Justice League Review

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by Drew Kiess

 

How to describe a movie like Justice League? Or, a better question, how to describe a movie like Justice League in a way that it has not already been described?

Let’s look over what we know: yes, we know that the post-production process on this movie was less than smooth for various reasons, chief among them a personal tragedy in the director’s family. Yes, we also know that the critical hill for this movie to climb was probably much too steep and the comparisons to the distinguished competition were unavoidable (how could anything measure up to what is already locked-in as a cultural phenomenon?). And yes, we also know that the tone of this film was shifted even further from the somberness of its predecessor due to critical feedback.

We know all that. What we don’t know is how things would have turned out otherwise. I can only review this movie for the movie I saw in the theaters and not the movie that I thought we were getting. Maybe someday we’ll get to see that movie (we’re just now getting to see the three hour version of 1978’s Superman The Movie, so there’s always hope), but this is the Justice League movie we got. And—honestly—I loved it.

To say a movie is imperfect seems like a critical cheat, but it is also important to say in this case. While I think most of the imperfections pointed out aren’t necessarily the same problems I have with the film (most of my complaints involve the ever-hated spoilers, so I will avoid talking too much about them), this is the first of the three Snyder DC Films entries that I’m comfortable with letting the critical onslaught hit without much argument. Perhaps that says more about me than the movie, but this is not quite the same kind of movie as Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. If you hated those movies, you might take that as a relief. As someone who loved them, it is a bit of a dunk in cold water.

What exists instead, though, is just as reverent a love letter to DC Comics fans. Never did I dream of seeing pieces from Jack Kirby’s Fourth World on a big screen. Seeing Commissioner Gordon (played well by J.K. Simmons) speaking with Batman and Wonder Woman and The Flash and Cyborg on a rooftop is a treat. And for anyone who has read the works of Kirby, Grant Morrison’s Rock of Ages, or Geoff John’s Justice League: Origins, there is plenty to keep you geeking out from the opening titles to the close of the credits. And yes, that end credits scene is as good as you’ve been told.

Of the major characters, most for me were given a fantastic show case as to what makes them amazing characters. There is one character that I felt may have been shortchanged, but that may be super spoilery (see what I did there?). Steppenwolf was fine. The great thing about using a character like Steppenwolf is that he does not come with a lot of baggage and is disposable without having his fan club become up-in-arms. Quick, name your favorite Steppenwolf comic book! He serves the purpose of providing a threat daunting enough to get the team together, but is not the kind of character who merits a long-winded motivation.

What the movie does well for me is not shying away from the comic book-ness of the whole thing. While the humor, thanks in part to screenwriter (and post-production supervisor) Joss Whedon, is cranked up in Justice League, it never feels aimed at the audience for enjoying these types of stories. It managed to have fun while still telling a cool story ripped almost perfectly from the pages of a comic book. And that may make it a movie that’s not for everyone. But if you’re someone who loves these characters, I highly recommend seeing Justice League with someone who loves these characters with you. There’ll be plenty for you to talk about.

Final score: Comic Code Approved

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Early Justice League Reactions and Elfman’s Score

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It’s hard to believe that we are just a few days away from being in a theater and watching some of our favorite superheroes fighting side-by-side for the first time. Justice League premieres now in less than a week and it feels like Twitter is so full of 280-character opinions that it is about to burst at the seams.

With the social media embargo lifting on Friday, we now have some of the first verified opinions on Justice League. While there have been a few killjoys, it does sound like we are in for a good time when the film finally rolls. A quintessential part of getting hyped up for these DC Films has been listening to the musical score the week before. I am not entirely sure if there is another franchise, with the exception of Star Wars, where the musical score is so closely analyzed. (How many people remember the Twitter debates surrounding the score for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them? Yeah, I don’t either.)

The Justice League score, like much about this movie since the departure of Zack Snyder, has been under the microscope since it was announced that it would be Danny Elfman instead of the previously announced Junkie XL, who co-composed for Batman v Superman and impressed us all with his soundtrack for Mad Max: Fury Road. Danny Elfman, of course, has had his fair share of superhero work, from Tim Burton’s Batman, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, and Joss Whedon’s The Avengers. From a personal point of view, his score for Spider-Man 2 is among my favorite comic book movie scores of all time, and I was excited to hear what he had come up for Justice League.

Fan reaction to the score has been an interesting one to watch. I will say that I do not think it works as well as a standalone listen as much as what Hans Zimmer put together for Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. That does not mean that it is a bad score.

There are scores we listen to specifically because it reminds us of a movie we love. Elfman’s Batman score is actually a perfect example of this. Outside of the main theme and Decent Into Mystery, I would argue that there are not a lot of tracks that would standalone if not for the emotional connection to a movie that we love. Clint Mansell’s Noah score is an example for me of the opposite, great pieces of music that are used within a movie.

If I am to fully judge Elfman’s score, I will need to hear it in context. I will say, I am a fan of the call-backs to the classic Batman and Superman themes. If the response to complaints about Batman and Superman not behaving like themselves in previous films has been answered by, “well, they’re building up to being the heroes we all love”, then I personally like using the classic musical cues to indicate that they are behaving at their best and most heroic.

I do want to signal out Sigrid’s Everybody Knows cover, the opening track on the soundtrack. It is a standout and has always been lyrically a very somber song. My curiosity is certainly piqued as to how this relates to the story Snyder and Whedon are telling with Justice League.

I am no musical expert. But after listening to the Justice League soundtrack, I can say that I fully believe it can work. I cannot wait to hear those classic themes fill up a theater next week. Be sure to keep the conversation going and tell us what you think!

 

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Deathstroke Film from “The Raid” In The Works

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In what seems like a lifetime ago, Magic Mike star Joe Manganiello was announced as the villain in The Batman. It’s been unspoken for some time now that he would no longer appear in that feature, but Manganiello as Deathstroke the Terminator was just too good of casting to go completely to waste.

Now, friend of Shanlian on Batman Umburto Gonzalez from the Wrap is reporting that The Raid Director Gareth Evans is in negotiations to write and direct a Deathstroke film. The Raid and its sequel are renowned for their incredible action sequences, and so just what kind of movie Warner Bros. wants out of Deathstroke likely falls right in line with this style of film.

Evans reportedly was offered Justice League Dark, but impressed DC executives with his Deathstroke pitch.

What remains to be seen, of course, is just who or what Deathstroke will be up against. Will it be one of the many DC heroes populating the universe already or someone else entirely? Only time will tell, but that won’t stop anyone from speculating. This may be the perfect opportunity to bring back Will Smith’s Deadshot, but I will be excited to see whatever Evans has come up with.

Source: https://www.thewrap.com/gareth-evans-dc-comics-deathstroke/

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“Batman Vs Two Face” Review

 

 

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By
Drew Kiess

I fell in love with Adam West’s Batman later in my fandom than many. While West’s portrayal was responsible for an entire generation becoming Batman fans for the first time, what West did for me was teach me how versatile the Caped Crusader could be. In 2016, seeing Adam West (along with Burt Ward and Julie Newmar) return to his classic role was an absolute joy, and the film itself was ridiculously entertaining, even if it was flawed in some ways.

When Adam West passed away, it struck a chord with me. This man had been responsible for bringing a character that has meant so much to me and has brought me a countless amount of joy to the mainstream. Before his passing, he was able to provide us with one final crusade: “Batman Vs Two-Face.”

In “Batman Vs Two-Face,” Adam West’s Batman is joined by Burt Ward’s Robin, Julie Newmar’s Catwoman, and William Shatner as the villainous Two-Face. While most of what we now consider the heavy hitters in Batman’s rogues gallery found their way onto the screen during the 1960s TV series, one notable exception has always been Two-Face, who starred only in one unused script. Harvey Dent, Gotham’s District Attorney and best friend to billionaire Bruce Wayne, is scarred by pure evil in a laboratory accident gone terribly wrong. The explosion turns Dent into the criminal known as Two-Face, and despite what Bruce Wayne believes to be a successful recovery, Harvey Dent’s scars are deeper than just the surface. With a crime wave indicating the involvement of a duality obsessed fiend, only Two-Face could be behind it. But could Harvey Dent truly be evil? Can the Dynamic Duo stop this crime spree in Gotham? (Tune in next week, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!)

The DC Animated films have been hit and miss lately. This was definitely a hit. Not only was it incredibly funny, it also had a surprising weight that pulled me into the film’s story. The casting of another 60s TV star in William Shatner as Harvey Dent was a stroke of brilliance, and he delivers with a voice performance that rivals any in these films. (His performance was reminiscent of the better moments of Tommy Lee Jones’ version in “Batman Forever.” Surprisingly, this version was less cartoonish.) Shatner pulled off a menacing Two-Face, playing the tongue-in-cheek nature of this universe with ease, while providing a tragic weight to Harvey Dent that is unexpected in connection with the 60s TV show.

Adam West’s performance was everything you would expect it to be. This story gave him a terrific send-off, allowing him to play both the heroic and inspiring Batman in some of the film’s more heavy moments, to the more comedic tones that this version of the character requires. As always, this was what made Adam West and this character such a great marriage: he could play every tone with the same amount of sincerity and commitment. You are always sure about two things with Adam West’s Batman around. Criminals are a cowardly and superstitious lot that he’ll bring to justice, and that Batman is always there watching out for us when we need him most.

The cast of characters in “Batman Vs Two-Face” is deep. If a viewer can go in not knowing what villains cameo and have major roles outside of the titular character, they can find themselves enjoying the revolving door of references to episodes of the TV series. On top of the revolving door of villainy, be on the lookout for some hilarious shout-outs to various Batman pop-culture moments that add flavor to this bountiful Bat-feast.

If “Return of the Caped Crusaders” served as a sequel to “Batman-The Movie,” then “Batman Vs Two-Face” closes out Adam West’s Batman trilogy triumphantly, providing us with humor, action, and a big bucket of heart. Director Rick Morales’ obvious love for the TV show shines through with every scene. It is a miracle to take a world and a style and bring it back to us 50 years after it was popular and do it so well, and to provide us all with one last adventure with our Bright Knight.

I would recommend buying two copies (one for each face), and enjoying this conclusion to Adam West’s Batman trilogy. I watched this with a smile on my face from beginning to end and am looking forward to watching it again. And for those of you out there who have yet to discover Adam West for yourselves, please take it from me: when you learn to love the goofiness and the colors and the biffs, booms, and pows, you will also find the heart, love, and unwavering goodness that was Adam West and his Batman. I think we could all agree that the world needs a Bright Knight now more than ever.

 

3.5 Bats out of 4

 

 

 

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“Warrior”, “The Accountant” Director to Helm Suicide Squad Sequel

by Andrew Kiess

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We have been hearing for some time now that a sequel to Suicide Squad was high on Warner Bros.’s priority list, and after announcements for projects that will take place after the sequel, it only seemed natural that we would be getting news on a director soon.

After several rumors near-misses, we finally have our director for when the worst heroes ever return to the bigscreen. Gavin O’Connor, according to Deadline, will be that director, all that’s left to do is to agree on salary. O’Connor will rejoin his Jane Got A Gun and Warrior screenwriter Anthony Tambakis to tell the continuing stories of Amanda Waller’s group of misfits starring Will Smith as Deadshot, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, and Jared Leto as the Joker, among the the other presumed returning cast.

No release date has been announced for Suicide Squad 2, but reports have been circling that production could begin as early as next year, meaning the movie could hit theaters as early as 2019.

O’Connor has been a personal choice of mine to helm a comic book movie for sometime. He is still currently attached to the Green Hornet reboot, but no news has come of that recently. One would imagine this would spell the end of that project for him.

Warrior and Miracle are among some of my favorite films of the 21st century, and The Accountant was a huge hit for Warners. Jane Got A Gun was a film saved from oblivion by O’Connor, which, despite the critical drumming, had some terrific character beats. There is no question that O’Connor is talented, and I am ecstatic to see what he comes up with for this franchise.

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Elseworlds Joker Origin Film In Development

by Andrew Kiess

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According to a new report from Deadline, a Joker movie is in development with Todd Phillips, director of The Hangover in talks to co-write with Scott Silver (The Fighter) and direct, with legendary filmmaker Martin Scorsese to produce. The film will reportedly take place in the 1980s and have the feel of an 80s crime drama, like the kind Scorsese is famous for.

The film will not feature Jared Leto as the lead actor, but the report did confirm he will return to the role for both Suicide Squad 2 and the Harley Quinn spinoff (presumably Gotham City Sirens). This film will focus on telling an origin for the character before he became the Clown Prince of Crime.

This new film will not fall under the DC Films label run by Geoff Johns and Jon Berg. This new label, yet to be named, will provide Warner Bros. an opportunity to tell stories outside of the continuity of the connected universe films.

I have some misgivings about the prospect of a Joker origin film. I don’t see the necessity of it and risks over saturating the market by double-dipping on a character in the same medium for mass audiences. This does not mean that I do not think it will be good–it has a great chance to be just that–but I would prefer Warner Bros. to remain committed to the shared universe of DC Films by supporting the filmmakers and producers involved within it. With the upcoming launch of the DC streaming service, it makes me wonder why Warners wouldn’t use that as a place to tell this story.

But, it appears that this film is on its way, and so, as a fan of these characters, all I can do is wait and hope that it turns out well.

 

Source: Deadline

 

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Batman and Harley Quinn Review

by Andrew Kiess

Many Batman fans are in agreement that Batman: The Animated Series is among the greatest comic book adaptations out there. For many of us, it has defined the character of Batman and his supporting cast. So, when co-creator Bruce Timm returns to the style and characters that first captured our imaginations, only greatness can happen, right?

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Batman and Harley Quinn is the latest DC animated feature film to get the one-night only theater treatment before being released on demand, following the success of The Killing Joke and Return of the Caped Crusaders. While I enjoyed Crusaders, neither of these one-night only showings featured what I considered to be the “best” of the recent animated films (I thought Judas Contract and Justice League Dark were fantastic), I was still excited to see what looked to be a long lost episode of The New Batman Adventures. What I got fell short of my expectations.

The opening few scenes of the films did not help my perception of the project overall. The animation looked cheap and the characters inconsistent. As the movie went on, the animation improved, but that’s when the story developed.

The plot of the film centers around Poison Ivy (voiced by Paget Brewster) and Jason Woodrue, the Floronic Man (Kevin Michael Richardson) plotting to recreate the event that turned Alec Holland into Swamp Thing on a global scale, transforming all humanity into The Green. Batman (Kevin Conroy) and Nightwing (Loren Lester) enlist the help of a reformed Harley Quinn (Melissa Rauch) to track down Ivy and save the world.

On the surface, this still feels like a new episode of Batman. But as has been the case with many of the latest DC animated film, there seemed to be an imperative to “adult it up.” In theory, I don’t think this is necessarily a good or bad thing. It worked extraordinarily well in both The Judas Contract and Justice League Dark, but failed miserably with movies like The Killing Joke and Assault on Arkham. Harley Quinn is no stranger to being sexualized, and when done right it can create empathy for the character as someone who has overcome objectification. When done wrong, it just feeds into the objectification that the character (and, let’s face it, the comic book industry as a whole) has been fighting against.

We meet Harley working as a risqué waitress, where she beats up a customer for attempting to grope her. When Nightwing later questions her about it, she explains that it’s the only job she can get due to her past with The Joker being on her record. Instead of this being a moment to create empathy, it is followed up by a ridiculous scene where it is not-so-subtly implied that her an Nightwing, to quote Marv from Sin City, “do the nasty.” From the way the scene is drawn to the absolute lack of any reason for this to be in the film completely disservice the character, and is, in one man’s opinion, the opposite of “adult”. It is pure adolescent fantasy, with no real appreciation for storytelling.

To make matters worse, the rest of the humor in the film is bizarrely sophomoric. There is not much I can write that would fully explain just how off-putting a fart joke is in a movie that is trying to convince me that it is an “adult comedy.” A ten minute scene in a karaoke bar with ridiculous dancing and singing did nothing but add to the ever-changing tone. The story progresses to an inevitable appearance by Alec Holland himself, which was simply the final disappointment in a long line of disappointments.

Perhaps I am being too harsh. I have seen several positive reactions and some middle of the road reactions from many outlets online. But for me, Batman and Harley Quinn was a failure on every level and never engaged me for a single moment. As always, I would recommend you judge for yourself if you are interested in seeing it, but I think this will join The Killing Joke as the second of the DC animated films to not have a home on my shelf.

 

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Batman: The Enemy Within Episode One Review

By Andrew Kiess

”The Enigma”

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Telltale introduced me to my second-favorite (behind comics) form for telling Batman stories. Put me inside of a comic book and let me define the type of character my hero will be. Season One of Batman: The Telltale Series was a spectacular display of just that. The game creators present you with a story that is not afraid to go off script in order to make you feel uneasy in your judgments, forcing you to question who you should allow as allies and who you should treat as potential enemies. Season One’s five episode arc did not disappoint me and kept me fully engaged to the end, and so I have been waiting impatiently for Season Two to get underway, and this month, it did just that.

“The Enigma” opens with the reappearance of a figure from Gotham’s past. Edward Nygma, also known as The Riddler, who we learn once terrorized Gotham long before Bruce Wayne took up the cowl. Bruce, while investigating a casino owner for potential illegal arms deal, witnesses the return of The Riddler and immediately steps into “Batman mode”. With the assistance of the newly-appointed Commissioner James Gordon, Riddler is stopped from killing his target, but escapes before he can be brought in. As it turns out, ARGUS is critical of GCPD’s supposed failure as Amanda Waller has taken a special interest in Nygma’s case.

This conflict is the central decision of “The Enigma”. Do you stick up for Gordon or do you side with Waller? And when you do choose a side, just how much information do you share with them? Unlike the first season, where your decisions were simply noted as “remembered” or “noticed”, your decisions in this game can change the relationship you have with other characters, as opposed to simply triggering different conversations later in the game. This nuance adds a little more weight to subtle differences in responses.

These relationships are on full display with both Gordon and Waller, but we get hints that it will play a large role in the development of “John Doe”, who we all know will eventually become The Joker. But, in the meantime, he’s John Doe, a character who seems eager to help, and can prove quite useful as an ally. It becomes interesting as we push our knowledge of the inevitable because of our familiarity with the lore in order to further our agendas as Batman within this alternate canon. What will cause the least amount of problems for Bruce, trusting John Doe or brushing him off? I guess only time will tell.

If it’s not obvious by now, I love this game. From Troy Baker’s performance as Bruce Wayne, to the comic book-like design of the world, this is one of my favorite non-comic Batman stories ever told. It is bold and unafraid to challenge our assumptions as fans to keep us on our toes, and it works for me on every level. If the pattern holds from last season, we should expect season two sometime in late September, so if you haven’t had a chance to play through this series, you have plenty of time to catch up, and I could not recommend it highly enough.

 

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Get Ready for more Wonder Woman

by Drew Kiess

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We all know the success that Wonder Woman is having at the box office. It has crossed $400 million in the States, and is preparing to cross $800 million worldwide, with Japan yet to open the film. With this kind of success, it should comes as know surprise that Warner Bros. will be trying to capitalize on that success and use Diana as a central figure in the DCEU moving forward.

We won’t have to wait long to see Diana on the big screen again with Justice League just a few short months away. We also recently heard that Wonder Woman II is scheduled for a December 2019 release. And now, according to Forbes’ own, and friend of Shanlian on Batman, Mark Hughes that Diana is expected to appear in Flashpoint, which could be hitting theaters in 2020.

This is great news for fans of the great DC event Flashpoint, as it is one step closer to getting the adaptation of the book that we deserve, and until we’re told otherwise, we may be able to assume that the other characters from that book will also be showing up, including Jason Momoa as Aquaman and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Thomas Wayne/Batman (please).

My one big question about this news is whether or not general audiences will go along with this elseworlds version of Wonder Woman. This will be a new concept for live action films, and while this would be Gal Gadot’s fifth outing as Wonder Woman, audiences may be a bit taken aback by this character going from the inspiring hero she is known as to the anger-driven warlord of the Flashpoint timeline. I believe such a transition is going to need a masterful director (paging Mr. Zemeckis) and a tight script. This is a powerful story, and if done right, I think audiences will go along with it. But this is an ambitious project, and the creative team is going to be key. Thankfully, it is looking like this will have an amazing cast, and amazing casts attract amazing filmmakers.

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source: Forbes

 

 

Andrea Romano Retires

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By

Drew Kiess

For three decades, fans of DC Comics have been gifted with some amazing performers voicing our favorite characters. One of the primary reason for that has been Andrea Romano, who has announced her retirement from animation.

Romano began her career with a little remembered DC cartoon in 1985 titled The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians. She went on in that decade to work on revitalization of classic animations such as The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Scooby-Doo and Yogi Bear. She also worked on the 80s Smurfs series as the casting director. She would go on to success in the 90s as the casting director of Batman the Animated Series, helping to put in place what would forever be known as the voices of Batman and the Joker in Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill. She would also serve as the voiceover director and casting director for most of the DC animated properties moving forward, including Superman, Batman Beyond, Justice League, Static Shock, Justice League Unlimited¸ and the many movies that spun off from these properties and that also followed.

Romano was also attached to classic Warner Bros. animations such as Tiny Toons and Animaniacs. She also served as casting director for recent favorites such as Ben 10, Voltron, and Ratchet and Clank among many others.

The torch is ready to be passed on at Warner Bros. animation, and I do not envy whoever must stand in her shoes. Romano has certainly left her mark on the popular culture conscious of the last three decades and that work will stand the test of time. It is sad to see Romano leave animation after providing such a stellar body of work, but we wish her happiness in her retirement!  

 

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