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Chris Evans can’t save ‘Captain America’

Film review

Chris Evans stars as Captain America/Steve Rogers in "Captain America: The First Avenger" -- Paramount

In “Captain America,” the talented actor Chris Evans (shown in and out of uniform) does the best he can with the material that he was given.

Actor Chris Evans, from "Captain America", poses for a portrait at the LMT Music Lodge during Comic Con in San Diego, Thursday, July 21, 2011. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles)

Associated Press photo

“Captain America: The First Avenger” is widely said to be the best of this summer’s crop of super-hero movies. I disagree.

While better than “Thor,” which isn’t saying much, “Captain America” falls short of “X-Men: First Class.”

The best thing that “Captain America” has going for it is the charismatic Chris Evans, who engagingly played the “Fantastic 4”’s smart-assed Johnny Storm and who did a great turn in the sci-fi film “Sunshine.” Like “Sunshine,” “Captain America” isn’t worthy of Evans’ talents, unfortunately.

“Captain America” in a post-Abu-Ghraib world doesn’t woefully overdo the nauseating patriotic crap, but doesn’t give the good captain an awful lot to do that is very interesting once he finally meets and far exceeds his goal of fighting for the U.S. military against Adolf Hitler’s Germany.

In the action Captain America repeatedly loses his one-of-a-kind, impenetrable shield, which he always gets back, we quickly learn, so that trick gets old fairly fast — seriously, the character of the patriotic, skinny, sickly pre-Captain-America Steve Rogers is more interesting than is the fairly invincible hulk that he is morphed into — and the Red Skull, the villain, played by Hugo Weaving, is captivating for all of about five minutes.

True, a friend of mine who had seen “Captain America” before I did had told me that the Nazi-accented Red Skull sounds just like the Austrian-born former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and so every time the Red Skull spoke I heard not the Red Skull, but Baby Daddy Schwarzenegger, and I have wondered if maybe they’d wanted Schwarzenegger to play the role but couldn’t get him, and so they asked Hugo Weaving to do his best Schwarzenegger.

In any case, the glowing blue cube that is supposed to be the source of the Red Skull’s power is not very interesting and not very creative. I’m sick of movies in which we’re just supposed to accept some mysterious power, whether it glows a pretty blue or green. (On that note, I haven’t seen “Green Lantern,” since it roundly got shitty reviews, but just about everyone for some reason has said how great “Captain America” is, which is why I saw it.

And I don’t care that something was in some comic book first, by the way. Something works in a movie or it doesn’t, regardless of its source.)

And we’ve had plenty of movies about Nazis and about Nazis interested in occult powers — “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Hellboy” come immediately to mind. Did we really need another? The retro (World-War-II-era) look of “Captain America” is fairly cool, but didn’t we kinda already see that in the unfortunate “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow”?

Tommy Lee Jones does a great job as Steve Rogers’/Captain America’s commanding officer, but it’s the same role of the cranky old man that Jones has been playing for some years now, unfortunately.

And the time-traveling twist at the end of “Captain America” is more likely to make the viewer feel a bit ripped off rather than ooohed and ahhhed — and feel way too rushed to be prepped for Captain America’s next cinematic appearance, which, presumably, will take place in the present. (Again, even if it was in a comic book first, that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be good for a film.)

In a nutshell, with “Captain America” it’s been there, done that. It’s a fairly technically well done rehash, but it’s a rehash nonetheless.

Love Chris Evans. “Captain America” — not so much.

My grade: C+

P.S. The showing that I attended was in 3-D. Oops. I hadn’t even known that they’d released it in 3-D. The 3-D effects make no difference, though, as nothing comes flying at you. Not even the shield. Why they released it in 3-D, other than for increased profits, eludes me.

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‘Watchmen’ is barely worth watching

A computer-animated Billy Crudup, as Dr. Manhattan, replicates himself in a still from “Watchmen.” (What’s below the good doctor’s waistline is even more impressive…)

I love ensemble super-hero movies. The X-Men movies are my favorite, but I enjoyed the Fantasic Four and the Hellboy movies, too.

“Watchmen,” however, disappoints.

I can get over (maybe “get into” is more accurate) the alternate universe of “Watchmen,” in which the United States won the Vietnam War and in which Richard Nixon, because presidential term limits were abolished, is still president in 1985, and in which the Cold War is at its height, with nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union looming large.

But the mixture of super-heroes in “Watchmen” doesn’t make sense.

In “Watchmen” you have (in no certain order) the Joker and/or Scarecrow-like Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley), who is psychopathically violent but who is on the side of the good guys; Nite Owl II (Patrick Wilson), who is a likeable-enough but rather weak Batman knock-off; the cigar-chomping, murderous Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who belongs behind bars instead of out on the streets; Ozymandias (Matthew Goode), whose powers (if he really has any) are not fully explained (and is he gay or what?); and Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), whose powers are so great that he not only doesn’t belong in the same room with the other “Watchmen,” but he doesn’t even belong on the same planet with them — and, in fact, in “Watchmen” he spends a good deal of time on Mars (no kidding).

Then there is Silk Spectre II (Malin Akerman), whose powers probably are the least of everyone’s (she has great martial arts skills and wears a tight yellow and black super-hero suit that is somewhat reminiscent of Uma Thurman’s outfit in “Kill Bill,” but that’s about it), yet she is paired romantically with Dr. Manhattan, whose powers exceed those of even Superman; the good doctor can bilocate (well, poly-locate), make himself as large or small as he pleases, blow things (including people) up with his mind and otherwise manipulate matter with ease, reassamble himself after he has been disassembled, and teleport himself and others (yes, even to the planet Mars).

This mixing and matching of super-heroes with such disparities in their abilities doesn’t really work and makes “Watchmen” a rather convoluted mess.

“Watchmen” has its moments, to be sure, but overall, even Dr. Manhattan, with all of his super-powers, can’t keep the crazy quilt of a movie together.

And director Zack Snyder, who brought us the awful “300,” needs therapy. (Maybe Mel Gibson can be his roommate in the rehab that they both seem to need, since their directorial tastes seem to be so similar.) Gratuitous violence in “Watchmen” includes the unnecessary severing of a thug’s arms with a power saw and a scene in which dogs fight over the remains of a murdered little girl. Ewwwww! (The “real” story of the assassination of JFK, however, while probably unnecessarily graphic, is fairly inventive, however.)

And Snyder apparently felt the need to make the vast majority of us males feel woefully inadequate by endowing Dr. Manhattan with a large flaccid phallus.

The average human’s penis is only about three inches when flaccid, but the blue-hued bald and buff Dr. Manhattan, who struts around nude in most of “Watchmen,” sports what appears to be at least four to five — hell, maybe even six — inches. Flaccid. (And remember, he can make himself as large as he wants to! We’re talking rather unlimited actual penis size!)

And we don’t get just glimpses of Dr. Manhattan’s big blue thing; we really get to know it.

My guess is that Snyder, who seems to have almost as much of an obsession with the male body that I and other gay men do, was disappointed that he apparently couldn’t show us dick in “300,” and so he made up for it with Dr. Mahattan in “Watchmen.”  

(While Billy Crudup probably would love to claim that Dr. Manhattan’s big blue penis is modeled after his own manparts, Dr. Manhattan’s penis appears to be entirely computer generated, and I’m sure that plenty of homegrown computer-animated porn featuring Dr. Manhattan will crop up on the Internet if it hasn’t already. [I know that I’ll be searching for it…]) 

I guess that we can expect more gory and homoerotic testosterone flicks from Snyder, since “300” and “Watchmen” have done so well at the box office.

It’s just too bad that “Watchmen” wasn’t put in the hands of a more capable director.

Snyder didn’t even make good use of the underrated talent of Billy Crudup, who in most of “Watchmen” is computer generated. Even though I never mind seeing a large weenis on the screen, even a blue, computer-animated one, I very much would like to have seen more of the actual Crudup in “Watchmen.”

My grade: B- 

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