Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Wednesday, April 30, 2014




After being frozen for half a century, Cap is back to save the world. Welcome back Captain America for your second solo, “save the world” battle. I am not a comic book fan. I haven’t read a single comic book. But I am a great fan of comic book adaptations. When I saw the first trailer of Captain America: The Winter Soldier I was so excited and couldn’t wait till it hit the cinema, though the first Captain America movie isn’t in my “fantastic movies” list.

It has been two years since the New York battle and Steve Rogers is slowly adapting to the modern world of digital era. The black and white world he used to live no longer exists, no one can clearly separate the good guys from the bad guys. It seems that his superior Nick Fury also has his own agenda and Steve cannot trust anyone. With the death of Nick Fury, Captain becomes a fugitive and teams up with Black Widow and Falcon, and with few people he knows he can trust, to unravel the conspiracy that has been hidden behind the S.H.I.E.L.D for nearly 70 years.

Steve Rogers is a trustworthy military veteran who always value nobility. What Marvel did with the character was, threw him out from his comfort zone. Steve always want everyone to be trustworthy, have a black and white morality and Marvel tossed him into an espionage, politically savaged, gray world where no one can be trusted. So the battle of “save the world from Hydra” is not just some scenes with actions to kill the bad guys, it is more of a personal mission to the character as well as an emotional journey to the audience. It is good that Steve reads a lot on internet and making to-do lists to catchup those 70 years that he had been missing, though I wonder how many years he would have to spend on history and pop culture lessons with his busy schedule. Chris Evans has never been better as Steve Rogers, with a heroism physical and stunt actions. After watching Fantastic Four, I was disappointed to hear Marvel’s decision of casting Chris Evan as Captain America. But now I am so glad that they picked Chris Evan for the role of Steve Rogers.

Scarlet Johansson perfectly embodies the role of Black Widow. She is mind blowing with her sarcastic comic attitude, and complex martial arts movements. This time Black Widow has quite a long script than her previous scripts, and her tools, intelligence, and stunning combats are quite impressive. Though she is working with Captain, she always has her own mission and goes through her own emotional journey rather than just being an eye-candy to the plot. She is indeed a superhero and I expect a Black Widow solo movie soon from Marvel since there is so much to tell about this amazing character.

The other member of the “Team Cap” is Falcon. This is the first time Falcon has introduced to the Marvel cinematic universe. I cannot think anyone better for the role besides Anthony Mackie and I’d definitely like to see him in more movies in the future. Nick Fury gets more screen time in this movie and Samuel Jackson is great as always embodying the role of Nick Fury giving a lot more power to his scenes. Robert Redford, giving a calm and gripping performance, portrays Alexander Pierce who leads the Hydra activities inside the S.H.I.E.L.D with high authoritative powers. Marvel introduces two more comic characters in this movie, Brock Rumlow and Sharon Carter, a.k.a. Agent 13. Frank Grillo’s performance as bad-ass S.T.R.I.K.E agent is remarkable. Even though Agent 13 has a minor role in this movie, Emily VanCamp steals those few scenes with amazing performance portraying Agent 13.

Bucky Barnes, a.k.a. The Winter Soldier is brainwashed and doesn’t know his true identity and he has a more personal connection with Steve Rogers than the Hydra lets him believe. Sebastian Stan is remarkable as Winter Soldier and performs well with his limited amount of screen time. I expected more scenes of Winter Soldier, after all the movie is named after him, but we don’t get to see much of him and it feels like he is more of a window dressing to the plot. Even in those few moments he manages to scare them all since his humanity switch is off, yet, he is having some soft spots here and there. I always like villains but here it’s different and I feel sorry for him. You can’t blame him for his ruthless assassinations when he has been brainwashed and frozen for time to time for nearly 70 years. Do we get to know more about him, his personal life, and his motives in the next Captain America movie? Fingers crossed.

In many superhero movies and comic book adaptations we can see lots of plot holes and silly plots. To my surprise, I didn’t see major plot holes in the first watch. The writing is pretty much good and smart in this movie. Also Captain America: The Winter Soldier has the best hand-to-hand fight scenes as well as best heavy action scenes. The most disappointing scene for me was to know that the Councilwoman who kicked Alexander’s ass is turned out to be Black Widow. It would have been more excited if it was really the Councilwoman. And the most predictable scene was the last battle. Captain and Falcon manage to replace chips on the first two helicarriers and here comes the Winter Soldier to the third halicarrier to stop them. It would have been more intense if Winter Soldier appeared in the first or second helicarrier and fought through the last one. Also I knew from the start that Alexander Pierce cannot be trusted, he always had that villainous look in his eyes.

I don’t want to spoil this post anymore by describing the post credits. But I can say those two post credits give some clues about next Avengers and Captain America movies. All in all Captain America: The Winter Soldier is all you want from a superhero movie: actions, thriller, comedy, and little bit of drama well balanced in a one movie.

My Rating: 4 out of 5

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

Sunday, April 20, 2014



“Shades of Milk and Honey is precisely the sort of tale we would expect from Jane Austen, if she lived in a world where magic worked.” This is how the Shades of Milk and Honey is described on the back cover of the book. So I picked this book hoping to dive into a romantic historical fantasy world with deep characters.

The story is about Jane Ellsworth, 28 years old plain woman who is a skilled glamourist with no hope for a marriage due to her plain features. Her younger sister, Melody is gifted with beauty and charm. The two sisters became jealous at each other when they began their hunt for eligible men, especially for Mr. Dunkirk. With the arrival of Mr. Vincent, Jane and her skills of glamour gets more attention which makes Melody unsecured of herself leading to a tragic mistake of love and judgment. Throughout this drama, there is beauty woven into each scene with the touch of magic to enhance the art.

What’s most refreshing about Shades of Milk and Honey is how easily Kowal manages to weave the magic into the familiar setting of Regency England without witches, wizards or black magic. Magic is a craft, a skill to be learned and practice, and it is a normal skill as cooking or sewing, which must be mastered by women to accomplish themselves. There is nothing so special about glamour or magic. It is simply something that use to enhance the art and decorate the upper class lifestyle. It can be used to give a little life to a painting by making the hair move in the wind, or to decorate a dining room, or to produce a beautiful music, or to change someone’s appearance. The magic in this book is simply mystical and beautiful. Apart the fact that magic burns the energy in human body, it is not dangerous at all.

Though the glamour is so charming, the story lacks deep characters, romance, memorable heroes and heroines. Jane is a wonderful, interesting, intelligent character though her self-doubt and the comparison to her sister’s beauty is slightly irritating. I would’ve preferred more words developing the relationship between Jane and Mr. Vincent, and more romance bubbles around them. It would have given more romantic atmosphere to the story. However, Melody reminds me of those girls who has so much beauty and do everything to get in the middle of everyone’s attention using silly dramas despite improving their skills and patience. Mr. Dunkirk is a decent gentlemen, an overprotective brother, and he can be easily manipulated. His sister, Beth, is a dreamy girl who always believes in true love. And Captain Livingston is a villainous gentleman after a handsome dowry. The relationships with these characters are quite predictable and dull. I knew from the start that Captain Livingston cannot be trusted, and the mysterious Mt. Vincent is definitely going to be the better half of Jane.

The comparison between Kowal’s work and Jane Austen’s work is inevitable since Kowal tribute this debut to Jane Austen. The world of Shadow of Milk and Honey is a combination of Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Emma; Nervous mother, worried father, a sense governed elder sister, beautiful and passionate younger sister, secret engagements, rakish villainous gentlemen, sprained ankles, and misunderstandings. But Shades of Milk and Honey lacks the depth characters which we deeply dived in Jane Austen novels as well as heart wrenching, dreamy romance that we still fantasize in Jane Austen Novels. However, attempt to imitate Jane Austen’s style is no easy task and Kowal manages to skillfully duplicate Jane Austen’s style with the dash of magic.

Even though the story lacks a depth plot as well as the characters, it is a charming story that can be enjoyed in the summer light with a “… and they lived happily ever after” ending. Despite the silly attempt to deeply dive into the characters and the plot, I enjoyed the writing, the setting and the simple story. This is a perfect magical, historical fiction to relax in a sunny day with a good cup of coffee.

My Rating: 3 out of 5