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This Week's Film Reviews (Mar 24, 2016)

24 Mar 2016

Opening this week are among others, the WB blockbuster BATMAN V SUPREMAN DAWN OF JUSTICE.

 

FILM REVIEWS:

BATMAN V SUPERMAN DAWN OF JUSTICE (USA 2016) *

Directed by Zack Snyder

Before the film starts at the press/promo screening of BATMAN V Superman, director Zack Snyder appears on screen practically begging the audience not to give away plot points and spoilers to the rest of the world in order for them to enjoy the film.  True to word, there are a lot of spoilers that could be revealed but this latest multi-million dollar effort is so bad that no spoiler could have made the film any worse.

Snyder makes no qualms at reminding the audience that he directed the Spartan film 300.  At the film start, after Bruce Wayne rushes into the dust from the rumble of a fallen skyscraper, a lone horse is seen on the screen.  3/4 through  of the movie, a cop and a horse is again shown on the screen.  Of course lots of muscled bodies like the Spartans in 300 are on display throughout the film.

One can tell that a movie is bad from its continuity.  The car chase segment makes no sense whatsoever.  The reason for the chase is zero.  When it takes place, there are lots of overturned other vehicles, lots of explosions but the scenes could have be taken out of 4 different streets for all that matters.  The editing is awful and continuity is non-existent.

At the promo/press screening the executive introducing the film touted the imax technology involved in the making of the film.  40% more images can be seen in the imax version.  But in the in the imax version that I saw, only the last sequence and the Batman Superman fight was in full imax top to bottom presentation.

There is little to enjoy in this film - the main problem being that the film is all over the place and all the filmmakers seem more content with the special effects.  Comic book fans will be flabbergasted at the way the filmmakers have taken liberties to change what fans deem unchangeable and a staple to the comic book fan base.  The main premise for example, would be that if ever anyone would want to see Superman fight Batman?  And who would care which one would win?  A true comic book fan would cringe every time anyone of the heroes, Superman or Batman was hurt.

The plot of the film involves Superman and Batman questioning each others tactics in order to save the world.  The reasons are superfluous and unconvincing.  All this leads to a confrontation and fight at the film’s climax.

BATMAN V SUPERMAN is a very dark film no doubt.  So was the recent DEADPOOL.  But DEADPOOL was smart enough to be funny and tongue-in-cheek while the latter took itself far too seriously.  

And there is the question of the villain and a few other loose ends.  Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is an odd one.  Eisenberg seems to have sculptured his role from Heath Ledger’s edgy Joker before his death.  Esisenberg does what he does best - speaking his lines at a thousand words per minute but in this film, with creepy twitchings.  It is not what is expected from classic Lex Luthor.  Eisenberg dons his long hair till shaved off bald when in prison.  Aquaman and Wonder Woman make their appearances but for no real reason.  It seem a total farce and they should have been better totally omitted from the script.

In one segment of the film, a character says that people hate what they do not understand, referring to the suspicion they have of Superman being an alien doing good but causing destruction of the planet.  Audiences might hate this film for it is impossible to understand for its purpose or plot.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fis-9Zqu2Ro

EYE IN THE SKY (UK 2015) ****

Directed by Gavin Hood

The title EYE IN THE SKY refers to the drone, airborne robots with high definitive camera and missile capabilities that can take down an enemy without human engagement. The film opens with the shot of a little girl in a hut in Kenya, while the camera pulls back to show the girl in perspective of other events occurring in the village.

One of the events that is happening in this village is the arming of terrorist suicide bombers nearby.  Intelligence has cornered the incident through tracking a British citizen/terrorist who is linked to the arming that could escalate to a full disaster if nothing is done.  No-nonsense Col. Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren in a no-nonsense performance) is out for the kill reporting to her superior, a general played, again with no-nonsense efficiency by Alan Rickman.

The film questions the ramifications of a singular act.  By taking down the enemy, an innocent girl selling bread outside the compound might be hurt.  But by not taking down the enemy, hundreds might be killed when the suicide bombers detonate the explosives in a busy area.  The watchers wait hopping the girl will sell all the bread and move away into safety.  The audience also wait.  The whole film is built on this premise.  The whole film is a waiting game.  But its in also done, fortunately filled with nail-biting suspense.

Director Hood has accomplished quite the feat. He has created an immense amount of suspense in which a bunch of people are sitting or standing around doing nothing - but waiting.  And waiting for what?  For an answer from a higher authority that does not want to take responsibility.  It is a question of red tape v.s. action and who will come up on top.

Besides the suspense factor, the film also offers two separate points of view without taking any sides.  To execute the action and possibly kill the girl and save others or not to execute.

Hood the Oscar winning director of TSOTSI finally proves himself as a Master of Suspense, aided by both the great performances of his actors (Mirren, Rickman particularly) and superb editing.

The film also boasts the Best Supporting Actor from CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, Barkhad Abdi (who played the chief pirate) delivering an excellent performance as a Nairobi spy who risks his own life in order to help target the enemy.  His role reminds cineastes immediately of the Alfred Hitchcock spy film alike TOPAZ (Karin Dor risks her life and is killed) and TORN CURTAIN (Lila Kedrova risking her life to save the Paul Newman and Julie Andrews).

This is actor Alan Rickman’s (HARRY POTTER, TRULY MADLY DEEPLY, THE SEARCH FOR JOHN GISSING, LOVE ACTUALLY) last film.  EYE IN THE SKY dedicates the film (as stated in the end credits) to his loving memory.  It is most appropriate too, that his supporting role in the film is a key important one, and one in which he has the film’s best line, one that will hopefully not be forgotten and remembered for great actor that he is.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qTEq6MQ4W8

THE LOBSTER (Ireland/UK/France/Netherlands/Greece 2015) ***

Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos

Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’ (ALPS, DOGTOOTH) new film is a love story of David (Colin Farrell) and his new short sighted friend of no name (Rachel Weisz).  But under strange circumstances.  The film begins with a woman driving along the countryside. She stops her car to shoot a donkey in a field with a rifle.  It is never clear what the animal is, but the audience is offered a blurred look at the animal through a foggy windshield as the window wipers occasionally wipe away to reveal a clearer image.  A very playful start from director Lanthimos whose film become even more playful as it progresses.  The film title THE LOBSTER then appears on the screen to laughs from the audience at the screening I attended.

David’s wife (Rosanna Hoult) has just left him.  For reasons unexplained, David is bound for a hotel in which he will be turned into an animal of his choice (he choses a lobster) if he does not find a mate in 45 days.  Lanthimos carries on his film with deadpan seriousness that is a hilarious laugh out loud a minute.  He creates an absurd situation full of his rules that have to be obeyed by his characters.  David choses the lobster as a lobster can live for a hundred years while remaining fertile. Rules include not being able to masturbate, not pairing with an incompatible animal (a wolf and a penguin will not work) and so on.  All these shenanigans keep THE LOBSTER highly intriguing, surreal while being entertaining at the same time.

The best segment has the no-nonsense hotel manager (the straight-faced Olivia Colman) explain all the rules of the hotel to David and the other new guests.  At the same time, the audience is brought into perspective of what is gong on.  Otherwise, a female voice-over (the revelation of who this narrator is becomes apparent later on in the film) provides other information.

Amidst all this mayhem, David manages to find love.

Colin Farrell looks pudgy in the role of David.  I believe that he deliberately put on weight for this role.

The other two characters in the film that form David’s triangle of friends are also fairly intriguing.  One has a limp (Ben Winshaw) and another has a lisp (John C. Reilly).

But the film is unable to maintain the inventiveness and slowly slides into monotony as the novelty of the idea dies away into a typical romance story.  The idea of the couple David and the short-sided woman being able to communicate only in sign language seem a bit laboured in its inventiveness.  Still for what it is worth, the film is terribly entertaining in its first half.

THE LOBSTER opened at Cannes and at the Toronto International Film Festival.  As far as art house movies go, this satire on a fictitious utopian society is one of the funniest.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEGOI3L3IYc

MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 2 (USA 2016) ***

Directed by Kirk Jones

Cold on the heels of the big ethnic comedy $240 million hit MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING, numero 2, the sequel arrives 14 years after audiences have forgotten everything about the first.  The entire cast is supposedly all present though the director has changed hands.

Written and starring Nia Vardalos, the film is, as the title implies about her Greek family and another big wedding.  In the first film and in this one, Toula (Vardalos) has to learn how to deal with her Greek parents and this time around her now grown up 17-year old teen daughter, Paris (Elena Kampouris) adds more problems.  One wonders why Paris is not named Athens or Athena.

The film is basically sitcom material - funny and laugh-out loud in parts as most sitcoms are.  There are several stories on display here, the main one of which is the wedding of Toula’s parents Gus (Michael Constantine) and Maria (Lainie Kazan).  As the story goes, their original marriage was not signed by the priest during the War and so they are not legally wed.  Maria wants to be proposed to properly and not be taken for granted while Gus is too proud to do so.  The other story is that of Toula being the fixer of the family’s problems.  She needs to ‘date’ her husband, Ian (John Corbett) again.  Another is Paris going to college.  They want her to stay in Chicago but she wants to flee the nest to a college in NYC.  Other subplots (too many for ones comfort) involves a gay family member coming-out, Gus’ reunion with his misunderstood brother and Gus’ ancestry.  Most of the film goes exactly as expected down predictability lane without much fanfare though garnishing a few laughs.

The first movie made a ton of money despite horrid critical reviews.  This second has only obtained a mere 25% approval rating (at the writing of this review) but of course, this might mean nothing.  Though 14 years may be a long time for a sequel to bang on the success of the first, there should be sufficient Greeks and other ethnic immigrants who would appreciate this well-intentioned comedy.

The actors do well playing the parts.  Andrea Martin from SCTV steals every scene she is in, as the fast and smart-talking aunt who is never afraid to show it.  Writer Varalos and director Kirk Jones keep their film tame as family fare.  Jones is best known for his Irish comedy hit WAKING NED DEVINE.

The film contains a lot of Greek that is to like.  There are lots of Greek food, music and dances on display as the word Opa! that also appears on the license plate of their cars.

It should be warned too that the film is overly well-intentioned.  The feel good parts are overdone and it seems that the film has been written for the family who only watches the Disney Channel.  GREEK WEDDING 2 is ok entrainment and perhaps once very 14 years or so is the perfect time interval for any new entry.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQ-1Ts3BChM

 

BEST BETS:

Best Film Opening: EYE IN THE SKY

Best Film Playing: THE HATEFUL EIGHT

Best Action: STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS

Best Animation: ZOOTOPIA

Best Foreign Language Film: THE LOBSTER

Best comedy: HAIL, CAESAR and THE LEGEND OF BARNEY THOMSON

Best Drama: CAROL

Best Documentary: WHERE TO INVADE NEXT.

Best Comedy/Drama: JOY

Best Horror: THE WITCH

 

 

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