REVIEW: ZACK SNYDER’S JUSTICE LEAGUE (2021)

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ZACK SNYDER’S JUSTICE LEAGUE (2021)

Justice League was a movie fans had been waiting a long time for and was sadly, not the movie we’d hoped we’d get. Originally it was to be brought to the screen by Zack Snyder from a story and script by he and Chris Terrio. When a family tragedy forced Snyder off the project, Avengers director/writer Joss Whedon was called in to finish post-production and write and direct re-shoots. A lot of the film was changed and the result was met with less than stellar reactions from fans and critics. Now, four years later, after relentless campaigning by fans, Zack Snyder has returned to finish his version of the film and HBO Max is presenting the Snyder cut exclusively on their streaming network.

The story now opens with Superman’s (Henry Cavill) death and his final scream echoing across the planet, the effects of his loss rippling across the world. Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) begins searching the planet for meta humans, as he feels an attack on earth is imminent, while the world and Lois Lane (Amy Adams) mourns Superman’s death. Earth soon does find itself under attack from an ancient being called Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciarán Hinds), in the name of an even more powerful being named Darkseid (Ray Porter). He needs to recover three powerful ‘mother boxes’ to come to his full strength and conquer the planet…something Steppenwolf and Darkseid failed to do once before. Batman (Ben Affleck) and Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) are trying to put together a team of meta humans to join in the fight. To  do that they need to convince Arthur Curry, The Aquaman (Jason Mamoa), Victor Stone aka Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and Barry “The Flash” Allen (Ezra Miller) to unite with them to stop Steppenwolf from conquering Earth and retrieving something here that Darkseid badly wants. But even with these heroes united, their only hope of defeating the villain and his army of pandemons, may lie six feet under in a grave in Smallville.

Under Snyder’s guidance the film is a lot more somber, but also packs a lot more emotional resonance. We are truly made to feel not only the difference Superman made in people’s lives, and the effects of his being gone on the mood of the world, but on his family and friends as well. It is also twice as long, at over four hours, and is presented in a 4:3 aspect ratio, which may not sit well with those used to more panoramic superhero epics. The film is far more intense in it’s violent moments and is not quite as family friendly, as was the theatrical cut, as it now carries an R rating. There is, though, a lot of character development now, Cyborg and Steppenwolf in particular, for everyone involved and this greatly improves on giving the comic book material a lot of depth and substance. Sure it takes a long time to get to the heroics, but the battles with Steppenwolf have far more weight, as now do all the characters involved. There is also a healthy amount of action added too, so the flick is far from talky. There is also the added caveat of an anti-life equation that Darkseid wants and Steppenwolf believes is here on Earth. It adds even more urgency to the proceedings and echoes of future conflict to come. We see a lot of the humor that was added to the theatrical cut removed, but it is not all doom and gloom, as there are still some nice lighter moments between characters. Obviously, there was a healthy amount of Snyder’s material still in the theatrical cut, so there are many familiar scenes, but the amount of new material, added story elements and alternate versions of sequences makes it practically an all new film. On a production level, the new FX sequences merge flawlessly in with the original material and the mood is well set by a very effective and more fitting score by Tom Holkenborg, who goes under the stage name of Junkie XL. Overall, this Justice League can stand up far better next to the Infinity War saga from it’s MCU counterparts.

The cast’s efforts in this cut are even more evident as we get much more of their strong work. Affleck is once again solid as Batman/Bruce Wayne. Batman is a bit more brooding and intense here, which is more in character, and we see where some of his lighter moments were added in the theatrical cut. Affleck shows again he is a solid caped crusader. Gal Gadot once again proves she was born to play Wonder Woman and she has some really good extended and added moments. The chemistry with Affleck’s billionaire hero is still evident, as is now with Alfred as well. Ezra Miller still steals his scenes as the sarcastic, slacker hero The Flash. He gets some of the best lines and his dorky charm fits the character perfectly. He also has solid chemistry with his co-stars. Ray Fisher is effective as the tragic, yet powerful Cyborg. He’s still learning how to use his powers and still conflicted over being Frankenstein-ed by his father (Joe Morton) and we sympathize. Another role nicely expanded by more footage. Jason Mamoa is less the surfer dude as Aquaman. Here he gets a lot more depth and there is some foreshadowing of his adventures to come and we see his inner conflicts clearer. By now it’s no surprise that Henry Cavill returns as Superman and here is he is a more conflicted and troubled hero before deciding to resume his role as protector. No CGI erased mustaches either, but there is a foreboding black suit. J.K. Simmons is still here as Commissioner Gordon, but again only has two or three scenes. Ciarán Hinds still voices a more imposing Steppenwolf, and here he also seems to have a lot more character development and depth, as we learn more about him and his debts to Darkseid. As for other returning cast members, Amy Adams and Diane Lane ease back into their roles as Lois Lane and Martha Kent respectively and get more scenes in this cut. Irons is still perfect as the cynical Alfred and also benefits from more footage. This version also has Harry Lennix as Calvin Swanwick, who is now revealed to be Martian Manhunter, Peter Guinness as DeSaad, one of Darkseid’s generals, Willem Dafoe as Vulko, Ray Porter as Darkseid and Jared Leto returns with an absolutely chilling cameo as The Joker. A great cast, now even more evident with added performance material.

In conclusion, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is the flick were wanted the first time. It is a four hour opus filled with the emotional depth, character development and brooding intensity that was missing in the theatrical version. The casual viewer may find the 242 minute runtime a bit daunting, but fans of this stuff will simply eat up all the new material and it’s darker tone, though it’s nothing much darker than say the last two Avenger’s epics. It’s also satisfying to see Snyder’s vision come to light, one that is sweetly dedicated to his daughter, whose loss lead to his leaving the project initially. Now that this series is back on track, let’s see where they go with it.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 4 (out of 4) heroes.


 

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REVIEW: WONDER WOMAN 1984 (2020)

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WONDER WOMAN 1984 (2020)

Superhero sequel takes place in 1984 and has Diana foiling a robbery at a mall. Her heroics also uncover a black market operation dealing with ancient antiquities. Amongst the items recovered is an ancient stone, that literally grants wishes…with a price. Not only does Diana use the stone to bring back her lost love, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), but it finds itself in the hands of power-hungry entrepreneur, Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal), and it transforms the meek and shy Dr. Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) into a predator…literally. But will the price of returned romance, cost Diana the power to stop her new adversaries?

Sequel is once again directed by Patty Jenkins from her script and story with Geoff Johns and David Callaham. While the first film dealt with serious themes like the horrors of war and the evils that men do, this next adventure takes on a much lighter tone, though the corruptive power of greed is certainly a subject here. The movie has fun with switching the roles, with Trevor, this time, being the fish out of water and Diana being in familiar surroundings. Obviously, setting the film in the 80s also invites having a little fun with the outrageousness of that decade as well. The moments between Diana and Steve are indeed entertaining, but eventually Diana must turn her attention to stopping Lord, whose use of the stone is getting dangerous, and Barbara, who is transforming into classic Wonder Woman villainess Cheetah. It takes a little while to get to the action, but it is an entertaining enough build. The movie does move along at a nice pace. Not too fast, but not too slow. When the action comes, it is big and spectacular, like a scene in Cairo, but avoids the overblown theatrics of the first installment. It’s not perfect. It is definitely a tad too long and could have been tighter in a few spots, especially in the last act where it starts to get a little messy here and there. It doesn’t have the impact of the first movie, but is an entertaining sequel nonetheless. It is more fun.

The cast is top notch and helps make this more fantasy heavy story click and work. Gal Gadot once agains proves she was born to play this part and gives her comic book heroine some nice depth and nobility. Pine is fun as the resurrected Steve Trevor. A soul in another man’s body, Pine has a good time being the man in unfamiliar territory, discovering the modern world of the 80s. He and Gadot still have great chemistry. Pascal is also fun as Maxwell Lord. He evokes Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor here and is both a fun and lively villain, while never loosing that air of being lethal and threatening. Kristen Wiig is perfectly cast as the nerdy Barbara Minerva turned classic villainess Cheetah. She starts out awkward and clumsy and once getting her wish, becomes confident, sexy and then dangerous, literally turning into a predatory cat. There are return appearances by Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen in flashbacks and a “Wonder”-ful cameo during a mid-credits scene. A great cast.

Overall, this may not have the same intensity and impact as Diana’s origin tale, but is a more fun sequel. It has a lighter story, with a magic wish granting stone, but grounds it enough that it is not silly, nor does it rob it’s villains of their threat factor. It avoids getting too over-the-top, so we take the story as seriously as we need to for it to work. It has a good time skewering the 80s, especially through the fish out of water eyes of the returned Steve Trevor. Most of the action comes in the last act, but it is an entertaining ride to get there and when it comes, it delivers the heroics we are waiting for. It may be a bit too long, and wouldn’t lose much with about ten or fifteen minutes trimmed, but is a satisfying enough sequel and a lighter toned DC hero flick. Watch through the credits for that fun cameo.

Rated 3 (out of 4) Wonder Women!

-MonsterZero NJ

 

 

 

 

 

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WONDER WOMAN 1984 FINALLY GETS A TRAILER!

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Wonder Woman stole the show in Batman v Superman and was a hit in her first solo feature. Now Gal Gadot is back in action as the Amazonian heroine and director Patty Jenkins is back in the director’s chair. With a script from Jenkins, Geoff Johns and David Callaham, that sets her next solo outing in the fabulous 80s, Wonder Woman is going to take on arch enemy Cheetah as played by Kristen Wiig. Chris Pine somehow returns as Steve Trevor and the flick opens on 6/5/2020! Check out the fun trailer below, after the character poster gallery…

 

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-MonsterZero NJ

Source: youtube/internet

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HORROR TV YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: SWAMP THING season 1 (2019)

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SWAMP THING season 1 (2019)

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Swamp Thing was sadly canceled after it’s first episode aired and before it was even given a chance…and it’s a shame. The ten episode first season nailed so many aspects of the comics and also managed to be one of the better horror shows currently on TV. Was that the problem? Was it too edgy? Right now there are few answers to the questions of why a great first season was also it’s last.

The story takes place in Marais, Louisiana, where an outbreak of some strange illness has occurred. CDC doctor Abby Arcane (Crystal Reed) arrives on the scene to try to find some answers and a cure. She meets eccentric scientist Alec Holland (Andy Bean) who tells her the answer is in the swamps. There they find that someone has been dumping a chemical growth accelerator in the swamp that has had a bizarre effect on the plant life. Alec is murdered in the swamp one night for what he knows and his body is regenerated by the plants into a massive human/plant hybrid..The Swamp Thing (Derek Mears)! Now Holland must not only come to terms with what he’s become, but protect Abby from those who would harm her and protect himself for those who find him a curious object of study.

Written and directed by a number of talents (see list below) Swamp Thing is a fun, atmospheric and delightfully gory show, that takes itself seriously despite it’s comic book roots. The show uses the North Carolina locations very well and the production and set design is perfectly spooky and fitting of the overall tone. There is a lot of action and intrigue as Abby and Holland uncover a conspiracy led by local businessman Avery Sunderland (Will Patton), his chief scientist Jason Woodrue (Kevin Durand) and crooked sheriff Lucilia Cable (Jennifer Beals), who are trying to exploit the swamp for profit. This puts Abby in danger and makes Holland/Swamp Thing a hunted man/thing. The episodes are each slightly under an hour and with the variety of directors and writers, the show maintains a consistent look and tone. The FX are good, especially the prosthetics and the CGI ranges from good to passable with some weak spots here and there. This show had a lot of potential and whatever the reasons for it’s canceling, unfortunately there will be some loose ends that will never get tightened unless, somehow, there is a continuation either by revival or a feature film. Sad, this show had a lot of potential and a strong first season start that was thrilling and enjoyable for comic and horror fans especially.

The cast really click here. Crystal Reed makes a solid heroine in the determined and resilient Abby Arcane. The actress presents a strong, intelligent and caring young woman that makes her very likable and endearing. Andy Dean is good as Holland, thought we only see him in the first episode and a few other spots. He builds a likable character in limited time. Derek Mears shines as the plant hero. He does a very good job giving Swamp Thing some complex emotions as he tries to figure out who and what he has become. He can be fierce and dangerous and yet kind, gentle and very sympathetic. Too bad we can’t see where he could take the character. Mears and Reed also had some nice on-screen chemistry, too. Patton makes a nice villain as the scheming and greedy Avery Sunderland, He’s a man that will kill for what he wants and does. Kevin Durand’s Woodrue is a scientist blinded and made cruel by his work. The post credits scene at the end of the last episode signals a side of him we would liked to have seen more of. The rest of the supporting cast, including Jennifer Beals and Ian Ziering, all play their parts well, A very solid cast for a really well done production.

In conclusion, This is a sad example of studio chaos ending a good show before it had a chance. This had some great atmosphere, a cool horror movie tone, yet didn’t ignore it’s comic book roots. There was some great production design, some spooky visuals and settings and a healthy amount of blood, gore and creatures. One of DC’s best representations of their properties as of late and it’s canceling is as mysterious as it’s swamp setting!

-MonsterZero NJ

Photo Credit: Fred Norris / 2019 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

EPISODE LIST

  1. Pilot – directed by Len Wiseman and written by Gary Dauberman and Mark Verheiden
  2. Worlds Apart – directed by Len Wiseman and written by Mark Verheiden and Doris Egan
  3. He Speaks – directed by Deran Sarafian and written by Rob Fresco
  4. Darkness on the Edge of Town – directed by Carol Banker and written by Erin Maher and Kay Reindl
  5. Drive All Night – directed by Greg Beeman and written by Franklin Rho
  6. The Price You Pay – directed by Toa Fraser and written by Tania Lotia
  7. Brilliant Disguise – directed by Alexis Ostrander and written by Andrew Preston and Rob Fresco
  8. Long Walk Home – directed by E. L. Katz and written by Doris Egan
  9. The Anatomy Lesson – directed by Michael Goi and written by Mark Verheiden, Noah Griffith and Daniel Stewart
  10. Loose Ends – directed by Deran Sarafian and written by Erin Maher, Kay Reindl and Rob Fresco

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-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 (out of 4 ) swamp things.

 

 

 

 

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 15 HORROR THEMED COMIC BOOK MOVIES!

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 15 HORROR THEMED COMIC BOOK MOVIES!

The comic book based Blade trilogy brought the horror…and Guillermo del Toro!

Catching up with DC ‘s delightfully gory, yet sadly canceled, Swamp Thing series gets one nostalgic for other horror themed comic book movies. So, here are 15 of them that brought the horror while delivering comic book movie entertainment!

Keanu Reeves battled supernatural forces in the comic book based Constantine!

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(To get to the reviews of the titles listed that were covered here at the Movie Madhouse, just type the title in the search engine to find the corresponding critique!)

-MonsterZero NJ

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REVIEW: SHAZAM! (2019)

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SHAZAM! (2019)

Latest flick from the DC Comics cinematic universe is based on one of their outside the Justice League characters and is more geared towards kids, though it has a few rough moments. Movie finds orphaned Billy Batson (Asher Angel) running away from foster home after foster home to try and find his real mother. His latest place of residence is a foster home run by Rosa and Victor Vasquez (Marta Milans and Cooper Andrews). Here he’s befriended by Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer), who is partially disabled and a real superhero fan. His superhero know-how comes in handy when guardian wizard Shazam (Djimon Hounsou) chooses Billy as a champion to take his place as a protector and to hold his power. Now all Billy has to do is say “Shazam!” and he transforms into a muscular adult superhero (Zachary Levi)…but in body only. Learning how to be a hero is tough enough on it’s own for a kid, but Billy/Shazam is challenged by the bitter and angry Dr. Sivana (Mark Strong), who was rejected by Shazam as a child and now wants revenge…and has seven powerful demons to help him get it.

Flick is directed by David F. Sandberg, who cut his teeth on horror flicks like Lights Out and Annabelle: Creation. This probably comes in handy as the script by Henry Gayden, from a story by he and Darren Lemke, features the before mentioned demons and thus a few spooky sequences. Sandberg does a good job at the sentimental and silly stuff, too, though in both cases, the script throws in a bit too much of it. The schtick of a 15 year-old kid being in an adult superhero’s body wears out it’s welcome after a while with numerous scenes of Billy/Shazam acting like a brat and using his newfound fame to get himself attention and money. Probably what a kid would do, true, but here it’s drawn out a bit too long. The whole film could have been a bit tighter and wouldn’t have missed about ten minutes or so removed. There are some fun bits and the flick has heart, but it can be over-sentimental at times, too and really goes for all the clichés about trust and family, though superhero flicks in particular can get away with being cliché. It’s oddly one of the things endearing about them. The climactic confrontation with Sivana never really gets all that exciting and Billy learning that he doesn’t have to fight alone is exactly what we expect to happen. The flick overall is very predictable. Not a bad movie, but one that could have used a little tightening, a little more excitement and less repetition with it’s hi-jinx.

There are no complaints about the cast. Zachary Levi is a hoot as the teen in an adult body imbued with superpowers. He’s charming and funny and even if the bratty hero bits are the focus for a bit too long, Levi is fun in the part. His overstuffed costume is a bit off-putting, but otherwise Levi is a good fit for the role. Asher Angel was very good as Billy. The film’s sentiment may get schmaltzy at times, but Angel is endearing and likable and handles the emotional requirements very well. Grazer is also likable as the partially disabled nerd who has a strong interest in superheroes and now gets to be BFF’s with one. Mark Strong makes a solid though unremarkable villain. He’s a very reliable veteran actor and it was cool to see DC give him a second chance at villainy after the prospects of his being the evil Sinestro in a Green Lantern sequel dried up. The rest of the supporting cast are also good and all perform well in their roles.

Overall, this is a flick that tries hard and doesn’t miss the mark by too much. It has some fun sequences and a likable cast, but maybe plays out it’s schtick a bit too long and might be a bit too silly at times for some tastes. The film feels like it could have been a bit shorter and tighter, without harming it’s story and drags a bit midway through. It’s loaded with clichés which make it a bit predictable, but still has a lot of fun bits and with lead Levi being perfectly cast as the kid in a hero’s body. As a superhero version of 1988’s Big, at least they had the respect to pay that film a nice homage. Stay after the credits for two additional sequences.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) kids in a hero’s body.

 

 

 

 

 

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REVIEW: AQUAMAN (2018)

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AQUAMAN (2018)

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DC comics flick is a mixed bag finding our aquatic hero (Jason Momoa) coming up against his half-brother King Orm of Atlantis (Patrick Wilson). The power and conquest hungry Orm wants to take control of all the undersea kingdoms and then use their combined might to lay waste to the surface world. Princess Mera (Amber Heard) of the undersea kingdom of Xebel defies her father (Dolph Lundgren) to warn Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman and inform him that if he retrieves the Trident of Atlan, he will have the power to stop Orm and take his rightful place as king. Standing in his way is a modern day pirate with Atlantean tech and a personal grudge against Aquaman, The Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II).

Superhero flick is directed by James Wan (Insidious, The Conjuring) from a screenplay by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Will Beall, based on a story by Wan, Beall and Geoff Johns. The flick is a bit of a mess, that bites off more than it can chew, though it can be a fun mess at times. The negative points are a thin story that gets poor development as the film steamrolls ahead from one set-piece to another. From the flashback meeting of Arthur’s mother Queen Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) and his lighthouse keeper father,Thomas (Temuera Morrison), to Arthur’s first meeting/fight with Orm, to a massive undersea battle, a lot goes on in this flick. Somewhere in between all this, the film stops and goes on a Tomb Raider style quest for the trident…wasn’t that the plot of the latest Pirates of the Caribbean flick?…and then finally back to Aquaman vs Orm, the rematch. It gives the film a choppy feeling for the first hour, or so, before it settles down a bit in the last act. None of the characters get proper development, especially Black Manta, whose sub-plot could have been eliminated completely with no harm done. At least we already met Arthur in Justice League…and, by the way, where were his League pals as this was a global destruction situation. The good points are that some of the action set pieces are quite fun and Wan has a great visual eye, so the film looks sumptuous and spectacular. The undersea kingdoms are amazing, there is a stunning Star Wars-esque underwater battle at it’s climax and the film has a lot of cool creatures. The cast all get the material and play their roles with the right tone and if the story was more involving, this might have been a bit more memorable, which sadly it’s not. A good time was had overall, though it didn’t resonate once the theater lights came up.

Back to the cast, Wan has assembled a top notch one. Momoa has locked it in as Aquaman and the character has never been cooler. His bad-ass surfer boy take works very well as a modern incarnation of the DC hero and Momoa has the charm and sense of humor to overcome the thin script. Amber Heard is beautiful and resourceful as Mera. She is a strong character and is not played as a damsel and Heard makes a solid heroine out of her. Patrick Wilson is a pleasant surprise as the vengeful King Orm. Wilson is usually cast in the straight-laced good guy role and here he chews up the seaweed and scenery with just enough restraint to keep Orm from flipping over into camp. He’s a better villain than Justice’s Steppenwolf and Wonder Woman’s Ares. Rounding out the supporting cast is Nicole Kidman as a noble Queen Atlanna, Willem Dafoe as Vulko, Dolph Lundgren as King Nereus, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as David Kane/Black Manta and Temuera Morrison as Arthur’s dad. All do good work in their roles and help keep this bloated flick from sinking.

So, Aquaman is a bit of a mess and DC still has a way to go to catch up to Marvel and set it’s cinematic universe right. The story here is thin and underdeveloped due to filmmakers being too overeager to do too many things in one film. There’s globe hopping adventure, epic undersea battles, a quest for a mystical object and a superhero battling to save the world and find his destiny. All we needed was a musical number. It has a solid cast, who get the material and a director who knows theatricality and how to make it look gorgeous. In lesser hands this might of been an awful mess, but Wan makes it an entertaining one. Overall, it’s a step back from Wonder Woman, but two steps ahead over the disappointing Justice League and the bloated Batman v Superman.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 tridents.

 

 

 

 

 

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REVIEW: JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017)

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JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017)

Justice League is a movie fans have been waiting a long time for and while it’s not the movie we’d hoped we’d get, it is still a lot of fun. Story finds Earth under attack from an ancient being called Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciarán Hinds) who needs three powerful ‘mother boxes’ to come to his full strength and conquer the planet. Bruce Wayne aka Batman (Ben Affleck) and Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) are trying to put together a team of meta humans to join in the fight. They need to convince Arthur Curry aka Aquaman (Jason Mamoa), Victor Stone aka Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and Barry Allen aka The Flash (a hilarious Ezra Miller) to unite with them to stop Steppenwolf in his tracks. But even with the heroes united, their only hope of defeating the titan and his army of pandemons, may lie six feet under in a grave in Smallville.

DC’s classic comic is brought to the screen by Zack Snyder from a story by he and Chris Terrio and a script by Terrio and Joss Whedon. Avengers director/writer Whedon was called in to finish post-production and handle re-shoots when a family tragedy forced Snyder off the project. The result is a film that is far from perfect, but is still a lot of fun. The film feels a bit incomplete despite a competent director taking over the project and it also feels edited down to the quick to get to the action faster. Ironically Batman v Superman was improved when material was added on blu-ray, but here they chose to go in the opposite direction and the film feels like it’s missing something. The first act seems particularly rushed and we really don’t get to feel the resonance of the search for the meta humans or Steppenwolf’s arrival. It all happens so quickly and it’s a bit choppy. Once the team is assembled and goes on the offensive, the movie is a lot of fun with the banter between our Justice League members being a highlight, especially from the wisecracking Flash. Their first battle brings the team up short and thus begins the quest to raise the dead, or at least one of them. Then it’s off to a fun conclusion that follows this series’ propensity for big CGI filled spectacle, but doesn’t quite seem as messy as the bloated, overlong Batman v Superman climax, in fact, it actually felt a bit short. The whole film does leave one wanting more, to be honest, but the camaraderie between the characters really goes a long way and there are some really fun dialogue and action scenes to make this an entertaining night at the movies, nonetheless. It’s not the classic hoped for, but DC is starting find it’s footing, at least in terms of tone. It kept that DC look and feel, but isn’t as gloomy or takes itself too seriously like some of the previous DCU flicks. Fabian Wagner’s cinematography helps the film appear consistent with previous entries and Danny Elfman provides the atmospheric score with some fun nods to previous hero themes.

The cast really help make up for some of the film’s shortcomings. Affleck is once again solid as Batman/Bruce Wayne. He’s a bit more upbeat here and he has some nice banter with his costars as the reluctant founder of the League. Gal Gadot once again proves she was born to play Wonder Woman and she has some nice moments, including some good chemistry with Affleck’s billionaire hero. Ezra Miller steals the flick as the sarcastic, slacker hero The Flash. He gets some of the best lines and his dorky charm fits the character perfectly. He also has solid chemistry with his co-stars. Ray Fisher is effective as the tragic, yet powerful Cyborg. He’s still learning how to use his powers and still conflicted over being Frankenstein-ed by his father and we sympathize. Jason Mamoa is good as Aquaman, but it seems his surfer-dude hero never really gets his moment in this flick. Maybe WB is holding back as James Wan’s Aquaman is the next DC flick due out. J.K. Simmons is good as Commissioner Gordon, but only has two or three scenes and Ciarán Hinds voices a somewhat imposing Steppenwolf, though he seems like just another CGI monster…but at least one with far more personality than Doomsday in BvS. As for other returning cast members, Amy Adams and Diane Lane ease back into their roles as Lois Lane and Martha Kent respectively, Irons is again perfect as the cynical Alfred and it’s no surprise that at some point Henry Cavill is going to show up…but the when and hows will be left for viewers to find out. A good cast that help get over some of the bumps in Justice League’s road.

In conclusion, Justice League still shows that DC has work to do, but at least has a fun time with it’s missteps. It does get a lot right, including some entertaining interaction between our heroes and some fun action scenes. It’s not as good a film overall as Wonder Woman, but in ways is more fun and takes itself far less seriously than MoS and BvS. The film could have used a little more time for us to appreciate the hunt for the heroes by Wayne and Diana and needed to give more weight to the appearance of it’s moderately effective villain. In all fairness, who knows what effects losing it’s director had on the final product. With Snyder away, did the studio play? Regardless of it’s issues, it’s still a fun romp that brings together some of the most famous comic book heroes of all time and even serves up, not one but two, additional scenes, one mid-credits and one post-credits…and the post-credits scene will have comic book fans talking. Go in with moderate expectations and you can have a real good time.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 heroes.

 

 

 

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REVIEW: WONDER WOMAN (2017)

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WONDER WOMAN (2017)

After appearing in last year’s Batman v. Superman and stealing that film away from her male co-stars, the comics’ leading female superhero is getting her own solo movie and it’s an origin film at that.

The movie opens with Diana aka Wonder Woman as a child (Emily Carey) on the Amazon home island of Themyscira. She is daughter to Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and being trained in the fighting arts by her aunt, General Antiope (Robin Wright). One day, as she has grown to adulthood (Gal Gadot), a plane carrying American spy, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes off the island and he is rescued by Diana. A boatload of German soldiers is following him and soon the warrior women of Themyscira learn of the horrors of mankind’s war, specifically WWI. Diana is horrified and believes only the God Of War, Ares could be responsible. She returns to Europe with Trevor planning to defeat Ares, but along the way learns that people can really suck.

Third film in the DC movie universe is pretty much like the last two in that there is a lot to like and yet, there are some glaring problems, too, that keep it from really clicking. One of the biggest is that this series of films takes itself a little too seriously and there are some gloomy moments and heavy atmosphere here in Wonder Woman. Another is that they are a bit overloaded, where a more streamlined story would do. It’s refreshing that they want to have a different style and tone than the Marvel flicks, but all three films (Man Of Steel, Batman v. Superman and Wonder Woman) have been very bombastic and story heavy, though at least here director Patty Jenkins shows some restraint until the now DC traditional over-indulgent CGI climax. The script by Allan Heinberg, from a story by he, Jason Fuchs and Zack Snyder, still tries to cover too much ground with an origin story, a story about the horrors of war, a story about feminism and a story about battling gods. It makes the film feel choppy, especially as the origin seems rushed, as does Diana’s decision to go to war. Once we get to Europe, the film then heads to it’s climax trying to cram all the story elements in the remaining hour. Even at 141 minutes there seems to be a lot of stuff left on the cutting room floor and this keeps the film from having a smooth narrative flow which doesn’t help as the flick already has a more moderate pace than the average superhero saga. The film never really finds it’s groove. It also keeps us from getting to know any of the supporting characters, especially the villains (Danny Houston as a sadistic general and Elena Anaya as an equally sadistic scientist), who come across as bland. What keeps one interested is that there are some nice moments between Gadot and Pine and once Gadot finally suits up, about an hour into the film, Wonder Woman’s first scene soars…then we go back to the dreary horrors of war stuff till she has her showdown with Ares. The film does have a hard time maintaining it’s momentum, even with some very strong moments of our heroine in action, which are actually few and far between. It’s more about Diana learning about the real world than Wonder Woman saving the day. The mix could have been more even.

Biggest plus in this film’s favor is Gal Gadot who is wonderful as both Diana and Wonder Woman. She really nails the fish out of water aspect and the almost naive nature of a goddess among men for the first time. She also maintains a sense of dignity and strength which really cranks up to 11 when she suits up. She has grown as an actress and really fits the role like a glove in just her second outing. She’s perfectly cast. Chris Pine is fun here too, though seems to be playing a slightly toned down version of his Kirk. He and Gadot do have a great chemistry together and it is some of their little character exchanges that really entertain. Sadly their romance is also rushed and we never really get to feel the emotional resonance of it to give certain scenes impact. As stated Danny Houston plays stereotypical sadistic German general, Ludendorff. Houston is kind of bland here, though not really his fault, as is Elena Anaya as his equally underwritten right hand, Doctor Isabel “Dr. Poison” Maru. David Thewliss also appears as a British Intelligence officer who supports Trevor’s plans to go after Ludendorff on the eve of an impending armistice.

In conclusion, this film sadly suffers some of the same overloaded and over-indulgent aspects of the last two DCU films, though director Patty Jenkins does reign it in a bit and makes good use out of her leading lady’s dead-on performance and the chemistry between her two leads. Gadot’s first scene as Wonder Woman is worth the price of admission alone and it makes us wish Jenkins didn’t go all Zack Snyder (who also produced) for the over-blown CGI slug-fest with Ares. There was enough story for two or three films and the flick rushes to fit it all it, though there are some nice humorous bits in between the heavy-handed melodrama. Jenkins does balance the messages about the evils that men do and women’s rights in nicely without allowing them to become obtrusive and the film’s flaws aside Gadot is an awesome Wonder Woman.

The DCU is slowly headed in the right direction, though will audiences be patient enough for them to really lock in the right mix of elements, hopefully in one of the upcoming planned flicks.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 Wonder Women cause Gadot was great!

 

 

 

 

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REVIEW: BATMAN v. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (2016)

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BATMAN v. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (2016)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

The much anticipated match-up between the two greatest comic book characters of all-time is a mess, no doubt about it, but there is a lot to like here, too. The story picks up 18 months after the battle in Metropolis between Superman and Zod and the world is starting to sour over the notion of a man with god-like powers running around of his own volition. Two men particularly being unhappy about it are billionaire Lex Luthor (a completely miscast Jesse Eisenberg) and billionaire Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck). I guess rich people hate Superman. The Dark Knight saw many Wayne Enterprises employees die in Metropolis and starts to wonder if Superman (Henry Cavill) can be trusted and Lex Luthor is more than happy to give both men a push in the confrontational direction. Will The Bat of Gotham and The Man Of Steel go head to head…and will the world survive it?

The script by Chris Terrio and David Goyer is simply all over the place and a lot of it doesn’t gel. The reasons for Superman’s alter ego Clark Kent to suddenly become so concerned with the activities of The Batman in Gotham is never really clear, as it also doesn’t really completely work that Wayne would develop such an intense hatred for Superman, since he has done a lot of good. The first hour of the film bounces back and forth between a bunch of story-lines, including one about a possible conspiracy to frame Superman for death’s he’s not responsible for and a mysterious woman (Gal Gadot) that keeps popping up in Bruce Wayne’s life. It’s very fractured and takes over an hour to settle into a grove. Zack Snyder is a brilliant visual director, but I never felt he was a strong storyteller and with a very weak and fractured story, it is all the more obvious. The film wanders back and forth without much purpose in the first act when Snyder has little going on that he can turn into spectacle. There is some solid action within the film, though and some nice personal moments, too, but it all comes crashing down when Snyder delivers an even more overblown finale than with Man Of Steel. At that point the overlong film is already getting tiresome, we get an apocalyptic battle with Doomsday and then the film goes on for another 15 minutes, or so, for a very morose conclusion. The battle between Bats and Supes was starting to turn the film around somewhat, then Snyder throws in Doomsday and the film collapses under the weight of more bombastic destruction with a generic CGI monster that generates no menace, whatsoever. Throw in a somber and mopey Superman, some pointless dream sequences and the totally miscalculated portrayal of a creepy Lex Luthor by Eisenberg and it basically is a mess with a few shining moments.

So, what was there to like about it…and surprisingly there is a lot to like. First off, Ben Affleck makes an awesome Bruce Wayne and Batman. While story-wise I wasn’t really sold on his intense hatred for Superman, the character itself was different than we have seen previously, yet really nailed the darkness and the whole Bat persona. His action scenes also really rock and capture the ferocity of a man working out his own inner turmoil. Another very pleasant surprise is Wonder Woman. Gal Gadot isn’t the strongest actress, but when she wades into battle during the climax, she steals the show. Another character the film nails and she was a lot of fun to watch and really lays into Doomsday like a badass. As for the battle between Superman and Batman, it was the highlight of the film and here Snyder showed some surprising restraint. Also we get to really see Batman’s ingenuity and preparedness come to bare as he battles someone who could squash him easily. It’s a shame they had to sully the moment by going into extra innings with Doomsday…though they did need a reason for the World’s Finest to unite. It’s just too bad it’s back to over-the-top and out of control. Obviously the FX are top notch, the film looks great and there is another solid score by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL.

The cast are a solid except for you-know-who. Cavill is good as Superman, but the script has him pouting and grimacing in anger most of the time and it’s disappointing that we see so little of the hope Superman is supposed to bring. Affleck is great as both Bruce Wayne and Batman. He portrays a man starting to show the effects of aging, who has his own demons and bitterness to deal with and which also motivates him. As Batman, he is truly intimidating and his fight scenes are really nasty and intense like they should be. As his loyal butler Alfred, Jeremy Irons is impeccable and gives us a man who we believe can actually take care of and assist both Bruce Wayne and The Dark Knight. He has a subtle smart-ass quality that really worked. Gal Gadot is a little wooden in her dialog sequences as Diana Prince, but when Wonder Woman joins the fun, she gives her the fire and spirit of a true amazon warrior. She really does steal the scenes she’s in, once she is in battle. Now the big question…Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, what were they thinking? Not everything he does is bad and his part is badly written, but he was more Renfield or Gollum than super villain and his Luthor seems too unhinged to be in control of a multi-billion dollar empire. He comes across as that weird uncle that makes everyone uncomfortable, not a formidable opponent for our heroes. Amy Adams is good again as Lois Lane, but isn’t given much to do but be a damsel in distress. The same goes for Diane Lane. A waste of both their talents as is the same for the barely seen Lawrence Fishburn as Perry White.

So, the eagerly awaited meeting and mash-up of the World’s Finest is a bit of a mess and a mixed bag. On one hand, it delivers a great new Batman, a scene stealing Wonder Woman and a well-done battle between The Dark Knight and The Last Son Of Krypton. On the other hand it’s way too long, gives us a creepy and far too eccentric Lex Luthor, has a really muddled first act and follows up the Bats/Supes battle royal with a ridiculously overblown orgy of destruction featuring a generic CGI monster. There is a lot to like here, but, overall, this dream match is more of a dream mess.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 World’s Finest.

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