Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

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You know, as much as I enjoy how they’re putting together the Marvel cinematic universe, I didn’t think the first Captain America movie was all that great. Sure, we got to see how Steve Rogers became a super soldier and we were introduced to Red Skull, but it was just okay. This sophomore effort (if you can call it that, considering that Captain America was also in The Avengers) was a lot better.

We are now in the present day and Steve Rogers has largely grown accustomed to modern technology, but he’s becoming less of a fan of how SHIELD is now going about conducting its business. There is a distinct anti-NSA sentiment throughout The Winter Soldier, particularly when it comes to what freedom really means. Indeed, we learn that there are internal threats to SHIELD and the Captain can’t really trust anyone. Or at least that’s what Nick Fury tells him.

For my part, even though he doesn’t say all that much, the titular character of the Winter Soldier was a fantastic highlight for me. Bucky Barnes (played by Sebastian Stan) exudes an undeniable sense of “badassery” throughout the film and the action sequences, shaky camera and all, are very entertaining. Yes, The Winter Soldier does run a little long, but it’s a fun adventure that keeps you captivated with its plot twists and impressive battles. And like all other Marvel movies, you need to stick around during the credits for two bonus scenes. Let’s just say some powerful developments are forthcoming.

Muppets Most Wanted (2014)

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There’s a very special place in my heart for the Muppets. I loved watching The Muppet Show as a kid and, looking back, I see how the variety show format with celebrity guests really appealed to adults too. And perhaps it is partly due to this sense of nostalgia that I had such a good time with the Jason Segel-led relaunch a couple of years ago. It did well and I had high hopes for the sequel.

Unfortunately, it’s almost like Muppets Most Wanted predicted its own fate. Very early on in the movie, we get a self-aware musical number that talks about how this is a sequel. And, if our movie-watching experience has taught us anything, sequels are oftentimes worse than the originals. And that’s the case here.

It’s not that Most Wanted is bad, per se, but it doesn’t capture that same sense of whimsy, imagination and hope that was so eloquently delivered in the first film. This time around, we have Kermit replaced by an evil frog named Constantine. It’s a tale of mistaken identity as Kermit gets thrown in prison (with plenty of musical numbers along the way). The fake accents by Ty Burrell and Tina Fey were more jarring than entertaining, though the small part played by Danny Trejo as himself gave me a few chuckles.

If you like The Muppets, you won’t hate Most Wanted. Just don’t expect it to be filled with the same wonder and creativity as earlier efforts.