Saturday, March 26, 2016

Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice

In the latest DC Comics effort to saturate the superhero movie market, we now have this week the release of “Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice” starring Ben Affleck as “Batman” and British Actor Henry Cavil who reprises his role as “Superman” from his 2013 “Man of Steel”, that also co-stared Amy Adams as Daily Planet journalist and Superman love interest “Lois Lane”.

It's been nearly two years since Superman's (Henry Cavill) has his colossal battle with General Zod (Michael Shannon) of Krypton who came to Earth and devastated the city of Metropolis in his pursuit to kill the Son of Jor-el.  In that 2013 effort we saw enormous loss of life and collateral damage that left many mortal humans feeling angry and helpless by Superman’s almost ‘God Like” power including crime-fighting billionaire Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck). Convinced that Superman is now a threat to all of humanity, Batman embarks on a personal vendetta to end Superman’s reign on Earth, while at the same time the conniving “Lex Luthor” played by Jesse Eisenberg launches his own diabolical crusade against the Man of Steel for his own enrichment of money and power.

MY REVIEW: First as an action film “Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice” is visually very fun to watch during its 2:30 minute running time. HOWEVER, if I told you I just made a movie about myself – yes me Lester, whereby the opening scene involves me coming down in a daze in the middle of the night towards my kitchen. And as I proceeded to continue to walk in my almost zombie like state towards my kitchen, I move towards the stove turning on the gas for the oven dropping to my knees to stick my head in the door where I begin to eat a large slice of pepperoni pizza and simultaneously begin to recite Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address”. 

Meanwhile, with my legs exposed from the oven’s door  two women are giving me a pedicure on one foot and a foot massage on the other, while in the living room my soon to be ex-girlfriend is sitting on my couch watching TV. She is watching a recording of a "Best of Jerry Springer Show Marathon" eating a large bowl of creamy “mac and cheese”, but in fact is not really “mac and cheese”. Instead because she was too tired to take the time to simply boil the necessary water for the pasta, she substituted a large bag of Lays Cheese Puffs that she smothered in two cans of Cheese Wiz as she puts it “makes a tasty creamy alternative”. Now, you would say after reading this scenario “What the hell Lester”?

Well, that’s what I said while watching “Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice”………...what the hell. I mean it is never really boring to watch, but my kitchen oven scenario made as about much coherent sense as this multi-million dollar high pricey effort. And while my story is easy to visualize from the way I wrote it, it fundamentally makes no sense to tell it as a big picture action thriller plot for people to spend that much time viewing it.

Now, I never tell people not to watch a movie; so in this case if you really want to see this “Batman vs Superman” clash I do recommend you should watch it when it comes to your cable provider as a simple matter of convenience and cost.

HOWEVER, if I find out you actually drove to a theater and dropped $50 in tickets and food concessions to see this, I promise I will drive to your home in the middle of the night dressed in a full black Ninja out-fit. I will break in your home very quietly and stealthy proceed to move upstairs to where you are sleeping and begin to use a Louisville Slugger baseball bat to hobble your legs just like Kathy Bates “Annie Wilkes” did to James Caan’s “Paul Sheldon” in the film adaption of the Stephen King’s book “Misery”………………….just because it would make about as much sense as "Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice" did. And yet I have no doubt this film's sequel is in the works as we speak and read. Amazing.

1 – 3/4 Stars  

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Eye in the Sky - Review

Eye in the Sky

“Eye in the Sky” starring Dame Helen Mirren (my wife in a previous life) is a current day military officer named Colonel Katherine Powell. She is an established tough minded officer who early one morning from her home gets word ground intelligence has had a sighting of a long pursued British-born woman who has converted to Islam and moved to Africa to become an active radical terrorist.  

Expeditiously, Powell gets dressed in her uniform and arrives at her North of London base of operation where she is in command of a top secret joint American drone operation to capture terrorists hiding and operating in Africa. But upon her arrival at the bunker operation new updated remote surveillance intelligence that is corroborated with on-the-ground intelligence, reveals her target is now planning to strike with massive suicide bombings that is about to occur very, very soon.

Powell quickly discerns her initial mission has moved from a simple raid of capture and extradition to now an escalated operation for a potential “kill" order. But just when the order is given early on to move away from a capture to now engaging the enemy with a targeted missile strike, Nevada based American drone pilot Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) discovers an innocent civilian nine-year old girl has entered the kill zone radius. This dilemma of civilian casualties immediately triggers an array of moral, ethical, military, strategic, legal and technical disputes and questions between all level of higher ups encompassing the entire globe in both the US and British levels of government. This leaves Colonel Powell in a ticking clock lurch for an immediate answer to her dire and urgent question which is to either kill or not kill before the loss of life of hundreds of innocent civilians.
REVIEW: Initially the decision seems to be an easy call by obtaining the necessary approval from the British higher-ups to letting the Americans take out the terrorists. But Director Gavin Hood raises legitimate questions with real hair raising tensions that is heightened by the robust verbal exchange of probative questions and answers that are jousted about by the respective layers of authoritative decisions makers from room to room, phone to phone and hotel to hotel all in an intricate weave of various foreign locals.

“Eye in the Sky” has an excellent and smartly executed screenplay that is strongly rooted in modern warfare lingo as well as political and lawyer speak. What hampers it somewhat from being a perfect film is that the same well written dialogue sometimes felt like it went over and over some of the same areas of concerns for purely manipulative exaggerated melodrama affect whereas to embellish the emotional and moral quandary as to “what should we do”.

There is no escaping the narrow undercurrent of the films political vein that runs through its plot, but it’s impact is minimum as it never really gets in the way of the films overall strength and goal of projecting gripping intrigue.  “Eye in the Sky” is a thoroughly engaging, riveting and provocative drama, bathed quite believably in real time strategic intelligence of what, when and how decisions are made every second of the day as we civilians unknowingly go about our routine days more preoccupied with texting, eating ice cream at the mall and going to the movies.  

Ultimately, “Eye” is solidly sober and solidly sharp about the nature of global threats we read and hear about every day, but sometimes soon forget when something minimally comes along to take our thoughts away from the gloomy aftermath of death and destruction.  It also showcases very well the quiet and stealthy crucial role western societies must constantly be vigilant in gathering intelligence as the critical means of helping those officials and officers into making the right and tough decisions that always seems to intersect at the crossroads of security, legalities and ethics.

But the larger message of the film was so eloquently stated by the fine and late British Actor Alan Rickman when he says……..”Once the decision is made, no one ever gets to question a soldier the cost of war”.

3 – 3/4 Stars

Saturday, March 12, 2016

10 Cloverfield Lane - Review

10 Cloverfield Lane

One of my favorite character actor John Goodman known more for his supporting roles as Dan Connor on the hit TV show “Roseanne” and Walter Sobchak in “The Big Lebowski, gets the rare turn as the feature lead in the mysterious psychological drama with the overly benign pedestrian title called “10 Cloverfield Lane”.

At the onset, we see a young woman named “Michelle” who we find in her apartment and is moving frantically about as she is obviously distressed by something that has happened in her personal life. In short order we see her driving her car on a dark narrow road and in a flash we find her chained to a basement wall. What happened? Well, I can’t tell you; and this is as much as I can say other than if you want to know more, then go see the movie.

My review: Directed by newbie Dan Trachtenberg, he delivers a fresh movie that essentially is designed to get your unbridled unwavering attention from the get go and man oh man does he do it exceptionally well. Not with visual explosions, car chases, excessive violence or anything that would cause you to creep out per-se with bloody gore. No, Trachtenberg goes after one of the most vulnerable parts of the human body – the meandering imagination of one’s mind.

Throughout the 1:45 minute running time I thought I had 10 Cloverfield Lane figured out. Nope, I was dead wrong as it took me through some familiar paces from previous films I had seen in the past such as Russell Crowe’s recent “Noah’s Arc”, Kathy Bates deranged “Misery”, a smidgen of the old 1960’s TV show “The Twilight Zone” and finally a bit of legendary film Director Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window”, in regards to someone being a captive by their own imaginative mind to what they think they are seeing verses actually knowing what is true.

10 Cloverfield Lane is a mix of all of these previously mentioned films but in no way will lend you a single clue as to what the plot’s conclusion will be, as it takes the viewer though the horrors of abduction, the effects of having and living a “Bunker Mentality” (having a state of mind bathed in defensiveness and self-righteous intolerance) and “Stockholm Syndrome” (a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express irrational empathy and sympathy and have positive feelings toward their captors). And yet with good pacing “Cloverfield” messes with your mind each frame as it’s none of these things? Or maybe it is all of these things. Again, you will have to see the movie to know for sure.

What I can share what the film is definitely about, is plenty of a psychologically terrifying and frightening enough trip to get in your head with some excellent stage craft, infused with well executed precise raw tension, timely emotional humor, good energy, some white knuckled scary jolts and an authentic squirming un-predictableness to its very claustrophobic atmospheric end.

Structurally, it is an excellent film with not a single hic-cup other than a small matter in regards to the film’s “Michelle’s, played wonderfully by the actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who uses some very unexpected “creative skills” to figure a way to turn the tables in her favor while in the bunker.

Don’t miss seeing this, as it takes you down a familiar path while avoiding a whole range of potential clich├ęs. Instead it is a highly imaginative smart mind twist effort that you won’t see anything coming.

Here’s to hoping they make an “11 Cloverfield Lane”. Maybe they will, but again maybe they won’t. You will have to see the film for yourself to be sure.

4 Stars