Category Archives: Dude Reviews

Dude Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

When I was training to be a newspaper reporter, I learned never to bury the lead. Which meant, always start with the most important stuff right up front.

Not in the second paragraph.

And certainly never in the third.

I am, however, willing to state here, in the fourth paragraph, uncategorically, that Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a fantastic, rip-roaring, rootin’-tootin’, bad-guy shooting, uplifting, side-splitting fantastically good movie.

I liked it, is what I’m trying to say.

I thought it would be difficult for any Marvel movie to surpass the wonder that is Marvel’s The Avengers, which I thought might have been one of the best movies of the decade at least. And, to be sure, CA: TWS, doesn’t surpass The Avengers, but it comes darn close.

Chris Evans returns as Steve Rogers, aka Captain America. Samuel L. Jackson is back as Nick Fury, while Scarlett Johansson also is back as Natasha Romanov, the Black Widow. They’re joined by Anthony Mackie, playing Sam Wilson, the Falcon, and a host of other folks, including Robert Redford as S.H.I.E.L.D. high-muckety-muck Alexander Pierce.

And they all — every single one of them — are fantastic in their role. The Black Widow, instead of being a girlfriend, or a pawn, or a sacrifice to make the male hero’s journey personal, is a formidable hero in her own right, facing down doubts and horrors from her past. She also benefits from the double-edged sword that is Captain America: She believes she can be better because Captain America believes she is better and she doesn’t want to let him down.

That’s only one of the things that makes Steve Rogers such a dangerous man.

Not only is the film well acted, but it’s filled with astonishing special effects, drastic fight scenes, Easter eggs too numerous to count (including the birth of at least two new villains, a certain tombstone near the end and namechecking the Sorcerer Supreme), and — believe it or not — an extended meditation on the idea of freedom versus security.

Following the events in New York, chronicled in Marvel’s The Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D. is all set to step out and take over world security. This eagerness is making Captain America a bit wary as it seems S.H.I.E.L.D. wants to start killing people before they actually commit a crime.

Should Americans and, by extension, the world give up their freedoms to become safer from a world that now contains super soldiers, aliens, gods and ten-foot-tall rampaging rage monsters?

Unfortunately, it’s not a question that will get answered in this movie, because it turns out that the entire operation has been compromised by Hydra, the bad guys from the first Cap film. Which means that the entire notion is, prima fascia, a bad idea. It sort of deflates the argument I was having in my head there, but I applaud the movie for at least bringing it up.

I’m also amazed by the actual change displayed in this movie. In most action series, there’s a set status quo and, once the movie is over, no matter what happened in the previous two hours, everything is back to the way it started. Not so in this movie.

Things change. Structures and organizations you thought were permanent fixtures of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have been completely transformed.

And all this before the Winter Soldier hits the scene, himself stalking out of Captain America’s past with a secret that could shatter him without a fight.

So, yeah. It’s a great movie, not just a great superhero movie.

What I loved the most about this movie can be summed up in one amazing elevator ride.

Captain America is trying to leave the S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters after telling a powerful person no. He steps in the elevator. Two floors down, several men get on. Several floors after that, more rough and tough men come on. Eventually, the elevator is packed with roughboys and Captain America, who realizes what’s about to happen.

Instead of immediately smacking them all silly, Captain America first tries to settle the situation peacefully.

“Before we get started,” he says, “does anyone want to get out?”

The answer is no, so then he wipes the elevator floor with them in an amazing fight scene that’s worth the price of admission all by itself.

Go pay said price of admission and enjoy yourself. This is a fantastic movie for the family or anyone else who enjoys action movies with fun, adventure, laughs and a couple of moments of genuine sadness and deep emotion.

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Dude Review: The Lego Movie

Go see this movie!

I don’t know how I can be any plainer, dudes. This movie, The Lego Movie, is just plain fantastic. In a paraphrase of one of the movie’s lines of dialogue (and an iteration of one of many themes) “everything (about this movie) is AWESOME!”The Lego Movie, starring Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Will Arnet and many others, is a fantastic movie, that is fun, funny, full of love and heart, and just plain AWESOME!

Seriously, this is a revelation akin to the original Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Remember that, dudes. I know I was poo-pooing the entire concept of a movie based on a Walt Disney World ride. It had to be terrible. And, yet, against all odds, the movie was one of the best of the year and still merits rewatching whenever I stumble across it. I just have to forget much of what came after and that’s relatively easy.

This movie has the same vibe. I mean, come on. It’s a movie based on a toy comprising building blocks that you click together. That’s it. That’s the basis.

Well, I should have had some insight that this would be a relatively entertaining movie, considering the various Lego versions of movie video games have been pretty amusing. But this. . . This movie is a quantum leap over the video games. It is, flat-out amazing. And hilarious. Don’t forget hilarious. And moving. Yes, really. It’s moving with a wonderful metamessage.

To start with, after all the gushing, let’s talk technical achievements. Since this takes place in the Lego world, where all the people look like Lord Business Plan, played in The Lego Movie by Will Farrell, is a vicious man er block who plans to destroy the world on Taco Tuesday. The fiend.the little Lego people with their curved hands and all, every single thing is on the screen (with an exception we’ll get to later) is a Lego piece.

Which means that when there’s an explosion (and there are plenty) it’s not a CGI of fire. No, it’s a rapid stop-motion explosion made of Lego flame places. That is, little Lego pieces that are (roughly) shaped like a flame. When Emmet, the generic construction worker and hero, takes a shower, it’s not water or badly CGI’ed water, it’s small blue Lego pieces that come out of the shower head.

Just the detail is an astounding achievement. No matter how small you look in the movie, it’s Legos all the way down. There were scenes where I literally could not close my mouth, forced to hang open in awe.

The story concerns the fascistic Lord Business Plan, who is going to destroy the Lego world on Taco Tuesday. A loose coalition of Master Builders (Lego pieces who don’t need to follow the directions to build something, but can whip whatever they need out of the parts around

Vitruvius, played by Morgan Freeman in The Lego Movie, is the venerable old dude who knows stuff and is there to mentor our hapless hero, Emmet. All, however, is not as it seems.
Vitruvius is most funny near the end of the movie.

them), who are, themselves, Lego versions of real people (Abraham Lincoln, who flies around on a giant stone seat) or fictional people (the best Batman in years, Superman, Wonder Woman, a horribly needy Green Lantern) gather together to stop Lord Business Plan’s um plan. They are led by Vitruvius, a blind, bearded prophet who is voiced by Morgan Freeman, who sounds like he’s having the most fun he’s had in years.

The focus of the resistance is Emmet, the so-called Special, who is destined to find the Piece of Resistance, which will stop the Cra-gl, a weapon so diabolical, it will freeze Lego worlds for ever. Emmet is the least “Special” Lego person ever, the very definition of generic. But he supposedly is the one who will win the day. (Spoilers: He does, but in a way you’ll never guess.)

Near the end of the movie, it changes format completely for a very meta reason. I’m not going to spoil this for you right here, but, trust me when I say, it’s amazing. It adds a tremendous depth and warmth to the movie. Yes, to a movie about Lego bricks. As hard as that is to believe.

This is a movie you really must go see, even if you dudes have to go see it on your own, without benefit of kids. It’s that good.

I’m giving this six (6) dudes out of five. Go see it now. Before it’s out of theaters. And then buy the DVD. You will want to rewatch it.

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Dude Review: Dhalgren By Samuel R. Delaney

Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pinchon is one of the most difficult books I’ve ever tried to read. There are those who compare it to Ulysses by James Joyce in that the path does not follow a very linear narrative and the reader must work to even come close to understanding what’s going on.

I, however, am not one of those who compares those two books. To me, Gravity’s Rainbow most closely resembles (in spirit, alone, certainly not in plot or character) Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delaney.

Samuel R Delaney is one of the greatest living masters of the science-fiction novel, having written award-winning stories like Babel-17 and Dhalgren.
The man can certainly rock a beard, yeah?

One of American science fiction’s greatest living writers, Delaney has created masterwork after masterwork, each more controversial than the last, each examining racial, sexual and personal identity and how each relates to the outer society.

Often described as the most literary of science-fiction writers, Delaney isn’t fascinated by the economic impact that instantaneous, inexpensive teleportation would create. Instead, he’d rather look at the different ways in which the new technology allows men and women to indulge their more. . . slippery. . . impulses.

A man fascinated by the mechanics of the physical act of sex and the emotional aspects of love and hate, Delaney is one of those rare authors who can define or create a genre simply by going ahead and writing whatever the heck is in his head that day.

I’ve long meant to go back and try and read Dhalgren again, having run up against a brick wall the last time I attempted a read through. (Hey, I was in my teens and a callow youth. Gimme a break.)

So imagine my joy when I found out that I could get one of the first electronic copies of Dhalgren, made available through the good folks at NetGalley, which is a place where publishers can give out advance copies of their book in return for an honest review.

I got the book and the review is coming in just a second. After this, in fact. A quick plug that Dhalgren  and eight other Delaney classics are now available for the first time as electronic books, including the Nebula Award­-winning Babel-17, as well as Delany¹s Hugo Award-winning literary memoir, The Motion of Light in Water,  from online booksellers all over the world.

So. Dhalgren. This was a difficult read when I was younger. That, at least, hasn’t changed. Full of digressive runs and almost stream-of-consciousness narration, Dhalgren tells the story of the Kid, a mostly unknown ambisexual man, with very little memory of his past or his identity, recently arrived in the city of Bellona.

Bellona is located in the geographic center of the United States. The book opens some time after an unspecified . . . something happens that drives away most of the citizens of the city, leaving behind only madmen, criminals, the deliriously inane and the Kid.

As with so many young people, the Kid is searching for answers to the perennial questions of “Who am I?” “Why am I here?” and “What’s the point of it all?” Who, at one time or another, hasn’t asked those questions?

It’s possibly one reason that this book has such a demented pull on the minds of so many people. Despite the difficulty in reading this dense, interweaving narrative, there’s something about it that keeps drawing me back to it.

I did get through the end, although it wasn’t easy and I know I didn’t get from the book everything I should. The last part of the book consisted of “found texts,” excerpts from other texts, the equivalent of footnotes and other variations on traditional narrative take away whatever sense of temporal progress that had been gained earlier.

Dhalgren is without a doubt one of the most ambitious books published in many, many years. And, while I’m ready to admit to you dudes that it could be just me, I’ve the feeling that Delaney might have reached for something a bit to far for him to grasp this time.

Still, it’s not like I felt my time wrestling with Dhalgren was wasted. It wasn’t. I eventually made my way through Gravity’s Rainbow and managed to learn a bit about it with each attempt.

I have a feeling Dhalgren is going to be my next literary obsession, a book that I will return to and do battle with, over the next few years. It is a battle I anticipate with a great deal of excitement.

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