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Posts Tagged ‘DC Comics’

The Suicide Squad

Wednesday, August 11th, 2021

THE SUICIDE SQUAD, from writer/director James Gunn (SLITHER, SUPER, writer of TROMEO & JULIET and DAWN OF THE DEAD) is kind of miraculous as far as these big ol’ corporate franchise movies go. Imagine the odds against a director starting out as a writer at Troma, making some well-liked-but-not-super-successful hard-R comedies, then going mainstream with two beloved Marvel hits, then being temporarily fired by Disney due to right wing trolls feigning offense at his old tweets, and spending his time off going over to a different comic book universe to make a super gory and death-filled but heartfelt sequel to someone else’s widely-hated part 1, building off of his horror comedy past, the skills he built on his GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY movies, and what was fun about that first SUICIDE SQUAD movie, to make something really special?

Though I didn’t hate David Ayer’s 2016 SUICIDE SQUAD the way most seem to have, I had many complaints. I suspect he had a more sensible version before the studio literally hired the trailer company to re-edit it, but even in its present form I think the movie deserves praise for establishing a rowdy, cartoony take on the DC Universe that BIRDS OF PREY and now this were able to riff on and use as a jumping off point. And of course even bigger than that is its casting of Margot Robbie (THE LEGEND OF TARZAN) as Harley Quinn, as close to a universally beloved character and portrayal as has ever come out of such a widely hated movie. (read the rest of this shit…)

Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Wednesday, March 24th, 2021

PROLOGUE

Well, it really happened. When last we saw the movie JUSTICE LEAGUE, it was credited to director Zack Snyder – who had left the movie unfinished due to a family tragedy, and amid creative battles with the studio – but was known to have been heavily rewritten and reshot by SPEED script doctor Joss Whedon. Although I called it a “perfectly watchable, okay super hero romp” it was poorly reviewed and did not do the gangbusters business Warner Brothers had hoped for. The studio continued with related characters in AQUAMAN, BIRDS OF PREY and WONDER WOMAN 1984, but seemed to abandon hopes for their own AVENGERS.

Meanwhile, a group of Snyder Riders petitioned, hash-tagged, billboarded and sky-wrote for the company to “release the Snyder Cut,” the fabled vastly different pre-reshoots director’s cut of the film. As time went on, the movement seemed increasingly pestering and delusional, but it persisted until somebody at AT&T or somewhere got the notion that the corporation could promote their new streaming service HBOMax by releasing this Snyder Cut thing on it.

One small complication: it didn’t exist. Snyder had left before he was able to finish the movie, as had been reported all along. So they invested a reported $70 million (more than the entire budget of Marvel’s THE NEW MUTANTS) for Snyder to complete the FX and the edit, add a couple new things and a new score. And since who gives a fuck anymore they let him pretty much do what he wanted this time, and what he wanted was to make it 4 hours long (about 14 minutes longer than LAWRENCE OF ARABIA) and in a 4:3 aspect ratio as an homage to MID90S and MEEK’S CUTOFF. (read the rest of this shit…)

Batman: Soul of the Dragon

Thursday, January 28th, 2021

I don’t normally review Batman cartoons (I think the only time I have before is the Suicide Squad one, ASSAULT ON ARKHAM), but I think you will agree that this one falls into my jurisdiction. In fact, it’s so weirdly specific to my particular areas of interest that during the ‘70s-inspired opening credits montage with funky theme song, after seeing the names Mark Dacascos and Michael Jai White, Mrs. Vern turned to me in disbelief and said, “Did they make this only for you?

Yeah, actually, it seems they did, so thanks, guys!

No joke, this is an animated movie set in the 1970s, based in the DC Comics universe but taking most of its template from kung fu movies. Its spy movie opening and funky, wah-wah heavy score are clearly homaging ENTER THE DRAGON, and there’s definitely some Jim Kelly/Blaxploitation influence in there, but its flashback structure mostly splits between an old school kung fu training movie and a getting-the-band-back-together type story. Two of my favorite plot structures in one. (read the rest of this shit…)

Wonder Woman 1984

Monday, December 28th, 2020

WONDER WOMAN 1984 (actual onscreen title: WW84) is, due to a strange confluence of events, in an unprecedented position. As the first sequel to a big-cultural-phenomenon comic book movie it was highly anticipated and also something of a question mark – I think we were pretty optimistic, but didn’t necessarily know if director Patty Jenkins (who hadn’t done a big movie before, just MONSTER and some TV) could repeat the magic, or build on it, or if the audience would be as hungry for it a second time. And then the pandemic kicked the world’s ass, America’s in particular, so the movie got pushed back until the Warner Brothers executives panicked and dumped a year’s worth of movies to streaming and it became the highest profile meant-for-theaters blockbuster released directly to streaming on Christmas day.

I enjoyed the movie, and what I enjoyed most is Jenkins’ apparent disinterest in making it a modern Marvel-esque or (even moreso) Snyder-esque comic book movie. Though the action is of the modern volume and contemporary FX-based style, the tone and storytelling are more reminiscent of the Christopher Reeves SUPERMAN movies, some of the corny ‘90s adventure movies I like, a tiny bit of the Burton BATMAN movies, and even (not in a bad way) SUPERGIRL. As I write this I realize that there wasn’t a single moment where I thought, “Ah, that’s setting up for the next one.” (read the rest of this shit…)

Birds of Prey

Friday, February 14th, 2020

BIRDS OF PREY AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN is the movie that says “Okay, we fucked up that SUICIDE SQUAD movie, but Margot Robbie was great as Harley Quinn, right? Didn’t we kinda have something there?” And the answer is yes and yes, so luckily they gave her another movie. It’s the second feature for director Cathy Yan, whose 2018 debut DEAD PIGS takes place in Shanghai but stars Zazie Beetz. She obviously has Robbie’s pre-existing character and David Ayer’s SUICIDE SQUAD sensibilities to build off of here, but I think she makes it distinct – it feels to me like a studio hiring a promising new director to do her thing, not to follow instructions.

Formerly the abused girlfriend/sidekick of The Joker, this is the story of Harley’s life after breaking up with him. No longer enjoying the immunity provided by association with a famous psychopath boyfriend, Harley gets herself into trouble with various factions including but not limited to the gang run by Roman “Black Mask” Sionis (Ewan McGregor, MILES AHEAD, JANE GOT A GUN), police detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez, DANCE WITH THE DEVIL, Widows), somebody she punched in a roller derby bout (stuntwoman Keisha Tucker), and somebody who blames her for his face being tattooed like a clown and can’t fucking believe it when she doesn’t remember what he’s mad about (Matthew Willig, FULL CONTACT [1993], 3 FROM HELL). (read the rest of this shit…)

Joker

Tuesday, October 8th, 2019

I think my favorite movie by director Todd Phillips (ROAD TRIP, STARSKY & HUTCH) is still his 1993 student film HATED: GG ALLIN & THE MURDER JUNKIES. It’s a documentary about an infamously transgressive punk singer skipping parole to do a tour where he kind of plays music, but the shows usually end soon after he shoves someone’s banana up his ass or smashes a woman’s nose with a beer bottle or shits on stage and throws it in the crowd. Phillips was clearly aware of the absurdity of his subject, but also in awe of someone living their life as a human middle finger. The director’s new film, JOKER, won the Golden Lion at the 76th Venice International Film Festival, and shows an evolution in his film craft, but not necessarily in his world view.

Let’s take a moment to consider that when BATMAN & ROBIN came out there is no way in hell any of us could’ve guessed that in 22 years one of our generation’s most respected actors would star in a super-fucked-up hard-R ‘70s period piece Scorsese knockoff character study vaguely based on (and officially branded as) an iconic Batman villain. Much less that it would be controversial only for reasons other than “it’s too scary for kids.” It’s a crazy world we’re living in. Almost like… the Joker. Oh my god. (read the rest of this shit…)

Shazam!

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

SHAZAM!, as a super hero premise, is no Batman. Or Aqua Man. Or Plastic Man. Or Meteor Man. He’s just some kid who meets a fuckin wizard in a cave who gives him the ability to turn into your standard adult muscular flying off-brand Superman-type cape guy. For the several years that they were talking about making a SHAZAM! movie, even when The Rock was gonna play the bad guy, I assumed I wouldn’t bother to watch it. But when it finally got made by LIGHTS OUT director David F. Sandberg – The Rock has a producer credit, but isn’t in it – it had a good enough trailer that I gave it a shot on video.

It begins in the past, when a kid (Ethan Pugiotto, MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 2) and his dad (John Glover, MEET THE HOLLOWHEADS, BATMAN & ROBIN) and older brother (Landon Doak) are involved in a car accident, and as it’s happening the kid somehow flashes from the backseat of the car to the cave where the wizard (Djimon Hounsou, ELEPHANT WHITE) explains the mythology of the movie, which involves magic powers he has to pass on to a new hero, and monster statues representing the seven deadly sins. But after some simple testing I guess the wizard determines this kid is a dick and not worthy of the powers in question, so he turns him away. (read the rest of this shit…)

Aquaman

Friday, December 28th, 2018

AQUAMAN is about a Superfriend, but it’s much more than a comic book movie. Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa, Baywatch) is the son of a lighthouse keeper (Temuera Morrison, STAR WARS II, THE MARINE 2) and the Queen of Atlantis (Nicole Kidman, BMX BANDITS). After his mom was taken away and possibly killed by her kingdom, Arthur grew up a landlubber, but with some clandestine swim and fight training by the vizier Vulko (Willem Dafoe, SPEED 2: CRUISE CONTROL). Like Arthur, the movie is a bridge between two worlds, that of an action movie and an epic fantasy. And Momoa, having been so good in BULLET TO THE HEAD and BRAVEN, but more known for Game of Thrones and CONAN THE BARBARIAN, is the perfect actor to do that.

Arthur, a.k.a. The Aquaman is a beer-stein-pounding lout and freelance swimming vigilante living in a small coastal town. In the opening he rescues the crew of a submarine from high-tech pirates – his version of stopping a grocery store or mini-mart robbery. Though he can communicate with fish, he’s your basic rowdy tough guy complete with black duster and slo-mo glory shots accompanied by rockin guitars just this side of “Bad to the Bone.” So he’s resistant to all this heir-to-the-throne-of-Atlantis shit, but by the end he’s given the beast-riding, lightning-throwing, fantasy painting god opportunity that CONAN failed to provide for Momoa. (read the rest of this shit…)

Justice League

Tuesday, November 21st, 2017

(SPOILERS)

Sometimes, you know, Superman dies, so a bad guy decides to conquer the world, so you have to put together a team of other super heroes to fill in for Superman, but then you decide to bring him back to life, but he seems evil at first and fights you, but then he chills out while you fight the CGI guy, then he shows up. JUSTICE LEAGUE is a perfectly watchable, okay super hero romp, with a hefty serving of the humor everyone thought was missing in the last two Superman pictures, but no more sense, and very little of the gravity or operatic style. Goodbye worshipful awe of Superman, hello green screened-in undercutting gags.

Oh, but don’t worry, when Aqua-Man smashes through a building it’s been painstakingly established that it’s in an abandoned town. That’s the most important thing, obviously.

The invasion foreshadowed at the end of BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF THE LIVING JUSTICE is at hand. Batman knows it because a Geonosian “Parademon” flies up while he’s hanging a thief off a rooftop. I think he was using the poor guy as bait (the things smell fear), but possibly it’s just a weird thing that happens while he’s on the job. I like that when the creature appears Batman and the criminal seem to completely drop their conflict and have a conversation about how fucked up things are since Superman’s death. A little bonding between fellow humans. A nice moment. (read the rest of this shit…)

Batman & Robin (20th Anniversary Ice-travaganza)

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

BATMAN & ROBIN is 20 years cold, and CHILLED TO PERFECTION!

“There’s nobody else to blame but me. I could have said, ‘No, I’m not going to do it.’ I just hope whenever I see a list of the worst movies ever made, we’re not on it. I didn’t do a good job. George did. Chris did. Uma is brilliant in it. Arnold is Arnold.” –Joel Schumacher to Variety, 2014

a survey of summer movies that just didn’t catch on

It was June 20, 1997, and I thought BATMAN & ROBIN was the stupidest, most tasteless, worst big budget movie ever made. After the wholesale awfulness of BATMAN FOREVER went over well with audiences willing to sanction its buffoonery, Warner Brothers allowed director Joel Schumacher to go full Schumacher for the next one. It’s the same admirable, director-friendly approach that led to Tim Burton’s BATMAN RETURNS, and the bean counters would come to regret it once again. Schumacher’s purest artistic vision is like the aftermath of a rainbow sherbet fight in the costume storage warehouse for an ice skating troupe. He keeps the moody Elliot Goldenthal score and themes of mourning and vengeance, but buries them in a day-glo fantasia of overacting, bad puns, fetishistic rubber costumes and theme park stunt show style super hero battles. For me it became Exhibit A in any argument against the “It’s Not Supposed To Be Shakespeare/Check Your Brain At the Door” school of summer blockbuster permissiveness.

I wasn’t wrong. But twenty years later to the day, after many truly great summer movies, some of them even starring Batman, it’s easier for me to appreciate the uniqueness of BATMAN & ROBIN – the outrageously tacky designs, the subversively in-your-face homoeroticism, the laugh-out-loud ludicrousness of the plot and dialogue and settings and action, and especially the spectacle of Arnold Schwarzenegger in a bulky metal costume and glittery blue makeup as Mr. Freeze, playing like a simultaneous parody of over-the-top Batman villains, blockbuster excess and his own penchant for groan-worthy one-liners. He makes more than two dozen ice or cold related cracks without losing his boyish, gap-toothed Arnold charm.

Today I am prepared to admit that I own BATMAN & ROBIN on Blu-Ray. And have watched it twice in that format. And on purpose.

Ah shit, you guys. I like this stupid movie now. (read the rest of this shit…)