And A Justice League For All

Justice League is the latest film for the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) franchise and I think it is one of the best. Once again, a DCEU film has for some bizarre reason received a divisive reception, but to me this film works on just about every level. The story continues from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and in a nutshell, shows Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) seeking out other meta-human super heroes: Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), the Flash (Ezra Miller), and Cyborg )Ray Fisher) to form a team capable of stopping an alien invasion led by supervillain Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds).
The action and stunts in this movie are top notch and the story is relatively straightforward. Some would say too much so since it is a two-hour film as opposed to Batman v. Superman, which was two and a half hours long. I would have liked to have seen more world-building and perhaps another 10-15 minutes of runtime to do so, but Justice League still did not feel rushed to me. Another complaint I’ve heard is the CGI, especially with Superman’s missing facial hair due to actor Henry Cavill having a mustache during reshoots. There were maybe a few seconds where I noticed this, but it did not ruin any scenes and the rest of the effects in the movie were quite good. Everything from Cyborg’s armor to Steppenwolf’s parademons were all well done. The fight scenes were a thrill to watch and the history lesson shown early in the film that depicts a previous invasion was a special treat since it shows alien Green Lanterns for the first time in the DCEU, as well as massive armies of Atlanteans and Amazonian warriors facing off against the hordes of Apokalips. I do wish this scene was longer to set up the whole invasion storyline, but what we did see was great.
 
The acting was also a positive as the chemistry between the team members was a highlight. Ben Affleck continues his role as the definitive live-action Batman, Gal Gadot is just as good as she was in this summers big hit Wonder Woman, Ezra Miller(the Flash) provides hysterical comic relief as the youngest member of the team, Ray Fisher is effective as the troubled hero Cyborg and Jason Momoa gives fans a good preview of Aquaman, the next DCEU film in December 2018. The underwater battle sequence shown was a sight to behold and should be great to see for a whole film come next year. Finally, Henry Cavill returns as the iconic Superman. His resurrection is handled well and showcases his awesome powers as things don’t go quite the way Batman planned because Supes isn’t in a good mood when he does wakes up. His eventual return to battling the villains is a great moment and gives fans their first glimpse of the hopeful Superman in the DCEU they’ve been waiting for. I also enjoyed Steppenwolf’s portrayal by Ciaran Hinds. He was a powerful adversary for the League and his parademons were also scary looking henchmen. I did not see him as a weak villain, however I would have liked to have seen more of where he came from, the planet Apokalips, as well as his ruler Darkseid, who is only mentioned but not seen.
The tone of this film is lighter than Batman v Superman, and there is more banter between the heroes which is not surprising since Joss Whedon took over from Zack Snyder during reshoots. Most of the quips are amusing and they didn’t take away from the stakes the Justice League faced with the fate of the world hanging in the balance. Batman is a changed character from the previous film since Superman’s sacrifice and death gave him a new outlook on what it means to be a hero. This propels him first to form the Justice League and then to bring Superman back to life when he realizes that the League are overmatched and need the Man of Steel to get them over the top against Steppenwolf and his legion of parademons. Wonder Woman is shown still dealing with the aftermath of losing Steve Trevor in her solo outing and even argues with Bruce about having to come to terms with your past. I liked seeing this character progression and it seems to bring the heroes full circle from where they started in previous films.
 
Aside from the minor quibbles of the shorter run time and mustaches, Justice League is a film that I definitely enjoyed. The ending sets up further adventures for our heroes and villains with a  post-credit scene (SPOILER ALERT!) showing a freed Lex Luthor wanting to create his own group of supervillains starting with Deathstroke. Whether this happens or not is unclear due to the mixed reception the film has gotten.
I would love to see another JL film, especially if it features the League battling a rival group of supervillains and having Green Lantern joining the team as the seventh member. New characters joining the league is hinted at in the end and this is something that should be explored in future films. Previous incarnations of the Justice League in both comic book and animated films, plus, characters like Martian Manhunter and Shazam, would be nice to see. In any case, even if this doesn’t happen, it was great to finally have a live-action Justice League film featuring these legendary characters. It was a pure joy seeing them joining together on the big screen for the first time, showing off their amazing powers, and saving the world. Any future team-up movies with them are something we all can look forward to.
C. S. Link
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DCEU Woes & Growing Pains

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We all just learned that The Flash, the big-screen version of the Scarlet Speedster, has gone back to a page one rewrite over at Warner Bros. OK, this is not good for the DC Extended Universe (DCEU).

This latest mishap with Warner Bros/DC is now fermenting the common thought that the DCEU is veering out of control. To date, the film studio has released three films in the DCEU and all of them have received mixed reactions to outright hostility from fans and critics. Box office-wise, Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad have done well, but they haven’t exactly taken the world by storm unlike their competitors Marvel Studios.

All three films weren’t complete turds, in fact, they have many admirable traits. IMHO Man of Steel is a misunderstood classic while Suicide Squad introduced us to many memorable anti-heroes like Harley Quinn and Deadshot. But to say that they have been controversial is an understatement.

Now comes rumors that this year’s Justice League and even Wonder Woman are considered to be unfixable messes. Sure, these could just be nasty rumblings from nervous executives, but it leads us to wonder if it’s time for Warner Bros. and DC to start panicking. Hell, they could all be quivering already for all we know.

The sad part is that these developments are truly shameful because it’s a disservice to the wonderful DC Comics characters and their fans. Many of them must be rightfully rankled that Marvel Studios’ Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and even the Fox X-Men films are for the most part well received. These woes do not mean that DC’s superheroes are inferior to Marvel’s, it’s just that the films these days are being mismanaged. It’s frustrating because the potential is there for some exceptionally classic films.

justice-league-oneThis doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. At least with The Flash, Warner Bros./DC, at least, knew something must have been wrong with the script and instead of just plowing ahead, decided to start over. In the long run this could mean we’ll get a quality film, but don’t get your hopes up that The Flash will premiere in 2018. No, get your Flash fix from the excellent TV show that is still airing. Now, the problem is that too many people have felt burned with the uneven Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. Then add to that the fear that Justice League may turn out badly and now all hopes are turning to Wonder Woman for being the film that knocks it out of the park for the DCEU. If neither film can deliver, then expect to see a radical shake up over at the film studio over how these films are made.

The obvious problem is that there are too many cooks in the the DCEU kitchen and no clear boss who can provide a strong hand in the films’ direction. Basically, Warner Bros. needs their version of Kevin Feige, the mastermind behind the MCU’s success. Sure they recently appointed Geoff Johns to run the DCEU, but it’s too early to tell if he will have a positive impact. What if he fails?The good news is that the film studio probably does have their own Feige and that person is Greg Berlanti, who is responsible for the success of DC’s television efforts. Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl are all successful, well-regarded TV shows that have a lot of energy and stay mostly faithful to the superheroes’ roots. Berlanti has skillfully interwoven a shared universe that isn’t clunky or convoluted and encourages viewers to sample all the shows. The DC shows are actually better than some of Marvel’s MCU TV shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. because they are more lively and explore the full potential of their stories and characters.

Another thing to remember is that it is still early for the DCEU. There have only been three films and if memory serves us correctly at the same point with the MCU they had their share of growing pains. When there were only three films in the MCU, it wasn’t certain if the MCU could have succeeded. Those films happened to be Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man 2. Only the first Iron Man film was well received but all was forgiven with the later films. The same situation could happen with the DCEU, so patience is called for and better management at the studio. For instance, stop making all these announcements (like Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson will play Black Adam) before the films are ready. Another thing is to slow down and stop trying to compete with the MCU. Marvel Studios carefully crafted their shared universe and the payoff was and continues to be huge. That is the lesson that Warner Bros. should take; slow and steady will yield higher rewards.

UPDATE:

The DCEU’s woes continue with the latest news that Ben Affleck is stepping down from directing the upcoming Batman solo film. This is especially disheartening because Affleck has the directing chops to elevate a superhero film. We’ll find out later what caused him to relinquish his directing task, but let’s be thankful that Affleck is still producing and starring in the next Batman film. Supposedly one of the short list directors that Warner Bros. Is considering is Matt Reeves. If Reeves or another talented director is tapped then all may not be lost for the Dark Knight in the DCEU.

Lewis T. Grove

Top 10 Films and TV Shows of 2016

For 2016, superheroes continue to reign in film and TV, while other genres like sci-fi, fantasy, horror and related combos offered refreshing alternatives. Many of the best films and TV shows on this list were very profound and pushed the envelope, while others were just plain fun to watch.

Films

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10. 10 Cloverfield Lane: The spiritual sequel to Cloverfield was a tense and suspenseful thriller with a great performance by John Goodman as a doomsday prepper.

xsuicideTIE: 9. Suicide Squad/X-Men: Apocalypse: Despite their flaws both superhero (and supervillain) films were enjoyable romps with unforgettable characters (Harley Quinn, the Joker, Deadshot, Magneto, Quicksilver, and more) and eye popping action-packed moments.

8. Doctor Strange: With the big-screen debut of Marvel Comics’ Sorcerer Supreme the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to remind us why their superhero films are currently the best of the crop compared to Fox’s X-Men Universe films (Deadpool aside, of course) and the DC Extended Universe movies.

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7. Zootopia: The best animated film of the year dazzled us with eye raising animation and a clever script that highlighted important social messages about tolerance and prejudice.

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6. Star Trek: Beyond: The film’s back-to-basics approach with Star Trek’s iconic characters paid proper homage to the TV show while having a genuine adventurous tone.

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5. The Jungle Book: Even though the CG-created animals and environment were flawless and stunning, the film to its merit emphasized story and characters, which left a bigger impression.

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4. Deadpool: As a faithful adaptation of the irrelevant and violent comic book, Deadpool proves that it’s possible to be true to comic book source material and still be an entertaining film.

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3. Arrival: A provocative, well-acted and beautifully shot film about first contact with aliens smartly emphasized the communications hurdles humanity would face. The film’s ending was a true surprise and was just one of Arrival’s highlights.

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2. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: The first Star Wars spinoff not only neatly ties in with Episode IV but is a great and exciting film in its own right with more nuanced characters and situations than seen in a typical Star Wars film.

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1. Captain America: Civil War: The Avengers are torn apart from within as Captain America and Iron Man philosophically, then violently disagreed over allowing the government to supervise their team. Featuring strong performances and the best superhero fight scenes ever filmed, the film was an emotional ride for viewers.

TV Shows

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10. Ash Vs Evil Dead: Grossly fun and action-packed as everyone’s favorite deadite fighter Ash Williams and his gang continue delighting horror fans.

redhats invade9. Colony: Unexpectedly well done look at life under alien domination and that “big, beautiful wall” separating American cities is a chilling portent of what lies ahead.12 Monkeys Cole time travels8. 12 Monkeys: Of the many time travel themed TV shows out there, this is the best of them as many episodes explored the convoluted nature of time travel.

dareflashTIE: 7. The Flash/Daredevil: The two best superhero TV shows were on the opposite ends of the tonal spectrum. The Flash is pure Silver Age awesomeness, while Daredevil reflects a more gritty and grounded mood, especially with the introduction of the brutal vigilante, the Punisher. Both shows  featured intense and enjoyable comic book adventures thanks to well written scripts and engaging lead actors, plus supporting characters/actors.

6. The Walking Dead: The megahit series about brutal life after the undead destroy civilization has  hit a creative wall and is past its peak according to many fans. Yet, for the most part The Walking Dead is still delivering more than adequate thrills, gross out moments and entertainment, even if the show went to far in Negan’s introduction and certain character deaths.

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5. Black Mirror: A dark anthology series about the downside of technology offered many disquieting episodes about technology’s impact in our lives today and tomorrow.

El confronts monster Stranger Things4. Stranger Things: A wonderful ode to ’80s sci-fi movies featured terrific child performances, geeky Easter eggs and an intriguing mystery revolving around a missing child and an interdimensional monster.

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3. The Expanse: This well-crafted series about a brewing war among human colonies in our solar system during the next century could wind up being the next great TV space opera.

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2. Westworld: HBO’s potential successor to Game of Thrones went way beyond the original Michael Crichton movie about theme park robots running amok by presenting a thought-provoking series about existentialism and ethics.

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1. Game of Thrones: Even though the fantasy series is drawing to a close, the sprawling epic continues to captivate viewers with its visceral tale of power struggles among kingdoms. One of the highlights was the epic episode  “Battle of the Bastards” that put rival films to shame with its gut wrenching fight scenes.

 

When Legends Meet

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Editor’s Note: We asked two of our staff writers/geeks, C.S. Link and T. Rod Jones,  to opine on the “epic” four-part crossover event at The CW that covered Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow. Here are their quick thoughts.

CSL: Basically, the entire event was a Four(three)-Part crossover. The CW’s crossover event linking its four superhero shows is now over. Overall, I enjoyed the story and interaction between the different characters. But it should be known that the 1st part that started with Supergirl only encompassed the last minute of the show when Barry Allen and Cisco Ramone show up at Kara Danver’s apartment through an interdimensional portal.

TRJ: Yeah, that was kind of a lame way to start off the event. Seriously, the entire story on Supergirl didn’t have anything to do with the main story on Arrow’s Earth. If you’re not a fan of Supergirl (and I’m not), if you skipped the first part, then you didn’t miss anything. Hell, that last minute of Supergirl with Barry and Cisco jumping into her apartment was actually reshown on The Flash the next night! And the worst part is that  during most of the event Supergirl didn’t do much.

CSL: I think the best parts were The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow segments. They both featured good action scenes and showcased creepy looking aliens called The Dominators who seek to eradicate all meta humans from Earth. The Arrow episode was not bad at all, but it mostly took place in a shared hallucination that the aliens subjected Oliver Queen and his friends to. That episode didn’t feel central to the invasion except for the last act.

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TRJ: I agree that the Arrow episode felt separate from the event (not as badly as Supergirl though) , but remember this was the 100th episode of Arrow, so in a way that whole group hallucination featuring characters who are or were in Arrow made sense. It was a way to look back at many important events in Arrow’s five-year history. They do this in comics all the time and it worked for me.

CSL: One thing I would have liked to have seen was the aliens invading different parts of the planet and causing havoc. This would have made the threat even more dangerous. As it was, the action mostly took place in locations in each hero’s respective cities. In the end, this was a good start to having the whole CW DC universe come together and seem like a truly shared universe. Hopefully the next crossover event that comes will truly have it span all 4 shows and have an epic feel and consequences to each hero’s show.

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TRJ: The event only came alive in the last part of Legends of Tomorrow when they all fought the aliens. But we have to wonder why the gang didn’t bring everyone they knew into the fight. Where was the rest of Team Arrow? Why didn’t the Legends go back in time and bring in the Justice Society of America? On that note, why not use future knowledge to defeat the Dominators?

Still, it was great seeing all those heroes fighting those CGI aliens on the rooftop. Some of the Easter eggs were memorable, like how Ray Palmer commented on how Kara looked like his cousin, an obvious tongue-in-cheek Superman Returns reference. The whole event was corny but fun for us geeks.

C.S. Link and T. Rod Jones

Comic-Con 2016 Highlights

The San Diego Comic-Con for 2016 has come and gone and we’re all the more hyped up after the event. Unlike previous Comic-Cons most of the film studios were all too eager to share the trailers for their upcoming films and TV shows. That is except for 20th Century Fox who took their marbles and went home…actually didn’t even present. They wanted to avoid having their presentations pirated. Nice way to promote Alien: Covenant and the third Wolverine flick, people. Result: DC and Marvel ruled the event by bringing their A game.

Justice League

TV Stuff

The other studios made their announcements and presentations. For TV shows, the third season teaser for The Flash got everyone up in arms in anticipation at seeing the live-action version of Flashpoint. For those in the dark, that’s the comic book event where the Flash saved his mom in the past and created a dark reality. This adaptation won’t be literal but more like what we saw with the Marvel Comics Civil War event in Captain America: Civil War. But it still looks awesome. The other DC shows on the CW also had interesting presentations and announcement, the best of those being that the Legends of Tomorrow will be facing the Legion of Doom and meet the rest of the Justice Society of America.

Marvel Studios raised some eyebrows with the revelation that Ghost Rider will be appearing in the fourth season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and this should be interesting. As for their Netflix stuff, we got teasers of The Defenders (check out our Twitter account with a link to it), Iron Fist, and Luke Cage. The last show looked undeniably badass and thankfully we only have to wait a couple more months.

The biggest TV announcement had to be for Star Trek: Discovery. We saw a glorious 2001: A Space Odyssey-like opener with a starship launching out of a hollowed-out asteroid. What was most intriguing was that the ship’s design is based on one of Ralph McQuarrie’s unused Enterprise designs for the lost Star Trek film Planet of the Titans.

starship Discovery

As cool as it was to see one of McQuarrie’s design come to life, what is sure to get everyone even more excited is that Bryan Fuller, one of the showrunners, confirmed the show will take place in the Star Trek Prime universe! No reboots, people! The real Star Trek has indeed returned! Ahem, apologies to those that love nuTrek, Star Trek Beyond is a fun film that redeems the Star Trek reboots.

Film Stuff

DC Comics and Warner Bros. are still smarting over the lukewarm reception to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. So they didn’t hold back anything in Comic-Con 2016. Amidst the flood of trailers for Suicide Squad, which makes us feel already as if we’ve seen the entire film, came trailers for Wonder Woman and Justice League. The Justice League trailer was very enticing and actually sold us on the Snyderverse version of the Flash. Sure, Grant Gustin rules as Barry Allen but it’s undeniable that Ezra Miller had a lot of charm as the new Flash. The trailer had much more humor than anything seen in Batman v Superman, but where’s Superman? Meanwhile, Gal Gadot clearly shines in the footage shown in both the Justice League and in the trailer of Wonder Woman kicking ass in World War I.

As for DC’s rival Marvel, well they had their goodies as well. Unlike DC, most of the trailers for their upcoming movies are still under lock and key being they are “exclusives” for Comic-Con. There’s no point in trying to scrounge the Internet for pirate footage of Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 or Spider-Man: Homecoming, it will look like crap and be taken down anyway. But here’s a quick look at Thor: Ragnarok, which will be gone soon:

Marvel should take a cue from DC and present their goods to the larger world who could not attend. The one trailer they released was the second one for Doctor Strange. Make all the snarky remarks that it looks like Inception, but this movie looks astounding! If it works, it will take the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a whole new direction and that is how you keep the superhero film genre afloat. The highlights of Marvel Studios reveals were Brie Larson’s casting as Captain Marvel, the Vulture will be the villain in Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Kurt Russell will play Peter Quill’s dad, aka Ego the Living Planet, in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2!

Spidey fights Vulture

In closing, Comic-Con 2016 had a lot more to show for the general public than in recent years. A lot of the announcements and trailers were ho hum like Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. But more than a few were quite enticing like the one for the return of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (to be shown on Netflix), a Blair Witch sequel and this one for Kong: Skull Island.

It’s great to see the big ape back on the screen! On the whole, we have plenty of fun things to watch in the coming months and into 2017.