Captain America: Civil War

CWDirectors: Anthony and Joe Russo

Screenwriters: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely  

Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Sebastian Stan, Chadwick Boseman, Elizabeth Olson, Paul Bettany, Paul Rudd, and Daniel Brühl

What’s left to say about a movie that within 2 weeks has amassed a $940 million global box office and taken the Marvel Cinematic Universe above the $10 billion mark?  Generally, my goal in writing these reviews is to recommend worthy films for my audience in the hopes of aiding the decision on what to see.  Whenever one of these massively popular films is released, it seems silly to review it.  I mean people that want to see Captain America: Civil War will see it regardless of what any number of critics say.  So then, why write about it?  What’s my motivation? In this case, I think the story is less the film and more to discuss its place in the company of the 12 other films that have been released in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe).  Of course, I still find it useful to identify the good and the bad about the film and offer a summative recommendation, but given that most of my readers have probably already seen this film if they are going to, I want to offer something a little extra as well.

So, what are the “12 other films” that accompany Captain America: Civil War? It’s important to make that distinction.  For the purposes of this article, The X-Men films, Spider-Man films, Fantastic Four Films, and Deadpool will not be considered.  The 13 films pertinent to this discussion are those planned out by Marvel studios starting with 2008’s Iron Man and include the following: Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, Marvel’s The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man, and Captain America: Civil War.

So now that we’ve identified the players, I will take a moment to review the latest film in the franchise and discuss its place in the field.

Captain America: Civil War is less a Captain America film and more a third Avengers film.  All of the key players are present in this film except Thor and the Hulk, and the events of the film are an immediate continuation from the action of Avengers: Age of Ultron. The principle conflict revolves around a global agenda to put the Avengers under United Nations supervision. Tolerance for the devastation and civilian casualties that have resulted from Avenger-related battles has been exhausted, and at least one Avenger, Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) agrees with the idea of putting the Avengers in check.  Stark’s persuasive and personal reasons cause a stir in the once unified Avenger team, but his words fall on deaf ears when it comes to Captain “America” Steve Rogers (Chris Evans).  Rogers believes that any supervision of the Avengers will only result in corruption and ineffectiveness.  Suddenly an ideological divide is struck that threatens to tear the Avengers apart from within.

The film does a pretty good job of introducing the conflict and representing both sides, although the reasoning for why one Avenger takes this side versus that side is ultimately rather arbitrary.  What is certain is that a line has been drawn (actually quite literally in one scene) and our heroes must navigate some rocky moral terrain.  While the main “villain” of this film is philosophical in nature, there is a human antagonist  named Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl) an ex Sakovian Colonel with some dark secrets and control of the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).

This film is less distinctive from the rest of the pack than its predecessor, Captain America: Winter Soldier.  The thrilling political conspiracy that threaded through the Winter Soldier is replaced by a more standard “Comic Booky” genre story.  Subsequently, the action is a bit shakier this time around, regardless of the fact that Winter Soldier directors Anthony and Joe Russo helmed this film as well.  Nevertheless, the Russo brothers do direct the hell out of this film showing their range with expertly crafted chase sequences as well as some heavy emotional material.

Another plus is that like Winter Soldier, the story remains mostly rooted in reality, and Captain America’s motives continue to be protecting his homeland at all costs.  Additionally, Civil War boasts three outstanding achievements that no Marvel film before it has managed thus far.  First, it introduces two of the best new characters (Black Panther and Spider-Man, both slated to receive upcoming stand-alone films) and does it with panache!  I’ll leave the details about these new characters out so not to spoil anything for the rare reader who has yet to see this film, but both are quite satisfying and Spider-Man especially receives a worthy reboot after some questionable recent attempts by Sony Pictures. Second, the “Civil War” battle is a remarkable scene. This scene replaces the “Battle of New York” from Marvel’s Avengers as the Infinity Stone in the Marvel crown. DC executives responsible for Batman v. Superman should take notes on how Marvel succeeds at fighting internal conflict with external conflict! Third, Captain America: Civil War manages to give all of its cast members room to breathe and make a memorable and worthwhile contribution.  No character is squandered, and as I alluded to earlier, this film explores some emotional depth but uses just the right amount of levity and humor to maintain an even tone.  Captain America: Civil War advances Marvel’s epic storyline yet another step forward and the Russo Brothers prove to be worthy of inheriting the Avengers mantle from Joss Whedon for the upcoming Infinity War films. A-

Captain America: Civil War is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 2 hours and 27 minutes.  As usual, stick around through the credits for two additional scenes….

…and now in keeping with the Marvel cinematic tradition, I have a “post-credits” stinger for you!

The Top 13 Marvel Cinematic Universe Films According to The People’s Critic:

  1. Captain America: The Winter SoldierA
  2. Iron Man 3A
  3. Marvel’s The Avengers – A-
  4. Captain America: Civil WarA-
  5. Iron ManA-
  6. Avengers: Age of UltronA-
  7. Captain America: The First Avenger – B+
  8. Thor – B+
  9. Ant-ManB+
  10. Iron Man 2B
  11. The Incredible Hulk – B
  12. Thor: The Dark WorldB
  13. Guardians of the Galaxy – B-

Average score for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (2016) – B+

Feel free to sound off in the comments section about my rankings.  Did I get it right?  Are you a Guardians of the Galaxy fan who wants to give me a piece of your mind?

Hello, My Name is Doris

DorisDirector: Michael Showalter

Screenwriters: Laura Terruso and Michael Showalter

Cast: Sally Field, Max Greenfield, Tyne Daly, and Beth Behrs

When was the last time you walked into a movie theater without any expectations for what you were about to see? At the risk of becoming paradoxical, I am going to try to write a review about a film that was aided by how little I initially knew about it. Now as a critic, I know I am walking a fine line by recommending a film that I believe should be seen without bias, but also subsequently creating said bias by writing about it. I write my reviews in the hopes that I can help steer audiences towards good films and away from bad ones. That task is oftentimes burdened by providing context and information about films that create expectations within my audience. The good news is that most films can handle a certain level of expectation, but occasionally one comes around that yearns to be discovered without too much earnestness. With that, I issue this warning: Hello, My Name is Doris is not groundbreaking or truly that original but what it is, is simply a film worth seeing. If that interests you, go see it and read the rest of this review later. If you want to know why, then read on!

Hello, My Name is Doris is the story of Doris (Sally Field) an aging accounts manager for a marketing company in New York City. Embodying the generation gap as the sole sixty-something in an office full of twenty and thirty-somethings, Doris continues to commute via ferry and train from Staten Island every day as she has for the previous thirty-two years. With the death of her long-term invalid mother, Doris’s loneliness sends her to a self-help seminar where guru Willy Williams (Peter Gallagher) convinces Doris of her “Possibility,” leading her to pursue the affection of a newly hired, and much younger, co-worker John (Max Greenfield).

This is a silly, little movie, but it does wear its heart on its sleeve, which Doris may actually do with some of the crazy sweaters she wears. The film features a wide range of relationships including romantic, parental, fraternal, and friendship, and with just a 95-minute running time, it manages to have something poignant to say about all of them. This is most evident in Doris’s scenes with her good friend Roz (Tyne Daly).

Relationships thematically ground Hello, My Name is Doris, but acting is certainly this movie’s strong suit. The best actors, and I use that term with specificity, are those who can truly play anything. Julia Roberts is arguably one of America’s most well-known and popular actresses, but she is by no means anywhere near the best. She has made an outrageously successful career out of recycling the same character into scores of performances, and hey she’s even won an Oscar for it. On the other hand, you have someone like Sally Field who in this film embodies a unique, quirky, and adorably odd character that is nothing like anyone she has ever portrayed before. Her performance as Doris is a magnificently effective revelation on the potential invisibility of middle age. We are forced to question why we laugh at Doris’s choices to fit in or look young. We are also forced to feel the desperateness that inspires her decisions and her perpetual daydreams. This is a well-rounded and outstandingly effective performance by an actress who knows a thing or two about the art form. Writer/Director Michael Showalter realized what he had in Field and gave her the spotlight. The result is a film far better than it would be with the wrong actor in the title role. Few actors have the power to elevate generic material to the level that Field does with this film; Meryl Streep comes to mind, and the list may end there. Overall, Hello, My Name is Doris compares well with female-centric films about the search for happiness in the vein of Amélie or Happy-Go-Lucky, only in this case we get a slightly older and more awkward point-of-view but the same amount of heart. B+

Hello My Name is Doris is rated R and has a running time of 1 hour and 35 minutes.