Commentaries

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE



BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE  

Film Review by Fiore 

 
Well, this review is rather difficult to write.  How, even with all my years of expert film criticism tucked firmly under my belt, do I criticize a movie that delivers all it promises in the final hour, but breaks every standard for solid film making in the first ninety minutes?  If it wasn’t for the iconic nature of the characters, you could easily walk out of this film after the first hour.  It is that bad.  There is a disjointed dream sequence, which is in itself a dream sequence, a technique purloined from AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, which has no purpose, save to allow the SFX guys to go super sci-fi.  There are snippets of fragmented scenes, obscure references to even more obscure characters and more posing by guys in costumes than an average viewing of Monday Night Raw.

BATMAN V SUPERMAN : DAWN OF JUSTICE begins well.  Viewers are privy to the aftermath of Superman’s epic battle with General Zod from the original SUPERMAN: MAN OF STEELZod wanted to take over the Earth, but apparently some humans have forgotten this important fact, and instead are dwelling on the destruction caused by the battle.  Must be liberals – they always have a tendency to forget the lessons of history, and try to find scapegoats instead, which is why they continue to make the same mistakes.  Anyway, Superman goes from hero to demon in a relatively short time.  Like The Joker said to Batman in THE DARK KNIGHT:  “You can either die a hero, or live long enough to become the villain.”  So now, Superman is the bad guy and as a means of redemption, he tries to take down Batman, in neighboring Gotham City.  Here, BATMAN  V SUPERMAN : DAWN OF JUSTICE really starts to fall apart.

In addition to the dream sequence mentioned above, there are gaping holes in script continuity.  For example:  How is it Batman arrives to a scene in the Batmobile, but leaves in the Batplane; and how is it Batman is wearing his Superman fighting armor suit, but magically appears in his normal suit in the next scene?

Ben Affleck does a marvelous job playing Bruce Wayne.  He is middle-aged, beginning to lose idealistic concepts as reality smacks him in the face.  “We’ve fought bad guys for twenty years, Alfred, and what difference has it made?” he avers to his man-servant during one of the film’s more pensive moments.   

Henry Cavill returns as Clark Kent.  He does well and offers a stoic performance, but he shows a massive weakness in the world’s greatest superhero – confidence.  It seems anyone can bring self-doubt into the Man of Steel, to the point where he has to run home to mommy (Diane Lane) for comforting.  If I had the powers of Superman, believe me the last problem I would ever have is lack of self-confidence.  I mean, I’m Superman for God’s sake! 

 But why Superman suddenly has a massive dislike for Batman, or why Batman is so concerned about a traitorous former employee, is never given the full dawn of justice.  While Cavill and Affleck do their best with the material, it is weak.  The supposed feud is never developed.  This is great for no-minds who want to see an epic battle, but totally lame sauce for those who want the battle to happen for a reason.

It would be easy here to blame screenwriter Chris Terrio for the lack of plot, but actually Director Zack Snyder and Warner Brothers may be more to blame.  Snyder made the movie originally with a four-hour length.  I’m fairly certain the story was fully developed in that time.  The WB said they would not back a film of that length, and demanded BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE be trimmed to a ‘reasonable’ length.  It is currently two hours and thirty-five minutes.  Snyder, before the film opened, spread over social media a statement claiming the home version of the movie would be well over three hours long, and carry an R-rating.  As soon as he said that, I think every serious film fan thought it best to wait for the DVD.  Faced with the unenviable task of trimming ninety minutes from the film, Editor David Brenner made some unwise decisions. 

During the final hour, after the two heroes battle, nearly destroying each other, they realize they have a common enemy in Lex Luthor, played by Jesse Eisenberg.  This is simply horrible casting.  Eisenberg is never believable as a calculating kingpin nor a member of the lunatic fringe.  He is the film’s definitive weak link.  Instead of his sequences augmenting the tension between the superheroes, it diminishes them.

KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:

1.      Batman saves Martha Kent
2.      Batman fights Superman
3.      Conversation between Alfred and Bruce

BATMAN  V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE wants desperately to appeal to the adult graphic novel reader.  Affleck helps the cause tremendously.  Simultaneously, WB and DC want the same young appeal as the AVENGERS films.  This film attempts both, and ends up succeeding in neither. 
Personally, I always like the darker, brooding superhero.  I’m looking forward to Ben Affleck’s solo Batman flick.  That probably places me in the minority. 

This movie could have developed the feud between Clark and Bruce much better and eliminated the entire Doomsday segment, and I think I would have enjoyed it more.  As soon as Doomsday arrives, the poorly developed adult story ends, and the super market comic book story begins.  The second half plays better, because the first half is so understated and incoherent.  It will be nice to see the home version.  There is so much more potential with this material.
 
GRADE FOR BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE = C

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

10 CLOVERFIELD LANE



10 CLOVERFIELD LANE

Film Review by Fiore 


No movie has disappointed me in quite a long time like 10 Cloverfield Lane.  The film is a total waste of time, building anticipation for a plotline that never develops.  A bit of history is in order to comprehend the disillusionment of this film.

Years ago, J.J. Abrams visited Japan.  He was overwhelmed by the iconic status of Godzilla there.  He admired how the King of Monsters was used in advertisements for all types of products and services and how it pervaded the culture.  He had a vision – to create an American monster that would capture the American psyche and become just as big a part of the country’s culture.
To that affect, he made Cloverfield.  The movie spawned the ‘found footage’ deluge still plaguing the monster and horror genre today.   Cloverfield was a big-budget novelty film, but the monster, barely seen except for a few quick shots in the movie’s final reel, failed dismally to capture viewers’ interest.

Abrams claimed the monster in the movie, though causing much havoc, was only a baby and that mamma monster was coming.  This conjured images of Gorgo to giant monster lovers everywhere.  He also claimed Cloverfield would be a trilogy, but as the box office results for America’s new monster sunk slowly in the bog and years passed with no additional word, Cloverfield seemed to be Abrams Folly.

Excitement augmented when a closed set project, simply known as Valencia, turned out to be 10 Cloverfield Lane, the second film in the promised trilogy.  The movie’s true identity was not known until the advertising campaign began; a secret better kept than Oliver Queen being the Green Arrow.

10 Cloverfield Lane is a terrible movie.  It is 90 minutes of slow, plodding comic book superficial character studies.  The story begins with Michelle, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, one of the dreaded three-name people.  She has a fight with voice-over only boyfriend Ben (Bradley Cooper), and can’t handle the situation like an adult so she packs up her stuff, leaves her engagement ring on the dresser, and runs away from home.  A car accident finds her in the bomb shelter of Howard, played by John Goodman.  Howard rescues Michelle, saves her life, and puts her in his bomb shelter because there has been an attack, either biological or chemical and the air is not safe to breath.  In the bunker with them is Emmitt (John Gallagher, Jr.).  These two are not, hopefully, representative of the Net Generation; she can’t handle confrontations, and he can’t handle challenges.  Howard shifts from survivalist to loon, seemingly at the whim of screenwriter Josh Campbell who doesn’t know what to do with the character.

KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:

1.      The crutch attack
2.      The first escape attempt. 

While some may consider this a spoiler, I consider it a public service announcement when I tell you 10 Cloverfield Lane has nothing to do with the original.  Don’t look for the monster, it’s simply not in the movie.  In fact, the only thing this has in connection with the original is the use of the word Cloverfield in the title.  This thing shifts from unique monster, to overly used and seen space worms.  Perhaps Abrams has spent too much time with Han Solo, or on the Enterprise.




10 Cloverfield Lane cost $15 million to make, and made $24 million on its opening weekend.  Unfortunately, this may encourage Abrams to complete the trilogy. I didn’t like the first movie and I loathe this second endeavor.   Don’t waste your money on this one.  Wait until it comes onto TV in a Sci-Fi Saturday night event.  Perhaps multiple commercial breaks and frequent trips to the frig can help 10 Cloverfield Lane seem enjoyable.




THE GRADE FOR 10 Cloverfield Lane = F



Tuesday, March 15, 2016

COWBOYS VS DINOSAURS



COWBOYS VS. DINOSAURS

Film Review by Fiore 


Watching TV, inevitably, the advertisement for Farmers Only. com will air.  It’s a dating service where farm boys can meet farm girls.  It’s filled with guys in jeans and cowboy hats, and girls in short dresses, or shorter cut-offs with halters, mid-riff tied jerseys and cowboy boots.  The ad appeals to a certain clientele and I couldn’t conjure who would be interested in this type of dating service until I watched COWBOYS VS. DINOSAURS.  If the Jihadis ever run down the streets screaming “Alluha Akbar”, a real possibility if the Dems win the next presidential election, then you want Scarlette Johannsson as Black Window to be by your side as your date.  But, if dinosaurs ever invade, you want the cowgirls with their short shorts, halter tops and dead-eye shooting ability.

Written and produced by Anthony Fankhauser, COWBOYS VS. DINOSAURS is destined to take a seat of prominence in the epicness that is defined as Sci-Fi Saturday night.  While not as noble as SHARKNADO, it will fit in nicely with SHARKTOPUS. PIRANHACONDA and SHARKTOPUS VS PTERACUDA.  Fankhauser has methane infused dinosaurs, most notably Tyrannosaurs and Velociraptors living in a hollow section of a mine.  When miners breech the opening, the dinos attack the town and nearby ranchers.  There is the mandatory subplot featuring a dishonored cowboy who comes home to gain past glories, and his past love, but that serves only as filler scenes between the dino attacks.

KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:

1.      The mine attack     
2.      Family reunion        
3.      T-Rex comes to town & the raptors visit the diner

COWBOYS VS. DINOSAURS stars Rib Hillis, who is becoming a staple of cheese-fi flicks, taking the mantle from the grand master, Jeffrey Combs.  Casey Fitzgerald, Vernon Wells, Sara Malakui Lane (a dreaded three named actress) co-star with Hillis; and Eric Roberts, who shifts from serious films to popcorn flicks like others change underwear, drops by long enough to make a strong cameo and exit by a budget restricted version of a Dilophosaurus. 

Of course, in a film like this, the main concern is not the acting, but rather how good the dinosaurs look.  In COWBOYS VS. DINOSAURS, they look pretty good.  The raptors in the opening sequence sport colorful feathers, keeping in vein with current paleo-thought.  Something happens after the opening sequence, because the raptors lose their feathers and look more like the trouble-makers from the original JURASSIC PARK.

The T-Rex looks good, coming complete with rippling muscles and protruding teeth.  This one is a little slower, though.  He plods, much like the older version of the Tyrant King.  It is hard to imagine this one keeping up with a racing jeep containing Dr. Ian Malcolm.

This isn’t the first time cowboys and dinosaurs have battled, to the detriment of the local town.  VALLEY OF GWANGI had cowboys, led by James Fransiscus fighting dinos from a lost valley.  Those dinos were created by the master of stop-motion photography, Ray Harryhaussen.  Dinos aren’t made that way anymore, and comparisons would be an apples and oranges affair.  With the new digital imagery, Director of Photography Stuart Brereton manages to shoot a fairly realistic prehistoric adventure.  There are only a few scenes, as in count them on one hand, where the matting of beasts and live actors is cheesy.  Some of the other films in the Sci-Fi Saturday Night genre contain matting that is really poor, like CROCOSAURUS, or MEGA-SHARK.    COWBOYS VS. DINOSAURS is several steps above those endeavors and with the use of quick cut cinematography, ranks better than Lorenzo Lamus’ RAPTOR ISLAND.



COWBOYS VS. DINOSAURS isn’t going to win any awards; it’s not designed to do that.  But if you want to gather with family and friends, let the popcorn and libations flow and enjoy 90 minutes of thrills and laughs, COWBOYS VS. DINOSAURS will provide an entertaining evening. 

THE GRADE FOR COWBOYS VS. DINOSAURS = B