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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

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Movies: 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier,' 'The Lunchbox' & 'Sabotage'

Published 6:01 pm, Friday, April 11, 2014

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  • "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is a story of espionage in this latest movie adventure for the Marvel superhero and friends. Photo: Contributed Photo / Westport News
    "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is a story of espionage in this latest movie adventure for the Marvel superhero and friends. Photo: Contributed Photo

 

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Following are Susan Granger's reviews of the latest movies in area theaters:

"CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER"

Marvel's new cinematic adventure not only continues the superhero saga, but also plunges into a Cold War conspiracy that could deliver covert technology into the hands of an enemy agent. Set two years after "The Avengers" alien attack in New York, U.S. Army Officer Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) becomes a target when he makes a discovery that could endanger the entire planet.

Rogers becomes suspicious about corruption within S.H.I.E.L.D. when the secretary of the World Security Council, Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), reveals top-secret plans for Project Insight, involving three huge, high-tech drone-like "helicarriers" that float in the atmosphere instead of the ocean, insidiously spying eyes-in-the-sky. "This isn't freedom; this is fear," Rogers tells Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), who warns Cap, "Trust no one."

Working with Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Rogers also enlists a former Iraq/Afghanistan paratrooper, Sam Wilson/The Falcon (Anthony Mackie), who is able to swoop around using giant wings. The titular bad guy is a brainwashed Russian assassin known as The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), who turns out to be someone Rogers knew way back when.

Based on Ed Brubaker's comic book series and scripted by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, the quirky plot is convoluted yet adroitly directed by brothers Anthony and John Russo (TV's "Arrested Development" and "Community"), who will be helming "Captain America 3." To their credit, the Russos enhance not only the individual characters but also relevant contemporary themes of surveillance, security and control -- versus liberty. Unfortunately, they overuse the shaky cam in repetitive, even confusing action sequences.

While Evans doesn't have the acting chops of Robert Downey Jr., Redford gives inherent gravitas and it's fun to spot Stan Lee in a cameo as a hapless Smithsonian security guard.

Don't leave the theater before watching the two teasers embedded in the end credits, the first directed by Joss Whedon, who helms "Avengers: Age of Ultron," scheduled for May 2015.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is a spy-centric 7, a timely, intriguing espionage thriller.

"THE LUNCHBOX"

Set in contemporary Mumbai, this is a classic romance about strangers who fall in love via letters, although it all comes about through miscommunication.

After working for 35 years as a bureaucratic government claims processor, Saajan (Irrfan Khan) is nearing retirement. He's a lonely widower with little joy in his life. Then one day, he opens his tin lunchbox, only to discover it's not his. It was misdelivered to him by one of the 5,000 white-capped dabbwallas, energetic delivery men whose task is distributing to the workplace hot lunches prepared by wives at home.

Instead of his usual drab, store-bought fare, this particular meal was prepared by Ila (Nimrat Kaur), the neglected wife of a workaholic businessman (Nakul Vaid) who pays more attention to his cellphone than to her.

Following the advice of her "Auntie," Mrs. Deshpande (Bharati Achrekar), Ila has concocted a delicious repast that's filled with spices intended to reignite passion. And it succeeds. Soon Saajan and Ila are exchanging inquisitive, then revealing, even intimate, handwritten messages via the daily lunchbox. Until Ila realizes she needs to meet her confidante Sajaan to decide whether to stay in her loveless marriage.

"You let me into your dreams, and I want to thank you for that," Saajan says.

Familiar to American audiences from his roles in "Life of Pi," "Slumdog Millionaire" and "The Namesake" Khan is an extraordinarily versatile Bollywood star. He's perfectly cast by debuting writer/director Ritesh Batra's, whose charming, compassionate, epistolary concept is reminiscent of "You've Got Mail" and "The Shop Around the Corner" -- with a special appeal for foodies. Strong on relationship details, including Saajan's cheerful apprentice/trainee, Aslam Shaikh (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), and atmosphere, courtesy of cinematographer Michael Simmonds, Batra also offers insight into India's traditional culture (Hindu, Muslim and Christian) when it comes to social relationships between men and women.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Lunchbox," in Hindu with English subtitles, is a subtly savory 7, providing nourishment for the soul.

"SABOTAGE"

Arnold Schwarzenegger plays John "Breacher" Wharton, veteran leader of a dauntless squad of grubby undercover DEA agents, who discovers, after effectively hiding the $10 million they skimmed off after a massive raid of the "money room" at a Mexican drug cartel safe house, that someone has heisted the cash, which was hidden inside a sewer line, leaving a single bullet in its place. During the subsequent official inquiry by the FBI, they're all suspended from duty.

By the time Breacher reassembles the eccentric group after the lengthy layoff, they have grown suspicious and resentful of one another. There's Joe "Grinder" Phillips (Joe Manganiello), Eddie "Neck" Jordan (Josh Holloway), Julius "Sugar" Edmonds (Terrence Howard), Tom "Pyro" Roberts (Max Martini), Bruce "Tripod" McNeely (Kevin Vance), along with impulsive, substance-abusing Lizzy (Mireille Enos) and James "Monster" Murray (Sam Worthington), her similarly addicted husband.

Chomping on a massive cigar, resolute Breacher gives his crew a pep talk, vowing vengeance.

Then, one-by-one, they start suffering violent fatal "accidents." One is killed after his motor home -- with him inside -- is parked on a Georgia railroad line and demolished by a train; another is nailed to the kitchen ceiling in a crucifixion pose.

Meanwhile, brooding Breacher, who is coping with a guilty memory from his own brutal past, gets close to skeptical Caroline Brentwood (Olivia Williams), an Atlanta homicide investigator.

Confusingly, yet predictably co-scripted by Skip Woods ("Swordfish") and director David Ayers ("End of Watch"), who say they were inspired by Agatha Christie's classic mystery "And Then There Were None," it's ghastly and gruesome, eschewing logic and reason, concentrating instead on repellent details of extreme violence and dismemberment.

Action scenes are abundantly grisly and gory, as bloated corpses are poked and prodded, eliciting protruding viscera.

Indeed, the entire deceitful concept is so repugnant that competent actors like Williams, Howard and Worthington should seriously consider changing agents.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Sabotage" is a flimsy, testosterone-fueled 4, destined to become a muddled stop on Schwarzenegger's mucho-macho comeback tour.