Justice League: Movie Man Jackson

The Superman is dead. Bury it. People are still coping with a Superman-less (Henry Cavill) world after he sacrificed himself to defeat Doomsday. Bruce Wayne himself (Ben Affleck) feels responsible for what happened, even if Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) reminds Wayne it wasn’t his fault.

Crime-fighting doesn’t cease, though. However, a new threat always emerges from the last one. Returning to this Earth is Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds), a being who comes to obliterate worlds and conquer lands through power sources known as the “Mother Boxes.” Steppenwolf and his Parademons happens to be the vision Bruce saw, and it’s a vision that he knows he cannot defeat alone. So, he’s got to recruit some help in Wonder Woman, Cyborg (Ray Fisher), The Flash (Ezra Miller), and Aquaman (Jason Momoa).

There are a lot of places to start with Justice League, obviously DC’s answer to Marvel’s Avengers. For all the events surrounding the production, it’s a minor miracle this is rather OK. Not groundbreaking or necessarily closing the gap on Marvel, and still a little disappointing compared to the high of Wonder Woman, but semi-enjoyable.

Two men essentially directed this movie in Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon, with the latter coming in after the Snyder family tragedy. For the most part, it works enough. This is not a superhero story to get engrossed into, but as an extremely basic “bad guy whose only drive is to take over the world just because and heroes have to stop him because they’re heroes” plot, it is what it is. The slightly lighter tone is appreciated without completely doing away with a darker vision. Direction-wise, there are some sleek sequences, most containing The Flash and Wonder Woman. But like the large bulk of recent comic book movies, the CGI aspect can get to be a little mind-numbing, mostly in the final act where our heroes dash, spear, punch, and electrify drone upon drone of computer-generated baddie pawns.

But what mars Justice League are the sins of the father film in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. It’s rushed. Numerous prior iterations of Batman and Superman don’t need reintroduction even in a different studio universe, and Wonder Woman got her fully detailed introduction in June. But for newbies in Cyborg, Aquaman, and The Flash, there simply isn’t enough time to build a connection with any of them. It’s a shame, too, because all three seem to have cool, unique backstories only hinted at that would make them all endearing in this team-up film.

Out of the three, only The Flash can claim to be endearing, possessing a teenage zeal comparable to Peter Parker. Hate making comparisons, but Rome aka Disney’s/Marvel’s The Avengers was not built in a day, but over a few years with intro movies that gave exposure to those who would make up the backbone of Nick Fury’s initiative. Not all of them were great, but, they laid the foundation for the big, crowd pleasing feature.

It’s also a shame that half of the team doesn’t get much background to experiment with because the casting is strong. It should be fun to see Ray Fisher, Ezra Miller, and Jason Momoa as the stars of their own shows and the big deals their characters are, instead of being told they’re a big deal but being given no reason to believe so. As for the dynamic lead duo in Batman and Wonder Woman, their prior movies give them layers of depth and you can see Affleck and Gadot really understanding what their roles entail. But the scene-stealer as odd as it sounds is probably Superman being portrayed once again by Henry Cavill. For the first time, it truly appears as if Cavill is having a good time as the Man of Steel, still being the de facto paragon while noticeable charisma. The less said about JL’s villainous forgettable Steppenwolf, the better.

Justice League is ultimately a byproduct of mistakes made from prior DCEU installments, but somehow, the final product is serviceable. And looking to the future, there’s enough here to get a little excited for. Baby steps.

C

Photo credits go to variety.com, collider.com, and eonline.com.

For additional detailed thoughts on films both small and large, games, and the key moments that comprise each, check out ThatMomentIn.com

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The Accountant: Movie Man Jackson

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*Blows fingers two times before typing this.* Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) makes his money as an accountant, balancing spreadsheets, doing audits, the like. He’s The Accountant for some of the world’s most dangerous individuals and organizations, working behind an unassuming storefront to conduct his business.

How does he do it, lying in bed with such shady bedfellows? Christian lives with a high-functioning level of autism, which allows him to simply focus on the numbers and do his job, while simultaneously making it difficult to be sociable with people. Seeing some weird activity, the U.S. Treasury Department works night and day to figure out who is working behind the scenes for these organizations, which prompts Wolff to invest his talents in a real client—a state of the art robotics company. However, after clearing the books, something doesn’t add up. But the dead people certainly do, and if Christian isn’t careful, he could be next.

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Attention Bryan Mills, John Wick, Jason Bourne, Robert McCall: It is time to welcome Christian Wolff into your badass circle of ass-kickery. Director Gavin O’Connor’s (Warrior, Jane Got a Gun) latest in The Accountant is a lot of things. It’s a drama, it’s an action, it’s a crime, it’s a romance, it’s a character study. Truth be told, not all of it meshes well, but it somehow works…just enough.

In Christian Wolff, The Accountant showcases a very intriguing character. The “exploration” of autism—in this specific case, Asperger’s—isn’t something seen often in movies, so it still feels fresh when done. Going beyond the repetitiveness and physical cues that sometimes define autism, O’Connor fleshes out his lead character with well-timed flashbacks that do their job in understanding who Wolff is and how he has the skills he does. Visually and even musically, the style is pretty cold in its cool blues and dark hues, (in a good way) in what seems to be a direct reflection of it main, mostly expressionless, character.

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And one has to give it up to Ben Affleck, who in recent years appears to have found his groove as an actor. No, he’ll never be dynamic or a complete chameleon, but there’s a benefit in knowing how to stay in your own lane and play to your strengths, his in particular being good at being stoic. Affleck is undoubtedly the strongest aspect of The Accountant. He’s not all cold and gloom, though, as O’Connor gives Affleck a few opportunities for dry humor that build a connection with his character, especially when he’s with Anna Kendrick. Kendrick doesn’t have a meaty role, but it is important, and her chemistry with Affleck and how she plays off of him is wonderful without being sappy.

Where the film loses its balance is around the second half mark, in which all of the plot strands, balanced imperfectly but adequately in the first half, start to become a little messy and/or possibly unneeded. The biggest offender is a strand involving two characters played by J.K Simmons and Cynthia Addai-Robinson who are looking for the accountant. It’s a plot that appears important, but is eventually revealed to only be present as exposition that is drawn out to an agonizing length, and at the end, one may be left wondering why this strand was really needed. 

As The Accountant moves away from its jack-of-all-trades approach to genre and more into action territory as it goes along, I do believe that the focus on its central character becomes lost. Well, not completely lost, but relegated to the backseat. By the end, what makes Wolff all that different from a Wick, Bourne, Mills, or McCall, all films that are decidedly action? I thought less about the person and more about the action said person committed. With that said, the action itself is well-filmed.

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What’s the final audit report on The Accountant? Not a liability, but in need of a few execution adjustments.

C+

Photo credits go to drafthouse.com, geeknation.com, and comingsoon.net.

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Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice-Movie Man Jackson

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You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain. 18 months after Superman’s (Henry Cavill) literal world-shattering battle with General Zod, much of Metropolis has been reduced to rubble. Superman, once hailed as symbol of purity and what the world should aspire to be, is now looked upon by many as an example of how absolute power absolutely corrupts an individual.

Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) is in the camp of Superman being a menace to society, and as such, the Caped Crusader is determined to rid the world of The Man of Steel. The two titans are on a collision course, but lurking in the shadows is scientific genius Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg). Luthor has the intellect to rid the world of both Superman and Batman, plunging the world into total chaos.

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Movie hype is unavoidable, and can be good or bad. To put it in the context of science, a film that appears to be getting stronger in positive word of mouth as its release date draws closer could be “doubling time,” growing exponentially in a period of time. It can work in reverse too with the “half-life” concept, with a film’s hype being so prolonged that as the release date draws closer, word of mouth becomes more negative, quelling the excitement for film. In the case of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, the latter seems to have occurred with what amounts to a three year hype period, and in its aftermath, some calling it one of the worst comic books adaptations ever. Is it that bad?

Story-wise, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is as clunky, and as lengthy, as its title. There is just so much going on that doesn’t feel like it merits inclusion, at least at this point in the genesis of the DC-shared universe. One wishes it were more straightforward as the Batman V Superman part of its title alludes to, instead of the strands of plots the viewer is subject to that include some criminal Russian involvement that somehow connects to Lex Luthor (yet isn’t made clear), and some many dream sequences that, maybe on a rewatch, may make more sense. But perhaps one of the biggest issues with BvS is that, unfortunately, even if some of the additional story material does make sense on another view, yours truly still isn’t sure if it is necessarily interesting.

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With all of that said, however, it is just best to focus on the Batman V Superman part (this title is actually coming in handy during this write-up!). In my opinion, director Zack Snyder (Man of Steel, 300) does get it right when these two colossal heroes finally clash with each other. You can call the build too prolonged, but even with the bloated plot, it doesn’t deter from wanting to see the main event. With help from a score that combines the talents of Junkie XL and Hans Zimmer, Snyder is able to make his fight scenes memorable with a ton of grandeur and, yes, epicness. Seeing the two beat the holy hell out of each other is popcorn viewing at its most basic level, and that isn’t a negative, it’s a positive.

Batman is listed first in the movie’s title, and though the two titans’ presence would seem to indicate that this is a feature that equally highlights both characters, BvS is likely the closest the world will get to an origin/standalone Batman movie in this DC Universe. As such, this puts the attention solely on Ben Affleck, the much derided selection to star as the new Dark Knight. Defying the majority of the population who believed he couldn’t do it effectively, Affleck looks the part, and for a darker tale that makes Christopher Nolan’s trilogy seem like child’s play by comparison, he’s game. Maybe it is the chin, the increased bulk, or the recognition of the director to put him in the best situations to shine. Whatever the case, he does.

But, let’s not forget about Henry Cavill, who doesn’t seem to be getting the same appreciation Affleck is. This isn’t really his story, yet his Superman character provides the little emotion to it. showed Cavill physically resembling the part, but BvS feels like the first time one sort of gets to connect with/care for the character, or at least I did. As a whole, Batman V Superman is pretty solidly acted, from Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman (in extremely brief time), to Jeremy Irons as Alfred.

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The only big piece of the cast that is the outlier is Jesse Eisenberg as Luthor. Not ready to put the whole blame on Jesse though. Part of his puzzling performance yours truly believes is the result of a lack of character motivation. Just what is Lex getting out of this? What is his end game? The answer isn’t discernible. But, Eisenberg simply isn’t the menacing presence, or even the intellectual presence, that is befitting of Luthor. I can see why some may love his performance, as the viewer could look at it as he being the only bit of energy in what is otherwise a dreary affair. Count MMJ in the camp of he being the wrong casting choice, however.

And so, the question posed at the beginning is asked again: Is Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice that bad. The answer to many of life’s questions often lie in the middle, and this is no different.

Grade: C+

Photo credits go to hypable.com, technobuffalo.com, and latimes.com.

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Gone Girl: Movie Man Jackson

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“What’s the point of being together if you’re not happy?”

Marriage…there is a reason many say to wait as long as possible. Gone Girl takes us into the holy matrimony of Nick and Amy Dunne (Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike), who have been together for almost five years. It just so happens that on the date that would have made their marriage five years, Nick comes home and finds the living room in a chaotic mess. Worse yet, Amy is nowhere to be found.

It does not take long for the local authorities to get involved in the missing case, and it takes even less time for the national press to do so. As the disappearance time grows longer and information starts to trickle out, Nick is quickly labeled as a prime suspect not only in the law and order arena, but the pubic perception arena as well. With that, the question is asked: Did Nick Dunne have anything to do with the vanishing of his wife?

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If you’ve been reading MMJ reviews for a while now, I do my best to write them as spoiler-free as possible, from brief synopsis to the take on the flick. I believe that more times than not I’m pretty good with the effort, and when I believe something may be deemed even a light spoiler, I precede what is coming with SPOILER. With that said, Gone Girl is a bit tougher to talk about without spoiling, but it is worth a try. My apologies if this is more vague and disjointed than usual. Thankfully, Gone Girl has no such worries. From beginning to end, it is one of the more complete efforts of the year.

Critically acclaimed director David Fincher is tasked with bringing the popular novel to the silver screen, and it really does feel as if this could have been an original screenplay. Sure, part of that might be due to myself not reading the novel, but the fact is there are so many themes going on here, and yet all meld together to create something to seize attention. Even at 149 minutes, it is a compelling watch that hardly ever wanes. Aside from a slight period in the very middle that bogs down the movie just a tad, Gone Girl is expertly paced with an unforeseen narrative structure that gives a hearty amount of necessary backstory.

The film’s main focus begins on that of the fragile marriage of the Dunnes, but it doesn’t stay there for the entirety. Though it is great in its own right with well done and unexpected twists and turns, what Fincher does in his examination and even satire of the media is nothing short of awesome. How the media is able to change and manipulate news and public sentiment on a whim is true power in this day and age, and this story theme was just as intriguing as the “did he or didn’t he” story. As a whole, the tale is heavy, mature, and grounded, but with a dash of dark humor that keeps the movie from being a complete somber experience. Only near the end does one particular scene come off as unnecessary. Sometimes being implicit is more effective than being explicit.

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It was James Brown who famously stated “This is a man’s world.” The opposite could be had here. It feels like it has been quite some time since a movie has contained so many thorough female parts in it, with even the smaller women roles being noteworthy in this one. But there is a trifecta of performances deserving of praise. Kim Dickens is the lead detective on the case, and her character is one absent of nonsense and frill. On the other side of the spectrum lies Carrie’s Coon’s character Margo Dunne.

Playing Affleck’s sister, the best thing about her performance is that she really nails the brother-sister aspect with Affleck. She gives him a hard time and for good reason, but her love for Nick is never doubted once. With that said, the role getting much buzz is played by Rosamund Pike. To delve even barely into it could be deemed spoiler-ish, but rest assured that it will likely stand as one of the best roles, male or female, of anyone this year.

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There may have been a time in which Ben Affleck was an A-list name with less than A-list talent, but times have changed. He is a solidly good actor now, not an amazing one, but very consistent nonetheless. I was not enamored with the job done by him here but as time went on, he got better and better, almost like a halfback getting stronger and stronger during a game. The real surprise here is Madea  Tyler Perry. His character is one of the more smarter ones in the flick, and around more “respected” actors and actresses, he is never out of place and looks and sounds the part as an all-knowledgeable attorney. Amid all of the good to stellar performances, one does stick out from the pack in a negative way. Unfortunately, Neil Patrick Harris is less than convincing in his portrayal of the character he plays. It is hard to quantify, but it just was off and unnatural when placed in direct comparison to others.

The buildup and buzz to the release may be gone, but what remains is a meticulous piece of cinema. None of the minor gripes are enough to derail Gone Girl from an unpredictable, immersive, and very well-crafted film.

Grade: A-

Photo credits go to eonline.com, upandcomers.net, and aceshowbiz.com.

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