Justice League

November 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot
Directed by: Zack Snyder (“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”)
Written by: Chris Terrio (“Argo”) and Joss Whedon (“The Avengers”)

To get the obvious questions out of the way first, no, “Justice League” isn’t anywhere near as good as this summer’s “Wonder Woman,” nor is it as bad as last year’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

It’s fine.

That this latest entry in the DC Extended Universe—Warner Bros.’ somewhat knee-jerk response to the success Marvel is having—is even coherent is a minor miracle, after months of reshoots and what must’ve been a mountain of studio notes. That the characters, including holdovers Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman and newcomers Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman, are actually fun and engaging (for the most part) is a neat surprise.

Taking place a year after the events of “BvS” left Earth without its Kryptonian hero (Henry Cavill, here softly rebooted as a corny beacon of hope instead of the grim, put-upon Jesus the previous films made him out to be), “Justice League” finds Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) working with Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) to put together a team of “meta-humans” to combat a coming threat, heralded by flying, fear-sensing bug-monster things called parademons. Turns out those things are the minions of Steppenwolf (a PlayStation 2 CGI creation voiced by Ciarán Hinds) and he’s come to Earth to re-collect some cubes called Mother Boxes to turn the planet into a recreation of his hellish homeworld, which would suck. And since Earth is now without Superman, there’s no one to stop Steppenwolf…except for the Justice League.

Like I mentioned earlier, “Justice League” is fine, even after the change late in the game from original director Zack Snyder—who stepped down due to a family tragedy—to “Avengers” director Joss Whedon. Numerous reshoots seem to have reshaped the movie dramatically, grafting Whedon-y humor onto Snyder’s shiny, grimy aesthetic. The story is boilerplate superhero bullshit, but there’s a moment in the middle of the film, when the team first fights together, that this mess gels into something entertaining—it takes you past the flaws like the truly shitty special effects, the boring-ass villain, and the short-changing of newcomers Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, and Jason Momoa. There was hope that the DCEU ship had been righted after “Wonder Woman,” released only five months ago, and “Justice League” doesn’t really answer that question in the affirmative—but maybe “not as bad as it could have been” is enough of a victory for now.

Ep. 90 – The Accountant, Shin Godzilla, MondoCon preview and a brief tangent on Ren Fests

October 18, 2016 by  
Filed under Podcast

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This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Jerrod and Cody review “The Accountant” and “Shin Godzilla.” They also preview MondoCon III and the Cinema on Tap screening of “What We Do In The Shadows.”

[00:00-29:56] Intro/MondoCon tease/Cinema on Tap preview

[29:56-42:54] Review – “The Accountant”

[42:52-55:23] Review – “Shin Godzilla”

[55:23-1:03:57] Wrap up/tease

Click here to download the episode!

The Accountant

October 16, 2016 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons
Directed by: Gavin O’Connor (“Warrior”)
Written by: Bill Dubuque (“The Judge”)

Ben Affleck has had an unusual career. Lauded for his Oscar-winning screenplay for “Good Will Hunting,” Affleck had a few solid, if not unspectacular roles in films before turning in a series of duds that bottomed out with the back-to-back combo of “Daredevil” and “Gigli.” After taking his licks, and essentially becoming a Hollywood punchline, Affleck made a bold career move: He started directing films. He began with the fantastic “Gone Baby Gone” and eventually won another Oscar as producer for “Argo.” Re-invigorated by his work behind the camera, Affleck started improving in front of it as well. While it may not be the best film he’s been in, “The Accountant” may just be one of the best performances Affleck has given in his career.

As an accountant for some of the most dangerous criminal organizations in the world, Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) does not shy away from danger. As Wolff is brought in to take a look at the books for a robotics company, he and accounting associate Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick) notice some peculiarities. As Wolff uncovers more, he finds himself in the midst of danger and must use his unique skillset to keep him and Dana safe.

A good chunk of “The Accountant” is devoted to an exploration of Christian’s autism, and the film deserves a lot of credit for getting that right. Affleck nails the idiosyncrasies of autism, with elements of both brilliance and social struggles. It’s Affleck’s most well-rounded performance in a while, and perhaps best, he is surprisingly funny in the films lighter moments.

While Affleck’s performance is magnetic, the B and C plotlines of the film (essentially any goings on not involving Affleck) feel so oddly pieced together. Even with their eventual resolution, so much of “The Accountant” lacks structure and feel out of place. What results is a complete waste of acting talent and screen time. Back-to-back Emmy winner in Jeffrey Tambor is essentially given five minutes of backstory context, Simmons is there for pure exposition and Kendrick is there for a lazy romantic plot that not only goes nowhere, but is abandoned for a solid half hour.

But beyond being just a waste of talent, “The Accountant” has a ton of parts that are outright confusing and don’t really add up. The focus is to keep the story moving along, but at some point it is difficult for the audience to continue to care. Somewhere along the later part of the film, Simmons’ character delivers what seems like an excruciatingly long exposition dump that starts to make the picture a little bit more clear. What follows is a series of shrug-worthy twists, ho-hum reveals, and even more clunky exposition. It nearly derails the entire film and is only saved by some well-executed violence.

If you are willing to forgive “The Accountant” for its faults, there is plenty of great acting, intense shootouts, and surprising laughs to sustain its runtime. It’s a really solid Affleck performance and is actually quite gripping in moments. Held up to scrutiny, however, “The Accountant” is unnecessarily complicated, convoluted and lacks a satisfying payoff.

Ep. 78 – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, SXSW recap, and how free McDonald’s turned into a frustrating ordeal

March 27, 2016 by  
Filed under Podcast

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In this latest episode of the too-infrequent CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod discuss the unavoidable “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” They also recap their time at SXSW 2016 and talk about the most frustrating free McDonald’s food they didn’t even get to eat.

[00:00 – 32:51] Intro/SXSW recap

[32:51 – 1:07:22] “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” review

[1:07:22 – 1:12:50] Wrap up/tease

Click here to download the episode!

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

March 25, 2016 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Jesse Eisenberg
Directed by: Zack Snyder (“Man of Steel”)
Written by: Chris Terrio (“Argo”) & David S. Goyer (“Batman Begins”)

After nearly three years of fanboy hand-wringing and prognostications of disaster, Warner Bros.’ and DC Comics’ attempt to reverse-engineer the formula Marvel and Disney have used to build a filmmaking empire, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” has finally arrived. Big, bold, grim, overstuffed, overcooked, smart, stupid, and loud, the first live-action on-screen pairing of the two biggest titans in comic-book history teeters on the brink of outright disaster for a good chunk of its runtime, yet somehow manages to shake a mostly-enjoyable adventure out of a screenplay that introduces three major new characters and packs in jumping off points for at least five superhero movies that are scheduled to follow, all while acting as a quasi-sequel to 2013’s overwrought “Man of Steel.”

A prologue unnecessarily re-familiarizes us with the death of Bruce Wayne’s (Ben Affleck) parents that serves as the beginning of his journey to becoming Batman. Thirty years later, we find Wayne rushing around Metropolis during the climactic, destructo-porn showdown between Superman (Henry Cavill) and General Zod (Michael Shannon) that capped off “Man of Steel” and left thousands in the city dead, including some of Wayne’s employees. Two years later, the U.S. Congress, led by Senator Finch (Holly Hunter), is looking for ways to rein in Superman’s destructive potential and discussing his penchant for saving only the people he wants to save—namely Lois Lane (Amy Adams, wasted again). When Lois finds herself in a terrorist den in Africa, facing down a machine gun as her photographer Jimmy Olsen (Michael Cassidy) is revealed as a CIA spy (!!!), Superman comes to her rescue after the terrorists are taken out by private security officers. An experimental bullet is found in Lois’ shot up journal, Superman is blamed for the terrorist deaths (for some reason), Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is asking for an import license for Kryptonite so he can build a weapon that could potentially stop Superman, Batman is tracking Luthor’s criminal dealings while also figuring out how to take down Superman, and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is lurking around the fringes for most of the runtime–and then a whole bunch more stuff happens and even more characters are introduced over the course of two and a half hours.

When the digital dust settles, why does this all work? Wisely, the film plays more like a Batman movie than anything else, and Affleck’s take on the character is the Batmanliest yet, zipping around on grappling hooks, whipping out neat gadgets and awesome vehicles, and actually doing a little bit of detective work over the course of the film. His Batman is just driven and crazy enough to make his quest to take on this superhuman god seem like the most refreshing take on the character in years–apologies to Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight,” but the realism that grounded that series put a damper on the more fantastic elements of Batman’s mythology. Gadot’s Wonder Woman also shines in her debut, shedding the exposition she’s saddled with halfway through the film to come out swinging in the film’s final battle, sure to leave the audience hungering for the character’s upcoming solo film. Cavill, once again donning the red and blue tights as the Man of Steel, is still a dud, though. The filmmakers, led by “Man of Steel” director Zack Snyder and writers Davis S. Goyer (“Batman Begins”) and Academy Award winner Chris Terrio (“Argo”), still haven’t cracked this dark, brooding Superman and what his motivation is. With the knowledge of a “Justice League” movie starting production next month, along with upcoming solo efforts from a whole slate of DC Comics characters (next up is “Suicide Squad” this August), the events of “Batman v. Superman” ultimately become inconsequential, echoing 2015’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” Warner Bros. and DC Comics needed to make a big bet to get into the shared universe superhero game, and their first giant splash is a push rather than a win or loss.

Ep. 58 – Fantastic Four, The Gift, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Vacation, Ben Affleck could be the definitive Batman, and FF director Josh Trank lashes out on Twitter

August 11, 2015 by  
Filed under Podcast

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Click here to download the episode!

In this week’s episode of The CineSnob Podcast, the guys from CineSnob.net have mega-packed the show with reviews! They cover “Fantastic Four,” “The Gift,” “Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation,” and “Vacation.” They also discuss Ben Affleck possibly getting a Batman trilogy and “Fantastic Four” director Josh Trank burning bridges and distancing himself from his own movie.

[0:00-10:35] Intro
[10:35-17:32] Ben Affleck called the definitive Batman, could be given a trilogy
[17:32-25:54] Disgraced Fantastic Four director lashed out on Twitter about how much better movie could have been
[25:54-39:53] Fantastic Four
[39:53-54:04] The Gift
[54:04-1:03:21] Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
[1:03:21-1:27:19] Vacation
[1:27:19-1:36:26] Teases for next week and close

 

Gone Girl

October 3, 2014 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Tyler Perry
Directed by: David Fincher (“The Social Network,” “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”)
Written by: Gillian Flynn (debut)

When a beautiful young woman disappears mysteriously in this country, leaving behind a too-calm husband who, in the 30 seconds of video the 24-hour cable news networks replay hour after hour, doesn’t appear to be concerned enough, the court of public opinion—and the shrieking harpies on said cable news networks—has the husband convicted of murder before the first commercial break.

“Gone Girl,” the latest film from director David Fincher, based on the smash-hit novel by Gillian Flynn (who also wrote the screenplay), feels ripped from the pages of Us Weekly and the programming of HLN. Laid-back, jock-ish Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) returns home from his bar to find his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) is missing, the house amiss with the signs of a struggle. A diligent detective (Kim Dickens) and her skeptical partner (Patrick Fugit) begin investigating, noticing the pieces of Nick’s story don’t add up, with expensive credit card splurges in his name and the damning testimony of a neighbor who claims Amy told her of Nick’s physical and verbal abuse.

Nick also comes across aloof and cold as the national media spotlight intensifies on him, committing huge PR gaffes like smiling at a press conference about his missing wife and posing for a selfie with an over-eager volunteer, the blood in the water attracting a Nancy Grace-like shark (Missi Pyle) who practically calls for Nick’s execution every night on national TV. But is Nick innocent or guilty? Was Amy the abused wife her diary describes, or the anti-social trust fund shut-in bitter about moving from New York City to Missouri? Where exactly does the truth lie?

While both Affleck and Fincher have referred to “Gone Girl” as a satire in interviews leading up to the film’s release, this description misses the mark. Sure, the depiction of the media in the movie is ridiculous, but nothing comes close to biting satire or even the hoisting-with-their-own-petard model that both “The Daily Show” and “Last Week Tonight” traffic in. Sure, it’s stupid, but all Fincher and Flynn really did was change the names of the anchors. Toothless satire aside, “Gone Girl” is a fantastic face-value thriller, with enough twists and turns to remain completely unpredictable. Affleck and Pike are great in roles that call for both of them to be honest with each other while being dishonest to the world, and Tyler Perry—of all people–turns in a funny, assured performance as a high-profile celebrity lawyer with more nuance than 10 Madeas smashed together.

Maybe Fincher will be watching the reaction audiences at large have to the film, silently judging us all as philistines who fail to notice the scathing criticism he thinks he’s delivering to the already dead horse of the mainstream media’s credibility. Good thing the movie is extremely enjoyable anyway.

To the Wonder

May 3, 2013 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Rachel McAdams
Directed by: Terrence Malick (“Tree of Life”)
Written by: Terrence Malick (“Tree of Life”)

In the quickest follow-up to a film in his 30 year career, director/writer Terrence Malick delivers “To the Wonder,” a drama so polarizing it earned a series of boos and cheers when it debuted at the Venice Film Festival last September. “To the Wonder” comes after Malick’s Oscar-nominated – albeit still as dividing – “Tree of Life” starring Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain. While it might be considered a companion piece to “Tree,” “Wonder” is less experimental and far less emotionally gratifying than its predecessor. In fact, of the six films Malick has directed since 1973’s “Badlands,” it’s the only one I cannot recommend.

As with every Malick film, viewers can insert their own personal meaning behind the thinly-plotted “Wonder.” Ben Affleck stars as Neil, a man who falls in love with single mother Marina (Olga Kurylenko) in France and brings her and her daughter back to Oklahoma to start a new life together. When things don’t work out (it’s not evident why they don’t since all Affleck does is stare into the distance for most of the film), Marina moves back to France and Neil rekindles a romance with Jane (Rachel McAdams), a childhood friend who is now a rancher. When that relationship ends, Marina comes back. Plotted sloppily between the love triangle is a secondary storyline about a priest (Javier Bardem) who has lost his faith. In perfect Malick form, he walks around aimlessly trying to find it.

For a majority of the film’s 112-minute run time (a short film for Malick’s standards), not much happens. Affleck has tickle-fights with Kurylenko and McAdams on beautiful backdrops as Wagner, Hayden and Rachmaninoff music blend with sparse, meaningless dialogue. There is also verbose narration in French and Spanish that tries hard to be poetic, but proves ineffective. Malick shoots Kurylenko and McAdams like a father who is chasing his twirling toddlers with a video camera he just got for Christmas. It was probably great footage in his mind, but no one else is going to want to see it.

Of course, you can’t dismiss the beauty of “Wonder” with Mexican cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (“Tree of Life,” “The New World”) at the helm again. Here, he makes a field of grain and a parking lot at a Sonic Drive-Thru restaurant look immaculate. Still, “Wonder” is exactly why Malick detractors don’t give him a fair shake. And this time they’re right. The imagery is incredible, but it’s a pretentious mess. With three more projects already in the canon for the next two years (“Knight of Cups,” “Voyage of Time,” and an untitled piece), here’s to hoping Malick’s sudden craving for rapid filmmaking isn’t his downfall.

Argo

October 12, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin
Directed by: Ben Affleck (“The Town”)
Written by: Chris Terrio (debut)

Imagine what screenwriter Lionel Chetwynd must’ve been thinking when former CIA officer Tony Mendez released his book “Master of Disguise” in 1999. The memoir, which reveals details about a covert operation he led to rescue six Americans trapped in Iran in 1980, was a story Chetwynd though he had already thoroughly adapted into the TV movie “Escape from Iran: The Canadian Caper” one year after the mission ended. While Caper provided many stirring and historical facts about the incident, the most Hollywoodesque parts of it weren’t even known until President Bill Clinton declassified the top-secret CIA files in 1997.

In “Argo,” his third film as a director, Ben Affleck (“Gone Baby Gone,” “The Town”) takes the full, uncensored narrative and runs with it. Unlike his last two films, Affleck doesn’t get a writing credit to his name this time around. Instead, he passes the expansive script duties to first-time screenwriter Chris Terrio who keeps the interaction and dialogue between characters moving briskly, but finds difficultly in building tension without glossing over the conflict.

After militants infiltrated the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, a plan was devised to rescue six diplomats who were able to escape the hostage situation and hide out in the home of a Canadian ambassador. What no one knew aside from those involved was this: Mendez’s risky idea – and the reason a film like “Argo” is so unique on paper – was to smuggle the diplomats out of Iran by pretending they were all part of a filmmaking crew scouting locations for a kitschy sci-fi movie (in “Caper,” they attempt their escape as less intriguing grain exporters). Standouts in “Argo” include Oscar winner Alan Arkin (“Little Miss Sunshine”) and John Goodman (“The Artist”) as two film industry pros operating a fake studio back home in Los Angeles.

What’s so ironic about “Argo” is that it’s a story about a faux film, but occasionally comes across just as deceptive as the movie-within-a-movie it’s featuring. Some might consider certain scenes in the third act thrilling, but editing them in such a happenstance manner makes them crowd pleasing at best. Still, Affleck makes more good directorial choices than he does questionable ones, especially when he pays close attention to the details of the era. That, along with the timeliness of the subject matter (one can’t watch without thinking of recently slain U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens), and “Argo” is a solid political spy movie, despite being gift wrapped a little too neatly.

The Town

September 17, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Ben Affleck, Jeremy Renner, Rebecca Hall
Directed by: Ben Affleck (“Gone Baby Gone”)
Written by: Ben Affleck (“Gone Baby Gone”), Aaron Stockard (“Gone Baby Gone”), Peter Craig (debut)

As impressive as actor Ben Affleck’s directorial debut was in 2007’s “Gone Baby Gone,” there is still a lot to be desired in his follow-up film “The Town,” a taut but mostly formulaic crime drama set in Boston with hints of deep-seated tension that never really boil over long enough to take seriously.

Along with his duties behind the camera as director and co-writer, Affleck stars in the lead role as Doug MacRay, the leader of a four-man banking-robbing crew who don’t seem to spend as much time planning out their capers as much as they do dodging across their Charlestown neighborhood with cops in pursuit.

In the opening scene of the film, Doug and his band of masked men, which includes his good friend James Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), clean out a bank vault and scare the hell out of pretty bank assistant manager Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall) by taking her along for a post-robbery ride only to drop her off unharmed when the coast is clear.

A romantic relationship between Doug and Claire follows soon after when Doug begins to trail her to make sure she isn’t giving the cops information that can somehow link the crime back to him and his boys. A flirty run-in at the Laundromat and a lunch date later and Claire is smitten. It makes less sense as their courtship continues and Doug and Claire have to make decisions when the truth is finally revealed.

John Hamm (TV’s “Mad Men”) stays two steps ahead of everyone as FBI Special Agent Adam Frawley who quickly fingers the thieves with some smart detective work, but can’t close the case without concrete evidence. Other characters like actor Chris Cooper as Doug’s imprisoned father and actress Blake Lively as James’ wired sister and Doug’s former fling fall victim to Affleck and co-writers Aaron Stockard and Peter Craig’s storytelling woes.

There is more to these characters than our trio of screenwriters would like to have us believe. Renner shows the most range with a bit more edge and controlled rage than the rest of the cast. Affleck, too, keeps a tight grip on his role and doesn’t allow it to become too similar to heist movies of the past.

Overall, Affleck’s sophomore picture “The Town” isn’t without its flaws, but the performances and strong direction play a good equalizer for the narrative issues and unexceptional Boston setting.

State of Play

April 15, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams
Directed by: Kevin McDonald (“The Last King of Scotland”)
Written by: Matthew Michael Carnahan (“Lions for Lambs”), Tony Gilroy (“Michael Clayton”), Billy Ray (“Breach”)

There will never be another newspaper film like “State of Play.”

While it might be a bit extreme to say Russell Crowe and Rachel McAdams are on the same tier as Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford’s Woodward and Bernstein in the 1976 media epic “All the President’s Men,” no one has ever come as close to capturing the true meaning of investigative journalism in the print media. Even with some sensationalism thrown in for flavor, “State of Play” is smartly done.

For the generation who like their news in short blurbs written by bloggers who use Wikipedia as their main source, this definitely won’t resonate with you. For those who still value the art of in-depth reporting and the way an actual newspaper still feels between your fingertips, “State of Play” is as tightly written as a front-page story grinded out on an unapologetic deadline by a veteran reporter.

Based on a 2003 British TV miniseries of the same name, “State of Play” follows old-school Washington D.C. scribe Cal McAffrey (Crowe) in the middle of a political scandal that slowly reels him personally and professionally. The mistress of his old college friend, Congressman Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck), has died of an apparent suicide, but with some exceptional fact digging, Cal uncovers other circumstances that could prove to be damaging to some governmental bigwigs and to himself on an ethical level.

There to pick up the slack as their scowling editor (Helen Mirren) keeps a sharp eye on her staff is internet reporter Della Frye (McAdams), whose blogging abilities are just impressive enough to provoke Cal’s traditional stance on his lifelong career. “I’m just trying to help you get a few facts in the mix the next time you upchuck online.”

Still, a little new blood never hurt anyone especially with someone as hungry for a newsworthy story as Della. Crowe and McAdams’ chemistry blends well from the start and only strengthens as the political thriller dashes in and out of some sharp turns and detailed storytelling. It’s easily the best newspaper movie since 2003 “Shattered Glass” and the most intelligent film to be released in the first third of the year.