Film Review: Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)

Release Date: March 18th, 2021
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Written by: Chris Terrio, Zack Snyder, Will Beall
Based on: Characters from DC Comics
Music by: Tom Holkenborg
Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Amy Adams, Diane Lane, Jeremy Irons, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Connie Nielsen, J.K. Simmons, Jesse Eisenberg, Joe Manganiello (uncredited), Willem Dafoe, Amber Heard, Joe Morton, Jared Leto, Robin Wright, David Thewlis, Russell Crowe, Marc McClure, Carla Gugino (voice), Billy Crudup (uncredited)

DC Entertainment, The Stone Quarry, Atlas Entertainment, Warner Bros., HBO Max, 242 Minutes

Review:

“How do you know your team’s strong enough? If you can’t bring down the charging bull, then don’t wave the red cape at it.” – Alfred Pennyworth

For years, fans of Zack Snyder demanded that Warner Bros. release The Snyder Cut of 2017’s Justice League movie. For those who have read my review of it, you already know about how much I disliked that terrible film, which was taken over and finished by Joss Whedon after Snyder left the production due to a family emergency.

Needless to say, I never wanted this movie. However, it’s release seems like a real victory for fans in a time when they’re being labeled “toxic” by Hollywood and the media outlets that suck the shit straight out of the big studios’ assholes. So despite my feelings on the theatrical version of this movie, I am happy for the fans that demanded this version of it.

That being said, this is, indeed, a much better version of the film. Granted, it’s four fucking hours long, which is way too long. This probably should’ve been cut into two parts or released as an episodic miniseries. There’s just so much material but honestly, a lot of what’s here is also unnecessary. There are so many slow motion scenes that those parts really put an exclamation point on how dragged out this movie is.

It’s also got its fair share of cringe.

The biggest instance of cringe that pops into my mind is the scene that introduces Wonder Woman. She fights some terrorists with hostages but they do this weird thing where they speed up and slow down the film for dramatic effect. It’s weird, hokey and shitty. Also, she blocks every bullet fired from a machine gun with her bracelets like she has the speed and accuracy of the Flash. They’ve basically made her a female Superman with bracelets and a lasso and it’s just sort of confusing. I get that she fits this mold in the comics but in this already established film canon, it’s like her powers have increased to that of a literal god in a very short span of time compared to the length of her life. But I can also look beyond it and sort of accept it within the framework of this movie, which wasn’t supposed to exist.

Regarding other cringe, there’s the dialogue, which often times is horrendous.

There’s also Ezra Miller, who brings down the entire production every time he shows up on screen and tries to be cute and funny but just comes off like that asshole millennial barista that thinks he’s smarter than you but you can see the cat food stains on his shirt from last night’s dinner. Ezra Miller as The Flash may be the worst casting decision in the history of mainstream superhero films.

There is some good with this picture, though.

For one, every time I see Ben Affleck as Batman, he grows on me. Affleck deserves his own Batman movie but he never got one and was instead wasted in multiple shitty DCEU movies. He could be three solo Batman pictures deep now but we’ve got to see him parade around with Ezra Miller and other superheroes that appear lame in his really cool orbit.

I also thought that Steppenwolf, the film’s primary villain was much, much better in this. He feels like a real character with a real story arc. In the theatrical version, he came across as some generic miniboss whose dungeon you could skip in Skyrim. Plus, he looks so much fucking cooler in this version.

Additionally, this film gives me what I’ve always wanted to see and that’s Darkseid on the big screen. Granted, this wasn’t released in theaters so the “big screen” was a combination of a 50 inch television and my tablet screen.

There are also some great new action sequences. I kind of liked the big battle between Steppenwolf and the Amazons, as well as the big war between Darkseid, his minions and the armies of Greek gods, Amazons and Atlanteans. It was a flashback scene but it was still damn cool. Especially, the Green Lantern stuff they added in. In a lot of ways, it reminded me of the intro to The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

I also liked that Cyborg was much more developed and didn’t just seem like a last minute addition added in to pad out the team.

The first act of the film is the worst and I felt like it moved too slow and didn’t really make me care about the movie too much. The second act, however, switched into high gear and that’s where it grabbed me as well as it could and I started to feel like I was finally getting a better, more fleshed out and worthwhile movie.

I also generally liked the third act but I thought a lot of the epilogue was unnecessary and didn’t need to be in the film. It also spends a lot of time establishing future storylines but it’s very damn likely that this will never get a sequel, as Warner Bros. were really determined not to allow this version of the film to be completed in the first place, as they want Zack Snyder to just go away now.

For those who don’t know, it was their parent company, AT&T, that forced their hand, as they needed something huge to help drive potential subscribers to their new HBO Max streaming service. This is also why this probably didn’t get a proper theatrical release.

In the end, this was still far from great and it was too damn long. However, I’d say that it’s the best DC Comics related film that Snyder has done apart from Watchmen.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Zack Snyder’s other DCEU films.

Book Review: ‘Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History Book’ by Michael Witwer, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson & Sam Witwer

I never got to play Dungeons & Dragons, even though I was fascinated by it. My mum dumped the religion on me pretty hard and then by the time I was older and didn’t care about that, none of my friends really cared about playing D&D anymore.

I’ve always adored the franchise and everything within it, as I’ve always loved fantasy, especially sword and sorcery fiction and movies. I also dug the hell out of the cartoon when I was a kid, which I was actually allowed to watch for some reason.

This big, thick, hardcover masterpiece is a damn fine book to add to your collection. Even if you’re not a fan of the franchise, the artwork collected in this alone makes the book well worth the price tag.

One really cool thing about this is that it’s foreward was written by Joe Manganiello. Yes, that Joe Manganiello, who apparently was a massive D&D fan. Sam Witwer, another actor known for a lot of his sci-fi roles, also contributed to this.

This book covers a lot more than even its large size would imply. It shows the history of the property in just about all of its forms from early role-playing manuals to the animated series to video games to comics to books and just about every other medium and product that adorned the Dungeons & Dragons name.

I love this book. Right now, it’s on my coffee table. Granted, I should probably move it before someone with French fry fingers gets it all nasty. 

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: anything, from any media, about Dungeons & Dragons, as well as other big, hardcover art books on cool nerd shit.

Film Review: Spider-Man 3 (2007)

Also known as: 3 (trailer title)
Release Date: April 3rd, 2007 (Uruguay)
Directed by: Sam Raimi
Written by: Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi, Alvin Sargent
Based on: Spider-Man by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko
Music by: Christopher Young
Cast: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Rosemary Harris, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace, Bryce Dallas Howard, J.K. Simmons, Bill Nunn, Elizabeth Banks, Ted Raimi, Bruce Campbell, Dylan Baker, Elya Baskin, James Cromwell, Willem Dafoe (cameo), Cliff Robertson (cameo), Joe Manganiello (cameo)

Marvel Entertainment, Laura Ziskin Productions, Columbia Pictures, 139 Minutes, 137 Minutes (Editor’s Cut)

Review:

“Whatever comes our way, whatever battle we have raging inside us, we always have a choice. My friend Harry taught me that. He chose to be the best of himself. It’s the choices that make us who we are, and we can always choose to do what’s right.” – Peter Parker

While this wasn’t as bad as I remembered, there are still some things that are very off about this picture.

Starting with a positive, I do like the visual tone of this film the best out of the trilogy. It abandoned that overly copper, sunset look the other ones had and most of the film takes place at night or in normal daylight.

However, the improvements in the visual look are overshadowed by the film’s very shoddy CGI effects. It’s kind of baffling but this is the worst looking film of the three when it comes to digital effects. I’m not sure if the studio cut some corners or were rushed but most action heavy CGI sequences looked like a video game. It was distracting and pulled you out of the magic.

I think it’s possible that they overextended themselves in trying to include both Venom and The Sandman, as it’s damn near impossible to create those characters, in all their glory, without the use of CGI. In fact, their battles in the film needed to be larger than life spectacles.

Now the problem isn’t the use of either villain but it’s the use of both of them at the same time. Plus, Harry Osborn also becomes the new Green Goblin.

This picture suffers across the board because trying to wedge in three villains just didn’t work from a narrative standpoint and it forced the effects artists to focus their efforts into multiple effects heavy characters.

Now the film did a superb job with The Sandman’s story and if this movie just focused on him, it could’ve actually been incredible. The Sandman gets thrown to the side at multiple points throughout the movie though, as they then have to rush through Venom’s origin in the most half-assed way possible. Then they have to deal with Harry and his Goblin thing, Peter and Mary Jane’s relationship issues, introducing Gwen Stacy and even having Peter turn into an emo douche because I guess that’s what the Venom symbiote does in the movie universe.

The narrative is disjointed as hell but where it’s good, it’s great. But every time you really get into a portion of the story, it shifts gears or throws something stupid at you. The misfires and shifts are pretty maddening, especially when there are things in the film that work and come across as spectacular. It’s like you can see the real love for these characters rise up like cream to the top but then the filmmakers stir the coffee again. By the third act, they just keep throwing hot coffee in your face.

In a nutshell, this is a clusterfuck but it’s a clusterfuck that has greatness in it. I still like the movie despite its massive flaws and for fans of Harry Osborn, his journey comes to a beautiful end. With it, the film hits you right in the feels, as you feel the pain that Peter and Mary Jane share over the loss of their dear friend and how wrecked their own relationship has become.

The film does leave you with some hope but the ending is still kind of a downer. Granted, they planned a followup (or three) to this film but those movies never happened.

In the end, this movie was a weird end to the film series. I know it wasn’t intended to be the send off for these characters but it left the film series in a strange, uncertain place. I would’ve liked to have seen this cast get to make at least one more picture but that ship has sailed.

Maybe a comic book sequel could work but with the comic industry being in the shitter, waiting to be flushed, that’s probably wishful thinking. Plus, they’ve already rebooted the film series twice since this came out.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the other two films in this mostly great series.

Film Review: Spider-Man (2002)

Also known as: Spider-Man: The Motion Picture (working title)
Release Date: April 30th, 2002 (Philippines premiere)
Directed by: Sam Raimi
Written by: David Koepp
Based on: Spider-Man by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko
Music by: Danny Elfman
Cast: Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Cliff Robertson, Rosemary Harris, J.K. Simmons, Joe Manganiello, Bill Nunn, Elizabeth Banks, Ted Raimi, Bruce Campbell, Randy Savage, Octavia Spencer, Macy Gray, Lucy Lawless, Jim Norton

Marvel Entertainment, Laura Ziskin Productions, Columbia Pictures, 121 Minutes

Review:

“Remember, with great power comes great responsibility.” – Uncle Ben

Spider-Man blew my mind when it came out in 2002, as the vast majority of comic book movies before it were terrible. Also, Marvel didn’t have a good track record up to this point, other than 2000’s X-Men, which was just one movie that seemed to have taken a step in the right direction.

Sam Raimi made magic, however, and seeing this for the first time in a very long time, I’ve got to say that the magic is still there. Frankly, I loved this movie in 2002 and I love it now in 2020.

Side note: how the hell is this 18 years-old already?

From top to bottom, this is a solid picture. Sure, I have some issues with the creative direction but it achieved what it set out to do, which was to tell a great origin story, close to the source material, and to entertain and give fans something spectacular.

On top of that, it’s well acted, everyone plays their parts well and even if Tobey Maguire wasn’t 100 percent perfect as Spider-Man or Peter Parker, it’s hard not to love him and become invested in his journey. I’m from the camp that really liked Tobey Maguire and I still think he’s the best live-action Spider-Man, overall.

I also thought that Willem Dafoe was genius casting as Norman Osborn a.k.a. the Green Goblin. While I’m not a fan of the Goblin’s suit in the movie, as a character, his was pretty close to perfect. It actually kind of sucks that they only really got to use him in one film but the story that emerged from his demise makes up for it, as these movies become just as much about Harry Osborn’s journey, as they are Peter Parker’s.

This is just so well crafted and executed that it set the bar really high for the series. It would actually be eclipsed by the second movie, which I once considered a near masterpiece. We’ll see how I still feel about it in another week or so. Let’s try not to talk about the third film until I review that one. I have a feeling that time did it some favors in spite of its creative misfires.

Anyway, the emotional high points of this movie still hit me right in the feels and regardless of having seen this multiple times, it’s all still very effective. The Uncle Ben stuff really feels like a punch to the gut, even if you know it’s coming and you’ve already experienced it.

Apart from the Goblin costume, my only real gripe about the movie is the overly copper look to it. It’s not terrible but I’m not a fan of everything sort of looking like it was shot at sunset, excluding the night scenes. This just feels really filtered and overly vivid. It’s an obvious creative choice but it’s not one that makes the visual presentation look more like the comics. Well, maybe the comics of the time but it kind of detracts from what could’ve been a more colorful, more cheerful look to the film, more akin to the classic artwork and tone of Steve Ditko.

One thing that really stood out to me quite a bit was Danny Elfman’s score. What happened to movie scores? There really aren’t very many that are that memorable in modern times and this one just really points that out, as it’s dynamic, energetic, fun and I’d say, by this point, iconic. While it’s not on the level of Elfman’s Batman scores, it feels more refined and complex and it doesn’t come off as derivative of his older work, which some of his scores do.

Spider-Man still is one of the best superhero movies ever made. I think it’ll maintain that status forever, as it helped push Marvel properties down the right cinematic path and it exceeded 2000’s X-Men by quite a bit.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the other two films in this mostly great series.

Film Review: Rampage (2018)

Release Date: April 4th, 2018 (Microsoft Theater premiere)
Directed by: Brad Peyton
Written by: Ryan Engle, Carlton Cuse, Ryan J. Condal, Adam Sztykiel
Based on: Rampage by Midway Games
Music by: Andrew Lockington
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Malin Akerman, Jake Lacy, Joe Manganiello, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Marley Shelton, Matt Gerald

New Line Cinema, Flynn Picture Company, Rickard Pictures, Seven Bucks Productions, Warner Bros., 107 Minutes

Review:

“Like my grandpappy always said, ‘Us assholes gotta stick together.'” – Harvey Russell

I wasn’t sure what to think going into this film. I am a massive fan of kaiju movies and I was a big fan of the Rampage video game when I was dropping quarters into it on the reg back in the ’80s. However, the game didn’t have a plot, really. It was just about playing as one of three monsters: a gorilla, a werewolf or a lizard. The only real purpose was to cause as much destruction as you possibly could: punching buildings into rubble and eating people hanging out of windows.

The film’s story actually did a decent job of explaining the creation of these giant creatures and their physics defying abilities.

For the most part, I really liked this movie. It was ridiculous in the best way possible and a ton of friggin’ fun. This is what a blockbuster should be. It doesn’t have to be scientifically accurate or attempt to be overly serious, it can be a balls to the wall smash’em up festival. And while that formula has worn thin and I’ve been critical of it in the past (*cough, cough Man of Steel), when done right and with an organic purpose, it can still work. It works here.

From a storyline standpoint, this is more engaging than the first Pacific Rim movie. I liked the plot of the second Pacific Rim much better, by the way. Rampage just does a good job with its human characters and also really makes you feel for George, the Rock’s large albino gorilla friend who turns into a menace, only to be cured of his aggression and turn into a hero that teams up with the Rock in taking down the other two monsters: the giant wolf and the giant alligator.

I also love the cast. The Rock, who prefers to just be Dwayne Johnson now but is and will always be The Rock to me, leads the charge but is backed up by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Naomie Harris, Malin Akerman, Joe Manganiello and Marley Shelton, the last two being in small roles, unfortunately.

But with The Rock, Morgan and Manganiello together in the same film, there is a testosterone overload that matches the beastly intensity of the three actual beasts in the film. I also loved Malin Akerman as a villainous corporate bitch in this. She was perfect, cold and still looking damn fine. In fact, having her and Morgan in this makes the film a mini Watchmen reunion.

I also really liked the Easter egg of having the old Rampage arcade game in Akerman’s office.

There are some goofy things about the movie. Okay, “some” is an understatement. However, it works for a movie with giant monsters tearing up Chicago and literally toppling the Sears Tower. I’m not going to get nitpicky and bitch too hard but sometimes the dialogue was forced and felt unnatural but this was usually in the moments where The Rock was yelling at green screen. There just seemed to be a disconnect at times, which isn’t the actor’s fault but for some reason certain bits felt off.

The creatures and their physical embellishments all worked for me and the special effects used to bring them to life was well done. I also like that they didn’t make the monsters too big like the Pacific Rim kaiju or the modern versions of Godzilla. The monsters don’t have to tower over the largest buildings, they just need to tower over the humans running away and the military might that confronts them.

Rampage isn’t a great motion picture in the terms of being cinematic art or something that the Academy would see as worthy of their consideration outside of special effects. However, it is a solid popcorn movie. Especially for those of us who can’t get enough modern kaiju films.

And if you are wondering if there is a scene where a monster eats a lady like in the video game, well… you won’t be disappointed. And frankly, it’s an awesome f’n moment.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: The 2014 Godzilla remake, Kong: Skull Island and the Pacific Rim movies.

Film Review: Justice League (2017)

Release Date: October 26th, 2017 (Beijing premiere)
Directed by: Zack Snyder, Joss Whedon (uncredited)
Written by: Chris Terrio, Joss Whedon, Zack Snyder
Based on: Characters from DC Comics
Music by: Danny Elfman
Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Amy Adams, Diane Lane, Jeremy Irons, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Connie Nielsen, J.K. Simmons, Jesse Eisenberg (cameo), Joe Manganiello (cameo)

Access Entertainment, DC Entertainment, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, Atlas Entertainment, Cruel and Unusual Films, Warner Bros., 120 Minutes

Review:

“I miss the days whens one’s biggest concern is exploding wind-up penguins.” – Alfred Pennyworth

Pardon my French but this was fucking unwatchable.

How does a film with a $300 million dollar budget in 2017 look like absolute dog shit? I have a rule, if you have a massive budget, you need to look as good or better than the original Lord of the Rings trilogy because those movies are getting close to twenty years old and they still look pretty perfect. Is technology regressing? Are the digital artists just shit now? What the hell happened with this picture?

The best way to describe this film is “CGI shit storm”. It was like someone took a bunch of unfinished, random CGI pieces, threw them in a blender and pureed that shit for two hours.

Hell, this makes Suicide Squad look like a f’n masterpiece by comparison.

The absolute worst thing about this film isn’t even the Sharknado looking special effects, it is Ezra Miller’s Flash. He’s an annoying, unfunny douchebag that is supposed to be comedic relief but is about as effective as Jay Leno trying to use Dane Cook’s material. He’s your token eccentric weirdo millennial hipster that did the most un-Flash-like thing ever by showing up late to the kooky character pop culture party. We’ve seen the type, it sucked before and it sucks now.

The film’s script and story is terrible. This is a hard film to follow, not because it is complicated but because it is a nonsensical mess that just feels like a two hour trailer and not an actual movie with some sort of a cohesive plot. In fact, it is hard to straighten out my thoughts and write much of a cohesive review because my brain is still spinning from the CGI puree. Anyway, I wrote better comic book stories when I was seven years-old and drunk.

Not a single character in this film is interesting in any way. Flash, again, sucks. Cyborg also sucks. Wonder Woman looked bored. Aquaman was token Momoa backed by CGI that defied the laws of physics in every way. Batman was boring. Superman was even more boring and his lovey dovey bullshit with Lois Lane trying to bring him back to normalcy was so cringe worthy it rivals the romance scenes between Padme and Anakin from Attack of the Clones. Yes, it was that fucking bad.

But hey, we get a cameo from Jesse Eisenluthor and Deathstroke. “Boo” for Luthor. “Hells Yeah!” for Deathstroke.

As far as the villain goes, didn’t Wonder Woman kill that same guy in her movie? Is every DC villain going to be some throwaway character no one cares about that resembles some ancient mythological god? That’s boring. And people think Marvel has a villain problem in their movies. I mean they do but DC makes Marvel’s faults look like strengths with how bad most of these movies have been.

I will never watch this film again and I have serious doubts that I’ll care for any other DC Comics movie for a very long time.

The only real positive about this film is that it wasn’t thirteen hours like Batman v. Superman. But really, it was still two hours too long.

Rating: 1.75/10
Pairs well with: Well, I guess the other really shitty DC Comics films, as of late.

Film Review: Pee-wee’s Big Holiday (2016)

Release Date: March 17th, 2016 (SXSW premiere)
Directed by: John Lee
Written by: Paul Reubens, Paul Rust
Music by: Mark Mothersbaugh
Cast: Paul Reubens, Joe Manganiello, Alia Shawkat, Jessica Pohly, Stephanie Beatriz, Brad William Henke, Hal Landon Jr., Diane Salinger, Patrick Egan, Tara Buck, David Arquette

Pee-wee Pictures, Apatow Productions, Netflix, 89 Minutes

Review:

It has been close to three decades since Paul Reubens has given us a Pee-wee Herman film. I went into this expecting it to be entertaining enough for a viewing but didn’t anticipate it being close to the level of greatness that was Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. But I certainly hoped it would be better than Big Top Pee-wee.

It falls somewhere in-between those two movies but very close to Big Adventure.

The film does a fantastic job of capturing the heart of the original film. Sure, it is essentially a rehash of that movie, considering that circumstances send him on a big road trip.

Reubens hasn’t lost a step, even though it has been a long time since he gave us a full length Pee-wee feature. The magic is still there and Reubens does a fine job of recreating the spirit of the character and the oddness that is Pee-wee’s world.

He is accompanied by Joe Manganiello, who plays himself. Manganiello is stupendous though in this goofy comedy and he brings a level of coolness to the picture and to Pee-wee’s life.

It is also a film that showcases friendship and does a fine job of it, considering it plays out in such a bizarre fashion.

But what is Pee-wee Herman, if not bizarre?

It’s definitely a movie for Pee-wee fans and probably won’t be that entertaining to newcomers to Reubens’ wacky world. But if Pee-wee is your thing, this film certainly isn’t a disappointment and lives up to whatever expectations it may have.

It also features probably the most elaborate Rube Goldberg machine sequence in any Pee-wee adventure.

Rating: 8/10