Captain America: Civil War



Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios

Directed by Anthony Russo & Joe Russo

Produced by Kevin Feige

Screenplay by Christopher Markus/Stephen McFeely

Based on “Captain America” created by Jack Kirby & Joe Simon

If you had asked me a couple of days ago what my favorite Marvel movie is, I’d have said with no hesitation at all; “The Avengers.” But that was before I saw CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR. I am now prepared to not only proclaim that not only is CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR is the best of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies but also that it just may be the best superhero movie made to date, period.

I might have said this before in my reviews of “Captain America: The First Avenger” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” but it bears repeating, I think. One of the strengths of the MCU is that movies featuring characters in their solo movies take their time to explore the worlds in which these characters operate. So Iron Man movies are about technology and ways they can be used or misused for good or evil. Thor movies are full of mythology, fantasy and cosmic adventures. And Captain America movies are about political struggles, the role of government intelligence agencies in modern warfare which is so different from the way Steve Rogers knew war back in World War II. And morals are always at the forefront of a Captain America movie. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Captain America movies are so popular now because Steve Rogers embodies a way of life and adherence to core beliefs and morals that we as a country and people have gotten away from but desperately long to get back to. But not Cap. He’s The Last Stand-Up Guy and he’s not ashamed of it either.


Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is engaged in a covert mission in Lagos. His job is to keep a biological weapon out of the hands of Crossbones/Brock Rumlow (Frank Grillo.) Cap has brought along as backup The Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) The Falcon/Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and The Scarlet Witch/ Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen.)

They do manage to secure the biological weapon but during the intense fighting, Wanda accidentally destroys an office building which kills a dozen citizens of the isolationist African country Wakanda. This brings King T’Chaka (John Kani) and his son T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) to spearhead what comes to be known as The Sokovia Accords. U.S. Secretary of State Thaddeus ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross (William Hurt) presents The Sokovia Accords to The Avengers. If they agree to it and sign it, a United Nations panel will control their activities and supervise The Avengers.

Steve thinks it’s a lousy idea and is surprised that Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) is all for it. Tony is obviously still dealing with PTSD brought on by not just the Chitauri Invasion of New York but the events of “Avengers: Age of Ultron” as well. Unbeknownst to his friends, Tony’s many chickens have all come home to roost in a big way and that is why he insists that The Avengers sign and abide by The Sokovia Accords.


The situation grows even more hostile and volatile when the representatives of over a hundred countries meet an a conference in Vienna to ratify The Sokovia Accords. The conference is bombed and all the evidence points to James Buchanan Barnes/Bucky/The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) as the bomber. This situation divides The Avengers even more as Steve believes that Bucky shouldn’t be held responsible for crimes he committed while in a brainwashed state as The Winter Solider.


The Black Widow, War Machine/James Rhodes (Don Cheadle ) The Vision (Paul Bettany) and Spider-Man/Peter Parker take Stark’s side while The Falcon, The Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) and Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) side with Captain America. The battle lines are drawn but there two wild cards in the deck; T’Challa has inherited not only the kingship of Wakanda but the heritage of The Black Panther as well. His agenda does not exactly line up with either Captain America’s or Iron Man’s as he is driven by pure vengeance to exact punishment on the murderer of his father.


And in the background, quietly and methodically working on a plan to destroy The Avengers is a man named Zemo…not the one you’re thinking of. But he is no less dangerous. One of the jaw-dropping moments in this movie that is full of them is watching how Zemo manipulates every other character.

I’m not gonna pussyfoot around on this one; CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR is such a finely crafted piece of superhero cinema I honestly am in awe of what the directors, writers and cast have done here. The movie works as both a Captain America solo movie and as an Avengers movie as well, which in itself is no small feat. There’s an exceptionally large cast of characters packed in here but everybody gets a chance to shine. I appreciated how the movie slowed down for such treats as the conversation The Vision and Wanda have while they bond over cooking dinner. I loved the scene where Rhodey and Sam are arguing their points of views about The Sokovia Accords. Remember that these are two black men who have both served in the U.S. military. But they have very different ideas about the role The Avengers should play in the world. And while we’re on the subject, when was the last time you saw a superhero movie that had three black superheroes in prominent roles?


The discussions the characters have about The Sokovia Accords, their responsibility in how they use their powers and their views on how the public sees them now is something that I found fascinating. The world governments are starting to think that maybe superheroes really aren’t all that nice to have around since they seem to attract death and destruction (something that The Vision himself points out in one of the movie’s best scenes.)

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR manages to give us the superhero action we crave (the Free-For-All Brawl at the airport is now the greatest superhero fight scene EVER.) while giving us plenty of deeper emotional stuff such as The Avengers having to deal with the consequences of their actions. The world has united in their demand that The Avengers simply not level cities and then go home in time for Corn Flakes and watching Captain Kangaroo.


And I have been waiting all my life to see The Black Panther on a movie screen and now I have. Chadwick Boseman (along with Paul Rudd) walks away with the MVP award. And you all know how I feel about Chris Evans. The guy IS Captain America. ‘Nuff Said. And let me just say that I have never been a big Spider-Man fan but after seeing Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man and his smokin’ hot Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) I wouldn’t mind going to see the next Spider-Man movie.


Bottom Line: CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR is spectacular entertainment from start to finish. I judge superhero movies by this: do they make me feel the same sense of excitement and wonder that I got from reading the comic books when I was 12 years old? Do they put me in touch with those feelings I got on a Saturday afternoon when I pulled out a stack of of my favorite comics books and read them for hours on end? CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR does indeed make me feel that way. Most movie series decrease in imagination, excitement and pure fun. Not this one. Each succeeding Captain America movie has been better than the one before and CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR is no exception.



Captain America: Civil War Guest Review by Sean E. Ali

I know what you’re thinking…”But..but…Derrick! Where’s your review of CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR?” Well, it’s hard to review a movie I haven’t seen yet. And I won’t be seeing CIVIL WAR until this Tuesday or Wednesday. I very rarely go see movies the day or weekend they open. I’m long past the age where it was exciting to go see a movie with a crowd. I much prefer going during the week and catching a matinee where the theater is a whole lot emptier and quieter.

But thankfully, Sean E. Ali has caught the movie reviewing bug and based on the numbers his previous reviews of “Batman V Superman” and “Keanu” have been racking up, you guys have been enjoying them greatly. So here he is again with his review of CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR. Enjoy!

From the “Life During Wartime” File…

Don’t want CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR spoiled at all?

Then run away, run away now!

After that, I blame Derrick Ferguson for this epic novella that you’ll be reading from this point on…

…he’s got me in the habit of writing one of these whether I want to or not now…

…but feel free to read or ignore until I dig up the next “Moment of Utter Coolness”…

Now, let’s begin…

Here’s why Marvel’s CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR will work out better than Warner Brothers/DC’s “Batman V Superman”…


Sure it was also a superior storyline, better characterization, the right mix of seriousness, light moments and action (in other words all of the things missing from “Batman V Superman”), but it was all because Marvel played a long slow hand over tossing all their chips on the table in the hopes of grabbing a big pot with little effort.

The game, as they have played it to date, has been a successful one. Marvel Studios have released 13 films and for the most part, those films have garnered generally positive reactions from the audience and the critics. And yes, I hear you “Iron Man 3” haters screaming but I’m one of those folks who dug the film despite its shortcomings and it’s possible CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR is the best of their releases since “The Avengers.”


Now of course the film isn’t absolutely perfect…

…okay I’m just saying that for you nit pickers later, I could care less about the flaws; this film blows everything else out the water in its genre.

Except for disguises. Seriously whenever Steve Rogers goes underground, the authorities should just start grabbing athletically built blond guys wearing windbreakers, baseball caps and dark glasses…

C’mon, you know I’m right!

Seriously, throw me a friggin’ bone here, Marvel, hair coloring, wigs, those old school Groucho Marx glasses mustache combos…

Call Tom Cruise and get Ethan Hunt in with the tearaway facemasks already!

Now this is the part where SPOILERS may come up so be ALERT

If you want to go watch it first then debate the points later, feel free to run to the theater, buy a big bag of popcorn (butter in between, please) and enjoy the show.

Don’t worry about me, I’m sure I can occupy my time until you get back…

Just don’t call me a SPOILER because you weren’t ALERT

So go ahead…



Put on my waiting for folks to get back playlist…



Y’know, in the old days on those ancient BBS circuits, you used to have to type out “SPOILER SPACE” when you didn’t want folks to immediately see something that might have been spoiler like in nature…

You’d think we’d have just gone with SPOILER ALERT then, but we didn’t…

…kind of silly how I just sort of drifted onto that train of thought…

I’m sorry, what was the question?



And, you’re back!

The film rocked, right?!

Or did you even go see it before I wasted my time above…?

Well whichever, too late run, because here we go…

The film opens with a flashback in 1991 where we see your Winter Soldier and mine having a bunch of random words read to him from a book while he does the default animal scream bit. These words are apparently some kind of trigger reset (or gibberish he’s just really sick of hearing when he asked for Samuel L. Jackson’s reading of GO THE F*CK TO SLEEP) because he’s about to go on a mission. The job involves running a car off a lonely road and into a tree. In what is possibly a nod to current events on “Agents of SHIELD”, the Soldier removes several packages with blue fluid in them, he looks properly slowly faced and we bring up the title credits…


…in the present day, the Avengers are on a covert tracking mission in Lagos. The team assembled is Cap, Black Widow, the Falcon and Scarlet Witch (I’m guessing War Machine was off doing military stuff and Vision was trying on cardigans… just go see the flick for that part) they are looking for a group of terrorists who have been hitting police stations across the land lead by Crossbones, the guy who fought Falcon and was the second in command of Cap’s commando group in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”. An anticipated attack happens, our heroes spring into action, a great scene showing the teamwork this new batch of Avengers have picked up since they got together in “Avengers: Age of Ultron”, the Falcon and Black Widow have a pretty decent chase scene and then…

…well let’s just say things kind of blew up in a bad way and leave it there.


In the aftermath of their latest adventure, the public is starting to question whether or not having superheroes roaming the world willy nilly is such a good idea. The Avengers it seems have been doing a fairly decent job of saving the world, but not so good at collateral damage or public relations damage control. As we’ve already seen in “Avengers: Age of Ultron”, the team isn’t looked upon favorably in a few places. Tony Stark alone is associated with weapons of war that he once manufactured that are still in use by military forces and other less legitimate groups across the globe. The fact that they bounce around the world leaving a lot of smoking craters in their wake, answerable to no one has folks on edge. With what happens in Lagos being the latest incident of a bad thing happening while doing a good thing. The governments of the world are no longer able to turn a blind eye to the issue as the latest… mistake kills members of a delegation from Wakanda, a reclusive African nation that has recently made gestures indicating their willingness to participate on a larger world stage.

Meanwhile, after a brief bit of backstory in an interlude on the holodeck (no we didn’t leave this film for a “Star Trek: The Next Generation” flick, but if we did, Tony Stark invented the holodeck and you’re welcome Captain Picard.) Tony Stark, who is going through a personal crisis or two which he pushes away by hiding behind his work and passing out endowments to fund research for pretty much every student at MIT, is confronted by consequences of the Avengers recent battle against Ultron on a very direct, very personal level while waiting on an elevator. The encounter added with Tony’s own guilt over creating Ultron in the first place, along with his own private troubles and the Avengers latest public disaster leaves him in the right frame of mind for…

…the Sokovia Accords, which is a White Pages phonebook sized way for the rest of the world to say: “Please, oh please, Avengers, could you not blow anything up the next time you save the world? Please and thank you, love, the United Nations.” The Accords would put the Avengers under the header of sanctioned international peacekeeping force, which would be called into a situation only if requested. So basically Interpol but with flashy code names and better toys.

Tony’s hot to get everyone on board so they can put this whole thing in the rear view and shift the burden of responsibility from his team to the world’s governments (“Hey sorry we blew up Bolivia, guys, but remember, YOU called US when Porcupine and the Eel held up that Mom and Pop deli instead of a cop…). He believes that this will give the team sanction to operate with a system of accountability that would foster trust and win back the public. Part of that is driven by his own guilt and Tony shows up to Avengers HQ thinking this is going to be a slam dunk once the rest of the team hears it. Tony’s pitch sells War Machine, Vision, and surprisingly Black Widow, while Scarlet Witch is on the fence and Sam’s not sure either. He just didn’t count on one thing…

…Steve Rogers, Captain America himself, is not on board for this. Given the events of the last film he was in, Steve digs in as the opposing voice, to Tony’s slam dunk proposition. Cap’s fearing that their own interests and agendas could corrupt these governments like the World Council that backed S.H.I.E.L.D only to be duped by HYDRA in purpose. Plus the whole superhero thing is all about being able to respond to a world class threat without going through a ton of red tape. Granted the battles of the Avengers both as a group and on their individual capers have occasionally brought their fair share of collateral damage but as Steve tells Tony, he feels the safest hands to determine where they go to prevent even greater loss of life are their own.

Their debate is ended by an unexpected interlude as Steve is called away on a personal duty where he gets a sort of affirmation that his point of view, while unpopular with some of his peers, is the correct course of action. As this scene closes, The Widow shows up and lets Steve know she’s on her way to sign the Accords as the Avengers representative along with Tony. She asks Steve to join them and he turns her down. Sam sticks with his partner and the lines are quietly drawn…

At the signing, we meet up with a few folks, but the biggest deal of the day is the contingent from Wakanda, fronted by King T’Chaka and his son T’Challa. T’Chaka is there in the spirit of good faith with the hope that this will signal a new chapter in peaceful cooperation with the world at large and the Avengers who want to protect that world…


…since this is a Marvel flick, we don’t get that peace. The meeting has barely begun when there is an explosion hat kills several members in attendance. The culprit is identified shortly after the event: the Winter Soldier, or as Captain America knows him, James Buchanan (“Bucky”) Barnes his one time best friend. The Avengers, now led by Iron Man, are tasked with bringing the Soldier in. Cap and the Falcon are also trying to get to the Soldier to determine if he really were responsible. And as the two head towards each other on an inevitable collision course, a third party has joined the hunt, a man dressed in black who is determined to beat them both and kill the Soldier…

…and in the background is another player that most Captain America comic book fans will recognize by his family name…


Which is a good place to end the spoiler stuff.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR is a nicely done piece for this genre. It’s a well told and highly enjoyable story. The characters have clear motivations, introduces newcomers to the MCU: The Black Panther and the most amazingly accurate portrayals of Peter Parker and Spider-Man I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching (or ignoring when the too damn fine for words Marisa Tormei was on the screen playing Aunt May like Mary Jane Watson.) And the story was much deeper than the usual “let’s team up and beat the crap out of those guys” Marvel films. The hard core DC fans who said that Marvel is just big dumb fun apparently have missed the last Captain America film and will probably miss this one to avoid being proved wrong.


If you’ve been on this ride for the last eight years you’ve watched these characters grow into the people they are now so the Tony Stark we met way back in “Iron Man” is still with us, but he’s been seasoned by his experiences. Plus Robert Downey Jr. sells the role because, let’s face it, Tony’s path mirrors his own life including the search for redemption part. Chris Evans is pitch perfect, as always, as Captain America who is still a man out a different time who has run out of time as he becomes an outlaw to save his friend. Since it’s a Captain America film, we get his supporting cast more than anyone else’s so Anthony Mackie is there as the Falcon for the bulk of the game and Sebastian Stan mixes in nicely as he plays Bucky getting slowly back to the guy we first met in initial Captain America movie. The rest of the gang does their part well, especially Jeremy Renner has finally become a fully realized character as Clint “Hawkeye” Barton over his other appearances in the role to date.


CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR is “Captain America 3”, “Iron Man 4”, and a prequel to both “Black Panther” and “Spider-Man” without getting bogged down with all the extra heroes. The way the film was directed gives me confidence for this team since they will be doing the next big pair of “Avengers” movies where the character count is expected to be higher. The film also tackles the very thing detractors of the Marvel films say they don’t cover and that “Batman V Superman” didn’t really cover: the consequences of their actions so far.

The CIVIL WAR theme was subtly played out on a few levels, outside of the main conflict. you had Tony Stark wrestling with his conscience, Steve Rogers with his loyalty to his friends old and new and his remaining true to his ideals, sure those are a given just below the battle of authority versus autonomy or the oversimplified version: security versus freedom in a post 9/11 and post-Patriot Act world. Tony wants something he built to not be headed on the road to destruction and ruin and the Avengers are part of his legacy to build a better world. Steve’s need to do what he feels is right to stand up for the little guy against those who would try to dominate and bully them is at the core of his character. But both men are suffering from knee jerk overreactions, which force knee jerk overreaches in their respective philosophies. They’re both right to a degree and they’re both wrong to a degree with an answer somewhere in between. But, as it goes with most overreactions, everyone’s going from the gut with emotions hot where there should be cooler heads. Time out isn’t really an option when you’re dealing with people who could literally level a city faster than a DC movie.


But dig a little deeper because I’m fairly sure that even the writers and the Russos didn’t notice all the other things set into motion that the actors brought out in their parts of the conflict. You had Natasha Romanov’s conflicted nature literally making her a double agent by way of stream of consciousness as she struggled to decide what side she wanted to stand on. Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is long overdue for a solo film and, as she shows here, we’d be lucky to get one while she’s still on the clock. Natasha is literally our insider audience watching the same show we are and being equally conflicted about what team to stand on as she sees the extremes her friends go through defending their positions. As I said earlier, Jeremy Renner’s Clint Barton steps up and stands by Cap even if it cost him his family while he fights to keep the government overreach away from that side of his life. While it wasn’t covered until later, Hawkeye’s motivation is simple enough: Stark’s betrayed them and Rogers hasn’t. Spider-Man is introduced as a kid struggling with his power and responsibility suddenly thrust upon him as is T’Challa who is the same position with a radically different scale to deal with. One represents youthful idealism overwhelmed but determined to do his best, the other is youthful pragmatism tempered by a wariness that comes from isolation. Both are pushed into this conflict through tragedy, both are trying to work out exactly what they’re supposed to do now that they’ve lost the the respective role models that shaped their lives. Bucky struggles to become the man he was when he was one of Captain America’s Howling Commandos, but before the film ends is faced with his past as an assassin returning to haunt him and the knowledge that even despite his situation, his redemption may never balance the scales enough in the eyes of those affected by his actions…

Even the characters without a conflict like War Machine, who, in a way, pays the highest price in this affair physically, or Sam Wilson’s Falcon who finds out that the price for loyalty is sometimes tragedy even when it involves superheroes, are on opposite sides because of their respective experiences in their lives. Both men are military, both have seen active combat, both are pilots, both understand the chain of command and its purpose for maintain discipline and order in the ranks, and both think their partners in crimefighting have the correct view. If there is a reason for the separation that I can find, it’s where we meet Sam in his introduction to the MCU as opposed to Rhodey when he came on the scene at the very beginning. Rhodey’s active military, he’s a combat pilot, a high level officer and already at the beck and call of the U.S. Government. If anyone’s a poster boy for a registration program, this is the guy. Sam Wilson, on the other hand, is a former medic, as well as a soldier. When he shows up in “Winter Soldier” he’s mustered out of the service and is a vet helping other vets deal with things like PTSD. He’s part of the family, but no longer interested in going into a forward area because of the political agendas of politicians who will never and, in most cases have never, had to deal with the reality of armed combat and the unique version of hell that truly is. So while they don’t fight with the same passion as the leads, they have in their previous appearances logical reasons for taking specific sides other than being the sidekick.


But if you really squint a little, you can see (or maybe “create” is a better word) real world associations all over the place. When Tony is confronted over the Avengers actions in their fight with Ultron, I felt like that was not only a quiet nod to the upcoming “Luke Cage” series on Netflix, but also a Black Lives Matter moment. The fight in Lagos not only set up the foundation for the film, but it could be quietly interpreted as a statement on US foreign policy with regard to foreign wars. Specifically with how the US deals with African and Middle Eastern conflicts right down to their not giving losses of life and collateral damage there the same priority as the loss of a fictional European nation blown up by a robot…

…and oddly enough was also a sort of Blue Lives Matter moment.

There are other reaches in there, and your mileage may vary based on your creativity and ability to imagine things not actually in evidence, but CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR is a damn sight more subtle and intellectual than you’d like to believe…

…if you convince yourself of that.

You have all these disparate elements flying around and you are able to track them all, and appreciate them all. You’ve been with these guys for the bulk of their runs so all the groundwork has been laid. By the time we get down to the final act there’s a twist takes the whole idea of conflict down to its most basic level. The plot changes the whys and wherefores for Bucky, Iron Man and Captain America which takes everything we’ve already seen to this point and flips it on its head and makes it personal for all three…

…and then there’s still another twist that takes this film from the usual superhero flick is contained in a final serious spoiler that you should ignore if you really don’t want to know…

Ready? Then here we go…

…well maybe I won’t after all, that might be a little too much.

No really, watch the film through to the end and you’ll realize pretty quickly, despite the resolutions of various plot lines it all boils down to a final truth you’ll figure out with Zemo’s last lines in the film.


If you don’t I might have to find you and smack you upside the head before grabbing you by the earlobe and walking you into a seat myself.

If you’re a fan you’re probably already on your way. If you’re a fan of the Distinguished Competition and trying to hold out to make a point that “Batman V Superman” was better…

…just go already, friend, you’re not fooling anyone.

Don’t worry though, DC finally did something bright by bringing in Ben Affleck as an Executive Producer on the “Justice League” movie so you folks should have plenty to cheer about in a year or two…

…until then, why don’t you come on in the theater this weekend and see how it’s done…

…I’m looking over at you Zack Snyder and David Goyer.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR is everything “Batman V Superman” should’ve been…

…and it’s everything you expect from Marvel…

…and it changes everything, for real, for the next phase of the MCU because every character that went in does not come out of the film unchanged.

Plus it’s a heck of an adventure.

I think I’ll walk down the street and see it again right now…

I’ll even save you a seat.

Enjoy the show with my compliments.


The Jungle Book



Walt Disney Pictures

Directed by Jon Favreau

Produced by Jon Favreau and Brigham Taylor

Screenplay by Justin Marks

Based on “The Jungle Book” by Rudyard Kipling

I am honestly not a fan of 3D at all. I consider it a novelty, a gimmick. Most of the time it’s distracting me from what I really want to do. Which is to get into the movie and enjoy it. I don’t get the fun of having things flying off the screen at me. On top of that, I wear glasses and I really don’t like to have to wear another pair just to watch a lousy movie. And I’ve really been pissed the past couple of years with what I perceive as a deliberate effort on the part of movie theaters to force people to see a movie in 3D. You know the scam: a theater will schedule multiple showings of the 3D version of the movie that you want to see and relatively few showings of the same movie in 2D (is that the correct term?) Nine times outta ten I opt to walk away from the movie or go see something else rather than be forced to see the movie in 3D.

Now, I say that to say this: if you can, then see THE JUNGLE BOOK in 3D.

As a baby, the man-cub Mowgli (Neel Sethi) is found wandering the savage jungles of India by the majestic black panther Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) who acts as his teacher/mentor. Bagheera gives Mowgli into the care of a wolf pack led by Akela (Giancarlo Esposito) and his mate Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o) and Mowgli is raised in the ways and laws of the wolf. But try as he might, Mowgli cannot quite keep up with his wolf siblings and has to resort to his human ingenuity at building tools to even things up.


During the dry season, there is a truce called during the seasonal drought. This means that all the jungle denizens can gather at the local watering hole to drink in peace without fear of being eaten by the predators. It is here that the viciously bloodthirsty Bengal tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) learns of Mowgli’s existence. Shere Khan hates all men since they know the secret of making fire, which the animals call The Red Flower. Shere Khan’s scarred face is the result of his being burned by men. Shere Khan vows to keep the truce but only until the drought is over and then he will kill Mowgli.


Not wishing to place his adoptive family in danger, Mowgli elects to leave on his own. Bagheera volunteers to escort Mowgli to the nearest village of men where he will be safe among his own kind from Shere Khan. But the wily tiger has anticipated this move and follows the pair. He ambushes them and while Bagheera holds off the tiger, Mowgli escapes. While waiting for Bagheera he falls under the hypnotic spell of the giant python Kaa (Scarlett Johansson). Mowgli is rescued by Baloo the bear (Bill Murray). The two become fast friends and Mowgli agrees to stay with Baloo. Life is good until Bagheera shows up and convinces Baloo that he can’t protect Mowgli from Shere Khan. While they bark and bite over the fate of the man-cub, Mowgli is kidnapped by the Bandar-log (monkeys) who take them to their leader, the Gigantopithecus ape King Louie (Christopher Walken). The panther and the bear set off to rescue Mowgli. But even if Bagheera and Baloo can save their human friend from King Louie and his army of monkeys, Shere Khan is waiting for his opportunity to take his revenge…

You wanna know how much I enjoyed THE JUNGLE BOOK? Would you believe I actually forgot about the 3D? For one of the very few times I was watching a movie where the 3D did the job it’s supposed to do and pulled me into the movie and immersed me and enabled me to truly get lost in the story. And the CGI is spectacular. There’s just no other way to describe it. Visually this is one of the most impressive imaginary worlds I’ve seen on screen.


Neel Sethi is a wonderful young actor. Although I’m sure he must have been reacting to a lot of things that weren’t there, this young man sells it without blinking an eye. He’s charming and looks as if he’s having a lot of fun and his expressive face works with his dialog in communicating to us at all times exactly what Mowgli is thinking and feeling.

I’m curious as to why such a big deal was made of Scarlett Johansson’s role as Kaa since it amounts to nothing more than a glorified cameo. Idris Elba steals every scene he’s in as Shere Khan and makes the character a truly terrifying, unpredictable force to be feared and reckoned with. And even though the movie isn’t a musical, I mean, c’mon…how can you not have Bill Murray sing “The Bare Necessities” and Christopher Walken sing “I Wan’na Be Like You”? Some will complain that the songs throw off the tone of the movie but I don’t think so. They’re lighter, whimsical moments that are nice homages to the 1967 animated “Jungle Book” as well as giving us a break from the more serious, darker elements of this version.


So should you see THE JUNGLE BOOK? If you’re a fan of the original (and breathes there a living soul who isn’t?) then don’t waste anymore time. Go see it. People BMW about remakes but if they’re done with as much respect for the original as this one and with this level of technical, artistic and creative talent they can truly be a joy to watch and great way to spend an afternoon at the movies. Enjoy.

106 Minutes

Rated PG: But parents, be advised…there’s still some stuff here that might frighten the little ones, especially the scenes with Shere Khan. But then again, kids are pretty jaded these days and watch far more violent stuff at home so what do I know? Anyway, just thought I’d let you know.

Avengers: Age of Ultron



Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios

Written and Directed by Joss Whedon

Produced by Kevin Feige

Based on “The Avengers” created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby

The best recommendation I think I can give AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON is that by the time the final credits were through rolling, my face hurt. But it was a good hurt. I’m being totally honest with you when I say that for about 85% of the movie I had the biggest grin on my face. The times I didn’t were during the appropriate and genuine moments of emotional crises suffered by the heroes. And those were welcome and necessary moments. Because Joss Whedon gets The Avengers. And he knows that without those scenes where they bicker, fight and squabble like a family, we won’t give a damn when they assemble to go into battle to save the world.


And this time around, saving the world has a personal angle to it as Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) is responsible for the menace threatening it. Yep, Tony’s been playing Dr. Frankenstein and has created an artificial intelligence named Ultron. Working in conjuction with Doc Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) Tony designed Ultron (James Spader) to be a worldwide defense program. It’s obvious to the rest of the team: Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) Thor (Chris Hemsworth) The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) that Tony is still feeling the PTS of the Chitauri Invasion of New York. It could well be that his manic desire to protect The Earth from future invasions may be clouding his judgment just a wee bit.


Such an understatement. Ultron achieves sentience and sets out on his own agenda to save The Earth. An agenda he feels that can only be accomplished by eradicating humanity. Ultron recruits two “enhanced humans” to his cause. The twins Pietro Maximoff/Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Wanda Maximoff/The Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). Formerly experimental subjects of Baron Wolfgang von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann) they eagerly join with Ultron for reasons of their own that concern Tony Stark.


That’s the bare bones of the plot and that’s really all you need to know. AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON is so much fun because it’s exactly what I look for in a superhero movie and Joss Whedon knows how to make one, that’s for sure. The action sequences are nothing less than spectacular and even though they’re extremely busy, it’s always very clear which Avenger is doing what and why. I especially liked the different and inventive ways Whedon came up with for Captain America and Thor to work together using their signature weapons of shield and hammer. Each and every one of the fight scenes is big enough to have easily been the conclusion of any other superhero movie. Trust me on this. Right from the raid on Strucker’s Hydra base that starts the movie, Whedon cranks it up to eleven and keeps it there for the entire running time.

But it’s not all wall to wall action. Whedon knows how to slow down the action to allow the human, emotional moments to take over and they’re just as suspenseful as the action sequences and in some cases, a complete and total surprise. There are revelations concerning Hawkeye, the Black Widow and The Hulk that I really didn’t see coming. And in the case of Hawkeye, those of you who like me, complained that he didn’t have enough to do in “The Avengers” will be delighted to hear that he gets more than enough to do this time around.


James Spader as Ultron does some interesting things with his characterization that has subtle echoes of Downey’s characterization of Tony Stark which only makes sense to me. Chris Evans can no longer be billed: Chris Evans as Captain America. From now on he gets billed: Chris Evans is Captain America. While he still is presented as a man out of time, it’s his values and morals from that time that always gives the team its drive and sense of purpose. It provides a nice balance to Tony Stark’s Australia-sized ego and single-minded focus on what he thinks his best for the world.

As the new kids, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen hold their own with the more experienced ensemble cast and carry their roles admirably. I really enjoyed Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver and preferred him to the Quicksilver in the “Days of Future Past” X-Men movie. That version was too frivolous and smart-alecky for my taste while Taylor-Johnson had the intensity and pissed-off attitude I like in my Pietro.

It’s a big, complicated story with a lot of characters and a lot of cameos featuring faces you’ll recognize from the standalone movies featuring Thor, Iron Man and Captain America but you’ll never be lost or feel like the story doesn’t once know where it’s going. And the best thing about it is that it’s a superhero movie that makes you feel good. The Avengers never lose sight of the fact that they’re supposed to be the good guys and even when they stumble, they pick themselves up and jump right back into the fray. It’s downright refreshing to see superheroes who worry first about getting civilians out of harm’s way before going into combat with the bad guy (in a marvelous massive melee combat scene I’m convinced is a homage to the final shootout in Sam Peckinpah’s “The Wild Bunch”)


AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON gave me the same feeling I had as a kid when I first discovered the comic book and I treasure that feeling. It shows that superhero movies can be visually eye-popping and have astoundingly jaw-dropping fights and still not lose sight of what makes these characters work: they are men and women of godlike power who truly care about protecting the world and the people who inhabit it.  By all means, go see it and have fun.


141 Minutes




Universal Pictures

Written and Directed by Luc Besson

Produced by Virginie Silla

I know quite a few people who have said that they’re not going to go see LUCY because it’s “scientifically inaccurate.” You see, the plot of the movie hinges upon the long held belief that human beings only use 10% of their brain capacity and that if we ever gained conscious control of our entire brain then the results would be unimaginable. It could be that we would possess godlike abilities such as telekinesis, telepathy, matter reconstruction, time travel, levitation. The 10% thing has long been debunked as myth and I can’t understand why just because LUCY uses it as a MacGuffin that would keep anyone from seeing it. After all, it’s scientifically inaccurate that a high school student can get bitten by a radioactive spider and suddenly gain the ability to climb walls but that didn’t stop people from enjoying Spider-Man movies. It’s scientifically inaccurate that there are hundreds of alien races so close to humanity that they can breathe our atmosphere, mate with us and in general are configured much like humans but that didn’t stop people from enjoying the various Star Trek movies and television series.


Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is going to school in Taiwan and after a night of wild partying with her new boyfriend of a week is tricked by him into delivering a locked briefcase to Mr. Jang (Choi Min-sik) a Korean crimelord. The briefcase contains a package of CPH4, a synthetic superdrug that increases brain function. Lucy is drafted into being a drug mule and the package is sewed into her abdomen. There are three other mules, all with identical packages inside their abdomens, heading for different European cities where they will be met by Mr. Jang’s people and the packages removed.

But due to a vicious assault, Lucy’s package leaks and releases CPH4 into her system. It begins expanding her brain functions and she finds herself with greatly enhanced physical capabilities and mental abilities such as telekinesis, telepathy and total control over electronic devices. Due to her now hypergenius status, Lucy realizes she needs the other three packages to continue to expand her capabilities and elevate herself to the next stage of human evolution.

She contacts Professor Samuel Norman (Morgan Freeman) whose research into higher brain functions may be able to help her. And she enlists the aid of a French policeman, Captain Del Rio (Amr Waked) to find and capture the other mules. In the meantime, Mr. Jang is not far behind as he still wants his merchandise and Lucy’s head as well. And he’s bringing an army to get both.


Now despite what you may have seen in the trailers, LUCY isn’t as much of an action film as you might think. Oh, sure there are gun fights and car chases but this isn’t start-to-finish-punch-punchy-run-run-kiss-kiss-bang-bang which you certainly have a right to expect from Luc Besson. LUCY actually spends quite a bit of its short running time speculating on neuroscience, biology, evolution, philosophy and metaphysics as Lucy struggles to understand what is happening to her and what she will do with her new found knowledge before she ascends to another level of existence.

It’s a lot of fun watching Scarlett Johansson turn from a giddy party girl into Dr. Manhattan from “Watchmen” with a splash of V’ger from “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” added for flavor. As her intelligence and her powers increase, she loses more and more of her emotions but Scarlett Johansson still makes us care for this poor girl who certainly didn’t ask for this to happen to her but desperately wants to do the right thing before she becomes too omnipotent to care.


Morgan Freeman quite frankly made me crack up because I have never before seen an actor who plainly knows that his one and only function in the movie is to provide plot exposition do it which such gusto. For most of the movie, Freeman is explaining to us what’s happening and what’s going happen and damn if he doesn’t do it in an entertaining manner.

LUCY is a movie that thankfully doesn’t take itself seriously and if you go into it with that attitude that it should be Serious Science Fiction then you’ll be robbing yourself of a solidly made, entertaining thriller than is full of enthusiasm and fun. Luc Besson has yet to make a movie that disappoints me and LUCY is no exception.

Rated R

90 minutes

Captain America: The Winter Soldier



Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios

Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo

Produced by Kevin Feige

Written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely

Based on “Captain America” created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby

I think that the thing I take away from seeing CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER besides my admiration for the excellent acting performances and the complicated yet meticulously laid out plot is that the talent involved in the crafting of the Marvel Cinematic Universe respect their characters. You can’t mistake an Iron Man movie for a Thor movie or a Captain America movie. Each of these characters have their own worlds inside of the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe and we should be rightly exploring each of those worlds in the solo movies featuring these characters. And so with CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER we get a story concerned the role of espionage organizations and what their ethics should be. Themes such as sacrificing personal freedoms so that we can be “safe.” National security and how far our government should go to pursue that security. The compromises made against the privacy of American citizens. Those are some heavy themes for what is supposed to be “just” a superhero movie. But then again, Captain America has never been “just” a superhero.


Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) is settling into 21st Century life quite well after the events of “The Avengers.” He’s working as a card-carrying S.H.I.E.L.D. agent now and his latest mission finds him partnered with Natasha Romanoff aka The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson)  They have to recover a S.H.I.E.L.D. freighter/spy ship that’s been hijacked by the bloodthirsty mercenary Batroc (Georges St. Pierre) a master of the French martial art of kickboxing known as Savate. The mission is success but Steve is naturally upset that The Black Widow’s mission on the ship was unrelated to his. A mission personally given her by the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Colonel Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson)

The mission she was on concerned retrieving encrypted data about Project: Insight, a preemptive strike program involving spy satellites and three Helicarriers (where do they keep getting the money for those things?) And the data is responsible for the very infrastructure of S.H.I.E.L.D. being put into serious jeopardy and it isn’t long before Captain America and The Black Widow find themselves declared traitors and on the run from S.H.I.E.L.D. with their only allies either dead or trying desperately to save their own asses. S.H.I.E.L.D.’s elite S.T.R.I.K.E. team leads the hunt for the fugitives along with the mysterious and deadly Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) whose combat skills, amplified with his cybernetic arm may make him the equal of and possibly superior to Captain America.

Now, even though The Winter Soldier is being held up for much of the movie’s running time as the movie’s villain, the real villain of the movie is the morals of politics and national security. As the characters battle each other physically they’re also battling the lies that have been told to them and that they’ve told to the nation they’re protecting. But who are they really protecting? And why?


Like I said earlier, the plot is pretty complicated. But because the movie takes the time to delve into these themes and a government conspiracy plot Tom Clancy would have loved, CAPTAIN AMERICA:THE WINTER SOLDIER is about much more than characters punching each other because since this is a superhero movie then somebody has to be getting punched every few minutes.

The acting in CAPTAIN AMERICA:THE WINTER SOLDIER is really good. Chris Evans gives a speech at one point that sells the soul of Captain America. He also gets some nice scenes where he gets to show that even though Steve Rogers has acclimated to the 21st Century, he’s still a man out of time. He and Scarlett Johansson have some really great chemistry together. And due to the contrast in the moral ideologies in the two characters it makes for some nice friction in how they go about working together to find out what’s broken in S.H.I.E.L.D. and how they’re going to fix it.


It’s no surprise that Samuel L. Jackson is terrific because since when is Sam Jackson not terrific? Cobie Smulders provides more than able backup as Maria Hill and newcomer Anthony Mackie fits in with the established cast as if he had been a part of the MCU right from the start. Seeing Captain America and The Falcon in action together on the big screen made a ten year old kid outta me. Robert Redford knocks it out of the park as Alexander Pierce, an senior S.H.I.E.L.D. official. An actor of his stature and talent gives an added weight to every scene he’s in and since his name was one of those mentioned back in the 1970’s and ‘80’s as playing Captain America whenever a theatrical movie was rumored, I thought it was nice to find such a meaty role for him here.


That’s not to say I loved every moment of it. I’ll never forgive this movie for what it does to Jasper Sitwell. There was one point I found myself scratching my head wondering why Steve and Natasha just didn’t call Tony Stark for help (I figured the events of “Iron Man 3” must have been happening at the same time as this movie and so Tony had his own problems to worry about) And for a covert espionage agency, S.H.I.E.L.D. sure seems to like operating out in the open a whole lot. Including waging war right in the streets of Washington, D.C. And the fight scenes at times got a little too fast and frenetic for me. I appreciate seeing who got hit and how they got hit. Still, the fight choreography did a fantastic job of displaying the speed, power and agility of Captain America in combat which is what I wanted to see.

So should you see CAPTAIN AMERICA:THE WINTER SOLDIER? Absolutely YES. This movie makes a daring move in changing the status quo of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a major way, one that I didn’t see coming and establishes that this is going to be a universe that will change and grow with each new movie. It’s also a whole lotta fun. It’s such a kick for me to be able and go to the movies to see my favorite Marvel superheroes up on the big screen and presented in a way I could only dream of as a kid. It’s a good time for Marvel superhero fans. Enjoy.


136 Minutes

The Avengers


Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Pictures

Directed by Joss Whedon

Produced by Kevin Feige

Screenplay by Zak Penn, Joss Whedon

Based on the Marvel comic book “The Avengers” created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby

My love affair with THE AVENGERS goes back to 1968.  That’s when I bought Avengers Annual #2 which featured Captain America going back in time with teammates Hawkeye, Goliath, The Wasp and The Black Panther and through a cosmic mixup find themselves doing battle with Giant-Man, The Wasp, Iron Man, Thor and The Hulk.


I was hooked and from that year to this one, The Avengers have always been my favorite superhero team.  Way back then my friends and I fantasized about seeing The Avengers in a live-action movie but until a few years ago I never really believed it could be done.  It has.  After five previous Marvel superhero movies it’s all led up to this.  And it’s been done with such fresh intelligence, unique wit, humor, creative consistency and downright fun that as far as I’m concerned THE AVENGERS is the best and greatest superhero movie ever made.  With this movie, the bar for superhero movies has been raised so incredibly high that I don’t think it’ll be topped anytime soon.  At least not until “Avengers 2”

The meat of the plot is actually quite simple.  After being thrown off the destroyed Rainbow Bridge by his brother Thor (Chris Hemsworth) during his attempt to conquer Asgard, The God of Mischief Loki (Tom Hiddleston) found himself in a hostile dimension.  He has made a deal with the leader of the warrior alien race known as the Chitauri.  If Loki retrieves the ancient artifact known as the Tesseract he’ll be given command of a Chitauri army to conquer The Earth.  Loki manages to remotely use the Tesseract to open a portal by which he returns to Earth.  Loki steals the Tessarct from the S.H.I.E.L.D. research facility where it is being studied by Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard)  Loki escapes, destroying the facility in the process while turning Dr. Selvig, Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and half a dozen S.H.I.E.L.D. agents into his mind-controlled lackeys.

S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) decides to reactivate “The Avengers Initiative” to combat this threat.  He sends Natasha Romanoff aka The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) to India to recruit Dr. Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).  Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) heads to New York to bring in Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.).  When Loki is discovered to be in Germany, it seems like the perfect assignment for Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) to capture him but that plan goes wrong when Thor shows up, intending to capture his brother himself, recover the Tessaract and take them both back to Asgard. And he’s got an outrageously big hammer to back up his intentions.

Surprisingly, Loki allows himself to be taken captive and imprisoned on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s flying aircraft carrier, the Helicarrier.  Fury attempts to talk this wildly diverse group into becoming a team while Banner and Stark try to find the Tesseract and the true depths of Loki’s scheming soon become obvious to all.  Divided and disheartened, The Avengers must learn how to work together as a team to save the world from Loki and the overwhelming onslaught of the Chitauri hordes pouring out of a interdimensional  portal above Stark Tower.

That’s the bare bones of the plot but there’s so much meat on the bones that it flat-out astonishes me how much Joss Whedon and his co-writer Zak Penn gets in there without the movie feeling rushed or over-bloated.  There are some great character moments aboard the Helicarrier and the scene of The Avengers bickering among themselves had me chuckling even though it’s a deadly serious scene.  But as a long-time Avengers fan, I’ve seen this scene played out in I don’t know how many issues of the comic book and it feels absolutely right in here.

We get astounding superhero battles such as Iron Man vs. Thor and Hulk vs. Thor while the actual alien attack on New York is jaw-dropping in its scale and level of sheer spectacle.  It’s also where we get to see The Avengers finally working together as a team and it’s one of the best moments in superhero movie history.

The acting is dead on-point with Mark Ruffalo being the stand-out.  I expected everyone else to be good as they’ve played these characters before and they know the tone they’re supposed to take.  But Mark Ruffalo comes in cold and nails Bruce Banner with an ease that is truly impressive.  He’s just as good as Eric Bana and Edward Norton and I could even see the progression in both The Hulk and Bruce Banner through Ruffalo’s performance.  They both have come a long way and Ruffalo as Banner reflects this.  Nothing he does invalidates or violates the Bana or Norton performances and actually builds on them.  And both Banner and The Hulk get some of the best lines/scenes in the movie.  Including the one between The Hulk and Loki that had the audience I saw the movie with laughing, cheering, clapping and high-fiving for at least five minutes.

Jeremy Renner makes for a far better Clint Barton than I thought he would be.  This incarnation of Hawkeye as well as The Black Widow are darker versions of the traditional characters but I didn’t mind.  These characters I’ve always admired and loved since they don’t have superpowers.  Even Captain America has the Super-Solider Formula going for him but Hawkeye and The Black Widow are superbly trained humans who through virtue of guts, heart and their outstanding skills prove why they’re worthy to be Avengers.

So should you see THE AVENGERS?  What a silly question. of course you have. As for me I’ve seen THE AVENGERS and it’s the Avengers movie I’ve been waiting since 1968 to see and it was worth the wait.

143 minutes