Movie: Captain America, The Winter Soldier

Captain America, The Winter Soldier, in my opinion, cements the character alongside Iron Man as one of the most compelling characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Not only that but Captain America is filling the void of the all American Superhero that was formerly occupied by Superman on the big screen (Henry Cavill's Man of Steel isn't quite there yet but could be if he puts in the work the way Cap has).

Through three films (including Winter Soldier) Captain America, a.k.a. Steve Rodgers, has stuck to his 1940's morals and beliefs of basic human dignity and being a fine, upstanding citizen, whilst being one of the most awesome superheroes to watch against any opponent he goes up against.

If you haven't seen the movie yet, watch the second official trailer below and then go see the film. The rest of this article (after the video below) is filled with spoilers as I really want to share my thoughts about the good and some minor issues I have with the film.

If you enjoyed The Avengers then this film is easily that good with a more surprising plot that won't leave you feeling short changed (like the Mandarin plot twist of Iron Man 3). I'd go so far as to say it's the first Marvel film in this MCU series that encourages you to think a little harder whilst still allowing you to enjoy the ride. I'd also say that this movie is as close to a direct sequel to The Avengers as you can get without all of the Avengers assembling.



Spoilers from here on. You have been warned.

Right off the top I'm going to address the elephant in the room and go off on a tagent. With all these post Avengers films it always makes me wonder, where are the other Avengers?

Sure Tony Stark turned all his suits into a firework display in Iron Man 3 but not a single Avenger even checked in on him or was concerned about the Mandarin during that film. Not so much as a SHIELD agent showed any concern... yet SHIELD was all over him in Iron Man 1 and 2.

Thor, The Dark World takes place over a single day - which is the excuse given for the lack of SHIELD agents in that film... and I guess Stark was still building a new Iron Man suit, but what about War Machine a.k.a. The Iron Patriot?

That leads me in to Winter Soldier which takes place over three days. Which is the flimsy excuse given for a no show for the other Avengers. However, we've all seen how quick Tony can get into an Iron Man suit and fly half way around the world to Afghanistan... and again, if he doesn't have suits, what about War Machine?

I'm prepared to give Hulk a pass because MCU Bruce Banner is some what a reluctant hero still coming to terms with where the Hulk fits in. He seems more interested in finding a cure for the Hulk than becoming a superhero.

Hawkeye is part of SHIELD. I've heard a scene was filmed for Winter Soldier but was cut that explains his absence. Fair enough.

Which leaves Thor, the Earth's defender supposedly, who is a no show when it comes to protecting Earth from its self apparently. As mentioned, his movie took place over a day. He had no trouble travelling between realms in that time.

Anyhow, fortunately we got more Black Widow, Nick Fury and even got a new hero, the Falcon. I'm not disappointed at the low Avenger count in Winter Soldier, I'm just sayin'... when these characters exist in the same continuity you do wonder where they are? Especially when it's SHIELD that is imploding.

[NOTE: I do know that Marvel have done video shorts and comic books that explain and/or fill gaps within the main films. They're even starting to use the TV series Agents of SHIELD to further plot lines but you really have to search these things out... and they don't address everything.]

One of my favorite things from The Avengers movie was the Helicarrier. The reveal of the new Helicarriers - now with new Stark Industries Jet Turbine engines - early on in Winter Soldier is one of the first clues that something isn't all that right with SHIELD. It was cool to see them and I immediately thought... they have a lot more gun turrets than I remember. By a lot more I mean... is there an invasion that'll make the Battle of New York seem like 'Tuesday' coming that we don't know about?

I did like Cap's new SHIELD uniform but was glad to see him don his original war time outfit during the final battle of the film. It's still the best Captain America suit design so far.

We get to see Cap do a lot of fighting both in and out of uniform, proving that he is Captain America no matter what. Unlike Tony Stark who needed a whole movie just to figure out he is Iron man. What's great about Cap's fights is they always seem totally believable for him and his abilities. Even when he jumps off of multi-story buildings to ground level without breaking stride.


Not only that, even though his shield's physics and how he uses it are total nonsense, you totally buy into it. Cap can work out in an instant just the right point to bounce that shield off for it to lodge in an engine or take out a bad guy and have it return to him afterward on occasion too.

The humor of this movie isn't forced at all. I definitely appreciated Black Widow's multi-tasking, trying to fix Steve Rogers up with a date during a covert operation - great character interaction and great action at the same time. More of that please.

Falcon was a great addition to this movie though he did feel a little out of his depth in terms of his action sequences. The Winter Soldier really took him down without much effort (as he should). However Falcon's alter ego Sam Wilson was a good fit as a friend to Steve Rogers and will be fun to see continued into future films.

Probably the worst kept secret of the film was Bucky's return as the Winter Soldier. Although he has title billing he's not really the main villain of the film. That said he really is played by Sebastian Stan as a very believable 'force of nature' style villain. Every encounter with him didn't seem to slow him down much at all other than to delay his mission. It really seemed like even Captain America had no clue on how to break him.

That said, Steve Rogers attempts to find Bucky underneath the hard exterior draws a lot of similarity to Luke Skywalker's attempts to redeem Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi. Though it's probably closer to RoboCop's attempts to rediscover his humanity and the person he used to be in Bucky's case. Either way, it's not a problem with the plot and I like that it wasn't the main focus of the film. More of a side plot that looks as if it'll feed into a future film.

The whole take over of SHIELD by HYDRA was a plot twist I didn't see coming (and really made all those guns on the Helicarriers make sense). The most awesome thing about it was that HYDRA was revealed to have been infiltrating SHIELD from the very beginning. In doing so you suddenly start to think about all the Marvel movies from phase 1. Particularly the first Captain America movie and to a lesser extent the Iron Man films and their references to Howard Stark.

With one idea, HYDRA infiltrating SHIELD from the beginning, The Winter Soldier becomes an important tent peg movie of both phase 1 and 2 Marvel films. In fact this movie changes the course of everything in the MCU. Will be interesting to see if the outcome of this film has any influence on The Guardians of the Galaxy due out in August or whether that movie will be more stand alone and the Avengers sequel is where the story continues.

I really enjoyed the HYDRA plot twist and was among the many people relieved that Robert Redford's character didn't reveal himself to be the Red Skull. If he had, I'm sure that would've been done well but I kind of liked Hugo Weaving in the role. I think it's highly possible, if Bucky can return, the original Red Skull can too.

One minor irritation I had was the 'magic hole digger/cutter' equipment that both Nick Fury and Maria Hill use to escape vehicles by the sewer system (presumably). This equipment is never seen or explained and seems a very convenient plot device. It turns out Fitz (from the TV show Agents of SHIELD) invented this device - which was never given to regular SHIELD Agents - hence the lack of wide spread use. I can give a pass for all that but why does no one ever seem to follow the people down the hole? Did I miss something? Does the hole fill in again?

My other issue is with how just three people can take down three Helicarriers just by changing a circuit board located conveniently in the underside of the carriers. Admittedly the three are not ordinary people but who the heck designs a massive warship with such a flaw as a single circuit board can retarget all the weapons? ...and, if you do, put it somewhere a bit more protected.

There's probably a lot more I could mention that I really liked about this film and not too much that I didn't.  Of the phase 2 Marvel films it's the most satisfying in terms of its place in the MCU and evolving the story post Avengers. It also makes Captain America one of the most interesting characters in the MCU. You really hope that he finds out what it is he wants do - you know, when he's not being a superhero.

Review: The Lego Movie - Spoiler Free

As a life long Lego tragic I was always going to see The Lego Movie at some point.

The basic story is that of construction worker, Emmet, a seemingly unremarkable mini figure, who discovers he is more special than he could possibly imagine through a quest to save the world from President Business and his 'Kragle'. Along the way he is assisted by a few familiar faces, including Lego Batman and his very capable girlfriend Wyldstyle.

I hadn't been too impressed by a previous direct to DVD Lego film, Batman: The Movie, which had most of the funniest moments in the trailer and not much for adults to enjoy in the actual film. However with The Lego Movie getting almost universal rave reviews I was confident of being entertained by a family film rather than being bored by a kids movie.

I wasn't disappointed. The Lego Movie is a true family film with moments for all ages scattered evenly through out along with plenty of action and visually interesting scenes that pretty much keep everyone engaged.

The plot is fairly straight forward but not so predictable that you won't be surprised along the way. I will say the ending, whilst it does not disappoint, was a bit slow and a tad sappy for me compared to the rest of the film... but hey, it does put the rest of the film into context and is very relate-able to anyone who grew up with Lego and still enjoys the bricks as an adult.

Unlike previous Lego films, where the mini figure characters are a lot more flexible, all the characters articulate just like real mini figures (no bending at the knees or elbows etc.). Teamed with the directors wanting to make everything look like it could be built with real Lego bricks it's not surprising many people have been fooled into thinking the film is not all CGI. (I must admit I wasn't even sure it wasn't stop motion just by looking at the trailer).

I really think that this is the way all Lego films should be made. Watching the Lego Batman movie I was never marveling at the Lego world or thinking about how things were constructed. In the Lego Movie you really do notice the environment and are consciously imagining that somebody had to build all that. It never feels like a CGI film.

For example, President Business, in his Lord Business suit that towers over everyone, could easily be created by anyone with the pieces used to construct him. Indeed, the movie is filled with floating Lego brick codes for specific pieces, as models are being built, should you want to track them down for your own models.

Scattered throughout are many pop-culture references as well as references to different generations of Lego, past and present that the adult audience members will appreciate.

I particularly enjoyed Benny, the 1980-something space guy, who is from my generation of Town and Space Lego. The peak of my Lego collecting as a child before I graduated to Lego Technic.

If you're from that generation you'll remember you could only get red or white spaceman mini figures to begin with. Then they released blue, black and even all yellow spacemen later.

The voice cast of The Lego Movie is all spot on with a few great cameos and some interesting but cool casting for anyone who likes comic book, superhero movies (e.g. Cobie Smulders voicing Wonder Woman, Chris Pratt as Emmet).

Only Morgan Freeman's voice registered as Morgan Freeman rather than his character, Vitruvius, largely because I could never get his character's name to stick in my head. Plus his character, for whatever reason, just kept making me think of the time Morgan played God in the movie Bruce Almighty.

Overall this is an enjoyable film deserving of the good word of mouth and great reviews it has received. By default it is a big advertisement for Lego but given how much creativity the product has inspired I don't think that's such a bad thing. Most importantly it's entertaining for the whole family on several levels. I, for one, hope that future Lego movies build (pun intended) on this pretty solid foundation.

Plant More Trees

In an effort to do my bit for the environment I decided to plant more trees and now I can't see my television.

An observant friend asked why didn't I plant the trees outside as if this was the obvious thing to do. I asked him why would I do that? Trees have no trouble growing outside all by themselves. Just look out the window and you'll see plenty of trees.

Besides, planting the trees indoors meant I could cover the floors in dirt and completely eliminate the need to vacuum. Win for me and a win for the trees I thought.

I think the real problem was I didn't consult a landscaper. I'm sure they would have advised against planting trees in the space between my couch and the TV. At the time I just never thought about anything other than plant more trees.

In hindsight I don't think I'm actually very good at this environmental stuff.

We Cross LIVE to Our Reporter... Who is Nowhere Crucial.

In modern television news broadcasts having a reporter LIVE on the scene is something of a cornerstone. From waiting for the exact moment some high profile prisoner is released to being on the scene of the announcement of a new Pope or birth of a Royal Baby, TV stations strive to have someone they can cross LIVE to for the very latest update.

Whilst there's nothing wrong with that, the Nine Television Network Australia, who are responsible for television shows that will have all Australia talking, newscasts are making a habit of crossing LIVE to reporters that aren't anywhere crucial to the story they are reporting on. In fact, what usually happens is they cross LIVE to the reporter who introduces and talks over a previously taped package before throwing back to the studio.

Again there's nothing actually wrong with that. I get that visually it helps to make the news more interesting to watch and hearing from another voice is good for the ears too. My only issue is, not only do they say 'we cross live to...' they also show a specific 'Live' graphic as a transition to the cross, implying that being LIVE is somehow important or critical to the report. This, despite it being very unlikely that breaking news will happen in the background relevant to the report being given.

Look, it's great to cross LIVE to a reporter if they're on the scene at a potentially critical moment but if that reporter is just out and about (possibly as close as in front of the TV Studio) so they can stand in front of an interesting background, there's no need to make a feature of it. Just cross to the reporter and tell the story. Make a feature of a LIVE report from the scene when it really matters.


Nine News, Adelaide.
Every Cross to Reporter is billed as LIVE.

Holy Grail Found... not in same place as your lost car keys!

Probably not the two historians
who claim to have found
the Holy Grail.
Two historians say they've found the elusive Holy Grail, A.K.A. the Cup of Christ, drunk from by Jesus himself at the last supper. Apparently the jewel-encrusted goblet has been on display for nearly one thousand years at the San Isidro Basilica Church in the northwestern Spanish city of Leon.

Who can really say if this cup is the real one with 200 or so other cups clamoring for the title and said historians only doing three years of research to arrive at their conclusion. I mean Indiana Jones' dad spent his whole life searching for the Grail. I bet they didn't even have a single Nazi pursuing them during their research or got a single clue from a painting by Leonardo Da Vinci.

With the news breaking on March 31st many have thought the announcement to be an early April Fool's day joke, but enough people have taken the news seriously to cause the church to remove their Grail from display until a bigger space can be found to accommodate the masses.

Seems like a good time for the chalice to mysteriously disappear so one of them science boffins can't come along and test it proper for Jesus DNA. Wouldn't want them to get any ideas about growing their own Jesus in a lab somewhere.

Unlike your lost car keys - which probably won't turn up in a Spanish Church - it would be a little disappointing if the Holy Grail was found. As the ultimate artifact it's given a lot of people something to do for hundreds of years - and the quest to find it is certainly more exciting than trying to remember where you last had your car keys.

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