The Very Serious, Monotonous Business of “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice”

kiss already
Plot details discussed, major spoilers mostly avoided. Your call, but don’t yell at me.

I was never going to like Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. This was a given, and has been for some time. What I didn’t expect was that I’d leave the theater feeling vaguely bad for Zack Snyder.

I realize this is a strange reaction. Snyder is a very successful film director, and Dawn of Justice has already made a great deal of money. (Even so, whether or not it has met its lofty financial expectations is still up for debate.) In addition, I have never particularly been a fan of Snyder’s. Sucker Punch was one of the most unpleasant theatrical experiences of my life. (Though I’d later watch the director’s cut and slightly adjust my judgment from “abomination” to “bad,” which ain’t nothing.) Watchmen and Man of Steel were often flashy but similarly suffered from his need to crank up the volume first and ask questions later. 300 was fine. Ultimately, he’s going to come out of this all right. Continue reading

Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood” is a magnificent film about time, youth, family, and so much more

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Of all the impressive things about Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, and they are legion, one of the most extraordinary is how the film was able to be crafted into something that will be able to connect with just about anybody who watches it. The title, while accurate, is a bit limiting. This isn’t just a movie about a kid growing up, albeit one with a heck of a hook. Boyhood is ultimately about time itself, and Linklater wisely dodges the usual coming of age clichés by focusing on everyday events rather than major life events. It does not advertise its leaps forward through time. For instance, one moment that has stuck with me is a post-time jump scene in which our hero Mason (Ellar Coltrane) returns home late one night, visibly drunk, smoking pot and making out with a nameless girl in the back of his friend’s car. Other coming-of-age movies would show us how Mason matured to this point, but in this case it just happens and we are meant to accept the change. In Boyhood, there is no time to stop and explain. Life moves too quickly for that. Continue reading

Look upon “Godzilla,” ye mighty, and despair

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One of the great challenges in making a film like Godzilla is what to do with the human characters, and it’s an issue that’s inspired much debate in the last couple weeks. Ultimately, a $160 million film about a giant lizard monster is almost always going to spend far more time killing thousands of CGI humans than it will making us care about the motivations and emotions of our protagonists. As useless and troublesome as they may be, the humans are there to provide audiences with a way in to the action, and the best blockbusters use this concept to their advantage. I would argue this new Godzilla is one such film, and in many ways it approaches its subject matter in a similar fashion to what you see in Spielberg films like Jurassic ParkClose Encounters of the Third Kind and War of the Worlds. Spielberg is a master at making audiences feel as though they are experiencing these extraordinary events right alongside the human characters, thus creating the illusion of shared experience and a genuine sense of wonder. The characters in many of his blockbusters are no more fascinating than those in Godzilla, but he exploits their ability to be the “portal” audiences use to enter the world. Continue reading

“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is a dumb, unholy mess of a movie, but at least it’s its own mess

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I hated 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man with every ounce of my being, and it’s not necessarily because the movie was all that terrible. It just felt like a waste of time for all involved; a cynical exercise that rehashed an origin story we had seen play out 10 years before, only with a tenth of the personality. There’s nothing wrong with making a Spider-Man movie with a new cast, but rebooting a franchise barely a decade old, and this blandly, was a dumb and dispiriting move all around. With the exception of Casino Royale, the Bond series never felt the need to start over whenever the actor was changed. It just kept on trucking and let each performer make the role their own thing. That’s what The Amazing Spider-Man should have done, and didn’t do. The sequel, at the very least, turns things a bit more in that direction. That doesn’t mean it’s any good, but at the very least it seems to be going for something. Any ambition at all is an improvement over its predecessor. Continue reading