Zack & Nick's Culture Cast

Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!

Tag Archives: Marvel Cinematic Universe

ANCC: Doctor Strange

By the wondrous winds of watoomb!  In our epic 75th episode, Nick and the Gorehound are joined by Cousin Charles to discuss the 2016 film, Doctor Strange, starring Bennybutton Cumbersnitch! Check out the episode to see what they thought!

To listen to the episode, click here or on the image below.

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ANCC: Things We Don’t Like

Nick and the Gorehound take a step back and discuss some trends, genres, styles, etc that they are not particularly fond of and/or simply loath for various reasons.  They are not begrudging anyone who likes such things, but they wanted to take some time and air their dislikes out. Some of which may surprise you!

They are prepared for your hate mail, so give them a listen!

To listen to the episode, click here or on the image.

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier

NOTE: This Review Is Spoiler-Free!

Those who follow this blog probably know that I was not the biggest fan of Captain America: The First Avenger. I am a life-long Cap fan, and that film had all the right elements of what should have made a great Cap movie – but it didn’t quite come together for me. I was disappointed by that, but I felt that everything that misfired in that film could be corrected in a follow-up. Captain America: The Winter Soldier, just released, seem to have a lot going for it. Even though it shares the same screenwriters as the previous installment, this sequel has an exciting directing duo due to them being an outside-the-box choice, the amazing casting of Robert Redford in an important, supporting role, and a narrative based on a popular story in Captain America lore. All that was enough to get me on board!

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With all that, I found Captain America: The Winter Soldier to arguably be the strongest outing thus far in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now, that said – the movie is far from perfect. There is a lot of good in this, but there are also some really questionable filmmaking decisions The Winter Solider took. Let’s just go into this movie, shall we?

In The Winter Soldier, Captain America (a returning Chris Evans) discovers a conspiracy within government agency SHIELD, and, when investigating it, he becomes hunted by the very same organization. With very few allies, including newcomer Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Cap is determined to stop this shadow group before they can launch their diabolical plan. And, unlike some of the other Marvel movies, stuff actually happens with lasting consequences.

Clearly, this is a very different type of movie than The First Avenger was. It is much more of spy story in the vein of those 1970s thrillers (which was, in part, the reason behind Redford’s casting) – but not nearly as much as other news outlets are making out to seem. There is still plenty of comic book goofiness in the movie (which works both for and against it). I really enjoyed the execution of the film, but I do feel that, at times, the narrative became a bit too complicated for its own good.

I feel that some of the movie could have been streamlined a bit, but I am not exactly sure where. Perhaps the film is just too fresh in my mind at the moment, and I need a few more days to fully process it. Because so much goes on during the course of the movie, the pacing really suffered for it at times. I realize that there were a lot of characters to service, but The Winter Solider sort of falters in that area a bit.

The prime example is the titular Winter Solider. For a movie titled The Winter Soldier, I was expecting a bit more of him to actually be in the movie. For most of the film, he works as mostly as a heavy – a thug to be overcome. It isn’t until two-thirds of the film before we get any backstory on the guy, but it is way too late in the movie for me to really care about it. The Winter Solider and his connection to Cap formulate the emotional resonance of the film, but, again, this doesn’t happen until the final act at which point it feels a bit shoehorned in. I suppose these themes can be picked up in a future installment, but as they are here, it doesn’t quite work.

On the other hand, you have Anthony Mackie as the Falcon who is great! He was probably my favorite part of the movie. I also have to give credit to Frank Grillo as a villainous SHIELD agent. Both of these actors really throw themselves into their role, and Grillo in particular is clearly having the time of his life. I hope they find a way to bring him back in a future installment.

The direction by Anthony and Joe Russo was interesting. Known mostly for comedies (You, Me, and Dupree) and TV shows (Arrested Development), this is really their first foray into action spectacle. I am always fascinated when directors change gears like this. Sometimes it is a disaster (such as Marc Forster in Quantum of Solace), but I think the Russos mostly succeed. Their action scenes are crisp, and you can see everything that is happening on screen clearly. Some of their shots, however, were a bit to television-like, but they are new at this genre and will likely improve their technique the more they do this sort of thing.

I have to give a thumbs up to Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It isn’t a perfect film, but it is definitely one of the stronger Marvel movies to be released (and possibly one of the best superhero films of the last five-to-ten years). While it is still nothing more that disposable entertainment (which is not a bad thing), there is a certain weight to the movie that you don’t really get with a lot of superhero flicks. That’s what really makes this movie a cut above the rest.

~N

Superhero Hustle (or “The Bursting Bubble”)

It is quite the golden age for superhero films, isn’t it?  Just last week, the trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy dropped.  While I have reservations about the film itself, I cannot deny the fact that it has gotten significant buzz.  Who would have thought five years ago that a D-list property such as GotG would be getting a summer blockbuster treatment?  Not me, that’s for sure.  And various reports suggest that other lower-tier comic book properties are in development in addition to more well-known characters.

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This is a tent-pole movie.

This should be a comic fan’s dream come true.  Though, as I’ve discovered every now and then, that isn’t always the case when you have people complaining about Marvel vs. DC or the different production companies who hold different rights to characters.  In the end, does it matter?  We currently live in a world where multiple properties are being released every year.  Sure, some are better than others, but to complain about how they “should” be done seems just greedy.  Fans should be thrilled by the idea that so many are coming out (save the complaining until after the movie is released).

Even more impressive about this superhero boom is to look at some of the cast these films have been getting.  Renowned celebrated actors such as Anthony Hopkins (Thor), Robert Redford (Captain America 2), Michael Douglas (Ant Man), Michael Caine (Dark Knight Trilogy), Russell Crowe (Man of Steel), and Ben Kingsley (Iron Man 3) are signing up to do these pictures.  Before recently, could you have imagined any of these prestige thespians to do something like this?  True, there is a slight precedent for this in the earlier Batman series, but this new wave of superhero films is a different beast.

For that matter, look at the general A-list stars taking roles in these flicks like Ben Affleck, Christian Bale, and Amy Adams.  Remember when Robert Downey Jr. was cast as Iron Man and people thought he was slumming it?  The joke’s on those people.  Now, it is tough to see any high profile movie that doesn’t star someone who didn’t previously play a superhero.  I mean, just look at American Hustle.

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Maybe for these actors it is an easy money grab.  Who knows?  But if that is the case, it is really telling on these film’s popularity and how well they are connecting with general audiences.  Doing these movies might just be too tempting to resist for an actor.

But despite this golden age, I have to wonder: when will the bubble burst?  Like with the western before it, general audiences will eventually tire of the superhero scene.  I’m sure there will always be a Batman or Superman flick every few years, but will this boom last long enough for an Avengers 10 or obscure properties like a Vibe movie?*  I really doubt it.  So when will that be?  When will the burn out happen?  Up until a few weeks ago, I would have said 2015 with Avengers 2 and the Man of Steel sequel coming out at the same time.  However, with the latter being pushed back a year, I am not sure now.  These sorts of genres tend to have a shelf life of about 15 years, and we are nearing that end (if you figure in the beginnings with 2000’s X-Men).

In any event, I hope movie producers such as Avi Arad and Kevin Feige realize the money trail will not last forever and will notice the signs early enough to wrap up their mega franchises.  It would be a total shame for something as ambitious and successful as the Marvel Studios movies to peter out instead of going out on top.

I don’t want to come off as a hater or doomsayer.  For the most part, I like these films, but the immense amount of them do make me numb to the genre at times.  The bubble is always biggest just before it bursts.  Right now, this superhero golden age has gotten pretty big.

~N

*In fairness, who wouldn’t want to see a Vibe movie?  He has the powers of break dancing!  Get on that Warner Bros!

Nick saw “Thor: The Dark World”

I really enjoyed 2011’s Thor.  I know it really isn’t all that good of a movie, but it hit me a certain way when I first sat down to watch it.  I really appreciated the throw-back 1980s fantasy style of the Asgard scenes, the non-major US city for the Earth location, and the overall performances of our main characters.  I just liked it, and I was very much looking forward to the follow up subtitled The Dark World.

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If I had to sum up my opinion of the movie, it would be “underwhelming”.  I can’t really pinpoint what is wrong.  The story is interesting, but it just takes forever to anything important to happen.  Because of that, the pacing is horrible and really drags the overall product down.  Director Alan Taylor is able to turn it around in time for the third act on Earth, but it is like going through a slough to get there.

The unfortunate part is that there are a lot of little great things that shine along the way such as a nicely directed (and unexpected) fight sequence with Rene Russo and a fun, little Avenger cameo, but these are far and few between.  The movie has such a somber tone (which should be expected with a title like The Dark World), it is hard to find any joy in it.  When the comedy does come (largely from an increasingly obnoxious Kat Dennings), it feels so out of place with the rest of the film that it almost doesn’t work.

As mentioned earlier, the final act featuring the showdown between Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and villain Malekith (Christopher Eccleston who is shamefully wasted in his role) is done very well.  I suppose a lot of that has to do with the unique nature of their battle.  In short (and to save on spoilers), as they are fighting and being thrown around, they are transported from world to world.  I have never really seen something like this done before in an action/science fiction movie.  It definitely kept my interest just to see how increasingly crazy this sequence was going to get.

There have been constant stories about behind-the-scenes trouble plaguing the film during its production.  It is hard not to notice that affecting the final product.  There are some clear-cut elements that are thrown into the film haphazardly as if they were after the fact.  While I wouldn’t say the film is generic, I would say that there is a made-by-committee feeling.  I know Marvel Studios is a well-oiled machine by now, but I really wish they would let their directors (who aren’t Joss Whedon) direct.

The Dark World has its moments, but it was a letdown overall.  I wouldn’t rush to see it if I had to do it again, but with these Marvel films beings as popular as they are, that isn’t going to happen.

~N

The Iron Man 3 Podcast

Zack and Nick sat down this week to discuss this past summer’s biggest movie: Smurfs 2!  But it isn’t out on DVD yet, so they decided to chat about Iron Man 3 instead.  What do they have to say about the latest Marvel franchise flick starring that ever-lovable rascal Robert Downey Jr?  Spoilers abound!

Click HERE or on the image to listen to the podcast.

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As always, click HERE to follow us on iTunes!

The Marvel Cinematic Universe Podcast

Zack and Nick sit down and have a very frank discussion about happenings, trappings, and pitfalls of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Fair warning: some of our discussion points will bound to touch the nerve of various hard-core fans.  Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

Click HERE or on the image to listen to the podcast.

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As always, click HERE to follow us on iTunes!

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