Wonder Woman Review

Wonder Woman movie posterSynopsis
Princess Diana (Gal Gadot) and the Amazons live in isolation from the rest of the world on the island of Themyscira, preparing for the return of Ares, the god of war. When Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), an American pilot and spy, crashes onto the island and tells of a “war to end all wars” in the outside world, Diana, convinced Ares is behind the conflict, leaves her home with Trevor to stop Ares and end the war.

Review
A Wonder Woman film has been a long time coming. Of DC’s “trinity” (Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman) she is the only character to not receive her own live-action film. In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is easily the highlight of the movie. So how does she do starring front and center in her own film? Well, I can happily say Wonder Woman is the movie the fans have been waiting for in her 75+ year history.

Warner Bros. made an absolutely great casting choice with Gal Gadot. She captures every aspect about the character perfectly. She can be soft and gentle in one scene, like when she was excited to see a baby, or warm and caring in another, like when she had her moments with her team, then she can be strong and tough in the next scene, like when she single-handedly enters No Man’s Land. Gadot gave Diana a sense naivety and wonder about about the world but still felt powerful. I could go on but I’d feel like I was repeating myself. In short, she was positively wonderful.

As great as Gadot was as the titular character, that’s not even my favorite part. I think what I liked best about Wonder Woman was that it actually had a sense of adventure. Also, it wasn’t dark like Batman v Superman or Man of Steel, and it actually had humorous moments. It never became overly doom and gloom, like the previous DC Extended Universe (DCEU) films, nor did it feel as lighthearted as the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films. There was a nice balance between the seriousness and the fun sides of the movie.

Every superhero movie these days is building towards the next movie or several movies in the universe, well the DCEU and MCU films do anyway. This is a double edge sword because on one hand, it is fun to see the different characters interact with each other but on the other it can make the movie feel bloated or unfocused. Another one of Wonder Woman‘s strengths is that it doesn’t have this problem. It is completely self-contained. It is book-ended with scenes showcasing where in the DCEU chronology it takes place, but everything in between is its own thing. This works out great because then that means the movie can stay centered on Wonder Woman herself without having to worry about anybody else or future plot points.

Because the film’s focus is strictly on Wonder Woman, the story is very tight and focused for a superhero movie. There are no extra characters. Everyone exists to push Diana’s story forward. Every scene serves a purpose of building Diana’s character or the conflict she faces. There is nothing extraneous, nothing without purpose, or nothing without reason. It is a refreshing change of pace to to see a superhero movie that only focuses on whose name is in the title instead of worrying about anybody else or future plot points.

I mentioned the perfect casting of Gal Gadot but I have to commend the rest of the cast as well. Chris Pine was a great choice as the male lead. He feels like a good, grounded counter to Gadot’s innocent Diana. Saïd Taghmaoui as the team’s quick-talking Sameer was a blast to watch. I would have liked to learn just a little bit more about Ewen Bremner’s Charlie and Eugene Brave Rock’s The Chief. Both seem like they have some interesting histories that were barely touched on. However, the highlight for me was any scene with Lucy Davis as Steve Trevor’s secretary Etta Candy. She was an absolute hoot and stole all her scenes. It’s a little disappointing knowing this will be the only time spent with the character because I cold use more Etta Candy in my life.

Like many superhero films, the weakest part of Wonder Woman comes from its villains. General Erich Ludendorff (Danny Hudson) and Dr. Maru (Elena Anaya) are the main baddies but they only act as the personification of the evil Diana is trying to stop; There isn’t much to them. It feels like they are villains almost simply because they are Nazis. Ares could be called the overarching villain and big bad of the movie. Yet, his presence isn’t really felt until the very end. And even then, he is very underwhelming. I guess I can’t fault the movie too much since it gets so much else right.

I thought Wonder Woman was GREAT 😀 Director Patty Jenkins has finally done what every other DC director since Christopher Nolan could not: create a good superhero movie. Gal Gadot strikes a perfect balance of innocence and strength. The movie mirrors that and isn’t too lighthearted but also isn’t dark and gritty. Diana’s sense of justice and need to do the right thing is the tone we should have seen from Superman in Man of Steel. Hopefully WB and DC will keep Jenkins around because she has been their most successful director yet.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Patty Jenkins – Director
Allan Heinberg – Screenplay / Story
Zach Snyder – Story
Jason Fuchs – Story
Rupert Gregson-Williams – Composer

Gal Gadot – Diana Prince / Wonder Woman
Chris Pine – Steve Trevor
Connie Nielsen – Hippolyta
Robin Wright – Antiope
David Thewlis – Sir Patrick
Saïd Taghmaoui – Sameer
Ewen Bremner – Charlie
Eugene Brave Rock – The Chief
Lucy Davis – Etta Candy
Danny Hudson – General Erich Ludendorff
Elena Anaya – Dr. Maru
Lilly Aspell – Young Diana (8)

The Lego Batman Movie Review

The LEGO Batman Movie movie posterSynopsis
Batman (Will Arnett (voice)) is the hero of Gotham City and has everything he could want except for one thing: a family. When the Joker (Zach Galifianakis (voice)) enacts a his largest, most villainous plan yet, Batman must lean to work with a team to stop the Joker’s diabolical scheme.

Review
I am a huge, huge fan of The Lego Movie. It had all the right elements to make it fun for both the younger and older audiences. Also being a superhero fan, I went into the theater hoping that I would see that cleverness and self-awareness return but pointed at the superhero genre that has exploded over the last 10-15 years. The Lego Batman Movie may not hit the high that The Lego Movie did, but it sure comes close.

Batman has had a very wild and varied history, a fact the movie brings up several times. Although this is wrapped in the aesthetic of a children’s toy, I would qualify this a good Batman movie. It looks at the Dark Knight from a different perspective, but it keeps much of what makes Batman Batman. Although this is a very different kind of Batman (arrogant, obnoxious, self-centered), he still feels like Batman. This should please long-time fans of the character while still not being too inclusive for those who aren’t as familiar with the character.

The photo-realistic look from The Lego Movie was astonishing and one of the things I liked best about that film. There is not much difference in the look and feel of between that and this film and that’s perfectly fine with me. It still looks like real Lego bricks and figures on the screen. Nothing is not made out of Legos. I can’t get enough of it!

So far, these theatrical Lego movies have brought together the perfect voice casts. Will Arnett returns as Batman and kills it. Michael Cera, Arnett’s co-star on Arrested Development, fantastically plays the innocent Dick Grayson. His Grayson is much younger than any Robin seen in any Batman film so far and Cera gleefully brings a childlike naivety to the role. Other stars of note are Ralph Fiennes as Alfred, the no-stranger-to-superheroes Rosario Dawson as Barbra Gordon, and Zach Galifianakis, who is clearly having too much fun as the Joker.

Going into a Lego movie like this, you should expect some zany action sequences. With everything being composed of Legos, the possibilities are endless and this film takes full advantage of that. Every scene is explosive, insane, and batshit crazy. The constant intensity keeps the story moving quickly. However, it still takes the time to have the softer moments. One thing’s for sure, you won’t get bored during this movie.

Although this is an animated film that might be geared more towards a younger audience, this movie incorporates enough to appeal to many ages and groups. There are plenty of references to previous Batmans (Batmen?), such as the recent Ben Affleck Batman, Christopher Nolan’s version of the Dark Knight, and even “that weird one in 1966.”  There are also references to other superhero properties, like Suicide Squad, which are sure to please comic fans, as well as other franchises like Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings to hit a wider audience. If you’re a little bit older, there are jokes and pop-culture references that you’ll catch. Then the colorful action will surely keep the attention of the young ones.

I thought The Lego Batman Movie was GOOD 🙂 The goofiness and cleverness that made The Lego Movie so much fun returns. Although this Batman may be very different than any Batman seen so far, I had a blast as a fan of the character. Whether you are a lifelong fan of Batman like myself or just know who he is, chances are you will find something to enjoy in this film and end up having a good time.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Chris McKay – Director
Seth Grahame-Smith – Story / Screenplay
Chris McKenna – Screenplay
Erik Sommers – Screenplay
Jared Stern – Screenplay
John Whittington – Screenplay
Lorne Balfe – Composer

Will Arnett – Batman / Bruce Wayne (voice)
Michael Cera – Robin / Dick Grayson (voice)
Ralph Fiennes – Alfred Pennyworth (voice)
Rosario Dawson – Batgirl / Barbara Gordon (voice)
Hector Elizondo – Jim Gordon (voice)
Zach Galifianakis – Joker (voice)
Jenny Slate – Harley Quinn (voice)
Jason Mantzoukas – Scarecrow (voice)
Conan O’Brien – The Riddler (voice)
Doug Benson – Bane (voice)
Billy Dee Williams – Two-Face (voice)
Zoe Kravitz – Catwoman (voice)
Eddie Izzard – Voldemort (voice)
Seth Green – King Kong (voice)
Jemaine Clement – Sauron (voice)

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Review

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice movie posterSynopsis
After the devastation of Metropolis, most of the world sees Superman (Henry Cavill) as a savior. Unsure of Superman’s intentions, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), aka Batman, looks for a way to defeat the seemingly invincible hero. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) concocts a plan of his own to bring down the man of steel.

Review
The two main characters of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice are very polarizing for me. On one hand, Batman is one one of my favorite DC heroes and I grew up with Batman: The Animated Series. On the other hand, Superman is one of my least favorite superheroes and I wasn’t a huge fan of Man of Steel. However, being the superhero fan I am, I wasn’t going to let this one pass by, especially with it being the major kickoff to the DC Extended Universe (DCEU).

When Ben Affleck was first announced as playing Bruce Wayne, there was a lot of backlash. I wanted to wait and see for myself before making any judgments. I thought he did a good job as an older, jaded Bruce Wayne. He really had that grizzled characteristic to him that I would expect from someone who has been fighting crime for twenty years. Jeremy Irons also made for a great Alfred. I want to see more of him in the future because I think with some more screen time, he might rival Michael Cain’s Alfred.

Despite this move being titled Batman v Superman, Gal Gadot stole every scene she was in. She also received a lot of criticism when she was cast as Wonder Woman. Gadot could not have been more perfect. She had the poise, she had the attitude, and she had Wonder Woman’s character down. I’m more excited now for Wonder Woman because I want to see more of what Gadot can do with the role.

As the title suggests, this movie is about both Batman and Superman. The movie does a fine job of balancing these two characters. Although, Batman does seem to get a little more time. This makes sense since this is his first appearance in the DCEU, whereas Superman already received much of his development in Man of Steel. The best scene of the film was when these two finally meet for their showdown. It was big and dramatic and was one long, great fight sequence. Say what you will about Zack Snyder, he knows how to film action.

Now as for the rest of the film, it didn’t fare as well. Much of that comes from the pacing of the first two acts. It would do some set up, whether it was for one of the main characters or the overall conflict. Then rev up briefly. Then slow back down to more exposition. This starting and stopping made for a jarring experience. It didn’t help that the movie was trying to cram a good deal into itself.

There were many subplots throughout the movie. The way they interacted is where many of the pacing issues occurred. It felt like the movie was trying to pack in all these different story lines but didn’t know what to do with all of them. They didn’t flow that well together and would’ve worked better in other movies. Like many of DC’s movies, this one tried to incorporate too much and ended up losing its focus on what it was really trying to accomplish.

Batman v Superman is also supposed to be the first step towards the giant Justice League crossover, so it introduced many future characters and plot elements. It reminded me a lot of Avengers: Age of Ultron actually. In both movies, this prevents them from being self-contained stories, which hurts them. However, in Age of Ultron‘s case, Marvel at least seemed to have planned for it and know what is happening in the movies it was trying to set up. DC just seemed to throw them in there to say “look what’s coming,” without giving many of these introductions much purpose towards the overall story.

If there was one thing that was truly wrong with this movie it was Lex Luthor. For starters, his personality was all wrong. Luthor is calculating, cold, and in control of himself. This Luthor was the opposite of that. He was a genius like his comic book counterpart but that feels like where the similarities end. I’m a fan of Jesse Eisenberg, but he was not a good choice for Luthor. His Luthor was on the edge of insanity. It felt like more of a Joker than a Lex Luthor. That’s not who the character should be.

I thought Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was OK :-|. There are several good qualities in the film, such as casting Affleck, Irons, and Gadot but the weak villain and poor pacing overshadow much of what the film actually does well.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Zack Snyder – Director
Chris Terrio – Writer
David S. Goyer – Writer
Hans Zimmer – Composer
Junkie XL – Composer

Ben Affleck – Bruce Wayne / Batman
Henry Cavill – Clark Kent / Superman
Gal Gadot – Diana Prince / Wonder Woman
Amy Adams – Lois Lane
Jesse Eisenberg – Lex Luthor
Jeremy Irons – Alfred
Diane Lane – Martha Kent
Laurence Fishburne – Perry White
Holly Hunter – Senator Finch
Scoot McNairy – Wallace Keefe
Callan Mulvey – Anatoli Knyazev
Tao Okamoto – Mercy Graves
Brandon Spink – Young Bruce Wayne

300: Rise of an Empire Review

300: Rise of an Empire movie posterSynopsis
During Xerxes’ (Rodrigo Santoro) land campaign against King Leonidas’ 300 Spartans, Athenian general Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) rallies Greek’s city states against Artemisia (Eva Green), commander the massive Persian Navy.

Review
There is no doubt that 300 was a success when came out in 2007. It may not have been a very deep movie, but it’s hyper-realism gave it a unique look. 300: Rise of an Empire is very much the same experience only more violent and sexier than before.

If you enjoyed the airbrush feel of 300 like I did, you will like it here. Rise of an Empire has the same visual style as before. The stylized violence returns as well. Although 300 offered its fair share of blood, it seemed to focus more on the strike that drew the blood, such as the sword slash or spear stab. This movie, however, held nothing back when it came to blood splatter. It reminded me of Dredd where anytime there was blood there was a ton of it.

Where the Spartans fought on land, Themistocles and his Greek army fights on the water. It makes for a different experience and set pieces. The naval battles are pretty impressive. One of the first battles has two Greek ships destroying a Persian ship by sandwiching it between their bows. It looks pretty amazing, particularly with the cinematography, and makes for a good contrast to the combat in 300.

Like it’s predecessor, Rise of an Empire is based off of a book written by Frank Miller. This time it is based off Xerxes, which hasn’t been released yet. It acts as a prequel/side-story to the events depicted in 300. It was easy to determine when the events of 300 occurred because there were brief glimpses or references to the Spartan’s actions. The plot shares many elements from before, too, such as a father-son fighting duo and the leader’s life-long friend. However, it feels like a simple rehash of the relationships in 300, rather than a new, original story.

Eva Green is by far the star of this film. She completely gets into the role of Artemisia. Very similar to Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) she proves that she is more that capable of taking care of herself, both on and off the battlefield. She is also one of the few characters given much back story or deep motivation.

Except for Artemisia, the characters aren’t very memorable. Members of the Greek army were pretty one-dimensional. They tried to make some character relationships, like a father and son, and the leader’s best friend, to expand the characters but it didn’t work as well as it did in 300. Themistocles pales in comparison to Leonidas. Sullivan Stapleton lacks the charisma of Gerard Butler and the character suffers for it.

300: Rise of an Empire is the sequel few really asked for, but somehow manages to hold its own. Visually, it shares the same hyper-realistic style that made 300 so enjoyable, and the water combat served as a nice variation to the Spartan’s land battles. Besides Eva Green’s Artemisia, who Green fully embraces, none of the main characters are very memorable. This film shares many similarities to 300 that made that film entertaining, but it feels too similar to make it really stand out as a new experience.

Rating
3/5

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Noam Murro – Director
Zack Snyder – Screenplay
Kurt Johnstad – Screenplay
Junkie XL – Composer

Sullivan Stapleton – Themistocles
Eva Green – Artemisia
Lena Headey – Queen Gorgo
Hans Matheson – Aesyklos
Callan Mulvey – Scyllias
David Wenham – Dilios
Rodrigo Santoro – Xerxes
Jack O’Connell – Calisto
Andrew Tiernan – Ephialtes
Igal Naor – King Darius
Andrew Pleavin – Daxos

300 Review

300 movie posterSynopsis
When Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and his Persian army threaten Greece, King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) wishes to take his Spartan army to face him. After consulting the Ephors at Delphi, they refuse to allow him to declare war. Displeased, Leonidas takes a three hundred of his best Spartan soldiers to stop the invaders at Thermopylae.

Review
I really enjoy movies like 300; simple plot, great action and awesome visuals. Based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel of the same name, 300 is a fictionalized retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae during the Persian Wars. Know right away that it is not a documentary nor very accurate (read not at all) to the actual battle. But man does it look amazing.

The visual style of the film is up there as one of my favorites. The coloring over the film gives it almost an airbrushed feel, a very similar style to its source material. Most of the movie was shot using blue and green screens, with most of the environment being computer generated. It creates a very surreal look and feel that is exceptional.

Few movies offer the brutality 300 does. The first forty-five minutes or so are spent setting up the Spartans and the battle ahead, but once it starts, it goes all out. But in contrast, the non-action scenes lack something to hold my attention. During these intermittent scenes, I was just itching to get back to the action.  Although I understand it couldn’t be ninety minutes of fighting, the other scenes aren’t as interesting.

Zack Snyder was the best directorial choice for this film. This was only his second film (his first being the Dawn of the Dead remake) as director, but his style fits perfectly. His hyper-realistic style really brings an element to the movie that makes it feel unique.

A strength and a weakness of this movies is the plot. It’s very simple: Leonidas and his men fight Xerxes at the Hot Gates. Along with some politics happening back in Sparta, that’s pretty much all there is to it. This makes way for some breathtaking cinematography and action sequences. However, the action and thin plot doesn’t allow for much characterization.  So if you are looking for some deep character moments, you won’t find them here.

Sometimes it is great to just watch a movie with a simple premise. 300 may not be the most thought provoking movie out there, but what it lacks characterization, or any real story for that matter, it offers spectacular visuals and pure, unfiltered action. Zack Snyder proves that he is a specialist when it comes to working with “hyper-realism.” Visually stunning and unapologetically brutal, 300 is one of my favorite ways to kill an afternoon (pun intended).

Rating
4/5

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Zack Snyder – Director/Screenplay
Kurt Johnstad – Screenplay
Michael Gordon – Screenplay
Tyler Bates – Composer

Gerard Butler – King Leonidas
Lena Headey – Queen Gorgo
Dominic West – Theron
David Wenham – Dilios
Vincent Regan – Captain
Michael Fassbender – Stelios
Tom Wisdom – Astinos
Andrew Pleavin – Daxos
Andrew Tiernan – Ephialtes
Rodrigo Santoro – Xerxes

The Lego Movie Review

The Lego Movie movie posterSynopsis
Emmet (Chris Pratt) is just an ordinary guy but all that changes when he stumbles upon the Piece of Resistance after following Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) through a mysterious hole. She informs him that he is The Special mentioned in a prophecy and takes him to meet Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), an old wizard. Together they embark on a quest to gather the MasterBuilders to stop Lord Business (Will Farrell) and put an end to his dastardly plan.

Review
The Lego Movie is the movie I have been waiting for ever since I was a kid. One of my biggest fears was that I overhyped this movie for myself after I saw the trailers. Honestly, I can say I have never been more excited for a movie in my life. I mean I was even more excited for this than I was for Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith or Marvel’s The Avengers, and that’s saying a lot. Thankfully, The Lego Movie was everything I hoped it would be and I left the theater very satisfied.

This movie is straight from a child’s imagination. By that I mean everything is made from legos and I mean everything. If there was a puff of smoke, it was legos shaped and moving like smoke. If there was water, it was legos shaped and moving like waves. On top of that there were many characters from different universes interacting together, such as city figures, pirates, the wild west, and DC characters. It reminded me a lot of the opening to Toy Story 3 where there were no rules and anybody could be a part of the story. And there were other objects that were included too, like a laser pointer, nail polish remover or a band-aid. Whenever these items appeared, they were all sized relative to the lego figures. It was very meta.

The voice actors in The Lego Movie knock it out of the park. The core cast of Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, and Morgan Freeman all do well, but my favorites would have to be Liam Neeson as Bad Cop/Good Cop and Charlie Day as Benny, the 1980-something space guy. I didn’t realize Neeson did both Bad Cop and Good Cop and Day has such an energy that is hard for others to pull off. Will Ferrell really gets into the part of Lord Business. There are a ton of cameos as well, including Anthony Daniels and Billy Dee Williams reprising their roles as C-3PO and Lando Calrissian, Jake Johnson (Barry), Jonah Hill (Green Lantern), Channing Tatum (Superman), Cobie Smulders (Wonder Woman), Shaquille O’Neal (himself), Keegan-Michael Key (Foreman Jim) and several others.

The animation of The Lego Movie is beautiful. Animal Logic, the studio responsible for the CGI, made the pieces look photoreal. The models were so lifelike I was under the impression it was stop motion for the longest time. Characters and locations did incorporated a mix of real lego sets along with the special effects to add in the extra sense of realism.

Normally an animated movie like this has more of a younger audience in mind, but there was more adult humor than I expected. There is plenty here for the younger crowd, such as the characters and action, but several of the characters’ relations and jokes are geared toward the older crowd. I suppose WB understood parents would get dragged to seeing The Lego Movie so they at least made it worth their while. In any case, no matter how old you are there is something here you will enjoy.

Emmet’s journey should be very familiar. It is much like Luke’s from Star Wars or, well, pretty much any protagonist’s that goes on some kind of trek for something. Basically what I’m saying is it has been done over and over before. So at this point, I look more at what happens along the way rather than the journey itself. In a way, the end of Emmet’s quest if fairly predictable. However, there is an unanticipated element to the ending which makes the entire journey worth more than it initially lets on.

I have been waiting my entire childhood for The Lego Movie. It has great voice actors with even better cameos and photoreal animation that had me questioning whether or not it was stop-motion. But its greatest strength is the expansive universe that duplicates the feeling that anything can happen, the same idea that fuels the imagination and what makes legos themselves so enjoyable. Although the journey may be familiar, the destination has some added bonuses that bring out the imaginative side in everyone.

Rating
5/5

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Phil Lord – Director/Story/Screenplay
Christopher Miller – Director/Story/Screenplay
Dan Hageman – Story
Kevin Hageman – Story
Mark Mothersbaugh – Composer

Chris Pratt – Emmet Brickowoski
Elizabeth Banks – Wyldstyle
Morgan Freeman – Vitruvius
Will Arnett – Batman
Will Ferrell – Lord Business/President Business
Liam Neeson – Bad Cop/Good Cop/Pa Cop
Charlie Day – Benny
Alison Brie – Unikitty
Nick Offerman – Metal Beard
David Burrows – Octan Robot