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Review: ‘Batman V Superman’ Has Blockbuster Fever (But Not In A Good Way)



Face Off: Henry Cavill as Superman

Face Off: Henry Cavill as Superman

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is a clear case of reviewer futility. That is to say, a poor review is not going to stop a lot of people from going to to see it, anyway. It has blockbuster fever written all over it, no matter how much a critic might try to stop you from wasting your money.

A blockbuster mentality, however, is just one of the major problems with Batman V Superman. The idea of selling tickets as an artistic game-changer is evident from the film’s catchy, but horrendous casting choices to its endlessly explosive ending – the explosion that never quits – to its baffling beginning, which lasts about an hour or so before the plot jells into something cohesive.

That’s a long hour waiting for something to make sense. Oddly, director Zack Snyder chooses to circle the globe putting together unexplained scenes that will later have some nominal importance to the plot, which was very confusing. He then goes through the motions re-telling the same, old chestnut of a young Bruce Wayne walking down the street with his parents at night, when they are gunned down by a petty thief and the subsequent scene of his falling through a opening to a cave, where he is besieged by the haunting image of tens of thousands of bats. Haven’t we done all this before?

Gal Gadot Wonder Woman

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

Except for Henry Cavill as Superman and Laurence Fishburne as Perry White, the casting is all wrong. Cavill is super. He is stoic, steely-eyed and a bit of a blockhead, all the things we love about the man in the red cape. But Ben Affleck is puffy and slow as Batman and Jesse Eisenberg is annoying, rather than threatening as Lex Luther – who is supposed to want to take over Gotham, not just bother us. Amy Adams plays a terrific role as Lois Lane, but the problem is she is scripted to be someone else. She great, but she just isn’t Lois Lane. Gal Gadot provides the requisite eye candy as Wonder Woman but don’t expect much by way of acting chops.

Another misguided directing decision for Batman V Superman was for Snyder to take Batman and Superman out of their element, which is the late 1950s and early 1960s. Batman dialing in Alfred on a cell phone? It doesn’t ring true. But there it is on his parents graves: His father, in this film, was born in 1946 and was gunned down in 1981. That’s a big risk and it largely doesn’t work.

It’s a mistake not only because it allows for incongruous devices (like cell phones), but because the film doesn’t know where it is. Is it a campy rollick through the days when a nickle was a nickle and a punch was a punch? Or is it a modern film noir replete with terrorists carrying uzis?

This matters, because Snyder’s Batman is scruffy and isolated. He never shaves, even for the mandatory scenes in which he is dressed to the nines. Bruce Wayne, here, has very little social finesse and no friends. Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth, another casting faux pas, also looks more like an tweedy hobo than a billionaire’s butler.

Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne and Batman

Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne / Batman

Instead, because it is modern times, Lois Lane is a modern, sexy, investigative reporter (hey, try to keep up) and the Bat Cave is both dingy and dark, but it is outfitted with huge computer screens that Alfred and Bruce both use expertly. What is Batman now – an antisocial hacker? Well, one can’t live in the 1950s forever.

For his part, Superman is great in every scene. This guy has presence, even when the director chooses to get in the way with dopey gimmicks, like having his eyes turn blazing red when he is mad, but having them simmer down when talked out of his anger.

What’s to like about Batman V Superman? Well, after the first hour, suddenly the plot pulls together and Lex Luther does start pulling some very wild, troublesome stunts, like blowing up things and upping the ante with more than just pesky threats. The Batman, on the side, is so isolated, he now sees Superman as a threat, so he tries to stop him from doing what he does — a very bad idea — and the two duke it out – an anticlimax in the extreme, but at least now two superheroes are are punching with purpose.

The finale is one to remember and it brought me back to the good, old days, when a nickle was a nickle and a comic was a comic. This ending has Marvel written all over it. Sure, it goes on for too long. It’s uproariously spellbinding – just like turning the page on a comic and finding a switch to a full page layout, because the scene wouldn’t fit in a one-sixth of a page story board. This is a big, bad showstopper ending and it offers no apologies. Hey, Batman and Superman are retro melodramas, anyway, and if you are going to be crowding one side of the stage with two heroes, then you need much more than an annoying villain to fill up the other half.

So even though Batman V Superman has stinker written all over it you should see it anyway. Some things, good, bad or indifferent, you just have to see for yourself.

[author title=”Anthony Hall” image=””]Movie guy Anthony Hall is an enigma. He’s never been photographed and only works late at night after everyone has left the office. Hall’s articles have appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Miami Herald (and more). [/author]

Box Office

“The Grinch” Steals Box Office, “Overlord” and “Spider” Left With Scraps



The holiday Christmas movie season starts early as it usually does in November. Just one week after The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, along comes Dr. Suess’ The Grinch, the theatrical animated adaptation of the classic children’s novel, helmed by Illumination Studios of Despicable Me fame. The animated comedy raked in $66 million for its first weekend, well on its way to conquering its $75 million budget as the holidays roll on. Given Illumination’s track record with comedy among kids, expect the film to stick around for the next two months.

The rather high box office of Grinch stole the thunder of the other two films debuting this weekend. Overlord, a Nazi zombie action/horror romp, debuted at #3 with a domestic gross of $10.1 million, which is not exactly a strong opening for a film with a $38 million budget. But it could’ve been worse as The Girl in the Spider’s Web: A New Dragon Tattoo Story, the action sequel to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, premiered at #5 with a box office take of only $8 million on a $43 million budget. Don’t be surprised if you see these darker, violent films take a tumble coming into the holiday season that seeks more PG-13 genre films for the families to venture out to the theater for.

Bohemian Rhapsody, the Freddie Mercury and Queen biopic, is holding firm at #2 on its second weekend with a weekend gross of $30.8 million, bumping its domestic total up to $100 million. The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, however, isn’t doing so well in its second weekend. The Disney fantasy adventure only made $9.5 million over the weekend, a 53% drop with a domestic total sitting at a meager $35 million. Not a very strong take for a Disney Christmas fantasy that cost $120 million.

It’s no surprise, however, that David Gordon Green’s Halloween took the biggest dip of the weekend at 64%. It’s surprising the horror film is even still here at #9 in the box office, the domestic total now sitting at a very pleasing $156 million. Also holding firm once again at #10 is The Hate U Give, having made $26 million for only being in 1,100 theaters.

View the full top 10 box office weekend results below.

Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch ($66,000,000)
Bohemian Rhapsody ($30,850,000)
Overlord ($10,100,000)
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms ($9,565,000)
The Girl in the Spider’s Web: A New Dragon Tattoo Story ($8,015,000)
A Star is Born ($8,010,000)
Nobody’s Fool ($6,540,000)
Venom ($4,850,000)
Halloween ($3,840,000)
The Hate U Give ($2,070,000)

Next weekend will feature magical beasts versus dysfunctional families versus women robbers. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, the second film in the new Harry Potter spin-off series, will debut in 4,000 theaters. Instant Family, a family comedy starring Rose Byrne and Mark Wahlberg, will hit 3,000 theaters. Also debuting in 3,000 theaters will be Widows, the all-star heist picture directed by Steve McQueen and starring Viola Davis.

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Movie News

Review: “Overlord” is a Gritty, Gory Genre Mash



Overlord is one of those delicious genre blenders that delivers World War II action and viciously gruesome body horror into a beautifully bloody cocktail of entertainment. In the same way that From Dusk Till Dawn convinced you into watching one type of film before switching gears, so too does this war film that soon mutates into an equally as frightening tale of science experiments gone wrong. And although the subgenre of Nazi zombies is a fairly small one, this is by far one of the most fun.

Starting loud and explosive, making great use of IMAX, we’re quickly thrown into the action with an interesting ensemble of soldiers tasked with taking down a Nazi control tower in French territory. Private Boyce (Jovan Adepo) is fearful of combat and reasonably so when everyone is shooting at you when making a rocky landing and losing more than half his comrades. His methods of choosing the least lethal options clashes greatly with the ruthless Captain Ford, played by a stellar Wyatt Russell, son of Kurt Russell who has that same great level of grit in his performance. Meeting up with a handful of other soldiers, they secretly make their plans in a Nazi-occupied French village to assault the tower where the Nazis have established a base.

Though Boyce is prepared to take down the target, he’s not prepared for what he discovers underneath the base. The Nazis have a classic mad doctor hard at work on breeding the ultimate race of super soldiers. These monsters are not ready yet and Boyce, unfortunately, happens upon the stepping stones of mangled corpses, howling undead, and decapitated heads begging for death. Of course, this is all helmed by a nervous mad scientist, Dr. Schmidt (Erich Redman), and a sneeringly sinister overseeing Nazi Officer Wafner (Pilou Asbæk).

While the Nazi experiments are in desperate need of improvement, Overlord shoots straight for the guts with gusto when it comes to the action and terror. The US soldiers are portrayed as a lot of colorful characters, including the nasally joking Tibbet (John Magaro) that provides vital comic support. The Nazis are seen as unhinged evil, never wasting an opportunity to shoot a civilian in the streets or rape a woman when she is cornered. And the monsters all feel like brilliant works of terrifying body horror, where necks snap open and chunks of flesh fall off the face. Consider how when the French civilian of Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier) gets in on the action; she quickly goes from fearful sister looking after her ailing aunt to a flamethrower-touting badass.

But what’s most remarkable about all this is how it never feels the need to blatantly wink with its theatrics, shying away from trying too hard to seem badass. This movie is badass and it knows enough not to amp up the humor when setting undead zombies aflame or watching someone’s body contort in unnatural ways. The tongue is buried firmly in cheek, chewing on its meaty set pieces of blood and explosions to stand firm without a knowing nod to the audience. Such earnest seems almost rare in films that want to replicate that grindhouse flavor of filmmaking.

Overlord more than earns its brutal showdown of fierce fights and abundance of firey blasts, putting in all the grunt work of a capable war and horror film. With the relatively fresh direction of Julius Avery, it’s a film that is smart enough to have faith in its grit of the disturbing elements from both genres that it never feels the need to spice it up too high with self-consciousness. And in its own weird way, it’s serious and subtle enough that we can buy into the fantasy of a Nazi zombie story told straight with character and cunning. After all, we’ve already had the over-the-top angle with Dead Snow. The time has finally come for this subgenre to be taken seriously. Or about as seriously as it can be taken.

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Box Office

Big “Bohemian Rhapsody” Opening While “Nutcracker” Trails



In weekend box office battle, it’s Queen who is king. Bohemian Rhapsody, the Freddy Mercury and Queen biopic, came in at #1 making $50 million domestic. With a $52 million budget, this is a very successful opening for the film, despite the mixed critic reaction. Falling just behind it with less than half the take is The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, Disney’s latest fantasy adventure debuting early for the Christmas season. The film did poorly with critics and even poorer at the box office, bringing in only $20 million which is not a good debut at all for such an expensive epic. Also just behind is Tyler Perry’s new romantic comedy, Nobody’s Fool, taking in $14 million, strangely low for a Tyler Perry movie, especially when you consider that higher budget of $19 million.

Since Halloween is over, it’s natural to see that David Gordon Green’s Halloween would dip in the box office and it certainly fell the lowest this week with a 64% drop. Falling sharply from #1 to #5, the film made $11 million for the weekend but it’s not a huge concern given the film has already made $150 million on a budget of $10 million. Almost tying with the picture is A Star Is Born, the Bradley Cooper/Lady Gaga musical drama that has proven to be a box office darling, earning $11.1 million over the weekend with a $165 million domestic gross. And still sticking like goo to the box office is Venom, Sony’s solo villain picture starring Tom Hardy, making another $7.8 million for a domestic total nearly at $200 million.

Aside from A Star is Born being the smallest drop of the weekend, it also tied for the lowest drop with Smallfoot, Warner Bros animated comedy that is proving to have modest legs to stick around. The animated film with the voices of Channing Tatum and James Cordon made $3.8 million for a $77 million domestic gross. And The Hate U Give, the racial drama, is still hanging in there at #10 with a domestic total now sitting at $23 million, rather strong for a drama that slowly rose up over the course of October.

Bohemian Rhapsody ($50,000,000)
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms ($20,000,000)
Nobody’s Fool ($14,000,000)
A Star is Born ($11,100,000)
Halloween ($11,015,000)
Venom ($7,850,000)
Smallfoot ($3,805,000)
Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween ($3,700,000)
Hunter Killer ($3,525,000)
The Hate U Give ($3,400,000)

We hope you’re ready for Christmas because those movies are going to start early. Next weekend will see the 4,000 theater debut of The Grinch, the latest animated comedy from Illumination Studios based on the classic Dr. Seuss book. But it’ll have some adult competition with The Girl in the Spider’s Web: A New Dragon Tattoo Story opening in 3,000 theaters (the sequel to 2011’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), and Overlord, a Nazi zombie action picture, opening in 2,500 theaters.

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