MOVIE BUFF-ET: Captain America: Civil War divides Avengers but is sure to please super-hero fans

If there were an actual duel between Marvel Studios and Warner Bros.’ super-hero film franchises, a doctor might be declaring latter’s DC characters dead this weekend.

While WB fired a bold shot in March with Batman v. Superman: The Dawn of Justice, the film veered way of center with its angst-ridden Superman, goofy Lex Luthor, and curiously gun-toting Batman. Wonder Woman and the promise of something better in the future were the bright spots for the overly dour film that underperformed at the box office, despite making nearly $900,000 million so far.

New In Local Theaters

  • Captain America: Civil War (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle Hills) (PG-13), 2 hrs., 28 mins.
    » Watch trailer
  • 24 (Malco Rogers)(NR), 2 hrs., 44 mins.
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  • The Jungle Book (112 Drive-In) (PG) 1 hr., 46 mins.
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  • Zootopia (112 Drive-In) (PG) 1 hr., 48 mins.
    » Watch trailer

However, Marvel’s latest entry in its cinematic universe, Captain America: Civil War, hits dead center with just the right mix of action, pathos, and humor. Marvel has made some fine popcorn flicks since its first production Iron Man debuted in 2008, but this outing directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, who also directed Captain America: Winter Soldier, is the best yet.

Certainly the directing duo built on the structure Joss Whedon’s previous Avengers movies provided, but where Whedon’s second outing Avengers: Age of Ulrton strained under the weight of servicing nearly a dozen characters and multiple storylines, Civil War deftly uses its characters to add nuances to a singular storyline that splits the super-hero team down the middle.

In truth, the movie could have been titled Captain America v Iron Man: Avengers Divided because the film is an Avengers movie, and its plot bares striking similarities to the Batman v Superman, which was originally set to open on the same day. WB backed off the date when Marvel planted its flag on its traditional summer opening date, the first weekend in May.

Marvel’s advantage in the super-hero duel is that Captain America (Chris Evans) and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) are not only perfectly cast but also the battle lines that are crossed in this film began being drawn in the first Avengers movie. The Russo’s make the audience’s familiarity with characters work for them, and not hit the ground running with the story but also advance it logically and cleverly.

After an Avengers mission in Nigeria goes bad, resulting in the deaths of a number of foreign aid workers from the fictional country of Wakanda, the United Nations draws up an accord for the Avengers to sign that would put them under the authority of the U.N. While both feel guilty over the death and destruction resulting from several Avengers actions, Captain America and Iron Man take different sides.

Iron Man pragmatically signs on, hoping to forestall more restrictive operating conditions, while Cap feels the team needs the ability to act on its own conscious and fears the team being used as a tool of the U.N.

I’ll only give a bit more away by adding that the ensuing battles do involve the Winter Solider or Bucky (Sebastian Stan), the merger of Spider-Man (Tom Holland) into the Avengers storyline and the introduction of the historic first black super-hero Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) into the film continuity. Both Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and War Machine (Don Cheadle) are African-American characters, but Black Panther, created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, appeared first in the comics.

Holland truly captures the gee-whiz exuberance of a young Spider-Man, and Boseman is both powerful and regal as the Black Panther. There’s not a bad performance in the film with Antman (Paul Rudd) playing a large role in the airport fight sequence and Jeremy Renner getting his best lines as Hawkeye.

The Russo brothers brought Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, the directors of John Wick, to work with Spiro Razatos as second-unit directors on action sequences, and the move paid off. There are some amazing super-hero antics displayed in the film, but each character displays a signature fighting style. Obviously, CGI was deployed, but the film and its use were so engaging it did not come to mind in the theater.

For parents, the action is considerable, but it is not of the gory variety. Characters do use profanity, but to a milder extent than many PG-13 films.

Films of this nature aren’t for everyone, but it you like action, adventure and super-heroics, I’m not sure if a better example has ever been committed to film.

Grade: A

Mother’s Day

Legendary TV producer and film director Garry Marshall (Happy Days, Lavern and Shirley, Overboard, Pretty Woman) has produced a lot of entertaining material during his long career, but he’s also churned out a good bit of dreck. His latest film Mother’s Day, one of string of holiday-themed movies Marshall as directed, falls into the latter category.

Mother’s Day is basically a Hallmark movie with big stars and profanity, but thankfully without all the commercials. The movie is pleasant enough and does deliver some laughs as it focuses on the lives and families of several different mothers and one family struggling without after the mother died in combat. But the movie plays like a dramedy debut for CBS or Lifetime.

The movie is filled with stars, and it’s hard not to like Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Jason Sudeikis, Timothy Olyphant and a slew of other friendly and familiar faces, but the film fails to consistently connect. I’m guessing the script would read like a second draft rather than a finished product. Such an effort might be fine for a TV episode, but it just doesn’t cut it for a theatrical release.

Grade: D+

The Huntsman: Winter’s War

If there has been a bigger waste of talent like Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty, The Help), Emily Blunt (Into the Woods, Edge of Tomorrow), Chris Hemsworth (Thor, Rush) and Charlene Theron (Monster, Mad Max: Fury Road) than The Huntsman: Winter’s War, I do not want to see it.

The film is a darker version of Frozen and is not nearly as entertaining. The film is not so much bad as it is dull. Dull is the bigger crime to me. Bad in certain situations can be entertaining. Dull never is.

Disney is doing so well with its live-action retellings of its animated classics that other studios need to be really careful before stepping into that same genre.

Grade: D.

Classic Corner

Mommie Dearest

No one should need incentive to appreciate their mothers, but watching Mommie Dearest will make you want to give your momma a great big hug for not being like silver-screen star Joan Crawford, the actress who is the subject of this 1981 cult classic. The movie is based on the autobiography of Christina Crawford, the adoptive daughter of Joan Crawford, who endured physical and psychological abuse in her youth.

The movie, starring Faye Dunaway as Crawford, is a drama, but the performances are so over the top that they might make you wonder if the movie was intended to be a black comedy or some kind of evil spoof.


Glory is a great film about the actual American Civil War that tells the poignant story of an all-African-American military unit that fought for their freedom under the command of Col. Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick). Directed by Edward Zwick, the movie introduced to many the fact that African-Americans actually fought in the Civil War. Shaw’ letters and Peter Bouchard’s novel One Gallant Rush, which told the story of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, inspired the film that is one the best movies about the Civil War.

While Denzell Washington and Morgan Freeman had already established viable careers, but their performances lifted their prominence and shot Washington to super stardom. Washington won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, but Freeman is just as strong in a more subtle role. The 1981 film garnered five Academy Award nominations and added wins for Best Sound and Best Cinematography to Washington’s honor.

Noted historian and writer Shelby Foote served as a technical advisor and is credited for helping the film achieve a high level of authenticity.