Archive for the 'Movies' Category


movie review: batman vs superman vs captain america vs the avengers

Ok, so clearly the movie events of the decade were the bringing together of our favorite comic book heroes in two mega-hyped films. The majority of the critics panned Batman VS Superman and liked Captain America: Civil War.

The problem is, they got it backwards.

Let’s start off at the drawing board of both movies: Marvel needed to have some sort of battle between Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow, Antman, Spiderman, the black guy, the red guy and the guy with the bow and arrow.

DC had to focus on a conflict between two legendary characters, Batman and Superman.

Now, class, what’s the number one lesson they teach you in art school?

Less is more.




The thing that made Captain America: Winter Soldier one of the best comic book movies of all time was that it was actually about Captain America. Captain America: Civil War is maybe 51% about Cap and 49% Avengers (its focus on Cap is loose at best – why they didn’t make this a straight up Avengers movie i’ll never know).

Another popular aphorism is too many chefs spoil the soup (or in this case, the super heroes). All those characters feel crammed into the movie just to lead up to a fight I never wanted to see in the first place. Maybe diehard Marvel fans thought this would be cool, but ultimately the story felt like it was trying too hard to get these guys on opposite sides of the fence. The focus on Captain America just wasn’t there – a big disappointment considering the first two films.

On the other hand, Batman VS Superman has been a mainstay of the DC universe since the dawn of comics, and something even the general public can easily identify with. Every human on Earth is pretty much born with the knowledge of who Batman and Superman are, and just the thought of these guys duking it out evokes memories of Ali VS Frazier, Holmes VS Moriarty, Kirk VS the Klingon, tastes great VS less filling.

But the Marvel version is like Donald Trump: Civil War featuring Donald Trump VS Ted Cruz VS Jeb Bush VS Ben Carson VS Chris Christie VS Jim Gilmore VS Lindsay Graham VS Mike Huckabee VS Bobby Jindal VS John Kasich VS George Pataki VS Rand Paul VS Rick Perry VS Marco Rubio VS Mark Santorum VS Scott Walker. Not exactly a classic confrontation we’re dying to see again.

You can argue that Batman VS Superman also brought along another character with Wonder Woman, but she was woven into the plot in an intelligent and mysterious way and wasn’t forced to fight the good guys (and at least the gratuitous scene where other DC characters have a forced cameo is mercifully short).

Furthermore, much of Supes VS Bats is based on what many consider to still be the best comic book of all time, Frank Miller’s genre-changing epic The Dark Knight Returns. Here’s a page so you can see how close the film came to it:

And here’s what it seems like Civil War is based on:

In addition, it can’t be ignored that both films have largely the same plot: the government and much of the general public are wondering if these “heroes,” who operate outside the law, are more of a menace than a benefit (featured is the collateral damage we’ve seen in their previous films).

In the various Avengers movies, yes, we’ve seen cities get pretty wrecked, but it was mostly by the bad guys.  However, in Man of Steel, half of Metropolis seems to have been devastated, much of it caused by Superman haphazardly flying through buildings and indiscriminately zapping things with his heat vision (in Superman II, at least Superman spent just as much time saving civilians as he did fighting Zod and his cronies). Why didn’t Superman just take the fight to the middle of nowhere?  Fans universally criticized this aspect of the movie.

And, much to our delight, this is exactly what is addressed at the start of the film!  We see a replay of the end of the battle in Man of Steel from a whole new perspective – by the people who suffered and died as a result of it.  The focus is on what Bruce Wayne witnesses, and his failure to get everyone out of the Wayne offices. This turns the most negative aspect of Man of Steel into a positive one and forms a largely single-minded perspective for the entire film: Superman may ultimately be too dangerous for this world and Batman is the only one who can stop him.

If I had to consolidate the plot of Civil War into a paragraph, I’d say the government wants to control the Avengers, which causes a rift between them. This leads to a ham fisted super-confrontation between people who are essentially friends and the whole thing just feels forced.

Neither film is perfect in execution – they both have faults and their fair share of dumb scenes – but I always excuse poor execution for a story that, at its core, is worth telling (Star Trek VI wasn’t perfect, but the basic story of a military establishment wanting to prevent peace at all costs was admirable).

Now while I felt pretty much all of Civil War was a disjointed mess of conflicting tone, Batman VS Superman was consistent until the very end, when it fell into the groan-inducing cliche of good guys get together to fight a really BIG bad guy (in this case, Doomsday was randomly pulled out of nowhere).


Likewise, Civil War ended with another Big Man On Campus, this time with AntMan turning into ridiculous Giant AntMan (I don’t care if it’s been done in the comics, in the movie it was just plain ridiculous).  Unfortunately, in a major contradiction to the plot, this final battle also results in millions of dollars of collateral damage and essentially destroys an airport (and some 747s). At least much of the battle at the end of Superguy VS Batdude, most of the damage is held to a pier, some very angry fish and one disappointed nuke.

Again, the nuke scene is directly quoted from the classic Dark Knight:

Whereas giant AntMan:

Ultimately, both films are imperfect and have their own fans, but after viewing each, I walked out of Civil War underwhelmed, bored and confused, and after Batman VS Superman I was pretty much along for the ride until the last ten minutes.

Why did the critics – and many of the fans – see it differently?  Maybe you can help me understand this in the comments below!




iphone + sound machine = blade runner

Pictured above, Deckard swipes his iPhone and orders some Chinese.  Now you can use your precious iDevice to immerse yourself in the world of Blade Runner with an app called Sleep Machine, a neat little program meant to help you sleep by generating ambient sounds like wind, rain, surf and crickets.  Now that’s great if you want to pretend you live out in the middle of nowhere, but can it relax the futuristic city dweller, looking to close his eyes and get lost in the soothing sounds of a dark, yet shimmering urban landscape?

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third time’s the charm


Some people love to hate Michael Bay.

Some people also love to hate movies that exist primarily to sell toys (kinda bizarre how two, high profile examples of this “genre” were released at the same time this week), so it should come as no surprise that a number of early reviews for  Transformers: (Turn Off the) Dark of the Moon  have stuck the kinfe in.  These commentaters resolutely claim that the movie is abysmal, wanting you to believe it’s as painful as watching a Lady Gaga concert while having your testicles sandblasted.

Judas, I say!

As long as you go in knowing what to expect – a rambunctious movie about giant robots masterminding all manner of mayhem – then it’s easily the best of the three and a thoroughly enjoyable ride.

Mind you I’m no Michael Bay or Transformers apologist; I think the first movie is ok at best and the second IS as painful as the above.  But the new film clearly removes itself from the pack in a few small but important ways…

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movie review: paranormal activity (no spoilers)


I went to see this a few days ago because there’s a lot of people out there calling it one the scariest movies ever made.  At least one reviewer said it was the scariest film they’ve ever seen.  That’s a lot of hype to live up to.  Based on what I saw, I think it’s fair to meet them all halfway and proclaim that Paranormal Activity is “the scariest movie released this month.”  Give me a frakking break, guys – this is not the scariest movie ever, although it is perhaps the most repetitive movie of all time.

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avatar trailer review: dances with beowolves


So I found out a little too late about last week’s free, worldwide IMAX screening of a fifteen minute preview of James Cameron’s upcoming AVATAR (for those who aren’t super nerds, AVATAR is basically Jim’s first movie since TITANIC and will be out this winter in 3D).  I tried to get tickets the night before the event but the website told me every theater was totally and completely 100% for sure  sold out.  Luckily, Darth Mojo correspondent (and 3D stereo whiz kid) Jim Carbonetti was there and kindly offered to share his thoughts on what he saw…

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music post: ferris bueller’s day off


 If you’re between the ages of 35 and 45, chances are that John Hughes (who sadly passed away last week) played a major role in your growth as an adolescent.  Films like Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club addressed the attitudes and angst of a decade and, I daresay, no other film maker before or since has so empathically connected with his audience.  Culturally and intellectually, these movies captured the 80s like snapshots in a yearbook; if you were in high school or college at the time, Hughes’ body of work is as much a part of your memories as was learning to drive or your first kiss.   But the two hours that defined my existence was Ferris Bueller’s Day off…

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marching orders: go see “moon”


Eventually I’ll find the time to write a full review of the recently released “Moon,” but I wanted to at least get a post up telling all of you to go see it immediately.  This $5 million dollar wonder is easily the best sci-fi movie of the summer, and I guarantee it will earn a place in history right next to 2001, Alien and Blade Runner.  It’s not often we get a genre film that’s entertaining, thought-provoking and will have you and your friends in heated, philisophical debate the moment the lights come up.   “Moon” has a terrific story, lots of sci-ficandy and a tour-de-force performance by Sam Rockwell that should make the Oscar folks take notice of one of our own.  Go see it.  Now.  [please, no spoilers in the comments section – I’ll write a review soon and we can have a free for all then].  Trust me, this is the one everyone’s going to be talking about for years to come.

August 2019
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