Movie Review: Captain America – The First Avenger (dir. by Joe Johnston)

This won’t be the only review for Captain America: The First Avenger here on the Shattered Lens. This may very well be considered an editorial on the film, depending on whether I can stay on topic (I gush a lot in this one). Once they see it, both Arleigh and Lisa Marie will probably make their own posts. Either way, you’ll have more than one perspective on the film.

Addendum: Arleigh’s review is up.

Many years ago, Marvel Comics decided that with all of it’s key franchises spaced around various film production companies, they’d create a series of films that would culminate to one big “Team Up” story. That team is known as The Avengers and it’s members (for the sake of the films, anyway) are Iron Man, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, The Scarlett Witch, Hawkeye and Captain America. The project really went into high gear when Marvel Studios was born and Disney purchased Marvel.

I didn’t have a lot of hope for Captain America: The First Avenger. I know very little about the character save for the comics my older brother used to read. He was an army guy given something to make him super and he had a really cool shield that he’d throw and have return to him.. That was basically the bulk of my knowledge. When taken into account the announcement that Joe Johnston was directing the film, after his somewhat disappointing turn in The Wolfman and that Chris Evans was playing the role, I was certain the film was going to fail. I mean, wasn’t he just playing the Human Torch in The Fantastic Four?

Now, you need to understand that hearing Joe Johnston’s name attached to this left a mixture of feelings. I absolutely love The Rocketeer (1991) and period pieces in general. He was able to give it a nice ‘30s feel, right down to the old war serials that used to be shown before films. Hell, even the poster to that film was something grand. My little brother had a Rocketeer toy and I used to film home movies with it, holding the character just in front of the camera and running around the house as if it were flying. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out as well for Johnston or Disney then – but that’s another story.

As for Captain America, the movie floored me. The story isn’t as complex as say, The Dark Knight or as full of itself as Green Lantern, but it’s hands down the best story in the whole Avengers arc that Marvel’s worked on. From my viewpoint, only Iron Man comes close to competing with this film.

The premise of the story is pretty straightforward. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a frail man with just about every problem you can think of. He’s short, he’s asthmatic, and he can’t do a pull up to save his life. Yet, as his parents were in the Army, he felt it was right that he do his part. Every time he tries to enlist, however, he’s told he can’t. This doesn’t sway him from the belief that he can do it, it just forces him to find other ways in. When a scientist overhears Steve’s reasoning behind wanting to join, he gives him a big chance to become the first of many Super Soldiers. The process does indeed work, but a mishap leaves Steve as the only Super Soldier the Allies have, and thus, Captain America is born.

Now, I’m kind of summarizing things there as the story’s just a little bigger than that, but it really needs to be noted just how great a job Chris Evans did in this. He portrays Steve Rogers as one of the most noble characters I’ve seen since Superman. The character never loses that drive or passion, and it came across so well that on reflection, I can’t recall ever thinking once about the Human Torch (something I fully expected to do here). I found myself really wanting this character to succeed, which is more than I could say about Hal Jordan in Green Lantern despite loving the comic. Evans truly was the right person for this film, in my opinion. Again, die hard Captain America fans that have grown up with the character may disagree.

Captain America also has a rich supporting cast. Hayley Atwell, coming over off a great role in the Starz Miniseries The Pillars of the Earth plays Peggy Carter, a tough as nails Army Officer that helps to motivate Rogers toward the path he’s destined to take. Atwell is beautiful, demure at times and responsive at others, every bit as she was when playing Alienna. Also from Pillars of the Earth is Anatole Taubman as one of Johan Schmidtt’s (Hugo Weaving’s) Officers. Tommy Lee Jones’ Colonel has some of the funnier lines in the film. Weaving does a great job as always at playing the villian. There’s really very little I can say on that other than the make up job they gave Weaving’s Red Skull was nice, right down to the visible seams just under his ears. Sebastian Stan has a good role in Rogers’ best friend, Bucky, but I think he could have used a little more. Even Natalie Dormer (Cassanova, The Tudors) and Amanda Righetti (Friday the 13th) have cameos. If the film has two supporting anchors other than Atwell, it would be Stanley Tucci (Easy A) and Dominic Cooper (The Devil’s Double). As Abraham Erskine and Howard Stark, respectively, they both almost steal the show from Evans. They both have a few key moments in the film.

If Captain America suffers from any problems, it may be that it gets from Point A to Point B a little quicker than I’d have liked it to. Some of the pacing is done in Montages, which is okay for showing the audience that the Captain is making progress, but I would have liked to have seen another mission or two before the finale. The buildup to Steve Rogers becoming the Captain is fast, and everything else moves pretty quickly from there on in. The last battle sequence could have been stronger – I’m reminded of the tank sequence in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – but considering the era in which the story was told, I wasn’t really expecting lightsabers or anything along those lines. It wasn’t bad, but it was over sooner than I expected. I should also point out that it really does help to have seen the other Avenger related movies. It’s not really a requirement, but the larger puzzle really comes into view on seeing this film.

Visually, the film is great. Johnston really catches that sense of old New York, though it may not be as nuanced as Jackson’s in King Kong. The colors are a little muted in some places, but I’m thinking that’s part of the tone that was set. There’s even a musical number that’s somewhat cute. The 3D effects in this are okay for some scenes. The end credits in particular were nice, but over all it’s really nothing to write home about. I’m still of the notion that 3D should really be restricted to animated features.

Overall, Captain America was a fun film in the vein of Joe Johnston’s earlier film, The Rocketeer and is easily the best of the Marvel Studios Avenger prequels. I’ll be heading back to see it again on Sunday.

And remember, when the movie is done, don’t leave. After the credits comes something definitely worth seeing (at least the yelling and cheers from my audience seemed to deem it so).

6 Trailers To Help Dry Lisa’s Tears

Oh my God, yesterday sucked. 

First off, I was supposed to be seeing Capt. America but when we were standing in line to get our tickets, I started to feel dizzy and then I kinda sorta ended up fainting.  Which I know sounds like something serious but, to be honest, I faint all the time.  I’m like a Tennessee Williams heroine that way.  It’s no big deal except to my sister and my boyfriend who decided that instead of going to the movies, I should go home, lay down, rest, and “take care of myself.”  so, I told them that they were crazy and that I was perfectly fine and they were like, “You’re so full of it, Lisa Marie,” and then I stood up to show them how healthy I was and I guess I didn’t put my feet on the ground correctly because suddenly, I was going down again and anyway, long story short, I ended up being dragged back to the house.

And then once I got back home, one of my longtime twitter followers suddenly decided to unfollow me because apparently, I haven’t been a good enough friend to him.  Which I found interesting considering that I had just spent the past week literally holding his hand while he attempted to get over not one but two girls who never liked him in the first place.  So, yeah, learning that despite my best efforts, I’m apparently just a self-centered bitch who foolishly uses twitter to talk about what I want to talk about as opposed to devoting all of my time to helping some asshole deal with problems that a 12 year-old should be able to freaking handle, well, that kinda sorta hurt my feelings just a little bit.  (Contrary to popular opinion, redheads with big boobs actually do have feelings.  Go figure!) 

However, things are not a complete bust.  First off, as I type this, I’m watching the old episode of Degrassi where Emma and Alex have that huge fight in the school hallway while Paige and Spinner skip school and Ashley gets dressed up like Elvis and then Mr. Simpson finds out his cancer is in remission.  I love that episode.  And, along with watching Degrassi, I’m also putting together the latest edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Trailers.

Things are looking up already.

1) Last House On The Left (1972)

Yep, that’s the kind of mood I’m in.  I’m starting things off with the trailer for the evil grindhouse/drive-in movie to end all evil grindhouse/drive-in movies, the original Last House on the Left.  Why?  Because, as the trailer tells us, the road leads to nowhere…

2) Destroy All Monsters (1968)

If I do get out of my present funk, it’ll be due to trailers like this one.  It’s just so goofy! 

3) Cheerleader Camp (1988)

Erin claims that actual cheerleader camp was nothing like the cheerleader camp in this trailer. 

4) The Park Is Mine (1986)

This Canadian action film stars Tommy Lee Jones, who was also apparently in Capt.  America.  Not that I would know.

5) The Undertaker and His Pals (1966)

Believe it or not, I’ve got this one on DVD and this is one of those films that looks a lot more extreme in the trailer than it actually is.  The film itself is a collection of bad performances, juvenile humor, and silly gore effects.  The trailer looks a lot more sick than the actual film, which is why it’s a classic of grindhouse advertising.

6) It’s Alive (1974)

This is yet another trailer from the fertile mind of Larry Cohen.  It’s alive!  What is it?  It can either be your dream or your NIGHTMARE!  Much like me.

Review: Boris – New Album

I really ought to have reviewed this album back in March when it was released, because a few things about it have changed. For one thing, the band has since released two additional full lengths, bringing their total discography up to 28 studio albums since 1996 and enough singles and ep releases to make your head spin. More importantly, six of its ten tracks have since been rerecorded. With a seventh song having appeared in a rather different form on an ep in 2009, it is now difficult to regard New Album as its own unique work and not a sort of compilation.

But Boris have never made the reviewer’s life easy, what with changing their style nearly every year and constantly reworking older recordings. This is a band that just refuses to conform to any norm of musical creation. They’ve been doom metal, they’ve been stoner rock, they’ve been drone, they’ve been heavy metal, they’ve been psychedelic rock, they’ve been post-rock, they’ve been shoegaze… It was in 2009 that they really started to go crazy though. They didn’t release much in the way of studio albums that year, at least by Boris standards. Most of what they had to offer came in the form of short one to four track recordings. But there wasn’t a style of the year this time, no one flavor they opted to focus on for a set period of time. No, they’d release a straight up pop single one month and a black metal song the next, with every style previously mentioned somehow incorporated in between.

フレア (Flare)

So what is New Album, and how is it distinguished from their other two releases, which share a number of the same tracks? Well, first of all New Album is j-rock. It was only released in Japan, and all of the songs that were to later appear as hard rock or dream pop here, without losing those characteristics, take on a much more happy, upbeat, decidedly Japanese flavor. The opening song, Flare, is the most telling, both because it is the most characteristically j-rock song of the lot and because it does not appear on any other releases.


But this brief summary doesn’t quiet explain New Album. I mean, the three songs that are exclusive to it–Flare, Pardon?, and Looprider–share very little in common. It’s the album’s take on tracks that reappear later that make it j-rock, far more so than the other two new additions. Wata’s chilled out psychedelic guitar solo on Pardon? is if anything the most thematically out of place portion of the whole album.

Where Heavy Rocks 2011 really stands apart, the distinction between New Album and Attention Please isn’t all that strong. The latter is better, the former is a bit more Japanese. Since I intend to cover their other two albums later this week, I don’t want to reveal too much. Let’s just say this is the happiest, poppiest of the three, and if that appeals to you then it’s definitely worth picking up. Or downloading, I guess, since it won’t be released in North America.

I’ll leave you with by far the most stand-out song on the album (and one that is again a bit out of place, if the album can be said to have an overall stylistic theme at all.) In 2009 Boris released Black Original as the second of two tracks on Japanese Heavy Rock Hits Volume 2. It was a pretty simple, subdued work, featuring a single synthy drum beat, Wata playing a continuous solo that never incorporated more than one note at a time, and Atsuo singing in airy vocals with an occasional small accompaniment. The new Black Original, in contrast, is anything but minimalistic.

Black Original