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. 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.

Sucker Punch

March 27, 2011 by  
Filed under CineStrays

Starring: Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone
Directed by: Zack Snyder (“300”)
Written by: Zack Snyder (“300”) and Steve Shibuya (debut)
 
From putting a stimulating spin on an American horror classic in 2004’s “Dawn of the Dead” to slightly entertaining us with his next two highly-stylized films “300” and “Watchmen,” there’s no denying that director Zack Snyder can at least deliver some attention-grabbing imagery. But what he’s upchucked for “Sucker Punch,” an exceedingly erratic softcore male fantasy for gamers, is beyond inexcusable. Girls in an insane asylum imagining they’re in a whorehouse imagining they’re on a mission of girl-empowerment against German zombie soldiers, dragons, and samurai robots? Seriously, what the hell is going on here? Whatever it is, it’s not suspenseful or inventive and besides probably giving 13-year-old boys boners, it’s not very sexy either. This is the type of movie that will hang over Snyder’s head like “Showgirls” does for Paul Verhoeven. Now fanboys can officially fear for the “Superman” reboot.

Legend of the Guardians

September 24, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Jim Sturgess, Helen Mirren, Ryan Kwanten
Directed by: Zack Snyder (“Watchmen”)
Written by: John Orloff (“A Mighty Heart”) and Emil Stern (“The Life Before Her Eyes”)

The sharp visual style of director Zach Snyder transfers over surprisingly well into the animated genre in the filmmaker’s first attempt with “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole.” Not without its narrative flaws, “Guardians” is still a darkly-imagined technical wonder and a rare case in recent animated films where 3-D actually adds to the experience.

In “Guardians,” owl brothers Soren (Jim Sturgess) and Kludd (Ryan Kwanten) are kidnapped by a flock of evil owls led by their queen Nyra (Helen Mirren) who is eager to turn them into slave laborers. The brothers go their separate ways when Kludd finds honor in serving the queen, while Soren escapes to search for the mythical Guardians of Ga’Hoole, warrior owls who are the only answer to defeat Nyra and her army.

Adapted from the first three books in a series written by Kathryn Lasky, there are points in “Guardians” where the names of characters and locations can be a bit difficult to follow especially for the young demographic Warner Bros. is aiming for. It’s evident when the trailer mentions the film has the same producers as “Happy Feet” but doesn’t include Snyder’s past accomplishments: “Dawn of the Dead,” “300,” and “Watchmen.” Also, the soundtrack includes grating music by the band Owl City.

With “Guardians,” Snyder is still able to work with the elements of fantasy that were his calling card in his more graphic projects. Instead of zombies, Greek warriors, or superheroes, he is able to make these majestic birds come to life in the same way.

When the incredible attention to detail emerges is really when the film takes flight. Add to that a classy British voice cast to give life to all these beautifully-rendered birds and “Guardians” becomes an animation like none you’ve seen this year.