Gareth Evans is this generation’s go-to action film auteur. With just four feature films under his belt, it seems the Indonesia-based director is gunning for a spot alongside James Cameron, John Woo or even Sam Peckinpah. The Raid 2 suggests that perhaps Evans might not be confined to the action genre exclusively. This is a sprawling crime drama punctuated by increasingly visceral and inventive sequences of violence and action. That said, despite its ambitions, the sequel to the 2011 low-budget martial arts brawler The Raid does not quite meet those ambitions. This is a flawed and messy film for sure, but it gets by on defying sequel conventions and creating a completely different film than what came before even if it does not quite carry the assuredness and efficiency of its predecessor.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier presents the tipping point for Marvel Studios’ labyrinth of interconnected media franchises in the best way possible. This is the first film they’ve produced that is the closest in not being a good superhero film, but a flat out good film PERIOD. Alongside Superman, Captain America is one of the most unfashionable and archaic of all the spandex-clad superheroes that have made their way out of the comics and into movie theaters. In 2014, there’s something bitterly ironic about a living symbol of idealized American might & valor, draped in the stars and stripes of a simpler era. Joe Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger sidestepped such concerns by setting his feature back to his WWII-era pulp-adventure roots in an escapist adventure reminiscent of the Indiana Jones features. However the Marvel Cinematic Universe is continuously growing and changing and a certain superhero team is in need of its old-fashioned veteran patriarch. Now that The Avengers had the genetically-enhanced soldier Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) defrosted on the present side of history, how do creators and filmmakers to confront his dated 20th-century sensibilities to the 21st-century world?
There hasn’t been a Biblical film quite like Darren Aronofsky’s Noah. Aronofsky treats the Old Testament story with the sort of sweeping fantasy filmmaking reserved for the likes of Greek myths, but what sets it apart is that at its core are moral and theological debates usually reserved for small budget art-house fare and not FX-laden blockbusters. It’s one of the strangest and most challenging genre films made and it happens to be a profoundly overblown fantasy-esque epic in the best way possible. There are moments where the film struggles to live up to its ambitions but its successes propel the film into a beautiful if imperfect work of art.