Review: Justice League

All that was going through my mind as I entered the theater to watch this week’s feature film was one simple sentence on repeat until the trailers ended and the show began: “In the name of Sweet Jesus, please don’t suck!”

Justice League opened to show us a world without Superman. Hopeless, fearful, chaotic, dark and vulnerable and in this moment of vulnerability, Earth is wide open to those who wish to do it harm both on world and off.

The death of Superman also triggered an awakening of three vessels of power called Motherboxes and signaled the coming of a being named Steppenwolf who, with his vast army of Parademons, lays siege to various corners of Earth to retrieve the Motherboxes and enact his ambition to alter the Earth into the image suitable for him and his master.

All that stands in this conqueror’s way are five remarkable individuals: Bruce Wayne, Diana Prince, Victor Stone, Barry Allen and Arthur Curry. These individuals must learn to become a team capable of protecting the world and living up to the legacy of the Man of Steel.

Image by Warner Bros. and DC

I went into Justice League hoping for the best but ultimately preparing for the worst because I was ready to find any reason to hate it. I came out of Justice League ready to give my official and resolute perspective: I believe Justice League did enough to not fail. In fact, it is my most forthcoming opinion that I actually enjoyed watching it!

By no means is the film perfect but I do believe that Zack Snyder and Chris Terrio with the assistance of Joss Whedon did in fact learn from the mistakes of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and they did make a fun, coherent, simple picture about the world’s finest heroes: Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash, Cyborg and Superman.

What really held this film back was the fact that it was a short movie and I get the sense that there were a lot of scenes and details that were left on the cutting room floor. The editing team of David Brenner, Richard Pearson and Michael Walsh didn’t do justice (no pun intended) to allow the film to truly highlight the impact of these characters and I believe equal blame should fall upon Terrio, Snyder and Whedon because audiences didn’t get enough depth and scope on these amazing characters and especially what drives and motivates the villain of the film: Steppenwolf.

On the other hand, I think the plot of the film, despite how it was self-restrained, did enough to truly showcase these characters and focused on bringing these heroes together and that was in fact satisfying. It’s what the audiences came to see and it did enough to win them over.

The cast did a good job. We’ve already seen what Ben Affleck (Bruce Wayne/Batman), Henry Cavill (Clark Kent/Superman), Gal Gadot (Diana Prince/Wonder Woman), Amy Adams (Lois Lane), Diane Lane (Martha Kent) and Jeremy Irons (Alfred Pennyworth) brought to the table as their respective characters from previous features but we see for the first time what Jason Momoa (Arthur Curry/Aquaman), Ezra Miller (Barry Allen/The Flash), Ray Fisher (Victor Stone/Cyborg) can bring to the table and they are in fact fun.

I was hoping to see more from the supporting cast including J.K. Simmons, Amber Heard, Ciarán Hinds, Connie Nielsen, Joe Morton and Billy Cudrup but I guess that’s what the future films are for.

Fabian Wagner’s cinematography was on-point, Danny Elfman did a good job with the score though I would have liked to hear what Junkie XL could have brought to the table instead, Patrick Tatopoulos’ production design was very nice, the art direction was good, the visual effects were solid, Michael Wilkinson’s costumes were awesome and Dominic Capon’s set decoration was good as well.

Do I count this as a major win for Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment? It does enough to not lose, I will say that. It’s not as good as Wonder Woman, but it is better than the films that came before Wonder Woman and that is victory enough.

Going forward, I still want Geoff Johns and the creative team to really consider handing the keys to another director for a potential sequel. Zack Snyder did an okay enough job to keep the future of the DCEU alive but these movies need to reach their full potential.

From this critic’s perspective, Justice League is good enough to go see.

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J.J. Abrams returns to a galaxy far, far away to direct Star Wars Episode IX!

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Image By Montclair Film Festival (NEG_6930), via Wikimedia Commons

Last week, the news of Colin Trevorrow exiting as director of Star Wars Episode IX threw the Force out of balance, citing major creative differences and tension between the filmmaker and studios. Since Trevorrow’s departure, Lucasfilm and Disney have searched to find a suitable replacement filmmaker to finish out the trilogy sparked by the events of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens and speaking of The Force Awakens, a familiar face will finish what he started. J.J. Abrams will direct Episode IX and co-write the screenplay with Oscar winner Chris Terrio.

“With The Force Awakens, J.J. delivered everything we could have possibly hoped for, and I am so excited that he is coming back to close out this trilogy,” said Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy.

The decision to return to Abrams to close out this new trilogy seems safe and logical considering Abrams expressed an interest in directing another Star Wars film after enjoying remarkable success with The Force Awakens. Again, I express disappointment that we may not see a Star Wars film directed by a person of color and/or a woman but it doesn’t change the fact that The Force Awakens was a good picture and I think Episode IX is in good hands. Terrio’s credits include Argo and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Star Wars Episode IX now has a new release date.

 

Suicide Squad Sequel in the hands of Gavin O’Connor

Last year, DC Comics and Warner Bros. did not have a good year. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad made their way into theaters and though both films enjoyed significant financial success, both film were thoroughly skewered by critics, myself included. To be honest, I thought Suicide Squad was better than Batman v. Superman, but that’s like saying 0>-2; Suicide Squad was more enjoyable but it was mess through and through but Warner Bros. wants to give the team of villains commissioned to do black-ops for the government another shot with a sequel and I think that the sequel is in good hands with Gavin O’Connor.

The movie is a top priority at Warner Bros. and looks to be one of the two DC properties (the other being New Line’s “Shazam!”) to begin production next year. Given the ensemble’s busy schedule, the shoot wasn’t expected to start until fall of 2018. So while there’s still time, the studio is eager to get someone on board to pen a script.

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Image by Matt Baron/Rex/Shutterstock

I remember O’Connor’s name very well. In 2011, O’Connor co-wrote and directed the drama Warrior starring Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton and Nick Nolte, who gave an Oscar-nominated supporting performance, and the film was very well-done. Over the past few years, O’Connor has directed hit-or-miss films such as The Accountant, starring Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick and J.K. Simmons, and Jane Got a Gun, starring Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor and Joel Edgerton. Hearing that O’Connor’s name associated with this production certainly fills me with confidence based on how I enjoyed Warrior.

Suicide Squad 2 is set to bring back Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto and Joel Kinnaman and aiming for release in 2019.

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Image by Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment

Review: Wonder Woman

I’ve had a good reason to be hard on the efforts of the DC Extended Universe over the past few years; especially last year considering my thoughts on their previous two pictures: Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. This year, the producers of the DC Extended Universe look to turn the page on last year and seek to do so with their first superhero adventure starring Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman.

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Image by Warner Bros. and DC Comics

The film opens with Gadot as Diana Prince who receives a parcel from a new friend that compels her to reminisce on her earlier years. From her upbringing on the island of Themiscyra, home to the Amazons, where she was raised by her mother Queen Hippolyta, trained by her aunt Antiope, and encountered a man named Steve Trevor, who would guide her to the world of man on a journey that would change her life and the world at large forever.

To reiterate: I’ve been hard on the DC Extended Universe and I had good reason to be so. Their previous films have compelled me to set the bar low on their films going forward and I had to go into Wonder Woman with a low set of expectations. That being said, I must be blunt: THIS. MOVIE. IS. GOOD!

I must give credit where credit is due. Producers Geoff Johns, Zack Snyder, Deborah Snyder, Charles Roven, director Patty Jenkins and screenwriter Allan Heinberg crafted a solid origin story with coming-of-age themes that culminated in a very engaging, charming and the most entertaining DC movie to come out in years! I was satisfied with how they handled this movie; it wasn’t perfect but this was a great effort that really paid off!

I thought that the strength of this movie lied solely with Gadot’s performance meshed with Heinberg’s script and Jenkins’ execution. Wonder Woman is basically looking at the outside world with the perspective of childlike innocence, guided by a man who exposes her to the good and bad that a world at war has to offer someone who doesn’t exactly need to help.

If Gadot’s introduction in Batman v. Superman didn’t sell you on her ability to embody this iconic character, than this movie will most assuredly convince you! It was a treat watching her carry this movie and her on-screen chemistry with Chris Pine is splendid! Whether Diana is trying ice cream for the first time or feels concern or sympathy for the wounded soldiers on No Man’s Land, she just embodies the strength, compassion and innocence in this iconic character and she is relatable to audiences.

While I enjoyed watching this film, I only wish that the film could have done more with the supporting characters such as Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, Saïd Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremmer, Eugene Brave Rock, Lucy Davis, Elena Anaya, Danny Huston and David Thewlis. I also hoped that the film would take more time to explore and examine Themiscyra, the Amazons and their cultures.

The cinematography of Matthew Jensen was solid, Rupert Gregson-Williams’ music was satisfactory, Martin Walsh’s editing was solid, the production design of Aline Bonetto was good, Lindy Hemming’s costumes were very good, the visual effects were to my liking and technically Wonder Woman was very well put-together to give this character the strength to stand on her own.

Wonder Woman clearly raised the bar for films coming from the DC Extended Universe because what separates this movie from the films that came before it: fun! This movie allowed itself to have its own natural fun and that allowed the audience to have fun watching it; this is leaps and bounds better than any DC film that came before it!

A New Age of Justice Is About To Begin!

The death of the last son of Krypton, shown in the final few moments of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, sent shockwaves throughout the world and beyond. The actions of Lex Luthor invited someone from beyond the stars to Earth and this being is not of peace, apparently. Bruce Wayne with the assistance of Diana Prince must scour the world to recruit warriors powerful enough to repel this invasive menace and assure the world that the sacrifice of Superman was not in vain. Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg are the Justice League.

Justice League stars Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ray Fisher, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Amy Adams, J.K. Simmons, Ciarán Hinds , Jesse Eisenberg, Willem Dafoe, Amber Heard, Kiersey Clemmons, Connie Nielsen and Henry Cavill. Written by Chris Terrio and directed by Zack Snyder, Justice League bows into theaters on November 17, 2017.

Warner Bros. Wants to do Superman Justice With Sequel

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Image by Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment

The DC Cinematic Universe is not off to an ideal start. In fact, 2016 should be a year that DC and Warner Bros. would like to forget since their two highly anticipated films of the year, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, were not exactly welcomed critically and not-so-much economically. The film that initiated the DC Cinematic Universe, Man of Steel introduced the franchise’s cornerstone character, in a rather radical take on his origin story. Personally, I wasn’t thrilled by Man of Steel but I respected how different it was in terms of how the world saw Superman. For so long, Batman v. Superman has been described as the sequel to Man of Steel, serving as a bridge to the inevitable and upcoming Justice League movie, but news has broken regarding an official sequel to Man of Steel that has just been approved for development.

Despite Superman’s battle with Batman, DC has been silent on a sequel to “Man of Steel” featuring Superman solo, leading many frustrated fanboys to believe that another film wasn’t going to happen. But a person close to the project told TheWrap that Superman is a top priority for the studio and getting the character right for audiences is of tantamount importance.

When last audiences saw Henry Cavill’s Superman in Batman v. Superman, the Man of Steel was given a hero’s burial after the titanic bout with the monstrous Doomsday and the character has been confirmed to return in Justice League. I’m curious how the last son of Krypton will rise from the dead to aid Batman’s alliance of special individuals against the mysterious Steppenwolf and I’m all the more curious as to how this sequel will contribute to what the DC Cinematic Universe has to offer. A few months back, Oscar-nominated director George Miller was rumored to be a favorite for a project such as a Man of Steel sequel but after a brief period of speculation, he announced that he would rather pursue other ventures.

As of now, there is no word on who will write, direct, star (aside from Cavill presumably) in the picture or a release date. All we know is that it is happening and Warner Bros. wants to redeem themselves for how they have portrayed Superman in the previous films and considering that Man of Steel grossed $668 million globally in 2013, Batman v. Superman collected $872 million at the global box office, not to mention the money the studio will get from Suicide Squad, they have the funds to make it happen, they just need the right creative minds to actually make it happen.

Review: Suicide Squad

I don’t know how many times I’ve said it on this blog, but I can’t help myself. I have to say it again: Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice was a nightmare. So much so, I had to temper my expectations for future films, including the next installment of the DC Entertainment Universe.

Suicide Squad, written and directed by David Ayer, features an all-star ensemble cast including Will Smith, Viola Davis, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Jai Courtney, Cara Delevingne, Joel Kinnaman, Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje, Karen Fukuhara, Scott Eastwood, Adam Beach and a surprise cameo or two from the cast of the upcoming Justice League.

In Suicide Squad, Viola Davis is Amanda Waller, an operative of A.R.G.U.S. who receives permission to assemble a task force of criminals and supervillains to carry out operations for the national security of the United States and she keeps this cadre of bad guys under thumb by the certainty of death at the push of a button and in line under the command of the loyal Rick Flag.

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Image by Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment

The specialized task force consists of expert assassin Deadshot, the sewer-dwelling Killer Croc, pyrokinetic gang-banger El Diablo, the kookly kleptomaniac from down under Captain Boomerang, Flagg’s #2 and master swordsman Katana, Slipknot, who only gets < 10 minutes of total screentime, and last but not least Harley Quinn, the significant other to Gotham’s resident Clown Prince of Crime who is just as crazy as she is. Their mission in this picture involves a woman named June Moon, who unknowingly awakens an ancient evil who plots to enforce her new world order by utilizing mystic forces beyond anyone’s understanding.

I’ve heard the whispers going into Suicide Squad and the controversies surrounding it; heck I’ve been following this movie for years. I’ve heard the stories about what was going on on set while the film was in production, I’ve heard about the reshoots, which coincidentally were announced shortly after Batman v. Superman arrived and crashed in theaters and I’ve heard about the film’s reception from critics. So after seeing the film for myself, and making up my own mind about it, here is where I stand on Suicide Squad: it is not as bad as critics make it out to be, but there is a lot of bad that comes with this film.

Fury movie premiere at the Newseum in Washington D.C.

Image By DoD News Features (141015-D-FW736-080), via Wikimedia Commons

If you don’t understand what I’m saying, I’ll do my utmost to simplify: I want to say that David Ayer laid out a good framework for what he wanted this movie to be. I could tell that he wrote this movie with the intent to introduce the audience to these characters, and entertain them with their interactions and truly give them a place in this DC Universe that is struggling to get off the ground. In fact, I will say that the plot for Suicide Squad was easier to digest than the plot for Batman v. Superman and in that, the film is successful.

There are flaws. A lot of flaws and a lot of those flaws stem from the technical aspects of the film starting with the camerawork and cinematography courtesy of Roman Vasyanov. Maybe it was the seat I picked to watch the movie but the camerawork and camera motions used felt so uncomfortable to watch. For instance, the final battle sequence used too many close-ups, it felt as though it took away from the action and most certainly, the editing surely didn’t help.

John Gilroy’s post-production was fine when he kept it simple, but again, I go to the final battle sequence where everything just felt completely discombobulated. The slow-motion used in the film just felt cheesy and my interest just slipped, but it was not lost. Speaking of production, I felt as though this theatrical cut felt way too tame; I felt as though this movie held out on audiences and there was said to be many deleted scenes, I for one would like to see what this movie truly intended to be rather than what audiences were given because it felt like it was something of a cheat.

Another flaw: the soundtrack. There was too much syndicated music throughout this movie. It made the film feel heavy and exhausting. I’m not sure who was responsible for that, perhaps it was Steven Price, but it was a little overkill. Look at when Waller and Flag are recruiting the squad and bringing them together, just one song after another; it’s excessive and unnecessary!

This was a great cast but I had the impression that certain actors were favored over others. Aside from Slipknot, who everyone must have known what was going to happen to him, I thought characters like Katana, Killer Croc, Boomerang and El Diablo weren’t given as much a chance to shine like Deadshot, Harley, Waller, Joker Flag and Enchantress were. Maybe it had something to do with billing but I just felt disappointed that audiences didn’t get to see more of what they could do and contribute to this movie.

Also, Suicide Squad is a classic example that the Motion Picture Association of America needs a serious overhaul. This movie could have been rated R for using language and content not conducive to younger audiences but instead it was PG-13. So if any readers are considering taking their children to see Suicide Squad, be advised that you may get more than what you bargained for.

What more is there to say? I liked the costumes by Kate Hawley, the production design by Oliver Scholl was striking, the art direction and set direction was solid, the make-up and the visual effects were worthwhile. I just felt that there was more working against Suicide Squad more than what was working for it.

I want this made clear: I did not hate this movie! If Ayer had handled some aspects of the film more effectively, if it was more refined than crude, than maybe it would have been received better but I cannot deny that Suicide Squad was messy. It’s better than Batman v. Superman (that’s not really saying much), it has appealing characteristics for a comic book movie-in fact it is a little familiar with Guardians of the Galaxy with a touch of Deadpool thrown in-but it sabotages itself with rough technical ability and the fact that what audiences saw was not entirely what Ayer wanted to showcase.

Suicide Squad is not the total disaster critics make it out to be. It’s just shoddy and messy to look at.