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    Movie review: ‘Captain America: The Winter Solider’ a tense, exciting superhero thriller

    By Ashley Bergner
    Box Office Buzz

    470643 KS_New_capAWatch out, Iron Man and Thor — the gauntlet has been thrown. Though the two Avengers may have had stronger origin films, it’s Captain America who has the best sequel, wrapping up Marvel’s Phase Two solo Avenger films with a politically-tinged thriller that’s tense, exciting and genuinely game-changing for the Marvel cinematic universe.

    Like “Iron Man 3″ and “Thor: The Dark World,” “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” takes place after the events of “The Avengers.” Steve Rogers/”Captain America” (Chris Evans) — a WWII super soldier who was frozen and revived 70 years later — is now a full-fledged S.H.I.E.L.D. operative, and he appears — at least on the surface — to be adjusting well to life in the modern era. He’s learned how to use technology such as cell phones and the Internet, and he keeps a notebook full of things he needs to catch up on (an amusing list that includes pop culture items such as “Star Wars” and “Star Trek”). However, in quiet moments, it’s easy to see the pain lingering in his eyes, and he’s still grieving for the friends he left behind and the life — and love — he never got to experience. He’s also beginning to realize the war he’s fighting now is far more morally ambiguous.

    Rogers and fellow Avenger Natasha Romanoff/”Black Widow” (Scarlett Johansson) are dispatched on a seemingly routine mission to rescue hostages from a band of pirates who have taken over a S.H.I.E.L.D. ship. Or at least that’s what Rogers is told the mission is about. The truth is far more complicated, and as the lies he’s been told start to come to light, Rogers is no longer sure who he can trust. After a shocking and tragic death rocks S.H.I.E.L.D., Rogers finds himself on the run from the very organization he swore to serve. He has to decide how high a price he’s willing to pay for his country’s security, and the secret he and Black Widow uncover about S.H.I.E.L.D. creates a shock-wave that will be felt in many Marvel films to come.

    “Captain America: The Winter Solider” has a different tone than some of the previous Marvel films, and it’s arguably the most timely. The issues it addresses are the same ones we see popping up in real-world headlines: what are the ethics of modern espionage; how much freedom should we be willing to sacrifice for the sake of security; and how to tell the difference between the “good guys” and the “bad guys.” The film’s subtitle is, I think, purposefully deceptive. A mysterious assassin known as “the Winter Solider” was featured prominently in the trailers, but viewers quickly begin to wonder if he’s really the main villain, or if he’s even ultimately a villain at all.

    Chris Evans is well cast as Captain America/Steve Rogers. Though he’s played the character twice before, he’s even better this time around. He captures the character’s old-fashioned manners and charm, but also coveys the burden Rogers carries as a man ripped out of his own time. He works well with Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow; I think it was a great idea to pair up the characters in this film. Although at first they appear to be complete opposites — unlike the Cap, Black Widow has no problems with the slippery morals of espionage — they are both haunted by their pasts and a sense of regret. The two characters share a flirty chemistry, trading banter throughout the film; it will be interesting to see where this leads in future Marvel movies.

    Samuel L. Jackson is great, as always, as S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury, and I also enjoyed seeing Cobie Smulders return as Agent Maria Hill. My favorite of the newcomers was Anthony Mackie as a new superhero, Sam Wilson/”Falcon.” His friendship with Captain America was one of the highlights of the film for me, and I hope he shows up in future Marvel projects as well.

    “Captain America: The Winter Solider” is one of the best of the Marvel films we’ve seen so far, and it serves as a great lead-in to next year’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (make sure you stay for the credits!) *Spoiler alert!* While I was pretty sure Robert Redford’s senior S.H.I.E.L.D. leader Alexander Pierce had a sinister side, I didn’t see the film’s big “HYDRA” twist coming. I’m curious to see how this affects future Marvel films, as well as Marvel’s spin-off TV show “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

    “Captain America: The Winter Solider” is a fun, engaging sequel, and it’s my favorite movie of the year so far. It’s definitely a must-see for Marvel fans.

    The post Movie review: ‘Captain America: The Winter Solider’ a tense, exciting superhero thriller appeared first on Transmissions From Atlantis.

    Hitting the target: ‘Arrow’ returns after strong start to season 2

    By Ashley Bergner
    Box Office Buzz

    502025 KS_New_arrowIn the first season of the DC Comics show “Arrow,” viewers watched vigilante archer Oliver Queen evolve from a spoiled, aimless playboy into a self-sacrificing hero. It was an exciting transformation to watch, mirrored by the evolution of the show itself. The show took a bit to find its footing, developing and tweaking characters and playing with the format and tone of the show. Show runners seemed to be really listening to what fans did and didn’t like about the show, and “Arrow” continued to get stronger throughout its first season.

    All that revision paid off, and so far in season 2, almost every episode seems to be right on target. The show returns this Wednesday (Jan. 15), after a holiday hiatus and a solid mid-season finale that added another well-known superhero to the mix. It’s one of my favorite currently running shows and for me has become must-watch TV each week.

    A show is only as strong as the quality of its characters, and “Arrow” has built a good ensemble cast. Stephen Amell has proven to be a likable lead as Oliver Queen/the Arrow. The five years he spent marooned on a mysterious island have changed him and hardened him, but they also gave him a deeper sense of compassion. He’s haunted by the mistakes he’s made in the past, and he doesn’t hesitate to risk his own life to stand up for those in need. In season 2, he’s been faced with a new moral quandary: although he’s striving to show restraint and mercy as he combats crime, sometimes he’s forced to resort to violence to protect innocent victims and the people he loves. “Right” and “wrong” can be slippery concepts in vigilante justice, and Oliver must decide how much of his humanity he can risk sacrificing.

    Another strong character is Oliver’s bodyguard/sidekick John Diggle (David Ramsey). “Dig” keeps Oliver accountable, pushing Oliver forward when he needs motivation but also holding him back when he needs to use restraint. They’ve grown from associates to genuine friends, and, along with IT expert Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards), he is one of the few people Oliver truly trusts. Felicity originally appeared in the show in a smaller capacity, but fans liked her so much she was upgraded to a series regular, and the show is better for it. Felicity is witty and delightfully quirky, and her chemistry with Oliver has had many fans rooting for the two to become more than “just friends.”

    Arguably the show’s most complex character is Oliver’s mother, Moira Queen (Susanna Thompson). Moira helped arrange a catastrophic event called “The Undertaking” that destroyed a portion of the Starling City slums. Although Moira acted under duress, she may not be entirely blameless, and she’s been, at different times, a victim and a villain.

    The show also has made good use of its split format, with about a third of each episode consisting of flashbacks to Oliver’s time on the island. Although extended flashback sequences can be difficult to pull off, Oliver’s time on the island has proven to be just as interesting as his current efforts to clean up crime in Starling City. The flashbacks add a sense of continuing mystery to the show, as we learn a little more each week about how Oliver’s experiences on the island shaped him and how enemies he made on the island may return to haunt him.

    Another risk “Arrow” is taking is moving the show gradually in a more sci-fi, “superhero” direction. Until season 2, the action was, for the most part, fairly grounded in reality, closer in tone to “Batman” than, say, “Green Lantern.” However, the mid-season finale introduced the character Barry Allen, who later becomes “The Flash,” a DC Comics hero with super speed. The transition seems to be smooth, though, and the plot choices so far feel authentic. I like the fact the show runners are slowly expanding the scope of “Arrow’s” world, and it’s fun to guess what other well-known DC characters may show up in the future.

    The series has plenty of interesting territory to cover in the second half of season 2. I’m curious to learn more about Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett), a character Oliver befriended on the island but now has (apparently) become his enemy. Isabel Rochev (Summer Glau), the woman who’s taken over Queen Consolidated, remains a bit of a question mark, and it’s still unclear whether Oliver can really trust her. We also have yet to see how Roy Harper (Colton Haynes) — the boyfriend of Oliver’s younger sister Thea Queen (Willa Holland) — will be affected by an injection of superhuman serum.

    So, what do you think? Are you a fan of the show “Arrow”? What would you like to see in the second half of season 2?

    The post Hitting the target: ‘Arrow’ returns after strong start to season 2 appeared first on Transmissions From Atlantis.

    TV review: ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ shows plenty of promise

    By Ashley Bergner Box Office Buzz “With great power comes great responsibility.” That line from Marvel’s first “Spider-Man” movie has become so famous and is used so often it’s now almost a cliche. However, it’s still pretty good advice for superhero characters — and it’s advice Marvel seems to have taken to heart as a … Continue reading

    The post TV review: ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ shows plenty of promise appeared first on Transmissions From Atlantis.

    TV review: ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ shows plenty of promise

    By Ashley Bergner Box Office Buzz “With great power comes great responsibility.” That line from Marvel’s first “Spider-Man” movie has become so famous and is used so often it’s now almost a cliche. However, it’s still pretty good advice for superhero characters — and it’s advice Marvel seems to have taken to heart as a … Continue reading

    The post TV review: ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ shows plenty of promise appeared first on Transmissions From Atlantis.