Monthly Archives: March 2015

Top Twelve Modern Doctor Who Stories

Following on from yesterday, here’s my top twelve (any guesses why i picked twelve…?) Modern Doctor Who Stories. These are my favourites, but feel free to disagree with them and post alternate lists in the comments below.

Spoilers!

12. Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead: (Series 4, Steven Moffat) River Song’s first episode (and last). David Tennant’s best performance in series 4 and one of Catherine Tate’s best in Forest of the Dead. The Vashta Nerada (piranhas of the air) are suitably scary, and ‘Hey, who turned out the lights?’ is still a pretty freaky scene. Also, great cliffhanger.

11. Dark Water/Death in Heaven: (Series 8, Steven Moffat) The cybermen return in one of their best stories. Missy’s identity is revealed, and Michelle Gomez gives a masterful performance. Danny and Clara’s relationship is heartbreaking broken and the 12th Doctor finally works out who he is. Add in a touching reference to the Brigadier and the unexpected death of two loved recurring characters, this finale has a lot going for it.

10. Amy’s Choice: (Series 5, Simon Nye) Even the Doctor has a dark side. Personified here as the Dream Lord (brilliantly played by Toby Jones), this episode has Amy, Rory and the Doctor all in the spotlight and some genuinely unsettling scenes, as well as a plot that keeps you guessing. A slightly convenient ending is the only drawback.

9. The Day of the Doctor: (50th Anniversary Special, Steven Moffat) The 50th special really delivered and the final 15 minutes are perfect. The opening hour has a surprising amount of humour and character moments (but fortunately one of Moffat’s strengths is comedy). David Tennant settles back in remarkably easily and Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman are as good as ever. John Hurt is also a very believable ‘War Doctor’ and cameos from Peter Capaldi and Tom Baker are unexpected highlights. Downsides? The Daleks are mainly cannon fodder or silent killers rather than the insane, calculating schemers they are at their best, and i wouldn’t have minded seeing a bit more of the time war.

8. The Waters of Mars: (Series 4 Specials, Russell T. Davies) Tennant’s true last hurrah as he gets far better material than ‘The End of Time’ gives him. For once, we see the tenth Doctor lose control after rejecting his apparent powerlessness to alter a ‘fixed moment in time’. A classic ‘base under siege’ story with some of Davies’ best ideas included. Dark, daring and damn good to watch.

7. Army of Ghosts/Doomsday: (Series 2, Russell T. Davies) A great finale with a shock cliffhanger as the Daleks and Cybermen collide and the Doctor encounters Torchwood. The ‘Cult of Skaro’ make an impression as Dalek’s with more individual personas and Tracy Ann Oberman is good value as Torchwood’s leader. Rose gets a touching final send-off (even if Davies chickens out and gives her a happier ending in series 4). Only the cybermen’s irritating inability to kill a single Dalek (come on!) prevents me putting this higher.

6. The Snowmen: (Series 7 Xmas Special, Steven Moffat) The best christmas special with a wonderful performance from Jenna Coleman, a chilling villainous turn from Richard E. Grant and some brilliant comedy curtesy of the Sontaran Strax. The highlight of the split series 7.

5. The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang: (Series 5, Steven Moffat) Moffat’s best finale (Pandorica is one of my favourite episodes and cliffhangers) and he shows that lone cybermen or Daleks can still be threatening. Matt Smith’s speech in Pandorica and Arthur Darvill’s performance as Rory are highlights.

4. Blink: (Series 3, Steven Moffat) Hold on! Blink fourth? Yes, i know many of you probably think i’m crazy, but while Blink is arguably the cleverest and most renowned episode of New Who, it isn’t my favourite. I rewatch the top 3 a lot more than Blink, which is what consigns it to fourth place. Nevertheless, the best ‘Doctor-lite’ episode (David Tennant gets about 5 minutes of screen time) and the one that introduced the weeping angels, this will never be forgotten. That Carey Mulligan’s career took off after her performance here as Sally isn’t a surprise!

3. The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit: (Series 2, Matt Jones) The top three were very hard to seperate. This one just lost out – a slightly convenient ending and a far too easy resolution of the (fantastic) cliffhanger to part one count against it. The Doctor is forced to confront his own faith and beliefs while Rose struggles to get everyone out alive, the plot gives both regulars a lot to work with. The support cast is great and the Ood are perhaps the most memorable ‘alien’ creatures (in terms of appearance) created on modern Doctor Who. The Beast was a suitably ‘demonic’ and all-knowing villain who really added to the tension. I wish they’d bring this writer back.

2. Dalek: (Series 1, Rob Shearman) Iconic. The Daleks have never been better as a single one rampages through an alien collector’s underground bunker in Utah. Christopher Eccleston’s greatest performance in the role of the Ninth Doctor as well. As i said in my full review of this episode, this is still unsurpassed as a Dalek story in the modern era of Doctor Who.

1. The Girl in the Fireplace: (Series 2, Steven Moffat) My absolute favourite. The episode where most people realised Tennant was a great Doctor. Sophie Myles is brilliant as ‘Madame du Pompadour’ and the clockwork repair droids are still some of Moffat’s creepiest creations. Rose and Mickey can be minorly annoying (her barely concealed jealously and Mickey’s panicking) but the story isn’t really about them. If you don’t like this episode… maybe your watching the wrong show!

This was the hardest ‘top ten’ list i’ve ever done – even adding 2 extra spaces meant i couldn’t include all my favourites, i know some of you will probably be surprised to see ‘The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances’, ‘The Eleventh Hour’, ‘Listen’ etc. missing but as much as i like/admire those… i had to make a choice. And this was veering dangerously close to a top twelve Steven Moffat stories list anyway what with 7 out of 12 stories being written by him. That said – when on form – he is clearly the best writer Doctor Who has available.

Top Ten (Classic) Doctor Who Stories

Doctor Who celebrated 10 years since it’s revival yesterday, so i thought it would be good to celebrate with my 10 favourite who stories, moments and companions. But i then thought it would be better to split that list: my ten favourite stories from the new (2005-2015) series tomorrow, today here are my ten favourite stories from the classic (1963-1989) series (which every Who fan should watch – if you don’t like these, stick to the new series.)

Warning: Minor Spoilers!

10. The Invasion: (2nd Doctor, 1968) The first appearance of UNIT and the second appearance of the Brigadier marks the best Patrick Troughton story. Despite being a whopping 8 episodes long, it somehow works, mainly down to it’s villainous duo of Tobias Vaughn and his security chief Packer, who are a joy to watch. The trio of the Doctor and his companions Jamie and Zoe is also one of the best combinations in the series. One of the most famous Who monsters make their appearance half-way through, and episode 6 has one of the most iconic cliffhangers as the monsters march down the streets of London…

9. The Curse of Fenric (7th Doctor, 1989) 4 episodes of near perfection as Sylvester McCoy locks horns with a malign viking curse and a horde of vampiric/zombie creatures from the future. The story belongs to his companion Ace though, as it is a major coming of age story for her. The cliffhangers aren’t very good, but if you watch the feature length edition (included on the DVD) this isn’t a problem.

8. The Green Death (3rd Doctor, 1973) A story with a moral message about both pollution and corrupt industry, it’s one of the most adult stories in this era. UNIT regulars are all present, the cliffhangers are all good, and it’s contains Jon Pertwee’s finest moment as the 3rd Doctor, clearly heartbroken, bids farewell to his longest serving companion. Some dodgy special effects and stereotyping of the welsh are the only drawbacks.

7. The Ribos Operation (4th Doctor, 1978). Probably the best ‘opening episode’ to a DW series ever. The fourth Doctor is given an important mission to recover the Key to Time and has a new time lady as his assistant. K-9 also is present, all very well as the Doctor faces a pair of charismatic con-men trying to sell a planet to an unstable warlord. Written by Robert Holmes, the man who created the Autons, the Sontarans and wrote the majority of the greatest who stories i.e. the Steven Moffat of his day.

6. The Seeds of Doom (4th Doctor, 1976) Doctor Who does Day of the Triffids. Boycie from ‘only fools and horses’ even shows up as a memorable henchman named Scorby, working for insane botanist Harrison Chase, who unwittingly unleashes a carnivorous plant life-form which starts to grow at an alarming rate…

5. The Caves of Androzani (5th Doctor, 1984) Robert Holmes again delivers with Peter Davison’s final story. An immense bloodbath with a multitude of villains follows: Crazed drug-runners, vile soldiers, corrupt businessmen and a deformed terrorist who forms an attachment to the Doctor’s companion, all are here: this is one battle even the Doctor can’t win… also features my favourite regeneration sequence. Even beat Blink in a poll to find the best story!

4. The Talons of Weng-Chiang (4th Doctor, 1977) Doctor Who does Sherlock Holmes in 19th century London, with savage companion Leela as his rather naive Watson. Robert Holmes’ best story with some of the best supporting characters in the series history (seriously, 2 of them, Jago and Litefoot, even got a audio spin-off series!). Some rather unconvincing giant rats are the only low-point as the Doctor faces chinese opium gangs working for a deformed war criminal from the 51st century…

3. Earthshock (5th Doctor, 1981) The best — story. Why —? Because it’s a massive cliffhanger when the monsters make their appearance at the end of part 1 and i don’t want to spoil it. The fifth Doctor is clearly out of his depth the whole way through, as he desperately attempts to stop the destruction of the Earth. There are slightly too many characters running around (though plenty get killed), but the script, direction and soundtrack all come together. The sense of foreboding and desperation gradually increases until the final five minutes deliver a massive gut punch as despite breaking his own rules and even using a gun, the Doctor fails to save the day… the series at it’s boldest.

2. Genesis of the Daleks (4th Doctor, 1974) The Daleks’ origin story. The first (and best) Davros story. Includes some great cliffhangers and Tom Baker’s best performance in two iconic scenes, one of which is the 4th Doctor debating whether he has the right to wipe out the Daleks and change history. Davros and his Gestapo-esque assistant Nyder are two of the finest villains in the series history. Dark, Grim and remorseless, this comes together beautifully. But still not quite as good as…

1. Remembrance of the Daleks (7th Doctor, 1988) The best Dalek story and one of my favourites marks the shows 25th anniversary. Two Dalek factions battle over stolen time-lord technology in 1963 London as the 7th Doctor plots to wipe out the Daleks once and for all. The Daleks even finally show they can get up stairs. Featuring a great script and some decent special effects, this is the best 1980’s who ever managed.

James Bond Films: Best and Worst

Best of Bond… and Worst.

Warning: Spoilers and likely controversy.

Top Five:

1. Skyfall: Adele’s song is great. Daniel Craig and Judi Dench are on top form and Javier Bardem is a genuinely unsettling villain. Finishes the Craig reboot and gives the series a fantastic new team of Bond, Q, Moneypenny and a new M. It goes for realism over gadgets, plot and script over action and effects and works brilliantly. The final hour is perfect. Glad the same director is returning for Spectre.

2. Goldfinger: The best villain. The best henchman. The most famous line. One of the better Felix Leiter actors. So many iconic scenes. If it wasn’t for the fact that Bond spends half the film captured not doing very much, and how overly-forceful/borderline rape he is with Pussy Galore (stupidest Bond girl name ever) it would come first. Connery at his best.

3. Casino Royale: The best opening film any of the Bond actors get. Eva Green is arguably my favourite Bond Girl and Mads Mikkelsen is a very memorable villain. Long gaps between action sequences but they’re always worth waiting for. The poker match between Le Chiffre and Bond is suitably tense. Daniel Craig is arguably the Bond closest to Ian Fleming’s original vision of the character. Judi Dench again impresses as M.

4. Licence to Kill: Dalton was basically Craig Mark 1. Licence to Kill could have easily been in the Craig era and i always consider it one of the most underated bond films. Q gets more screentime than usual, both Bond girls are good and the plot works very well as Bond goes rogue and infiltrates a drug ring to avenge his best friend Felix Leiter’s wife. Sanchez (Robert Davi) is one of the most believable villains in the series and the stunt-filled final truck chase is one of the series’ best action sequences. Michael Kamen’s film score is unusual but effective.

5. The World is Not Enough: Another film i consider massively underrated. Sophie Marceau is one of the best bond girls ever, Robert Carlyle is a credible threat to both the world and Bond as terrorist Renard and in my opinion this is Brosnan’s best performance. Q (Desmond Llewelyn) gets a touching farewell and Judi Dench gets a larger role in this film than any other Brosnan entry. Three standout actions sequences (the boat chase down the Thames, the fight at the caviar factory and Bond and Renard’s final battle in the submarine reactor) are the highlights. Accompanied by David Arnold’s best soundtrack for the Bond series.

(Goldeneye, The Spy Who Loved Me and Thunderball are all narrow misses for 5th place)

Worst Five (Never Say Never Again would be on here at second worst, as it really is pathetic, but i don’t count it as a true bond film). Moonraker narrowly misses the bottom 5, but only because of henchman Jaws.

5. Tomorrow Never Dies: Jonathan Pryce may be good, but he doesn’t make for a very threatening villain (it’s basically James Bond against Rupert Murdoch) and his henchmen are very forgettable. Redeeming features include Teri Hatcher as a bond girl and some decent vehicle chases, but nothing extraordinary. Sandwiched between the two best Brosnan films, this one disappoints but isn’t a failure – however it’s one of the most average and forgettable Bond films.

4. A View to a Kill: Roger Moore simply should have quit after Octopussy (where he was in his element). If this had been a Dalton film it could have worked. Moore is too old, especially compared to the various bond girls. The first hour and a half is very slow and not that interesting, despite having a good villain (Christopher Walken’s Max Zorin) and henchman (Grace Jones’ Mayday) combo for the first time since The Spy Who Loved Me. The last forty minutes however, are great, with Bond and Zorin’s final fight on the Golden Gate Bridge being perhaps the best Bond vs. Villain fight. If only the rest of the film had shaped up to it…

3. For Your Eyes Only: The grittest Roger Moore film with his version of Bond at his darkest, this should have been better. It’s overly slow pacing and a lack of screen time for Julian Glover as the villain hamstring it. Bond films shouldn’t be this boring. The Bond girls are very forgettable as well and the pre-credits sequence is very misguided. The soundtrack is experimental but doesn’t work. It’s climax and Moore’s performance are the only major plus points.

2. Diamonds are Forever: Connery should have never come back for this one. He’s visibly bored throughout and gives by far his worst and least endearing performance. Even a second Lazenby film would have worked better. It throws away the ‘Bond seeking vengeance for Blofeld’s murder of his wife’ plotline in it’s pre-credits sequence, and the smuggling plotline is very dull. Apart from John Barry’s excellent soundtrack and henchmen Wint and Kidd, i can’t think of anything i like about this film.

1. The Man with the Golden Gun: Rubbish, dull, with a terrible ending and a plot that isn’t remotely interesting, this is the Moore era at it’s worst. Christopher Lee deserved to be the villain in a much better bond film, the entire idea of Scaramanga and Bond being equals is entirely wasted. I could go on, but to sum up: nothing to recommend here. Nothing at all.

I’m sure they’ll be disagreements with this list. It’s merely my opinion, feel free to express your own top/worst 5 lists in the comments below.

Movie Review: X-Men: The Last Stand

X-Men: The Last Stand starring Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart and Halle Berry

Warning: Major Spoilers!

The final part of the original X-Men trilogy. So many times the third film in a series has been a let-down/the weakest of the three/okay but nowhere near as good as the first two (Jurassic Park III, Alien 3, the Godfather Part III etc.) and the Last Stand was all of the above. Which is a shame, as it could have been so much better…

I’ve done many superhero reviews so far, but this is the first overtly negative one. For a long time i put off watching this entry in the x-men franchise (along with Origins: Wolverine) because of their abysmally poor reputation. It was actually okay – i was never bored, Storm (Berry) was far more involved than in previous films, Kelsey Grammer was good as Beast, Rogue’s (Anna Paquin) storyline was rather touching… and now I’ve run out of positives – so if you like this film I’d stop reading here!

On the surface it seems similar enough to the two previous films, with an ethical plot about whether mutants can fit into human society or whether they should be ‘cured’ of their ‘disease’. The problem is that this is very familiar ground (the mutant registration plotline in the first film touched upon the same ideas) and that the film’s subplot would have made a far better main story. The subplot in question is Jean Grey’s (Famke Janssen) resurrection/rebirth as Phoenix, who possesses all of her more dangerous powers that Professor Xavier (Stewart) has been secretly locking away for years, and is thus now both pyschopathic and the most powerful mutant on the planet. This should have been the main plot, but the Fox executives refused to let such a dark storyline be the main plot of a summer blockbuster. Their stupidity is now evident – the Dark Knight trilogy (amongst other superhero films) were very dark films and were praised for it while still being successful blockbusters. Also the entire discrimination/cure plotline is frankly just as grim and dark as the Phoenix plot would have been! This stupidity meant the Phoenix storyline didn’t get the screentime or treatment it deserved (rather like venom’s inclusion in Spiderman 3 – another idiotic decision made by executives rather than producers or scriptwriters). Jean’s transformation into the Phoenix isn’t well explained, and she spends most of the second half of the film watching Magneto’s (McKellen) plan unfold without doing much to drive it forward.

This is just one problem the film has. The other major one is it’s director, Brett Ratner (cursed be his name). It isn’t quite the Michael Bay level of style over substance (which annoyingly works – meaning we keep getting awful transformers movies) instead it’s flat. No atmosphere, no visual flourishes, NOTHING! Magneto f***ing moves the Golden Gate Bridge for heaven’s sake! And it feels ordinary! A spectacular sequence that should be the film’s highlight is reduced to a slightly cool moment because of Ratner’s flat direction (and John Powell’s lacklustre score it has to be said – probably his least effective soundtrack which adds almost nothing to the film – if only they’d hired Hans Zimmer…). This combined lack of good direction/soundtrack rears it’s ugly head constantly.

The film is full of moments that should have had a massive impact on the audience: Cyclops’ death early on (why off screen FFS!), Mystique losing her powers when saving Magneto, the Phoenix murdering Xavier, Wolverine (Jackman) reluctantly killing Jean to save everyone… every single one fell flat. Only when Beast cured Magneto did i feel any emotion (a minor sense of triumph/irony). You can also tell a film isn’t good when you have Vinnie Jones wandering around shouting ‘I’m the Juggernaut, B*tch!’, which is far more hilarious than threatening. However the acting performances (in general) aren’t bad and the plot is actually pretty good – this film is a failure not because it’s terrible but because it’s a monumental wasted opportunity.

Overall a lack of atmosphere, good direction and tight scripting means this is the worst entry in the main x-men films. The real shame is that it didn’t have to be like this. There should have been another way…

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Article: What does Marvel need to do in Phase 3?

So what does Marvel need to do in it’s phase 3 of films to keep the quality high and secure it’s future for a phase 4? First let’s consider what’s in phase 3…

Warning: Spoilers!

Marvel’s Phase 3 Line-Up is currently as follows:

Age of Ultron (May 2015)
Ant-Man (July 2015)
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Doctor Strange (2016)
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (2017)
Spiderman Reboot (Title currently unknown) (2017)
Thor Ragnarok (2017)
Avengers: Infinity War, Part 1 (2018)
Black Panther (2018)
Captain Marvel (2018)
Avengers: Infinity War, Part 2 (2019)
Inhumans (2019)

Don’t recognise half the titles on there? I wouldn’t be surprised – unless you’re an avid comic book fan, chances are you don’t what half those films will be about. Why? Marvel’s now used up all it’s most well known superheroes (which it still has the rights to!) so it’s starting to take more gambles. Hey, it worked with Guardians of the Galaxy, which is currently my third favourite MCU film (after Cap 2 and the Avengers). But as their supply of bankable names is running low, and DC are finally offering up some stalwart competition with their ‘Justice League’ universe, what should Marvel do now?

1. Be bolder: The Marvel movies so far have never been bad (I’d give the weakest ones – the iron man sequels – 3 out of 5) but they’ve consistently missed greatness compared to the Dark Knight Trilogy, which delivered 3 films of continuous (or thereabouts) near-perfection. Why do i prefer these 3? They were bolder – there was always a sense of foreboding throughout all three films. Why? They were dark and weren’t afraid to kill off characters: love interests, popular villains, they all brought it at some point – which made it possible to believe Bruce Wayne’s apparent death in TDKR – whereas i never for a second thought Stark would die in the Avengers’ climax or Nick Fury in Cap 2. Who has actually died in a Marvel film so far? A load of second rate villains (looking at you Malekith and Iron Monger), secondary characters like Frigga (who we barely knew and thus didn’t care about) and Coulson (who got resurrected and given his own TV series). No one is afraid of Marvel characters dying anymore – so it’s about time someone (important!) did to pull the rug out from under the audience. Age of Ultron, Civil War, Thor: Ragnarok and Infinity War all have the potential to pull a few nasty surprises – given the absurdly high threat level that should be in those 4, it’ll be unforgivable if everyone makes it out alive. If i had to guess who? I wouldn’t put good money on Hawkeye surviving – he’s easily the most depensible avenger – but if Marvel really wanted to be bold it should be someone like Loki (whose storyline hasn’t got far to go) or Captain America (with Bucky waiting in the wings to replace Steve Rogers?). A character exit like that would surely shake up the MCU a bit. It doesn’t have to be a character death of course – the boldest plot twist Marvel’s had so far was when SHIELD was destroyed in Captain America 2. Of course you can’t pull that off again, but who’s to say Asgard won’t suffer a heavy price in Ragnarok…

2: Find a new lead character: After Infinity War, phase 4 will (hopefully) begin – but it’s highly unlikely that Robert Downey Jr. will still be playing Tony Stark or Chris Evans Captain America (arguably the two lead figures in the current line up) and Thor will probably go as well – so the MCU needs a new man/woman/team to rally around for phase 4 and beyond if Marvel want to keep going – options for characters in phase 3 they should build around?

The Guardians – given how successful the first film was, who’s to say the Guardians couldn’t lead the charge in later films? As a popular ensemble group they could easily match the avengers! Problems? Well they aren’t very earthbound – so it’s harder to cross over with other characters.

Black Widow – So deserving of a solo film – the character was kick-ass in Iron Man 2, one of the most important in the Avengers and surprisingly fun in Cap 2. Plus it’s Scarlet Johansson – we can’t really get enough of her – but will she still want the same role in 5 years time?

Doctor Strange – Benedict Cumberbatch – he could easily fill Downey’s shoes as a lead name (he’s already a better Sherlock…) and Doctor Strange is arguably the best-known newcomer in Phase 3 – does Cumberbatch have enough time to commit to so many films though?

Spiderman – Bear with me here. Spidey’s been drafted into the MCU for a joint production with Sony in 2017. It’s probably another bloody reboot but there is a good reason to centre phase 4 around him – he brings a lot of villains to the table and he is already incredibly popular – but can Marvel and Sony’s alliance hold together long enough for that to happen?

3. Find some villains who match Loki!

I’ve already done an article on this so i won’t go into too much detail – Age of Ultron, Civil War and Infinity War should have this covered but Marvel’s record suggests the various origin stories (Ant-Man, Black Panther, Captain Marvel etc.) will have pretty forgettable villains. If they can avoid this or deliver a memorable new villain in Guardians 2 or Thor 3 it would be a great step forward.

4: Infinity War:

Thanos. The Infinity Stones. Everyone (Guardians, Avengers, maybe even Loki etc.) uniting in a two part finale. This should be the best (two) films in the MCU so far – details are sketchy atm but phase 3 ultimately lives or dies or whether it’s centrepiece lives up to the hype. I hope it does.

Movie Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America: The Winter Soldier starring Chris Evans and Scarlet Johansson

Warning: Major Spoilers!

This for me is the high-point of the Avengers’ films so far. It cuts out the patriotism of it’s predecessor, adds a healthy dose of Scarlet Johansson and switches from War film to spy thriller with great success. Combining a superhero with a spy storyline is an interesting experiment, but thankfully it’s one that pays off.

It boasts some terrific action sequences (from the small scale fights in an elevator to the final battle on the three helicarriers) with some superlative direction from the Russo brothers. The fight scenes between Captain America and the titular Winter Soldier are suitably cool and fast-paced as well. The film’s soundtrack is functional but forgettable and the script is the cleverest Marvel has delivered so far. It also does what the fans have been craving and grants Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) some more screen time as well as fleshing out Black Widow’s (Johansson) character. No longer is she the strong silent type, as she throws around plenty of quips and playfully teases Captain Steve Rogers (Evans) about his relationship status. Don’t worry though she’s still as bad-ass as ever.

The film introduces several new characters in and around SHIELD, such as Cap’s new friend Sam Wilson, the hero Falcon, a former military man who possesses a pretty cool wing pack – who is also one of the few black superheroes in the Avengers roster. It also adds Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce, the leader of SHIELD and Frank Grillo as Brock, the leader of the SHIELD strike team Cap works with. All are pretty memorable and there isn’t a bad performance in sight. Characters Jasper Sitwell, Maria Hill and Peggy Carter all also return.

The film has three major plot twists – one is exceedingly obvious (the faked death of Nick Fury – did anyone fall for that?) and one is brilliant and makes the film. The revelation that HYDRA has infiltrated SHIELD and that Pierce, Brock, Sitwell (and Agent Ward in Agents of Shield) are all traitors worked extremely well – the odds were really against Cap, Black Widow, Falcon and Maria Hill in the final act (although predictably no important heroes die – it’s Marvel…). Pierce is probably the best human/powerless villain we’ve got so far from Marvel – much better than any of the offerings from the Iron Man films. The revelation (again possible to foresee, specially if you know the comics) that the villainous Winter Soldier is actually a brainwashed Bucky (Steve’s best friend who apparently died fighting HYDRA in the first film) adds a personal element to the battles between the two of them which works better than many other Marvel films. The destruction of SHIELD in the finale is genuinely surprising in that it’s a bold step for Marvel to take. I look forward to seeing the repercussions of this in Age of Ultron (as well as the reappearance of Cap, Falcon and Black Widow, who made a pretty awesome team in this film). Indeed i think this is Chris Evans best performance in the role.

Overall great direction, acting and scripting make this almost on par with the Christopher Nolan films – however it’s predictability and unwillingness to kill any of it’s heroes hold it back from being an all-time great. A major step in the right direction though, one that makes me excited for Captain America 3: Civil War.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5