Movie Review: Justice League

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Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), and the rest prepare to kick some ass in Zack Snyder’s Justice League. (Source: IMDb)

The DC Extended Universe has finally released a great movie this year with Wonder Woman. Not only did it become the highest-grossing film ever to be directed by a female, but it sparked a new light into popular culture; as it did back in the 1970s. Wonder Woman teams up with Batman and new group of heroes in Justice League, the shortest film in the franchise (clocking in at two hours). Zack Snyder returns to the director’s chair to give a big, beautiful mess. Surprisingly, however, I find it to be quite solid.

After Batman’s (Ben Affleck) fight with Superman (Henry Cavill), Gotham City is in mourning after Superman’s death. Bruce Wayne recruits Diana Prince a.k.a. Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) to save the world from a group of mythical aliens, led by Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds). They assemble the Justice League. This includes Barry Allen a.k.a. The Flash (Ezra Miller), Arthur Curry a.k.a. Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and Victor Stone a.k.a. Cyborg (Ray Fisher). All of them work together to show Steppenwolf who’s boss.

I will never forget what Snyder did to ruin Batman vs. Superman. He has a tremendous visual style, but he never has enough substance to carry through. While Man of Steel had a different take on Superman, Batman vs. Superman fell apart after the first 30 minutes. The biggest problem with DCEU is how their movies (except Wonder Woman) take themselves so seriously. While Justice League can draw comparisons to The Avengers, I had a good time with it. With a screenplay written by Joss Whedon (of all people), the movie manages to have somewhat of a sense of humor. While the cast does a good job, Miller is the one who steals the show. He maintains Barry Allen’s geeky personality almost to perfection.

While there is a lot of kick-ass action to feast the eyes (how can you not get pumped during the scene where Wonder Woman takes down those terrorists in London?), the movie falters with its bland villain and dull subplots surrounding Superman and Lois Lane (Amy Adams). It’s riddled with holes and it should have been a little longer. But–at least we all got a taste of the upcoming Aquaman. And boy–does it look good!

2.5/4

Movie Review: Arrival

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Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) sees something in the distance in Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival. (Source: Seattle Times)

After making two of the best films of the decade—Prisoners and Sicario, director Denis Villeneuve transitions to the realm of science fiction. It’s the kind of science fiction that doesn’t rely on action sequences, but rather on words and ideas.

Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is a linguistics professor whose lecture is interrupted by news coverage of twelve alien pods hovering in different locations around the world. She is accepted by Colonel GT Weber (Forest Whitaker) to go to a site in Montana where one of the pods is located. As the leader of a group of including theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), Louise tries everything to communicate with the aliens. The closer she gets to solve the mystery, the closer the other nations are to a war.

Like with his two previous films, Villeneuve gives the power of what filmmaking is all about. Something that shakes us to the very core. Something that is realistic. Something that can be discussed about for years. While it can be compared to other sci-fi movies such as Signs or Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Arrival is more than just your usual alien invasion flick. It asks questions such as: Who and what are these beings? Why are they here? Do they pose as a threat to humanity, or otherwise?

What’s part of the film’s brilliance is it’s entirely grounded in the realm of the need to communicate. Thanks to a miraculous screenplay by Eric Heisserer, it makes the audience try to solve the puzzle for themselves, while, thanks to the Villeneuve’s smooth direction, absorbing them into the mystery and the majestic beauty of Bradford Young’s cinematography provided by Johann Johannsson’s angelic score. While it doesn’t move at a fast pace, it takes its time to develop questions and makes us wonder the outcome.

Amy Adams’ Louise is so compassionate and persevered that she can do anything to connect with the aliens rather than start a fight with them (I’ll be glad if she gets some Oscar recognition for this movie). Providing enough wit and charisma from Renner and Whitaker, they are also the heart and soul of this devastatingly powerful film.

Arrival is what Interstellar should have been. A rich, thought-provoking, mind-bending experience that has absolutely no time for any B.S. One of the year’s best!

4/4

Movie Review: Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice

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Two superheroes are about to clash in Zack Snyder’s Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice

Sadly, the red capes have come to the silver screen.

With years of anticipation, we finally get a movie featuring two of DC’s most iconic superheroes—Batman and Superman—going at it. It does sound like a fun time, right? Not exactly.

Ever since Ben Affleck was announced, he didn’t seem to be the right actor to play the caped crusader. Zack Snyder returns to the director’s chair after giving his own darker take on Superman in Man of Steel (although flawed there is still some mild enjoyment to be found), and Henry Cavill gives a fine portrayal as the title character. I figured Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice might make up for the problems Man of Steel had; making Superman a controversial figure after destroying mankind as opposed to saving it. With a promising beginning, the movie quickly falls apart.

Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) is now working at the Daily Planet. The controversy surrounding Superman gets everybody’s attention including Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), whose parents got fatally shot when he was a child. Now, he lives with his butler Alfred Pennyworth (Jeremy Irons). As Batman, he fights crime in Gotham City (with a darker side of his own). As his rivalry with Clark begins, they encounter the LexCorp CEO Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), whose diabolical plan known as Doomsday (who looks like a decomposed version of the Hulk) will bring chaos to Metropolis. Along with Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), they team up to save the world.

With his unique visual style, Snyder cannot direct a compelling story. It’s a shame given that I have been a huge fan of Batman and Superman for a long time. There is so much potential being put in the two-and-a-half hour running time. As a result, the movie goes all over the place!

When I saw the movie late Saturday night with a decent-sized crowd, I had a lot—I mean, A LOT—of thoughts going on. It keeps raising questions without any answers. There are scenes that are there for the sake of keeping the movie going (e.g. Superman saving the day in Mexico during a Day of the Dead parade). Even though Affleck (who gives a surprisingly emotional portrayal of Batman/Bruce Wayne) and Gadot exceeded my expectations, they, along with everyone else, are written as thin as a piece of paper. Hell, Batman murders people without any given reason whatsoever. Amy Adams’ Lois Lane is a bore, and Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is laughably psychotic—how could he ruin such a great comic book villain? Even though how deadly serious the movie’s tone is, he provides moments of unintentional hilarity especially when he comes face-to-face with the judge (Holly Hunter) prior to Superman’s court appearance.

The faulty exposition leads up to yet another boring CGI-fueled, PG-13 fight sequence consisting of the two heroes throwing fists and crashing through walls. The audiences cares less on who will win. Snyder has created yet another convoluted mess, and it reminds me that I’m glad Affleck is going to direct and star in his upcoming Batman trilogy.

1/4

Movie Review: Big Eyes

Walter Keene takes credit for Margeret Keene's art in Tim Burton's "Big Eyes"

Walter Keene takes credit for Margeret Keene’s art in Tim Burton’s “Big Eyes”

Big Eyes is Tim Burton’s first biopic since 1994’s Ed Wood. He has given us a new masterpiece that is witty, thought-provoking, and tense providing two phenomenal performance by two great actors. Not to mention the essence of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Margaret Keane (Amy Adams) is a successful painter known for her portraits of big-eyed children. However, she doesn’t get recognition from people in San Francisco. That is because her husband Walter (Christoph Waltz) takes credit for her work, selling them in restaurants and stores, and becoming a national celebrity. While Margaret is afraid to publicly protest, their marriages begins to crumble, and soon end up in court in one of 2014’s best.

4/4