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Review: Batman V Superman, Dawn of Justice OR “WTF Zack Snyder?”

Warning: Massive Spoilers Throughout!

First, let me say that I am a gigantic superhero film fan and I wanted to love this movie. I am a fan of both Marvel and DC characters, especially Batman and Superman. I also quite enjoyed ‘Man of Steel’ and approve of both Henry Cavill as Superman and Ben Affleck as Batman. In fact, the performances within this film are actually the least egregious aspects of it. Rather it is the handling of said characters actions and motivations throughout the muddled story that plague it most in my opinion. I believe Zack Snyder, or maybe the studio heads (its legitimately hard to tell), honestly missed the point of the characters. In fact, the whole idea of Batman Versus Superman is silly in general as you have to work pretty hard to get two, supposedly, intelligent characters that are, again supposedly, morally good to duke it out. A far better movie would have been an adaption of ‘World’s Finest’ where the two meet, are appropriately cautious of each other, then realize they need each other to surmount odds they could not traverse on their own merits.

Overview:

‘Batman Versus Superman’ takes place eighteen months after the events of ‘Man of Steel’. the initial beginning to the films takes us back to the finale of that movie first with Superman battling it out with General Zod in Metropolis. We are introduced to this scene from a different angle this time however, from the literal street perspective of Bruce Wayne as he rushes through downtown Metropolis in a valiant effort to save friends and collegues of his in the Wayne Enterprises building. Here is a strong opening to the movie that brilliantly sets up how Bruce Wayne’s perspective of paranoia and unease towards the Man of Steel is earned and understood.

Sadly that is some of the last good character motivation we get throughout the film. Yes, lots of things happen in this movie, but they just… happen, there is no cohesive storyline that connects all of these events. Thus we get, in my opinion, Zack Snyder’s weakest film to date. And yes, I saw ‘Sucker Punch’. In fact, ‘Sucker Punch’ has similar issues to this film. Looks great, but the plot is a quagmire. I feel the only proper way to analyze this movie is to separate out the core aspects of it and dive into each one individually, because there are good aspects to the movie, they’re just buried in a tangle of mistakes.

Superman:

“I don’t care..” That single line best represents my issue with the adaption of Superman in this film. Somehow Zack Snyder lost the Superman he crafted in ‘Man of Steel’ while transitioning to this story. This version of Superman is dour, brooding, and devoid of the ability to maintain his own trademark optimism whatsoever. You may say these same issues plague ‘Man of Steel’ but I disagree, the level of outright mishandling of the core mindset of the character that is on display here is a confusing creative choice. ‘Man of Steel’ did not have the same misunderstanding of what makes Clark Kent Superman. At the end credits of that movie I felt that Henry Cavill’s Kent was on his way to becoming a more traditionally inspired take on the character.

Never has Superman been this grotesquely unsure of his own actions, he even congeals over whether or not he is actually a good person. Let me be clear though, Henry Cavill’s performance is not what seems to be the problem here. It seems that the creative team was trying to push Superman out of the way, because Batman is here now! That’s my take anyway. In fact, they even set up what could have been a great scene when Superman visits the Senate to discuss his take on his actions, to answer the question of whether or not the world actually needs a Superman. What a great chance to dive into the philosophy of the man of steel! But no, the scene is wasted on an attempt at tension and to point out to the audience that, yes, Lex Luthor is a sinister bastard. I think we could all infer that just from looking at that haircut.

Superman’s portion of the film is possibly what irks me the most as he was greatly underutilized. Superman may have gotten top billing along with Batman but he clearly wasn’t the focus of the filmmakers. They wrote the character as a little too cocky for me at times and then on top of that they had the audacity to kill him.. but only to bring him back in time for the Justice League movie. They did not earn that moment. Superman honestly deserved to have at least one more film before this one to work out his character within this emerging DC world. I submit that a George Miller directed sequel with Brainiac as the villain would have been beyond excellent. Reality, however, dictates that we do not live in that world. We must trudge on with the bungling harbinger of the eventual Super Friends movie that we have before us.

Let me just add that Superman’s greatest superpower is his ability to inspire hope in others. In this movie he could barely find it within himself, let alone inspiring others. How did this happen?

Batman:

Okay, first off, Batman kills people now? This ultimately undermines his heroism, plus when it has happened before in the comic form it was a big deal, he never killed without great purpose and dire need. This was a drastic leap from the character’s moral code without any explanation whatsoever. If he hadn’t utilized blatant murder so flippantly maybe I could see past one super baddie getting his teeth punch down his throat and neck snapped, but Ben Affleck’s Batman simply had no regard for people’s lives in this movie. I would even consider it a begrudging pass if he had one conversation with Alfred challenging him on this, to at least have some sort of acknowledgement to this change in ethics. As it stands Ben Affleck’s Batman is essentially the Punisher in a Batsuit. If I wanted that take on a character I’d just watch season two of Daredevil on Netflix, and you should, its a far better use of your time than this film.

However, I have to say, beyond that Ben Affleck’s version of Bruce Wayne and Batman’s fighting style is downright excellent. This is the only character with solid motivation and reasoning as he moves throughout the storyline. His banter with Jeremey Irons’ Alfred are some of the best lines throughout the film. Batman himself gets several great lines such as, “You’re not brave. Men are brave.” Nice. Too bad that quality didn’t transcend the rest of the film.

One last thing though. Why did we have to have a montage sequence where he’s throwing tires and ropes and chains? A good ole workout won’t do you much good when your rival combatant can take a Nuke to the face and continue the fight moments later. A better montage would have been Bruce and Alfred constructing that admittedly badass supersuit Batman just happened to have lying around for the final showdown. I can’t even remember how he got that.

Lex Luthor:

Suprisingly I didn’t despise Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor as much as I thought I would. I don’t believe he’s the Luthor the audience deserves, but its the one we got, so we must go on. Once his schemes involving the manipulation of Batman and others were unraveled I was somewhat impressed with his cunning ability to have multiple schemes going at once. I was not, however, impressed with his actions regarding him pushing Superman into a fight with Batman near the climax. It was just lazy writing. It was the easy way out. Which is painfully irritating for a character that is supposed to be incredibly intelligent.

Jesse Eisnberg’s Lex Luthor wasn’t the Lex Luthor I wanted, nor one that I was familiar with, but the character’s spirit did seemed buried in this performance, as if this were his origin tale as to how he became the Luthor we knew and will know.. hopefully. Although, I’ll be honest, Mark Strong would have been my first pick in casting for Luthor.

Wonder Woman:

Gal Gadot’s amazonian princess was fairly solid in her performance. Her fighting with Doomsday was also action packed and appropriate for the character. This does not mean she was needed in this film though. Her reveal and moments of interaction spread throughout the film feel desperately pushed by the studio, almost as if you can hear executives at Warner Brothers saying “Well we need her in this movie so people can get used to the idea of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman before the Justice League!” She will be the only solo character to get an another origin before the Justice League, I wish she had her film before this one though. It would have made her presence all the better for the fanboy antics that she riled up upon her arrival.

Story:

There is a way that this story could have worked beautifully. Alas, it did not. Lex Luthor tricking Batman into picking a fight with Superman by manipulation is an interesting idea. Although, I would have preferred Batman not being duped by such a young, slightly annoying, Luthor. The movie just has so many creative choices that make no sense whatsoever. For example, when Lois Lane, who is ultimately wasted throughout this film by the way, picks up the Kryptonian spear Batman forged and threw it in a well filled with water, only to force Superman to save her and retrieve it, felt so blocky and half baked in terms of editing, movement, and pacing. And how many times will Lois Lane be shoved off the side of building? One of these days we’re going to expect her to get saved as she always does, then splat. Dead Lois. It would be consistent with Zack Snyder’s concern over the characters in this world, like Jimmy Olsen. Oh, did you not realize he was in this film? He was the CIA operative posing as a reporter with Lois Lane in the opening of the film. Zack Snyder shot Jimmy Olsen in the head in the first ten minutes of this movie. Ugh. It’s not like he was the most interesting character in the world, but did they have to shoot him in the face?

I can’t mention story here and not point out the flaw in storytelling that is the Martha scene. Both Superman and Batman’s mothers are named Martha. Right before Batman is about to kill Superman with a spear forged from Kryptonite Superman mumbles out “Save.. Martha” and Batman loses his mind, “WHERE DID YOU HERE THAT NAME?” and Lois Lane just so happens to appear at the last second to explain to Batman that Martha is his mother’s name. Batman immediately realizes he was tricked, or something like that I guess, and goes off to save Superman’s mother from Lex’s hired thugs. What? Wow. That is so sloppy and incoherent of a choice to make right at the climax of the fight.

Zack Snyder:

He is now the Michael Bay of Comic Book movies. He just doubled down on everything that didn’t work in ‘Man of Steel’ and nothing that did. Granted, he is not the only one to blame by a long shot. Warner Brothers very clearly had their mitts all over this in an attempt to have the competitive edge against Marvel Studios. Which ironically is probably what made this film suffer the most. As the director I do believe he deserves some of the blame though. He really didn’t get the point of the characters, or if he did he let the story take this shape anyway without righting the careening ship. Like the Captain of the Titanic in full denial Zack Snyder forged ahead and smashed right into that iceberg full of money. We all knew, by the way, that regardless of what this film was like, it would make boatloads of cold hard cash. It definitely has already, and that’s great if you loved this movie, which is fine. I didn’t hate the film in the least, rather I was massively disappointed with it. What worries me now though is the two part Justice League movie, both of which he is directing. If he had such a difficult time handling two of the seven League members, how in the hell is he going to be able to step up to the plate and deliver us two quality films about these characters?

The Super Friends:

Lastly, speaking of the other Justice League members, they too were shoved hastily into this film. When Batman steals Lex Luthor’s secret files concerning the other members of the eventual team he sends Wonder Woman an email with the contents. She clicks through the icons, which by the way have each character’s logo emblazened on them, to see video content of Aquaman, Cyborg, and The Flash. Wow is that incredibly lazy. I mean, someone got paid to write this film.. and that’s how they thought an appropriate reveal of several members of the Justice League should play out. At least the Flash has another moment where he appears to Bruce Wayne through time travel to warn him that Lois Lane is the key, and that “You were right about him!”, although if you didn’t know that A: The Flash can time travel, or B: that typically anytime a red blur with lightning surrounding it appears in the DC universe it’s usually the Flash, that moment would be lost on you.

So, all in all, the film has moments of greatness that are ultimately lost in the muck among the many many problems this film has. Lets all hope they find a better way to handle the Justice League, because I desperately want it to be an epic fufilling movie-going experience. As it stands now I am very concerned about it. Superman may not be able to, but lets all just have a bit of hope. I’ll leave you with a fun article and accompanying video, enjoy!

http://www.theverge.com/2016/3/27/11313366/batman-superman-team-up-animated-movie-dawn-of-justice

Final Score: 2/5

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Review: DeadPool or “This time they didn’t sew his mouth shut!”

By now everyone has seen this movie, but nonetheless, I felt like adding to the chorus of praise its getting. There might be some spoiler-ish content, if you haven’t seen this movie (somehow) go check it out, if you’re old enough, its amazing.

Deadpool has had a long history getting to the big screen. This isn’t even technically his first time on the silver screen, but in all honesty, that wasn’t the real Deadpool anyways. This movie rectifies the atrocities of ‘Xmen Origins: Wolverine’ by poking fun at the disservice to the title character, and poking fun at Wolverine himself, and Hugh Jackman for that matter. If that sounds strange to comment on the actor that portrays Wolverine rather than the character himself, then you don’t know Deadpool very well. He constantly breaks the fourth wall to address the audience, and he knows he’s in a movie, or a comic, and uses it to his advantage, comedic or otherwise. Lets get to something very important regarding this movie first though: THIS MOVIE IS NOT FOR CHILDREN. There. Now you know. Deadpool had to be rated ‘R’ ( and trust me, it’s a hard ‘R’) because it helped elevate the performance of the character and his personality. We couldn’t have an accurate Deadpool without his ability to motormouth his way through grotesque violence and mayhem, that would be almost as debilitating to the character as say, sewing his mouth shut and giving him katanas for arms.. oh wait.

Ryan Reynolds is the only person I can even consider portraying this character after seeing this film. Stan Lee even said Reynolds was born to play this role. His comedic chops are put to the test here and it works! Reynolds has been pushing for this film ever since the disastrous ‘Origins’ portrayal of Wade Wilson back in 2009, and the long haul paid off for him. Along with ‘leaked’ test footage and one of the most talked about scripts roaming around for years before Reynolds stepped back behind the camera the hype for this character was insane once the audience got a little taste of the potential. So, here we are seven years later with a suprisingly great Deadpool movie, congratulations Ryan Reynolds, you’re officially redeemed and now everybody loves you.

So, this story is about Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool, and his lover Vanessa (firefly alum, Morena Baccarin). Wade is a former special forces operative turned mercenary when we meet him. His sense of humor, already very ‘Deadpoolish’ to begin with, is what ties him ever closer to Vanessa, his lover who happens to be a prostitute with her own twisted sense of humor. They have something legitimately special together onscreen and it helps to motivate the audience to get behind Deadpool’s copious amounts of blood he spills to get her back from Ajax, or Francis (played by Ed Skrein), who has become quite the meme in the fallout of the film’s release date.

The movie dissects its timeline to great advantage considering pacing and the overall structure of the story. We see Deadpool suited up in his red and black PJs whilst mowing down dozens of gun weilding thugs before we see him as Wade. The opening credits alone are amazingly meta and prove that the filmmakers know their audience going into the film. The best way to break down Deadpool is that at its core, its a revenge story. Wade has a life altering blackout in which hospital tests prove that he has incurable amounts of cancer coursing through him. A secret organization offers to “make him a superhero” and heal his cancer, seeing no other feasible options he accepts. Turns out its a horribly painful experience and that the people behind this transformation aren’t exactly the good guys.

Cue the revenge quest that teams the foul mouthed Ryan Reynolds with X-Men characters Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand). Of whom we got more appearances out of than expected, the scene where Colossus tries to lecture Deadpool on the importance of doing the right thing and the responsibility of being a real hero is perfect. Its just one small moment that entirely captures the spirit of Deadpool. The supporting cast does an excellent job throughout the film as they all play off of Deadpool and elevate the story and material surrounding his story. Weasel, played by T.J. Miller, was pefectly cast as the best friend of Wade before and after his transformation into Deadpool. His style of humor perfectly fits within the realm that Deadpool inhabits.

So, this movie is crass, sassy, incredibly violent, and very, very funny. If this type of humor and violence doesn’t offend you, then strap in because this film works on every level for its target audience and does an excellent job introducing the character to newcomers as well. Oh, and there’s also a naked fight scene.

Final Score 5/5

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Will the Ghostbusters reboot work like Creed, or fail like Genisys?

Hollywood has a problem with sticking too close to known quantities or properties in the filmmaking business. They are seldom comfortable with new titles as they have the potential to fail, ie a failure to generate profits. Thus I’m sure many Hollywood insiders are generally in favor of the ticket sales from last year’s biggest movies. ‘Mad Max’, ‘Jurassic World’, ‘Creed’, ‘Mission Impossible’, ‘James Bond’, and (of course) ‘Star Wars’ all proved to be gigantic financial successes after returning to the silver screen after their respective hiatuses. However, not all of the returns to Hollywood’s past were as successful. ‘Terminator: Genisys’ for example was widely accepted as a gigantic ode to failure. ‘Spectre’ also left something to be desired from James Bond’s antics especially after the exceptional ‘Skyfall’ as well. Okay, so financially these returns to genre and franchise can be financially succesful, but critically can they compete? The answer is a mixed bag. For some the answer is a resounding YES, ie ‘Mad Max’ and ‘Creed’. For others however the critical analysis of these films can be somewhat dissapointing. ‘Jurassic World’ for example earned Titanics (Yes, I’m using the famed boat as a unit of measurement) full of money yet it doesn’t get near the filmmaking prowess of the initial offering.

Is it a retelling of the story that doesn’t hold to past iterations as in Mad Max:Fury Road? Or a sequel reboot like Jurassic World?

If I were to answer this question after only seeing the trailer and knowing nothing else about the story I would definitely assume this iteration is a sequel that takes place thiry years after the original, because they literally reference that point in the opening text. However, I hear that this film may simply be a reboot just with a modern setting and female cast. This is confusing marketing if that’s the case, and doesn’t make much sense to me, especially if there’s that much rumored Bill Murray cameo.

Does the PG-13 rating hold it back from a greater potential?

While I don’t believe that ‘Ghostbusters’ itself needs to be rated R to get butts in seats, or for creativity’s sake, the talent behind the camera has created several films where the deciscion to make it an R rating has benefitted them in opening up the freedom to drop their constraints pertaining to the matter. Paul Feig has a decent track record so far though and the cast seems funny and competant so here’s hoping this amalgamation of ghosts, ghouls, and girls nears the greatness of the original.

But will it be good?

We won’t know until it hits theaters this summer amidst other blockbuster franchise returnees such as ‘Independence Day: Resurgence’ & ‘Finding Dory’. Until then this trailer does a fine job of introducing us to this version of the Ghostbusters, lets just hope it doesn’t suck like the last ‘Terminator’, but that’s a whole nother story.

For further analysis, check out the ScreenJunkies trailer reaction below:

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#OscarsSoSubjective

 Relevancy

This year the Academy Awards, better known as the Oscars, celebrated eighty-eight years of doling out the tiny golden guys to the filmmaking community at large. 2016 brought with it renewed criticism that the Academy was out of touch with the rest of the community of not only filmmakers, but everyday citizens as well. Race played a big part in the acknowledgement that all nominees were white while 2015 had offered films centering on african-american characters and stories that were essentially ignored by the Academy. ‘Straight Outta Compton’, ‘Creed’, and ‘Dope’ were just a handful of films that I personally believe should have gotten more attention and acknowledgement by the famed awards show. In fact the reaction on twitter, giving rise to the popular #OscarsSoWhite hashtag, alone has put the Academy, for lack of better terms, in the limelight when it comes to this subject and they have begun to incorporate structural changes to the membership of the board of voters that has been a long time coming.

The show as a performance was on point and appropriately topical given the circumstances of the national zietgiest. Chris Rock deftly handled the subject and made for a competent, and important, host for the times. I can’t think of a better actor to have handled this year’s show. Kevin Hart also had a moment to focus on positvity rather than any negative reactions to come from the awards show results. On the whole it was an entertaining night of fanfare and respect for the craft of filmmaking, how Lady Gaga didn’t win for her musical nomination after that performance is still puzzling though, more on that later.

Best Actor: Leo fights a bear to win an Oscar

Admission: I haven’t yet seen ‘The Revenant’. Now however, I need to. Its been a long time coming for Leonardo DiCaprio, personally I think he should have won way back for his performance as Howard Hughes in Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Aviator’ in 2004, but now that he’s won a lil gold guy of his own we can finally put all those Leo oscar memes to bed. Finally.

Best Picture: Spotlight shines a light on journalism

I also missed ‘Spotlight’, but the film did seem compelling by its very nature. Any film that champions true journalism, especially when its tough and the world is against you, is sorely needed in this political climate we find ourselves in currently. The cast is a knockout and the screenplay won gold as well so it seems this ensemble piece nestles itself neatly between compelling and enthralling.

Best Director: Coogler and Miller’s missed opportunity

In my personal opinion the greatest missed opportunity came at the expense of Ryan Coogler’s ‘Creed’. Not only was it not nominated for Best Director, it definitely should have been, but even ‘Mad Max’ director George Miller couldn’t break the spell and oust last year’s winner, Alejandro Inarritu. Granted, as noted before I haven’t seen ‘The Revenant’, and I did love ‘Birdman’, but the technical prowress that Coogler showcased in ‘Creed’ was beyond impressive and deserves to be lauded.

‘Straight Outta Compton’ also should have gotten at least some kind of recognition, especially with how current that storyline is right now in America. Topical, loud, rebellious, and important ‘Straight Outta Compton’ connected with the pulse of the times and to ignore it outright certainly did no good deeds for the Academy members.

Best Supporting Actor: Stallone V Rylance

Admittedly, while I still believe Sly earned the Oscar more-so than Rylance, it couldn’t have gone to a better second contender. Mark Rylance’s role as the mild mannered Soviet spy caught on American soil in the cold war was a restrained and grounded performance that reveiled more of the personality of the character as time went on. It was one of the best aspects of Spielberg’s sandbox of American drama, ‘Bridge of Spies’. There’s still a chance Sly has one more Rocky role in him left for the ‘Creed’ sequel but I feel he’ll be more likely to go the way of Kenobi if he even chooses to rejoin the sequel at all.

Alicia Vikander: Ex Machina vs The Danish Girl

Not to take away from the levity of the oscar win that Alicia Vikander got, but I feel as though she won it for the wrong film. The Danish Girl is all well and good, but it is very clearly the sort of film you would expect the Academy to dole out awards to. The very notion of the story lies within the comfort zone of the Academy. A marginalized character that rebels against the larger machinations of the public, or establishment’s (of the time in which said story takes place), unchallenged perception. Like I said this is not to take away from the performances, or direction, staging, score etc, I bring it up because it is painstakingly predictable that this film would get nominated and win. ‘Ex-Machina’ on the other hand, is a unique small scale sci-fi dealing with heady questions of existential threat and the rise of supercomputers and, eventually, Articifical Intelligence. Moreover, Alicia Vikander’s performance as Ava is what grounded the film, and set it soaring to new heights. It’s a film that deserves recognition, but I suppose it will have to settle with snagging the special effects Oscar away from Star Wars for now.

Mad Max: Knockout by production

While George Miller didn’t win Best Director, he should be more than happy with the outcome of his film’s night at the Oscars. The Juggernaut that is ‘Mad Max’ swept the technical awards at the show, and it certainly deserved every win it racked up. At the end of the night the wastelanders were adorned with six Oscars in total: Production design, Film editing, Costume design, Make-up, Sound editing, and Sound Mixing. What a lovely day indeed!

Animation: Inside out turned us all inside out

We all knew ‘Inside out’ would win this year’s animation Oscar, how could it not? The film was a heartfelt and tear jerking experience about a young girl moving to San Francisco from the midwest. That might not sound like the most compelling plotline in the world, but trust me, it’s brilliant. Seriously, it’s a beautiful story and will mean all the more to you if you have children.

How did Sam Smith win for that Spectre song?

I still have no idea how Sam Smith won for that lackluster Bond opening. Of course anyone would have a hard time topping Adele’s Skyfall, but Smith’s offering was less than stellar to say the least. It must have been odd receiving the award after Lady Gaga’s powerful performace. Although in all honesty it matches the overall quality of that Bond flick, passable, but could have been so much better.

In other Musically related news Ennio Morricone finally won some incredibly well deserved limelight for the score to Quentin Tarantino’s ‘The Hateful Eight’, which makes all the sense in the world as that score elevated the nature of the film to another standard. If you haven’t seen the film, you definitely should, the score, not to mention cinematography, is wondrous.

Art is subjective

This was an interesting year at the famed awards show to say the least. Ironically, by being out of touch with relevancy the awards show garnered enough bad press to make some real changes in how the membership works. Of course the show also had it’s gaffes, praises, upsets, expected wins, deserved wins, and of course, obligatory fanfare. But, that is what the whole thing is about right? Putting on a show. Being entertainers. It’s a reflection of the people in the room that it takes place in. But is it what ultimately thrones or damns film? Of course not. We all have to remember that awards are simply up to the subjectivity of the Academy. Yes we can all agree to a certain degree of what makes or measures a “Good” film, but none of that really matters in the end because everyone has a differing taste in opinion. You know what they say about one’s man’s trash, it’s another man’s Oscar. This goes the other way as well, but it really all just depends on what you enjoy. There are films I love beyond measure, movies that I put on when I’m not feeling well, when I’m elated, when I want to be scared… these films will never win an Oscar, and sometimes that makes the film shine a little brighter. Not every film can win, and some simply shouldn’t- not because of anything quality related, but because some films don’t need to be put on the Academy’s pedestal, they’re already on ours.