Maverick | The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Episode 3
Schemes, plots and betrayals, oh my!
Movie review - Maverick
Movie summary: Bret Maverick, needing money for a poker tournament, faces various comic mishaps and challenges, including a charming woman thief. (IMDb)
There are some movies where it looks like the cast had a really great time making it and Maverick is definitely one of them - everyone looks like they're having fun making this Wild West comedy and that enjoyment is transmitted perfectly to audience. The best thing about it is that it never feels like an indulgence or like anyone is phoning in their performance because they're too laid back.
They might be few and far between, but this movie does have its serious moments that do just enough to stop anything feeling too cartoonish and there are some deaths and enough cursing that remind the audience that, fun as everything might be here, this isn't really a film for kids. To be fair, considering Gibson's behaviour away from the screen, there might be a fair others put off by it too.
I wouldn't criticise anyone for skipping Maverick because of Gibson, but it can't be denied that he puts in one hell of a charming performance here as the title character of Bret Maverick (don't call him Bart or Bert!) and is the undoubted star of the show. He carries out both the comedic and more serious demands of the role with absolute perfection and it's hard to think of a current star who could match what he does here.
He's ably supported by Jodie Foster as Annabelle Bransford, who is hilarious in any number of different ways and is probably as far from a 'typical' role for her as most people could probably imagine. She's not quite on Maverick's level when it comes to scheming or quick thinking, but she's close enough for their relationship to still be highly entertaining.
Rounding out the core trio is James Garner as Marshal Zane Cooper, with Garner having played the main role in the TV series this movie was based on. He's mostly serious early on, but also provides some laughs with his reactions to the other two, and he also has more layers to him than it initially appears. He provides a nice counterbalance to both of the others, which is testament to how skilfully Garner can shift subtly in his performance that his behaviour never once feels out of place.
The story itself isn't a complicated one, even if reaching the end goal proves to be as difficult as it's possible to make it thanks to Angel (Alfred Molina) and his allies, but it does provide an excellent excuse to drop the characters into a variety of situations and let the audience enjoy watching them get out of whatever predicament they find themselves in.
The ending does suffer a little, as more than a couple of people cheat Maverick along the way and never suffer any kind of karmic feedback for it and it's another case of a movie trying to be just that little bit too clever, with one more layer of deception than really necessary. It's not a big problem, but it does just drag the ending down a little from the level of excellence the rest of the movie has.
And I wonder how many others will find the score strangely familiar - this being a Western with a score by Randy Newman, who also worked on Toy Story. Let's just say that some of the music in Maverick wouldn't feel the slightest bit out of place used in scenes with Woody in those movies. I don't think there's any recycling of material, more that audiences expect - and composers provide - a certain type of music for Westerns that simply carries across due to it being the same composer and nothing more.
I will finish by saying that I do really enjoy Maverick even if I'm not a fan of Mel Gibson as a person thanks to some of the behaviour in his personal life or the remarks he's made. He's just so good in the role here that I find it easier to separate the art from the artist than maybe I should, plus his chemistry with Foster and Garner is so off-the-charts good that its borderline impossible to dislike him here without avoiding the movie entirely.
Maverick is a really fun movie lifted above the average by brilliant performances from the central trio of Gibson, Foster and Garner; their chemistry with each other is just astounding and I'd be happy to watch an entire film of just the three of them having a drink together over a game of cards. Not that the rest of the movie is anything less than good, it's just those three raise it up that extra level to make it truly excellent.
TV review - The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Episode 3, "Power Broker"
Episode summary: To find the source of the Super Soldier Serum, Sam and Bucky must scale a ladder of low-lifes starting in Madripoor with Zemo. (IMDb)
By the end of "Power Broker", this series has now reached the halfway point and it does feel appropriately like things are still building, especially with a cameo in the final scene that really opens things up for where this story might be headed in the immediate future. If there's one quibble, it's that the cast is now growing so large that the title characters are starting to feel more like pieces in an ensemble than the main attractions they should be.
Then again, most MCU heroes have had some really strong supporting characters that have been just as important as the headliner, especially Captain America's movies, where The Winter Soldier was often labelled as 'Avengers 1.5' and Civil War as 'Avengers 2.5'. I suppose it's fitting then that the MCU show most likely to follow in that cinematic series' shoes is the one that's deliberately trying to.
It helps when you have the brilliant talents of someone like Daniel Brühl to call on, who returns as Helmut Zemo following his success at breaking up the Avengers in Civil War and slots in here like it was the most natural thing in the world for his character to be involved. He has brilliant chemistry with both Mackie and Stan, forming a trio I hope lasts beyond this story-line, although I can't see that happening.
Not to be overlooked is Emily VanCamp, whose Agent 13 kicks some serious arse here and has definitely changed as a person, with life on the run hardening her since the events of Civil War and leading Bucky to note that she's 'awful' now. Wow, that movie really had lasting repercussions, didn't it? Despite some people at the time saying everything would be sorted out in the next movie.
Brühl and VanCamp deserve extra praise for putting in the performances they do to make their characters stand out so well as this episode really is the most plot-driven so far. The story-telling here is insanely economical and there's a barely a moment's pause to take things in, so some people might lose track of what's going on, but it's not exactly complicated if you're paying attention.
As you may have noted, Captain America: Civil War has been mentioned pretty regularly and I'd say it's near-essential to have a good understanding of exactly what happened in that movie to fully take in everything here. I have seen a fair few people confused or thinking there have been some retcons going on, but "Power Broker" is just fleshing out characters with extra details their previous appearances didn't have time to give us, so no need to worry about anything having changed.
A couple of last bits of praise for the excellent action here - especially Sharon vs a whole ton of bounty hunters - but also the great score by Henry Jackman, who also scored... yep, The Winter Soldier and Civil War. Motifs from both movies return to excellent effect, especially the Winter Soldier's theme during another fight sequence, and it just helps to further reinforce that sensation of a shared universe.
Also, it's interesting to see that Sam is as comfortable with undercover work in the (fictional) city of Madripoor here as Steve was when on the run with Natasha in The Winter Soldier. Both of the men are soldiers, not spies and rely on others to bail them out, plus it's nice to know that, despite both of them being good men who always try their best to do good, that there are still certain flaws to them as heroes that help ground them for the audience.
"Power Broker" is another really good episode in what is definitely a more consistent series in terms of quality than WandaVision, which is pretty impressive considering the far greater scope and global impact of the story's events. It's great to see the characters of Helmut Zemo and Sharon Carter back again, if only for their brilliant - if for entirely different reasons - interactions with Sam and Bucky.