Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Rant Review: Batman v Superman

After what seemed like an endless wait, it's finally here. The three biggest icons in all of superherodom team up in one epic movie, and those of us who have been waiting since our childhoods for such an event can barely contain ourselves. Can it possibly live up to the hype? Read on to find out! (Or, y'know, go see it.) I normally keep my reviews spoiler-free, and this one is as well, with one exception near the end. (You'll have plenty of warning, so don't worry.) However, there's so much to talk about that I'll be doing a spoiler-filled rundown about the movie's events and possible ramifications next week, so keep an eye out for that!

I'll say this right off the bat: critics have been savaging this movie, many of them gleefully ripping it apart in their reviews. For whatever reason, it seems that many of them had in for this movie from the beginning, and are taking some sick pleasure in hating on it now that it's finally released. But Batman v Superman wasn't made for critics. It was made for us. Many of the things that have drawn the critics' ire are some of the very things that fans of these characters will love most in the movie. It's also nonsensical to criticize the simplicity of the plot when everyone knew what it would be the moment the movie was announced: Batman and Superman fight, then realize they have a common enemy, and unite to take him down. It's a team-up movie designed to get these characters acquainted with one another and set the stage for the cohesive universe of DC Comics films, and it does that very well. This was never supposed to be an intricately-plotted thriller, and it would be foolish for anyone to go into it expecting that.

Now, let's take a look at the good and the bad of Batman v Superman!

The casting: This movie has one of the best ensemble casts in recent memory. Everyone pulls their weight, and even the small supporting roles are very well-played. One standout is Holly Hunter as Senator Finch. This is a small but crucial role, and Hunter is so damn good that she makes the character one of the most memorable in the movie. She steals nearly every scene in which she appears, particularly when squaring off against Eisenberg's Luthor. Speaking of...

Eisenberg's Luthor: This has been one of the most divisive elements of the movie from the moment the casting was announced, and that hasn't changed now that people are flocking to theaters to watch the final product. Eisenberg isn't quite like any version of Luthor we've gotten before, and many people are finding that off-putting. He brings a manic energy and disposition to the character that seems as if it likely shouldn't work, but somehow it does.

Wonder Woman: One of the major draws of this movie is seeing one of the world's most enduring superheroes make her film debut, and Gal Gadot makes a tremendous impression in the role. She doesn't have a whole lot of screen time, but she is mesmerizing whenever she is onscreen. In one of the showings I went to, applause broke out whenever she appeared! It seems the rest of the world is finally learning what many comic readers have known for decades: Wonder Woman kicks fucking ass.

The visuals: This is a Zack Snyder film, so it should come as no surprise that it is visually stunning. Still, it is such a visual feast that it bears repeating: This film is visually stunning. Frame-worthy images pop up with such frequency that it's almost distracting at times.

Alfred: No slight to Michael Caine, who was excellent in Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, but it's great to see the most comic-accurate version of Alfred to date in this movie. Jeremy Irons is absolutely perfectly cast, and I found myself wishing he'd had more screen time. It's worth nothing that the nearly 70 year-old Irons has aged so well that he barely looks more than a few years older than Affleck's Bruce Wayne. That's not a complaint; just an observation.

From page to screen: It's no secret that Frank Miller's seminal The Dark Knight Returns was a huge influence on this movie's depiction of Batman. Making that even more apparent are a series of shots lifted directly from the comic page and put directly into the film! Few things are more thrilling for a lover of comics.

Glimpses of the DCU: There are tons of easter eggs in this movie, ranging from blink-and-you-miss-it to whacking-you-over-the-head-with-it. All of them are a lot of fun, and I'm practically salivating over what the future holds for the cinematic DCU!

The title bout: Holy hell, the battle between the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel is the stuff of legends. It's a good hour and a half before the movie gets to that point, setting the stage and moving all the players into position, and the payoff is most certainly worth it. It doesn't take place on the same scale as the climactic battles from such movies as Man of Steel or The Avengers, but it feels even more epic.

The Bad
Editing: There are some issues with the film's pacing. The editing in the first ninety minutes is often sloppy, leaping from scene to unrelated scene with such frequency that it can be rather jarring at times. With several narratives to juggle, the editing really needs to be top-notch, and it's often not up to the task. However, once the various plotlines converge, things forge ahead much more smoothly for the final hour.

Wasted characters: I'll be vague here to avoid venturing into spoiler territory, but there are a couple of characters who appear in the movie whose names will be very familiar to those acquainted with Batman and Superman comics. However, the characters are very minor and, frankly, are completely wasted in the movie. If you're familiar with the comics, you'll know who I mean when you watch it. (More on this later in the week.)

No post-credits scene: This was a bummer, especially after I sat through the credits, which seemingly listed everyone who has ever been born, while having to pee pretty badly. Not really a strike against the movie, but definitely disappointing.

Okay, remember when I said there was one spoiler near the end of this review? Here it comes, so if you haven't seen the movie yet and wish to avoid spoilers, skip ahead to the end now! Otherwise, highlight the text below to read the spoilers.

Batman kills: Pretty self-explanatory, right? Batman kills people in this movie. That's a huge misstep. Batman does not kill. Period. Even Superman has some flexibility there, but unless you're specifically adapting the original 1939 version of Batman or some Elseworlds version, Batman absolutely does not. He doesn't directly kill people with his bare hands in the movie, or anything like that, but there are scenes in which he blows up cars full of people and doesn't even give a fuck. It's not enough to ruin the movie, but it is definitely extremely bizarre to see. Even so, the movie does make it clear that this is a Batman who has lost his way, and Bruce's words and actions at the end indicate that he's realized this. It's a pretty clear indication that he will return to the more idealistic Batman that he used to be. We can only hope.

Even with a few warts, this movie is great fun. It's the stuff of wet dreams for hardcore DC fans, something so many of us have wished for for years now. I know this is exactly the kind of movie I've wanted for as far back as I can remember, and it's wonderful that it finally exists, and actually lives up to its hype. Frankly, the people who have been grumbling about this movie being joyless have my pity. I had an ear-to-ear grin on my face nearly the entire time both times I watched it. It's the most fun I've had at the movies in years, and I can't wait to see it a third time!

Monday, December 21, 2015

My 2015 year in review: gaming edition!

Microsoft recently sent me a link to a really cool infographic that breaks down a bunch of my Xbox statistic from the past year. Check it out, and visit the site to generate your own! As always, you can click on the photo to embiggen it.

(Also, note my swanky-ass avatar outfit! Deathstroke the terminator with Wolverine claws? Now THAT'S a killing machine!)

A couple of things to note: the gaming time is measuring all the time the Xbox was on and connected to Xbox Live, so I did not actually spend 37% of the entire year playing games. Really. The "you've been with Xbox since 2007" box refers to when I joined Xbox Live, not when I first got an Xbox. (For the record, that was in February of 2002.)

One thing that surprised me is that I rank in the top 1% worldwide as far as my achievements. I am by no means an achievement hunter, but that rank made a lot more sense once I saw that the average Xbox owner only gained 69 achievements in the past year. It's easy to forget that a very substantial number of game console owners only play a couple of games each year. There are millions of people who buy an Xbox and only buy the new Madden or Call of Duty each year, and pick up a new Halo or GTA when they come out. Gamers who talk about their hobby on the internet tend to forget that we devote a good bit more time to gaming than most, and we don't represent the majority. Seeing these stats really drives that home. Anyway, it was cool of Microsoft to do this, and I enjoyed going over it. Let's hope they continue doing it each year!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Apparently, there's a new Star Wars movie opening today...

Hopefully the plot is based on this cover to the old Star Wars comic series. I really wanna see how Chewie & Lando's domestic partnership goes, why Zorak joins the group, and how Luke got a job as stunt double for Karl hungus in Logjammin'. The subplot where they help George and Lenny with their rabbit farm is sure to be heartwarming.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Bring back Mystery Science Theater 3000!

Joel Hodgson, creator of the beloved MST3K, has a Kickstarter campaign to revive the show! If you love MST3K, go pledge what you can, even if it's only $10. There are some really kickass rewards if you can afford more, of course. Depending on how much is raised, we could get as many as twelve new episodes! Why are you still reading this? Go now!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween!

Previously on this date: Dracula (1931) and The New Annotated Dracula!

I hope you've enjoyed all the classic horror goodness this past month! You can catch up on any of it you may have missed, this year or in years past, by clicking here. Today I'll be sharing a bunch of cool old posters and ads that, for one reason or another, have never been featured here before. Enjoy, and everyone have a fun and safe Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Frankenstein Friday: Boris Karloff's Frankenstein Monster through the decades

Previously on this date: The Masque of the Red Death and Blood-Curdling Bottles!

As with previous posts featuring Bela Lugosi's Dracula and Lon Chaney Jr's Wolf Man, today we'll be looking at the evolution of Karloff's Frankenstein Monster over the years.
Here is an early makeup test of the Monster that still shows up on licensed merchandise from time to time.

Here is the iconic Monster from the first Universal Frankenstein:

Bride of Frankenstein:

Son of Frankenstein:

Karloff donned the neck bolts for a charity baseball game alongside other celebrities in 1940:

Finally, he appeared as the Monster alongside Lon chaney Jr. and Peter Lorre in an episode of Route 66 in 1962:

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Throwback Thursday: The Old Dark House

Previously on this date: Young Frankenstein and Monster Busts! (That refers to monster statues, not really big boobs. No false advertising here!)

Today I'll point you in the direction of my post about the delightful James Whale classic The Old Dark House. This is one of my favorite movies, and deserves to be held in the same esteem as all-time classics such as The Mummy and The Bride of Frankenstein. Go check it out!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Werewolf Wednesday: The Wolf Man Makeup Process

Previously on this date: Nosferatu: A Symphony of HorrorFrankenstein, and Macabre Monster Nails!

Today we'll be looking at various photos of Lon Chaney Jr. enduring the long makeup process that transformed him into the Wolf Man again and again over the years, mostly at the hands of Jack Pierce. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Transylvania Tuesday: Bela Lugosi's Dracula through the decades

Previously on this date: Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and The Simpsons' Treehouse of Horror!

Bela Lugosi is best known for portraying the vampire king in the 1931 film, but his career included many other performances as the character, spanning most of his life. Enjoy this collection of photos spanning Bela's decades as the immortal Count!

Here is a young Bela during his stage days, shortly before starring in Universal's film adaptation:

Here's a collection of photos from the 1931 classic:

MGM's Return of the Vampire wasn't technically a sequel to Dracula, but Bela's character is the Count in every way that matters:

Bela's Dracula got one last hurrah in 1948's Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein:

Lastly, here are photos from some of Bela's public appearances in full Dracula regalia in the 1950s, including one with Vampira!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Mummy Monday: Jack Pierce works his magic on Karloff

Previously on this date: Dracula (1979) and Skeleton Decorations!

Today, we'll be taking a look at these cool photos of makeup master Jack Pierce turning Boris Karloff into Imhotep the mummy in the 1932 classic. Enjoy!