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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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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Dawn of the Dead: Movie Man Jackson

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“When there is no more room in hell, the dead will walk the Earth.”

So…this is where Dead Rising takes a good chunk of its inspiration from, huh?  In Dawn of the Dead, the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin is flipped upside down. After a normal day of work, nurse Ana (Sarah Polley) comes home to spend time with her loving husband Luis. Of course, they do things that normal people married in love do. In the process however, they miss some breaking news that will alter their everyday lives.

The next morning, a very young girl who happens to be the couple’s neighbor appears in their home in a zombified form. Quickly, she attacks Ana’s husband who quickly falls unconscious. Ana frantically calls 911, but it isn’t long before Luis reawakens as a zombie and goes after his wife. Managing to escape and now on the streets of zombie-infested Milwaukee, Ana runs into other survivors, who determine that the only place of temporary refuge is the Crossroads Mall. But they can’t stay holed up forever, if only because the zombies will not allow it.

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Like reading about, thinking about, and watching about zombies? Thank George A. Romero. Surely the idea of them existed before, but how the mainstream thinks about them now is owed almost completely to Romero. His groundbreaking 1968 effort known as Night of the Living Dead was originally thought of as nothing more than a horror flick with impressive extreme gore (for its time). As the years went by, it has rightfully received its due as an influential horror film and an influence on modern culture. He has went on to create six in the “Dead” series, and the 21st century Dawn of the Dead is actually a remake of Romero’s second in the series. Much worse has been done with remakes, but that doesn’t mean this is all that great either.

Despite the shocking bloodletting Romero had in his movies, many came to appreciate them because of the themes he interspersed within them. From consumerism to racism to government, he had something to say or allude to amid the horde of ravenous flesh-eating entities. With the most current Dawn of the Dead, there is no statement or message prevalent. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as not every movie needs to hold a mirror to society. With that said though, the movie better be fun then—especially if zombies are part of the equation. Oddly enough, it is a chore to sit through in periods.

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Up until the second half, the film feels like it is in a holding pattern, going nowhere with little motivation by its characters. Sure, survival is a motivation in and of itself in a situation like this, but there is hardly any discussion or thought given to what needs to achieve survival. Perhaps I am looking into this too much, especially when I have never been in a zombie survival scenario.

Upon further review, the film’s lack of momentum may be more attributed to the band of survivors that appear throughout. Simply put, there are way too many of them. Between the random zombie kills,the first half is dedicated to introducing as many survivors as possible, but with only so much screentime to go around, you only really end up focusing on two or three maximum. Nothing would have been lost if the gang was cut in half (figuratively), and it may have even created more investment in those left.

Characters that minor investment is had with are played by Sarah Polley and Ving Rhames. Polley is an unconventional lead, but she turns in a solid performance, and Rhames’ character may be pretty bland, but he gives it personality when possible. Even Ty Burrell, now of Modern Family fame, has a minor role here and brings some occasional laughs as a pseudo-douchebag playboy. The rest of the cast just fails to garner any interest. The stock characterization does no favors, but again, with there being so many characters, there’s no reason to care about their survival even with the movie’s best attempts to give some solid backstory to a few. At least most do not do anything completely stupid, aside from Mekki Phifer’s character of Andre. You’ll know the stupidity when you see it.

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In this remake, Zach Snyder is in the directorial seat, and it is a little different seeing him helm something that isn’t rooted in a superhero tale or a graphic novel. In fact, DotD is Snyder’s first full feature length film! The production is pretty high, as the makeup and gore effects do look relatively clean and top-notch.For the most part, Snyder does good with his direction. In particular, there are some well-captured shots of the undead in those really wide shots that show the scope of the outbreak. Specifically, Snyder really finds his groove as the movie goes on. This makes sense especially in this case, as this was apparently filmed chronologically.

Only thing that Snyder really struggles with is building effective scares. Though billed as a horror, this is much more on the action side of things, just with zombies. Not sure if it is the setting (can a mall truly be scary?), a lack of understanding by the director knowing what builds tension, or a combination of the two, but do not go into this looking for even mild scares. Additionally, those looking for inventive kills will also be disappointed as a whole.

Dawn of the Dead looked to have fun, B-movie written over it at least, but all said and done it is more disappointing than anticipated. That isn’t to say it is a completely dead film, just on life support in some places.

Grade: C-

Reader’s note: I viewed the R rated cut of this, and not the unrated one. I’ve heard the unrated cut is the preferred for many in this film, so perhaps I need to give that a view. Perhaps in the future…

Photo credits go to impawards.com, news.moviefone.com, & artistdirect.com.

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