Captain Marvel

brie-larson-captain-marvel

Can Marvel make a successful comic book fantasy movie with a female lead? The answer is yes. Captain Marvel is a solid effort by all concerned. (Including the dozen or so digital effects companies I counted in the closing credits.)

Captain Marvel may not be the best Marvel Cinematic Universe movie ever. And Captain Marvel may not be the greatest MCU superhero ever. But the new film starring Brie Larson accomplishes much in just over two hours.

It introduces and establishes a new movie franchise player and sets up future Captain Marvel stories. It delivers a cool backstory for Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). The movie is set in the 1990s and dishes a bunch of fun nostalgia for that decade. And it features a cool cat (an actual feline) named Goose.

Action/fantasy films sometimes have pacing issues and often have effects overkills but co-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck keep things moving ahead at a consistent clip, with occasional respites. And the many confrontations among characters tend to resolve within reasonable periods.

The story? Well, there’s a lot going on here. Of course, it’s always about good versus evil. But it is not always clear who is a good guy (or woman) and who is a bad egg. Captain Marvel works to solve a mystery about her own background (including her life as Air Force pilot Carol Danvers) and about a scientific discovery that Wendy Larson (Annette Bening) is developing. Carol/Captain Marvel’s time among the Kree aliens on the planet Hala is a key plot point.

Brie Larson handles all the physical tasks of playing a superhero well. She has a good head of hair, which is only reined in near the end of the movie. (Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman at least had a band across the front of her hairline when she was in action.)

The cast also includes Jude Law, Ben Mendelsohn and (as Carol’s Air Force friend Maria) Lashana Lynch.

Captain Marvel should garner strong ticket sales and whet appetites for Avengers: Endgame whose release is just seven weeks away. As Black Panther showed last year, a superhero movie can be released in late winter and still attract a huge audience.

Of course, you should stay until the very end of the credits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Place Beyond The Pines

Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper have just one scene together in The Place Beyond the Pines, but it’s the pivotal scene of the movie. In a film full of interesting and well-developed characters, theirs are the ones the movie is built around. A film with strong performances from two of our best young actors is one that must be seen.

These two men are both basically good guys who each face moral dilemmas. Gosling plays a guy who rides stunt motorcycles in a carnival. He reluctantly becomes a bank robber. Cooper goes from law school to the police force where he encounters that bank robber.

The story’s good, but the main reason to see The Place Beyond the Pines is to meet all these people. In addition to Gosling’s Luke and Cooper’s Avery, Eva Mendes is Romina, a Latino who bears Luke’s son after a quick hookup. This is a non-glam role for her and she inhabits it well. Ben Mendelsohn plays Robin, a local guy who gives Luke a place to stay. Robin is also the guy who points Luke toward robbing banks.

Poor Ray Liotta. Whenever you see him in a movie, you know something bad is going to go down. He plays a crooked cop. Strong character actor Bruce Greenwood plays the local D.A. The two young actors who play the sons, Dane DeHaan as Luke’s son, Jason, and Emory Cohen as Avery’s son, AJ, also bring good acting chops to the movie.

Avery is conflicted about his being proclaimed a hero cop after his incident with Luke, but eventually he milks it and moves into politics. Suddenly, the movie jumps ahead 15 years to the relationship between the teen sons of the two men. The “third act,” as some have called this part of the movie, reveals more about Avery, as well as the boys. It provides a fitting conclusion to the narrative.

The movie is set in Schenectady, NY. The town name is Mohawk for “place beyond the pines.” According to web postings, the names of the Schenectady streets, banks, TV stations and newspaper are the actual names. The police uniforms are supposedly the exact ones worn by Schenectady cops. The story, though, is pure fiction.

The Place Beyond The Pines is among the year’s best, so far. It’s harder for a March release (April, in St. Louis) to get award nominations than, say, a November release. But good writing, excellent acting and a well-assembled movie should lead to year-end accolades. I recommend it.