Justice League Review

The Justice League film finally makes its debut into theaters, featuring plenty of hollow performances, bad camera work, and one rushed incredibly story.

With signs of a great evil upon them, Batman (Ben Affleck) decides to assemble a team of individuals with superhuman powers. This includes the likes of The Flash (Ezra Miller), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot). They together must learn to work together to stop the evil Steppenwolf (no, not the band, but I wish it was) from taking over the world.

Our extensive cast of superheroes are given very little time to build chemistry and learn to work together, which was oddly the whole message of the movie. One second they will genuinely dislike one another, then suddenly for no reason at all (other than for the convenience of the screenwriter) they were working as a team and cracking jokes. It was almost as if there were scenes missing from the movie that involved the bonding of the Justice League. But what we were left with was the sloppy edit version.

This aspect was sadly compounded by the hollow characterization, as the audience really has little point in caring for characters like Cyborg and Aquaman. Both had hastily rushed introductions that didn’t really fit the story. Even the introductions of Wonder Woman and The Flash were disappointing and drab.

One of the most abysmally embarrassing topics surrounding this flick was the comic relief, mostly provided to us by The Flash (a character I found to be revolting). The entire theater remained dead silent for the whole film. Occasionally there’d be a light chuckle or a halfhearted laugh, but the majority of the crowd was unamused.

And at the conclusion of the film, about five or so individuals stood up and applauded enthusiastically, with a few others who reluctantly joined in on the celebration. The rest of us sat there, quietly mourning what could’ve, should’ve, and would’ve been.

While some moviegoers may prefer this over perhaps Man of Steel or Batman V. Superman, I believe Justice League to be the worst out of the bunch. The story is a messy, rushed, paint-by-numbers version of the Avengers. Many of the action sequences were as incompetently filmed as Batman V. Superman, only the characters were twice as bored while doing it. Even Batman, my favorite in the series thus far, looked about as tired and disinterested as the audience I saw Justice League with.

The Verdict: D

-Zachary Flint

Thor: Ragnarok Review

Thankfully taking a rather lighthearted look at this dark and drab series, Thor: Ragnarok is a satisfyingly fun and adventurous film.

Imprisoned in a gladiator contest on the furthest side of the universe, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is pitted against his old Avengers ally the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). With time working against him, Thor must escape his captures in order to stop Ragnarok, the prophesized destruction of his home world and Asgardian civilization. Full of unique and entertaining characters, Thor embarks on one of his biggest journeys yet, literally across the universe.

Visually, Thor: Ragnarok was noticeably more bright, colorful, and vibrant than previous Thor movies. Perhaps the stylistic successes of Guardians of the Galaxy inspired the Thor creators to take a more imaginative route. Whatever the case may be, the beautiful color palette and crafty costumes and character designs give Ragnarok the kind of sci-fi look that I love.

Also nicely designed was Cate Blanchett’s character the evil goddess Hela, who reminded me a lot of Rita Repulsa from the underwhelming Power Rangers remake. Only she didn’t chew the scenery so much (and is in a much better film). I think the writing of the character was a bit bland and not really that menacing. A lot of her dialogue, while communicated terrifically by Blanchett, was very inconsequential and insignificant. Hela said and did a lot of things any typical supervillain would do, and I sadly think her character is the least memorable of the bunch.

This is especially true when it comes to the colorful group of individuals we meet on the planet of Sakaar (where the film predominantly takes place). These entertaining, yet very quirky characters are a pivotal part of Thor: Ragnarok‘s identity, and help make the film as fun and lighthearted as it is. My favorite of these characters would have to be that of Jeff Goldblum, who is hilariously charming every second he’s on-screen.

The humor in Ragnarok was particularly well written, with the comedic timing almost always right on the money. Witty jokes at the perfect times kept the audience laughing throughout a good portion of the film.

Scenes attempting to tie Ragnarok into the Marvel Cinematic Universe were the weakest features of the film, as they usually are for these flicks. Take the Doctor Strange cameo for example. It was funny and well written, except it felt entirely too forced and tonally out of place. As if the studio big wigs told director Taika Waititi that he had to somehow shoehorn this scene in, so Waititi did the best he could.

Thor: Ragnarok isn’t the greatest thing since sliced bread, as many critics would have you believe. It is however, a solid, colorful, and stylish film that often felt less like a superhero movie and more like a straight sci-fi adventure.

The Verdict: B+

-Zachary Flint

Spider-Man: Homecoming Review

Spider-Man: Homecoming, an exciting and well-acted entry into the Marvel Universe, manages trim the fat from your usual superhero origin story, and gives fans of Spidey the film they all wanted to see.

Presuming that audiences are exhausted with Spider-Man origin stories (as this is the sixth Spider-Man film in fifteen years), the film jumps right into the part that viewers want to see. Taking place shortly after his fight with the Avengers, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) has returned to Queens, New York to live with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei). Here we see Peter as he attempts to prove himself capable of joining the Avengers, as he takes on local neighborhood crime while also keeping his social life in balance. Peter’s days of crime fighting quickly escalate when he gets wrapped up in the affairs of the Vulture (Michael Keaton), who will stop at nothing to get what he wants.

The action scenes, dialogue, humor, and characters, are all pretty much everything you would expect from a Marvel film by now. While these details have become a typical, standard package that you get with every entry in the series, this doesn’t really hinder how well-executed Spider-Man: Homecoming is.

The comedic timing of the dialogue and jokes in the film are spot on, as Marvel filmmakers continue to perfect their quickly-timed humor.

Tom Holland as Spider-Man is probably as good of an on-screen Spidey that we’re ever going to get. The film goes very in-depth into how Peter’s role as Spider-Man impacts his personal life, and we see these struggles portrayed very well by Holland. The best part of it all, is that he still behaves and looks like a young kid. He’s oftentimes arrogant, impatient, and awkward, yet still strives to do the right thing (even with serious risk to his own well-being). With a little help from Tom Holland, Peter Parker is as charming of a character as ever.

Michael Keaton as the Vulture was everything I wanted it to be and more. His performance was incredibly strong, playing a very bad man who, deep down, may still have some good intentions. His excellent acting is complimented nicely with just how well his character is written. Instead of creating an elaborate backstory for the Vulture that takes an hour of screen-time to develop, the audience is given a brief summary of his motivations and even gets to see him in his costume, all within the first ten minutes. Again, it seems the filmmakers knew exactly what the audience wanted to see out of Keaton as the Vulture.

This being a Marvel Cinematic Universe film, the weakest moments of Spider-Man: Homecoming happened to be its connections to the ongoing series. A lot of scenes shared between Tony Stark and Peter Parker are unnecessary, serving as detours that the film doesn’t need. Spider-Man: Homecoming is very competently directed, and can stand perfectly on its own as an independent piece. It’s not imperative to include Avengers tie-ins every few minutes, as this type of screenwriting is more likely to hold the film back from reaching its fullest potential.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is a well-calculated crowd-pleaser that I found to be very exciting and a lot of fun. Both Tom Holland and Michael Keaton give really strong performances, and share some of the tensest sequences in a Marvel film to this day. Unlike the previous two Spider-Man series, I feel that this interpretation of everyone’s favorite web-shooter will be the most universally loved and respected.

The Verdict: B+

-Zachary Flint

Wonder Woman Review

Gal Gadot wholeheartedly rose to the challenge put forth by DC Films, delivering a strong performance in their first film to be coherently structured. With a strong story, good characters, and a surprisingly well crafted message, Wonder Woman has the marks of a well-made, quality film.

The film starts out with the back story to our main protagonist, Wonder Woman (played by Gal Gadot). Before going by the name of Wonder Woman, she was known as Diana, princess of the Amazons. The Amazons being a race made up of only women who live on a remote island. As princess of the Amazons, Diana lives a rather peaceful and sheltered life, well-trained in combat but free of any conflict. Everything changes when an American pilot named Steve (Chris Pine) crash lands on the island, who tells Diana about the escalating war going on in the outside world. Very concerned with the well-being of others, Diana then decides to leave her home for the first time. And with the help of her new friend, Diana thrusts herself into the heart of World War I, determined that she can help end the fighting.

The character of Wonder Woman isn’t how she appeared in Batman v. Superman, where she came off as unnecessary, weak, and relatively boring. In this picture, everything is actually reversed. Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman gives young girls the opportunity to have a good film role model, someone with robust morals and the will to always do good. Wonder Woman also knows how to fight, and takes part in some fast-paced and engaging action sequences.

The action, taking place mostly in a WWI trench warfare setting, remained as gritty as a PG-13 rating could allow. We see some of the real life repercussions of war, including amputee soldiers and homeless civilians. This was a neat addition that I didn’t expect to see, one that works fittingly with the message Wonder Woman has to offer.

Wonder Woman isn’t without its flaws, just like all superhero films. Now and then I’d come across a character with little to no point, other than to serve as some unneeded comic relief or to supply some obvious plot information. These few characters felt unnecessary to the overall story, and were more of a hindrance or distraction than anything.

One little touch that I really enjoyed about this film is that it has very little to do with the rest of the DC Universe, and makes no attempt to connect with future installments. In doing this, Wonder Woman stands much better on its own as an independent piece to the series. This is an area that, unfortunately, Marvel Studios often lacks in with its films.

Wonder Woman isn’t a masterpiece of cinema, as some people would have you believe. And few superhero films are! What Wonder Woman really is, is a step in the right direction for future DC projects. It’s a fun, well-shot, and structurally sound movie, with a truly admirable protagonist.

The Verdict: B

-Zachary Flint

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows Review

There is a phenomenon occurring within some superhero movies today. The phenomenon of attempting to cram as many plot threads, characters, and exposition into a single superhero film. In some instances there are films like Batman V. Superman and the Amazing Spiderman 2, which were so overloaded with content that the film was bogged down.

A more positive instance of overloading a superhero movie is Captain America: Civil War. The movie had a long runtime with many characters (some new) and multiple plots, but the end product was really enjoyable.

The very best example of cramming as much into a film as possible is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.

Out of the Shadows takes place sometime after the events of the first Turtles movie. Shredder (Brian Tee) is broken out of prison by his foot clan, and is approached by another villain Krang (Brad Garrett), an alien from another galaxy that wants to take over the world. It is now up to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to stop them and their plan for domination.

Many characters, both old and new, are introduced into Out of the Shadows. So many were introduced that it would be difficult for me to recall and explain each and every one. One particular pair of new characters introduced were Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (Sheamus), the henchmen of Shredder. Bebop and Rocksteady are both goofy characters with cheesy and silly dialogue. These are the kind of characters that some will love because of the goofiness, and others will hate for the sheer stupidity of the madness. I personally seemed to like Bebop and Rocksteady more than most, however I seem to be part of the minority on this one.

The Turtles themselves struggle throughout the film with the idea of working together as a team. This is the exact same problem they dealt with and fixed in the first film, as if they have learned nothing. Leonardo is bossy, Raphael is too aggressive, and overall they can`t function as a team. But when they put their heads together, the Turtles can defeat the bad guy. I believe reusing the same plot thread for both films is not only stupid, but also redundant. Unraveling what little development with the characters was made in the first film.

I must say that Out of the Shadows took a big leap forward with its character of April O’Neill (Meghan Fox). April seemed more meaningful and useful in this film. She had important tasks and was integrated into the Turtles team much better than the last movie. I actually enjoyed watching Meghan Fox act as the character of April.

Another positive note is the look of the turtles. The producers of the film must have heard the harsh criticisms about them looking like gross aliens because the CGI is much more appealing to the eyes. I can actually look at the turtles now and see what I am meant to see, giant mutated turtles. Alas, a few positive changes from the last Turtles movie aren`t even enough to make this a good flick.

The biggest and most devastating problem with Out of the Shadows is its plot. Too many characters and ideas are shoveled into the film, which will leave many overwhelmed. I think there was at least five or six main and minor villains to keep track of, as well as about a dozen protagonists. This was way too much to ask the audience to keep track of, given the overused and dull plot.

Even the final fight scene with the Turtles, Krang, the Shredder, and the Technodrome is extremely underwhelming. A huge two hour build up for very little payoff. The fight scene is very quickly over and the villains are defeated without much struggle. What a disappointment.

I wished for the Turtles films to succeed. While I like Out of the Shadows much more than the last Turtles film, it still had many shortcomings. Out of the Shadows is a film mostly children and young teens will love. Die-hard fans of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles might want to tread lightly when entering these waters.

Zachary Flint

Superman (1978) Review

superman.jpg

Superman (1978) is a well deserving film for one of America’s greatest icons. I not only loved the film for the nostalgic feel it brings, but for how well made Superman is.

Superman tells the story of Kal-El (Christopher Reeve), the only living being from the distant planet of Krypton. He is sent as a child by his father Jor-El (Marlon Brando) to Earth from Krypton and found by Jonathan and Martha Kent (Glenn Ford and Phyllis Thaxter) who take him in as their son, naming him Clark Kent. Clark grows up learning of his powers and where he comes from.

As an adult Clark takes a job at the Daily Planet as a journalist and meets the young Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) an independent and determined journalist whom he falls for. Clark juggles from being an everyday journalist to being Superman, flying around and saving the day. The latest plot he must foil is that of Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman), a cunning, evil business man who puts millions of people’s lives in danger.

The casting in the film, especially Christopher Reeve as Superman and Margot Kidder as Lois, is superb and couldn’t have been better any other way. The actors fit the characters like a glove and make it feel so real. Christopher Reeves is Superman, not just a guy who is playing the part of Superman. Reeve also plays off the nerdy, bumbling Clark Kent perfectly. Seeing him act that way just about convinced me Clark Kent was a completely different person.

Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor was also a perfect fit, every minute with him on screen was a pleasure. He is twisted, dastardly, and determined to see his evil plans through. His whole performance reminded me of an over the top Bond villain. Throwing out great one liners and being a little over the top sometimes.

I also particularly like Marlon Brando as Jor-El, Superman`s biological father. Brando is always fun to watch in any film and Superman is of no exception. Just hearing speak exposition can be satisfying to any viewer.

The relationships between Clark, Superman, and Lois Lane are one of the best aspects about the movie. Seeing Clark interact with other people in his environment is fun as he contrasts greatly from his character of Superman. He is always stuttering, not very confident, and apologizes for everything. Watching Lois and Clark together on screen is great as well, as she often brushes him to the side.

The special effects compared to today`s standards may come off as cheesy, particularly the flying sequences. The viewer will still enjoy all the effects even though lots of the flying is green screened and a little dated. Perhaps because they still feel real in the sense that everything is really there and not computer imagery.

The soundtrack for Superman was done by John Williams and it definitely shows. There is just as much emotion and creativity in the Superman soundtrack as there was in Star Wars or any other John Williams work. The music properly reflects the scenes taking place in the film and emphasizes the film in all the right ways. Superman may have felt like a completely different film without the John Williams soundtrack.

Superman has made its way as a classic American film. It will continue to charm audiences with its clever writing and interesting characters. Superman is a legendary film worth seeing time and time again.

Zachary Flint

Batman V. Superman Review

batmanvsuperman.png

In some aspects, Batman v Superman suffered the same problems of The Amazing Spiderman 2, in that it bit off far more than it could have or should have chewed. There is way too much being pushed into the film that audiences will become overwhelmed. Yet within the two and a half hour run time it seems the most minimal amount of character development is put into our heroes and even less into side characters.

Batman v Superman takes place shortly after the events of Man of Steel in the cities of Metropolis and Gotham. After multiple incidents resulting in civilian deaths, the world begins to question Superman`s (Henry Cavill) involvement in world affairs. Including billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), who by night is of course the vigilante Batman. Throughout the film Superman looks for his place in the world while Batman plans a way to destroy him. Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenburg) comes into play by harnessing the power of Kryptonite as a weapon against Superman.

Throughout the film I found myself caring less about old characters like Clark, Lois, and Perry White and more for the new. Maybe because the filmmakers attempted to develop these characters more. Ben Affleck as Batman was a surprising treat and with better character development and support could have been among my favorite Batmans. Even though Jesse Eisenberg didn`t feel like a Lex Luthor, it still didn`t stop me from loving every moment of him. His movements and mannerisms reminded me of Heath Ledger`s Joker portrayal.

Batman v Superman works to set the scene for the future Justice League films. By doing this filmmakers give insight into future Justice League characters to be introduced, as well as intertwining the story arch of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) with that of Batman and Superman. Again here is a film that already has plenty going on, yet feels the need to jam as much in as possible. They couldn`t give just little hints and tidbits of the Justice League, they had to flat out show them, as well as foreshadow the next villain in a ridiculous vision that Bruce Wayne has.

Director Zack Snyder seemed to thoroughly enjoy himself breaking up the action sequences with scenes involving Lois Lane and various other characters I could care less about at the moment. Perhaps if I was more emotionally invested in the characters I wouldn`t mind the jumping, however I was not.

Jumping from shot to shot seems to be a common theme throughout Batman v Superman. A symptom of trying to fit in too much story. As soon as I start getting invested in what Batman is doing we switch over to Lois Lane. After we see Lois for a few seconds we must switch over to Superman doing something. Then back to Batman. Rinse and repeat.

I very much enjoyed Ben Affleck`s performance of Batman and thought he was one of the highlights of the film. Towards the beginning of the film we get a glimpse into a scene from Man of Steel where General Zod and Superman are fighting, but from the perspective of Bruce Wayne. Bruce is on his way to Wayne Enterprises to make sure everyone evacuates the building okay when he witnesses the destruction that Superman creates. Including the injury and death of many Wayne Enterprises employees when the building is destroyed amidst the fight. I thought this scene was very well done and properly conveyed the emotions of pain and anger that Bruce Wayne felt. Setting him up for a hatred of Superman and his unlimited power. This hatred of Superman from Bruce even, dare I say it, gets DEVELOPED along the plot.

The scene that everyone wanted to see, being the fight sequence between Batman and Superman, of course is saved until the final act of the film. The fight is decently shot, intensely paced, and well worth the wait. I loved seeing Batman able to hold his weight against the immense power of Superman. However I was thoroughly disappointed in the end of the fight, especially the reason for them stopping. I won`t give it away but it is incredibly random, forced, and lame. I could easily come up with a better reason for them to stop fighting then the one used in the film.

Alas, this was not a terrible film, as there are plenty worse superhero abominations that come to mind. Like the films Fantastic 4 or Catwoman. There was always enough going on to keep me entertained and the acting from Eisenberg and Affleck was interesting. The camera work was decent when it wasn`t jumping from shot to shot every six point three seconds.

Hopefully when it comes time for the Justice League films these mistakes can be corrected. I for one, remain doubtful.

Zachary Flint