Posts Tagged ‘dc comics’

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Joker (2019)

October 5, 2019

Joker (2019)

Director: Todd Phillips (The Hangover movies, Old School, Road Trip)

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy

Anticipation Level: Epic

How Was It? Honestly, I thought a one-off Joker movie that had nothing to do with the current DC movie universe being directed by the guy responsible for The Hangover movies was a pretty terrible idea. But then Joaquin Phoenix was cast in the lead role and suddenly you had to wonder what this movie might be because Phoenix is a generational talent. And then the first trailer dropped and I was completely sold. By the time Joker won Best Picture at the Venice Film Festival and the first critical reactions started rolling in, Joker was my my most anticipated film of 2019.

And it totally lived up to the hype. It’s my favorite film of the year with just under three months left in 2019. It almost feels cliche to make that claim since everyone knows I’m a diehard Batman fan (my nickname is Dark Knight, for crying out loud), but it’s just phenomenal. All the praise being lauded on Joaquin Phoenix is well deserved. He’s incredible. It’s hard to imagine anyone giving a performance that can even hold a candle to what Heath Ledger did in The Dark Knight, but Phoenix does just that in this movie. I think Ledger’s Joker is more in line with what comic book fans have come to expect of the character (i.e. genius psychopath/criminal mastermind), but the Joker in this movie is perhaps even scarier because he’s born out of mental illness and neglect and, well, there’s nothing supernatural about that. In fact, it’s easy enough to imagine that some people in the real world are actually out there boycotting this film right now because they are worried about its potential influence. You know… because it’s so different than all the other violent movies and video games out there that it deserves its own special spotlight. *eyeroll*

Joker is a very unsettling film. I mean… I loved it. I absolutely loved it, but I would not say it is an easy watch. It is a difficult and disturbing film. Joaquin Phoenix dives so deep into this role that I saw one reviewer say, “I’m worried about him” and that person wasn’t trying to be funny. He’s so good I can’t imagine anyone else winning the Best Actor Oscar this year. The only way he loses is if this role is too dark for the Academy or if they have some sort of recency bias against handing over a statue for the same role twice in just over a decade. Taron Egerton was great as Elton John in Rocketman but Joaquin Phoenix is simply better.

The cinematography and score are also Oscar-worthy in this movie. The film is beautifully and intimately shot, keeping the viewer highly invested in what’s happening on screen and the score ratchets up the tension and never lets up. You will be on edge the entire time and if you are concerned about what might happen, you probably should be.

My problems with this movie are pretty minor. Obviously, Joker takes place in Batman’s world, but this film never really feels like a comic book movie. The story occurs long before Bruce Wayne donns and the cape and the cowl and while the Waynes are a presence, Bruce is just a young kid and his influence on the story is pretty minimal. That’s fine. This movie is about Joker, not Batman. Still, it’s hard for me to imagine this Joker being Batman’s biggest foe 15 years in the future. Joaquin Phoenix is almost 45 and there’s no indication that Arthur Fleck is much younger, so… this Joker is going to be 60 when Batman starts showing up? Uh, okay. But that doesn’t really matter as this movie is a standalone film and Todd Phillips has indicated that Phoenix’s Joker will not be appearing in any upcoming Batman films and setting up that future rivalry is not the point of this movie anyway.

Joker might not be the most enjoyable film experience due to its dark and disturbing nature, but it’s my favorite movie of 2019 so far and Joaquin Phoenix gives another remarkable performance that just might earn him his first Oscar.

Replay Value: It’s a tough watch, but I’m ready for Round 2 and it’s a must own film for me.

Sequel Potential: A Joker movie that happens before Batman becomes Batman? How could there not be a sequel? Because Joaquin Phoenix doesn’t do sequels and I don’t expect him to appear as Joker again.

Oscar Potential: Phoenix is a lock nominee and my favorite to win Best Actor right now. I think the cinematography and score also have a chance to get nominated. I’d put it in the Best Picture race myself, but the fact that 30% of critics have given it negative reviews isn’t very promising in that regard.

8/10 (Must See)

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Justice League (2017)

November 20, 2017

Starring: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Jason Mamoa, Henry Cavill
Director: Zack Snyder (Man Of Steel, Watchmen, Batman vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice)

Bottom Line: I can’t believe it. I didn’t hate it. It’s a miracle! Seriously, I really thought I would never like Justice League. Zack Snyder already disappointed me beyond belief with his abysmal Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice and I really thought the trailers for this movie looked like a total mess too. I had every expectation that it was going to suck and only a very small piece of me held out hope that it could be good.

I was so pleasantly surprised to enjoy this movie. I mean… it wasn’t amazing. It’s not going to crack my top 10 of 2017 and it’s not even in my top 3 superhero films of the year. But it didn’t suck! IT DIDN’T SUCK!!! YES!

All the members of the team get their moments to shine and the many concerns I had about Cyborg and Aquaman were quickly relieved. That’s not to say I’m looking forward to a Cyborg solo film – I really think that would do poorly – but he wasn’t cringe-worthy like I was expecting and I think he added to the film quite a bit. Jason Mamoa and Ezra Miller are great additions as Aquaman and The Flash, respectively.

Wonder Woman is still the star of this team. Gal Gadot is just perfect in that role and for whatever reason the filmmakers know how to make that character awesome.

I wish I could say the same for Batman. I like Affleck in the role, but in a lot of ways, I think Batman might be the weakest link in this crew – and it’s not because he’s a human being with no powers. Or maybe it is. A superhero like Batman worked amazingly well in the realistic world that Christopher Nolan crafted for his Dark Knight trilogy, but a movie like Justice League, which features heroes that can fly and aliens from other planets, well, Batman seems a little out of place. That seems to work just fine in an animated form, but something about seeing him involved in these crazy scenarios in live action form makes you think “maybe you should sit this one out, bud.” I dunno… maybe he will grow on me over time.

Justice League still has a really gloomy and grim setting, but there is a noticeable change in tone that adds quite a bit of humor and I think most of the jokes landed the laughs they were looking for. There are some great scenes involving Superman and Flash (weird… Superman returns – what a spoiler!) and another one with Wonder Woman’s lasso that you can’t help but think Joss Whedon added in post-production after Zack Snyder left the film due to a family tragedy. A little humor and charm certainly makes the movie far more enjoyable than its predecessor, which took itself so seriously it was almost comical.

Steppenwolf is the big baddie here and I’m honestly not familiar with him at all, despite watching the entire run of Justice League Unlimited and basically every animated film DC has released. Maybe I just missed him or forgot him, but I was pretty shocked when I heard a villain I’m completely unfamiliar with was who the JL would be battling in this movie. I thought he was okay. I guess he was believable as a formidable opponent for these superheroes, but there wasn’t anything particularly special or interesting about him.

All in all, I thought Justice League was a fun, but not great film. It certainly won’t convert anyone that’s anti-superhero movie, but it gives this fan of the genre hope for the DCEU going forward and it was honestly looking pretty grim last year. I am now looking forward to the next adventure. Bring on Darkseid!

Replay Value: I think I can enjoy this movie multiple times.
Sequel Potential: There are 19 movies in the pipeline for the DCEU at the moment, but only five of them have actual release dates and who knows how many of them will ever see the light of day. Aquaman comes out next year and Shazam! and Wonder Woman 2 are due out in 2019. A Justice League sequel will surely get made, but everything else DC has hinted at has to be taken with a grain of salt at this point.
Oscar Potential: None.

Grade: 6 (Recommended)

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Suicide Squad (2016)

August 17, 2016

Starring: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Viola Davis
Director: David Ayer (Fury, End Of Watch)

Bottom Line: Suicide Squad is a pretty good example of how the Rotten Tomatoes rating system can be misleading: at 27%, you might expect this to be terrible… it’s not. What a 27% rating really means is that roughly 3 out of 4 critics thought Suicide Squad wasn’t a good movie and, well, it’s not. But it’s not really a bad one either. It’s just a simple, fun action/comedy that does a decent job of lightening up the overly grim DCU film universe.

Margot Robbie is perfect casting as The Joker’s sweetheart Harley Quinn. She not only looks the part, but she plays Harley with the requisite blend of crazy/sexy/funny. Speaking of The Joker, Jared Leto does a remarkable job as the notable Batman villain; a tough taska considering Heath Ledger won an Oscar for the iconic role less than a decade ago. Leto’s Joker looks and sounds like a comic book villain – he’s totally nuts and over-the-top both in appearance and in his actions. The surprise of the cast is Will Smith as Deadshot. When I heard that casting, I raised an eyebrow in doubt, but Smith is easily one of the film’s highlights. If there’s any emotional resonance in the film, it’s with Smith’s Deadshot.

What didn’t work so well was the main antagonist in the film. It’s not The Joker as some might expect, it’s The Enchantress – and she’s terribly lame. Much like Zack Snyder’s awful light show conclusion to Batman Vs Superman, Suicide Squad’s finale is equally as bad, with lots of in-your-face visual effects, laughable dialogue, and a cringe worthy performance from Cara Delevingne.

Ultimately, Suicide Squad has some working elements – particularly the cast and the tone – but a poor choice in main villain and another terrible DCU third act make the film pretty mediocre. Still, if you come in with tempered expectations – and there’s no reason you shouldn’t – Suicide Squad is a fun movie.

Replay Value: Leto and Robbie make the movie worth watching again, but this isn’t something I’ll snap buy on bluray.
Sequel Potential: Harley Quinn is getting her own movie, which is great news. Leto’s Joker will surely have more appearances in the future. There’s a better movie to be made with the squad and with over $200M in box office receipts, we will probably get a chance to see it.
Oscar Potential: None

Grade: 5/10 (Watchable)

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Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice (2016)

April 18, 2016

Starring: Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jessie Eisenberg, Amy Adams
Director: Zack Snyder (Man Of Steel, Watchmen, 300)

Bottom Line: What a mess. I knew this movie was in trouble from the first time I saw the Doomsday reveal in one of the trailers. I was on board with Ben Affleck as Batman and I loved the Jessie Eisenberg casting as Lex Luthor, but that first full trailer had me squirming uncomfortably – it looked like Zack Snyder was going to ruin everything by bloating the action with visual effects, explosions, lasers and fire. This was not a finale I was looking forward to.

And I wanted to so much. Even though the previews looked mediocre to me, as a humongous Batman fan, I was still dreaming that this movie could be everything it should be. It’s not. And it’s even worse than you think it’s going to be.

It’s been nearly a month since I saw it and, honestly, I can remember very little about it, but I can still distinctly taste the displeasure I experienced while watching it. There were numerous moments where I looked at my buddy like “is this really happening right now.” From a Batman origin vignette to a neverending – and painful (like phsyically) – conclusion, and everything in between, Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice was a wild disappointment.

It’s easier for me to pinpoint the things I did like than for me to list all the stuff I hated. Ben Affleck is a good Batman and I could see a great film being built around this version of The Dark Knight, but it’s not this one. Still, Affleck did a good job and I’m looking forward to seeing how much of a role he has in the upcoming Suicide Squad movie. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman was a pleasant surprise as I was worried about how she would fit into the story and whether or not she could even play the role. She’s great and this Wonder Woman is awesome. Again, looking forward to the Wonder Woman movie.

What I’m not looking forward to are the Justice League movies. This was such a botch job that if Zack Snyder has any involvement with those movies (he’s currently slated to direct them both) other than a relatively hands off producing role, I just can’t imagine they are going to be any good. The thought scares me. It is truly incredible that DC Comics can be this far behind Marvel in both quantity and quality. But I can promise one thing, if they continue letting Snyder be in the driver’s seat, they are in trouble.

I hated Doomsday. He looks terrible. He’s about as indistinguishable as a troll in the first Harry Potter movie. And how did he come to be? Don’t ask. Jessie Eisenberg as Lex Luthor? Unbelievably awful. He spends the entire movie playing the role so frivolously that you never really take him seriously. He wants to be Heath Ledger’s Joker, but he comes across more like Jim Carrey’s Edward Nygma before he becomes The Riddler. There are a bunch of dream sequences that are supposed to foreshadow upcoming events (I think), but they are jarring and take you out of the movie – Bruce Wayne even has a dream within a dream sequence. What. I really like the look of Henry Cavill as Superman, but his role in this movie is really disappointing. The showdowns with Batman are kind of cool, but kind of cool doesn’t really cut it for Batman Vs. Superman.

Geez, I probably can’t tell people not to watch this movie. They are going to anyway. And if you’re going to watch it, you might as well watch it on the big screen… but it’s not good. I’ve heard a number of people say they enjoyed the movie and I can’t understand it at all. It was a huge let down and it was absurdly BORING. The last 45 minutes felt like it dragged forever. I couldn’t wait for it to be over. At best, this movie was totally forgettable… at worst, it was horrible.

Replay Value: My initial thought was I’d never watch it again and that’s hard to believe. This a freaking BATMAN movie. I’ll watch it again, but… only because I have to – it’s who I am.
Sequel Potential: All the JLA members are getting solo adventures and the whole crew will be teaming up for two Justice League movies.
Oscar Potential: None.

Grade: 3.5/10 (Just Skip It/Forgettable)

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Man Of Steel (2013)

June 21, 2013

Starring: Henry Cavill, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Amy Adams
Director: Zack Snyder (Watchmen trilogy, 300, Sucker Punchy)

Quick Thoughts: What a spectacle. That was my first thought leaving the theater after watching Man Of Steel, which was probably my most anticipated film this summer. Director Zack Snyder can handle action. We know that much and those looking for a Superman that finally kicks some real ass, you’ll get it here. There’s plenty of super fights, massive property destruction, and a finale that is almost overwhelmingly heavy on action. It was enough to make me want to go back and see it in IMAX 3D.

Man Of Steel almost feels like you’re watching two films. The first half of the movie feels much like producer Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins while the second half plays out, well, like a Zack Snyder film. Much like Begins the first half of Man Of Steel switches between scenes of Clark Kent dealing with his unnatural abilities as a child and discovering himself as an adult. Unlike Begins, where you become quite invested in Bruce Wayne’s story, Man Of Steel seems a bit slow and I was pretty eager to move along to the Superman stuff. Also, the sequence on Krypton, in particular, is overly long and a bit confusing. The second half of the film feels a lot like an alien invasion movie. I kept thinking of Independence Day during the second act.

It’s interesting that DC took such a realistic approach with Superman right after The Dark Knight trilogy finished. Certainly, Snyder’s Superman would fit comfortably into Nolan’s Batman universe. Nolan has stated that he is finished with Batman, however, and Man Of Steel is supposed to be the first step towards an eventual Justice League movie; one that will likely feature a rebooted Batman. It’s all quite a mess and as a massive fan of DC Comics, I have to say I’m concerned.

Regardless, even with my ridiculous expectations for Man Of Steel, I’m pretty satisfied with the finished product. Henry Cavill is perfect as Superman, General Zod and crew are formidable first opponents, the action is amazing, and Russell Crowe is great as Jor-El. David Goyer took some liberties with the Superman mythos–notably on how Lois Lane and Superman first meet and Superman’s morality–but I thought these were handled delicately and actually made sense for modern (and more realistic) versions of the characters. Lois Lane is an investigative journalist, after all, and it’s always been pretty unbelievable that no one can figure out that Superman and Clark Kent are one in the same. With all the pressure from the crazy success of The Avengers and Marvel’s ridiculously smart blueprint for creating their cinematic universe, I’m nervous about DC trying to match it by rushing into a Justice League movie, but even so, I’m looking forward to Man Of Steel 2

Replay Value: I’m anxious to see it again in IMAX 3D.
Sequel Potential: Release date already announced and this character will eventually show up in a Justice League movie.
Oscar Potential: Maybe some visual effects and sound recognition.
Nudity: None.
Grade: 7/10 (Must See)
RottenTomatoes Scores: Critics: 56% Audience: 82%
IMDB Rating: 8.1/10

Recommendation: The critics are way off on this one. 2006’s Superman Returns is a 75% and sucks. Man Of Steel blows it away and I think even the critics would agree with that. I’ll admit it didn’t meet my expectations, but this is still an above average superhero film and a great reintroduction of the Superman character.