Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

As a blanket disclaimer, let’s just agree that SPOILERS may and probably will show up. This isn’t an extensive review, but in order to talk about what I’m about to talk about (English is Fun!) I need the rest of the movie available for referencing.

 

Consider that your warning!

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First of all a big, and I mean HUGE, thank you to the Russo Brothers, Kevin Feige, and Marvel Studios for the superhero palate cleanser that is Captain America: Civil War. The third installment in the Captain America branch of Marvel solo films, it also qualifies as an Avengers movie with only Thor and Hulk missing to complete the set. Make no mistake, though, the story heavily leans on Cap (Chris Evans) but he’s got the best of frenemies in Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr) as the two fight a war of ideology that quickly snowballs into an Avenger-on-Avenger showdown, with one or two shocking revelations, that have very real repercussions for the characters in the aftermath.

Plot-wise, Civil War earns its title because of Tony and Steve’s disagreement over the Sokovia Accords – a law that would make the Avengers an arm of the United Nations as a means of putting the group of super-powered heroes in check after a mission goes south. Tony, still reeling from lingering feelings of guilt since his first foray as Iron Man in 2008 and a more recent condemnation post-Age of Ultron, thinks the Accords are necessary. Putting limitations on where the Avengers go would “theoretically” reduce collateral damage, thus saving lives and preventing disastrous events like New York and Sokovia. The reality of the situation is clear to Tony: Who are the Avengers accountable to in the wake of their cataclysmic battles? How many lives have they ruined after their supposed victories?

Steve, however. sees the Accords as a means of shifting the burden of responsibility. Instead of the Avengers holding themselves accountable, they’d be at the beck and call of a governing body with its own agenda. Additionally, the Avengers would be stripped of their own freedom to choose where to go and who to help. The reality of the situation is clear to Steve: How many lives will be lost if the Avengers have their hands tied? How can they put their trust in the United Nations to make the right call? Suffice it to say when the Winter Soldier, aka “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastian Stan), is brought back into the fray, under mysterious circumstances, it tests the limits of Steve and Tony’s convictions as well as their friendship.

pensThe pivotal moment of the movie, however, isn’t the thoroughly entertaining fight that occurs between the two “warring” sides of the Avengers. No, that belongs to a small, quiet scene right in the middle of the film. After an extensive chase through Bucharest in pursuit of the Winter Soldier, Bucky is finally brought in for bombing the UN and killing several foreign dignitaries including King T’Chaka of Wakanda. The damage, however, has been done to the city as well as Steve’s faith. Believing his brain-washed friend to be innocent of the accusations in Geneva, Steve can’t deny that his best friend is dangerous. In his efforts to get Cap on his side and see reason, Tony makes a play of nostalgia by bringing along an old WWII artifact – the pens Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt used to sign the Atlantic Charter in 1941. His father just happened to have them because Howard Stark.

Through Tony’s lens, the Atlantic Charter was an eventual step towards the formation of the United Nations – countries with differing opinions still working together for the sake of the global community. Through Steve’s lens, it pushed America closer to war – a show of good faith that played its part in the attack on Pearl Harbor only four months after the document was signed. The significance of the scene isn’t just in the different yet valid concerns of both Tony and Steve, but the fact that they’re discussing how adding one’s signature to a document can steer the course of history. The most meaningful display of power in Civil War isn’t in the fists of its heroes (though they get plenty of licks in), but in the mundane action of signing.

Tony’s play almost works. The pens, talking about his father, and revealing his relationship with Pepper is on the rocks all seem to push Steve towards signing. Tony even guarantees Bucky will get the help he needs, but in his enthusiasm for things finally going his way he goes a step too far and mentions that Wanda, aka Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), is being kept at the Avengers compound for her own “safety.” And suddenly WWII and the pen Steve holds takes on another meaning: internment. Roosevelt signed many significant documents during his presidency. One of which, Executive Order 9066, approved the internment of people of Japanese descent. Some suggest it was signed out of fear and paranoia, only two civilwarmonths after Pearl Harbor, while others suggest it was for the “protection” of Japanese citizens in danger of retaliation by white Americans, but it’s still a piece of history that we look back on with regret. Time and distance haven’t changed the harsh reality of what the American government did, all under the blanket of benevolence: We thought we were doing the right thing. We thought we were doing what’s best for everyone.

When Cap gives the pen back, it carries the weight of history and the consequences of a signature.

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Also check out Comedy Film Nerds: http://www.comedyfilmnerds.com/

Earbuds: The Podcasting Documentary

Laffghanistan: Comedy Down Range

Detective Kent Stryker (Ret.)

 

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batsandsupesSo, as you may have guessed, I was a bit…let’s go for disappointed with Batman v Superman. While there were kernels of a good movie in there, the main characters that I as an audience member was supposed to root for felt wrong in how they were presented. In my search for a palate cleanser, I turned to the one corner of the DC Universe that rarely fails me – animation. With a few series and a smattering of movies to choose from, I compiled some of my favorite Batman and Superman moments.

Feel free to add your own as well!

 

The Batman/Superman Movie or “World’s Finest Parts 1, 2, & 3”, October 1997

Still the best “meet-cute” between Bats and Supes.

Justice League: Doom, February 2012

Batman trusts the Justice League to take him down and Superman trusts Batman with the one thing that could truly kill him

Justice League “The Savage Time, Part 3”, November 2002

Look how happy Clark is to see the real Batman!

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, September 2009

If it isn’t fighting Metallo, then it’s surgery in an open grave!

Superman/Batman: Supergirl, September 2010

I think Clark still owes Bruce $50,000 plus interest.

Justice League: The New Frontier, February 2008

Hanging out in the batcave like they do!

Young Justice, “Schooled”, February 2011

Parenting! Also their choice in deserts is spot on!

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I have a lot of opinions and thoughts about the emerging DC Cinematic or Expanded Universe and readers can agree or disagree all they want. We like what we like and just because I didn’t care for or enjoy Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (BvS) doesn’t negate your feelings for it. If you liked it, loved it, then bless your heart for being so open to this movie universe they’re building. If the blatant plot holes, or the nebulous motivations of the characters,trinitylarge or the lack of character development, or the choppy editing, or the bleak tone doesn’t bother you, then congrats this movie was clearly meant for you. And if the only investment you had in this was to see Batman and Superman fight each other, then by all accounts you are winning when it comes to Spring/Summer blockbusters.

But here’s the thing, there are those of us who didn’t like it for all of the reasons you probably did like it. That doesn’t mean your opinion is any less valid but it also doesn’t mean that my criticisms or concerns are intended to insult you. Art has and will always be subjective and everyone is coming at this movie universe from different perspectives and experiences involving these heroes.

That being said, my overarching concerns for the DCEU has been their character development – or lack thereof – because I could actually accept a ho-hum script if the characters made sense or had any consistency in who they are and what they stand for. Unfortunately, DC’s Big Blue remains a blank slate, which is problematic when you stack him up against other heroes in the DC Universe. Superman’s attitude, his moral code, remains ill-defined after the mixed messages of Ghost Dad Jor-El and Sacrificial Lamb Dad Jonathan Kent in Man of Steel. Hero or God? Man or Superman? All of the above? It’s still unclear how Clark actually feels about being Superman since his decision to put on the suit is forced upon him instead of being a decision he makes out of an innate desire to help people.

So when we come to the ethical dilemma at the heart of BvS – that of power and accountability – we’re still in the dark about who Clark is and how he feels about his position as Earth’s protector. Where the movie could have given Superman the ability to express himself and by extension relate his worldview to the audience is squandered for a plot point surrounding a jar of Lex Luthor’s piss.

Yeah. You read that right.

bats_supes_face-to-faceThe jist is Superman (Henry Cavill) has arrived at a Senate committee hearing to discuss his actions in Africa involving a hostage Lois Lane (Amy Adams), a warlord, and a group of mercenaries hired by Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) to make it look like Superman went ballistic and killed everyone. During the hearing Senator Finch (Holly Hunter) begins her opening statement about democracy being a discussion, but is distracted by a mason jar labeled Grammy’s Peach Tea, which is filled with urine – a callback to a conversation she had with Lex after denying his request to import Kryptonite from the remains of the World Machine. Right as she starts to freak out, she looks over at a gentleman sitting in a wheelchair provided by Luthor, notices Luthor’s absence, and then the wheelchair blows up. It takes out a good chunk of the building, killing everyone inside except Superman.

It’s worth noting that Luthor’s personal assistant, Mercy Graves, is among the dead, but that’s a rant for another day.

Much of this is built from a few previous scenes (as stories are wont to do), but it’s the nature of those scenes that inform Clark’s attitude when he stands before the committee. Prior to Superman’s arrival at the hearing he somewhat emphatically tells Lois he didn’t kill anyone (though that’s hard to believe considering he flew that warlord through a few walls) and follows up by saying he doesn’t care what the outside world thinks of him. Later, he’s back on the Kent farm with his mother who tells him he doesn’t owe the world anything. This is important because batman-v-superman-trailer-096Superman’s attitude during the whole ordeal is a sour-looking frown that clearly shows he doesn’t want to be there and the whole thing is an inconvenience. This is a Superman who regards a government hearing, in the country he lives no less, as a fundamental waste of time. This is a Superman who was raised to hide himself from the world and yet somehow develops a chip on his shoulder big enough you can see it from space. This is a Superman who cried his eyes out after snapping Zod’s neck, but when a building full of people blows up around him he has this look on his face like he’s just bummed out.

It’s a disturbing disconnect because throughout the entirety of the scene Clark never speaks. From arrival to explosion, Superman is silent and sullen. And it’s a wasted opportunity to give Clark the platform he needs to talk to the world. The hearing is being recorded, he essentially has the stage, but he never says a word. In the cartoons, comics, and previous Superman films whenever Clark finds himself being broadcast to the entire world he uses it to convey his message of hope, peace, and, most importantly, his desire to help. He is a force for truth and justice but he isn’t above the law. He’s a citizen of the world and he knows he must answer to it. If anything, Superman should have been the one to request a Senate hearing instead of the other way around. Or, at the very least, have Lois conduct an “exclusive interview” that gives him the ability to speak for himself.

The purpose is twofold: we get to hear Superman talk about his personal philosophy and it gives us something to contrast with Batman. Clark and Bruce represent two sides of the same coin. Their methods are different on every level, but their goal is ultimately the same. It’s what opens the door for a begrudging respect to develop into friendship. It’s what makes these two black-haired, blue-eyed, muscle-bound men different in the eyes of comic book readers. BvS doesn’t blur the line between Batman and Superman, it erases it entirely. There is no difference between the two where their ideology is concerned. Yes, we get some clear statements from Bruce that set the tone batman-v-superman-trailer-002for this universe’s Batman, but Superman never gets the chance. People talk about Superman and to Superman but the actual Superman never talks about himself.

Man of Steel had the same issue, though I’m fairly sure Henry Cavill had more lines than in BvS. Clark has a lot of people tell him who he should be but he never definitively expresses who he is or who he wants to be. He just is and that’s not a character you can relate to or identify with. Batman v Superman could have used the Senate hearing as a means of course correction, letting Superman speak for himself and giving the world (and Bruce Wayne) at least an iota of insight into the man behind the S. As it stands, Clark’s silence speaks volumes about how achingly wrong this universe is shaping up to be for the big blue boy scout. Hopefully his inevitable resurrection will result in a new attitude and outlook on his place as a hero.

At least somebody understands that just because you’re a billionaire playboy who inspires fear in the hearts of criminals as a means to avenge the death of your parents when you were a kid doesn’t mean you can’t smile every once and a while.

Truly one of the standout characters from the LEGO Movie, Batman (voiced brilliantly by Will Arnett) is back in his own solo flick which still promises to give us plenty of action, DARKNESS!, and a few cameos from some of those other heroes Bats likes to pal around with. The teaser trailer released today may be Warner Bros. riding on the premiere of Batman v Superman, but if early reviews are any indication as to how audiences may react then perhaps the studio is trying to balance the grimdark of the Justice League prelude with a Batman who loves what he does and has a sweet bat-cave! If anything the movie promises to keep nerds like me busy looking for all of the Bat-references and Bat-Easter eggs.

So here ya go, the LEGO Batman teaser:

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