Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Rating 12
Length 2h16
Release 26.3.2014
Director Anthony and Joe Russo
About As Steve Rogers adapts to the complexities of a contemporary world, he joins Natasha Romanoff and Sam Wilson in his mission to uncover the secret behind a deadly, mysterious assassin.
Moon: Full Moon at the start of the mission on the ship.
Where to Watch: Disney Plus
Trailer:


The Good

  • This is one of the films that feels a lot different to everything that’s gone before. This is a Marvel Movie with a genre aesthetic. There’s more espionage in this film than 2021’s Black Widow: a film about Nat’s espionage background. Go figure.
  • The action in this instalment is incredible. Case in point, is the elevator scene. Such an iconic sequence now, but even at the time it was a highlight of the film.
  • All the costumes have had a upgrade, even if it was only temporary. Not only are our hero’s suits fitting for the film’s tone, the civilian clothing choices are spot on for the time and some items are still desirable. I personally still want Black Widow’s trainers.
  • The introduction of Sam is joyous. I love how Cap and Sam interact and how much chemistry they have. It’s only through that chemistry that anything that follows is believable.
  • Talking about relationships, at the heart of this instalment is Steve’s long standing relationship with Bucky Barnes. You can feel the heartbreak of Steve when he has to go toe to toe with the revealed Winter Soldier.

The Bad

  • Hill is wasted in this film. She so could , and should, have been used more. It felt too much like lip service, when really she deserves to be much more involved.
  • Some of the action is hard to watch. The camera pans in the opposite direction of the action. While this, as memory serves, works well on a cinematic screen, it here it gives me motion sickness.
  • In 2021, I really did find the attack on Fury by the police very hard to watch. Not the fault of the film, but in the context of the current climate; it will have an impact on viewers.

The Ugly

  • Black Widow’s hair. I know this is probably a stupid gripe, but if you intend to have your main gal have poker straight hair throughout the film, don’t have her wash her hair. I am so irrationally angry that she is seen drying her wavy soggy locks with a towel, only to be seen in the next scene with a salon-worthy blowout.
    This lives rent-free in my head. I think it always will.
  • The ongoing “casual conversation” with Nat trying to set up Cap. Nope, just nope. Don’t need it. Don’t need the set up of Cap and Sharon (which, btw, is ten times worse now the audience have the knowledge of Endgame). In a film that is probably my favourite of the franchise; this one thing sticks out as forced.
  • To quote Fury himself; “this shit is why I have trust issues.” Yet another fake death. Yes, I am impressed that it was revealed to be a fake in this film. However, it’s just once too often and it means that as a viewer I start to lose that feeling of jeopardy. I certainly don’t feel anyone’s loss.

Final Thoughts

Of the nine films of the MCU, this is my favourite. It is a good choice for a one off viewing from the phases and it’s not too long.

The Skeleton Twins (2014) – With spoilers and trigger warning

Rating 15
Length 1h33
Release 7.11.2014
Director Craig Johnson
About When Maggie visits her brother Milo, who has attempted to commit suicide, she asks him to come live at her home for a while. Soon, their broken relationship starts to become stronger.
Moon: no moon sighting
Where to Watch: Apple TV (rental)
Trailer:


Trigger/spoiler Warning: this review, much like the film itself, deals with suicide and sexual assault of a minor.

The Good

  • For its theme and covered topics, this film is incredible charming. It approaches its narrative in a raw, unflinching way. It doesn’t live within a particular genre. Instead showing how life is full of black, white and shades of grey.
  • Both Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader are incredible. Proving once again, that comedians can do wonders with serious roles, that they have range and that some times it is acceptable for a straight actor to take on a gay role without hitting every stereotype. (Not that anyone should make the assumption of Hader’s sexuality. Even if he has been married and in relationships with women in the past, present or future.)
    In fact, it is Hader who steals this show for me. There are things that are not explicitly said, but Hader’s performance certainly suggests. That, actually, is a beautiful thing that will allow others to identify with the character and perhaps gain something meaningful from watching.
  • It’s not explored, but the film does touch the surface of the hereditary aspect of mental ill health and well being. This is perhaps something that hit me the hardest, in a soothing and cathartic way. Some people who do experience mental ill health and episodes of psychological trauma are not able to watch films like these, let alone enjoy them. Myself, I find comfort in the openness, the unity and the expression. It helps to know it’s something others can go through and it helps that there are films like this that those who perhaps never experience the other end of the spectrum can empathise in a safe way.

The Bad

  • Viewers who perhaps have never experienced a form of childhood trauma might struggle to even like the two protagonists. I personally really struggled with the character of Maggie and how she responds to some of Milo’s actions and personality traits. I’m also aware how Milo’s character could struggle to be liked by viewers. They’re both selfish and destructive and to not leave this film without feeling like you’ve wasted your evening is to accept that you need to check your judgement at the door when the film starts. You won’t gain any fulfilment of this film unless you do.
  • I don’t like the message it sends when Maggie chastises Milo for reconnecting with a man from his past. It is revealed that the man he’s been in contact with is a former teacher who Milo had a relationship with when he was 15.
    Maggie is angry. She blames Milo. I understand the anger, however I do feel the film didn’t address the issue in the best way. Milo was 15 and had lost his father to suicide only a year earlier.
    Milo was already in crisis when he was groomed by this teacher. Regardless of Milo’s perception of the relationship, it was another trauma. It was abuse. Even when an adult, and he attempts to reconnect, it is an abusive and toxic relationship.
    I know Maggie’s response to the reveal says more about her, than it does about Milo however I can’t help but feel there should have been an acknowledgement that this is not the response you give to someone who is as vulnerable as Milo is in that moment.

The Ugly

  • It’s film trope time. *Spoiler*: Maggie has an affair. Although, if you don’t see that coming from the moment this film starts, you really need to go get your eyes tested.
    Anyway, there’s a scene in which she ‘attempts’ to call off the affair and the blokes response is to undress her and initiate sex. Okay, fair enough. There is an attempt to make clear her resolve is weakening, if not non-existing from the moment the scene starts. However, and this is the rub, she says “no”. Multiple times. For fucks sake! I know what the film is trying to do and Kristen Wiig makes it “clear” (at least my reading of the scene) that she doesn’t mean ‘no’ and she does indeed kiss him back.
    I’m also aware that those who perhaps would take this as a “oh, when a woman says no she really means yes” excuse would not be watching this sort of movie, but this trope needs to be retired in the films they *do* watch. If that’s the case, it has to be challenged in every movie.
    Am I saying that this sort of things doesn’t happen in real life?! No. I’m sure there are women out there that do exactly what unfolded in the scene. However, they’re not my concern. My concern are the women who say ‘no’ with its intended purpose. By allowing these scenes to be present in our media, it confuses the message, it confuses some people and it gives the entitled an excuse to try.

Final Thoughts

A dark, charming film that addresses what it feels like to be a fuck up because of childhood trauma.

Dumb and Dumber To (2014)

Rating: 15
Length: 1h 49
Release: 19.12.2014
Dir: Bobby + Peter Farrelly
About: In need of a new kidney and having learned that he has a long-lost daughter, dimwit Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels) snaps his equally cretinous pal, Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey), out of an apparent fugue state to accompany him on a journey to find her. The witless wonders criss-cross the country using whatever mode of transportation they can find, ultimately arriving at the one place on Earth where they least belong: a summit of the world’s most brilliant minds.


The Good

  • I like that they brought back the kid from the first film to reprise Billy. In fact, the casting choices throughout the film are really good. From Walking Dead’s Laurie Holden to Paul Blackthorne’s brief cameo. It’s clever choices that make this film almost bearable.

The Bad

  • “gotcha”. The whole premise of this film runs on pranks that just don’t make sense and are not remotely funny. Much like the first film, the humour is way too taxing.

The Ugly

  • Having Lloyd laughing at Harry’s mother for talking in Chinese is just fucked up.
  • That god damn incest trope again. We spend the movie with him wanting to bang the girl, for him to work out she is most likely his own daughter. Gross. (Gross is in fact the most recorded word withing my notes for this film)
  • Yet another form of sexual assault played for laughed. Lloyd on one of their many misadventures, is manipulated into touching an old lady’s genitals. Upon realising no diamonds are to be found where he’s been led, he tries to remove his hand but she clamps his hand between her legs. So wrong on so many levels.

Final Thoughts

Yet more misses than hits, but if you liked the first one; this is just more of the same.

This is Where I Leave You (2014)

Rating 15
Length 1Hr 43
Release 24.10.2014
Director Shawn Levy
About When their father passes away, four grown, world-weary siblings return to their childhood home and are requested — with an admonition — to stay there together for a week, along with their free-speaking mother (Jane Fonda) and a collection of spouses, exes and might-have-beens. As the brothers and sisters re-examine their shared history and the status of each tattered relationship among those who know and love them best, they reconnect in hysterically funny and emotionally significant ways.


The Good 

  • It’s a rather uplifting film considering it centres around a parental death and cheating spouses.
  • Adam Driver is hilarious as the youngest sibling. This is the anti-emo to his portrayal as Kylo Ren. He has some wonderful scenes with many of the cast.
  • Kathryn Hahn really surprised me with her performance. It’s so very different to everything else I’ve seen her in and I loved that I even began questioning whether it was her.

The Bad

  • Timothy Olyphant was wasted in his role. There needed to be more screen time and I’m so sad about the lack of closure with his character.
  • Jason Bateman was too safe a choice for the lead role. It’s pretty much the only role I see him play, but he’s capable of so much more. 

The Ugly

  • I don’t know what it is about Rose Byrne that makes me want to punch her in the face, but I do and that distracts me from the film.

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed the film. It’s a bit messy and included a lot of depressing themes, but I certainly left me feeling uplifted.

John Wick (2014)

Rating: 15
Length: 1hr 41
Release: 10.4.2015
Director: Chad Stahelshi (David Leitch-uncredited)
About: John Wick, a retired hitman, is forced to return to his old ways after a group of Russian gangsters steal his car and kill a puppy gifted to him by his late wife.


The Good

  • It’s a pretty decent movie that plays on a number of genres in order to make its story work. The action and dialogue keep a decent pace and plays on all the actor’s strengths. It feels like a comic or game come to life. 
  • Reeves, to many, is perfect in the role; bringing his stoic Neo chops to this hit-man revenge chaos. I can see why he, and the franchise, is so successful. I feel a little apathetic to his presence, preferring to see him in Bill & Ted or Speed type roles. But I cannot fault his performance.
  • It’s always a pleasure to have Ian McShane in a film. There’s never much diversity in his delivery, but he’s certainly fun to watch and almost the middle ground to Tim Curry’s ham and Ian Hart’s classically trained performances.

The Bad

  • I found the opening act a little clunky. It felt a bit like the obligatory ‘death of Bruce Wayne’s parents’ scene at the start of EVERY. BATMAN. MOVIE. MADE. However, I feel very detached from the protagonist and I don’t like that I ever get a sense of who he was. Wick feels very flat as a character. 

The Ugly

  • “Just a dog” fuck me, I’ve never ugly cried so much at an action movie in my life, nor have I known a death was as much of a sure thing since Coach died in Rocky. I’m amazed how invested I was in little Daisy considering her screen time. In fact I was more invested in the revenge for her than in the character of John Wick.
  • The score and soundtrack was a little too trance and techno for my liking. It was a little too loud and relied too much on the bass for me to enjoy the film fully.

Final Thoughts

I think it is very telling that I had originally planned to watch the films in a movie night, back to back. I couldn’t bring myself to even put on Chapter 2, let alone watch all three. That said, I am aware that they will be enjoyed by others.

Christmas Film Advent- Santa Claws (2014)

“I’m old enough to decide if I celebrate Christmas or not.”

Length: 1 Hr 26
About: 
Santa is allergic to cats, but Tommy has been so good this year he decides to bring him a kitten for Christmas. When Santa has an allergic attack, the kitties have to take over the sleigh to deliver all the presents.

It’s 3am, I can’t sleep and I’m not quite ready to put on a ‘proper’ film. Now my cat is sat glued to the TV watching this kitten focused festive offering. For that alone, it’s worth the watch.

It’s hard to not watch this with a different mindset; its clear from the outset that it is not of the same quality as other films I’ve watched. However, this is not the sort of film that is wanting reviews comparing it to the countless Scrooge incarnations.

What it comes down to, is not how dire the plot might be or how many times I cringed. It doesn’t even matter if  special effects are ropy or the acting is top notch. What matters is if the target audience will love it. Parent’s, I give you warning; don’t show this film to your little ones without being prepared for it being the only thing you watch.

For a kid, its fun, cute and the plot doesn’t matter. The three kittens running about and causing mischief will entertain and engage. For the fury felines, just pop it on as your leaving the house. When you return, you’ll discover that your kitten hasn’t moved anything other than its head. Cassius’ head followed the kittens from start to finish.