Review: Captain America: Civil War (dir. Russo & Russo, 2016)

 

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Review: Captain America: Civil War (dir. Russo & Russo, 2016)

 

Short Review:

Better than Batman versus Superman Dawn of Justice… but that isn’t saying much.  A looong film filled to the brim with action and fight sequences.  Despite this there are moments of real humour and pathos, and it touches on some important and interesting themes.  All in all a good action movie in the Marvel franchise.

 

Longer Review:

One of my biggest complaints about the Marvel, and now the DC, movies is that they spend a lot of time setting up the next film in the franchise, rather than focusing on the film in front of them.  Basically, they are so obsessed with the big picture that they lose sight of the current story at hand.  While there was a little bit of that in this film (ok more than a little bit), it thankfully felt a lot more focussed on the story being told and wasn’t just adding elements to foreground the next step.  What was even better was that because the characters had been introduced and explored in previous films much of the story focussed on what was happening, rather than trying to shoehorn in more backstory and character history.    It did feel a lot like an Avenger’s film rather than a Captain America story, with the majority of the film falling on Chris Evan’s and Robert Downey Jr.’s shoulders.  But I have to admit that they handled the large ensemble cast pretty well, and although it was stuffed to the gills with characters and fights, there was a real story hiding in there behind the heavy-handed moral lessons, the biased narrative focus, and the occasional plot hole.

 

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Another Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (dir. Zack Snyder, 2016)

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Another Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (dir. Zack Snyder, 2016)
This one by me.

 

Short Review:

Not as bad as you have been led to believe, but not the greatest film ever. A Batman focused film that serves to make you hate Superman even more, launches the DC cinematic universe, and make you wish that they had just made a Wonder Woman film and left the men in tights at home.  It looks pretty though.

 

Longer Review:

If online reviews and reports are to be believed Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is one of the worst films ever made, is a travesty of modern film making, superhero films, and storytelling, and that the entire cast and crew would have been better staying in bed and drinking Mai Tais.  Nerds, geeks, comic fans, and film critics have been bizarrely united in their hatred and vitriol concerning this film.  Let me be among the first to say that I am shocked, shocked I tell you, to find out that sometimes things on the internet are exaggerated and that their reportage can lean toward hyperbole.  BvS will never be my favourite superhero film, but it wasn’t that bad and I have definitely seen far worse (Ghost Rider/Green Lantern/Batman and Robin/Man of Steel).  I know that I have already posted my friend’s review of the film, but clearly I think that my opinion is far more important.

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Spoiler Free Guest Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (dir. Zack Snyder, 2016)

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Spoiler Free Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (dir. Zack Snyder, 2016)
Guest Review by C Cooper

 

So three years after Man of Steel, and what feels like an eternity after announcing Batman vs Superman, the DC Universe has finally arrived.  I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this as I was distinctly underwhelmed by MoS and thought The Dark Knight Rises was dreadfully paced, overlong, and incomprehensible at times.  I also took a gamble by going with my wife whose only real exposure to Batman was watching me play Arkham Knight on the Xbox, and that Teri Hatcher and Dean Cain were the definitive Lois and Clark.  My expectations were pretty low for the film considering the negative press, but I hoped that the overwhelming hostility from critics was based on what they wanted the movie to be rather than how good it actually is.  The trailers hadn’t helped much either – could there be anything about the film not actually spoiled?  If this seems like an overlong preamble, all I can say is that it is pretty reflective of the movie.

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Guest Review by P. Hurley: Southbound (dir. Benjamin, Bruckner, Horvath, Silence, 2016)

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Guest Review by P. Hurley

Southbound (2016). Directed by Roxanne Benjamin, David Bruckner, Patrick Horvath, and Radio Silence.  Written by Roxanne Benjamin, Matt Bennelli-Olpin, David Bruckner, Susan Burke, Dallas Hallam, and Patrick Horvath. Willowbrook Regent Films,  89 minutes.

Synopsis:  Interlocking tales of highway terror revolve around malevolent spirits at a truck stop, a mysterious traveler, a car accident and a home invasion.  (imdb.com)

Fuck this shit. Let’s go home.”

This film is an anthology in which the stories and characters are interwoven, taking place in a nameless town (as it’s a horror film, you can probably guess the name) on a nameless highway (save that it’s going south) in a nameless part of the southwest United States (most probably Nevada).  It tells four stories of people who are unfortunate enough to drive through (and stop in) this neck of the woods, and documents their various fates.

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Superhero Fatigue or Second Wind?

 

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Superhero Fatigue or Second Wind?

Without a doubt it is a good time to be a superhero geek.  Superhero comics are increasingly reaching out to broader demographics and trying to engage fans from all walks of life.  Comic Cons are basically mainstream media events with high profile guests and impressive production values.  Superhero films are smashing box-office records left and right, not to mention being churned out at a pace of three or four a year (or more), with no sign of stopping.  Superhero television shows are springing up on channel after channel and catering for different demographics and audiences.   And in the face of this we say, ‘Well it can’t keep going at this pace… It will have to end sometime… The public will get bored with the constant stream of superheroes…’ and on and on and on.  In a number of regards that is undoubtedly true, Hollywood has always had something of a cyclical nature to its production schedule.  The era of the Western, the era of the Musical, the era of the Noir and so on.  Each genre has its day to shine and dominate the box office, spawn televisual progeny, and then the market reaches saturation and the public moves on to the next craze.  Thus it was, thus it always will be, so speaketh the voice of experience.

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Review: Deadpool (dir. Tim Miller, 2016)

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Review: Deadpool (dir. Tim Miller, 2016)

 

Short Review:

Violent, quip-laden superhero film that indulges in self-referential meta-humour as much as it does crude, sexual humour.  Highly entertaining sophomoric juvenilia that revels in its nerd-dom and pokes fun at the very comics-based industry it celebrates and is part of.  Brutal, silly and joyful celebration of superhero geekiness.

 

Longer Review:

Adapting a character like Deadpool to the big screen didn’t go well the first time around in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (dir. Gavin Hood, 2006), but this time Ryan Reynolds got to indulge in a fairly accurate portrayal of the infamous ‘Merc with a Mouth’.  Rated 15 in the UK. Deadpool is a gratuitously violent superhero film with a penchant for off-colour sexual humour.   Ryan Reynolds plays Wade Wilson, a smart-mouthed former Special Forces soldier turned mercenary.  Wilson is diagnosed with terminal cancer, volunteers for an experimental treatment that gives him superpowers, and ends up going on a violent revenge rampage.

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Blog: Some Thoughts on the latest Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice Trailer

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Blog: Some Thoughts on the Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice Trailers

To say that Zack Snyder’s Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) is hotly anticipated is an understatement.  Even the trailers for the film are being anticipated like a kid at Christmas barely able to contain the urge to unwrap presents in a flurry of destructive shredding and flailing limbs.  And, unfortunately for me, that is what the film promises according to this latest trailer. (see the trailer here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fis-9Zqu2Ro although imdb has helpfully gathered all the trailers together as well)

Sure there is some very cool stuff in there.  The first real glimpse of Jesse Eisenberg as a twitchy, glib Lex Luthor.  It is great to see a new interpretation of the iconic character, and it will be interesting to see what Eisenberg does with it.  Admittedly I was a huge fan of Michael Rosenbaum’s interpretation of Luthor on CW’s Smallville, as an unscrupulous but brilliant businessman obsessed with power and aliens, but clearly the film franchise wanted to go in a more over-the-top, villainy for villainy’s sake kind of direction.  But it is still early days and would be unfair to judge Eisenberg on such short clips.

Ben Afflek’s Bruce Wayne being formally introduced to Henry Cavill’s Clark Kent, a moment that will no doubt have fans grinning ear to ear, is a great moment highlighted in the trailer, as is their short exchange in regard to vigilantes.  On the one hand, the unadulterated hero worship of the god-like Superman, literally and figuratively above the law bathed in sunlight, versus the fearful and potentially sinister representation of Batman, a brutal vigilante operating in the shadows and darkness.  There is a lot here to like.  Potentially a really interesting film about how some heroes are worshipped and others feared, how some extra-legal activities are not only permissible but lauded, while others are criticised and deemed dangerous.

We even get a brief look at Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, who, as far as I could tell from the briefest of glances, is not wearing entirely impractical armour for a change, although one would think that thigh guards protecting the femoral artery would be kind of necessary.  Maybe leather swimwear is in fashion in Themyscira this season, who knows?   It will be great to have Wonder Woman on the big screen, and I hope Gadot is given the opportunity to show how interesting Diana’s character really is and that she is not left as a supporting bit of female muscle backing up the big boys.  In the first trailer we also catch glimpses of her ‘undercover’, so hopefully she won’t just be a bit part in this film.

As with all of Snyder’s films, we know that this is going to be sumptuously shot, saturated with various colour filters to distinguish point of view sections, presumably cold, blue filters for Batman and Gotham, sepia and golden tones for Metropolis and Superman, and some hyper-saturation for the over the top action scenes to allow deep blacks and the vivid reds and yellows of the inevitable multiple explosions, fires and devastation of multiple buildings.   There is bound to be some fantastic coverage of exaggerated violence and destruction, some slow motion shots of powerful punches, maybe even a couple of explosions rolling slowly outward so that we can experience the time dilation of Superman moving quickly to rescue Batman.  Who knows?

But… and you knew there was a ‘but’ coming…

The trailers do reveal an awful lot of the story.  And by a lot I mean a huge amount.  From the latest trailer we have:
1.) Bruce is pissed off that Superman is worshipped and is an alien and potentially could turn on the world and destroy it, so he sets out to beat him a la Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns (1986).  Hey, nothing says great original storytelling like re-using a well-trodden and exceptionally well known story that all the fans already know and has only been previously adapted into a two part animated film once.

2.) Superman doesn’t like Batman’s methods, presumably because he disapproves of vigilantes that aren’t him, so he is out to stop Batman for Batman’s own good. And hey, if the people of Gotham wanted to be safe from criminals they should move to Metropolis, because although Superman can move faster than a speeding bullet, he never actually gathers any evidence to put criminals away so he is busy re-capturing them every day and can’t be bothered to help the most crime ridden city in DC’s universe.

3.) Superman is not universally loved, presumably because he destroyed three-quarters of Metropolis, causing untold damage and loss of life to innocent civilians in a useless battle against pretty indestructible opponents who he could have easily lured to the countryside to battle in relative peace and quiet.  So rather than acknowledge his hubris, lack of judgement, and his view of humanity as secondary to his own needs, he will prove them wrong by fighting Batman and other villains in huge destructive battles that wreak more havoc in Metropolis and/or Gotham.  The court scene/hearing from the first 3 minute trailer shows a potential for Superman to be held accountable, but let’s face it, something will happen and he will save them, and therefore be completely exculpated and exonerated.

4.) Lex takes Zod’s body to create Doomsday, who will presumably be the big set piece final villain that brings the founding members of the Justice League together in a an epic, all-out battle in which hundreds of buildings will be demolished in hugely populated areas yet with seemingly inconsequential loss of life despite the massive scale of the devastation.  I mean if one hero battling a villain and demolishing a city is good, then three heroes battling an even bigger villain must be three times as good, right? Right?

So essentially, the rest of the trailer emphasises all those aspects of Snyder’s Man of Steel (2013) that I didn’t like.  Mass, wanton destruction as spectacle.  Because why try to tell a powerful story when you can just have characters blow stuff up repeatedly for 40 minutes while they relentless pound on enemies that don’t really show any sign of damage.

Seeing Batman fight Superman will be cool, I am looking forward to it.  But it unfortunately won’t exactly be suspenseful as we already know the outcome as it is in the trailer, the comic book, and the animated adaptation, as well as the fact that this film serves as a set-up for The Justice League Part One (2017) film.  Showing Doomsday in the trailer all but guarantees that the fight between Batman and Superman will have to finish at least 20 minutes before the end of the film to give them time to team up against Doomsday and have a short coda in which they talk to Wonder Woman and wrap things up.  If the fight with Doomsday is less than 20 minutes then fans will feel short changed, so it will probably move around quite a bit as the three heroes fight him individually and together.  Maybe have a few saves and protecting each other.  Throw in a couple of barbed comments from Wonder Woman and call it a day.

Which means that we will have about 15 minutes of Batman fighting thugs in Gotham as backstory to introduce Afflek’s Batman to the franchise.  Plus a couple of minutes with Alfred as we need to see Jeremy Irons version of Bruce’s ultra-capable attaché , so we will call this 20 minutes all in.  Hopefully we won’t see any flashback of Bruce’s parents because no one needs to see that origin story again… ever.  Oh not wait, we will definitely get that flashback … again, because there might be one person on the planet who in going to see this movie does not know about Batman’s origin story… maybe… two.

5 minutes of flashbacks to the Man of Steel to re-use the expensive footage, but from Batman’s perspective so that we understand Bruce’s anguish over losing people to the destruction caused by Superman and Zod et al.  Plus it gives motivation and brooding time to Afflek’s character.

10 to 15 minutes of Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent meeting each other and Lex.  Testosterone and glowering looks all round methinks.   Maybe some witty repartee and growled banter.  Perhaps a short meeting of Bruce and Lois so that Clark can look a bit jealous.

15 minutes of miscellaneous Superman saves to show how awesome and heroic he is.  Possibly a montage, but we will have at least one extended scene of an awesome save (probably the rocket shown in the trailer which will possibly be blowing up during the hearing and thus require him to leave and save the day).

5 minutes of Superman worship and anti-worship depicted to add some depth (the scene at the courtroom with the protesters where Superman will probably be called to account for his part in the destruction of Metropolis but ultimately will be praised for brawling in the city with his dad’s best friend).

20 minutes of scenes at the Daily Planet and in Metropolis in which we catch up with Perry and Lois, and have some awkward scenes with Lois and Clark as they negotiate the rushed relationship storyline from the last film and try to establish some chemistry this time around, and Lois uncovers deep dark secrets about Mark Zuckerberg Lex Luthor.

10 minutes of Luthor coming up with a ridiculous, over the top plan to destroy Superman for some flimsy reason, some mad science stuff with kryptonite from the bottom of the sea (which may explain Aquaman showing up) that will look cool and yet make no sense whatsoever.

5 Minutes of Luthor capturing and monologuing to Lois about his evil, nefarious plan.

10 minutes of Batman prepping to fight Superman and getting the scene set up.  Some Batcave action, some making equipment and training montages, you know the drill.

20 minutes of Batman and Superman fighting through the storyboard from Miller’s comic.  It will look cool, there will be plenty of explosions, but no tension or suspense as we will all be waiting for Wonder Woman and Doomsday to show up.  They will come to a halt eventually, probably because word has come in of something more pressing, like Doomsday rampaging around a suspiciously well maintained yet abandoned industrial park devoid of civilian workers.

25 Minutes of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman fighting Doomsday, destroying three quarters of the city and miraculously not killing thousands of civilians.

5 minutes of wrapping things up and desperately plugging the Justice League film.  I mean we have to add in some scene with Aquaman, Cyborg and the Flash, even if they are brief cameos, or help in the fight against Doomsday.  I am assuming that Aquaman will be peeved about the destruction the world engine did to the ocean in Man of Steel.

5 minutes of Batman and Superman grudgingly respecting each other and mooching back to their respective abodes.

So if the film comes in around 2hrs and 30 minutes we have a good idea of what the film will contain.

So the film will look great, have lots of things blowing up, plenty of destruction, and will be a fantastic 2 hr 30 minute trailer for the Justice League film.  Unfortunately it doesn’t look like it will be a cool film focusing on the alienation of superheroes, their actions outside the law, their disconnect from everyday reality and the cost of their battles on everyday folk.

I will still be going to see it opening weekend.