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Telling the truth, whether you want to hear it or not.

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May 2016

‘Captain America: Civil War’ Review

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**The following is an in-depth review of “Captain America: Civil War” and does contain spoilers.**

Friend versus friend; brother versus brother; Avenger versus Avenger.

Captain America: Civil War” is the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the third – and presumably final – film in the Captain America film series. Based on the2007 comic book miniseries by Mark Millar, “Civil War” involves a falling out between fellow Avengers Captain America and Iron Man, a falling out which splits the team in two and has both factions fighting against each other.

After the events of “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” and the resulting devastation from the events of that film, the United Nations has decided that vigilante superheroes accountable to no one can’t be allowed to continue to operate without certain government sanctions and regulations. The U.N. then draws up the Sokovia Accords, an international treaty which would require superheroes to operate only when directed to by the United Nations, or not to operate at all.

Captain America objects to this level of government overreach, stating that the superheroes involved are being robbed of the most important freedom anyone could ever have: the freedom to choose their own destiny. Because of this, Captain America refuses to sign the treaty.

Following on from the events of the last film – “Captain America: The Winter Solder” – Cap is still searching for his former friend, Bucky, who has been in hiding since the last movie. When Cap discovers Bucky’s whereabouts, he is forced to go after him breaking the law prohibiting unauthorized superheroing and instantly becomes a wanted criminal. It then falls to Iron Man and the legitimate Avengers to bring Captain America to justice.

“Captain America: Civil War” introduces two new characters into the MCU, Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther and Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. While Spider-Man has been seen before in two other film franchises, this marks the first time the Black Panther character has ever been adapted in live action.

Unlike other film series within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Captain America series has been the most like an independent film series, and “Civil War” is no different. There is a clear story that starts in “Captain America: The First Avenger” and continues all the way through “Civil War.” While events from the Avengers movies are – of course – acknowledged, the films don’t rely on those events. The Captain America series stands alone, and it does so magnificently.

Much of the actual storyline is changed from the original comic books, basically distilled down to its essence and then taken in a new direction. The Winter Soldier character, who is an essential piece to the film’s storyline is almost completely absent from the original comic books. This is most prevalent in the way the government oversight is presented.

In the original comic books, the civil war is brought about when the United States passes the Superhero Registration Act. The original comics treat it as a U.S. problem, and something that only affects U.S. superheroes. Because of this, the Black Panther – who is the king of an African country called Wakanda – stays neutral through most of the story. It was changed to be more of a worldwide issue for the express reason of being able to include Black Panther as a major player in the conflict, setting the character up for his own solo movie next year.

The politics are also somewhat downplayed in the film. Captain America still opposes the new laws on the basis that they interfere with the personal freedom of the individual superheroes, but it’s more mentioned in passing than anything else. While this is unfortunate, in mainstream Hollywood – and especially in a film produced by Disney – it isn’t completely surprising.

Directors Joe and Anthony Russo bring the same 1970s espionage thriller feel to this film that they brought to “The Winter Soldier,” and once again it totally works. The film feels raw and real and doesn’t have the manufactured look that most mainstream Hollywood films seem to have these days. “Civil War” doesn’t feel like it rolled off an assembly line, despite having some of the world’s most well-known and mainstream superhero characters in it.

Marvel Studios has done a great job of using every film to build toward the next, and this one is no different. There are many questions left unanswered that makes the viewer really interested in finding out where the franchise will go from here, and how it will all culminate in 2018’s “Avengers: Infinity War.” There is absolutely no status quo which is returned to by the end of the film and it leaves the future of the Avengers very much in doubt.

Superhero movies have definitely stepped up their game in recent years, and “Captain America: Civil War” embodies every ounce of that growth within the genre. It is, without a doubt, one of the best movies of the year.

If you enjoyed this article, feel free to like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitterand check out my column at TheBlaze.

‘Elvis & Nixon’ is a Must See

ELVIS & NIXON
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**The following is an in-depth review of “Elvis & Nixon” and does contain spoilers.**

In December of 1970, Elvis Presley – the “King of Rock n Roll” and one of the biggest celebrities of the time – ran away from home.

Elvis had become restless with his life as basically a shut-in, and he needed to get away from it all. He needed an adventure. Something that was crazy and that he would never have been able to do under normal circumstances. Being a collector of law enforcement badges, Elvis quietly left his home on a cold December night and decided he was going to arrange a meeting with the President of the United States, Richard Nixon, and appeal to the leader of the free world to be made a federal agent-at-large. This is, of course, a title that has never existed in any U.S. law enforcement agency.

Elvis & Nixon” tells the mostly true story of these events. Mostly true because no one really knows what actually happened. History does record certain events, but the specific details of these events remained known only to Elvis himself until his death in 1977.

Elvis did leave his Memphis, TN mansion without informing anyone. He did book passage aboard an American Airlines flight to Los Angeles, CA where he met up with a former employee and friend, Jerry Schilling. Elvis then booked a flight to Washington, D.C, stopped at a donut shop, and eventually did have a meeting with President Nixon in which he wore a purple velvet suit and matching cape.

These events, while absolutely true, are so ridiculous that they easily lend themselves to satire, and satire them this movie absolutely does. “Elvis & Nixon” is very much a comedy, and it isn’t the first time these events have been satired. A much more tongue-in-cheek version was produced in 1997 by premium cable network Showtime as “Elvis Meets Nixon.”

“Elvis & Nixon” stars Michael Shannon as Elvis Presley and Academy Award winner Kevin Spacey as Richard Nixon. Both men turn in marvelous performances, especially Spacey who is one of the most accomplished impressionists in Hollywood. The problem, however, is that Shannon – while an extremely talented actor who turns in a very sincere performance – looks and sounds nothing like Elvis. This, unfortunately, tends to take the viewer out of the film whenever Shannon’s Elvis is on screen.

In spite of Shannon being a less than convincing Elvis, the movie still manages to be very entertaining. The script is smart and the directing is above par. Shannon does a good job of embodying the personality and charm of Elvis, but he’s just so physically different from The King that it becomes distracting.

While the movie does have a wonderful soundtrack of 70s rock hits, it’s conspicuously lacking in any actual Elvis songs. For Elvis fans, this is mildly disappointing.

Much like Frank Langella in “Frost/Nixon,” Kevin Spacey nails Nixon perfectly, despite no attempt being made to make his facial features more mirror those of Nixon with make-up or prosthetics. Had Shannon been able to muster a more convincing Elvis voice and some of Elvis’ trademark mannerism, he might have been better able to overcome the drastic difference in appearance between he and Elvis.

In spite of its flaws – which most assuredly are minute – “Elvis & Nixon” still manages to be an amazingly entertaining movie. While much more serious than the outright parody that was “Elvis Meets Nixon,” “Elvis & Nixon” is still very funny, almost to the point of making your sides hurt in some parts.

The funniest sequence in the film comes once Elvis makes it into the Oval Office. After being briefed on how to behave and proper White House etiquette, Elvis proceeds to break every rule he was given. It almost comes off as Elvis just being Elvis, which makes it all the funnier. He’s Elvis Presley and he’ll do what he wants.

“Elvis & Nixon” is by no means a perfect movie, but it comes awfully close. I honestly can’t recommend this movie enough.

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