Saturday, February 28, 2015

Marvel's Agent Carter: Valediction

Spoilers.

The eight episodes have all been played, and milked for all their worth; Agent Carter's few weeks of fame is over and done, and this Tuesday we'll be back to watching Agents of SHIELD again, like nothing ever happened. But it did -- oh, it did. 

Valediction wrapped the show up nice and neatly, but there was surprisingly and very interestingly a good amount of things left open-ended. Like, say, the amount of things you would want to leave open-ended if you wanted to maybe come back to the storyline sometime, but also not too much to make it necessary. Obviously, they'd have to be crazy to not bring this show back for a second season eventually. Or maybe they should make it a movie!

I will definitely miss this lady's upright character, heroism, and fantastic sense of fashion.

Anyway, I think this final ep was my second favorite to A Sin to Err, with lots and lots of vintage-styled action-ing and adventuring and drama. With all the good guys finally on the same side, teaming up against the villains to save the day and the city!

With his name finally cleared, Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) comes back for his fame and glory, and is promptly put in a way worse situation than he ever would have been under arrest for treason. Even though his appearances always took away from Jarvis' role (and this one was no exception) Howard is easily one of the most established characters in the show, and Cooper's performance of him is endlessly enjoyable.

And Jarvis (James D'Arcy) is by no means forgotten in this final round, and gets plenty to do and a very nice final scene with Peggy. There are a lot of great characters in this show, I know, but seriously, Agent Carter (the lady and the series) would have been lost without Jarvis. He was from the beginning, and still is my favorite.

Two awesome men, and two self-absorbed men.

Jarvis, Howard, and Peggy all started out great, but Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) has slowly been climbing up to their level for the past seven episodes. I'm not sure exactly when he made it, but he did, and I noticed it clearly this time when I was more interested in what he was going to do than any of the other characters. I wanted him to play an important part in saving the day, and he did; using brains instead of brawn. And, I wanted him to make some headway with Peggy -- and okay, there wasn't as much as I could have handled with great happiness, but the scene was adorable, and promised a lot. He finally gets up the courage to ask her out, putting aside his crutch before talking to her, and thankfully doesn't turn into a bumbling idiot for being nervous. He was perfect. And even though she really couldn't go just then, the huge grin on her face after he looks away said everything we needed to know.

My two favorite Agent Carter men.

I saved the best for last -- Hayley Atwell's titular heroine. This may not have been her best episode, but when you're so constantly awesome, who can even say? She gets a nice and exciting hand-to-hand combat scene with the evil villain Dottie, and then she got an even better dramatic scene about Steve. The previously mentioned grin I loved because it showed her feminine, romantic side. Sure she's a level-headed, sensible, strong woman who can beat people up, but she's still a woman. And she knows her own worth, as she says in a speech near the end. And she bravely takes that first huge step toward moving on from Captain America.

Great job, Peggy.

It was nice to see her do that, but as for us, we'd forgotten Cap from the very first episode of this show -- with all this vintage awesomeness fueled by Peggy and co. distracting us, we didn't miss him for a second.

Here are the rest of my Agent Carter reviews:
Now Is Not the End/Bridge and Tunnel
Time and Tide
The Blitzkrieg Button
The Iron Ceiling
A Sin to Err
SNAFU

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Marvel's Agent Carter: SNAFU

Mild Spoilers. Bigger Spoilers are marked.

Peggy (Hayley Atwell) and Jarvis (James D'Arcy) have hit one; a snafu; a problem that slows down their mission. It lands Peggy in the SSR interrogation room, with Dooley, (Shea Whigham) Thompson (Chad Michael Murray) and Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) all taking turns at her, while the real baddies set their plan in motion.

While the plot speeds and slows and turns in strange places, these two are always there to keep everything hunky-dory.

And, more importantly, the show hit one too; it's the second-to-last episode, so why is there still so much plot-delaying going on? Peggy and Jarvis spent this entire episode inside the SSR, mostly not even doing anything -- except talking, which really wasn't that bad since that's what they do best together -- but the action was limited, and limited mostly to Thompson and Sousa, and there was hardly any forward motion plot-wise. Or character-wise for that matter.

Sousa's character took a few limping steps back (sorry) when he suddenly got to be a temporary idiot so that Evil Dottie could escape (Thompson had his turn last ep, so I guess Sousa had it coming). At least he also got to be the first to decide to believe Carter. And even if the final installment gives no more development that this one did, he'll still be a good, well-handled and interesting character in my opinion. I certainly hope they don't though; he's just good enough to need to be even better.

You go Sousa, you can overcome these disabilities! And I'm not referring to the leg...

Thompson however, has reached him peak, so I didn't regret the lack of movement his character got. Accept it, and move on. Chief Dooley got the highest concentration this time, and they gave it their all, but he still didn't manage to go anywhere special or memorable. (Spoiler) When I sat down to write this, I momentarily forgot that he had died, and only remembered it as a plot point, not a character one. I appreciate their attempts at trying to jerk feelings for him out of us by including his family problems, but they should have started earlier if they really wanted it to work. (End Spoiler)

Peggy's character development seems to have been hijacked by her evil opposite; I'm fairly sure that Dottie (Bridget Regan) actually got more screen time than Peggy did this time. And Dottie's character has nowhere to go -- she's a stone-cold murdering psychopath. You make your villains stone-cold murdering psychopaths so that you don't have to spend time and effort on them!

One more of Jarvis because I haven't been able to use as many pictures of him in my past reviews as I would have liked. Jarvis is not a stone-cold murdering Psychopath. He is awesome.

Poor Peggy and Jarvis are left in the waiting room with not much to do except set each other up for cute, witty one-liners (as fun as those are). They do have one good, classic scene, all funny and cheeky, that was able to distract me until next week (I hope). And otherwise, Peggy coming clean to her co-workers about her personal mission and then getting emotional over wanting to protect Steve Rogers' blood was pretty interesting. And I thought it was totally sweet when Jarvis told Peggy how many times he panicked with he realized something had happened to her.

Next week is the last episode, and the less it moves along, the less I want it to end. Right now I really, really, really don't want it to end.

The past six episode's reviews:
Episodes 1 and 2
Episode 3
Episode 4
Episode 5
Episode 6

Monday, February 16, 2015

Old Fashioned

Clay (Rik Swartzwelder) owns an antique shop in a small town. He's smart and kind and reserved... and single. And he seems to be the only person in his circle of friends who is okay with that; everyone else is constantly trying to set him up with someone or other. But Clay has a dark past full of relationships, and now that he's turned his back to that lifestyle, he's beginning to think that he is meant to be permanently single. Who would want someone with so many skeletons in their closet of memorabilia anyway? So when he rents out the upstairs apartment of his shop to a roaming, pretty girl named Amber, (Elizabeth Ann Roberts) who makes her interest in him impossible to ignore, things do everything but fall magically into place.

See, Clay has a theory, 9 years in the making, that consists of many ideas and even more statistics, but boils down to this: the outlook on dating and relationships that society takes for granted is all wrong. He'd tried it to an extreme, and all he saw come from it was misery, so now he wants to try the exact opposite -- something you might call "traditional," or "old fashioned" -- courting.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I  gave up childish ways. -- 1 Cor 13:11

As much as I would have liked to see a cute, modern-day classic courtship play out, that wouldn't have made for a very good movie. The filmmakers knew, and eventually Clay discovered, that every relationship is different, and even the most well-meaning plans can fall apart, not being one-size-fits-all. The base of Clay and this film's idea is the mindset behind the never ending search for a life-long partner, and that I think the film handled well. It encourages us to respect others and ourselves in our search; to not jump headlong into a steep slope of slippery fun, but to keep hold of what is important to us, and will still be important once the whirlwind dies down.

Old Fashioned is a Christian movie -- that is, it has a clear Christian message in it -- but it isn't overly preachy, one of my least favorite things about your average "Christian" flick. This one keeps it real, with real, flawed characters, and doesn't shy away from the darker, more grown-up themes the movie's plot required focus on, and I appreciated that.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. -- 1 Cor 13:13

It also had a nice artistic air, another unusual trait for this kind of flick. Movies are a form of art, so my opinion is that if you are going to endeavor to make one, no matter what point you want to get across, you have to make it artistic. Otherwise, it would be like sitting down to paint a beautiful scene on a canvas, but instead of painting the picture, you write on the canvas and describe the scene painstakingly in words. A lot of Christian films are only made into films to increase the audience, when they should have stayed as a non-fiction book. Old Fashioned occasionally plays like a book, with moral advice jumping to the screen as if it were straight from a page, but when it's not like that, it reaches a level I would call artistic.

This was mostly noticeable in the filming style, which was often lovely, and had some interesting symbolism. The script was probably the biggest downfall, and the acting landed somewhere in between. The supporting cast was good -- everyone is convincing and comfortable, and I was particularly impressed with Tyler Hollinger. The leading man is the most noticeably problematic, but probably only because he was the lead, and the character, being pretty complex was just too much for him. I wouldn't say he was terrible either. In fact I definitely need to give Swartzwelder props for being the lead, the writer, and the director -- he obviously had a lot on his plate, and handled it all very well. The leading lady now, she was the best on the acting front. Her character had a shallower arc, and fewer complexities, but she was so easily charming and natural, and kept the film light and engaging.

Love never ends. ... -- 1 Cor 13:8

As a romantic drama, it wasn't what I was hoping for. I prefer my romances to be comedies, and a few more laughs would have been very welcome, and necessary if this film was shooting to be a Certified Sarah's Favorite. But it wasn't made just for my personal enjoyment, and even if it isn't my kind of movie, I can definitely still appreciate the kind of movie it is. Upon letting go of my original expectations I found it a moving and honest drama that focused on more and deeper things than just the palpable romance -- some things a lot of films, and I fear people, may not even know exists.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. -- 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Marvel's Agent Carter: A Sin to Err

Spoilers throughout.

The third act of the Agent Carter mini-series began last night, and last night, my expectations of the show were fulfilled, with the best episode yet!

This episode was brimming with the stuff I was expecting we would get to see from the very beginning, but we were only teased with, with a couple exciting scenes per ep, and the promise of lots of good drama to come. Well. Here we get practically non-stop action (that isn't a bit too much either, by the way) and are given our due reward for waiting patiently for some real conflict between characters.

I love these two so much...

Plus, the dynamic duo of our heroine Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and her handy butler-on-loan Edwin Jarvis (James D'Arcy) is back in full swing. They were on a semi hiatus for two weeks, and I missed their cheeky banter dearly, but there's almost enough here to make up for it -- almost. Jarvis even gets to assist Peggy in a fight, and, in my favorite sequence, actually doesn't want to go on one of Peggy's little missions -- the one time Peggy does want him to come -- probably because he knows it would get him two slaps and a shin-kick, but I doubt he knew about the scary little boy! Peggy and Jarvis are always fun and hilarious together, but in a cool turn of events, even the parts that didn't have them working together were interesting, fun and exciting.

We finally have some tangible, hopefully long-lasting baddies to root against, who are working directly against Peggy and the unsuspecting SSR. And then there's the SSR, who antagonize Peggy for a legitimate reason now, since they think she's a traitor, and with good reason. On that note Agent Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) has suddenly become very interesting with his complicated relationship to Peggy, finding out she's a traitor, but still not quite believing it. The scene where he confronts but doesn't shoot Peggy is more insightful into his character than any number of insensitive remarks about his leg could ever be.

This guy is not bad. Neither is he great -- at dealing with crying women.

And, in fact, the same could be said for Thompson (Chad Michael Murray) and his getting punched out by Peggy. It almost annoyed me when he held the gun within her reach, because it's usually a writing trick to help the hero out, but in this situation it was actually in his character; his over-confidence was his downfall. The latter two mentioned men have slowly built up characters that at this point I would say have finally crossed the line into fully developed, interesting characters. Sadly, they kinda left Chief Dooley (Shea Whigham) behind a little bit; he gets plenty of time in this ep, but his character still feels a little forced.

One little thing that made me very happy was Peggy's neighbor Angie's (Lyndsy Fonseca) involvement in the plot. When she helps Peggy out and show off her acting skills at the same time was a great bit. But the best was that she wasn't even slightly angry with Peggy because of her lying to her, something they could have easily gone for, but happily didn't.

What a dame.

There's not much left to say about our stylish and savvy titular heroine that hasn't already been said, but I feel like she needs some extra praise. Even though my personal favorite aspect of the show is Peggy plus Jarvis, it's really Peggy that is the best part of this series. She is sensational; that perfect vintage blend of femininity and strength, smart, sincere and brave; an amazingly engaging character, and I can't wait to see what she does next!

Past Agent Carter episode reviews:
Episodes 1 and 2
Episode 3
Episode 4
Episode 5

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Marvel's Agent Carter: The Iron Ceiling

Mild Spoilers.

The plot thickens and Peggy Carter is reunited with her WWII buddies, the Howling Commandos!

If the last four episodes were enough to establish a formula for this show, then this episode broke out of it, making for an unusual and memorable, but not necessarily better-then-the-others episode.

First of all, it's quite different because our awesome heroine Peggy (Hayley Atwell) and her awesome sidekick Jarvis (James D'Arcy) are not on such good terms as they were before. The buddy-buddy banter is gone. Peggy is angry at Jarvis -- along with that scoundrel Howard Stark -- because he did his duty for his employer and didn't tell Peggy the whole truth. I was worried that once Peggy stopped working for Howard that Jarvis would disappear too, but I was happily wrong; although he's not in the show nearly as much as he has been, he still gets included, and is promised more for later.

I'm so glad the writers knew how fantastic a character Jarvis is. Doesn't Peggy look lonely without him?

And then they really went all-out with the formula-busting, and had Peggy up her game in the office wars. (I suppose it's a lot easier when you're not trying to sneak around behind all your co-workers with your own noble agenda.) After showing off her skills as a cryptographer, Peggy fights hard for a chance to go to Russia on a mission under Agent Thompson (Chad Michael Murray) (who doesn't want her to come, obviously) for no other apparent reason than that she really wants to. Fortunately, she's friends with a fellow named "Dum-Dum Dugan" who has a magnificent ginger mustache, and wears a bowler hat. She gets him and his group into the party, and he returns the favor.

The highlight of this episode was the guest appearance of Neal McDonough as Dugan, and the rest of the Howling Commandos, or the 107th regiment. McDonough's Dugan was the only character to actually have been in Captain America: The First Avenger, but who really cares? The other three guys had cute nicknames and joked around comfortably with Peggy (everyone loves Peggy) and they fit right in.

There's Pinky Pinkerton, Dum-Dum Dugan, and Happy Sam Sawyer.

The most shockingly out-of-formula things happen on the mission though; it just keeps getting better and better! First, Agent Thompson gets some actual, real, serious character development, and I was impressed. I was also impressed by his ability to receive the character development and not have it hinder his remarkable brooding abilities. Then, when the mission hits a kink (which of course it does!) Peggy steps up and proves herself to Thompson, and, he acknowledges it! He admits it for all the world to hear! Well; to Peggy at least -- and that's enough for her. She's not one to hold a grudge and graciously makes him look good in front of the chief later as well.

Peggy's so cool. And so is that hat. And that mustache. And the dude who's wearing them. This picture's just all kinds of cool.

The one part of the formula the definitely stayed though, was the setting up for the next episode stuff. That's what Agent Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) was still up to. He finally makes some headway in that department, and next week promises some good stuff for him, some good stuff for Peggy and, well, some bad stuff for Peggy too, but, you know, bad in a good way.

As usual, I'm excited to see where "Miss Union Jack" is going to lead us next.

Previous Agent Carter reviews:
Episodes 1 and 2
Episode 3
Episode 4

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Upcoming Movie Roundup - February

Last month my personal predictions were accurate: Agent Carter wound up being just as fun as I expected and saved January from being a complete let-down in the entertainment department. Here I review episodes 1 and 2, 3 here, and 4 here. February will be happily filled with them as well as the last four air! But on the film side, February is looking up from its preceding month with a few movies with some potential, and one surprise must-see!

Seventh Son
Feb 6th; PG-13
Another one of those adaptations from a YA novel. This one isn't dystopian though, so that's different. It's more Eragon, with a magic-filled medieval setting. And there's a heavy dose of the creepy sorcery. Ben Barnes plays the lead, the seventh son of a seventh son, which makes him very important somehow, and Jeff Bridges is his mentor, who must train him to-- I don't know, fight evil... that part isn't very clear. Julianne Moore is the villain. I don't imagine this will be good at all, and though the trailer wants you to think "300" or "Godzilla," it looks more like "Clash of the Titans" except even more weird and even less popular.




Jupiter Ascending
Feb 6th; PG-13
Not to be confused with Mercury Rising. This movie can be completely balanced with pros and cons, see: Pro; it has Sean Bean (and I'm very curious to see how his death scene turns out) -- con; it has Channing Tatum. It has Eddie Redamayne (and he's doing a cool "whisper every line" thing) -- it has Mila Kunis (and she wears an awful lot of makeup for her "degrading, unglamorous job"). It has James D'Arcy -- apparently; 3 trailers and five days til release and I've seen no evidence of his existence in this movie. It has super cool special effects -- that will undoubtedly smother any trace of a compelling plot line. With so many extending action sequences, at least we won't have to sit through too much of the un-compelling and weird plot -- who am I kidding, we definitely are. And thus the balance tips.




Kingsman: The Secret Service
Feb 13th; R
I have been excitedly anticipating this movie since I first saw the trailer sometime in September. Or, rather I should say "had" been. I only learned a couple weeks ago of it's R rating, which I seriously will never understand because there's no way it needs all that to be fun or funny, because the trailer looks awesomely fun and hilariously funny, and it's totally clean! Anyway, the plot is kinda like Spy Kids for adults... or Johnny English minus the imbecile... or X-Men without the superpowers... Ooo! Or James Bond with lots of comedy! Newcomer Taron Egerton stars as one of many college-age kids selected to train to become a Kingsman (super-cool gentleman spy). Colin Firth is the agent who sees his potential, and Samuel L. Jackson is the baddie. Michael Caine and Mark Strong are also there.




The Last Five Years
Feb 13th; PG-13
With February always comes the slew of romance movies, and this one stands a little bit out from the rest by being musical, based on a stage musical. It's about a couple's five-year-long romance, and is formatted interestingly; the girl's (Anna Kendrick) point of view is retrospective, starting at the end of their marriage (spoilers, much?) and ending when they meet; and the guy's (Jeremy Jordan, of Broadway fame) goes normally, from beginning to end. (So it's a bit like The Doctor and River, except, not at all... I'm probably just confusing you... I'm confused too.) With Anna Kendrick, and Jeremy Jordan, I'm sure the music and singing will be great, but there's not much else here to really interest.




Old Fashioned
Feb 13th; PG-13
This is the perfect example of why I do this Upcoming Movies post at all, because I doubt I would have ever noticed this little movie flying under the radar of other Valentine fare. It's an indie rom-com about a guy, who, after abandoning his wild and secular lifestyle meets a girl he's interested in, and doesn't know how his new moral self should handle it -- so they try an old fashioned courtship. It's being marketed as an alternative and polar opposite to 50 Shades of Grey, which is just brilliant. I'd want to see it just because of that, but I want to see it anyway -- and definitely I will. With it's limited release I might not get an opportunity for a while, but I will at my earliest convenience. The premise is great, and if it's done well, the movie could be great too.



Does February hold any promise for your entertainment?