Category Archives: Movie Reviews

How “Watchmen” Ruined “Batman V Superman”

It took me a while to put it into words, but I figured out why – to me – “Batman V Superman” doesn’t work.

It comes down to director Zack Snyder and what he thinks he is trying to do:

  • Yes, he is trying to tentpole a franchise
  • Yes, he is trying to rationalize how “Man of Steel” would give us characters that might not love the carnage a Superman brings with him
  • Yes, he has to show us how these disparate personalities would have to learn to work together.
  • Yes, he has to try and follow beloved (?) storylines.

The problem becomes, when he made “Watchmen”, he discarded roughly one-third of the story (the Tales of the Black Freighter) and told the basic plot. This allowed him to construct a narrative that was at least consistent from beginning to end. People, including Alan Moore, may have hated his style choice, but at least he got a consistent movie out of that decision.

Plus this. This was all good.

Here, it seems like he decided to keep every little nugget he could from each origin story he came across. We got Batman’s AGAIN. There was a little bit more of Superman’s, including a story from his dad. Doomsday’s was altered from the comics, but we still got a full story that fit this narrative. We only got an oral version of Lex Luthor’s, spread out over the first two hours.

Bryan Cranston would’ve needed just 10 minutes. Just sayin’.

Luckily, Wonder Woman’s getting her own film, so we only got a clue about her origin story. I liked the subtle treatment they gave her reveal. It actually should be a better movie.


Once the guts of approximately 14 different comics had been spilled, and a meandering plot involving Holly Hunter that could have taken five minutes and less subtlety, it was time for BIG FIGHT #1!

“But first, Jar Jar, here’s how the Senate works…”

The actual Batman V Superman was, I thought, actually pretty good. Nice action plus storyline plausibility…

You could argue he’s wearing Hulkbuster armor, but why nitpick?

…until Lois shows up, points out their similarities, and tells them about why they must knock it off and fight a common enemy. Then it falls apart for a little bit, while they go through a sober version of a drunken Irish, ‘I LOVE YOU!” back-and-forth before – oh yeah – Doomsday is coming.

And he’s got Pink Eye!

This gives us the big Wonder Woman reveal. as I said, I like her, and think it’ll be a fine solo movie. It’s a good fight, and it takes the three of them to finish him off, the conclusion of which gives us the direct walk-to for the solo movies and the inevitable JLA conclusion against Darkseid.

Once the action finishes, there’s about three or four “Return of the King” false finishes before the actual ending, which again drives you to madness because it reinforces every belief that they could have shaved 30-40 minutes off of this film and made it work a lot better.


In case you’re into fantasy booking, this is your best matchup.

Viewability scale: (Theatre-full price / Theatre-half-price / Stream / Wait for TV / Nope / Eye Cancer)

Because I have misguided faith that the other movies in the series will be better, watching it without commercial interruption, and from the comfort of home, will provide you the most enjoyable experience with this film. I went to the theatre because my wife was doing the easter baking, and being allergic to cocoa meant I had to go out to avoid a reaction. So, I guess, what I’m saying is that this movie was better than anaphylaxis.

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Any Good Review of This Will Spoil The Movie

There is no way to talk about what happens in this movie without giving too much away. Once you talk about an incident, you’ve either got to talk about where it goes, or get to a point and……. in order to avoid leaking something vital to following along and/or enjoying the movie. So I won’t. Suffice to say, everything that’s set up in the trailer is what you need for the movie:

                   “Hello, Ramona Flowers. I took care of Michael Cera for you.”

A girl, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winsted) is in a car wreck and wakes up in Howard’s (John Goodman) bunker.

“Yes yes, it sounds scary up there. Anyway, who wants to talk repopulating the world?”

Down there is another guy named Emmett (John Gallagher Junior). For the next 90 minutes, the whole thing is a part-psychological horror, part thriller version of “My Dinner With Andre” crossed with “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?”, as Michelle tries to figure out what the fuck is going on, and whether she should buy into the story or try to flee.

                   “It’s a broken arm. Why are you talking about a prostate exam?”

If I say anything else, it’ll give stuff away.

If you saw “Buried”, with Ryan Reynolds, that is kinda on par with the idea of the tension, but this is so, so much better. Will Michelle get out? What will she do if she gets out? How crazy or correct is Howard? Can they each be both right and wrong?

I read a couple of other reviews, and I agree with this sentiment – John Goodman would be considered for an Oscar is this had come out in October.

                                “As long as you’re going to Starbucks, get me a latte.”

This movie doesn’t run as it does without him in the lead. It’s a goddamned master class in giving you the creeps, and it’ll make you at-least-not-scoff next time you see a promo for a repeat of “Doomsday Preppers”. The man who once had to lose weight to play Babe Ruth is again confirmed as a certified American acting treasure.

And JJ Abrams! He’s cut down on the lens flares, and made the movie M. Night Shyamalan has always tried to make.

A better director makes a better movie. Shocking!

The one thing I’ll say about the ending: I kinda want to see it again, but in another city.

I got the feeling that, like the movie “Clue”, there could have been multiple endings filmed, and there’s 3-4 versions of how it could go. Like, Denver got a different ending than Boston, and they both are different than Miami.

There’s only one verdict:

Viewability scale: (Theatre-full price / Theatre-half-price / Stream / Wait for TV / Nope / Eye Cancer)

It’s a big screen movie. You can decide on whether it’s full- or half-price; I’m not your dad. What I am saying is that you should absolutely see this on the big screen. The scale adds to the tension of the movie. Hopefully, it’ll take the sting out of feeling cheated if “Batman V Superman” turns out to be a huge disappointment.

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Always Wear the Brown Pants

Full disclosure: I’m from Vancouver. They shot the movie here. I went in wanting to love this movie.

So, Deadpool came out on Friday. I went and caught the early show, figuring it would get packed closer to the evening. The theatre was about half-full.

Long story short:

  • First third: awesome.
  • Second third: kinda slow
  • Last third: satisfactory conclusion

The opening scene to the movie is most likely the best part. From the credits through the use of soundtrack (Juice Newton’s gonna be surprised!), the movie hits every point a comic book movie needs in order to keep the audience through to the rest of the film.

Just let this play while reading.

What I found unique is that, because they assume about half the people are already read up on deadpool before going, they put the origin story (for the most part) in the middle. So you start with action, then get the exposition and character development, and then get a conclusio to the whole story. If they had pieced this together chronologically, it might have sucked, but shifting the tradition a bit helped make this movie work.

I think the thing that sticks out to me is how the movie was shot. For those who don’t know, Ryan Reynolds is a homer – he loves Vancouver, and it loves him right back. From the time he shot Van Wilder out at one of my alma maters – UBC – Vancouver will forgive him his missteps because it knows he does far more good than bad. Plus, he brings jobs and exposure to the local industry. Kind of like Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg; they’ve made a couple of duds, but then they shot “The Interview” here and all was forgiven & forgotten.

Everyone knows the story about how Deadpool had a tight budget, and shot as much as they could up in Vancouver and then CGI’d other shots into the sequences. You get a lot of bang for your buck when each dollar you spend gets an extra 40 cents added on. For example, the big freeway fight scene was mostly shot in downtown Vancouver, but because we lack the overpasses, they FX’d in the additional lanes. No muss; no fuss.

They closed a major bridge into downtown for 10 days, like it was no big deal. FYI: BC Lions play in the left stadium; Ice Liouns play in the right.

History: Bon Jovi named the album “Slippery When Wet” after visiting The Number 5 Orange Stripclub, and thanks them in the liner notes for their “babysitting services”.

If you’re from here, you recognize the locations and architecture. Most people, if they look hard enough, can spot this as a Vancouver-shot movie. It’s not as bad as “Rumble In the Bronx”, where Jackie Chan fights bad guys in the shadow of NYC’s mountains, but you can tell if you’re looking. For the most part, it works, so why bother? Hell, in one of the key plot scenes, they turned our most famous strip club – the No.5 Orange – into an actual location in the movie; they even kept the name. They sure did clean up the alley, though.

[Fun fact: one of my former students is the No.5’s DJ, and thanks to his SAG card is in the movie!]

Even the X-Men location tie-in came relatively cheap, since the “Xavier School” is actually a provincial landmark called Hatley Castle, a 90 minute ferry ride away in Victoria. And (spoiler) while he’s not in the movie, they sure do have some fun at Hugh Jackman’s expense.

This movie isn’t just a sausage-fest. The female roles have great weight. When it comes to the action, both Gina Carano (Angel) and Brianna Hildebrand (Negasonic) play their roles straight-up, and Morena Baccarin is fantastic & fantastic looking in the movie. If he wasn’t already married to Blake Lively, she and Ryan Reynolds would make very beautiful babies.

The “R” rating helps. The swearing seems mostly natural to the settings, but not like they took Tarantino dialogue and threw it into a superhero movie. In other movies of the genre, it usually seems more awkward when a character in an X-Men fight scene doesn’t swear. Plus, the rating allows them to be more graphic & direct with the double-entendres. You see actual breasts in the strip club! Reynolds butt, for the ladies! Not having to write around a PG-13 rating let more creative control go into the action. The violence is actually violent. You see brains, and flesh, and bodily fluids, in their proper context.

It’s the new “Scanners” gif!

Most people know if they are going to want to see this movie. As a guy who owns even the Jessica Alba “Fantastic Four” movies on DVD, I was in the can for this movie from the start. Plus, I’m a homer for supporting the local kid, because films like this help keep people I know employed. I accept there’s a confirmation bias in my watching this movie, but I think I can be objective.

Viewability scale: (Theatre-full price / Theatre-half-price / Stream / Wait for TV / Nope / Eye Cancer)

If you’ve seen most of the Marvel Universe (to this point) on the big screen, you owe it to yourself to see this there as well. It will show very nicely on Netflix, but seeing it large makes a difference. That’s what tips me over to that one side. If you wait to see it on TV, there’s about 20 minutes that are going to have to be cut, and lots of dubbing for language.

Next review: I dunno; whenever I feel like going next. Since I’m not a paid shill and #UpForWhatever, I can pick & choose, or just not go if nothing catches my interest. That might be more damning.

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Is Too Much Meta, Meta?

I’ve never been a Coen brothers fanboy. I haven’t seen all their movies; some I was barely bothered to catch on Netflix.

As opposed to this version. Iron Man & Jules Winnfield meet The Breakfast Club? How did Schindler's List manage to win the Oscar that year?

As opposed to this version. Iron Man & Jules Winnfield meet The Breakfast Club? How did Schindler’s List manage to win the Oscar that year?

Mostly, I can tell if I want to see one of their movies just by the commercial. I don’t know what it is, but their commercials have been 100% accurate in determining whether I’ll like that particular film and should either pay to see it in the theatre or wait for it to hit streaming:

  • Fargo – damn straight
  • True Grit – damn straight
  • No Country for Old Men – meh
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou? – meh
  • Inside Llewyn Davis – not on your fucking life

That’s just an arbitrary example of my tastes, which is the filter I used to determine if I wanted to see “Hail, Caesar”.

When I saw the first commercials for “Hail, Caesar”, I was in.

There appeared to be a bunch of things I liked all contained in one movie:

  • Throwback noir
  • Josh Brolin as a Philip Marlowe-type character
  • Scarlett Johansson
  • A nicely put-together ensemble cast
  • A couple of moving plots
  • The promise of Scarlett Johansson wet and/or in a pool

All this went straight to the “damn straight” part of my brain. I needed to see this on the big screen.

To be convinced, I checked out a couple of reviews of critics whose tastes seem to mirror mine, including Vince Mancini from [redacted]. It sounded pretty positive.

Then the moment of truth – I saw it. Sunday night, after the Super Bowl.

Now, to help people decide against reading further and seeing some (possible) soft spoilers, I’m going to put this picture here. The opinions will start on the other side.

Spoiler spoiler: The movie needed more of this.

Still here? Let’s continue.

(Disclosure: this movie was the escape plan if the game turned into a 1st quarter blowout. My wife likes football a lot, but not enough to stick out a whole, crappy game and “fucking Coldplay is the halftime show?!”.)

Two talented people, and the white guy they were hired to support.

First of all, the positives. Josh Brolin is as advertised. I could watch him remake any Bogart crime flick. His dialogue is first rate, and although it might seem like he’s doing a noir homage it always sounds like it was written for his character, and with him in mind for playing that character. They don’t get into his internal struggles enough, given how often they’re referenced, but that’s a minor quibble. He absolutely carries this picture, and does so handsomely.

I would watch a dozen of anything this character was in.

Clooney was good. It seemed like he had fun making fun of his “George Clooney” aura. There’s a scene between him and Josh Brolin that is fun, and helps close the book on an icky opening scene that involved ‘straightening out a dame’. And for a kid I’d never heard of before, Alden Ehrenreich was pretty good in what his role required, despite looking like Leo DiCaprio & Liev Schreiber’s baby.

As with all Coen brothers productions, it is beautifully shot; you can really feel the pastiche of the 1950s in the picture. It walked the fine line between homage and parody, a semi-serious version of the 4th wall break at the end of “Blazing Saddles”. [Note to self: watch “Blazing Saddles” again this week.]

Title cards alone can sometimes be arbiters of good movies.

It’s a handsome picture, befitting the handsome cast (+ Jonah Hill) they’ve put together.

See? The font looks hilarious.

But whoo boy, the inconsistencies…

Without giving away too much, there is a fair amount of plot that goes unexplained. Not in a Pulp Fiction way, where the unknown is an actual part of the plot. It’s more of a “let’s introduce a fun character, get people to love him instantly, then later on – **record scratch** – give him a dark side”. For example, the motives for Channing Tatum’s character are never explained, and given how much fun he was during his first scenes, it’s very frustrating. This is going to sound stupid, but it seems like they used a maguffin to make Chekov’s gun help you notice the other maguffin.

This part, however, was particularly enjoyable.

The historical facts on which the movie derives some of its plot are a fascinating era in Hollywood and North America, and was also covered in “Trumbo” to serious, nominated effect. If anyone could find humour in people like Walt Disney ruining their employees lives over residuals, I’d trust the Coens. They spend a lot of time making sure you know this conflict is important to the story, and try to drive this plot forward with this class-struggle humour. But there’s a repetition of the usual Coen “shut the fuck up, Donny!” thing that keeps you from taking it seriously as a plot point, and the way it tied up felt neutered.

“Hey – let’s put Tilda Swinton in this!” is clearly a conversation that happened.

Given her prominence in the trailer, there’s not enough Scarlett. I WAS PROMISED A PRETTY GIRL IN A SWIMSUIT! But they actually handle the lack of swimsuit in a funny way, tied tangentially into the plot. There is a Lauren Bacall-esque scene that held promise, but then her character disappears from the movie entirely, and only comes up again in a passing mention to wrap up that supposed plot point.

This is what the commercial promised with ScarJo’s role. A movie about the 1950s needs more of this.

Ralph Fiennes – there. Frances McDormand – there. What they need to do for the picture, they get done. Their roles could have been played by anybody, but I see why they went big name / cast his wife.

This is how you resolve a kidnapping plot

The resolution about the (mentioned in the commercial, so not a spoiler) kidnapping plot doesn’t work, at least to me. I can see how the actions of the characters come together to solve the problem, but it seemed more chance than conviction. Finally, the movie just ‘ends’; when it finished, I felt like I’d been shorted about 15 minutes. At 106 minutes, a movie should not evoke the feeling of “It wasn’t the greatest movie, but hopefully I can stick it out to the ending and…wait, what just happened??”

To reference a bit from “The Big Bang Theory”, there’s an episode where one of the characters makes the observation that for all Indy does in “Raiders”, if he’d done nothing at all, the events of the movie would have unfolded exactly the same way. And that’s why I’m most upset with this movie – not because I was tricked into going by the commercials; not by the tragic underuse of a briefly swimsuited Scarlett Johansson – because at its heart it reminded me of Sheldon and the nerd gang. That’s what I ended up spending $12 on, and I kind of expect more from the Coen brothers.

Viewability scale: (Theatre-full price / Theatre-half-price / Stream / Wait for TV / Nope / Eye Cancer)

It’ll make a fine off season Sunday afternoon watch on Bravo, paired with some sharp cheese and a nice Chablis. It’ll appear on free tv in about 18 months, which seems about right. At an hour & forty-six minutes, it’ll be stretched to 2 ½ on cable; three hours on TBS or AMC. Otherwise, the only reason to go to the theatre (at half-price) is if you are a Coen afficianado.


Next / future review: Deadpool

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