Movie review: Justice League

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to the review of the most polarizing movie of the year. Is anyone even surprised that the said divisive film is just another entry into the DCEU? This is Justice League.

IMDb summary: Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy.

Before moving on to the actual review, I wanted to give you my brief thoughts about the DCEU in general. When Man of Steel came out in 2013, I barely paid any attention to it because I wasn’t into comic book movies much (had watched some Marvel ones and enjoyed them but was still oblivious to the bigger universe). However, 3 years later (in 2016), I had already become a huge fan of MCU, had familiarized myself with the DC character on TV and had started to read comics regularly. Needless to say, I was looking forward to Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad. Both films left me sort of baffled. While I wasn’t a fan of the dark/grim atmosphere, I could understand it as a creative choice. What I couldn’t forgive was the messy and unfocused storytelling. Then Wonder Woman came along and was a breath of fresh air (with a meh third act). Now, Justice League is coming together for the first time on the big screen and I have mixed feelings even before I see it. I care about these characters, because I have been dazzled by them in the comics (I read way more of DC than I do Marvel), have caught up with them every week on TV (The Flash) or in animated films (DC animation used to be so good before it started going sideways with The Killing Joke debacle and Batman and Harley weirdness) and even though the movies themselves were flawed, I have enjoyed seeing these versions of Batman and Wonder Woman (somebody please fix Superman, though). I go into the screening hoping for the best while also worrying about the worst.

SPOILER ALERT

Writing

Justice League’s screenplay was written by Chris Terrio (the writer of Argoand BvS, while Zack Snyder helped out with the story. Joss Whedon (Avengers 1 and 2) also received a screenplay credit but it’s not really clear whether he got the credit because he actually changed some of the narrative of the film or just because he couldn’t get a co-directing credit together with Snyder. Anyways, I thought that the movie’s writing was a mixed bag.

Let’s start with the set-up. I highly enjoyed a lot of its elements but didn’t necessarily think that they all jelled well. The film’s set-up had two main goals: to introduce the new characters and the establish the team and to develop a villain for the story. The introductions of the new characters – Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg – were brief but effective. Still, if these characters had solo movies prior to this film, I believe I’d have had a stronger connection to them. Since I already knew this universe’s version of Wonder Woman and Batman (BvS was basically his solo film), they were my favorites of the group.

The dynamics within the team were really neat. I liked the different pairings, the contrast between the rookies and the seniors, and the humor within the group. That last thing felt like an obvious influence of Joss Whedon. What I could have done without was all the sexual nods between Diana and all other members. I wouldn’t have minded a few of them, but the constant stream was not welcomed by me.

Speaking of the villain, Steppenwolf served his purpose but wasn’t amazing. What boggled me was the fact that the DCEU is or was supposed to be this realistic and sophisticated reimagining of the DC characters. And yet, all their villains have been super comic book-y and in no way fitting for the tonne of the franchise. The fact that the main villain had a disposable army, like in all the other comic book films, didn’t bode well for the picture either. Having said that, the army of parademons at least had a trait to make them more interesting – they were feeding on fear – and they also served a bigger purpose in the final act (a.k.a. took down Steppenwolf when he experienced fear).

Justice League also had a plethora of references to the future DCEU projects and I immensely enjoyed spotting them. The more into comics I get, the more Easter Eggs I recognize. I also love to research the references I didn’t spot. Honestly, a huge part of watching these films is reading/watching the coverage of them after the actual screening. Speaking about the future of the DCEU, Justice League had an ending that felt like an answer to the critique of the grimness of the franchise. The sense of hope for the future was established. Now, let’s just pray that the box office numbers allow the DCEU to deliver on their promise of course correction (the opening weekend’s numbers have not been great).

Directing

Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen, Sucker Punch) helmed the movie during the principal photography, while Joss Whedon directed the reshoots and was responsible for the final edit. The film that premiered in cinemas around the world was an amalgamation of the talents of both these filmmakers. Snyder’s input was evident in the actions scenes, while Whedon’s influence shined in the aforementioned humor of the feature.

Speaking of the action, the team had 3 big action scenes (the individual characters had some smaller action scenes in addition to the 3 team ones). The action sequence underneath the Gotham harbor was neat and a great first showcasing of the team’s powers together (I loved how the seniors Wonder Woman and Batman were doing the majority of the fighting, while the rookies Flash and Cyborg were more about helping the civilians). The Superman v League fight wasn’t bad either. The final action scene was entertaining but I wish it was more epic and more massive in scope. Well, at least they have some space to grow in the following pictures. They also have a lot of space for the improvement of the CGI: it should have been way more photorealistic. Overall, my favorite action scene did not even involve the Justice League themselves. It was the sequence on Themyscira that I found the most inventive and the most enjoyable.

The movie’s runtime has been cut short. What was supposed to be a 2.5 hours film, ended up being less than 2 hours. The set-up felt like it was missing some scenes and that’s why it might have felt choppy. However, the fact that the picture was shorter than expected, made it feel really quick and more fast-paced than it actually was/might have been. Nobody can say that it dragged.

The credits scenes

Justice League had a mid-credits scene consisting of the race between The Flash and Superman – an iconic moment from the comics that was replicated only recently on DCTV with Supergirl and The Flash. The post-credits scene was a hint for the future alliance of the villains and also introduced the viewers to Deathstroke (who just appeared on DCTV/Arrow last/this week).

Acting

The DCEU casting choices have been their best choices concerning the series. Let’s go over the main players as well as their supporting characters.

  • Ben Affleck (The Accountant, Gone Girl) was great as Bruce Wayne / Batman. I really enjoyed his speech about his lack of humanity. Jeremy Irons (High-Rise, Assasin’s Creed) was neat as Alfred Pennyworth, while J. K. Simmons (The Snowman, Renegades, Patriot’s Day, La La Land) had a couple of scenes as James Gordon. I really want that Batman solo film to materialize and see more of these actors in the iconic roles.
  • Henry Cavill (The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Sand Castle) appeared as Clark Kent / Superman, while Amy Adams (Arrival, Nocturnal Animals) reprised her role of Lois Lane (the big guns). Cavill’s infamous mustache was very noticeable and his face looked really wonky in half of the shots. Subsequently, a lot of Superman’s scenes were distracting. However, he didn’t have much of them in the film. He is the character that has appeared in the biggest numbers of movies in the franchise, so we have already been exposed to him a lot. What I did like about Cavill’s performance in Justice League particularly was the fact that he was allowed to be positive and happy to be alive (in contrast to moping and feeling sorry for oneself).
  • Gal Gadot came back as Diana Prince / Wonder Woman and was as perfect as ever. I really want to see her in more movies, outside this or Fast&Furiousfranchises. Connie Nielsen briefly appeared as Hippolyta. I loved that moment with the signal fire for Diana.
  • Ezra Miller (Fantastic Beasts) as Barry Allen / Flash was the standout of the new characters and that was mostly due to Miller’s comedic talents. His enthusiasm was infectious and his reaction faces just hilarious. His love interest Iris West was set to be played by Kiersey Clemons (Flatliners) but was cut from the final film. We did get an intro to Barry’s father Henry Allen played by Billy Crudup (Alien: Covenant), though. That The Flash solo movie might actually be really good and could compete with the TV show.
  • Jason Momoa played Arthur Curry / Aquasman. I loved Momoa in the role but wish he was given something more to do with it. I’m hopeful about his solo movie, though. Amber Heard (Magic Mike XXL, The Danish Girl), who was introduced as Mera, will also re-appear in it.
  • Ray Fisher starred as Victor Stone / Cyborg and was probably the character most integral to the plot of the film. I didn’t know much about Fisher prior to this movie but was really impressed by his performance. He brought heart and soul to Cyborg – qualities which only a good dramatic actor can portray well.
  • Ciarán Hinds (GOT’s King Beyond the Wall) did the motion capture of and provided the voice for Steppenwolf. He was good enough in the role but I do wish that the design of the character would have been more interesting.

In short, Justice League was the second best film in the DCEU (and while it’s not much, it’s something). It had some great character moments (both action and humor ones) but was still plagued by the wider problems of the whole series. Nevertheless, the future is hopeful.

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: Justice League trailer

justice-league-poster

Movie review: The Hitman’s Bodyguard 

Movie reviews

Hello!

With the summer movie season coming to a close, let’s discuss one of its last offerings – The Hitman’s Bodyguard!

IMDb summary: The world’s top bodyguard gets a new client, a hit man who must testify at the International Court of Justice. They must put their differences aside and work together to make it to the trial on time.

Writing

The Hitman’s Bodyguard was written by Tom O’Connor and this picture was only his second screenplay to be produced. The script had both fun and dumb moments. The set-up, as well as the shared backstory of the protagonists, was good, while the dialogue and the banter were actually quite funny. The movie also had way more emotional depth than I expected it to. However, the antagonist was quite awfully written. I’m really over Eastern European politicians or mob bosses as villains in Hollywood films, mostly because I’m from that region but also because American screenwriters tend to reduce them to cinematic caricatures instead of portraying them as actual real-life threats. The fact that the writers (or somebody behind the scenes) thought that they needed to clarify that Belarus used to be a part of the Soviet Union with that sub-heading was kinda sad too.

Directing

The Hitman’s Bodyguard was directed by Patrick Hughes, who also did The Expendables 3. The influences of his previous picture could certainly be felt in his current one: while the last of The Expendables films was an intentional homage to the 80s actioners, the critics can’t really pinpoint the exact decade Hughes was referencing with The Hitman’s Bodyguard. I saw it being called ‘a love letter’ to both the 80s and 90s, but to me, it felt like an early 2000s action film, especially because of the split-screen opening sequence. The hand-to-hand combat was choreographed quite well, while the car chases were also entertaining and exciting enough. The soundtrack by Atli Örvarsson, full of well-known old-school pop songs, was a fun addition to the film too. The movie actually had two very enjoyably-cringy musical moments – the sing-off between Reynolds and Jackson and the nun bus scene. Another humorous sequence was Reynolds’s monologue to the bartender with action happening in the background (it wasn’t the most original but still a well-executed sequence).

Acting

The best part about The Hitman’s Bodyguard was its two leads – Ryan Reynolds (Life, Deadpool) and Samuel L. Jackson (Avengers, The Hateful Eight, Kong, Tarzan, Miss Peregrine) and their amazing chemistry. It was interesting seeing Reynolds trying to play ‘the straight man’, while it was also fun to see Jackson going absolutely crazy, even though he has done that before, for example, in Kingsman. Jackson has appeared in a tonne of films lately, I wonder whether the audiences will get bored of him or whether he is actually priceless in a supporting role.

Elodie Young played Reynolds’s love interest and did a nice job. She had a very good weekend, with not only The Hitman’s Bodyguard hitting theatres, but The Defenders (where she stars as Elektra) landing on Netflix. Salma Hayek (Sausage Party) had a tiny but hilarious role as Jackson’s love interest, while Gary Oldman (Dawn), for whatever reason, played the main caricature of a villain. Joaquim de Almeida also had a cameo role and an important plot-point was kinda spoiled by his involvement in the film (he just usually plays two-sided characters so I was fairly certain that he will be shady in this movie too).

In short, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is predictable but an entertaining enough action comedy that has a very expendable villain but is elevated by its two leads.

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: The Hitman’s Bodyguard

Best, Worst and Missed Movies of 2015

Movie previews, Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to the last movie post of this year! As the clock strikes midnight, I will share with you my very subjective lists of Top 10 best and worst movies of 2015 and I will even include a Top 5 list of movie you missed in theaters!

Disclaimer, when writing my summer list of films, I divided it into different categories and tried to evaluate the films more objectively. Well, this time, I am putting my love for films above my knowledge of films, so this list will definitely lack objectivity. Also, it will not be divided into different genres. In addition, I won’t pay much attention to the ratings I gave these films because these are not their reviews – this is a personal list of preferences. So, without further ado, let me tell you about my favorite and least favorite films as well as a few surprising movies of the year.

P.S I have not seen a lot of movies which are awards contenders this year (like The Revenant, The Hateful 8, Spotlight, Joy, Room), so they obviously could not have made the list. I definitely also have not seen all the mainstream films, which were released in 2015, but I think that I watched enough to make comprehensive lists. I will include links to the reviews of all the films that I have managed to review.

Top 10 BEST films of 2015

  1. Star Wars The Force Awakens
  2. Mad Max Fury Road
  3. Legend
  4. The Martian
  5. Mission Impossible Rogue Nation
  6. Kingsman The Secret Service
  7. Steve Jobs
  8. Inside Out
  9. Brooklyn
  10. Avengers Age of Ultron

Honorable mentions: Mockingjay Part 2, Fast&Furious 7, SicarioBridge of Spies, and Ant-Man.

While Mad Max topped the summer list, Star Wars ultimately triumphed the yearly list, since I had an amazing overall experience waiting for this film as well as watching it. The 3rd – Legend – was the biggest surprise of the year for me and that story somehow remained stuck in my brain. The 4th, 7th and 9th films were great motion pictures about inspiring individuals, while 5th and 6th films were the two best spy films of the year (and we definitely had way too many spy movies in 2015). The list rounds up with one of my favorite animated films from the studio that I grew up with – Pixar. Lastly, as a Marvel fan, I cannot not put at least one film from the MCU on my list, and while lots of people were disappointed in Avengers 2, I had an amazing time watching and couldn’t keep a smile off my face during its  whole run-time.

Top 10 WORST films of 2015

  1. Fantastic Four
  2. Terminator Genisys
  3. Hitman Agent 47
  4. Minions
  5. Hot Pursuit
  6. Tomorrowland
  7. Pixels
  8. American Ultra
  9. Pan
  10. Taken 3

I was sad to put a lot of films on this list. I expected good things from 1st, 2nd and 6th entries and was left extremely disappointed. One franchise was not able to get off the ground for the 3rd time, other series failed while trying to revive itself and one of the more original films of the summer flopped unspeakably. I did not expect much from 3rd, 5th, 7th, 8th and 10th and was still let down, even when watching them with extremely low expectations. Hitman was the bad kind of a spy movie and the last three films embodied everything terrible about comedies. I felt really annoyed by no. 4 and no. 9 and I don’t care that these animated (let’s be real, Pan looked so fake that it does not deserves to be called a live action film) motion pictures were made for kids – they were too stupid even for babies. If you liked any of these films, I congratulate you – ‘liking’ or ‘loving’ is a very subjective action and it makes the world as well as cinema debates much more interesting.

Top 5 movies you missed/surprises/guilty pleasures

Some of these films were, I feel, unnecessary panned by critics or totally forgotten bu audiences:

  1. We Are Your Friends – it had the worst opening of the year and was hated by all – I, on the other hand, had a great time with this film – I liked it for what it was  – a summertime popcorn flick with quite a good music.
  2. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. – another film, hated by both the critics and the audiences. I loved it: the acting was good, the action and the setting – interesting and it was my kind of comedic relief.
  3. Crimson Peak – the only horror-ish film I have watched this year. It was a disappointment to the majority of the fans of G. del Toro, but for me it was a pleasant surprise – I liked the performances of the 3 leads and the Victorian/Gothic mise-en-scene was wonderfully realized.
  4. Paper Towns – a film based on a different book by John Green (my favorite author) which suffered a lot because it was compared to The Fault In Our Stars way too much. I personally, really liked both films for different reasons and feel that Paper Towns deserves to be looked at as a separate entity.
  5. The Duff – another great coming of age/romantic comedy film for teens – it had amazing performances and a really nice and cute story. It also played with high school stereotypes and came out during the time when I was saying goodbye to high school.

So, these are my long personal lists of best and worst films as well as a shorter list of movies, which deserved more attention, love and money.

I will post a more personal wrap-up post on this blog later tonight, but if you are only interested in the cinema related posts, I want to wish you a very happy new year and all the best of luck in 2016! You will definitely get a lot of movie reviews of the awards’ contenders in January, and then Deadpool will roll into theaters in February, followed by Batman v Superman, Captain America Civil War and a whole bunch of other films. Cheers to the next year!

Fullscreen capture 12312015 24330 PM.bmp