Review: Justice League

DC's Biggest Guns Give Fans A Film They Can Be Proud To Enjoy

Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Starring Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, and Sam Rockwell

Review: Lady Bird

Greta Gerwig's Directorial Debut!

Review: Murder On the Orient Express

Starring Kenneth Branagh, Daisy Ridley, Johnny Depp, and more

Review: Daddy's Home 2

Starring Mark Wahlberg, Will Ferrell, Mel Gibson, and John Lithgow


New 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' Images And Plot Details Tease A Turn To The Dark Side

Oh yeah, Star Wars: The Last's right around the corner, isn't it? With so much talk about Rian Johnson's upcoming trilogy, that will take us away from the Skywalker saga (thank God), and the news of J.J. Abrams coming back for Episode IX, it would've been easy to forget. As we're inching closer to the movie's release, details are starting to emerge that hopefully aren't spoiling anything crucial.

EW has dropped a batch of new photos and cover images, but more importantly they chatted with director Rian Johnson. He's got the unenviable task of living up to The Empire Strikes Back (not so much Attack of the Clones) in spear-heading the crucial middle chapter of the saga, the one where everything goes to shit and heroes are left on the brink. The Dark Side's pull seems stronger than ever based on everything we've seen, and while it doesn't look like Luke Skywalker will succumb to temptation, Johnson is going to make you think about the possibility...

“There’s a history in Star Wars of the attraction between the light and the dark, whether it’s the story of Anakin basically turning from this sweet kid and seeing his seduction to the dark side, or even with Luke,” Johnson says.

“Even though you never really believe he’s going to go over to the dark side, the whole revelation of ‘I am your father’ has to do with Vader and this darkness that [Luke] thought he could just dismiss as ‘That’s the bad guy. I don’t have any of him in me. Suddenly he realizes ‘No, I come from him. I have quite a bit of him inside me.’”

Even if Luke doesn't go dark, he's still not going to be the calm and serene Jedi master that Obi-Wan Kenobi was. According to Mark Hamill, he may have more in common with Master Yoda's teachings...

"[Director] Rian Johnson could have just made me another benevolent Jedi teacher but, you know, we’ve seen that before,” Hamill says. “And no one can do it better than Sir Alec Guinness. Instead, this Luke is a broken warrior. And he sees dread in this young pupil, rather than new hope.”

Meanwhile, current baddie Kylo Ren is coping with a new sensation, a sort of begrudging respect for Rey that they share power of equal might...

“He has been aware of this ability in himself from such a young age, and I don’t think there’s a lot of people around him who are on the same level,” Adam Driver said.“I think that there is something familiar there, as well as something to be feared, or something … that he can’t quite place.”

The story delves into some of the other parings in the film, including Finn (John Boyega) as he recovers from a near-fatal injury and finds a new fan in Resistance mechanic Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran). Also, we get more info on Laura Dern's character, Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo, and the tension between her and ace pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) over loyalties to General Leia (Carrie Fisher).

Star Wars: The Last Jedi opens December 15th!


Dazzling, Cosmic New Trailer For 'A Wrinkle In Time'

Ava DuVernay is making history wherever she goes. With A Wrinkle in Time, a film that Hollywood has been wanting to make for years, she becomes the first black female director with a budget of such magnitude, reportedly over $100M. It's a sad commentary on how things have been, but also hopeful that things have begun to change. But besides all of that historical and social stuff that is attached to this film, it just looks flat out amazing, fantastical, cosmic, outrageous, and most of all fun.

Starring newcomer Storm Reid, a bold move casting a black girl in the lead role, along with Chris Pine, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Pena, and Zack Galifianakis, the story takes us on an intergalactic journey through time and space. The beloved story follows young Meg Murry (Reid) as she travels the galaxy in search of her missing scientist father. She's accompanied by her best friend Calvin O'Keefe (Levi Miller) and her brilliant younger brother Charles (Deric McCabe).

The new trailer gives us a deeper look at the celestial beings Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which, and a bit more of their background along with Meg's.

A Wrinkle in Time opens March 9th 2018, and it's going to be huge.

Box Office: 'Justice League' Disappoints With $281M Worldwide, But It's Not All Bad

1. Justice League (review)- $96M
This is no good. How is a $96M domestic, $281M worldwide opening a massive failure? When that movie is Justice League, and it's the lowest-grossing debut of Warner Bros. DC Films franchise. Think about that. It earned less than Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad, and Wonder Woman. And this is the film that combines all of DC's top heroes into their Avengers-esque squad, it should be bigger than them all. It's probably fair to say that many people stayed away because they don't like director Zack Snyder or the previous films he's done, which may explain why they came back for the movies that featured different directors. That may be the wrinkle Warner Bros. focuses on next, moving away from Snyder and letting other directors play in this sandbox. With Aquaman coming along next year directed by James Wan, it will be a good litmus test to see if Snyder is the anvil holding things back.  My hope is they don't overreact and blow everything up, because Justice League, despite poor critic reviews, has an 86% from audiences. So those who actually went out to see it had a good time, and may seek out a second viewing while spreading the word. We could see it have a leggy stint, but the threat of Pixar's Coco looms large, Thor: Ragnarok is still hanging around, and Wonder is perhaps the best-suited movie for this holiday season. I also expect we'll see more of an emphasis on Wonder Woman in the future, and maybe a revival of the Gotham City Sirens movie that seems to be in limbo right now, in order to tap into the powerful and influential female audience.
2. Wonder (review)- $27M
This one always looked like a no-brainer hit to me. Wonder, the new adaptation of R.J. Palacio's beloved bestseller about a 10-year-old boy with facial deformities, just scored a huge win with $27M. The film stars Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, and Jacob Tremblay, with Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) at the helm, and it's perfect for this holiday season, pushing themes of kindness, forgiveness, family, and friendship. Reviews have been great, including my own, and there's every reason to think this will be the counter-programming to Justice League. What will be interesting is to see how it fares against Coco next week, since they'll be targeting the same audience.
3. Thor: Ragnarok- $21.7M/$247.3M
4. Daddy's Home 2- $14.8M/$50.5M
Can someone explain to me why this cost $69M? It takes place in two locations: a house and a mall. Anyway, if it were cheaper we'd be calling it a hit, but at that price it may need help from overseas box offices.
5. Murder On the Orient Express- $13.8M/$51.7M
Get ready for more of Hercule Poirot's mustache. Kenneth Branagh's Murder on the Orient Express held well and earned $13.8M for $51M domestic. More importantly it has $148M worldwide, solid reviews, and a colorful lead character that could be the centerpiece of a franchise skewing towards adults.
6. The Star (review)- $10M
Sony's animated nativity film, The Star, the one about talking animals celebrating the birth of the baby Jesus, opened with just $10M. It boasts an impressive array of voice talent, including Oprah Winfrey (!!!), but starry voicework doesn't always translate to animated movie success. Fortunately, the film only cost $20M and the faith-based crowd could carry it through to Christmas.
7. A Bad Moms Christmas- $6.8M/$50.9M
8. Lady Bird- $2.5M/$4.7M
Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird continues to be a platform dynamo. The wonderful coming-of-age film added another 201 theaters and $2.5M for $4.7M overall. Word of mouth is going to keep this one going for a long time, and as it expands into wide release over the holidays I expect we'll see an Oscars bump, too. Big things happening here.
9. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (review)- $1.1M/$1.5M
The Oscar movies continue their slow build, and one of the buzziest is Martin McDonagh's excellent Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.  The Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, and Sam Rockwell dramedy about a mother who goes to unusual lengths to get the cops to investigate her daughter's murder, has some of the year's best reviews that should translate well when it rolls into more theaters.
10. Jigsaw- $1M/$36.4M


'Gotham' Recap Season 4, Episode 9 - 'Let Them Eat Pie'

This week’s episode is filled with wacky musicals, pie, and relationships being tested. The oven timer just went off, let’s get this dinner party started:

Professor Pyg story arc – “Despite Appearances, I’m Not An Animal”:

This week’s episode begins with Professor Pyg handing out food to the homeless. He has poisoned all of the food, collects the deceased bodies, and is clearly about to do something horrific with them. Pyg calls Jim and lets him know that phase two of his plan is starting, and it will be focused on Gotham’s elite. Jim runs outside to see two dead people dressed in fancy clothes being eaten by pigs, Pyg has removed the organs from them. Jim and Detective Harper get a tip from Luscious Fox that the two bodies had chemicals common in paper creation on them so they head to an abandoned paper plant. Jim finds a recently used smoker and realizes that Pyg has been cooking the organs. Pyg sneaks up behind Harper and kidnaps her.

Pyg goes to Sophia’s fundraiser dressed as the head chef. He changes the menu to feature ‘Gotham Meat Pies’ as the main course. Trust me, they are not as delicious as they sound. Jim puts all the clues together and realizes that Pyg will be crashing Sophia’s party and heads there to try and stop him. Unfortunately Pyg one ups Jim and knocks him out, locking him in a back room with Harper. Harper has a knife hidden on her that Jim uses to try and get out of the room.

Pyg has arranged all the guests of the party around the dinner table and invites them to witness a performance of the ‘Meat Pie Tango.’ Sophia interrupts demanding to know where the orphans are, this rude behavior earns her a sharp cooking tool through her hand. Pyg tells the rich guests surrounding the table that they have been feeding on the poor of Gotham for years, so he is going to make sure they know what these people actually taste like. Pyg threatens to kill Martin which leads to Penguin eating the pie and forcing the rest of the guests to do so as well.

Jim escapes the room and quickly disposes of Pyg’s henchmen. Pyg starts throwing cleavers and knives at Jim, which he expertly dodges. This leads to a super badass cleaver fight between Jim and Pyg, which our fateful hero ends up prevailing in. Jim tells the media that Pyg has been apprehended and that the GCPD kept their promise.

My thoughts: Pyg is as eccentric as ever and he is just an amazing character. He has been a fantastic villain and I am excited that he was apprehended alive so we get more of his antics. The culminating fight between Jim and Pyg delivered a more than satisfying conclusion for the two of them finally facing off.

Jim story arc “If you show them the way, the people will follow”:

Harvey cleans out his desk and gives Jim a piece of parting advice telling him that Jim still doesn’t understand how Gotham works – that the city needs people who will do what is necessary and not those who just want to be a hero. Jim lets Harvey know that he will be welcome back at the GCPD once his leave is up and Harvey scoffs at the idea of being back on the force, watching Jim serve as captain.

My thoughts: I toiled with the thought of leaving this out of this week's recap, but the evolution of Jim and Harvey's relationship has been such an interesting follow. Harvey claims to be done with the GCPD, but will he come to his sense? Is there a chance that Harvey returns as a villain? I sure hope not, but in the crazy world of Gotham, anything can happen. 

Bruce story arc – “Stop Trying To Be My Father And Be My Butler“:

Bruce is acting like a little shithead to Alfred. He is hungover, and rudely demanding things from Alfred – treating him as hired help and not his father figure. Alfred is trying to snap Bruce out of his rut and takes him out to the woods for some bonding time. Alfred tells Bruce about how he met Thomas, Bruce’s father. Alfred lets Bruce know that he can help, but Bruce shrugs this off. He lies to Alfred and ends up taking the car and driving away, leaving Alfred in the woods. Alfred makes it back to the house to see Bruce having a party with his friends. Alfred kicks them out of the house and tries to reach Bruce again. Bruce is once again cold as ice to Alfred, treating him like dirt.

My thoughts: Bruce's downfall has been shockingly quick. I know that he will bounce back eventually, but I cannot help and have some disdain towards him and the way he is treating Alfred. Some large event may be coming to get Bruce back on his Dark Knight path, but what could it be?

Penguin story arc – “I will find him, I will learn the name of my enemy, and there will be a reckoning“:

Sophia is throwing a fundraiser for the orphanage and Penguin lets her know that he will not be attending. Penguin is focusing his efforts on finding the mayor, who has apparently disappeared, and finding out who paid the mayor off to promote Gordon to captain. Penguin promises that there will be a reckoning once he finds out the name of the person who bribed the mayor. Penguin decides to use Martin, the orphan boy he has befriended, to spy on Sophia.  Sophia realizes that Penguin is suspicious of her and let’s Jim know.

Penguin decides to come to the fundraiser and sends Martin to begin his spying. Sophia tells Penguin that she thinks whoever had Gordon appointed Captain may have actually saved Penguin due to how bold his licensing crime initiative was. Penguin tells Sophia that if she wants to confess to it, she should go ahead and do that and just face the music. Fortunately for Sophia, Pyg makes his entrance at that moment, pausing that conversation.

After Jim saves the day, Penguin approaches Sophia and confronts her about paying the mayor off to make Jim captain. She admits to it and says she only did it because Penguin wouldn’t listen to her about not going through with the licensing program. Penguin warns Sophia to never betray him again. Penguin agrees to end the licensing program, but demands that Jim be replaced as captain of the GCPD. Sophia agrees and tells Penguin to choose Jim’s replacement. Jim visits Sophia that night and she kisses him. Luckily for Penguin, Martin happens to see this kiss and reports back to Penguin. Penguin vows to make Sophia pay for what she’s done.

My thoughts: Sophia has managed to delay the inevitable and talk her way out of every issue that has arisen with Penguin. I do not see how she will be able to talk her way out of this one. She has definitely been reckless with fraternizing with Jim and it was only a matter of time until Penguin found out. Penguin does not let betrayal go easily and this will be the last straw for Sophia. We will hopefully see what he has in store for her sooner rather than later. 

In two weeks on Gotham:

Unfortunately Gotham will be taking one Thanksgiving break next week so we have to wait two weeks to continue the fun. It is looking like Penguin has snapped and is trying to start a war. Jim is trying to interrogate Pyg, who seems to be enjoying the interactions, and Zsasz is back! Comment below and let me know what you thought about this week’s Gotham!

'The Incredibles 2' Teaser: Watch Out For Superpowered Jack-Jack

Why do they keep trying to make Fantastic Four happen when Pixar made the best one back in 2004? The Incredibles isn't just one of Pixar's most beloved movies, it's one of the best superhero movies ever, and fans have been eager for a sequel that would reunite the heroic Parr family. Well, it took a long time but the wait is finally over because the first teaser for The Incredibles 2 is here.

And what does it show us? Babies with superpowers can be lethal. The youngest member of the family, baby Jack-Jack, has a combination of abilities that prove pretty deadly, most of all to daddy Mr. Incredible's hair.  Returning to voice the team are Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, and Sarah Vowell, with Huck Milner taking over as the voice of older son, Dash. And of course you can count on Samuel L. Jackson to return as best friend, Frozone, who should've had a solo movie years ago, I'm just sayin'.

Is there reason to be skeptical? Especially after this none-too-revealing teaser? Maybe, but with Brad Bird back behind the camera (and as the voice of Edna Mode), there's reason for optimism, too. The Incredibles 2 opens June 15th 2018.


Noah Baumbach Stays With Netflix, Sets Adam Driver & Scarlett Johansson For Next Film

Noah Baumbach made his first streaming foray by hooking up with Netflix on the release of The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), and it must have been a fruitful partnership. Certainly, it was a film that would have had trouble finding a market in the over-crowded superhero/tentpole field, and if there's something good to say about Netflix, Amazon, and other such services, it's that they've become a home for filmmakers who don't often appeal to multiplexes. And so Baumbach is coming back to Netflix on his next movie, and already the cast is shaping up nicely.

Baumbach has set Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, one of my personal favorites in Emmy winner Merritt Wever, Laura Dern, and child actor Azhy Robinson. There aren't any details on the untitled film yet, but we can probably make a judgement based on Baumbach's prior credits. He and Driver seem to have hit it off, as this will be their fourth time working together, while it's his first time directing Johansson and Dern. Wever won an Emmy for her amazing run on Showtime's Nurse Betty, and had a brief yet controversial stint on The Walking Dead. She'll be seen next in Netflix's Western series, Godless, which already has some terrific buzz. And she actually worked with Baumbach before, having made a small appearance in Greenberg.

Expect production to begin soon, once Johansson and Driver's schedules clear up. They have some small projects coming up you may have heard about. [TheTrackingBoard]

Review: 'Revolt', An Unimaginative Sci-Fi Film That Ends Up Falling Short

Revolt is a sci-fi action flick that is set entirely in Africa. The world is under attack and has been ravaged by Aliens. These Aliens are robotic in nature walking on two legs, while scanning the area for survivors to quickly eradicate. We immediately get dropped into an action sequence where soldiers are seen fighting a powerful enemy while the local villagers flee for safety. An explosion near a solider knocks him out – when he comes to, he is locked in a cell. This man, soon to be known as Bo (Lee Pace), has no recollection of his past, what has happened to the world, or even who he is.

Luckily for Bo, in the cell next to him is Nadia (Bérénice Marlohe). Nadia is a French doctor who is in Africa administering foreign aid. Nadia fills Bo in on the devastation that is happening across the world. The initial conversation between Bo and Nadia was a clever tactic utilized by Director Joe Miale to quickly fill the audience in on the state of the world without having to waste screen time or his budget. Bo and Nadia end up overtaking some guards and escaping from their cells. They embark on a journey across the country to try and find Bo’s military base. During the trip, Bo begins getting flashbacks of his past, and tries to put together the pieces. Along with these flashbacks, Bo realizes that he has some unique abilities that include not feeling the ill effects of electricity from a Taser, advanced combat training, and being fluent in the native language. As his flashbacks start to become more frequent, his desire to find out what happened to him in the past only grows.

Revolt has some decent action sequences throughout, but in the end the acting and story leave a lot to be desired. There were some interesting touches that Miale features in Revolt. One of these is a photographer that Bo and Nadia meet when they are lost. This photographer provides a camera for the two of them, and by looking at the pictures in reverse order, they use it as a digital roadmap to continue on their quest to get to the base. I found this to be a very clever tool used to continue their journey. A glaring problem with Revolt is that it is repetitive. Bo and Nadia go from fighting humans to running from the aliens to fighting humans – rinse and repeat. Along with this, the robot aliens themselves are not unique enough. We do see various versions of the aliens as the film progresses, but none of them really impress. Revolt is a decent film, but in no way is it truly memorable or stand out amongst all of the other typical action flicks we’ve seen. If you are going to see it, wait for Redbox or Netflix. 

Rating: 2 out of 5

Sony Pictures Scores Quentin Tarantino's Ninth Film, 2019 Release Date Planned

Quentin Tarantino's movies aren't what you'd call blockbusters, so it's been interesting to watch studios fall over themselves to try and nab his next one. There's a certain amount of cache that being in business with Tarantino brings, and for years that was afforded to Harvey Weinstein before that became impossible for obvious reasons. Tarantino left streaming networks out in the Hateful Eight-esque cold, but opened the bidding war up to majors like Warner Bros., Paramount, and Sony, who all took their best shots at convincing the director to join them. THR reports that Sony has emerged victorious, landing Tarantino's untitled ninth movie.

Each studio took their best shot at winning him over. Warner Bros. did an entire presentation in the style and mood of the 1960s, which is when the film is set. They had 1960s cars in the lot, old school logos, and more, while Sony gave a more business-like multimedia presentation. Paramount? Who knows, I doubt they were ever truly a factor, anyway.

Details on the film are still pretty vague, but the roster of potential talent definitely isn't. Margot Robbie has been eyed to play Sharon Tate, the most famous of the Manson Family's victims. But this isn't a Charles Manson movie, and the convicted murderer is barely a presence. It's more about the year 1969, and has drawn an early comparison to Pulp Fiction. I guess we can expect multiple characters and arcs that intersect? And if Tate is a character in the film does that mean there's also a Roman Polanski? Anyway, others in Tarantino's sights include  Brad Pitt, Jennifer Lawrence, Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Cruise and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Shooting is expected to begin next year in time to open in 2019. It'll reportedly cost somewhere near $100M and, of course, it'll be R-rated. Would we expect anything less?

Review: 'Cook Off!', Audiences Are The Real Loser In This Stale Competition

Cook Off! the mockumentary styled, parody of the world of cooking competitions was a let down to say the least, but that was honestly pretty much expected. The movie stars Gary Anthony Williams, Niecy Nash, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Stephen Root, Diedrich Bader, Sam Pancake, Jennifer Cox, and Melissa McCarthy. If you're not in the know on the troubled history for this movie, it was apparently made 10 years ago, back in 2007. It premiered at the US Comedy Arts Festival and has not been viewed by the wider public (for obvious reasons) since... until now.

I posted a news article on here a while back when the trailer for this movie initially dropped. Going back and looking at my reaction to the trailer, I wasn't completely off in my pre-assessment of this movie. To summarize, I noted that:
  • the movie looked unfunny
  • the choice in characters gives the movie a dated and already appears to be lacking in humor, end product
  • I liked one of the character choices
  • there were probably numerous reason why we've never seen the movie
Yet, I still held out hope. Unfortunately, my predictions turned out to be pretty on the nose. It wasn't funny. Much of the humor relied on over-used stereotypes that may have seemed fresh and funny back then, but as of now feel a bit old; like we've moved on and progressed past that kind of fashion. Seeing as though this was the basis for the humor the movie didn't get more than a chuckle out of me here and there. 

This isn't to say that all of the comedians did horrible with their characters, it's actually quite the opposite. This movie was built around a premise that revolved around outrageous and cartoony characters and I think they all did well in doing that. With that being said, I also realize that that's not much of a reward when the fact that they're comedians that are known for this kind of stuff is brought into the equation. If I had any hope or positive expectation for this movie it would've been that that would have been the case.

In terms of Melissa, her character, Amber, did in fact come across as a lot more endearing as compared to her other characters from previous movies like I thought she would. This is so much so, to the point where I concluded that I enjoyed watching her character more than anyone else's. Even though her character's whiney voice does become a bit annoying at times, she was fun to watch 
and you could empathize with her, instead of being purposely turned off or disgusted. I wouldn't have been upset and I probably would've tuned into a movie, had it existed, that literally and only revolved her character showing the journey that she went through to get to the competition and no one else's.
(Side note: if any interest that you have in this movie is tied up in the excitement and/or expectation that you're watching another Melissa McCarthy movie, just know that this was before the "Bridemasids," "Ghostbusters," "Mike and Molly" Melissa McCarthy, therefore she is not the focus in this movie by any means. She's relegated more so to the position of "side side character," gracing the screen for a total of about 20 mins (?))

One thing that I never really took into account was what Lionsgate's process of re-editing entailed. Not to say that I may have picked up on everything, but there were two things that I picked up on that seemed incredibly obvious to me - if I turn out to be wrong then I would be shocked; it's apparentness was just too much for my liking. The edits in the beginning and through the movie that were filled with various plates full of a plethora of food concoctions and combinations just screamed "this wasn't in the initial end-product" to me. Between that and the almost cartoony background sounds it all came off as being a farce and like this was Lionsgate's attempt at trying to cash out on Melissa' s cash cow as justification to get this movie out to the public. 

Why someone pushed for this movie to actually see the light of day and why someone ok'd it is beyond me. It was obvious from the beginning that there were reasons why the movie was shelved for so long and I now unfortunately know why. Lionsgate, honestly could have and should have saved whatever money that they shelled into this project and used it for something that made a bit more sense; they should've just let it be. If Lionsgate, however, really did want for this story to be viewed by the masses, then they should have taken a bit more time and put a little more care into the final product.

Cook Off! releases in theaters November 17, 2017

Rating 1.5 out 5

John's Take: 'Justice League'

“I need a hero, I'm holding out for a hero 'til the end of the night”
-Bonnie Tyler

Full disclosure, I just always wanted to write something that started with a song lyric in quotes…it just seems so classy. The DCEU has been a roller-coaster of expectation and delivery. I should be up front and say I loved Man of Steel, thought Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice was far better then people give it credit for and, obviously adored Wonder Woman. My feelings toward the universe are not, well, universal and most people thus far have really only expressed a lasting like for the Amazonian. Yet, every time the world at large gets super excited when the trailer drops and eventually let down when the movie premiers. Needless to say, no matter how amazing the pre-release stuff looked, a lot of people questioned whether the end result would be what was promised. Well, the league has been united and we have a firm answer of whether it lives up to the hype, and that answer is “..uhhhh, kinda?” We arrive back in the DC Universe shortly after the events of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Superman is gone, and the world is in mourning. Batman (Ben Affleck), while patrolling Gotham, has found winged creatures who leave a distinctive “three box” symbol when they are destroyed…a symbol that was found replicated across documentation recovered from Lex Luthor and revealed to be “mother boxes”, cosmic power that gives the possessor ultimate power when united. It becomes apparent that a global threat is imminent, so Bruce Wayne sets off to assemble a team strong enough to combat it. Armed with the research confiscated from Luthor, the help of new super-friend Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), and the example impressed on him by the late Superman (Henry Cavill) Bruce must convince the three recruits, Barry “The Flash” Allen (Ezra Miller), Arthur “Aquaman” Curry (Jason Mamoa), and Victor “Cyborg” Stone (Ray Fisher) to join forces and fight as one to save the planet from Steppenwolf who intends to unite the mother boxes and create the “unity” and turn our world into a hellish landscape.

They are ALMOST there. It feels like they took a giant leap forward with Wonder Woman then a few steps back on this one. I really think Zack Snyder gets more hate then he deserves but it’s hard to argue that his influence is what’s holding these film’s back after seeing what Patti Jenkins did with Wonder Woman. It’s hard to know for sure what Joss Whedon’s influence over the film amounted to but I think it’s safe to say most of what ended up being extremely likeable about the film came from him. The biggest takeaway from the film is that they finally got Superman right in the end. He has become that smiling beacon of hope that he was always meant to be. The most important thing about that is that it shines through that Henry Cavill is a near perfect Superman when given the right material. He has the ability to be a hyper-intimidating demigod and a caring savior at the same time. The future is bright for the Man of Steel and if there was ever a resume worthy of a job it was what Whedon did with big blue in this film. The entire league for that matter is exceedingly great. Aquaman’s tough biker schtick just works and the guy shows that his charisma can rival Dwayne Johnson’s. Gal Gadot is just as perfect as ever and Ezra Miller, though he toes the line of being annoying, is great as a wide-eyed wisecracking Barry Allen (though Grant Gustin is still my #1). My favorite sequence came in the opening scenes when we first check in with the Dark Knight. Sure, the Nolan trilogy was great, but it wasn’t really comic-book fare. It was a comic book scenario adapted for the real world. Our introduction to Batman and the parademon’s showcases what a REAL comic-book Batman would look like on the big screen. Coincidentally this sequence also highlights that Zack Snyder can blow past expectations when he’s given the right topic to work on. Not only do we get some looks at detective Batman, something that surprisingly has been underplayed in almost ALL previous Batman outings. Snyder creates an environment that looks reminiscent of Tim Burton’s take with a more animated look to it. They only way to really describe it is that it looks ripped directly from a copy of Detective Comics. My favorite little touch of the movie comes thanks to Danny Elfman’s score which includes notes from the original Batman theme from the 1989 Burton film. It’s just perfect, if Snyder is to stay on in the DCEU it should be as director or at least visual consultant for The Batman, any detractors need to see this sequence first THEN tell me I’m wrong. The biggest surprise of the film had to be Ray Fisher’s Cyborg. The pre-release materials gave us every reason to believe he would be A) the most boring member of the league and B) the worst looking. That wasn’t entirely wrong, he is a studious computer like character…but hey he IS part computer after all, and yes when he’s full body Cyborg it does look bad BUT there was more to it then that. Fisher is pitch perfect in the part balancing out the dichotomy between programmed machine and emotionally broken man. He really projects the alienation and despair behind that one red eye. Now for the look, admittedly it does not look good in a full body shot, now that being said he spends most of the movie in a hoodie and sweatpants, it may sound silly but when his head is all that is visible it looks completely believable and real. I think it has something to do with how much detail they put into the body but when it’s kept simple it looks awesome. That’s about the only good thing I can say about the CGI which brings me to…….

The bad stuff and yes you KNEW there would be some. No one turns around a franchise completely with all of the same cooks in the kitchen. The most egregious of these issues is the CGI. We live in a world where proper CGI is a staple of good storytelling, if it looks bad or fake you are going to be pulled right out of the story. I don’t know why the DCCU hasn’t realized this yet, I mean after the crap show that was Doomsday in BvS my first order of business would be to find whoever does Marvel’s CGI and put them on retainer no matter what the cost. From the looks of things, they did exactly the opposite. Oddly the Para-demons look pretty good, but they totally dropped the ball on the two biggest subjects, the environment and the big bad. Steppenwolf looks completely unrealistic, like he was made out of Play-Doh by a less than advanced 5-year-old, unrealistic. On top of that background and set scenes really stick out as computer generated, the red sky look you undoubtedly noticed in the trailer sticks out as one such scene. In a way it’s cool because it makes it seem more comic-book like but in a world where Marvel can make you feel a movie about a Norse demi-god and irradiated green monster fighting may be real it seems like DC can do better. My biggest gripe is rather spoilery so I’ll try and keep it vague. I’m sure it’s no surprise to anyone that Superman does indeed return, but it’s how he returns that I want to talk about. The way it’s handled not only takes away from Superman’s God-like qualities, but it also is terribly dark and macabre. I literally could not believe the place they took it and right up until the events were happening I thought they were going to take it another way. To add insult to injury the end of BvS alluded to the fact that he was never really gone in the first place, what with the dirt rising up from his coffin. There were a lot of ways they could have handled it and, in my opinion, they managed to find the worst one.

An unqualified success? Not quite, but a vast improvement over the previous films (save for Wonder Woman of course). The ground work has been laid for what can be a very successful string of solo films in the future. There’s no weak link when it comes to the heroes themselves, assuming they can fix Cyborg’s look. Superman is back to the iconic smiling beacon of hope we all know and love, Batman is showing signs of the one angle we’ve never really seen fleshed out as the world’s greatest detective. Wonder Woman didn’t change and that’s high praise considering the amazing job they’ve done with her since moment 1. The Flash will never live up to the CWTV version but that was an impossible task anyway, what we have now is a slightly different take with the sarcasm turned to 11 and all of the important pieces in place. Aquaman is primed with a much-needed top-down makeover and a solid backstory lead in, and Cyborg…again, assuming they can fix the look, stands to be one of the more emotionally gripping heroes in comic-bookdom. This is all to say, quite simply, that some people will find the issues and pull on them, crying from the rooftops that the movie is horrible but they are, quite simply, wrong. The flick is fun, action-packed, and at exactly 2 hours long is paced perfectly, not slowing down from the opening gates. Are Marvel and DC on level ground now? No, not at all, but there is a glimmer of promise in the future of DC film that isn’t totally comprised of Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman. 

4 Out of 5 Pointy Eared Cowls