Quick Takes: Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Under the Skin, High Road to China

cap2_1Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
threestar

Starring Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Robert Redford, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Maximiliano Hernández, Emily VanCamp, Hayley Atwell, Toby Jones
Directed by Anthony Russo & Joe Russo

I liked Captain America: The Winter Soldier much better than I liked the first Cap movie, but it definitely wasn’t the game-changing superhero movie that I had heard it was. Good thing I don’t expect much other than heroes fighting villains in my superhero movies! Simply put: if you like the Marvel movies, definitely watch this. It features a lot of fun action and a few great things are introduced that will probably deliver more in later movies down the road. I do have to say that I’m surprised by how little any of the post-Avengers movies connect to each other. I don’t think it’s especially necessary, but with the idea that these movies are part of a “phase” now, it does make one think they ought to be more related than they are. But whatever, this one’s got Cap, Black Widow and Falcon all kickin’ ass and takin’ names, so I was more than happy with what I got.

UndertheSkinUnder the Skin (2014)

Starring Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy McWilliams, Lynsey Taylor Mackay, Dougie McConnell, Kevin McAlinden
Directed by Jonathan Glazer

This is why I avoid trailers. Unfortunately, I happened to see the trailer for Under the Skin multiple times over the past few months while I saw repertory screenings at the local arthouse. The trailer is packed full of surreal, engaging imagery, and the marketers even went so far as to use quotes that suppose that director Jonathan Glaser might be an “heir to Kubrick.” So by the time I actually saw Under the Skin, it was thoroughly overhyped and unable to deliver on my expectations. But I definitely liked it. It’s a strange little science fiction movie that creates a significant, believable portrayal of an alien on Earth with effectively no budget and mostly non-professional actors. There’s lots of nudity throughout, and much of it feels gratuitous and only there to add to the film’s hype (given Johansson’s fame). This, in turn, made me imagine the film with the character genders reversed but the nudity the same, and what the reception may have been like then. I’m guessing it wouldn’t be quite the critical darling it seems to be and it probably would’ve been NC-17, too. Apparently, like the men in the film, even critics can succumb to the beauty of Scarlett Johansson.

highroad_1High Road to China (1983)
twohalfstar

Starring Tom Selleck, Bess Armstrong, Jack Weston, Wilford Brimley, Robert Morley, Brian Blessed, Cassandra Gava, Michael Sheard
Directed by Brian G. Hutton

High Road to China is an enjoyable, entertaining film… when it’s not being annoying and too slowly paced. I had hoped to see more of China in a film with this title (and considering that it was co-produced by Hong Kong’s Golden Harvest), but it really is about the road TO China. The aerial footage of the bi-planes, whether it’s grand scenes of scenic beauty or old-fashioned dogfights, is gorgeous and adds considerably to the film’s draw. Evidently, at the time of release this was seen as a Raiders of the Lost Ark clone, but the two films couldn’t be more different. High Road to China is a much more low-key adventure, with a much less likeable hero, but in this day and age of green screen, CG landscapes, it was wonderful to see actual planes flying in the actual air over the actual mountains. If you’re a Tom Selleck fan, definitely give this one a shot.

Scavenger Hunt (1979)

Scavenger HuntStarring Richard Benjamin, James Coco, Cloris Leachman, Cleavon Little, Roddy McDowall, Richard Mulligan, Scatman Crothers, Tony Randall, Dirk Benedict, Willie Aames, Stephanie Faracy, Richard Masur, Maureen Teefy, Robert Morley, Hal Landon Jr., Vincent Price, Meat Loaf, Avery Schreiber, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ruth Gordon

Directed by Michael Schultz

Expectations: Low.

twohalfstar


Hey you vultures! You want a review of Scavenger Hunt? Well, alright then! I’ll give you one! You’ve got till 5 PM Pacific Time to collect all kinds of crazy stuff and bring it back here, and whoever has the most points wins!

Here’s what you’re looking for:

Toilet Stuffed Fish Fake Teeth Kayak Teddy Bear
Hockey Stick Jack in the Box Head Safe Suit of Armor Police Uniform
Nitrous Oxide Cash Register Ostrich Basketball Hoop Bulletproof Vest
Medicine Ball Wedding Dress Innertube Pedal Car Foxtail
Cowbell Piñata Brass Instrument Rolls Royce Grill Microscope
Safety Cone Totem Pole Moose Head Baby Carriage The Fattest Person You Can Find

……….AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNNNNND GO! Good luck!

Update: 5 PM has come and gone! It’s all over, folks! Hit the break for the review… you’ve earned it!

Continue reading Scavenger Hunt (1979) →

The Great Muppet Caper (1981)

Starring Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Dave Goelz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, Charles Grodin, Diana Rigg, John Cleese, Robert Morley, Peter Ustinov, Jack Warden, Steve Whitmire

Directed by Jim Henson

Expectations: High. This was always my favorite Muppet movie as a kid.


While The Muppet Movie brought your favorite puppets to the big screen, it was lacking in one major area: plot. I don’t mean this as a knock, the road adventure works well for that film, but The Great Muppet Caper does a great job being its own thing and providing a completely different experience than that original film. So where The Muppet Movie was a string of random events with a shoestring plot, The Great Muppet Caper is almost entirely plot.

Kermit and Fozzie play investigative journalists recently employed by the Daily Chronicle. They’re sent on assignment to London to interview Lady Holiday about her stolen diamonds, but due to a mix-up Kermit thinks Miss Piggy is Lady Holiday. It’s a mystery, it’s a love story, it’s a rollicking good comedy; The Great Muppet Caper is full of life. It’s been almost 20 years since I last watched this, but I saw it so many times in my youth that I was still able to sing along to many of the songs and I remembered large sections of the film shot by shot, and joke by joke. While that might work against some films, it only enriched the experience of re-watching The Great Muppet Caper for me; I was in Muppet heaven.

Continue reading The Great Muppet Caper (1981) →

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