‘Captain America: Civil War’ is an allegory for American politics

You’d think that an ultimate showdown between superheroes would be funny and absurd as Lemon Demon’s “The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny,” but Anthony and Joe Russo’s superhero showdown “Captain America: Civil War” isn’t funny.

The only part that’s remotely funny is the banter in an almost 12-minute battle sequence at an airport.

Other than that, the painstakingly long two-and-a-half hour film is mostly about what keeps bubbling up in conversations: politics.

Written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, “Captain America: Civil War” centers on a political debate America’s all too familiar with: the battle between whether governmental bodies should have more or less oversight. In it, the Avengers become an allegory for America and representatives within the organization aren’t willing to compromise on how the Avengers should be governed.

Armed in his red Iron Man costume, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) stands with democratic values, believing that the United Nations should oversee the Avenger team. Donning a red, white and blue shield, Captain America (Chris Evans) sides with traditional republicans beliefs, advocating for less governmental control and more freedom of choice.

The resulting arguments aren’t pretty. They’re nasty, vindictive and very, very physical (These are the Avengers after all). Plenty of people get hurt. And even after the battles are over, the fissure remains.

“Captain America: Civil War” was directed by brothers Joe and Anthony Russo. The screenplay was written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. 

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‘Big Hero 6’: Disney’s AwesomeLand

Remember how “Modern Family’s” Phil Dunphy invented AwesomeLand in this season’s Halloween episode? No? Well, basically, he put everything he thinks is Awesome on the front lawn of the Dunphy’s home.

That’s what Disney’s latest animated picture, “Big Hero 6,” feels like. Taking place in the futuristic city of San Fransokyo (Yes, a portmanteau of San Francisco and Tokyo. Why? Because it’s awesome.), “Big Hero 6” is about 14-year-old boy-genius Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter) and his band of “Avengers” — Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr.), Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez), Go Go (Jamie Chung) and Fred (T.J. Miller).

Loosely based on a 2008 Marvel comic, “Big Hero 6” is another superhero origin story.

Raised by his enthusiastic Aunt Cass (Maya Rudolph) and his older brother, Tadashi (because it wouldn’t be a Disney movie if the parents weren’t either absent or dead), Hiro wastes his potential winning loads of dough in illegal robot fights. That is, until Tadashi (Daniel Henney), introduces him to his acclaimed robotics university, the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology, and his life’s project, Baymax (Scott Adsit) — a portable and personable inflatable medical robot.

To apply for admission to SFIT, Hiro pitches his microbots: tiny electromagnetic legos that can do anything the mind tells it to.

“If you can think it, microbots can do it,” says Hiro, echoing the words of Walt Disney. “The only limit is your imagination.”

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That seems to be the limit of Disney’s latest 3D animation as well. Like the fusion city, “Big Hero 6” is held together by imagination (and hundreds of animators and visual effect artists).

The film — by nerds for nerds — pays homage to others in its genre. Baymax wears an Iron Man-esque armor. His Hulk-like strength protects Hiro from danger. Hiro keeps a dalek on his bookshelf. Stan Lee’s portrait hangs on the walls.

“Big Hero 6” feels like a Pixar film (like how “Brave” felt like a Disney film). The animators have inserted dozens of hidden Easter eggs, including a basement filled with comics and action figures. Hans’ (from “Frozen”) mug shot hangs on a “wanted” poster at the police station; “Wreck-It Ralph’s” featured on a billboard over the city.

Directed by Don Hall (whose credits include “The Princess and the Frog,” “Tarzan” and “Winnie the Pooh”) and Chris Williams (“Bolt,” “The Emperor’s New Groove,” “Mulan”), “Big Hero 6” is a safe feel-good movie — filled with Disney’s perfected formula of both funny and poignant moments. Watching Baymax and gang in “Big Hero 6” is the perfect medicine for a bad day.

“Big Hero 6” was written by Jordan Roberts, Dan Gerson, Robert L. Baird, Duncan Rouleau, Steven Seagle, Paul Briggs and Joseph Mateo. The film was directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams. 

NBC flattens ‘About a Boy’

If NBC’s new sitcom, “About a Boy,” looks or sounds familiar, that’s because we’ve seen it more than a decade ago.

The story’s based on British writer Nick Hornby’s 1998 novel of the same name and was made into an award-winning British film in 2002, starring Hugh Grant as bachelor Will Freeman and young Nicholas Hoult as the boy Marcus.

Jason Katims’ (“Parenthood”) American TV adaption of the story stars David Walton (“New Girl,” “Bent”) as Will and Benjamin Stockham (“1600 Penn”) as Marcus. Will’s a grade-A bullshiter who loves women. His best bud Andy’s (Al Madrigal, “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”) tied down with kids, but Will prefers his bachelor lifestyle.

When he runs into a beautiful blond (Leslie Bibb) on her way to a single parent support group, he tags along with her and invents a son with leukemia named Jonah. Will enlists his homely 11-year-old neighbor Marcus to pretend to be his sickly son.

The pilot, which was written by Katims and directed by “Iron Man’s” Jon Favreau, condenses the poignant 101-minute film into a superficial half-hour sitcom. Dalton’s Will resembles a slightly grown-up version of Haley Dunphy’s slacker ex-boyfriend Dylan (Reid Ewing) from “Modern Family.” Stockham’s Marcus and his mom, Fiona (Minnie Driver), seem like the aliens next door (and is perhaps NBC’s version of ABC’s “The Neighbors”). Marcus is the weirdo kid who wears weird rainbow sweaters and gets bullied in school. Fiona’s a vegan who meditates and cries all the time (plus her British accent makes her seem even more foreign). They all aren’t as sympathetic as their counterparts in the film.

Still, Dalton and Stockham have some chemistry together. Will seems good with kids, perhaps because he acts like one. Will and Marcus can be seen playing ping pong ball, squirting down bullies with a hose and singing 1D together. Dalton’s in his mid-30s. Stockham’s in middle school.

The relationship between an adult and a child isn’t a new feature in television sitcoms. For years, we’ve watch “Two and a Half Men’s” misogynistic womanizing bachelor Charlie (Charlie Sheen) and his nephew Jake Harper (Angus T. Jones). Compared to Charlie, Will almost seems like a genuine good guy. Too bad he resides in dull and one-dimensional Sitcomland, where he’s not real.

“About a Boy’s” pilot premiered after the Olympics at 11 p.m. EST on Saturday, January 22. The second episode, “About a Pool Party,” will air at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, January 25 on NBC.

‘Iron Man 3’ resembles ‘Die Hard’

Iron Man 3 is Tony Stark’s epilogue to The Avengers, Josh Whedon’s film about the formation of Captain America (Steve Rogers), Iron Man (Tony Stark), Thor, the Hulk (Dr. Bruce Banner), Black Widow (Natasha Romanoff) and Hawkeye (Clint Barton) into the superhero team. Since Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) fell out of the sky after battling aliens in The Avengers, Stark’s been plagued with nightmares. Even thinking about New York sends him on panic attacks.

The genius billionaire playboy philanthropist has a lot to panic about. The Avengers’ enemies span worlds and galaxies. But the action in Iron Man 3 doesn’t have to do with the Avengers’ shared past.

The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), a terrorist who has been bombing sites from Kuwait to the Grauman Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, has a personal vendetta against Stark. Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), the criminal mastermind behind the Mandarin’s plans, offered his think tank services to Tony Stark years ago, but Stark refused. Now, the villains want what Stark has: his girlfriend, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). And Killian is willing to ruin Stark’s Christmas.

Written and directed by Shane Black, the third installment of Iron Man resembles the narrative arch of John McTiernan’s 1988 action flick Die Hard, which followed NYPD officer John McClane (Bruce Willis) as he tried to save his wife against German terrorists during a Christmas party in Los Angeles. In Iron Man 3, Colonel Rhodes (Don Cheadle) serves as Stark’s Sgt. Powell (Reginald Veljohnson), the friendly black cop who assisted McClane in his rescue operation.

Not only do both the movies occur during the same time of year in warm, sunny places, but they also feature spectacular explosions and fireworks. The films contain terrorist plots and show the bravado of its heroes. Officer John McClain walks on broken glass while Tony Stark throws himself at glass windows at one scene, not wearing his protective Iron Man armor.

To continue the analogy, both films have been well received. During its opening weekend on July 22, 1988, Die Hard brought in $7,105,514, ranking third in box offices. Iron Man 3, which was released on May 3, brought in an estimate of $175.3 million domestically, ranking no. 1 in theatres during its opening weekend. Despite containing a nearly identical story arch, this illustrates the successes of both films.

Although Iron Man 3 is an upgraded version of Die Hard, its popularity extends beyond the fiery-orange explosions. Rather than limit the action to 40 floors in one building,  Iron Man 3 capitalizes on its global plot. Shane Black and Drew Pearce’s screenplay takes Stark from his mansion in Malibu, Calif., to investigations in Rose Hill, Tenn. With unlimited Stark Industries technology, Iron Man 3 shows off Stark’s new armor and gadgets. He can now power multiple robotic suits without wearing them.

Compared to other films in the franchise, Iron Man 3 highlights Stark’s emotional distress. Although Stark is known for his biting wit, Drew Pearce and Shane Black’s screenplay shows that underneath his robotic armor, he’s human. He’s cagey when Colonel Rhodes questions him on his lack of sleep. Instead of replying with a flippant remark, we see Stark break down with post-traumatic stress.

This is a clear departure from the Tony Stark we’ve come to love and expect. In fact, in one scene when the audience expects a witty or misogynistic comeback, Stark’s response is, “I’ve got nothing.”

Without his sarcasm as a shield, Stark seems more vulnerable and serious. This is exemplified in one scene featuring Stark and Harley Keener (Ty Simpkins), a Tennessee boy who finds Iron Man in his garage. As Harley begins prying into Stark’s life and the events in New York, Stark starts hyperventilating about not being able to save Pepper Potts. With the straightforward reasoning of a child, Harley is able to calm Stark down: “You’re a mechanic, right?” Harley asks. “So build something.”

“Okay,” Stark answers.