Thank You

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After almost six years, after over 250 reviews and after over 500 posts, it’s time to call it quits.  It’s been awhile since I looked forward to reviewing a movie, hits are low and the cost to time and money just could no longer be justified.  I started out in November 2011 hoping to make something of this site.  Maybe give people a different way of seeing movies, spark conversations or maybe even make people think about what they watch in the future.  Unfortunately it never took off…eh, not God’s will.  So as my last post I wanted to thank those of you who visited this site on a regular or semi-regular basis.  And a huge and very grateful thank you to those who ever engaged me, gave encouragement or your own thoughts in the comments section.  It meant a lot.  Who knows maybe there was one person out there that got something out of this site.  Thanks again.

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Review: ‘Risen’

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               “Christian” films for the most part are heavy handed, watered-down, unrealistic and overall bad movies.  There are few exceptions in my mind, one being Fireproof, which I thought was a good story with some good acting brought down in the last remaining minutes to a preachy unconvincing end.  The other, Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, was an incredible film all around, from cinematography and direction, to acting and storytelling.  I have since stopped watching the “Christian” made films, not only for their quality, but because there are better films out there, made by Christians that are main stream and show deeper Christian themes and characterizations (Fury, Deliver Us From Evil, etc.).  Earlier this year there seemed to be the potential for yet another one of those types of films in the form of Risen.  While I didn’t get to see it in its theatrical run, I recently saw it at home with my lovely bride and had some things to say about it.  So here we go.

                A Roman tribute named Clavius (Joseph Fiennes), coming from a recent halting of a Zealot revolution has been called back to the city by Pontius Pilate (Peter Firth).  Pilate sends Clavius to make sure a man that is being crucified, is properly guarded once dead because of rumors of his disciples saying he will rise again and fears that if they steal his body there may be further unrest.  After the body is found missing just days after being buried, Clavius is now tasked with finding the body by following any clues he may find, as well as tracking down his followers and questioning them.  During his investigation he is met with hard questions about himself and who this man was and just how important he may have been.

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                Risen has all the aspects for a great film, top notch acting, interesting story, emotional connection to characters and some great direction and cinematography.  It may fall a bit short for reasons I will discuss, but it is definitely worth your time.  With the exception maybe of some of the disciple characters, each actor cast is up to the task and treats the story with importance and it shows through their performances.  Ralph Fiennes has always been a favorite actor of mine, really ever since his great term as Martin Luther in Luther.  Tom Felton isn’t really given much to do, but what he does adds to the story.  Peter Firth as Pilate is great and it’s good to see a change in actor for who plays Jesus in Cliff Curtis  The actors who play the disciples aren’t always on point, Joe Manjon as Bartholomew has a touching scene but his portrayal of the overly happy disciple didn’t seem to fit in this film.  Stewart Scudamore as Peter holds back more than Manjon, has some good scenes (one especially where he admits he doesn’t know all the answers) but also came off oddly for the tone of the film.

                The story is an interesting one, not normally seen in mainstream Hollywood and it does well in showing a man coming to faith in Christ.  Now, it isn’t what we see in the “Christian” films which is usually hitting you over the head with a watered down Gospel and then the “sinner” coming to believe, here we see a man who witnesses and experiences the very presence of Christ.  It is quit powerful in its portrayal.  As for the other characterizations, like those of the disciples is a mixed bag.  One moment they are muttering “its Him, its Him” in some sort of angelic trance and then they are portrayed in a realistic normal way of a group of men, not sure what they are supposed to do, but sure that they know the Truth and gladly embrace it.  There is one great shot of them huddled together in a moment of weakness and it gives the viewer the sense of just how fragile these men were and that soon that frailness will turn into great strength for the spreading of the Gospel.  Pilates character comes off believable as well, an arrogant man who really only cares about himself.

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                I’m not sure if I am the minority here, but after Passion of the Christ I started to feel really convicted that the second commandment meant books and movies too.  Which is odd because initially when I heard that I would scoff at it.  So it was uncomfortable for me to see the depiction of Christ in the film, but I wanted to talk about it nonetheless.  Cliff Curtis does a good job of showing compassion, love, gentleness, integrity and strength in his portrayal.  I even think this may be the first time I’ve ever seen Jesus not played by a white guy.  His scenes aren’t many, but for the most part, each one is well done and respectful.

                Risen is a very interesting concept that for the most part works.  The story is intriguing enough and its main character develops naturally and believably that this is the type of “Christian” movie that should be supported.

3 stars out of 4

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Quick Reviews

                Here’s a list of a few recent viewings I have gone through lately that I didn’t or didn’t want to review for whatever reason.  Hopefully I can give a short review that may peak your interests to either watch or pass on a film you might have been considering.  There can be a mix of newer/older movies with a few insights.

Victor Frankenstein

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                Universal really has learned nothing since Van Helsing going by this atrocity.  Story, bad.  Characters, bland.  Visual’s, crappy.  Just everything was bad.  Stay far away from this one.  1 star out of 4

Mr. Right

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                Did you like the 90’s?  More to the point, the quirky films of the 90’s.  This feels like one of those movies and it works.  Sam Rockwell is great, which is no surprise there, but so is Anna Kendrick.  Her character at first seems like she might bug you the rest of the film, but you get used to her once you get past that.  Here we have a hitman with an odd moral code; he only kills people who hire him to kill people, because they are the real bad guys.  He meets up with Kendrick’s character and they begin a love affair that draws her into the murder mix while Rockwell’s former buddy, played well by Tim Roth, tries to track him down.  The action is fun as is the dialog and the story.  Obvious blood and violence, but funnily enough, no nudity, so it’s also got that going for it.  3 stars out of 4

Goosebumps

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                I have never read a single one of these books by R.L. Stine, nor seen an episode of the television series, so I went in blind on this film.  That’s not really a big deal, because only truly diehard fans would appreciate the detail I’m sure went into the making of this movie.  The rest of us can just sit back and see what would have most likely been just a made for TV movie.  Jack Black plays the author of the Goosebumps books who has somehow managed to create real monsters from those books that he has to lock away.  His new neighbor kid accidentally breaks one open and then begins the domino effect that opens the rest and everyone has to trap them back in.  Black is very restrained in this role, which works for the movie.  The rest of the cast is fine and the humor is unfortunately hit and miss.  I had looked forward to this after seeing some decent trailers and hearing good things, but all in all, it was just a good time waster on an airplane.  It’s hard to recommend this as a family film only because I am not sure how younger kids would deal with some of the images and scenes throughout the film.  Be cautious if you child is prone to be scared easily.  2 stars out of 4

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Review: Captain America: Civil War

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SPOILERS O PLENTY

                Well, the second big superhero against superhero movie has just been released.  Captain America: Civil War, will most definitely trounce Batman v Superman at the box office handily and for two good reasons.  First, well planned and ensconced universe that nearly has universal praise with every entry and second highly praised and loved storyline utilizing almost every character currently in the Marvel universe.  Add to that that the two Marvel favorites, who have had some differences and irritations with each other finally going full on fisticuffs.  Will the wait and promised payoff work though in the end?

                After the events in Sokovia, which left a country in ruins due to the cyborg known as Ultron, the Avengers are fewer in number, but are still trying to help the world.  During one such occasion, a mishandling of a terrorist leaves several dead and a world scared of what the Avengers could do next.  The world’s nations come up with a set of standards, known as the Sokovia Accords that they wish the Avengers to sign up for.  Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is anxious to do so as the team seems to have begun to be seen as uncaring of the aftermath of their actions while Captain America (Chris Evans) doesn’t believe those who would watch them would have moral agendas.  Meanwhile, another terrorist attack happens at the Accords signing, killing even more people and evidence points to Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan).  Believing he is innocent, Captain America and others try to protect him while trying to find the real perpetrator, while Stark is trying to keep with the new rules of engagement and bring Bucky in.  As the tension mounts, sides are taken and a bigger fight looms ahead for everyone.

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The Good

                The Russo brothers continue to show that they have a tremendous talent for storytelling while also serving up some great fan service.  Each and every action scene they have set up for the film is top notch and will bring smiles to every fans face.  And believe you me, these action scenes are some of the best in recent years and they will not disappoint.  While their story may not be as tight as The Winter Soldier was, they have proven that they will continue to not only bring even more fun and excitement to the Marvel universe, but any other movie they decide to make.

                Robert Downey Jr. continues to grow the character he has played for nearly a decade to become better with each installment.  His character has so much development here and Downey brings it forth flawlessly.  You see and believe his conviction in what he is doing, unlike other characters (more on that later).  This is most likely the most in depth he has been as Tony Stark and the audience is connected to him wholeheartedly throughout the film.

                The two new characters for this universe, Black Panther and Spider-man are some of the best things about this movie.  Boseman did a great job in creating this character as a tough, yet calculating and calm hero who struggles with his thoughts of vengeance.  His solo film should be great and if not, that would be a huge letdown for what we were given here.  Spider-man/Peter Parker was incredible and has the promise of being the best onscreen version yet.  Tom Holland is great and he brings innocence, humor and confidence to this character that we haven’t seen before.

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                The last of the good here would be the character of Vision.  I haven’t really read or heard much about Paul Bettany character which is unfortunate because I think it is also another great aspect of the film.  His character continues to try to be the voice of reason and logic, while also trying to understand who he is and how he fits into the world.  Bettany’s gentle presence and softer tone gives the character gravitas as well as a welcoming presence to a team of people mostly built of those who act on emotion.

The Bad

                There was one too many times where I felt bored with the film.  From start to finish even there were these moments where I thought the film was dragging.  Thankfully though it wasn’t anything that is a put off and could have been multiplied my being tired from lack of sleep the night before.  The pacing seemed off a bit, big fight, exposition and plot moving, big fight and repeats.  This isn’t always bad; it’s just really noticeable here.

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                I like the Black Widow character, especially in the Winter Soldier and the first Avengers.  Scarlet Johansson is also the pitch perfect choice for the role, but there is an instance in the film that just seemed weird to me.  She makes a pivotal decision that betrays her team and it really didn’t make sense.  She didn’t seem to have a real reason to do so other than to move the plot along and when she is confronted by the decision, she gets pissy and walks off.  A real weak point for the character.

                Lastly here, just as the complaint that the Batman v Superman title bout could have been resolved if Superman just quickly told Batman the situation and Batman actually listened had some merit, it’s the same thing here.  In the airport scene, if Cap would have just said what he found out instead of acting like a holier than though punk and Tony took a second to listen, boom, end of movie.  But in both movies, that can’t happen and both set up reason that made sense as to why, both movies characters were in a time crunch and actual were scared about possible outcomes.  (this is mostly here because of all the mind boggling hatred of Batman v Superman)

The Ugly

                I had read a few reviews before seeing the film that all stated that the brilliance of the film belonged to the notion that each side seemed justified in their stances.  I couldn’t disagree more.  Mostly it has to do with the way Chris Evans played Captain America this time around.  He is played as unapologetically arrogant with zero humility or passion for his stance.  It’s hard to connect to a character when this is the case.  In the final fight, we understand why Tony is angry and we feel for him, but Cap seems to have that same anger, anger we haven’t really seen before in him and is unrelenting in his attack on Stark.  It doesn’t seem justified and even before the credits role, he doesn’t seem to be bothered by the way he has acted the entire film.  That makes his character very hard to like and or root for here.  As I left the theater, I heard many people express the same feelings, multiple times I even heard people say they didn’t like Captain America anymore.

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                Also, Captain America breaking everyone out of a in the middle of the ocean prison all by his lonesome…okay?

                So, the film has its flaws and some are very noticeable, but the good does outweigh the bad and in the end the fan in you will like it.  It may not be the best Marvel movie, but it comes close and just continues their tradition of not only trying to give fan service, but making quality movies with good stories and compelling characters.

3 stars out of 4

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Quick Reviews

                Here’s a list of a few recent viewings I have gone through lately that I didn’t or didn’t want to review for whatever reason.  Hopefully I can give a short review that may peak your interests to either watch or pass on a film you might have been considering.  There can be a mix of newer/older movies with a few insights.

Daddy’s Home

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                Will Farrell and Mark Wahlberg team up again for a comedy about fathers and stepfathers.  Farrell plays a new stepfather who has always wanted to be a dad and struggles to connect with his new step kids.  Enter Wahlberg’s character, the ex, who is jealous and plans on taking back his family.  This may not be as funny as their first team up, The Other Guys, but it has enough laughs and heart to make it worth the watch.  Not knowing anything about being a stepfather, I still feel that the film takes both that role and the role of the biological father wanting a second chance heartwarming and in the end being a trusting and loving family is the central theme.  I was hoping for more in the comedy department, but some of it is lazy comedy and I couldn’t help but think Farrell was on autopilot.  2 and ½ stars out of 4

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

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                When the book the movie this was based on was released a few years ago, I snatched it up.  The concept was that, author Seth Grahame-Smith kept Jane Austin’s entire original book, but added his unique touch of zombie and eastern combat techniques to match her language throughout.  Years later a film would unsurprisingly be adapted from it.  The surprise was that it was enjoyable on a campy level.  Lily James leads the film as the elder Bennett sister and she continues to be one of the better actress’ in the last decade to come along.  The rest of the film is made up of Game of Thrones actors and other actors you know you know them from something but can’t put your figure on it.  This is a high end grindhouse film with horrible CGI and cheesy action sequences, but it works.  It’s an enjoyable movie if you need a time waster and anyone who happens to enjoy Jane Austin and zombie movies will find it interesting.  2 and ½ stars out of 4

Hail, Caesar!

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                This was one of the films I was looking forward to this year and I finally got a chance to see it and its not great, but it’s not bad either.  I like the Cohen brothers, but one of the things that drives me nuts sometimes about their films is their lack of giving a fully satisfying ending to their films sometimes.  Whether it’s a central character getting killed off screen, plot points brought up and then dropped or whatever, it can get annoying.  This movie had that in spades.  There were some very interesting characters in the film and when the end credits role, you wonder why they were even there in the first place because they basically had no purpose other than being quirky.  Acting is all great, no surprise there, but the best part of the film is the cinematography and production value.  It feels like you transported to this era with the color, styles and language.  If you like Cohen brother films, check it out, but if you don’t, you aren’t really missing anything.  2 and ½ stars out of 4

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Why Your’re Wrong About Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Read Only if You’ve Seen Movie or Don’t, You’re an Adult, Make Your Own Decisions.

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                Full disclosure, I am a huge DC fan and Batman in particular, as just a small picture of my work desk above shows.  Also, I have loved every Marvel movie with the exception of Thor: The Dark World and can’t wait for the film slate that is on the roster for the future.  I say that just to make sure anyone who might want to think I’m anti-Marvel may put that to rest.  But the hate for this movie I cannot understand.  I can understand if someone had issues with it here and there, they are most likely very valid issues, but to dismiss it out rightly because of this or that is nonsense.  Did you just want to hate it no matter what?  Are you the type of purist the internet mocks?  Could you just not get past someone doing an interpretation that may be unconventional to what you understand the subject to be?  Who knows, but, here’s why you’re wrong. 

                I had the privilege this past weekend to take my gorgeous bride to see Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice for her first time, my second.  It was much better the second time around.  The reason for that is that I let all the negative impact from fan sites and such cloud my mind so much that I wasn’t just enjoying the experience.  This second time around there was none of that, not to mention having a smoking hot lady sitting next to me enjoying it as well helps.  This time though, I was more aware of the critiques and since I like to debate and change people’s minds, I instinctively grabbed a pen and paper and started jotting down notes as I watched the film unfold.   Many fan/critic critiques are way off and I hope I can tell you why below.

Superman Didn’t Kill/The Africa Blame Game

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                I have read many complaints saying Superman killed the head terrorist during his rescue of Lois.  Granted, if you were not given any more info after seeing Superman slam through a wall, said terrorist in hand, you’d probably think Superman may be a little blood thirsty.  Problem is, moments later, when we are with Clark and Lois at their apartment, Clark states he didn’t kill anyone when Lois brings the incident up.  If that terrorist was dead, Clark would not say this.  Pretty simple, but I would agree that maybe that wasn’t the best way to handle that scene, because lots of the movie going public didn’t catch that, but only saw Superman body slam a dude through a brick wall.  But what about the “Africa” incident that has congress calling hearings?

                Quick refresh, Superman fought Zod and caused mass destruction.  From what we know, no one ever mentions again that Superman was around for more destruction so we are left with the much smaller scale Africa incident.  What’s in question at the hearings is not why Superman killed terrorists, (no one thinks he was a trigger happy madman, come on!) but that by Superman showing up, violence broke out causing certain surrounding factions take the violence that seeped into surrounding villages.  His heroism incited an event, out of his hands, of violence that brings up the question to the United States government if he is a liability.  A liability that could cause future problems that could result in war.  Not because he would kill anyone, but his sheer presence would cause people to panic and act out and since he may be seen as “American” he would drag the nation into a conflict.  So successful was the Africa incident in making people think like this, it would make people even wonder if Superman had anything to do with the bombing in Congress.  This was Luthor’s plan, cause doubt, fear and worry.

The Batman Kills Deal

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                As for killing, the number is nowhere near as much as those who hated this Batman would have you think.  First, the dream sequence doesn’t count…it is a dream.  But, let’s talk about it still, like I said before, Superman coming to earth did something to tweak people’s fears and this stoked Batman’s psyche a little bit.  In his dream perhaps he acts that way because it is a possible version of him that has been pushed way too far and just tosses aside the no gun rule.  This version of Batman could have been through more than he has ever been through before, friends/comrades dying and a Superman who kills at will may just have been the breaking point.  We already know, because of a conversation with Alfred, that his fear is getting the best of him and he is becoming more brutal with the criminals.  That’s that and it’s a dream so shouldn’t count.  But what about the other dead guys by his “hand”?

                I will try to do this chronologically from memory so stay with me.  Lots of hubbub has been made about the car chase scene.  First, the car Batman snags and then drags around for a bit was empty.  When he unleashes it on a stopped car full of bad guys, it lands on the trunk and you could believe that no one was killed there but walked away pretty messed up.  His doing this was to incapacitate other cars full of baddies.  Along the way, one of the villain’s cars crashes into a semi, not because Batman made it, but because the driver wasn’t paying attention.  An SUV opens fire on the Batmobile and Batman does shoot back, at the bottom of the car for the tires to once again incapacitate, but it did blow up and most likely someone died there, so, you got me on that one.  So, at least two dead there by not aiming properly perhaps?

                Moving onto later in the film, Batman opens fire on a set of bad guys with more car roof mounted guns and he shoots, just like Batman in the 1989 version shot at Joker, aiming at the ground as he flew by.  He hits the first car causing a chain reaction that probably kills five to six baddies.  I’m going to give that one too you also, but didn’t bother me, these guys were trying to kill him.

                One last supposed kill was in the warehouse fight scene where a guy stabs Batman, only for Batman to remove knife and then kill the same bad guy with it.  Except, that’s not what happens.  Batman pins the dude to the wall and we see that he is clearly alive, grabbing for the knife in the very next shot.  So, no outright vengeful murder there.  And that’s it, just like Snyder was saying, Batman’s kills were incidental to him trying to incapacitate or stop someone.  He did pull the trigger, so he is responsible, but he wasn’t out and out murdering people left and right and the final death toll would have been less than ten and not the crazy amount some critics are setting at his feet.  Also, why is this a big deal?  This is a another version of Batman, like the silver age or golden age or New 52 or Elseworld or Year One or Tim Burton versions are.

Batman’s Not the Greatest Detective

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                The critiques that Batman was a horrible detective in this film don’t make sense to me.  I’ve read or heard things from “he should have known right away the white Portuguese wasn’t a person” to “he relies too heavily on his computer.”  The film I saw he was probably the best version of the greatest detective in the world we have seen on screen so far.  Let’s break it down.  He hears about the white Portuguese who he perceives is a person capable of bringing a dirty bomb to Gotham.  So he goes searching for info on who that is.  From investigating and snatching info in a fight club, to following the information to Luthor’s house to download more information, decrypt and find out that it’s not a person but a boat carrying something.  That something actually is a weapon.  A weapon he tracks to where it a specific shipping dock and then from there, where it went, etc.  All using smarts and computers and all sorts of Batmany stuff like he does in the comics.  How’s that not a good detective?

More to Lex Luthor than you Thought

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                This is definitely a different Lex Luthor than most fans are used to.  Gone is the suave, calm and  calculating mastermind and in its place is a young entrepreneur who has a lot of hate in his heart.  But, why does he hate Superman?  Critics online and elsewhere have said they have no idea but it is very clear in the film when you listen to his dialogue.  He is one screwed up guy who was made that way by a father who psychologically and physically tormented him (my wife even said she got the impression that maybe he sexually tormented him as well).  Who does he blames?  God.  He says, “I figured way back if God is all-powerful, He cannot be all good.  And if He is all good, then He cannot be all-powerful.”  Through his torment growing up, he has a hatred for God.  And we have heard this argument before.  If God is all good, then there should be no evil and if he is all powerful and doesn’t stop all evil, then He is not good.  Through that hatred of God he has no outlet…until Superman arrives.  A god from the sky has come down for him to destroy and by doing so, pay back God for his miserable existence.  He wants to kill God, which is why he hates Superman.

                Next let’s take a quick look at how loony he seems to be as the film unravels.  During the second viewing it made more sense and I’m hoping that it will be explored more in the ultimate cut coming out in a few months.  We first meet Lex and he is not as creepy and weird as we see him later to be.  Yeah, he tells weird stories and even has a tick or two when he meets with the Senators, but it all starts to unravel when he starts to mess with Kyptonian tech and then enters the crashed ship.  We see a short montage of him doing experiments and soon after we hear his rambling speech at his party.  I would think the tech has messed with him a bit and as well as being overwhelmingly excited about what he is going to be able to do with it and he doesn’t know how to process it.  Then when he has entered the ship and knows what he can do, he is like a giddy child who is super excited but can’t seem to form complete thoughts on what he may be able to do.  Then, if you watched the deleted scene that came out days after the film’s release and remember the jail scene with Batman, the guy has almost completely lost it.  Rambling and stuttering, no longer excited like before but perhaps scared, still unable to form complete thoughts or sentences.

How did Superman lift that Kryptonite spear and still be able to wield it?

                After taking a few seconds to think about it, it should be clear why he was able to do it.  Super adrenaline makes perfect sense, at least to me.  You know the stories.  A mom has her child underneath a car and because of his screams and her fear she is able to lift the car easily, which should be impossible.  Superman is in a huge fight and, assuming he has something like adrenaline, it must be pumping him up in spades.  Seems simple enough.

               If it makes you happy, there is one thing you are right about in the film.  That Flash scene sucked as did the way they introduced the rest of the future Justice League.  So, you’re welcome.

                If I missed anything that anyone would like me to explore further on why they hated this film, let me know in the comments or email me.  I would challenge you though, fan who hated the film, give this film a second shot thinking about the above as well as going in with the expressed desire to just enjoy a summer blockbuster.  Go while its in theaters or whenever it comes to your home, I think you might start to like it.

Sidenote:  Congrats to me for my longest post yet…

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Review: ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’

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It has been almost three long years before the announcement of the follow up to Man of Steel at the 2013 San Diego Comic Con.  For the first time, on the bi screen, we were going to see two of the most iconic comic book characters duke it out.  After the announcement, months and months of speculation on who should play who, what the plot should be and so on was excitedly bantered about online.  Then the casting started rolling in and people were met with disdain, excitement, or like me, a wait and see attitude.  I learned my lesson when Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker. Over the last few days a slew of negative reviews have come from all over the place, which would make me worry if i listened to print media or the hoity toity online guys.  I read most and even accidently spoiled the movie for myself, but nevertheless I went in with just as much excitement as i did for The Dark Knight, if not more so.  So how did it turn out?

Two years after Superman (Henry Cavill) battled General Zod Metropolis, the city is back to functioning and for the most part, Superman is seen as a hero.  Not so for Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) who was an eyewitness on the ground of the battle and the personal destruction it caused him.  Since the Man of Steels arrival, Batman has come out of the shadows again and has become more brutal.  He believes that Superman might have to be stopped and that he is the man to do it.  Learning of this vigilante, Clark Kent/Superman seeks to curb is brutal ways.  At the same time, Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) , has a much deeper hatred for Superman and is looking for ways to destroy him.  All the while the world is still trying to figure out how Superman should fit in the world of men.

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As per Zack Snyder’s personal touch, this is a great film to look at.  The ways scenes are set up just engross the viewer in the world of these two heroes.  He makes movies for fans and did he make one hell of a fan film here.   Too many to count on the first viewing were the number of shots that were taking from the comics from over the last three decades.  The score is hit and miss, but mostly hit when it counts.  the pacing slows down some 45 minutes in for a bit, but then quickly picks up the pace again.  The actors were all up to the task with the exception of one.  Scott McNairy, who plays a pivotal role, doesn’t seem to be up to the task of making the viewers truly care about his character.  Each major role was great for specific reasons which I will list below:

  • Superman/Clark Kent – Cavill continues to prove that he was terrific casting. Superman isn’t really given much more to do here, but his interactions with Lois Lane, Batman/Bruce Wayne, Luthor etc. all hit the right note.  We still love and admire this character.  His relationship with Lois Lane feels real and touching at the same time.
  • Batman/Bruce Wayne – Affleck knocked this sucker out of the park. This is a completely different Batman than we have seen before and I’d even say he is not only the anger and bitter Batman for Frank Millers The Dark Knight Returns, but even some of the current takes on Batman.  His Bruce is also great, going from moody to drunk bachelor is seamless.
  • Lex Luthor – This will definitely be the biggest gripe for the film. While I can understand how someone would hate Eisenberg’s take, I found it inventive and an interesting take on the character.  There were a few moments where I doubted his take, but in the end I think it was well done.  He is both evil, brilliant and crazy.
  • Lois Lane – Amy Adams is great for this role and not since Margot Kidder has there been a better actor in the role. She has a lot less to do here, but what she does do is good.
  • Wonder Woman/ Diane Prince – I have never been a fan of this character outside of her interesting crush on Batman in the sadly cancelled Justice League Unlimited. But what Gal Gadot does in this movie makes me look forward to else she has in store for the character.  Her Diane Prince was both flirty, strong and interesting and her Wonder Woman moments do shine.
  • Doomsday – We were all bummed that this guy was shown too early in trailers, but I can say that he is a completely faithful incarnation of the early 90’s monster. Seeing him portrayed this way was a childhood dream come true.

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Snyder and company not only bring to the screen every DC fans dreams.  As he has done in so many of his comic book films, he has marked it with philosophical questions, themes of bravery and sacrifice, questioning what being a hero means, etc.  He is a master at this and I do not understand all the hatred for him.  There were strange plot points that I was able to dismiss and would understand if others wouldn’t.  I also would have liked some story lines to be delved into deeper or had a full movie about, but this is what we have now. Snyder is a fan himself and doesn’t make movie for the critics…looking at you Sucker Punch..but makes ones that he thinks the fans of the genre/characters will get excited about and this was his best.  Multiple times last night I saw my childhood up on the screen.  Great artistic panels from the late 80’s and the 90’s from my comic books were shown in motion before my eyes and it was awesome.  The last half of the film I felt like a little kid, filled with giddiness and pure excitement at what I was seeing.  I walked out of the theater with a huge smile on my face.

If you like these characters, you will love the new interpretations.  One caution needs to strongly be heeded here, for those thinking of taking kids younger than 13, be warned that there are many uncomfortable if not outright frightening scenes that may be inappropriate at that young age.

3 and 1/2 stars out of 4

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Review: ‘Anomalisa’

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Spoilers O Plenty

                Charlie Kaufman has to be one of the most talented screenwriters in Hollywood today.  He writes films, good or not, that tweak the mind and sometimes even the heart.  Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is, in my view, his best as it makes the viewer ponder if they would do what the main character does and also ask themselves what is true love really look like. Adaptation and Being John Malcovich are complete noodle scratches that are still able to draw you in with their quirkiness.  He has an odd and yet poignant mind and the directors that create his vision give tremendous respect to that vision.  His latest, Anomalisa, a film financed by a crowd funding effort and made entirely of stop motion, may be one of his most on the nose creations when dealing with the subject of depression.

                Michael Stone (David Thewlis) is a successful motivational speaker dealing with customer service with a problem.  He doesn’t know who he is anymore and everyday life has become monotone and mundane.  So much so that everyone he meets looks and sounds the same (all voiced by Tom Noonan).  He has landed in Cincinnati to promote his latest book and his existential crisis grows.  He is bored with his wife and son and tries to meet up with an ex-girlfriend to see what he might have done wrong in life.  Soon after his arrival he hears a voice he has never heard before, something different that intrigues him.  He soon meets Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and begins a one night relationship that reinvigorates his desire to live in the moment.  Only it doesn’t last and he drops deeper into his sadness than before.

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                Starting with the look of the film, you will be highly impressed with the attention to detail that the creators take to generate this universe. As you watch this, you can only think what a strenuous and time consuming project this was to make it look so unbelievable.  Not only the stop motion, but the way scenes flow and the interesting and creative angles of the camera and lighting are so impressive.  The voice cast is great as well, even though it only consists of three people.  Thewlis accent adds to his characters sadness perfectly and Leigh brings a sweet, innocent and mousy tone that works.  The incredibly talented character actor Tom Noonan is great as the choice to voice every other character in the film.  The only other actor I can see in these roles would be Brad Garrett, but I think perhaps his voice would have been too overwhelming.  All around the production, story and voice acting come together well.  It’s the theme that takes this movie to a whole other level.

                Charlie Kaufman movies, for me anyway, are notoriously difficult to watch once and for the most part mean something different for everyone which is what I think he wants.  So for this movie, I couldn’t help but shake by the end of it that this was about depression, and not in a good way.  There is no resolution, no happy ending for the depressed, much like in real life.  Michael is a man who is haunted by his passed, not happy with the direction his life is going and is just drudging along with no true happiness.  That’s why he sees people as all the same with the same voices, they aren’t important, he is so focused on himself and his sadness that he cannot appreciate people.  Then he meets Lisa and as I can say by personal experience, the reason he is happy is not just because he hears a different voice, but because he has fixated on something that can make him happy and begins to hold her up as his salvation.  Depression is a horrible feeling of hopelessness and when you feel that there is even a chance of seeing a light at the end of a tunnel, you fixate and obsess over it.  But, like in real life, the object of the obsession quickly turns into the mundane and depression sets in all over again.

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                That is what happens to Michael, he has gotten what he wants out of Lisa and begins to see her as everyone else and this time, travels deeper into depression.  Her voice becomes like everyone else around him as does her face.  When he returns home to his family he doesn’t recognize anyone at the surprise party his wife throws him.  He has fully succumbed to his depression and finds no value in anyone around him.  His entire journey to its culmination before the credits role is a perfect picture of what deep depression is and how, when we look to overcome it in selfish and wrong ways, it will drag you deeper into depression.  Even as a Christian I have found this to be true and it is heart wrenching.  Why?  Because my eyes have been looking inward instead of upward showing, once again, that my need for joy should not be in what the world can give me, but what He has done for me.  This really was a personally emotional movie for me.

                I would highly recommend it with one gigantic caveat.  There is an overly long scene of sexual activity that is quit uncomfortable.  Yet, I do see the scene as something that adds to the story because it is the moment the character has gotten what he wanted and will now have a downward spiral back into depression.  It can easily be fast-forward when the home version is released and you will not miss any of the story.  If you are interested in films that delve into the character of man and makes you think about your own life, this is one you will enjoy.

3 and ½ stars out of 4

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2016 Flop Predictions Part 2

               Here is part 2 of last weeks phenomenal list of my predictions on what will flop in the year 2016.  The idea here is to talk about upcoming movies for 2016 and why they will not be the financial success’ the studios are hoping for.  Here we go:

Pete’s Dragon (August 12th)

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                Just look at the teaser trailer…find it somewhere else because I’m not linking that tripe here.  Where’s the childhood wonder?  Why did the dragon turn into a Game of Thrones rip-off?  Like the next movie, I think this one will lose the number one spot to the previous weekend’s number one, Suicide Squad.  It will get the families into the seats, but not enough.  It looks too adult for kids and adults would rather stay home than watch another boring rehash of another family classic.

Ben Hur (August 12th)

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                Instead of finishing off the Night Watch franchise like he should, Timur Bekmambetov decided to remake a classic.  Strike one.  Zero star power, strike two.  No one asked for this, strike three.  This will go the way Of God’s of Egypt and the Hercules movie not staring Dwayne Johnson.

Masterminds (September 30th)

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                I think this will be the year where Zack Galifinakis fatigue sets in, if it hasn’t already.  This film was supposed to be released last summer, but due to studio financial difficulties it kept getting pushed back.  Knowing that it took a very long time to get another studio to release the film shows that there really is no faith in its box office potential.  Magnificent Seven and Storks will still be grabbing most of the film going audience.  Expect this one to fade fast.

Inferno (October 28th)

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                While The Da Vinci Code was a hit, its follow up, Angels and Demons, a sequel no one asked for, didn’t even come close.  Once again another addition to the franchise that no one asked for.  The Jack Reacher sequel will still be on top for this opening weekend and what I suspect to be a sleeper hit, The Birth of a Nation, will take from most of the adult audience that would have seen this film.  Also, two scary movies will be out around this time for the Halloween crowd.  Tom Hanks hasn’t been the huge draw he used to be even a few years ago and with no other star power, hopefully this franchise will be over with.

Bad Santa 2 (November 23rd)

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                I am in the minority in this, but I could not stand this movie.  Outside of the late great John Ritter, every aspect of this film wasn’t for me.  So take this prediction of the sequels flop potential with that grain of salt.  Almost fifteen years after the first one was released we are getting yet another sequel that may arrive too late for fans of the original to flock to the theaters.  With two family films already in the theater as this one arrives, expect this to barely make a dent in the box office and come in around maybe number four for the weekend.

I will be updating these throughout the year to see if I was right or out and out wrong.

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2016 Flop Predictions Part 1

                I may be a little late for this, but after seeing the new Pete’s Dragon trailer the other day, I thought this would be a fun article to write up.  Zoolander 2 has already become another in a long line of overdue sequels that should have never happened and will lose an insane amount of money.  The idea here is to talk about upcoming movies for 2016 and why they will not be the financial success’ the studios are hoping for.  Here we go:

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (March 25th)

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                This will continue the trend in the last few years of sequels years after the original that no asked for.  Yes the first one was entertaining, but what we will most likely see here is more of the same.  Dumb and Dumber Too just used the same jokes and added nothing new to the franchise.  Most likely this will be the case here.  The first one was surprise critical and financial success.  Expect this one to be the opposite.

Mother’s Day (April 29th)

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                Hollywood has tried this twice.  First with Valentine’s Day, with some success there and then there was New Year’s Eve, which was a complete flop.  Each had supposed star power as this one is looks like it is trying to use to its “advantage” as well.  Can’t remember the last hit Julia Roberts was in or Aniston that didn’t involve an ensemble cast.  This one will go nowhere what with The Jungle Book and The Huntsman: Winter War most likely dominating box office at Mother’s Day’s release.

Angry Birds (May 20th)

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                Angry Birds really only has one thing going for it and that’s the great voice cast.  Other than that, it seems years way too late.  Releasing with a Neighbors sequel and a possible sleeper hit for Shane Black’s The Nice Guys, will offer the family option for that week, but then it will come up against the latest X-Men film that will keep it away and Captain America: Civil War dominating the entire month.  This film will need to have a large appeal to both children and the adults that will have to take them to make a profit from a reportedly $80 million budget not including any real marketing yet.

Alice Through the Looking Glass (May 27th)

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                I was completely shocked at the success of Alice in Wonderland.  Going up against the latest X-Men movie doesn’t help its predecessor.  Once again the film looks dull, confusing and too much potential to cause blindness from the over-saturated color scheme.  Lightning will not be caught in a bottle this time around.

Finding Dory (June 17th)

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                This one I will most likely be very wrong about, but let me try to make my case.  Making a funny supporting character the main focus just doesn’t seem right.  While I like Dory as a character, I think an entire movie where she is the focus would be annoying.  Will audiences feel the same way?  It will no doubt be number one it’s opening weekend, but with the sequel to Independence Day the following week, I’m doubtful it will be the hit Disney is hoping for.  While it will be marginally successful, it will not be the cash windfall people might think.  Can’t imagine what would happen if it was critically so so.

The Legend of Tarzan (July 1st)

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                I had no idea this film was even in production or have the caliber of cast it has and I’m a guy that prides himself on knowing what’s coming up on the ole movie schedule.  That being said, who else had the same reaction of “huh?”?  The trailer makes the film look decent, but I could not help but feel like this will be the John Carter of 2016.  Granted this one doesn’t look like it will have the hype or marketing saturation that Carter had, it was the gut reaction I had when the trailer ended.  Not just that, but who was clamoring for a new Tarzan movie?  That’s right, no one.

Ghostbusters (July 15th)

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               No, it’s not because of the politically correct cast of chicks.  It’s because no one wanted it, Paul Feig can’t depend on gross out and shock humor, and Melissa McCarthy is also handicapped.  This will be the first movie in a long time, outside the awesome St. Vincent, that didn’t rely on her brilliantly cussing up a storm.  Having two relatively unknowns (don’t care to look up their names) with McCarthy and Kristen Wiig may not work out so well.  Add to that one of the main reasons behind it being, “we need a woman centric action comedy and will do it by using an established brand.”  Who knows this could shock me, like the supposedly feminist comedy Bridesmaids did (she ends up baking for the love interest and graveling to get him back by the end of the movie.  Girl power!).  Add to this that I want this to fail.  Ghostbuster’s and even Ghostbuster’s 2 are very special to me and should have ended with the second one.

Next week I will have Part 2.

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