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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Bleed for This: Movie Man Jackson

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Only a matter of time before we get the Butterbean silver screen treatment. Boxer Vinny Pazienza (Miles Teller) has amassed much fame and fortune as a fighter. What he doesn’t have in pure skill he has in pure heart. That heart has led him to hold two belts across two different weight classes.

Shortly after winning the junior middleweight world title, Pazienza is on the receiving end of a vicious car accident, rendering him bedridden and his spine in a bad place. “The Pazmanian Devil” is unlikely to fight again, and walking again is a 50/50 proposition with the procedure he goes under. However, this procedure, which requires him to wear a bulky steel device called a Halo screwed into his head, is a procedure that could bring Paz back into the ring, despite everyone’s insistence that he give up these dreams. But he’s a fighter, and it is impossible to keep a fighter down for a 10 count.

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OK, so maybe we are still a ways away from the Butterbean biopic. But it is quite clear that even if the sport of boxing is in a steady popularity decline, Hollywood’s is still very interested in making movies about the sweet science. Outside of a slim few, one knows what they’re going to get when viewing a boxing movie. Bleed for This clinches to the well-worn boxing movie formula.

Rise, fall, adversity, rise. Flip the order in whichever way; as long as it ends with rise, that is the general plot of boxing movie, whether fictional or true. No different is done in Bleed for This. However, the script, penned by director Ben Younger (Boiler Room) does benefit from this actually happening. Though conventional, it does it does resonate a little simply because it was real life, an actual individual went through this and persevered through it. And albeit rushed in a few spots, the script feels pretty true to life, respecting and not embellishing Paz’s story.

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There are many ways for boxing judges to score rounds. One way is to look at the round in three parts, as it consists of three minutes most often. That’s how yours truly looked at Bleed for This. It’s got a solid, if unspectacular, start with a decent fight between Paz and Roger Mayweather. The final act features some good heartfelt moments and a well-staged boxing bout between Roberto Duran (how cool would it have been if Hands of Stone somehow connected with this?) and Pazienza. But a good chunk in the middle is a little of a slog to get through once Vinny comes home from the surgery up until he decides to go against doctor’s orders. Another issue of the screenplay is that Paz isn’t all that distinguishable from other fighters, from a character level, pretty one note. He’s got a fighting, never say no spirit…but so do the bulk of fighters.

The criticism of Paz’s slim character isn’t an indictment on the job Miles Teller does here. Rather it just makes one wish that there was more Teller could explore of the famed boxer’s character. From what he is given, Teller looks the part as a fighter and sells the physical pain and the dogged resolve it took to come back from this career and life-threatening injury. Aaron Eckhart is fun to watch, simultaneously offering a dash of levity along with with sincerity for the well-being of his boxer. Steady hands in Katey Sagal, Ciarán Hinds, and Ted Levine are present and support the feature when asked to.

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Bleed for This sports a few good jabs and straights, but not enough of a sustained combination to contend for the top spot of boxing film heavyweights. Don’t expect knockout power.

C+

Photo credits go to awfulannouncing.com, boxingnewsandviews.com, and soafanatic.com

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Hitman: Agent 47-Movie Man Jackson

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“Suppress the fear. Face the threat.”

One thing we know about Agent 47 and the people he deals with? They all like to drive Audis. Agent 47 (Rupert Friend) is a Hitman, a genetically-modified individual with advanced intelligence, little to no emotion, and a expert in all phases of combat. He is one of many created and put on Earth to do one thing and one thing only: Kill.

One of Agent 47’s many contracts leads him to his past. The contract he is given tasks him with eliminating Dr. Litvenko (Ciaran Hinds), the creator of the Agent program, and Katia van Dees (Hannah Ware), a young woman with questions about where she comes from. Knowing that 47 is coming for Katia, it is up to CIA agent John Smith (Zachary Quinto) to protect her at all costs, for she holds the key to unlocking massive potential.

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Honestly, it is hard to come up with the words to talk about Hitman: Agent 47. Unlike the bottom of the barrel or the top of the heap which give ample talking points on either side of the quality spectrum, it is often the things that fall in the spot of average to slightly below-average that are a pain for yours truly to put his thoughts out on. H:A47 occupies that ground.

Those that forget the past are doomed to repeat it. In what world is hiring the writer for the negatively received Hitman movie of 2007 a good thing? Yet, that is what 20th Century Fox decided to do by hiring Skip Woods (A Good Day to Die Hard, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) to pen the reboot of the video-game franchise on the silver screen. Most of the backstory is crammed in a clumsy/distracting three minute opening credits sequence that tries to bring non-gamers up to speed as it pertains to the Hitman lore. The dialogue (which is found more than expected), ranges from average to pitiful, and it is about 15 minutes in when one realizes that most do not sound natural at all. All attempts at deeper themes such as free will miss the mark as well. It isn’t laughably bad dialogue, either, it is just bad, even the clearly intended “humorous” moments.

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It is best to watch H:A47 with the hopes of just seeing the occasionally entertaining action sequence, and luckily, a few are present. Every director has to cut their teeth somewhere, and this film is director Alesander Bach’s first foray into directing a movie. There’s a fair deal of overproduced, CGI, shaky, and bullet-time sequences that could have been reigned back in quantity, but on average, the action is competently filmed for a first-timer. Gunplay is reminiscent of a poor man’s John Wick, especially a scene very early in the runtime.

With that said, and I’m not usually a stickler for a film having to adapt its source material 100%, it is jarring to see Agent 47 open up fire in public place when he doesn’t have to. The Hitman series has built its foundation on stealth and creativity within an environment, heavily penalizing the use of a gun. I’d argue that because so much of the audience viewing are Hitman fans, there should be a commitment to capturing the essence of the series and making fans happy first and foremost in this particular case. Not to mention, going a predominately stealth route like the games could actually move the needle a bit for people on the fence, because it would be so different from the average action flick. Glimpses of what could have been are seen, so it can and should be done if somehow the world is “lucky” enough to get another installment.

With brutal dialogue and a couldn’t-care-less story, it would be hard for most casts to make nothing into a relative something. The cast in H:A47 tries. Rupert Friend does look like the signature Agent 47, and plays his character how it should be: Cold and machine-like. There is little to find out about 47, though, and he ends up really being a background character to Hannah Ware’s Katie. Ware is fine, but it is hard to buy her as an all-intelligent, two steps ahead person as time goes on, as it hardly feels like she is progressing. Quinto, as Agent Smith, is as generic as the name Agent Smith, seen in The Matrix over 15 years ago. Often, I am more than supporting for casting unknowns into most films, but when the plot is so bare along with most of the characters, sometimes a legitimate superstar or superstars are needed to cover for the sins of the the producers, writers, and directors.

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It is hard to get excited in films based on video games anymore. Surely one day there will be an awesome video game adaption for the big screen that pleases fans and critics alike, but Hitman: Agent 47 isn’t that adaption. On the bright side, at least it isn’t directed by Uwe Boll.

Grade: D+

Editor’s note: The gunplay feels “Wickian” in nature because its second unit (assistant) director, David Leitch, is the man who went uncredited but directed John Wick along with Chad Stahelski.

Photo credits go to aceshowbiz.com, businessinsider.com, and dailymotion.com.

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