Captain America: The Winter Soldier

justin perich captain americaCaptain America: The Winter Soldier – The latest Marvel movie is a nonstop action ride that will hold your attention from start to finish and not a second longer. Chris Evans, Robert Redford, Samuel L. Jackson, and Scarlett Johansson all turn in solid if somewhat stiff performances in this flick conventionally directed by Anthony Russo, a newcomer to the superhero genre who spends his allotted two hours attempting to build his bonafides by playing it safe and following his predecessors. As a result, the film never reaches the heights of The Avengers, Joss Whedon’s clever and inventive smash hit from a few years ago. Following the events of that movie, The Winter Soldier gives us a Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) living a quiet life in DC, attempting to adapt to modern life until another S.H.I.E.L.D. agent is put in danger. The Captain teams up with the Black Widow and the Falcon to kick some ass, uncover an enormous global conspiracy, and save the day. It’s a formula we pay for and formula we get with this one–fortunately and surprisingly, screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely pen their best script yet, and the resulting films includes enough comedy, tension and pathos that we find ourselves caring about the characters the way you might care about an action figure toy–it may be lifeless and a dime a dozen, but there’s undoubtably a connection there. 4/5 stars.


justin perich herHer – My personal favorite for the Best Picture Oscar, Spike Jonze’s Her tells the story of Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), a lonely man living in a slightly futuristic Los Angeles who earns his living writing intimate, handwritten letters for other people. By now, those who haven’t seen the movie have already heard what happens next–Theodore falls in love with an artificially intelligent operating system (played pitch-perfectly by Scarlett Johansson). But the strength of the movie is that it succeeds not only in its novel premise, but in its uniquely satisfying execution. Her is a movie that never stops building on its own ideas. It makes you think not only about technology’s ever-growing role in society, but about human relationships in general. The romance is played perfectly straight, like any other movie about two individuals negotiating the delicate dance of falling in love. Cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema’s LA of the near future is brilliant in its simplicity, in its warm, glowing, colorful nostalgia for a past that never quite was (art direction, sets, and costumes by Austin Gorg, Gene Serdena, and Casey Storm, respectively). Lastly, supporting performances by Amy Adams, Chris Pratt, Olivia Wilde, and Rooney Mara, as well as a dynamic score by Arcade Fire, make Her the leader of the pack in a year of terrific films. 5/5 stars.