Justice League (2017)

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

Superman is dead, Wonder Woman is apathetic, and Batman isn’t as strong as he used to be. As such, the world has become vulnerable to all kinds of attacks, including those from the New God Steppenwolf, who, centuries ago, tried to destroy the Earth by combining three “Mother Boxes,” objects of immense power. Recognizing that the Earth now has no one to protect it, Steppenwolf returns from his long exile to collect the cubes, and in true villain fashion, take his vengeance upon the world of men. But he might have a little more trouble with that than previously thought. For while Wonder Woman and Batman might not be able to repel him on their own, they just might be able to with the help of a few other, super-powered friends; specifically, Barry Allen, aka The Flash, Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman, and Victor Stone, aka Cyborg. They’ve never met, or worked with each other, before this. But with the fate of the world literally on the line, they just might have to.

Justice League is a flawed film. The first 30 minutes are very crowded, the CGI is highly noticeable, and the villain, while effective, is extremely bland. And, in the end, none of that really matters. This is a funny, action-packed, fast-paced thrill ride with likable characters, and I want to see it again. It’s probably the second best film in the DCEU, after Wonder Woman. And unlike other DC films, like Batman V Superman and Suicide Squad, which I did initially like, there’s nothing in this picture that jumps out at me as glaringly bad. (No Jared Leto’s, if you get my meaning).

A lot of it has to do with the fact that the movie really gets the League members right. Over the course of the film, you learn their personalities and pasts, and see them interact with each other, with some of them, in a few cases, coming to blows. And unlike BVS and Man Of Steel, this film has a much lighter tone. There’s a lot more humor, the color palette is brighter, and the heroes act like heroes. They smile. They save people. They do their best not to cause collateral damage. And unlike DC’s other cinematic offerings, which were each over two hours long, this movie is much shorter, and moves much faster. So there’s no risk of boredom here. There’s also a ton of fan service for people who like that sort of thing. Danny Elfman’s 1989 Batman theme is played at a couple points, as well as the John Williams Superman score. There are some great references to other superheroes in this flick, and the film even manages to address some questions viewers had about previous movies. And, most importantly, for me, anyway, this flick really gets Superman right. When he returns, which we all know he is, since it’s in the trailer, and on the poster, it is beyond satisfying. People in my theater were cheering and clapping with delight when he shows up, and for good reason. Unlike in Man Of Steel and BVS, he’s not a total downer here. He smiles, he tells jokes, and, shock of all shocks, he saves people. There’s actually two, really funny, bits with him saving people, one involving a blog, the other involving a big building in Russia. I also love the friendly rivalry he has with the Flash over whose faster, and the post credit scenes in this movie are awesome. They are definitely worth waiting for.

Guys, all I have to say about Justice League is this. It’s not perfect. The CGI is noticeable, the villain, while effective, is forgettable, and the first 30 minutes are a bit crowded. But as soon as the League gets together, the movie kicks into high gear, and you don’t really care about those other flaws. You’re having so much fun that you just sit back, enjoy the ride, and leave the theater with a smile on your face. And if you don’t believe me, check out the reviews for this film from Jeremy Jahns, Chris Stuckman, the Schmoes, Doug Walker, Roger Ebert.com, the LA Times, Village Voice, Variety, IGN and Forbes. All of them think, like me, that this flick is a fun ride worth taking. Be sure and give this a look.

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Wonder Woman (2017)

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The name, And Views Are My Game.

Born from clay, and raised on an island of only women, Princess Diana has long dreamt of war and adventure. Her mother, Hippolyte, tells her to put such matters out of her mind; that bloodshed is cruel and pointless, that their lives are much better without the influence of men, and the war god, Ares, but Diana doesn’t listen. She trains with her Aunt, Antiope, becoming the most skilled warrior on the island, until, one day, a plane with a man, Captain Steve Trevor, crashes in the ocean. Rescuing him from the water, Diana learns that there is a massive conflict, World War 1, raging outside the island, and that millions have already perished. Believing that this is the work of Ares, and that if she kills him, the world will be at peace, Diana dons armor, picks up a sword and shield, and sets off for London. But when she gets to the World of Men, she realizes that things aren’t as simple as she thought.

Wonder Woman is a movie I was very excited to see. Not only is it the first big budget superhero film starring a woman, directed by a woman, but the reviews I’d read had been extremely positive. On top of that, I’ve always had a soft spot for the Wonder Woman character. See, Superman might be my favorite costumed hero of all time, but Wonder Woman is the first superhero whose comics I ever read. Seriously. When I was a kid, my parents got me a collection of Gold and Silver age comics, one of which was the original origin of Wonder Woman. So, from an early age, I’ve been exposed to her mythos and adventures, and I was very interested to see what the filmmakers would do with it. What would they change? What would they keep? But, most important of all, would the movie be any good? Would the dialogue sound natural? Would their be character development? Would the action be exciting, and would the performances be good?

Well, having just seen Wonder Woman, I can happily say that I was very, very satisfied with the picture. This is an extremely well-made movie. It’s exciting, there’s a lot of great humor in it, the acting is superb, with the chemistry between Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor deserving an extra special mention, and there’s great character development. Diana starts off very naive and optimistic, believing that she can end a global conflict by stabbing a dude in the face, and ends more mature and measured, understanding that life’s a bit more complicated than that. I also love the team that she and Steve assemble to help them fight the Germans. See, people have made comparisons between this film and Captain America: The First Avenger, where a superhero gathers up a team to fight in World War 2, but I don’t think that’s fair. The team in that movie isn’t given nearly as much screen time, or personality, as the team here, and they just aren’t as interesting. In Wonder Woman, by contrast, you’ve got three really cool guys to work with; Samir, an Arab con artist who speaks several languages, Charlie, a Scottish sniper with a knack for singing, and the Chief, a native American smuggler who uses the war as a way to avoid racism back home. And, finally, I actually really loved the fact that they changed the film’s setting. See, in the comics, Wonder Woman leaves her home to fight the Nazis in World War 2, and when I saw that they’d changed the time period, I was a little skeptical. Were they just doing it to avoid comparisons with Captain America? Having seen the film, though, I actually think that was a smart choice. See, Diana is very naive. She’s never seen a conflict like this before, and she believes that she can end it by killing a single man. That’s actually quite similar to the way soldiers and politicians viewed the First World War. They’d never seen a conflict of this scale, or with these kinds of weapons before, and they applied their outdated Victorian principles and battle tactics to it, resulting in catastrophic losses of life. The setting is a perfect mirror for Diana’s transformation as a character. Plus, there really aren’t enough movies made about World War 1. There are a few great ones, like Lawrence of Arabia and War Horse, but, for the most part, filmmakers don’t talk about it, which is sad, when you consider how devastating it was, and how important it is, historically. But I’m getting side tracked.

With regards to complaints, I really only have one. The first few minutes are very exposition heavy, with there being a lot of voice over, and Hippolyte telling young Diana stories that will factor in later. Because of that, the dialogue there feels a little bit stiff. But, really, that’s about it, because as soon as Steve Trevor crashes on the island, the movie kicks into high gear, and, trust me, it doesn’t let you go.

Guys, I had a ton of fun with this movie. It was exciting, it was funny, I loved the characters, and I honestly want to see it again. Go ahead and give it a look.

Gotham

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game!

And it’s official–DC Comics should just stick to television!

What? You think that statement requires an explanation? Well, all right. I’ll do my best to provide you with one.

So, in case you’ve been living under a rock you’re whole life, there are two major comic book companies in the United States, DC Comics, which is owned by Warner Brothers, and Marvel Comics, which is owned by Disney. DC is famous for such characters as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, and the most notorious villain of all time, the Joker. Marvel is known for characters like Spider Man, The Hulk, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and Wolverine. The two companies have been rivals, basically since the day they were established, and have sought to out due each other in everything from comic book sales to movie profits. Now, as far as live-action films go, Marvel has been far more financially successful in recent years, with the company’s cinematic universe–consisting of The Avengers, Iron Man, and Captain America movies–raking in absurd amounts of dough. DC, by contrast, has been a bit less fortunate. Yes, they’ve had some critical and financial hits–like Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, and V For Vendetta–but, overall, their track record has been a bit less consistent in terms of greatness. This, of course, is excluding their TV shows.

DC Comics has produced some of the longest-running, most critically-acclaimed TV shows, both animated and live-action, to ever hit the screen. Do the names Smallville, Arrow, Justice League, and Batman: The Animated Series ring any bells? Of course they do! They’re classics! But, that’s not the point. The point is, DC has a more or less perfect track record when it comes to television, and this record has, in my opinion, been upheld by the small screen adaptation of the Batman legend, Gotham.

First airing in 2014, and continuing to run up till this day, Gotham takes the characters and places of the Batman comics, and puts them in a cop show. Since it’s set right after the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents, and doesn’t skip ahead to the time when he’s Batman, no actual superhero-ing occurs in this series. You won’t find any gadgets, explosions, or caped crusaders dealing out justice here. What you will find is a dark, twisted, thoroughly gripping police procedural that positively oozes style and atmosphere. The basic premise is that Detective James Gordon has been assigned to find the man who killed Bruce Wayne’s parents, and in so doing, he finds himself getting pulled into a world of corruption, violence and intrigue.

There’s a lot to admire with this series. As I stated earlier, the style and aesthetic of the show are just fantastic. Every set and environment has a specific color scheme. All blacks, grays, and whites. No primary colors here. On top of that, all the buildings you see in the background have a very run-down feel to them, which is appropriate, seeing as Gotham is supposed to be a corrupt, crime-ridden hell hole. And finally, and I cannot emphasize this enough, the show is very dark, very violent, and very twisted. Those are three things that a Batman story should always be. The creators of the Batman Universe, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson, always intended for Batman to be a darker, more mature comic book character. I actually got a chance to meet the late Mr Robinson before his passing, and he told me as much in person. “Gotham is supposed to be a dark, hellish version of New York,” he said. And, well, if you ask me, this series has captured that vision PERFECTLY with regards to its tone, plot and aesthetic.

Now, of course, no series ever created was without its share of flaws, and Gotham certainly has a few. Some of the acting–particularly that of Donal Logue and Jada Pinkett Smith–is hammy and over-the-top. In addition, the plot of the show starts off as fairly straight forward–the Wayne’s get murdered, Gordon has to find out who did it–but then becomes rather convoluted and hard to follow as the series progresses. And, as much as I admire Gotham for maintaining the dark tone and gritty violence of its source material, those things can also serve to alienate some people. But, if you don’t mind that, or are simply a die hard Batman fan, I still think you’ll enjoy the series. In my opinion, its a 7 out of 10. Don’t hesitate to give it a look.