Justice League Review

This weekend our latest superhero movie, Justice League, came out, and I’ve been hesitant to post a blog review. I did a video review right after I saw it, which I would love for you to check out.

Basically I have really mixed feelings about Justice League, which makes it a hard film to write a coherent review about. Let me just give you a few thoughts:

First of all, I have not enjoyed Man of Steel, Batman v Superman or Suicide Squad. I loved Wonder Woman but that had the benefit of director Patty Jenkins over the more problematic Zack Snyder. So needless to say I went into Justice League with pretty low expectations, which always makes me a little more forgiving of its many flaws.

The positives to Justice League is I enjoyed the heroes and I’m a hero girl when it comes to comic book movies. The Flash was fun. Wonder Woman was of course great. Batman was fine and Aquaman was better than you’d expect. I am also so happy to be able to say they finally got Superman right! This is a Superman who is joyous and positive not mopey and ashamed of who he is. This is a Superman that fights for truth, justice and the American way!!! I have been waiting for that ever since Man of Steel made me depressed for days. I had a huge smile on my face for particularly the last 30 minutes of the movie, which gave Superman the time to shine I’ve been hoping for.

I also thought the Joss Whedon influenced dialogue was fun and I laughed a fair amount. One scene in particular between Wonder Woman and Aquaman was especially funny. The Flash had a lot of funny lines and the entire team had a nice chemistry together.

Unfortunately that’s where my praise has to end. A lot of Justice League is a hot mess. The plot is tough to defend with a villain that is poorly developed and  a structure that is incoherent and sloppy at best. It wasn’t as badly put together as Suicide Squad but it was close.

Also the action was an orange and gray mess. It looked like a video game especially any fighting with the villain. If you like Zack Snyder’s aesthetic than you will enjoy it but I’ve never been a fan and this was really rough to look at. A lot of people complained about the action at the end of Wonder Woman. This is much uglier than that but throughout the movie. The only movie I can think of that looked worse this year as far as action was King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. The CGI was also poorly executed and once again looked like a cheap video game. It was also a bummer to see his leering camera over Wonder Woman and the skimpy outfits the girls wore in Themiscyra.

Much was made about Danny Elfman using the original Superman and Batman scores for Justice League but nothing really stood out to me music-wise.

But all this aside I can’t deny that when I saw Superman fighting for truth and justice it made me really happy. I’m just so torn on this one.

I guess since it did make me smile I will give it a smile worthy but just barely.

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Batman vs Two-Face Review

Last year Batman appeared in 4 films, only 1 of which I liked. It was a throwback to the old 1966 Batman TV show called Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders. I liked it because it had a sense of joy about it. I felt happy watching it and wasn’t put off like I was the other 3 films. This year so far I’ve seen 2 versions of Batman I really liked- Lego Batman and Justice League Dark. Both were well made and engrossing stories although different in tone. So now, before Justice League comes out, we have a sequel to last year’s best Batman film entitled Batman vs Two Face, and just like the last I enjoyed it very much. In fact, in many ways I think it is an improvement upon its predecessor, which is about all you can ask for in a sequel.

This version of Batman is of course campy and full of big pows and bams when they hit each other. Maybe it is nostalgia talking but I like that style. It’s a lot of fun to watch.

Adam West returns as Batman in his last role, which is neat to hear. It was worth doing this movie just so he could do that one more time! We also get to hear Burt Ward as Robin and Julie Newmar as Catwoman. Some people say that these characters sound old like their voice actors, but I don’t see it that way. They honestly sound like they have always sound to me. I think people have the image of them as old, so that makes the voice sound old but it doesn’t impact me.

But all that said, the real standout is William Shatner voicing Two-Face/Harvey Dent. He is fantastic doing both parts. It’s a shame this wasn’t discovered now because he could have been doing this part for years like Mark Hamill has done with the Joker. He was that good.

The script in Batman vs Two-Face is an improvement upon the original film. It is less episodic and a more of a compelling narrative. They sacrifice some of the jokes, but I was ok with that. They also limit the cameos, which were overflowing in the last film. Here it was really fun to see King Tutt and The Bookworm back with story arcs!

This is not a parody film like Lego Batman or the previous film. This is a Batman movie with a few jokes thrown in. They do a great job showing the two sides of Harvey Dent/Two-Face and the struggle that Batman has over his loyalty to Dent. Is he going to stay true to his friend or will he protect the city from Two-Face? It plays out in a compelling way.

If you like Batman and are open to different interpretations than I think you will really enjoy this film. The animation is good, it clips along nicely, it’s funny and is a great way to say goodbye to Adam West. I recommend it highly.

Content-wise it is fine for kids. There is a little bit of innuendo from Catwoman but nothing too bad.

Wonder Woman Review

It’s always hard to write about movies I love. There’s a feeling that my opinion won’t be taken seriously or will be regarded as hyperbole. And for a movie I really love it can feel like throwing pearls before swine. Obviously that isn’t the case as you, my readers, are amazing and know me well enough that I do not rubber stamp movies or give any franchise a pass. When I say I love a movie it is because it is deserved.

All that said- I LOVE Wonder Woman. And it’s not just because it’s the best DCEU film. And it’s not because it is the first decent female led superhero movie (although I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t a little meaningful to me). It’s because it spoke to me on an emotional level and entertained me in every way I can think of.

You could make the case that Wonder Woman follows a traditional origin story formula and I would agree with you but much like Moana it executes that formula so well. In both films, I deeply care about the characters and their journey.However, as much as I love Moana, Wonder Woman is even better. I just loved it so much.

The story is pretty simple and comes right from the comic books. Wonder Woman is Diana who is raised on the island of Themyscira among the all-female Amazons. She is the daughter of Queen Hippolyta and was created out of clay by her mother and Zeus. One day a soldier named Steve Trevor lands on their beach and Diana decides to become involved in World War 1 and try to save the people. Updating the conflict from World War 2 to World War 1 was very smart as the senselessness of World War 1 is far more obvious. Plus, you have the horrors of nerve gas and trench warfare in World War 1 to put as a backdrop.

I won’t tell you any more so you can experience it yourself but the key to this film working is Diana and Steve. Gal Gadot is effervescent, innocent and wonderful as Wonder Woman and Chris Pine is perfect as Steve. The two have incredible chemistry, and I really cared about them and their stories. This is not a film that empowers women at the expense of men. They are both needed and valued and their love is what is powerful. All love is powerful.

The journey Wonder Woman goes on puts it above most other superhero movies I’ve seen. She learns about not only the cost of war but the ease at which humans excuse that cost as nothing. I cried a lot both times when watching the film because I found her realization of human evil to be incredibly moving.

A lot of people criticize some superhero movies for having a lack of stakes. Not the case here. No spoilers but there is a price to pay for fighting evil and here it couldn’t be more devastating. And the resolution is far from tidy but more of a momentary breath and pause before we know mankind will succumb again to the worst in their nature.

You see the true villain in Wonder Woman is war itself and the corruptible nature of mankind that so often embraces it. Some have said Wonder Woman feels like a Marvel movie instead of a DC movie. Never mind the many DC movies that were far sillier than this (cough Green Lantern cough) but I think they are missing the point. Previous DCEU films like Batman v Superman are built on a traditional masculine energy and style of filmmaking. With Wonder Woman we get something entirely different. There is more of a traditional feminine energy to it. It is about emotions and relationships and that is why it is so moving. Even when it gets bombastic it does so because of despair and love.

That’s not to say Wonder Woman isn’t fun. It does have comedic moments to lighten the mood and those work as well. There’s also great action that will satisfy the action gurus of your group but again what was special to me is the emotional journey of a woman facing the horrors of war.

I really only have 2 tiny nitpicks with Wonder Woman. The accents on Themyscira are a little cheesy. I understand why they did it to match Gadot’s Israeli accent but it doesn’t quite work. They also use a slow motion effect in the action scenes a little bit too much. There is a villain reveal that could have been handled better but since the true villain was war itself I did not care. Aside from that, I thought Wonder Woman was spectacular.

I won’t give a ranking just yet but it is definitely one of my favorite superhero movies I’ve ever seen. Congrats to Patty Jenkins and everyone involved for finally giving me a blockbuster I actually cared about!  Thank you!

And thank you for giving little girls the superhero they should have had a long time ago

Overall Grade- A

For parents there is some war violence that might be concerning and some nudity/sensuality.

Suicide Squad Review

suicide squad cerealI’ve never been the biggest superhero movie person, but over the years movies like The Avengers and X-Men Days of Future Past have won me over. These movies have clever stories, great scripts and charismatic performances by Oscar level talent. 2014 was a particularly memorable year with only 2 bad superhero movies and 4 outstanding films- Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: Winter Soldier, Big Hero 6 and X-Men Days of Future Past. These movies had everything I could want in a superhero movie.

WE WERE SPOILED!!!

Aside from Captain America: Civil War the superhero movies of 2016 have been kind of sucky and unfortunately the latest entry, Suicide Squad does not change that trajectory. Suicide Squad is the latest offering from DC Comics and Warner Brothers and despite promising trailers it fails to deliver on its potential.

After Batman v Superman frustrated many moviegoers in March, Warner Brothers clearly took all the wrong lessons out of the feedback. ‘Make the movies more fun’ is what they heard. So, they rushed David Ayer to write Suicide Squad in 6 weeks and then hacked it to pieces creating a mess of a movie.

suicide squad2That’s not to say there aren’t any redeeming values to Suicide Squad. There are mainly with the casting. All the roles, with 2 exceptions, are well cast. The problem is the script doesn’t give them time to grow as characters or to gel as a unit. Will Smith and Margot Robbie are the standouts as Deadshot and Harley Quinn and I’m curious to see more of them in future films. Viola Davis is also great as Amanda Waller who is an agent forming the Suicide Squad. She is ruthless and you kind of see why she would be interested in super villains.

The story of Suicide Squad is you have this group of villains that are called upon to fight evil metahumans. This is all supposed to be after the events of Batman v Superman but there is never any talk of using the good metahumans like Flash and Wonder Woman (despite briefly seeing Flash in a cameo). And the fact that only 2 of the Suicide Squad are actually metahumans which makes you scratch your head?

The first act of the film starts out clunky with Davis sitting at a table looking through a binder of each of the squad members.  Then we see flashback introductions to the characters. It’s kind of like the gossip montages in Ant-Man but repeated over and over again.

But even with that certain characters aren’t introduced at all like Katana. She just walks onto a helicopter and they say ‘oh look it’s Katana. She’s a crazy ninja” (I’m paraphrasing but you get the drift).

Suicide-Squad-Enchantress-OriginSo what are they called upon to do? Well, they are supposed to stop an evil being named Enchantress who kind of needs to be worse than the squad in order for the story to work but she’s just not. I normally don’t care about lame villains but she did nothing for me and I felt the special effects were very poor. She creates this ‘brother’ that looked right out of Gods of Egypt. Again, I wouldn’t have cared about a bad villain if I had cared about the rest of the film.

SUICIDE SQUADFor a movie like this to work it relies on the charisma of the stars and a witty script (this is not a gritty crime drama like The Dark Knight). And the problem with Suicide Squad is the editing is so poorly done that just when characters are starting to interact it cuts away to something that doesn’t matter.

You are supposed to believe that the characters are becoming a family but I didn’t buy it for a second. There’s a moment where Deadshot has to decide whether to hurt Harley Quinn and their relationship wasn’t near built up enough for me to buy his decision. They had one very brief conversation and they are supposed to be big baddies. It didn’t work.

There’s another scene where they are fighting these glob creatures of Enchantress and the creatures stop coming for some reason and they stop fighting evil and have a drink. If the movie had effectively established them as not caring about the mission or stopping the badder guy than I could have bought it but the way it sits it feels random and jarring.

suicide-squad1The other confusing part about the movie is why have Enchantress when you have DC’s greatest villain in the film for like 6 minutes? You could have made the Joker the villain and instead you have a lame villain. That would be like Marvel having Loki as a villain for a 5 minute cameo. It makes no sense.

But speaking of the Joker…Jared Leto goes for it as this new take on the character and I personally was not a fan. The Joker is an agent of chaos. He thrives on creating disorder. He is the last person in the world that would want to be an organized crime boss like in this movie. It felt too outright bad-guy where the Joker is supposed to be a believer in the philosophy of chaos. He should be more complex than having damaged tattooed on your forehead!

suicide squad3All that said, if you can go into Suicide Squad and ignore the script and just enjoy the charismatic performances and the fun soundtrack I think you may have an enjoyable time. It’s a lot like Batman Forever. There’s some engaging performances in Batman Forever, some decent music and production design but the story and script are terrible. So if you can enjoy Batman Forever than you will enjoy Suicide Squad.

At the very least I didn’t feel as manipulated as Batman v Superman and it isn’t as gloomy (although the forced fun added by the studio is so obvious). To me the two movies are about equal in quality but it is a case of picking your poison and what types of problems bother you more than others.

It’s probably very generous but I did like it better than X-Men Apocalypse which underserved all of the characters I love and became destruction porn. I gave X-Men Apocalypse a D+.

So for Suicide Squad Overall Grade- C- for Will Smith and Margot Robbie but I’d say it’s a definite skip.

ps. Those people who started the rotten tomatoes takedown petition are morons.

Batman: Killing Joke Review (Spoilers)

Batman-The-Killing-joke-movie-posterIs there some kind of Batman writers strike I’m unaware of? I have to imagine there are hundreds of thousands of writers penning Batman scripts right now, dying to be made into a movie. And yet out of all that we get two such poorly written scripts as we got this year in Batman v Superman and now Batman: the Killing Joke. That’s right. Unfortunately the animated Batman movie everyone was hoping would redeem the franchise sadly did not. In fact, in my opinion it is even worse.

I sincerely wanted this to be good because I love Mask of the Phantasm and list it as one of my top 50 favorite animated films of all time. To read that post click here. I had reason to be hopeful. They were going with an R rating which could mean they were taking some creative risks (I checked it out and it isn’t too hard an R so I decided it was acceptable for me).  They had a really strong trailer and most importantly the original cast of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill are back as Batman and Joker with great voice actress Tara Strong as Batgirl. This sounded great!

What a letdown!

killing joke1Ok. Let’s talk about Batgirl aka Barbara Gordon.

The first 30 minutes are actually her story.  The trailer is very deceiving in that regard.  Joker does not appear in the film until the 37 minute mark and it is only a 75 minute movie. I’d love to see Batgirl but alas we have another poorly written female superhero character. Barbara Gordon is a character out of a soap opera (please don’t do that to Wonder Woman DC. please!). When her and Batman interact it didn’t feel genuine or earned at all. I didn’t even like her design which is very boob-focused. I know why artists design female characters this way (look at the rebooted female Power Rangers designs which are also very boob-focused). But it’s such a cheap way of making a character sexy. Batgirl should be sexy because of who she is not because she has a ridiculously large bosom.

killing joke2She’s also a throwback to female characters I thought we had moved past. She’s basically a plot device for the male characters to trick, manipulate, encourage and rape (you read right) whenever the story needs her. She makes no plans herself aside from looking in a mirror and saying ‘Barbara what are you doing?’. Sigh. Give me a Mary Sue any day over this kind of convenient woman. killing joke4Batman’s character is once again very flat and we get almost no Bruce Wayne. I mean next to nothing. So any kind of hiding who he is or struggles with how he is treating Batgirl are completely lost in a gruff bland guy wearing a mask. I think you may see Alfred once but it’s mostly just Batman grumbling about Batgirl getting in his way and other bland things. He might as well have been made of cardboard.

killing joke5It’s called Killing Joke and you’d think that Joker and Batman would be together a lot. At least the trailer would leave you to believe that. Alas, just like Batman v Superman the title fight is very brief (about 7 minutes) and it resolves in a completely nonsensical way given the character development we’d seen so far.  Then they give additional endings after the fight and I didn’t buy it for one second.

The animation isn’t even that good with nothing really special about it. It all feels like images we’ve seen before with amusement park rides and shadowy figures. When will they learn that just having a dark color palate doesn’t make something dark. You could have something truly disturbing in the sunlight. I mean Jaws creates fear and it is on a sun-dripped beach. It’s the characters that we get to know when they are taken to dark places that it becomes dark. Come on Hollywood- do better!

killing joke6

We also get another origin story because that’s exactly what we all needed right? Sigh…And it’s not even an interesting origin story but one with more corny melodrama. There have been like 30 animated Batman movies let alone the live action. Does anyone in the world not know how the Joker became the Joker? or how Bruce’s parents are killed? (I’m talking to you Batman v Superman). We all get it. Move on to something interesting in a story!

I’m so disappointed. At this point my hopes are on Lego Batman to save the character. I get that those who love the comic book may love this. I can’t say one way or another. All I know is I didn’t like it and was very letdown by it.
As far as the adult content it’s there but nothing really shocking or interesting done with it. No pencil in the eye moment for people who like that kind of thing. Blast…

The only really good thing I can say about this film is that the voice cast is strong as expected. I just wish they had been given something strong to do. It feels like they kind of decided last minute to make it R rated instead of it being an integral part of the design and story.

Maybe other people will like it but I thought it was a soapy mess and I really hated the way they portrayed Barbara Gordon. Next time make her an actual character that makes choices and then has a real story arc instead of a cog in your dopey movies timeline.

Overall Grade- D+

All Superman Movies Quick Thoughts

So I did it!  I set a goal to watch all the Superman and Batman movies before Batman v Superman.  Watching Superman movies was interesting because most of them I hadn’t seen in a long time so it was kind of like watching them fresh.  I’ve never been that big of a comic book movie person and Superman was always pretty far down my list, but I do have nice memories of Christopher Reeves.  When I was in high school I read his autobiography and was very moved by his personal story.

Superman is a fun character because he is so pure.  He’s practically the definition of a hero because his mere existence is to help humans and spread hope.  Some of the versions miss this sense of hope and some forget it in favor of ridiculous comedy.  I’d say you get a little bit of everything with Superman.  At his core he should be a hero.

Just like with Batman, the Superman movies have their highs, lows and mehs.  And just like with Batman I am going to do it Best Shot style and pick one image from each film that summarizes my experience watching it.

My thoughts on all the Batman movies here

So here we go…

Superman: The Movie

I’ll be honest this movie didn’t hold up for me the way I thought it would.  Richard Donner’s film was a trailblazer in the world of comic book movies but my problem was how long it took to get going.  It takes an hour before you meet Christopher Reeves’ Clark Kent/Superman and he doesn’t fly until almost the 1 1/2 hour mark.  That was too slow for me.

Some of the origin story is compelling.  I like Marlon Brando as Jor-El and his role as a kind of Savior character is interesting, but it just takes so long.  I got bored.  Now once we get to Christopher Reeves it is wonderful.  He does such a good job differentiating the nerdy Clark Kent and the suave Superman.

I also felt that Margot Kidder as Lois Lane was wonderful and her and Reeves have excellent chemistry.  My favorite scenes of the film was their date and the first time they fly together.  I’m not the biggest fan of Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor.  I don’t mind a silly villain but he wasn’t charming silly but just annoying.  John Williams theme is of course iconic and overall it’s an entertaining film, just not quite as great as I remembered it.

superman1-8Superman 2

This was my favorite of the Superman films I watched.  I saw the Donner cut because Richard Lester took over as director and made it a lot sillier. I didn’t have time to compare the Lester version so take that for what you will.

Still I liked that this film focused on Zod, Ursa and Non coming back to have revenge on Superman for their banishment.  They are strong villains but the movie wisely focuses the most on Superman and his inner struggle over saving humanity vs having a loving happy life with Lois Lane.  This gives a nice emotion and Reeves is very good in these scenes. Plus, you still have the great chemistry between Kidder and Reeves.

There is a little bit of Lex Luthor but luckily it keeps it to a minimum and the violence is strong but in shorter bursts.  But mostly this film is great because of the journey of Superman and Reeves strong performance.

superman 2-3Superman 3

Now we get into the bad films.  In Superman 3 Richard Lester is given full control and it’s not really even ‘so bad it’s good’.  For something to be that kind of guilty pleasure it has to be sincerely trying to be good but this is just a boring, lazy, stupid movie.

Right from the beginning you know they are going for total slapstick with a pratfall routine where telephone booths are toppled over.  It gets worse from there.

I felt bad for Richard Pryor because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie where an actor looked more intoxicated while filming.  There were times you couldn’t understand what he was saying it was so slurred together.  He plays a programmer who is used by a CEO to do all kinds of dastardly deeds.

Reeves is fine and there is an entertaining scene with him fighting both sides of himself- evil vs good Superman.  But they remove Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane and give us Annette O’Toole as Lana Lang who he has no chemistry with.

I picked this shot of Richard Pryor because it showcases the problem of the movie with him skiing down the side of a building and then landing with no injuries.  It’s just so stupid.

superman3Superman 4

As bad as Superman 3 is, Superman 4 is even worse.  The production team famously took all the money out of the budget so everything looks horrible.  Everything from the costumes, special effects, script are horrible.

I guess only good thing about it is you get Margot Kidder back as Lois Lane but it sucks that things had to go out this way for her and Reeves, who were so wonderful together.  You have so many cliches with the mean boss at the Daily Planet with the daughter who has hots for Clark (Superman/Clark Kent go on a double date with Lois/Lacy for a long segment).

We get the return of Lex Luthor who creates Nuclear Man which is embarrassing.  Superman gives a speech at the UN and you can’t help but cringe.  Maybe some people find this ‘so bad it’s good’ but it’s hard when nobody was even trying to make something good.

superman4Superman Returns

Bryan Singer took a break from X-men to make his version of Superman in 2006.  It’s not terrible but did we really need to see Lois as a bitter single mother?  Brandon Routh is fine as Superman but he is off screen for long segments of time.  It really could be called Lois Lane Movie because of the focus given her.

We get Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor who I thought was surprisingly flat in the role.  He’s kind of a bully to his assistant played by Parker Posey (who cries most of the film) and not a believable foe for Superman.  Maybe I just don’t like the character of Lex Luthor?  We’ll see if Batman v Superman can change my mind.

It does have a nice look to it and some impressive sequences.  I particularly liked a scene where Superman stops a crashing plane.  I liked it visually but also because it took brains and brawn to make it happen.  That was cool twist for the character.  Overall not a terrible watch but a little bit dry.

It does have many homages to the Donner films and I don’t know if it quite got that balance of originality vs reboot right? It’s tricky.

superman returnsMan of Steel

Honestly it is the most divisive movie in history.  I have grown weary discussing it with people, but I must own I didn’t hate it this time around.  I was more ‘meh’.  It’s takes Superman into a scifi direction and then adds a disaster movie component.  I said while tweeting ‘it’s Superman if you combined Star Trek and San Andreas’ and I think that is accurate.

I hate the flashback structure and it’s not that the destruction exists it’s just gratuitous and repetitive.   Do we need to destroy all of Smallville and then destroy building after building of Metropolis?  Couldn’t the point be made more succinctly?  They also screwed up Lois and Clark relationship. There is not near enough time with them together to believe their relationship or what happens/how she is used.

Michael Shannon is fine as Zod and his motivations are interesting.  He is trying to save his people and I liked that.  I also love Henry Cavill who is a very beautiful man.  I just wish they gave us a few more moments like the kissing scene with him and Lois where he jokes about kissing an alien.  It doesn’t have to be a joke but the whole movie he seems depressed.

Diane Lane is excellent as his mother but I didn’t like Kevin Costner as Pa Kent or how they wrote that character at all.

The breaking of Zod’s neck makes sense in theory but it’s at the end of one building after another and it feels gratuitous after such exhaustion.

Snyder needs to learn the art of subtlety and that sometimes less is more.  This includes his Messianic imagery.  This shot really captured the film for me.  Cavill- great. Snyder’s excess- not so great.

man of steel quoteAnd there you have it.  I oddly had more to say about the Superman films than Batman.  Go figure.  I hope you enjoyed all of them.

What is your favorite Superman movie?  Put in the comments sections and let’s talk! On to Batman v Superman.

My youtube review of Superman 1 and 2.  If you feel so inclined give it a thumbs up.