Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Review (NO SPOILERS)

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tl;dr – It’s watchable, and even entertaining in parts, but mostly it feels like two good but incompatible films mixed together: like putting orange juice in your favorite cereal – both would taste fine by themselves, but putting them together has produced an odd mixture that makes you wish you could have them separately.

So this movie was kind of all over the place, and my review is likely to be too. All righty, well, let’s get started: perhaps the oddest thing about this movie is that the tones of the movie clash with each other in the same way that the titular heroes do. This can’t decide whether it wants to be grounded in reality, or if it wants to be an over-the-top comic book movie. I would have been fine with either, as long as it had only been one. While the fan of the do-gooder, boy scout Superman inside of me is still disappointed that he is nowhere to be found, I also understand that they are trying to make a more grounded approach to Superman. “What if such a being actually existed?” these last two films (Man of Steel & BvS) ask. And I think they ask the question well. If you can overlook the fact that this is not the Superman you’re used to, I think that they accomplish a fairly interesting character study. Likewise, the elements exploring whether or not Superman should have a role in world affairs is thought-provoking. Batman, on the other hand, is larger-than-life and comic book-y. Which isn’t a bad thing at all. In fact, this iteration of Batman reminded me heavily of the 90s cartoon. Batman was pretty awesome. There was one scene that I won’t mention for its spoilery nature that really showed in one shot just how awesome this Batman is. That said, I didn’t believe for one second that this Batman could exist in the real world. Which would have been totally fine if it was just his movie, but it wasn’t. He was sharing the film with a hyper-realistic Superman. It would be like if Harry Potter suddenly showed up in a Star Trek movie. I’m totally willing to believe in a wizard with a wand and magical powers in a fantasy film, but put him in a movie that emphasizes science and logic and he’d feel totally out of place. And Batman wasn’t the only one. Lex (I’ll get to him later), Doomsday, and all of the “Dawn of Justice” portions felt over-the-top and comic bookish. The movie really needed to decide whether it was going for realism, or the fantastical style of most comic books, because it couldn’t have both.

Another thing that painfully clashed was the music. I think Hans Zimmer is one of the best living film composers and, say what you will about Man of Steel as a film, I thought Man of Steel was one of his finest film scores. While his co-composer partner, an artist who goes by the name of “Junkie XL,” isn’t quite on the same level of talent, I’ve listened to a few of his film scores and found them enjoyable. But their styles don’t mix together at all. Zimmer’s work with James Newton Howard on the first two films of the Dark Knight trilogy was so unified that it was difficult to tell where one composer’s work began and another ended. Yet, here, the difference between the two composers is painfully apparent. I actually found myself getting frustrated any time we would hear one of the musical themes from Man of Steel, as they felt out of place. It’s like listening to a album by “Fun” when suddenly a Beethoven concerto starts playing, and afterwards you go right back to “Fun.” It’s the same as before: pick a style of music. One could argue that the conflict between the music styles is meant to be symbolic of the conflict between the characters, but if that was their intention, they might as well have served caramel-ranch flavored popcorn with the film so that you could taste the conflict between the caramel and ranch flavors. Just because it’s symbolic doesn’t mean that it’s enjoyable or well done. An additional piece of music that I thought was odd was Lex’s musical theme, which felt just as zany as the character. It was actually fairly reminiscent of Jack Sparrow’s theme from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, which isn’t a huge surprise since Zimmer scored most of those, but it also felt out of place with the rest of the movie. Most of Zimmer’s other music in the film reflected the emotional feel of the Man of Steel score, and Junkie XL’s music was loud and bombastic, but Lex’s theme was just too zany. Once again, you could argue that was to match the zaniness of his character (which I’ll still get to next), but it just highlighted how much his character felt out of place in the film.

Speaking of Lex, as noted above, even with the comic book-y nature of much of the movie, he still felt rather out of place. While he certainly took inspiration from Gene Hackman’s portrayal, he also brought a new flavor to his performance and the final product is this bizarrely quirky character. And not the fun kind of quirky either. More like the really weird kid that you always tried to avoid in high school. Pretty much whenever he was onscreen, I couldn’t wait for him to get offscreen.

Despite the title, I hope you’re not too excited to see Batman and Superman fight. Don’t get me wrong, the fight scene was really, really cool. It also lasted about five minutes. Ten tops. Also, the reason that they end up fighting made me chuckle. It’s not a particularly bad reason. In fact, if you’ve ever read a comic that’s 30+ years old, pretty much any fight between superheroes happens for this exact same reason. My first thought was “Man this story’s been done a hundred times.” But then I realized: never in a movie (to my knowledge). So while it might not have been a heartfelt battle of ideologies (like a certain other superhero vs superhero movie coming up), it was a good enough reason.

Some good things! It was effective in getting me excited for the Justice League movies! Even if they are very similar to this film (which is certainly possible, as they have the same writer and director as this), they’ll still be enjoyable. However, I’m assuming they’re not going to focus those movies on the “realistic Superman storyline,” so it’s possible they won’t have such a weird clash of tones, so they could be even better. Wonder Woman, who was only in the film briefly, seems cool, though her solo movie next year will make or break how people perceive her character. They also tease some of the other Justice League characters. Batman, as I mentioned earlier, was very different than Christian Bale’s version, but he was also pretty cool. Oh, and the visuals were amazing. This was a visually stunning film.

Disclaimer: I haven’t read the specific comic storylines that they used as inspiration for the film. I am, however, familiar with what happens in those stories, and I was able to recognize that there was a lot of fan service in this film. Many of the elements and plot points from the comic stories actually make it into the film. Which leads me to…

The ending of this movie is probably going to be controversial. And I’ll admit I was genuinely surprised by the status quo of the DC universe at the end of the film. A lot of people are probably going to love it, and a lot of people are probably going to hate it. I thought it was … fine. I recognize why they did what they did, but I think a different ending could have been better. Also, did anyone else notice that the final shot of this movie was almost identical to the final shot of another comic book movie from 10ish years ago?

So, all in all, this movie was entertaining, yet also disappointing because of its flaws. There were elements of at least two amazing movies here, but it never truly reaches greatness because it never decides exactly which movie it wants to be. Essentially, if you were planning to see this film, go for it. If you were planning to pass on it, you don’t need to regret your choice. If you’re still undecided then… flip a coin, I guess?

Please comment below with your thoughts of Batman v Superman, but be sure to use SPOILER warnings where appropriate. Also, if you enjoyed this review, please consider sharing it, bookmarking this website, and following me on Facebook (please use the “follow” option, do not send me a friend request), Twitter, or Instagram.

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Daredevil Season 2 Review

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Note: this review is SAFE to read if you have not yet seen season two, any potential spoilers have been marked with a spoiler warning.

tl;dr – While I think season one of Daredevil may have been just ever-so-slightly better, Daredevil Season 2 was near perfect, with a surprisingly well-done Punisher that almost outshined Daredevil in his own show.

One batch, two batch, penny and dime. Holy freak, season two of Daredevil was awesome. Last year, I enjoyed season one more than any of the superhero movies that came out that year, and while I’m still super excited for Civil War, X-Men: Apocalypse, and Doctor Strange (and even Suicide Squad), they’re going to have to be really good to beat how much I loved Daredevil Season 2.

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Before I get into everything I loved, I do want to mention the few problems that I had with season two. Prior to the release of season two, I wasn’t exactly sure who the main villain of the season was going to be. After watching season two, I’m still not sure who the main villain was. Was it the Hand? Was it Punisher? Was it even in some ways Elektra? I don’t know. Not that it specifically needed a main villain, but this season definitely felt like it was lacking the high stakes that Fisk provided in season one. There was also kind of a weird plot-hole involving The Hand (the group of ninjas) that I never fully understood. (The following is a MINOR spoiler, but if you don’t want to read it, skip to the next paragraph). Long story short, Daredevil is finally able overcome the fact that the members of the Hand can mask their heartbeat by listening instead to their breaths. But aren’t breaths inherently louder than heartbeats? Stick me in a very quiet small room with five people, and I’ll probably be able to hear all of them breathing, but I highly doubt I’d be able to hear the hearts. Likewise, are the writers trying to imply that he never heard their breaths before Stick pointed it out? How does a guy with superhearing never notice the sound of breathing? Anyway, that didn’t really make any sense to me, but whatever.

To me, the relationship between season two and season one felt like the relationship between Age of Ultron and the first Avengers movie. It had a lot of fan-service and a lot of moments that felt as though they were ripped straight from the comic books and they made my inner nerd squeal with joy, however, I felt that the story was sacrificed in some instances in order to provide the fan service. (SUPER MASSIVE SPOILER AHEAD, skip to the next paragraph if you haven’t seen the season yet). I think the biggest instance of this was Elektra’s death. I knew that she would eventually die, as that is a very important storyline from the comics, but it felt a little rushed here. This to me felt more like they put it in here only to appease the comic fans, and not because it was necessary for the story. That said, it wasn’t terribly done, so I can forgive them, especially if they do interesting things with that plot point in season three.

Now, enough with complaining, let’s get into the good: PUNISHER. WAS. AWESOME. Let me explain to you the significance of my statement: I don’t like the Punisher. I never have. I don’t like what he stands for and I think he’s a psychopath. When they announced that he would be in season two, I was worried that I wouldn’t like the season, and with the rumors floating around that a Netflix Punisher show might be on the way, I thought that Marvel may have finally made a show that I didn’t plan to watch. Then Daredevil Season 2 happened. OH. MY. GOSH. Not only did they make a completely human, sympathizable, and grounded character, THEY MADE HIM FREAKING AWESOME. That scene in the jail. I won’t spoil it, but holy crap was that brutal in all the right ways. On a side note, I’ve not actually seen the film Watchmen, but having read the classic graphic novel and because this jail scene mirrored one from that comic, I actually half expected to hear Frank say in homage to the character Rorschach: “I’m not trapped in here with you, you’re trapped in here with me.” However, what he did say over and over throughout the season was “One batch, two batch, penny and dime” and that may have become my new favorite superhero catchphrase. Especially because of the emotion with which he delivered it, and the story behind why he says it. As I said, they took a character that I actively disliked and have suddenly made him make sense to me. I get it now. I get why he is a popular character. And I want a Netflix Punisher show RIGHT NOW. Not to mention the fact that I am seriously considering picking up the new Punisher comic series that is starting in May.

I suppose I should also talk about Daredevil, seeing how it’s his show. He was great. They’ve improved the look of his costume a bit. He still kicks butt as Daredevil. His personal life is still a mess. Pretty much if you loved his character in season one, you’ll still love him here. There is one super powerful character moment that I feel I need to discuss though. (This is another MINOR spoiler, but I recommend you read it, unless you want to know absolutely nothing about season two). At one point in time, a character (may be old, may be new, may be major, may be minor, I won’t spoil who it is) is gravely injured. While another character begins administering first aid, Matt takes the time to get on his knees and begins praying for their well-being. Maybe it’s just because I’m a religious person myself, but this very brief moment was extremely powerful for me. It’s made clear from both seasons that while Matt may not be a fully practicing Catholic, he is a believing Catholic. But up until now, we’ve pretty much only seen him go to a priest for advice (even his scenes in confession are just a search for advice) or mention his Catholic beliefs. This, for me, was the first time that we saw him actively practicing his beliefs, and in a world where religion is looked down upon by many and seen as something that only the uneducated or unenlightened practice, is was uplifting to see this character actually praying for the well-being of another. I’m pretty sure that this is the first time I’ve ever seen a superhero pray on screen, and I may or may not have teared up just a little bit upon seeing it.

(If you have not seen season ONE, the following paragraph contains a major spoiler). So, in case you forgot, Karen killed Wesley last season. Straight up shot him several times in the chest. And it’s obvious that this is still eating her up. Terribly. It’s obvious that she is seeking forgiveness for what she’s done while also seeking affirmation from others that what she’s done doesn’t make her a terrible person. This makes her relationships with both Matt and Frank (the Punisher) incredibly complex and interesting. She needs to know that she hasn’t lost her soul for killing Wesley, and Matt isn’t really doing much to make her feel forgiven. Frank, on the other hand, seems to be her opportunity for redemption. Because of this, any time she interacts with either of these characters, there is so much subtext going on that it’s potentially one of the most well-written and well-acted parts of this season. I could honestly probably write a detailed analysis paper of Karen’s character from this season alone, but I’ll leave it here and suffice it to say that if you weren’t paying attention to Karen’s unspoken quest for redemption this season, you may want to go back and rewatch it for that aspect alone.943855_10156767341540374_8796963422717545185_n

Foggy was also awesome. He’s proves in this season why he might even be the better lawyer from Nelson and Murdock. I would straight-up watch a courtroom drama with no superheroes with Foggy as the star.

Pretty much, if you liked season one, you have no reason not to watch season two. And if you haven’t watched either, you should seriously consider it. I cannot wait for season three to come out. In the meantime, I’ll probably watch this season at least two more times.

Please comment below with your thoughts of Season 2, but be sure to use SPOILER warnings where appropriate. Also, if you enjoyed this review, please consider sharing it, bookmarking this website, and following me on Facebook (please use the “follow” option, do not send me a friend request), Twitter, or Instagram.

Review for 10 Cloverfield Lane

 

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tl;dr – If you are a fan of psychological horror suspense thrillers like Signs and Psycho you absolutely must see this movie, even if you didn’t like or haven’t seen the original Cloverfield, as this has practically nothing to do with that movie and is a very different style. If you loved the original Cloverfield, you will most likely love this, as long as you are not expecting a movie that continues the story of the original in any way.  

First thing’s first: this was a great movie. It was NOT, however, a sequel to Cloverfield. This movie was similar to Cloverfield in many ways, just as Cloverfield was similar to the television show Lost in many ways (and likewise 10 Cloverfield Lane was also similar to Lost in many ways). What does that mean? Well, if you were expecting another piece to the puzzle of what happens in the Cloverfield story from the first movie, you aren’t going to get one (though there may be hope for that in the future). If you are expecting a J.J. Abrams-produced psychological mystery where you wonder exactly what the crap is actually happening both during and after the movie (one again, much like Lost and Cloverfield) then you are in for a supreme treat.

Let’s address another major elephant in the room: the original Cloverfield was a very polarizing film. There were a lot of people (myself included) who absolutely loved it, and there were a lot of people who despised it (I had one friend who, at the time of its release, said it was the worst movie she had ever seen). I’m almost certain that this film will NOT be nearly as polarizing, for two major reasons: it’s not filmed in the “found footage” style used in the first film (10 Cloverfield Lane is filmed just like any other movie with multiple camera angles, and even has a musical score, unlike the first film, which did not), and because it has much more closure than the first film. At the end of the original Cloverfield you knew almost nothing – did the characters survive? What happens next? What even is the monster and where did it come from? 10 Cloverfield Lane has two main storylines: what’s happening inside the bunker and what’s happening outside the bunker. The “inside” story serves the main plot of film while the “outside” story adds an extra layer of suspense and mystery. I’ll just say this without getting into any spoilers: the “inside” storyline gets pretty much resolved by the end of the movie with very few loose ends. The “outside” story is rather unresolved by the end, but it is still has MUCH more resolution than the ending of the original Cloverfield. In fact, I was actually pleasantly surprised at how much resolution the “outside” story got.

So what exactly did I like about this film? So much. First, the acting is incredible. There is at least one critic who thinks John Goodman’s performance was Oscar worthy. While I will make no claims as to who does or does not deserve an Oscar-nomination, I do feel that any familiarity with John Goodman gets completely lost within his role. I won’t spoil what he is able to pull off with his acting, but I will say that I completely believed his performance. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is also great as the lead, and she is completely unrecognizable from her role as Ramona in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (which I believe is the only other film I’ve seen her in). Likewise, the story is incredible. I haven’t felt this much suspense while watching a movie in a long time. Like other films I’ve mentioned above (Psycho and Signs, two of my all-time favorites), this film keeps you guessing as to the true nature of the events right up until the end. And just like its spiritual successors Cloverfield and Lost, 10 Cloverfield Lane will leave you thirsty for more when the end credits roll.

My only minor complaint about the film is that Michael Giacchino did not do the music. That might sound weird, but producer J.J. Abrams frequently collaborates with Giacchino and he is, in my opinion, a musical genius. When we begin hearing score literally the instant the film begins, I was really hoping to get an awesome Giacchino score. When the music turned out to be unremarkable, I wasn’t surprised to see a name other than Giacchino’s in the credits. Nothing against Bear McCreary, but I just think Giacchino is a better composer and I wonder if the score would have been more moving if he had composed it.

As for the important question of “did I like this better than the original Cloverfield?” I’m not sure. While I think 10 Cloverfield Lane may technically be a more artistically crafted movie from a filmmaking point of view, I think I may have enjoyed Cloverfield more. In other words, this may technically be a better movie, but I think I had more fun watching the original one.

Let me know what you think in the comments below, and be sure to warn others of any potential SPOILERS! Also, please share this if you enjoyed my review!

3 Things You *MUST* Do Before You Watch Civil War

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The release of Captain America: Civil War is just around the corner and with a new trailer released earlier today, excitement for this film is continuing to increase. Here is how you can make sure you are completely prepared to watch it when it comes out:

  1. Rewatch Captain America: The First Avenger and Captain America: Winter Soldier. It may be easy to forget that “Civil War” is actually the subtitle and that this is first and foremost a Captain America film. (As some of the creators recently reiterated, this is NOT “Avengers 2.5”). As such, the marketing we have already seen so far has done a lot to reference what has gone on before in the two previous Captain America films. Even if you’ve seen them before, I get the feeling that you will appreciate and understand this film more with a recent watching of these two movies fresh on your mind. [Details on how to rent them can be found below.]
  1. Make sure you’ve seen all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, especially the two that you might have missed: Incredible Hulk and Ant-Man. These two are especially important as Civil War will see William Hurt return to the role of General “Thunderbolt” Ross that he played in Incredible Hulk, and this new Civil War trailer indicates that Ant-Man will have an important presence in this film (some rumors floating around on the internet even suggest that he may have a “giant” role). Likewise, I’m sure that most people who are planning to see Civil War have already seen Age of Ultron, but on the off chance that you haven’t: make sure that you do as it was a big status quo changer for the MCU and introduced several new characters that will be featured in Civil War (like The Vision and Scarlet Witch). [The full list of MCU movies, as well as details on how to rent Incredible Hulk and Ant-Man, can be found below.]
  1. Read the original Marvel Civil War comic book. Look, I get it: most people don’t read comics. There are a lot of reasons why this is an unfortunate reality, and many reasons that I wish this would change. But that’s a rant for another day. Likewise, I realize that any movie based off of a book will always have a group of fans telling you that you should read the book before the movie comes out. Here’s why this is different on both accounts: 1) This is, in my opinion, one of the best stories that Marvel Comics has ever released AND it is easily accessible to new readers. Even if you have no interest in reading comics beyond this, that is completely fine as this is a mostly self-contained story. If you are fairly familiar with the key players (Captain America, Iron Man, and Spider-Man are at the forefront), you should be able to read this just fine. 2) Because it is a graphic novel (composed of the original seven issues in the series) it’s a fairly quick read. I realize that most books are a time investment, which is one reason that movies are so appealing: you can get a story from a two-hour movie that would have taken you several hours or more if you had read the book. You can easily read Civil War in two hours or less. That’s right: reading this book will actually take less time than it will to watch this movie (which was recently revealed to be 2 hours and 27 minutes). If you are still unsure as to whether or not you should read this, take some advice from Shia LaBeouf: JUST DO IT!!! [How to obtain a copy of the Civil War graphic novel can be found below.]

Captain America: The First Avenger is available for rent on Netflix DVD, Google Play, Amazon, and VidAngel

Captain America: Winter Soldier is available for rent on Netflix DVD and VidAngel

The current list of all of the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in chronological order of release date is: Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, Avengers, Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Ant-Man.

Incredible Hulk is available for rent on Netflix DVD, Google Play, Amazon, and VidAngel

Ant-Man is available for rent on Netflix DVD, Amazon, and VidAngel

If you wish to read a physical copy of Civil War, you can purchase it on Amazon, at your local comic shop (which you find can using this tool), at a local bookseller, or it is likely that your local library has it.

If you wish to read Civil War digitally, you can purchase it on Kindle, on Comixology (which is one of the best way to read comics digitally), or you can read it and 17,000+ other comics with a Marvel Unlimited subscription