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

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Face Off: Henry Cavill as Superman MovieSpoon.com

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 MovieSpoon.com

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=” http://popstermedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Jabba_the_Hutt-Anthony-Hall.png”]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

“Dragon” Continues To Soar, “Funeral” Close Behind, “Green Book” Back

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With little competition for the weekend, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third in the animated fantasy saga, was able to secure the box office once more. In its second weekend, the animated epic made $30 million to push its domestic total to $97 million. So far the film has done about the same as the previous film and is on track to stay in the top 10 for a few more weeks in March.

Debuts this weekend were small with one big exception. Tyler Perry’s latest Madea film, A Madea Family Funeral, naturally made a relatively big splash with its dedicated audience. Starting at #2, the film made $27 million for its first weekend. No word on the budget yet but it’s most likely on a budget as most Tyler Perry productions are, so it’s safe to call this a success, especially for debuting with a box office so close to Dragon.

The rest of the premieres were not as strong at all. Greta, the new thriller starring Chloe Moretz, debuted all the way down at #8 with $4.5 million box office. To be fair, however, the film was in a constant battle for its spot as three other films also reported earnings around $4 million for the weekend. Of note, Green Book, fresh off winning the Academy Award for Best Picture one weekend ago, splashed back into more theaters to arise even higher in the top 10 with its domestic total now sitting at $73 million. Don’t count on it remaining there long as bigger blockbusters will be swooping as we plow through the last remnants of winter movies.

Check out the full listing of the top 10 box office weekend results below:

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($30,046,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($27,050,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($7,000,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($6,615,000)

Green Book ($4,711,000)

Fighting With My Family ($4,691,284)

Isn’t it Romantic ($4,645,000)

Greta ($4,585,000)

What Men Want ($2,700,000)

Happy Death Day 2U ($2,516,000)

Next weekend is once again all about Marvel as their latest superhero solo film, Captain Marvel, will be appearing in 4,100 theaters.


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Review: “Captain Marvel” is a Solidly Sensational Sci-Fi Adventure

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Captain Marvel joins the ranks of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a much different way. She slides into the MCU via a twisty sci-fi adventure of the 1990s, before the Avengers were formed. And though the film does serve as a strong bridge picture that answers a few more questions about the Marvel universe, the film quickly becomes its own thing and gives its hero a real identity as the powerful addition to the superhero ensemble.

Brie Larson plays Carol Danvers, a woman not sure if she’s a human pilot of Earth or a soldier of the Kree empire’s Starforce. There’s little time to explore these conflicting visions she’s having when there’s special energy powers to control and a war being waged against the shape-shifting Skrull alien creatures. A detour to 1990s Earth gives her a bit of time to find out more while also hunting down some more Skrulls, leading to some interesting scenarios when combatting aliens that could look like old ladies.

Marvel Studios’ CAPTAIN MARVEL..Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) ..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019

Carol’s landing on Earth leads to treading down familiar Marvel timeline territory as well as evoking plenty of dated 1990s bits. What started drawing me into the picture was how the film holds itself back from the obvious. The 1990s setting is used for some gags of video stores and Windows 95, sure, but never goes the extra mile of becoming an aggravating reference fest, keeping a certain vibe the way Guardians of the Galaxy embraced the 1970s and 1980s. And just like that film, there’s a nostalgic soundtrack to boot, with choice tracks for just the right cue.

Samuel L. Jackson pops up in the film as a younger Nick Fury with his two eyes still intact. He teams up with Carol in her intergalactic spy adventure and thankfully never goes to the booming lengths he was known for that decade. And the filmmakers could have easily made this younger Fury go full Die Hard 3 or Pulp Fiction but he never does, always keeping that cool persona he has been known for in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Marvel Studios’ CAPTAIN MARVEL..L to R: Att-Lass (Algenis Perez Soto), Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) and Minn-Erva (Gemma Chan)..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019

But the one aspect that is never shunned and built up grandly is the aspect of female empowerment. Danvers is established as a woman who doesn’t have a clear identity or mindful nature of galactic politics and has to build herself up when she realizes she may be a very powerful pawn in a big game of intergalactic chess. Her memories are that of always being told to back off from non-traditional activities for girls and, sure enough, she rises up to become the smirking and energy-shooting hero when the final piece of her character puzzle is pieced together. It’s just unfortunate that the film spends so much time doing the building amid a twisty sci-fi spy story that Brie never gets a moment to shine as brightly as she could, despite a very enthusiastic third-act closer.

If we’re being blunt, no, Captain Marvel doesn’t quite have the same gravity to be a cultural milestone of a comic book movie. Where others have pointed to Black Panther as not the first the most insightful and cultural of black-led superhero movies, I doubt many will look towards Captain Marvel as the grandest of female-led comic book movies, making its motives known with the power and subtlety of a supernova. But, in terms of what the film is aiming towards, it doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone and that’s perhaps the point. I just wish that Captain Marvel’s astounding powers to destroy starships and aliens had a much bigger punch for a picture that wants to obliterate the glass ceiling and merely cuts a narrow hole within the MCU. It’s a nice hole, mind you, and still weaves a capable and compelling sci-fi adventure with a surprisingly more engaging finale than most Marvel solos.


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“Alita” Fights For First, Romance and Horror Behind in Box Office

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Valentine’s Day weekend wasn’t exactly the weekend where the romantic comedy took the top spot. But, surprise, the top spots were taken by a sci-fi action picture and an animated comedy about toys. #1 for the weekend was Alita: Battle Angel, the cyberpunk tale based on the manga and directed by Robert Rodriguez, premiering to a debut of $27 million. Though at the top spot, the film cost $170 million so it remains to be seen how well the film will do over the course of the next few weeks when it goes up against other blockbusters.

At #2 in its second weekend is The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part, the animated sequel to the 2014 surprise hit, making another $21 million. Though not terrible for its second weekend, the film has only made $62 million so far, way less than the previous film. It, too, remains to be seen if it can weather the storm of new films on the horizon.

We now come to the romantic comedy for the weekend, Isn’t It Romantic, a satire on rom-coms starring Rebel Wilson. Debuting at #3, the film made $14 million, not as strong even when considering that it debuted on the 13th for a box office total of $20 million. The other new film, Happy Death Day 2U, didn’t fare much better with an early debut and a weekend total of $9.8 million. Although it should be noted that Happy Death Day 2U was a somewhat cheap production at $9 million so the film has already made its money back.

Though the box office was pretty low all around, the drops were fairly low, with the thriller Cold Pursuit and the horror The Prodigy taking the biggest drops of 45% and 46%. With the lowest drops, no surprises, were the soft dramas of The Upside and Green Book, both proving to have the legs to carry themselves over months in the box office.

Take a look at the full top 10 box office results for the weekend below:

Alita: Battle Angel ($27,800,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($21,215,000)

Isn’t It Romantic ($14,210,000)

What Men Want ($10,920,000)

Happy Death Day 2U ($9,816,000)

Cold Pursuit ($6,000,000)

The Upside ($5,590,000)

Glass ($3,859,000)

The Prodigy ($3,150,065)

Green Book ($2,751,000)

Next weekend is all about the dragons and warriors. How to Train Your Dragon 3, the animated fantasy adventure of the on-going saga, will hit over 4,000 theaters. Fighting with My Family, a comedy about a family of professional fighters, will debut in over 2,500 theaters.





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