Also known as: Superman: Man of Steel (working title), Autumn Frost (fake working title)
Release Date: June 10th, 2013 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Written by: David S. Goyer
Based on: Superman by Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Antje Traue, Ayelet Zurer, Christopher Meloni, Russell Crowe, Carla Gugino (voice)
Syncopy, Legendary Entertainment, Warner Bros., 143 Minutes
“You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun, Kal. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.” – Jor-El
I was pretty disappointed with this film when it came out and honestly, I’m still pretty disappointed in it, watching it seven years later.
My biggest takeaway from the movie is how good Henry Cavill is as Superman. It just kind of sucks that this is the script and the film that he was given to play that role.
Sadly, the movies with him in them didn’t get any better and this whole DCEU is like a wet fart when compared to Marvel’s MCU, which this was designed to compete with.
Zack Snyder seems like a nice enough guy but his films just never really seem to speak to me. He has his fans, he has his critics and while I want to like the guy’s movies, I can’t give them a free pass because he’s a great guy that does come into his projects with actual passion for the material.
The big issue with this film more than anything is the writing. It’s just a drab yet exhausting story where it feels like a lot happens but nothing happens. It also features so much over-the-top mass destruction that it breaks the movie from top-to-bottom.
General Zod, a human-sized alien dictator comes to Earth and causes more destruction to a major city than all of the Godzilla movies combined yet Superman won’t kill him until Zod’s just about to laser eye a few people to death?
One, this guy already killed hundreds of thousands, if not millions.
Two, why the fuck didn’t these people run while Superman had Zod mostly subdued in a read choke?
Three, couldn’t Superman have just poked Zod’s eyes out Three Stooges style?
When you think about it, this is a really dumb movie.
Hell, you don’t need to think about it. I watched this the first time in the theater baffled by half of it and annoyed by the other half. And man, I really wanted to like it because I loved Cavill, as well as Russell Crowe and Michael Shannon. I also liked seeing Laurence Fishburne play Perry White. Although, Amy Adams was just another actress that didn’t feel like Lois Lane.
Ultimately, this wasn’t the worst DCEU movie but like most of them, it was still a wet fart.
Pairs well with: the other Zack Snyder DCEU films.
Also known as: Bad Around the World (working title)
Release Date: July 9th, 2003 (Westwood premiere)
Directed by: MIchael Bay
Written by: Ron Shelton, Jerry Stahl, Cormac Wibberley, Marianne Wibberley
Based on: characters by George Gallo
Music by: Trevor Rabin
Cast: Martin Lawrence, Will Smith, Jordi Molla, Gabrielle Union, Peter Stormare, Theresa Randle, Joe Pantoliano, John Salley, Otto Sanchez, Jon Seda, Oleg Taktarov, Michael Shannon, Henry Rollins, Dan Marino (cameo)
Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Columbia Pictures, 147 Minutes
“I’ve got so much brass up my ass that I can play the Star Spangled Banner.” – Captain Howard
This may be the most quintessential Michael Bay movie that I like. Honestly, it’s as good as a Bay film can be and it’s two leading stars just make every moment an enjoyable one.
I’m glad that I watched this again, after so many years, because it really builds off of the first film and ups the ante in a great way.
My only real complaint about it is that it’s a bit too long. I feel like some things could’ve been left out but Bay likes long movies with long action sequences and not too much plot getting in the way of the spectacle.
Still, this isn’t boring or slow, it just feels like it’s a half hour longer than it needs to be.
It’s well shot, competently edited and it displays the Bay style better than just about any other Bay movie. It’s certainly not a visual clusterfuck like his special effects heavy movies tend to be.
I also don’t think that this would’ve been anywhere near as good of a movie if it didn’t star Martin Lawrence and Will Smith. Those guys, especially in this era, were just gold and they have incredible chemistry, as their bond in the film comes across as genuine and real.
The film’s plot is a cookie cutter drug crime tale. There’s not much about it that sets it apart from similar films and the criminal activity isn’t all that impressive or creative. But, honestly, it doesn’t need to be. This is a movie that’s just supposed to be a fun, mostly mindless, popcorn flick and it succeeds at that, immensely.
I enjoyed the additions to the cast and thought that Gabrielle Union was solid, which is probably why her character, all these years later, got her own spin off television series. I may have to watch and review it after I check out the third Bad Boys movie.
In the end, this is just pure, unadulterated, unfiltered fun. It stars two guys everyone should love, doesn’t have a dull moment, is equally badass and hilarious and has some incredibly great action sequences that have not only stood the test of time but are still some of the best ever filmed.
I don’t say this often but hats off to Michael Bay.
Pairs well with: the other Bad Boys films, as well as the Lethal Weapon and Beverly Hills Cop movies.
Release Date: October 25th, 2013
Directed by: Scott Devine, J.M. Kenny
Written by: Scott Devine, Jack Mulligan
Music by: Kris Dirksen (as Methodic Doubt)
Cast: Christopher Lee (narrator), Neal Adams, Clancy Brown, Kevin Conroy, Guillermo del Toro, Dan Didio, Paul Dini, Richard Donner, Marc Guggenheim, Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, CM Punk, Michael Shannon, Scott Snyder, Zack Snyder, Peter Tomasi, Marv Wolfman
DC Comics, mOcean, Warner Bros., 99 Minutes
This was just a really cool documentary accented by the narration of the legendary and superb Christopher Lee. It also had a fantastic cast of interviewees.
A great retrospective on the darker half of DC Comics’ long history, Necessary Evil was delightful. I enjoyed it so much and wish that it was actually a lot longer. The DC mythos and it’s rich history could easily fill up a season of a documentary series. I could sit through a Ken Burns’ Baseball length documentary on this subject and maintain the same level of excitement. Assuming its as well produced as this is.
You can’t have a great hero without a great villain and this does a fantastic job at making the audience understand how these characters truly are a “necessary evil” in how they make the heroes better and how they make these stories last for decades. Comic books are America’s mythology and a good villain with a good story is at the forefront of the most memorable moments in these epic tales.
This film analyzes a lot of key villains in the DC universe. Unfortunately, you can’t cover every villain in 99 minutes and frankly, this probably only touches on like one percent of them, as there have been so many in the 80 years since the first Superman comic was published. One of the interviewees mentioned that DC’s villain count was into the thousands and really, that doesn’t seem too far fetched in the grand scheme of things.
I really enjoyed hearing from Jim Lee, Geoff Johns and Scott Snyder. These guys have been at the forefront of many of the stories I’ve enjoyed since the ’90s. We also get to see movie directors Richard Donner, Zack Snyder and Guillermo del Toro chime in.
A lot of comic book documentaries are done on the cheap and can’t round up a very solid cast of people to interview. In the last few years, we’ve gotten some really good documentaries on the subject, though. This is one of the best out there and really, who doesn’t love the f’n villains?
Pairs well with: Other recent comic book documentaries: The Image Revolution, Chris Claremont’s X-Men and Neil Gaiman: Dream Dangerously.
Release Date: June 17th, 2010 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Jimmy Hayward
Written by: Neveldine/Taylor, William Farmer
Based on: Jonah Hex by John Albano, Tony Dezuniga
Music by: Marco Beltrami, Mastodon
Cast: Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Megan Fox, Michael Fassbender, Will Arnett, Michael Shannon, Wes Bentley, Aidan Quinn, Lance Reddick, Tom Wopat, Jeffrey Dean Morgan
DC Comics, Legendary Pictures, Mad Chance, Weed Road Pictures, Warner Bros., 81 Minutes
“War and me took to each other real well. It felt like it had meaning. The feeling of doing what you thought was right. But it wasn’t. Folks can believe what they like, but eventually a man’s gotta decide if he’s gonna do what’s right. That choice cost me more than I bargained for.” – Jonah Hex
This has a measly 4.7 rating on IMDb. I’m calling bullshit on that. This is not as bad as a 4.7 would imply but I’ll get into why.
This film came out, it didn’t look exciting, it didn’t generate the right kind of buzz and it just sort of fizzled out immediately. To be honest, I didn’t support its theatrical run and sort of forgot about it until a friend and I were talking about Josh Brolin and his multiple comic book roles. So I figured that I’d check it out, eight years later.
What I didn’t know, at the time, is that this thing has a pretty stacked cast. Not only do you have Brolin and Megan Fox, probably the hottest starlet circa 2010, but you also have John Malkovich, Michael Fassbender, Will Arnett, Michael Shannon, Wes Bentley, Aidan Quinn, Lance Reddick, Tom Wopat and an uncredited Jeffrey Dean Morgan. This is a movie full of manly men with talent.
There is a lot working for this movie but there is also a lot working against it, which is why it wasn’t successful. Well, and the trailers made it look goofier than it actually was.
The biggest problem with this picture is running time. Now I have to assume that this fell victim to producer meddling, being behind schedule or a writers’ strike. Reason being, this film should not have been just 81 minutes. It feels like there is a half hour missing from the movie and there probably is. Maybe a lot of scenes came out so bad that they got cut and this is the only way they could have salvaged the film. Whatever the reason, this picture lacks character development, story development and any real emotional weight or deeper context.
That aside, however, this is a balls to the wall action fest with some cool ideas and the kernel of something that could have been really damn good had it been managed much better.
Brolin was good as Hex. Fox was incredibly hot as the eye candy, which is all she needs to be. Malkovich was a formidable villain but just didn’t have the time to properly shine and the same goes for Fassbender, really.
Ultimately, this felt like a completely wasted opportunity. It had some very good pieces but the puzzle was left unfinished with most of the pieces hammered into the wrong place.
I still think that there is more going right for this film than wrong and I can’t give it a rating below a 5 out of 10. The film just feels unfinished and I wish they would have spent the time to work out the noticeable kinks and given us something more worthy of this film’s roster of onscreen talent.
Pairs well with: Other sci-fi/comic book/western hybrids: Cowboys & Aliens, Wild Wild West and The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. Also, the Jonah Hex episodes of Legends of Tomorrow.
Release Date: May 19th, 2006 (Cannes)
Directed by: William Friedkin
Written by: Tracy Letts
Based on: Bug by Tracy Letts
Music by: Brian Tyler
Cast: Ashley Judd, Michael Shannon, Lynn Collins, Brian F. O’Byrne, Harry Connick Jr.
DMK Mediafonds International, Inferno Distribution LLC, L.I.F.T. Productions, Lionsgate, 101 Minutes
“I guess I’d rather talk with you about bugs than nothing with nobody.” – Agnes White
William Friedkin is most associated with directing The Exorcist. This film, however, leaves you with a similar sense of disgust and dread.
In this picture, we meet Agnes, a lonely Oklahoma woman that works in a gay bar and lives in a rundown hotel. She does drugs and fools around with a lesbian, has a psycho ex-husband that just got out of prison and is still emotionally wrecked from the loss of her child.
Agnes is introduced to Peter and immediately develops in infatuation with him. Peter and Agnes get very close and intimate, even though Peter “isn’t into women” or anyone for that matter. Soon, we learn that Peter believes in all sorts of crazy conspiracies and even thinks that he was implanted with flesh eating bugs as some sort of military experiment.
As the film rolls on, Peter gets more erratic and insane and Agnes follows suit, believing him every step of the way. She starts seeing what Peter is seeing.
The film is magnificently shot. The opening scene that pans over a dark and barren landscape, slowly moving towards a small hotel in the distance, is beautiful and haunting. The cinematography in the last twenty minutes or so, showing these two insane people in a confined space of tin foil walls glowing from bug zappers is eerie and enchanting. This film certainly looks spectacular.
Bug also benefits from the tremendous performances by both Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon, who sell their characters to the point that their slip into madness feels organic and terrifying.
Despite the solid acting, though, the characters aren’t nearly developed enough in the script and it is hard to feel anything deeper for them beyond their psychotic surface. Sure, your heart aches in a way but you don’t necessarily like these two people or find them to be that interesting. Watching anyone slip into a horrible state of mental health is always engaging to some degree but this film lacks the soul it needs to really make it as profound as it was trying to be.
Besides, everything just sort of happens and once the crazy ball gets rolling, we’re off to the races and it goes from 0 to 60 in record time.
Bug is a film that has a lot of strengths but doesn’t do much to capitalize on them other than just throwing them on the screen and hoping it works on its own. It’s hard to say whether or not the script was lacking, although it seems as though it was, or if Friedkin failed to bring it all together. I think the blame is really on both of those things, though.
Plus, you’re supposed to wonder if Peter is actually telling the truth and isn’t just nuts. I never once thought he was anything but nuts and saw this all as a shared delusion. I know that I was supposed to question it but that just didn’t work for me.
Additionally, the ending is pretty terrible and didn’t add anything to the narrative. Things just sort of end very badly and very blandly.
This is a creepy and disturbing movie that will certainly make you uncomfortable but it is just as much unsatisfying as it is mesmerizing.
Pairs well with: Other body horror films: The Brood, The Fly, etc.
Release Date: August 31st, 2017 (Venice International Film Festival)
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Written by: Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor
Music by: Alexandre Desplat
Cast: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, Octavia Spencer
Double Dare You Productions, Fox Searchlight Pictures, 123 Minutes
*Warning: there will be spoilers!
“You may think, “That thing looks human.” Stands on two legs, right? But – we’re created in the Lord’s image. You don’t think that’s what the Lord looks like, do you?” – Strickland
I was fairly excited for The Shape of Water, as it isn’t very often that we get movies with Gillmen or some variant of one. The Creature From the Black Lagoon is one of my favorite movies of all-time, so I have always had a soft spot for aquatic humanoid monsters. Plus, Guillermo del Toro is pretty much the godfather of the modern dark fairy-tale.
It should probably go without saying that this film was a visual delight and that it boasted incredible cinematography and great lighting. All of this was enhanced by the great care and attention to detail in the set design and the overall early 1960s setting. It was like the flip side of a Mad Men world, where instead of light and cheeriness, there is a looming darkness and a cloud of depression over these characters and their world.
This isn’t a straight up reinterpretation of The Creature From the Black Lagoon though. It is actually closer to that film’s sequels, which saw the Gillman in captivity and being experimented on by human scientists. But even then, this is more of a Beauty and the Beast story than anything else. It just so happens that the beast is an aquatic creature from the Amazon and that he is a prisoner of evil men.
Beauty in this case is Sally Hawkins’ Elisa. She is a cleaning lady that works at a big government institution where they are doing experiments on the monster. She has an immediate attraction to the creature, as both are outsiders who have been treated badly by others. You see, Elisa is a mute and she is constantly treated differently because of her handicap.
As the story rolls on, Elisa falls in love with the creature, as he doesn’t see her as someone with a handicap. While the story generally works well it is a bit forced and overly sappy. Del Toro lays it on real thick.
Eventually, Elisa frees the creature from the institution and keeps him at her home where the two do get it on. Maybe I’m old fashioned but the sex element to the story was a bit bizarre and brings up questions of bestiality whether or not the creature is intelligent or not. In the film, this just seemed to be an afterthought because love is the focus. Well, I’ve loved all my dogs over the years but I never fucked them and one of them was intelligent enough to open doors.
The sex with the creature angle would be okay in some twisted grindhouse picture that’s made to shock people but here it happens in a film that carries a message of love and is well made, well produced and will probably be up for a lot of big awards in a few months. And the issue just felt like an afterthought. It’s not just some plot point to accept within the context, it’s a pretty big moral curveball. But I guess most of the other critics are okay with Beauty banging the Beast before he returns to human form. But this film isn’t cheap fantasy erotica… or is it? Is this just Fifty Shades of Beast Cock?
The film also keeps beating its audience with how much these people are outsiders. It doesn’t take much to figure out and it could have been done much more subtlety. I feel like del Toro is falling into the same trap as a lot of contemporary filmmakers, where he feels the need to spell everything out and then keep reinforcing those points throughout the movie.
The film is also two hours but it felt like it was three. The first half moves fairly quickly but once the monster escapes the clutches of the evil humans, everything just drags to a crawl. We get a big showdown in the end but ultimately, the film was pretty predictable. Well, except for the bestiality curveball. Glad I didn’t take my mum or one of my aunts to this. I never would’ve heard the end of it, “Oh, Robbie… the fish man is nice but why would you have sex with him? He’s a fish man!”
I liked this movie from a technical and visual standpoint but I was letdown by the story and its execution. I thought the acting as exceptional but that can’t save a poor script and clunky narrative.
Release Date: May 16th, 2016 (Cannes Film Festival)
Directed by: Jeff Nichols
Written by: Jeff Nichols
Based on: The Loving Story by Nancy Buirski
Music by: David Wingo
Cast: Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga, Marton Csokas, Nick Kroll, Michael Shannon
Big Beach, Raindog Films, Focus Features, 123 Minutes
I really wanted to get around to seeing Loving before the Academy Awards. Ruth Negga was nominated for Best Actress for the film and I have been a fan of her work since first discovering her on the great British television show Misfits. People really need to watch Misfits; I think it is still available on Hulu.
The film is also the first time that I had seen Nick Kroll shed his comedy shtick and try something serious. Kroll did great, by the way.
Loving is the true story of the Loving family and how their interracial marriage caused them a lot of problems in Virginia in 1958, as well as after. It follows their story of love and showcases the challenges that they face. In the end, their situation led to a Supreme Court decision that prevented any sort of legal troubles for interracial couples that marry.
The acting in the film was superb and Negga really takes things to another level, especially in the latter half of the film. Joel Edgerton was solid but he is usually pretty good. Michael Shannon has a small role as a photographer but he is also really impactful.
The focal point of the movie is the relationship between the Lovings. They support each other, they carry each other and ultimately, their bond is tested but only gets stronger.
Loving is a good movie about an important story that needed to be told. I wouldn’t consider it to be a great picture but it features a really strong display of acting prowess from its stellar cast.