CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER

 

Directed by Joe Johnston

CAST

Chris Evans as Steve Rodgers/Captain America

Sebastian Stan as James “Bucky” Barnes

Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter

Tommy Lee Jones as Colonel Chester Phillips

Hugo Weaving as Johann Schmidt/Red Skull

Stanley Tucci as Abraham Erskine

Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark

 

The first thing that strikes you about “Captain America” is the sheer retro-ness of the whole thing. Every other superhero movie of the last decade has been populated with generic skyscrapers and vast expanses of urban life. The people behind this movie have brought out the unique flavor of the 40’s in painstaking detail, from the vehicles and roads to the slang and style of speech. It’s very well done.

Chris Evans  stars as Steve Rodgers, the archetypal weakling. He dreams of enlisting in the army to fight the Nazis in Europe, but his array of health problems stands in his way. His best friend Bucky has already been drafted, which further depresses Steve. It’s notable that this film doesn’t particularly promote any particular political or patriotic views; Steve’s interest in fighting the Nazis isn’t because of some opposition to Socialism. It’s simply because, as he puts it, “I don’t like bullies. No matter where they come from”.

His determination and resilience attract the attention of a German defector, Dr. Abraham Erskine, who fled his homeland after Hitler demanded his formula for the Super Soldier Serum that he developed. Erskine picks Steve for the Super Soldier program over more physically qualified candidates because ” a strong man, who has known power all his life, will lose respect for that power. A weak man knows the value of power.” Steve gets the formula, buffs up, and the rest is history.

 Hugo Weaving as Red Skull in “Captain America”

I fucking hate 3D. It’s used in just one scene in the entire movie, as far as I could see. There’s a fight between Cap and Red Skull where the 3D makes it so dark that it’s hard to tell who’s hitting who. It helps that the villain’s head is flaming red, though. Hugo Weaving is suitably menacing as the bad guy, but he’s underused here. Hayley Atwell’s character is a lot of fun, but she’s used only as the Love Interest. I swear, Marvel cannot write female characters for shit. Tommy Lee Jones provides much needed comic relief.

The  movie is old fashioned in more ways than one. It follows the standard superhero movie train of thought: Meet Hero. Meet Hero’s Friend. Hero meets Girl. Hero and Girl engage in sexually tense banter. Hero meets Villain. Hero and Villain snarl at each other, exchange insults. Villain kills Hero’s Friend. Hero swears Eternal Vengeance. Hero sacrifices himself to defeat Villain.

All in all, it’s a good movie, just not a great one. I thought it was better than the other Marvel releases of the year. Plus the final scene, where (spoilers!) Steve finds himself 70 years in the future, is perfectly done and provides a great ending.

RATING (OUT OF FIVE)

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BAD TEACHER

Directed by Jake Kasdan

CAST

Cameron Diaz as Elizabeth Halsey

Lucy Punch as Amy Squirrel

Jason Segel as Russell Gettis

Justin Timberlake as Scott Delacorte

“Bad Teacher” tries to emulate the popularity and success of “Bad Santa” and fails miserably. The latter succeeded because Billy Bob Thornton’s performance as the titular character was spot on. The former fails because Cameron Diaz’s performance is terrible in a film populated with bad performances.

There are maybe  4 decent jokes in the entire movie. Everything else has been done to death. The direction is bad, the script is bad, the acting is bad, the cinematography is bad, even my seat at the theater was bad. That’s how bad this film was, it leaned forward from the screen and lent it’s mediocrity to my seating arrangements.

Cameron Diaz screwing kids up in “Bad Teacher”.

Every single character in this movie is unlikeable, with perhaps the exception of the school superintendent, who occupies about three minutes of screen time. There’s an unlikely ending that seems tacked on just to release the audience from their collective misery. Avoid this movie like it was the plague and your mother-in-law rolled into one. Mercifully, the film is only 92 minutes long.

RATING (OUT OF FIVE)

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