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.

Film Review: Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)

Also known as: Wonder Woman 2 (informal title), WW84 (promotional title)
Release Date: December 16th, 2020 (several international markets)
Directed by: Patty Jenkins
Written by: Patty Jenkins, Geoff Johns, David Callaham
Based on: Wonder Woman by William Moulton Marston
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, Lynda Carter (cameo)

Atlas Entertainment, DC Entertainment, DC Comics, Warner Bros., 151 Minutes

Review:

“I don’t wanna be like anyone. I want to be an apex predator. You’ve always had everything while people like me have had nothing. Well now it’s my turn. Get used to it.” – Barbara Minerva

I really liked the first Patty Jenkins Wonder Woman movie. However, I always felt like my initial reaction was a bit overblown, as it had the same sort of long-term effect that the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies tend to give me. You see, I leave the theater really satisfied but then, as time passes, I don’t have much urge to ever rewatch them again.

I let my high rating for 2017’s Wonder Woman stand because it was my initial reaction to seeing the film for the first time. And I also thought that I’d give the sequels their fair shot at doing the same. I thought about revisiting the first movie before seeing its long-awaited and long-delayed follow-up . However, I just couldn’t muster up the interest.

Having now seen Wonder Woman 1984, I feel a bit harsher towards the first movie, as it kind of exposes some of the flaws it had a bit more. The reason being, this film shares those flaws but also shows that Jenkins couldn’t correct them and in fact, doubled down on them because she either didn’t know they were there or because she doesn’t listen to actual criticism.

The biggest of those flaws is the action. In the first film, it was wonky and not very great except for a few dynamic shots. In this movie, you open with some Amazonian Olympic games, followed by a quick action montage to reintroduce us to the film’s hero. Then you have to wait an hour and twenty minutes before you get to the first legit action sequence, which is terrible, ignores all the laws of physics and has certain things happen just for plot convenience. You then get another sequence in the White House and then one more big final fight. That’s it for a two and a half hour movie about a comic book superhero.

I actually have to say that the opening sequence of the child Diana competing against adult Amazons in their version of American Ninja Warrior was, believe it or not, my favorite thing in the film. This takes up the first ten-to-fifteen minutes of the movie and then it’s all downhill from there.

This is followed up by reintroducing us to Gal Gadot, as the adult Diana a.k.a. Wonder Woman. This is a cheesy, slapstick-y introduction that wedges in so much blatant ’80s iconography it looks like Stranger Things buttfucking The Goldbergs while sucking on Ready Player One‘s tits and reaching around to fingerbang Hot Tub Time Machine. The whole sequence is awful, lowest common denominator, try hard bullshit where the director doesn’t know what she’s doing but she’s trying to cover that up by throwing Trapper Keepers in your face.

Over an hour later we get the next action scene. This is actually the first straight up, real action scene. However, it is quick, dumb and ended with Diana lassoing a goddamned missile, riding it down the street to scoop up two kids and then crashing and rolling on the street in a way that would have killed them. But whatever.

The White House fight was actually fairly decent and the only action sequence that was. But for a high point in regards to the action, it was dull and just a paint-by-numbers affair.

The final fight sees Diana then fight Kristen Wiig’s Cheetah, who at this point has turned into an actual humanoid cheetah. The character’s CGI is deplorable. I mean, it’s really damn bad. It was hard to watch this scene, as it played like late ’90s Sci-Fi Channel cringe.

At the same time, I did feel the emotion of the conflict, as Diana cared about the woman Cheetah used to be but even then, the visuals were so shit that it ruined the connection that this confrontation needed to have with the audience. The baffling bad CGI was just distracting and pulled you right out of the film.

After that, we have to see Wonder Woman finally confront Maxwell Lord, who has essentially turned himself into a genie that is trying to grant the wishes of everyone on the planet. This whole storyline was dumb as hell, made little-to-no sense and I never really understood the villain’s true motivation other than he was a loser that craved power. It was said that this character was supposed to represent Donald Trump and be a critique of his presidency and personality. Frankly, after seeing this movie, that doesn’t make a lick of fucking sense. Also, in the end, he reverses everything and reunites with his son. Was he off the hook? Did he serve jail time? I guess none of that is important because this movie is stupid.

So between the action scenes, we have long drawn out dramatic stuff. Most of it is boring but we see Diana and Steve, her love from the first film, reunite. However, Steve came back from a wish Diana made early in the story. So, the writing was on the wall from the get go that Steve was going to have to die to beat the villain.

Moving on, the cinematography was bland and basic. It felt tonally at odds with the first picture and didn’t really feel like it had any ties to any of the other Justice League or DCEU movies. Maybe Jenkins is trying to ignore all that and just do her own thing. I don’t blame her for that, actually.

Before wrapping this up, I should also mention that there’s a pointless cameo by Lynda Carter but I do like seeing her. I just wish she would have had something more to do than catch a pole from falling on a baby.

So that’s it. This wasn’t worth the wait and really, I don’t care about a third film or anything coming out of the DCEU, anyway.

It’s Christmas, back to drinking whiskey and smoking meat.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: its predecessor, as well as Aquaman and other DCEU films.

Film Review: Unbreakable (2000)

Also known as: No Ordinary Man (working title)
Release Date: November 14th, 2000 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Written by: M. Night Shyamalan
Music by: James Newton Howard
Cast: Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Robin Wright Penn, Spencer Treat Clark, Charlayne Woodard, Michael Kelly, M. Night Shyamalan (cameo)

Touchstone Pictures, Blinding Edge Pictures, Barry Mendel Productions, Limited Edition Productions Inc., Buena Vista Pictures, 106 Minutes

Review:

“It’s alright to be afraid, David, because this part won’t be like a comic book. Real life doesn’t fit into little boxes that were drawn for it.” – Elijah Price/Mr. Glass

There was a time when seeing M. Night Shyamalan’s name on movie poster generated excitement. This came out during that time and fresh off the heels of The Sixth Sense, just a year earlier and also starring Bruce Willis.

When the film starts, you really have no idea as to where this story is going to go. In the end, it is a superhero origin story where one character becomes a hero and another character becomes something else. While there is a big twist to what that is, being that this film has been out for nearly two decades, that twist has been spoiled for anyone who has just talked about this movie with someone else who’s seen it.

Also, this is tied into the 2016 movie Split, as well as an upcoming sequel to both films called Mr. Glass. That comes out in January 2019 and it is the film I am most anticipating, right now. It’s also why I wanted to revisit this one, because I haven’t seen it in so long.

The story is a slow but satisfying burn. When you get to the seminal moment of the picture, where the hero has to decide if he’s going to be a hero, it’s comes with such emotional weight and impact that everything that inched towards that scene was well worth it.

Shyamalan, at this point in his career, knew how to build tension, emotion and narrative in every single scene. It was something that he lost, as time went on, but he seems to have found his mojo again with 2016’s Split. And frankly, I’m glad, because he had the makings of a great filmmaker but sort of just slid into a weird place for quite awhile.

This film and Split are my two favorites in Shyamalan’s filmography, with The Sixth Sense being right there with them.

The atmosphere in this film is incredible. The story is powerful while being very subtle. This is a superhero origin story that is so much better than most of the films that deal with the same sort of narrative. Comic book movies don’t need to be grandiose spectacles and this proves that. Oddly, it proved it about eight years before grandiose comic book movies became the norm. And while this isn’t based off of a comic book, I’m surprised this universe hasn’t spawned it’s own comic series. Maybe it will after the third film, next year.

Bruce Willis and Sam Jackson have done several films together and it is a treat, every. single. time. that they share the screen with one another. This is no different and to be honest, it’s my favorite of their collaborations. I want more of these two characters. Luckily, years later, we are going to get just that.

In the meantime, if you want to see Mr. Glass, you owe it to yourself to watch this and Split first.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: It’s sequels: Split and the upcoming Mr. Glass.

Documentary Review: Andre the Giant (2018)

Release Date: April 10th, 2018
Directed by: Jason Hehir
Music by: Rudy Chung, Justin T. Feldman
Cast: Andre the Giant (archive footage), Hulk Hogan, Vince McMahon, Rob Reiner, Billy Crystal, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Robin Wright, Cary Elwes, Ric Flair, Jerry Lawler, Shane McMahon, Gene Okerlund, Pat Patterson, Tim White

Bill Simmons Media Group, HBO, WWE, 85 Minutes

Review:

I was anticipating this since I first heard about it’s production a while ago. Then, once I saw the trailer, I was really stoked.

I have seen a lot of documentaries about professional wrestling but they have mostly been the ones put out by WWE. Sure, those have great production values and even greater stories but I’m always skeptical about WWE releases due to their history of showing a lot of bias. Go back and look at their hit piece called The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior if you don’t believe me. In fact, WWE has sort of ignored that that film even exists after mending their relationship with the Ultimate Warrior and his family.

HBO put together and released this documentary on the legendary Andre Roussimoff a.k.a. Andre the Giant. So that alone puts it in higher regard than WWE’s own productions.

While it does follow his wrestling career, it was nice seeing some of the focus being put on his short acting career, as this documentary interviews those who worked on The Princess Bride with him: Rob Reiner, Billy Crystal, Cary Elwes and Robin Wright. It also showcases his childhood and his family but not as much as I would’ve liked.

Strangely, the film also features Hulk Hogan a lot. I get that they needed to foreshadow the importance of their epic WrestleMania III main event match but it seemed as if the Hogan material was distracting from Andre’s story. Granted, Andre was still the primary focus. Also, Hogan is a well known bullshitter that likes to present revisionist history. I had to kind of take what he was saying about his and Andre’s relationship with a grain of salt.

Negatives aside, this was still well done and it painted a picture of a man that was really a gentle giant. Sure, he would use his size to his advantage but ultimately, Andre was sort of a sweetheart that sadly suffered from a lot of physical, as well as emotional, pain.

But more than anything else, he was a man that was beloved by many.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: The recent Ric Flair 30 For 30 documentary by ESPN.

 

Film Review: Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Release Date: October 3rd, 2017 (Dolby Theatre premiere)
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
Written by: Hampton Fancher, Michael Green
Based on: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
Music by: Hans Zimmer, Benjamin Wallfisch
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, Carla Juri, Lennie James, Dave Bautista, Jared Leto, David Dastmalchian, Edward James Olmos, Sean Young

Alcon Entertainment, Columbia Pictures, Scott Free Productions, Torridon Films, 16:14 Entertainment, Thunderbird Entertainment, Warner Bros., 163 Minutes  

Review:

“Replicants are like any other machine – they are either a benefit or a hazard. If they are a benefit, it’s not my problem.” – Rick Deckard

Here we go, I’ve been waiting for this movie since Ridley Scott first mentioned that he had an idea for a followup. This is the film I have most anticipated in 2017. So how did this sequel, thirty-five years after the original, pan out?

Well, it is mostly pretty damn good. It is also a very different film than its predecessor.

While Ridley Scott produced and was originally set to direct this, he gave the job to Denis Villeneuve, a guy who is really making a name for himself as one of the best directors in Hollywood. Between ArrivalSicario and now this, the 50 year-old director has found his stride and may be blossoming into an auteur for the current generation.

From a visual standpoint, while Villeneuve had a hand in it, the credit really has to go to cinematographer Roger Deakins. He’s a veteran of cinema that has worked on some true classics, including twelve collaborations with the Coen brothers, three with Sam Mendes and now three with Villeneuve. Blade Runner 2049 is something Deakins should truly be proud of and it may be his magnum opus as a cinematographer. His work and vision is a clear homage to the original Blade Runner while updating it and moving it into the future. It is still a neo-noir dreamscape with a cyberpunk aesthetic. It employs the same lighting techniques as classic film-noir, as did the 1982 Blade Runner, and it brings in vibrant and breathtaking colors. This is one of the best looking films to come out of Hollywood in quite some time.

The screenplay was handled by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green. Fancher co-wrote the original movie and was partly responsible for giving life to these characters and their world. While the original Blade Runner conveys emotion in a more subtle way, by the time you see the character of Deckard in this film, thirty years later in the story, he clearly wears his emotions on his sleeve, which is a pretty welcome and refreshing change.

We also get little cameos by Edward James Olmos and Sean Young. With Olmos, we see how he has evolved and he gives insight into Deckard. Sean Young appears in order to get a reaction out of Deckard from a narrative standpoint.

Now the star of the picture is Ryan Gosling. Harrison Ford doesn’t really show up until the third act of the film. Regardless, Gosling really knocks it out of the park in this. He is one of the best actors working today and he gives a performance that is very well-balanced. Where Ford gave a pretty understated performance in the 1982 film, Gosling feels more like a real person, which is funny, considering that you know he is actually a Replicant in the beginning of the film.

The cast is rounded out by three great females: Robin Wright, Ana de Armas and Sylvia Hoeks. Wright plays Gosling’s tough as nails commanding officer. De Armas plays Gosling’s right hand, a digital maid, companion and quite possibly the real love of his life. Hoeks plays the villainous Replicant who works for the story’s main villain and is sent into the field to fulfill his hidden agenda.

The film also features small but pivotal parts for Jared Leto and Dave Bautista. Leto plays the villain of the story and is the man who bought out the Tyrell Corporation and has made an even larger company that makes a ton of products but primarily focuses on further developing Replicant technology. Bautista plays the Replicant that Gosling is looking for in the very beginning; he has major ties to the film’s overarching plot.

One thing that makes the film so alluring, apart from the visuals, is the score by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch. It is a departure from the style Zimmer usually employs. While it still has his touch, it is a score that is truly an artistic extension of Vangelis’ work on the original Blade Runner. It has those Zimmer flourishes in it but very much matches up with the audible essence of the first picture.

Everything about this film is pretty close to perfect, except for one thing: the pacing. While there isn’t really a dull moment in the film, it does seem to drag on longer than it needs to. Some of the details could have been whittled down. The thing I love about the first film is that it just sort of moves. While a lot doesn’t happen in it overall, it still flows, things happen and it isn’t over saturated with lots of details or plot developments. Compared to the first, this film feels over complicated. Plus, it is just so long. Maybe I’m getting old but I just don’t want to sit in a theater for three hours, unless it’s some grindhouse double feature. But I also sat through the first Blade Runner before this, as I caught this on a special double feature bill. I could have just been antsy after being in my seat for over five hours with just a quick intermission.

Blade Runner 2049 is very much its own film. It works as a sequel but it also works as a sole body of work. The fact that it doesn’t simply retread the same story as the first and instead expands on it quite a bit, is what makes this a picture that can justify its own existence. Was this sequel necessary? We were fine for thirty-five years without it. But it proved that it is more than just a Hollywood cash grab because of its brand recognition.

Few films these days are truly art; at least films from the major studios. Blade Runner 2049 is a solid piece of cinematic art. While not perfect, it’s about as close as modern Hollywood gets these days.

Rating: 8.75/10

Film Review: Wonder Woman (2017)

Release Date: May 15th, 2017 (Shanghai)
Directed by: Patty Jenkins
Written by: Allan Heinberg, Zack Snyder, Jason Fuchs
Based on: Wonder Woman by William Moulton Marston
Music by: Rupert Gregson-Williams
Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen, Elena Anaya, Lucy Davis, Said Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner, Eugene Brave Rock

DC Entertainment, Atlas Entertainment, Cruel and Unusual Films, Tencent Pictures, Wanda Pictures, Warner Bros., 141 Minutes

Review:

“To the war!” – Diana Prince

So far, I have not liked the DC Comics films that have been coming out as a part of their shared cinematic universe. Man of Steel was not my cup of tea, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice was littered with serious issues and Suicide Squad was a complete clusterfuck of biblical proportions. Wonder Woman, however, has been receiving a ton of praise from critics and I’ve really only heard good things from those who were able to see it early. So how does it measure up?

Well, this is hands down the best DC Comics film since Christopher Nolan was making Batman movies. It blows all of their recent movies out of the water and then shoots them back down again while they are still in mid-air. And then it blows them out of the water again.

Wonder Woman is very good. It is the type of film that DC needed to get the locomotive back on its tracks. It makes me wish that the shared universe started here and we could wipe away those three previous films. And ultimately, I can only hope that this means that great things are coming in the future and that the people behind these movies have now righted the ship.

Most importantly, we now have a female superhero movie that doesn’t suck. And on that same token, it carries a strong feminist message without making itself too preachy. It has a good balance of showcasing the inequality of women during its historical era without beating it over the audience’s head like Hollywood likes to do.

When Gal Gadot was cast as Wonder Woman, I didn’t know much about her. Her casting is really what makes this picture work so well. She is perfect as Wonder Woman and showed that she had the ability to carry a huge motion picture on her back. Plus, she was the focal point in this film, the one to really turn DC’s film universe around.

Additionally, Chris Pine was a great choice for Steve Trevor. He’s starting to become a favorite of mine between this film and his ability to really nail Captain Kirk in the modern Star Trek films despite those films not feeling all that Trekish. He has a certain charm and charisma that go beyond just his looks. Plus, he has great comedic timing and delivery.

I love the music in this film much more than the other DC Comics pictures. Wonder Woman’s theme is simply bad ass. I can’t even recall what theme plays for Batman or Superman.

Now with all these positives, I do have to reel it back in a bit.

While the film was pretty good for a summer blockbuster, I don’t know if it has lasting power. It is good by comparison of what constitutes a normal tent pole film but it lacked in depth and didn’t generate the same sort of feeling you get when you know you are watching a classic for the first time.

The plot was pretty straightforward but it wasn’t all that interesting. The villain just kind of shows up at the end but the twist of who he actually is was not a surprise and I suspected it before it happened. Also, the final battle between Wonder Woman and Ares wasn’t very good. It was like a music video where the music was replaced with philosophical banter about the nature of man and it came off to make Ares look like a complete chump. Ares barely fazed Wonder Woman and she just sort of throws his lightning back at him, obliterating him. It was overly stylized visual poetry where there was no real feeling that Wonder Woman was in any real danger.

Also, for a film as long as this is, it didn’t feel like a whole lot happened. Once we get off of the magical island where the Amazons live, it is quite some time before there is any real battle. And when we finally get to that point, Wonder Woman is invincible and just crushes all the baddies, no sweat. I get that she is a god but this is why I’ve always had issues with Superman and Wonder Woman stories. They need a threat that is actually a threat and even though Wonder Woman confronts another god, she’s the “God Killer”. I kind of just hope Darkseid shows up in one of these movies soon.

Negatives aside, this film is full of a lot more positives and it is worth your time, if you are a fan of superhero flicks. It also gives little girls a film of their own because ElektraCatwoman and so many others didn’t cut it.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Well, I guess the other (really shitty) DC Comics films, as of late.