sports & pop culture by M. Brand

Great Until it Feels Familiar - Captain America: The Winter Soldier reviewed

Everything is going just fine in America.

When we catch up with Captain America aka Steve Rogers he’s doing what any superhero frozen under the ocean since the 1950s would be doing: he’s assimilated into the workforce.

Working for S.H.I.E.L.D. is meant to seem as normal as any job. The only other Avenger we see in this movie is Black Widow, again, played by Scarlett Johansson. She and Rogers are co-workers. They talk about who Rogers should ask out on a date. Maybe so-and-so from accounting? They have run-ins at the office. It’s like a normal 9-5 job except S.H.I.E.L.D. is, you know, battling global terrorism. 

And like many people in their current jobs, Rogers wonders if maybe he shouldn’t look for a different line of work. He feels undermined, unappreciated, and unsure. His boss, Nick Fury aka Samuel L. Jackson tries to show Rogers he’s important to the company by giving him a glimpse of the top- secret Project Insight, that will protect the world through mega-surveillance. “This isn’t freedom, this is fear” quips Rogers, now as disillusioned as ever.

So how does Captain America reflect on his feelings? He goes to the Captain America museum, obviously. And while he’s doing this, something sinister is happening. 

What follows are a number of terrific action sequences, car chases, an elevator fight (ELEVATOR FIGHT!), and more. What makes this instalment into the comic book blockbuster feel different, for at least the first half of the movie is how tangible everything is. Captain America works a job like you do. Veterans suffer wounds that can’t be seen. Black Widow releases information to the world in such a way that she probably uploaded it to Wiki-leaks. Captain America and the Black Widow visit an Apple store. The action scenes are at ground level and in-your-face in such a way that they feel more like stunts than getting beat over the head with a CGI hammer. The main bad guy, the one who fights, anyway, is the Winter Soldier. He has a hand and arm made out of metal. It literally clashes with Captain America’s shield. Shields are made to protect but hands hold weapons meant to inflict pain. Classic good versus evil stuff.

So far, so good, as comic book blockbusters go. Then the final act of the movie kicks in. All the goodwill the film has built up turns into the steroid-drenched action movie it thinks audiences want. I won’t describe it. You’ve seen it before.

Is Captain America: The Winter Soldier really better than The Avengers? Well, that depends how much you liked the latter to begin with as the arcs of the two films are essentially the same. But I’ll take Captain America because it was 6 minutes shorter, but really, both are too long.

You could fall asleep for the last 20 minutes and basically guess what you missed, because when you’re blowing up everything, you’re kinda not blowing up anything.

7/10

Do You Noah What You’re Trying to Say? Noah: reviewed

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You don’t have to be a devout Christian to watch Noah.

There. The elephant in the room, and the ark, has been addressed.

In fact, you don’t have to be any sort of Christian to watch Noah. Movies based on stories from the bible are divisive simply by being made. So how does director Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream) handle this? For starters, he doesn’t mention God by name.

Aronofsky makes the conscious decision to make all references to God as “The Creator”. God doesn’t speak to Noah: The Creator speaks to Noah. The reason for this must be two-fold. First, it allows people of any belief to accept this movie as pure fantasy, should they choose to. Secondly, if “God” was used instead of “The Creator” the audience would be beat over the head with God references the entire movie. Christian or not, you’re still at a movie and want to have a good time, am I right? Let’s leave all the trouble for Noah, who is one burdened dude.

Through a series of miracles, dreams, and visions, it becomes clear to Noah that he, and his family, have been given the task to “protect the innocent: the animals”. He refers to the great flood not as the end of the world, but a new beginning. This optimistic slant is akin to contemporary political spin, because deep down, Noah believes his task is to rid the world of all humanity, including he and his family.

Hold up, this is getting dark: is this movie heavy-handed or not? Well, yes and no.

Aronofsky can’t seem to decide between whether he’s making a movie that’s trying to say something or if he’s making a massive action movie in 2014. For instance, there are these massive rock creatures called The Watchers: formally angels from heaven, they decide to help Noah build his Ark. At one point, we see one of Noah’s children playing with one of these monstrous Watchers, the way Shia LeBeouf might pal around with Bumblebee. Counter this with Noah struggling to decide if he should stab a baby with a knife because he thinks all humanity must die in order for Earth to have a second chance at true innocence - a world that doesn’t succumb to temptation. Some of Noah’s decisions to this point are harsh, sometimes shockingly so, but necessary, and certainly adds levity when he’s dangling a knife over a baby’s face.

Don’t get me wrong - plenty of themes are tossed around and questioned in the movie: do Noah’s sons deserve wives? Do people screaming for help outside the ark deserve saving? Who chooses who lives and who dies? Does Ila, Emma Watson’s character who cannot conceive, have any place in the start of a new world? Throw in a prototypical bad guy who’s trying to storm the Ark like it’s the Battle of Helm’s deep from The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers, and whatever bigger message Aronofsky might be trying to make gets lost in the films’ blockbuster-iness.

As a popcorn/action movie, it works just fine. But as a movie trying to fill your head with questions of what it means to be a decent human being, they flow out of your brain faster than than a CGI flood envelops Noah’s world.

6/10

 

Anyone else think the Raptor’s Hardwood Match-up for tonight is a little weird? #RTZ

Super Human Jimmy Graham Ruins Touchdown Celebrations for Everyone

New Orleans Saints’ tight end/wide receiver, and one of the World’s strongest humans, Jimmy Graham, has ruined touchdown celebrations for everyone.

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Today, the NFL announced “dunking” the football over the goal-post after a touchdown will result in a penalty. 

While many players had used the technique as a celebration, Graham made it his trademark, thanks to approximately 6,000 touchdowns over the last 3 seasons (that’s approximately 2,000 touchdowns a season).

To make matters worse, one such celebration by Graham last season resulted in a goal-post going all crooked. Crooked! This caused a delay of the game plus the lives of immigrant workers on loan from Qatar. Qatar!

When asked how he will now celebrate his touchdowns, Graham implied he would dunk the football on the roof of whatever stadium he is in and bring the whole goddamn place down to the ground. However, if he’s playing in an open air stadium, he will simply hand the ball to the referee. 

Here’s a horrible fan video of Jimmy Graham wrecking not only the uprights, but the dunking celebration for everyone:

Canadians to Watch Canadian Play in American Basketball Tournament

The Madness is coming to Canada.

No, not dementia. March Madness. The yearly college basketball tournament is underway, and one of the biggest stars in America’s most famous tournament is from Canada.

His name, is Andrew Wiggins and he’ll be spreading his non-dementia madness all across our country. Wiggins is widely regarded as a consensus top 3 pick in this year’s NBA draft and could go as high as number 1 placing him squarely in the same pantheon as Anthony Bennett.

What is it about Wiggins that has Canada so excited? Well for starters, he’s Canadian. Then one has to consider he’s really good at dunks, which is important, because dunks are awesome. When it comes to his all-around game? It’s safe to assume that he is athletic and Canadian and can throw down good dunks. So he’s really good.

Unfortunately, Wiggins’ Kansas team is not favoured to win the tournament which suits those of us in Canada just fine. So long as he’s not playing hockey, all we ask of him is that he has fun. 

For your optional enjoyment, here’s a highlight reel of Canadian Andrew Wiggins highlights, most notably dunks.