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“I’m not gonna kill you…I’m just gonna hurt you…really, really bad.” – The Joker

That line really encapsulates Suicide Squad. After the Batman v Superman mess, DC/WB delivers us this film, which spares the DC Expanded Universe the bullet to the head, only to riddle it with the pain of knowing that folks in high places don’t know what they are doing.

First of all, Suicide Squad is miles better than Batman v Superman. Not even close. Suicide Squad actually gives us characters we care about, some awesome big screen debuts of iconic comic book characters and clear character motivations (mostly). The acting is also generally solid (like BvS). But that all gets bogged down in issues that come from the top down, namely the directing, editing, and writing. But good before bad, right? SPOILERS AHEAD.

The Good Stuff. 

  • Acting. Will Smith’s Deadshot was the best part of this film. We get some great scenes, including an amazing background flashback and some awesome action sequences. The script really undercuts his performance at times, but that’s not Smith’s fault. Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is gold at times, and the voice she uses actually works, minus the couple times her British accent gets in the way. Everyone else does their job well, although the jury is still out for me regarding Jared Leto’s performance as Joker. Sometimes it was brilliant, and sometimes not.
  • Easter Eggs. As we all knew, Batman’s around for a little bit of the film, and another hero drops by as well. That hero’s interaction with a particular Suicide Squader is direct from the comics in its feel, look, and atmosphere. Also, seeing Joker dancing with Harley in her red and black harlequin outfit was magical. One of those “This is straight from the comics and I can’t believe how it is on screen!” moments.
  • Effects. Ok, no. Not the SFX used in actual action. Those were cheesy as all get out. The opening montage of sorts kicked off the film just how you want it to, with attention grabbing backstories and flashy letterings. We get to see where some of the Squad came from, and their run-ins with their superhero counterparts. Harley’s origin wasn’t her classic one, which was lame, but that didn’t take away from the film.
  • We Actually Care! In BvS we didn’t care about anyone on screen. Superman is mopey and broody and he dies…for no reason…because Wonder Woman could have been the one to kill Doomsday. Lois is a jerk, Batman wants to kill people, and well…you get the idea. In SS, the story and characters give us enough to care about. Yes, these are bad guys, but we actually can sympathize with their struggles, we care about Deadshot primarily, but also El Diablo, Harley, and even a bit for Flagg and Killer Croc. Its not just a bunch of villains running around that we have no emotional attachment to.

The Bad Stuff. 

  • The Script. I get that Ayer only had six months to write this (for some inexplicable reason), but boy is this screenplay a stinker. You can tell that they tried to shoehorn some comedy in, because almost every one-liner sticks out like a sore thumb. This is unfortunate, especially when Harley Quinn’s character should have made this easy. Robbie’s comedic timing actually seems pretty good, but there are some spots where a poor script and choppy editing render that skill useless. There are several groan-worthy lines that feel like they were written by a 5th-grader, and they are bad enough to take you right out of the film.
  • The Editing. Very jumpy. It chops up the story rather than progresses it.
  • The Pacing. There are several scenes that could have been used for emotional gutpunches and or profound moments, but these scenes were really rushed through way too fast. There was very little time to process things before the next scene was already there.

The other problem, the main problem, is the plot. Though generic, it made sense as it stood. But once again, motivations and decisions made by characters within that plot too often make little to no sense. This causes a real lack of depth that really twists things into nonsense way too much, because there’s nothing beyond the surface activity. This is a carryover from BvS (although it was much more handicapping in that film. Nobody even knows why Lex Luthor was motivated to do anything in that film). So here are some questions this lack of depth caused.

#1) Why send the SS into an American city under a blatant super-human attack?

The main concept behind Task Force X is using super-villains instead of soldiers so that other countries will believe the U.S. government when they say “we had nothing to do with this action that would be usually interpreted as an act of war.” Basically, they are black ops mission runners who are expendable. So why send the SS into an American city under a blatant super-human attack, when none of the Suicide Squad members actually have powers that would be better than ordinary soldiers? Deadshot, Katana, Captain Boomerang, yeah, they are good with their weapons, but are they really any better than just sending in more soldiers. The only one that actually has superpowers is the only one that refuses to use them. I know Waller wants to hide her connection to the Enchantress, but she already sends in ground troops with the SS! Its no secret that there’s tons of debris floating above one of the biggest cities in the U.S. No reason to choose volatile criminals in this case.

#2) Why didn’t Waller destroy the Enchantress’ heart?

She specifically finds and keeps the heart to control the Enchantress. The understanding is that if the Enchantress steps out of line, the heart gets destroyed. So why does Waller just stab the heart instead of destroying it.

#3) Why did Waller kill all her “co-workers.”

The obvious reason is that it would make her look more like cold, cruel, BA woman. The reason Waller gives is that they have seen too much. But Waller brought those very same people in. The room is militarily labeled in the building. This all goes back to the fact that if all Waller wanted was an extraction, why send in Task Force X? And there are plenty of folks that work for top secret military functions. They all don’t get shot.

#4) Why didn’t Enchantress notice that the only weapon that could cut her heart out was sitting right in Harley Quinn’s reach?

#5) Why does the Joker get jealous of the guy he “gives” Harley to when he’s the one who “gave” Harley too in the first place?

Yeah, I dunno the answer to either of those either. Basically, this films could have been great, but suffers from way too much dumb decision making. The actors did their best with what they could, but it wasn’t enough to make a flawed film great.

Verdict: 2 out of 5 stars.

(The remainder of this post is the usual weekly TWIC features.)

Where do They Come From?

Only wide release films count towards these numbers.

  • Suicide Squad: Adaptation of the DC Comics comic book series.
  • Nine Lives: Original film written by Dan Antoniazzi and Ben Shiffrin.

Original: 34

Adaptation: 22

Sequel/Prequel: 23

Remake: 1

Oscarwatch

These ten films are the “Best of the Year,” IF THE YEAR ENDED TODAY.

This weekend’s releases not included.

They are ranked based on likelihood of winning Best Picture at the Oscars, with #1 being most likely. International films are not included until the end of year if Oscar potential exists.

DISCLAIMER: I may not personally recommend (or even like) all films on this list.

1) Zootopia ( +2 )
2) Sing Street ( – )
3) Love and Friendship ( –2 )
4) Hunt for the Wilderpeople ( – )
5) Captain America: Civil War ( – )
6) Finding Dory ( – )
7) The Jungle Book ( – )
8) Indignation (NEW)
9) Eye in the Sky ( -1 )
10) Don’t Think Twice ( -1 )

 

 

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I was shocked to learn that its been since April that I last posted a TWIC article. Then I reviewed the slate of films for this past summer. Yuck. Honestly, we haven’t had a big hit film since Captain America: Civil War, and, although there’s been some decent movies released, it really hasn’t been that exciting a summer, even on the indy film circuit.

Unfortunately, that trend won’t be changing this weekend. The big headliner is Jason Bourne, which join many of this summer’s blockbusters in the realm of the forgettable, not bad or good.  Bad Moms is the other film being released nationwide this weekend, and lets just say that one’s certainly not worth your time.

Your best bets will be the limited release films. Especially Gleason, a heartwrenching Sundance documentary about former NFL athlete Steve Gleason. Diagnosed with ALS at 34, Gleason set out to compile a film diary for his unborn son, while he still could. It ended up much more, as this documentary chronicles Gleason’s fight against the disease that ravaged his family’s life.

Where do They Come From?

Only wide release films count towards these numbers.

  • Jason Bourne: Sequel in the Bourne franchise.
  • Bad Moms: Original film, written by  Jon Lucas and Scott Moore.

Original: 33

Adaptation: 21

Sequel/Prequel: 23

Remake: 1

Oscarwatch

These ten films are the “Best of the Year,” IF THE YEAR ENDED TODAY.

This weekend’s releases not included.

They are ranked based on likelihood of winning Best Picture at the Oscars, with #1 being most likely. International films are not included until the end of year if Oscar potential exists.

DISCLAIMER: I may not personally recommend (or even like) all films on this list.

1) Love and Friendship ( – )
2) Sing Street ( – )
3) Zootopia ( – )
4) Hunt for the Wilderpeople (NEW)
5) Captain America: Civil War ( -1)
6) Finding Dory ( -1 )
7) The Jungle Book ( -1 )
8) Eye in the Sky ( -1 )
9) Don’t Think Twice (NEW)
10) 10 Cloverfield Lane ( -2 )

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I’m liking Superman comics more and more these days. Some of that may have to do with how butchered the character was in Batman v. Superman, making any version of Supes that doesn’t go around brooding a welcome breath of fresh air. But some of it, certainly most of it, is that the stories are good ones!

The featured story here is that a hi-tech new villain, HORDR_ROOT (don’t worry, there’s a perfectly good reason for that name) is blackmailing Superman. HORDR_ROOT collects secrets, and he’s found Superman’s. Unless Superman does as HORDR_ROOT says, the entire world will know Clark Kent is Superman, which will put  a target on all of Clark’s loved ones.

The main reason this story is so compelling is its cast of characters. Batman, Lois, Jimmy Olsen, HORDR_ROOT, they all have a strong role to play. Gene Luen Yang, a DC rookie, really gets the characters. Jimmy might be a little annoying, but he’s a competent character, and we finally get back to the interesting interactions between he and Clark that take place because Jimmy’s really the only one around (initially) that know’s Superman’s secret identity. Lois is Lois. And Batman and the Justice League are a good supporting cast, as they try to identify just what exactly Superman’s new power means for him, and the world.

If you’re looking for a modern take on Superman that doesn’t sacrifice any established parts of the mythos, this is a great place to start. For the first time since Grant Morrison’s run on Action Comics, I’m actually looking forward to reading more of a Superman solo title as it is being released.

Final Grade: 4 out of 5 stars.

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Seems like the House of Mouse can do very little wrong these days. In the midst of its Marvel and Star Wars ownership, its own properties have been feeling a bit neglected, and this is the second year in a row (after last year’s Cinderella) that we’ve gotten a really solid new rendition of an old classic tale. And this live action version of The Jungle Book does all the right things to improve on the “original” animated film.

First of all, the casting is perfect. From Idris Elba as the bloodthirsty Shere Khan, to Bill Murray’s goofy but loyal Baloo, to Ben Kingley’s severe but kind Bagheera, the voices fit their roles perfectly. The best of them all might be Christopher Walken, who brings a bit of mob boss to King Louie. Neel Sethi, virtually the only human actually onscreen, turns in a great performance as Mowgli, especially considering he was working with CGI backdrops and characters the entire time.

Director Jon Favreau and company do a great job of flushing out the story without changing the essentials. He does this mostly by drawing in more of Rudyard Kipling’s original novels. Ikki the porcupine plays a key role in the story, King Louie mentions the Bandar Log (his kingdom of monkeys and apes), and we see a cobra and hear talk of a mongoose, which could have been references to the famous Rikki Tikki Tavi story, also from Kipling’s set of jungle tales. Grey Brother appears, instead named “Grey,” and the elephants are portrayed as the rulers and masters of the jungle, like Kipling intended.

The different species of animal have also been defined more specifically, both in name, and in look, than in the cartoon. Baloo is a sloth bear, and King Louie, rather than being an orangutan, a species who never really existed in India, is a Gigantopithecus, a giant ape from millions of years ago. This accounts for the change in Louie’s size.

Speaking of Baloo, he’s really the star of the show. When he first appears, the film, which takes a while to get moving, seems like it’s headed towards the Batman v Superman school of filmmaking, with a bunch of establishing scenes that don’t really go anywhere. To be fair, we hear the real history of Shere Khan’s hatred of man from Kaa, but Baloo really saves the day, in more ways than one. Not only does his appearance allow things to settle from a pacing standpoint, but he’s a much stronger character than in the animated film. Although he’s still a bit lazy (he is a sloth bear after all), he and Bagheera are on more equal footing. Baloo is the one who comes up with a plan to rescue Mowgli, and he’s just as quick to jump into action as Bagheera and the wolves. In fact, when Shere Khan returns to kill Mowgli, it’s Baloo that leads the charge against the tiger.

Finally, it’s really the moments of nostalgia that put this film over the top. Baloo and King Louie get to sing their trademark hits: “The Bare Necessities” and “I Wanna Be Like You.” The themes from these two songs are worked into the score as well, and the songs fit into the film and don’t seem out of place. All in all, this new endeavor is a welcome adventure back into the jungle, and even ends with an awesome, much needed twist that differs from the animated film. The CGI is a little off at some points, but not enough to really ruin anything. And make sure you stay and watch the credits! King Louie returns to deliver a complete version of his song that’s really a blast to watch.

Final Grade: 4 out of 5 stars.

(The remainder of this post is the usual weekly TWIC features.

Where do They Come From?

Only wide release films count towards these numbers.

  • The Jungle Book: Ok, I’m not sure to classify this as an adaptation or a remake. I’m going to say remake. While it is based on Kipling’s works, it is based more on the original animated film.
  • Barbershop: The Next Cut: Obvious sequel is obvious.
  • Criminal: Original. Written by Douglas Cook and David Weisberg.

Original: 19

Adaptation: 12

Sequel/Prequel: 9

Remake: 1

Oscarwatch

These ten films are the “Best of the Year,” IF THE YEAR ENDED TODAY.

This weekend’s releases not included.

They are ranked based on likelihood of winning Best Picture at the Oscars, with #1 being most likely. International films are not included until the end of year if Oscar potential exists.

DISCLAIMER: I may not personally recommend (or even like) all films on this list.

1) Zootopia ( – )
2) Eye in the Sky ( – )
3) 10 Cloverfield Lane ( – )
4) Midnight Special ( – )
5) The Invitation (NEW)
6) Hail Caesar ( -1 )
7) Hello, My Name is Doris ( -1 )
8) Kung Fu Panda 3 ( – )
9) Eddie the Eagle ( -2 )
10) Louder Than Bombs (NEW)

 

 

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Usually when a major comic book character gets replaced, its a difficult challenge for a writer to come up with something that doesn’t seem like a ploy to sell more comics. Superheavy isn’t in the “usual” category.

In the previous collection of Batman, the Joker’s endgame leads to Bruce Wayne vacating his role as the Caped Crusader. His successor is none other than Jim Gordon. The twist here is that Gordon is actually working for the city, officially, rather than partaking in the usual shadowy comings and goings Gotham is used to dealing with.

Gordon’s Batman is a mechanical behemoth operating much like a Starkian suit of armor rather than just a man in a cape and cowl, and this Batman actually has a boss.

In this volume, we see a Gotham where Batman is an employee, with supervisors and responsibilities to folks ranking higher than he. This makes for a very interesting dynamic, because Jim Gordon is still classic Jim Gordon, a good detective with a nose for catching the bad guys. So when his Batman is removed from a case, how will he respond when he’s not in agreement with his supervisor?

I try to keep things mostly spoiler free, so you’ll have to find out that answer for yourself. But regarding the actual composition of the books, you’ll find that this is not just your standard “replacement superhero” story. Scott Snyder continues his great work on the Batman title and delivers a creepy new villain (Mr. Bloom), along with a solid plot. It deals with some heavy issues, and lays the groundwork for a good conclusion and for Bruce Wayne’s return.

Final Grade: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Well, that was awful. So much for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice kicking things off in style. Anyway, moving on to better cinema!

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My Film to Catch this week is Eye in the Sky. It is expanding to wide release this weekend, and for good reason. It currently sits at #2 on my Oscarwatch listing. Will it be there at the end of the year. Probably not, but it’s still a good film. Helen Mirren is the lead, which is always awesome, plus we get to see Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) and the late Alan Rickman.

God’s Not Dead 2 (wide release) and Everybody Wants Some (limited release) are also out this weekend, and while GND2 may be of interest to some folks, it’s really not worth a trip to the theater. Folks that are fans of Richard Linklater will likely enjoy Everybody Wants Some, billed was a “spiritual sequel” to Dazed and Confused.

Finally, Don Cheadle turns in a great performance as the legendary Miles Davis in the biopic Miles Ahead.

Must See (5 out of 5 stars): None

Worth Your Time (3 to 4 stars): Eye in the Sky

Just Ok (2 to 3 stars): God’s Not Dead 2, Miles Ahead, and Everybody Wants Some

Stay Away (0 to 1 stars): None

Where do They Come From?

Only wide release films count towards these numbers.

  • Eye in the Sky: Original screenplay by Guy Hibbert.
  • God’s Not Dead 2: Obvious sequel is obvious.

Original: 15

Adaptation: 12

Sequel/Prequel: 8

Remake: 0

Oscarwatch

These ten films are the “Best of the Year,” IF THE YEAR ENDED TODAY. This weekend’s releases not included.

They are ranked based on likelihood of winning Best Picture at the Oscars, with #1 being most likely. International films are not included until the end of year if Oscar potential exists.

DISCLAIMER: I may not personally recommend (or even like) all films on this list.

1) Zootopia ( – )
2) Eye in the Sky ( – )
3) 10 Cloverfield Lane ( – )
4) Midnight Special (NEW)
5) Hail Caesar ( -1 )
6) Hello, My Name is Doris ( -1 )
7) Eddie the Eagle ( – )
8) Kung Fu Panda 3 ( -2 )
9) Race ( -1 )
10) Risen ( – )
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This scene was, unfortunately, not in the movie.

Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat (pun intended). The fact that a viewer might enjoy a film does not make it well-made. A lot of folks enjoyed this film. These folks are much like the two guys who sat behind me during a Man of Steel showing years ago. During the pre-film trailers, they bashed Gravity as “stupid” and gleefully expressed their excitement to see R.I.P.D. You know, one of the worst films of that year.

Here are some quotes from folks who gave this film high marks:

“It was easily the best superhero movie of all time, even better than The Dark Knight.”

“Affleck needs to win an Oscar for Best Actor.”

“Zack’s done it guys. He’s created this year’s Mad Max….Marvel’s movies don’t hold a candle to this one. D.C. has their Empire Strikes Back.”

Statements like these show that these folks generally wouldn’t know a well-made film if it bat-branded them in the face. To compare this film to The Empire Strikes Back or The Dark KnightMad Max? Their reviews become essentially unreliable. They are likely so invested in the film, so eager for DC to make something good, that they are too insecure to admit the truth.

I’m not saying this film is the worst thing I’ve ever seen. I enjoyed parts of it for sure. Some parts were simply fantastic. But it wasn’t what it should have been, and that makes things that much worse. If you liked the movie, great! I liked the original Ghost Rider film, but I’ll be the first to admit that it isn’t artistically a good movie. There’s a difference between personal opinion and objective truth. Batman v Superman was far from what we’ve grown to expect from comic book films. It just wasn’t a good movie. Here’s some of the reasons why. And yes…BIG SPOILER ALERT!

1) Character motivations are never clear.

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This caper makes as much sense as his plan in Batman v Superman.

The film’s strength is the cast. Ben Affleck gives us the best on-screen Batman yet, with some amazing fight scenes akin to those we’ve seen in the Arkham video games. Jesse Eisenberg is a great Lex Luthor, when his character isn’t being poorly written, and Jeremy Irons is a perfect Alfred. But we really have no clue what motivates these characters because either it’s never shown, or it’s changed throughout the film.

Why does Lex want Superman dead? To protect the Earth? In the comics, Lex is really an awful human being, but his hatred of Superman stems from his pride. He thinks he, not an alien, should be Earth’s savior. If that’s really the case here, why does he unleash a troll from Lord of the Rings Doomsday, who will certainly be just as big a threat as Superman, and why is he so happy that Darkseid is coming? Either way…no savior card for you, Mr. Luthor. Lex is a genius, and we get some awesome moments in the film (the Senate bombing was done so well, classic Luthor). But he changes mid-film to a cookie cutter baddie. There is no way his plan is going to result in anything other than a trip to jail, something that Superman has always had a notoriously hard time accomplishing.

Luthor isn’t the only one written poorly. Throughout the film, a common question is basically if men are truly good or evil. I’d like to tell you which characters think which option is true, but they change their minds so much I can’t tell. First, Batman says they are evil, which is understandable. Except he is somehow both inspired by his parents death to be Batman, because lives are worth living, and haunted by their words about how bad people usually are, so they deserve nothing. Superman starts brooding and thinking the same, and Lois Lane has to convince him otherwise. Then Wonder Woman tells Batman that she left the world of men because she didn’t think they deserved her protection, and BATMAN convinces her that men are worth saving, so she changes her mind.

Head spinning yet?

2) Everything is surface level, and the deeper things don’t work.

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These dreams may have actually advanced the plot more than what we got.

There’s a lot of dream sequences. We even get the classic “I had a dream about a character I don’t even know exists.” None of the dreams add anything to the plot that wasn’t there already. I’m not sure how bats levitating a young Bruce Wayne or a Man-Bat bursting out of a grave serve as good symbolism. Its like the writers wanted us to think profound things, but didn’t add any meaning to find. The lone exception is the creepy painting in Lex’s office, which really did add a layer of fear and premonition to the plot.

Of course, this all leaves the plot paper thin. It completely revolves on getting Superman to fight Batman. Usually plot points advance a story or a moral, they get from Point A to Point B. But the plot here isn’t linear, its orbital. Batman and Superman need to fight. Everything orbits that. Nothing needs to make sense, the characters can act completely different from one scene to the next, as long as we can get to the fight! For example…

  • Superman lets a bunch of terrorists go so he can tell Batman to stop being mean to criminals.
  • Gotham is close enough to Metropolis that every person in Superman’s city can see the Batsignal. If that were the case, and Superman dislikes Batman’s brand of justice so much, he would have long ago started cleaning up the streets of Gotham. He flies around the world to save people, of course he could go right across the bay!
  • Superman finally decides to ask Batman for help, but gives up way too easily on the whole “Maybe I should just refuse to fight this guy and mention that we have a common enemy that you are also really concerned about.” Honestly, all he has to do is say “Lex Luthor wants me to kill you or else he’ll kill my mom.”
  • Speaking of Lex, he orchestrates this gladiator match for no reason. He wants Superman dead, right? Why send him to Batman when you already have Doomsday?
  • Superman can hear when Lois is in danger from thousands of miles away, but his mom gets kidnapped and he can’t tell that she’s probably within 30 miles of where he is. We saw in the beginning of the film that Superman is truly faster than a speeding bullet. He could have saved his mom easily, but no, he had to go get Batman’s help.

Oh, and even the plot points that don’t necessarily revolve around making the two icons duke it out are clearly afterthoughts. They don’t make any sense.

  • Lex goes though a huge conspiracy plan to make it look like Superman was responsible for a bunch of deaths somewhere in Africa. Except all those deaths were caused by bullets. We’re not talking Iron Man here, Superman doesn’t use a gun. So he saves Lois, but it’s pretty clear that Superman didn’t do any of the killing. But it creates tension…so…there’s that. Oh, and accusations fly that Superman somehow saw the bomb at the Capitol but chose to do nothing to save everyone. Except its not common knowledge to these people that Superman has x-ray vision, so why would they suspect he could have known the bomb was there?
  • Lex somehow needs government permission to transport a chunk of kryptonite into the U.S. Maybe I’m wrong, but are there really laws that prohibit new minerals from being transported? He’s not even selling it to anyone. If I had a small chunk of kryptonite and I wanted to get in the U.S. with it, I’d put it in my suitcase and fly home. If I was rich and had a big chunk of kryptonite, I’d just put it on a ship in a big crate, or fly it in on a private jet. I wouldn’t tell the government about it until I actually had the dang thing, and maybe not even then!
  • Speaking of kryptonite, Batman puts a tracker on the transport truck, but still physically chases the bad guys. This is only going to get people killed. Just wait until the tracker stops moving, you know, like Spider-Man does in comic books from 50 years ago!
  • And as long as we’re talking Spider-Man, when did Perry White turn into a J. Jonah Jameson clone? The character was really solid in Man of Steel, but here it feels like they are trying too hard to make him a jerk. Stern is fine, but it was a bit much, especially when he says “nobody cares about Clark Kent taking on the Batman.” C’mon man, the Batman is obviously front page news if it’s a big TV story. I’d totally want to see Clark Kent taking on the Batman.
  • Why does Lex have his head shaved when he goes to jail? That’s usually not standard operating procedure. It just feels like the writers wanted us to have another AHA! moment.
  • This one is nitpicky, but when Lois gets to the Capitol, two security guards have to check her credentials. But she isn’t going to the interior, she’s just going near the protesters. She obviously didn’t need credentials for that.

3) We don’t care about these people. 

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Probably in an attempt to get to an expanded universe faster, DC opted to throw a bunch about all these characters at us at once. So much has happened before the events of the film, but we weren’t along for the ride, so we don’t have anything invested in any of these characters.

Lois and Clark’s romance is all of a sudden there, which is fine, but we didn’t see its progression, so we don’t care about it like we care about Pepper and Tony, or even Arwen and Aragorn. Heck, Lois isn’t even likable. And she’s written so poorly, like the screenwriters thought they needed to hit us over the head with how intense she is.

Henry Cavill’s Superman is also not incredibly likable. He broods, he let his dad die in Man of Steel and he has no Clark Kent charm. And he’s always hovering over people. Who thought that was a good idea? “Oh look, a family trapped on a roof during a flood. I’ll just hover here a bit before I save them.” “Well, I’m here for a Senate hearing where lots of people are protesting my very existence. Might as well hover over them to make them feel small or something.”

I felt absolutely nothing when that troll Doomsday killed Superman. I didn’t care. And we all know he isn’t really dead. People like to say that Marvel is afraid to be serious, but both Phil Coulson and Quicksilver have been killed and those deaths made me sad (not super sad, but it produced an emotion), even shocked me. This wasn’t shocking. I was a little surprised, but only because we’ve really had no time to get to know this Superman. We do know that a lot of people actually don’t like him at all, so why should we care, as an audience, if he’s dead?

And Batman. I can’t really empathize with a character who treats life so callously. The thing that makes Batman different from the Punisher, or Deadpool, is that he isn’t a killer. The Robin costume was a good touch to see how much toll the Batman life has had on Bruce, but we don’t see enough of that toll to justify Bruce willing to kill Superman. And not just be willing, but to make that Plan A, not even a last resort. Plus his motivation is so cloudily presented that I can’t get on the same page.

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This is what Batman’s conversations with the Punisher are like. Batman doesn’t step over the line like Frank Castle does.

The interesting thing is that the characters I actually care about were in the film very little. Wonder Woman was set up nicely, and the scenes of the Flash and Aquaman were very well done (and it was very thoughtful of Lex to design logos for them too!). I care more about what happens to those three than I care about what happens to Batman, and especially Superman. I’m actually excited for the Wonder Woman movie now, although I’m not as sold on Gal Godot’s role as some folks. Oh…Cyborg. I’m just curious if they are renaming him “Bad CGI Man” because I’ve seen better special effects on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

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Based on BvS Special Effects, this is likely the version of Cyborg we’ll get for Justice League.

I could go on for much longer, but I won’t, because dead horses don’t need beating. If you enjoyed this movie, good for you, but it is very shaky ground to build a mega-franchise on. Stay home and rent this later. Or if you want to spend money on it, wait for the Director’s Cut to be released, perhaps it will be edited better than the awkwardly paced hodge podge we got in cinemas.

Final Grade: 3 out of 10 stars.

 

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Rushed.

That’s probably the best word to describe this second volume of Becky Cloonan’s Gotham Academy run. Volume one was fantastic, easily among the best of the new DC titles. This one is decent, but not quite the same.

Olive Silverlock, the main character in the series, is seeking answers about her mother, who is allegedly the deceased super-villain Calamity AND the prime suspect in a number of suspicious arson events around the school. Olive turns to her friends, the school’s resident paranormal investigators, and academy counselor Hugo Strange, which Batman fans will recognize as a huge mistake.

So with this set-up, it would seem like the reader would be in for one heck of a ride. And, to an extent, this is true. But there’s just too many side plots that merely serve as a distraction. And it isn’t that these side plots are bad. On the contrary, they are all quite interesting. But they never get the chance to be fleshed out. The result is a solid storyline being repeatedly hijacked by solid side plots which leave no room for any real development. The moment something interesting happens to Olive, we get whisked away to worry about a random werewolf or the short, uninspiring appearance of Damian Wayne.

With a little cleaning up, this title will continue to be a bright spot for DC. The creative team just needs to focus on one story at a time.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

 

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Batman and Superman will be taking over the box office next week, and there’s little reason to spend any money at the movies until then.

The Divergent Series: Allegiant was supposed to be the blockbuster of the weekend, but its being widely panned, so stick to the books. Miracles from Heaven gets a really good performance from Jennifer Garner, and is a decent film for the Easter crowd, but nothing spectacular. The Bronze is just plain not worth your time, as its just another unfunny “comedy.” And in limited release, we have The Program, a Lance Armstrong drama that could have been so much more.

My Film to Catch this week is Midnight Special. It is one of those films where the less you know the better, so I won’t say anything except its directed by Jeff Nichols, the mastermind behind Mud and Take Shelter.

Must See (5 out of 5 stars): None

Worth Your Time (3 to 4 stars): Midnight Special

Just Ok (2 to 3 stars): Miracles from HeavenThe Program

Stay Away (0 to 1 stars): The Divergent Series: Allegiant

Where do They Come From?

Only wide release films count towards these numbers.

  • The Divergent Series: Allegiant: Adaptation of the book of the same name.
  • Miracles from Heaven: Based on non-fiction book of the same name by Christy Beam.
  • The Bronze: Original screenplay by Melissa and Winston Rauch.

Original: 14

Adaptation: 12

Sequel/Prequel: 5

Remake: 0

Oscarwatch

These ten films are the “Best of the Year,” IF THE YEAR ENDED TODAY. This weekend’s releases not included.

They are ranked based on likelihood of winning Best Picture at the Oscars, with #1 being most likely. International films are not included until the end of year if Oscar potential exists.

DISCLAIMER: I may not personally recommend (or even like) all films on this list.

1) Zootopia ( – )
2) Eye in the Sky (NEW)
3) 10 Cloverfield Lane (NEW)
4) Hail Caesar (-2)
5) Hello, My Name is Doris (NEW)
6) Kung Fu Panda 3 (-3)
7) Eddie the Eagle (-3)
8) Race (-3)
9) 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (-3)
10) Risen (-2)

 

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At last, the first edition of TWIC in 2016. The Oscars are done, and so are the doldrums of January and February. We’re gearing up for some good films!

This weekend, my Film to Catch is 10 Cloverfield Lane. The buzz for this one has been rising since its Super Bowl ad, and its well worth it. The film has been shrouded in mystery, so I’ll leave it that way. Go see it if you’d like to know more!

Another film of note is Young Messiah. Its the story of Jesus as a 7 year old. It’s gotten middling reviews so far. It’s pretty much uncharted territory in Christian film, but not done incredibly well. Decent is a good word.

The Brothers Grimsby is another disaster that Sacha Baron Cohen can add to his resume.

There’s a plethora of limited release films out this weekend, so here’s a listing of the best ones available: Eye in the Sky (a wartime thriller starring Helen Mirren and the late Alan Rickman), Hello, My Name is Doris (a quirky dramedy starring Sally Field swooning over her new boss), and Boom Bust Boom, (an economic documentary told with puppets).

Must See (5 out of 5 stars): None

Worth Your Time (3 to 4 stars): 10 Cloverfield Lane;  Eye in the Sky; Boom Bust Boom

Just Ok (2 to 3 stars): Young Messiah; Hello, My Name is Doris

Stay Away (0 to 1 stars): The Brothers Grimsby

Where do They Come From?

Only wide release films count towards these numbers.

  • 10 Cloverfield Lane: (Pseudo)Sequel to Cloverfield
  • Young Messiah: Adaptation of the Life of Christ, as told in the Bible.
  • The Brothers Grimsby: Original screenplay by Peter Baynham, Sacha Baron Cohen and Phil Johnston.

Original: 13

Adaptation: 10

Sequel/Prequel: 5

Remake: 0

Oscarwatch

These ten films are the “Best of the Year,” IF THE YEAR ENDED TODAY. This weekend’s releases not included.

They are ranked based on likelihood of winning Best Picture at the Oscars, with #1 being most likely. International films are not included until the end of year if Oscar potential exists.

DISCLAIMER: I may not personally recommend (or even like) all films on this list.

1) Zootopia
2) Hail Caesar
3) Kung Fu Panda 3
4) Eddie the Eagle
5) Race
6) 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
7) The Witch
8) The Finest Hours
9) Risen
10) A Perfect Day

Image  —  Posted: March 12, 2016 in Films, This Weekend in Cinema
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