Wednesday 31 August 2011


(Jerzy Skolimowski, 1970)

An odd and unique product of the British film industry from a transitional period in its history, this arthouse comedy-drama, directed by a Pole and influenced by the European cinema which had risen to International prominence during the 1960s, retains a timeless, utterly distinctive quality. The story of a 15 -year old school leavers first job, at a Public Baths in late 60s London, and his infatuation with an attractive, older, sexually liberated colleague, Deep End nimbly walks the line between its comedic impulses and the darker heart of the material while managing to remain both accessible and ambitious in a manner most modern cinema would never even attempt.
Skolimowski's direction is terrific, plainly the work of a man in love with the exciting possibilities of the medium. With the aid of Charly Steinberger's vivid cinematography, which fairly throbs with colour, he makes Deep End a fascinating, stimulating visual experience. The chief location, the run-down baths, is atmospheric and evocative, all flaking paint in bright shades of green and red, and Skolimowski capitalises on it to use colour and composition to echo his character's states of mind without ever effecting the power of his storytelling. The camerawork is largely handheld, making the emotional drama between the main characters sometimes uncomfortably intimate. The two leads - John Moulder-Brown as fresh-faced Mike, struggling with his sexuality and emotions, and a revelatory Jane Asher, complicated, intelligent, cruel and extremely sexy as Sue -are both great and their chemistry feels unforced.
Diana Dors' cameo as a lecherous older woman who basically uses a stunned Mike as a sex-toy in an intense, funny scene shot in what looks like one lengthy take puts her fading looks but unmistakably sultry appeal to excellent use.
Skolimowski finds surreal imagery in his environment throughout, giving the film a real charge of unpredictable cinematic energy. The final scene is perhaps the finest example of this. One the one hand, its an arty, almost pretentious visual metaphor. But the narrative and location make it work, make it unavoidable, even.
There is also Skolimowski's view of London to consider. His outsiders gaze finds coldness in its streets but colour and warmth in nocturnal Soho, and the use of many dubbed German actors - the film was mainly shot in Munich - adds a layer of distance to our experience of it. It has a markedly strange feel throughout, a great part of its appeal, as is the soundtrack. Can's "Mother Sky" is chopped up and used at different moments throughout, to memorable effect, alongside Cat Stevens, no less effective over the opening and closing credits.

Monday 29 August 2011


(Marcus Nispel, 2011)

It begins with Morgan Freeman, of all people, delivering what should be a portentious, even magisterial voiceover. This is the voice of a "chronicler", more storyteller than historian. But Freeman has his eyes fixed firmly on the paycheck, and he sounds as warm and laid back as he always does. Its as if hes reciting a shopping list, and its a good indicator of the problems which run through this film.
Utterly lacking in any of the Epic grandeur or philosophical and political subtext of John Milius' 1982 take on the character, Nispel's Conan the Barbarian is much more unambiguously a B-Movie. That is no bad thing, indeed, it suits this genre and this character. But the problem is: it is not a great B-Movie.
It gets some things just right. Jason Momoa looks the part as Conan, meaning he can ride a horse wearing only boots, a loincloth and a sword on his back without looking utterly ridiculous. He is physically charismatic and believably destructive in the action scenes, more Robert E Howard's fast, powerful animal fighting machine than Schwarzenegger ever was. But his emotional range is limited to glowering fury and glowering desire with a couple of instances of loutish contentment in-between, and he always seems just slightly too American for the part.
Stephen Lang gives it his all as the villain - Rose McGowan is probably the best thing in the film as his steel-clawed Sorceress of a Daughter - and his intensity makes him watchable throughout.
The prologue, featuring the ever-dependable Ron Perlman (seemingly born to play Barbarian Warriors) as Conan's father, is the best section of the film, establishing Conan's "origin" and personality, and setting off the plot in a spare, enjoyable fifteen minutes or so. The story then, should feel like a major cornerstone in the heroes life, but instead it feels like the middle film in a long-running franchise, as if we've missed out on a series of more interesting, more exotic adventures.
It features a couple of good action sequences, but for the most part Nispel directs them for maximum visceral impact - the influence of "chaos cinema" obvious in his shot and editing choices - so that they are choppy and barely-coherent. The look of the film is also grim; a dirty palette looks like it was filmed through a filter of excrement, and the score isbull and forgettable.
What it does capture is some of Robert E Howard's feverish intensity, the sheer energy and passion of his pulp storytelling. Here that is manifested in a slightly demented quality; the violence is gory and hyper-exaggerated, the sorcery creepy, the wenches beautiful, the combat joyous. Conan cleaves off heads, tortures an enemy by sticking fingers into the hole in his face where his nose used to be, and generally pulverises anything that gets in his way. And believe it or not, that feels like Conan, as he should be.

Sunday 28 August 2011


(Ben Palmer, 2011)
As if in an acknowledgement of just how contrived it is to make a movie from a successful tv sitcom, The Inbetweeners Movie pulls the lamest, most predictable and cliched movie-of-a-tv-show trick possible; it sends its principal characters on holiday.
That contrivance - and the couple of plot contortions required to ensure some of the shows narrative lines are maintained in the film - aside, the film plays just like a longer episode of series. That means that it finds comedy in the universal condition of teenaged life, in the angst and humiliation of every day as a geeky adolescent boy. Many of the laughs are obvious - two of the bigger gags involve a shot of a huge turd and a dance scene where the dancers ineptitude is entirely the point - but no less funny for all that. And the humour here is varied. Much of it may be crude and crass, but there are also the usual cleverly witty exchanges between the boys, some excruciating comedy of embarrassment (that may actually be the dominant mode here), and a few great sight gags.
The most obvious criticism of the film is the treatment of it's female characters, who exist here only to play off the boys, though the counterpart of Will (Simon Bird) is just as clever and confident as he is, even if the film hamstrings her with a cheating Greek waiter for a boyfriend, and the boys are portrayed throughout as hopeless and barely socially or emotionally functional, enriched and improved by the company of the girls.
The great strength of the series has always been its unmistakable ring of truth. The relationship between the boys resonates because it feels so familiar and right, the bizarre dynamic of aggression, need and belonging painfully close to teenage friendships many people have. It also captures the warmth of such friendship, and the joy of youth and freedom in an authentic, low-key manner beyond the glossiness of most American teen comedies. Here that warmth is brought to the fore as the presence of the girls seems to give the film a slightly sweeter sensibility, aided by the fact that this "final installment" demands a happy ending.
But mainly, just like the tv series, it's funny. Really really funny.

Friday 26 August 2011


(Michael Winterbottom, 1999)

Two Views of London dominate cinematic portrayals of the City. There is the Touristic fairytale familiar from a dozen romantic comedies, all Big Ben, black cabs, red buses, jobs in Canary Wharf and mews houses. Then there is the seedy underbelly, familiar from the crime genre (warehouses, East End gangster boozers) and social realist portrayals of poverty (tower blocks, crack houses). The middle ground, the commuter suburbs, the lower middle class millions in terraced houses in unremarkable areas, riding the tube and buses to work, shopping in retail parks and watching satellite television, they have been under-represented in modern cinema. Mike Leigh has addressed this territory, in Another Year and Secrets and Lies, but Michael Winterbottom's Wonderland is perhaps the definitive film of this other, real London.
Loosely circling three sisters and their network of friends, family and lovers, Winterbottom's film is largely shot handheld, allowing for a couple of stunningly spontaneous captures of moments in the metropolis; the most obvious being a long shot following a sister as she flees a bad blind date in a pub through a crowded, lairy West End. This is London as it really is, by turns beautiful, bleak, exciting, ugly and exhilarating, but always teeming with vitality and life. Something of the unknowable immensity of the place is communicated too, through the variety of experiences Winterbottom portrays, from neat lives in middle-class suburbia, council estates filled with quiet desperation, urbanite hipsters on the singles scene, tourists in a posh hotel and the loneliness of young commuters, working in service industries and retail jobs in Central London. The writing is acute, and together with some moving performances, it helps the film capture many of these people in recognisable slices of experience. The cast is superb and based on some proven British talent, from Gina McKee and John Simm to Shirley Henderson and Ian Hart.
One of Winterbottom's greatest gifts as a director is an ability to capture moments of fleeting beauty within his loose, energetic style. The verisimilitude never oppresses his sensual appeal, and here is an object lesson: never have some ugly parts of London looked so lovely, and the atmosphere is vivid and effortlessly rendered. The visual style is matched to memorable effect by Michael Nyman's haunting and uplifting soundtrack, a symphony for London itself.

Thursday 25 August 2011


(Milos Forman, 1965)

Forman's second feature film - and the work that made his reputation internationally - is a fluid mix of warm comedy, emotional drama and light socio-political commentary. Structured around a few incidents in the life of a girl working in a factory town which has been stripped of its male population by National Service, it is a fine showcase of the directors qualities.
He makes his points - chiefly about the difficulty of being a "normal" teenager under a Totalitarian political system that makes every decision for its people - but never at the expense of his warm, always humanist and sympathetic characterisation, or his supple storytelling.
And it is supple. The story is simple and told in only a handful of long scenes, each with an entirely different mood and dynamic. The most celebrated focuses upon two lovers and their pre and (naked) post-coital conversation, and it is beautifully observed - as is the whole film - and nicely shot and acted. It is sandwiched between a bitterly funny argument between three soldiers who have struck out with girls at a party and a raging row between the heroine and her ex over their split. There is also a brilliant, excruciatingly extended comic set piece at that party, another when a son has to share a bed with his angry parents and the three bicker at cross-currents while trying to get to sleep, some gentle interludes when we watch the life of the factory floor, and a couple of telling examples of state interference in the personal lives of it's citizens, represented by meetings where policy is decided and/or communicated.
Forman frequently follows characters away from his central plot strand, giving each of them equal weight and sympathy for a long scene, from the horny middle-aged reservists to the worried parents and the fatherly factory boss. The script and performances - many by non-actors - are realistic and funny, the photography inventive and exciting, and the whole thing has aged incredibly well. Indeed, it feels startlingly modern, with its all-encompassing gaze, its loose camerawork, its sympathy for its romantic teenaged protagonists and its stylistic eclecticism.

Monday 22 August 2011


(John Michael McDonagh, 2011)

In the years immediately following the release of Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino's influence on cinema was massive. Mainstream action blockbusters got sidetracked by scenes where characters discussed pop culture minutae. Every single low-budget crime film tried to play with pulp conventions by utilising quirky takes on archetypes or infusing stockly generic situations with a sort of realism. It didn't last long, however. Tarantino is hard to get right - he himself has struggled in a couple of works since - and a film can look thoroughly pawltry if it tries and fails to ape his work.
But in another way, Tarantino has been internalized by pop culture. When a film combines crime thriller plot elements with blackly comic dialogue, seemingly random cultural references and some homages to classic or cultish cinema, the audience has a point of reference. Nobody is confused by this mixture. In theatre, Martin McDonagh has made such a mix his own in a series of savage, hilarious plays mainly set in the West of Ireland. He softened that sensibility for his first feature, In Bruges. Now his brother, John Michael McDonagh makes his debut as writer-director, and there is a definite family resemblance.
The Guard is a crime thriller with more laughs than thrills, and adds to its quietly Tarantino-esque pleasures an inimitably Irish viewpoint which gives it a refreshing, soulful quality also present in In Bruges. It shares a star with that film, and Brendan Gleeson is terrific here; suggesting the depth and ambiguity of his Galway Police Sergeant inside his first scene but always funny, charismatic and entertaining to watch. He also has abundant chemistry with Don Cheadle as the fish-out-water FBI Officer stunned by his attitude.
The Guard, Cheadle aside, is incredibly Irish, as if McDonagh set out to reflect the moods and variety of the country and its people in his film, which is melancholy yet jolly, coal black yet hilarious, violent yet tender, warm yet stoic in the face of strong emotion, rambling, foul-mouthed, literate yet cinematic, bawdy, witty and even a little moving.
It has a sure feel for the landscape and language of the Irish West, bleakly empty and beautiful and filled with slyly, dryly funny eccentrics. McDonagh fills it with big 'scope images of the yawning skies above Connemara and its expanses of green stretching off to the horizon, his figures isolated in corners of the large frame. The obvious Leone reference is underlined by the Morricone pastiche of the soundtrack, which in turn points up the big Western-style moral choice of the climax, when Gleeson's Boyle has a "man's gotta do" moment.
Perhaps surprisingly, the Western echoes fit snugly alongside McDonaghs terrific dialogue, which allows Drug smugglers to quote Nietzsche, reference Bertrand Russell and ponder the lyrics of "Ode to Billy Joe", while Boyle himself discusses Gogol and listens to Chet Baker.
The supporting cast is excellent, with such reliable actors as Liam Cunningham and Mark Strong offering casually great work and plainly loving McDonagh's writing.
In the end, the funny stuff stops and there is gunplay, death and reckoning. Yet somehow, McDonagh makes that work too. His first film is a rousingly satisfying experience and suggests that he may have a fine, fascinating career awaiting him.

Thursday 18 August 2011


(John Milius, 1982)

Robert E Howard's "Conan" stories are pulp at it's most fevered and breathless. Howard loved his creation and the world he put him in, and that passion is obvious in his writing; vivid and excited, his descriptions of violence and sex are adolescent and stirring, the intensity undeniable and addictive. John Milius takes himself a lot more seriously than anybody making a movie of such material ought to, and so the tone of his Conan the Barbarian is odd, dissonances obvious throughout.
Milius has something serious in mind, and as such his film begins with a Nietzsche quote (no matter that its the most bumper sticker Nietzsche line possible), takes much of its worldview from Nietzsche, and features some portentious exchanges about pagan gods, philosophy (prompting Conan's famous line about what is "best in life", which Milius cribbed from Genghis Khan) and even a good dose of satirical intent. The "snake cult" who represent the villains here are an amusing shot at hippies and new age living, and Conan's violent destruction of their organisation very much a right-wing fantasy.
But for all that, the script (co-written by Oliver Stone) takes many scenes and ideas straight from the pages of Howard, and so there are sorceresses, giant snakes, charming thieves and usurper kings here, bound together by a series of often semi-incompetently staged action scenes. Milius isn't interested in action, but that is the heart of Conan; he is a Warrior, a fearsome, almost unbeatable one, something that Howard underlines with plenty of fight and battle sequences, and something that is rarely communicated by this film. Still, it works. Schwarzenegger cannot even project emotion, but his presence is inarguable, his charisma obvious even in this early lead. He may lack the ferocity and cunning of Howard's Conan, but he is a movie star, even here. Milius casts around him with some class - James Earl Jones and Max Von Sydow show up - and Sandahl Bergman is good value as Conan's Valkyrie lover, Valeria, while a series of smoking hot Euro-babes, some of them soft core stars like Nadiuska, who appears fleetingly but memorably as Conan's mother, appear in small parts.
The production design is handsome and the lovely Spanish locations give the whole enterprise a surprising whiff of the spaghetti Western, gritty and battered, suggesting an ancient World and old gods.
It is beautifully shot with a genuinely epic sweep, and Basil Poledouris' fantastic score is perhaps the films true star: rousing, romantic, melodic and thunderous, it is one of the best soundtracks of the 1980s, and contributes immeasurably to the films majesty.
By the end, Milius has made Conan a sort of Nietzschean übermensch, killing his "father" in order to replace him (a similar ending to Milius' script for Apocalypse Now and his friend George Lucas' Star Wars saga) and taken elements from lots of cultural sources; samurai cinema, the European Epics of the '50s and '60s and John Ford. The influence of Ford is telling; Milius is an old-fashioned director, and his scenes play out solidly, often a little stiffly, without the spark or imagination some filmmakers might have brought to the material.
But Conan does at least punch out a camel.......

Monday 15 August 2011


(Rupert Wyatt, 2011)

The central section of Rise of the Planet of the Apes contains perhaps the best purely cinematic storytelling of any of this Summers blockbusters. That is when the human characters - never the movies strength, to be honest - fade into the background, and the narrative focuses almost entirely on chimpanzee Caesar and his experiences in an Ape Pound. Here we are shown what is basically a Primate Prison movie, with Caesar the young innocent having to learn the ropes on the inside, surviving violence and intimidation. Andy Serkis provided the visual references for the cgi, and he and the effects are marvellous in these sequences. Director Wyatt knows exactly what he is doing. His shot choices can be beautiful, and in the climactic scenes are often exhilaratingly spectacular, as well as eerie and often blackly comic, but they never weaken the muscular storytelling on display. He lays out the geography of this prison, clarifies the characters and conflicts, and moves the whole thing along at a nicely gripping pace.
But that is true of the film as a whole. Despite the void at the centre of the main human characters, who all seem cardboard cut-outs, even James Franco's "hero" (and especially Freida Pinto's pointless girlfriend), the exposition in the first act is done effectively and without tedium, and after that a note of dread enters proceedings and is made shriller as the film advances towards its climax.
By then, audience sympathy lies almost entirely with the monkeys. The villainous humans - cartoonishly personified by David Oyelowo in a suit and glasses - make sure of that.
The climax is occasionally magnificent and always stirring, even if the plot does contain some logical slips and the non-Ape characterisation is so disappointing. The set-pieces allow Wyatt to pull off some great, original shots, like the trees shedding leaves onto a suburban street as chimpanzees swing through the canopy or the mist-obscured Golden Gate bridge turned into a battleground. The references to the original series of Planet of the Apes films here are mostly subtle and even witty.
All that would be for nought, however, if Caesar's story didn't move viewers. But move them it does, and that puts this film in that rare position; this is a vastly superior summer blockbuster, uncommonly intelligent, engrossing and brilliantly made.

Sunday 14 August 2011


(John Lasseter, Brad Lewis, 2011)

We expect so much of Pixar. This is a company which primarily makes films for children, yet, such has been the success and popularity of those films, so transcendent have a handful been, telling tales which work equally well for adults, with great sophistication, wit and beauty, that we expect miracles with each and every release. We expect dazzling storytelling in the service of tales full of drama yet laced with comedy, we expect strong, simple characterisation with an underlying resonance and complexity, we expect an effortless visual splendour and a sort of mythic weight to the narrative and light, piercing cultural references and a warmth of sensibility, and massive, original action sequences, and movie stars giving voice performances without distracting us, and an emotional charge. We expect a lot of Pixar, in other words.
Cars was probably the least critically successful of the companies previous films. A breezy, old-fashioned Doc Hollywood retread, it is a nice little film. But those expectations mean that was never going to be enough. So Cars 2, the most outright Kid-friendly of all Pixars films, and a bright, poppy, thematically thin mix of spy farce and race movie, was always bound to take some critical flak.
It makes Mater, the major source of comic relief in the first film, the main character. He is a broad creation and the film takes its lead from him, with many fish-out-of-water gags as he cuts a swathe through Japan, Italy and England, mistaken for a US Secret Agent throughout and fluking his way through a couple of extended action set-pieces along the way. Some of the spy pastiche material - with Michael Caine slightly miscast as the legendary Britih Spy Fin McMasters - recalls the previous Pixar masterpiece The Incredibles, but here the target audience is firmly six years old, and Cars 2 does an impressive, whole-hearted job in wooing that audience, with lots of slapstick and sight gags, and a brighter, more simplified storytelling approach than ever before. Many of those expectations are fulfilled, sure, but Cars 2 simply isn't interested in being a "typical" Pixar film. It just wants to be fun for a five year old.

Friday 12 August 2011


(George Tillman Jr, 2010)

Lean, tough and narratively streamlined, Faster is a revenge thriller done '70s style.
That means it has a grindhouse quality most evident in the visceral relish applied to the violence. Gunfights are loud and bloody. Fistfights are brief, brutal, agonising. Car chases are ferociously quick and thrilling. People are coldly executed, throats cut, shot in the head, stabbed repeatedly.
Yet it's never boring or repetitive. Tillman keeps it moderately stylish throughout - while never allowing it to be less than gritty - and the script is nicely paced, presenting the characters with appealing clarity and providing some witty dialogue. The main figures appear archetypes, at first. The Driver, The Cop and The Killer. Yet over the course of the film each is given a little depth, a smidgen of complexity, which makes the three-way confrontation at the climax all the more satisfying.
This is a film that understands the power of pulp, that sees which cliches work, and knows how best to apply them. The revenge thriller is an easy genre, in a way, but it's rarely done quite so well as it is here. The mission is established before the credits have finished, the stakes set up within a half hour, and then we just watch it twist it's way to a bloody conclusion.
Dwayne Johnson is obviously terrific in Tillman's vigorous action sequences, but he does well containing his natural warmth and humour throughout, presenting his Driver as a being driven purely on hate and finding that hard. The rest of a fine cast are impressive, and the sense of a surprisingly classy enterprise is further enhanced by Clint Mansell's great score.
An action film as they should be: taut, powerful, direct. Like a punch to the solar plexus.

Monday 8 August 2011


(J.J. Abrams, 2011)

Steven Spielberg's influence is so thorough and complete in the ways we produce, market and consume Blockbuster Cinema that it is difficult to overstate the effect his work has had upon American film. But few films dare to ape Spielberg's actual style or interests. For his follow-up to Star Trek, J.J. Abrams got Spielberg involved as a producer, and the result, the gently 80s-retro Super 8, is no less than a Spielberg pastiche, using Spielbergian visual motifs, Spielbergian music, accessing Spielbergian biographical detail - the geeky teens making their own movie - in a Spielbergian setting (generic yet idealised lower middle-class small-town America) all in an attempt to evoke a big Spielbergian surge of awed, dewy emotion.
That much it does well. There are many good things here: the core group of boys are terrific; playing recognisable types, they share a beautifully unforced chemistry as they bicker and make each other laugh in what is one of the best portrayals of boyhood friendship I've ever seen. Abrams excels with all of the set-up: the situation of the young hero, living with his widowed Father, his crush on a girl from school, and the enthusiasm and energy they all put into making their super-8 zombie movie is all grounded in a vividly atmospheric world with a tangible sense of place. Kyle Chandler, so consistently excellent on television in Friday Night Lights, is good here also, while Noah Emmerich is an effortlessly hissable military villain.
But that is part of the problem with Super 8; early on, it's a charming, nicely observed, impeccably shot (except for Abrams' habitual overuse of lens flares, which crop up again and again) story of small town boyhood. The genre component, while authentically Spielberian, is the films weakness. Some of the suspenseful set-pieces are well-done, but mostly it's derivative and horribly over-familiar in conception and execution. The E.T. echoes pile up, only without E.T.s quality. The creature design is almost comically predictable, and the final action sequence tame and anti-climactic.
Of course that's because the real climax is the emotional crescendo reached in the final scene, where Abrams seeks to evoke the big emotional thunderclaps familiar from early Spielberg. Only he never quite pulls it off. Michael Giacchino's soundtrack does much of the work, but Gacchino is no John Williams, and Abrams, for all his efforts, is no Spielberg, and so it ends on an emotional surge, but perhaps not quite as powerful as it could be.

Tuesday 2 August 2011


(Joe Johnston, 2011)

Like Superman, Captain America is a character much-derided by those (lets call them casual Super-hero fans) who favour edgier, seemingly more complex modern Super-heroes such as Batman, Spider-Man and Wolverine. That is somewhat understandable. On the surface, he seems an overly-literal, simple-minded creation. Visually he is a walking flag, resplendent in red White and blue, his costume encompassing both stars and stripes, together with little (eagle?) wings on the mask. His creation as a propaganda tool during the Second World War now makes him seem dated and irrelevant. His characterisation can be - in the wrong creative hands - reductive and silly, restricting him to the role of the big strong boy scout. Then there is the shield...
Well, Johnston's fun blockbuster addresses most of these issues and displays a fine understanding of just what makes the character of Captain America so compelling. Nicely grounded with a vivid grasp of a certain sort of zippily pop-cultural view of the Second World War which is perfectly suited to the character, the film spends its first act establishing its characters and making Chris Evans' Steve Rogers a truly likeable and sympathetic underdog. With the classical simplicity which is very much a hallmark of Marvels best characters, also present whenever nerdy Peter Parker cuts loose as the wiseass god of skyscrapers Spider-Man or when weedy, repressed Bruce Banner gives into his rage and levels buildings as the Hulk, Rogers' transformation into the "Super Soldier" Captain is made tremendously satisfying by how realistic, convincingly mounted and well-acted his sickly asthmatic beginnings are.
Indeed, Captain America gets its textures right throughout, stealing liberally from Raiders of the Lost Ark and sprinkling in some nice retro-futurist designs for its Hydra villains Nazis-with-black-magic World. There is also some wit in the details; the sequence where Rogers is used as a propaganda tool for selling War Bonds may just be the films best passage and actually provides an explanation for the ridiculous symbolism of that costume.
The cast give good accounts of themselves: Evans is convincing and winning throughout and effortlessly handles the action scenes, Tommy Lee-Jones is as good as ever in a one-note part, Hayley Atwell makes her vague cypher of an idealised strong 1940s Woman relatable and even affecting, and Hugo Weaving manages to make the Red Skull both disturbing and hilarious with what seems an outright Werner Herzog impersonation. The action scenes are competent if never inspired, but the patient pacing of the love story and Rogers' growth as a hero give it a surprising emotional charge by the slightly underwhelming, somewhat rote, underexplained climax. The coda, then, seems bizarre and even an attempt to shortchange the audience in advance of next years massive all-star The Avengers, which will feature this hero alongside Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk and Hawkeye.
It is also more than a little overlong, but its visual richness and the ease of the storytelling mean that Captain America mostly works as a fun summer blockbuster in its own right.