First up, big new for my girls Hot Kel and Amy — Magic Mike XXL is slated to start shooting this fall. That's right, ladies, more Channing Tatum strip show action should be coming down the pipe sometime in 2015.
The dudes get a bit more immediate eye candy as a leather-clad Scarlett Johansson hits screens this Friday in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Granted this is a Marvel movie sequel about one of their least interesting comic book characters but The Winter Soldier script actually has a bit of thought put into it.
While the first Captain America flick was set in the WW II-era with Nazi-like villains that were easy to rally against, The Winter Soldier is totally contemporary and a bit more muddled. Based loosely on the acclaimed comic story by Ed Brubaker, this one picks up after the Avengers movie and finds Captain America working closely with S.H.E.I.L.D. (and Scarlett Johansson's streamlined Black Widow) but Cap'n starts wondering about the ethics behind his orders, particularly when Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) shows off his fancy new "Heli-carrier" initiative that will continuously patrol the world collecting personal data and taking out targets before they become problems.
Cap'n begins to doubt it all just around the same time a mysterious "Winter Solider" assassin shows up and everything gets tossed upside down. Cap'n is on the run (with Black Widow!) to uncover a big conspiracy and yadda yadda... cue the kick-ass urban warfare sequences. Winter Soldier is a bit heavier than most Marvel flicks but the filmmakers balance that with decent humourous bits, some proper characterization and lots of Scarlett Johansson. Although The Winter Soldier is really more of a conspiracy thriller, the action is some of the best we've seen from a Marvel film, not as tightly shot and everyone gets in on the fun, including Fury and The Falcon (Anthony Mackie).
The Russo Brothers direct, though they are more known for comedy they've turned in a timely film about political trust that offers a decent mix of real-world feel (drones, government spying on its own citizens) with comic book flourishes (dudes with metal arms, tight leather suits). Having 1970s political thriller star Robert Redford on the cast doesn't hurt either. The Winter Soldier is too long at 2.5 hours, and doesn't take as many narrative risks as the set-up would have allowed, but otherwise this one holds its own in the Marvel Universe. It isn't even Easter yet but summer blockbuster season may have just started.
Interesting tangent: there was a real Winter Soldier Investigation in early 1971 wherein 100 or so Vietnam veterans gathered to publicize war crimes they felt the U.S. and allies had committed during the Vietnam war. Basically it was a group of soldiers trying to shed light on some of the massacres and atrocities in Southeast Asia, and show the American public that U.S. military policies led to war crimes and cover-ups. They were trying to push some of the blame up the chain of command.
Naturally, the mainstream media ignored, and/or publicly doubted the validity of both the three-day event and the claims of these "winter soldiers," but there was a documentary film made —Winter Solider (1972). It's not on iTunes but savvy Internet folks can find it. Otherwise check out the powerful-looking trailer on YouTube (as well as a similar "winter soldier" videos made with vets of Afghanistan and Iraq.)
It's fun to sit through a 2.5-hour urban-shootout Captain America film, but the sad truth remains that so much of this "escapism art" is still firmly rooted in a pretty grim reality — the government is not your friend, act accordingly.