Zack Snyder vs the DC Universe

If you know anything about Zack Snyder’s body of work, you are probably quite familiar with the term “schlock.” So when it was announced that he was going to bring Alan Moore’s classic “Watchmen” to the big screen there was certainly a mixed reaction.

Initially I was hopeful about the project and, after seeing costume photos, thought it was going to be excellent. Then the reviews started coming in and my hopes sank. I watched it so I could judge it for myself, and I was largely left flat. It looked like the comic, no doubt there, but the movie itself was missing something.

The executives at Warner, however, decided that Snyder should be in charge of their Superman reboot, Man of Steel. And we got a grim, humorless superman who wrecks half a city battling another Kryptonian. Audiences were outraged by this devastation and the death of General Zod at Superman’s hands. But Snyder was then placed in charge of the long-anticipated team-up movie Batman vs Superman. And Snyder was also going to be given creative control over the entire DC Universe.

Personally I learn more towards Marvel than DC, both in terms of the comics and the films. The idea that Snyder would be given total control over the DC Cinematic Universe struck me as a rather bad idea given the reaction he was getting for previous work. Well, it’s that time of year again and Comic-Con has once again taken over San Diego. And, as has become custom, it was in Hall H that we first got to see the new, extended trailer for Batman vs Superman.

In spite of myself, I was impressed. It looked like he really had a goal when he made Man of Steel, and this movie is his explanation for those of us who didn’t get it. Zack Snyder has claimed that he wanted people to see the gritty consequences of a superhero fight, even those who don’t have superpowers, which is why Watchmen was so brutal. This is something that David Wong has harped on continuously, and yet, when Snyder delivers a movie where superhero fights have consequences, people are upset. So, to silence his critics he gives us a second act where Bruce Wayne watches two gods destroying a city, stands helplessly as these titans kill thousands.

While most people would be too awestruck to react, Bruce Wayne makes plans to take this threat down.

Here’s the story that I saw unfold in that 3 minute trailer:  Bruce Wayne watches helplessly as two godlike figures battle it out in a city and kill thousands of his employees. Wayne rushes headlong into the maelstrom to save his people.

Cradling a crying child he feels so small and pathetic and helpless. And he feels compelled to put on the suit again, a costume he abandoned some time ago. The reason why is in the form of a smaller costume, Robin, his sidekick. It’s been defaced, likely by the Joker. The implication is clear:  the joker murdered Robin and Batman hung it up. Shit was just too difficult after that.

Meanwhile Superman is being worshipped as a god by some, treated as a threat by others. People plan to use him, one way or another, to further their own agenda. Who will he trust?

And finally we see them face each other down, man to god.

It is logical and visually impressive. Yes, the Jessie Eisenberg version of Lex Luthor sounds dumb as shit, but I am interested in seeing where Zack Snyder is going to take this. Already, though, I think having Wonder Woman in the movie (as well as any other heroes except as part of a stinger) is a huge mistake, but only time reveals.

 

 

The Evil Dead 2013: Evil Deader

I think I was 12 or 13 years old when I saw Sam Raimi’s “The Evil Dead” for the first time. I had borrowed it from a friend whose irresponsible parents had allowed him to rent it from the local video store. He had assured me that this one was going to be good, but I would have to wait til my parents had gone to bed to get the full enjoyment of the movie.

No, I did not have nightmares that night, or any other, but I was not comfortable in the darkness for a few days. Sam Raimi was working under an (obvious to a 12 year-old) shoestring budget, and he made a great movie. When I watched the Evil Dead as an adult, seven or eight years later, I gained a deeper appreciation of the movie, and wondered what Raimi could have done with a real budget.

First-time Brazilians film-maker Fede Alvarez gives us an idea in this stylish, gore-drenched remake that might actually surpass the original in some ways. Rather than give us a shot-by-shot remake, Alvarez delivers his own film, true to the spirit of the original, while incorporating new element, such as the opening scene.

We open on a scared, apparently traumatized, young woman stumbling through the woods, blood dripping from her hands. She is rapidly captured by a pair of stereotypical hillbilly rapists who yank a sack over her head before smashing her in the head with a shotgun. When she awakens, she is bound to a post in a dimly lit room adorned with dead cats on hooks. The hillbillies have been replaced by a withered crone who doesn’t speak English, but we know this young lady is at the end of her line. The reveal that the girl is not a victim, but actually the possessed pawn of an evil demon isn’t a surprise, but it will set the tone for the rest of the movie. Our next scene even begins with an inverted shot of the forest, a sign that Alvarez is going to turn this story upside down, and you should prepare for that.

Another great addition to the film is a subplot about heroin addiction. It is that subplot, by the way, that elevates this movie beyond the first, in my opinion.

The original Evil Dead is a simple scary movie about people screwing around carelessly with ancient knowledge that they don’t understand and cannot possibly control. A campfire story with tragedy coming only because people failed to contain their curiosity. There is no deeper meaning to be found in the original Evil Dead, just a good, scary film.

By introducing heroin. however, Alvarez has changed the dynamic of the movie. Now we can see why they stay at the cabin until it is too late to escape, now Mia’s bizarre behavior looks less like a supernatural affliction than the desperate acts of a junkie. All the way until it has doomed the group.

Alvarez frequently shows syringes in the film to further his metaphor: from the scene where one character is repeatedly stabbed with one filled with sedatives, to the part where they are used to make a defibrillator in a great MacGuyver moment. A nail gun is even weaponized, a reminder to the audience that ju8nkie’s often refer to their needle as a “spike.” What we are watching is Mia struggling with her addiction, watching it destroy everyone around her, isolating her.

In the end it comes down to Mia vs the embodiment of Evil, the Abomination that she is her Addiction. Ultimately she triumphs, but not before losing a part of herself, and all those she cares for.

If Alvarez continues the franchise, I’ll go along with an Evil Dead 2, just to see how he does it.

World War Zzzzz: Why I’m Not Excited About the New Brad Pitt Movie

So, recently I did a thing about the movies of 2013.  And on that list, I said I would return to World War Z at a later time to elaborate on the comments I made.  I think now is a good time to do that so if it turns out I am right I can add 2 paragraphs to this column and rerun it when the movie comes out.  That’s called “advanced planning” kids, even if it is sometimes confused with “laziness.”

WWZ

Man I wish I hadn’t eaten that bran muffin an hour ago.

The picture above is the fade-in on the trailer for World War Z.  Please take note of how thick the traffic is, because that will be kind of important in a minute.

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:28 seconds in, Pretty Boy. You DO know this is a Zombie flick, right?

 

WWZ 2

Ooooh, photo op!

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is :25 into the trailer, and as you can see the side-view mirror of the car is missing as a police motorcycle just clipped it as the cop rode in-between the tightly packed cars you saw in the first shot, and can sorta see in this second one.

 

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Did anyone get the number?

No, but we know it was from PWD.

No, but we know it was from PWD.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another cop comes along, this one on foot, to tell Brad Pitt to “Move along, you Lookie Lou!” when he gets plowed into by a goddamn runaway garbage truck.  A garbage truck that is nowhere to be seen in that opening shot of bumper-to-bumper traffic that stretches a mile or more in either direction.  Further, it isn’t slowed down in the slightest by all of the vehicles it had to have collided with on it’s way to the unfortunate police officer up there.  And of course, there is no indication that this nightmare is coming because it is apparently being stealthy as it plows through traffic on it’s way to killing the cop.

Then, about 1:15 into the trailer everyone who somehow managed to never hear about this book learns that it is about zombies when they see this shot.

Live for the SWARM!

Live for the SWARM!

I wish I could have gotten a cleaner screenshot for you, but I assure you, watch that trailer, you’ll see it.  Instead of just hiring human extras, they decided to CGI in some zombies, and guess what?  It looks like they decided to CGI in some zombies instead of hiring actors to do it.

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King of the Hill!

And it is even more apparent in this scene, although I will freely admit it is a little more forgivable due to the sheer number of people involved.  Not because of cost, but because of the possibility of someone getting seriously hurt.  Which, in the early days of Hollywood, was never a concern at all.  Which is why so many older movies are so much more awesome than what you see today.

I don’t want to discount the movie too soon, but the bad CGI and the silliness of the garbage truck scene do not really make me all that confident that this one isn’t going to be a Ghost Rider.

 

 

2013 Box Office Line-Up Part 2

The Lone Ranger

I have always been a fan of the Lone Ranger, and when I heard he was returning to the big screen, I was pretty stoked.  It’s a great character, one I have my own particular views about.  So the idea of a good, solid western sounded great.

 

Instead we get Jack Sparrow in the Old West.  This looks silly to me…and not a good silly, either.  More like a Wild, Wild, West silly.

OPENS: July 3, 2013

 

 

The Wolverine

When I heard they were making another Wolverine movie, I was hoping they were going to reboot and pretend the first never happened.  Instead, they have decided to acknowledge it in marketing, at least.

 

They have excellent source material to work with, Chris Claremont’s original Wolverine series was an instant classic and added some serious depth to the character.  Let’s hope they redeem the franchise.TheWolverine_poster

If they drop the ball again, I am going to be seriously put out.

 

OPENS:  July 26, 2013

 

 

 Elysium

Neil Blongkamp of District 9 fame is back for more sci-fi action.  Matt Damon and Jodie Foster are headlining, so this could be good.  Expect a rush of critiques exploring how it is a commentary on our imbalanced economy.

OPENS:  August 9, 2013

 

 

The World’s End

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This is another outing with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (Sean of the Dead, Hot Fuzz).  Are we pretending Paul never happened?  We are?  Okay, cool.

OPENS: October 25, 2013

 

 

Ender’s Game

This one is going to be big.  I don’t see a franchise here, which is nice, to be honest with you.  Sometimes there is no other story that needs to be told.

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OPENS:  November 1, 2013

 

 

Thor:  The Dark World

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I enjoyed the first episode in the franchise.  It was uneven, and silly at times, but it was still entertaining.  And Chris Hensworth proved in The Avengers that he could hold his own in an ensemble cast that had some serious dynamite in it.  I’m willing to give this one a glance, see where it’s headed.

OPENS: November 8, 2013

 

 

 

The Hunger Games:  Catching Fire

Since I’m not a teenage girl, I didn’t read The Hunger Games.  However, I do have a Lady in my life who enjoys books like this one, and so I took her to see the movie.  It certainly had it’s problems, but I think some of the criticisms were nit-picky.  It was a fun movie, and I will likely be taking my lady to see Catching Fire.

OPENS:  Nov. 22, 2013

 

The Hobbit:  The Desolation of Smaug

Someone needs to sit Peter Jackson down and have a talk with him.  He needs to understand that not every movie he makes needs to be 3 hours long.  Sometimes that works (The Fellowship of the Ring 178 minutes) because the tale is truly epic in scope.  And sometimes, you get the feeling that maybe things are being dragged out a little longer than necessary (The Two Towers 179 minutes, The Return of the King 201 minutes) in order to highlight some technical artistry, maybe.

Then the director does a completely different movie (King Kong),yet he makes it so long (187 minutes) that you wonder if he left anything on the cutting room floor.

Then he gives us The Hobbit, as a trilogy.  And each installment promises to be an Epic (An Unexpected Journey was 169 minutes), which is pretty unfortunate, because we know he is really stretching the source material thin.

OPENS:  December 13, 2013

 

 

Looking Ahead to the 2013 Box-Office Line-Up

This is a short list of the big movies that are coming out this year.  Some I have high hopes for, others not so much.  Here they are by release date:

Gangster Squad

I don’t know about you, but I love a good gangster picture.  And this one looks like it’s going to be one of those really stylish L.A. Confidential types that we all love so much.

 

I hope this one is as good as it looks, I really do.

 

 

Hansel and Gretel:  Witch Hunters

The title immediately reminded me of “Abraham Lincoln:  Vampire Slayer” and that is not a good thing.  The trailer itself reminded me of Van Helsing, and that is also not a good thing.

 

This could be fun, but somehow I doubt it.  And that makes me sad.

OPENS:  January 25, 2013

 

John Dies at the End

I’ve already seen this one over a streaming service, and you can too.  If you like it enough, feel free to see it again in theaters.

 

I’ve already reviewed it, here.

OPENS:  January 25, 2013

 

Warm Bodies

I got tired of the zombie thing years ago, to be honest with you.  I still have love for the genre, don’t get me wrong, but I am tired of it being everyplace I go.  The one genre that I truly do hate, however, is the “friendly monster” thing that seeks to turn every terror into a misunderstood friend-to-be.  And when I first heard about this movie, I was prepared to hate it based on the concept.

It looks like fun though, doesn’t it?  Except, based solely on this trailer, I can see someone making a kids cartoon where zombies and humans co-exist and wacky hijinks ensue!  And if that is your thing, you are welcome to it, because I don’t want any parts of that nonsense.

I might check this one out though, for Valentine’s Day with my grrrl.

OPENS:  February 12, 2013

Carrie

I loved the Brian de Palma original, and this one looks to be pretty grim.  Director Kimberly Pierce (Boys Don’t Cry) isn’t shy about showing how young women are victimized, and this remake could give the original a run for its money in terms of dramatic tension.

OPENS:  March 15. 2013

 

G.I. Joe:  Retaliation

Hey, remember a few years ago when you heard they were making a live-action G.I. Joe movie and how excited you got?  Then you saw the trailer for it and you were all like “Um…what is this?  Why did they call the Crysis movie G.I. Joe?”  Well, this time it looks like they got it right.

Originally, Channing Tatum’s character (the only link to the original movie, apparently) was killed in the very first scene of the new one.  As punishment, I suppose.  This seemed to confuse test audiences, however, so scenes had to be reshot and re-edited, delaying the movie to it’s current release date.  And let’s be honest here, how many times does Hollywood release awesome action movies in…March?

OPENS:  March 29, 2013

 

 

The Evil Dead

I own the original Evil Dead trilogy, but the only one I won’t watch with the lights off in an empty house is the first one.  And it just got a lot scarier.

I will totally go see this in the theater, especially one of those old-school theaters with a balcony.

OPENS:  April 12, 2013

 

Iron Man 3

I was thrilled about the first episode in this series; it was a thrill ride with Robert Downey Jr. stealing every scene as he became the Tony Stark that a film audience needs.  The sequel, despite the addition of Don Cheadle to the cast, didn’t hold up the franchise well and seemed more like a guest-written episode of the comics.

Jon Favreau knocked it out of the park in his first outing, but didn’t deliver with the second.  Maybe a change of directors can help recapture the magic of the original.  Count me in.

OPENS:  May 3, 2013

 

The Great Gatsby

This one is a serious date movie.  Meaning:  You don’t take someone to see this on your first date.  You need to be settled and comfortable with each to see this one, then go out for coffee and pie to talk it over afterwards.

OPENS:  May 10, 2013

 

Star Trek: Into Darkness

J.J. Abrams pleasantly surprised me with his reboot of this franchise.  It looks like Abrams has reunited the cast, and that works for me since they worked well together the last time.  I’m hoping that lightning can strike twice, but this trailer doesn’t do a lot for me.  Aside from the snippets of dialogue used in voice-overs, it seems to be a series of explosions, and two separate scenes where someone has to jump from a great height (:38 and 1:38).

I’ll wait and see what the reviews are before I commit myself either way.

OPENS:  May 17, 2013

 

Man of Steel

I’d be lying if I said I was a Superman fan.  He looks cool and all, but the charm wears off rather quickly when you realize he really can’t be beaten.  This makes him a really dull character, and that is part of the reason his film franchise has been a steady series of disasters.  Then they let Zack Snyder (Watchmen) direct the latest reboot because, why not?  He would certainly have to work overtime to make it worse than the last one.

Then I heard that Snyder told an audience at San Diego Comic-Con that he approached the project as if he were the first one to ever do a Superman movie.  And personally, I think that was the only correct approach.  I might actually check this one out.

OPENS:  June 14, 2013

 

World War z

When I heard this was going to be a movie, I thought “Okay, that could be cool.  The book is extremely popular, so maybe they will do a good adaptation.”  Then I heard Brad Pitt was starring and I said “Sweet.  I like his work, this should be good.”  Then I saw this trailer.

I will talk about that trailer at length at a later date.  For now, let me just say that I think I will catch this one streaming, if at all.

OPENS:  June 21, 2013      

 

Monday I will go down the rest of 2013s coming attractions, from July to December.