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Movie Review: ‘Justice League’ Plays Its Superheroes Silly and Safe

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The coming of the Justice League isn’t quite the grand superhero ensemble event of the year, but it didn’t come with the same dreadful disappointment of Batman v. Superman. This is more like a Thanksgiving dinner of an awkward family struggling to make the gathering work. They quip, quibble, babble in cliches and never entirely gel as well as they should. Still, they make the best of a familiar formula, albeit speeding past the grunt work Marvel put into defining their characters for a grand team-up.

Justice League ArticleNot long after Superman’s untimely demise, the Earth is already facing a new threat that drops on the world’s heroes as abruptly as it does the audience. Batman (Ben Affleck) has found that strange, bug-like creatures are searching for alien boxes that emit energy, dubbed Motherboxes. He doesn’t fully understand what they do but is smart enough to know that an evil scheme is afoot and that he needs a team. Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is already onboard, having aided Batman once before and biding her time in Europe, working in art galleries and fighting crime every time a terrorist appears. We know enough about these characters to appreciate their candor. The heroes they hire, however, don’t have that kind of time.

Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) is quick to join the team as The Flash, living as a loner with the powers of super speed. Victor Stone (Ray Fisher) still needs a bit of time to adjust to his new robotic body to become the high-tech hero Cyborg. Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa), the bearded prince of the underwater kingdom of Atlantis, is more of a reluctant frat guy, not so keen to join a team unless there’s some beer, babes or noble action involved. Even though the film loads each of them up with supporting characters, the script wastes little time detailing their origins, skating by most of them with brief explanations. Barry Allen got his powers from lightning; great. Victor Stone absorbed the powers of a Motherbox; got it. Arthur Curry talks to fish; sure, although he suggests the water does most of the talking.

The big bad for this hero gathering is surprisingly underwhelming, despite his whole destructive conquering of the world bit. Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) is a familiar villain to Wonder Woman’s people, though I’m surprised they instantly recognized him with his thorny helmet and flaming weapon, looking as though he shopped at the same store as Aries. His goals are nothing special, nor are they all that coherent. According to Wonder Woman’s jumbled account, he needs to collect three Motherboxes that will combine to turn the Earth into an apocalyptic wasteland. He keeps babbling on about the New Gods and the evil force known as Darkseid, terms that’ll breed goosebumps in DC Comics fans and head-scratching among the uninitiated.

Zack Snyder initially wrote justice League, but Joss Whedon was brought onboard to lighten up the script. You can certainly see the two contrasting forces at play here. The premise of these characters sounds dark; Barry has a dad in prison, Victor is ashamed of being a technological monster and Arthur has some issues with the lineage of Atlantis. Whedon’s writing adds some Prozac to the mixture, medicating Snyder’s dower elements into something wittier and light. I use the pharmaceutical reference because the charisma and comedy come artificial, built more to extract quick laughs than building ones.

This is most evident with the underdeveloped Aquaman, speaking more in action punctuations of “my man!” and “yeah!” than of his kingdom or his identity in the world above water. Take a look at the contrast in the film; we first see him as a stoic and silent provider for a small village, only for him to end up in the final scene as the chipper surfer dude of the League. I suppose Aquaman is now cool to the masses, even if it’s mostly because of nothing quips and a hot body. At least nobody in the audience burst out laughing when he zips through the seas.

Despite the film’s numerous attempts of falling flat on its face with jokes that are not as funny and speeches that are a tad too corny, there’s an admirable effort present for Snyder jumping gung-ho into DC’s more profound lore. About halfway through the film, the team realizes they can’t defeat Steppenwolf without Superman. How they bring him back to life is one of the weirdest plans of any superhero film, so strange that even the heroes think this might be in poor taste. Oddly enough, however, it makes sense for DC Comics. For as overly-eager as Snyder is to throw everything into Justice League, it’s a bit refreshing that he foregoes most of the time-wasting explanations of Atlantis, the Speed Force, Parademons, New Gods and Darkseid. There’s even a Green Lantern briefly mentioned in a backstory, proving that seemingly nothing is off limits for this universe.

Though Justice League stumbles and never quite finds its groove until the end of the picture, there’s better promise for this franchise’s future. Many of Snyder’s mistakes have been better resolved, graduating from letting civilians die, to excusing civilians from demolished cities, to finally saving citizens from harm’s way. There are bits and pieces of a great hero team present that start to come further and further together as the film continues. And there’s just something so satisfying about a movie where The Flash whisks civilians to safety, Wonder Woman can use her truth-telling lasso for pranks, and Superman can use his freeze-breath on his enemies. The expanded universe of DC Comics hasn’t quite reached that pique level of superhero charm, but it has at least found its way out of the incoherent darkness.

P.S.: While I’ve grown to despise post-credit Easter Eggs, I was delighted to stay for what made me all the more hopeful for the next Justice League outing.

[author title=”About the Author” image=”http://popstermedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/mark_mcpherson-300×221-150×150.jpg”]Movie Reviewer Mark McPherson has been all about movies since working at a video store in his youth. His talents range from video editing to animation to web development, but movies have always been his passion to write about.[/author]


Box Office

“Ralph” and “Grinch” Steal Slow Box Office Weekend

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Aside from the re-release of Schindler’s List, there is nothing new in the box office for the weekend. Seriously, there’s nothing. And I thought last weekend was slow. With no new films in the running, it’s pretty much a repeat as the box office takes a snow day.

Once again, no surprise, Ralph Breaks The Internet is still on top. In its third weekend, the animated Disney adventure grossed $16 million for the weekend and $140 million for its domestic total. It still has a ways to go to top its $175 million but it should be closing in soon. Also no surprise following closely behind is Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch, the computer-animated holiday comedy based on the book by Dr. Seuss. After five weekends, it’s still in the top 5, making another $15 million for the weekend and $223 million domestic total. Worth noting is that, despite this weekend being slow, the movie only took a 15% dip from last weekend. And you can bet it’ll be sticking around for the rest of December.

As for everything else, very few films moved from their spots with one exception. Green Book, the historical racial drama, is picking up steam and has moved up from #10 last weekend to #7 after being added to more than 100 more theaters. Good word of mouth is getting around about this film as its domestic total is now sitting at $19 million for being in less than 2,000 theaters after four weekends.

Check out the full box office results below:
Ralph Breaks The Internet ($16,141,000)
Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch ($15,175,000)
Creed II ($10,322,515)
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald ($6,805,000)
Bohemian Rhapsody ($6,000,000)
Instant Family ($5,600,000)
The Possession of Hannah Grace ($3,935,000)
Robin Hood ($3,585,000)
Widows ($3,175,000)
Green Book ($3,100,000)

Next weekend, the break is over and genre movies will be in full swing. Mortal Engines, a CGI-heavy fantasy, will debut in 3,000 theaters. The Mule, a new drug-related drama directed and starring Clint Eastwood, will premiere in 2,400 theaters. And Sony’s new animated superhero film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, will be hitting 3,400 theaters. It’s a pretty much a sure bet that Spider-Man will take that weekend, given its PG-rated superhero appeal and the big word-of-mouth it’s getting from critic circles.


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“Ralph” Reigns Again on Slow Box Office Weekend

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We’re currently in the eye of the fall movie storm. All is fairly quiet this weekend. The only new release was that of a small horror film, The Possession of Hannah Grace. So small, in fact, that it only came in at #7 for the weekend with a gross of $6.5 million. As such, few films moved very far from their spots. Last weekend’s winner, the animated adventure Ralph Breaks The Internet, was once again on top, even though it wasn’t a very strong second weekend of $25 million, a 54% drop. Still, the film has made $119 million so far and is well on its way to covering its $175 million budget.

Surprisingly jumping up a spot is Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch, the latest animated film Illumination Studios based on the classic Christmas book. The film jumped up from #3 to #2, making $17 million with the domestic gross now up to $203 million. Creed II, the sequel to the Rocky spinoff, took a step down for its second weekend, grossing $16 million with a domestic total of $81 million. It’s no surprise that the biggest drop of the weekend was Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, the sequel to the Harry Potter spinoff. Due to low critic ratings and poor fan reactions, the film tumbled 61% with its domestic gross sitting at $134 million.

Ivo Nandi stars as Moscow Referee and Florian Munteanu as Viktor Drago in CREED II,
a Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures film.
Credit: Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures / Warner Bros. Pictures
© 2018 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
All Rights Reserved.

View the full top 10 box office winner for the weekend below.

Ralph Breaks The Internet ($25,756,000)
Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch ($17,730,000)
Creed II ($16,832,863)
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald ($11,200,000)
Bohemian Rhapsody ($8,100,000)
Instant Family ($7,150,000)
The Possession of Hannah Grace ($6,500,000)
Robin Hood ($4,700,000)
Widows ($4,400,000)
Green Book ($3,900,000)

Next weekend is so sparse with new content that the biggest release is going to be an anniversary screening of Schindler’s List, hitting 1,000 screens. It’s a good time to take in some smaller releases as Mary Queen of Scots, Ben is Back, and Vox Lux will be having limited releases. So it’s safe to expect a repeat of this weekend’s trends in the box office.


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“Ralph” Breaks The Box Office, “Creed” Close Behind

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Thanksgiving week is a time for family and there were plenty out to the theater last week for an animated family picture. Ralph Breaks The Internet, the Disney-animated sequel to 2012’s video game adventure comedy Wreck-It Ralph, came in at #1 for the weekend with $55 million and $84 million since its debut on Wednesday. This puts it above the Disney studio’s previous Thanksgiving hit Moana, which had a 5-day total of $82 million.

Not too far behind is Creed II, the sequel to the Rocky spin-off starring Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone. The boxing sequel took in $35 million for the weekend and $55 million since Wednesday. This is a stronger opening than the first film which came in at $29 million for the weekend.

And it was slim leftovers for the two other debuts. Robin Hood, the latest action remake of the classic tale, came in at #7 with only $9 million for the weekend, $14 million since Wednesday. Green Book, a drama about a black singer in the racist south of America, came in at #9 for its expanded week to make $5 million for the weekend and $7 million for its domestic total.

The Crimes of Grindelwald is not fairing to well for its second weekend. The Harry Potter spin-off has dropped to #4 with a domestic weekend gross of $30 million, a 52% drop. The film still hasn’t cleared its $200 million budget with a domestic gross of $117 million and it looks like it may never cross that mark as we head into December with more genre titles. Beating it out for #3 is Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch, the theatrically animated adaptation by Illumination, that is proving to have great legs coming into the holiday season. Worth noting at #10 is A Star Is Born, its domestic total now having crossed $191 million to make it one of the most profitable films of the year.

View the full top 10 box office results for the weekend below:

Ralph Breaks The Internet ($55,672,000)
Creed II ($35,293,000)
Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch ($30,210,000)
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald ($29,650,000)
Bohemian Rhapsody ($13,855,000)
Instant Family ($12,500,000)
Robin Hood ($9,125,000)
Widows ($7,955,000)
Green Book ($5,443,000)
A Star is Born ($3,005,000)

Next weekend is, well, it’s pretty dead. So dead that a ghost movie is occupying the rather blank spot. Possession of Hannah Grace, a modest horror production, will be arriving in under 2,000 theaters. So it’s fair to say you can expect Ralph to breakthrough for another weekend of success.


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