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Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021) Review

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Zack Snyder's Justice League

Time: 242 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman
Henry Cavill as Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman
Amy Adams as Lois Lane
Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman
Ray Fisher as Victor Stone/Cyborg
Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry/Aquaman
Ezra Miller as Barry Allen/The Flash
Willem Dafoe as Nuidis Vulko
Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor
Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth
Diane Lane as Martha Kent
Connie Nielsen as Hippolyta
J.K. Simmons as James Gordon
Ciarán Hinds as Steppenwolf
Director: Zack Snyder

Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s (Henry Cavill) selfless act, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) enlists newfound ally Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) to face an even greater threat. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to recruit a team to stand against this newly awakened enemy. Despite the formation of an unprecedented league of heroes — Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and the Flash (Ezra Miller) — it may be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions.

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Zack Snyder’s Justice League was one of my most anticipated films of 2021. A brief background for those who don’t already know, Zack Snyder was helming Justice League but after his daughter’s death, left the movie. Warner Bros then got Joss Whedon to finish the movie, and he made a lot of cuts, changes and reshoots, and the end product released in 2017 was nothing short of disastrous. Critics didn’t really like it, audiences weren’t liking it, and fans not only didn’t defend it, they also despised it. When reports that Snyder had a long cut of the movie emerged, a movement emerged wanting the seemingly mythical Snyder Cut to be released. Years went by and it didn’t seem like it would happen, I myself didn’t have faith it would happen. However, in 2020 it was announced that Snyder would be returning to restore his vision in all its glory. After much anticipation it’s finally here, and I’m happy to say that it blew away even my highest of expectations.

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Throughout this review I’ll definitely reference the Whedon Cut plenty of times. Normally I’d just review the movie on its own, but that 2017 film makes it near impossible for me to do that. Also to make it a lot easier, I’ll refer to the 2017 Justice League movie as Josstice League, and this new Justice League movie as just Justice League. I think I should first address how both versions seem similar but how they actually aren’t, and address some misconceptions going in. Many detractors of the Snyder Cut have said that ultimately the new cut wouldn’t be that different and would basically be the same story. Yes, essentially Zack Snyder’s Justice League has the same story as Josstice League but only in the broadest of terms. The way that this story is told is so different. Aside from the tone, the length and more (which I’ll get into soon), the whole story is just developed a lot more, and the characters are fully realised. There is a lot more complexity to the story, and it’s a lot more interesting. It’s not the generic run of the mill superhero movie that Josstice League was, where the plot didn’t really matter and was just connecting one boring action scene to the next. There is plenty of room to breathe, and the pacing was steady enough that it wasn’t rushing, yet fast enough for me to be constantly invested in what is happening. There are so many scenes in this movie that weren’t seen in any of the prior trailers that it can actually be overwhelming, especially in the first 30 minutes. It’s not just that, even with the scenes that are in both versions, there are clear differences between them. There are literally scenes that have the same dialogue, but the versions in Josstice League were infinitely worse takes from the writing, directing to the acting and line deliveries. It gets to the point where it just feels like self-sabotage from Whedon. Even the footage that was purely Snyder’s that was also used in Josstice League feels a lot more in place and makes sense here. Additionally, some moments that were filmed by Snyder but no doubt was pushed onto him from WB are gone, an example being Batman’s “I heard you can talk to fish” line to Aquaman, which was in the very first teaser trailer. Just in general, you really feel this is Snyder with a lot more freedom. Despite the length, Snyder only filmed a couple of new scenes, everything else is his full cut from years ago, just fully restored with the CGI effects. With that said, he was able to change some aspects. For example, being able to change main villain Steppenwolf’s design from the generic tall guy in Josstice League, to his original and more superior design. Snyder even changed Superman’s red and blue suit to the black and grey suit, and while that is more of an easter egg and fanservice thing (it’s never addressed) it is fantastic to see on the screen.

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The most daunting thing about this movie for most people is the runtime, with it being a colossal 4 hours long, broken into 6 chapters and an epilogue. Of course, if Snyder got to release his version of the movie in the first place without it being changed by Whedon or WB, he would definitely have to cut it down a lot. Nonetheless, the movie we have now is 4 hours long, and absolutely benefits from that runtime. It takes like half the movie for the League to be together as a group, and in that first half sets the scene for what’s to come, really building up a lot with the characters and backstories. I think a lot of people won’t be expecting the character driven approach that Snyder has with the story, with quieter moments, especially between characters (a good example being Cyborg). It’s definitely dark for sure, and the R rating does feel appropriate for the movie even outside of the violence. Lots of people die, and there’s a lot at stake for the characters, with hints of a dark future to potentially come. With that being said, it is lighter than Batman v Superman (as it was intended to be). It also has moments of levity and comedy but unlike Josstice League, these moments actually work well and feel sincere rather than trying too hard to be quippy and imitate the MCU. There is a great balance of the tones and while I know that some people disliked Snyder’s DC movies for being really dark, I think it’s light enough that general audiences would be more inclined towards it, while it still remaining true to itself. Not only that, beyond everything, it’s an immensely hopeful movie, and you really feel that from beginning to end especially from the main characters by the time they are together at the end as a team. Hearing how Warner Bros wanted to go in a ‘hopeful and optimistic’ direction with this movie years ago is astounding, considering that this movie is exactly that. Justice League is also quite possible the most epic comic book movie. Snyder goes heavy with the mythology, while effectively showing the humanity of these people with godlike abilities, really helping the Justice League stand on their own thing and distinct from The Avengers and Marvel. Everything has so much weight from an emotional level with the main characters, to the larger scale stakes regarding the fate of the world. It really is best described as being DC’s Lord of the Rings. There are some very thrilling and satisfying moments throughout, and the third act is a complete blast. There is an epilogue which ties everything together for the characters but also leaves plenty of room open for follow ups. Those teases are especially excruciating because I really do want to see where the story and characters would go next, though it seems like they won’t happen at this time.

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The acting and characters are vastly improved for everyone in Justice League. Ben Affleck reprises his role as Bruce Wayne/Batman after the events of Batman v Superman. In this movie, Bruce’s faith is restored in humanity and is genuinely hopefully and optimistic as he assembles a team to combat the coming darkness, and it is a natural progression for this character. There’s particularly a brief exchange he has with Alfred later in the movie which just felt so perfect for his character and arc. Henry Cavill also reprises his role as Clark Kent/Superman, who begins the movie being dead after the events of Batman v Superman. Ultimately, he does serve a similar purpose as in Josstice League, but again is way better in every way here. Not only does he lack the very distracting CGI on his face and utter cheesiness and pseudo Christopher Reeve imitation that Whedon added, but it is also a much more genuine take on Superman. Yes, he’s both way more threatening and intimidating especially in the climax, but him returning as Superman was truly handled very well. Cavill has actually less lines than in Whedon’s cut, yet this take on Superman is way more powerful with less words. Gal Gadot also returns as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman and while her role in the film is quite similar in both versions, she is portrayed and acted much better here, and doesn’t have some of the more embarrassing additions from Whedon. Her action scenes particularly are fantastic, I really loved the way that Snyder directs Wonder Woman action.

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There are three new Justice League members, and they are all pretty good. Jason Momoa is Arthur Curry/Aquaman, his role is pretty similar to the other movie but he’s thankfully a bit more serious than in the Whedon cut and isn’t making so many jokes. Additionally, we get a bit more of an arc for him and we get scenes with him and Mera (Amber Heard) and Vulko (Willem Dafoe) which further develops him as a character. In a way, Justice League makes Aquaman’s arc in his solo movie even better and more rewarding. Ezra Miller is Barry Allen/The Flash, in both versions he’s very much the comic relief, the difference is with Justice League, the jokes are actually funny and he doesn’t randomly rant about brunch or something. There’s also more emotional weight for him as a character. The scenes with Barry visiting his father in prison (played by Billy Crudup, who also gets to leave a much better impression here) aren’t just basic character backstory elements, but actually feel genuine and heartfelt. Also, the scenes that utilise his powers are fantastic, Josstice League had Flash run really fast, which is fine and all, but Snyder’s take on Flash is something truly special. Two scenes stand out particularly, one is the introduction scene for him (which is initself a great first scene for him), and the other is a strong candidate for the best scene in the whole movie. However, the highlight of the entire film is Ray Fisher as Victor Stone/Cyborg. Zack Snyder has long said that Cyborg is the heart of the movie and he absolutely is. Of the newer Justice League characters, he gets the most time and development with Victor accepting who and what he is. He has a lot of character moments before he joins the League, and his arc is truly beautiful to watch. Fisher also performs his part fantastically, even when almost all of his body is covered in CGI, he leaves such an impression on screen. If nothing else, I hope this gets Ray Fisher the praise that he deserves (and hopefully will lead to more Cyborg in future DCEU films).

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The rest of the cast are great too. Jeremy Irons, Amy Adams, Diane Lane and Connie Nielsen really do deliver greatly in reprising their respective roles and do even better here. Irons was great even in Josstice League but Amy Adams and Diane Lane deliver some great emotional work here, and Connie Nielsen as Hippolyta really gets more to do here. Some of the newer actors and characters actually have more impact on the plot, a chief example being Joe Morton as Cyborg’s father, who was just that in Josstice League but actually plays a notable part in the story in this cut. Then there’s even actors and characters here that weren’t in Josstice League with Willem Dafoe (who would reprise his role in Aquaman), Kirsten Clemens as Iris West (in Flash’s first scene) and Zheng Kai as Ryan Choi, all of whom are welcome additions to the movie. One of the main criticisms of Josstice League was the villain, that being Ciaran Hinds as Steppenwolf, with him being a very weak and generic antagonist with a terrible design. Hinds was among the first people to be openly disappointed with that theatrical cut and watching him here you can understand why. Steppenwolf is absolutely an incredible improvement here on many levels. While I wouldn’t class him as one of the best comic book villains or anything, he’s really effective here. First of all, he’s way more intimidating and scary in this, a large imposing force with a spikey armour exterior, he seems just impossible to kill especially during his action scenes. Not only that, he’s also actually got some motivations behind what he’s doing, and they are well set out. Something that the trailers for Justice League have really been pushing is that major DC villain Darkseid would be in this. He’s basically a cameo in this and a hint of things to potentially (or not potentially now) things to come. So don’t expect much of him, but he’s such a menacing presence when he’s on screen, and Ray Porter’s intimidating voice and performance makes him even more memorable.

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Zack Snyder’s name is in the title of the movie, so of course we would get to him eventually in this review. This is undeniably a film from him, his style is all over this but like Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, makes each of his DCEU films feel distinct from one another. Something interesting is the 4:3 aspect ratio, I can get why some people would initially be turned off by this much like the long runtime. I will say that like many I was hoping for a much wider look to the movie. However it does add another unique aspect to this film over every other comic book movie. Also after a while you just get used to it, so just try to watch the movie on the biggest screen possible. The visual effects are great throughout, and the powers of the characters are showcased wonderfully, the highlight for me being Flash. The most shaky CGI is the new scenes that Snyder filmed, which is understandable. There are some other CGI moments which weren’t perfect, but for a 4 hour long blockbuster, that’s to be expected. Many of the designs are particularly great too, the main examples being the spikey armoured and intimidating Steppenwolf, and the ripped from the comic books look of Darkseid. The action is fantastic and might even rank amongst the best Snyder has done. You can see everything that’s happening on screen and it’s directed absolutely smoothly. It has an R rating for a reason, while it’s no Logan or Deadpool, it is more violent than the average comic book movie with dismemberments and blood and the like. However, it perfectly fits with the tone of the movie. The score by Junkie XL is fantastic and one of the standouts of the movie. It not just replacing Danny Elfman’s lackluster score, but every theme is distinct and fits the moment perfectly. I also love how he uses to previous DCEU themes to great effect here. I’ll also go ahead and say that the main Justice League theme is one of the best themes in a comic book.

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Zack Snyder’s Justice League is so many things. It’s a triumphant comic book epic (the most epic of the comic book epics), a vast improvement over the disastrous 2017 movie, and a complete vindication for Zack Snyder and everyone else who worked on the movie. The characters are beautifully realised, the story is operatic yet poignant and heartfelt, and it’s fantastically directed with a bold vision. It really does rank among the best that comic book movies can deliver. If you are a DC fan there’s going to be a lot here that you’ll love, especially if you are a fan of Snyder’s DC movies. Honestly even if you weren’t such huge fans of Snyder’s DC movies, I still think you might really like it, ironically the 4-hour long movie the most accessible of his trilogy. The only people I can’t recommend this movie to are people who just don’t like comic book movies altogether. I don’t know if there will be a continuation of this story, I certainly hope there will be or at the very least an acknowledgement of this movie over the Whedon cut. Whatever the case, I’m incredibly happy that this movie exists in itself, and is firmly one of my favourite experiences watching a movie for the first time.

The Social Network (2010) Review

Time: 109 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg
Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin
Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker
Armie Hammer as Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss
Max Minghella as Divya Narendra
Brenda Song as Christy Lee
Rashida Jones as Marylin Delpy
Rooney Mara as Erica Albright
Director: David Fincher

In 2003, Harvard undergrad and computer genius Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) begins work on a new concept that eventually turns into the global social network known as Facebook. Six years later, he is one of the youngest billionaires ever, but Zuckerberg finds that his unprecedented success leads to both personal and legal complications when he ends up on the receiving end of two lawsuits, one involving his former friend (Andrew Garfield). Based on the book “The Accidental Billionaires.”

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A story about Facebook could easily be done poorly. It doesn’t sound very interesting on paper and even if it could be pulled off decently enough, it doesn’t seem like it could be anything better than just good. And yet The Social Network is more than just a decent movie, it is truly great and better than anyone would expect it to be. David Fincher, Aaron Sorkin and the talented cast and crew made the story of Facebook riveting and fantastic, it’s even better upon a second viewing and I suspect it will only get better with further watches.

Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay is excellent and one of the stand out best parts of the film, and that’s saying a lot. The dialogue is so well written, very sharp, memorable, riveting and fits perfectly for the moments, Sorkin is known for his exceptional dialogue and his work on Social Network is no exception. It is fantastic from the beginning, the opening scene between Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and Erica Albright (Rooney Mara) is brilliant and helps establish so many things about Mark and it sets him off on his path for the rest of the movie. It’s interesting watching all the events progress, and how things in Mark Zuckerberg’s life would lead him to make actions to take Facebook further. You wouldn’t think that a movie about Facebook would be so interesting and entertaining to watch but it really is, you are genuinely on board with everything that’s happening. It’s like we are right there watching history happen right alongside these characters. What Mark started was something small and grew into something that not even Mark was expecting. Really fantastic writing by Sorkin.

The cast all around were great in their roles. I’m fully aware that some people don’t really like Jesse Eisenberg’s acting style but he was perfect in the role of Mark Zuckerberg. The portrayal of Zuckerberg is great, it doesn’t try to make you like him, just to show what he is like. Andrew Garfield is also really great as Mark’s friend and business partner Eduardo Saverin and his performance was really overlooked, especially by the awards. A big part of the movie is their friendship and they have great chemistry together. Armie Hammer plays two people as the Winklevosses (Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss) and really does give one of his best performances here, being really convincing as two twins. Even Justin Timberlake was really good as Sean Parker, really fitting the role well. Rooney Mara is only in a couple scenes but she does well to leave an impression as Mark’s ex-girlfriend, especially in the first scene of the film. Really everyone was great.

Saying that David Fincher’s direction is great would be redundant, it’s just so stylish and well put together. You wouldn’t think that a movie about Facebook would even need to look that great. On paper, The Social Network just sounded like it needed a good script and an okay direction but Fincher’s handle really adds a lot to the movie. I don’t know where Fincher used all the visual effects in this movie, but he generally uses these in his movies to make things look better like the environment or background. One effect that you can tell was used was the effects for making two Armie Hammers, and I say this because Armie Hammer doesn’t have a twin or a clone (that we know of yet at least). Even though it’s a film from 2010, these effects still really hold up well today and look effortless. The score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross was excellent, and with it’s dark ambience really elevated this movie even further.

The Social Network is truly fantastic and yet another one of David Fincher’s all time best films, and that means quite a lot when it comes to him. The talented cast all give tremendous performances, Aaron Sorkin’s writing is top notch, and Fincher with his work here has made one of his best crafted films. It gets better every single time I watch it. As for all these talks about a possible Social Network sequel, as long as Fincher and Sorkin are returning for it, I’d be more than on board for it.

Zombieland: Double Tap (2019) Review

Time: 99 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Graphic violence, drug use, offensive language & sexual material
Cast:
Woody Harrelson as Tallahassee
Jesse Eisenberg as Columbus
Abigail Breslin as Little Rock
Emma Stone as Wichita
Rosario Dawson as Nevada
Zoey Deutch as Madison
Avan Jogia as Berkeley
Luke Wilson as Albuquerque
Thomas Middleditch as Flagstaff
Director: Ruben Fleischer

Zombie slayers Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) leave the confines of the White House to travel to Graceland in Memphis, Tenn. Along the way, they encounter other post-apocalyptic warriors and a group of survivors who find refuge in a commune. The scrappy fighters must now rely on their wits and weapons more than ever as they soon find themselves in a relentless battle against smarter, faster and seemingly indestructible zombies.

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Zombieland was such a surprise hit upon its release back in 2009, gaining quite the following. A follow up to the original Zombieland has been in development for some time, including a potential tv series, it just seemed like a sequel just wouldn’t happen. 10 years later however, the cast and crew finally return, including director Ruben Fleischer and the 4 main leads. The question was whether Double Tap could capture what the original was, given how long its been since the first movie. It’s more or less the same as the original, a fun zombie road trip comedy with a great cast that play off each other well.

Substance, Zombieland: Double Tap I guess is more of the same. The plot is really nothing special, Tallahassee, Columbus and Wichita just try to find Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), that’s pretty much the story of the movie. Then again what made the original movie work wasn’t the plot, it was the writing and how much fun it was. There’s certainly quite a lot of familiar aspects here, but they actually did a lot more than I thought they would in trying to keep things fresh. They do try to introduce some things, for example there are new zombie types instead of the regular zombies in the first movie. Double Tap is quite funny and entertaining across its hour and 40 minute runtime, all the things you love from the first movie are here. I guess there was one part of the movie where they tried to mislead the audience into thinking something happened, but the joke and twist was kind of obvious. Outside of that I don’t really have any major issues. Definitely stick around for the mid credits, it’s worth the wait for sure.

The main 4 leads return with Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin, and are as usual good and share great chemistry together. It can be very jarring watching them and realising that it’s been 10 years since the first movie in the plot, as it appears that really only Abigail Breslin has aged at all. Woody Harrelson shined in the first movie and he’s also hilarious in the sequel. The weakest of the 4 is definitely Breslin, not that she’s bad but she’s really not given much to do. Despite the plot surrounding the other 3 finding her, she really doesn’t appear a lot in the movie. The supporting cast are also good in their roles. Zoey Deutch from the trailers looked like she’d get annoying really quickly, but she was the standout of the newer cast, providing the first time I’ve seen a ditzy Valley Girl stereotype actually work in a movie. She was genuinely funny and stole all of her scenes. In fact the only annoying part about her was this forced ‘love trianglish’ subplot between her, Eisenberg and Stone which really was not wanted at all. Other supporting actors like Rosario Dawson and Luke Wilson also worked well.

Ruben Fleischer returns to direct and he does well at making the sequel feel bigger. It’s certainly retains the same style from the first movie. The action scenes are well filmed and they’re on a much larger scale. The violence and gore is quite satisfying, and the makeup and effects on the zombies are good, but that’s to be expected.

Although I still feel that it would’ve been much better if it was made 5 years ago (it certainly would’ve had more hype and impact), I still had quite a lot of fun with Zombieland: Double Tap, mostly for the same reasons that I liked the original so much. If you are a fan of the original Zombieland, I’d find it hard to see why you wouldn’t get any sort of enjoyment out of the sequel. If you aren’t such a fan on the other hand, you won’t like the sequel any more.

Zombieland (2009) Review

Time: 86 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Contains violence and offensive language.
Cast:
Woody Harrelson as Tallahassee
Jesse Eisenberg as Columbus
Emma Stone as Wichita
Abigail Breslin as Little Rock
Director: Ruben Fleischer

After a virus turns most people into zombies, the world’s surviving humans remain locked in an ongoing battle against the hungry undead. Four survivors — Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) and his cohorts Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) — abide by a list of survival rules and zombie-killing strategies as they make their way toward a rumored safe haven in Los Angeles.

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With Zombieland 2 coming later in 2019, I decided to re-watch the first movie. I watched Zombieland years ago and seeing it again more recently reminded me of how entertaining and well made it is for what it is. Director Ruben Fleischer and the cast all do a really good job at making Zombieland a really fun road trip zombie comedy.

Zombieland really is a straight up roadtrip comedy with zombies and for what it is, it’s really good. It gives you likable characters that you can follow and the plot is straightforward and simple enough. The plot is not particularly structured and is just the characters going from place to place and all of that works well. The movie doesn’t really take things too seriously, this is a comedy after all, and all the humour hits really hard. The movie is less than an hour and 30 minutes long and from start to finish its consistently entertaining.

The cast is mainly consisting of the main 4 leads, Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin. Jesse Eisenberg is sort of the main character out of the 4, his character as you can expect is a nerdy and socially awkward, which is not usually one of the main characters that you’d expect leading a zombie movie, which makes it stand out more (especially as how he’s genuinally good at surviving with all his rules that he has in place and it actually works well). He does a lot of voiceovers and he does it in his typical Jesse Eisenberg fashion and it really worked. Woody Harrelson in this movie is… Woody Harrelson, and it really works. There’s a self awareness to his performance and character that I think makes his role here rank among some of his best. He’s really entertaining and hilarious, and he definitely steals the scene when he’s on screen. Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin play sisters who later come across Jesse and Woody and they are good as well. The 4 all share great chemistry together and are one among the main parts of why the movie works so well, given that we are with them for the whole movie. Zombieland also contains one of the best cameos in a movie. If you somehow don’t know about it yet, I won’t spoil it.

This still is by far director Ruben Fleischer’s best movie, with Zombieland you can tell that he really has a good understanding of comedy and the zombie genre. Like with Shaun of the Dead (another zombie comedy), despite it being a big budget zombie comedy, they don’t hold back on the gore, it’s as gory as most zombie movies. The effects 10 years later are still top notch and still look pretty good, which was probably achieved through a mix of digital and practical effects along with some makeup, the zombies look like zombies. All the zombie killing is made really fun to watch, there are some really gratifying zombie death scenes. You aren’t really scared throughout any of the movie, even during the zombie attack scenes (unless you aren’t used to seeing any zombie movies), it’s bloody and gory more than anything (not that this was a failure by Fleischer). Zombieland is also really stylised and Fleischer from all this is shown to be great at visual comedy, it’s all edited and put together really well.

Zombieland still today works as a really fun and entertaining zombie comedy and from start to finish. If you haven’t seen Zombieland you really should get around to it, especially before the next movie. I still feel like you might be able to enjoy the movie if you’re not a big zombie fan, it’s not particularly scary, you just have to be okay with seeing a lot of zombies and gore (since its not really scary and is really comedic throughout). I just hope that 10 years later after the first movie, Zombieland 2 can be at the same level as the original.

The Art of Self-Defense (2019) Review

Time: 104 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, cruelty & offensive language
Cast:
Jesse Eisenberg as Casey Davies
Imogen Poots as Anna
Alessandro Nivola as Sensei
Director: Riley Stearns

After he’s attacked on the street at night by a roving motorcycle gang, timid bookkeeper Casey (Jesse Eisenberg) joins a neighborhood karate studio to learn how to protect himself. Under the watchful eye of a charismatic instructor, Sensei (Alessandro Nivola), and hardcore brown belt Anna (Imogen Poots), Casey gains a newfound sense of confidence for the first time in his life. But when he attends Sensei’s mysterious night classes, he discovers a sinister world of fraternity, brutality and hyper-masculinity, presenting a journey that places him squarely in the sights of his enigmatic new mentor.

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The Art of Self Defence was the other movie I saw at the NZIFF (along with The Nightingale), and I’ve been meaning to watch it for some time. I had heard of the movie for a while, mainly that it involved karate and Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots were in it, however I wasn’t particularly interested in it for whatever reason, or at least didn’t look into it. After seeing the trailer though, it really got me on board with it really quickly, it looked like it would be something right up my alley. I’m glad to say that The Art of Self Defence did not leave me disappointed, in fact it surpassed my expectations.

I’m a big fan of well done dark comedy, and even seeing the trailer I knew it was going to be for me. Throughout the movie was really funny, especially with how absurd and ridiculous the movie would get. You do have to keep in mind that it’s a satire, you’re not meant to take this movie 100% seriously. The dialogue was fantastic, and I especially loved the use of deadpan humour, leading to some hilarious and memorable moments/lines. I have no idea how most audiences will react to the comedy, but my audience seemed to have an absolute blast with it. As funny as the movie can get, the movie is actually a lot darker and twisted than you’d think it would get, and it only gets darker as it progresses. So if you are thinking that this is going to be a light hearted and quirky comedy about Jesse Eisenberg learning karate, it’s definitely not that. The movie at its core is really a commentary about toxic and hyper masculinity. At times the satire itself is funny, at other points it feels very dark and real. The movie is not subtle at all, it is very ham fisted, but for some reason it just works for the rest movie. Much of The Art of Self Defence is over the top and doesn’t always make complete sense, but its something that you’re going to have to go along with in order for it to work. There is also one twist which I did sort of figure out very early on, but it’s still earned and works within the movie very well.

Jesse Eisenberg is perfectly cast in the lead role, it almost feels like the role was written with him in mind to play it. He starts off as pretty much the embodiment of a beta male, really timid, self conscious, and can’t stand up for himself, but as the movie progresses and he tries to become more masculine, he becomes very full of himself and goes through some changes. Probably among Eisenberg’s best performances. Imogen Poots is also good in a supporting role as one of the first students of this karate group. Unfortunately she’s very much in a supporting role and doesn’t get to have a ton to do. She does very well with what she’s given however. Alessandro Nivola was a scene stealer as the mysterious and intense sensei known only as Sensei. So many of his lines are so ridiculous and insane but he delivers them so seriously and straight faced that it makes them even more hilarious. While much of the movie is funny, some of the highlights involved him. One of the best supporting performances of the year for sure.

This is the first movie by Riley Stearns I’ve seen (I believe he made another movie called Faults, which I have yet to see), and he’s done a very good job with it. It’s a smaller and independent movie but it was directed quite well, at least well enough for the movie.

The Art of Self Defence is darkly hilarious, disturbing, and entertaining, and I had a great time with it. Eisenberg, Poots and Nivola were great in their roles, and Riley Stearns’s writing and direction were fantastic. If you like dark comedy, this is a movie that you’ll definitely need to check out. Definitely one of my favourites of the year thus far.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) Retrospective Review

Time: 183 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman
Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/Superman
Amy Adams as Lois Lane
Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor
Diane Lane as Martha Kent
Laurence Fishburne as Perry White
Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth
Holly Hunter as June Finch
Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman
Scoot McNairy as Wallace Keefe
Callan Mulvey as Anatoli Knyazev
Tao Okamoto as Mercy Graves
Robin Atkin Downes as Doomsday
Director: Zack Snyder

It’s been nearly two years since Superman’s (Henry Cavill) colossal battle with Zod devastated the city of Metropolis. The loss of life and collateral damage left many feeling angry and helpless, including crime-fighting billionaire Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck). Convinced that Superman is now a threat to humanity, Batman embarks on a personal vendetta to end his reign on Earth, while the conniving Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) launches his own crusade against the Man of Steel.

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This is a spoiler filled review, here is my original Batman v Superman review, and here is my review of the Ultimate Edition.

I had already done a couple of reviews on Batman v Superman, one on the Theatrical Edition, and another on the Ultimate Edition. It’s been over a couple years since Batman v Superman has been released and I’ve seen it over 7 times (3 of them being of the Theatrical Cut and the rest being of the Ultimate Edition. I had felt compelled to yet again write about this movie, especially after my more recent Man of Steel retrospective review. Batman v Superman did have a large impact and impression on audience members, some loved it, others hated it and others felt very mixed and didn’t know what to think of it. Everyone had a strong opinion on this movie and it was very divisive, probably one of the most polarising comic book movies (if not the most polarising comic book movie of all time, even more than Man of Steel). It was such a surprising movie for me personally, I mean it was in the top of my fave movies of 2016. This review will go in a little more depth than my Man of Steel review with certain aspects. There were so many aspects about this movie that I was worried about, Ben Affleck was going to be Batman, Gal Gadot of Fast and Furious fame was going to play Wonder Woman, and Mark Zuckerberg himself Jesse Eisenberg was going to play the villainous Lex Luthor. Also, I didn’t know how this film would handle the introduction of the Justice League. I was very worried at what this movie was going to be like, even when I liked the trailers and footage I had many doubts. However, this movie blew me away, this movie as a whole was a lot more than I expected it to be. I expected a simple Batman versus Superman movie. Instead I got one of the few films that I would call a ‘superhero drama’ (other films in this category I would also place Watchmen, The Dark Knight and Logan), and it just gets better and better the more I watch it.

This film took massive risks, not only when it came to what Zack Snyder and Chris Terrio did with the characters but also the way it tells its story (with it being a movie about Superman and Batman, arguably in the top 3 comic book superheroes of all time). This story is a lot more dense than expected, you really have to pay attention to what was going on, it’s no Memento but there are lots of plotlines going on for a comic book movie. I and many other people just expected a straight up Batman vs Superman movie but it was a lot more than that. Oscar winning writer Chris Terrio did a great job with the script, he rewrote David S. Goyer’s script and you can feel the occasional odd Goyer line of dialogue that feels out of place, but otherwise most of it all really works. Batman v Superman also gets better and better the more I watch it, and certain aspects work better upon repeat viewings. Some scenes that didn’t seem necessary on of the first viewing, actually worked upon repeat viewings. The Clark and Jonathan Kent dream/vision mountain scene seemed unnecessary when I watched it for the first time. Upon many viewings though, I would consider it one of Clark’s most important scenes in the whole movie, especially for his arc. Despite the long runtime of the Ultimate Edition, for some reason I can always watch this movie and be fully invested from start to finish. There is some atmosphere in it which draws me to it but I can’t tell what it is, it’s something about this world that Terrio and Snyder had set these characters in.

Now the characters’ treatment in this film was one of the most criticised aspects of the film, especially with Bruce Wayne/Batman and Clark Kent/Superman. However, I personally think that their interpretations were not only great, they were very compelling and some of the best versions of the characters on the big screen. Let’s start with Batman. Batman is not just darker here than in any previous live action incarnation of Batman (which he is), he’s damaged, he doesn’t care anymore, he’s completely off the rails and is unstable. Many people complained that Batman here wasn’t really Batman, he wasn’t really a hero, between the Metropolis flashback and the third act, the one time when he actually saves people (aside from Martha Kent), he really wasn’t looking to save them. In his introduction scene as Batman, he was looking for the human trafficker criminal for information, not necessarily to save the people. To that criticism I say… that’s kinda the point. He’s not what he once was, like how Alfred brings up how everything’s changed “That’s how it starts, the fever, the rage, the feeling of powerlessness that turns good men cruel” That Metropolis event changed Bruce significantly for the worse, which built upon his feeling of helplessness even when he was Batman (especially the implication that he failed to save Robin from The Joker). “20 years in Gotham Alfred, we’ve seen what promises are worth. How many good guys are left? How many stayed that way?” To take a character as beloved and iconic as Batman and to take the risk of making him incredibly flawed, I have to give Snyder huge props for that. I noticed that Batman is one of these iconic characters that are so beloved that a lot of audiences don’t like when they are shown to be flawed, whether it be Superman, Luke Skywalker or whoever else. As for the complaints of him killing…. Batman has always killed in his past live action movies (with Batman and Robin being an exception). The difference here is that it is more blatant. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not necessarily into having Batman kill everyone he comes across (because then they would have to make up some contrived reason why he doesn’t end up killing particularly people like The Joker). The reason that the killing works here for me is that there is actually a character arc around the killing. At the end of the film, Batman visits Lex at the prison but chooses not to brand him (like he did with many other criminals), basically meaning that he’s done with killing (or no doubt just done with killing in this blatant way, he’s going to somehow end up killing again in his next appearance like with the other versions of Batman). It was because of Superman’s sacrifice that he decided to make a change. Now for the controversial ‘Martha’ scene. I was not expecting the conflict between Batman and Superman being resolved through the revelation that their mothers had the same name (and on paper it doesn’t really sound good). At first I really didn’t know what to think of it. But after thinking about it for a while I think it is great, after all the reason that Batman doesn’t kill Superman isn’t because their mothers share have the same name, it’s because he realises that Superman is not just an all powerful dangerous single minded being. Throughout the majority of the movie, Batman believes that Superman is a complete threat to the world and not ‘human’ at all. In the moment where Lois tells Bruce that Martha is the name of Clark’s mother, he realises that he has a mother, he is a person. I do think it could’ve been handled slightly better but most of it works.

Snyder really made Batman a force to be reckoned with, his action scenes are nothing like we’ve seen in other Batman live action movies before. The widely praised warehouse sequence, praised by even people who heavily disliked the film, is a good example of this, with Batman taking on multiple criminals at the same time, mostly relying on his own fighting style which is a lot more brutal. It’s not just action scenes that conveys his strong presence, his first appearance was straight out of a horror film. Other decisions like with the voice modulator and his worn down simplistic costume really added to this portrayal. Also, Ben Affleck was excellent in the role of Batman, he blew me away with how great he was here. I’ve always liked Ben Affleck as an actor, but I had no idea what to expect from his Batman and he really surprised me here. He pulled off the charismatic side of Bruce Wayne, the broken and damaged side of Bruce, as well as Batman himself. In fact I think his best acting is during the Batman and Superman fight, when his metal helmet is damaged and his face is exposed, seeing Batman’s expressions while he was Batman was something we don’t usually get to see. Definitely an unexpectedly great casting decision, and an interesting take on the character. As for Ben Affleck, I think he’s the best Batman in a single live action film (however Christian Bale’s 3 Batman appearances combined is better than all of Ben’s Batman appearances, I personally blame Justice League). Hopefully Ben will get to reach BvS greatness once again in the Matt Reeves Batman movie (should he choose to return to the role).

Clark Kent’s story in Man of Steel’s was about him being ready for people to see him for what he is. In Batman v Superman, Superman is out there in the public eye, and his story is about him living in a world where people know about him and are reacting to him. Some of the reaction is positive, others are negative (Lex Luthor and Bruce Wayne being examples of people who don’t take too kindly to him). In retrospect I can partially understand why his character did get some criticism, because a lot of his arc in this movie is cut in the Theatrical Cut. The Ultimate Edition fleshes out his story more, giving him a lot more screentime. It also included important scenes like Clark talking to his mother, Clark talking to the deceased branded criminal’s wife, Superman saving some people in the Capitol and the aftermath, all these are very important for his story arc and more clearly lays it out. However, I also think that part of the criticism is how Superman sort isn’t a huge hero, a criticism that was brought up in Man of Steel. Well he does save many people in Batman v Superman, he saves Lois a few times in the movie, he stops Doomsday, and there’s even a montage of him saving people like in the first act. I suspect it’s more the criticism that Superman isn’t constantly doing a lot of heroic things. For me that personal didn’t bother me, this movie was taking Clark on a particular arc and I liked it. In the real world, a powerful being like Superman would not be universally loved, there would be lots of concerns as to what he can do, should do and will do. BvS really tries to capture how we would react to someone like Superman, there are those who love him, and there are those who hate him and fear him. And before some people comment, no, DCEU’s Superman isn’t dark. He lives in a world which is dark but despite everything, he still rises up to be the hero. All things considered, Superman is the true hero in Batman v Superman, not Batman. Despite all that humanity does to him (especially Lex), Superman is willing enough to sacrifice himself for them. Henry Cavill is even better here than he was in Man of Steel. Cavill expertly brings out Clark’s inner emotions without requiring a lot of dialogue, you can just see what he feels. With two deep and conflicting stories that Superman has gone through in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, I have to say that Henry Cavill’s Superman, as directed by Zack Snyder, is my favourite interpretation of the character. Now I’m just wondering how he’s going to be handled in future Superman movies.

All the other characters I thought was great as well. Amy Adams was great as Lois (she gets a lot more to do in the Ultimate Edition with her investigating the desert incident and more, on top of saving Superman twice). Gal Gadot was solid as Wonder Woman, Holly Hunter as Senator Finch made an impression despite not playing a comic book character and Jeremy Irons stood out as Alfred Pennyworth (I hope we get to see a lot more of him in the solo Batman movies). Even Callan Mulvey made an impression as Lex Luthor’s henchman, overall everyone was great. But I really want to focus on Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. Definitely a very divisive aspect of the film, with some finding him to be annoying and just a copy of Heath Ledger’s Joker (I guess any comic book villain who’s crazy is just trying too hard to be The Joker). Now I’m just going to avoid all the comic book accuracies arguments for a bit, and am going to focus on him in the movie itself. I for one loved his Lex, and I was one of the people who hated Jesse’s casting from day 1. He was somehow even more quirky and over the top than I expected but he still manages to come across as menacing and dangerous, especially on the rooftop with Superman. His plan is darker than most interpretations of Lex, and his motivations were more complex. Also on a side note, Jesse Eisenberg completely threw himself into this role and didn’t hold back, you can clearly see that he is having the time of his life as Lex, and I think it’s worth at least respecting how committed Eisenberg was to the role. Not that I care about comic accuracy but despite all the claims about this Lex not being comic accurate, he’s pretty much young Lex Luthor from a comic book called Superman Birthright. Snyder and Eisenberg have made a modernised Lex Luthor that works in today’s world. Now we will just have to see what is done with Lex in the Man of Steel sequels.

The direction by Snyder unsurprisingly is great. The cinematography by Larry Fong was so great, this is a beautiful and sleek looking movie. In contrast to Man of Steel, there isn’t a lot of shaky cam or zoom ins/outs, which was almost in a documentary style. The action, as expected from Zack Snyder is great. The CGI for the most part looks really great, with the exception of certain small bits which didn’t look fully polished. One thing I’d like to mention is how Snyder held back with the action for the most part. Before the third act with the BvS fight, warehouse sequence and the Doomsday fight, the only action scenes in the movie prior was the Metropolis flashback (if it counts as an action scene), the Knightmare sequence and the Batmobile sequence. Those sequences are big when they happen but for the first two acts this movie relies mostly on story, especially in the Ultimate Edition. The film is much more than just an action movie, it is also drama set in a superhero world. So, Snyder did hold back… until the last act which I’ll get to later. The music by Hans Zimmer was absolutely masterful and ranks among some of the best music work he’s done. From the opening “A Beautiful Lie”, to Lex Luthor’s theme ‘Red Capes are Coming” and Wonder Woman’s theme “Is She with You?”, all of it works so excellently. I guess maybe I would’ve liked to have had a slightly more distinct theme for Batman like Zimmer had done for Superman and Wonder Woman, but it’s still pretty good and has the right tone.

I need to touch on the Ultimate Edition for a bit. Now I have done a full review of the Ultimate Edition so I won’t linger on it too much. But I feel like I need to mention how much it improved the movie. It fixes plot holes (there is now an explanation for Superman not being able to stop the Capital Bombing), fleshes out Clark/Superman’s story, gives Lois a lot more to do and shows more of how large Lex’s plan was. Not to mention the scenes didn’t feel jarring especially in the first act, like it did in the Theatrical Cut. Even if the extended scenes have the same outcome from the theatrical version of the scenes, there’s much more time given, so it flows a lot smoother instead of just jumping from scene to scene every 2 minutes. The scenes are even ordered in a much better way. For example in the Ultimate Edition Bruce has his nightmare (with a Man-Bat-like creature), wakes up at the penthouse and then meets with Alfred before preparing to go to Lex’s party to steal some information. However in the Theatrical Edition, they put in Lois’s meeting with General Swanwick in the middle of that segment, which just feels jarring. I’m not exactly sure why they made some of the ordering decisions that they did. There are only a couple of reasons I can think of why WB cut 30 whole minutes form the film and that’s the runtime and the age rating. Blockbusters are rarely 3 hours long, but then again it’s worth considering that The Dark Knight Rises was 2 hours and 45 minutes long and that was still a hit. As for the age rating, the Ultimate Edition in America shouldn’t have been rated R (both version of the film have the same rating in New Zealand), it’s once again a case of bizarre MPAA ratings. For whatever reason that they did it, cutting out 30 whole significant minutes of footage was a major mistake, you should never try to change a Zack Snyder film, otherwise it will not work. I want to say that WB might’ve now learned not to repeat this mistake in future DCEU films like they did with BvS and Suicide Squad (the latter movie having even worse editing issues) but Justice League clearly proved me wrong.

Now that’s not to say that there’s no problems with this film. There are some plot points which weren’t handled as well as they could’ve. For example, in the Batman vs Superman sequence, I get that Bruce wouldn’t listen to what Clark had to say, but it could’ve been presented more clearly, because otherwise it seems like Clark could easily explain what was going on at the beginning of the scene. As for noting one of the lesser scenes of the movie, I’d have to say that it’s the scene when Bruce sends Diana videos of the other Justice League members. I did like that scene but there is not that much to gather from that scene, Cyborg’s cameo did hint at his role and his actual origin in Justice League, but the rest doesn’t have much. They could’ve implemented the scene better, or they shouldn’t have had that scene. However it didn’t bother me too much. A complaint that does get thrown around a lot was around the third act and how it changed tone and became a big action fest, which was different from the slower paced almost political thriller in the first two acts. While I still love the third act, I do partially agree with this. We’ve seen end fights with monsters plenty of times, but even though it surprisingly worked fine enough for BvS, it did feel slightly out of place here. And yes, Snyder does go big with his action here, the action (as expected) is incredible and entertaining to watch. It would’ve been nice to have the final act something a little more compelling than just another monster fight at the end but this final battle sequence was good enough for me (even though Batman really couldn’t do anything throughout it). Speaking of the third act, Doomsday is a heavily criticised part of the movie, and while I don’t think he was great, he did his part well enough. Maybe if it was a character deliberately created for the movie I would take more issue, but as he’s a comic book character and as Doomsday is pretty much just a mindless dangerous monster, I could look past that. The only part of it that I wished was better was the design, I think the CGI on him is for the most part good but he just looks so generic (hence all the comparisons to the cave troll in Lord of the Rings or Abomination from The Incredible Hulk). Outside of his basic design, I didn’t have too many problems with Doomsday. One aspect which is a little sad to look at now is all the aspects that set up for Justice League, because the Justice League movie completely ignored them, whether that be the Knightmare sequence or The Flash’s warning (but that’s for another awaited retrospective review).

No matter your thoughts on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, there’s no denying that it had made a huge impact and impression when it was released. Batman v Superman was a breath of fresh air in the comic book genre for me, a film which decided to slow down with its story and take risks with its characters (not that no comic book movies do this, but it was a standout nonetheless). For most of the movie it’s like that, and on top of that there are some great action scenes, impressive performances and portrayals of iconic characters and a very unique story for these characters. Watchmen is still Zack Snyder’s masterpiece to me (as well as my favourite Comic Book Movie), but Batman v Superman is up there. As I said it still has some issues and if I looked at the Theatrical Cut I’d have a lot more unfavourable opinion of that version than the 3 times I saw them in cinemas (especially after seeing the Ultimate Edition and how these extra scenes added to the movie). But BvS nonetheless is an great comic book film in my eyes, and I do believe that this film (like Watchmen) will become loved much more as the years go on.

Now You See Me 2 (2016) Review

Time: 129 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast: 860940[1] Violence
Mark Ruffalo as Agent Dylan Rhodes
Jesse Eisenberg as J. Daniel Atlas
Woody Harrelson as Merritt McKinney and Chase McKinney
Dave Franco as Jack Wilder
Lizzy Caplan as Lula May
Daniel Radcliffe as Walter Mabry
Morgan Freeman as Thaddeus Bradley
Jay Chou as Li
Sanaa Lathan as Agent Natalie Austin
Michael Caine as Arthur Tressler
Director: Jon M. Chu

After fleeing from a stage show, the illusionists (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson) known as the Four Horsemen find themselves in more trouble in Macau, China. Devious tech wizard Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe) forces the infamous magicians to steal a powerful chip that can control all of the world’s computers. Meanwhile, vengeful FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) hatches his own plot against Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), the man he blames for the death of his father.

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I liked the first Now You See Me, its not great by any means but I had a fun time with it. So I had mild expectations when it comes to a sequel, it would probably be entertaining but at the same time it wasn’t really necessary, no one was begging for it to exist. Now You See Me 2 was pretty much what I expected it to be, it is around the same level of quality as the first. It’s pretty entertaining and decent but nothing much more than that.

The first movie didn’t really focus too much on The Four Horsemen, with Mark Ruffalo and Melaine Laurent being the main perspective. This time with the 2nd movie, it is from The Four Horsemen’s and Mark Ruffalo’s perspective. Like with the first movie, the plot isn’t great but it does keep your attention and for the most part it keeps you entertained from start to finish. I wasn’t really ever bored but it’s not a completely riveting plot, I was partially curious as to which direction the story was going in. It does feel like it’s just throwing twists at you, and I’m not sure how well those twists would actually hold up upon repeat viewings but I didn’t have too much issues on my first viewing. Though I have a feeling that I’d probably be able to pick some holes on a second viewing.

The previous cast returns with Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo, Dave Franco and others and they are still pretty entertaining. Isla Fisher wasn’t able to return for the sequel, so Lizzy Caplan ultimately took her place as the fourth horseman and she did a good job. On a slight note, it was a little rushed how they explained why Fisher wasn’t here, it’s a small aspect but its not movie breaking. One slightly annoying aspect was that in this movie, Woody Harrelson has a twin brother, which is an annoying cliché seen in many movies. He’s not as annoying as he you’d think he would end up being but he is still very distracting and pointless. It was great to see Daniel Radcliffe in a more villainous role and he actually does pull it off quite well, I’d like to see him more in this kind of role. Other actors like Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine are nice to see return.

The direction was decent enough. Whereas the original was directed by Louis Leterrier, the sequel was directed by Jon M. Chu and it was about at the same level. Honestly had I not known this prior to watching the movie I probably wouldn’t be able to tell that the two movies were directed by different people, I wouldn’t have noticed it myself. It is quite entertaining to watch the characters perform magic, and that’s an area that the movie really shines in.

As someone who thoroughly enjoyed the first Now You See Me for what it was, I really enjoyed the sequel. I liked seeing these actors here, I was entertained by what was going on, I overall had a good time. This is an entertaining movie but I don’t think I would call it a good movie. If you don’t like the original Now You See Me, you won’t like the sequel, there’s nothing really here that’s going to change your mind. I heard there is going to be a third movie in the franchise, again, its unnecessary but I wouldn’t mind watching it if it actually ends up happening.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition (2016) Review

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Time: 182 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence and Offensive Language
Cast
Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman
Henry Cavill as Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman
Amy Adams as Lois Lane
Jesse Eisenberg as Alexander “Lex” Luthor
Diane Lane as Martha Kent
Laurence Fishburne as Perry White
Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth
Holly Hunter as Senator June Finch
Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman
Director: Zack Snyder

It’s been nearly two years since Superman’s (Henry Cavill) colossal battle with Zod (Michael Shannon) devastated the city of Metropolis. The loss of life and collateral damage left many feeling angry and helpless, including crime-fighting billionaire Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck). Convinced that Superman is now a threat to humanity, Batman embarks on a personal vendetta to end his reign on Earth, while the conniving Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) launches his own crusade against the Man of Steel.

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Link to review of theatrical cut: https://thecinemacritic.wordpress.com/2016/03/25/batman-v-superman-dawn-of-justice-2016-review/

Batman v Superman was an extremely divisive movie upon its release, particularly with the direction that they took the movie and its iconic characters. However from what I can tell, the 3-hour cut is generally more well received. Whether this version will make you like it more depends on your problems with the original version, if your issues were the pacing and editing you might like this more. If your issues were with Jesse Eisenberg’s performance or the fact that Batman kills, then no, chances are you’ll still have problems with this version. I loved the theatrical cut and that was already my favourite movie of the year. My only problem I had with the movie was that it felt like there was a lot of footage missing. With that issue fixed, there’s not many problems I have with the movie, maybe there might be the occasional plot decision that could’ve been done better but that’s really it.

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In this version we get more expansion of the stories for Clark Kent, Lois Lane and Lex Luthor. One of the criticisms of Batman v Superman was that for many, Clark’s motives weren’t clear. I personally understood what Snyder was going for but the extended version does make it a lot clearer, especially as it shows more scenes of him like when he goes to Gotham. In fact it shows more of his emotions, there is a certain scene during the senate scene with Superman during the halfway point that’s in the extended version, and I have no idea why it was cut. Lois gets to do some investigation of her own. Lex didn’t get a whole lot of new scenes but it does show how much of a part he played in making Batman and Superman battle each other. Also other characters like the African woman at the Senate at the beginning of the film and Wallace Keefe are more defined, with their motivations made even clearer. This film also flat out explains things that were left ambiguous in the original cut, for example in the middle of the movie, an ‘incident’ occurs involving Superman and there is an explanation of why things went how they did. If you watched the theatrical cut before seeing this version, you’ll notice that there are random things that weren’t included, for example there’s a bit of 2 seconds of Batman punching Superman, which was cut from the previous version. It was like Warner Bros was trying to cut down this film as much as possible.

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One legitimate criticism of the theatrical cut was the editing. While it didn’t bother me, I definitely noticed that the scenes jumped locations quickly, and with not a great transition, especially in the first act. The Ultimate Edition gives time for the scenes to breathe, the Lois desert scene was an example, it gave a lot more time for us to get into the scene. Not only that, this version rearranges scenes and connects many of them. For example, this connects Lex’s two introductory scenes, the first when he’s speaking to the senators and the second when he gains access to the Kryptonian Ship and Zod’s body. In the theatrical cut for no reason at all, they put a scene in between. The movie overall seemed to flow a lot smoother, for me at least.

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This film was always going to be divisive, no matter what version was released. I have no idea how differently you’ll see this movie to the first version, some people like this version more, others think the theatrical version is better. But either case I do think it’s at least worth checking out, whether you love or hate this movie. I will openly say that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition might actually be my favourite comic book movie of all time. And I don’t say these kinds of statements easily.

Now You See Me (2013) Review

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Now You See Me

Time: 115 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Jesse Eisenberg as J. Daniel “Danny” Atlas
Mark Ruffalo as Dylan Rhodes
Woody Harrelson as Merritt McKinney
Isla Fisher as Henley Reeves
Dave Franco as Jack Wilder
Mélanie Laurent as Alma Dray
Morgan Freeman as Thaddeus Bradley
Michael Caine as Arthur Tressler
Director: Louis Leterrier

Charismatic magician Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg) leads a team of talented illusionists called the Four Horsemen. Atlas and his comrades mesmerize audiences with a pair of amazing magic shows that drain the bank accounts of the corrupt and funnel the money to audience members. A federal agent (Mark Ruffalo) and an Interpol detective (Mélanie Laurent) intend to rein in the Horsemen before their next caper, and they turn to Thaddeus (Morgan Freeman), a famous debunker, for help.

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Now You See Me does have a pretty neat concept, that being illusionists use magic tricks to pull off heists, and it was successful enough that it spawned a sequel which should be releasing anytime soon. Was the first film good enough to warrant a sequel? I will say that Now You See Me isn’t a great film but it is at the very least an entertaining one. The acting by its huge and talented cast and the entertaining visuals and direction are a big contributing factor in this happening. The majority of the flaws lies in the writing, although not bad, are still quite notable and does distract from time to time. However this movie is just so entertaining that it’s quite easy to forget that.

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One thing I’ll emphasise about this movie is that this movie is very entertaining. The pacing is reasonably fast, and you are entertained enough to pay attention to what’s going on. It’s not even close to perfect though. For one, the plot isn’t very interesting. The only reason that I was paying attention was that I was entertained by what I was seeing, I didn’t really care about what was going on. One of the bigger problems is that this movie doesn’t have very good characterisation, especially when it comes to the main characters (played by Eisenberg, Franco, Fisher and Harrelson). We see much more from Ruffalo’s and Laurent’s point of view. While I understand that they were going for a more outsider sort of perspective, it doesn’t make us invested in our main charactrers. While they aren’t unlikable I didn’t particularly care about any of the main characters, they’re just entertaining.

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This film has a huge cast with Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Melanie Laurent, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and many other very talented actors. Now as I said previously, the characters don’t really have much characterisation but the actors do play them quite well. The couple of actors who stole the show for me were Jesse Eisenberg, who usually has a reputation of playing the same character (except for Lex Luthor) and while this role is similar to his performances, he manages to pull off a variation on this performance. And Woody Harrelson is playing… well Woody Harrelson again, but it surprisingly worked for the movie and he was really entertaining.

Jesse Eisenberg plays J. Daniel Atlas, part of a team of thieving illusionists, in Now You See Me. </em

This movie is very entertaining visually, it is a very well-directed movie. The film looks visually beautiful, and it’s easy to see why, since Larry Fong (Watchmen, 300) is involved with the cinematography. With this stylish direction by Louis Leterrier it’s hard not to get pulled into the movie, especially when it shows the main characters pulling off their heists.

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Despite some problems with the script, as well as some characterisation issues, I actually think that this movie is worth watching. If you’re going to see this movie, don’t expect it to be high art or anything of the sort. Go into it expecting a very enjoyable and entertaining ride with good performances, great visuals and just an overall very fun movie. I don’t think it needs a sequel but I do think that it’s good enough to have a watch.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) Review

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Time: 151 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast
Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman
Henry Cavill as Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman
Amy Adams as Lois Lane
Jesse Eisenberg as Alexander “Lex” Luthor
Diane Lane as Martha Kent
Laurence Fishburne as Perry White
Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth
Holly Hunter as Senator June Finch
Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman
Director: Zack Snyder

It’s been nearly two years since Superman’s (Henry Cavill) colossal battle with Zod (Michael Shannon) devastated the city of Metropolis. The loss of life and collateral damage left many feeling angry and helpless, including crime-fighting billionaire Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck). Convinced that Superman is now a threat to humanity, Batman embarks on a personal vendetta to end his reign on Earth, while the conniving Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) launches his own crusade against the Man of Steel.

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Click here for my review of the Ultimate Edition of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the superior version of the film

Batman v Superman has been 3 years in the making and it has been my most anticipated movie of 2016 ever since its announcement. So much was riding on this movie to succeed, with it having to establish Batman, Wonder Woman with cameos from the Justice League, all in one film. Even though the film’s premiere received critical acclaim, the reviews started to worry me, with the Rotten Tomato score being around 30%. However after watching the movie, I have to say that I’m very satisfied with what we got in the end. The acting from its very talented cast and the direction from Zack Snyder was great, but it’s the script from writer Chris Terrio which ties it all together, and sets up the DC Cinematic Universe perfectly.

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When you compare Dawn of Justice to Man of Steel, you will notice how significantly the writing’s improved and that’s all thanks to Chris Terrio. This film doesn’t rely on a lot of action scenes to move the plot along like the previous movie, it really for the most part follows Clark and Bruce’s inner struggles as they are trying to find their place in the world as well as the conflict between them. I know from the reviews that this put people off as there’s not a whole lot of them saving the world or even physically fighting each other but I appreciate the risks that the movie took. This isn’t your typical comic book film. This movie had a lot of elements that they had to incorporate with the Justice League forming and I thought the film managed to pull it off quite well. As for the cameos of the other Justice League members, they were done well, to some they would probably feel a little forced but I have a feeling that was supposed to feel forced, it’s just a little taste of what’s to come. I will just say this, the final act is absolutely incredible, not only on an entertaining level but on an emotional level too, the ending is one of the best comic book endings I’ve ever seen, you’ll never see it coming.

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I will say that looking back at the film, there were some elements that felt missing. For example, one element that I wished the film delved deep into was Lex’s motivation. I’ll go onto the performance later but I have a feeling that there is a scene explaining Lex Luthor’s perspective on Superman that was missing, which is a shame as that would’ve made his character even more compelling. I know that there is a 3 hour cut that will come to Blu Ray, maybe that might fix the problems but for the most part the movie really works on its own. Now onto the elements that might divide some people. Ben Affleck’s Batman is very hardcore, this is like Dark Knight Returns and Thomas Wayne Flashpoint Batman. There are moments where his actions lead to many deaths and that might be hard for some viewers to stomach after Bale’s ‘no kill’ portrayal. Also this movie is 3 times darker than Man of Steel so if you found that movie hard to watch, you will be horrified with this movie. As I said before, this isn’t your typical comic book movie, it’s quite unconventional, so that might alienate some people.

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The performances were phenomenal. I’ll start with Henry Cavill, I have a feeling he will be forgotten as a result of being overshadowed by Affleck and he really shouldn’t. He was given a lot more to work with than in Man of Steel and after this movie, he is my personal favourite version of Superman. Unlike other versions there is a humanity and relatability that Cavill infuses that makes us really care for him, this was seen especially in his scenes with Lois played by Amy Adams, who was also great and shares better chemistry with him than in the previous film. No matter what anyone thinks about the movie, most people agree with one aspect, Ben Affleck was incredible as Batman. He was incredibly dark and has a history and every moment he’s on screen, Affleck sells it. His relationship with Alfred (played Jeremy Irons, who also does an excellent job) was also entertaining to watch, I just can’t wait for the Batman solo movies. Keaton’s and Bale’s Batman roles needed to perfectly play the Bruce Wayne and Batman roles, and both of them really did one aspect better than the other (Keaton did Batman better and Bale did Wayne better). Affleck was the first actor to nail both Bruce Wayne and Batman perfectly. We didn’t see a lot of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman but when she’s on screen she is great, and she stole the show in the third act. I’m now even more looking forward to seeing her solo movie next year.

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The other supporting cast was also great with Holly Hunter, Laurence Fishburne and others being quite good in this movie. The one divisive performance will be Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. If you thought he looked a little over the top in the 2nd trailer, just wait till you see how he is here. From my limited knowledge of Lex Luthor in the comics, he is quite different from this incarnation, but this was such a strong decision that I have a feeling he will be developed more as the films go on. I personally liked the performance, this was a more crazy portrayal of Lex Luthor, and he worked quite well for the film as he manipulates the dark knight and the man of steel to fight. However I can’t guarantee that you will love his performance, as his performance has so far divided many.

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As this is Zack Snyder directing, the visuals look very beautiful. One of my issues with Man of Steel was the cinematography, it adopted more of a handheld sort of camera work and while that worked for the most part, it could’ve been done better. This time, it has a much steadier direction as Snyder this time used his cinematographer from Watchmen. As I said earlier, there aren’t as many action scenes as there was in Man of Steel but all of them are done excellently. There are so many memorable scenes, the beautiful opening credits sequence, the flashback to Metropolis’s destruction from Bruce Wayne’s perspective, the Knightmare sequence (which features an incredible one take moment) and more. The fight between Batman and Superman, while a little short, was still enthralling to watch. The final act in its entirety was great, especially the final battle featuring the trinity. Last but not least is the soundtrack by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL. All of it was great, from Batman’s theme, to Lex’s theme, to Superman’s theme as well as the fight between Batman and Superman. However I’ll just say that Wonder Woman’s theme was my favourite of the lot.

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From my first viewing, I can say that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is now one of my favourite comic book movies of all time. The performances were great, with standouts from Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot and Jesse Eisenberg, Zack Snyder directed this movie beautifully and Chris Terrio gave even more depth to this movie than most would initially expect. Looking at the mixed reactions from both critics and fans, I’m not entirely sure if you will like this movie or not, and I can understand how some elements might rub people the wrong way. However I think you should watch it and make up your own mind about it. For me, this was an incredibly satisfying experience. Don’t wait for it to come out on Blu Ray, see it on the biggest screen that you can find as soon as possible.