Property review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Photo courtesy of IMDB.com

Photo courtesy of IMDB.com

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Marvel Studios, 2014

 

Winter Soldier strikes cool balance

There is no such thing as not believing in the magic of superhero films. Marvel has proven that a ridiculous number of times over by this point, and you can’t deny the impact that a good action flick about beautiful people with super powers has over the general buying public. But then there comes along a solid title that takes things a step further in terms of technical details, action, acting and writing. That film manages to open a new path in terms of presentation and overall packaging that makes you, the viewer, believe that anything is possible in terms of the improvement in quality for all comic book-based properties. That film is Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Let’s stop for a minute and take stock of the storyline, because this sets up just how well the movie makes its point about being a comic book property. Captain America is living life in the S.H.I.E.L.D way two years after the events of the Avengers. Things are good, he’s doing his job and all seems right in the world though he’s chafing a bit under the S.H.I.E.L.D rule. And then all hell breaks loose. In short order, Nick Fury is shot — apparently fatally — in Steve Rogers’ living room by an unknown assassin, S.H.I.E.L.D seems like it’s out to kill Rogers and he’s on the run while trying to figure out who and what can he trust. That assassin? It turns out this assassin isn’t really unknown but is the Winter Solider, someone that Rogers has encountered many a time before who’s fundamentally opposed to Rogers’ mission to stop the chaos.

There’s so much tight writing and story exposition jam-packed into two hours of Winter Soldier that it’s impossible to accurately describe the synopsis without giving away major plot points. Everything is a major plot point and the pacing at which it’s revealed is perfect. At no point did Winter Soldier give away the fact that it’s a two-hour film centered on political intrigue. At no point did it drag so much that details were lost. It’s the kind of movie that requires multiple viewings just to catch the little things that will be lost on the average moviegoer.

It’s a bad thing that the film doesn’t drag, though, because it’s the movie of the ridiculously good-looking (and great acting) people. Like every movie released in the Marvel cinematic universe, Winter Soldier seems to be casted with and directed by people who were secretly born to play their roles. Even the newcomer — Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon — fits this role so well that it’s as if he were always there, just waiting in the wings to be introduced. The acting is superb and it’s done in such a way that you really get behind the motivation of each individual, forgetting for just a moment that this, indeed, is a comic book come to the big screen.

Winter Soldier probably suffers from only one flaw and that’s the obviousness of the formula. It’s a great formula, and a great problem to have, but it’s pretty obvious by now that Marvel has its ducks in a row and they know how to put together a good crew and storyline for their movies. Winter Soldier slightly seems to fall into that complacency, but it quickly recovers and doesn’t stand for resting on its laurels for long. Just when you think there’s not enough action going on, there’s a distraction in the form of a great set piece or storyline push that remedies the problem. That’s the mark of a good movie.

Even if it is based on a comic book property.

Like the comics: 9

Acting: 9

Plot: 8.5

Overall score: 26.5/30 or 8.8

 

How we grade

We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in the case of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of maximum of 10 per category, and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.

Anime Lounge #10: Nisekoi Ep. 1-6

Nisekoi -- Anime Lounge-fixed

Anime-LoungeSeries: Nisekoi

Episodes: 1 to 6

Premise: A boy in high school, Raku Ichijo, wears a necklace every day to remind him of his long-forgotten love. He met a girl, whose face and details remain unknown, whom he pledged to meet again and marry. The necklace that he wears is a key to a similar necklace that the girl has as a locket. Despite Raku’s attempt to have a normal life and find this girl, he has to deal with the fact that he can’t remember her and the fact that his family is a yakuza clan. Complicating matters is the girl that he has a crush on, Kosaki Onodera, who very obviously returns his feelings. Just when he is summoning the courage to talk to Kosaki, Chitoge Kirisaki lands in his life. They hate each other from the moment of their first meeting and vow to not speak to one another. But there’s a hitch: It turns out that Chitoge is the daughter of a rival gangster clan and to keep the peace, she and Raku have to fake a relationship for three years.

Is it worth watching?: Yes. If you like romantic comedies and can deal with the clichés that practically hit you in the face constantly, you can and will probably like Nisekoi. It’s done in the vein of every other romantic comedy out there, down to the details of “amnesiac” lead character who struggles to remember his lost love to the tsundere female lead who eventually changes her tune. The clichés are plentiful but it’s funny so there’s enough to keep things from becoming boring.

Breakout character: Chitoge Kirisaki. Chitoge is an ass, plain and simple. But she makes her presence known as a lead character early on and is strong enough to carry the show almost without Raku as her counterpart.

Funniest episode: Episode 7, “Rival.” The emergence of Seishirou Tsugumi as rival to Raku for Chitoge’s affections causes some truly laugh-out-loud moments in the early part of the series. Chasing Raku at almost inhuman speeds means laughing at the fact that he can’t possibly get away fast enough from a guy who may or may not be obsessively stalking his childhood playmate. And just when you think it can’t get any worse, there’s a plot twist that you can see coming a mile away that still manages to be quite rather funny.

Where it’s going: Chitoge and Raku have to acknowledge their feelings are possibly changing, and there are more girls added to the mix. Also, someone has to say something about the fact that Kosaki could be one of the girls who has the fabled locket to match Raku’s key.

Top 5 on The Strip: Anime cliches

Anime: Nisekoi

Anime: Nisekoi

1. Amnesia-stricken protagonist

Your protagonist — male or female, it doesn’t matter — is going to conveniently forget his or her’s first love. They will struggle to remember just who the person is, will struggle with their feelings for this person and then miraculously remember every detail, down to exact conversations they may have had when they were young.

 

Anime: Myself;Yourself

Anime: Myself;Yourself

2. Young romance grows up

The protagonist is quite outgoing and will make a friend or two that they will inevitably leave behind. They will encounter this person years later and will find a way to reconnect based on their previous dealings with each other. In this new age, they will rediscover that which they have in common and it will recreate a long-forgotten romance between them.

 

Anime: Toradora!

Anime: Toradora!

3. Opposites attract

The main characters that are destined to be together will not like each other. In fact, they downright hate each other. They can’t stand each other but somehow keep finding themselves thrown together in situations that require them to interact and learn something new about each other. Before long — usually by the end of the series — they will find themselves together.

 

Anime: Kimi ni Todoke

Anime: Kimi ni Todoke

4. Valentine chocolate is strictly forbidden

Giving the gift of chocolate for Valentine’s Day is a ritual for school children worldwide, and more so in Japan. It’s so prevalent that it’s usually an episode in a romantic comedy series or any type of romance series that involves school. What usually happens is that the main characters will attempt to bake chocolates or buy chocolates for their intended special person. It will either be extremely problematic or won’t happen at all. Hilarity or drama can and will ensue.

 

Anime: Lovely Complex

Anime: Lovely Complex

5. The payoff scene

Required for every romantic comedy by the third to the last episode in the series, the main characters have to have a confession scene. One of the characters has to be obvious about their feelings up to this point, and the other has to be oblivious to it until a revelation occurs that makes them take notice of the fact that the other character has been panting behind them since the first episode. What happens next is important: There has to be payoff for the buildup. They have to confess feelings and kiss, enter a relationship or resolve everything by the end of the series.

Strip Talk #20: When obnoxious behavior leaks into comic books

Lyndsey-101612-cutoutI’ve read quite a bit in the past several months about this ridiculousness where women in comics and games are harassed by men in the same industry, and I have but one word to that effect: Stop. No one deserves harassment of any kind, let alone by colleagues in an industry that is still trying to evolve beyond the caveman antics that engineered its very existence.

Yes, I get it that men were the forebearers of this great thing called comic books. There’s plenty of congratulations to go around for the creation of our favorite superheroes by the other side of the population that has XY chromosomes. But can we stop for a second? Just a second to firmly put this out there: No one likes a man that has obvious insecurities. No woman is going to want to deal with you on a professional level, let alone a personal level, after she discovers that every time you open your mouth to speak, insane things that come off as verbal throw-her-over-your-shoulders-and-carry-her-off-sneak-attacks bombard her face and senses.

And, look, there goes that word again: Sense. Why would any woman find attractive a thoughtless individual who spews stupidity forth? That’s like asking me to bed and you’re simultaneously spewing gas from both ends. It lacks sense.

And much like those who would do things like expel gas as they’re propositioning me, please take a dose of much needed medicine, sit down and SHUT. THE. HELL. UP. As a woman who is interested in comics, knows more about the history of the X-Men and Marvel than most normal average Joes on the planet, and one who is involved in the gaming industry, I can speak with impunity when I say that not only does your pitiful attempt at impressing me fail, but also I will never think positively of you in any way, shape or form ever again if you get in my face with nonsense in the form of a joke meant to embarrass me and my gender.

You see, my side of the population already has a built-in bias that rears its ugly head in every thing that we do. We can’t just be smart. No, we have to be smart and pretty. Sexy yet keep modesty up to code. Accomplish all of those things while working at a job that pays inherently significantly less for the same amount of and type of work. Go home and deal with an emasculated individual who hasn’t gone out and done his fair share of the work but wants to complain about us making all of the decisions. And, after all that is said and done, sit down to read or watch something that’s going to tell its decision-makers that it “isn’t for the women. They won’t get this anyway. Women don’t get it.”

So, forgive me if I have just a little bit of outrage when I hear of male industry luminaries outright harassing and making jackasses of themselves in an attempt to keep interest going in their work. You’ve created the glass ceiling. How about you let the other side see how you live for a change? In peace.

Lyndsey Hicks is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at gicomics@gaminginsurrection.com

Otaku Corner: Robotech Remastered Vol. 2

Robotech Remastered Vol. 2 continues classic trend

Brandon-2012-cutoutWelcome back to another installment of Otaku Corner. Instead of manga reviews this time, we’re going to the movies to relax with another review of the space anime series Robotech. Robotech is considered by most anime aficionados as one of the great space anime series not only because of its groundbreaking mecha designs, but also because of its universal appeal in presenting various issues in the backdrop of war.

As an anime viewer, I give high praise to series like Robotech that can keep action and comedic elements while presenting mature subject matter to its audience. Robotech Remastered: The Macross Saga, Vol. 2 continues this trend.

When we last left the Earth battleship SDF-1, Rick Hunter, Lisa Hayes and their companions Ben Dixon and Max Sterling were captured by Zentradi forces seeking to obtain knowledge of the energy source known as protoculture. However, they were able to escape back to the SDF-1 and returned to a hero’s welcome, which caused Rick to have feelings for Lynn-Minmei and Lisa that were more than friendship. At this time, the battle fortress was able to land on Earth and was ordered by the United Earth Government to prohibit the civilians of Macross City from leaving the ship.

Robotech Remastered Vol 2-fixed

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

As the battle between aliens and Micronians continued, life aboard the SDF-1 did became more normal with the release of the first martial arts movie filmed on the ship. This begins to bring Rick and Lisa closer, and also catches the eye of Miriya, a Zentradi ace pilot who was reduced to Micronian size to get revenge against Max, who unknowingly defeated her twice. Elsewhere, Lynn-Minmei faces a dilemma of her own when Lynn-Kyle asks for her hand in marriage. Despite being at war, the SDF-1 and its inhabitants still face battles, battles that require different strategies to fight.

Robotech Vol. 2 has kept the mixture of action, comedy and mature subject matter together. You will become emotional when you see Claudia Grant’s and Rick’s simultaneous grief at Roy’s death. At the same time, a funny moment comes when the three Zentradi spies Bron, Rico and Konda travel back to the Zentradi fleet and reveal various smuggled objects such as a refrigerator and become street vendors sharing and trading their loot with other Zentradi soldiers.

There is plenty of action with the SDF-1, and the Veritech fighters mix it up with Zentradi ships in a way that will make viewers feel as if they have front-row seats in an intergalactic dog fight. The voice acting is top-notch since Robotech has launched the careers of voiceactors such as Tony Oliver, Barbra Goodson, Richard Epcar, Robert Axelrod and Dan Green to name a few. Overall, Robotech Vol. 2 is a great way to spend a lazy weekend, rain or shine, with a classic anime that will never get old.

Robotech is a masterpiece. I say this despite other great anime space series such as Gundam that are more well-known; Robotech is in a class by itself with a good mix that does not dumb down its audience. Producer Carl Macek left the world with a classic series that continues to be relevant and will remain for years to come. I encourage you, fellow otaku, to pick up this series.

Brandon Beatty is editor-at-large of Gaming Insurrection. He can be reached by email at brandonb@gaminginsurrection.com

Marvel character highlight #19: Captain America (Steve Rogers)

Name: Steve Rogerscaptainamerica-fixed

Affiliation: Formerly the Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D., Avengers Unity Division, Illuminati, Invaders, U.S. Army, Secret Avengers, Captain America Corps, Secret Avengers, New Avengers

Special abilities: Enhanced speed, agility, reflexes, healing and stamina comparable to a man at the apex of physical perfection. These are the result of his receiving the Super Soldier Serum, designed to create the perfect soldier who is resistant to disease and injury.

Background: Steve Rogers was a frail and sickly man rejected from the Army during World War II. After he is finally accepted through multiple attempts, he is subjected to an experimental procedure called the Super Soldier Project. During this project, the frail Rogers is intravenously and orally fed a mixture called the Super Soldier Serum and bombarded by Vita Rays, designed to create the perfect soldier. The creator of the serum, Dr. Abraham Erskine, is murdered minutes after the successful procedure and the formula is lost to history thereafter.

Rogers is then sent on numerous missions to serve the Allied wartime interests of defeating Nazi Germany and the Axis Powers. During a mission circa 1945, Rogers and friend Bucky Barnes were attempting to stop a bomb-laden plane launched by Baron Zemo. The plane exploded in mid-air, apparently killing Barnes and throwing Rogers into the ocean. Rogers then entered suspended animation, freezing into a glacier until his discovery decades later by the Avengers as they were fighting against Namor.

Rogers, now thawed in the present day, joined the Avengers and led the team through many a crisis including stopping Baron Helmut Zero and a revived Red Skull, preventing Onslaught from taking over the world and destroying reality, bringing an end to the Civil War — which led to his death at the hands of Red Skull and hypnotically possessed lover Sharon Carter — and participating in stopping the X-Men’s Phoenix Force from destroying Earth.

Relationships: James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes (Winter Soldier/Captain America), best friend/partner; Sharon Carter, lover; Peggy Carter, lover; Sam Wilson (Falcon/Captain America), partner

First Versus game appearance: Marvel Super Heroes

Appearances in other media: Captain America in: The Doom Tube of Dr. Megalomann (video game), Spider-Man and Captain America in Doctor Doom’s Revenge (video game), Captain America and the Avengers (video game), Marvel vs. Capcom (video game), Marvel vs. Capcom 2 (video game), Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds (video game), Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (video game), Marvel vs. Street Fighter (video game), Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage (video game), Avengers in Galactic Storm (video game), Spider-Man and Venom: Separation Anxiety (video game), Marvel Super Heroes: War of the Gems (video game), Spider-Man (video game), Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro (video game), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (video game), Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects (video game), Marvel: Ultimate Alliance (video game), Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 (video game), Marvel Super Hero Squad (video game), Marvel Super Hero Squad 2, Captain America: Super Soldier (video game), Marvel Super Hero Squad Online (video game), Marvel Super Hero Squad: Comic Combat (video game), Marvel: Avengers Alliance (video game), Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty (video game), Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth (video game), Marvel Heroes (video game), Lego Marvel Super Heroes (video game), Marvel Avengers Alliance Tactics (video game), Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes (video game), The Great Gold Steal (novel), Captain America: The First Avenger (film), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (film), Marvel Universe: LIVE! (theater), Ultimate Avengers (animation), Ultimate Avengers 2: Rise of the Panther (animation), The Avengers (film), The Avengers 2: Age of Ultron (film; not yet released)