Captain America: The First Avenger


Viewed – 05 October 2012  Blu-ray

There was a time when I really didn’t think the newly formed Marvel Studios would pull it off.  A grand concept, 4 origin stories, leading to a big ensemble smack down with this year’s highly entertaining Avengers Assemble.  Yet I have to give it where it’s due, until now in  my opinion these have all been polished and well made movies … with this being no exception.

Set during World War II, a wimpy but gutsy guy (Chris Evans) dreams of joining the army and following in the footsteps of his soldier friend.  Yet being small and skinny, he continually fails every medical, and soon begins to believe he’ll never get to fight for his country.  That is until a scientist (Stanley Tucci) see’s potential and signs him up, leading to him becoming the first human test subject for an experimental formula that apparently creates super soldiers.  At the same time a power-hungry Nazi meglomaniac dreams of conquering the world, and as you can imagine – it’s going to take that exact super solider to save the day.  Step forward Captain America!

This wasn’t the Captain America I remember.  Wasn’t he something to do with American Football?  But this follows the early comics of the character more closely and makes for a fun, often amusing and very slick action thriller.  Chris Evans like in The Avengers, made for a more complex, conflicted ‘hero’ than some of his contemporaries, and in this zero to hero story carries the film well (with quite incredible skinny guy effect).  Hugo Weaving is on hand as villain The Red Skull, and always makes for a great boo-hiss baddie (see: The Matrix Trilogy), and along with decent support from Tommy Lee Jones and the aforementioned Mr Tucci this is a movie that’s very difficult not to enjoy.  Special effects, action sequences and story are all delivered with style and energy.  For an origin story it makes for absorbing if lightweight material, with more of a glossy, propaganda themed image of the war than how it really was (think 1940’s comics), and some of the earlier Captain America poster-boy stuff seemed to mock the character, sitting uneasily alongside all the cool action and drama.

Still this was easy viewing and made for my preferred origin tale of the saga.

Verdict:  4 /5

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The Hunger Games


Viewed – 12 September 2012  Blu-ray

One of the most talked about movies of the year … but let’s get this out-of-the-way first – Hunger Games is a complete rip-off of cult Japanese movie (and books) Battle Royale.  Ah, now we can carry on.  16 year old Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) becomes embroiled in the annual Hunger Games when she volunteers in place of her younger sister, and soon a number of children and teenagers are transported to an island with the soul intention of killing one another, with the one remaining survivor crowned champion and bestowed riches.  Now, apparently the whole reason behind this barbaric ‘game show’ is to keep order amongst the twelve districts who are forced to offer up two ‘pledges’ each year as a sacrifice, following an uprising years previously that caused a brutal and bloody war.

For me the futuristic setting was somewhat ‘meh’, with the rich dressed in strange, pantomime clothing and with sneering personalities, and the poor kept in districts like peasants (how original).  I also couldn’t really believe it would be allowed, by a governing law for kids to kill each other for entertainment, which felt more of cruder, medieval times than a civilized futuristic society.  Thankfully director Gary Ross (Pleasantville) has put together a very stylish movie packed with drama, slightly over-edited action and a star-making turn from Jennifer Lawrence whose performance is both hugely emotional and likable, making for a very human and intriguing lead.  Supporting cast including a camp Stanley Tucci and an enjoyable Woody Harrelson are interesting set dressing (less said about a sleepy Donald Sutherland, the better), but the star here remains Lawrence and the overall disturbing concept, which although not quite packing the punch of Battle Royale, still has moments of real power – especially towards the end.

It’s a tad over-hyped for what it is, and probably distasteful when all is said and done – but regardless, I still had a good time.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Easy A


Viewed – 28 April 2011  Blu-ray

They say personality goes a long way, and when it comes to actress Emma Stone, that personality has meant for some of the most likable comedic performances of the last few years, from a supporting turn in The House Bunny, to a star-making role in Zombieland, and now this amiable teen comedy.  Stone plays Olive, a normal teenage girl who goes unnoticed by her fellow school friends.  Yet when a lie about a one night stand is spread throughout the school, she soon finds her social life enlivened and her popularity, especially with the male pupils sky-rocket.  Appealed by this new-found popularity, she chooses to keep the lie going by allowing social outcast guys to boast about having sex with her to boost their own standing, but as you can probably imagine, it’s not long before things spiral out of control.

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The Lovely Bones


Viewed – 03 July 2010  Blu-ray

Generally I will watch anything by Peter Jackson, certainly one of the most imaginative and visionary directors around, and this latest offering certainly intrigued me with its dark but fantastical premise.  Suzy Salmon is a young girl who is murdered and finds herself in a dream-like afterlife between our world and heaven, but can’t fully pass on until her murderer is caught, or her family learn to move on from her death.  Her father (Mark Wahlberg)  becomes obsessed with finding out who killed his daughter as time passes with few leads, and all along we know who did it and await the killer’s comeuppance with bated breath, feeling for Suzy and her family as the tragedy gradually tares everone apart.    

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