Watching "Captain America: The Winter Soldier"
Published on April 23, 2014 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new superhero movie "Captain America: The Winter Soldier."

Here's an excerpt:

"Captain America is a throwback.

At a time when comic book superheroes tend to be edgy and brooding, Captain America is cheerful and friendly, patriotic and loyal. He wants to do what is right. He isn’t consumed by self-doubt or tormented by the burden of being a hero. He’s not Batman, or even the more serious Superman of last year’s big comic reboot, 'Man of Steel.' He’s just an ordinary guy who believes in America, and has extraordinary physical powers.

I liked the first 'Captain America' film well enough, and I was perfectly happy to see Captain America pop up in 'The Avengers.' But it’s tough to get too excited about him, mainly because he’s such a square — not nearly as fun or charismatic as Iron Man or even Thor. What makes 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' interesting is that it depicts Captain American’s growing disillusionment with government secrecy and modern-day surveillance. For the first time, he seems like a man who is capable of thinking for himself and taking matters into his own hands.

The Marvel comic book movies have a lightness of tone that’s really appealing, even during the big climatic fights, and 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' is no different. At times, the banter between Captain America, aka Steve Rogers, and the superspy Black Widow, aka Natasha Romanoff, sounds like something out of an old screwball comedy, which, come to think about it, is how much of 'The Avengers' and 'Iron Man' films sounds, too. Like most comic book adaptations, the interactions between the main characters is the best thing about 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier,' while the explosions, car chases and battles eventually grow tiresome. It’s fun to watch Samuel L. Jackson return as Nick Fury, and it’s a real kick to watch Robert Redford as the duplicitous Alexander Pierce. And Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson, aka Falcon, is a nice addition to the cast. But it’s the stars — Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson — who really carry this film."

Click here to read the whole thing.


Watching "Noah"
Published on April 10, 2014 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new movie "Noah."

Here's an excerpt:

"Let’s give 'Noah' some credit. This film inspired me to read a little bit of the Bible. After watching it, I was like, 'Hmmmm. Maybe I’ll take a look at Genesis and see how that whole thing with the ark really went down.' I was fairly certain that director Darren Aronofsky had taken some liberties with the story when adapting it for the screen.

Now, I don’t really care whether 'Noah' is or isn’t faithful to the original story, and I thought Aronofsky’s interpretation was pretty interesting — an intellectually provocative, highly personal re-imaging of a very famous Bible story. I didn’t always understand Aronofsky’s choices — why, for example, did he think it necessary to portray Noah (Russell Crowe) and his family as vegetarians, sustaining themselves through foraging? — but I was never bored by 'Noah,' and I appreciated his refusal to turn a sometimes dark and morally complex tale into a children’s fable."

Click here to read the whole thing.

The Julie Ruin, Live
Published on April 3, 2014 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about Kathleen Hanna's latest band, The Julie Ruin.

Here's an excerpt:

"On Tuesday I headed to Easthampton, Mass., to catch the band The Julie Ruin at the Flywheel Arts Collective, an old church that has been converted into an all-ages venue.

The Julie Ruin is not especially well-known, although it should be: Their frontwoman is the legendary Kathleen Hanna, who founded the hugely influential punk band Bikini Kill, was a big part of Riot Grrl, the underground feminist punk movement of the 1990s, and later formed the electronica/rock/punk band Le Tigre. Full disclosure: Though I’ve long been aware of Hanna, I hadn’t listened to her music very much until recently, and I became more interested in her after watching the very good 2013 documentary 'The Punk Singer,' which tells her story. The Julie Ruin concert was announced around the time I saw 'The Punk Singer,' and I immediately bought tickets.

The Julie Ruin has one album, 'Run Fast,' and it’s very good — hard-charging, lyrically inventive, noisy yet surprisingly poppy and extremely danceable. At times, the band sounds a little like the B-52s, but with a rawer, punkier edge. Much of Tuesday’s show consisted of songs off the Julie Ruin’s album, as well as older Hanna material, such as the song “Radical or Pro-parental,” off her criminally unknown 1997 solo album, also titled the Julie Ruin."

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Film Capsules
Published on April 1, 2014 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about some of the older films I've watched recently, including "Hatari!" and "Death Wish."

Click here for more.