I want to get one thing out of the way right now. Yes, the character of Danny Rand is outdated considering he was created to capitalize on the Kung Fu craze when nearly every outlet was creating the white guy does everything craze. I am in full agreement that Marvel could have and really should have changed the Danny Rand character into a yuppie Asian New York kid but that’s not what happened. This is the Danny Rand we have and he’s just fine and whether the character should have been white or Asian is the least of this shows problems.
Each episodes opens like every one of these Marvel shows do, there is a really beautiful opening of a martial arts performing a kata while a Daft Punk cop theme song plays. As the song builds up to a disappointing ending it turns into a coincidental warning to the audience on what they’re in for. Yes, the show is boring, irritatingly so considering Marvel’s track record with their build up to The Defenders.
Episode one opens up with Danny Rand returning to New York and trying to gain access to the building of his father’s company where he runs into the office of his childhood friends Ward Meachum (Tom Pelphrey) and Joy Meachum (Jessica Stroup) who have been running the company since their father passed away years ago. They don’t believe this hobo who has walked into their office is the real Danny Rand and in a odd way to develop this story line we spend the next three episodes toying with the idea that this man, potentially, could or couldn’t be the real Danny Rand. Which leads to a lot of nothing going on for a crucial amount of episodes that are supposed to pull you in, introduce you to the characters and plant the seeds for the overall story.
The slow pace finally picks up during the sixth episode, directed by RZA, when Danny agrees to a tournament to the death to save a young woman’s life and this martial arts action show actually starts to pick up and become a martial arts show. The fighting choreography gets better as it appears that Finn is finally able to settle in the character and his complicated moves but those first five episodes are a slog to get through.
The main problem with Iron Fist isn’t just the acting, everyone does pretty well, even Finn Jones who plays the title character is completely fine once things get going but it’s so late in the game and he’s struggling with scripts that make Danny the smartest man in the room one moment then a complete idiot the next just because the story calls for it.
The overall story is missing in parts, lacks direction, and focus on who the characters are and what they’re all trying to accomplish. There isn’t a clear line on who the main villain is through the entire series until the final episode. Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho) returns in a much beefier role but doesn’t add much except a few lines giving you more insight on her character. There is also a leader that controls a small faction of The Hand, and that too, while leading to an exciting fight, still doesn’t finish strong.
Iron Fist fills more like the board members for Marvel TV just handed the keys over to some producers and writers and told them to come up with something just so they could round out their Netflix shows and move on. It feels like Arrow-lite, cheaper then cheap. There is a part when Danny and Colleen have to go to China and it’s clear they’re filming off a New York pier.
The characters do dumb things just because they need them to, things a normal person wouldn’t do let alone a highly trained martial artist. When Danny needs a key piece of evidence to prove he is the actual Danny Rand, he manages to get jumped by a man because they need him to lose this evidence. For a character that’s supposed to be a living weapon, he fights off several attackers at one point, then gets handled they next by some henchmen. One of the characters begins to inquire why they couldn’t just use his fingerprints from when he was a kid to which he responds that he never had his fingerprints taken. I had my fingerprints taken in the 80’s and I’m supposed to believe that two billionaires never bothered to have their son’s fingerprints taken fifteen-plus years ago?
Despite this, Iron Fist isn’t completely horrible, it does get better, it’s just that it takes such a long time to get going which leads no where is a huge letdown compared to the other shows and the weaker of the four. There isn’t a memorable fight like the hallway scenes from Daredevil, there isn’t a memorable villain like Kilgrave or Kingpin, or takes full advantage of its roots like Luke Cage, or has a message like Jessica Jones, but there is one shining light and that is Jessica Henwick who plays Colleen Wing.
Strong female characters aren’t always done well, most of the time, when someone tries to make a strong female character they don’t bother to make her a believable fighter. Henwick is the strongest part about Iron Fist and a great addition to the Marvel Netflix shows. When she fights you believe she is as dangerous as she’s portrayed. She gets hurt, she bleeds, she’s vulnerable, but smart, tough, and sexy without being forced to wear some ridiculous costume that shows off her body and despite that she is the inevitable love interest, she doesn’t immediately fall for Danny.
I recommend Iron Fist if you’re curious in learning more about the last Defender, skip it if you couldn’t care less. There is nothing new here that you need to know that they won’t cover in The Defenders. This is the first, truly awful product Marvel has generated and I hope they learn their lesson leading into season 2 which, at this moment, I couldn’t care less about.
One type of movie I can never get enough of is shark movies. Ever since Jaws scared the crap out of me as a kid I have been completely hooked and have watched some pretty terrible films just to get my shark fix. From Shark Attack 3, Megalodon, to reading the Meg series by Steve Alten (which is finally getting the big budget movie treatment starring Jason Statham after 20 years of development hell and I’m super stoked for) I love movies that explore the ocean on what is out there and what can potentially be out there. This, however, does come with a cost because while Sharknado, Sharktopus, and Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus can be fun, they are really dumb movies.
So it’s refreshing to find a shark movie where the special effects look good, it’s filmed well, and is a legitimately scary thriller. In The Deep (or 47 Meters Down as it was originally called) is directed by Johannes Roberts and stars Mandy Moore (Lisa) and Claire Holt (Kate) as two sisters who are vacationing in Mexico when Claire decides they should go out on a shark observation tour. The wench holding the cage breaks and the two sisters plummet 47 meters down to the ocean floor where two 25-foot great white sharks are patiently waiting for them to try and escape.
What I like best about In The Deep is it cuts right to the chase, the girls are trapped with limited air and the two great whites are not messing around as they are constantly attempt to attack Lisa and Kate whenever they try to venture out the cage and figure out how to get back to the surface. Besides getting on a rusted and very questionable boat with people they don’t know, Lisa and Kate are pretty quick to adapt to their situation. They begin figuring out how to conserve air, only move when they really need to, stay on the ocean floor when they swim around unless they absolutely need to. They are tied to just sitting and waiting, they are very proactive and it’s nice to see two female character not take the horror movie trope route of just being dumb because the plot calls for it.
The film also looks fantastic above the water and below. The Mexico backdrop is amazing to look at and the underwater scenes are well lit so you can tell what’s going on but just dark enough to maintain suspense on where the sharks are and that they can attack at any given moment.
The one complaint I have, and it’s a minor one, is the ending. Some will like it, some won’t, while I appreciate the two different ways it could have ended and part of me wishes they had ended it just a minute or two earlier for a truly haunting type of ending. Despite that, In The Deep is highly recommend it if you can find it. It was sent for a DVD release which has been pulled and now there is word that it could be getting a theatrical release so I’d say paying a matinee price would be a good way to go. Sadly, any trailer that exist for this movie is horrible and kind of spoils the entire movie so I would avoid looking for any trailer until The Weinsteins (who bought the film) release an official one.
I am a true child of the 80’s, given I was actually born in 1980, so I have grown up with some of the best movies ever made but also the most infamous which only fuels my nostalgia. Every so often I find myself spending an afternoon or two re-watching Predator, Alien, The Goonies, E.T. and many, many more. My favorite however, are 80’s action films which I will always have a soft heart for. I spent much of my childhood watching the likes of Bloodsport, Hard to Kill, Delta Force, and Kickboxer only to run out in my yard and practice for hours the different kicks, punches, and blocks I learned from these films.
These films ranged from dumb to awesome depending on the levels of action and fight scenes but they were never something someone could defend should it come to plot or story. They were a product of their time and although I’m not completely against remakes or sequels (the 80’s action scene lived off sequels) sometimes it’s best to just leave things in the past.
I was really interested in Kickeboxer: Vengeance when I saw the trailer. It looked promising, had some cool action scenes, and starred Jean Claude Van Damme as the teacher this time around instead of the protagonist. The story is the same as the first, Eric Sloan (Darren Shahlavi) is the kickboxing champ in the U.S. who gets an invite to fight Tong Po (Dave Bautista) in Thailand for a very large sum of money and bragging rights of being the best. Despite the reservations his brother Kurt (Alain Moussi) has, Kurt flies to Thailand to fight Tong Po and is murdered by the Thai boxing champ. Kurt sets out to train in Muy Thai, under his brothers trainer Durand (Jean Claude-Van Damme) so he can avenge his brothers death.
Kickboxer: Vengeance has my attention right from the start because the story began after Eric had died and Kurt is trying to sneak into Tong Po’s training camp to kill him. This gave some insight on what Tong Po does on his spare time, which is hold training and death matches but then it doesn’t take long before there are a ton of questions and little to no answers and it only gets worse from there. Then you have the very beautiful Sara Malakul Lane who plays Liu, a Thai cop who is investigating Tong Po but doesn’t seem to do much about it even though it appears the entire police force in behind her.
Kickboxer: Vengeance has clearly been hacked to death in the editing room causing continuity errors, an incoherent story, and some of the worst dubbing I’ve ever seen. Characters appear, disappear, then appear again for no reason and the questions start overtaking the answers as the film progresses and it really cuts into the small good things the film has going for it. Dave Bautista looks like the producer of this film kidnapped him and forced him to get as big as he could get and it works. He is menacing, powerful works right along with the original Tong Po played by Michel Qissi.
Core elements of the story were altered just to be different from the original film which leads to huge inaccuracies for characters and the overall plot. It’s revealed that Eric trained under Durand, who is supposed to be the best Muy Thai teacher but he is no match for Tong Po. Originally, Eric went to fight Tong Po with no training because he was arrogant and believed he stayed at his best all the time. This change neuters Durand as a trainer because he’s supposed to be the all knowing last resort who can kick the protagonist butt into gear and push him past him limits so he can be a better fighter.
Also, Eric is killed in an underground fight instead of a normal kickboxing match, otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to kill him, but this takes away from the curiosity of the final fight. In the original Kurt was training for a normal Muy Thai match only for Tong Po to change the rules and have them fight in the old way, which had the fighters hand wrapped in rope then crushed glass glued to them. Here we already know the setting so there is nothing to surprise us about the final fight.
Everything about this movie is just wrong. Alain Moussi just doesn’t have Van Damme’s charisma and it boring to watch. The characters and their actions don’t make sense, the fight scenes are so choreographed you can see the stunt men just waiting for their moment to come into the scene and get knocked down by a kick that wouldn’t stop a small child and training sequences are boring do nothing to excite you into training like the original did. The training sequences in the first film, whether you believed them or not, were amazing to watch I’ve quoted and reenacted the “kick the tree” scene over and over again.
There is more emotion in that one scene then there is in the entire 90 minute running time of Kickboxer: Vengeance which leads me to my biggest complaint. I’ve always felt that Van Damme is a much better actor then he’s been given credit for. The man was the epitome of 80’s action for me growing up, he was fun to watch, he still is an amazing martial artist and athlete but he was sleep walking through this role. It’s like he doesn’t want to do these anymore or he’s always tired and if that’s true then he should just stop and focus on other things, because he was the biggest letdown for me. Like this film, his heart just wasn’t into it and broke the heart of this 80’s kid. At least I can try and get over it since this movie introduced me to Sara Malakul Lane.
Alright, alright the moment of truth has arrived and after months, maybe years, of bad press, mean tweets, ugly internet rumors we the American public are finally getting to see this reboot of one of the greatest comedies of all-time: Ghostbusters. Well let’s start off with the good news; it’s not as bad as I thought it would be. What saves it you ask? Simple, it’s the very thing that so many have been complaining about for so long…the cast.
Yes that’s right sports fans, the cast of ladies, instead of men, are the only things that gave it some form of life. NOT because they are women but because they seem to be legitimately having a good time doing it, the chemistry of the actors is all there most of all goes to none other than Kate McKinnon. She’s the absolute dynamo that kept the show going and going strong. She plays it up as a cross between a punk-rock girl and a mad scientist, just smiling have more fun than anyone should be allowed to have. She won me over almost too easily, bravo! It’s welcome to see someone just not taking anything too seriously as she obviously is. And all actresses with comedy backgrounds just joshing and giggling just having a grand time. I mean let’s not forget that a male cast delivered just an ehhhh sequel, 1989’s Ghostbusters II.
But with all of that happening you might be asking yourselves, well Jason, sounds like you should like it more right? Hold on, here’s the bad news and it’s this, nothing in this movie is anything impressive and it’s all been done and done before. Have any of you seen the original 1984 classic? I mean it’s one of my all time favs! How many of us when we were kids dressed as a Ghostbuster for Halloween? Well, then folks you, I, we have all seen this one before. The plot couldn’t be anymore recycled than just straight up ripping off the same one by Dan Aykroyd and the late great Harold Ramis.
Basically it’s this three scientists who have been trying to prove for sometime the existence of ghosts, or the paranormal, one really quirky, one really smart, one just trying to get tenured. They find their proof and in turn they loose their jobs in academia and are forced to go into business themselves to investigate the paranormal and…..hey wait a minute! Isn’t that the plot of the original? Yes it is. But then they get just an average person not a scientist to help them and….HEY WAIT ANOTHER MINUTE!!! You’re catching on now.
The jokes that you saw in the original have the same set up, the same setting, the same punch line it’s all there as we’ve seen before. And then you have, enter stage left, a good looking, hunky guy who wears glasses (“who ordered the Clark Kent stripper-gram” one person mutters). And with that we get a lot of jokes from ladies who all just make lame joke after lame joke about that we have a good looking guy working for us…whoopee! That gets old fast. Then we have Melissa McCarthy and Kirsten Wiig doing the same old thing as they did in their last team up Bridesmaids same jokes, same quarks, same “oh hey look at me I’m a girl who keeps falling down” and “oh hey look at me I’m facing a mid-life crisis.” Oh just move on already.
Then you have the nemesis, which involves some guy who’s fed up with people and…well just wait you’ll find out. But all of it leads to a final act, which just goes overboard and over the top with c.g.i. that gives you a headache. It still goes back to the original complaint that it’s still the same as the 1984 classic. Same set up, different decade, different kind of effects.
Now I loved the original, it was a glorious example of campy and comedy, and it even when it tried never took itself seriously. It was a wonderful spoof on horror while bringing in a new style of comedy that benefited from having people behind it who knew exactly what funny is. Here all you have are just a bunch of recycled gags that have been done and done and done and done that don’t do much more than just make you say GET ON WITH IT!!!
But like I said it’s not a bad movie thanks to it’s cast but it’s also not a very good movie because of it’s writers and director Paul Feig who don’t even try to pay any homage to the original. They just get members and icons from the original movie to appear here and there to try and appease those of us, like myself, who grew up with it to say, see, see. And the cameos from famous people, and yes the original surviving cast, but they don’t even play their original characters they just appear, say hi and exit. But if there is a sequel, which without to say too much but the ending does set us up for one, as long as Kate McKinnon returns, gosh I just love her, there is always hope.
2 ½ out of 4 stars
Written by: Jason Greathouse
Directed by David Ayer, Suicide Squad, follows Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) in a post Superman world as a agent so deep within the U.S. government that she has the ability to pull together a team of DC villains (Deadshot, Harley Quinn, El Diablo, Killer Croc, & Captain Boomerang, just to name a few) by planting a exploding device in their heads and force them to be the black ops answer to all the potential meta-human threats now that the Man of Steel is currently taking a dirt nap. Waller is forced to activate the Suicide Squad to evacuate an important figurehead from a nearby city that is being overrun by a new magical force intent on destroying the world.
For the most part Suicide Squad looks to deliver on what DC promised in it’s rather brilliant marketing plan until you the film starts to unfold. Will Smith, who plays the can’t miss assassin Deadshot, is a return to his prior form of movie star, as he really takes a hold of this character and runs with it. While some people were complaining about the race of the character (Deadshot is actually white) I was more worried if Smith could actually pull off playing a man who murders people for money but he did more then pull his weight and I would be up to a Deadshot movie now.
Everything you thought about Margot Robbie is true, there are times she stumbles with the character, her accent goes in and out, but for the most part Robbie really owns the role of Harley Quinn and it will be interesting to watch her grow with the character in future movies as she was the real heart behind the film. As for the rest of the cast everyone showed up to work. Jay Hernandez is unrecognizable as El Diablo and is one of the cooler characters, Karen Fukuhara as Katana is a real bad ass, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agba makes Killer Croc into a really menacing creature, I believed that Joel Kinnman could really control and lead the worst of the worst as Rick Flag, even Jai Courtney was entertaining.
Cara Delevingne was pretty amazing as Dr. Moon/The Enchantress until they did something with her character and she started to remind me the fairy godmother from Cinderella and gave her best bippity boppity boo impression. The biggest disappointment comes in Jared Leto as The Joker. When the stills and screen shots were released I was confident that Leto would be able to supersede Heath Ledger but as of right now it’s safe to say Ledger is still the reigning champ.
I’m willing to cut some slack since he’s hardly in the movie, now that we know most of his scenes were cut out, but there were some glaring problems in this incarnation which I noticed by the way Leto would growl in every scene and it was clear he was having a hard time talking through the grill he had in his mouth the entire film. I would like to see just how crazy he can get in future installments, mainly in the Ben Affleck directed Batman flick which is coming down the pipeline especially since Batman is one of the best thing about this film and he has less screen time then Leto. The entire film reeks of too many hands trying to make the family dinner and it’s at this point WB/DC really needs to wake up.
It’s at this point you start to zero on the real problem of this film. What started out as a fun ride with some of DC’s classic villains takes a complete and very quick nose dive as it enters it’s final act because it has too much going on and feels very bloated in scope and I found myself wondering whey didn’t they scale it down and have this non-super powered villains go against a terrorist group. Batman is supposed to be out searching for the meta-humans so why not have them have to stop someone like Black Mask from trying to take over a section of Gotham, or maybe stop him from trying to take over Arkham Asylum which would have been a good place to have Leto’s Joker and create the right conflict for Harley.
After watching Man of Steel, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, and now Suicide Squad I’ve come to the conclusion, in order to salvage something from these films, is to look at them as a means to study and show exactly what not to do when making a comic book movie. Man of Steel is a lesson on not hiring a director that doesn’t get/like the character you’re making a movie about. BvS would be a perfect example in demonstrating the failures of not keeping your script simple and do not mash too much into your movie to the point that you end up cutting out important scenes that completely alter characters behavior and motivations, only to add them back in to have your film make sense. Finally, we have Suicide Squad, which is a perfect example of how editing can make or break your film.
If you’re dead set on watching this film no matter what like I was, then nothing is going to stop you, go to the theater, see it for yourself, but if you’re on the fence I would recommend to just wait and rent it. It’s not a complete waste of time but this is not film WB/DC needed right now.
Possible Spoilers, Obviously.
It’s rare that a movie can actually be better with a more footage added in, most of the time a film can be bogged down and forced to be trimmed to make more coherent movie but the Ultimate Cut of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is a much more coherent film then it’s theatrical predecessor. I was not a fan of the original version when it hit theaters. Superman was a horrible person in how he seemed to just neglect people who needed help, Batman just came across as a complete sociopath, and the populated world was so stupid to believe that a man who could fly, shoot heated rays from his eyes, and juggle planets would use a gun to kill anyone, which is a major plot point of Lex Luthor’s plan to get the world to turn against Superman and for the much anticipated throw down between the two DC titans.
Why does the world believe Superman shot those people? Why is Batman terrorizing the port area in Gotham? How come Superman didn’t realize a bomb was about to go off during a Capitol hearing? All of these questions and much more are answered which not only help the overall flow of the film but also flesh out Henry Cavill’s Superman and alter ego Clark Kent as he investigates who The Batman is. Lois Lane (Amy Adams) gets more to do as she begins to pull the threads of the mystery surrounding the murders that seem to follow Superman wherever he goes. It’s a nice little mystery we are actually following along with that held my attention despite a few dumb moments sprinkled in just to move the plot along.
Henry Cavill shines a lot more as Superman given the added footage and Ben Affleck is still an amazing Batman, Jeremy Irons, Laurence Fishburne everyone is pretty much bringing their A-game except the main villain of the film.
Despite all the good, the film is still plagued with problems, namely Jessie Eisenberg, who continues to be awful as Lex Luthor. I did enjoy him more when he begins to lay out his plan to Superman just before the main event fight, but his performance will go down on future list as “Worst Villain Ever” for years to come. The fight between Batman and Superman now takes even longer to get to given the added footage and is still really short compared to all the build-up. Then you have Doomsday. The CGI looks better and I could tell what was going better then I could in theaters, but I still stand that they should have waited to bring Doomsday in and kill Superman until WB had built up the DC Universe a bit more. It would have been nice to see the members of the Justice League walking behind his casket in Metropolis in tandem with a select few at the actual funeral in Smallville.
Originally I hated the first half of the theatrical cut because it was boring and confusing but with the Ultimate Cut I am able to enjoy the film much more as a whole. Usually when someone releases a “Director’s Cut” with added footed it’s usually a cash grab with footage that doesn’t help the movie slightly *coughGreenLanterncough* if at all but in this case, the thirty extra minutes does bring a lot to the film but it still has the same problems with the useless dream sequences, the bloated final third of the film when Snyder wants to just conveniently drop hints of the future members of the Justice League. It still doesn’t work, feels really crow barred in and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is still useless until she’s called upon to be the warrior she is.
With the added footage you are now forced to sit through a three hour cut which is really taxing to sit through on anyone who have a thousand things to do every day and it comes with an R rating which it earns with a lot of CGI blood added into the fight scenes and a character dropping the F-bomb. If you are interested, I do recommend giving the film another look, it’s definitely worth it checking out if you want to see a better, yet exhausting, version but if you completely hated the original theactial released film then you’re better off skipping it all together. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice hits shelves today!
There have been filmmakers over the years whose movies we know from the get go are not conventional. And by that we are not going to get the usual kind of story telling, films whose visual style alone are going to test both understanding and patience and even push the boundaries of conventional artistic film making. I’d have to say Kubrick is the master of this, Israeli director Amos Gital is another but the most recent name to be in this mix is the one and only Terrance Malick. A filmmaker whose films are sights to behold and stories test intellectual boundaries.
How many of us have marveled at the beauty of “Days of Heaven,” been impressed with the allegory of violence and destruction in nature with “The Thin Red Line,” or maybe even saw their jaws drop at the beauty of “The New World” Since then he brought his mix of philosophy and poetry into new realms that mixed science and wonder with his masterpiece “Tree of Life” and the deeply underrated “To The Wonder.” And I have to be perfectly honest his films were some of the films that inspired me to follow or even write films and I honestly thought he could do no wrong. Well nobody’s perfect.
The fault of the film isn’t in it’s odd poetic dialogue, that’s a Malick trademark (“where have you gone my son?/the stars, from here, I cry” “Don’t threaten to leave/my love/my heart”) or it’s eccentric acting, jumpy editing all of these are things you expect from Malick. The fault is the story itself. It’s far to drawn, far too off beat and way, way, way too smug for it’s own good.
Basically long time Malick collaborator Christian Bale plays a movie ex who’s caught up in a world of parties, sex, womanizing and excess that draws a wedge between him and his wife and forces him to choose between a life of his wife/ex-wife Cate Blanchett or his world of excess. Along the way he consorts with off beat eccentrics and loose beat L.A. citizens in the form of Freida Pinto, Isabel Lucas, Teresa Palmer and Imogen Poots. All the while trying to reconnect to his estranged brother Barry (Wes Bentley) and father Joseph (Brian Dennehy). And keeping up his love for his girlfriend Elizabeth played by the ALWAYS gorgeous Natalie Portman. All set against the almost ethereal backdrop of the always exotic Los Angeles. Confused yet? You should be?
But what does it mean? What do you think? What is that supposed to say? What do you think? Are you even more confused yet? You should be but you shouldn’t? And that is the biggest problem with this outing by Malick. He’s gotten deeper than normal almost off the wall in a way. Trying to make a film that shows how the material world and desire separates man from the spiritual world but really does every character have to be just so, offbeat that you don’t even care?
Basically Bale is just a sad sack of a man who goes from one place to another, messes with one girl then another, and sees one weird building then another. I know Malick likes to have his narratives subjective, you the audience figures it out, but that doesn’t mean Mr. Malick that every single person has to be eccentric, or every angle has to be seen through a window, or every woman has to be nude. Just witness a scene where someone is on a balcony naked, why……….if even I figure it out, I’ll tell you. But all of this just doesn’t help the story on any level it’s just there to try and make us feel some sort of shame for our lives. Well, that never works doesn’t matter who it is, it just never works.
But credit has to go to another Malick collaborator cracker jack cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, red hot off his third straight Oscar win who beautifully illuminates the city and landscapes in and around Los Angeles. He shoots with that of a true artist an almost poets eye for finding beauty in the most obscure. From sunlight through a tunnel, to a plane flying from LAX, to a tryst on a beach, everything is breathtakingly amazing and I’m sure this might get him his fourth Oscar. And of course there is my FAVORITE actress the one and only Natalie Portman! Serving to the story what women often serve as in a Malick piece, an angelic Earth mother. She brings warmth, almost sensuous presence it reminds me more and more of Audrey Hepburn. Sadly Malick miscasts her and doesn’t use her till almost the final act of the film. Sad.
But all in all the final fault of the disappointment rests on that of Malick himself. An art director that has let his critical acclaim go to his head thinking we will just eat it no matter what. Wrong, so wrong. Oh well he has another due later this year also with Mrs. Portman, maybe that will redeem him?
2 ½ out of 4 stars
By Jason Greathouse
I’m just going to say right now that there is a possibility that the film could be spoiled for you here. I’m not going go through every aspect of the film, but in order to discuss my issues thoroughly, I really have to divulge into the larger problems, so you’ve been warned.
It’s surprising that after all these years that WB still hasn’t figured out how to market any of their large line-up of rich characters except Batman. We seem to go through the same routine every few years where they put all their chips on Batman, and don’t really use logic when it comes to their other characters. Superman Returns and Man of Steel were both troubled yet enjoyable films. Green Lantern was a horrible mess, and yet Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy has gone down as one of the greatest live action interpretations of Batman we’ve ever seen, at least until now. It seems that WB has once again shifted the focus into their new Batman while leaving Superman off on the sidelines.
While I did enjoy, even largely defend defend 2013’s Man of Steel, the problems the film had were more in the writing then the direction. The film had the action many Superman fans had been craving for ever since we’ve seen what CGI was capable of but a weak script had the characters saying and doing things that didn’t make much sense. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice was WB/Snyder’s chance to correct those problems and issues Man of Steel created and would reverberate throughout the future movies and they have failed more then they succeeded.
While BvS promises to address the destruction, character motivations, and the fact that Superman doesn’t really act like Superman it tosses all of this to the side to show you a bunch of cool stuff. I always defended Superman’s actions in Man of Steel because it was literally his first day on the job, I was willing to overlook that he didn’t start out as the Superman we know and love because he hasn’t yet learned how to be THAT Superman. I am willing to watch him grow over a couple movies before becoming the leader of the Justice League and becoming that beacon of hope he’s been promised to be, but this did not happen.
I felt like I was sitting next to Zack Snyder and every time I had a question, he’s dangle some platinum diamond keys (or in other words something pretty from the movie) to distract me from anything that didn’t make sense. “Zack Snyder, why did Lex Luthor hate Superman so much?” I asked. “Well, he just does.”, Zack replied. “He hates him in the comic.” “Yes, but we know he hates him in the comic, but in this film, why?” Zack suddenly whipped out a cool action scene or something pretty for me to look at in hopes that I would forget my questions.
How did Batman know to dream, in such detail, about the Omega sign and Darkseid if he never met or heard of him before? Why didn’t he just dream of Superman going nuts and destroying the city like any normal nightmare? Well because Snyder and company wanted to show you something really cool and make a Batman figure to sell to kids. There is a weird moment where, at first, we’re lead to believe that the Flash (Ezra Miller) had ran back through time to warn Batman about Superman, only to have Batman wake up again like it was a dream. Leaving the audience to wonder if this really happened or if it was really a dream. We’re lead to wonder about Lex, as he keeps mentioning his father. Perhaps this isn’t the real Lex Luthor because it wouldn’t take anything for Snyder and company to go, “Oh, no, he wasn’t the real one, his dad is the real Lex Luthor.”, and here goes my underlying problem with BvS is it doesn’t commit to anything.
The film carries enough good stuff to keep it from dropping into Green Lantern level of horrible but, and this is putting it bluntly, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is a cluster fuck of a film. Don’t ask for a plot because there really isn’t one. BvS feels more like Snyder wanted to direct a Batman movie more then a sequel to his Superman as the Cavill is left without anything to really do except be a punching bag for Batman during their inevitable match-up and serve as a plot point later in the film. There was a moment in this film where I felt that Cavill was going to deliver a strong speech about helping mankind and how he was going to be a better hero and who we need him to be when he’s called to Washington to answer for all the problems he has been causing but just when he’s about to speak there is a giant explosion before Henry Cavill has a chance to utter a single word.
Which leads me to my biggest complaint and yet a small compliment is Jessie Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, or Lex Luthor’s son because the movie left it open so the film makers could very easily change gears and say he isn’t the real Lex and his father could show up later on as the real Lex Luthor in later films. It’s not so much that he played Lex Luthor, but how he played him. Superman’s greatest villain has changed his backstory and motivations many times over the years but Eisenberg’s performance is kind of all over the place except near the end when he turns out to be really psychotic which I loved it’s just that the two performances just didn’t mesh well together so it’s jarring when Luthor switches.
BvS is nothing but a bunch of cool moments strung together in some vague attempt at a story, even the fight, which the entire movie is being touted around, is a lie when it gets down to the real reason they’re fighting which is extremely disappointing. Iron Man 2 and The Avengers: Age of Ultron caught major complaints from fans when they turned out to be basically trailers for what was coming later in the MCU and DC should not be left off the hook. There is no reason that WB/DC can’t make movies of the same caliber or better then the MCU but for whatever reason they seem content walking the line of mediocre.
Now that I’ve railed against this film, you should know I didn’t exactly hate it, in fact I enjoyed many things about it. It’s ironic that people did nothing but complain about the casting of Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman and he turns out to be the best thing about it. This is THE best live-action Batman we’ve ever had. He fights and moves just like Batman should, he uses his gadgets and environments to pretty amazing results and I can’t wait to see what Affleck does with the character in his solo outing which he is directing and writing. Gal Gadot is pretty amazing as Wonder Woman, once again silencing the critics over her body type as she melds very well with Superman and Batman and it is great that anyone who has a daughter finally has a female superhero they can cheer on because Gadot really breathes new life into a character who has never appeared on a movie screen before.
BvS is a beautiful disaster, a film that hurts so much because of all the things it gets right is wrapped in mediocrity and it’s frustrating to see. This isn’t just a Marvel thing, or a chance to jump on the idiotic fanboy argument of which is better, Marvel or DC. Twenty years ago we would have been happy with whatever comic book movie we could get because no one was taking them seriously but times have changed and the power has shifted. The fans are now in charge of creating these films and the bar has been raised thanks to The Dark Knight Trilogy, the Marvel Films, Deadpool, the whole comic book movie craze kicked off with the small budgeted Blade, something no one really thought had a chance to do anything.
If you are a DC lover and you’ve been waiting for this movie and you’re going in with the mentality that you’re going to love it regardless, then by all means go and I hope you enjoy the film. There is enough here that you can nerd out on but let’s not kid ourselves here, there are major problems with BvS and it has me worried for Justice League because Zack Snyder couldn’t handle this simple story line how is he going to handle seven other main characters? This worries me because WB/DC is coming so late into the comic book movie game that they can’t afford to reboot this again and hope to start churning out their roaster of hero’s, they need to buckle down and start utilizing every tool they have to make a good film and start gaining some control over these film makers so we don’t get anymore Green Lantern’s or another film with so much wasted potential.
10. STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON
Can you make a bio-pic about a rap group interesting? Very simple make it about probably one of if not the most influential group in the history of hip-hop that is Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Easy-E, Dj Yella, and M.C. Ren a.k.a. N.W.A.. A group that shocked the upper class along with the middle class who would have probably have never heard of or listened to hip-hop before them. The film is as incendiary as anything that could come from Tarantino or Spike Lee but it’s meant to be, to remind those of us who are too young to remember what it was like when it was new. And it’s all captured in vivid color, from the late night debauchery, the fights, the disputes, the beatings, everything, it’s all captured. But it goes to an extra length to make sure we care about this group of people that while they are misfits who came from the wrong side of the track it’s more than anything about family. A dysfunctional family but a family none the less. A family that changed the course of music and pop culture forever.
9. STAR WARS: EPISODE 7 – THE FORCE AWAKENS
After being left to wrestle with the question if the prior trilogy, “The Prequel Trilogy,” brought down the polish of the great space opera for almost a decade or if it was even worthy of being included. And then the news came; George Lucas sold his company, and “Star Wars,” to of all the places, Disney. Then would we, or could we get a worthy prequel or sequel to the series that launched more than a thousand dreams into a galaxy far, far away. Well say no more J.J. Abrams to the rescue! The man who rescued and resurrected another “Star” saga, “Star Trek,” from the staleness and blandness that had suffocated it for almost a decade as well. Here we are returned back to when everything was, or looked, real. No cold overdone digital everything that we had gotten, he returns the saga to what made the original trilogy so successful, it’s about good vs. evil, that’s it. The story is simple it’s a hero’s journey, a valentine, a love letter, a return to what made it just so much fun to sit in a crowded movie theater with the lights out and smile with pure, almost childlike joy. And we get an obvious career/star making performances from Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, just as the trilogy made unknowns such as Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill almost 40 years ago, this will do that for them as well.
8. THE MINIONS
You could criticize that there really isn’t any humanity or the depth that the other computer/digital animation rivals Pixar put into there creations but the masters of this world doesn’t try to compete with them, they just know what they do and do what they do. They make things that are loveable and likeable and come one, how many of us love those lovable “Minions,” huh? I thought so. It a great big, goofy, unstoppably loveable, sloppy St. Bernard of a film that manages to create more laughs in a frame than many comedies have even tried to do this year, or almost any, for that matter. It’s more Marx Brothers or Three Stooges than anything it harkens back to the day when sight comedy had to truly be watched and followed and set up, and it’s a welcome return and valentine to the old school days of comedy. The kind of comedies that nobody even attempts to create or re-create for that matter. It just wants us to have fun, doesn’t try to change the world and it doesn’t even attempt to, it knows it’s place and it’s a welcome treat.
7. THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON
Joss Whedon continues with his ride and trials into the Marvel Universe in his latest and sadly, possibly last outing here. Unlike so many super heroes where we just have to like everyone and everyone has to get along and everyone has to unite, because they just have to, right? Well, not so fast, Whedon’s a popcorn movie’s best friend making sure that he takes his time in development before just handing it to his audience. We must know who each person is, their motives, their back story, enjoy the characters, understand who they are and engross in the story, and believe me we can’t thank you enough. Too long, to get to the action you say, HOG WASH!!! Whedon doesn’t just give us action, he gives us a story he wants us to know this group of people are more than anything than superheroes they’re family. Granted he does leave the ending a bit up in the air, but then again what superhero film is close ended I ask? Exactly. He makes sure nothing is done with shallow resolve everything happens for a reason, it may take time to get there, but in a where were nobody has anytime for anything there is Whedon who makes sure that we take our time that our story is developed. While sadly this is Whedon’s last outing but thankfully it’s a welcome farewell.
6. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
After spending a few years in the world of kids movies like “Happy Feet,” hey it won him an Oscar, Aussie filmmaker George Miller returns to action. But wait, it’s been almost 30 years since the last chapter and, oh no, “Max” himself, Mel Gibson, is nowhere to be found. Oh no only disaster can come from this right? Wrong, very wrong. Miller returns to action and it’s a welcome return at that. First of all, Tom Hardy, does a more than fine job of filling in for Mr. Gibson, he’s a loner in a lone land void of high tech slickness and cgi silliness. It’s all here, all in front of the camera, real world stunt men, real world toughness, and believe me it’s a welcome departure from all of the crap that so many action directors have tried to shove down our throats. It’s gritty, it’s cool and it’s the kind of action escapism that’s so rarely done that we never see it anymore. And in case you’re wondering did you have to see the others? No, Miller makes sure to honor the old guard that saw the originals and rebuild and continue with a new chapter for young fans. Thank you for it too.
5. KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE
This year we got a lot of spy movies, some great, some ok, some you could do without but with everyone trying to imitate Bond here’s one that was more Bond than, well, Bond has been. A spy thriller that went back to the days when Bond was more about fun and cool. Yea, it was over-the-top but for those of us who remember the old spy films so were they. And thanks to this little gem of a thriller, which is, not only cool, but also it’s action-packed, funny and surprisingly sexy. Colin Firth, Mark Strong, and Samuel L. Jackson and a group of terrific newcomers all combine to show us how spy films/spy thrillers were supposed to be, just fun. And it does that in spades, when you’re not cheering, you’re smiling and when you’re not smiling you’re laughing, it’s golden popcorn all the way. Thank you to all of you for it so those just looking for something to entertain and nothing more this was, excuse me, this IS the treat we’ve been wanting for quite sometime.
Crime thrillers, gotten boring well at least we still have good old Michael Mann. The man behind the quintessential 80’s TV series “Miami Vice,” the top-notch action thriller/modern day western “Heat,” and the uber stylized dark thrill ride “Collateral” and he brings all his mojo to the world of computer hacking here. Just two people arguing over instant messaging right? Wrong. It’s a top notch cat and mouse chase from one side of the globe to the other and if you loose interest or wonder if you’ll keep it, well thanks again to Mann a film maker/writer who doesn’t just research his scripts he goes into exhaustive detail but doesn’t do it to boredom either. When it’s time to deliver the action, he delivers, he gets more tension and action out of a phone call or a aerial shot than film makers half his age could dream of. And in a world where every young filmmaker just tries to make action films MTV style music videos Mann knows that adding style doesn’t mean flash. It means making sure your script and environment is engrossing and that everyone is riveted by what you see. Thank you for it Mr. Mann.
3. INSIDE OUT
For anyone who thinks Disney’s best years are behind them, OH…so wrong! Thank you Pixar! With digital taking over everything in the world of animation there seems to be one, ONLY ONE who knows to not leave it at visual spectacle….STORY COMES FIRST! Yes, I won’t lie visually it was impressive, as anything that could be from Pixar but the true star is the characters. You look inside of them, in their head and in their soul. You laugh when they laugh and even, I kid you not, cry when they cry. It moves you like nothing you’ve seen this year. Who could possibly think that a cartoon, yes a cartoon could do this. Look no further than here, thank you Pixar for reminding us all of the importance of story and character. Make this film, in fact make all of Pixar’s films mandatory for all who have even attempted or dreamed to make a film or write a script.
2. The Hateful Eight
Leave it to Tarantino to return to the western of old-times, the days of Howard Hawks and Sam Peckinpah. Granted neither of them probably could have dreamed of or thought of getting away with the amount of brutal over-the-top bloody violence QT is able to get away with, but who cares. When it comes to knowing how to entertain few have managed to combine top caliber entertainment with such gleeful energy as him. An ensemble ride that’s not just well acted but it’s damn funny! Bringing back regulars Tim Roth, Michael Madson and Samuel L. Jackson along some newbie’s Kurt Russell, Bruce Dern and a wonderful comeback performance from Jennifer Jason Leigh it moves at a better pace than any action film that’s been on screen this year. Some complaints have been made about the length and characters but well, duh, it’s called “THE HATEFUL EIGHT” not the likable eight and it’s length, oh just see it. Like I said it moves fast, so fast you want more when it’s over.
1. BLACK MASS
It’s so rare that we get treated to a knockout of a film, especially a gangster film, I think the last to come to mind was “The Departed” or “Goodfellas,” but now we can add just a sledgehammer of a film in the form of “Black Mass.” It’s as entertaining as it is brutal, as exciting as it is a spectacle, and as well acted as anything that we’ve been treated to in a while. Thank you for that Mr. Depp! With the most spot on, straight ahead, unforgiving complex performance as James “Whitey” Bulger the gangland leader who ruled and terrorized South Boston with an iron fist for years. A film so lush in energy and talent that in a world where everything and everyone is reduced to just imitating everything done by Tarantino and Scorsese that we could have yawned all the way home, not here! No style, no color, nothing pretty we see into their world, their world of bleakness, brutality and even occasionally sadness (witness Deep and a wonderful cameo from Dakota Johnson, scene of the year). Nothing is over the top, here everyone brings their A-game to the table, from Depp dealing with a “rat” to his stare down with someone over something as innocent as a steak, it’s done with terrifying menace and relentless energy. Special extra thanks have to go to director Scott Cooper (“Crazy Heart,” “Out of the Furnace”) he get performances like few have seen out of not only Depp but his cracker jack supporting cast, Kevin Bacon, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Adam Scott, and Dakota Johnson (I bring her up again because I was wrong, after seeing this apparently SHE CAN ACT), and also removing all bits of anything that could compare it with anything else. When something violent happens it’s not with a burst of laughter and cool it’s done with coldness. It’s not just a film it’s a roller coaster of power, a film lovers delight, the kind of film that most Hollywood movies wouldn’t have the guts to make. It’s truly worthy of every bit of credit.
Written by Jason Greathouse
In a world of over the top green screen, computer generated everything, filled with fake sets, fake stunts, and even “faker” action scenes, YES I’m talking to you George Lucas and Michael Bay, thank you lord for Quentin Tarantino! A filmmaker who was raised, born and bred on the old-school ways of movie making. Back when you HAD to do it in front of the camera before people just said we’ll get the “computer guys” to fix it. And it’s welcome believe me and he comes back this Christmas with a western that’s more “Reservoir Dogs” than, well anything else since.
And believe me he’s pulling out all the stops, quick-witted dialogue, fast cutting fights, profane laced dialogue, and over-the-top non-stop bloodthirsty violence. Some could argue that he’s gone too far but COME ON it’s Quentin Tarantino, complaining about that is like going to see “Star Wars” and complaining about special effects. And it’s all done right in front of you as if he’s saying, “look Ma no computers!” And it’s welcome believe me. Basically the plot is this a bounty hunter named “The Hangman” (Kurt Russell) is taking in a female murder named “Daisy” (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to collect the bounty in the middle of blizzard in post-Civil War Wyoming. And do we meet some characters along the way…you bet! An ex-slave turned “Confederate Killer” (Samuel L. Jackson), a could be new sheriff and former Confederate officer (Walter Goggins), and then we have a nefarious Mexican (Demian Bichir), a bitter Civil War General (Bruce Dern), a British executioner (Tim Roth), a soft spoken & possibly dangerous cowboy (Michael Madson), and a angry-quick on the drawl coach driver (James Parks). They’re all killers, tough guys, and hombres that would love to shoot first ask questions later, but which is the good guy and which is the bad guy….well you’ll just have to see to find out.
Some could argue that the film is too long and too slow and unlike past Tarantino outings with all the oddball characters you could at least “like” the characters and their intentions. And if that is your complaint, well you’d be right. Some of the back-stories go on far too long and you just want him to get on with it and stop slowing down the pace. But again it IS called “The Hateful Eight” not “The Likeable Eight” and Tarantino wants to make sure we’re immersed in the world of westerns he grew up on the westerns of Howard Hawks and Sam Peckinpah. There you didn’t know the characters were good or bad it’s just whom you root for, or whom YOU should have rooted for in the end.
But in making sure the film never gets dull well credit needs to go to both Tarantino and his editor Fred Raskin (“Django Unchained,” “Guardians of the Galaxy”) keeping up the pace and when the violence hits, and believe me IT WILL hit it’s done with an almost gleeful release (another Tarantino trademark). In a world where everything just seems fake and nothing is believable anymore, almost where everything is just done inside of a computer hard drive, thankfully there is Mr. Tarantino! A film lover’s prayer answered. And sadly it might not do 1% of what “The Force Awakens” might make in just a day of release, sad. Because as long as Tarantino is out there reminding us of what film really is, an art form NOT to just be done on a computer, a collaboration of many who work to give you something to see right in front of you then there is always going to be a reason to go to the movies! And God bless you Tarantino for it!
Written by Jason Greathouse