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+

X-Men Apocalypse Review

xmen apocolypse2You guys I am so disappointed. Going to see X-Men Apocalypse I had heard the negative reviews but as a big X-Men fan I was hoping they were being too hard on it. After seeing it I actually think they are being kind. It’s current 47% on Rotten Tomatoes is a lot higher than I would give it. I liked it less than Batman v Superman and that is saying something…

I almost don’t know where to begin. Let’s start with what I want out of an X-Men movie. At their best X-Men movies say something about class and the way we treat those that are different. Unlike most franchises where bad guys and good guys are more one-note X-Men characters feel well-rounded when they are done right. Magneto, for instance, is a villain but only because he has given up on humanity. There’s a hopelessness about his villainy that can actually be quite moving.

X-Men Apocalypse had a few moments showing Magneto being conflicted and once again losing something dear to him (evidently the Holocaust isn’t enough of a motivator.  They have to keep piling it on for the poor man).  Unfortunately the film keeps moving away from Magneto for long stretches and gives us instead Apocalypse who I thought was power rangers worthy bad guy and spouting the Bible to sound important which was just annoying.

The biggest problem with X-Men Apocalypse is that it is completely fragmented. Days of Future Past had a lot of characters but it was focused on 2- Wolverine and Mystique. Everyone else was peppered in where needed. They also had a clear goal, to get Mystique to change her mind. This is muddled. Sometimes it is Scott’s story, sometimes Magnetos, sometimes Charles, sometimes Mystique, the list goes on. None of them are executed in a satisfactory way and none of them really matter in defeating Apocalypse. They all kind of throw stuff at him hoping it will work.

This leads to a lot of epic shouting and destruction with no momentum or sense that anything was being accomplished. You just knew they would find a way out of it because more movies are coming. Honestly I thought it was shouty, self-important, annoying and insufferable.

The female characters that I love in X-Men are all underused especially Storm and Psylocke. There is a fun scene when Quicksilver does his thing but since it’s a copy of what we saw in Days of Future Past I won’t give it too much credit.

The final battle has a few good moments and all the actors try but I really didn’t like it. The broader metaphors aren’t really there so it is at best a dopey 90s style superhero movie. Sorry, it was my third most anticipated movie of the year and it really let me down. And people are criticizing Jennifer Lawrence for her performance but that was the least of this movies problems.

Oh and Wolverine shows up for like 3 minutes just to remind us of all the better movies he is in.

I know other people liked it but I’m sorry it really didn’t work for me.

Overall Grade- D+

It’s also very violent and there is some profanity so I would not recommend it for kids.

My youtube review and rant

 

Thoughts on X-Men Movies

In the battle of comic book fandom it is usually between the MCU and DC (mainly Batman and Superman). That dynamic usually leaves Fox’s X-men movies as the forgotten cousin of the debate.

Not the case in my world! The X-Men films are actually my favorite comic book franchise by a large margin. Sure they have their misses like all the franchises but even those I’d take over the misses from the other franchises.

The thing I like about the X-Men movies is I think the dynamics of social politics is an interesting layer. When they are discussing mutants rights and the treatment of people that are different it has a heft to it you don’t normally see in the genre.

Also, the casting is first rate. In the X-Men movies we have Oscar nominees/winners like Hugh Jackman, Anna Paquin, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Ellen Page. As well as other strong actors like Peter Dinklage, Patrick Stewart, James Marsden, and Kelsey Grammer.

Bryan Singer has made pretty much all of the good X-Men movies and he knows how to direct entertaining layered films that look nice and have strong emotion. The X-Men movies have great characters like Magneto, Wolverine, Mystique and Professor Xavier. To me these are more interesting than any other franchise characters.

I know some of you disagree with me but I stand by my belief that X-Men movies have the strongest female superhero characters by far. Characters like Rogue, Mystique, Jean Gray, Shadowcat and even Storm are way better than the token female we get in other movies usually for sex appeal or to be the ‘tough girl’.

Anyway, like I have done with Batman, Superman and Marvel Phase 1 and Phase 2, I will give my thoughts on each of the X-men films except for Deadpool, which I will not be watching. I have also selected my ‘best shot‘ from each film. This is a shot that I think captures my favorite part of the movie. I hope you enjoy my picks and are anxiously looking forward to X-Men Apocalypse like I am!

X-Men

Our first introduction to the X-Men directed by Bryan Singer. This film holds up incredibly well. What makes it strong is we see the beginning of Magneto in the concentration camp and how he was treated. This gives a weight to his choices later on. You understand why he is doing what he is doing and why Professor X disagrees. You also have great emotion between Rogue and Wolverine. They are fighting and trying to understand their mutant powers. Their bond grows in a believable, moving way  and the events of Ellis Island are exciting and emotional. I picked this shot between Rogue and Wolverine because  it was a tender moment especially when you consider Rogue’s fears of human contact. Beautiful. xmen best shotX2

An extremely entertaining second entry in the series with Magneto taking the center stage. Colonel Stryker wants a genocide of all mutants. He drugs Magneto and uses Mystique to manipulate. What’s great about this movie is the good and bad characters are constantly shifting. One moment Magneto is the enemy and then Stryker and others. The idea of the Cerebro is fascinating and beautiful. I love how vulnerable all the mutants are and how each character gets their moment to shine. There many great scenes like Cyclops and Jean Grey fighting or the fight between Wolverine and Deathstrike. You never know who is being controlled or what their motives are.  It keeps you guessing and actually has something to say about faith, friendship and loyalty. Nightcrawler s a great addition to the cast and it’s just overall entertaining. I picked this shot of Jean Grey making her sacrifice because it is beautiful, moving, gripping conclusion to the film.

x2 best shot2X-Men: The Last Stand

A semi-decent premise of a ‘mutant cure’ is hampered by clunky dialogue and cheesy fight sequences. It seems every punch is accompanied by a ‘I’m the wrong guy to play hide and seek with’ or some other lame one-liner. I still think it is better than the bad movies from other franchises. It’s way more watchable than Batman and Robin or Superman 4. It isn’t a bad watch in my opinion if you are just looking for a dopey fun comic book movie. Ian McKellen seems like he is having a blast as Magneto so I picked a shot just before he destroys the Golden Gate Bridge. I didn’t like the way they messed with Jean Grey after her beautiful moment in X2.

xmen last stand best shotX-Men Origins: Wolverine

Now X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a movie worth putting at the bottom of the comic book movie barrel. I think it is far worse than Last Stand. Hugh Jackman tries his hardest with the material but it’s a mess. I think a character like The Blob is supposed to be funny but it falls flat and then the film is very violent at times but not in a compelling way. What is most bizarre is how bad the special effects are. You know an Xmen movie is bad if they can’t even get Wolverine’s blades to look good. It’s not fun or silly just boring and dumb. They introduce characters like Deadpool and Gambit but really just to fight with for a few minutes- not any real character development. I picked this shot because it is a semi-decent explosion with Jackman on a motorcycle. That’s really the best this movie has to offer.

best shot origins wolverineX-Men: First Class

I’m not the biggest fan of Matthew Vaughn’s new style to the X-men world. It’s too James Bondish for my tastes and a bit garish with skimpy costumes and stylized action. Also January Jones is very weak as Emma Frost. However, the rest of the casting is outstanding with Kevin Bacon, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, James McEvoy and more. I really like seeing the evolution of Magneto especially with an actor as good as Fassbender and it is kind of cool to see the X-men as a true team, not divided like the previous films. My best shot shows this sense of teamwork.

first class best shot

The Wolverine

Even though I love Wolverine as a character for some reason I had missed this film, and I’m here to tell you it is way underrated! I really thought it was a great superhero movie. The action by director James Mangold is really well done with a martial arts flare to it. I liked starting at WW2 and Logan’s experience in Japan and then the infection of Viper makes him more vulnerable than in other films. The relationship with Mariko is standard girlfriend superhero stuff so I am willing to forgive that. The dialogue is intense with moments of humor but not as out of place as First Class. Overall it’s very entertaining movie and reminded me a little bit of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy the way he combines martial arts style fighting with superhero story. There is a sequence on a train that was amazing so that is where this shot comes. Jackman is totally up for the physicality of this film.

wolverine best shotX-Men: Days of Future Past

I love this movie! Not only does this brilliant film take away most of the damage done in Last Stand and Origins but it combines all the great actors from all of the films. Through the Terminator-like time traveling set-up we get a story that is action packed, full of emotion and also very funny. The plot centers on a sentinel uprising that is wiping out our favorite characters in the future. Using Kitty Pryde’s abilities Wolverine is sent back in time to 1973 where he must gather Xavier and Magneto to convince Mystique to not assassinate the maker of the Sentinels Dr Trask. I love a movie with a message of hope and that’s what you get in the end with Mystique’s decision. She chooses hope for the future over cynicism and it’s very moving. Even Xavier says he has renewed hope. I love all of the actors, script and everything else. Picking a shot is really hard. Do I go with emotion, or dazzle? Emotion is hard to capture in a shot so I’ll go with Dazzle. I love Quicksilver and his scene helping to free Magneto. It’s hilarious with terrific special effects (and music).

dofp best shot2So there you have it my friends. I have finished my dive into superhero movies for the year. Boy what a journey it has been 16 Superman/Batman, 12 MCU  and 7 X-Men movies since Februaryish. 35 superhero movies and there have been highs and lows.  After I see Civil War and X-Men Apocolypse I will do a retrospective on the experience of 37 movies. Craziness… Ha.

I hope you have enjoyed my little efforts and let me know what you think of the X-Men movies and my thoughts/best shots on each film.

My Thoughts on All Marvel Phase 2 Movies

So I have finished my viewings of all the Marvel Phase 2 movies.  If you want to see my best shots and thoughts on Phase 1 click here. This is all to get ready for Captain America: Civil War coming in a couple of weeks. I haven’t decided if I will do this with the X-men movies but there are fewer of those so why not? I think after that I need to do a Merchant/Ivory series or something like that. It’s kind of nuts that since the beginning of March I will have seen including Civil War and 2 viewings of Batman v Superman 30 superhero movies. That’s madness I tell you!

Anyway, Marvel Phase 2 has its hits and misses just like Phase 1. But I think that Marvel isn’t given quite enough credit for trying new things with these Phase 2 films. They went for it with Iron Man 3 with a very different director in Shane Black. They let the Russo Brothers give us a political thriller combined with great action in Cap 2 and took a real risk with James Gunn and the Guardians of the Galaxy. I don’t think any of these movies are awful but for me the risks sometimes paid off, and sometimes didn’t, but at least they are taking them. I look forward to seeing Civil War and our introduction to Spiderman and the conflict between Iron Man and Captain America coming to a forefront. Then we will be on to Dr Strange, Thor Ragnarok and Infinity Wars!

The thing I like about Marvel movies is I like their heroes. I’ve never been much a villain girl, and I think even in the less successful Phase 2 films we got to know our heroes a little bit better. They are becoming fully fleshed out characters and that was always my issue with comic book movies. They were always too dumb for their own good and the heroes were given the shaft over flashy spectacle action and villains. Marvel also almost always nails the casting and the lighter tone is more palatable to me.

What’s your favorite Marvel Phase 2 movie? What do you think of this group of movies? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

Iron Man 3-

This movie has a lot of highs and lows. The lows for me are the cheap twist of The Mandarin.  I don’t know the comics (and evidently it was a betrayal of the character in the comics) but in the movie it felt cheap. Making him an actor and so silly just didn’t work and felt a little insulting to the viewers. If you haven’t guessed by my feelings on M Night Shyamalan I’m not a big fan of twists in movies. At least I usually get really annoyed when I feel like I am being tricked or it is too cute. That said, what I did like about Iron Man 3 is Tony’s struggle with anxiety and PTSD. It makes sense a superhero would struggle with anxiety and I think Robert Downy Jr was convincing in those scenes. It makes the events in Age of Ultron make more sense when you realize how physically and mentally taxed Tony is by his duties as an avenger. So for my best shot I picked a scene where Tony is mid-anxiety attack and you can feel his panic. As someone who has dealt with panic attacks I thought it was very moving.

iron man 3 best shot2Thor: The Dark World-

The cheap gimmick of Iron Man 3 and the Mandarin made me like it less than Thor: the Dark World but it is probably the worst Marvel movie. A lot of the action is murky and hard to make out. Natalie Portman is annoying as Jane and given way too much screen time and the story I didn’t really care about. In fact, after a couple of days since my viewing I’m having a hard time even remembering what it was. The part I did like was the scenes between Loki and Thor.  Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth are so terrific for these parts and they have great chemistry. The final scene where we see Loki laughing on the throne made me smile and so it gets the best shot.

best shot thor dark worldCaptain America: Winter Soldier-

What a great entry in the MCU! The Russo Brothers proved they know how to film incredible action and write a tight, exciting story. I love Chris Evans in this part and we get some emotional growth for the character with him coming to terms with his age and what he has lost along the way. I love the dynamic between Cap and the Winter Soldier. I loved all the action in the film. But when Steve has to fight Bucky it is emotional and exciting at the same time. He even says ‘don’t make me do this’ and you feel for the character. The Nick Fury death was kind of annoying but his car crash was amazing. It’s such an entertaining film.  This shot I feel covers what is great about the movie. Cap with his shield getting ready to face off against his friend the Winter Soldier.

winter soldier best shotGuardians of the Galaxy-

I love Guardians of the Galaxy! Back when I reviewed it on my other blog I said it was one of the ‘great movies of 2014’ and I stand behind that. It was Marvel’s first attempt to create a space opera and I love what they accomplished.  Star Lord and his band of misfits join together over the course of the movie. It is not immediate and they each have different types of outlaw personalities that blend very well together. To me it was a lot of fun watching them zoom across the galaxy looking for the globe/infinity stone. All the actors do a great job and the soundtrack still makes me smile. It is well written with enjoyable action and just what I want from my space operas. I chose this shot because I love this team of characters!

guardians best shotAvengers: Age of Ultron-

I probably like Age of Ultron for unusual reasons. Most people probably like the big action scenes like Hulk fighting the Hulkbuster or the opening action battle. For me I like the back stories and visions we get of each character. I found those scenes gave a depth to these characters we rarely see in a comic book movie. It all starts with Tony getting a vision of his friends slaughtered and Cap (of all people it would be Cap) says to him ‘you could have saved us…’. Going back to Iron Man 3 and his panic attacks this vision is especially chilling. I also thought seeing the sterilization in the past of Black Widow was very moving. Same with Steve and the life he has left behind. I also liked the contrast between Vision and Ultron.  I thought it really worked. I see why many were disappointed as it is more somber and maybe over the top in the conflict but to me it worked emotionally on a different level than Avengers, which was more fun than anything else. So, I picked a shot from Tony’s vision because it captures what I admired most about the film.

ultron best shotAnt-Man-

If you had told me a few years ago that I would like a movie called Ant-Man I would have said you were nuts. They even joke about how stupid the idea sounds within the movie. However, if you get Paul Rudd to play the character suddenly I’m on board (I’ve loved Paul Rudd since I was in high school watching Clueless). I know this film had production problems but what they created was something very satisfying and fun. I like how it feels very small (forgive the pun) compared to Age of Ultron (or really any other Marvel film).  It is at heart a heist movie and it works on that level. I liked all the performances except for Evangeline Lily who I thought was wooden and flat. It made me laugh and the visuals were really cool. I didn’t even mind Yellow Jacket as the villain because I love Cory Stoll. To me it worked and this shot captures the magic of the film. (And no, I could care less about Edgar Wright leaving the film. Get over it!).

best shot antmanSo there you have it! My thoughts on Phase 2. On to Phase 3 in a couple of weeks. I’ve heard great things so I am very excited for Civil War.  It should be intense but also a lot of fun.

Batman v Superman Spoiler Free Review

batman v superman11I was going to wait to do a spoiler free review of Batman v Superman until I see it Thursday (I ended up getting into an early screening today!).  But I felt I should put a few comments down because some people will want to take their children to this movie and might hope I could give them some guidance in that regard.  This review is spoiler free so I can’t say what happens but something happens that I think could seriously upset small kids.  Just trust me.

Now let’s get on with my initial thoughts.

First I will remind you guys I’m not that rabid a Batman fan to begin with.  The movies tend to focus too much on villains and Batman is usually a bore.  I like my superhero movies to be about heroes rather than villains.

That said, I went to Batman v Superman optimistic and hopeful it would be a fun comic book movie.  And for about an hour in I was enjoying it on that level and then unfortunately it takes a turn I did not like at all.

I will also say that my brother who is a huge Batman fan hated the movie, so take that for what you will. He was very upset and not in a good way.

It’s hard because one of the things that didn’t work at all is highly spoilery but suffice it to say that Zack Snyder thinks we are all stupid.  He somehow thinks he can make a movie with a million hints at the Justice League Movie coming in 2017 and yet expect us to buy the ending…Come on? When you guys see it you will know what I mean.  There is no way the ending is legitimate and it is all done to squeeze phony emotion out of fans and leave you in a phony cliffhanger for those dumb enough to buy it.

Ok. Off soapbox.  There were things that worked quite well.  Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman was actually quite good.  If you had told me going into it that one of my favorite things about Batman v Superman would be Wonder Woman I would have said you were crazy but there it is.

Also, I liked some of the character development we got in the first hour of Batman and Superman.  Ben Affleck was good as Batman although he is manipulated rather easily.  But I thought the building off of the destruction of Man of Steel and questioning Superman’s powers was pretty good.  Cavill is fine in the film but I still don’t see any chemistry between him and Amy Adams’ Lois Lane.

Jeremy Irons is good as Alfred although underused and Lawrence Fishburne as Perry White had a few moments of comic relief.  Holly Hunter as a senator was kind of wasted.

Jesse Eisenberg didn’t work for me as Lex Luthor’s son but it’s not entirely his fault.  The screenplay makes some leaps that I found hard to believe.  He is granted clearance to things he really shouldn’t be.  He’s places that don’t make sense for him to be at and he seems to know Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne’s alter-egos when he is first being introduced to both of them.  He also manipulates Bruce very easily.

Let’s talk about the action.  There’s really only one extended fight scene and then 2 dream sequences. The dreams were kind of annoying.  The long fight scene is ok but the way it ends does not make sense for either character.

We all knew they would go from being enemies to friends within the movie.  It’s in the title so I don’t think that is a spoiler but how that happens did not feel authentic or believable at all.   Batman makes such a drastic shift and for a reason that I didn’t buy.

Boy it sounds like I really hated it.  I guess the charisma of the stars provided enough marginal enjoyment for me to give it a ‘meh’ rating.  I can totally see why my brother hated it.

I think a lot of fans will phantom menace this movie.  It has a very low rotten tomatoes score and already I’m hearing defenses and ( if you liked it that’s awesome) but I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people come down on this movie once the novelty has faded and they look at it more objectively.  We will see.

Oh and Doomsday looks terrible.  I couldn’t believe how bad the CG was on him.  Usually Zack Snyder at least gets that kind of thing right.

I just don’t know how anyone defends that ending.  Zack Snyder tried to trick me and it’s not going to work! I may not be a huge Batman fan but I’m not stupid either.

Overall Grade- C-

I also don’t think Man of Steel fans will like this movie.  It doesn’t have any of the sci-fi or edgier elements of that film.  It’s a lot of people talking about Gods and God-like powers and not much of the showing like in Man of Steel.

My youtube review.  A bit rambling but say what I needed to say.

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.

Blindspot 3: Dark Knight Rises

dark knight risesThis month I am taking care of my Blindspot entry early.  This is the series where we watch a classic we have never seen before and give our thoughts on it.  I have already done Blade Runner, Tron and now we look at The Dark Knight Rises.  Yes my friends, today I saw Dark Knight Rises for the first time.  I’m probably one of the few Americans who can say that!

The reason why I was hesitant to see it was because I didn’t really care for Dark Knight (I know shock. Ah, horrors, I have no taste!).  It was too cynical, violent and frankly creepy for me.  It was dominated by a mesmerizing villain and I don’t like stories about villains.  I like stories about heroes.  So I was reticent to see the final installment and then the Colorado Shooting happened and it put me over the edge.  You can read my thoughts on that day here.

I quoted my cousin who said:

“How about the very movie that was showing in the theater where the shooting took place?! I know The Dark Knight Rises is the movie of the Summer, but I walked out because of how intensely violent I felt it was and the ruthless killer Bane was dark and evil. After 20 minutes I went back in because I didn’t want to feel left out… (wish i would have chosen differently now.) i know its bold to say, but we cannot keep watching this violence on screen and expect to be exempt from it in real life!”

I admit I have become a bit more immune to these things than back then but the violence in Dark Knight still bothered me when watching it a few weeks ago.

dark knight rises5

So that’s all kind of background to my viewing experience today.  And…

I have to be honest- I liked The Dark Knight Rises a lot more than I thought I would.  Why?  Well, at its core is a message of hope that a city can rise up and confront evil.  In the Dark Knight, on the other hand, the most noble soul turns into the villain.  It’s the opposite message.  Everyone, even Batman has an angle and isn’t that different from the Joker after all.

That’s not to say it is perfect but I did enjoy the viewing experience a lot more.  I know I’m unique in that but I’m not writing these reviews to tell you what you want to hear but what I truly believe.

So basically the plot in Dark Knight Rises is Bruce Wayne is blamed for the death of Harvey Dent, who is looked at as a hero.  He goes into hiding for 8 years.  Bane, a masked beast of a man, played by Tom Hardy is on a mission to remove corruption from Gotham by removing what he see’s as injustice. Injustice with the government, wealth, commerce and everything else.

dark knight rises2

Bane is trained by Ra’s al Ghul from Batman Begins (who trained Batman) and he is also on a mission to kill Batman who killed Ra.  Bane tricks Catwoman Selina Kyle to get Bruce Wayne’s fingerprints and he stages a takedown of the stock exchange destroying Bruce and Wayne Enterprises.

The plot does get pretty convoluted at that point but Alfred resigns (and is missing most of the movie), Lucius becomes involved, Commissioner Gordon is hunting down Bane as best he can and we get to meet John Blake who is essentially a Robin-type story.  There is also Wayne Board Member Miranda Tate played by Marion Cotillard who wants to see a fusion reactor produced for energy but Bruce fears it could get into the hands of people like Bane.

Bane tries to stage a type of Marxist revolution killing off the powerful and rich while manipulating the common people with fear.  This is in the end is not effective when many people fight back (literally in a type of battle) and Batman pays the ultimate price.  The film leaves us with the message “a hero can be anyone”

dark knight rises4

One of the things that bothers me about most Batman movies is Batman is always the most boring person in the film.  Dark Knight Rises is an interesting situation because he is not really the lead character.  The City of Gotham is the lead, and its transformation is what is compelling.So basically Batman Begins is about Bruce becoming Batman.  Dark Knight is about the Joker and the power of evil and corruption.  Dark Knight Rises is about the City of Gotham and it finding its hope again.

That’s not to say there aren’t problems in the film.  Batman is in the film too little and there are probably too many scenes of Bruce watching the action in prison.  Also it can be difficult to understand what Tom Hardy is saying with that mask on.  There are also other plotholes like his speedy recovery with a leg brace from a debilitating injury but it’s a comic book movie.  I guess I expect that kind of heroics in a comic book movie.  I don’t watch this genre for gritty realism. And in reality there are plotholes in Dark Knight whether people chose to acknowledge them or not.

I’m not saying Dark Knight Rises is a masterpiece. I don’t know if I feel that way about any superhero movie outside of The Incredibles; although there are many I enjoy.  I’m just saying I appreciated the change in tone from the previous installment.

dark knight rises3I also loved Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle.  She was confident, sexy, and smart.  Her performance certainly wipes the bad taste out of my mouth from Halle Berry’s Catwoman.  That’s for sure!  I thought she was really entertaining.

dark knight rises6Miranda Tate while fine was more of an average character, and I don’t know that I completely buy her big reveal at the end.  It feels a little cheap to me.  Nolan didn’t need to make everything in all 3 movies tie up in a perfect bow.  We even see Scarecrow in a cameo during the sentencing scene.  That wasn’t really needed.

Also  many of the other characters are relegated to bit roles.  Alfred has very powerful moments but then is missing for most of the movie.  Gordon we don’t see enough of , as well as a number of other characters.

dark knight rises8As far as Bane goes I found his political motivations to ‘share the wealth’ kind of interesting but like I said he is tough to understand at times and is a little one-note.  The fight scenes are intense but perhaps because I wasn’t as creeped out by Bane as Joker they didn’t bother me as much as the violence in Dark Knight.

If I’m honest you do kind of tell this was the B storyline that they had to use with Heath Ledger’s passing but I still think it turned out very well.

Dark Knight Rises feels like a comic book movie and not a crime drama.  That said, having seen how the story ends I do appreciate the Dark Knight much more than I did before (it might not sound like it but it is true).  I can now see the story as a true trilogy and the hopeful ending does make the middle violence a little more palatable. It is almost better to think of the 3 films as one long movie and not 3 separate stories.  dark knight trilogyOf course the direction is well done by Nolan with beautiful cinematography from Wally Pfister and terrific score from Hans Zimmer.  I don’t think Nolan has made a technically bad movie yet.

You could definitely make an argument that Dark Knight Rises is self-indulgent at its 165 minute time and there are definitely lags but over all I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would.  Chop this one up to low expectations if you want.

There’s hope for Gotham and that makes me happy!

Overall Grade- B

Fantastic 4 Review

fantastic 4So with much trepidation I finally saw Fantastic 4.  It is of course the huge flop produced by Fox and I guess the question is- ‘is it as bad as people say it is’.  I guess it depends on what lens you are looking for and I think how invested you are in comic books and superhero movies.  I have little investment in either so in the end I thought it was mediocre with some of the worst special effects I’ve ever seen.

fantastic 4-2The script is also kind of lazy.  It is an origin story which is very predictable with the origin part coming very late in the movie. I’m surprised Simon Kinberg who wrote the terrific X-men Days of Future Past would allow for such a cliched story to get approved.  I understand there were problems on the set and the studio interfered but that wouldn’t effect the entire story and the extremely predictable writing.

I also can’t give director Josh Trank a pass either because the story from start to finish was cliched and silly.  It wasn’t just one scene that you could tell the studio messed with; although the last 20 minutes is definitely worse than the rest.  It’s surprising with Trank because he made Chronicle a superhero film on a small scale that I really love. The special effects in that film on a minimal budget are much better than anything here. I don’t know what he was thinking with the special effects. The editing was also really amateurish.

fantastic 4-8I also didn’t like Reg E Cathey as Dr Franklin Storm.  For being the father of 2 of the characters he seemed flat, unemotional and like he was delivering motivational speeches instead of being an authentic character.  I always felt like he was reciting lines and not feeling the emotions of a parent.

Toby-Kebbell-Doctor-Doom-Fantastic-Four-2015Toby Kebbell is also shockingly bad as Victor Von Doom (one of the worst names in superhero villains IMO).  He was so great in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes but it’s not really his fault here.  He is given little to do and the special effects are so bad.  People who were critical of Ultron in Avengers 2 need to take a look at Dr Doom because the characters aren’t that different but one is executed so much better.

fantastic 4-4I can’t overstate how bad I thought the special effects were.  Especially every time we see Mr Fantastic (Reed Richards played by Miles Teller)’s arms stretch I couldn’t believe it.  Also there were a lot of times when it was so obvious they were in front of green screens and it looked extremely fake. I guess The Thing (Ben Grimm by Jamie Bell) looked ok but he had this strange voice that was distracting.

Other than that I can’t think of a special effect that worked.  They were on a syfy Sharknado level.  (have you gotten the point that I hated the special effects…)

fantastic 4-5As far as things I liked I thought the 4 young leads were all good in their parts and I could see them being a good Fantastic 4 in another movie with better special effects and script.  They save a lot of scenes with their charisma and chemistry.  The music by Marco Beltrami and Phillip Glass was also a standout.

I thought they  could have gone somewhere interesting with using the Fantastic 4 to help the military which they do with the Thing.  On one hand he saves lives.  On the other he is an agent of war.  There was something there they could have worked with.  The sets all look nice and while the origin of the super powers takes way too long I thought it had ok moments. I was also surprised how bloody the ending was for a pg-13.  Normally blood=R

fantastic 4-3I would have been a lot angrier if it had been like Transformers: Age of Extinction and been almost 3 hours.  This was 100 minutes so it left me just shrugging.  And again I am not a huge superhero person.  If I was I am sure this would have engendered a Maleficent response from me because I love that character and world.  As it is I just kind of shrugged it off.  It’s a lame superhero movie.  Not the first and won’t be the last.  In fact, the genre is probably past due for a stinker.  Ha.

If you are curious to see if it is as bad as people say it is go see it.  I think you will be shocked by the bad special effects like I am but I have friends who liked it.  I’ve warmed up a lot to superhero movies in the last few years with movies like Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers 1 and 2, Captain America 2 and Big Hero 6.  This is way, way, way, way, beneath that level but I had a few little things I liked.  Overall, I just thought it was super mediocre.

Overall Grade- D

Ant-Man Review

antman9Back in 2011 I swore off superhero movies for good.  I had seen the terrible Green Lantern movie and I was done.  They were stupid, moronic, boring, self-important junk and I didn’t want to see another one again.  So, if you had told me then I would be giving a positive review of a movie called Ant-Man I would have said you were insane.  Yet here I am giving such a review for Marvel’s new movie Ant-Man. Nice job Kevin Feige and Marvel.  With Ant-Man you have an entertaining time at the movies.  It’s as simple as that.

Part of what makes Ant-Man work is they have assembled an incredibly charismatic and likable cast.  I’ve been a huge Paul Rudd fan for years going all the way back to Clueless (and totally have a crush on him). He plays Scott Lang a thief who is recruited to be the next Ant-Man.  As always he is a complete charmer in the role.

antman6Scott is trained in the Ant-Man ways by Hank Pym played by Michael Douglas who looks like he is having a blast in a Marvel movie.

antman4Another actor I always love is Corey Stoll who plays the villain Yellowjacket and has a swagger that is magnetic on screen.

antman7 antman5Finally there are 3 friends of Scott from prison that are a riot- TI, Michael Pena and David Dastmalchian.  Michael Pena is especially funny in his part as the Latino crook who knows art and wine.

antman8Ant-man reminded me a lot of Sam Riami’s Spiderman and maybe a little bit of the original Ironman.  It feels light and fun and superhero movies have gotten so overly serious of late.  And yet it isn’t stupid like a Batman and Robin or Green Lantern.

There is a fair amount of humor and pretty much the entire plot of the movie is centered around Michael Douglas’ house so it feels very small (forgive the pun) in its scope.  It is not like an Avengers movie where the entire earth could be destroyed by the rising of a city.  This is a single building with one technology and one madman trying to control it. In truth it is a heist movie.

The training montages are a little ‘seen it all before’ but I liked the way they filmed the interactions with the ants and the CG looked very good in those scenes.  Except for a CG rat which made me shout in the middle of the theater it caught me off guard!

antman3Evangeline Lilly plays Hank’s daughter and I’m sorry but I do not think she is a very good actress.  She was terrible in the Hobbit movies and she isn’t very good here.  Just a bore and no chemistry between her and Rudd at all.

I could see how some might say this is a light weight superhero movie and in a way it is but I had so much fun with it.  Like I said it is funny and for the most part has actors who can pull it off.

It also doesn’t get too mired in the MCU (which I kind of like those clues to the broader universe but I know others hate it).  There is one cameo that is very well done and a few name drops but not distracting at all.

Marvel's Ant-Man..Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd)..Photo Credit: Zade Rosenthal..? Marvel 2014If you thought Jurassic World was fun I can’t imagine you not enjoying Ant-Man.  In my mind it is much better silly entertainment.  It’s not deep or profound or going to make you think about life.  Ant-Man is just an enjoyable superhero movie with laughs, a good cast and some decent action set pieces I’ve never quite seen before.

I also liked that Bobby Cannavale plays the new love interest of Scott’s ex and for once he is actually a good guy.  It’s such a cliche for the new guy to be a total jerk (I’m talking to you San Andreas!).

The entire family can go to Ant-Man.  There is nothing offensive or off putting in it aside from a few very mild fighting.

There’s not that much to say about Ant-Man except this is the kind of movie I can have fun with.  It does everything I need it to do and doesn’t distract me with big plotholes, annoying characters or a meandering script.  I really enjoyed it.

Overall Grade- A-