The Good, The Bad, and The Batman

Dawn of Justice

 

Superhero movies are coming out left and right these days. Disney has Marvel, Fox has X-men, but for warner brothers, it is the Dark Knight and Man of Steel that have netted them big bucks. Warner Bros movies have been received with mixed reviews, with Batman taking the higher rankings and Superman getting the lower scores. So how do they cut their losses? Combine them of course and that is what today’s movie review is on: Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. With intense debate about whether this movie was going to be good, I headed into the trenches again to dish out another review. So why don’t we get started?

 

THE GOOD:

 

  1. Batman Vs. Superman represents a key part of the DC universe as it sets the precipice for the Justice League. In these regards, the film succeeds managing to bring all the pieces together to get DC’s super powered team together. One will get glimpses of assembling cast and get an idea into the origins of the Justice League. While there were some convenient moments and rushed over moments, the movie as a whole will bring all you non comic book readers up to speed.

 

  1. The Drama: You want a comic book movie that is filled with emotion? Well look no further my friends. Dawn of Justice has the dark edge that DC is famous for, with gut wrenching moments that will give you the chills you are looking for. Where some Marvel movies may seem comic book corny, this film flushes hope down the drain and gives you the suspense we’ve craved. I watched as fans dropped into their seats with wide-eyed stares as they saw their heroes battle the harsh reality of the world. I found myself once more invested in both characters, waiting to see what fate held for them. While a bit overdramatic at times, especially in terms of the love parts, the character development in this movie is more than enough to please most audience members.

 

  1. The Special Effects: Fox really outdid themselves on this one, bringing computer animation to the fullest effects. Artificial buildings, which looked quite real, shattered in the fight between god and man. Flashy explosions, bone crunching punches, and sounds that rattle the roof are integrated throughout the film to give you the complete experience. These qualities were especially important during the action scenes, which were another positive of this film, and brought you deep into more exciting parts of the tale. In 3-D these effects are only fully exploited, the definition coming out in much greater detail along with some corny pop out at you moments. Despite this cheesiness though, the studio succeeded in bringing most of the books dark, twisted, imagination to life.

 

  1. Wonder Woman: Biggest good for this reviewer was Wonder Woman. They nailed the casting of this part choosing Gal Gadot to play the warrior princess. This Wonder Woman had style, class, and skills and stole any scene she was in. I myself thoroughly enjoyed the scenes where she wielded her mighty shield and sword to conquer the enemies before her. I only wished she would have had more screen time in this film.

THE BAD:

 

  1. The Length: For the love of all that is good was this movie long. At nearly 3 hours, Dawn of Justice is certainly not something for the faint of butt. Snyder tried to cram everything into this film and at times it was a little too much. I found myself bored at times in the film, especially near the end where the extra detail at away at my patience in a manner similar to Return of the King. Maybe if the opening had been a little more exciting I could take the run time, but for this film it just didn’t work for me. My friends tell me it sticks close to the comic book and they appreciated it on that aspect, but they too thought the presentation was a little jumbled to justify the length. Speaking of which…

 

  1. Plot Points Overload: Dawn of Justice had a lot of things to assemble for Warner Brothers run at the superhero series. And unfortunately Snyder tried to cram every single aspect into the film. Part of my dislike of the opening is how everything is presented in a jumbled mess, the dreams in particular dicing up the linearity of the plot and making it a little overwhelming and stupid at times. While I appreciate the foreshadowing for future films, Snyder covered too much in the small time limit to make it work and by doing so made his project a weaker film in the process. This is especially true when there is a high chance of sequels in the cards.

 

  1. The Action: Before you rip my head off, the action for the most part is very good. The problem for me comes in the placement of some of the action scenes. With Snyder’s decision to address everything, his organization was not the greatest. Things got placed at very odd times and I found myself asking what was the point of the sequence other than trying to drum up a little excitement in the boring parts of the tale. There were some conveniences that were a little ridiculous even in the comic book realm that made for a lame ending to an exciting bout. However, it was the “epic” battle between Batman and Superman that was the worst for me. Instead of dynamic displays of skills, the fight took a more drama filled turn that was over the top, slow, and a bit more soap opera than I liked. On the plus side, this battle did have more character to it and a much better fight shaped up afterwards to bring the excitement you craved.

 

 

Overall Thoughts: Despite all my doubts , Dawn of Justice did a nice job kicking off the Justice League wave. The heavy character development was a strong selling point of this movie, and I felt I was watching a graphic novel come to life on screen. And for the most part the action lived up to the potential the trailers showed, despite the anticlimactic battle between the two leads. While there are some major weaknesses in terms of length and cramming too much in the movie, overall this film was enjoyable. As a warning, this movie has many images that may be too intense for younger viewer audience members.

 

Is this worth a trip to the theater? For the most part this reviewer would say yes, more so for the special effects than anything else. However, check this one out when you get the chance.

 

My scores are:

 

Action/Adventure/Fantasy: 8.0

Movie overall: 7.0

OPA! A Simplistic, Fun, Family Friendly Sequel. Nothing more, Nothing Less

Greek 2

 

Family. It’s something we all have in some shape or form. With family often comes traditions and customs that they hold dear to their hearts. And nearly fifteen years ago we had a movie that harped on all these qualities called My Big Fat Greek Wedding. This cultural romantic comedy swept many off there feet and brought fun to being Greek. After leaving us with such a nice ending you would hope the tale would end, but of course Hollywood can’t help but find any opportunity to make a sequel. This weekend the family you love is back and bigger than ever. But after such a long hiatus, does the Portokalos family still have the magic or has it dried up like the olives. Please read on to hear my opinions.

 

In terms of originality, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is certainly lacking in this department. Toula’s story centers on a middle aged woman finding happiness as she struggles to juggle being a wife, a daughter and a mother. Throughout the 90 minute run time, the woman get many lessons in love, life, and family as she copes with the insane amount of stress everyone puts on her. Amidst the main tale are a few funny side plots that help develop a few of the supporting cast, all conveniently intertwined to involve our leading lady in some form or manner. Whatever tale you may or may not fall in love with, let it be known that the endings are all predictable thanks to the theme of growing up and moving on.

 

            Regardless of the predictability, the presentation of it is spot on. The importance of family, forgiveness, and love are well-represented in the scenes and sequences of the movie. Instead of the cheesy, over the top, fantasy bologna many films like to sell (aka Nicholas Sparks), My Big Fat Greek Wedding Two decides to show a more realistic side of things. The family is relatable, with a cast of characters that are certain to remind you of someone in your life. All the badgering, customs, and cultural references will surely make you laugh or cringe, as the family unleashes their unhindered pride onto the audience. Yeah there is some preachy moments that try to make you cry, but luckily these moments are shown for a limited time. For me, this kept the movie fun and allowed me to finally enjoy cinema romance once again.

 

Yet what the movie lacks in originality, it makes up for in cuteness. My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 follows its predecessor in terms of R rated comedy presented in PG/PG-13 terms. They drop the aggressive rants and vulgarity for a wittier presentation of innuendos and let the actors delivery sell the lines. Aunt Voula (Andrea Martin) was a heavy favorite, focusing her jokes heavily on sex, but somehow making it classy. Grandpa Gus (Michael Constantine) brings the stubborn, elder charm you saw in the first film that is both frustrating and charming at the same time. And as for Mana-Yiayia (Bess Meisler) she was adorable and perhaps my favorite comedic relief. The small woman was a blend of modernism and Greek tradition that didn’t involve corny one-liners or over emphasized dialogue, but instead a simplistic and well-timed approach was more than capable of maximizing the laughs, sort of like a silent Sophia Patrilla of the Golden Girls. Of course like many things in movies, sometimes the jokes get overdone and this film has its jokes that go a little too far at times to get stale. All in all though, things stay pretty well balanced and fun, which is perfect for most families.

 

There isn’t too much more to say on My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 except for commenting on the acting. Nia Vardalos leads the cast and does a great job playing the neurotic role she mastered, easily bridging the transition from girlfriend to mom. She’s funny and erratic, which helps you fall in love with her again. Lainie Kazan reprises her role as Maria, and manages to make over the top, over accented greek wives fun once more. And even the teenage Elena Kampouris manages to play her part well, managing to capture the teenage angst of a frustrated daughter without crossing over into the annoying territory.   The rest of the cast does its job well, some better than others, but our casting director certainly succeeded in bringing a group together who really feels like a Greek family. And even more impressive is how everyone gets their fair share of screen time and involvement in the second wedding, without short sighting key characters.

 

In all honesty, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is a fun movie that takes a step back into the family friendly zone. While it certainly isn’t the most exciting or original piece of work ,this movie is a realistic portrayal of family dynamics. There is certainly something for most people to grab on to and provide them with the laughs that we grew up on. Those who have ties to Mediterranean culture are going to be the ones who enjoy the film. Is it worth a trip to the theaters? In my opinion, the answer is No. This movie could have fit right at home with a Hallmark or Netflix home. However, if you are looking for a cute group or family film, then by all means give it a shot, otherwise save your dough and reserve it for home.

 

My scores for this film are:

 

Comedy/Romance: 8.0

 

Movie Overall: 6.5-7.0 (more so because the overzealous jokes, pace, and predictability took away points for me.

Will Your Allegiance Remain After This Film?

Allegiant

 

Books into movies… a trend that Hollywood is eating up these days. A simple adaptation to a story provides the time saver that most studios look for these days. Sometimes the adaptation is perfect, but often the case is the movie fails to live up to the majesty of the book. Today the Divergent series gets its third movie and provide fans the visual portrayal of the beloved “classic”. With a mixed card in terms of quality, one could only wonder what this installment had in store. So here we go with another Robbie K movie review.

 

The trailers declared this to be an action packed adventure not seen before in the series. To an extent they were right, but that doesn’t mean it was the most groundbreaking thing to ever grace the silver screen. Most action scenes were shallow bouts of poor gunplay as prop guns flashed blue lights that led to extras violently jerking before lying down to play dead. These scenes were not too impressive, and were short, boring bouts that held little suspense. The boredom was only momentarily alleviated when Four (Theo James) got his chance to shine with more physical combat that brought the edge I’d been waiting to see. Unfortunately these moment are few and far between. Some gadgets helped liven things up, especially the drones, but our director wasted their potential by cutting corners on the fight scenes, especially the war between the Allegiant and the Factionless (which was almost nonexistent).

 

Instead this movie’s focus was the drama, which Allegiant has plenty of. This movie is certainly a stereotypical tween movie with pouty teenagers standing in edgy clothing and being pissed off at the world. Tris (Shailene Woodley) faces a broad spectrum of psychological challenges from making amends with her brother to determining the truth with their new allies. Some of these relationships have a little bite and were intriguing to me, but others were very shallow pools that ended just as soon as it started. This movie was very rushed in my opinion, and skipped a lot of details that were necessary to match the suspense in the book. But to do that would take twice as long to match, so instead we get this hashed together mess. Of course younger audience members who aren’t obsessive of the book will be fine with all the cheap stunts.

 

As seems to be the case with many teen movies, the actors seem to be the focus for directors over the plot itself. Woodley once more reprises her role with gusto, catching the intense ire and determination of Tris. Unfortunately her show of emotion was lacking and she felt very one-dimensional to me compared to her book counterpart. Four wasn’t much better, but James had the scowl and smolder that many teenage heartthrobs enjoy. This reviewer appreciated the determination, honor, and justice James portrayed in the movie, but again the few times he tried to break that character it fell flat. Jeff Daniels as the infamous David was a nice touch, Daniels brought the foreboding sense of deceit the character. But like a lot of this movie he could have been used more than he was, perhaps something that we will see in the next installment. Fortunately Miles Teller managed to bring his charm to the movie again. His portrayal of Peter was spot on, with Teller capturing the arrogance, fickleness, and other seedy qualities of the character. In addition, he was a fantastic comedic relief to the film.

 

Outside of these qualities, there isn’t much Allegiant offers in terms of a film. This movie was very rushed for me and lacked in so many areas. While special effects and settings were very well designed, and the cities certainly unique in design, I feel they were not used to their full potential. With the action scenes a bore, the acting very one dimensional, and the dram over the top, there isn’t much to recommend for a theater visit. While this movie was better than Insurgent to me, Allegiant still was lacking in so many areas and only proves the series continues to go down hill. Reread the book for this one, or wait until it comes out to Redbox.

 

My scores are:

 

Action/Adventure/Mystery: 6.0

Movie Overall: 5.5

Much better than it’s predecessor. Psychological Mystery at It’s Finest

10 cloverfield lane

 

Science Fiction films, they can take the shape and form of just about anything these days. Back in 2008, a found footage film entitled Cloverfield was unleashed onto the world that left many in a daze of confusion. After the conclusion of the film, and a nightmarish camera work, many weren’t expecting a continuation of this series. Yet instead of dying out, it seems Abrams‘ production company had other ideas and secretly worked on a “blood relative” sequel to Cloverfield. This weekend we get to see the results of their work in the form of 10 Cloverfield Lane. Let’s see what madness they have cooking.

 

When you see the trailer, you see that this sequel looks nothing like its predecessor. The plot centers on Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a young woman who is caught up in a bad accident. She awakes in a bunker alongside a country farmhand named Emmet (John Gallagher Jr.) and a paranoid former marine named Howard (John Goodman). The excuse for the safe house is that the world has succumbed to an attack that resulted in the air being too toxic to breathe. Yet is there really a threat outside or is it all in Howard’s head.

 

Doesn’t sound like the most exciting plot huh? Well you are correct. 10 Cloverfield certainly lacks the exciting pace of this film as they trade running through a devastated city for sitting in a bunker. Yet despite this trade, the story remains interesting due to the mystery that lies within it. Is the world really in an uninhabitable state, or is this just Howard’s paranoia weaving a tale to keep prisoners. This question kept me engaged into the plot, my mind always trying to uncover clues that hinted at the answers. The suspense continues to build through the movie, steadily growing with the tension as Michelle slowly uncovers the truth of the situation. Eventually the situation comes to full boil and provides the connections you are looking for in regards to its place in the Cloverfield universe.

 

Still sound boring? Well fortunately Trachtenberg’s direction provided some horror elements to the mix as well. The psychological terror of Howard further builds the intensity, making you wonder when he will snap. And it is the realism of the terror that truly keeps you on the edge and drops the cheesy scares that most other horror movies choose to use. But while direction is key to keeping the movie organized, it is the actors that are responsible for bringing the scenes to life.

 

And it is the acting component that shines the most for me in 10 Cloverfield Lane. Goodman is still as impressive as always, the roles he continues to tackle proving he is a fantatic actor. He nails the borderline psychotic, lacing his lines with that quiet, subtle whisper that mimics his instability. Even his nonverbal acting is on point as he brings a haunted look to his face that brings shiver to the spine. Winstead also brings her character to life, adding edge to a role that could have been very monochromatic. Michelle’s character required a lot of different emotions, and Winstead brings it all out in full force. As for Gallagher, he was very convincing in his role, but it just wasn’t a part that really stood out to me, pretty much only a nice medium to add a little more complexity to the film.

 

In terms of weaknesses what can be said about 10 Cloverfield lane. First off the plot is a little slow at the start and focuses more on the psychological components of the film. While it was certainly important, it was a little boring for me. The second big complaint I had was the tie in with the series. I’ll admit it is fitting and stays in spirit with the themes of the movie. However, when compared to the theme of the film, the last part felt a little out of place for me and took the movie in a different direction for the last fifteen minutes. I guess they have to set up the next film, but still all of the tricks pulled out of this film were a little too corny at times.

 

Overall this follow up was much better than I anticipated. It is suspenseful, it’s intriguing, and even more it’s terrifying to watch the drama unfold. A fantastic cast brings all of this to life and plays their roles so well you might fin it disturbing to watch. Therefore those with weak constitutions and unable to watch some intense crime drama scenes should maybe skip this trip. However, I encourage everyone who is a fan of Sci or mysteries to give this film a try and get a dose of suspense yourself, though may not be theater worthy in the grand scheme of things.

 

Overall my scores are:

 

Drama/Sci-Fi/Mystery: 8.5

Movie Overall: 7.5

 

 

 

An Adrenaline Pumping Sequel of Chaotic Violence

London

 

Better late than never I always say, and therefore I’m back in the trenches again to bring you another movie review. Today’s film is London Has Fallen, an unexpected sequel to ever popular action film Olympus Has Fallen. If you remember the first film, things like explosions, action, and that it was the Gerard Butler version of Die Hard should come to mind. And while adrenaline junkies (like myself) enjoyed the thrilling stunts and explosions, I certainly didn’t expect enough ground to make a sequel. Nevertheless, let’s get down to another review.

 

Like its predecessor, London Has Fallen is about one thing: action. Within the first thirty minutes the excitement breaks out, flashing guns, detrimental explosions, and extras flopping violently in the streets. From there, the violence only escalates, amplifying the action and intensity with each passing minute of the film. The fights are well choreographed and somewhat diverse to keep the gunplay “fresh”, and utilized different styles of warfare to bring some variety to an otherwise straightforward combat approach. In terms of the quality of these scenes, the production team did their jobs well again with very stable camera work and sound effects to bring you fully into the stunts.

 

With all these flashy sequences though, one might wonder if there is more to this blockbuster, popcorn flick. In terms of story, London has Fallen is not bad. It is another tale of revenge brought about by the overzealous use of weapons and warfare. As a result, the multiethnic bad guys create an elaborate trap to bring our heroes to London to execute them. The simplistic motive, although unoriginal, certainly worked with the movie and gave a realistic explanation for all the violence. Only problem was the execution. Where the first movie gave a little insight into the set up, London forgoes the planning stages and jumps right into the chaos. While certainly realistic, all of the targeted deaths happen in the blink of the eye with everything going conveniently well. It made the whole introduction to all the officials rather pointless and robbed the movie of some potential suspense. At least the emotional connections of Butler’s character help bring some edge to the movie…though some of these moments are a bit too convenient.

 

Speaking of Butler, let’s talk about the acting. Despite being the action thriller, London Has Fallen does a decent job with the acting. Butler again leads the cast with the same gruff, heroic demeanor we’ve come to know and love. His delivery of bodyguard jargon and witty one-liners (many sounding similar to Die Hard and Arnold Schwarzenegger quotes) was very humorous.   Yet he had some deeper moments in this movie that smoothed the rough edges and give him a broader emotional spectrum. Eckhart reprises his role as well and his sullen, calm poise is perfect for the presidential role. Together the two make a wonderful brotherhood that is very entertaining to watch, which is good since they take 85% of the screen time. Our supporting cast deserves a shout out as well, each playing their part (no matter how short) to the fullest with only a few trudging into the cheesy side of things.

 

In terms of weaknesses of this movie, London Has Fallen has a few limitations that need to be addressed. First is that it is a very simplistic story, devoid of twists or surprises in favor of more action. I shouldn’t be surprised, but I always hope for a shocking twist to vamp the story up instead of a predictable mess. Second is that some of the characters were rather pointless to begin with when you see the theme of the movie, even some of the bad guys who were built up died quite plainly. With regards to some of the stunts, well they crossed from impressive into incredibly cheesy, the overuse of CGI alongside bending reality too much instead of realizing its limits. A final note is that some of the violence was a bit graphic for my taste, or at least was done without much point. Seeing extras suffocate or be slowly stabbed to death does not bring much satisfaction to this reviewer, but those who like edge will be elated to see what London has in store for you.

 

Overall London Has Fallen is one of the better action movies of the year. It’s exciting, its flashy, and it has great special effects that keep you engaged in the movie. The acting is decent for the movie and brings a fun friendly relationship that brings you further into the film. But you can’t deny what it is and that is a simplistic, popcorn flick devoid of any real meaning or substance, outside of people are greedy and war sucks (shocker there right?) Yet the special effects itself, alongside Gerard Butler, are more than enough reason to recommend seeing it in theater. Despite all this good though, the limitations do drop this movie in the mediocre category overall.

 

My scores are:

 

Action/Crime Thriller: 8.0

Movie Overall: 7.0

Clever, Witty, Fun and Edgy: Zootopia is a WILD RIDE

Zootopia.jpg

            It seems that Disney studios continues to partake in a civil war between their two animation companies. Today Walt Disney Animation studios’ puts out another work entitled Zootopia, to attempt to add another Oscar worthy film to their ranks. With all the hype and build up, I looked forward to being entertained by another masterpiece from their studio. Yet the question “Is it worth the trip to theater?” may be ringing through your ears. So once again I’m going to give you my input and help you decide the answer to that question. Therefore…let’s get to it.

 

Like every Disney movie you can bet that the animation is excellent, and Zootopia is no exception. The cast of anthropomorphized animals fluidly moves about the screen in a human like manner as they live their lives throughout the fictional city, capturing the grace and dexterity of the homo sapiens they are modeled after. Even more impressive is seeing our animals in the primal state, as their anatomy is fully captured in spectacular detail.

 

But animation is only one part of the magic of Zootopia. The design of the world is amazing, a perfect blend of modernized civilization and animal ecosystems. Zootpia’s residential sections emphasize certain architectural styles that personify the particular mood of the area (e.g. Icy cold tundra as a front for the Mafia or the serene yet wild energy of the jungle villas.) All these details were brilliantly colored and shaded, bringing out the emotion of each scene, but still maintaining the whimsical nature of a Disney film. While I didn’t see the movie in 3-D, I can certainly see this beautiful world being further stunning.

 

While the design of the movie is enough to pull you into the theater let’s talk about the story and comedy of the movie next. Disney always has the quirky, unique ideas that manage to imprint on our minds and make us fall in love with it. For Zootopia that main story is a mystery centered on disappearing animals across the city. This mystery established the suspense of the story, keeping me intrigued throughout the tale as to how deep the “rabbit” hole went. The genius of the movie though is bringing two other stories into the fold and integrating them into the plot. These plots are character-developing moments that give our characters depth to latch onto. Much of these themes are tied to some big moral dilemmas that are very relevant today such as racism, feminism, and duty. And just like many of their movies, Zootopia takes at stab at teaching us how to properly handle these situations (shame on you Disney for teaching us!). Regardless whether you learn something or not, Zootopia is an emotionally deep tale that has many levels for all ages to enjoy and perhaps make you tear up in the process.

 

As for the comedy, Zootopia trades in the stupid for a more clever and cute approach. Fans of the DMV will get plenty of witty jabs at some modern trends that include obsession with phones, scamming the system, and plenty of TV references for the media obsessed. Well-timed one-liners and comedic delivery by our voice actors keeps the comedy fun and fresh and had me (and a few other audience members) laughing throughout the film. I didn’t notice many kids laughing throughout the movie, most likely due to the lack of the childish humor. Plus side, less repeating of quotes and sounds during the movie. Negative side, they might not be as interested in the movie. Regardless, I certainly enjoyed the writers’ wittiness in this film and the fun energy they injected with their comedy without diverging from the theme of the movie.

 

Now lets hit the weaknesses of the film. One thing I was disappointed with was how much of the movie I had seen from the trailers. Disney showed a lot of the funny parts numerous times and felt their effects had waned by then. In addition I felt some of the scenes were not as well done as the trailers had built them up to be, and kind of lackluster compared to the trailer counterparts (such as the naturalist scene). These moments felt unnecessary and barely relevant to the plot and could have been vamped up a bit. In addition I was hoping that the plot twist was a little better executed instead of dropping big hints to give it away. A few other minor complaints include: some overdone comedic ploys and some preachy moments that had me rolling my eyes.

 

Disney once again hits a home run with their animated films. The design of alone is impressive, but the movie is incredibly fun, clever, and has the energy you love. Sure it may not be a film that will keep your kids squealing in laughter, but Zootopia brings many aspects to the silver screen that I think all ages will love. I fully support going to see this movie in theaters and hope you will enjoy the film as much as I did.

 

My scores for Zootopia are:

 

Animation/Action/Adventure: 8.5

 

Movie Overall: 8.0