(US - 2014)
Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo. Written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. Cast: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Redford, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Emily VanCamp, Jenny Agutter, Toby Jones, Hayley Atwell, Maximiliano Hernandez, Callan Mulvey, Garry Shandling, Chin Han, Georges St-Pierre, Salvator Xuereb. (PG-13, 136 mins)
Around the time Joss Whedon got the AVENGERS gig, there seemed to be a conscious effort by Marvel to bring some outside-the-box personality to the proceedings while still meeting the demand for intense action and grandiose visual effects. Shane Black brought his patented LETHAL WEAPON smartassery to IRON MAN 3 while semi-regular GAME OF THRONES director Alan Taylor fashioned an appropriately darker THOR: THE DARK WORLD. One could argue that the trend started before Whedon, as CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER director Joe Johnston utilized some of the same WWII-set atmosphere way back in 1990's THE ROCKETEER. For the sequel, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER, the sibling directing team of Anthony and Joe Russo seem as unlikely a choice as you can conceive. Best known for directing episodes of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT and COMMUNITY, the pair hadn't made a film since the 2006 comedy YOU, ME AND DUPREE but here reveal themselves to be secret '70s post-Watergate political paranoia/conspiracy fans. The spirit of Alan J. Pakula seems to permeate THE WINTER SOLDIER, and it's an interesting approach that keeps things fresh and exciting. Does the world need another run-of-the-mill superhero movie? Most of these films are entertaining on their own, but I've found that even the ones I really like--SPIDER-MAN 2, IRON MAN and THE AVENGERS, for instance--I never feel compelled to own or even revisit (Christopher Nolan's DARK KNIGHT trilogy being an exception). Letting the filmmakers bring their own style or ambitions to these films gives them something more tangible than just wall-to-wall CGI. I mean, be honest--it made a ton of money, but how many people really like IRON MAN 2?