Better Late Reviews – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

The first word that comes to mind when thinking about Zack Snyder’s latest comic book movie is “surprising”.  Fears of the movie being over-stuffed or “too self-serious” were extinguished by the end.  Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a fun and fast moving big-budget romp that is also the closest a DC comics movie has been to its source material.

In the movie’s beginning, Bruce Wayne’s (Ben Affleck) perspective of Superman’s (Henry Cavill) catastrophic battle with General Zod (Michael Shannon), and his attempts to save people while buildings come crumbling down and someone he knows is killed in the mayhem, it’s immediately apparent why he hates Superman.  Jump ahead 18 months and Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is doing investigative journalism in the middle-east when things go south quickly and a shoot-out ensues.  Superman arrives and “saves the day”, but is blamed for the deaths after returning to the US.

Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is up to no good, trying to coerce a governor (Holly Hunter) into letting him export a particularly green mineral found in the Indian Ocean, found in a broken piece of one of the World-Changer machines brought by Zod.  After a hearing involving Superman goes horribly wrong, Bruce Wayne privately declares he’s going to war against Superman.

bvs armor

Ben Affleck is spectacular both as Bruce Wayne and Batman.  This is a Batman we haven’t seen on the big-screen before.  Gone is the oath of not-killing people, and those who aren’t killed are branded with the bat-signal, an almost certain kill sentence in prisons.  Batman hits hard, fights dirty and isn’t afraid to use a gun, or two.  This is an emotionally broken Batman and Affleck successfully conveys that.  Jeremy Irons also nails it as the boozy Alfred, supplying the movie’s comedic relief.

Henry Cavill continues to be this writer’s favorite Superman.  He looks the role and delivers the lines, and carries his burdens, with great weight.  Amy Adams also continues to be great as Lois Lane, questioning why she deserves to be loved by Superman and continuing to prove to be a great investigative-journalist.

Wonderwoman

The rest of the cast also do great jobs with their characters, with Jesse Eisenberg being the weakest among a strong ensemble.  He’s not bad as Lex Luthor, but with audiences never seeing Luthor portrayed as he is in the comics, the portrayal feels disappointing.  Martha Kent (Diane Lane) does remain a horribly written character.  Gal Gadot rocks it as Wonder Woman, brandishing the shield, sword, lasso and gaunlets like a pro.  She and Affleck have chemistry, and their banter is fun and sexy in a Bond-movie way.

Lex Luthor created monster, Doomsday, looks like a repurposed cave-troll from Lord of the Rings.  The creature still works though, as he is an energy soaking and intimidating foe that doesn’t seem to have a way to be killed.  The action in such fights, albeit a bit brutal, makes this the most comic-book like of the DC movies.  The in-your-face-symbolism is still there, but there is also a sense of fun that DC-based movies haven’t had in a long time.

Doomsday

Screen time is well balanced between Clark Kent/ Superman and Bruce Wayne/ Batman, preventing what could have easily been a way overstuffed, unorganized mess.  This is just as much of a Superman movie as it is a Batman movie.  What’s most surprising isn’t that Batman v Superman is successful, but that it stays true to its source material and makes what’s to come in the DC-franchises all that more exciting.

My Grade: B-

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice stars Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, and Amy Adams.  It is directed by Zack Snyder and rated PG-13 for: intense scenes of violence and action throughout, and some sensuality.  It is released by Warner Brothers.

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Better Late Reviews – Bridge of Spies

Tales of the unsung-hero seem to be the best reason to make true-story films, and Spielberg’s latest film definitely fuels that argument.  “Bridge of Spies” is tense, smart, and very human.  Taking place during the early Cold War (1957, specifically), the tale makes some stark commentaries about surveillance and public perception.  It may not be a traditional slow-burn Cold War spy thriller, but it does make the argument that the style (a lot of dim lighting and heavy shadows) should be as much of a staple as the authentic clothing, cars, and mannerisms.

ST. JAMES PLACE

Tom Hanks stars as James Donovan, a sharp-as-a-tack insurance attorney with experience in criminal law.  After being approached by his boss (Alan Alda) to defend an accused Russian spy, Rudolph Abel (Oscar-winner Mark Rylance) in court, James reluctantly agrees.  After losing the case, the attorney goes beyond what was asked of him and publically claims he’s going to file an appeal.  After a backlash from strangers and even his family, James takes another case, in Berlin.  His mission: negotiating the exchange of a captured American U2 –pilot (Austin Stowell), and a captured American student studying Economy in Berlin (Will Rogers), for the return of Rudolph to Russia.  James has everything to lose in taking the hefty task.

True to Spielberg’s style, small moments of levity bring some light to an otherwise desperate and dark tale.  One of this film geek’s dreams has come true: the Coen brothers, and Matt Charman, have co-written a Spielberg film.  The dialogue is often sharp and clever and the film never drags in its hefty two-and-a-half-hours run time.  That alone is quite the task in a movie where the bulk of time is spent on the details of a negotiation. Characters such as James’ wife (Amy Ryan), who could have been easily overlooked, have moments to shine and bring to light exactly how dangerous the job is.

bridge of spies bridge

The performances are spot on.  Hanks sells the gravitas and desperate-perseverance (the actor can sweat on command, for Pete’s sake!) and Abel is a delight as the stoic and mysterious Rudolph.  There are no villains in the film and the impressive ensemble shows both professional and personal sides of their characters in believable ways.

True-tales of people going against all-odds to try to obtain the unobtainable are something movie-goers are quite familiar with.  Yet there’s something original in the telling of James Donovan’s tale, a detailed perspective that may be otherwise seen as dry and yet is presented with the intensity of a spy-thriller.  “Bridge of Spies” not only tells us a lesser-known part of our history, but also what can come from unbiased determination.

 

My Grade: A

 

“Bridge of Spies” stars Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, and Amy Ryan, and is Directed by Stephen Spielberg.  It is rated PG-13 for: some violence and brief strong language, and is released by Touchstone Pictures.

 

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