Movie Review: “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”

Starring
Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Jesse Eisenberg, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Jeremy Irons, Scoot McNairy, Laurence Fishburne, Holly Hunter, Diane Lane
Director
Zack Snyder

It’s an idea that sounds like a slam dunk on paper: Pit two of the world’s biggest superheroes against one another in a cinematic battle for the ages and force the audience to choose sides. But while we all wait to see how that fight unfolds in “Captain America: Civil War,” moviegoers can get their fix sooner by trudging through the similarly themed “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” a disjointed mess of a movie that is occasionally exhilarating, but mostly disappointing. Though it’s scary to think that Warner Bros. is betting the future of its entire DC Comics film slate on this highly-anticipated clash of superhero icons, the real loser is the audience itself.

The warning signs were there for everyone to see in the movie’s convoluted title, but even diehard comic book fans will be surprised by just how overlong, overstuffed and unfocused the film is for such a seemingly straightforward affair. This is Batman versus Superman, for crying out loud – it doesn’t require any extra dressing, and it certainly didn’t need to be turned into a moody rumination on the responsibilities of power that nearly sucks the fun out of its killer premise. After all, didn’t director Zack Snyder already make that movie?

Eighteen months have passed since Superman (Henry Cavill) destroyed half of Metropolis fighting General Zod (Michael Shannon), and while some people have embraced him as a god-like hero, others believe that he’s a dangerous alien who should be held accountable for his actions. Having witnessed the collateral damage first-hand after one of his company’s buildings was destroyed in the battle, Gotham City industrialist Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) – now a seasoned crime-fighter who spends his nights dealing out justice as the vigilante Batman – is terrified of what Superman could do with that kind of power and becomes obsessed with stopping him by any means possible. Meanwhile, billionaire tech genius Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is building his own weapon to combat the alien threat using a piece of Kryptonite uncovered at the bottom of the Indian Ocean. But when Bruce steals the green rock in an attempt to level the playing field against Superman, Luthor decides to use Batman to do his dirty work for him.

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Movie Review: “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”

Starring
Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Hugh Grant
Director
Guy Ritchie

Hollywood hasn’t been shy about its love for sequels, reboots and remakes this summer, but as far as big screen adaptations of mildly popular television shows go, you could do a lot worse than “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” In fact, though director Guy Ritchie has admitted that he wasn’t overly familiar with the 1960s TV series before signing on to the project, it’s the ideal property for a filmmaker like Ritchie to tackle, because it allows him to cherry-pick the show’s best bits and put his own spin on the material without worrying about stepping on too many toes. That approach worked well for his “Sherlock Holmes” movies, and it’s equally as effective with “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” an entertaining homage to retro spy films that makes up for what it lacks in substance with plenty of laughs and undeniable style.

In 1963, during the height of the Cold War, the United States and Russia agree to temporarily put aside their differences and combine forces when they learn that a secret criminal organization has kidnapped former Nazi scientist Udo Teller to build an atom bomb. The CIA and KGB assign their top agents – American thief-turned-spy Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and hard-nosed Russian Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) – to infiltrate the organization led by the beautiful but deadly Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki) in order to rescue Dr. Teller and prevent a global disaster. Assisting Napoleon and Illya on their mission is Teller’s daughter, Gabby (Alicia Vikander), a plucky mechanic whose uncle is their only lead in locating the bomb.

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Movie Review: “Man of Steel”

Starring
Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne
Director
Zack Snyder

Marvel and DC Comics may be viewed as equals in the publishing arena, but the latter is hopelessly losing the battle when it comes to their respective film divisions. While Marvel has released one hit after the next (culminating in last year’s mega hit “The Avengers”), DC has failed to launch a single successful franchise other than Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. 2006’s “Superman Returns” was a big disappointment, 2011’s “Green Lantern” was even worse, and Joss Whedon’s long-mooted Wonder Woman project was ultimately axed, leading him to direct the aforementioned “Avengers” for the competition.

But in trying to reboot their Superman franchise, parent company Warner Bros. did something very smart – they enlisted the aid of Nolan and Batman co-writer David S. Goyer to usher in a new era of Kyrpton’s favorite son. And if “Man of Steel” is any indication, that was a great move on the part of the studio, not only because they’ve finally managed to do Superman right, but because it shows that they’re thinking about the bigger picture, both for their flagship character and the DC movie universe as a whole.

“Man of Steel” is a giant-sized film with so much on its plate that it takes nearly 30 minutes before Clark Kent/Kal-El (Henry Cavill) even makes his first appearance. The movie opens with a prologue set on Krypton amid a military coup by General Zod (Michael Shannon) in a last-ditch attempt to save their dying planet. But scientist Jor-El (Russell Crowe) doesn’t agree with Zod taking such desperate measures, and instead launches his newborn son Kal-El (the first natural born Kryptonian in centuries) to Earth in the hope that he can save that planet from making the same mistakes. In the end, Zod and his cronies are captured and sentenced to the Phantom Zone, while Krypton is destroyed.

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