IF Review

With spring finally in full bloom here in the UK, it's time for a May half-term movie. This year's pre-summer hit is IF (Directed by John Krasinski). I'll admit they first time I heard the title of this film, I initially concluded it was a horror film, but IF actually stands for Imaginary Friend and it is certainly not a horror film - what a relief! Thanks to Paramount Pictures UK I attended a preview screening of IF over the weekend and cannot wait to share my review with you all. IF is a must watch at the cinema this spring, read on to see why in this spoiler free review. Check out my Disney Summer Watchlist HERE The narrative revolves around young teen girl Bea (Cailey Fleming), who is going through a pretty turbulent time when she suddenly crossing paths with an imaginary friend named Blossom (Voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge). Seeing Blossom leads to Bea meeting Cal (Ryan Reynolds) a man that lives in Bea's Grandmothers (Fiona Shaw) building, who is trying to re-home

The Falcon and The Winter Soldier Review

 It is time to re-join Falcon aka Sam (Anthony Mackie) and The Winter Soldier aka Bucky aka James (Sebastian Stan). Hot on the tails of WandaVision's success the MCU is ready for its next TV series - The Falcon and The Winter Soldier. A show that is set to be an action packed, buddy comedy focusing on Captain America's (Chris Evans) two best friends and allies. The big questions going into this series are: Can the MCU pull off another fantastic series? How will Caps legacy be honoured? and who will take on the shield? The season is comprised of six weekly episodes each varying from 45mins to just under an hour in length. I will be reviewing each episode here on this post, so make sure to bookmark this page and check back each Friday for my updates. There will be spoilers beyond this point!

Check out my WandaVision review by CLICKING HERE!


Episode 1 Review - New World Order

The focus of episode one is on Sam's and Bucky's lives after Endgame, after Cap returned an old man and passed the shield on to Sam. The two heroes are living separate lives. Sam working with the US army whilst trying to help his sister and the family fishing business. Bucky adjusting to life as a civilian, in mandated therapy. Both men are struggling with life, their purpose going forward and their past. With Sam reaching out to Bucky and Bucky failing to communicate back, it is clear they are on separate paths.  

In a moving scene we see Sam give up the shield, saying it always felt like it belonged to Steve. The shield is placed on show as part of a Captain America exhibit/memorial. Here Sam talks to Rhodey (Don Cheadle), throughout this scene the realisation that these men both lost, the one that made them a hero, their friend, their leader, is heart-breaking. It's so real. The loss of Steve and Tony (Robert Downey Jr.) is monumental for all Avengers. Sam's focus throughout shifting from the responsibility of the shield, to his responsibility to family. His fame and status as an Avenger meaning little when he attempts to get a loan, the banker assuming he would have been paid for his heroics. But it is the USA's creation of a new Captain America that poses the biggest problem for Sam, the shield left to him has been taken and given to someone Cap never even knew and that's got to hurt. 

Bucky in his new life as a civilian must repent for his past deeds. Firstly, through therapy, where he is faced with the task of opening up. Secondly with facing the reality of his time as the Winter Soldier. In a nightmare we see Bucky killing as part of a mission, which results in him taking out an innocent. Bucky in the present has made friends with the innocents father, as way to make amends. But his past is not the only obstacle facing Bucky, like Steve he is a man out of time. At 106 years old the modern world is confusing for Bucky. His friendship with an older man feels familiar to him, social norms like online dating confusing. He even has a flip phone. 

This is a slow episode, that's commitment is to show us how lost Sam and Bucky are. The opening explosive scene will be a winner for action fans, but Marvel is really trying to connect us to these characters on a human level and I love that. The big bad organisation: Flag-Smashers are introduced, their motives originating from the better lives they had as a result of the snap. There is a nod to Captain American: The Winter Soldier, with the mission against Georges Batroc (Georges St-Pierre), which was a nice easter egg. A promising start to the series, the motivations have been laid out, I'm willing to bet this will be another fantastic MCU instalment.

Episode 2 Review - The Star-Spangled Man

The shocking final scene of episode one is built upon this week. We are introduced to the man behind the Captain America fa├žade: John Walker (Wyatt Russell). A high-ranking military officer, that believes he is the embodiment of American values. He is unlikeable at best, his lack of self-assurance in the first moments of the episode fail to evoke any feelings of compassion. His attempts to embody a hero by putting on an act are offensive, outdated and taint the memory of Steve Rodgers. A feeling that is shared by Bucky and Sam, who are brought together this episode. After last week's slow, but heartfelt beginnings, it seems time has passed and an angry Bucky has sought out Sam on a mission to understand why he gave the shield away. There is little that Sam and Bucky agree on, but the one thing that is set to unify them (at least to begin with) is their dislike for John Walker. 

It's clear that the dynamic between Bucky and Sam is at the very heart of Falcon and The Winter Soldier. Their relationship, cold at best, at worst boarding on hate. But perhaps they struggle to connect on a friendship level is due to their shared experiences (fighting on the same sides as Avengers) and their shared brotherhood with Steve. These two should be friends, but their loss seems to have pulled them further apart than any personality conflicts ever would. This is something Bucky's mandated therapist: Dr. Christina Raynor (Amy Aquino) seems to be picking up on when she makes them take a joint session. Will these two ever be friends is a question I cannot answer but the bickering dynamic they have is hilarious, giving all the buddy comedy vibes and is not dissimilar to the bickering nature of siblings.   

Elsewhere in the episode, we are given new information into the Flag Smashers. Their leader Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman) is introduced in a fast-paced action fight scene. This show is really holding up its promise to be a hit for action fans. The biggest twist regarding the Flag Smashers is they appear to be super soldiers, now most of us where under the impression that Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) had killed the remaining super soldiers in Captain America: Civil War. But it seems, someone is creating more. We also get a mention of Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) so it looks like she will be appearing next week, perhaps on the trail of the Flag Smashers. But something is telling me that John Walkers' Captain America is going to be the real villain of the show, something about him, the arrogance he shows around Bucky and Sam makes me feel very uncomfortable. Remember Hydra is never really gone - what if Walker is part of Hydra? 

The episode ends with Bucky and Sam deciding a visit to Zemo is their best option. Zemo, seems to be in a maximum security prison, we know his stance on superhero's, but maybe he will be willing to help them, at least to deal with the super soldier Flag Smashers. The inclusion of real current issues, such as Sam and Bucky being stopped by the police and the police instantly trying to arrest Sam due to his race was powerful and drove home the reality faced by so many. It's great to see Marvel tackle real life injustice. Another fantastic episode, full of action and buddy comedy moments. Also RIP to Red Wing, you will be missed (until you are rebuilt that is). 

Episode 3 Review - Power Broker

Sharon Carter aka Agent 13 (Emily VanCamp) is back, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier was in desperate need of some female characters and episode three saw the return of one of our favourite ex-Shield members. We have not seen Sharon since Captain America: Civil War, since then she has been on the run for stealing Cap's shield and Falcons wings. She has taken up residence in the lawless city Madripoor, it's unclear if she disappeared in the snap but what is clear is her new lifestyle as an illegal art dealer - although I'm willing to bet there is more going on with her than we discovered this week. In a great sequence we see Sharon takedown large numbers of Madripoor citizens to help Sam and Bucky, this is the type of energy we need! Honestly, it is great to have Sharon back.

But Sharon is not the only character back this week, Zemo is central to this week's episode. First Bucky breaks him out of prison, in exchange he will help track down the super serum behind the Flag Smashers. We discover that Zemo is a baron with what looks like unlimited resources, we also get to see him in a comic book accurate costume complete with mask. Oh, how I love a new costume! Throughout Zemo assists Sam and Bucky, however there is a preserving feeling present at all times that they are working with the bad guy. This is something Sharon hints on when she nearly shoots him. Moreover, Zemo is obsessed with Bucky taking on his alter-ego The Winter Soldier which given his recovery is hard to watch. In the last few minutes, another MCU character joins the show: Ayo (Florence Kasumba), last seen in Avengers: Infinity War. Ayo is after Zemo which is hardly shocking considering Zemo killed the King of Wakanda in Civil War. 

Then there is the mysterious Flag Smashers, this week we are given greater insight into their mission and their leader Karli. Throughout I felt like the show was positioning us to feel some sympathy for the Flag Smashers and their mission to provide medication, food, and supplies to those displaced by the snap. But just when they had me thinking 'they don't seem too bad, just going about things in the wrong way' Karli takes it too far and blows up a building with people inside, even her subordinate seems shocked. It would appear that Sam and Bucky may have more villains than they bargained for: Karli and the Flag Smashers, Zemo, John Walker perhaps Ayo and even Sharon seems suspicious. Our bickering duo are going to have to team up to fight multiple assailants. 

What really shines in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is the character dynamics. The way each character interacts with another is so interesting and so realistic, often we see characters that are created to either compliment or oppose each other. But these characters do both in a way that mimics real human behaviour - they are relatable. Next week it looks like the plot will thicken, we are still waiting for Sam and Bucky to steal the shield from an undeserving and corrupt John Walker. Plus, the soundtrack from this show is brilliant, I love the mix of Caps and Bucky's themes. Another fantastic episode. Also, I really want to meet the real Smiling Tiger - I wonder if he can run in heels unlike Sam. 

Episode 4 Review - The Whole World is Watching

Episode 4 of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier literally had me shouting at my screen on multiple occasions. This is such a tense episode I said everything from: 'Carli be careful', 'no, no, no', 'stop', 'that's not what cap stood for' and in the final scene as I cringed away, almost scared to watch 'no, please stop'. The emotive nature of the episode is apparent from the very start when we see Ayo telling Bucky he is 'free', to see Bucky who for so long was easy to control finally free from the brain washing is immensely powerful. Plus, this week the distance between Sam and Bucky finally seems to be closing, they are starting to act like a team which is great to see. 

Let us discuss John Walker, if you didn't see he was a potential villain before episode 4 you certainly will after. Walker has been cemented as a truly vile, out of control figure. We see him struggle first to control the situation, then fail in a fight with the Dora Mileje which makes him question his own strength, as a result he takes the super serum, and in the final scene he brutally uses the shield to behead a surrendering member of the Flag Smashers. An event that is filmed by hundreds - the whole world really watching. Then there is the second villain, Carli, I'm still not sure how to feel about her. As Sam points out her mission to help those displaced is a worthy cause but she is going about it in the wrong way, she seems to of loss sight of her original goals. Instead, her focus seems to be split, she wants to build an army, and take down large corporations as well as help those with nothing. She is bold in her threats to Sam and her choice to kill. But there is a sense of lost goodness in her which is why I feel so conflicted.

This week we get to see more evidence that Sam is the rightful Captain America, his determination to reason with Carli rather than kill her is reminiscent of how Steve would handle the situation. Moreover, during John's fight with the Dora Mileje Sam suggests that himself and Bucky intervene, in response Bucky says 'looking strong John' clearly enjoying watching John get beaten but Sam intervenes with Bucky's eventual help to end the violence. Another clear indicator that he has the morals of Captain America. As I mentioned above, Bucky is allowing himself to open up and let Sam in. No there are no heart to hearts but when Sam intends to meet Carli alone, Bucky refuses and joins him. Zemo, once again proves more help than John Walker in the mission, having destroyed most of the super serum. But he quickly flees in the chaos of the fight. This chaos is something I think we will seem more of. There are so many teams on the playing field including: Bucky and Sam, Zemo, The Flag Smashers, Ayo and the Dora Mileje, John Walker and The Power Broker (Who I think Sharon is working with) that lines are blurred, and it won't be clear who is fighting who. 

Overall, another thrilling episode - perhaps the best so far. I'm hoping that next week Sam and Bucky will acquire the shield as we saw them with it in the trailer. Once this happens, I hope that Bucky is able to forgive Sam for giving the shield and their bond can continue to grow - whilst keeping the sibling style bickering. However, I still cannot predict how this will all end. 

Also, if you have yet to see the Zemo cut and loved his dancing in episode 3 - watch the video below: 

Episode 5 Review - Truth

After last week's horrific ending, Bucky and Sam go for Walker and the shield in the opening moments of episode 5. In a fight that is reminiscent of the Captain America: Civil War fight between Tony, Steve, and Bucky (even the score is the same). Bucky and Sam succeed in taking the shield, in a moment of finality Bucky throws the shield next to an injured Sam as if to say, 'now do your job'. It's a powerful scene that gives this lengthy episode meaning. Throughout the sixty minutes we are taken on an encompassing journey, the one that Sam must live in order to feel ready to take on the role of Captain America. The initial action is replaced by a much slower narrative, exploring Sam's normal life, motivations and his reservations whilst exploring Bucky's mental state - not the type of episode you'd expect in an action show but the character depth and understanding achieved in these slower moments is perhaps what makes this episode the best so far.

With only one week left to go, it would seem everything is aligning for the finale and beyond. Walker has been rightfully stripped of the Captain America title, something he has become obsessed with. Walker appeared slightly unhinged this week, the serum clearly having a very negative effect on his state of mind, in the after credits scene it seems he is building his own shield. In a confusing moment we are introduced to a new character: Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) who seems to know everything that has happened and is attempting to recruit Walker - for what who knows? But in the comics Valentina is known as Madame Hydra, so it would appear Hydra never really disappeared plus she was meant to debut in Black Widow so look out for her when the film releases in July. Then there is the Sharon Carter conundrum, it would appear that she called in Georges Batroc to help Karli and the Flag Smashers. Is Sharon really the mysterious Power Broker? Or is this all a deep fake to make Sharon look like a villain when she is in fact helping Sam and Bucky? 

Whilst Sam goes home Bucky tracks down Zemo at the Sokovia memorial (it's interesting how Sokovia keeps coming up - Wanda fled here at the end of Wandavision). Instead of fighting Bucky hands Zemo over to Ayo who will escort Zemo to The Raft (the floating prison from Civil War). Will this be the last we see of Zemo? I imagine not. Sam before returning home visits Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly) whose experience causes Sam to question if he really should take on the role. But it is Bucky and Sarah that help Sam to understand that he must choose his own path and that past experiences cannot deter him from changing the future. The scenes of Sam and Bucky at Sam's home in Louisiana deepen the bond they share; in a powerful moment they train together and Sam tries to help Bucky deal with his guilt - I can see Bucky confessing to his past victim's father. Bucky having always had faith in Sam gifts him with what I assume is Vibranium wings. Although not yet friends by the end of the finale I have full faith they will be, even if Bucky flirts with Sarah. The whole rebuilding the boat sequence is not only great fun, full of MCU style comedy, it is also symbolic of the rebuilding after the snap and the rebuilding of Sam and Bucky without their mutual friend Steve.

This episode with its slow shots and lingering camera movements help us to experience the growth of both Sam and Bucky. The powerful montage of Sam training to be Captain America is so emotional, when his nephew outlines the star on the shield, I felt it should have been a longer shot, because visually and mentally it's a powerful image. I loved this episode so much, and I cannot wait to see what next week has in store for us - although I do hope that Bucky manages to find some happiness and friendship with Sam. I'm sure we are in for one amazing finale. 

Episode 6 Review - One World, One People

Can you believe The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is over already? The finale did not disappoint, it's combination of promised action sequences, hero moments and emotional character growth is impressive. Within the opening minutes we finally see Sam as Captain America, the initial shot gave me chills. Sam in the suit feels natural, earned, and deserved. Bucky's arch for the season has come full circle from seeing himself as a monster, that wished to blame others for his past deeds, he truly forgives himself, embraces life and lets Sam in allowing himself to become part of a family. Honestly, I never really understood the Bucky hype until this show but he alongside Sam are now two of my favourite Avengers (After Wanda obviously). For me, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier alongside most of the MCU proves that superhero productions are more than just great fights and people in capes, they are emotional, character building creations that only amassed such a fan base because audiences are made to connect and emotionally attach with the characters - which makes the action scenes and the iconic superhero shots have a larger impact and meaning. Often creating a bigger reaction within audiences. 

Sam had some really great moments this week, I loved his new suit, the wings giving him an angelic vibe. The way he uses the wings and shield in tandem is thrilling to watch, especially in the scene where he saves the armoured vehicle as it plunges to the ground. It's refreshing, a new take on Captain America that feels every bit original and incomparable to Steve Rodgers version, something Sam and audiences deserved. But the most powerful moment of the episode is when Sam talks to the senators, the writers created the most beautiful speech and Anthony Mackie acted it with such conviction it felt like he was addressing us too. Which in a sense he was, throughout this season we have seen current issues tackled, and this speech was telling us that we too need to at times reelevate. Sam also gave Isaiah Bradley the recognition he deserved by ensuring his life, struggle and heroism was remembered and known alongside Steve at the museum exhibition. This was a great moment and offered further evidence as to why Sam was the right choice to take up the Captain America mantel.  

Bucky finally saved some civilians resulting in him being seen as a true hero. Yes, he had Avenger's status at the start of the series but we have only ever seen him as the Winter Soldier, brain washed or fighting in huge scale situations such as the two fights with Thanos (Josh Brolin). In this scene you feel his desperation to free the hostages as he pounds his vibranium fist into the lock repeatedly, once the hostages are free one says the line 'Thank you for saving us' a look of shock crosses Bucky's face. This event helped Bucky to see he is more than just the evil deeds his brain washed self did. Which leads to his confession to his victims' father, this scene is emotive, we want the father to accept Bucky and forgive him even though this is impossible. But it's his bond with Sam that really shows Bucky's transformation, the multiple scenes of them walking arm in arm are lovely. I loved it when Bucky called Sam Cap - although let's face it Bucky always had faith in Sam. The final shots of the pair at a BBQ are really deserved and you can't help but feel happy for them.   

So, most of us totally called that Sharon was the Power Broker, perhaps the only bad thing Sam did this week was get Sharon a pardon. Because now she is back working with the CIA and ready to sell weapons, secrets, anything really. Where her story goes next is certainly going to be interesting especially considering Sam and Bucky have no idea and believe her to be innocent, despite the fact she killed Karli to protect her identity. Karli embraced her extremism side this week, even her followers it seemed had lost faith in her method. But I can't help but feel her death was avoidable, but she knew who Sharon was and Sharon under the umbrella of saving Sam took her shot. The only thing I didn't like was Karli's 'I'm sorry' as she died, this seemed sudden and rather empty. John Walker may have taken his first steps towards redemption this week when he chooses to save civilians rather than kill Karli, but it's all too late as in his final scene Val names him US Agent. I can't help but think Walker has no idea what he's in for. Zemo completes his mission via his butler and successfully kills the remaining super soldiers - he is incredibly efficient even whilst imprisoned on The Raft.  

Overall, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier has been a huge success. The perfectly balanced character development and action makes it a well-rounded show. But most importantly it prepares two of the now most important Avengers for the next phase. I personally cannot wait to see more from Captain America and The Winter Soldier although I do wish Bucky would start going as The White Wolf - but perhaps that is for another show. A brilliant piece of TV, the MCU does it again! Also, yay Red Wing is back!!

Please let me know what you think in the comments below. 

Thank you for reading xx