So I decided to go to a car-boot sale this morning.  It was sunny and, so far as I knew, I had nothing special to do.  Bought some old film mags (a clutch of Picturegoer magazines from the 1950s and 40s, the oldest being from 1924).  I get a real thrill leafing through magazines which were first read fifty-plus years ago.  The style of the articles and particularly the adverts give one a little slice of history as real people lived it!

Anyway, I was sitting in the car, leafing through one of these when my phone rang.  It was my local BBC radio station.  They were running a feature based on this news item, about Virgin Airlines giving warnings about movies that are likely to make their customers cry.  They wanted me to talk about tear-jerking movies.

So I did.  And here is that bijou nugget of timeless radio gold.  The Cellulord on BBC Humberside, interviewed by their afternoon presenter, Carl Wheatley:

  The Cellulord on BBC Humberside by cellulord 

TRUE BLOOD – 4.7: Cold Grey Light of Dawn

Deborah Ann Woll seems to be the big hit of this season ... Her career's really hotting up!

It’s still Full Moon; weirdness still abounds! 

We get more of Jesus and LaFayette’s adventures down Mexico-way.

We get more of Pam's hilarious spite, plus an odd make-over for her.

Pam's new beauty regime is kept under wraps.
The Marnie/Antonia story finally takes centre-stage and Bill reminds us just how potentially dangerous she is - just before she demonstrates her power in the most shocking cliff-hanger ending of the season.

I have been asked not to re-print my What Culture reviews here so, for the time being, all the details and my review in full is here: On What Culture!  Don't panic, my cinema reviews will still be appearing here!

Then, after you've been there, swing back here and watch this mini-making of:


This follows on from my review of the less-than-impressive Thor, which you'll find here.

Maybe we have reached the point in cultural history where we have used up all our originality.  I can’t help it, whenever I watch a film these days, I find it puts me in mind of one or more existing films.  Maybe the paucity of imagination in this summer’s movies is simply a symptom of a wider cultural malaise … Greater artists than we have today have used up all the good, original ideas.  There’s none left.  Maybe, from now on, everything will be a parody or pastiche of something else.  Maybe post-modernism really is the death of cultural evolution.

All of which is clearly not the fault of Joe Johnson or his team making Captain America here.  After all, this is an adaptation!  It must resemble something existing … Otherwise what sort of adaptation would it be?   The comic book Captain America was born in the 1940s and I'm glad they felt the need to keep him in his proper place which, inevitably, leads to some 1940s pastiche.  That's okay, it is a right and proper requirement of the story.

However, I began my viewing experience confused … For no immediately obvious reason the modern-day prologue of this film is a clear, unambiguous homage to the original 1951 The Thing From Another World.  That came from ten years after the origins of Cap, from a very different world, a world worried about The Russians and Nuclear War.  I suppose one could make the case that the thing they are chipping out of the ice is from another world – a world at war with Germany.

So we begin the film proper – By travelling back to Cap’s roots in 1942.  America has finally, reluctantly stepped-up and joined in the war.  Against this background, jobbing comic-book creators Joe Simon and Jack Kirby created Cap as a patriotic character, wrapped in the flag, partly to cash in on the immense popularity of Superman (first published in 1938) but also to inspire young Americans to support the war effort.  As such, he is clear, unashamed propaganda. 

This is very well represented in the film version, with a young, weedy, diminutive Steve Rogers constantly trying to enlist and constantly being rejected.  For a while, there, I was convinced they’d done an amazing job of finding an actor who looked just like an 8-stone version of Chris Evans, but eventually had to concede that they were doing some remarkably clever Benjamin Button-type stuff with the real Evans.  Remarkable.  This special effect version of Evans has to carry the film through its first act, whilst making Rogers human and believable.  What they can’t do these days!

When his steely determination to volunteer finally bears fruit, he is assigned to Tommy Lee Jones’ ‘Strategic Scientific Reserve’ unit.  Jones has great fun as the scenery-chewing Col. Phillips, the traditional officer who will never openly betray the respect he clearly has for Rogers’ bravery. 

These boot camp scenes are lovely, showing Rogers still being bullied, still coming last, yet being the smartest kid in the platoon and using his bravery and intelligence to win over the respect of his fellow recruits and the heart of Peggy Carter, the initially quite aloof Intelligence Officer.

He and his friend, the perfectly-normally proportioned Bucky Barnes take dates to the Stark Expo – which gave me a moment a joy … I love the way these Marvel Movie Universe films are all folding into each other … And we meet a young Howard Stark.  The relationship between Stark and Rogers will, I have no doubt, be the cause of much conversation in The Avengers next year … But enough wandering from the point -

Let’s mention the bad-guy:  Johann Schmidt, a Nazi officer with his own army within the German army – known as Hydra.  He is played with cold, creepy efficiency by Hugo Weaving – hot from his turn as Abberline in Johnson’s last movie – The Wolfman.  He is looking for “Odin’s Tesseract” (a gentle reminder of Thor, this summer’s other Marvel Movie Universe movie – Because, of course, whilst X-Men First Class is a movie based on a Marvel comic, is not set in the consistent Marvel Movie Universe … But then, neither are Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, Blade ... Oh, it’s complicated, don’t worry about it … ).  This is a glowing cube – The Cosmic Cube for those of us who’ve read the comics – An infinite source of magical power to fuel Schmidt’s super-weapons.  “And” He laughs scornfully “The Fuhrer digs for trinkets in the desert”.  That isn’t the last Raiders reference we’ll get here, but it’s certainly the funniest.

World's easiest Rubik's cube!
Schmidt has an opposite number – a good German scientist, played by the fatherly Stanley Tucci, who plays his stereotypical German, Dr. Erskine for all he’s worth.  It is Erskine who brewed the first Super Soldier Serum

Schmidt has a secret – one that the trailer and much of the pre-release hype has spoiled but, in case you’ve avoided it all, I’ll play along … He was the first subject for the Super Soldier Serum (you know – the serum they gave to Tim Roth in The Incredible Hulk a couple of years ago … See, these films are slowly all heading in one direction!)  The serum had strange side-effects on Schmidt, but it has since been perfected and now it is safe … Safe for a weedy little volunteer like Steve Rogers.

It is said that the serum ‘amplifies’ the person who receives it … So it made Schmidt even more ruthless and egomaniacal; with Rogers it will accentuate his determination and his unwavering decency.  That’s always been the key trait with Cap, no-matter the situation, however vexing the problem, he approaches it with an absolute, unshakeable moral code.

Foreplay completed, the film proper begins with Roger’s transformation into the bulked-up, rippling form of the real Chris Evans who is, distressingly, not CGI’d … He really is that fit.  Bastard.

"I'm up 'ere, luv."
From here on in, it’s pretty-much action-scene after action-scene.  The film jumps from incident to incident, hopping around the world, and we follow it because they have invested in creating such interesting characters in that long, careful first act.

The transformation of Steve Rogers Super Soldier into Captain America is dealt with beautifully – entirely in-keeping with the period and presented as a musical number!  Inspired!  Such a clever way of introducing the iconography of the comics!

The costume he finally wears is taken from the much more contemporary Ultimate version of Cap, written by Mark Millar and drawn by Bryan Hitch; but that was specifically designed to look believable and wearable in the real-world; so they were wise to borrow it!

See ... Casual yet practical.
In the middle of one battle sequence, we get a glimpse of a tell-tale bowler hat and I let out an impromptu cheer – for there they are:  The Howling Commandoes!  Never referred to as such in the film, but that’s who they are, Dum-Dum Dugan, Falsworth and the rest.  And wouldn’t Tommy Lee Jones have made a brilliant Sgt. Fury, if things had gone another way?  There’s a thought!

Anyway – the movie’s numerous action set-pieces are smoothly and economically constructed, with a minimum of plot between them; but each sequence leads logically and inevitably to the next so we, the audience, feel like guests along for a ride rather than customers being shepherded from one fair-ground attraction to another.

If anything, they are too economical – hurtling past with no time for us to feel any sense of danger.  So, yes the sequences are thrilling, but you never feel that anyone is in peril.  Of course, that may be a deliberate ploy to lull the viewer into a possibly false sense of security.

There are several hair-on-the-back-of-the-neck moments in here; Such as the first time he throws that shield and catches it again.  I got a buzz out of that comparable to the first time Hugh Jackman snikt his claws in that cage in the first X-Men movie.  I also loved the more-understandable-than-The-Thing reference to Powell and Pressburger’s Matter of life and Death.

This film works like a clock, every sequence perfectly designed and machined to work perfectly with every other sequence.  Every detail is there for a purpose.  I just love the design, from Cap’s final costume to the art deco motorbikes ridden by the Hydra thugs and beyond.  The film looks lovely – every bit the follow-up to The Rocketeer that I’d hoped!

Which offers me the perfect opportunity to feature one of my favourite posters of the last twenty years.
Captain America is that rarest of things – a tent-pole summer movie that could have done with being longer!  I would have liked more character development and more dialogue scenes between the fights.  I’d have liked the Howling Commandoes to get more screen-time – and, in the flip-side, Toby Jones’ Dr. Zola also needed fleshing out more.  Maybe in the BluRay.

One sour note that rang wrong as the film’s credits were rolling … Simon and Kirby are not afforded a credit in the main titles … But Stan Lee is!  Yes, they are named in the credits roll, but not in the main sequence.  The bad blood that exists between Marvel and now Jack Kirby’s estate is a matter of record - particularly in this extensive article from The Comics Journal - and it is sad that the corporate giant can’t just bury the hatchet once and for all.

Indeed - since writing that paragraph, the battle has raged on, as detailed in this recent piece from Hollywood Reporter.

Of course, I only noticed this because I was sitting through the credits, waiting for the inevitable post-titles sequence.  I wasn’t disappointed – there it is:  The first teaser trailer for next year’s The Avengers.  With fair fortune and a following wind … I’ll be assembling on May the 4th!

"See, Chris, you CAN appear in a good Marvel movie ... Even if you are only after the credits."

TRUE BLOOD 4.6 – “I Wish I Was The Moon”

Bill looks back sourly as his days modelling for Grattan ...
It’s Full Moon – and we know that’s the time when all the freaks come out … So how can we expect Full Moon in Bon Temps to be anything other than the night when it all kicks off.

Snookie finally goes from ‘get out of my house’ to ‘get into my knickers’.

This results in Bill turning into the bad-guy and passing a True Death sentence on Eric.

Sam - Tommy, Tommy - Sam ... Just like that!
Tommy finds that he can now shape-change into other people, a turn-up that could prove to have fatal consequences for him.

Meanwhile, it turns out that Jason's superpower is that he’s extra-good at sex.  Oh, and speaking of which ...

So, Jess keeps her clothes on this week ... One of the few who do!
... Jess turns up to be with him.
No-one expects The Spanish inquisition!
Down in King Bill’s dungeon, Marnie continues to be a pathetic, needy spirit whore – begging The Spanish Witch to use her.   She may regret what she wishes for ...

I have been asked not to re-print my What Culture reviews here so, for the time being, All the details and my full review in full here: On What Culture!  Don't panic, my cinema reviews will still be appearing here!

Then, after you've read it - swing back here to watch this mini making-of: