because it would spoil the myriad twists and surprises that Winter Soldier has in store. If you’re not a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you might enjoy it anyway for the mix of action and espionage. If you are a fan, you can’t afford to miss it because the reverberations from this film will echo around the MCU for a good while…and you should definitely not leave before the lights go up.

 
Carole will watch most types of film and particularly anything starring Nicolas Cage, leading to her firmly-held belief that The Wicker Man remake is the funniest comedy ever produced.  She hates Grease.

Failed Critics Podcast: Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 Ben Kingsley MandarinA year older, wiser, and fatter (in some cases) and the Failed Critics Podcast is back with a bit of a redbranding and format shake-up. Worry not, it’s still the same four idiots (three this week) talking about film from our respective bedrooms via an unstable network connection.

This week we review the start of Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 2 with Shane Black’s Iron Man 3. We’ve dusted off Spoiler Alert especially for the occasion  and James even finally got around to watching all the Marvel Phase 1 movies. He gives his opinions on those in What We’ve Been Watching, while Steve struggles to make head or tail out of the utterly bonkers and surreal Holy Motors.

We’re back next week, hopefully with Gerry and a discussion on Studio Ghibli.

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