REVIEW: JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017)

MZNJ_New_review

now playing

bars

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.

 

 

 

bars

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

MZNJ_New_review

now playing

batman v superman2

bars

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.

batman v superman rating

 

bars

BREAKING NEWS! BEN AFFLECK IS THE NEW BATMAN!

Affleck-batman

According to CBM, Warner Bros has announced actor and director Ben Affleck will be Bruce Wayne/Batman in the Man Of Steel follow-up that will feature both Krypton’s last son (Henry Cavill) and The Dark Knight. Speculation had been rampant from Orlando Bloom to Christian Bale returning to a huge paycheck. Now Warners has announced an out of left field surprise with the official casting of Affleck as the Caped Crusader for the film to be released July 2015!

Warner Bros. Greg Silverman had this to say:

“We knew we needed an extraordinary actor to take on one of DC Comics’ most enduringly popular Super Heroes, and Ben Affleck certainly fits that bill, and then some. His outstanding career is a testament to his talent and we know he and Zack will bring new dimension to the duality of this character.”

Technically, he already played Superman with his portrayal of George Reeves in “Hollywoodland”.

Great_Debate_Should_Ben_Affleck_Direct_The_Justice_League_Movie_1344523407

Source: CBM

bars

REVIEW: MAN OF STEEL (2013)

MZNJ_New_review

 

man of steel poster

bars

MAN OF STEEL (2013)

I won’t say Man Of Steel is a bad movie. It’s not. I was entertained to a good degree. It’s just that it is quite a disappointing movie in that it has such potential and doesn’t live up to it. There was an opportunity to really tell a good story, but Director Zack Snyder and writer David Goyer would rather serve up Independence Day in overdrive than a story about a unique individual and his journey to becoming a hero. The film’s Avatar-ish opening starts out on the distant planet of Krypton with a military coup erupting lead by General Zod (Michael Shannon), just as valiant Jor-El (Russell Crowe) is explaining that their planet is doomed due to their plundering of it’s core. After some Star Trek-esque dialog about genetic codes and the manufacturing of future Krytonians, Jor-El eludes Zod and sends his secretly and naturally born son into to space along with the genetic codes for Kryton’s people. We then pick up as adult Clark Kent/Kal-El (Henry Cavill) is wandering the planet trying to find his purpose and despite being taught by his Pa (Kevin Coster) to hide his powers, he can’t help but occasionally use them to save lives. So Clark becomes this mysterious savior figure being tracked down by an intrepid reporter, Lois Lane (Amy Adams). I liked this aspect of the story but, like everything else, it is brushed over too quickly to appreciate fully. Meanwhile an alien ship is found in the ice bringing Clark and Lois together at the sight and Clark finds out the ship is of  the same race as the ship he arrived in…how Ma and Pa get a mini-van sized ship secretly into their barn is never explained…He then enters and finds his true destiny on board from a computer simulation of real dad, Jor-El… still with me? At this very moment another space ship enters Earth’s vicinity and it is vengeful General Zod looking for Kal-El and the genetic codes to stage a rebirth of Krypton on earth. Now it’s up to Kal-El to reveal his true alien nature and defend the planet he calls home from the malevolent Zod and his Krytonian thugs.

If  this all sounds choppy, it is. I’m not the biggest Superman fan, so I didn’t mind the revamping of his origin, but I do mind the choppy, too fast for it’s own good, telling of the story. Snyder is too interested in bludgeoning us with the spectacular action than he is in properly telling us Superman’s story. His past is told in flashbacks and while there are some very important events in Clark’s childhood, we just get quick glimpses with barely anytime to appreciate their resonance before Kryptonians are beating each other silly with trains, planes and automobiles. As much as the action sequences wow us, the movie never slows down to let us enjoy the really important details of what could have been a very good story about a lone and powerful alien who wants to use his strengths to make our world a better place…maybe at the cost of the rebirth of his own. And that’s what disappoints the most, there is a good story here, but the filmmakers are more interested in destroying everything in sight as Zod intends to kill Kal-El and terraform Earth into the new Krypton. The action sequences go on and on and while they are spectacular, I was exhausted and had seen everything they could throw at me long before we finally get to see Zod and Supes battle one on one. By that time, their final confrontation is redundant as we’ve already seen enough cataclysmic destruction to the point of being numb to it. It loses it’s impact.

But there are silver linings in this overblown epic. Henry Cavill was a really good Superman and really helps make up for us not be allowed to appreciate his journey from loner to heroic icon by the explosion happy Snyder. Amy Adams is also good as Lois and despite their relationship being underdeveloped, Adams and Cavill have a really strong chemistry that, again, overcomes the filmmakers shortcomings. In fact the whole cast was good from Shannon providing a strong villain with depth and purpose in Zod to Russell Crowe’s noble Jor-El… though his constant appearance as a simulation is overused. Costner and Diane Lane (Ma Kent) shine in their all too brief scenes and again, all the actors have good chemistry together. Snyder gets such good work out of his cast, it’s all the more disappointing we couldn’t linger with them a lot more to enjoy the emotional resonance of their scenes together properly.

Even Hans Zimmer’s wonderful score really supports whats going on on-screen and helps add depth when Snyder’s rapid fire and sometimes choppy editing weakens the impact. And I won’t lie if I did find some of the action truly breathtaking and spectacular. It is, but when something is breathtaking we need to be allowed to catch our breath before the next thrill and Snyder doesn’t allow us to do that. We get a massive amount of destruction on a spectacular level and are then bludgeoned with it till numb. And it robs us of really enjoying the impact of the story’s final scenes which are the most important, as it sets up Superman and his path towards becoming a hero and his relationship with the rest of us. It is the charm of Cavill and cast that still give it it’s potency even with us being warn out from watching skyscrapers explode and fall for the last 30 minutes.

So my final thoughts are that while there was a lot to enjoy, there is a lot that needs fixing to make Man Of Steel 2 fly right. Most importantly is that Zack Snyder needs to overcome his weakness as a filmmaker and tell his story better and let a great cast do what they do best. Snyder is a great visualist but, really needs to sometimes dial it back and let us enjoy the emotions of the smaller moments which, especially in a story such as that of Superman, is really what matters. It doesn’t matter how many heavy objects Superman can lift, how fast he can fly and how many buildings get destroyed when he is in battle…the real story here is about a one of a kind man who has the strength and power to make our world a better place, if we learn to trust him and let him. Now that’s a story worth telling and taking the time to tell. Despite my criticism, I do hope to see Cavill don the cape and boots again and maybe the movie will be a little more about him next time and the spectacular action will be used to add impact to the story and not overshadow it.

3 Men Of Steels as, despite the film’s shortcomings, I enjoyed the cast immensely and did like the spectacular action before I got numb to it all. I also feel it does provide a good starting point if certain issues are overcome. Still the best Superman film since Superman 2 in 1981.

supes rating

bars