Zack Snyder

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DCU Movie Trailers

Zack Snyder’s ‘Justice League’ Trailer Is Here

Zack Snyder has released the new Justice League trailer for his movie that is getting released next month on HBO Max. Watch below! In Zack Snyder’s Justice League, determined to ensure Superman’s (Henry Cavill) ultimate sacrifice was not in vain, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) aligns forces with Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) with plans to recruit […]

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DCU Movie News

Zack Snyder DCEU Dead After ‘Justice League’

Zack Snyder again says there is no interest from Warner Bros. in continuing with his DCEU following the release of Justice League next month. While appearing on the I Minutemen YouTube channel, Snyder offered the following: The reality is, as far as I know, there’s no interest and/or appetite to do more of these movies

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Movie News

Jared Leto Joker Teased By Zack Snyder For ‘Justice League’

Zack Snyder teases the Jared Leto Joker for the upcoming release of the Justice League movie on HBO Max. “Amazing character you created. Honored to have our worlds collide,” Zack tweeted to Suicide Squad director David Ayer and Leto. The image features who may be Batman holding up a Joker card while interrogating the Joker.

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Movie News

Zack Snyder Teases Martian Manhunter For ‘Justice League’

Zack Snyder takes to social media to offer a new look at Cyborg and teases the Martian Manhunter for the upcoming release of Justice League on HBO Max. “There’s a war coming,” teases the pic which is a quote from Martian Manhunter in the movie. Martian Manhunter will be played by Harry Lennix who recently

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Movie News

Henry Cavill Teased Back As Superman

Henry Cavill is teased back as Superman by his manager, Dany Garcia, who took to Instagram Story to offer the following teasers for the return of the Man of Steel. Garcia, who also happens to be the former wife of Dwayne Johnson and co-founder of their Seven Bucks production company and who serves as a producer on

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Movie News

Zack Snyder’s Justice League Gets Release Date and Posters

Zack Snyder’s Justice League movie now has a release date, with three new posters released as well. The Snyder Cut of the Justice League movie will be released on the HBO Max streaming service on Thursday, March 18. Zack also teased the three posters on social media in reference to the death of Superman: “Fallen.

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Movie News

Zack Snyder’s Justice League: ‘One Shot’ Movie

Zack Snyder’s Justice League movie on HBO Max will no longer be a four-part series but will be a “one shot” movie. Following the official announcement last May it was said the Snyder Cut of the Justice League movie would be released as a four-part series on HBO Max, but now that is no longer

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Movie News

Ben Affleck Suffered Filming ‘Justice League’

Ben Affleck opens up about playing Batman and filming the Justice League movie where the actor talks about his alcoholism and drinking. THR caught up with Affleck who says he agreed to play Batman to make his son happy, which was worth all the suffering while filming Justice League, with the article also noting that

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Movie News

Zack Snyder Justice League ‘Snyder Verse’ In Doubt

With the Snyder Cut of the Justice League movie coming to HBO Max, many fans and even Zack Snyder himself hoped for the “Snyder Verse” to continue on the streaming service. However, now that may not be happening. Following the Snyder Cut getting announced, all kinds of rumors and speculation hit the net regarding a

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Movie News

Zack Snyder Responds To Patty Jenkins’ Weak Wonder Woman

Following Patty Jenkins stating she didn’t like a Wonder Woman who was “harsh and tough and cutting people’s heads off,” Zack Snyder responds on Twitter quite epically. Jenkins recently appeared on Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast in December, where she talked about developing Wonder Woman for ten years at Warner Bros and said the following (via IndieWire):

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Movie News

Snyder Cut Getting Justice League Action Figures

The Snyder Cut looks to be getting a cool Justice League action figure line as details from a Philippines-based toy company have hit the net. According to Matt’s Box on Facebook, the Snyder Cut of the Justice League movie will have the following 7-inch action figures released from McFarlane Toys, which includes two 10-inch mega-figures

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DCU Video Game News

Batman, Bizarro Concept Art For Canceled Game Is Super Cool

Check out Batman and Bizarro super cool concept art for a canceled video game from artist Jerad S. Marantz. If you think the art happens to look a lot like the Zack Snyder DCEU movies, that’s probably because Marantz has worked on Snyder’s flicks including Justice League. While the video game is unknown, it could

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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.

5/6

Action Frame

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

3/5

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?    

4/6

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.

1/5

Music

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.

2/6

Sound F/X

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

3/5

“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.

5/6

Special F/X

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

3/5

Costumes

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.”

4/6

Hair & Makeup

Neither exceptional nor horribly out of place.

3/5

Exteriors

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

4/6

Interiors

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

4/5

“Picture” = 23/33

Hook

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. 

3/4

Conflict

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.

1/4

Resolution

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

1/4

Dialogue

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.

3/6

Exposition

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.

2/5

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.

1/6

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.

2/5

“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?

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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?

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.” 

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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.

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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!

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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.”  

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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

 

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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Movie News Reviews

Movie Review: Man of Steel (2013)

I’m More Than a Man in a Silly Red Sheet

A Film Review of Man of Steel

By: Lawrence Napoli

 

The DC/Warner Bros. alliance begins its rise to challenge Marvel’s Avengers Initiative with Man of Steel, and it certainly was a heck of a way to start.  This movie is big; like Michael Bay on steroids, crack and crystal meth, BIG!  It also looked really expensive to make with the expected cornucopia of CG effects constantly lighting up the screen.  All of the different POV perspectives on these shots as well as the aerial angles kept the audience amazed and engaged.  It also paid homage to the quaint origin story made famous in the Christopher Reeve/Richard Donner films in a way that communicates the drama and exposition without letting it run on for too long.  It also established Henry Cavill as the face of the Superman/Justice League franchise moving forward because the man has serious acting chops, is in peak physical condition and can be as impactful with his dialogue as he is with his fists.

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Impactful.  Bang!

I am no particular fan of Zack Snyder mostly due to his efforts in Sucker Punch and Watchmen, but it’s all good because even he couldn’t screw up a story penned by the likes of David S. Goyer (Da Vinci’s Demons) and Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Trilogy).  As fantastic as Superman’s abilities are and as epic a scale as this film presents, there remains a conscious effort in the script to keep the story grounded in reality.  This was certainly one of the concerns when Man of Steel was first rumored to involve the man who created the definitive depiction of a realistic Batman onscreen.  The concept of Batman isn’t as much of a stretch because with enough tech, training and resources, anyone can be Batman (which also happens to be that character’s appeal).  NOT just anyone can be Superman, so how can an alien make a realistic connection with audiences that know full well that he is not human?  You do it by highlighting character relationships, and in the case of Man of Steel, three keys unlock a character we can relate with.  Superman’s relationship with his father, Jor-El, brings out his morality.  His relationship with his human parents, the Kents, brings out his humility.  And of course, his relationship with Lois brings out his determination and inspiration. 

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There’s enough Lois & Clark, but there could have been more.

Those story elements were meant to converge on the question of whether a being with such powers should ever present him or herself to humanity, and just about every practical reason to remain anonymous is addressed from several perspectives, not just those within Superman’s camp.  Unfortunately, the story also had to include a significant action element in the form of a bunch of pissed off Kryptonians with an axe to grind with the House of El, so Superman doesn’t exactly have a say in the matter.  It’s a real shame, too, because extending a preemptive olive branch could have expanded the few scenes Superman shares with various American, government officials which gives the audience some laughs and food for thought as a plain speaking super being lays it all out for an organization that personifies the concept of control.  Fighting Kryptonians also cuts into Superman’s relationship with Lois a bit as I feel the romance that clearly gets established right away, was a bit rushed – but I guess all the ladies swoon for the man with the big “S” for “Swag.” 

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Swag.  That’s right.

Clearly, the filmmakers wanted just about every basic element about this updated version of Superman to be firmly planted in the ground as quickly as possible before moving forward with any sequels or expanded fiction.  Part of me appreciates this strategy for being extremely efficient by conveying Clark’s youth via flashbacks, while another part of me feels the drama from those missing moments take a back seat to explosions.  It’s not an easy task to address an origin film in this way, but Goyer and Nolan make enough of the right decisions to error on the side of balance between the drama and action.  Overall, the story is entertaining and intriguing without any significant lapses in continuity while managing to deliver a whole lot more of Kal-El’s Kryptonian heritage and the events that preceded his home planet’s demise. 

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Don’t worry son.  The origin tale will be quick and painless.

Do you know what $225 million tells me?  It tells me that a movie with that kind of budget had better deliver some phenomenal visual eye candy via effects and CG, or else I’m demanding my money back.  Thankfully, Man of Steel delivers the best onscreen effects and action sequences to date in the summer of 2013, and they all begin with the depiction of Superman’s powers.  Not all of his iconic abilities are on display (as he’s clearly still learning to “test his limits”), but the ones he does show like flight, super strength, invulnerability and heat vision are very impressive.  As excellent as they all look, the use of sound, from muffled grunts to the vibrations on the ground and in the air, enhances the guttural effort Kal-El exerts to do the amazing things he does.  Kryptonian combat has a significant presence in the very beginning and end of Man of Steel which delivers fairly standard issue laser blasts, space ships and otherworldly technology at work.  These all looked fine, but presented nothing you haven’t seen before in the likes of Avatar, T2 or (here’s an obscure reference) The 6th Day.  I could say the very same thing for the destruction of Metropolis at some point, which features some pretty scary buildings collapsing all over the place that were inspired from movies like Green Lantern and just about every other disaster film (ahem, pun intended right there). 

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Uh, you guys know I’m on YOUR side, right?

I wasn’t as sold on the entire cast’s performance as our EIC outlined in his Man of Steel reflection.  Actors like Diane Lane as Ma Kent and Laurence Fishburne as Perry White are there strictly for star power as their moments to shine are limited, and they don’t do too much with them when they are front and center.  I was particularly unimpressed with Lane as she seems to overact the crotchety old lady persona a bit to sell her advanced age which the make-up department didn’t exactly hit a home run on either.  Kevin Costner is almost in the same boat for this criticism, but his contributions were worth it thanks to the poignant moment that explains his character’s tragic passing.  The best supporting character, by far, was Jor-El played by Russell Crowe who officially begins his comeback from Les Misérables right now.  I respect that he got into a bit better shape for this film, but his impeccable line delivery, presence and ability to gaze through the camera’s eye resonates with the audience. 

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I don’t wanna hear nothing about no Javert!

I never liked most of Superman’s rogue’s gallery nor the fact that we were going to revisit General Zod in this reboot once again.  The first moment Michael Shannon spoke a single line of dialogue was an instant wash for his performance in my book because I could never get past the awkwardness of his voice.  I don’t know if he was purposely trying to grate his rear molars as he spoke, but he seemed like an over-angry, over-powered, spoiled little jerk who couldn’t lead fish to water.  The real villain that stole the show for me was Antje Traue as Faora-Ul who is fairly attractive in as plain as Hollywood gets, and her diminutive stature wouldn’t seem to pose much of a threat to Superman, right?  Wrong!  Not only does she kick some serious ass, but she delivers the perfect villain’s voice, stare down, threat and general demeanor.  Why these crazy Kryptonians aren’t following her is completely beyond me.

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Explain it to everyone how I’m a superior villain to Zod.

Of course, a Superman origin story ultimately boils down to him and Lois, and although I like the casting of Henry Cavill and Amy Adams in these roles, I haven’t quite bought into their onscreen chemistry which I am completely aware that they didn’t exactly have many opportunities to fully explore here.  Cavill is (unfortunately) another perfectly cast, British born actor for this role thanks mostly to his exquisite physical condition and piercing blue eyes.  He approaches his character with respect and dignity, so it matters not if he delivers dramatic lines in a spandex body suit.  His performance as Superman isn’t going for adorable charisma like Christopher Reeve.  He’s going for a simple man that has great ambitions for the future with even greater powers to accomplish them with.  Adams could take a page out of Cavill’s book and loose a little “adorableness” to revisit the assertiveness she displayed in The Fighter in order to deliver a slightly less girly, Lois Lane.  I like my Lois the way I like my coffee: BOLD!

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I was going for “bold,” but now I need dental implants.

I have no doubt that Man of Steel will probably be the best blockbuster, action adventure film you will see all summer long, so now’s the time to break out those loose dollars you were hiding in the cookie jar.  This is a movie worth seeing on the big screen, but not necessarily on an IMAX screen as (once again) the 3D effect is nice, but it could be distracting to some and doesn’t deliver a game-changing experience.  This movie sets up DC and Warner Bros. quite nicely to move their own franchise forward in a realistic-enough world that rivals The Avengers.  The thing is, I don’t believe they could find a dedicated enough actor who has everything Cavill brings to the table and more (in the form of experience) to project the character of Batman on equal footing as the blue boy scout than Christian Bale himself.  Seeing Man of Steel actually reaffirmed my belief in Justice League working as a film adaptation, but only with that particular Dark Knight.  It’s just too bad that we didn’t get any post-credit teaser at the end of Man of Steel which my natural paranoia interprets as those who control the franchise not having a clear vision for their own future.

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