REVIEW: CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER

 

CAST

Chris Evans (The Losers)
Samuel L. Jackson (Jurassic Park)
Scarlett Johansson (Lucy)
Robert Redford (The Sting)
Sebastian Stan (Spread)
Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker)
Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother)
Frank Grillo (The Purge 2)
Maximiliano Hernandex (Warriors)
Emily Vancamp (Revenge)
Hayley Atwell (The Duchess)
Toby Jones (The Hunger Games)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble0
Alan Dale (Lost)
Chin Han (Arrow)
Garry Shandling (Over The Hedge)
Steven Culp (Jason Goes To Hell)
Gary Sinise (Deception)
Thomas Kretschmann (Dracula)
Elizabeth Olsen (Godzilla)
Danny Pudi (Powerless)
Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass)
Callan Mulvey (Batman V Superman)
Jenny Agutter (Child’s Play 2)
Adetokumboh M’Cormack (Lost)
Evan Parke (King Kong)
Henry Goodman (The New Pope)

MV5BMTYxNTI5OTkyM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTUwMDM0MTE@._V1_Two years after the Battle of New York, Steve Rogers works in Washington D.C. for the espionage agency S.H.I.E.L.D. under Director Nick Fury, while adjusting to contemporary society. Rogers and Agent Natasha Romanoff are sent with S.H.I.E.L.D.’s counter-terrorism S.T.R.I.K.E. team, led by Agent Rumlow, to free hostages aboard a S.H.I.E.L.D. vessel from Georges Batroc and his mercenaries. Mid-mission, Rogers discovers Romanoff has another agenda: to extract data from the ship’s computers for Fury. Rogers returns to the Triskelion, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s headquarters, to confront Fury and is briefed about Project Insight: three Helicarriers linked to spy satellites, designed to preemptively eliminate threats. Unable to decrypt the data recovered by Romanoff, Fury becomes suspicious about Insight and asks senior S.H.I.E.L.D. official Alexander Pierce to delay the project.MV5BMjIzODY0NzA4NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODQwMDM0MTE@._V1_On his way to rendezvous with Maria Hill, Fury is ambushed by assailants led by a mysterious assassin called the Winter Soldier. Fury escapes to Rogers’ apartment, and warns Rogers that S.H.I.E.L.D. is compromised. After handing Rogers a flash drive containing data from the ship, Fury is gunned down by the Winter Soldier. Fury dies in surgery, and Hill recovers the body. The next day, Pierce summons Rogers to the Triskelion. When Rogers withholds Fury’s information, Pierce brands him a fugitive. Hunted by S.T.R.I.K.E., Rogers meets with Romanoff. Using data in the flash drive they discover a secret S.H.I.E.L.D. bunker in New Jersey, where they activate a supercomputer containing the preserved consciousness of Arnim Zola. Zola reveals that ever since S.H.I.E.L.D. was founded after World War II, Hydra has secretly operated within its ranks, sowing global chaos with the objective of making humanity willing to surrender its freedom in exchange for security. The pair narrowly escape death when a S.H.I.E.L.D. missile destroys the bunker, and realize that Pierce is Hydra’s leader within S.H.I.E.L.D.MV5BNDQzMjcwMzA0NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjIwMDM0MTE@._V1._CR1,116,932,390_Rogers and Romanoff enlist the help of former USAF pararescueman Sam Wilson, whom Rogers befriended, and acquire his powered “Falcon” wingpack. Deducing that S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jasper Sitwell is a Hydra mole, they force him to divulge that Zola developed a data-mining algorithm that can identify individuals who might become future threats to Hydra’s plans. The Insight Helicarriers will sweep the globe, using satellite-guided guns to eliminate these individuals. Rogers, Romanoff, and Wilson are ambushed by the Winter Soldier, who kills Sitwell. During the fight, Rogers recognizes the Winter Soldier as Bucky Barnes, his friend who was captured and experimented upon during WWII. Hill manages to extract the trio to a safehouse where Fury, who had faked his death, is waiting with plans to sabotage the Helicarriers by replacing their controller chips.MV5BMTk0NDI5ODQwNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjIwMDM0MTE@._V1._CR1,116,933,389_After the World Security Council members arrive for the Helicarriers’ launch, Rogers broadcasts Hydra’s plot to everyone at the Triskelion. Romanoff, disguised as one of the Council members, disarms Pierce. Fury arrives and forces Pierce to unlock S.H.I.E.L.D’s database so that Romanoff can leak classified information, exposing Hydra to the public. Following a struggle, Fury kills Pierce. Meanwhile, Rogers and Wilson storm two Helicarriers and replace the controller chips, but the Winter Soldier destroys Wilson’s suit and fights Rogers on the third. Rogers fends him off and replaces the final chip, allowing Hill to take control and have the vessels destroy each other. Rogers refuses to fight the Winter Soldier in an attempt to reach his friend, but as the ship collides with the Triskelion, Rogers is thrown out into the Potomac River. The Winter Soldier rescues the unconscious Rogers before disappearing into the woods. With S.H.I.E.L.D. in disarray, Romanoff appears before a Senate subcommittee and Fury, under the cover of his apparent death, heads to Eastern Europe in pursuit of Hydra’s remaining cells. Rogers and Wilson decide to find the Winter Soldier, while Rumlow, who was a double agent for Hydra, is hospitalized following the Triskelion’s destruction.MV5BMjExMDA3Nzc1N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTMwMDM0MTE@._V1_In a mid-credits scene, Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, at a Hydra lab, proclaims that the “age of miracles” has begun as scientists examine an energy-filled scepter and two prisoners: one with superhuman speed, the other with telekinetic powers. In a post-credits scene, the Winter Soldier visits a Bucky memorial at the Smithsonian Institution.MV5BMTQxNDc0MjM4M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDc0MDI5MDE@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_Seeing Cap and Black Widow banter about his dating life,  plays on the established chemistry between Evans and Johansson, working both the humor and the inherent pathos that defines their roles. That Mackie and Redford both effortlessly slide into this established dynamic is testament to what skilled performers they are. There is also some nice continuity to having the same writers return from The First Avenger to craft its sequel. There are plenty of parallels and callbacks here. when  watched back to back, you not only get to appreciate the original more, but enjoy how they connect.

 

REVIEW: CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER

CAST

Chris Evans (The Losers)
Hayley Atwell (Cinderella)
Sebastian Stan (Spread)
Tommy Lee Jones (Batman Forever)
Hugo Weaving (The Matrix)
Dominic Cooper (Dracula untold)
Richard Armitage (The Hobbit)
Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones)
Samuel L. Jackson (Jackie Brown)
Toby Jones (The Hunger Games)
Neal McDonough (Arrow)
Derek Luke (Glory Road)
Kenneth Choi (The Terminal)
Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones)
David Bradley (The Young Messiah)
Jenna Coleman (Doctor Who)
Amanda Righetti (Friday The 13th)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Simon Kunz (City of Ember)
Anatole Taubman (Taken)
Laura Haddock (Guardians of The Galaxy)

MV5BMTMxNDU2NDYxNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzc4MjIwNQ@@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,756_AL_In the present day, scientists in the Arctic uncover an old, frozen aircraft. In March 1942, Nazi officer Johann Schmidt and his men steal a mysterious relic called the Tesseract, which possesses untold powers, from the town of Tønsberg in German-occupied Norway.41aaA5+UHWLIn New York City, Steve Rogers is rejected for World War II military recruitment because of various health and physical problems. While attending an exhibition of future technologies with his friend, Sgt. James “Bucky” Barnes, Rogers again attempts to enlist. Overhearing Rogers’ conversation with Barnes about wanting to help in the war, Dr. Abraham Erskine allows Rogers to enlist. He is recruited into the Strategic Scientific Reserve as part of a “super-soldier” experiment under Erskine, Col. Chester Phillips, and British agent Peggy Carter. Phillips is unconvinced by Erskine’s claims that Rogers is the right person for the procedure but relents after seeing Rogers commit an act of self-sacrificing bravery. The night before the treatment, Erskine reveals to Rogers that Schmidt underwent an imperfect version of the procedure and suffered permanent side-effects.
MV5BMTQ2ODc0MjI2Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODg3NTAyNw@@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,748_AL_Schmidt and Dr. Arnim Zola harness the energies of the Tesseract, intending to use the power to fuel Zola’s inventions, mounting an offensive that will change the world. Schmidt discovers Erskine’s location and dispatches assassin Heinz Kruger to kill him. Erskine subjects Rogers to the super-soldier treatment, injecting him with a special serum and dosing him with “vita-rays”. After Rogers emerges from the experiment taller and more muscular, an undercover Kruger kills Erskine and flees. Rogers pursues and captures Kruger, but the assassin avoids interrogation by committing suicide with a cyanide capsule. With Erskine dead and his super-soldier formula lost, U.S. Senator Brandt has Rogers tour the nation in a colorful costume as “Captain America” to promote war bonds while scientists study him and attempt to rediscover the formula. In 1943, while on tour in Italy performing for active servicemen, Rogers learns that Barnes’ unit was MIA in a battle against Schmidt’s forces. Refusing to believe that Barnes is dead, Rogers has Carter and engineer Howard Stark fly him behind enemy lines to mount a solo rescue attempt. Rogers infiltrates the fortress of Schmidt’s Nazi division Hydra, freeing Barnes and the other prisoners. Rogers confronts Schmidt, who removes a mask to reveal a red, skull-like visage that earned him the sobriquet “the Red Skull”. Schmidt escapes and Rogers returns to base with the freed soldiers.
MV5BMTY4MzgzMjEwNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTgwODYzMw@@._V1.._SX1777_CR0,0,1777,755_AL_Rogers recruits Barnes, Dum Dum Dugan, Gabe Jones, Jim Morita, James Montgomery Falsworth, and Jacques Dernier to attack other known Hydra bases. Stark outfits Rogers with advanced equipment, most notably a circular shield made of vibranium, a rare, nearly indestructible metal. Rogers and his team sabotage various Hydra operations. The team later assaults a train carrying Zola. Rogers and Jones succeed in capturing Zola, but Barnes falls from the train to his assumed death.[c] Using information extracted from Zola, the final Hydra stronghold is located, and Rogers leads an attack to stop Schmidt from using weapons of mass destruction on major cities around the world. Rogers climbs aboard Schmidt’s aircraft as it takes off, and during the subsequent fight the Tesseract’s container is damaged. Schmidt physically handles the Tesseract, causing him to dissolve in a bright light. The Tesseract burns through the plane and is lost in the ocean. Seeing no way to land the plane without the risk of detonating its weapons, Rogers crashes it in the Arctic. Stark later recovers the Tesseract from the ocean floor but is unable to locate Rogers or the aircraft, presuming him dead.
MV5BMTUzODkyNDE2OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzEzNTIzMw@@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_Rogers awakens in a 1940s-style hospital room. Deducing from an anachronistic radio broadcast that something is wrong, he flees outside and finds himself in present-day Times Square, where S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury informs him that he has been “asleep” for nearly 70 years. In a post-credits scene, Fury approaches Rogers and proposes a mission with worldwide ramifications.MV5BMTUwMjc2MTgzNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjg0ODI4NA@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1355,1000_AL_Overall, I enjoyed the immersion into the era that Captain America: The First Avenger takes you back into. The performances are capable and Johnston’s vision is convincing, and it makes for entertaining viewing.

REVIEW: AGENT CARTER – SEASON 1

MAIN CAST
Hayley Atwell (Cinderella)
James D’Arcy (Hitchcock)
Chad Michael Murray (House of Wax)
Enver Gjokaj (Dollhouse)
Shea Whigham (American Hustle)
Chad Michael Murray and Hayley Atwell in Agent Carter (2015)
RECURRING AND NOTABLE GUEST CAST
Dominic Cooper (Dracula Untold)
Lyndsy Fonseca (Kick-Ass)
James Frain (Gotham)
James Landry Hebert (Looper)
Meagen Fay (Species 4)
Ray Wise (Robocop)
Ralph Garman (Ted)
Bridget Regan (Beauty and the Beast 2012)
Jack Conley (Angel)
Neal McDonough (Arrow)
Leonard Roberts (Heroes)
Rick Peters (Veronica Mars)
Ralph Brown (Alien 3)
Toby Jones (The Hunger Games)
James Frain (Star Trek: Discovery)
Lesley Boone (Medium)
James Urbaniak (Terminator: TSCC)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Eddie Shin (Westworld)
John Glover (Smallville)
Devin Ratray (Home Alone)
Ralph Garman (Ted)
Considering it was a 1940s period piece starring an already-established, likable character and was created by the guys who wrote Captain America: The Winter Soldier, you’d think people would have been more excited going into Marvel’s Agent Carter. Not that I didn’t see plenty of excitement as well, mind you, but I also saw a lot of cynicism – stuff about how it was a “prequel” and thus “wouldn’t matter” and also about how because Peggy and the other characters didn’t have superpowers, “Who cares?”But Agent Carter didn’t need to succeed by setting up something to pay off in another film it just needed to be an entertaining, involving show. And boy, was it.
Yes, it only got better as it went along, but Agent Carter — which came from executive producers/showrunners Michele Fazekas & Tara Butters — was a lot of fun from the start. Hayley Atwell had already established how great she is as the character and easily slid into the lead role, and pairing her with Edwin Jarvis (James D’Arcy) was an inspired move. Atwell and D’Arcy had terrific, non-romantic, chemistry together, playing Peggy and Jarvis as an instantly lovable, quirky duo and making the scenes where Jarvis accompanied Peggy on missions really pop – even before Peggy got to beat up bad guys.
With only eight episodes, Agent Carter moved quickly, in a satisfying manner. Bridget Regan was introduced as Peggy’s neighbor, Dottie, and just a week later – with fans already speculating on what her character could really be – she’s killing a guy, leading into a really awesome reveal that Agent Carter was introducing the Black Widow program into the mix.

Agent Carter wasn’t tied into the modern Marvel movies in a direct way, but there were a ton of cool connections throughout, beyond Peggy’s important history with Captain America. Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), while only appearing in three episodes, was crucial to the story, and we got an intriguing look into his psyche in the season finale.
Dum Dum Dugan and the Howling Commandos showed up, we got to see more than one Black Widow at work and then there was Dr. Ivchenko, AKA Fr. Fennhoff – who is also known as the Marvel villain Dr. Faustus and who turned out to be tied into the Winter Soldier by the end, via a cool Marvel-movie type final scene.
In general, all the characters were really clicked. It was surprising to see Lyndsy Fonseca play a non-action role here, but she made Angie incredibly likable and charismatic and the scenes between her and Peggy were very sweet, showing Peggy making a far more normal connection than her life usually allows. Early on, I was concerned by the portrayal of the men at the SSR. Except for Enver Gjokaj’s sympathetic Daniel Sousa, they all felt pretty one note. Yes, it was important and fitting, given the era the show was set in, to show just how dismissive the guys in the office, in general, were of Peggy, unable to see just how skilled she was and the contributions she could bring. But the first couple of episodes had Thompson (Chad Michael Murray), Dooley (Shea Wigwam) and Krzeminski (Kyle Bornheimer) all feeling pretty similar and one-note, in a way that could have quickly become grating. Fortunately, the most annoying of this bunch, Krzeminski, was soon dead and Dooley and Thompson became much more nuanced as the season continued.
Dooley doing his own investigating and seeing that things didn’t ad up as  Howard Stark being the culprit was a great touch, letting us see why this guy was in charge in the first place. And the mission in Russia in “The Iron Ceiling”(a standout episode) gave us a ton of insight into Thompson and who he really was versus the image he projected. The season culminated in a very satisfying manner, with Dooley’s noble sacrifice, the reason behind Fennhoff’s anger at Howard revealed and a big cathartic release for Peggy, who got to beat Dottie in combat and finally really and truly put Steve Rogers to rest. This latter part was especially handled well and reinforced something that had been occurring to me all season – that it was especially silly to dismiss Agent Carter as “a prequel” when, if anything, it worked as a pretty direct sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger, simply following what happened next for Peggy (and, to a lesser extent, Howard) after that film’s events, instead of Steve.

REVIEW: THE AVENGERS: EARTH’S MIGHTIEST HEROES

MAIN CAST (VOICES)

Brian Bloom (Vampirella)
Chris Cox (All Star Superman)
Jennifer Hale (The Rick)
Peter Jessop (Jla Adventures)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)
Eric Loomis (Shin Chan)
James C. Mathis III (Undercover Brother)
Colleen Villard (Duel Masters)
Fred Tatasciore (Hulk Vs)
Rick D. Wasserman (Planet Hulk)
Wally Wingert (American Dad)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST COICES

Gabriel Mann (Cherry Falls)
Drake Bell (The Reef 2)
Bumper Robinson (Sabrina: The Teenage Witch)
Steven Blum (Wolverine and Teh X-men)
Alex Desert (The Flash 90s)
Vanessa Marshall (Duck Dodgers)
Kari Wuhrer (Eight Legged Freaks)
Elizabeth Daily (Valley Girl)
Troy Baker (Lego Batman)
Nolan North (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Crispin Freeman (Hellsing)
Scott Menville (Teen Titans)
Grey DeLisle (Danny Phantom)
Cam Clarke (He-Man)
Lance Reddick (Lost)
J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Nika Futterman (Hey Arnold!)
Lance Henriksen (The Terminator)
Jonathan Adams (Bones)
Jeffrey Combs (Gotham)
Graham McTavish (The Hobbit)
Dawn Olivieri (The Vampire Diaries)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Dwight Schultz (The A-Team)
Keith Szarabajka (The Dark Knight)
Lacey Chabert (Mean Girls)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
David Kaufman (Superman: TAS)

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Both Marvel and DC have to an astonishing degree started to pick up these last few years, with several well-appreciated shows that I really enjoy: Young Justice, The Spectacular Spider-Man, Iron Man: Armored Adventures, Green Lantern TAS, and now this; The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. It’s very rare indeed for a superhero cartoon of this magnitude to be  great from start-to-finish, but that’s what Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is, right from Episode 1 `Iron Man is Born’ to the finale `Avengers Assemble!’. There are literally no dud episodes whatsoever! The whole series is infused with tremendous intrigue, exceptional plotting and some of the tightest continuity I’ve ever seen in a TV series. The number of sub-plots and story-arcs that are juggled here is staggering, but the creative team handled it all with such precision. The coherency, intricacies and pacing is nothing short of exemplary overall. This isn’t just essential for kids; adult Marvel fans will get bags of satisfaction from watching this cartoon!MV5BMTgxOTA1Nzk3OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDk0MzY2MjE@._V1_So what exactly can folk expect? Well, as I said, the choicest pieces of Marvel history (be it in comics or on film) have been successfully adapted and utilized here. From how the Avengers banded together to life-changing events like the Civil War threat and the Skrulls’ Secret Invasion (adapted beautifully here!). Iron Man, the Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Ant-Man/Yellowjacket, the Wasp and Black Panther are all superbly established before `Assembling’ for the first time, members come-and-go, characters undergo changes, Hawkeye, Ms. Marvel and the Vision join the ranks, and all-manner of superb guests join the party, such as Spider-Man, Wolverine, the Fantastic Four and even those Guardians of the Galaxy!

And on the villains-front, you can be subjected to a cracking-bunch of dastardly rogues, such as Loki, the Red Skull, Hydra, A.I.M., Baron Zemo, the Enchantress, the Masters of Evil, Kang the Conqueror, Doctor Doom and (of course!) chief arch-nemesis Ultron. And it’s not all just for window-dressing. The depictions of all these characters (hero, villain and otherwise) and their worlds is just pure gold. It’s perhaps the most faithful animated portrayal of the Marvel Universe.
Really, The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes could (and should) have gone on for more seasons. Instead, Marvel pulled the plug in favor of the replacement show Avengers Assemble. Thus in the last batch episodes, you DO get the feel that the writers were trying to wrap things up and give the show a grand swansong to make way for the next-cartoon-in-line. Admittedly, there are a few loose ends left over, but the series is mostly wrapped-up in winning style with a very acceptable conclusion. And in an age where too many shows are cancelled prematurely/end on a sour note, it makes that final moment of `Avengers Assemble!’ all the more of a triumph, just like the entire series itself.