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Suicide Squad (film)

I saw Suicide Squad the other night. It’s the latest film instalment of the DC Extended Universe following 2013’s Man of Steel and 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I must admit that I was a little weary of spending money to see it after the fiasco that was Batman v Superman and reading all the terrible reviews from critics. But I saw it, and it wasn’t completely terrible. I kind of liked it in fact. It’s not a great movie by any means. There are plot holes, generic villains, and confusing moments, but there are enough good characters, solid performances, and exhilarating action sequences to balance it out. The soundtrack also stands out and makes the movie a little better.

The movie is about a group of convicts that are assembled to save the world from a powerful threat. Will Smith stars as Deadshot, a deadly mercenary with an absurdly accurate shot. Margot Robbie plays Harley Quinn, the psychotic lover of the Joker. Jai Courtney plays Captain Boomerang, an Australian bank robber with a penchant for boomerangs. Jay Hernandez play El Diablo, a fiery Latino who controls fire. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje plays Killer Croc, a sewer-dwelling monster. And Karen Fukuhara plays Katana, a Japanese chick with a katana. They all are forced to team up to fight an ancient witch demon and her demon brother. And that’s what the movie is about.

Jared Leto is in the movie too. He plays the Joker in a vastly different way than the late Heath Ledger. I can’t really comment on his performance because he was hardly in it. He has like twelve minutes of screen time and only pops up occasionally. He wasn’t bad, he just didn’t make enough of an impact for me to care about him.

There are lots of Easter eggs and DC references for comic nerds to geek out over. It’s a more enjoyable film than Batman v Superman. There are more jokes and likeable characters and they didn’t add an excessive amount of unnessary storylines into the film. Batman v Superman tried to do too much. Suicide Squad lets the story unfold for itself. I would see it again in theaters. DC still has a long way to catch up to Marvel, but this is a step in the right direction.

Critically Rated at 12/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

  

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

I finally got around to seeing Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice last night. I’m slacking, I know. It’s the sequel to 2013’s Man of Steel and Zack Snyder returns to direct, while Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne, and Diane Lane reprise their roles as Superman, Lois Lane, Perry White, and Martha Kent respectively. New to the series is Ben Affleck as Batman/Bruce Wayne, Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth, and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince. It’s also the feature film debut of Aquaman, Cyborg, and the Flash but they only appear for a few moments on screen. Even though it’s a sequel to Man of Steel, Superman takes a backseat to Batman in this movie. There are more heroes and villains and bigger action sequences, but the film seems like a step backward. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t exciting. It was pretty disappointing.

The film was too bleak. It’s supposed to be a comic book movie. They were trying to capture the gritty realism of The Dark Knight but the studio doesn’t seem to realize that Superman is not dark and gritty. Wonder Woman is not dark and gritty. Lex Luthor is not dark and gritty. It should have been more campy and upbeat. There were hardly any jokes or humor. It wasn’t fun. Comic book movies should be fun. The action sequences were bigger than the ones in Man of Steel, but the action wasn’t as good. Snyder likes to speed up and slow down the action and that worked really well in Man of Steel because it captured the power of Superman. It made him seem unworldly and godlike. You don’t get that feeling in Dawn of Justice. Superman isn’t as impressive. It feels tired.

It’s not a terrible movie, but it did not live up to the hype. The plot was meh. The characters were meh. The acting was meh. Like Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor? Lex Luthor is one of the most formidable villains in the DC Universe. Jesse Eisenberg is not formidable in the slightest. It’s like casting a pug to play Cujo. It doesn’t work and it brings down the film’s integrity. DC and Warner Bros. were using this flick as their foundation for their Justice League franchise. There are a lot of cracks. Doesn’t seem like Marvel has much to worry about competition wise.

Critically Rated at 10/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Top Seventeen Superhero Movies

Superhero movies have been a staple at the box office for over a decade now, and it seems like its time to Critically Rate them. To make this list the main character(s) must be a superhero. For the purposes of this list, a superhero is someone who has superpowers OR wears a costume/disguise and they must fight crime/bad guys/or a main villain. The film doesn’t need to be based on a comic to qualify; it just needs to be awesome. Here is my list of the Top Seventeen Superhero Movies of All Time.

17. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This 1990 film is one of the oldest movies on the list, but it was a successful start to a cinematic franchise. It has comedic moments but it also takes itself seriously. The Shredder is a genuinely scary villain, the teenaged turtles are full of angst, and the action scenes pass the test.

16. The Incredible Hulk. The 2008 film was a sequel/reboot of the 2003 Hulk, and it was a much more satisfying movie. Edward Norton is always solid, Tim Roth plays a great foe, and the special effects were miles ahead of any other Hulk adaptation at that point.

15. Thor. Thor is not just a superhero, he is a god. The 2011 film brought Thor to the big screen for the first time. Kenneth Branagh directed a Shakespearean-style superhero movie that had two powerful brothers facing off. Chris Hemsworth is a picture perfect Thor, but this film gets more credit for introducing Loki (played by Tom Hiddleston) who has so far proven to be the best villain in any Marvel movie to date.

14. The Amazing Spider-Man is the 2012 reboot starring Andrew Garfield as your friendly neighborhood Spider-man. Sure, this movie was only made so that Sony could hold onto the movie rights to the character, but it was better than the Sam Raimi directed films in almost every way. It had better casting, better special effects, a better story, and better action scenes. People just didn’t want to watch it because Tobey Maguire is still fresh in their minds. Fuck Tobey Maguire. Give Andrew Garfield a chance.

13. Watchmen. This adaptation of the beloved graphic novel is not perfect by any means, but it deserves a spot on this list. It was thought to be unfilmable but Zack Snyder managed to capture the general essence of it. The most frustrating thing is that he got so many things right, but he still felt compelled to change the storyline. Don’t be fooled by the theatrical release, the director’s cut is better and the ultimate cut is even better than that.

12. Kick-Ass was a good superhero because it was a wry commentary on superhero movies. It made fun of superheroes while celebrating them at the same time. It was hysterically funny and extremely violent. That’s a good formula for entertainment.

11. X-Men was the first film of the X-Men franchise, and its success at the box office paved the way for all the superhero movies to follow. It’s not a faithful adaptation, but it’s an honest one. And the world got to see Hugh Jackman as Wolverine for the first time.

10. Batman Returns is another film that took a lot of liberties with the source material, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the best Batman movies. Tim Burton, Michael Keaton, Michelle Pfeiffer, Danny DeVito, Christopher Walken, an army of penguins, and Pee-wee Herman? What more do you need?

9. Iron Man is a great movie because it was so unexpectedly enjoyable. Iron Man is a famous comic book character, but he doesn’t have the prestige that Batman, Spider-man, and Superman enjoy. Robert Downey, Jr. was a bit of a gamble, director Jon Favreau was a bit of a gamble, but everything clicked and fell into place and the seeds for The Avengers movie were planted.

8. Man of Steel. This was the Superman movie that I was waiting for. I honestly enjoyed Superman Returns, but even I have to admit that it was a boring movie. Man of Steel was not boring. And it might not have been Richard Donner and Christopher Reeve’s version of Superman, but it was still Superman. Even if you hated this movie, you still have to admit that the action scenes are more than exhilarating.

7. X2: X-Men United is a superior movie to the original in every single way. It has more mutants, more powers, more action, and a better story. The opening scene with Nightcrawler is reason alone to warrant a spot on this list. It made you think that the X-Men franchise was going to be one of the best series of all time. And then the third one came out and shattered your belief system. Fuck you Brett Ratner. Fuck you.

6. Superman. This is the oldest film on my list and it’s one of the most important. Richard Donner’s film has been the model for every successful superhero movie to follow is. He set the template for superhero movies. He respected the source material, and more importantly, he respected the audience. Christopher Reeve was Clark Kent. He was Superman. And he will always be the standard.

5. Spider-man 2. Tobey Maguire’s second venture as Spider-man will always be one of my favorite sequels. It’s a fun ride from beginning to end and you hardly have time to catch your breath. There’s humor, there’s despair, there’s action, and there’s romance. It’s everything that you want from a Hollywood blockbuster.

4. The Matrix. Yes, Neo is a superhero. He has powers, he has an alter ego (his real name is Thomas Anderson), he has a costume (black trench coat and sunglasses), and he fights the evil Mr. Smith. He’s a superhero, and he’s a badass, and he’s The One.

3. The Incredibles isn’t based on a comic book, it’s not live action, and it’s still a great superhero movie. You could say it’s the best and you would have a valid argument. It’s about a family of superheroes with really cool superpowers and they face off against an interesting supervillain. It’s funny, it’s heartwarming, and it has some amazing action scenes.

2. The Dark Knight is not only the best Batman movie, it’s the best DC movie. Christian Bale deserves some credit, but everybody knows that Heath Ledger carries the movie. His Joker is perhaps the best villain in any superhero movie. Christopher Nolan crafted a great trilogy, but this is the highlight by far. It’s The Dark Knight Trilogy for a reason, not The Batman Begins Trilogy or The Batman and Bane Trilogy.

1. Marvel’s The Avengers. Was there ever any doubt that this would be the best superhero movie of all time? You have Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk, Thor, and (to a lesser extent) Nick Fury Hawkeye, and Black Widow fighting to save the planet. There are tons of characters and powers, plots and subplots, and somehow Joss Whedon manages to weave everything together to create a fun, entertaining, and satisfying blockbuster. The climactic battle is beyond description, a joyous showcase of special effects and sheer spectacle. It’s why you go to the movies. It’s why you justify spending $20 to watch something in IMAX 3-D.

So that’s my list. I hope you like it or at least respect it. If I missed anything that you think deserves to be on here, let me know and I’ll either add it or tell you why you’re wrong.

Critically Rated at 15/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Man of Steel

You know what everyone loves? Comic book movies and reboots. And Man of Steel is both. Henry Cavill stars as Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman/the Man of Steel in Zack Snyder’s latest comic book adaption. The movie begins fittingly on Krypton during its final days. Jor-El (Russell Crowe) decides the best way to preserve the Kryptonian race is to send his infant son to Earth. That pisses off General Zod (Michael Shannon) and he vows to track down Kal-El, thus setting the plot in motion. The movie jumps ahead a few years, and you see a dejected Clark Kent trying to find his place in the world. He moves around, he uses false names, he is running from something, but he doesn’t know what. All that changes when he comes across a spaceship, meets the electronic ghost of his alien father, learns his true name and history, and gets a spiffy new spandex suit complete with cape. He spends a few glorious minutes teaching himself how to fly, and then General Zod arrives with his Kryptonian henchmen, eager for some space vengeance. Zod demands that the people of Earth must hand over Superman, but he’s got ulterior motives involving terraforming the Earth into a new Krypton. And Supes isn’t having any of that.

There have been a lot of mixed reviews about this movie. I don’t know why. It’s pretty solid. The action scenes are cool, and some of the dialog/exposition scenes are cheesy, but it’s a summer blockbuster and that’s how it’s supposed to be. It’s smarter than most comic book flicks. The movie is non-linear and a lot of important moments are revealed in flashbacks. It’s important to note that aside from the opening scene, Clark has no direct contact with his two father figures. He only experiences Jor-El through the holographic representation of his consciousness, and you only know Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner) through flashbacks. There are a few notable changes from the comics. For starters, Lois knows that Clark Kent is Superman pretty quickly. That kind of changes their whole relationship (traditionally she worships Superman and ignores Clark). For some unnecessary reason, Perry White is black and Jimmy Olsen had a sex change and became Jenny Olsen. Neither change has any effect on the plot whatsoever.

Superman is a Christian allegory and this movie really rubs it in your face. You only know Jesus as a baby, then briefly as a young adolescent, and then when he finally returns as a savior at the ripe old age of 33. That’s how you experience the Man of Steel in this movie. As a baby, as a tween, and again as an adult who mentions that he’s 33 a few times throughout the movie. He even does the obligatory crucifixion pose.

This isn’t your Richard Donner/Christopher Reeve Superman… this is Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan’s version of Superman. It’s noticeably darker, more intense, and more gritty. It strives to be more realistic than fantastic and it succeeds for the most part. But Superman isn’t supposed to be gritty. He’s supposed to be about hope and he’s supposed to inspire you. That’s where this film falls short. It’s not as fun and not as thrilling as what you’d want from a Superman movie. There isn’t as much of a sense of wonder. There are no reaction shots of citizens craning their necks to the sky as Superman does something spectacular.

There are two major fight scenes that deserve to be discussed. The first takes place in Kansas, and Superman takes on two of Zod’s soldiers while simultaneously being attacked by the US Army. I think this is the best sequence of the film. The fight choreography is intense and explosive, and it’s set amidst a backdrop of Americana. A small town is suddenly host to an intergalactic battle, and the local 7-Eleven, IHOP, and Sears are all demolished in the process. The climactic fight between Superman and Zod takes place in Metropolis and the city gets leveled in the process. Building after building gets destroyed, and after a while you stop caring. It gets boring. The two invincible foes exchange punch after punch, blow after blow, fly around smashing into buildings and landmarks, and are stuck in a complete stalemate (until someone gets the upper hand and wins. Spoiler: Superman wins).

Man of Steel is not a perfect movie. But you can say that about any movie. I will be bold and say that this is the best Superman movie to date. It has great action sequences, great characters, great actors, and a serviceable plot. If you see one movie this summer, you should see the movie I made with your mom last night. If you see two movies this summer, Man of Steel should be the second.

Critically Rated at 15/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Superman for All Seasons

If you’ve never read a Superman comic before, start with this one. Superman for All Seasons is a character study of who Superman is and what he represents. This isn’t an origin story. It doesn’t go into Superman’s alien past and how he came from a dying planet and all that hoopla. Jeph Loeb’s story is about Clark Kent leaving home and facing his destiny as Superman. Tim Sale’s incredible artwork brings a sense of grandeur and makes the icon more iconic.

There is no central narrator. Each season has it’s own narrator with their own view on Superman and/or Clark Kent. It’s kind of like Citizen Kane; you get a sense of the man through other people’s opinions of him. The first season explored is Spring. Jonathan Kent narrates as Clark Kent is on the verge of graduating from high school, and Clark is trying to cling on to memories but knows that he can’t stay in Smallville forever. Jonathan is worried about Clark’s powers and what he will do with them, but one day Clark saves a guy’s life and decides that saving people will be his calling. The boy becomes a man and goes to Metropolis to start his new life as Superman.

Lois Lane narrates the Summer story. Her perfect reporter world was turned upside down by the arrival of the Man of Steel. She’s still trying to grasp the fact that things have changed, that a man can fly, that the old rules don’t apply anymore. Superman saves Metropolis and Lois from a nuclear missile and submarine attack, because he’s Superman and that’s what he does. He feels lonely and homesick so he goes back to visit Smallville and is dismayed at how it doesn’t feel the same. Martha Kent reminds him that’s what happens when you grow up and to shut up and go back to Metropolis. He gets back just in time to save a lady from a fire and he scolds Lex Luthor’s flying soldiers for almost killing her.

Lex Luthor is the narrator for the Fall season. He is in love with Metropolis and doesn’t like the new guy who also calls it home. He hatches a plot to make Superman leave. It involves poisoning the citizens of Metropolis and making Superman come to him for help. Lex finds the lady that Superman saved from the fire in Summer, and brainwashes her into becoming Toxin. Superman goes to confront Lex, but time is of the essence, so he takes Toxin and they fly around spreading the antidote. And then Toxin suddenly dies and Lex manipulate Superman into thinking it was his fault that Toxin dies. Superman gets all sad and goes back home to Smallville.

It is now Winter, and Lana Lang takes over the narrating duties. Lana reveals that she wanted to marry Clark, but had to let him go be Superman. Clark and Lana spend some time together catching up and reliving old memories. They walk around Smallville, feeling nostalgic about being home again. There’s a huge flood that threatens the town and Clark comes to grips that he is Superman and that he has to do something because that’s what Superman does. The flood is a wakeup call and Clark goes back to the city and accepts his life as Superman.

This is not an exciting comic. There’s not much action scenes. It’s a reflection on who Clark Kent is and why he does what he does. It’s about the impact of Superman, about how he affects other people and what he means to them. The story is great and the art is amazing. There are several pictures that take up two whole pages, showing Clark and Jonathan gazing at a sunset or Superman flying heroically across the sky.

Superman for All Seasons is required reading for a Superman fan. It’s worth reading even if you don’t like Superman. It’s a coming-of-age story, it’s about finding your place in the world. Everyone can relate to that.

Critically Rated at 15/17

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Superman Returns

Superman Returns is a very underrated comic book movie. It’s not a bad flick. It drags on in a few places, but it’s a pretty solid movie. The problem is that you either like Superman or you don’t. If you don’t like Superman, don’t watch this movie. Bran Singer (X-Men, The Usual Suspects) directs Brandon Routh as the Man of Steel. Kevin Spacey plays Lex Luthor and a horribly miscast Kate Bosworth plays Lois Lane.

This movie is as much of a tribute as it is a sequel to the Christopher Reeve films. The title sequence is like a time machine that takes you back to the original Superman movie. This movie is a sequel to the first two Christopher Reeve Superman movies and ignores the shitty third and fourth installments. Superman (Brandon Routh) left Earth to explore the remains of Krypton for survivors and returns after a five-year absence.

Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) has a kid and a new boyfriend named Richard White (James Marsden), the nephew of Perry White (Frank Langella), her boss and the editor of the Daily Planet. Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) is freed from jail and dupes an old lady into leaving him her fortune, and Lex is back in the game.

Clark Kent goes back to work at the Daily Planet. The only person who seems happy that Clark is back is Jimmy Olson (Sam Huntington). Lois is completely indifferent to his return and seems super preoccupied with her obsession with Superman.

Lex gets a hold of some Kryponite and devises a plot to create a new continent. Lex will get a bunch of valuable real estate and billions of people will die. So naturally Superman has to try to stop this.

Lois Lane is trying to find a story and can’t find a babysitter, so she and her son go onto Lex’s yacht and stumble into the middle of his diabolical plan. Lex catches them and holds them prisoner while he executes his plan.

The huge land mass that he creates causes some damage in Metropolis and Superman flies around saving people and preventing mass casualties before flying out to sea to rescue Lois. Shit doesn’t go according to plan and Lex gets the upper hand and Superman almost dies.

Superman doesn’t die though. He survives his coma and finds out that Lois and Richard’s son is actually his son from when he slept with Lois in the second movie. And now he has more of a reason to stalk Lois. The movie never discloses what happens to Richard. I think he killed himself. Wouldn’t you? You can’t compete with Superman, he’s fucking Superman.

This movie’s biggest flaw is that it acts sort of like an origin story, or a reintroduction to a classic character. The problem is that everyone already knows who Superman is and what he represents. Just get to the fucking action already. And Superman is a super man… it’s boring to see him face off with someone mentally rather than physically. I want to see him fight Doomsday or someone who would put up a fight. Superman versus Lex Luthor has already been done multiple times on the big screen, something new would have been nice.

Kate Bosworth is hot. She just sucks in this movie. She is way too young to be playing Lois Lane. It’s not believable that she would have a five-year old son. She doesn’t do anything to assume control of the role. Margot Kidder is way better than she ever could be.

Brandon Routh does a good job as Superman. He looks a lot like Christopher Reeve, but still does subtle things to differentiate himself. He had big shoes to fill, but he did as good of a job as anyone could do. He makes Clark Kent and Superman two different people.

Kevin Spacey is having a lot of fun as Lex Luthor. He isn’t overacting as much as Gene Hackman, but he plays him over the top at times. Sometimes he is downright scary. He can flip a switch and go from merry to maniacal in a half second. Kal Penn is his henchman for some reason.

I saw this movie in 3D IMAX. The movie was almost all in 2D except for a few scenes. A little icon in the corner of the screen would prompt you to put on your glasses and the effect was amazing. If you wear 3D glasses the whole time, the effect wears off. But if only a few scenes are in 3D, the effect is more apparent and more relevant. Only a few key sequences were worthy enough to convert to 3D so you appreciated it more.

Yeah, this movie drags. Yeah, there could have been a better villain. But it brought Superman back to the big screen and that’s worth something. This movie was not a flop. It almost made $400 million. But people still hate on it and I don’t get why. If you appreciate Superman, you should like it. It’s not the best Superman story, but it’s not the worst. It is what it is, and it’s better than a lot of comic book movies.

Critically Rated at 13/17

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The Return of Superman

Doomsday killed Superman, and the world needs a savior. Four mysterious men show up claiming to be Superman. One is a teenager, one is a cyborg, one has a spiffy looking visor, and one is plated with custom armor. Who is good? Who is evil? Who is pretending? Will the real Superman please stand up?

The emergence of each new Superman fills the void for a Metropolis still grieving for their fallen hero. The Superguys eventually gain their own followers and supporters, each believing their Superman to be the real Superman. Lois Lane has the sneaking suspicion that none of them are actually the real deal. She has some history with Superman, so she is the expert I guess.

The teenaged Superman is really more of a Superboy. He doesn’t like to be called that, but fuck him. He is clone of Superman. He’s an arrogant, cocky, reckless hero, who eventually settles down a bit. The cyborg Superman, also known as the Man of Tomorrow, looks like half Superman and half a Terminator. He is made from Kryptonian technology of course. Spiffy Visor Superman looks the most like Superman, he even has some of his memories, but he is cold, calculating, and ruthless, and that’s not Clark Kent. The armored Superman is the only one who blatantly tells people that he is not the reincarnation of Superman. He is big black guy so I don’t think they would believe him anyway. He is called the Man of Steel or Steel, and his real name is John Henry Irons. One or more of these Superdudes might just have a sinister agenda; you’ll just have to read it to find out.

It’s a long story, much more so than the Death of Superman. It’s pretty easy to follow for as lengthy as it is. There are lots of subplots and a cool twist. I like it more than the Death of Superman; it is more complex of a story with better artwork. You realize that the world needs a Superman, and just because a guy is rocking a cape with an S insignia doesn’t make him a savior.

Critically Rated at 14/17

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