Suicide Squad Better Than Expected but…

ssThe latest installment in the Warner Brothers DC universe was in part a departure from the genre yet somehow still the same formula. Many of the “professional” reviewers were disappointed in the super hero genre similarities but I found it a positive. Clearly this film was more aligned with the Guardians of the Galaxy than say the Avengers. In Guardians we had criminals and misfits as the protagonists and in Suicide Squad we have super villains as more or less the “good guys”.

Many reviewers have panned this film, and I went in with serious reservations about how well this movie would settle in. Rotten Tomatoes has this movie horrible at 19% fresh, but the audience scores it rather ‘fresh” at 72%. Typical, as the snotty professional reviewers once again like our national politicians, are so out of touch with mainstream America, they wouldn’t catch a fresh film it chewed a hole in their ass. These are they that still rate Remains of the Day at 97% fresh. I saw that film in the theater in 1993. Yes Sir Anthony Hopkins was brilliant and Emma Thompson Oscar worthy, but that film will put an espresso junkie to sleep faster than a physics professor opening for Chris Rock at the comedy club. No one that wants to see an epic drama with a cast of knighted actors is going to see Suicide Squad. Ever since Marvel Entertainment hit a bases clearing bottom of the ninth home run with Ironman in 2008 and followed with the epic Avengers in 2012, everyone expects every other comics movie to be the Avengers. This is not the Avengers my friends, and it’s no Guardians of the Galaxy either.

Frankly, this is not a great movie but in all fairness, it is a pretty good movie. They did a nice job setting up the characters of this motley crew of truly diabolical villains. And the director had a rather tall order trying to put all of this together. He did fairly well all things considered.

The plot is thin and predictable, but this is an action movie so it’s fine; since when is a masterpiece drama plot needed to fill an action flick? We get a whole lot of crazy, we get explosions and gun-play, we get diabolical a devious, we get a great cast of mostly A-listers, what they hell do those Movie Critics want, seriously?

Let’s not forget how important the musical score is. Guardian’s of the Galaxy was a great movie, one of the best comic book themed films ever produced and a big part of that greatness came in the form of an amazing musical soundtrack. Suicide Squad has a fabulous soundtrack that rocks the house and the songs chosen seem to fit the scenes well.

margotenhanced-29198-1446073847-1The cast is pretty solid here. Margot Robbie absolutely crushes it as Harley Quinn. She is sexy, diabolical, and absolutely squirrel bait nuts. She steals scenes with her crazy and steals more with her sexy. They blend well to create a villain/anti-hero that is truly delicious. A solid ‘A’ performance for Margot.

The Joker is a more modern twist on the aged character that has been around for almost 80 years. I have always preferred the classic Joker but the more recent Jokers played by Heath Ledger and now Jared Leto is also popular among movie goers. This new Joker, like Harley, is bat-shit crazy. I felt like Jared delivered us a nice and nasty Joker and he gets a ‘B plus’ but he was a distraction to the movie rather than a player in it. This is no fault of the actor but a fault of the script. I think DC is trying to introduce us to the Joker for the upcoming Justice League film. Unfortunately he either needed more screen time and plot involvement or less screen time, maybe a cameo of sorts. As it is he just doesn’t fit in to the story well.

Will Smith is Will Smith and for that he gets a minimum of a ‘B’ just for being Will Smith. Deadshot is an interesting character and always has been. Smith plays him well as the most introspective and least “villainous” of the ‘squad’. Deadshot is a character that despite the cold-blooded nature of what he does, is the most thoughtful and sensitive of the bunch. Smith is truly more of an Anti-Hero than a Villain. Smith gets a ‘A minus’, this wasn’t a role that needed the acting chops of guy like Smith, but Will delivers, but perhaps a little less than he could have given us.

The big surprise for me was the ethically questionable but eats nails for breakfast tough, Amanda Walker. What a fantastic character DC gives us here. Amanda Walker is the establishment character that is the ‘boss’ behind the controversial project that spawns the ‘Suicide Squad’. This role was played with absolute authority by Viola Davis and is a wonderful character that I believe we will see again in future DC based films. Viola delivers a solid performance here and gets an ‘A minus’ as well.

This movie really doesn’t have any true “good guys”. It’s like American Politics, they’re all bad but some of them are a little less bad. In this case our Suicide Squad is a bunch a deranged fiends that come together under duress, to fight an even more sinister villain that threatens the whole world.

Like Batman V. Superman, the film is a little lacking in the comic relief. The dialog is fair to good but not up to the standards of greatness we have come to expect from Warner/DC’s arch rival Marvel Entertainment. In Batman V Superman we had a mess of a movie with one shining star in Ben Affleck’s amazing Batman/Bruce Wayne and a could have been shining star had she received more screen time, Wonder Woman. This movie however was not a mess. The plot was marginal but it flowed well and the story was easy to follow. I think any movie with a huge cast of characters needs a more simple plot so we can digest the enormity of character development. Here Suicide Squad succeeds, at least a little.

Director David Ayer gives us a moody film with a lot of conspiracy undertones and characters that for the most part we can feel. He liberally applies the free-cam style for action which is increasingly more common and I feel is starting to become over-used. That said, the overall film presentation is solid. The movie doesn’t really get us, the audience fully engaged in the story. It is just not a fluid experience. Again in this genre you can get away with that to a point. Where Batman V. Superman fell apart mostly on this very issue, Suicide Squad managed to stay intact despite the rough story.

Stay for the after credits as you will see a clear tie in to future movies in a special scene.

This is a movie that was better than I expected but my expectations were not exactly high. Take a look at the super hero movie list to see how it rates. You will notice that Batman V Superman dropped several notches on my list as I now have it on Blu-Ray and watched it again with my Batman bias under control.

Posted in Hot off the press | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Summer Movie Season in Full Swing!

Star-Trek-Beyond-InsigniaSo summertime movies are popping up every week now. I just saw Star Trek:Beyond, today. I’ll write about that in a little bit. Next week Jason Bourne returns in what is promised as a conclusion to the tale of the badass spy with memory problems. A week after that the DC Comics, villains for justice epic, Suicide Squad will debut. I have my next couple of Fridays booked out in advance 🙂

Today, my son Nolan and I, both of us are pretty hard-core trek fans, went to see the new Star Trek film, “Beyond”. My son and I disagree a bit on this one, he rates it very high but I come in a little more moderated. Was it a good flick? Yep; it was good. Was it worthy of top five trek films of all time grandeur? Nope.

This Trek film had all the trademarks of the JJ films with more explosions than a Vancouver USA Fourth of July. It also had the luxury of already well-developed characters. This being the third installment of the alternate timeline, the movie goers have a good understanding who these people are and what they are all about. Although the characters are 50 years old, these alternate timeline versions had some nuanced differences that some did not approve of. I am fine with all of that.

The developed characters also allowed for more exploration into a plot that was not particularly spectacular, but pretty good. Unlike the last film, this one was not a JJ Version 2.0 of a classic trek film. The movie did advance us three years into the “5 year” mission that was the talk of the epilogue closing the Wrath of Kahn 2.0, er, uh, I mean, Into Darkness.

The dialog is pretty solid and Bones, Scotty, Kirk, Spock, and Uhura are fantastic. The actors seem to be comfortable in their roles and it shows in a fluid performance. We don’t see much of the late Anton Yelchin in the movie. It seems Pavel Chekov did not have a big role this time. The film was dedicated to him in the closing credits and there is also a tie in to passing of Leonard Nimoy earlier this year.

This movie is full of action and it really never takes a breath. Here is where Nolan and I disagree, he thought it was moderately packed with action. I guess I’ll have to have him watch “Remains of the Day” with Sir Anthony Hopkins so he can have a different benchmark from which to measure the speed of a movie.

Justin Lin who is known for directing the Fast and the Furious and for having a loose free camera on fight scenes was feeling quite at home with this effort. The action is broken up with pretty good comic relief in the form of classic quips between the characters. Many of the scenes are very darkly lit and that creates a bit of a dark mood even in some of the scenes that were not really that gloomy. Nolan pined for the over-abundance of lens flare from the two previous installments directed by JJ Abrams. There is a scene with the sun coming out from behind a planet in which a full dose of JJ flare is utilized, a reminder to us that he served as a Producer 😉

star-trek-beyond-sofia-boutellaWe have a great new female heroine in the movie. That is a welcome addition. I am greatly disappointed that Kirk did NOT hit on the hot alien hero babe. Because you know, he’s captain Kirk, that’s what he does. Overall I give this movie solid marks and you don’t have to be a franchise fan to enjoy the film. I’m feeling like it’s about a 7.5 on the ten scale and lands right in the middle of the pack of now 13 films. So here is a fluid list, depending on my mood, of the Star Trek movies ranked best to worst.

  1. 1982 : Star Trek II : Wrath of Kahn
  2. 1991 : Star Trek VI : The Undiscovered Country
  3. 1986 : Star Trek IV : The Voyage Home
  4. 2009 : Star Trek
  5. 1996 : Star Trek : First Contact
  6. 2013 : Star Trek : Into Darkness
  7. 2016 : Star Trek : Beyond
  8. 2002 : Star Trek : Nemesis
  9. 1998 : Star Trek : Insurrection
  10. 1994 : Star Trek : Generations
  11. 1984 : Star Trek III : The Search for Spock
  12. 1979 : Star Trek : The Motion Picture
  13. 1989 : Star Trek V : The Final Frontier

 

Posted in Hot off the press | Leave a comment

The Apocalypse is Upon Us

x-men-apocalypse-launch-quad-posterNo spoilers here. This one is hard to judge. Part of me really liked it, but another part of me felt kind of ‘meh’. I am not really sure what to make of this film. I will say that in general I have enjoyed the new cast. I like that this is a bit of a prequel series rather that a straight up reboot.

There were Easter eggs everywhere and I am certain I didn’t catch them all. But nerds will have a field day with all the geekdom goodies hidden in background of those miscellaneous scenes.

Speaking of that, this movie spent a whole lot of time setting up the plot. Usually by the time the third flick rolls around in the life of a trilogy, the plot development is out the window and it’s all blades and badassery for two hours. Not so much here. At times in the first hour of the movie it moves a little to slow. Not “Remains of the Day” slow, but a bit pokey.

getSpeaking of blades, if you saw the previews you saw Psylocke. Why, why, why, was there not MORE of Psylocke? Seriously towards the end of the film I was thinking in my head and the voice of my thoughts was in fact the voice of Christopher Walken, “It could use a little more Psylocke, more Psylocke…” Seriously and that end battle entrance, like an effing boss! But there was too little, too late. Olivia Munn was delicious. She could not have been any cooler, well unless she wore a cowbell 😉

They have done a great job with Eric Lehnsherr in this series of movies. I think Mr. Fassbender is excellent as the young Magneto and he has been outstanding in all three of these prequel movies.

Sophie+Turner+Long+Hairstyles+Long+Wavy+Cut+IXvteCc95KKlAnyone that is a fan of Game of Thrones, will likely love Jean Grey in this movie. The ever so lovely Sophie Turner is cast as the fiery, literally fiery, redhead in the role. She even shows us a little touch of the Phoenix Force as well. Sophie Turner gets a lot of screen time and she looks fantastic and all, but she didn’t get any decent dialog. Oh who cares, have you even looked at Sophie Turner? She doesn’t even have to speak 😉

OK enough about the hot babes, the scene stealer in this movie was once again, Quicksilver. Evan Peters is not the sole reason for the theft of scenes. He does a fine job as Quicksilver, AKA Peter Maximoff. The writers and film makers just had one of those stars aligning moments in a few scenes featuring Quicksilver, especially the scene where he is saving a bunch of people from an exploding building. (No spoilers). If I ever create a top 100 superhero movie scenes list, this one makes the list and might even break in to the top 25. Oh, crap! Now I have to go off and make a damn scene list.

Well the movie is solid, I liked Captain America: Civil War better for sure, but this was a solid effort. Of the three prequel X-Men movies it is bringing up the rear, but the Rotten Tomatoes score is too harsh, it’s better than that. Take a look at the new ranking chart using the tab above or click here.

Posted in Hot off the press | 1 Comment

It’s a Civil War!

civilOK this was a pretty awesome movie my friends. I will not have any spoilers in this brief initial response to my matinée screening at the wonderful Cinetopia. That GXL Dolby ATMOS 80 foot screen is brilliant!

This movie tackled some heavy subject matter and delivered some of the best action sequences of any superhero movie to date. One of the things that really makes Marvel so awesome is how every movie is connected effectively to the whole series of films. In this movie we all knew going in that a rift between Captain America and Tony Stark would open to a chasm. And it does; that’s not a spoiler because everybody knows that 😉 That rift began to emerge way back with the Avengers in 2012. Marvel has just been amazing with character development across a dozen or more movies.

This movie really brought some fantastic film making to the table. Not just superhero genre good, but ‘cinematically’ good. The Russo Brothers absolutely took this thing to the proverbial barn with well-balanced action and drama.

Part of the problem with these movies is the fact that there are so many films coming out featuring superheroes from Marvel, DC and other graphic novels and comic books. There is a bit of superhero fatigue that has dulled the experience just a little bit. That can make a great film like ‘Civil War’ seem like it’s less than the Avengers but may actually be better. I have been watching the older films lately and finding that some of that ‘buzz’ is gone. That simply means the novelty of the movie is lost and when measure purely against its cinematic qualities they are not as ‘awesome’ as I originally thought. All of that considered this film will find itself near the top of my chart.

The Russos generously employed that jerky-journalistic style of camera work in this movie. You know that hand-held camera. And lots of chase camera a-la-COPS. I liked it, but some of the action sequences were long enough that I felt a bit fatigued with that style. It was not so much as to detract from the quality experience of the movie, but enough to notice. It is kind of like J.J. Abrams and lens flare in the 2009 Star Trek. Just a little bit over played.

This was not Chris Evans best effort as the Captain. He was solid, but not as convincingly good as in the previous installments of Captain America or the Avengers. Robert Downey Jr. however, was a total stud, again. This was the deepest acting effort yet by Downey Jr. as Tony Stark. The character was written with a serious tone and deep conflict and conviction. He nailed it.

I think I am falling in love with Natasha Romanov. Seriously, I could watch a whole movie dedicated to Black Widow kicking ass. Even a 2 hour montage of every scene and ass whooping she has delivered since first appearing in Ironman 2. I’m not alone on this my friends, she manages to sneak into a lot of Marvel films 😉

The rest of the cast is the usual Marvel Good stuff. We will see the emergence of another marvel character not previously presented in movies. He is a badass. I am not telling who it is, no spoilers, remember?

Everyone knew that Spiderman would appear in this movie as well. This is one thing the movie did really well. Spiderman is secondary to the plot. He provides much-needed comic relief to this darker than average and more dramatic movie, darker at least for Marvel. Spiderman movie rights are actually owned by Sony, and Marvel had to get him on “loan”. That is no small affair. Intellectual property is closely guarded. Sony of course took advantage of an opportunity to introduce the new Spiderman for the upcoming movies beginning next year. And they get Tony Stark on loan for the new spidey flick. Tom Holland is just barely 20 years old and he delivers the goods as the traditional 1960s version of Peter Parker in High School. I am looking forward to next year’s release of Spiderman: Homecoming.

MV5BMTUwMjA3OTc3N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTA1MzY1Mw@@._V1_UY317_CR12,0,214,317_AL_I was delighted to see Academy Award winner, Marisa Tomei playing Aunt May. Yes Marisa Tomei. If you haven’t seen ‘My Cousin Vinny’, go watch it NOW! Wait until after you’re done reading this. Seriously you haven’t seen that? OK anyway, Aunt May has been played in the last two trilogy’s by older women. Sally Field is lovely but she was well into her sixties when cast in the second trilogy. Marisa Tomei is my age, she turns 52 later this year. Really a hottie Aunt May? Yep!

Sometimes it’s those little in-between scenes that separate the good films from the great films. There is a scene with Tony Stark and Aunt May that is simple, offers a subtly funny and partly awkward moment that was absolutely brilliant. The Russo Brothers don’t deserve credit for shooting it, they deserve credit for keeping it in the movie! Those are the kinds of scenes that often get cut and yet they are the kind of scenes that are memorable, despite having little to do with the plot development. Bravo!

This movie doesn’t have a clearly defined villain. And I like that, it works here. The movie’s plot develops nicely and offers a few twists and reveals. Captain America: Civil War does a few things great and everything well. I don’t see the same movie in the theater that often, but I will likely be seeing this one again. Oh and stay all the way to the bitter end of the credits. There are TWO after credits scenes one early in the credits the other at the very end.

Be sure to check out the updated superhero movie list.  This movie debuts in the top five on the all time list!

Also be advised Deadpool arrives on Bluray this Tuesday!

 

Posted in Hot off the press | Leave a comment

The 2016 Election: Seriously America?

I will tread most cautiously on the subject of politics as even the strongest friendships can be tested in these treacherous waters. But this 2016 General Election cycle cannot go without comment.

This is the second time in a row that a two term VP has declined to run for the Presidency. Dick Cheney said all along he would not run for President, and he did not. Joe Biden was a little less certain over the years about his aspirations for the big office, but ultimately decided as well not to seek his party’s nomination. This left us for the second time in eight years with neither party having an incumbent in the field of candidates.

800px-Hillary_Clinton_by_Gage_Skidmore_2All of that is fine and well, but with the sole exception of Hillary Clinton, who saw these four as the final four? Don’t lie to yourself, this is weird.

Let’s start with the Democrats. Hillary Clinton is the front-runner for the Democratic nomination; this is not surprising as she is a well-known and extremely well-funded candidate. Hillary is the insider candidate for the DNC. There really never was more than two “real” contenders for the Democratic nomination and the two contenders are still contending. Bernie Sanders is still in this election and he is looking like win or lose, he’ll take it all the way to Philly. I never thought the little old socialist could get to the home stretch. That should tell America all it needs to know about Hillary Clinton. Bernie is picking up steam and I don’t think Bernie can actually go to the convention with more delegates than Hillary, but he could still win the nomination, especially if any of the scandalous issues surrounding Mrs. Clinton were to move from the background to the foreground.

She has an equal share of lovers and haters in the political world including those in her own party. She was the front-runner in 2008 and then out of clear blue sky came this relatively unknown guy with a very middle eastern sounding name… Barrack Hussein Obama, and the Democrats kicked little Hilly to the curb. America elected the youthful and charismatic man twice.

Bernie_Sanders_September_2015_croppedNow we are looking at another guy coming from out of nowhere. Bernie Sanders has a lot of experience but is pretty open about his socialist leanings.  He lacks the youthful good looks that Mr. Obama has, but Bernie is running what could be the least corrupt major ticket presidential campaign in decades. Regardless of your political party affiliation or your place on the left vs. right dichotomy, you just gotta admire the old geezer.

There is a genuine concern. If Bernie the Socialist gets the party nod and goes on to win in November, how on Earth will he live to the end of his term. I mean presidents age like dogs. He’s 74 years old and he looks every month of it. By the time he’s up for reelection he will have aged to an effective 103 years old. I have not seen him parade his 96-year-old mother around like John McCain did in ’08. Mrs. McCain is still alive and well by the way, at a ripe 104. His VP choice would be crucial.

Of these two remaining Democrats, I think I would actually take Bernie over Hillary. I am a fiscal conservative and a social moderate. In theory, Hillary is closer to me than the old man. And I would love to have a lady president. But not Mrs. Clinton. I just don’t trust her. I believe that electing a candidate that stayed away from all the dirty, filthy DC insider money, like Mr. Sanders has, would do more to strengthen our country than having the first woman president. Just sayin’. Besides, Bernie would never get his arch-socialist agenda passed in the Congress. Just ask Obama. The 44th President of the United States came into office on January 20th, 2009 and enjoyed a big, fat, and juicy super-majority of Democrats in the Senate and a comfortable margin of Democrats in the House of Representatives. He could not get Jack, Diddly, or Squat done. The Health Care Act was so screwed up by the time it was passed that no one could recognize it. The House of Representative are always on an election cycle and that means those that are located in swing districts are not going to sign on to anything too controversial regardless of party affiliation.

800px-Donald_Trump_March_2015OK, that brings me to the really weird part. Donald Trump is still the Republican front-runner in APRIL! WTF just happened. This guy has stepped on his junk more this month than Dan Quayle did in his entire political career. The Donald is still around and he’s in the effing lead. What is wrong with you people? Look, I like Donald Trump. If I were gonna create a new reality TV show he’s on the short list ‘right out the gate’. But President? Oh, hell no! Seriously? This idiot has an ego so large it exerts a gravitational effect on our tides.

Let’s build a wall and Mexico will pay for it. Yeah, because that is gonna happen. (please insert a heavy layer of thick and pasty sarcasm here). Bernie’s wild hair scheme of making college free for all is more likely than Mexico building us a wall. So I officially lost what tiny bit of political respect I had for Donald Trump at the debate that digressed into a diatribe of insults about sweat, ears, hands and other unmentionable appendages. Frankly Trump was baited by Marco Rubio who was equally unprofessional but both of those guys are middle-school age mental idiots.

America cannot afford to have a guy like Trump as President. He has no class, he really has no idea what the hell is going on. He is the classic guy that has far more money than brains. I don’t think the President needs to be the smartest guy, but he does need to have some class, common sense, and a general understanding of how the world works. George Bush and Barrack Obama were both polarizing figures as President, yet they both have all of those qualities I just mentioned. Mr Trump has none of them. Donald Trump comes off as a big business swindler, and that is not what we need right now.

800px-Ted_Cruz,_official_portrait,_113th_Congress_(cropped_2)Ted Cruz meanwhile just keeps poking at that Trump lead. Despite the results in New York, Cruz still has a shot at the nomination. He is not as much a surprise to me as Trump as far as being in this good a position, this late in the campaign. But the fact that a guy like Rick Santorum, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, or Jeb Bush couldn’t be where Ted Cruz is now is surprising. Mr. Cruz is a very calm, and frankly Presidential figure. He has a reputation for being a bit hard to the right on Christian religious issues. But like Bernie’s crazy socialist ideas won’t sell in Congress, neither will 18th century Christian doctrine. I’m pretty sure that if Bernie wins we won’t be calling each other ‘comrade’ any more than we will be burning witches at the stake if Ted wins 😉 We have no worries from either of the second place candidates in regard to a potentially radical agenda. That won’t stop either sides efforts at fear-mongering.

Ted Cruz is a very smart guy, smarter than you need to be, to be President. He is a guy that has shown a great ability to talk to people with opposing viewpoints like few politicians I have seen in the last 20 years. That is a notable quality in this day and age of radical hate speech coming from our elected leaders. But does he have the grit and determination to topple the Trump machine. Believe me if this thing stays tight Trump will dive much deeper than he has. Can you even imagine what depths of depravity Donald would go to win?

Donald Trump has been bashing the RNC nominating process. What a moron. Here he is a guy who in all likely hood will have the most delegates at the convention. In a contested convention he could have still won, but now he has gone after the very party for whom he is seeking the nomination. Believe me when I say, if the RNC has any chance to bump him out, they will most certainly do it now that Trump has gone on the warpath against them.

Donald Trump is the best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton. The DNC must be over the moon with Trump so close to the nomination. Trump still hasn’t released his tax returns. Hillary still has the whole email issue happening. By the time the conventions roll around we might just see a Ted Cruz vs. Bernie Sanders choice, as the corruption train that both the front-runners are riding may derail their campaigns.

All of that said, In the general election I think Trump beats Bernie but Hillary beats Trump. I think Ted Cruz can take either Democrat in a general election if he plays it tough enough in the final weeks leading to November. If Ted Cruz is the Republican nominee, I could see my self voting for him. He is far from ideal but of the four, he is the most “presidential”. If Bernie Sanders is running against Donald Trump I could see my self voting for the old socialist. Trump is just that repulsive. What a sad day indeed when a fiscal conservative is compelled to vote for a tax and spend liberal. If it’s Trump vs. Hillary I may have to end my life… OK, that was dark. But I seriously might have to vote for the bad hair candidate and hope he beats Hillary and then we can impeach him and let the VP take over.

What a frickin’ election. We’re doomed.

Posted in Hot off the press | Leave a comment

Batman vs. Superman; Someone’s Getting Their Ass Kicked!

Ok before I dive into my “no spoilers” review of Dawn of Justice, I gotta remind you all that season two of Daredevil was released last week on Netflix and like the first season last year this new one is pretty epic! I watched all 13 in a three-day binge session and they went a little darker, yes darker and added some familiar Marvel characters to the show. They were wise to bring in the new blood slowly and the whole thing was a seamless and well executed second season. Bravo! Read my review from last year here.

v1Ok so the most anticipated superhero movie this year for me is Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Just to be clear, I went into this film with modest expectations. I left the theater with those expectations exceeded but this film doesn’t deliver the post screening buzz that Batman movies usually offer. Certainly the Christopher Nolan versions with Christian Bale as the Batman were outstanding. But this is not a Batman movie, per se. Furthermore I cannot fail to omit the fact that I am a total batman fan-boy and that may have some bearing on my opinion of the movie.

My expectation level was low because this movie was a really tall order. Warner Brothers is trying to do in two or three movies what Marvel did in eight. They are trying to build up to an epic Justice League film. Trying to do it quickly tends to be a recipe for failure. Remember Marvel spent copious sums of screen time tying in the various movies and characters so that a quality and smooth flowing Avengers film could follow. They had those awesome Agent Coulson after credits clips and other Marvel character tie ins at the close of those eight leading films. They were nothing short of very successful.

This film had only the Man of Steel predecessor to tie in. The movie does make some suggestions that the Batman has been around for quite some time in Gotham prior to the emergence of Superman. There is very little in the way of Batman origin story and none was needed for Superman as that was handled in the Man of Steel film.

The first 30 minutes of this somewhat long film is very good. We see some basic Batman origin flash backs to the death of his parents but mostly the set up sequences for the plot of the story. We see the rift between Batman and Superman develop nicely as the early segments of the movie unfold. About a third to halfway through things kind of unravel in the flow of the story. I can’t quite put my finger on it but it just loses traction. The last half of the film is a crazy action romp that seriously needs some pause points but gives us few.

One of the real nagging questions among the fan-boys of Batman was the decision to cast Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne AKA the Batman. They had similar reservations in 1989 when Tim Burton cast Michael (Mr. Mom) Keaton in the role. They were wrong in ’89 and they are wrong again in 2016. Affleck crushes it, seriously, he absolutely delivers as both Bruce Wayne and the alter-ego Batman. I think he may be the best overall Batman actor ever. Yes maybe even better than Christian Bale. WHAATTTT! Affleck is intense in this role. This movie script is nowhere near as good as the those from the movies directed by Christopher Nolan, but Ben takes what he is given and hits the long ball out of the park. Batman is a serious character. He is an intense character. Even in the campy 1960s TV show with Adam West, Batman was a serious type. Affleck captures the intensity of Batman and Bruce Wayne. You see it in his face. It may be as much a credit to the director as it is to the actor, but to whatever or whomever the credit is owed, he is Batman.

wwomanThe next fan annoyance was the casting of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. Let there be no mistake I am very picky about Wonder Woman. She is the greatest female super hero ever and so I was also concerned. I even wrote a few stern editorials in the Evergreen Times in the old newsletter format regarding potential candidates for Wonder Woman movies that never materialized. Let me just lay to rest any and all concerns. Ms. Gadot is tall (5’10”). She has an authentically exotic look that certainly has the air of an Amazon Princess. She is a bit too skinny, but she has a very good aura of power and grace about her. As Wonder Woman she just rocks it. I like her in the role and whether or not another actress would have been a better choice, it doesn’t really matter because she did great. She isn’t in the movie much but when she is, she dominates the screen. Everything around her is a blur, you just focus on her. They did a great job with the camera work and direction on the scenes where Wonder Woman is fighting. It just felt epic when she was on screen. She commands attention and she gets it.

Henry Cavill as Superman presents the same problem we had with Henry Cavill as Super Man in Man of Steel. They wrote him too dark and nobody seems to like the “bad boy” version of Superman. That said, Henry Cavill should not take the heat for lousy character writing. But none-the-less, he does a piss poor job as Clark Kent in both movies. He just is not believable as Clark Kent at all. He’s not aloof or in anyway parallel to the Clark Kent in the comics or past films. Weak sauce.

Now let’s talk about Alfred Pennyworth, shall we? He has been portrayed by a series of fine British actors. Alan Napier, in 1966. Michael Gough played him in the Tim Burton directed Batman films, Michael Caine in the Chris Nolan films, Sean Pertwee has handled the character in the TV series Gotham. Jeremy Irons takes the role in this latest movie. I think I like Michael Caine the best. He is the best Alfred Pennyworth ever! Jeremy Irons however does an exceptional job in this film playing an Alfred clearly written to be in between the edgy and badass butler from Gotham than the more mild-mannered versions we have seen in the past. Jeremy Irons is a fine actor and does a good job. This Alfred is fine I suppose, but something was lacking that I can’t quite pinpoint.

Amy Adams is Superman’s best girl, Lois Lane. As much as I like Amy Adams… and I do like her 🙂 Lois falls flat in this movie. Lois lane was very well-played in the original Christopher Reeves films. Margot Kidder nailed the tough and stubborn Lois character. But again that character was well written, this Lois is not.

Lex Luthor was well acted by Jesse Eisenberg but yet again, the character was terribly written. If you want to see a textbook example of Lex Luthor, then look no further than Kevin Spacey in Superman Returns. Even the campy 1978 Superman with Lex Luthor played by Gene Hackman was much better than the raging lunatic written for Jesse Eisenberg. Lex is not a bad guy that lights the world on fire just to watch it burn. Lex Luthor has a plan, and his plan is not to destroy the world but to live like a king within it, often at other’s expense. He is clever and quite Machiavellian in nature, but also he is someone who can mingle with societies elite. This Luthor was written more like a nutjob, ala Joker or Riddler. WRONG!

You can see the theme I am building here. This was a good movie that could have been great if only it was better written. Oh well chalk that up as another near miss. But the movie’s sub-title is Dawn of Justice and we can see the build up to the Justice League. There is one point where Bruce Wayne accesses a file from Luthor Corp. and finds information on “meta humans”. We get a glimpse of what is to come in future movies and the ultimate DC clash of the Titans, a Justice League movie.

batman-v-superman-dawn-of-justice-ben-affleckSo this flick was good but not great. Watching Ben Affleck kick ass and take names as the Batman, being the billionaire Bruce Wayne, and doing it like an effing boss, makes this motion picture worth every penny of your time and admission price. I am not kidding, Affleck just kills it here!

Check out the updated super hero movie list using the menu tab above or click here.

Posted in Hot off the press | Leave a comment

Breaking the 4th Wall while Making a Great Film

deadpool_ver10No spoilers here, just a little chat about a very BIG movie. This film is rated “R” and I might just spice up this review to match the rating… just a little.

20th Century Fox is not the first movie house to roll out a comic book themed film with an “R” rating but this is the very best of that ‘R’ bunch. In fact this film is so brilliantly well done, it is sure to land near the top of the superhero movie list.

So is the R rating justified? Oh, hell yes it is. This is not a film for children, frankly not even young teens. It is hard, it is edgy, it is filled with bloody violence, adult sexuality, and raunchy humor. But unlike many films that carry the “Restricted” rating this one avoids that trap that so many directors fall into; the gratuitous use of bad language and raunchy behavior that all too often corrupts a good picture. It’s like the director is thinking, “well, we got the ‘R’ let’s load up on T&A and screw any serious plot development or character building”. That is simply not the case here. The director uses the full extent of that R rating to show us the inner workings of the world of our character but keeps it well within the proper context. Just enough violence to show us, hey this is a violent guy in a violent world; and just enough skin to remind us, hey our anti-hero likes the ladies and the ladies like him. In the end this is a late inning home run with a couple on base. Yes, it is that good.

The film opens with an unorthodox roll of credits poking fun at the stars and marquee production personnel. It really seems that 20th Century Fox decided to listen to Stan the Man on this, because they nailed it… with authority. The movie is stuffed full of unadulterated, Easter eggs. You will have to see this thing like 10 times to catch all those juicy, little hidden nuggets.

So you know you want to ask… come on… I know what your thinking… Ryan Reynolds? AKA the Green Lantern. Green Lantern was not as bad as the reviews, but it was a tad on the stinky side; stinky in a cute wet-dog sort of way more than a steamy pile of excrement. But it was unpleasantly aromatic none-the-less. Mr. R pretty much lays to rest any and all concerns about his ability to drill to the heart of character and bring that bacon home; all sizzlin’ and shit. My God, Reynolds simply is: Deadpool.

For those that have followed this dark anti-hero on the pages of comic books in the Marvel-verse, you know he likes to break the fourth wall. At one point in the movie he will break the fourth wall while telling you he is breaking the fourth wall. These violations of space and time between audience and fiction are well done, frankly as well done as you will ever see. Did I mention that Ryan Reynolds nails the shit out of this role? Yeah, I think I did actually. OK just in case you weren’t paying attention, Ryan Reynolds nailed this fucker down. Hey it’s rated “R” if you are under 17 do not read this review without parental supervision 😉

So this is Ryan Reynolds best film. I know, that’s not really saying much. But this performance just might do for Reynolds what Tony Stark did for Robert Downy Jr. Yes, already, it’s that good. Half my readers just opened another window to load Fandango and get their tickets.

Morena-Baccarin-Sexy-photo-1How about our leading lady? Vanessa. As a character she is not that well-developed. Deadpool’s babe is someone we comic book fans already know. Yes it is Morena Baccarin, the one and same that has the heart of James Gordon in Gotham. But Vanessa shows us a much more saucy side of this stunning actress. She was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1979 and I’ll say right now, she could be the ‘Girl from Ipanema’. Look it up young-lings.

“She is tall and tan and young and lovely… The girl from Ipanema goes walking and when she passes, each one she passes goes ahhhh… When she walks, she’s like a samba that swings so cool and sways so gentle that when she passes, each one she passes goes, ahhhh

She’s kind of like that 🙂

So the movie is really good, but far from perfect. Our villain is portrayed by UK actor, Ed Skrein. Well there’s a novel idea, let’s make the bad guy British, they’ll never see that coming. Seriously? It’s fucking cliché already. That said the actor does an OK job I suppose, but as far as villains go this one definitely has a limp dick. As good as Reynolds and excellent Deadpool dialog is, the weak villain leaves a bit of a stain in the rug.

The villain’s right hand man… er rather woman is actually pretty cool. And if you don’t like Weasel, played by T.J. Miller, you are missing some cerebral software. This movie kept the cast on the skinny side and I think it really helps keep us focused on Deadpool. This was Ryan’s movie to make or ruin and no doubt, he and the writers deliver the goods.

20th Century Fox owns the rights to the whole X-Men cast and they bring us a couple of crossover characters in this movie. If you have seen the trailers, and I know you have, you already figured out that Colossus will make an appearance. Our man, Stan Lee gets a cameo, something the idiots at Fox omitted in the mediocre Fan 4 movie last summer.

Another character you will run into in this film is “Blind Al” played by actress, Leslie Uggams. Look this lovely lady up. She was born way back in nineteen hundred and forty-three and what a doll she was as a young lady. She still looks fantastic, she is in her 70s after all. Internet Movie Database, I love that site 😀

This film is all Ryan Reynolds. The guy is single-handedly the badass tough guy, blade wielding gun slinger, and comic relief all in one. The movie is dark and bloody yet never takes itself too serious. Almost like Kick Ass, only not as cheesy.

Stay for the credits, the closing credits are quite funny in themselves but there will be two small after credits scenes with Ryan Reynolds that you won’t want to miss. Got those tix ordered yet? Seriously? If not, WTF is wrong you? Go see it, now. Go ahead and check out the all time best super hero movie list by clicking on the tab above.

 

Posted in Hot off the press | Leave a comment

Jessica Jones and Legends of Tomorrow

2016 is starting out right where 2015 left us; in comic book nirvana. Last year Netflix released 13 episodes of an absolutely brilliant take on Marvel’s Daredevil. I wrote about that show right here. Netflix decided to release a second all original Marvel adaptation later in the year with 13 episodes of Jessica Jones. Now in the earliest moments of 2016 Warner Brothers Television is releasing the Legends of Tomorrow on the CW. This show is well tied in to The Arrow and The Flash. For the first time we are seeing a quality and consistent merging of the DC universe, not unlike the brilliant efforts by rival Marvel Entertainment. We can only hope the Warner Brothers silver screen movies can do the same.

p12123982_b_v8_abStarting with Jessica Jones, this is another Neflix original that takes it to barn. Very well done show with superb acting and excellent production values. This show is even darker and grittier than Daredevil or Gotham. No seriously this one is absolutely NOT for the kids. Jessica Jones is not really a super hero per se, but rather more of a super hero washout. Without revealing spoilers, she is someone who “tried” the whole super hero gig and decided it was not her bag. So now she is a private eye in Hell’s Kitchen. This show is as much a dark and brooding detective drama as it is a super hero adventure. But it is a bit of both. I cannot overstate the black hole undertones in this series. Netflix has the advantage of operating outside of the FCC restrictions for television that networks have to contend with. This show pushes right out to the ragged edge with sexuality and violence. It manages to push the envelope without pushing too far. My only complaint is that this show leaves you begging for some comic relief and there is little to none given. Daredevil had Foggy Nelson to break through the darkness. When watching Jessica Jones, bring your own flashlight. Absolutely brilliant.

legendsheaderThis week DC launched the Legends of Tomorrow utilizing characters already introduced in both the Arrow and the Flash TV shows. I have just seen the pilot episode and I am a bit mixed. The show has a fun vibe so far and that is a nice change of pace from the recent trend of tv and movies diving into the pit of despair. The first episode was a little forced and even predictable. But the light at the end of the tunnel is shining as this could take a turn for the much better. I see a lot of potential here for a fun and exciting adventure with this rather unlikely team of would be heroes.

Oh 2016, with your new TV shows and your silver screen wonders taken from the pages of comic books past… bring it on… One month till Deadpool 😉

Posted in Hot off the press | 1 Comment

The Super Hero Movie List has had some Serious Adjustments

Over the Holidays, I had time to watch some of the movies yet again in delicious Dolby Surround and BluRay brilliance. I watched Guardians of the Galaxy, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ironman, Ironman 2, and a few others.

The thing about a subjective list is that it is, well, subjective 🙂 As I watch these great movies over and over I find that some continue to impress and others start to lose some of that post screening “buzz”. Great movies are measured over time. Star Wars, A New Hope, Gone With the Wind, and Casablanca are timeless masterpieces that continue to deliver the goods, decades after their release.

On this list of Super Hero films the one that really stands out the most is Tim Burton’s 1989 ‘Batman’. The thirtieth anniversary of that film is lurking on the near horizon and it still manages to remain comfortably within the top five on this list of 71 movies. Batman debuted on this list (1994 was the first appearance of the list and Batman was the first #1) at number one and remained firmly in that number one spot until 2005 when it was ‘dethroned’ by Christopher Nolan’s take on “The Batman” with Batman Begins. It was not until the Avengers in 2012 that Batman was dropped out of the number one spot, and it took a second screening of the Avengers to pull that off. The Avengers debuted at #2 and a month later managed to climb to #1.

My Batman fan boy status not withstanding, Chris Nolan’s second effort, ‘The Dark Knight’, debuted at number 2 on the list in 2008 behind its predecessor. I was overwhelmed initially with Heath Ledger’s brilliant performance as the Joker. The second screening and a subsequent review of Burton’s Batman dropped Dark Knight down to #3 where it remained for quite some time. I know Batman films sweeping the podium, subjective, remember, it’s a subjective list. However my recent look at that movie resulted in a drop down to #6. Ledger’s Joker is still delicious, although I prefer a more traditional “old school” Joker, this Joker was so well acted that it will always be a great movie. The rest of the film however is just not nearly as good as Batman Begins.

Ironman, 2008 has been comfortably in the top ten for its entire existence. I watched it again recently after a long time, and it still holds up.

The real movie to watch is Guardians of the Galaxy. This 2014 movie debuted in the top 10 at #9 but climbs every time I watch it. As a true Super Hero, comic book movie it may never topple Batman, Batman Begins, or Avengers but in many ways it is a better movie than all of them. Guardians is just so damn FUN! The soundtrack is amazing and the original score is as epic as Star Wars. Look at this movie climbing its way into the top five to #4! Despite being released two years later than Avengers, I have watched this movie more often. The debut review of that film is here.

Another notable fall from the stars, is Avengers, Age of Ultron. This is still a great film but just doesn’t call to me like the original. Subsequent screenings lose that post movie buzz I had the first time. Ranking 11th of seventy-one is no slouch, my friends especially when the top 40 are all really good movies.

Some have teased me about my placing the Incredibles so high on this list. They are not “real” comic book super heroes and it wanders close to parody at times. But every time I watch that movie I confirm my dedication to its top ten status. It is Pixar on its “A” game and that alone puts it in fine company. It is funny for both adults and children and its characters are outstanding and well-developed. The dialog is nothing short of brilliant. Oh, and that toe tappin’ jazz score is outta-this-world!

Similarly I have the Disney super hero quasi-spoof film “Sky High” ranked pretty well. This was also a very fun movie that never takes itself too seriously. Besides, Kurt Russell is an effing boss, isn’t he? And seriously, Bruce Campbell’s Coach Boomer was awesome! “Sidekick”!

X-men First Class has also managed to creep up the list. That was a really well done film. It debuted in 2011 at #14 but now finds itself at #9. These new X-men films are really well produced and acted.

2016 will mark the debut of the third installment of the x-men prequel films. About 2016, starting in February, the first in a series of anticipated comic book movie releases begins. Ryan Reynolds jumps from DC comics Green Lantern to Marvel’s Deadpool. Lantern was universally panned but I thought it was OK. Reynolds will have to overcome his own image from Lantern, but I think he has the chops to pull off a great Deadpool, and Marvel has the chops to pull off another great movie. Captain America, Civil War opens in May followed by X-Men Apocalypse, and Batman vs. Superman, Dawn of Justice. Another awesome year, methinks 🙂

The biggest movie for me will be Batman vs. Superman. There is a thousand ways for Warner Brothers to screw the pooch on this, I hope they avoid them. Wonder Woman will be played by the lovely Israelie actress, Gal Gadot. I think she is too skinny for the Amazon princess, but she is legitimately tall at 5’10” and has a pretty good look in the suit overall from what I have seen. Wonder Woman is the greatest of the Heroines in the comic universe and I only hope Warner can do with a legendary character what Marvel has done with Black Widow and Scarlett Johansson. She looks great in the trailers thus far. We shall see!

Here is the latest version of my All Time Super Hero Movie List:
shlist

 

Posted in Hot off the press | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

A “No Spoilers” Look at The Force Awakens

No I will not be giving away any plot twists or serious developments in this review of Star Wars Episode VII, The Force Awakens. That said I will be ‘forced’ to dance around the plot because I will say that there are several significant developments and reveals in this film. So be wary of reading reviews that don’t shield you from spoilers.

Since the fandom of this franchise is about as big as any fandom across the known universe, I think a little insight into my view of Star Wars is in order.

I am old enough to remember seeing Star Wars in the theater in 1977. The buzz that movie created was amazing. The movie was the likes of which had never been seen before. Lucas and friends produced a sequel that did something few thought could be done; an improvement over the original. Empire Strikes Back remains my all time favorite Star wars movie. The dialog, the action, Han Solo and Leia’s relationship, as well as a developing Luke Skywalker made for a nearly flawless film that transcends the genre of fantasy action and is just a great movie measured against any that have ever been made. Unlike the overwhelming masses that hate on the prequel movies, I actually liked them. No they were not as good as the original trilogy. But they did a great job of showing us what it was like to be a Jedi ‘back in the day’. The fight scene between Darth Maul and both Obi Won and Qui Gon was one of the best “sword play” sequences I have ever seen. The world that Lucas was able to depict in the prequels was also amazing. The dialog and screenplays were a bit weak sauce, but the movies were still entertaining.

So what about this new film? How does it rate? is it any good? Of course it is, don’t be ridiculous. Disney, JJ Abrams, and the established characters and story elements from George Lucas’ masterpiece are the stuff of greatness.

First I want to start off by saying this movie is well worth the effort and expense to see. It is likely the best movie you’ll see this year and will not disappoint. Seriously you can’t walk out of the theater thinking anything less than “that was a good movie”. But I had very high expectations. This was what Phantom Menace had to face, stratospheric expectations because the first three films are legendary. The Phantom was a bogey at best when measured against those films, if you’ll pardon the golf parlance. This film cannot be spared that expectation either, but it benefits from the fact that it will most likely be measured as much against the prequels as it will the originals. I went in measuring it against the first trilogy of films and that is a very high standard. Star Wars remains the second or third highest grossing film of all time when corrected for inflation, depending on whose all time list you look at. A lofty target to be sure.

It seems that Disney took a safe approach here, perhaps a little too safe. I found this film to be thoroughly entertaining, visually exciting and beautiful, and just really well done for the most part. But the film was horribly predictable, I knew what was going to happen before it happened in at least a dozen scenes. Why? Because they did it before. This film took some generous liberties with the sequences from the original trilogy films. Numerous scenes and plot elements are not just vaguely similar to the first three films but practically ‘cut and pasted’ in. My son Nolan joked that it was a great movie but should be called, “A New Hope, 2.0”. It could be followed by The Force Strikes Back and Return of the Force. Is there not an original idea left in the universe?

I was quite surprised to see a lack of lens flare in this movie, the director was JJ Abrams, right? Just kidding, I think JJ overdid the lens flare in the Star Trek movies so much that he may have burned himself out on it. Either that or Disney turned off the lens flare generators 😉

So regarding the characters, I have to be very vague here, because I think people have some ideas about ‘who is what’ in this movie and those ideas may turn out to be misguided. Everybody knows that Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill reprise their roles in this film. It is Ford’s Han Solo that really has the bulk of the scenes among the old school characters in this movie. That is fine by me, because Han Solo is one of the best movie characters ever! Harrison Ford does not disappoint here. The dialog provided for Han Solo was epic and even as an aging hero, Han Solo still kicks ass and it is all believable.

The primary new characters are Rey, Finn, and Kylo Ren, played respectively by Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Adam Driver. Rey gets a lot of screen time and that is a very good thing. Daisy knocks it out of the park and steals every scene she’s in. I am delighted with her character thus far and look forward to her reprisals in future movies. It’s not just her acting or screen presence, which is very good, but the character is amazing. She is for now shielded in a delicious veil of mystery. There is so much potential development for her. Rey gets an A, see what I did there 😉 John Boyega is another big plus. This guy also lights it up. His character evolves quite a bit in this movie, but does it so well, that it does not feel rushed. His acting was excellent, his character believable, and his on-screen presence was very strong. Another A grade. Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren is a little more difficult to digest. My son, Nolan didn’t feel he was at all menacing in the villain role. Comparisons to Darth Vader are unavoidable. Darth Vader is a character that is one of the most iconic of villains. His menacing voice was performed by James Earl Jones and it doesn’t get any better than that. Those are large shoes to fill. The first time Kylo Ren speaks it’s like, what? Is the Pillsbury Doughboy under that mask? I agree with my son that he really wasn’t very strong as a villain, but I think that may have been done on purpose. The movie will make some revelations that could explain a few things about the character. The Dark Side is shadowy and the villain on the surface isn’t always the villain running the show. This character is conflicted and like Anakin Skywalker, he is quite powerful, just not fully in control. I give him a B grade.

They left a lot of good material on the proverbial cutting room floor. Captain Phasma was always lurking about as this tough mid level enforcer in the dark side locker room, but they really did not develop her and kept her ‘on the bench’. Why would they do that? Who the hell knows?

General Rux is in charge of the bad guys and is also quite good in this movie. Rux is portrayed by actor, Domhnall Gleeson. Both my son and I think he was much darker and more sinister in a villain role than Kylo Ren. He has that whole creepy Adolf Hitler vibe going on and what better vibe for a villain than a Nazi. It seems the two villains are a bit opposed to each other as the movie develops, almost like the Generals in the Empire were to Darth Vader in Star Wars, A New Hope.

The plot of this movie is a little soft but it holds together well enough. I had the bar set at Empire Strikes Back and this film falls well short of that, but it is better than the prequels and frankly about on par with Episode VI, Return of the Jedi. I no doubt like millions of others, eagerly await the next film. That bodes well for Disney.

Ranking the Star Wars Films for me, in order goes a bit like this…

  1. Star Wars Episode V, The Empire Strikes Back, 1980
  2. Star Wars Episode IV, A New Hope, 1977
  3. Star Wars Episode VI, Return of the Jedi, 1983
  4. Star Wars Episode VII, The Force Awakens, 2015
  5. Star Wars Episode I, The Phantom Menace, 1999
  6. Star Wars Episode III, Revenge of the Sith, 2005
  7. Star Wars Episode II, Attack of the Clones, 2002

 

 

Posted in Hot off the press | Tagged , , | 2 Comments