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“Captain America: The First Avenger” delivers despite problems: review

“Captain America: The First Avenger” delivers despite problems: review (photo)

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Captain America may be the first Avenger, but he’s also the penultimate test of a cinematic experiment that culminates in next year’s superhero ensemble film, “The Avengers.” Thus far, Marvel Studios’ plan has been a success, with Iron Man, Hulk, and Thor all managing to establish themselves with mainstream audiences individually, then transforming that success into anticipation for their return in “Avengers.”

However, after watching “Captain America: The First Avenger,” it makes sense that the studio would position star-spangled superhero Steve Rogers as the last character to make his solo debut before the big “Avengers” reunion. In many ways, the film feels more like a preamble to something bigger than a self-contained story – but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

At a time when every film is envisioned as one chapter of a 12-part franchise, it’s not always a deal-breaker to lean on what’s come before and what the audience knows will follow. The recently concluded “Harry Potter” franchise was proof of that, and “Captain America” taps into a similar self-awareness of its role in a larger story arc that will be appreciated by comic book fans without alienating mainstream audiences.

Read our 101 guide to Captain America and his supporting cast

Still, that’s not to say that “Captain America” is devoid of problems. Despite some ambitious use of effects, the scrawny, pre-superhero Steve Rogers created by digitally grafting star Chris Evans’ head onto another actor’s body never seems quite human, and the addition of Evans’ voice to the final product makes the entire character seem like an overdubbed mess. This is especially unfortunate, because it’s clear the screenwriters did a good job of showing you why he was a hero long before he gained all of that extra muscle. Sadly, the weird, mismatched visual distracts from their work and makes it difficult to connect with the character.

On the flip side, “Captain America” overcomes the obstacle everyone saw in its path: finding a way to realistically portray a muscle-bound supersoldier in bright red, white, and blue spandex hurling his color-coordinated shield at a crimson, skull-faced villain. To its credit, the film explains why its soldier-turned-superhero’s uniform makes perfect sense in the context of his adventures, and the Red Skull – while a bit more cartoonish than necessary – manages to seem right at home in the tale’s WWII setting.

What also came as a surprise in “The First Avenger” was how similar the film felt to director Joe Johnston’s first comic book movie, 1991’s “The Rocketeer.” The two comics-influenced period pieces share a similar tone, presenting their characters’ adventures through a more innocent, Disney-fied version of reality and tapping into the nostalgic fun of comics’ Silver Age heroes.

But even though the Walt Disney Company now owns Marvel, it’s worth noting that “Captain America” definitely isn’t just another “Rocketeer.” This Marvel film is a darker, more violent adventure than Johnston’s first foray into the comic book world (there’s one scene in particular that echoes Indiana Jones’ messy tarmac brawl in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”), and it harkens back to the character’s original, gun-toting adventures that often left more than a few enemy soldiers dead in his wake.

Viewed as the explosion-a-minute, simple action film that it’s intended to be, “Captain America” delivers on what it needs to do: introduce the character to mainstream audiences while not offending longtime fans, and prime the public for “The Avengers.” Unlike prior Marvel movies, however, the film falls short in its effort to develop a character you’ll gladly see more of without his superhero teammates.

Fortunately for Steve Rogers, that won’t be an issue, as he’ll get another chance to win audiences over next year when “Avengers” finally bows on the big screen. When that time comes around, though, he’ll have to wrest the spotlight away from Iron Man, Thor, and the rest of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

It’s no small feat, but then again, he is “The First Avenger.”

What did you think of the “Captain America” movie? Chime in below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.