Captain America: The First Avenger

Peggy Carter in Captain America: The First Avengers

If Superman is the boy scout of DC Comics, then his goody-two-shoes counterpart in the Marvel universe is Captain America. Fitting in nicely with the squeaky clean stereotype of the soldier who fights for truth, justice and the American way, Steve Rogers exemplifies all of the ideals of the classic American hero. He doesn’t drink. He doesn’t smoke. He doesn’t womanize. He fiercely believes in just one God, even though he happens to personally know two other gods from Norse mythology, and he has rippling abs and bulging biceps. However, this clean cut image is not all a conscious decision. In the film Captain America: The First Avenger, he explains that he doesn’t drink only because he is being a good guy. Instead, he doesn’t drink because his body metabolism is so efficient in processing toxins that alcohol basically has no effect on him. And that got me thinking… super soldier or not, this would suck for Steve Rogers at your average Fourth of July picnic. Could Captain America ever get drunk?

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Captain America USO scene

Captain America was introduced to the Marvel universe in 1941 as a young man who gets injected with a super serum that changes him from a frail kid to human perfection. The idea of an ordinary person suddenly finding themselves with super powers has consistently appealed to audiences and comic book fans, but Captain America became one of Marvel’s most popular superheroes during the 1940s thanks to it’s patriotic message, something that was much needed while America was in the throes of World War II. But most notably, out of all the superheroes populating the Marvel universe, Captain America was the first character to get his own movie serial, the self-titled, Captain America. (The next Marvel superhero to hit the screen would be The Punisher forty-two years later!) The serial (and Dick Purcell) brought Captain America to life, but Purcell’s version was slightly different from the version in the comics. Purcell’s alter ego was that of District Attorney Grant Gardner while the alter ego in the comics was the formerly frail Steve Rogers. However the patriotic message and feeling of the comics remained constant on the screen thanks to music from composer Mort Glickman.

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Chris Evans in CAPTAIN AMERICA THE FIRST AVENGER

Captain America: The First Avenger is probably the best of Marvel’s Phase One films. I say “probably” to allow for nostalgia for Iron Man and the abundance of fun that is The Avengers, but re-watches have shown The First Avenger to be the least problematic and most affecting of the bunch. Its high entertainment value doesn’t hurt either. The sequel, The Winter Soldier, hits theaters this Friday, and according to at least one very reputable source it may just be the best Marvel film yet. We’re spending the week exploring all things Captain America so there’s no better time than now to take a listen to director Joe Johnston‘s commentary for The First Avenger. He’s joined by the film’s editor and director of photography, and together they discuss the production, the cast and crew, and the moments they love as film fans.

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There used to be a time when only die-hard comic book fans knew what Stan Lee looked like. His likeness appeared in many of the Marvel comic books for the 60s, 70s, and 80s, but to the average person, he was nothing more than a guy with some shaded glasses. Then Hollywood started putting the guy in some movies. He’s never had a very big part, but to honor the man for helping to create some of the most legendary superheroes (and some of the biggest moneymakers for the movie business), Lee has been given customary cameos in almost every major movie that has been made from characters he helped create. Those who have seen The Amazing Spider-Man (which should be most of you faithful readers, by now) were treated to one of his best and funniest cameos yet. And with more Marvel movies coming down the pike, he’s sure to show up many times again. This gave us a chance to look back on his many appearances over the years and assemble a list of his ten best cameos. Excelsior!

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These items would have no doubt made Simon’s list this week, but they all come with a hefty price tag. Marvel is auctioning off several pieces of screen-used props, and according to The Hollywood Reporter, they’re expected to go for anywhere between $100 – $30,000. So what’s up for grabs? You can check out the full Captain America catalog preview for yourself, but they’ve got everything from director’s chair backs from the production to Captain America’s shield in an ice resin. From concept art to Red Skull’s SS costume to Iron Man‘s Mark II “Autopsy” Suit to a full-scale motorcycle from Captain America to Thor‘s stunt hammer. Profiles in History, the auction house in charge, has got a lot to work with. It’s almost as if they’re selling everything they used to make the movies. The whole thing will be done online, but some of the bigger items will only be available at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo on April 14th. If you’re feeling generous, this Captain America War Bonds Poster would be perfect for my office.  

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Culture Warrior

Usually I’m quite cynical about end-of-year lists, as they demand a forced encapsulation of an arbitrary block of time that is not yet over into something simplified. I typically find end-of-year lists fun, but rarely useful. But 2011 is different. As Scott Tobias pointed out, while “quiet,” this was a surprisingly strong year for interesting and risk-taking films. What’s most interesting has been the variety: barely anything has emerged as a leading contender that tops either critics’ lists or dominates awards buzz. Quite honestly, at the end of 2010 I struggled to find compelling topics, trends, and events to define the year in cinema. The final days of 2011 brought a quite opposite struggle, for this year’s surprising glut of interesting and disparate films spoke to one another in a way that makes it difficult to isolate any of the year’s significant works. Arguments in the critical community actually led to insightful points as they addressed essential questions of what it means to be a filmgoer and a cinephile. Mainstream Hollywood machine-work and limited release arthouse fare defied expectations in several directions. New stars arose. Tired Hollywood rituals and ostensibly reliable technologies both met new breaking points. “2011” hangs over this year in cinema, and the interaction between the films – and the events and conversations that surrounded them – makes this year’s offerings particular to their time and subject to their context. This is what I took away from this surprising year:

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This Week in DVD

Welcome back to the biggest edition of This Week In DVD yet! Twenty two titles are covered below, but this isn’t just a matter of quantity. All but one of the releases are worth watching, with a whopping seven of them being solid BUY recommendations. This week’s releases run the gamut from comic book blockbusters (Captain America) to docs on Pearl Jam and Peter Gabriel (Twenty and New Blood) to a controversial black comedy (A Serbian Film) to a Finnish family holiday film (Rare Exports) to a thrilling Hong Kong action flick (Fire of Conscience) to… well, you get the idea. As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. The Ballad of Narayama (UK) A small village in the Japanese mountains is the setting for this rumination on life, death and family that plays like the movie The Tree of Life should have been but with a narrative instead of dinosaurs. Village law dictates you head up the mountain to die at the age of seventy, and as Orin approaches that milestone she rushes around trying to set her children straight to ensure their future. The film is a harsh look at a time and place, and it uses images of animals alongside the characters to highlight our own innate nature. As cruel as it seems though the film ends up being as uplifting an ode to humanity as you could imagine or want. **NOTE – This is a region2 DVD which requires […]

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There were a lot of things that I liked about Captain America: The First Avenger, but my biggest disappointment with the film was that we didn’t get nearly enough time spent with Cap battling the Red Skull and his crazy group of science driven terrorists. It felt like 90% of the film was all setup and then we got the action in a 10-minute montage. That’s why I’m super pumped to hear Captain America co-writer Christopher Markus tell Hero Complex that he’s got some crazy, Cap battling science ideas for the sequel. Markus starts off the crazy by saying, “I love MODOK and I think you could make a terrifying movie with MODOK but nobody seems to be on my side at the momentum [sic].” For those of you not comic book savvy, MODOK is one of the most ludicrous villains with a long time publishing history. He’s basically a giant head inside of a metal helmet that has little metal arms and legs dangling off of it. He started off as a guy named George Tarleton who got experimented on by the Advanced Idea Mechanics (or AIM) and turned into a living computer named MODOC (or Mental Organism Designed Only for Computing). Tarleton had other ideas though. Despite the fact that he was designed for computing, that wasn’t exactly what he intended on doing; so he killed his creators, took control of AIM, and renamed himself MODOK (or Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing). Why would a character so ridiculous have a long […]

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The Reject Report

30 Reject Reports on the wall. 30 Reject Reports. You take one down, pass it around…I really thought about going through all 30 lines of lyric to that 100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall, but then I figured you’d probably just skip ahead anyway. So allow me. 30 Minutes or Less. Final Destination 5 IN 3-FRIGGIN-D! The Help. Glee IN 3-FRIGGIN-D! Yeah, they’re all hitting big this weekend, and some of them are sure to have a decent enough opening. But those apes, man. They’ve got the box office on primate lock-down, and they’re not letting anyone take the crown away from them. So before you ask “Why Cookie Rocket?” and start to debate me, think really hard about what that means. Then consider this. Why NOT Cookie Rocket? Why the hell not?

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If you’ve  followed our coverage of Marvel Junkets in the past (Iron Man 2, Thor) then you know that those press events and I have a long and useless history. Generally speaking, everyone spends a lot of time learning very little, and sometimes things break and fall down. It seems as though Marvel may be on the upswing in terms of getting these junkets really pumping out information – or maybe we journalists are asking better questions – who the heck really knows why it happened, but somehow the Captain America junket was interesting and had stuff to learn you might actually care about. So much so, in fact, that I’ve got 15 cool tidbits right here.

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Director Joe Johnston loves good old fashioned fun. The Rocketeer, Hidalgo, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, and Captain America: The First Avenger don’t contain a dark or cynical bone in their bodies. While some superhero films try to go to darker places nowadays — usually by just having their hero mope around — Johnston has no interest in a sulky hero. Captain America is all about adventure, charms, and simply being a kid from Brooklyn. While many people question if Cap can reach an audience outside of the States, Johnston thinks differently. The Boba Fett and Iron Giant creator didn’t want to make a commercial about America’s awesomeness; he wanted to explore themes that nearly everyone can relate to. Like his previous films, the idea of finding one’s identity and coming of age is present in Captain America: The First Avenger. Despite being a super solider who looks the way that he does, Captain America is like any other kid trying to become the man he’s meant to be. Here’s what Joe Johnston had to say about Raiders of the Lost Ark, fully embracing the color palette of comics, the ego of Red Skull, staying sincere without being cheesy, and why he’s a true film school reject:

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A young scrappy pilot, conveniently, accomplishes what a non-freakazoid Howard Hughes (played by the Terry O’Quinn) and a few lackeys at the C.I.A. couldn’t do: create a flying man! That pilot, Cliff, becomes that gold helmeted flying phenom. This comic book adaptation is full of Nazis, a vain and villainous actor, and an ugly as hell goon. What more could you ask for?

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Culture Warrior

You’d be hard-pressed to find two filmmakers who are more wildly different than Woody Allen and Terrence Malick. One is a notably prolific and economic filmmaker who still releases one movie a year well into his senior years, while the other is a perfectionist who labors over his films and has thus far released, on average, barely more than one movie per decade. One has an unmistakable public persona, while the other is a notorious recluse. One makes films about life in a great city, while the other turns his lens to nature and the experience of the rural. One is as much an atheist as his characters, while the other is a spiritualist who searches for “God,” whatever that may be, through the lens of the camera. Allen and Malick are, in many ways, perfect opposites. But after watching the strong new work by each of these talented filmmakers this past weekend, it became apparent that, at least in the shared thematic preoccupations of Allen’s Midnight in Paris and Malick’s The Tree of Life, these two ostensibly dissimilar filmmakers may have more in common than meets the eye.

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Culture Warrior

Movies have a strange relationship with history, that’s for certain. On the one hand, they have the ability to bring to life, in spectacular detail, the intricate recreation of historical events. On the other hand, films can have a misleading and even potentially dangerous relationship with history, and can change the past for the benefit of storytelling or for political ends. And there’s always the option of using films to challenge traditional notions of history. Finally, many movies play with history through the benefit of cinema’s artifice. Arguably, it’s this last function that you see history function most often in relationship to mainstream Hollywood cinema. In playing with history, Hollywood rarely possesses a calculated political motive or a desire to recreate period detail. In seeking solely to entertain, Hollywood portrays the historical, but rarely history itself. Tom Shone of Slate has written an insightful piece about a unique presence of that historical mode all over the movies seeking to be this summer’s blockbusters. Citing X-Men: First Class, Super 8, Captain America: The First Avenger, and Cowboys & Aliens as examples, Shone argues that this is an unusual movie summer in terms of the prominence of movies set in the past. However, while such a dense cropping of past-set films is unusual for this season, these movies don’t seem to be all that concerned with “the past” at all – at least, not in the way that we think.

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Jaws didn’t mean to do it, but Summer has become the biggest business in movie-making. This summer, we’re getting a new batch of movies that the studios are hoping to be gigantic, but thankfully for us, they fit into 6 handy categories. Rob Hunter and Cole Abaius have worked tirelessly (except for five or ten naps) in order to break these movies down and present them to you. What will you be watching this summer? What excites you the most? What do you have the highest hopes for? These films all have the potential to bust blocks, but will it be your block they’re busting? Here they are, the six types of films coming out in the following months.

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What is Movie News After Dark? This is a question that I am almost never asked, but I will answer it for you anyway. Movie News After Dark is FSR’s late-night secretion, a column dedicated to all of the news stories that slip past our daytime editorial staff and make it into my curiously chubby RSS ‘flagged’ box. It will (but is not guaranteed to) include relevant movie news, links to insightful commentary and other film-related shenanigans. I may also throw in a link to something TV-related here or there. It will also serve as my place of record for being both charming and sharp-witted, but most likely I will be neither of the two. I write this stuff late at night, what do you expect?

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Black Film has confirmed through a “reliable source” that actor Derek Luke will be playing the role of Gabe Jones in the upcoming Captain America movie. Luke has appeared in things like Miracle at St. Anna and Notorious before signing up with Marvel. The character of Gabe Jones, in comic lore, is one of the original members of Nick Fury’s elite squad of soldiers The Howling Commandos. So not only does this news confirm for me what role Luke will be playing in the movie, it also confirms for me that The Howling Commandos are going to be a part of the story. Did everyone know this already? I had known Neal McDonough was cast as Dum Dum Dugan, but this points to the fact that the rest of the squad will show up in the film as well. Jones is kind of a big deal in the Marvel Comics version of WWII because he is one of the first black soldiers to fight in a racially integrated unit. In the Marvel film universe, where Nick Fury himself is a black guy, some of the specialness of the character is bound to have been stripped away. I have to wonder how big his part will be and how big a role The Howling Commandos will have in the film’s story. I would love to get at least one big sequence where they accompany Cap on a mission Inglorious Basterds style.

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Entertainment Weekly has posted the first official image of the Red Skull from Joe Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger and he looks exactly like I imagined he would. Sure, it kind of seems like they just spray-painted the Skeletor mask from Masters of the Universe red and put a guy in a leather jacket, but what else are you going to do? The character is a dude with a skull for a head that’s bright red; there aren’t many options there for creativity. I have one big question after looking at the photo: I thought Red Skull was a Nazi, where are all the swastikas? What we see is a very black, leathery, militaristic look that seems to be right in line with what some sort of high-ranking Nazi official might wear; but where I would imagine there would be swastikas, instead there are Hydra logos. I’m not the biggest Marvel Comics historian on the Internet, but I thought that Hydra came about from the ashes of the Nazi’s defeat in WWII? Am I wrong? Is this movie not all set during the war like I thought it was? Or, God forbid, are they homogenizing away the existence of Nazis? If I don’t get to see Steve Rogers clock Hitler in the jaw, I’m going to be pretty upset. Check it out for yourself:

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If you’re like me, you watch the Super Bowl for one reason: you can eat as many fried mac ‘n’ cheese balls as you want without so much as a dirty look. If there’s another reason to watch, it’s because Puppy Bowl has gotten repetitive. If there’s a third, it’s the commercials – specifically the movie trailers. Most of the movie trailers this year gave just a bit more insight into trailers we’ve already seen, but a select few (like Transformers 3 and Super 8) gave us our first look into the worlds being created for the big screen. Fortunately, like the PSAs that get to air for free during the big game, these movie trailers also taught us a lot. Especially about the trends of 2011 that are already emerging. Here are just ten things we learned.

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As disappointed as some might be that Hugo Weaving won’t be wearing the Halloween costume made for his character Red Skull in Captain America: The First Avenger, this look seems to be doing him a lot more favors. The only question seems obvious. Why the fake human face? Why can’t you just be comfortable being yourself, Red Skull? You’re cool being a Nazi, but you can’t go out in public with what looks like a wicked case of Rosacea? We’ll accept you the way you are, Skull. Then, we’ll cheer when Captain America puts you in a head luck and shoves his fingers where your nostrils should be. What do you think of Red Skull’s look?

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published: 04.17.2014
D+
published: 04.17.2014
B-
published: 04.16.2014
B+
published: 04.16.2014
C-

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