Movies


So after having studiously avoided it, I finally watched Batman v Superman: The Dawn of Justice, since it was only $4 on iTunes.

The initial impression: Zach Snyder and Chris Nolan need to be booted from the production of these movies. Second impression: it wasn’t as bad as I expected. Granted, cockroaches and our current presidential frontrunners are about the only things I have lower expectations from, so that wasn’t hard.

Let’s start with the good:

Affleck. Seriously, he’s a good Bruce Wayne, which is essentially to being a good Batman. He’s working his ass off in the role, and it’s probably one of his better acting gigs. Which brings us to Batman — they let him do detective stuff. They show him exercising like crazy to keep in shape. They point out his incredible luck at still being alive. They also give him some solid fight scenes that look like the comics — he uses his environment, his gadgets, and his wits.

This was a great Batman flick. It’s a shitty Superman flick — more in a moment.

Alfred. Jeremy Irons does a great job, and they make Alfred a partner in crime to Batman, not just a sage advisor.

Wonder Woman. She’s the best part of the film. Gal Gadot has her looking like she’s enjoying the hell out of the fight scenes. She feels like a Amazon come to play rough.

The bad: The dream sequences Batman is having. They’re distracting, and for many viewers, I suspect they were confusing. They detracted heavily from the story.

Speaking of — the entire gods among us motif got old about halfway through the first time they brought it up. While the political class of the world would undoubtedly want to find a way to shackle a creature like Superman, I found the incident to question his motives shoddy and forced.

The writers, Snyder, Nolan — they don’t get Superman. They’re looking to do high art, and they’re so busy trying to be deep and subtextual that they miss the chance to shake up the feel of the movie by having Batman’s pessimism and doubts be countered by the optimism and faith in people that Superman embodies in every rendering except the Zach-verse. He’s not dark. He can have a bad day, doubt himself, but in the end he’s that kid from Kansas who thinks you can and should do good.

Which brings us to the worst of the film — Lex Luthor. The kid from Zombieland just doesn’t cut it, but it’s not his fault. The writers were looking for somethig edgy and differennt, and instead we got the same kind of riff that Sherlock gave us with their shitty version of Moriarty. Smart, sure. Nuts, yup. But engaging and cool, or frightening, or funny…nope.

In short,  all the Superman stuff sucks in the movie, from the big man himself to his villain, to this Lois Lane. The Batman stuff was good, and Wonder Woman steals the show.

So is it worth it? On my scale of “I wouldn’t borrow it from the friend” to “See it full price multiple times”, I place it on a rent, maybe a matinee.

An old space probe returns to Earth to find a lone survivor…

Here’s a nice sci-fi short. The lead does a great job.

Here’s a nice take on the Seven Dwarves…

The reading thing doesn’t tend to surprise me, especially as I’ve gotten older. There are a lot of folks that have cruised through life without reading important pieces of literature, so I don’t tend to be surprised when I ask if they’ve read X and they say no.

Movies, on the other hand, are a modern phenomenon that does surprise when someone hasn’t seen a classic blockbuster. Star WarsBlade Runner? Any iteration of Star Trek? These are so ubiquitous and culturally ingrained that it’s surprising when someone references one of these (or others) but hasn’t seen it. “Game over, man! Game over!” “I love Aliens!” “Never seen it.”

There are classic bits of cinema that I think everyone should have seen, but I rarely expect them to have.

 

Neatly done.

Ignore the prats in the professional review media — this is a solid Bond movie. It’s not quite up to Casino Royale for quality, but it is better  than Skyfall. Here’s why this is a superior outing to its predecessor, and probably deserves to be in the top five Bond movies.

While there is a long of bitching about the pacing and length of the movie — and the latter is certainly a valid complaint of nearly ever blockbuster movie of the last 15 years, the pacing of SPECTRE is quick, with the necessary breathers to let character and plot unfold, and the view to gain relief from the action. (This is something action movies have seemed to forget — release and rebuild…just like older men. Looking at you Mad Max: Fury Road…) The action sequences, from the superlative fight/’splosions/chase through the Dia de los Muertos parade in Mexico City, to the car chase in Rome (which the Jaguar should have handily given Bond’s DB10 it’s ass), to the snow chase (the entire piece is an open homage to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), to the other excellent action set pieces are well-aced, last just long enough to wind the viewer up…then they END.

The other complaint is that this is less emotional a story than Casino Royale or Skyfall…wrong. The piece weaves together all of the Craig movies into a single story: the introduction of Blofeld as someone that has been in and out of Bond’s life since childhood was well-done and provides Bond with a nemesis that is, in every way, his antithesis, as well as giving the villain a reason to have a personal beef with our anti-hero. It draws on the pains of Vesper and M’s losses, and how Bond has integrated those losses and moved on. The character has become blase and had found his humor, but it is still armor to protect him from the world. The female lead isn’t worthless. She’s smart, actively aids Bond, still judges him and tried to force him to be better than he is, as Vesper did. But most importantly, there is humor in this movie; this has been missing since Casino Royale. The movies are generally good (save Quantum of Solice), well-made, but they are serious. Not The Dark Knight serious, but they’re not campy Moore period Bond. This film is fun.

The acting is good, and my main complaint is that Monica Bellucci — who at 50 is still sexier than all of the Bond girls for the last 25 years combined — does not get near enough screen time. In fact, she could have easily taken the place of the still-good Lea Seydoux. All the background characters — M, Q, and Moneypenny get to do things and it works.

The main plot is pretty obvious, as all of the older Bond pics were, as well: there’s a big conspiracy behind all the events of the last three movies, and that group, SPECTRE, is planning to gain control of the world’s intelligence agencies. Realistic? Maybe not. But it’s good Bond fodder. It sure as shit beats the “I get captured to make my master plan work” plot device that Hollywood’s been using for about a decade…and guess what? It was a shit plan and gimmick the first time it was rolled out, but Skyfall did it at the same time as Star Trek: Into Darkness and The Avengers. There were plot holes the size of a helicarrier in Skyfall and the villain was, while amusing (I liked Silva, really!), he was never sinister. Christopher Waltz’s Blofeld is sinister (and doesn’t get enough screen time.)

So, SPECTRE on my scale is a firm “worth full price”. It’s a slick, well-made Bond film.

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