BMW 535d is elegant way to save fuel, have fun

2014 BMW 535d
2014 BMW 535d

OK, I’m hooked and I admit it. Yes, I love diesel cars.

Hybrids are fine but they cost a bit more and don’t deliver quite the fuel economy claimed, at lest some don’t. Every diesel, however, has met or even exceeded claimed gas mileage. Yep, Each one I’ve tested.

One of my favorites is the BMW 535. It’s already a car to long for, but add diesel technology and it’s nearly irresistible.

The 535d has the same equipment as the 535i except the six cylinder engine is a turbocharged diesel which makes a so-so 255 horsepower, but – wait for it – 413 pounds-feet of torque. Yes, you could pull stumps out of the ground if this were a truck. It’s not. It is a luxury sedan that can hit 60 miles per hour in 5.8 seconds and achieve 26 miles per gallon in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. That’s 30 mpg overall. Oh, and it has x-Drive, BMW’s all wheel drive system.

The engine is coupled to an eight-speed automatic transmission that can shifted like a manual from the steering wheel. It is buttery smooth, acting as if it’s not there at times. You can downshift quickly if you need to pass or cruise effortlessly in eighth gear. Yes, it’s quick for its size, but BMW has taken a bit of the sport out of the 5-series. It’s more comfortable and luxurious than before, but not as attitudinal. You can get that in the M or even the 550i with a V8, but I still think this 5 strikes a great balance between sport and comfort.

Driving this automobile is really a pleasure. There is enough feedback from steering and the road feel from the tires to know what’s going on. You can still find twisty roads to conquer but a tad bit more care is necessary. Don’t worry, this is still a sports sedan, despite the fact it’s as quite as Grant’s tomb.

Can’t say enough about the car’s iconic styling. The double kidney grill still screams BMW. The overall shape is sleek and eye pleasing. Still one of the best looking cars on the road.

There’s plenty of technology, some optional. Intelligent cruise control, blind spot detection, antilock brakes, LED headlights, bunches of air bags, stability and traction control and navigation were present. The ubiquitous high end stereo with terrestrial and satellite radio was also present.

My turn in the Bimmer didn’t allow me to test the x-Drive system. The weather was perfect. I’m still not sure if I’m sold on i-Drive, although it gets better with every new update. X-drive controls most of the car’s functions with a single knob. I’m not bothered by many buttons so long as each feels good to the touch or offers an easily definable function.

How much for the goodies. Well, my test car was around $60,000 with options and destination. That’s about average for cars in this class. Love the gas mileage with the diesel engine (which of course does not smoke nor makes much noise per diesels of old). Couldn’t ask for much more.

Best Android smartphone you can buy? Sorry Samsung, it’s HTC M8

HTC's M8 One Smartphone
HTC’s M8 One smartphone

The folks at Verizon were nice enough to send us the latest HTC smartphone for review and the M8 doesn’t disappoint. In fact, we find it to be the best Android smartphone your money can buy.

The phone was launched last spring as the successor the HTC One, which was the best selling smartphone in the company’s history.  It combined gorgeous good looks with quality build design and the new version picks up where the original left off.

Aesthetically, you won’t find a better-looking phone. It is a touch slippery but has a nice aluminum body and rounded back. It’s pretty. It feels good in the hand and the 5-inch display is bright, clear and, frankly, breathtaking. It’s among the best in class.IMG_0623

Battery life? Pretty good. Putting the phone through its paces, pretty hard, we were consistently able to get 7-8 hours of use. We love the ability to use the phone’s radio frequency chip to use as a remote control for your home theater, and the set-up screen is simple to use and something that dedicated universal remote makers should take a long look at.

The phone has a very fast  processor that can handle everything you throw at it, graphic intensive games or multi-tasking and those games look great on this screen. Verizon also has a cool NFL app that allows you to watch NFL Network or even live games (for a fee, of course).

HTC M8 beside iPhone 6 Plus
HTC M8 beside iPhone 6 Plus

Taking the NFL with you is kind of neat, although it may run up your data bill quite a bit if you’re not on WiFi, but Verizon’s network delivered stutter free Peyton Manning and we were able to watch the game while in the grocery, at the mall and visiting a friend. Honey-do Sundays take on new meaning with a phone like this.

We tested the Android version of this phone, but Windows fans can pick up a version that will display those live tiles very, very well.

This phone has a lot of cool stuff built in. Let’s see:

1. You can answer a phone call by just raising phone to your ear.

2. You can activate the screen with a swipe downward.

3. The sound from this thing is better than any other phone we’ve ever tested. The front-facing speakers at the top and bottom of the phone will have you skipping those speaker add-on thingies at the local Wal-Mart.

4. The camera is really good. It’s got dual flash and really good auto-focus, so even Captain Shaky Hands can get a good shot almost every time. Ditto the video camera.

Call quality on Verizon’s network where we tested it — in our home base of beautiful Charlotte and on a field trip to Tennessee — was solid and voice calls were clear.

There’s just not much to dislike.

If you’re an Android or Windows type of phone lover, this is definitely one you should look at. For us, it’s the best Android smartphone money can buy.

The folks at Verizon also sent five cases to help promote Verizon’s NFL partnership. We’ve got five Otterbox defenders: two iPhone 5/5C cases. One is adorned with a Dolphins logo. The other with the Panthers.

We’ve also got three Samsung Galaxy S5 cases: two with Panthers logos and one with the Patriots.

We’re giving away all five. Send an email to with your case preference and we’ll randomly select a winner.



Audi Q7 loaded with luxury but showing its age


The luxury SUV market has become a very crowded field. There’s hardly a marque that doesn’t have such a vehicle or plan to have such a vehicle within the next couple of

There are some really good ones. The Audi Q7 is one of those good ones. Yes, it has its age issues but for those looking for something that offers a tremendous amount of luxury, please, look here.

I was able to sample the diesel version of the Q7. I am a diesel fan, maybe a fanatic. I think I would own one before a hybrid, but that’s a close call. Anyway, my Q7 got an impressive 28 miles to the gallon on the highway and 19 in the city. That’s an overall rating of 22 mpg, which is great considering the Q7’s weight and its ability to carry seven people.

Well, seven might be a stretch. The rear seat is for kids or small adults. Cargo space is very limited if that seat is used. It becomes OK if you fold it out of the way. The rest of the interior is attractive. Luxury abounds in lavish amounts of wood, leather and metal, but the dash can be a bit confusing. There’s also not as much space as one would like for something with this big a footprint.

The Q7 is powered by a 3.0-liter six-cylinder TDI clean diesel that makes 240 horsepower. Seem skimpy? This engine makes an astounding 406 pounds-feet of torque. That’s enough to pull big tree trunk out of the ground if you wanted. It’s also enough to whip around slow traffic when needed. The transmission is a buttery eight speed.

Interior good but a little confusing on the controls
Interior good but a little confusing on the controls

The Q7 is isolated from nearly every type of bad road conditions you can find. The optional adjustable air suspension gives you a cloud-like ride. The Quattro (Audi’s all-wheel-drive) dispenses of treacherous weather with aplomb. The ride might be a tad soft for some so I’d suggest the sport setting for better road feel. I’d like a few more horses for top end, but the available torque is more than enough to compensate.

Driving dynamics are about what you would expect for something this big but about what you could hope for something this big built by Audi. The 2014 Q7 adds LED running lights and standard keyless entry to the Premium package.

My vehicle was the Prestige model which is a $12,000 package that includes 20-inch spoke wheels, four-zone climate control, Bose sound system, navigation and a panoramic sunroof.

The Bose system was replaced by a Bang & Olufsen “advanced sound system” at a cost of $6,300. The mentioned air suspension was $2,600.

A technology package included a side-view camera and adaptive cruise control for $2,400. The S-line package gives you better exterior cosmetics for $2,000.

Throw in a few more packages and destination charges and the $52,900 Q7 clocks in at $81,395. That’s in line with Mercedes, BMW, Infiniti and Lexus, but most of those vehicles are newer. Audi takes care of that with a new Q7 in 2015. For now, this is still something you should consider if you intend to sit in luxury’s lap.

Porsche Cayman S more than budget Carrera

2014 Cayman S
2014 Cayman S

Porsche. Say the name and you think of sports cars – the sports car.

Well, usually that sports car is the 911 Carrera, but hey, it is the Porsche.

The company offers so much more, however. The redesigned 2014 Cayman S is more wonderful than ever and is nearly as rewarding as the top-dog Porsche.

The Cayman is waaaaay less expensive than a 911 but it also has far less power. If the car has a major flaw, the absence of raw power would be it. You just get the feeling it can handle so much more. Notice I said if it had a major flaw. It really does not. The Cayman S is a true sports car, pure and simple. Yes, more power would be OK, but don’t we always wish for more power regardless?

The Cayman is one great looking sports car. For those who want a 911 and can’t afford one, or simply wants something that turns heads – this is your ticket. My test car was in Superman blue with red leather interior. All that was missing was a yellow S on what I call the hood, but is actually the trunk. The Cayman is a mid-engine car. Let’s talk about that engine. The 3.4-liter flat six aluminum engine cranks out 325 horsepower with 273 pounds-feet of torque. This will get you to 60 miles per hour in 4.6 seconds. Need to stop quick? That can be done in 107 feet from 60 miles per hour. It’s those ceramic brakes with bright red calipers that do the trick.

This engine, coupled with a slick shifting six-speed manual and a suspension conceived by the handling gods make this a drive to remember. The car looks for difficult roads to master. Acceleration, braking, handling and steering are just right. The car’s handling is about as balanced as you would like. Fling, sling or throw it into a curve and you are rewarded. Stab the brakes and your confidence is intact. Bust down a straightaway and you don’t really remember this car lacks raw power. The refined power it possesses is just fine.

Interior has been updated greatly
Interior has been updated greatly

I can’t say enough about this car’s handling. It sticks. There was some snow right before I got the car. Thankfully it disappeared and gave me the opportunity to do some serious driving. Didn’t really want to test that traction control on snow. Some will find the ride quality harsh. That would be all those who prefer luxury cars to sports cars. The Porsche Active Suspension Management has a comfort setting which keeps the car from swaying and leaning during regular or hard driving. I kept it in the sport setting, comfort be damned.

Did I mention the gas milage is great? You can achieve 28 mpg on the highway and 20 in the city.

Porsche’s reworking of the Cayman’s interior does not go unnoticed. The materials are first rate and the design looks more Porsche-like. No entry-level stuff to be found. One of several options was an infotainment system which features Burmester, a Berlin-based audiophile audio company. The sound is incredible as well it should be at $6,700.The red leather interior took some getting used to, especially with the blue exterior. Porsche is nothing but bold in its design and color palette.

So, what price Porsche? Umm. Well. OK, here we go. The base price of the Cayman S is $63,800.

The big ticket items included 14-way power seats ($2,300), Burmester infotainment ($6,730), Carrera red leather interior ($3,895) PASM ($1,795) 20-inch wheels ($1,560) and a sport Chrono package ($1,850).

Those options and a few other things thrown in brought the as-tested price to $88,745. That will give you change back from your $100,000 bill.That’s still far cheaper than a 911 (though I think the extra funds spent justify the bang you get for your buck).

This is without question a jewel of an automobile.What’s that line from Risky Business – “Porsche, there’s nothing like it.” Truer words have not been spoken.


Lexus ES350 is still good entry level choice

2014 Lexus ES350
2014 Lexus ES350

Lexus is continuing its promise to offer more stylish automobiles to consumers. Each of it’s automobiles (and some trucks) have been touched up to have a family resemblance.

It’s that spindle grille. Some hate it but, hey, you now know a Lexus when you see one. The ES 350 has certainly benefited. It’s mostly been looked upon as a more upscale Toyota Camry which is a bit backwards. It’s the Camry that benefits from the ES, not the other way around. Still, Lexus has tried hard to make the ES much more and it has succeeded. It’s not just the grille, either. The ES 350 is a sports sedan that can hold it’s own with it’s European and American counterparts.

Yes, you notice the grille. It’s big, bold and controversial. I like it, especially on the F-Sport version. At the moment it looks nothing like a Camry (more on that later). The car is powered by a similar V6 engine that makes 268 horsepower and 248 pounds feet of torque. The six-speed transmission has settings for sport and economy and can be shifted manually. This combination doesn’t sound spectacular but this engine is enough to make the ES feel swift, especially in the sport mode. The transmission shifts crisply and unobtrusively. Downshifts happen quickly if you need to pass quickly.

I did call this a sports sedan which isn’t entirely false. You can drive the ES 350 aggressively. You can go from 0-60 miles per hour in about 6.5 seconds which is now about average for the class. Traction and stability control do help keep the car planted while the ABS will stop you straight even in emergencies. Where this car shines is its quiet, comfortable ride. It’s not pillowy old Buick, but it is relaxing.

ES 350 has spacious, well appointed interior
ES 350 has spacious, well appointed interior

Passengers and driver will enjoy the cabin, which is now available with bamboo trim instead of maple hardwood. It brightens things a bit and not as harsh on the environment (takes far less time to grow bamboo than a maple tree). Four people – four tall people – can fit in the ES with ease. Five people will be comfortable. Perforated leather trim is available with heated and cooled seats. The dash is attractively done in upscale materials. My test car had a big touch screen which controlled the audio and climate controls. There is also a mouse in the center console to control things. It’s not meant for use while driving which is probably why there’s also a touch screen.

There are many standard features too numerous to mention. My test car had a optional navigation package, luxury package, power sunshade, parking assist, power trunk opening and blind spot detection. The as-tested price was a little over $46,000. There’s lots to choose from in that price range but very few cars offer this kind of fit and finish and reliable reputation. The ES is still a car to put on your shopping list

Oh, about the Camry. The 2015 version will take many of the ES’s styling cues, including a version of the spindle grille. You will not get the Lexus warranty, however.


Toyota gives Corolla needed youthful infusion

When Toyota took the wraps off of the 2014 Corolla some time ago there should have been a collective gasp. Were our eyes playing tricks on us or were we seeing something, well, stylish and youngish? Yes, we did and do see such. The boxy, yet dependable Corolla has been transformed into something that fits into this century. It’s stylish (at least for a Corolla) and drives far better than any recent Corolla.

2014 Toyota Corolla
2014 Toyota Corolla

The exterior of shape of the Corolla is now more slippery with a grill reminiscent of the current Avalon, sans chrome, replaced by a black matte finish. Few may find it odd, but it is at least forward looking. The interior is far more roomy, especially the back seat. Three adults can fit comfortably, but this is not Camry roomy. The dash has been reworked with an upscale look. There is plastic but with a combination of soft and shiny surfaces. It’s black but not drab. Crisp lines and a center stack that houses the audio and climate controls make this an excellent redo.

The engine is a 1.8-liter, 16-valve four-cylinder hooked to a continuously variable transmission. It makes 140 horsepower with 126 pounds-feet of torque. That’s not enough to make your blood boil with excitement but your real appreciation for this engine comes from being able to pass many gas stations. The tank size is an OK 13.2 gallons but you can get an average of 35 miles per gallon. Yep. City milage is 30 with highway coming in at 42. That’s without a hybrid engine. If this isn’t best in class its got to be close.

The engine works well, but as with all CVTs, this car is tuned more for sipping fuel. That’s not to say Toyota hasn’t worked on the chassis. Front and rear sway bars, traction and stability controls and a good set of brakes raise this car several ticks above basic transportation. The ride is very comfortable but the car doesn’t bounce around like it’s at sea. The Corolla may lack some of the spice of other cars in it’s class but the refinement and build quality may be the best. Despite some recall problems, Toyota still makes a fine car.

Dash is more upscale
Dash is more upscale

My test vehicle was a standard equipped LE Eco model. With no options, the car can be had for $19,510. That gives you air, power package, heated mirrors, cruise control, ABS, traction control, stability control, auto down driver’s window, LED low-beam headlamps, rear headrests and keyless entry. Not a bad haul for less than 20 grand The Corolla has placed itself back on the list of cars to be recommended. You can push the price into the mid 20s with touch screen infotainment center, sunroof and the like if you want. Still, as is, this LE Eco is good as is.

Volvo adds spice to 2015 S60 T6 sedan

Volvo has always been known for making safe cars. Years back it even had a model that you just couldn’t kill. The company’s lack of interesting design, however, has always been a fault.

There have been a few good things. The hardtop convertible is cool and some of the station wagons have been so as well. Now we have a Volvo sedan that is stylish, tech laden and, dare I say, kinda fun to drive.

2015 Volvo S60
2015 Volvo S60

The 2015 Volvo S60 T6 is that car. Its styling is much sharper as is all of it’s edges. The grille is easily recognizable as a Volvo but with a few aggressive touches. LED headlights finish the look. There are many upgrades to the interior – it’s no longer frumpy. The front seats lean toward the sporty side. Covered in leather, each grips driver and passenger comfortably, but aggressively in case you want to toss the car about. The instrument panel is very modern and ergonomic. The seven-inch touch screen monitor helps bring Volvo into this century. The Volvo “floating” center stack house a variety of controls which includes climate and audio. Audio controls are duplicated on the sporty steering wheel which also has paddle shifters.

The engine is a modest 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes an impressive 302 horsepower through super and turbo charging. Toque is also impressive at 295 pounds-feet available at a low 2100 rpm. Such a lightweight unit allows the car to feel, well, lighter than if it had a six-cylinder. It also allows for good fuel economy (35 highway, 24 city with 28 overall).

The new S60 is quick, light, agile and rock solid. Fling this thing around a curve and it sticks. Blast down your favorite section of unencumbered highway (no PO-PO) and it exhibits straight-line accuracy. Stab the brakes and it stops short and straight. Yes, it could have a few more horses and sure, summer tires would give it better grip, but I quibble.

There are many safety features, some standard, some optional. City Safety can prevent you from rear-ending something. It’s a low-speed collision avoidance system that works with windshield mounted lasers and will automatically apply the brakes at speeds up to 19 miles per hour. There are copious amounts of air bags. Antilock brakes, traction and stability control are in tow as well. Choose the technology package (which I got) and you get adaptive cruise control, collision warning with full auto brake, lane departure warning and pedestrian and cyclist detection with auto brake.

My test car also featured a platinum package that included navigation and a premium sound system; 19-inch diamond cut wheels, blind spot information package; heated front seats and metallic paint. My car’s base price was $36,150. With every option the as-tested price came to $47,925.

Volvo S60 has neat rear
Volvo S60 has neat rear

There is much wiggle room between base and as-tested, so you can option accordingly. The price is about average for what’s in the price class but I found the S60 to be far above average in it and finish, bang for buck and even fun to drive categories. Volvo has to be happy with the finished product. I am.

Apple cashes in on latest craze with Beats

Beats Pro wireless

Now that Apple has announced it will buy Beats Audio for $3 billion what’s next? Will every iPod and iPhone come with Beats headphones? Will Beats put the Apple logo on its products? Will Forbes finally say that, yes, Dr. Dre. will be a billionaire? Well, we don’t know. We do know that straw polls, surveys and whatnots have confirmed that young folks think Apple is cool again because it has acquired Beats. How much of a good thing that is, or if at all, for Apple we also don’t know. Most of the people asked did not own Beats but would buy them, depending on which survey you read. For certain, someone is buying these headphones. The company either makes a billion dollars a year selling them or sells a billion dollars worth yearly. That’s way less than what Apple makes a month off its products but a new stream of yearly income of a billion or more never hurt anyone or any company. What I want to know is when did headphones become the cash cow of the almost non existent audio industry? Go into any big box retailer and you will find displays, kiosks, shelves and end caps dedicated to headphones, portable speakers and anything else that will keep you from buying a decent audio system that’s not dedicated to rattling your walls with the latest Blu-ray. Headphones are everywhere – Bose, Beats, Sol Republic, B&O, Bowers&Wilkins – you name the company, it has a dedicated space if not just shelf space. I’m an Apple fan. I’ve used its products since working at a weekly African American newspaper. I like the ease of use, the near bulletproof reliability and the longevity. I’m not so convinced about Beats. Yes, they offer much boom for the bucks, but there’s music out there that’s more subtle and has greater dynamic range than boom. Beats are often accused of being to pricey for what you get. They are not by any stretch of the imagination the most expensive units you can buy. Shure, maker of fine phono cartridges (don’t ask) and microphones, sells a pair of earbuds (SE846) for $999. Yes, a thousand bucks for earbuds. AKG sells over the ear headphones for more than $1,400 a pair. Are any of these items worth the money. Shure and AKG certainly think so. As for Beats, it depends on the model. I hate the Solos, the entry level Beats, which are by far the most popular. There is so much better available in that price range (about $200). I’ve yet to hear the Solo II model. It can only be better than the original and Beats claims such. The wireless Studio headphones are a different story. I recently spent an afternoon at an Apple store listening to a few high end headphones that included the Studios and I was impressed. I started with a pair of Bowers & Wilkins P5s attached to a iPod Touch that was playing Miranda Lambert’s “Baggage Claim.” I don’t do much Country, but this woman’s arresting vocals made me listen. Her voice seemed to float in the middle of band – right where it should have been. I moved on to Bang & Olufsen’s BeoPlay H6 and liked them even better. The sound was a bit sweeter and for a hundred bucks more ($399) as well it should. Next was Parrot’s Zik. These were wonderful. Wireless and buttonless, they were. To turn up the volume, change tracks or turn them on you pushed, swiped or touched the right earphone. The Ziks felt a little heavier but still comfortable than their corded counterparts. Lambert’s voice was clear, crisp and powerful. Me likey. The Beats Studio Pro wireless were as impressive. Like the wired Studio Pro’s, these uses DSP software to achieve it’s robust sound. The model also uses noise canceling technology. As with all Beats, the bass was the most prevalent, but the notes were more round than mushy. I could live with these, but at $379.99, it will be awhile. Apple could have bought anything with all that cash yet it chose Beats. Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine come with the package and that’s a good thing. Still, it will be a while before we see if all cash was well spent. Heck, Apple still has about $150 billion to spend so this will hardly make it cash poor. Will Beats make Apple richer? We will see.

XV Crosstrek is one make-sense hybrid

2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek
2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek

Subaru has always been thought of as a quirky car marker since it hit these shores decades ago. I don’t know if that thought is still accurate. Subaru offers a full line of cars that are, well, different, but fit into a variety of lifestyles. The XV Crosstrek offers all the Subaru stuff – all-wheel-drive, boxer engine, continuously variable transmission – but pushes the envelope by adding hybrid technology. It’s useful technology. Instead of bolting a hybrid drive to a small car which should get great gas mileage, the Crosstrek is a roomy crossover. Said hybrid drive allows 33 on the highway and 29 city. That’s an overall average of 31. Just average you say? Remember this is something that can haul five people, stuff in the back, on top and has all wheel drive. Little more impressive don’t you think? The hybrid’s total horsepower output is 160 with 163 pounds-feet of torque. That’s OK because it’s enough to move the vehicle about without much hesitation. It’s not fast – or even quick – but it does do the job. Driving this is like driving most other Subarus. I’m a fan of its all wheel drive system which I especially like using in the rain. It gives the car a stability you feel in an Audi but at far lower a price tag. It’s also unobtrusive. You don’t really notice till there’s a need. What you will notice is the gas mileage. Yep, trips to your local petrol station will be fewer. It’s also good to know this is a partial zero emissions vehicle (PZEV). That means it’s clean enough to drive in California which is saying much. My only gripe with the Crosstrek is the continuously variable transmission (CVT). It’s not just Subaru. I’ve found most of them to be noisy. The five speed manual would be my pick but the art of driving a stick is fading. Automatic transmissions are more efficient and get nearly the same gas mileage. The hybrid touring model comes with many features. Traction control and stability control are standard, as are antilock brakes, seven airbags, premium sound system with HD/Sirius/XM radio, power package, voice controlled navigation and split-folding rear seats. The decked out hybrid will run you into the mid $30,000. The 2.0i premium starts at under $22,000. You can check out stock at your local dealer or build your own at (then find it at your local dealer). The XV Crosstrek isn’t flashy nor will it make you pine to own one. Once driven it will leave a lasting impression and make you seriously consider owning a Subaru. You would be one of several million that likes the fact they made that choice.









Winter Solider redeems Marvel’s miss

Captain America: The Winter Solider

Stars Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Redford,

Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stain and Cobie Smulders

Anthony Russo, Joe Russo and Josh Whedon, directors

Sony Pictures/Marvel/Disney


Running time: 136 minutes


Marvel should really look at Captain America: The Winter Solider as redemption. It is a far better movie than Captain America: The First Avenger, which was nearly unwatchable. Although necessary, the back story bogged down the action and sometimes the action looked cartoonish.

Chris Evans
Chris Evans 

Not so for round two. If you missed the first movie you won’t need it to get the gist of this story. By giving Captain America angst – a reason to question what and who he’s fighting for and against – Steve Rogers goes from a cardboard cutout to an engaging character. Rogers (Chris Evans) is having trust issues with SHIELD and boss Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). He’s feeling both may be getting out of hand. When Fury is attacked by The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stain), Rogers becomes a suspect and finds SHIELD has a few trust issues with him, especially from Fury’s friend Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford).

Captain America’s bigger problem is the Winter Solider, who is about as strong as he is but far more deadly. He’s a Russian agent that’s had a hand in history since World War I that no one can put a face on or even prove his existence. A ghost.

That’s part of the story which shifts from plot to subplot to twist at a dizzying pace. There’s a big reveal which changes a lot and puts certain characters into question. The Russo’s and Whedon keep the pace skipping along, slowing down for a hinted at but never realized romance between Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Rogers. There’s also some quality time with Fury, which finally has a bigger role in a Marvel movie.

Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Redford
Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Redford

There’s plenty of action. Car chases (Fury’s SUV is way too cool), fight and flight scenes are well thought out. Captain America’s fight scenes are much more intense and he proves he’s just as good at fighting humans as well as aliens. Black widow has a few spectacular moves that are more like those in the second Iron Man.

Perhaps the most interesting character is Sam Wilson/The Falcon (Anthony Mackie). His sense of humor helps open the film which establishes his relationship with Rogers. This helps to lighten the tone of this gritty, but entertaining film. He gets the best one-liners, has the quickest wit and can fly. He can even out maneuver jets with big guns. Marvel scrapped the Falcon’s red & white tights for basic fatigues and black wings. When he makes his appearance the action ticks up

Anthony Mackie
Anthony Mackie


This movie fits nicely in the Marvel Universe which seems to be expanding all the time. Several minor characters from the Avengers are brought in for continuity. Yes, there are those extra scenes that hint at what’s two come. Stay through all the credits. Heck, if you want to see the title of the film appear on screen you will have to stay until the credits.


Captain America: The Winter Solider opens nation wide April 4.