FLIX: 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier'
Opening Friday at Cinemark 12, Twin Dolphin, Showplace 3
• STARRING: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Redford, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie
• RATED: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, gunplay and action throughout
• RUNNING TIME: 2 hours, 16 minutes
• DIRECTED BY: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Picking up where 2011's "Captain America: The First Avenger" left off, we find our superhero Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) in Washington, D.C., still trying to adapt to present day.
He keeps a notepad handy to write down items people tell him he needs to catch up on, like songs and "Star Wars."
Rogers is summoned to SHIELD headquarters by director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) who unveils Operation: Insight - three helicarriers flying aircraft carriers, co-designed by Stark Industries, with a massive array of onboard weapons that can stay up indefinitely when launched.
The ships are linked to spy satellites and designed to take preemptive measures to eliminate any worldwide threats.
Robert Redford joins the cast as Alexander Pierce, a senior SHIELD official and head of the World Security Council.
It's great to see the veteran actor in a role that recalls his 1975 film, "Three Days Of The Condor."
Scarlett Johansson returns as agent Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, and there are some great scenes in the film as she teams up with Captain America to face off against various combatants.
The chemistry between Johansson and Evans is so good that it's gratifying seeing them on screen together. Also new to the franchise is Anthony Mackie as the Falcon, who can be described as Captain America's wingman, a former paratrooper with a winged mechanical suit. Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, the team that wrote the first "Captain America," return to push the story forward without impediment while making pragmatic connections to "Captain America: The First Avenger."
There are references to the Nazi-linked Hydra organization from the first film, and we are introduced to Captain America's worthy adversary, the Winter Soldier, who possesses a steel arm that can catch Captain America's shield and hurl it back with equal or greater force.
Marvel comic fans will know the identity of this new foe, and fans of only the first film will be surprised when the Winter Soldier's mask comes off.
But don't worry if you haven't seen the first film or read any of the comics.
Directors Anthony and Joe Russo use flashback sequences to catch newbies up to speed.
I also liked how the Russo brothers scaled back on the CGI (computer-generated imagery) effects to incorporate more live action stunts in this film.
There are some thrilling chase and shootout scenes and lots of choreographed, hand-to-hand combat, but special effects fans won't be left out; there are plenty of jaw-dropping visuals in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier."
Make sure you stay and watch the credits for a preview of things to come in "Avengers: Age of Ultron."
Joe Friar is a member of the Houston Film Critics Society, juror at the Victoria Texas Independent Film Festival (VTXIFF) and host of the Breakfast Buzz morning show on Hit Radio 104.7. Contact Joe at email@example.com.