It's the weekend. Let's get to it.
The MCU's Captain America
If you’ve read my writings in these pages over the last few years then you know my relationship with the MCU has changed several times. I’ve gone from complete indifference to kind-of liking it to full-on fandom in the 10-plus years they’ve been making movies. What this means is that while I have seen all of the movies they weren’t always watched as a fan, so I really need to watch them again.
My daughter, who is younger than the MCU, has not seen many of those older ones either. We’ve been playing catch up a lot this past couple of weeks. It is weird to think about now but Captain America: The First Avenger was the first time the concept of a shared universe entered the collective consciousness. For sure the seeds of the MCU were being laid in the beginning with Iron Man and Thor, but if you weren’t a comic book nerd, then you probably missed it. I know it was the first time I’d realized they were planning to put all these characters into one film and though I’d not seen any of the MCU films at that point, I knew something about the Avengers and that idea was cool to me.
The first time I watched both The First Avenger and The Winter Soldier I wasn’t impressed. Again, not being well versed in the comics and not paying much attention to the MCU at that point, they were well-made action films but this was a time when I had really moved away from action films. Watching it now, as a full-fledged Marvel fan I still find that The First Avenger is bottom-tier MCU but The Winter Soldier is terrific.
The First Avenger suffers from origin-story-itis. While it is fun to see Chris Evans's head on a tiny body, the novelty wears off quick and there is still a whole lot of story they tell before he becomes Captain America. Even then, it is padded with a lot of filler material where he’s basically a walking PR campaign versus a fighting machine. I get why it's there as a character development tool but it drags. Hayley Atwell as Agent Carter is a delight, though, and I wish there was more of her. Especially since their love story doesn’t feel quite as epic as they want it to be. Still, there are good action sequences and it serves as a good jumping-off place for the rest of the characters' movies.
Winter Soldier is wham bam Marvel movie. It is one breathtaking action sequence after breathtaking action sequence. The character development works and the story is one of the best in the entire MCU. Bucky Barnes - Captain America’s friend from the old days is back, and he’s bad. It turns out Hydra has been secretly taking over S.H.I.E.L.D. for decades and they are ready to unleash a weapon of mass destruction. Bucky has been upgraded like Captain America and brainwashed. This creates a crazy good story and a lot of emotional stakes for the Captain. It also made TV’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D must-see TV. As they took the whole Hydra storyline and went wild with it.
I’m so glad I went back and watched these movies.
Having not initially gotten into Captain America: The First Avenger, I wasn’t too keen on watching a television series set in the same era. I wasn’t the only one as it was canceled after two seasons. We all should have paid a little more attention to it because it is quite good.
Hayley Atwell reprises her role as Agent Carter, the quite capable secret agent who, now that the war is over and Captain America is frozen in ice, must find her place in a government agency that treats her like a secretary rather than a full-fledged agent. While the men at the SSR devalue her and ask nothing more from her than coffee, Howard Stark (Iron Man’s daddy) secretly asks her to team up with him (and his butler Jarvis) to help find who has stolen a bunch of weaponized tech from his vault.
It was an ABC show which means it gets a tad formulaic and it has to hit certain beats for commercial breaks, but Atwell is wonderful, and the action is exciting and I really got love the characters.
RIP Robert Hunter
Robert Hunter wrote the lyrics to most of Jerry Garcia’s music, which means he helped create some of the greatest songs ever made. The first time I saw a picture of him I cried. There was something about seeing the face of the man who had penned so many words that have touched me that brought forth an outpouring of emotion. I was finaly putting a face to the man who spoke to straight into my heart.
Now that man is dead. I cried again.
Fare you well, Mr. Hunter. I hope wherever you are there are sweet songs to rock your soul.
Cause for Alarm!
There is always a lot of chatter on Film Twitter about how there aren’t enough classic films on streaming services. It is true that there are huge gaps on what you can watch online. Netflix is notoriously bad with films older than the 1980s, but Amazon Prime actually has a decent selection of older movies. You do have to look for them and the quality is often less than stellar, but they are there if you want them.
I recently stumbled across this little melodrama from 1951 and while it is certainly not a bonafide classic, it is pretty enjoyable and with a brisk 74-minute runtime it is worth the watching.
It stars Loretta Young as a house wife whose very ill husband plots to murder her. He’s written a letter to the district attorney describing all the ways he thinks his wife is planning to murder him figuring that when he kills her, he can claim self defense. He’s also done little things like pretend to have spilled his medicine so that the wife had to order another bottle sooner than normal, which would then give her enough of it to poison him.
But the tables turn and he accidentally kills himself but not before that letter gets put in the mail. For most of the film, we follow her hysterically trying to figure out how to save herself and get that letter back before anyone reads it.
It is utter nonsense, like any district attorney would just read a letter and decide to let a guy who kills his wife off because of it, but its entertaining nonsense and Loretta Young gives a fine performance.
Pan’s Labyrinth Gets a 4K Release
Guillermo Del Toro’s beautiful, imaginative, fantasy film Pan’s Labrynth is getting a new 4K upgrade (out October 1!). In front of that, they’ve released a nice little interview talking with the director about the film and his career. It is well worth checking out.
El Camino: Breaking Bad Movie
Breaking Bad was one of the all-time great series. I’d argue that it didn’t quite have the depth of something like The Wire or The Sopranos, but it was beautifully shot, wonderfully acted, and insanely exciting. When they announced they were doing a prequel of sorts that would focus on Saul Goodman, I was skeptical. Then it turned it to be really good (and really different, adding in some of that depth Breaking Bad was missing). Now they’ve released a trailer for a sequel of-sorts where we find out what happened to Jessie Pinkman after the Breaking Bad finale. Normally I’d be skeptical of this, as it's something we don’t really need to know. But the track record of these guys is pretty darn good and this trailer looks amazing.