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Non-Review Review: Gifted

Gifted is a sweet little movie, occasionally a little too sweet.

Gifted is essentially a wry family drama, the tale of a custody battle over a gifted young child that plays into larger questions about the responsibilities of parenthood and the expectations heaped upon greatness. Young Mary Adler is undoubtedly a mathematical genius. At the age of six, she is rattling off advanced multiplication and square roots, much to the amazement of the adults around her. Her uncle Frank and her grandmother Evelyn find themselves at odds with how best to raise Mary.

Head and shoulders above the other kids…

Gifted is an ambiguous meditation on the obligations that parents have to their children, to the challenges in determining what is best for their offspring. How does a parent respond to a child who is preternaturally intelligent? Is it right to push a person to be all that they can be? Is it healthier to teach them to accept themselves? It is an intriguing debate. At its most earnest, Gifted plays out like Whiplash by proxy and with numbers. There are time at which Gifted seems a little clumsy, a little awkward in its grand emotional gestures or core themes.

However reductive that summary might seem, Gifted is elevated by the combination of a witty script and a charming cast. In particular, Gifted is anchored in the central dynamic between Chris Evans and Mckenna Grace, who bring a vulnerability and warmth to the relationship between unlikely caregiver and talented youth.

Keep on trucking.

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Non-Review Review: Captain America – The Winter Soldier

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a delightfully pulpy adventure. In many respects, it feels like the movie that Captain America: The First Avenger really should have been, a celebration of its lead character’s versatility and a demonstration of how easily the comic book character can cross genres. Part of the beauty of The Winter Soldier is in the way that it feints. It weaves in directions that are a little surprising at times, and even avoids taking the path of least resistance when offered.

With an opening act that teases the age old debate about liberty and security (“this isn’t freedom,” Steve Rogers solemnly states, “this is fear”), the movie deftly steps sideways to avoid getting too bogged down in familiar political discourse. Much like Iron Man 3, there’s a charm in how The Winter Soldier evades any particularly probing political commentary, cleverly swerving out of the way of anything that could become ham-fisted or heavy-handed.

The Captain and the Widow...

The Captain and the Widow…

It tricks the audience into expecting a contemporary political thriller, only to become something a bit more unexpected – a strange hybrid of pulpy science-fiction, conspiratorial secret history and even seventies espionage thriller. It’s an exciting and engaging blend, one that never outstays its welcome. The only real problem is that it tries to do a bit too much and some of the smaller pieces get lost in the shuffle – which means the climax doesn’t resonate as well as it needs to.

Still, those are ultimately minor problems with a superior blockbuster.

Body of evidence...

Body of evidence…

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Non-Review Review: Captain America – The First Avenger

Captain America: The First Avenger doesn’t have the heart of X-Men: First Class or the wit of Thor, but the story of Marvel’s star-spangled superhero does have its own charms. Part of it reflects its lead, little Steve Rogers, an appealing and sincere earnestness in dealing with material that it would be too easy to cynically dismiss. The First Avenger embraces the cheesiness at its core, and offers a rather stunning version of THE great American myth. Zack Snyder would do well to play close attention when bringing that other America fable to the big screen.

Patriot games...

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Captain America 101: An Introduction to the Star-Spangled Avenger…

I did a post a little while back that was intended to serve as an introduction to the world of the Green Lantern, what with the movie coming out this year. The post proved so popular that I thought I’d take perhaps put a similar post together on Captain America. The first trailer for Captain America: The First Avenger premiered at the Super Bowl yesterday, so it seems to be the perfect time for a bit of an introduction to the star-spangled superhero. Check out the 30-second spot below.

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Captain America? &%#$ No! Thoughts on the Naming Controversy…

Last year, I remarked that – although it was perhaps the least likely of Marvel’s movies to be awesome – Captain America: The First Avenger was going to be the most interesting movie on their slate to follow, at least when it comes to international markets. Predictably enough, Marvel have decided that not everyone on the planet is going to be cool with a movie about a literal American super-patriot. They will be dropping the title “Captain America” completely, simply selling it as “The First Avenger” in Russia, the Ukraine and South Korea. I, for one, am quite disappointed.

Walk tall... and carry a star-spangled shield...

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Non-Review Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

If it weren’t for Inception, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World would be the most visually impressive film of year. Maybe it still is. This tale of adolescent irrelevence might have a bit of difficulty finding an audience, but it certainly deserves one – it’s a pure kaleidoscopic sugar rush of youthful exuberence and energy, all focused through a simple but effective emotional narrative. Indeed, perhaps its closest companion is (500) Days of Summer, the breakout romantic comedy of last year – except this time the emotional complexity is dialed down and the visual flair way up. And neither of those are bad things. In fact, as part of Edgar Wright’s latest film, they are actually quite genius.

Scott packs quite a (cup of) punch...

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