The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

STREAMING REVIEW:

Disney+;
Action;
Not rated.
Stars Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Wyatt Russell, Erin Kellyman, Danny Ramirez, Georges St-Pierre, Adepero Oduye, Clé Bennett, Carl Lumbly, Daniel Brühl, Emily VanCamp.

While the Marvel Cinematic Universe has earned a reputation for excellence when it comes to superhero entertainment in general, the “Captain America” movies in particular have emerged as the best sub-franchise within it.

Indeed, within the vast expanse of the MCU, the “Captain America” trilogy has been the most consistent in elevating the source material into something more than mere spectacle, infusing common themes of duty, honor and loyalty into complex political allegories with deeper meaning than most comic book movies, while also serving as fantastic action thrillers in their own right.

The story of Captain America, of course, continued beyond just the movies that bore his name, with Steve Rogers growing from a skinny kid in Brooklyn to the ultimate soldier in World War II to a man frozen in time, parlaying his values into becoming the leader of the Avengers.

Along the way, two of Steve’s allies would stand out above the rest. First was his childhood best friend, Bucky Barnes, who would seemingly die in WWII, only to return as a super soldier, like Steve, but brainwashed into aiding the forces of evil. Rescuing Bucky from his curse as the Winter Soldier became one of Steve’s primary goals, particularly in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War.

Steve’s best friend in modern times was Sam Wilson, the unassuming former soldier who had settled into a life counseling veterans suffering from PTSD before finding himself joining Steve’s fight in 2014’s Captain America: Winter Soldier. By the end of 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, Steve was ready to retire, and chose to pass on his famous shield to Sam.

In picking up that story, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is a show as much about the legacy of the “Captain America” movies as it is about the legacy of character.

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Set several months after the events of Endgame, the show reveals that Sam (Anthony Mackie) has decided he’s not worthy of taking on the mantle of Captain America, preferring to carry on as the Falcon, taking on various missions for the U.S. government. Instead, he donates the shield to the Smithsonian, believing it will inspire more as a symbol.

Bucky (Sebastian Stan), now freed of the programming that forced him to be an assassin, spends his time trying to make amends his victims and their families.

Their reality is soon shattered on two fronts. First, the U.S. government appoints a new Captain America, John Walker (Wyatt Russell), and gives him the shield. Second, efforts to rebuild world governments in the wake of Thanos’ attack in Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame are threatened by a growing political movement called the Flag Smashers, who are stealing medicine and other resources and seem to have access to new sources of super soldier serum.

And so, Bucky, upset at Sam for turning down the mantle of Captain America, reunites with him to learn the secrets of the Flag Smashers and contain the serum. Along the way, the duo reluctantly crosses paths with Walker, who is after the same thing but not as understanding as what it means to be Captain America as Sam and Bucky would like.

This sets off a globetrotting adventure that brings back a number of characters from the “Captain America” movies, and offers a few surprise cameos, while also touching on a number of political themes relevant to today.

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This is a much different show than the previous MCU Disney+ entry, WandaVision, which was much more of a mystery box gimmick. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier plays like a more conventional action drama, though very much in the tone of Captain America: Winter Soldier, itself among the very best of the MCU movies. Also, where WandaVision was more about exploring some of the minor characters from all over the MCU, TFATWS is very much playing in the “Captain America” sandbox. It even brings back Henry Jackman to do the music, and using the same character themes from the movies only enriches the show’s feeling as the continuation of an epic “Captain America” story.

Sam and Bucky, often paired together while working with Steve, are now forced to carry on without that binding element, and the show often feels like a fun buddy cop movie with their clashing personalities and styles. The underlying subtext, of course, is why Sam shied away from taking on Steve’s mantle, and the show is not afraid to dive into the question of what it means for a black man to serve as Captain America. But it also ably demonstrates why Steve thought Sam was the perfect choice to do it.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, while presented as six hourlong episodes, when binged plays like an epic movie that will leave Captain America fans cheering for the continuing adventures of these characters.

Netflix: ‘Outside the Wire’ Streamed by 66 Million Subs in Q1

Netflix’s android-themed war actioner Outside the Wire, co-starring Anthony Mackie and Damson Idris, was streamed by more than 66 million subscribers in the first 28 days in the quarter — leading all of the SVOD pioneer’s original programming debuts, the streamer reported. Netflix counts a view after 120 seconds of streaming.

According to Netflix, top streamed episodic content in the quarter included the first season of “Firefly Lane” (49 million), season three of “Cobra Kai” (45 million), “Fate: The Winx Saga” (57 million), and “Ginny & Georgia” with 52 million households. Other top movies included award-winning I Care a Lot (56 million), Jennifer Garner’s Yes Day (62 million), and the last installment of the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before trilogy (51 million).

Netflix is on target to spend $17 billion on content in 2021.

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“We program across many genres because tastes are very diverse,” co-CEOs Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos wrote in the shareholder letter. “Even for one person, what they desire will vary widely depending on their mood or who they are watching with.”

Sci-fi Thriller ‘Synchronic’ Coming to Digital Jan. 12, Disc Jan. 26 From Well Go

The sci-fi thriller Synchronic will debut on digital Jan. 12 and on Blu-ray and DVD Jan. 26 from Well Go USA Entertainment.

From directing duo of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (The Endless), the film stars Anthony Mackie (“Altered Carbon,” Falcon in the “Avengers” franchise), Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy), Katie Aselton (Bombshell) and Ally Ioannides (“Into the Badlands”) in the story of two paramedics whose lives are ripped apart after they encounter a series of horrific deaths linked to a designer drug with bizarre, otherworldly effects.

When New Orleans paramedics and longtime best friends Steve (Mackie) and Dennis (Dornan) are called to a series of bizarre, gruesome accidents, they chalk it up to the mysterious new party drug found at the scene. But after Dennis’s oldest daughter suddenly disappears, Steve stumbles upon a terrifying truth about the supposed psychedelic that will challenge everything he knows about reality — and the flow of time itself.

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Bonus features include commentary with directors and product, a making-of featurette, previsualization, a VFX breakdown, a deleted scene and an alternate ending.

Apple Halts ‘The Banker’ Movie Debut

Apple unexpectedly pulled a Nov. 21 screening of its first theatrical movie, The Banker, citing unspecified concerns surrounding the film.

The company subsequently postponed the film’s theatrical release as well, according to Variety, as filmmakers probe accusations of historical inaccuracy and sexual abuse by co-producer Bernard Garrett Jr., whose father is portrayed in the film by Anthony Mackie.

The film stars Mackie and Samuel L. Jackson as two black businessmen who train a working-class white man (Nicholas Hoult) to be the face of their growing real estate and banking operations while they pose as a janitor and a chauffeur. Their success ultimately draws the attention of the federal government, which threatens everything they have built. The movie also stars Nia Long.

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Pegged as a potential awards contender, The Banker was set to screen at the AFI confab in Los Angeles, with a Dec. 6 theatrical launch thereafter.

“We purchased The Banker earlier this year as we were moved by the film’s entertaining and educational story about social change and financial literacy,” Apple said in a media statement. “Last week some concerns surrounding the film were brought to our attention. We, along with the filmmakers, need some time to look into these matters and determine the best next steps.”

The film also was scheduled to bow on Apple’s upstart Apple TV+ subscription streaming service in January, a launch that is now also off the books. Apple is spending upwards of $6 billion on original content for its service targeting iPhone and Android users.