Tag Archives: DC Movies

SHAZAM! – A SPOILER FREE Movie Review


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With the release of SHAZAM! it is very, very clear the powers that be charting the course of the DC Movie Universe have completely altered their direction. While the early offerings were dark, real-world and gritty, the latest films (Wonder Woman, Aquaman and, now, SHAZAM!) are wildly different in tone from the earlier offerings and from each other. This is not a bad thing at all and, if it accomplishes nothing else, it does set the DC movies apart from their Marvel counterparts.

SHAZAM! is a different creature from all of the mainstream superhero movies that precede it in that it embraces the nature of its story so completely and that nature is family. SHAZAM! is the first, true family superhero movie. And it works. Overtime.

Though it does not share the dark overtones of many of the DC films, it is clearly in the same universe and their are constant reminders of this fact. Telling the story of Billy Batson, a young foster child moved from home-to-home, SHAZAM! is also something of a superpowered homage to Tom Hanks’ classic BIG.

Billy receives magical powers from a wizard which turn him from a 15-year-old boy into a superpowered adult with untested and unknown abilities. Part of the fun of the film is watching Billy (Asher Angel) as Shazam (a terrific Zachary Levi) learn just what it is he can do. Aided by Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer) , a foster child Billy meets in his latest home, Shazam learns he can fly, is amazingly strong and has “bullet immunity” among other things. The interplay between Angel and Grazer is almost as fun as the exchanges between Levi and Grazer, the constant being Jack Dylan Grazer. This kid is fun!

And so is the movie. With a plot line that tips its hat to Raiders of the Lost Ark, Monster, INC, Ghostbusters and Big, a wonderful turn by scenery-chewing Mark Strong as the unrepentantly evil Doctor Sivana and a major, last reel reveal that should delight even the most cynical among movie goers, SHAZAM! is a world of fun. Director David O. Sandberg leaned into the craziness that is the story of Shazam and that was absolutely the right decision. He also littered the movie with just enough fan service connecting it both to the DC movie universe and the comic book history of the title character.

Be sure you stick around for both post credit sequences. One is incredibly funny. The other is incredibly bizarre. Both fit SHAZAM! perfectly.

SHAZAM! receives FOUR AND A HALF MAGIC 8 BALLS out of a possible FIVE

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Teen Titans Go! to the Movies – A Movie Review


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TeenLooking for some brilliant silliness? Looking for a laugh-out-loud time at the movies? Looking for a self-aware, self-conscious, self-skewering narrative? If the answer to any of the above questions is “yes,” Teen Titans Go! to the Movies is for you. Based on Teen Titans Go! which is, itself, based on a classic DC comic book, Teen Titans Go! to the Movies takes the barest of plots (Robin believes himself the only superhero who has not had a movie adaptation of his adventures and sets out to get one) and manages to fill 75 minutes with some truly inventive and involving, hilarious scenes.

For Robin to get a film, his friends (Beast Boy, Cyborg, Raven and Starfire) help him with two plots. The first, and most uproarious, is eminently logical: if there were no other superheroes, the powers that be in Hollywood would have to make a movie about Robin. If he is the only show in town, what choice would they have? Thus ensues a devilish skewering of the origins of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and others (the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?). This may well have been the high point of the movie and it is so very good that it warrants a second viewing.

The second idea the Titans posit is that, if Robin had an archenemy, then he would be A-list enough to inspire a film. To that end, the Titans try to make an enemy out of Deathstroke the Terminator – a name not particularly kid friendly. It is changed to Slade in the television show (as Deathstroke’s civilian name is Slade Wilson) and the movie follows suit. One of the best running gags of the film is that the Titans consistently mistake Slade for Deadpool. Since Deadpool was most likely based on Deathstroke (you can read about that here if you choose… it is a pretty twisty story), this joke is all the more fun.

Teen Titans Go! to the Movies is fun overall. There are terrific voice performances (including Nicholas Cage as Superman and, if you do not get the significance of that one, here is another piece for you to enjoy) and the movie goes down incredibly easily. There is much for adults to marvel at (pun intended) while the kids laugh at fart jokes and, frankly, the fart jokes themselves are highly entertaining, too.

Teen Titans Go! to the Movies was one of my favorite movies of the late summer. Go see it. Sit back, relax and let the silliness and meta-humor wash over you. You will be glad you did.

Boo-yah! Bravo, Warner Animation!

TEEN TITANS GO! TO THE MOVIES receives FIVE WAFFLES out of a possible FIVE

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The LEGO Batman Movie – A Movie Review


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lego-batman-movieRemember when someone said to you “you’ve got to go see the LEGO Movie…it’s so crazy … it’s so funny” and you thought “LEGO Movie? Are you kidding?”

And then you saw it and couldn’t stop laughing.

The LEGO Batman Movie is the follow up to the whacked out LEGO adventure and, while it is not as breathtakingly fresh nor as side-splittingly funny as its predecessor, it is a worthy successor and a must see for any Batman fan with a sense of humor.

Will Arnett has created this singular version of Batman – an egotistical loner who believes that only alone can he do what he is meant to do and that is to save Gotham City. If, along the way, he can write and perform a few death metal songs, eat some Lobster Thermidore and kick some villains’ bricks, so much the better. Arnett is hilarious as Batman and, if you take kids to see this movie, get ready for them to imitate his over-the-top cadence and delivery (based on the ridiculous Christian Bale Batman voice) for days to come. In fact, try to keep yourself from doing imitating it. That is quite a challenge.

The story hinges on a the idea that Batman is such a loner, he will not recognize any relationship in his life, not with faithful Alfred (a wonderful Ralph Finnes), not with new ward Dick Grayson (the ageless John Cera) and not with his longtime enemy the Joker (an uproarious Zach Galifianakas). When the Joker realizes that Batman does not view the Clown Prince of Crime as his arch enemy, he concocts a plan no one could ever have seen coming: he bands together with villains from… well, I will not spoil the fun, let us say he bands together with villains never before seen in a Batman movie. The results are stunningly funny.

There are hilarious detours along the way: all filmed incarnations of Batman have a moment, Superman: The Movie is surprisingly and lovingly homaged, Tom Hardy’s Bane voice is parodied, Billy Dee Williams returns as Two Face, we discover Batman is a rom-com fan (and thanks so much to the Jerry Maguire folks!), we have two terrific musical numbers and more and more.

The movie is psychotic. The movie is loud and colorful. The movie is inspired.

Do not expect it to make much sense and do not look for complex through lines. Do look for fun and explosive visuals. Do look for excitement. Do look for fun.

Though it misses the boat on not having Ralph Finnes voice a very familiar villain (and what a miss that was!) and the second act gets a little bogged down and loses its way for a few moments, the overall movie is well worth your time. Lighthearted and fun, The LEGO Batman Movie is truly enjoyable.

 

THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE receives FOUR AND A HALF LEGO BRICKS out of a possible FIVE. 

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Link’n’Blogs – 8.12.16 – Suicide Squad Diverse and Empowering? Perhaps…


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I loved Lincoln Logs when I was a kid. Though I never entertained the idea that I would be a designer, engineer or architect, something about putting together these wooden and plastic pieces was simply simple fun. Connecting to ideas through the blogosphere seems similar to this pursuit, hence the title of this weekly post. Each Friday, I intend to post something interesting I’ve read out there on the internets. Hopefully others will find these posts as thought provoking as I have.

I enjoyed Suicide Squad, the recent DC Films release featuring a group super villains forced to do some good. I was likely to enjoy it as I am the target audience for a movie like this. If they can’t get me to like it, they have real problems!

The movie has been drubbed by critics but continues to do pretty solid business. Is one of the reasons the fact that it has a very, very diverse cast – a cast more diverse than the overwhelming majority of other Hollywood releases? Nine of the fourteen featured characters in the movie are not Caucasian males. That is a fact (and there are others in this Forbes article by Scott Mendelson) which are pretty interesting.

Suicide Squad: Four Reasons Why Its Box Office Blowout Is Good News

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Suicide Squad – A Movie Review



suicide squad
I am not a movie reviewer. I have no formal training and I have little background knowledge save being a lover of pop culture. I rankle when I believe a film is knowing, condescending superior and I rankle when I believe a film goes for the easiest plot contrivance, easiest joke, easiest way out.

I go to movies I want to see. I often go to them on opening weekends so that my impressions of them and my reactions to them won’t be spoiled by others’.

I was mystified by the negative backlash Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice created. The film currently resides at 27% on Rotten Tomatoes. I really enjoyed that movie. I am similarly mystified by the reaction to Suicide Squad which rests at 26% on Rotten Tomatoes.

I agree that Batman V Superman is a better film. I loved Batman V Superman. I am shocked by the gleefully bad press that Suicide Squad has generated.

That’s not to say the movie is perfect and getting a Five-Something Review from me. It’s not.

There are two major negatives with which I’ll quickly dispense. First, the primary antagonist of the movie (the identity of whom I will not reveal), the force the Squad battles in the last act is not very good. In fact, the antagonist is laughably bad. Calling to mind images of Galactus in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer or Parallax in Green Lantern is not what a movie villain should do. I don’t mean to suggest the antagonist is a formless cloud (maybe that would have been better), it’s just so out of context in the film and out of place that it breaks any continuity the movie had. It clashes with the predominant vibe writer/director David Ayer seemed be trying to create.

That very vibe is the second negative in the film. When Batman V Superman failed to impress and was criticized for its dark themes and tones, Warner Bros. studio executives seemed to panic and order Suicide Squad into extensive re-shoots to add humor and lighten the proceedings. Look, I understand that, even though its tone worked for some, audiences were expecting something lighter from Batman V Superman than what they got. But Suicide Squad? Shouldn’t Suicide Squad be edgy? Shouldn’t it have it’s own tone that trends to darkness as opposed to light? It’s called “Suicide” Squad, not “Superfriends” Squad. The re-shoots and additions (some of which are so atonal and out-of-place) detract from what I assume was Ayer’s original vision. The director has said this is his cut of the movie. I think he’s being a good solider. I think his vision got a bit mangled.

So, what works? The four major characters all work. Deadshot (a very enjoyable Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie somehow straddles a tightrope between exploitation and empowerment which will likely earn the character her own film), the Joker (Jared Leto goes full method and leaves the audience wanting more) and Amanda Waller (played with seething passion and dangerous, unpredictable intelligence by Viola Davis) are terrific. They are also terrific fun. Magnetic individually, they are even more fun together, playing off one another. This feels like a movie the cast enjoyed making (Jared Leto’s bizarre eccentricities aside) and that energy shows. They are having fun and seem to think the audience will be having fun with them.

For the most part, I did. I liked the Dirty Dozen set up. I loved the introductions of the characters. I was very pleased by how the movie established itself in the post-Batman V Superman DC universe. I enjoyed the cameos by Ben Affleck’s Batman and… no. That would be telling.

I had a lot of fun during Suicide Squad. It has some inventive set pieces and some genuinely funny moments. I found myself wanting to be swept up in its crazy ride and, for the most part, I was.

But Act Three features one good twist (which, unfortunately, was telegraphed a little too clearly) and one (two?) terrible villain. The type of adversary the Squad is called in to face is the exact opposite kind of adversary a group of this type should be sent to confront. Superhero movies aren’t documentaries. They don’t have to hold up to type of intellectual analysis that can be applied (let’s remember that Zemo’s plan in Captain America: Civil War relied on a functioning VCR… in Siberia… in 2016!). They do have to have some kind of internal logic. Act Three of Suicide Squad fails on this count.

But it succeeds on many other points, more than enough to be an enjoyable and diverting two hours spent in a burgeoning superhero universe. Come for the performances. Stay for the group dynamics and cameos. Go Pee during Act Three.

SUICIDE SQUAD receives THREE and a HALF explosive nano-tech devices out of a possible FIVE.

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Batman v Superman v Reviews PART 1 of 3


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Batman v Superman logo

Would we call the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice reviews mixed?

Would we?

No, I think we’d have to call them roundly terrible and, while the film is making money, it is not going to be the financial beast for which Warner Bros was hoping. It doesn’t seem that the company is altering its ambitious DC Comics movie plans (and Forbes has a great article on why this doesn’t need to happen, but an change in financial expectations does) for which I am glad. I really liked Batman v Superman and I am looking forward to Wonder Woman, Justice League and solo films featuring the characters (especially the rumored Ben Affleck Batman solo movies).

I am surprised at the amount of “ink” that Batman v Superman continues to generate. The idea that no publicity is bad publicity is one thing, but there seems to me to be a shocking amount of vitriol directed at the movie. If it was so terrible as most seem to believe, so mishandled and so offensive, why are people still writing about it? Move on to the next thing (Civil War anyone?) and leave it alone.

I do understand that these characters are beloved and this is a movie that had a lot riding on it. For those reasons alone, it should generate conversation. I am simply surprised by the glee I sense in many of the scathing reviews and commentaries. I am surprised by the joy I gather some are taking in trashing the film, the filmmaker, the cast and just about anything associated with Batman v Superman.

Unlike reactions to Avengers and, more recently, The Force Awakens – many were rooting for these movies to be good – a loud segment of the internet and movie critics seemed to be rooting for this movie to be bad.

Not everyone who didn’t like Batman v Superman falls into this camp and reasonable people can disagree over whether or not they liked the movie, what they liked about it and what turned them off, but common themes in critiques have surfaced that really bother me. Comments like these hold Batman v Superman to a level of critique other films of the superhero genre don’t seem to have to endure.

Here are 3 of my least favorite cases-in-point and, needless to say, there are SPOILERS aplenty from here on out:

1. Superman doesn’t act like a hero

Superman Day of the DeadCan we please acknowledge that Batman v Superman is the final act of Superman’s origin story? This is ironic, I know, as he dies in the conclusion of the film, but the movie presents a Superman still learning the ropes and learning his place. He is a different Superman than he was in Man of Steelbut he still doesn’t quite know who he what he should be doing in the world. He is not, throughout most of the film, as unflinchingly heroic as many want their Superman to be but he becomes that hero in two very telling scenes at the film’s end.

First, when Lex Luthor brings Doomsday to life, the monster’s first act is to take a killing stroke at its creator. Superman blocks the blow without hesitation, a clearly selfless (he’s just been told the creature is a Kryptonian nightmare and can kill him) and heroic (Luthor has, in the last 60 minutes, pushed Lois Lane off a building and threatened the life of Superman’s mother) act.

Second, Superman sacrifices himself to save the world from Doomsday, a monster he understands is his responsibility. He doesn’t leave the situation to chance. He acts with no regard to his safety and, in fact, acts knowing he’s likely to die from his actions.

This sounds pretty heroic to me.

2. Batman kills – other movie Batmans haven’t

batman killsLet’s be honest, Ben Affleck’s Batman isn’t the first movie Batman to kill. He’s not even the first movie Batman to outfit his vehicles with guns. No, that honor goes to Michael Keaton’s Batman whose Batwing had twin mounted machine guns which the hero used liberally in the climax of 1989’s Batman. And, though it is sacrilege to say anything negative about the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy, I will note that Batman’s logic of “I won’t kill you, but I don’t have to save you” employed throughout those films is really, really flimsy.

What I will say is that Batman v Superman‘s Batman does kill more than all of his cinematic predecessors combined. There is no doubt about that. I don’t love a Batman who kills but, in the world created for Batman v Superman, a world where Batman has lost a Robin, has been fighting crime for 20 years and feels he’s changed nothing and has now encountered a being whose he existence he perceives as a threat to humanity, I understand this dark choice. I understand this character who brands some of the criminals he encounters and isn’t particularly concerned about their well being going up against them in battle.

Further, I think the movie suggests that the Batman we encounter at the end of the film has rethought that dark choice. When he says he failed Superman in life but won’t fail him in death and when he doesn’t brand Lex Luthor, we are presented with a Batman who is changing his ways.

By-the-way, Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk, Hawkeye and Black Widow kill. They kill real good. I understand and am pleased that people hold the character of Batman to a different standard, but that standard is a bit unfair, isn’t it? Where’s the moral outrage over the collateral damage on villains the Avengers wreck?

3. Batman’s “dreams” make no sense

Batman DreamHmmm. Okay, whose dreams do make sense? I believe the dreams are not supposed to make literal sense. They are supposed to illustrate the character’s state of mind. He’s terrified of Superman’s power and preoccupied with obtaining the kryptonite to do stop him in the Superman as fascist dream. He’s thinking about the last twenty years being empty and believes he’s failed his parents (especially his mother – his father’s last word “Martha” suggests his father failed his mother, too, and Bruce’s mother is on his mind a lot in the movie) in that he sees the results of his crime fighting as essentially meaningless. Both of these dreams indicate emotion and state of mind, both critical to the movie, by-the-way, and are not literal.

There are two other things to note and they are related: Batman has a dream (vision?) of the Flash who seems to be traveling through time to issue a warning to Bruce about the future and that future seems to include the villain Darkseid – we see his omega symbol on the ground in the Knightmare dream sequence, we see Mother Box technology in the Cyborg scene and we hear Lex Luthor reference a Darkseid sounding threat at the end of the movie.

Are these elements integral to the proceedings in Batman v Superman? No, they are not and, perhaps, that’s why some have reacted so strongly to them. Would they have been better as Marvel movie-like post credit scenes? Perhaps,though I can see that Warner Bros may have tried to avoid that very comparison by placing them within the content of the film. Would critics have been as hard on them for making little sense if they were post credit sequences? Yes, I think so.

These scenes make just as much sense as the Thanos sequence (Avengers), the Collector sequence (Thor: The Dark World) and the Apocalypse (X-Men: Days of Future Past) sequences and those scenes didn’t receive the nearly the level of scrutiny as these have. In fact, these sequences were primarily praised for being cool.

Is the reaction just about the scenes’ placement within Batman v Superman? Maybe. Maybe… but I doubt it.

Coming soon… Batman v Superman v Reviews PART 2 of 3 

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Building the DC Movie Universe – Batman v Superman


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Batman v Superman logo

 

In the ramp up to Batman v Superman (less than two weeks now!), there will be an increasing flood of information and speculation about the film. Here are And There Came A Day, we are more than happy to join the fun!

Entertainment Weekly posted an excellent piece discussing the set up of a massive DC Universe of television and film properties for which Batman v Superman serves as the spine. It’s a great read.

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