Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

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Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Writers: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, Ed Brubaker, Joe Simon, Jack Kirby
Production Companies: Marvel Entertainment, Marvel Studios, Perception, Sony Pictures Imageworks
Stars: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansen, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Redford, Anthony Mackie
Genre: Action/ Adventure

What It’s About: Steve Rogers fights corruption within his ranks and takes on the elusive Soviet agent–the Winter Soldier.

How I Watched It: In the theater; +1.  Small crowd.

Thoughts: This film is set a few years after The Avengers movie…so….I guess that sort of real time.  Huh.

Anyway.  The film starts on a comedic note.  We see Sam Wilson (Mackie) jogging in Washington D.C.  Then we see Steve Rogers AKA Captain America (Evans)–sans uniform catching up and passing him….several times. XD  Fun way to open the movie. The two become quick acquaintances as they take a breather and Sam gives him some pointers for how to adjust to his new 21st century lifestyle.  Then up pulls Natasha Romanoff AKA Black Widow (Johansen) to give Steve a lift to S.H.I.E.L.D.

They join with other agents to go on a rescue mission to save hostages being held captive on a S.H.I.E.L.D. vessel by pirates.  Captain America dives off a jet with no parachute, lands in the water, climbs aboard, and starts kicking ass.

Now, you can tell right away that this movie is darker than the first Captain America movie. Not only speaking from a cinematography standpoint, but also just from sheer violence. There are some really brutal moments in Captain America’s jaunt through this ship, and throughout the rest of the movie.  Some of them really caught me by surprise….as in…my jaw physically dropped because I wasn’t expecting them.

So, Captain rescues the hostages, but sees Black Widow stealing intelligence from the ship.  After the rescue is complete he confronts Nick Fury (Jackson) about it.

I’ll avoid going into much more of the plot, because spoilers start happening fairly quickly.

The main motif here is that Captain America and Black Widow are on the run from and fighting corruption within the ranks of the S.H.I.E.L.D. Corporation.  Along the way they come across The Winter Soldier, which is a Soviet super-solider with a metal arm.  Oh. Man.  Is he a bad-ass character.  My jaw dropped exponentially more once he came into the picture because the violence just went through the roof.  We also see Sam come back into the picture as The Falcon, which is a lot of fun.

Lots of familiar characters from throughout the Avengers franchise who all do phenomenal jobs.  Don’t feel the need to give individual shout-outs (or I can’t due to spoilers), but there’s no need. The characters we love, kicking ass again.

If you enjoyed the first Captain America movie like I did, you’ll enjoy this one even more. It’s much darker–which tends to be the direction that most super hero movies go these days–and I love it.  I love the quirkier super heroes of days past, but the darker, grittier characters are my favorite.

My Rating:  Huzzah!

Darker, more violent and action-packed….while still maintaining its charm and comedic moments.  A fun ride.  A must-see for super hero fans.

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The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

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Director: Dan O’Bannon
Writers: Rudy Ricci, John A. Russo, Russell Streiner, Dan O’Bannon
Production Companies: Hemdale Film, Fox Films Ltd., Cinema 84
Stars: Clu Gulager, James Karen, Don Calfa, Thom Matthews, Linnea Quigley, Beverly Randolph, John Philbin, Jewel ShepardMiguel A. Núñez Jr., Brian Peck
Genre: Horror/ Comedy

What It’s About: Two clumsy employees of a medical supply store accidentally open a hazardous barrel that releases a deadly gas into the air–reanimating the dead.

How I Watched It: Alone in my room.  Evening.

Thoughts: What a perfect place to start a zombie film–a medical supply shop.  The two shop workers, Frank (James Karen) and Freddy (Thom Matthews), are quite the duo.  Frank has one heck of a time showing off all of the weird stuff sitting around the store as he shows him the ropes.

While they’re getting settled in the shop, you get to see a group of punky looking kids driving around.  They’re waiting for Freddy to get out of work.  They go to the medical supply store, but realize that it’s way too early….so they decide to just go hangout in the cemetery located next door while they wait.

Back at the store, they get to talking about zombies. Frank tells Freddy about how some movie (which is obviously a blatant reference to Night of the Living Dead) was actually based on true events.  People in a zombie movie talking about zombie movies.  That’s always fun.  Anyway, Frank says that there are some barrels in the basement that are in the basement from said incident that contain zombie corpses! So, of course, they’ve gotta go check them out!  They go down, and you can see that there is an actual zombie in the barrel.  Frank screws around with one of the barrels and manages to open it.  Then out spill this toxic gas which leaks through the vents to turn the cadaver in the cooler upstairs into the living dead!

Then a whole bunch of shit goes down (which I won’t spoil for you).

One of the most memorable moments is a scene in the cemetery when Trash (Quigley) decides that she’s gonna strip down to her thigh-high socks and dance on top of a grave.  I completely understand why so many men retain their childhood crushes on her.  What a hottie.  But just in general, I love the camaraderie of the cemetery kids.

Shoutout to Don Calfa, who plays Ernie the mortician.  His character kind of made my skin crawl a little bit.  So kudos to that.

One of my favorite things about this movie is all of the sweet costumes.  So ’80s, and so well put-together.  Love it.

My Rating:  Huzzah!

Lots of zombies.  Lots of fun, campy dialogue.  Fun story.  Love the ending, but you’ll have to see that for yourself.  😉

Nebraska (2013)

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Director: Alexander Payne
Writer: Bob Nelson
Production Companies: Paramount Vantage, FilmNation Entertainment, Echo Lake Entertainment, Bona Fide Productions
Stars: Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Bob Odenkirk, Stacy Keach
Genre: Adventure/ Drama

What It’s About: An old boozer makes a trip to Nebraska with his son to claim a million dollar sweepstakes marketing prize.

How I Watched It: Alone in my room.  Evening.

Thoughts: First thing you notice is that it’s in black and white.  Sometimes I’m not a fan of films deliberately using black and white–comes off as pretentious?  Or something. However, I really think the b&w works really well for this film.

Another aspect I quickly noticed was the score.  It plays out so well for this film.  It’s all instrumental folk/country music.  It’s perfect.  I know they say that your score is successful if it blends in and you don’t take notice, but I disagree. I definitely took notice, but it never took me out.  I think the music lent a hand in a big way.

Bruce Dern plays Woody and he is just fantastic.  From the moment the film opens and you just see him walking along the side of the road–he’s walkin’ to Nebraska to get his million dollars because his wife won’t drive him–just….perfect.  You just know this old man is gullible and stubborn.  It’s a little sad, but kind of adorable at the same time.

Then we have Will Forte (David) who is the somewhat estranged son who comes in to take care of his Dad.  So nice seeing him in a more dramatic role, as opposed to his usual ridiculous comedic roles.  David is trying to be the voice of reason to his father, but Woody is in his own little world.

David takes it upon himself to drive his father to Nebraska so that he can prove to him that this whole thing is just a scam.  One thing leads to another, and they have to detour to Woody’s hometown for a few days.  And oh, the characters you meet there.

Shoutout to June Squibb, who plays Woody’s wife, Kate.  She’s a hoot.  So many golden moments with her.  Her performance is just so straight-faced and sincere.  Love it.

I don’t even feel the need to go into much more detail.  Just watch it.

My Rating: Huzzah!

This movie just oozes charm.  So down-to-earth and heartwarming.  I love it.

Blue Jasmine (2013)

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Director: Woody Allen
Writer: Woody Allen
Production Company: Perdido Productions 
Stars: Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin, Peter Sarsgaard, Bobby Cannavale
Genre: Comedy/ Drama

What It’s About: A New York socialite gets ripped from the life she knows and is forced to live with her middle class sister in San Francisco.

How I Watched It: Alone in my room.  Afternoon.

Thoughts: Jasmine (Blanchett) is torn from her New York social life because her husband (Baldwin) turned out to be a crook, and she’s lost everything she ever had.  She’s pushed into a living situation with her Sister (Hawkins) and her two sons.  And while her living situation has been knocked down a few pegs, Jasmine can’t change her ways.

This movie is really just about the character Jasmine for me, and Blanchett’s amazing. She is just completely delusional about her situation–not to say that she wasn’t put through awful things.  She loved her husband, and was completely oblivious to the fact that he was committing fraud.  She loses everything.  Even her son.  He’s completely jaded against her.

She just plays this so wonderfully.  She’s so deeply sad and tormented, and yet she still maintains her poise and social status.  Absolutely amazing.  Well-deserved Oscar.

Other nods:  Sally Hawkins has a strong performance as Jasmine’s sister, Ginger.  They state that they were both adopted, and that definitely helps as far as the appearance of them goes.  But their personalities are so different, but they definitely have moments where you can see the similarities between them, particularly when it comes to men.

Bobby Cannavale plays Ginger’s new love interest.  He just plays a really solid, entertaining character.  I’m not sure if he says he’s from Jersey, but you can tell that the actor is native there.  I’d have to revisit it to see where the character’s home state is.

Love the small role played by Louis C.K. He comes in as a secondary love interest for Ginger at one point.  I probably just loved his role because I enjoy Louis C.K. so much, but still.

And I do have to give kudos to Woody Allen.  When I was younger, I wasn’t a huge fan of his films.  As I’ve gotten older, I just love them.  He’s such a great storyteller.

My Rating: Huzzah!

If nothing else, watch this movie for Blanchett’s performance.  Seriously.  I couldn’t take my eyes off of her.  But you also get a great story full of great characters.  Worth a watch.

Haunter (2013)

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Director: Vincenzo Natali
Writer: Brian King
Production Companies: Wild Bunch, Copperheart Entertainment
Stars: Abigail Breslin, Stephen McHattie, Peter Outerbridge, Michelle Nolden, Peter DaCunha
Genre: Horror/ Mystery/ Thriller

What It’s About: The ghost of a teenager who died years ago reaches out to the land of the living in order to save someone from suffering her same fate. (from IMDB)

How I Watched It: Alone in my room.  Evening.

Thoughts: Okay, so this movie starts out with this small family.  Two parents, two kids–one teenage daughter (Breslin) and the younger brother (DaCunha).  Lisa (Breslin) is apparently the only one aware that they’ve been repeating the same day over and over again.  Much like Groundhog Day.

There’s a mysterious fog surrounding the house, and everyone keeps repeating the same menial tasks.  Then suddenly things start to change each day.  A man (McHattie) starts showing up in Lisa’s dreams and then physically at the house.  Then start spiraling, and there are about a million different twists and whatnot.

Breslin does a pretty decent job in this.  I’m not really accustomed to seeing her in this sort of role, or this grown up either. Her and McHattie played really well off of each other.  Now, McHattie.  I love this actor.  Ever since I saw him in Pontypool, I’ve been a fan.  He plays a solid villain in this.

Now, the story line was interesting, but I found it a bit too complicated for my taste.  Too many different twists and turns for me.  And that’s with me sitting back and trying to enjoy the ride.  I found myself drifting away from my viewing quite a bit.

My Rating:  Meh.

You can give it a shot.  I may have to give it another one before I completely make up my mind on it.

Parkland (2013)

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Director: Peter Landesman
Writers: Peter Landesman, Vincent Bugliosi (book)
Production Companies: The American Film Company, Exclusive Media Group, Playtone
Stars: Paul Giamatti, Zac Efron, Marcia Gay Harden, James Badge Dale, Ron Livingston, Colin Hanks, Kat Steffens, Tom Welling, Billy Bob Thornton
Genre: Drama/ Mystery/ Thriller

What It’s About: A recounting of the chaotic events that occurred at Dallas’ Parkland Hospital on the day U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

How I Watched It: Alone in my room.  Evening.

Thoughts: I really enjoy the perspectives in this movie.  You don’t just have the media coverage–you have first hand accounts from lots of different angles, which is nice.  You have the events from the hospital’s perspective, from a parade on-looker who was filming, from the perspective of Lee Harvey Oswald’s family, and more.

Personally, I was a big fan of seeing the Oswald’s family’s perspective.  Seeing the pain and suffering that the “villain’s” family goes through is something that is so often overlooked.  James Badge Dale plays the part of Robert Oswald, Lee Harvey’s older brother.  What a great performance.  The most memorable to me, by far.  So torn because while, yes, his brother murdered the U.S. President, he also tarnished the lives of the rest of his family without any thought.  Such a fantastic conflicted performance. The scene with him and the reporters at his brother’s funeral is such a great scene.
On the other hand, I wasn’t a huge fan of the Oswald mother.  I feel like there could have been less of her crazy antics.

Great performances all around.  Especially Zac Efron and Marcia Gay Harden playing the young hospital resident on duty and the nurse who assisted him when JFK gets rushed into the ER.  Dripping with emotion.

Oh, and kudos to Kat Steffens who took over the role of Jacqueline Kennedy in the aftermath at the hospital.  She doesn’t say much at all, but she just overwhelms you. There’s a moment when she silently walks up to Marcia Gay Harden (the nurse) and holds out her dainty white-gloved hands–now just covered in blood–and opens her hand to reveal a piece of her husband’s skull and some apparent brain matter.  The nurse takes it, and she just goes into the corner and crouches down crying.  It’s just heartbreaking.

The moments in the hospital, and the moments dealing with the Oswald family had the most impact for me.  Some of the other moments dealing with the FBI, or dealing with the parade onlooker filming on his 8mm camera (played by Giamatti) left some to be desired. Wasn’t a big fan of Billy Bob Thornton’s part.  He played the head of the Secret Service in Dallas.  He had one moment where someone calls him out and says that he fucked up, and he flips out….but I feel that the moment could have been acted a bit better. There were some good moments, but all in all, I wanted to be taken back to the other situations.

My Rating:  Meh.

An American tragedy, with some overlooked perspectives.  Some really great dramatic moments, but other moments that I found myself taken out.  Perhaps there were too many different perspectives?  I dunno.  It was okay.  If you enjoy historical (fiction/non-fiction) films, you might enjoy it.  Maybe more than me.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

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Director: Martin Scorsese
Writers: Terence Winter (screenplay), Jordan Belfort (book)
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jon Bernthal, P.J. Byrne
Production Companies: Paramount Pictures, Red Granite Pictures, Appian Way, Sikelia Productions, EMJAG Productions
Genre: Biography/ Comedy/ Crime

What It’s About: Based on the real life of Jordan Belfort: his rise and fall as a scheming stockbroker.

How I Watched It: Alone in my room.  Early Evening.

Thoughts: First of all: the fact that this is a biopic on someone’s actual life is just fucking ridiculous.  Holy shit.  I’ve seen movies about Wall Street guys living large and takin’ big commissions, but this one takes the cake.  I’m sure that things have been added or omitted or just blown out of proportion, but still.  This shit happens.  Is this real life?  XD

Won’t go in to the plot too much.  You’ve got Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio) who puts together this crazy group of dudes who are willing to rip a bunch of honest hard-working people. Then they do it.  And while they do it, they do every drug imaginable, fuck anything with a vagina, and live an almost cartoon-ish lifestyle.  Well…a very adult cartoon.

I’ll dive right into performances.

Matthew McConaughey only plays a small role in this film, but it’s quite a memorable one. Even after sitting through all three hours of this movie.  Also, I will note that I love the fact they did a weird sort of remix of his little “song” for the end credits.  Awesome.

Jonah Hill.  Those frickin’ teeth.  So strange, but so well-suited to his character.  Jonah’s always pegged as the funny guy, and he is outright hilarious in this.  However, I didn’t sit through the whole movie thinking “Oh.  That’s Jonah Hill.  He’s that guy who always used to play the weird stoner in those movies with Seth Rogen.”  He took this character by the balls.  I love that he’s been showing his acting chops more and more.  Look forward to more roles like this and his role in Moneball.

So many great small roles in this movie.  Kudos to P.J. Byrne as Rugrat and Henry Zebrowski as Sea Otter (nicknames of course).  Just hilarious, memorable roles.

Okay.  Leo.  What a role, man.  I can’t even imagine how much fun it was for him (and the whole cast for that matter) to film this flippin’ movie.  But Leo didn’t just have fun with it–it wouldn’t be a true Leo role if he did.  Even though this character is ridiculous, and is living the highest of the high lives, you still see how much of a tormented soul he is.  There are times when it seems like he’s lost his humanity, and sure, you do enough coke and I’m sure that’ll happen.  I dunno.  Leo’s always been really good with subtext.  Especially on his face–paints such a good picture.  A really interesting character.

On another note, what a beautiful-looking movie.  I’m not really good with technical mumbo jumbo as far as movies go, because I’ve never really experienced being behind the scenes of one.  So I’ll give kudos to Scorsese and his cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto.  Just so well done.

My Rating:  Huzzah!

I would complain about this being 3 hours long, but I didn’t even realize it.  Just a fun ride. Pretty vulgar–this isn’t one to take home and watch with the parents.  But yes.  Enjoyed.