Although it’s no Iron Man, you have to give credit to the makers of Captain America: The First Avenger – this is a funny, hiply retro, and handsomely filmed actioner that pulls off the slick trick of making a comic book movie that will appeal to a broad audience without alienating any Marvel Comics fanboys (who take this kind of stuff way too seriously).
Chris Evans (Fantastic Four) stars as Steve Rogers, the quintessential 98-pound weakling who nonetheless has the heart of a lion and is desperate to enlist in the army and go over to Europe to sock old Adolph Hitler in the nose.
Rejected by recruiters, he is approached by a scientist who has developed a method to transform anyone into a hyper-muscular super-soldier. Steve happily volunteers as a guinea pig and soon finds himself up to his neck in manly mayhem over in Europe.
But he’s not fighting Hitler. As it turns out, a mad German scientist named Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving, Matrix) has hijacked the German “deep science” program known as Hydra and combined it with some mystical power that dates back to Norse days. The resulting weaponry is beyond anything on Earth, and Schmidt — also known as Red Skull — has designs on wiping out both Hitler and the good guys.
Luckily for us, Steve not only looks good in tights, but also is a hell of a scrappy and resourceful soldier. Watch out, Nazis!
Veteran director Joe Johnston (October Sky, Jurassic Park III) knows his nostalgia and his action and has a great deal of fun playing dress-up in 1940s drag. Great supporting actors like Tommy Lee Jones and Stanley Tucci add punch to every scene they are in.
The movie has a fantastic art-deco look, and there’s even a love story to add some pathos. Corny but never ironic, this Captain is worth a salute.
Captain America: The First Avenger ★★★
Directed by Joe Johnston
Starring: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving
PG – 125 minutes
Continues at Odeon, SilverCity, Westshore, & Uni 4
We go from retro to modern with Friends With Benefits, a raunchy rom-com that explores what happens when a pair of “just friends” decides to have commitment-free sex. Jamie (Mila Kunis, Black Swan) is a headhunter who has brought Dylan (Justin Timberlake, Bad Teacher) to New York to be a graphic designer for GQ Magazine. They both boast about being emotionally unavailable, so expanding their relationship to include sexual calisthenics seems like a smart move. But even though these two cynical hipsters watch romantic comedies on TV just to mock their clichéd predictability, it’s clear they’re due for a comeuppance.
Although this is familiar stuff, the film is very funny and also benefits from the chemistry of its stars, not-quite-A-listers who are quirky and talented. The rat-a-tat dialogue is very much in the style of those great ’30s screwball comedies, even if Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell never got to hit the sack and make rude quips about oral sex. The fun cast includes a scene-stealing Patricia Clarkson as Jamie’s wacky tart of a mom, and Woody Harrelson as the aggressively gay sports writer at GQ. Benefits tries too hard to be potty-mouthed, but the characters are likable and the move seems to exist in the real world and not some Hollywood construct.
Friends With Benefits ★★★
Directed by David Dobkin
Starring: Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake
R – 109 minutes
Continues at Odeon, SilverCity, Westshore, Uni 4
Watching Captain America save the free world is thirsty work — so let’s grab some summer refreshment on a brewpub patio. Swans is offering a citrus-inflected Witbier; Canoe Club has a honey wheat ale on tap; and Spinnakers is pouring a classic Bavarian-style hefeweizen wheat beer. Bottoms up!