Reel Critics: 'Winter Soldier' a spring treat

A buffed Chris Evans returns to the screen as Captain America, the most wholesome and righteous character in the Marvel Comics lineup. He perfectly fits the role of an honest super soldier whose physical powers were enhanced by experimental Army drugs. Fighting Nazis in World War II was his first mission. After being placed in suspended animation for six decades, he emerges in the present day to battle new threats to mankind.

"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" takes the franchise fully into the 21st century. Rip-roaring special effects induce head-spinning vertigo with impossible sci-fi stunts on screen. High-level treachery in government circles mimics current headlines about Big Brother watching over all of us.

Samuel L. Jackson and Anthony Mackie add a solid touch in their supporting roles within the S.H.I.E.L.D. intelligence agency. Robert Redford provides classic gravitas as a member of an elite worldwide security council.

But Scarlett Johansson steals the show as the sultry Black Widow, an eye-catching operative with spectacular martial-arts skills. The double-cross hyper-action runs long at more than two hours. But it's a rollicking good time for fans of this high-powered superhero genre.

—John Depko


Kind words for 'Bad Words'

A 40-year-old man finds a loophole that allows him to enter a national spelling bee in "Bad Words," a no-holds-barred black comedy directed by and starring Jason Bateman.

Guy Trilby (Bateman) is truly a mean guy, and he doesn't care. He manages to outrage parents and crush competitors with wicked glee in his dogged pursuit to win this most prestigious of contests. Is this just a case of arrested development, or has he a score to settle?

There's a fine support cast including a tightly wound Allison Janney as the "queen bee" who does her best to thwart Guy's success — including making him sleep in a storage room at the hotel — and Kathryn Hahn as a reporter/sponsor desperately trying to find out his back story.

The film also stars a 10-year-old contestant, wide-eyed Chaitanya (Rohan Chand), who isn't at all put off by Guy's sarcastic barbs. It's to Bateman's credit that he can soften his edge without getting too sentimental.

The climactic final round of the spelling bee is perversely funny and surprising. This is not a movie for the easily offended, but I really enjoyed "Bad Words" and will happily watch again with a shot of whiskey and a dictionary.

—Susanne Perez

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator. SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.

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