Batman Vs. Superman

Movie News

Zack Snyder Trends On Twitter But Is That A Good Thing?

More than likely not a coincidence as it is exactly a week prior to the release of The Batman, but Zack Snyder trends on Twitter as does #RestoreTheSnyderVerse; however, is that a good thing? Thanks Twitter. #ZackSnyder– — Zack Snyder (@ZackSnyder) February 24, 2022 Sure, it’s always cool to see your favorite characters on the

Movie News Reviews

Batman Vs. Superman Review

Batman!(Co-starring Superman)

A Film Review of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

By Lawrence Napoli


Not even one day released to the American viewing public and the only headlines regarding this film revolve around poor receptions and dreadful reviews.  Ouch!  Is this film really that bad?  Are the fanboys being too critical?  Are the trolls having too much fun?  Is it being unfairly judged for not being absolutely spectacular?  I’d be lying to you if I didn’t admit just a hint of glee over this project’s initial, global reaction for a number of reasons: poor casting choices, using The Dark Knight Returns plot for introducing a Justice League cinematic universe and Batman upstaging Superman’s sequel (to list a few).  The details of this production had me shaking my head in absurdity light years beyond the casting of Mr. Mom as Tim Burton’s Batman back in 1989 so much so that its present day difficulties seem a foregone conclusion. 

Rather than rubbing salt into open wounds, this review will be more concerned with simply critiquing what we have on the screen, and it begins with this film being Batman’s movie from the very first second to its very last.  In a way, it makes sense for the story to be so Bat-centric because “this” version of the Dark Knight has not yet been established in this particular cinematic universe.  It is more than just the plot featuring Batman or its themes, framework or even the outcome that makes it so.  The feel, sound and look of this entire film are “Batman” through and through.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this tactic outside of the cost of sacrificing every other character and their subplots as window dressing to Batman’s mission.  As such, Superman is all but designated as a formal antagonist if the story weren’t also interested in introducing the audience to the Justice League as well as a major tease for a destined conflict against one of DC’s Ultimate Evils in subsequent films.  The fact is that this story is so much more than just Batman and Superman that it crumbles under the weight of its own lofty ambitions.  This leads to a bit of distraction and incoherence which requires the viewer to make frequent leaps of faith to traverse the plot holes. 

Then there’s the pacing of this movie which does a fine job at mimicking the overall flow and tenor of Man of Steel.  We start off pretty slow as Zack Snyder clearly makes conscious efforts at establishing intrigue.  But then, the film stays at that same tempo because we need a ton of exposition fed to us in order to appreciate what is going on thanks to advancing the plot more than a year past the destruction of Metropolis at the hands of Zod.  With little screen time left to build upon any drama or suspense, the burden falls squarely on action sequences to break things up and sometimes they get the job done.  It’s neat seeing Batman drive his car, fly his plane and beat up (and kill) bad guys.  [Yes, this Batman kills – more on that later]  Unfortunately, Batman isn’t Superman; meaning those awesome Dragonball Z live-action combat sequences from Man of Steel are nowhere to be found in this film, not even during the climactic battle against a conveniently placed plot device. 

I understand that Zack Snyder is essentially doing the same thing as the competition, but trying so desperately to differentiate by doubling down on the gravitas.  These films may not be taking place in a Chris Nolan reality, but there is no denying the tone of seriousness here.  I for one am all for making these blockbusters as poignant as any art house, indie obscurity.  However, the fun factor should not be hunted down and eradicated like some Thanagarian Snare Beast.  No one needs to tell this production staff about the importance of finding the right balance between gravity and levity so you can all be assured that the next DC film, Suicide Squad, will be layered with silliness as a counterweight, but hopefully not too much.    

Action Style

When the action happens, it is captured quite well featuring some extremely diverse Batman combat both inside and out of vehicles.  Meta-beings are relegated to flying at stuff, punching stuff and eye beams.


Action Frame

Fairly static camera setups for dialogue scenes and much more animated during combat.  Better than average.


Lead Performance

Batfleck wasn’t terrible, but he might have been if he had to “act” his own, gruff “Bat-voice” instead of relying on sound filters.  Henry Cavil is just plain solid, and I am pained that he’s totally overshadowed in this film.  Both men put in the serious wrench time at the gym for these parts.  Speaking of overshadowed: Amy Adams is superb, but did anyone really care?    


Supporting Performance

Gal Gadot has the right presence for WW, but is basically as skinny as she has been for Fast and Furious films.  Michael Shannon surpasses himself playing a cadaver of the character he played in Man of Steel.  But Jesse Eisenberg produces a whimpering, erratic shell of some character meant to be Lex Luthor – not unlike many of the characters he’s made a Hollywood career by playing.  Also, Jeremy Irons’ Alfred was WAY too sarcastic for me.



The quality echoed by the iconic theme music of The Dark Knight Trilogy normally gives Hans Zimmer an A+ when it comes to music, but then I heard his theme for Wonder Woman.  Ugh!  Also, not enough Superman’s theme is featured in this film.


Sound F/X

Fake Batman voices are to be preferred to whatever Batfleck would have come up with.  Thank you audio effects.  Thank you.


“Moving” = 18/33

Digital F/X

The CGI within this film is text book for pristine excellence for a Hollywood production of this budget.  A full point is deducted for the not so inspired monster design of Doomsday being a gray, Ninja Turtle, knockoff.


Special F/X

Explosions are solid as is gunfire and bleeding effects.  Practical effects shine during the Bruce Wayne charging into Metropolis sequence.



I wasn’t in love with Superman’s suit in the first film, but it has grown on me.  Batman’s suit is great from the neck down.  Lex Luthor’s apparel is fitting for a genius tweaker who couldn’t be bothered by the concept of “respectable attire.”


Hair & Makeup

Neither exceptional nor horribly out of place.



Kent farm exteriors were perfect.  Cityscapes (only slightly) less so. 



I must say that I was impressed by this iteration of the Bat Cave.


“Picture” = 23/33


Batman sees first-hand what the damage of meta-humans can do to a city of mere Earthlings and feels mankind may need to go to war with Superman to survive. 



So the world’s greatest detective would not have thoroughly explored all avenues, investigated all the players and exhausted every last resource before forcing a physical confrontation with a god?  If he did, he would not have been played so easily by the bad guys.



Batman and Superman just formally met, so to witness this contrived mutual respect they suddenly upgrade to is ridiculous.



I sometimes hear Daredevil narration when Batman speaks.  Superman easily has the best lines if for any other reason he isn’t flapping his lips all the time.  Every line of dialogue for Luthor equates to ear rot.



The audience gets just enough to comprehend what’s happening in this film only and absolute zero for everything that happened off screen in the time immediately after Man of Steel.  Also, these scenes aren’t blended particularly well with the action to help with the pacing.


Character Uniqueness

Superman kills.  Batman kills.  And Lex Luthor is a tool.  These are all certainly unique takes on these particular characters historically, but also demonstrates a fundamental disconnect with the cores of who they are.  If Superman kills, his principles are no longer his greatest strength.  If Batman kills, his ironclad will and excellence of execution and preparation is rusted.  If Luthor has no backbone, no level of intelligence or resources will ever make him a viable threat because above all else, he is defined by his own hubris.


Character Relatability

Amazingly enough, I relate to Superman the best in this film because despite his amazing abilities he isn’t trying to lord anything over anyone and is really just trying to do the right thing the best way he can.  I’d understand Batman’s perspective if it were based on something more than vengeance.   I have no motivation to relate to Luthor as I mentally switch him off whenever he’s onscreen.


“Story” = 13/34

Overall MPS Rating:  54/100

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is an average blockbuster.  It wasn’t atrocious, nor was it anything spectacular, but apparently that’s enough for its crucifixion.  An unfocused story combined with questionable casting and inconsistent performances demonstrate major weaknesses for perhaps one of the most hyped and anticipated film fictions of all time.  The expectations were clearly impossible to satisfy, but one film attempting to do so much in a mere 2.5 hours was all but inviting disaster.  A simpler story focusing on an introduction between Batman and Superman and how their credos differ in almost every way would have been more than enough to fill out a full time slot.  Then again, what made this plot work in The Dark Knight Returns is the fact that these two characters had a long history of conflict and disagreement that built up to a direct physical confrontation which clearly doesn’t fit in Batman v Superman.  Simply put, this was not the fiction to rip-off to launch this new generation of heroes, and that is Zack Snyder’s fault.  Taking a risk by inventing a brand new framework for licensed characters is not something indicative of a Snyder production.  His history is adaptation through emulation and that brief stint with originality gifted us all with Sucker Punch.  Need I say more?

Marvel Movie News Reviews

Who Leads DC’s and Marvel’s Cinematic Realities?

Divergent Adaptation

Who Leads DC’s and Marvel’s Cinematic Realities?

By Lawrence Napoli


Ah!  What a great time to be a fan of comics and movies.  The cinematic creation of characters once thought far too larger than life to portray on the silver screen due to the limitations of technology has become one of (if not the best of) the marquee staples of Americana Pop Culture in recent years.  Comic book film adaptations have not only set this country on fire, but they have been fascinating the global audience as well, and it shows at the box office.  Those who know DC and Marvel as comic book companies primarily know them for their characters, fewer know them by the individuals that created their respective icons and fewer still know them for the writers and artists that make their characters relevant today.  Regardless of where the comic book industry has been financially from the distant past and/or recent past, there is no question that the movement of Hollywood adaptations of super-heroes continues to be a boom for everyone that owns the rights.  So if these films are so popular and continue to boost the visibility of various franchises, which individual is ultimately responsible?


We know Christopher Nolan masterminded The Dark Knight Trilogy, we know Joss Whedon is behind Avenger films as well as Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., we know that Robert Downey Jr. is Iron Man, and we know that Bat-Fleck is happening for Batman vs. Superman or World’s Finest or [insert title here] and we know that both companies are aiming at an expanded universe where their respective characters coexist in an ever-evolving reality.  But who’s really in command?  Who’s bringing it all together?  Sure, all the businesses involved with super-hero adaptations each have their nameless-faceless board of directors that are held responsible for decisions by their stock holders, but the choice to go in one direction or the other, veto power, day to day operations, coordination, communication and unification of this cellular network of films is being made by real individuals.  These individuals bridge the gap between the corporate conglomerate and the artists of production.  Without their knowledge of the material, business savvy, political skills and organizational aptitude, none of these films get made – or rather, none of these films get made well.  These people are the most responsible for pleasing (or inciting) fanboys and girls around the world, and they are also the first to be fired or rewarded when the receipts are all tallied up.


Marvel’s man is Kevin Feige.  He got his start as an associate producer for the first X-Men film due to his extensive knowledge of the Marvel Universe and has gone on to produce virtually every Marvel character adaptation since 2000: Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, Daredevil, the X-Men trilogy, The Punisher, Blade: Trinity, Elektra, both Fantastic Four films as well as all of Marvel’s recent Avenger “Phase X” films.  We could debate the merits and failings of each and every one of these films, but they all (basically) made money and were obviously successful enough for those doing the hiring to continue to involve Feige at the highest level of decision-making for film production.  Simply glancing at his résumé suggests that Feige was thinking about birthing a unified cinematic reality for Marvel’s characters long ago, and he would be one of the few individuals to have enough production experience to think about its creation in practical terms.  When Iron Man was released in 2008, this theory took its first steps into reality.  Despite the fact that the screenplay was written by the collective of Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum and Matt Holloway, it was this film’s post credit scene that paved the way for The Avengers.  This must be attributed to Kevin Feige because none of Iron Man’s writers have gone on to be involved with any level of production for any subsequent Marvel film. 


Of course, the eventual wunderkind that would be Marvel’s Avengers was only a glimmer in the eye of anyone who knew Nick Fury and what “The Avengers Initiative” could possibly represent.  But it was also beyond a foregone conclusion for Feige himself because there was no public knowledge of contractual obligation for franchise expansion in any direction outside of Robert Downey Jr. which meant nothing more than more Iron Man films.  Who knows what was really agreed to behind closed doors (and at what point in time?), but the future teasing in the post credits of The Incredible Hulk (2008), Thor (2009), Iron Man 2 (2009) and Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) continued to prove in each film that audiences liked the interconnectivity of these (seemingly) unrelated plots and characters.  In many ways, the teases overshadowed the fact that all of these films from different directors and writing teams were successful by themselves, but had they not been, fewer would care about any sort of unification.  One of Kevin Feige’s best attributes as a leader in this industry is the respect and courtesy he shows for the writers, directors, cast and crew he works with and has done so with the “Phase 1” films.  More often than not, studio execs will throw their weight around to the point that it denigrates the production, but Feige is constantly credited (most notably by Joss Whedon) for providing leadership and direction without slapping on the creative shackles.

Introducing a massive franchise like The Avengers has proven to be successful in being introduced a bit at a time to audiences in a crescendo that built towards a pretty standard-issue “alien invasion of Earth” scenario, but let’s be frank.  The whole movie could have been the Avengers going out for shwarma and people would still have fan-gasmed because there they are: all together.  Big name actors playing big name characters and all in the same movie is a huge deal and completely beyond the minds of studio executives of yesteryear.  Feige organized this effort between multiple films as intuitively as possible and as practically as possible. Simply acknowledging their existence in the same space as in “by the way, this too is happening over here,” is much less maintenance than designing a complex plot from the very first film as the “unifying force.”  This too might have worked, but would unnecessarily marry one film to the other and the problems experienced in one might be inherited by a future production. 


Yes, that’s right; I’m talking about the Ed Norton recast for the Dr. Banner/Hulk character.  This situation is one likely reason for the audience not having seen a second Hulk film prior to The Avengers, and recasting a major role could have been a significant monkey wrench to the gears of this unified franchise. Who knows if that problem was ultimately money, politics or ego; the man was replaced by Mark Ruffalo, and he did a great job.  Had Ruffalo whiffed, we’d all be hearing no end of it from every critic working in every media outlet in the Western world.  I like Ruffalo as an actor, but I didn’t really have an opinion of him replacing Norton other than I’d rather have established continuity maintained, but The Avengers film put the actor into many successful opportunities for the audience to like his Banner to the point that this recast has been practically forgotten.  This is thanks to Joss Whedon, who in turn thanks Feige, who was knee-deep in the Norton situation, and their combined efforts made the necessary adjustments in the subsequent film to reconcile everything.  That’s some uncharacteristically efficient leadership in Hollywood which is known for dragging its feet through the political muck of “creative differences.”  Kevin Feige may be the unifying force for the Avengers Initiative, but he shows his leadership almost every day with interviews and public appearances and whenever people have questions, he has answers.  I’m not sure his position as President of Marvel Studios requires him to do this, but his visibility and confidence suggests a master plan at work.


So what about DC?  They have every bit the intriguing roster of characters as Marvel and (so far) have demonstrated an equally high dedication to enlist big Hollywood names and attach them to franchise pillars for multiple films.  This seems to be carbon-copied right out of Marvel’s playbook, but casting news for the Man of Steel sequel and its elusive title is evidence that the strategy for introducing its characters in a unified reality to audiences will be taking a completely different approach than Marvel Studios.  It remains to be seen if audiences will buy into this strategy or not because the first film hasn’t been made, but who’s there to answer that question?  Who’s there to lay our insecurities to rest?   This person was a tad more difficult to track down due to the fact that this DC movement is only in its infant stages and the only news out there to comment on is a growing cast for a film years from completion.  At first I looked at the closest corporate counterpart to Kevin Feige.  Diane Nelson is President of DC Entertainment and President & Chief Content Officer of Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.  According to DC’s website, “Nelson is charged with leading the efforts to fully realize the power and value of DC Entertainment’s rich portfolio of stories and characters, including such cultural icons as Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, across all media and platforms.”


First, I’d like to point out the order in which “DC’s icons” are placed as per Nelson’s title description (yep, Batman is #1).  Second, her title and description sounds like someone ideal in bridging the gap between the comic book people and the movie making people, right?  As it turns out, someone established more firmly on the Warner Bros. side of the equation will be overseeing DC’s adaptation expansion.  He is Greg Silverman the President of Creative Development and Worldwide Production for Warner Bros. and according to the WB’s website, “In this role, he has full oversight of Warner Bros. Pictures’ development activities, global production and budget.”  He began in Hollywood as a lowly craft services worker for indy films but eventually became an assistant at Tri-Star and Mandeville Films and eventually a production executive at Mad Chance.  He got his start at Warner Bros. in 1997 being a junior production executive for The Matrix, A Perfect Murder and Cats & Dogs.  WB credits him for “shepherding” the success of 300 (2006), The Dark Knight (2008), The Hangover (2009), and Inception (2010).

Silverman’s visibility is still on the low end with only his interview with Variety being his major public comments regarding “Batman vs. Superman?” and/or the franchise moving forward in which he addresses several concerns.


Regarding Ben Affleck:

“We knew going in that we had more information than the general public had.  We knew what the take of the movie was; we knew what the character was going to be.  We don’t take these decisions lightly.  We thought about everybody – brand new people, established people.  Ben is the perfect guy to play this role.”

Regarding Batman and Superman’s interaction:

“They both will be wearing suits, there are capes involved, there will be action, there will be excitement.”

Regarding Wonder Woman:

“Wonder Woman is an amazing character.  I think it’s a great opportunity both for box office success, but also to have an amazingly powerful female superhero.” 


Again, I note that this is merely the beginning for DC adapted unification and based on that, Silverman seems to be saying all the right things so far.  Nothing’s too committal, nothing’s specific and everything is going to turn out all right.  It’s your standard politician or rather, executive response.  If however, one is looking for a more personalized commentary regarding this next production, Zack Snyder is your man and has been at every stage of this production because every cast member revealed thus far has been a hot button topic.  Personally, I don’t care for some of the decisions that have been made so far, but I do respect Snyder stepping up to the plate when it really isn’t, technically, his job to do so.  When I first started hearing Snyder defend Affleck, I wondered if Snyder was the guy who really had all the answers or if he was just simply the only guy that had any authority in this new DC filmic reality to date.  If Silverman has been in place prior to Man of Steel and Snyder’s involvement moving forward will only be related to Superman related films then the latter is true and Snyder was the only one at the time to face the firing squad of public scrutiny.  If, however, Zack Snyder’s role expands to even that of a producer for any additional DC ancillary films, the significance of Greg Silverman as an individual directing this movement is greatly diminished and the true maestro will be revealed.

As a fan of movies and comics, I could care less about who’s making what call in regards to which movie, but I do care about seeing good movies, and I care even more when I see bad ones (especially when the potential was there for greatness).  If things go well, the right individuals ought to be praised.  If not … well you know what happens then.  So far, DC’s and WB’s leadership is feeling itself out and being only so forthcoming with the details this early, and that’s as it should be.  However, it still feels like this whole thing rests on Zack Snyder’s shoulders and many out there have him and Goyer fitted for pine boxes (figuratively, of course) should all of these interesting production and casting choices result in what is assumed to be a sub-standard envisioning of the Dark Knight and the Blue Boy Scout getting their hero on in the same movie.  Studio exec’s (unlike Kevin Feige) that stay out of the limelight tend to reap rewards with zero risk because their association with given productions is obscured.  I think Greg Silverman would be doing his own projects and people a big favor by getting out there a little more and putting on the best face he can to charm the pants off some reporters.  Then, if in two years time, whether Batman vs. Superman booms or busts, no one will accuse him personally of not making a better effort to sell the film.  But again, maybe this is what separates the Kevin Feiges from the Greg Silvermans?  It’s not for me to tell him how to run his business, but I don’t want him to fail, I don’t want this franchise to fail, and I certainly don’t want this film to fail.  The Justice League can be every bit as amazing as The Avengers.


That being said, here is where I personally stand in regards to this Batman vs. Superman film as of 2/8/2014.  This is my unlucky 7:

1) I don’t like most of the cast decisions regarding the newcomers to this franchise.  Everyone returning from Man of Steel is fine and Jeremy Irons couldn’t mess up Alfred even if he showed up completely drunk and high for every day of principal photography (that would sure be a different take on Mr. Pennyworth).

2) I think Henry Cavil is being done a great disservice by having to play second fiddle to a bigger actor and a better character in Bat-Fleck for the sequel that used to be his franchise.

3) I think another chapter in Superman’s tale (solo) would have done more to establish the perils of this new DC cinematic universe than teasing the rest of the Justice League sooner than later.

4) I think Warner Bros. studio executives are forcing this massive cameo extravaganza prematurely because they see the X-Men franchise doing it for 20th Century Fox and the Spider-Man franchise doing it for Sony Pictures – and they want that money ASAP!


5) If someone were to describe Jesse Eisenberg’s character based on the fact he’s playing it and how he’ll be a tattooed skinhead that will “earn” his wealth and intelligence on the mean streets of Metropolis, there’s no way I would have guessed him to play Lex Luthor.  Every previous manifestation of that character is much higher status than that of a street thug – and then there’s the whole Jesse Eisenberg is playing a street thug, thing (editor’s note: rumored).

6) With each new development, I lose more and more interest with this franchise because decisions are seemingly being made just for the sake of being different: different from Marvel, different from its comic book roots, different from Tim Burton, Chris Nolan and Richard Donner.  

7) I would reiterate Kevin Feige’s advice to the DC/WB powers that be in regards to their adaptation movement and that is: “have confidence in the characters, believe in the source material, don’t be afraid to stay true to all of the elements of the characters no matter how seemingly silly or crazy they are.”  

Movie News Reviews

Op-ed: Thoughts On Jesse Eisenberg Cast As Lex Luthor

More Batman vs. Superman vs. The World Shenanigans

By Lawrence Napoli



I’d like to formally introduce you all to the Hollywood “Wait and Guess” game.  It’s a game that entertainment journalism is most familiar with, but since the ‘90s has been intricately woven into the fabric of Western pop culture for the average John and Jane Doe.  The global demand for entertainment is insatiable.  So even before any production gets even the slightest hint of green-lit glory, every media entity dives head first into every rumor and infuses the commentary with as much speculation as possible to fill time slots and web pages.  We all want to experience something new and fantastic from the Hollywood Machine so desperately that we want to consume it before it is even produced.  Thus, we “Wait and Guess” before the next mega-budget blockbuster gets released to satisfy our appetites in the meantime with dialogue, debate and (more often than not) fanboy grudge matches. 

So now I’m going to “Wait and Guess” (or “Obsess and Criticize”) the latest curiosity released by Warner Bros. regarding the fluctuating state of what seems to be a very ambitious movement to breath cinematic life into the Justice League.  Jesse Eisenberg has been cast as Lex Luthor.  Comments?  Questions?  Concerns?  I’ll bet there are plenty of all of the above, but I’ll also bet that this actor wasn’t on anyone’s theoretical top 10 or even 20 casting call lists for this particular role.  When I first heard his name I instantly thought, “Is it really big news for who’s been cast as Jimmy Olsen?  Oh Wait.  He’s going to be Lex?” 


Eisenberg is an A-lister that has done well in both the studio and indie scene with roles that have regularly seen him tip toe between the lines of comedy and drama.  He has shown an ever increasing range of acting ability in his expanding filmography, but still manages to hover around a certain character type.  Do you need an awkward and atypical yet sympathetic hero to root for?  He did a great job for that role in Adventureland and Zombieland (both in 2009).  Do you need an awkward and sniveling yet sympathetic antagonist to root against?  I give another solid checkmark for him in The Social Network (2010).  He’s a solid actor that can give you more than you expected for roles that fit him visually, and he’s to be congratulated for an excellent career that will only get more visibility (and roles offered him) by hooking up with a big budget, comic book adaptation.

However, I simply do not see him as Lex Luthor outside of one of these scenarios: 1) a spoof, 2) a decoy (perhaps used as a younger Lex in flashbacks or a red herring like Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin), or 3) a complete reinvention of the character, written from the ground up and tailor-made for Eisenberg taking full advantage of his every idiosyncrasy.  Chances are that option number three is the closest to what the production team is going for, although I wouldn’t count on that level of intricate character writing for everyone in the cast.  But, then it seems the concept of “different” is defining this production more and more.  Batman’s costume is getting all kinds of recognition for being different.  The casting of a rail thin actress in Gal Gadot is very different for a character always depicted as a curvy, sometimes very muscular, but a certainly fuller bodied woman in Diana Prince/Wonder Woman.  The DC and Warner Bros. strategy for introducing their superheroes into this cinematic reality is very different (almost the exact opposite) from Marvel’s.  Superman kills people … that’s pretty different.


The casting situation for what seems to be the Justice League Light movie is unconventional to say the least, so much so, that I wouldn’t be surprised to hear Jonah Hill cast as the Flash who’s obese Barry Allen will be struck by the lightning of the Speed Force and will have the most dramatic body transformation this side of “The Biggest Loser.”  It could happen.  Anything could, and maybe that’s what Warner Bros. wants us all to think?  The only problem is that in an effort to out-think or over-think the conceptually simple (yet unprecedented) task of making the Justice League a live action reality, the end result is so far removed from any previous depiction of those characters and those kind of stories that you lose your fan base entirely as well as your most vigorous source of word of mouth advertising – the gateway to attracting audiences outside the target demographic which yields Avengers and Avatar levels of cash – which is what this is all about.

So we are left with the fact that Jesse Eisenberg will be Lex Luthor, and it could very well be that he delivers a transformative performance that would eclipse Heath Ledger’s Joker with a dedication to discover Lex as a character beyond the level of obsession.  He could also deliver a completely unexpected and charismatic Lex that the audience finds charming in his ability to insert foot-into-mouth regularly while still being a force to be reckoned with.  Yes, it could very well be that Ben Affleck and Henry Cavil stand next to Eisenberg on screen and sell Luthor as an actual threat to audiences around the world.  Maybe none of this happens.  


I can appreciate Gene Hackman’s and Kevin Spacey’s portrayal of Luthor as much as the next person, but I always felt that the no-nonsense, intellectual hubris and unwavering confidence of the Lex from the Superman Animated series or the one that runs for President in the comics or the one that organizes the “Mankind Liberation Front” in Ross and Waid’s Kingdom Come is the kind of Luthor that could actually go toe-to-toe with both Batman and Superman in a live action adaptation.  Eisenberg has never been tasked with portraying this kind of character (as in this particular level of “Lex Luthor”), and it remains to be seen if this kind of character is anyone’s goal in the first place.  If it is, no amount of extreme fashion makeover for Eisenberg can generate the kind of screen presence that this kind of Luthor requires.  Sure, great performances can transcend a lot of things, but an actor’s body and voice are essential tools in the formation of character, and neither in Eisenberg’s possession equate to the hyper-alpha-male of the Lex Luthor I’m thinking about.  A director doesn’t cast an actor that doesn’t have the things you want in a character.  One could, but this would be subscribing to the aforementioned “over-thinking” of this character in the first place.  Suffice it to say that Eisenberg’s Luthor will neither pay homage to the past nor embody a realization of the ideal, but he will be … “different.”


The point is that the pressure is on (and has always been to match Marvel’s Avengers) once the decision was made to turn the Man of Steel sequel into whatever it’s ultimately going to be titled and whatever kind of superhero movie it’s trying to be.  The big names representing the big characters are still there, but their revelation has split fans into pro’s, con’s and apologists (“so and so wouldn’t be my pick, but let’s give them a chance … yada, yada, yada”).  Polarizing a potential audience that could very well be every man, woman and child on this planet could not have been something desired by casting director, Kristy Carlson, but it continues to do exactly that.  I realize she helped Zack Snyder construct such legendary casts as those seen in Watchmen (2009) and Sucker Punch (2011), but it will be interesting to find out after this movie is finally made and released to the public how many of these decisions were actually hers and how many were Snyder’s or DC’s or (most importantly) Warner Bros.’s.  Maybe we’ll never know, but she is still credited as the casting director, so I presume she has some say in the matter. 

It seems the success of this next installment of the Justice League movement depends entirely on whether the audience likes “different” or not.  That is until Verne Troyer is cast as Darkseid.  Then, the franchise will officially be a flaming wreck of Hollywood mismanagement and utter cluelessness.  

Comic Book News

COVER SHOOT: The Top Five Comic Covers For 8/28/13


By: Chris “DOC” Bushley

This weekly feature will take a look at THE most visually compelling comic book covers on the market today. Whether they be rare variant editions or just your standard fare, these are the top 5 covers that stand out amidst the bevy of books released each week. They say, “A picture is worth a thousand words”  but these covers are worth more than that! No matter the storylines behind them, these covers compel you to at least check them out, which can be worth exponentially more than just words to the companies that publish them! Enjoy!


1. American Vampire Anthology #1 – Variant Edition – (Vertigo/DC): This homage to the Godfather is a striking image that is sleek and beautiful in it’s simplicity. Rafael Albuquerque uses an ink wash to create this ode to the past but still manages to convey a high level of detail with such a fickle medium. His level of skill is unmatched and this cover proves it!


2. The Green Hornet #5 – Variant Edition – (Dynamite): Paolo Rivera gives us a “behind the scenes look” with this sketch cover which will surely draw your eye at the local comic shop! I always appreciate these kinds of covers, ones where we get to see the bare bones of the art in it’s pure, unaltered form. There is something awe-inspiring about seeing the artist concept formulated in high pencil detail prior to color and ink that makes you want to pick up a pencil yourself and give it a whirl! 


3. Batman/Superman #3 – Variant Edition – (DC): Yes, Jae Lee appears on this list again, but give me one good reason why he shouldn’t! With the stark contrast in color between the background and the central characters — everything pops on this cover! There is so much detail and such a visually appealing layout, that the eye doesn’t know what to take in first. Plus, his rendition of Darkseid is PERFECT!


4. The Wake – Director’s Cut #1 (Vertigo/DC): Sean Cassidy did an amazing cover when this book was originally released, but this one far surpasses that! The bleached white background offsets the minimal color palette used and helps to accentuate the bold lines of the central image. It is truly enthralling and definitely creepy!


5. Uncanny Avengers #11 (Marvel): John Cassady creates a cover reminiscent of one of my favorite X-Men covers, Uncanny X-Men #249. Although his layout is completely different, his lack of color and placement of Wolverine as the central sacrifice, brings about the same feeling of dread that I felt all those years ago. The cover is rich in it’s simplicity but even more so it the feeling it conveys to the reader. Very nice work!

Movie News Reviews

Op-Ed: A Response To Ben Affleck Batman Nerd Rage & Why Heath Ledger Argument Doesn’t Work

This One is for Brandon

Responding to Affleck Love and Nerd Rage

By: Lawrence Napoli



Oh internet; you truly are the last bastion of pure democracy. I suppose it makes sense to turn debating things as frivolous as casting calls into an absolute war of the words where no cheap shot will be left untaken and numerous lines will be crossed. The blanket of anonymity emboldens us all, and though it may give the individual courage to speak up where personal insecurities would otherwise keep the one mute, it has a tendency to inspire reckless behavior riddled with negative energy. Perhaps trashing other people’s opinions and perspectives acts as some twisted catharsis, but I’ve never felt pure glee by engaging in it.

Recently some readers took issue with my op-ed concerning my displeasure over Ben Affleck being cast as Batman for the Man of Steel sequel and presumably, all Justice League tie-ins for the foreseeable future.

First of all, that was (as this is) an op-ed which according to the Online Etymology Dictionary is defined as a page of a newspaper opposite the editorial page, usually devoted to personal opinion columns.
It was not an essay making an argument against sending financial aid to countries that appear to be acting against the interests of the US. It was a raw, emotional, soap box moment where I expressed a personal opinion that Affleck is not the right choice for Batman. A choice like that leaves too many questions for me regarding the future of these DC adaptations because the shear inclusion of that character in Superman’s sequel undercuts Kal-El’s own importance. That combined with the debacle that was Green Lantern plus the lack of some teaser, tie-in or reference to this new DC universe independent of Nolan’s trilogy at the end of Man of Steel makes me think there still is no master plan for the movement. Until that changes, “it’s the end” of those films for me.

Second, pinpointing The Town and Argo as proof positive that Affleck will clearly be an excellent Batman is as opinionated as my use of those examples to suggest the opposite.
In both of those productions, Affleck was placed in multiple seats of power and influence as a co-writer, director and lead actor. Is he somehow not going to use those opportunities to showcase himself in the best possible light? I liked both of those films, and I reviewed them here on Cosmic Book News, but until he has been confirmed as the director of Justice League and every other ancillary title where Batman will appear, he’ll have to start taking direction. Affleck and Snyder will certainly have moments of disagreement in their future endeavor as they are both bringing different experiences and ideas to the table. The danger lies in Affleck potentially responding in the way of the prima donna, and then press releases citing “creative differences” occur, people walk off sets and in the meantime, the production gets sandbagged. The Town and Argo are not proof that he can listen to someone else in authority over him to adjust a performance for the better of the film, not just the actor. He was the authority in those films.


Third, let’s examine the comparisons with Michael Keaton’s Batman and Heath Ledger’s Joker as further proof positive that Affleck’s Batman will be just as unexpectedly successful.
Tim Burton’s Batman may have followed Richard Donner’s Superman, but it is the Dark Knight’s adaptation in 1989 that created the contemporary model of using big Hollywood names in the active, title roles for superhero films in the future as opposed to only support roles like Marlon Brando’s Jor-El. “Big” defined every level of this production and for Tim Burton, a man whose previous production credits only included Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985) and Beetlejuice (1988), it could be understood that the pressure was on. We could have wound up with Mel Gibson, Kevin Costner, Charlie Sheen, Pierce Brosnan, Tom Selleck or Bill Murray, but producer Jon Peters liked Keaton’s edginess, and Burton’s familiarity with the actor certainly didn’t hurt. Yes, the fans blew up back then as they are now, but the main difference in the situations (besides the history between the director and lead actor) is that the production hired Batman co-creator Bob Kane as a creative consultant. If you can’t trust the character’s creator, who can you trust? Batman/Superman should have similar DC heavy weights like Geoff Johns or Scott Snyder as regulars on set, in the writer’s room and right now researching plot development, but as of now, anyone else’s involvement in these DC films are rumored at best. Sure, Johns failed Green Lantern as a co-producer, but I believe Affleck would respect actual DC writers if not his own film’s staff if push came to shove. This production requires supervision and/or support.


As for Heath Ledger, the parallels are once again uncanny. Clearly he was cast against type where films like 10 Things I Hate About You, The Patriot and A Knight’s Tale had him on the path of the classic, Hollywood leading man. But then he starred in films like Monster’s Ball and Brokeback Mountain, and those were considerably riskier roles for a young actor who would eventually perish before his prime. Ben Affleck’s filmography is layered with classic, Hollywood leading male roles depicting him as the love interest, the tough guy or the arrogant power monger; i.e. fairly unchallenging work for a good looking dude to pull off. Nothing about the Joker as a role suggests the use of some formula for casting or performance in order for it to be successful, but then news reports concerning Ledger’s preparation process hit the press prior to his death which was equal parts disturbing and impressive. In an interview with Empire Magazine he stated, “I sat around in a hotel room in London for about a month, locked myself away, formed a little diary and experimented with voices . . . I ended up landing more in the realm of a psychopath – someone with very little to no conscience towards his acts.” That diary has since been revealed to the public demonstrating the obsessive immersion he subjected himself to so as to deliver the Joker unlike anyone before. Yes, working out two hours a day is impressive for Affleck to shape up for Batman, but his character will never be a physical match for Superman. I don’t expect his preparation to involve hanging out in caves or interviewing orphans who were victims of violent crimes, but something a little more mundane like researching with LA’s CSI would sway me more as to his seriousness for the role because it would at least get him in the right detective mindset (assuming that’s the kind of Batman we’ll even see).


Fourth, I’d like to address my opinion of Ben Affleck in general based on his career’s mixed bag of roles, his overbearing personality that comes out in shows like Real Time with Bill Maher and his less than gracious Oscar acceptance speech with Matt Damon for Good Will Hunting.
I also don’t like the fact that his ability to direct has been identified as some transcendent skill set unique from any other director and has nothing to do with the all-star actors that fill his casts like Jeremy Renner, Chris Cooper, Jon Hamm, John Goodman and Alan Arkin. Before we’re all ready to crown Affleck as the next American Auteur, let’s recognize that his opportunity to direct is specifically due to his being cast as the star, and his star equates to very specific dollars and cents for studios. He’s the money choice. He’s the corporate choice, and that above every other reason is why he is the next Batman. You may not agree with any of these statements, but they are reasonable enough to not like anyone or anything in particular.

Not once did I say that I hate him. Not once did I make some bigoted comment regarding him personally. Not once did I incite anyone else to join in on dedicated bashing like signing that petition to President Obama to remove Affleck from Batman. Heck, I never even said he was a bad actor. He’s simply not my cup of tea and I feel he doesn’t have the intimidation factor and mature mind set needed for Batman. That’s not a fact, it’s an opinion. Facts are as follows: He is an actor, he gets paid lots of money and he will make so much more being Batman.

Now I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our live caller, Brandon for his comments and discussion during CosmicBookNews’ first live podcast. He represents the best of what debates over pop culture can be. His comments were intelligent, entertaining, and although we didn’t agree on everything, nothing got personal and nothing got nasty. I’m not even going to reference the negative comments to my own article in order to address real concerns over the death threats being issued on Facebook pages for Man of Steel concerning this casting situation. I honestly do not know what people are thinking by sinking to that level and it clearly represents the worst of what actual nerd rages are capable of. It’s just a comic book adaptation for crying out loud. Even if people are joking, and even if they don’t really mean it, that is totally out of bounds. Commentary like that is an embarrassment to civilized society. Change that. It’s not commentary; it’s verbal vomit. So once again, I say to Brandon good looks, we appreciate your opinions and invite you to join us again for another live podcast.

Movie News Reviews

Op-Ed: Ben Affleck As Batman Is The End Of DC

This is the END, DC!

Attempting to comprehend “Why?!?”

By: Lawrence Napoli



It’s Thursday night, August 22, 2013, and I just found out that Ben Affleck will be the next Batman in the sequel to Man of Steel as well as what I presume will be DC’s efforts moving forward to culminate in Justice League. Let that sentence percolate for a moment. Ben F*CKING Affleck!?!? Here’s a pro tip: count to ten, take a breath, in the nose, out the mouth. Needless to say, but I am extremely disappointed in this decision. Nothing (and I mean NOTHING) in this actor’s repertoire indicates that he would, could or should be Batman in a serious adaptation of that character’s license on the silver screen. I’ll delve into my opinion about this debacle later, but first I need to make some predictions about what this means for DC shamelessly attempting to recapture The Avengers in a bottle.

1) Established media entities will universally praise this move.
Affleck, love him or hate him, happens to be an A-list, popular name whose attachment to any film production can send budgets through the roof and potential ticket sales of seemingly obscure films in the same direction. He’s a regular on GQ, he’s a tabloid darling, and thanks to Argo he not only has “street cred,” but finally something significant to distinguish himself from Matt Damon’s more esteemed body of work. DC, Dune Entertainment, Syncopy and Warner Bros. are making this decision entirely about money, but the false assumption is that Affleck has this effect for this kind of serious comic book adaptation. In the one, previous stint Affleck had with starring as a superhero: Daredevil, that production had a budget of $78 million dollars in 2003 and its GLOBAL take at the box office was just under $180 million. This is NOT an example of “showing me the money!”

2) Bat Fans, Bloggers, Fan Websites and anything else remotely grassroots will universally pan (or at least raise a serious eyebrow at) this move.
The die-hard fan (a.k.a. fanboy) is instrumental in turning these comic book movies into legit challengers to Avatar’s all time money record. They’re the ones that pump movies they like incessantly (and for free) on the internet, attend multiple screenings and contribute to a fever pitched word of mouth campaign to do the kind of things The Avengers did. Core fans don’t care very much for Affleck because everything about his persona reeks of Shannon who worked at The Fashionable Male in Mallrats. He’s comes off as arrogant, narcissistic, over privileged and completely devoid of an ounce of genuine humility. You know, he’s the kind of guy that beat up the comic book geeks and nerds in high school. Yeah, this decision should go over really well with them.


3) Superman vs. Batman and Justice League by extension will be out-earned, outperformed and out-classed by the Marvel Films.
DC is already at a distinct disadvantage with making Superman the center piece of their movement because that character’s godlike immunity makes him difficult to connect with contemporary audiences. Green Lantern was so awful that DC would rather have everyone completely forget that it ever happened. Nobody gives a damn about Aquaman. No woman (save for Lucy Lawless in her prime) could do Wonder Woman justice. And no one (outside of “the core”) knows about Flash, Martian Manhunter or Cyborg. DC’s most valuable character is the one they’ve already made seven movies with, and Christian Bale’s performance is recognized by many to be the “best Bat” to date. Oh, and Bale happens to be an Academy Award winning actor.

4) Zack Snyder is going to be constantly hitting every media outlet to pump up Affleck as Batman and tell nay-sayers to shut up. 
“(Affleck) has the acting chops to create a layered portrayal of a man who is older and wiser than Clark Kent and bears the scars of a seasoned crime fighter, but retain the charm that the world sees in billionaire Bruce Wayne. I can’t wait to work with him.”
– Zack Snyder. 

Expect to see unending remixes of this last statement for the next two years. By the way, if you were looking for a translation for that quote, it goes something like this: “Forget your apprehensions concerning this casting call; Ben Affleck is the perfect Batman because the studio told me so, and I couldn’t identify a real actor even if Hugh Jackman punched me in the face.” Okay, so that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but seriously, what was Snyder thinking with that? “Scars of a seasoned crime fighter,” implies the aforementioned humility factor that a career spent personifying arrogant bastards is pretty much incapable of depicting.


5) Everyone will suddenly pine for Superman snapping Batman’s neck in the movie.
This has a lot to do with prediction #2. Frank Miller’s, The Dark Knight Returns has that infamous showdown between Batman and Superman that has had every comic book aficionado salivating over Batman’s ability to overcome any odds and defeat any adversary put before him. People like Batman because he’s dark, deductive, mortal and flawed, and Superman was depicted as a brain-washed boy scout in that comic. Affleck is not an underdog though; he’s a front-runner and people want to see him get taken down a peg or two. Ergo, Henry Cavill needs to melt his face off with heat vision. Perhaps this is all an elaborate scheme by DC to make Superman their #1 guy in the eyes of the fans: by neutering Batman with Affleck.

I’m sure other things will happen like fans picketing theatres, or petitions to bring back Christian Bale. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if people hit up Kickstarter to put real money behind the serious opposition to this decision, but the fact of the matter is that this casting decision is the furthest from a slam dunk and it astounds me that no one calling the shots for DC’s film adaptations gave this a serious thought. Not once did I ever consider Affleck to be a legitimate contender for this role because he’s simply way too high-profile for it. What motivates an actor who’s already made millions and could give two shits if people don’t like his performance? I simply do not know, but actors who have neither of those are more likely to deliver a better performance and that’s what it should really be about.

The one thing I’d really like to know is what Affleck’s boy, Kevin Smith has to say about this. I’m sure he’s polishing his knee pads for the man now that the decision’s been made, and it’s out there for everyone to discuss, but I’d want to know what he’d say behind closed doors before any rumors concerning his casting were ever conceived.

I know I should be a more mature, reasonable and responsible journalist in regards to expressing my opinion on this matter, but I simply never cared for Ben Affleck, any of his films, his association with J-Lo, and his (generally speaking) smarmy attitude. I care even less for him now that he’s been tapped to be my favorite vigilante. I realize I should reserve all judgment until the film comes out, but that would be difficult seeing how I am giving serious thought to boycotting DC’s films from this point on.

Make mine Marvel!

Related: Op-Ed: A Response To Ben Affleck Batman Nerd Rage & Why Heath Ledger Argument Doesn’t Work

Comic Book News

COVER SHOOT: The Top 5 Comic Book Covers For June 26th

Cover Shoot

By: Chris “DOC” Bushley


This weekly feature will take a look at the most visually compelling covers on the market today. Whether they be variant editions or standard ones, these are the top 5 covers that stand out amongst the bevy of books that are released each week. They say, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” these covers are worth more than that! No matter the storylines found behind them, these covers draw you to at least check them out, which can be worth exponentially more than just words to the companies that publish them! Enjoy!



1. B.P.R.D.: Vampire #4 (of 5) (Dark Horse): Fabio Moon creates a cover that is simplistic but overpoweringly eerie in the same breath! Buried in complete darkness, the figure, spider, vampire claws, whatever it may be , is coming for you! It is so surreal, it is actually tough to want to touch this book — and that’s what makes it such an amazing cover! 



2. Daredevil #27 (Marvel): Artist, Jock, is known for his ability to enhance the aspects of modern art, melding them with classic comic styling to create visually stunning images. This cover encompasses the recent tales of both Foggy Nelson and Bullseye in such an iconic fashion, centering them in the middle of Daredevil’s world of chaos. It is both bold and memorable!



3. The Unwritten #50 (Vertigo/DC): Now, this is a true work of art! Yuko Shimizu creates a classic Japanese style cover reminiscent of ancient parables. Complex and exquisite, the border detail alone makes this cover better than anything else on the shelves this week, there is no way it could possibly be missed!



4.  Batman/Superman #1 -Variant Edition- (DC): Jae Lee made a breathtaking cover, but Kenneth Rocafort’s variant cover is what piqued my interest more. Dark and foreboding is what we expect from from a Batman rendition but not so much from a Superman one. The faceless alien with burning eyes is completely unsettling and the confidence that the Dark Knight exudes in the forefront, is only heightened do to the fact he has such a powerful ally directly behind him! What makes this cover even more interesting is the fact DC challenged Rocafort, a Superman artist, to portray Batman more predominately for this cover, taking him out of his comfort zone. If this is the type of cover we get when Rocafort isn’t at ease, imagine what he does when he is!



5. Justice League of America #5 (DC): David Finch brings us a cover that, although the style has been done before, is striking and beautiful. The juxtaposition between the vibrant colors of the flag and the ominous, stark black of the background makes this image stand out on the racks. The image is so well drawn that you can feel the sorrow in our heroes hearts just from the simple images of their hands alone. Plus, any image of a coffin prominently displayed on a comic cover equals instant curiosity from any fan. Perfect!

Movie News Reviews

2013 Oscars: Results, Opinions & Fallout


Oscar Fallout 2013

What the hell just happened?

By: Lawrence Napoli



What can I say?  Oscar night is a magical night.  It’s my Super Bowl night and I was really anticipating the results of this evening because the films up for contention were much more interesting from top to bottom than last year.  I was also intrigued to see how Seth MacFarlane would host such a gala event and his selection makes a lot of sense, right?  He’s been celebrated for being the ring master behind Family Guy that has delivered countless laughs that poke fun at anything and everything, but particularly, the “ridiculousness” of American pop culture.  In a way, his selection is quite ironic because The Academy Awards represent a hallmark in Americana that he wouldn’t mind completely ripping into for its elitism, shallowness, and plasticized prima facie.  However, this stage represents an opportunity for his irreverent comedy to keep this show fresh and significant to the movie patrons of the future.  Considering the extra attention this evening is receiving for the political films that are the frontrunners this evening, I fully expect a Brian Griffin moment from Seth where he makes an observation that is neither too hilarious, nor too poignant and everyone pauses for consideration.  That being said, Seth will either soar with the eagles or crash and burn and melt and leave a really bad smell afterwards.  How did it turn out?  Read on Cosmic Book News faithful, read on.

[Red carpet observation: What was the deal with all the white girls getting the memo regarding the requirement to show up with equally white dresses?  Noteworthy exceptions to this were Jennifer Anniston, Catherine Zeta Jones and Nicole Kidman.]



Opening Ceremony

I really appreciated Seth’s rip on The Artist right off the bat.  It also didn’t take long for Seth to get a few “ooo” moments for the jokes he made: Chris Brown/RhiannaAnd then Captain Kirk appears?  Ok so, it led into Seth’s first musical number (pre-recorded, but pretty funny about all the women we saw the boobs of), but the little dance number between Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron was unexpected, but completely adorable.  Then Daniel Radcliffe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth perform a short rendition of “High Hopes.”  Obviously Harry Potter has Broadway skills, but who knew Robin could sing, too?  This led to a skit of MacFarlane hitting on Sally Field in a “Flying Nun” costume.  Meh.


Octavia Spencer presents Best Supporting Actor – Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained

Big surprise #1.  I really was not expecting this and I’m pretty sure no one else did either, but I guess someone has to continue feeding the Taratino machine that sweet sustenance of credibility.  Shame on me, I didn’t see Django Unchained yet, but I’ve heard nothing but mixed reviews concerning it.  That’s not a knock on Christoph Waltz who is deserving of such recognition based on the excellence he displayed in Inglorious Basterds.  Still, this may be a sign to come that Lincoln the pre-show favorite to win it all, might be snubbed all together.   


Paul Rudd and Melissa McCarthy present Best Animated Short Film – Paperman (John Kahrs).

What is it with comedians being earmarked for animated presentations?  What is it with them totally flubbing what they have to say in the process?  Rudd and McCarthy should have just played it straight because Paperman was one of the best animated shorts I’ve ever seen because it was quite touching in its simplicity and inspiring in its fantasy.


Best Animated Feature Film – Brave

What a surprise.  Disney Pixar takes the category made for Disney Pixar films.  Yawn.  Moving on.


The Avengers Assemble!  And they present Best Cinematography – Life of Pi (Claudio Miranda)

Please do take a box office bow, gentlemen.  But where are the mighty Thor and the seductive Black Widow?  Excellent live chemistry was displayed by the group in attendance led by Tony Stark himself.  I just wished they could have been given more time to do their thing.  Guess I’ll just have to wait for The Avengers 2.  Good for Life of Pi, but the cinematography had better look great when the whole film is practically CGI.


They also present Best Visual Effects – Life of Pi (Bill Westenhofer and co.)

I’m sure glad they brought The Avengers on the stage to be completely ignored by The Academy.  I get the distinct impression that something very weird is happening and that weirdness could be Life of Pi winning a heck of a lot more than it was projected.  Cue the orchestra for its first awkward play-off for a long running acceptance speech.  The Jaws theme completely drowned out Westenhofer just in time for the camera to cut to Nicole Kidman who frowned in disapproval for the classless move.  Still, everyone should have a go to “wrap up” comment to avoid being cut off.


Jennifer Aniston and Channing Tatum present Best Costume Design – Anna Karenina (Jacqueline Durran)   

Jen welcomes Chan to the waxed actors club.  Didn’t really need to know that one, but I’m glad a period piece won this award because they’re made to do exactly that.


Best Makeup and HairstylingLes Misérables (Lisa Westcot and Julie Dartnell)

Production value was big, big, business for Les Miz.  Costumes in that film were very well done and I expect Oscar gold in production design for this film as well.


Halle Berry presents the 50th Anniversary of James Bond

A nice little video montage of Bond’s greatest moments on film was nice, but nothing a freshman in college couldn’t compile on Final Cut Pro.  But then Shirley Bassey comes out of the floor to sing the Goldfinger theme quite masterfully; so much so that her rendition surpasses the original in every, single way.  You go girl!  Standing O: deserved!  Hopefully we get more of this with Adele waiting in the wings to do the Skyfall theme.


Kerry Washington and Jaime Fox present Best Live Action Short Film – Curfew (Shawn Christensen). 

I understand the need to thank The Academy for supporting the more obscure categories such as this, but it would be better if The Academy showed some real love to this category by making some comprehensive programs for those interested to actually see these little nuggets of gold.


Best Documentary Short – Inocente (Sean and Andrea Fine). 

So, the subject of this documentary was homeless last week and so shame on Hollywood for not getting artists like her seen and heard?  How about shame on humanity for allowing atrocity like hunger and homelessness to exist anywhere!  Look, I’m happy they won, but let’s have some solutions before pointing fingers.


Ben Affleck thanks Seth for the constant ribbing and presents Best Documentary Feature – Searching for Sugar Man (Malik Bendjelloul and Simon Chin).

I’m glad that the one documentary that didn’t cover absolutely depressing material won, but I really hate the Jaws theme being used (AGAIN) to play people off their speeches.  It’s starting to get annoying.

[Best MacFarlane joke of the night so far: “The cast of Prometheus tells us, what the hell was going on there?”]


Jennifer Garner and Jessica Chastain present Best Foreign Language Film – Amour (Austria).

Yay Austria, but then Seth MacFarlane thanks the orchestra and there’s a moment where everyone thought he was joking about it as they played behind his presentation.  One word: awkward.


Catherine Zeta Jones performs All That Jazz

If her singing was, in fact, live singing, then color me impressed.  If she was just lip syncing it, oh well, everyone’s doing it and I’m less impressed.  Still, she had to record it at some point.


Jennifer Hudson sings a number from Dream Girls

This number certainly sounded live because we could all hear her breaths as she swung the mic dramatically away from her mouth.  Jennifer’s a professional singer and she won an Academy Award for acting as a singer in this movie, so it better be live because it certainly kicked all sorts of ass.



The cast of Les Misérables performs together.

I really enjoyed the staging of this musical number which incorporated everyone’s entrance (and I mean EVERYONE) as they rallied around One Day More.  Yeah, yeah, Russell Crowe still did his thing, but they sounded great as a collective.  Screw you Adam Lambert.  If you thought they were so terrible, get all your friends together and make your own musical adaptation. 


Mark Walhberg and Ted present Best Sound Mixing – Les Misérables (Andy Nelson and co.). 

I guess Ted had to do all the comic heavy lifting because Marky Mark was having none of it.  It makes all the sense in the world that a film requiring the balance between sound, dialogue, sound effects and background music would win this award.  No other film had such a heavy sound mixing burden.


Best Sound Editing – WTF?  (No BS, but a tie?)  Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall.

I can’t remember a tie for an Oscar in recent memory and it only ever happened twice before: once in 1932 for the best actor and a second time in 1968 for best actress.  And now it’s a third . . . for best sound editing? 



Christopher Plummer presents Best Supporting Actress – Anne Hathaway

Sitting next to her Les Miz costar, Hugh Jackman, Anne makes a nice gesture acknowledging every other nominee as well as the Wolverine himself.  She got so much hype for winning this award, but it was hype well deserved because it was an amazing performance. 


Sandra Bullock presents Best Film Editing – Argo (William Goldenberg)

It took a while for Argo to make any kind of splash but here it is.  And speaking of firsts, people winning their first awards seems to be the theme of the evening.  This doesn’t look good for the likes of Daniel Day Lewis.


Adele performs Skyfall

So we all know this song will win the Oscar later on in the evening right?  I’d just like to make note of the fact that Adele sings so well in that voice when she’s as British as the day is long.  Regardless, it was another inspired performance by a “true” singer which is actually better than the recorded version for the film.


Daniel Radcliffe and Kristen Stewart present Best Production Design – Lincoln (Rick Carter and Jim Erikson).

Another Oscar frontrunner picks up its first award and although this film did not involve any fantastic settings or highly stylize set pieces, the effectiveness of the production design was no less impactful.  By the way, if Stewart injured herself some way, why is she determined to hobble around like the walking dead (pun intended)?  Her constant grimacing was kind of annoying, so let’s get her some assistance and I don’t just mean from the Actor’s Studio. 


George Clooney presents In Memoriam

The obvious somber moment of the evening plays out like normal, but then opens up to Barbara Streisand singing Memories as only she can.  All that can be said is that she gave us all a beautiful and heartfelt performance.  Streisand is the epitome of dignity and class.


Some of the cast of Chicago present Best Musical Score – Life of Pi (Mychael Danna).

Chalk up another for the Ang Lee’s production, but it is unfortunate that no one on his cast or crew can pronounce his name correctly.  Pi is seems unstoppable at this point.


Best Original Song – Adele’s Skyfall

Good for Adele, but once again, no surprise here.  Anyone else signing this song, however, doesn’t bring the attention required to take home the victory. 


Charlize Theron and Dustin Hoffman present Best Adapted Screenplay – Argo (Chris Terrio).

Argo’s writer makes the first political statement of the evening giving a nod to nonviolent means of solving international problems.  Perhaps that message will get across to the US government, but it is not this day.


Best Original Screenplay – Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino).

Nice leather tie Q.  It was an interesting move to thank the power of his characters for his writing.  Although I will say that this year’s films were certainly better overall than last year’s, but I’m not necessarily thinking that this year was, in fact, the year for the writers.  Battleship and John Carter still happened this past year.  What about them?


Michael Douglas and Jane Fonda present Best Director – Ang Lee (Life of Pi).

Yes!  More redemption for the terrible Hulk.  With so many awards going Pi’s way, this really wasn’t a surprise.  Thanking Taiwan is interesting in that it’s dangerously close to thanking our good buddies in China who are having a blast hacking our databases for industrial espionage, crushing our economy with slave labor and probably prepping for WW III.  How much money do you think Lee’s production paid his two crews in India and Taiwan?



Jean Dujardin presents Best Actress – Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook).

Holy *ucking sh*t!  Don’t get me wrong, I love Jennifer, but wow.  She had the hype, she had The Hunger Games and she has the whole of Hollywood eating out of the palm of her hand.  She is talented, she is capable, but she better not screw up the good fortune she’s found early on in her career.  Many actors have long careers with zero recognition and honorary Oscars do not count.  Christopher Plummer taught me that.  Good for you Jennifer, but you still have two more Hunger Games to muddle through.


Meryl Streep presents Best Actor – Daniel Day Lewis.

About damn time!  The most deserving winner for the most perfect category: this man became Abraham Lincoln.  No one else can claim this level of immersion.  Daniel offered up the best acceptance speech of the evening with a good dose of comedy.  Cheers Daniel!  Keep making and taking incredible roles.  



Jack Nicholson presents Michele Obama who both present Best Picture – Argo (Ben Affleck and co.).

Ben’s co-producers took a specific time out to thank and re-thank Ben Affleck for his directing contributions to the film as a final “stick it” to The Academy.  Argo is deserving of this victory because of the story.  Please refer to my review concerning the historical accuracy of the actual event, but I don’t care if it was or wasn’t.  I want to be entertained and if the story is compelling enough, I will do research to find the “real” real story.   


The Host?

Let’s make this quick.  Seth did not sink or swim.  He did not exactly impress, but he did a respectable job.  All of his jokes simply took jabs at anyone in attendance and I was expecting some evolution of that strategy during the show.  It wasn’t terrible, but it got boring at times.  He did not succumb to the temptation of breaking into Family Guy voices at all.  That’s saying something, I guess.


The Big Loser

Zero Dark Thirty.  This movie should have gone home with absolutely nothing because sharing a tie for best sound editing, of all categories, seems like a door prize.  James Bond took home more Oscars than Kathryn Bigelow’s production this year.


The Big Winner

This was a little more difficult to arbitrarily designate, but it has to be Argo.  Certainly Life of Pi won a lot and for a while, it looked like it could go all the way.  But, the controversy of Argo as a production makes for a better story, right?  If it were nominated for more categories, it probably would have taken home more gold.  I’m just glad Affleck didn’t bust into his kegger acceptance speech from Good Will Hunting.  He came close, but pulled it back.


The Wrap Up

There were some twists and turns, some surprises and “no duh’s,” but overall I think this was a successful Academy Awards.  It’s still too long and there’s no way to address this issue without seriously thinking about cutting categories that get live presentations during the show or perhaps losing the musical performances.  I’d prefer the former because the performances really do add quality entertainment value.  At the same time, I really hate the orchestra playing people off with Jaws.  How about adding an “enhanced experience” for people to follow at home on their computers, tablets or smart phones to experience some of the trimmed fat in future shows?  

Did your favorites win?  Does The Academy have a clue?  Do you just want Jennifer Lawrence’s phone number?  Hollywood can still make amazing films when it wants to, so hopefully we can see better films at the theatres and when that happens, I hope to see you at the movies.


Movie News Reviews

Movie Review: Argo (2012)

Argo *uck Yourself!

A Film Review of Argo

By: Lawrence Napoli


I’m just kidding about the title kiddies.  Argo really is an exceptional film and despite Ben Affleck’s repeated attempts to fuel his directing career by siphoning off his acting abilities, the end result is a film that surpasses The Town and offers up a dynamic political thriller to an audience interested in the state of world affairs and history in particular.  This dramatization of the 1979 Iran hostage crisis presents one of the most dangerous contemporary conflicts between the West and the Middle East that would be quite prophetic in establishing the manner in which the US would involve itself in that region for years to come.  This film is not without its historical inaccuracies and the critics that are quick to mount the “how dare you!” bandwagon, but it is also meant to be a form of entertainment with a modicum of intelligence.  That being said, every alteration (big or small) enhances the drama, but may inspire some negative energy which I will address towards the end of this review.


Catch us if you can.

Hollywood and the federal government: a match made in heaven, yes?  Film production and government have been intertwined since the technology was invented due to its unprecedented ability to communicate to masses of individuals and to do so at an emotional level when done properly.  However unlikely that La La Land would have been so active a participant in international espionage, the fact remains that this event happened and this film does a masterful job at setting the table for the audience.  The plot, setting and primary characters in this kind of movie could easily be lost amidst the constant flashing back and forth between the multiple perspectives, but Argo keeps the plot moving thanks to good pacing and a constant crescendo of suspense.  This prevents the audience from losing interest due to lulls in the action where dialogue is featured for exposition.  The screenplay by Chris Terrio based on the book by Tony Mendez (The Master of Disguise) and the article by Joshuah Bearman (Escape from Tehran) is to be commended for presenting a compelling fiction capable of capturing the interest of the engaged audience member, young and old.


Where’s Waldo?

In these tumultuous political times between the US and any other country, the concept of shooting an America vs. Middle East film requiring the credibility of believable exterior shots is not a challenge to be taken lightly.  The locations in Argo look exquisite, but I was surprised to learn that the closest this production got to the Middle East was Istanbul, Turkey.  Making this film “look” the part of a 1970s period piece was apparently the number one priority for director Ben Affleck who used regular film to capture the action, cut the frames in half then proceeded to blow the images up 200% to reproduce the signature grainy film stock of that era.  As savvy as Affleck may or may not be about the technicality of film production, his coordination with director of photography, Rodrigo Prieto to achieve this should be recognized for being quite effective.  I also cannot write another word without singling out costume designer Jacqueline West for absolutely nailing the clothing of the period both in America and in the Middle East.  This synergy is most effectively experienced by the audience during the final credits scroll when we are shown photographs of the actual people and places of the original crisis.


We are totally NOT Americans sneaking out of Iran.

Argo is a dialogue driven drama that succeeds due in large part to a veteran ensemble cast.  My only criticism is that none of the marquee roles are filled out by women.  Bryan Cranston as Jack O’Donnell, Alan Arkin as Lester Siegel, John Goodman as John Chambers and Victor Garber as Ken Taylor bring a collective assortment of intensity, levity, charm and dignity to their roles respectively.  Their individual moments onscreen certainly highlight the fact that the effort made to rescue Americans under siege was not only a collaboration among individuals, but of governments.  The American perspective, however, was not the only performance worthy of merit.  Every actor of Middle Eastern decent brought their A-games to Argo, but my favorite was the intensity brought to the screen by Farshad Farahat playing the role of the officer at checkpoint #3 before the hunted Americans are allowed on the planes leaving Tehran.  Although his screen time was extremely brief, the impression he leaves is lasting and utterly terrifying. 


Cue the emotional climax.

Ben Affleck playing the lead role of Tony Mendez received a bit of criticism for stepping into the role of a man who is 50% Mexican decent.  I too find it distasteful for white actors (who happen to be Hollywood A-Listers) to pilfer ethnically diverse roles more adequately filled by ethnically diverse actors.  Jake Gyllenhaal as the Prince of Persia certainly comes to mind, but all things being equal, Affleck doesn’t get the opportunity to direct this film without starring in it and if the man isn’t involved at all, who knows if the film gets made in the first place?  Such is the nature of the Hollywood machine, but thankfully, Affleck’s performance is tempered and refrains from showing off his leading laurels akin to Mel Gibson.  Mendez is meant to be an agent who gets the job done by drawing as little to no attention to himself or his mission and Affleck is equal to the task of playing this role in a focused manner.


Cranston brings it.

Although I enjoyed the entertainment value of this film, there is one thought that manifested once the final credits rolled and to this moment I am completely incapable of shaking.  There is a very distinct sentiment of anti-Arab throughout the entirety of this film.  Naturally, no one would condone one group of people holding another group of people as hostages at gunpoint regardless of the ethnic makeup of either group, but the pro-Americanism of Argo is clearly eclipsed by Arab fear and disdain.  The only Iranians not depicted as utterly indoctrinated by western-hate are the Canadian ambassador’s housekeeper and daughter.  This may not be the most responsible of depictions, but it serves the pedestrian purpose of creating an opposition to the protagonists that is malevolent and considerable.  This, once again, goes to the point of not accepting a Hollywood production as fact (even if it’s “based on a true story”), but the power of the emotions that are stirred up by a film like this is real.  Let’s just say that the American perspective on this film wouldn’t mind seeing the entire Middle East nuked off the face of the planet.  That, my friends, is an extremely dangerous feeling and if experienced without context and a responsible mind, could foster pure hate and result in evil behavior.  As an American, I know that I don’t have anything close to what real Middle Easterners feel about the West and America in particular because everything I see on CNN amounts to flag burnings and gangs toting AK-47’s.  It would be nice if Hollywood, as the pinnacle of visual art, were more responsible with its creativity, but every day, Hollywood proves itself less as art and more as business and there’s more money to be made in war than in peace.


There’s no business like show business.

Still, Argo is a very good film worthy of anyone interested in experiencing a thriller not driven forward by adrenaline filled car chases and shoot-outs.  This is a thinking person’s thriller, but I would remind the viewer to take everything he or she sees and hears with a tremendous grain of salt.  Compartmentalizing this film as strictly fiction is the way to go, but if Hollywood finds the need to make more films that pit the West against the East, it should find a way to be less stereotypical in its presentation.  I got a lot more than what I expected from Argo and I will not be surprised to see this film take best picture on Oscar night, but my vote (one that doesn’t count) is up for Lincoln.  Who knew 2012’s Oscar contenders would be so politically charged?

[FYI, did anyone else out there know that legendary comic book artist Jack Kirby created the actual storyboards for the fake film “Argo” to boost the credibility of the fake production for the CIA?  I certainly didn’t.]

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