Review: Dunkirk

The man who gave audiences Memento, The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, The Prestige and Interstellar returns to take audiences back in time to a small, but not insignificant chapter in the history of World War II.

Nazi Germany has enveloped 400,000 French and British soldiers to the beaches of Dunkirk and the possibility of escape is practically perilous in every direction. Pinned to just one location, the enemy takes their time picking off their forces and destroying whatever hope of escape in their wake. Land, sea and air, the Allied Forces are in a bind, and the British government at the order of Prime Minister Churchill has little alternative but to requisition and commandeer civilian water craft to travel across the channel and bring their boys home.

Christopher Nolan’s take on these accounts is segmented into three perspectives on this account of history. The Mole follows a young French and British soldier navigating the beaches trying to find someway back home; The Sea features a father and son and a friend in their sea vessel crossing the channel upon hearing the order to rescue as many men as they can; The Air follows two fighter pilots soaring through the skies above the madness, shooting down German fighter planes bent on sinking anything that floats. These three perspectives all tie together to illustrate the power of the human instinct of survival. These three perspectives are the crux of Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk.

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Image by Warner Bros. and Syncopy

Nolan told this story in three parts; I will describe this movie in three words: elegant, explosive and unyielding.

Going into this movie, I was concerned that Nolan’s take on this war story would be too clean and that might hinder its appeal as a war movie when compared to a classic war dramas such as Saving Private Ryan, The Hurt Locker or last year’s Oscar winning Hacksaw Ridge because those movies truly captured the essences of war; the gore, the graphic imagery, the bloodshed, the need to illustrate that war is hell upon seeing it unfold all around the characters for the audiences to witness themselves. Dunkirk was my boom or bust movie of the year and after seeing it, in IMAX which is the way it was intended to be seen, this movie went BOOM! A loud, resonating BOOM upon the senses that did not let up in the slightest!

My concerns going into this movie? Decimated as I watched it unfold before my eyes! Just because Nolan didn’t go excessive on bloodshed, doesn’t mean he hindered this movie; you don’t need blood or grandiose practical effects to illustrate the horrors of war! Every time a bullet fired, I jumped. Every time I saw a bomb go off or a missile or a torpedo down a ship, I was jolted. Every time a dogfight happened in the sky, I held my breath! Every time the situation became more and more dire in these three arcs, the tension just kept building and building and the suspense was as remorseless like the wind and rain in a hurricane! Nolan just brought his strengths as a filmmaker and storyteller to depict a “back against the wall” situation where individuals had to use whatever resources they could to see tomorrow and the need for bodily harm or horror was not necessary in the slightest to accomplish that.

What’s more impressive about Dunkirk is that the enemy’s presence is felt rather than seen. From the first frame, audiences see the little fliers floating from the sky onto the soldiers saying “We surround you!” you don’t see the enemy, but the presence of danger is felt every second and the tension of this film feeds off that tension for strength.

Nolan intended for Dunkirk to be seen as a story of survival and he wrote and executed this core aspect of the picture with extraordinary distinction! The focus of Dunkirk was never about winning, it was about bringing these soldiers home from extreme danger and knowing that in surviving, they were victorious! I had my doubts whether or not he could pull this off but with this powerful script, impeccable execution, the stunning cinematography of Hoyte van Hoytema, the awesome music of Hans Zimmer giving this picture atmosphere where dialogue is scarce, the sound effects, Lee Smith’s editing which came together beautifully as the film went on, Nathan Crowley’s production design, Dunkirk is an outstanding achievement in filmmaking and should become the crown jewel in Christopher Nolan’s body of work so far.

This movie isn’t so much about the actors but what the actors do in the film, in these roles. The collection of Fionn Whitehead, Damien Bonnard, Aneurin Barnard, Barry Keoghan, Mark Rylance, Tom Glynn-Carney, Tom Hardy, Jack Lowden, Kenneth Branagh, James D’Arcy, Cillian Murphy and Harry Styles all do a solid job with the parts they have been given, but the true star of the show is the suspense and the tension that fills up the screen when all of the technical aspects behind the camera come together.

Dunkirk is elegant is how it is shown and heard on screen but the subject matter is brimming with explosive technical execution, resulting in an unyielding cinematic experience that should not be missed! It is the most phenomenal experience I have had this year at the movies!

Review: Hidden Figures

Everyone should know about the Space Race in the 1960s. The time when this country had a competitive rivalry with Russia to determine which global power could break through into the frontier of space travel; history gives us the general idea of what happened and who was involved but the film Hidden Figures peels back the curtain to show audiences who was really involved and instrumental in how America won the Space Race.

In a period racial segregation and gender stereotypes, in a time when the brightest minds of this country aimed to break new grounds in the fields of science and engineering, Katherine Goble, later Katherine G. Johnson, Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughn played instrumental roles in how NASA was able to successfully send John Glenn into orbit. Director Theodore Melfi and screenwriter Allison Schroeder do right by honoring these remarkable and fearless women in a film the aptly demonstrates that intelligence, perseverance and grit knows no color or gender in a period that takes too much consideration into both.

I liked Hidden Figures well enough. As a film, it accomplishes what it sets out to do, it doesn’t take any unnecessary risks and it is practically well put together with firm direction, sturdy and noteworthy writing courtesy of Melfi and Schroeder based on Margot Lee Shirley’s book and spearheaded by three very fine performances by Teraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe.

I believe this is worth seeing because I believe that the premise of this film is important for its target audience, particularly women and minorities because this movie has a message for those target audiences: that what you have to contribute can’t be taken from you because of who you are or what you look like.

Yet what keeps Hidden Figures out of the “great movie” category and firmly entrenched in the “good movie” category if you know what I mean, is that it just plays too safe; it goes where you would probably expect it to go and it doesn’t exactly take you by surprise. It’s not The Help, where you have that one eyebrow raising moment or a moment that takes your breath away but the effort to be in that company is there.

Again, this is a very solid cast. Henson, Spencer and Monáe all shine in the lead roles and the supporting cast of Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons, Kirsten Dunst, Mahershala Ali, Glen Powell, Aldis Hodge, Kimberly Quinn and Lydia Jewett are all solid as well.

Mandy Walker’s cinematography is fair, the editing of Peter Teschner is noteworthy, the score is distinct and credit must be given to the team of Pharrell Williams, Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer, the costumes of Renee Ehrlich Kalfus are appropriate if not striking, the production design of Wynn Thomas is practical; this was a film that is very moderate in its production.

Hidden Figures is a movie that doesn’t break new ground but it keeps its feet firmly on the ground with a message that aims high and that in of itself is as respectable as this movie is.

The Golden Globe for Best Original Score Goes To:

Nominees:

  • Nicholas Britell, Moonlight
  • Justin Hurwitz, La La Land
  • Jóhann Jóhannsson, Arrival
  • Dustin O’Halloran and Haushka, Lion
  • Benjamin Wallfisch, Pharrell Williams and Hans Zimmer, Hidden Figures

Winner: Justin Hurwitz, La La Land

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Image by Michael Buckner/Getty Images North America

If I had my way, the Golden Globes Would Go To:

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Image by HFPA

I hope everyone enjoyed their New Year’s weekend and hope that everyone made firm resolutions, particularly toward their movie goals for 2017! Anyway, we are days away from the 74th Annual Golden Globe Awards and for one cannot wait to see who will represent the best of film and television in 2016. With the ceremony just around the corner, I feel it fitting that now is the best time to post my predictions for the 74th Golden Globes and here they are!

Best Motion Picture, Foreign Language:

  • Divines
  • Elle
  • Neruda
  • The Salesman
  • Toni Erdman

Projected Winner: Elle

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Image by SBS Productions and Sony Pictures Classics

Best Original Song:

  • “Can’t Stop the Feeling”-Trolls
  • “City of Stars”-La La Land
  • “Faith”-Sing
  • “Gold”-Gold
  • “How Far I’ll Go”-Moana

Projected Winner: “City of Stars”-La La Land

Best Original Score:

  • Nicholas Britell, Moonlight
  • Justin Hurwitz, La La Land
  • Jóhann Jóhannsson, Arrival
  • Dustin O’Halloran and Haushka, Lion
  • Benjamin Wallfisch, Pharrell Williams and Hans Zimmer, Hidden Figures

Projected Winner: Justin Hurwitz, La La Land

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Image by Michael Buckner/Getty Images North America

Best Animated Picture:

  • Kubo and the Two Strings
  • Moana
  • My Life as a Zucchini
  • Sing
  • Zootopia

Projected Winner: Zootopia

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Image by Disney

Best Screenplay:

  • Damien Chazelle, La La Land
  • Tom Ford, Nocturnal Animals
  • Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
  • Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
  • Taylor Sheridan, Hell or High Water

Projected Winner: Damien Chazelle, La La Land

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Image by Alberto E. Rodriguez

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role:

  • Viola Davis, Fences
  • Naomie Harris, Moonlight
  • Nicole Kidman, Lion
  • Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
  • Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

Projected Winner: Viola Davis, Fences

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Image by By Red Carpet Report on Mingle Media TV (Flickr), via Wikimedia Commons

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role:

  • Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
  • Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
  • Simon Helberg, Florence Foster Jenkins
  • Dev Patel, Lion
  • Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Nocturnal Animals

Projected Winner: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

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Image by By Gordon Correll (Mahershala Ali),via Wikimedia Commons

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture, Musical/Comedy:

  • Annette Benning, 20th Century Women
  • Lily Collins, Rules Don’t Apply
  • Hailee Steinfeld, The Edge of Seventeen
  • Emma Stone, La La Land
  • Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

Projected Winner: Emma Stone, La La Land

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Image by Eva Rinaldi, via Wikimedia Commons

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, Musical/Comedy:

  • Colin Farrell, The Lobster
  • Ryan Gosling, La La Land
  • Hugh Grant, Florence Foster Jenkins
  • Jonah Hill, War Dogs
  • Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool

Projected Winner: Ryan Gosling, La La Land

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Image by Georges Biard, via Wikimedia Commons

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama:

  • Amy Adams, Arrival
  • Jessica Chastain, Miss Sloane
  • Isabelle Huppert, Elle
  • Ruth Negga, Loving
  • Natalie Portman, Jackie

Projected Winner: Natalie Portman, Jackie

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Image By Benjamin Ellis, via Wikimedia Commons

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama:

  • Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
  • Joel Edgerton, Loving
  • Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
  • Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
  • Denzel Washington, Fences

Projected Winner: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

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Image By Виктория666Линк06 (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

Best Director:

  • Damien Chazelle, La La Land
  • Tom Ford, Nocturnal Animals
  • Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
  • Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
  • Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea

Projected Winner: Damien Chazelle, La La Land

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Image by Alberto E. Rodriguez

Best Picture, Musical/Comedy:

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Projected Winner: La La Land

Best Picture, Drama:

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Projected Winner: Moonlight

And that is that! And with that being that, everything is set! Jimmy Fallon must be working out the final kinks in his preparations to host the 74th Golden Globes at this point and the ceremony will be underway by Sunday evening at 8:00 PM! I’ll be at home covering the event and I’m giddy!

Fresh from the Hollywood Foreign Press: the Golden Globe nominees!

 

Golden-Globe

Image by HFPA

I don’t have time to catch my breath from last night’s Critics Choice Awards since this morning, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has just unveiled their 74th class of nominees for the best achievements in film and television. Yes, you read that right! It’s time to dive in to this year’s nominees for the 74th Annual Golden Globe Awards! The film categories are as follows:

Best Motion Picture, Foreign Language:

  • Divines
  • Elle
  • Neruda
  • The Salesman
  • Toni Erdman

Best Original Song:

  • “Can’t Stop the Feeling”-Trolls
  • “City of Stars”-La La Land
  • “Faith”-Sing
  • “Gold”-Gold
  • “How Far I’ll Go”-Moana

Best Original Score:

  • Nicholas Britell, Moonlight
  • Justin Hurwitz, La La Land
  • Jóhann Jóhannsson, Arrival
  • Dustin O’Halloran and Haushka, Lion
  • Benjamin Wallfisch, Pharrell Williams and Hans Zimmer, Hidden Figures

Best Animated Picture:

  • Kubo and the Two Strings
  • Moana
  • My Life as a Zucchini
  • Sing
  • Zootopia

Best Screenplay:

  • Damien Chazelle, La La Land
  • Tom Ford, Nocturnal Animals
  • Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
  • Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
  • Taylor Sheridan, Hell or High Water

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role:

  • Viola Davis, Fences
  • Naomie Harris, Moonlight
  • Nicole Kidman, Lion
  • Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
  • Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role:

  • Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
  • Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
  • Simon Helberg, Florence Foster Jenkins
  • Dev Patel, Lion
  • Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Nocturnal Animals

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture, Musical/Comedy:

  • Annette Benning, 20th Century Women
  • Lily Collins, Rules Don’t Apply
  • Hailee Steinfeld, The Edge of Seventeen
  • Emma Stone, La La Land
  • Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, Musical/Comedy:

  • Colin Farrell, The Lobster
  • Ryan Gosling, La La Land
  • Hugh Grant, Florence Foster Jenkins
  • Jonah Hill, War Dogs
  • Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama:

  • Amy Adams, Arrival
  • Jessica Chastain, Miss Sloane
  • Isabelle Huppert, Elle
  • Ruth Negga, Loving
  • Natalie Portman, Jackie

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama:

  • Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
  • Joel Edgerton, Loving
  • Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
  • Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
  • Denzel Washington, Fences

Best Director:

  • Damien Chazelle, La La Land
  • Tom Ford, Nocturnal Animals
  • Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
  • Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
  • Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea

Best Picture, Musical/Comedy:

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Image by Annapurna Pictures

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Image by Marvel Studios and 20th Century Fox

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Image by BBC Films & Pathé Pictures International

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Image by Lionsgate

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Image by Cosmo Films and the Weinstein Company

Best Picture, Drama:

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Image by Lionsgate and Cross Creek Pictures

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Image by CBS Films

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Image by The Weinstein Company

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Image by Amazon Studios

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Image by A24

The 74th Golden Globe Awards will be broadcast on NBC on January 8, 2017 with funnyman Jimmy Fallon hosting the festivities. I’ll be sure to have my own predictions for the Golden Globes on my blog before that, so be sure to check back in! To view the full list of nominees, check here!

Review: Inferno

Stop me if you believe you’ve heard this before: a renowned billionaire has quite a pessimistic perspective on the state of the world at present and he has collected quite a following who share his vision and this billionaire alone has the means and drive to engineer a plan of action that he believes can heal all the wrongs of the world in order to bring order back to the world at large.

No, I’m not talking about a certain billionaire who is currently running for public office! I’m talking about a character named Bertrand Zobrist and his vision is more extreme than the billionaire you are probably thinking about.

Betrand Zobrist is a key player in the new cinematic Dan Brown adaptation titled Inferno, but from looking at him and listening to his rhetoric, you’d think he would be the next James Bond villain. He believes that overpopulation is the crucial factor as to why the world is spinning out of control; the cause for several cases of animal extinction, climate change, economic and political catastrophe, social unrest and his solution is derived straight out of the philosophies of the epic poet Dante himself: a plague that can eradicate virtually half of the world’s population.

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Image by Sony Pictures

In order to escape capture Zobrist committed suicide but in his final days he set his plan into action and procured a pawn who could see his machinations come to fruition: esteemed symbologist Robert Langdon, who cannot account for his actions in the last 48 hours and the person of interest for several covert organizations who are chasing him throughout Florence and Venice. Aided by Dr. Sienna Miller, Langdon must remember a past that was taken from him and thwart Zobrist’s scheme before billions of people are eradicated.

Inferno was a decent action movie but as I sat in the theater taking it all in, I was trying to figure out what was missing and how this could be better and it finally occurred to me when Inferno ended: this movie could have been a lot better if you substituted Robert Langdon for James Bond because Bond would be better equipped to handle stopping an extinction level event than a Harvard symbologist.

I will give director Ron Howard and screenwriter David Koepp credit for another attempt to bring a Dan Brown novel to the big screen and make it as suspenseful and action-packed as possible but let’s face facts here: this was a Dan Brown novel trying to wear James Bond’s clothes; at least that’s the way I saw it. Those who read Inferno prior to seeing it won’t have the best opinion of it, while others who did not read the book will find some redeeming value in the film; I find myself in the latter category but to be fair, considering The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons were not exactly cinematic grand slams, I didn’t expect Inferno to turn my world upside down going in.

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Image By U.S. Department of State, via Wikimedia Commons

Tom Hanks who is a few weeks removed from a solid performance in Sully, tries his best to make Langdon an action hero but in Inferno, his character is merely a pawn to characters with larger designs and that is simply wasteful to his talents. Felicity Jones is about to enjoy a very fruitful end to 2016 and her performance as Dr. Sienna Miller is as grounded as it can get, the rest of the supporting cast including Irrfan Khan, Omar Sy, Ben Foster, Sidse Babette Knudsen, Ana Ularu, Ida Darvish, make their marks then fade away as the picture tries to tie up every loose end possible.

Salvatore Totino’s cinematography is quite effective and the editing of Tom Elkins and Dan Hanley benefits off of using such striking imagery, especially when Langdon suffers from his visions and his unwilling participation through Dante’s perspective of hell.

Hans Zimmer provides the score to Inferno and he perhaps does more to lift this film up more than anyone by providing dramatic atmosphere to a film that has drama but doesn’t lacks staying power.

Peter Wenham’s production design, the art direction, the costumes, the visual effects, the sound; truth be told Inferno has solid and effective technical aspects to its production.

To wrap this up, I’ll be succinct: I didn’t hate Inferno but after watching it, I wished that it were remade and adapted to be a James Bond movie because let’s face it, the plot and the setting for Inferno fits the skillset for a character who can take more action in the story like Bond rather than Langdon and it was disappointing that Dan Brown orchestrated a plot like this instead of Sir Ian Fleming.

Major Announcement Regarding Justice League

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice was my most looked forward to film of 2016. It bombed. Badly. The aftermath of the highly anticipated follow-up to Man of Steel sent shockwaves reverberating throughout Warner Bros; some new additions were made, some losses were suffered, things had to be shuffled around and yet, it is all leading up to Justice League, the film that will bring together the major heroes of the DC Universe to combat a never-before-seen threat to Earth and humanity. Today, a major announcement has been issued regarding the production of Justice League, including a new logo and a new synopsis.

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Image by Warner Bros. & DC Entertainment

Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy.  Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to find and recruit a team of metahumans to stand against this newly awakened threat.  But despite the formation of this unprecedented league of heroes—Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and The Flash—it may already be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions-via Collider

Here is what is known about Justice League at this point in its production:

  • Batman will assemble the team with the assistance of Wonder Woman
  • The film is essentially a recruiting story; how the team is brought together
  • The League will consist of Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher)
  • Superman (Henry Cavill) will return in the film, perhaps after the climax or prior to the 3rd act
  • Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) will play an unspecified role in the feature
  • J.K. Simmons (Commissioner Gordon), Amber Heard (Mera) and Willem Dafoe (Vulko) are confirmed for Justice League
  • Steppenwolf has been confirmed to be the antagonist of the film. He has yet to be cast

  • The three Mother Boxes are of interest to Steppenwolf and have a connection to both Wonder Woman and Aquaman
  • The tone of Justice League will be lighter than that of Batman v. Superman
  • Justice League will NOT be a two-part feature. Instead the story will be condensed into one film with the possibility of a sequel or two to introduce Darkseid
  • The film will occur several months after the events of Batman v. Superman
  • Junkie XL will score the film; Hans Zimmer has elected to retire from scoring superhero genre films but his themes from the previous films will be utilized
  • Fabian Wagner is in charge of cinematography; he will take over for Larry Fong
  • Geoff Johns will step in and act as a producer/godfather for not only Justice League but for all upcoming DC-based feature films in the future.
  • Ben Affleck has been promoted to be an executive producer on the film while shaping his upcoming Batman feature

Zack Snyder will return to direct and the screenplay will once again by crafted by Chris Terrio. Also Amy Adams and Jeremy Irons are also on board the cast. Justice League will bow into theaters on November 17, 2017.