Justice League (2017)

Director: Zack Snyder

Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J.K. Simmons

Screenplay: Chris Terrio, Joss Whedon

120 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action.

 

It took me over a year to finally watch Justice League. I picked up the film last year, and I just didn’t have the nerve to see it. After all the craziness going on behind the scenes, it felt as though this film just got destroyed by problem after problem. I read some reports from early set visits on Justice League, and the overall mood was quite good. Then, the problems began. Not all of these can be blamed on any one particular person. Director Zack Snyder (300, Sucker Punch) had to step away from the film after the sudden death of a family member, a move I will never blame him for. So as far as the finished film goes, how does Justice League fair?

It’s been some time since the death of Superman (Henry Cavill, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Mission: Impossible – Fallout) at the hands of Doomsday, and the world has mostly moved on. But Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck, Argo, The Accountant) cannot. He is haunted by the power he witnessed by the enemy due to a dream he witness of winged creatures and an Armageddon in the potentially near-future. His mission is to build a team of protectors. With Diana Prince (Gal Gadot, Furious 7, Ralph Breaks the Internet) already joined up, they focus on recruiting Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa, Conan the Barbarian, Braven), Barry Allen (Ezra Miller, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald), and Victor Stone (Ray Fisher, TV’s True Detective) to the cause. Bruce and Diana find their mission ever more difficult with the arrival of Steppenwolf, a military officer from Apokolips, in search of the mythical Mother Boxes, three cubes capable of immense power.

I’m not usually a guy for high expectations with blockbuster fare. I personally find that smaller films can have just as much impact as larger ones in the blockbuster landscape. For example, Ant-Man is a fairly low-stakes superhero film when compared to something like Avengers: Infinity War (sorry for making my point with MCU films here). The one area where this thinking doesn’t count is the team-up films. When you have a film like Justice League, it needs to be big. It needs to have those memorable set pieces. Justice League’s biggest problem is that it’s forgettable. I just watched a night or two ago and I have trouble placing most of the action. Not much of the set pieces register in my mind. That’s a problem. This should be the one that reminds fans that the DCEU has stumbled in the past but they’re making up for it here and into the future. Snyder’s departure from the film didn’t cause this problem. Warner Bros did.

In response to criticism, Warner Bros stated that Justice League would have a shorter run time. At least, that’s the statement. At no point in any of the DCEU films, outside of Man of Steel, was the run time every really an issue for me. They are lengthy films but the DCEU always kind of branded itself with an epic quality maybe even more so than the MCU was. Warner Bros responded to criticism that wasn’t really there and shorted the run time, allowing for more butts in seats to see this movie. They responded to criticism that the films are too dark. Again, not an issue that I encountered outside of the brooding Man of Steel, but I just think they respond to any criticism big or small and it damages their plan.

I found Justice League, at the time I watched it, to be more enjoyable than anticipated. I feel like it sets up the team dynamic pretty nicely, and I like where it set the trajectory of future installments of the DCEU, but as a film, it also suffers some of the problems of Avengers: Age of Ultron, where it completes some arcs we’ve seen started and starts some new arcs but the meat of the film is missing. This is especially apparent with the portrayal of Steppenwolf, performed through Mo-Cap by Ciaran Hinds, a tremendously gifted actor. Steppenwolf’s scenes were altered and sliced up, turning a potentially frightening villain into a flat, one-dimensional CG target. It kind of makes Justice League seem like another example of Suicide Squad, a film with great heroes on a flimsy mission.

I really enjoyed the few moments of interaction between members of the Justice League themselves. I just wish we had more of them. For example, Superman is on the front cover and appeared in the trailers, so it’s safe to say he’s in the movie. He’s been through a lot in this cinematic universe, and I feel like he needs screentime to really showcase it. I would liken his struggle closer to Tony Stark’s from Iron Man 3. He’s been through some shit, but he never gets the time for us to connect with him. They could have utilized Lois Lane (Amy Adams, Arrival, Enchanted) to connect us to this higher being, but they choose not to.

Ben Affleck is yet again at the top of his game here with Bruce Wayne and Batman. I’ve been saying for a long time now that he’s the best part of the DCEU and I stand by that claim. It’s a shame he’s been brunted with all these problems that have soured his experience because he’s a damn capable actor/director/writer who really could have spear-headed this whole world, but alas, that’s the way it goes.

Gal Gadot is also quite well-suited for her character. She plays Diana with a sense for saving and protecting, and it doesn’t come off all that cliché or silly. She gets more to do here than she did in Batman v Superman coming off her solo film with such high praise.

The real standout for me was Jason Momoa’s turn as Arthur Curry. He played Aquaman in such a different way than I had planned given what little the audience has to go on so far. I didn’t expect to see such a pessimistic asshole interpretation, but it’s all done in jest with an understanding of his place within the team, and I loved every scene with him as they all brimmed with fun.

I think the plotting of Justice League wasn’t wrong from the beginning, though. I remember hearing word from some of the involved crew that the film was initially to open with the large-scale battle for the Mother Boxes and a Lord of the Rings-style opening narration to set up the mysticism around these items. That intrigued me, the idea that DC was perhaps treating this film like an epic in the style of Lord of the Rings was very exciting. The finished film opens with a live-video of Superman that really just doesn’t sit well.

Justice League stumbles a lot throughout, and it had a rocky road leading to its release (can you say Mustache-gate?), but it isn’t the worst thing to come from the DCEU, and maybe that’s its biggest sin. This should have been IT. This should have been the one to really knock it out of the park. Instead, it’s mildly forgettable and very simplistic. It makes me sad because, while I still enjoyed it, there’s issues abound and I really want the DCEU to survive and thrive. This just isn’t doing it.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, click here.

For my review of Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, click here.

For my review of David Ayer’s Suicide Squad, click here.

For my review of Patty Jenkins’s Wonder Woman, click here.

For my review of Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

Vice (2018)

Director: Adam McKay

Cast: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Tyler Perry, Alison Pill, Jesse Plemons

Screenplay: Adam McKay

132 mins. Rated R for language and some violent images.

 

At the end of Adam McKay’s (The Other Guys, The Big Short) film Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, the narrator informs the audience that Brick, the character played by Steve Carell (Beautiful Boy, TV’s The Office), got a job working in the Bush White House. It’s nice to see McKay sticking with the narrative.

Vice is the first film about the life of a US Vice President, and it explores the political upbringing’s of the most powerful and dangerous Vice President in history, Dick Cheney (Christian Bale, The Dark Knight, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle). It’s the tale of a man of immense power and the way he ran his political career with wife Lynne (Amy Adams, Arrival, Enchanted) at his side. It’s the true enough tale of his time learning from and working with Donald Rumsfeld (Carell), spanning from his time as an intern to the most powerful man in America.

What works so well in Vice is McKay’s storytelling style. He adopts what worked well in The Big Short for this larger-than-life vision of Cheney’s life and career. His film informs the audience early on that this film is as true as it can be given Cheney’s guarded and secretive life, and he puts as much truth to the screen as possible and lets his performers and absurdist storytelling gifts fill in the rest. McKay’s far-reaching ambition is on full display here, including his post-credits scene which brings us all the way to a discussion of present-day politics.

Bale is at his best here as he disappears behind his character. The weight gain workout regimen as well as the makeup effects work wonders here, but beyond that is Bale’s amazing quality to become his character, something he does quite well here. Adams is great here as well, a loving wife who has expectations for the man she marries and will not accept anything less than perfection from him.

The supporting cast is another strength of this film, littered with special performances like Carell’s. Sam Rockwell (Moon, TV’s F is for Family), just like Bale, expertly assumes the form of George W. Bush. Tyler Perry (Diary of a Mad Black Woman, The Star) becomes Colin Powell. The performances in Vice are top-notch.

If there’s a fault in the film, it’s the difficulty in making such an unlikable man the focus of a 2-hour-plus runtime. McKay sticks close to the rule of characters: if you can’t make them likable, make them interesting, and he does just that, but as the film wears on, it does become difficult to maintain focus on Cheney with the same lightheartedness that permeates the early part of the film.

Vice is another strong outing for Adam McKay, a filmmaker who has proven to be as exciting now as he was over a decade ago when his satirical eye was used only for the purpose of comedy. His funny approach to unlikable characters offers up a different side of the coin to a filmmaker like Oliver Stone, and it is this keen eye for teaching through absurdity that makes this biographical drama such a winner. It’s runtime hurts the film a bit but McKay keeps things going pretty good aided by some astonishing acting from its principal cast. See Vice now before someone gets sued.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[#2017oscardeathrace] Arrival (2016)

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Director: Denis Villeneuve

Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, Tzi Ma

Screenplay: Eric Heisserer

116 mins. Rated PG-13 for brief strong language.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Motion Picture of the Year [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Directing [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Adapted Screenplay [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Cinematography [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Film Editing [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Production Design [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Mixing [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Editing [Pending]

IMDb Top 250: #143 (as of 1/24/2017)

 

Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Sicario) is essentially on one hell of a streak as a director. He has, time and time again, come to the table with an excellent film, the latest being last year’s Arrival.

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Louise Banks (Amy Adams, Man of Steel, Nocturnal Animals) remembers exactly where she was when they arrived. Large ships at several strategic points around the globe have come to a stop, floating a few stories off the ground. Louise is asked by Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker, Platoon, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) to come aboard a team tasked with establishing first contact with the extraterrestrials. She is brought to Montana and meets Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker, Captain America: Civil War), a theoretical physicist. As tensions arise from other groups stationed around the world, Louise and Ian must work quickly to ascertain why the beings have come to Earth while also avoiding putting the planet’s safety in further jeopardy.

It’s hard to talk too much about Arrival without coming across spoilers, but I’ll try my best. Simply put, Arrival is the best science fiction film of the year and one of the best of all time, but it’s also much more than that. Arrival is the story a mother. It’s the story of a relationship between a mother and her daughter. Yes, there are aliens, and yes, there’s a lot to breathe in, but thanks to Villeneuve’s masterful work behind the camera and Adams’ affecting and powerful work in front of it, Arrival stands as one of the more captivating experiences you are likely to see.

The visuals of the film are incredible, due in no small part to Director of Photography Bradford Young, a name many in the film community have come to love after this and other previous work. His upcoming work on the Han Solo Star Wars film have put many a fanboy at ease on the shaky project. Coupled with the excellent sound design for the film, Arrival’s merits come to much more than just acting but rather a true cinematic experience.

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I don’t want to spoil it for you, but Arrival is absolutely incredible from start to finish. If you missed this film in theaters, it is coming out on home video soon so do not hesitate this time. Arrival stands as a simple tale of love and family while also being a complex and weaving story that doesn’t dumb itself down for its audiences, trusting them to come to the incredible revelations it offers. The one flaw I had was that I came to the conclusion perhaps before I was supposed to, but it didn’t hamper my experience too much to come out breathless. See this film before it is ruined for you.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Kyle’s Top Ten Films of 2016

 

Hey folks, sorry this is coming in a bit late but I’ve not been feeling well and it’s given me the opportunity to catch some of the films I’d missed in 2016 and I wanted to see as much as I could before delivering this list to you.

Just a couple notes before we get into all this:

  • These are my personal top ten films of the year from the many I have seen. Not all of them are Oscar-y in nature because I still haven’t gotten the chance to see a lot of the late releases of the year. On that note…
  • I haven’t seen all the movies released in 2016. If you read this list and find that something is missing, let me know, drop a comment, and I’ll get to it.
  • This is a tentative listing of the films. I tend to do a final ranking after the Academy Awards every year, but enjoy what I have so far.
  • Lastly, this isn’t a ranking of my best reviewed films of the year. These are the films that, to me, were exactly what they were supposed to be. SO here we go…

I present to you, my Top Ten Films of 2016.

 

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  1. 10 Cloverfield Lane

-When the trailer for 10 Cloverfield Lane dropped just weeks before it’s theatrical release, it blew me away. How was this film connected to Matt Reeves’ Cloverfield? What’s John Goodman doing in this? Why isn’t it found-footage? After seeing the film, I still don’t really have answers, but one thing I do know is that 10 Cloverfield Lane was one of the most tense and shocking thrillers in recent memory. Carried by strong performances from its leads and the standout chilling work from Goodman, 10 Cloverfield Lane does a lot with a little, adding to this unique franchise and making me look forward to God Particle, the next film in the Clover-verse coming later this year.

 

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  1. Captain America: Civil War

-This is the kind of film that shouldn’t work. A big budget superhero blockbuster based around themes that are so important today. With the cast of somewhere 124 leads comes a showdown between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark over the damage that superheroes do just to save lives. It is full of rich fully-realized character development and action scenes so insanely busy but perfectly captured that it seems an impossible feat and yet, the Russo brothers made one of the best superhero movies of all time with the odds so dangerously stacked against them.

 

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  1. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

-When Disney purchased the Lucasfilm brand and immediately started work on a new Star Wars film, I was hesitant, but here we are with the second film released since the acquisition, and it is even more impressive than The Force Awakens. How director Gareth Edwards wrote a love letter to the Star Wars saga and turned it into one of the best films in the entire series is beyond me. Rogue One seamlessly blends with A New Hope and creates such an amazing story out of one paragraph of the opening crawl from the original movie. Great work from Ben Mendelsohn, Felicity Jones, and Alan Tudyk carry this incredible story that is really for the fans who have been there since the very beginning, Rogue One is much more than just a Thank You.

 

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  1. Hunt for the Wilderpeople

-I actually came across this film because it was a 99 cent rental on Amazon, and I’m so thankful I did. Hunt for the Wilderpeople didn’t really get me with its trailers, I probably would’ve passed it by, but since I have now seen it, all I can say is, why haven’t you? This was a gorgeously shot and humorously-injected coming-of-age story with the two most unlikely heroes this year. The story of Ricky Baker, a foul-mouthed troublemaker, and his “Uncle” Hector as they get lost and get wild in the Bush of New Zealand is fun and heartwarming. The two are hunted by authorities after Hector is seen as possibly unfit to raise Ricky. The movie is equal parts fun and touching. See it.

 

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  1. Green Room

-I was blessed to be able to see Green Room before its initial release and I was blown away by the visceral survival thriller featuring the late Anton Yelchin. My skin crawled and I leapt out of my chair more than once in the painfully captivating tale of a rock band attempting to escape a Neo-Nazi bar after witnessing a murder. Green Room isn’t a film for anyone (and I don’t say that often, but this is often very difficult to watch) but it’s also one of the most fun experiences I had in a theater all year.

 

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  1. The Conjuring 2

-Another shockingly great movie from 2016 was the hotly-anticipated sequel to the classified horror classic from 2013, The Conjuring. Director James Wan returned to helm the sequel which hopped across the pond to Enfield to see Ed and Lorraine Warren face their most difficult case to date. This movie is a rare horror film with as much heart as horrors, and I was absolutely floored by both the creepy and inventive techniques behind the camera and also the emotionally-charged beats in front of it. For me, this is the rare horror sequel that actually surpasses the original.

 

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  1. Kubo and the Two Strings

-Why? Why haven’t you seen this film? Kubo and the Two Strings, the newest film from Laika, virtually disappeared from theaters after kind of dudding upon release. It’s tragic, as the film is their best stop-motion film to date. An animated film that is just as much for adults as for children, Kubo and the Two Strings takes on strikingly adult subject matter in this beautifully crafted journey of a boy’s journey to defeat the terrifying Moon King using his magical shamisen. Influences from classic Kurosawa and spaghetti westerns infused with intelligent characters are what makes Kubo and the Two Strings an instant classic.

 

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  1. Don’t Breathe

-Wow, I did not see this coming. Don’t Breathe, from director Fede Alvarez, is another exemplary horror film from a terrific year for the genre.  In it, three thieves break into a blind war vet’s home to claim his fortune for themselves when they discover their victim has skills and secrets that none of them expected, and they may not survive the heist. Don’t Breathe played a surrealist approach to the escape room subgenre in a different way that Green Room did earlier in the year. Instead, it made us fear for our antiheroes and dread the terrifying Blind Man, played excellently by Stephen Lang. Don’t Breathe is visually stunning as well relentlessly disturbing, and it’s a must-see for fans of the genre.

 

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  1. Arrival

Arrival is just proof that Denis Villeneuve can do whatever he damn well pleases. You want a sequel to Blade Runner? Sure, whatever you want! After Prisoners and Sicario and Enemy, to hit it out of the park yet again with Arrival is almost unprecedented. Villeneuve is quickly becoming a household name, even if most Americans butcher the pronunciation. Arrival, starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, accomplishes the rare task of being a genre film that isn’t really about aliens. Sure, that’s been said a lot, and if you’ve seen the film, you know what I mean. But in all fairness, it’s just really nice to see a complex and interesting story that isn’t dumbed down to suit audiences.

 

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  1. The Nice Guys

-Another sad bomb from this past year, I saw The Nice Guys while waiting to board my plane leaving Hawaii. I had just gotten engaged, so you might play off my enjoyment with the film to that, but I revisited the film a few times since then, and I love it more and more each time. A sendup to 70s cinema and hard-boiled detective stories as well the classic buddy-cop subgenre that director Shane Black continues to wring perfection from (I’m talking to you Lethal Weapon), The Nice Guys is just a perfect damn movie that excites and entertains and makes the unlovable people the most fun to spend time with.

 

Honorable Mentions: Swiss Army Man, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and Deadpool.

 

Well, there you have it. These are my favorite films of the year. I’m excited for #2017oscardeathrace to begin, and I may see a few favorites get knocked off, but overall, 2016 was a great year for movies, just not a great year for most anything else. Well see you in 2017 (which is kind of now).

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[31 Days of Horror 3] Day 5 – Psycho Beach Party (2000)

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Director: Robert Lee King

Cast: Lauren Ambrose, Nicholas Brendon, Thomas Gibson, Amy Adams, Matt Keeslar

Screenplay: Charles Busch

95 mins. Not Rated.

 

So, I let my fiancé pick the movie today. I’m not sure I’ll let that happen again.

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Psycho Beach Party is a satire of Beach Movies and Slasher Films. Florence Forrest (Lauren Ambrose, TV’s Six Feet Under, Wanderlust) is a young beach bum who wants to learn to surf. When Florence starts showing signs of multiple personalities, she begins to look like the prime suspect in a series of slayings all happening in her small town. Surfing legend Kanaka (Thomas Gibson, TV’s Criminal Minds, Son of Batman), college drop-out Starcat (Nicholas Brendon, TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Coherence), and his girlfriend Marvel Ann (Amy Adams, Man of Steel, Big Eyes), and others must unite to discover the identity of the real killer in his not-so-hilarious send-up of the genre.

Damn, this movie is boring. My fiancé had last seen it when it released back in 2000, and she suggested it from fond memories. Those memories disappeared for her soon after starting the film. This movie was boring, cliché (even from a satirical perspective), convoluted, and unfunny. Even performers like Ambrose and Adams are wasted in this truly disappointing spoof.

The principal issue with this film is one that plagues most spoof/satire films in recent memory. I remember reading a Mel Brooks interview where he was asked how George Lucas felt about his film Spaceballs. Brooks said something about how in order to satire something, first you have to love it, and you have to make it the best you can, and that Lucas could see that. Mel Brooks loves the films he’s satirizing, and he doesn’t make bad movies. This movie thinks in order to make a cheesy movie that you have to aim for cheesy. It isn’t like that. In order to make a B-Movie, you have to make it like it’s an Oscar-Winner. The satire will reveal itself. Psycho Beach Party aims for so-bad-it’s-good but instead finds so-bad-it’s-worse.

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Psycho Beach Party has a lot to like. Wait, no, I said that wrong. Psycho Beach Party is awful. There, that’s better. It’s on Hulu right now, but I wouldn’t suggest subjecting yourself to it. I just saved you two long boring hours. These are some of the services I offer.

 

1/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

First Trailer for Arrival…well, Arrives

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I don’t know about you, but I have grown quite fond of Denis Villenueve. I was captured by Prisoners and found Sicario slowly winning me over, not to mention the upcoming Blade Runner sequel that has, apparently, cast every known actor. Well, now, seemingly out of nowhere, comes Arrival, Villenueve’s latest cinematic goodie. I had heard about Arrival only in brief snippets of info, but nothing had really taken my interest…yet.

Well, consider me interested.

The trailer, which you can find below, outlines the film quite nicely, showcasing what seems to be some very interesting performances from Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker. Again, I cannot fail to talk about the striking imagery and gorgeous cinematography that Villenueve’s films are often noted for.

The best part of this trailer is the fact that, from my best guesses, the trailer hasn’t given away too much. It grazes the notion of too much, but I don’t feel like it crosses that barrier. With it, my interested has peaked. I’m excruciatingly excited to see this film.

So what did you think of the trailer? Are you excited for Arrival? And what’s your favorite first contact alien film?

Arrival makes its way to theaters November 11.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

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Director: Zack Snyder

Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Gal Gadot

Screenplay: Chris Terrio, David S. Goyer

151 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action throughout, and some sensuality.

 

So, after countless years of waiting for DC to officially make a move at creating a cinematic universe, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has arrived. Now comes the real question: Can DC create a universe from some of the most popular characters in comic book history? And what exactly is this film?

Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck, Argo, Gone Girl) has been obsessed with one thing over the past eighteen months: Superman (Henry Cavill, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Cold Light of Day). After witnessing the damage done to the city of Metropolis due to Superman’s fight with General Zod, and seeing one of his own buildings filled with his employees come down in the battle, Bruce does not believe that Superman should be allowed to do as he pleases, and he’s not alone. Senator Finch (Holly Hunter, The Incredibles, Manglehorn) and billionaire playboy Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network, American Ultra) completely agree. Bruce’s caretaker Alfred (Jeremy Irons, The Lion King, Race) becomes increasingly more concerned about Wayne’s mental state as the obsession grows. Meanwhile, Clark Kent’s life is moving in the right direction: He is in love with Lois Lane (Amy Adams, American Hustle, Big Eyes), he has a great job at the Daily Planet, but there is a problem. He too has become worried about a masked vigilante frequently called The Bat, but Clark finds that the world seems to be more concerned with Superman’s doings than this Bat character. When Lex Luthor sees an opening, he begins planting the seeds to bring these two heroic titans to blows, and hopefully take them both down at once.

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Well, we have a lot to discuss, so let’s start at the beginning. The title of the film is very strange. The decision to excise the “vs” in favor of a “v” implies a court case, which confuses me as I don’t understand why you want a superhero movie to be a court case, but I’ve already started to digress.

This movie’s plot seems to want to go everywhere but doesn’t actually get anywhere. It seems like two screenplays jammed together: one is a Batman v Superman movie, the other a Dawn of Justice movie. The problem here is that the glue used to stick these movies together is weak and flimsy. The Batman stuff is great, particularly their dealing with the origin, which is fleshed over the opening credits like how The Incredible Hulk treated theirs. Since this is the second Batman of this decade and the third iteration of an origin, I’m glad they decided to go this route, citing that Batman Begins did it the best it could ever be done. And what a Batman they picked! Ben Affleck owned this role. I learned from my initial criticism of Heath Ledger’s casting for The Dark Knight when Ben Affleck was selected to don the cowl for the nest Batman. I pulled back and thought, let’s just wait and see. And I was right, folks! Affleck’s performance was real and yet unlike anything we’ve seen from the Caped Crusader.

How’s the Superman stuff? Eh, not all that great. Henry Cavill doesn’t have the acting chops to do much, and his character is wasted on a convoluted plotline anda misunderstanding of the Man of Steel. I read countless times that this isn’t so much of a Man of Steel sequel but rather a backdoor pilot for the Justice League, which isn’t true. This is in fact a direct sequel as it fits every plot point of the previous film into this one, even the finished plot threads, and the movie bloats because of it.

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Now onto the Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot, Fast & Furious 6, Criminal) of it all. Wonder Woman is great. With only 16 lines of dialogue, Gal Gadot does her best to leave a presence here, and she does. It’s a great introduction to this character and truly excited me for the next installment featuring her.

Among the film’s principal faults lie Jesse Eisenberg, who plays a very new and very different incarnation of Lex Luthor. He did one incredible feat in this film. He made me hate Lex Luthor, but not in a way that works. Eisenberg skewers every scene is in by playing some goofy and unhinged extremes. For a character who was apparently written with such realism, none of that comes to play here. I was arguing with someone who claimed to understand (but not like) Eisenberg’s portrayal of the greatest criminal mastermind of our time. He told me that I didn’t like the performance because I wanted Gene Hackman back. I answered back that I didn’t like the performance because it was a poor performance. There were multiple moments in the film that feature Luthor in public essentially having a mental break. I was sitting in the theater and wanted to see someone just look at him and think that this guy is absolutely insane. The worst of it was all this press that came out later and announced that Bryan Cranston had been looked at, as had Tom Hanks (based on his incredible work on the underrated Cloud Atlas), and yet Eisenberg had been selected in order to reinvent the character. WHAT?!?

Let’s talk some on the Dawn of Justice portion of the film, which does get us into some spoilery territory, so be warned. Batman v Superman is seen as almost a Justice League origin story in a lot of ways. It sets up Batman, Wonder Woman, and even introduces us to several other members of the team. A major problem here is that the audience is spoon-fed the Justice League. The references and setups are literally beaten over the heads of viewers. There are better ways about this. The introduction of the Justice League was terrible sans The Flash, who got a quick moment of reveal that actually worked for me. As for Aquaman and Cyborg…yuck. Cyborg even wasted the origin story on a poor expository flitter of a moment with no style whatsoever. Absolutely stupid. Now, the film does have some subtlety here when they dance around some of the dark past of Bruce Wayne, but it doesn’t do this enough. You could even have thrown some of this into a post-credits scene to get it out of the main narrative.

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is, to me, a more enjoyable experience than Man of Steel, but as far as a cohesive story, it is not. This is a collection of some really cool moments squeezed into a movie that’s bursting at the seams. Ben Affleck gets great redemption from his previous Daredevil failure (in a world where Ryan Reynolds and Chris Evans are also getting second chances) and is easily the best part of this film (Scott Adkins blames the Oscars for why Ben Affleck was cast, but doesn’t understand that Scott Adkins was not cast because he was Scott Adkins). I’m excited to see where this franchise is going (Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman) but I’m nervous that the DCEU is not getting off to a great start and can’t really afford to fumble anymore. Overall, the film is divisive and has some great elements, but there is just too much that is found guilty in this court case.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, click here.

For my review of Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch, click here.

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009)

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Director: Shawn Levy

Cast: Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Owen Wilson, Hank Azaria, Christopher Guest, Alain Chabat, Robin Williams

Screenplay: Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon

105 mins. Rated PG for mild action and brief language.

I avoided the sequel to Night at the Museum like the plague. I enjoyed the original film but thought to myself that a sequel can only harm that. There couldn’t be any possible way for the sequel to be anything new. Literally, the title says it all. It’s just another night at the museum, right?

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Not exactly.

Sure, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian is more of the same, but it takes the original premise and expands immensely on it, providing a little of the repetition, but a lot of new fun that makes it comparable to the original.

Larry Daley (Ben Stiller, Zoolander, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) has taken his inventing career to the next level, creating all manner of As Seen On TV that you see on the endcaps in stores across the nation. He has essentially put his past in the Museum of Natural History behind him, but that changes when he gets a call from Jedediah (Owen Wilson, Midnight in Paris, Inherent Vice) telling him that Dexter the Capuchin Monkey had stolen the Tablet that brings the exhibits to life at night and it has been moved to the Smithsonian Museum where all heck has run loose, and it’s now up to Larry and his cadre of walking talking exhibits including Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams, Good Will Hunting, Dead Poet’s Society) and Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams, Man of Steel, Big Eyes) to take on the evil and now alive again Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria, TV’s The Simpsons, The Smurfs 2) who thinks the Tablet belongs to him.

I loved all the ways that Battle of the Smithsonian expanded the universe created by the first film. From the talking bobbleheaded Einsteins in the gift shop to the paintings that Larry and Amelia get caught up in, this is a well-thought sequel with several new avenues for adventures. It does tread some of the same waters as the original, but does so with enough flair that it’s more forgivable. Director Shawn Levy (Real Steel, This is Where I Leave You) continues to stylishly supply action/comedy at full-tilt and it seems like the new characters like Ivan the Terrible (Christopher Guest, This is Spinal Tap, The Invention of Lying) have great chemistry with our returning players.

As always, the cinematography isn’t anything to sing to the mountaintops, and the film might run on a little too long for its own good, but Levy’s work behind the camera keep the film light-hearted and moving along.

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As far as sequels go, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian could have been better (I’m still a little curious about where Carla Gugino went) but it stands up as a lot of fun that adds some new fun and sends up its predecessor nicely.

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

For my review of Night at the Museum, click here.

Man of Steel (2013)

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Director: Zack Snyder

Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Antje Traue, Ayalet Zurer, Christopher Meloni, Russell Crowe

Screenplay: David S. Goyer

143 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, and for some language.

 

So what happens when the king of green-screen takes on the most famous superhero in history. Why, you get Man of Steel. My review is here.

On the far-off planet of Krypton, science officer Jor-El (Russell Crowe, Gladiator, Noah) tries to convince his dying planet that they do not have any time left and must abandon all hope to the stars. As he quells a coup from military leader General Zod (Michael Shannon, TV’s Boardwalk Empire, Take Shelter), Jor-El realizes that all hope for saving his race are gone except for a miracle which has resulted in the first natural birth in years. His son Kal-El is born. Jor-El does one of the most insane things in comic book history by launching his infant son off into space in hopes of saving the Kryptonian species.

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Years later, an adult Kal-El (Henry Cavill, Immortals, The Cold Light of Day), now under the guise of Clark Kent, tries to keep his superpowers under wraps as he lives a normal life raised to Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner, Dances with Wolves, Draft Day) and his wife, Martha (Diane Lane, Unfaithful, Secretariat).That is, until General Zod comes to Earth in search of taking the planet and terraforming it for his own. Now, with the help of Lois Lane (Amy Adams, American Hustle, Her), Superman must stop Zod and save the human race from extinction.

I wanted to like this movie. I am a major fan of the Superman mythos. I love director Christopher Nolan and his work with The Dark Knight series, so when I saw his name on the producer credits for Man of Steel, I was overjoyed. I even like somewhat likable director Zack Snyder, and find him to be a slightly more skilled director than Michael Bay, so I was excited. Then I saw it.

It felt like the team behind the film didn’t know anything about Superman or why his character is so important. We see virtually none of Clark Kent. He reveals himself to Lois Lane way way too early for there to be an actual romance to develop. I like General Zod, but he isn’t nearly as strong as previous incarnations have made the character. He comes off as a lost little leader looking for someone to blame as opposed to the cold and calculated military beast he should be. His flunkies are not anything more than flat uninspired flunkies.

The film has some strong performances from minor characters due to great work by Costner, Lane, and Crowe as well Laurence Fishburne (TV’s Black-ish, The Matrix) as Daily Planet bigwig Perry White and Christopher Meloni (TV’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For) as Colonel Nathan Hardy, but unfortunately, when you cast an unknown, you might get a dud. Henry Cavill is a dud.

Then there is Zack Snyder (300, Sucker Punch), who definitely brings the spectacle, and a lot of it, but he doesn’t give us any heart. This film is all spectacle, no substance. We don’t get any Daily Planet or Jimmy Olsen. We don’t get any Lex Luthor (though I can get waiting on the sequel for him). We don’t get what an origin story needs. Here’s some advice. Don’t do an origin story if the previous incarnation did it so well. Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie did the origin so well, so why try to top it. Do what The Incredible Hulk and just skip past it while referencing little moments. This film was too much like The Amazing Spider-Man and not enough like a reboot should be.

And if I might have a moment to speak to David S. Goyer. Sir, please take a break from superheroes. It’s becoming a little weird.

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Sadly, Man of Steel was not the movie I was looking for. The character of Superman has a little camp, and that’s fine, at least Marvel took on the camp with their version of Captain America: The First Avenger and embrace it a little. Have a little fun. Isn’t that what superheroes usually are about (with the exception of a select few). Hopefully this team can pick up the pieces with Batfleck and fix it for Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. I said hopefully.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

December 2014 Preview

 

Well, folks, 2014 is winding down, and as perusual, we have a ton of major films coming out now to cap off the year nicely. Let’s take a look at them today, and remember, I have not seen these films and my predictions come solely from early reviews, trends, Oscar buzz, and my abilities as a film reviewer. I’m pretty good at predicting success or failure based on a lot of factors, and I merely want to provide you with a solid bit of info to make your holiday choices well.

 

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The Pyramid

We discussed The Pyramid before, and I have high hopes for it, but personally, I feel as though the studio decision to drop it at the beginning of December is not something I feel great about. While December is a great month for films, a horror film release during this time is almost as much a death notice as sending it out in January. I like the story about a group of archaologists studying pyramid ruins only to be hunted by something alive in there intrigues me, and I like the work of first time director Gregory Levasseur, who penned previous horror films like the remakes to The Hills Have Eyes and Mirrors, so it may stand tall, but I’m pretty on the fence with this one. That being said, horror movies are a lot of fun in theaters, are they not?

 

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Wild

Jean-Marc Vallee is riding high off the success of last year’s Dallas Buyer’s Club, and it would seem to be continuing with the Oscar buzz connected to Wild, based on Cheryl Strayed’s memoir of the same name, chronicling her journey of over 1100 miles hiking to come to emotional terms with tragedy in her life. Reese Witherspoon won’t be taking the Oscar for her portrayal this year, but I’m hearing that she is on the short list of possible nominees. This seems like a definite win, from the adaptation by famed writer Nick Hornby to the many performances being universally loved.

 

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Exodus: Gods and Kings

Ridley Scott and I have a strained relationship. I love his skills as a director, but every director’s cut he has ever had has disappointed me beyond belief, so in that way, I like that he is a studio man, and doesn’t get final cut. His new film, based on the works of the Bible, features Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton, looks epic to be sure, and the Oscar buzz for its technical achievements cannot be ignored. I think Ridley Scott has crafted a unique look at these events, and after a year of unique visions (Noah) and Christian pandering films (God’s Not Dead), Exodus will likely divide moviegoers. I’m all in, but not everyone will be.

 

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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

I mean, C’MON! It’s the friggin’ Hobbit! I loved The Lord of the Rings! I love the previous Hobbit films. How can this not be an event film? I get the first feelings of huge critical acclaim for this finale to the Middle-Earth Saga. The previous Hobbit releases were less loved than their decade-old brethren, but I think director Peter Jackson is ready to cap off his saga the right way, delivering a truly epic experience.

 

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Annie

I’m just going to say this one.  NO! There. Annie getting a remake didn’t bother me much, until I saw the cringe-inducing trailer. This film likely had its heart in the right place, but it will be awful.

 

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The Gambler

Mark Wahlberg has had an interesting career. He does big Oscar films like Lone Survivor and The Fighter, and then he has Pain & Gain and Transformers: Age of Extinction. So what is The Gambler? A lit professor has an affair with a student and then gets involved with a loan shark in this film from director Rupert Wyatt and writer William Monahan. I think this film will be more towards The Fighter, which is good. I like Wyatt’s directing and I love Monahan’s writing, so I have some good vibes.

 

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Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

Here we are, at the end of Robin William’s esteemed career. This is the last film of the famed performer and if we can look back at the previous two Night at the Museum films, we can say that we are looking at a lot of fun. Don’t expect a perfect night, and understand that it won’t be an original masterpiece (even the first sequel retreaded the same waters as its predecessor), but I’m not thinking bad.

 

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Big Eyes

So Tim Burton’s newest film doesn’t look like a Tim Burton film. The true story of Margaret Keane and her husband during her explosion as an artist seems like a good place to take filmgoers. There are nuances of Burton’s style here but this is wholly new territory and I can respect that, and with the great work previously seen from Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz, I’m actually pretty excited for Big Eyes.

 

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The Interview

I guess no controversy is bad controversy, right? The Interview is literally a movie about an undercover assassination of Kim Jong-Un. And it is a comedy with James Franco and Seth Rogen. Yes, those two sentences are related. There was so much controversy surrounding this film when it had its first trailer release that I wasn’t sure the film would ever be released, but here it comes, just in time for Christmas. I’m sure it will have the right laughs and I feel like I need to see it just to understand what the hell this was all for, but tread carefully people. Sometimes studios push controversy to cover a disappointing finished product.

 

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Into the Woods

Disney’s star-studded adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s musical bringing together a cadre of fairy tale creatures in a dark and stunning atmospheric wood seems to be bringing the good buzz. There was definite controversy surrounding whether Disney’s version would contain some of the darker aspects of the original musical brought me out a bit, but I’m hoping that Rob Marshall’s directing and the incredible Meryl Streep can keep this film rollicking.

 

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Unbroken

The last major film on our list is Unbroken, directed by Angelina Jolie, is a true story of Louis Zamperini who was a POW in World War II after being hailed for his skills as an Olympic runner previously. Zamperini’s intense story of survival is already garnering a ton of Oscar buzz so I have good feeling abound. See this one. I know I will be.

 

 

So there you go. And here you go:

 

Best Bets: Wild, Exodus: Gods and Kings, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Big Eyes, Unbroken

Likely Drops: Annie

On the Bubble: The Pyramid, The Gambler, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, The Interview, Into the Woods

 

Remember these are not set in stone, sometimes a film can surprise (in both directions) and you may seem something I did not. Enjoy yourself and Happy Holidays!

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