Friday, March 25, 2016

Batman vs. Superman Barely Goes The Distance

For nearly two years, fans of the revived Superman franchise were anticipating the sequel to the blockbuster Man of Steel. What added on more excitement was the announcement that it was featuring the dark knight himself, Batman in a duel between the DC Comics icons. Using the acclaimed graphic novel, The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller as a reference, fans felt one of the greatest cinema attractions was coming. I was one of those fans that was excited because of the direction that Zack Snyder was going to take it. Zack Snyder is all about the action and staying true to what fans like from the comics but while this film does deliver a punch, it’s not a knockout. 

Starring Henry Cavill as Superman who did just as good as the previous film which works but the main focus of this film is on Batman. Played by Ben Affleck, most fans were on guard much like fans of James Bond are on guard when the actor is new. Fearing a repeat of his Daredevil portrayal, fans were disappointed at first but I can honestly say that he did the part well, playing a seasoned fighter with iron convictions whose only concerned is the future of humanity and is willing to die to protect it. Another casting that got people guarded was the first Wonder Woman to appear on screen and her name is Gal Gadot. Her part in the film is little but when she dawns her Amazonian uniform and goes to battle, all hesitation ceases.

Taking place nearly two years after the events of Man of Steel, Superman has quickly earned the respect of some and the fear of others. Now forces are at play in order to bring down the man of steel and certain events attract the attention of Batman. When Batman begins to see Superman as a threat himself, he begins preparing for the fight of his life with a being that most people believe he has no chance to beating. With certain spectators watching in the distance, the two start a path that will eventually lead to the Justice League film following a dark revelation. This film was action packed and rich with visual effects but lacking in proper story-telling and character development.

It worked for Man of Steel because the film was an origin story and it was something that people could follow very easily. But for a concept that had only been introduced in comics and cartoons, people oblivious to the history of these too characters are doomed to be lost. Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice almost forces the audience to do their own homework and know what certain scenes pertain to. If you know nothing other than what you’ve seen in previous movies about either character, then you’re going to leave the theater wondering what just happened. The other problem with the film is even though it was two hours and thirty minutes, it felt terribly rushed.

There’s enough time in each scene to let the audience catch up with what previously happened but the problem is some scenes felt like there was more to them. There were plot holes in several parts of the movie that made certain scenes seem confusing and didn’t make sense. The only other problem with the film is Jessie Eisenberg playing Superman’s main villain, Lex Luthor or at least that’s what I thought. Rather than a mature brilliant billionaire with a God complex, Eisenberg portrays an annoying and unhinged character that almost makes you wish Superman would break his neck instead of Zod’s. The casting of Eisenberg seemed like wasted money and his performance while as good as it is, fans will be disconnected by his portrayal.

This film gets a 7 out of 10 because it’s not better than Man of Steel but it does keep DC Comics on its track to start its cinematic universe, barely. It’s a good action film but because of it being all action and little development, it suffers. With choppy scenes combined with rushed film time and references that some might miss, this film also takes a hit in that area. Some say that Snyder is making these films too violent for children and families, I rather let the families decide what’s ok for their kids to see. There will be a director’s cut making the film longer so all these problems might be addressed but don’t have high expectations when you go see this movie, it’s worth the ticket but wasn’t worth the wait.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Daredevil's Fire Still Burns

Daredevil returned for its much anticipated second season after a positive debut last year that was welcomed by fans. The only thing better than the plot of the show was the chemistry of Charlie Cox playing the blind Matt Murdock/Daredevil and Vincent D’Onofrio playing the infamous Kingpin, Wilson Fisk. The first season was mainly an origin story, exposing fans to a darker world in Marvel than most people have seen in the movies. Much like the world of Jessica Jones which was released later last year, Murdock’s world is full of death, destruction and supernatural threats that most people don’t know exist in Hell’s Kitchen. The only question to ask after the success of the first season is, “How are we going to top this?”

The answer to that question would be the introduction of two of Marvel’s most beloved anti-heroes in the form of Elektra and Frank Castle a.k.a. The Punisher. This was a bold move for Marvel because while both characters are popular in the comics and games, they’ve had unfortunate results in the box office. Adding these characters to the show seemed more like another chance to bring them into the mainstream rather that an introduction.

The Punisher had a virtual non-existent debut with Dolph Lundgren back in the late 1980s, then Thomas Jane brought a more serious tone but wasn’t successful and then came the bomb Punisher: War Zone with Ray Stevenson in 2008. In the end, the only people that were getting punished were the fans so all ambitions to keep going stopped. Now the reigns have been passed on to Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead, Fury) as the man who should’ve been dead. For viewers who are unaware of Frank Castle; this will be an origin story for you and for fans, a brutal view into The Punisher’s world and his brand of justice. A world of full of bullets, bodies and enough blood to fill the Hoover Dam.

The only person who has a darker world than Frank Castle would be Elektra Natchios or Elektra for short. Raised to be an assassin and never known anything other than violence, Elektra’s has always lived her life in hiding while posing as a person of privilege in the world of the upper class. She was introduced to fans on the big screen by Jennifer Garner’s portrayal in Daredevil played by Ben Affleck. While her portrayal led to her own film which bombed, the popularity in her character rose as Daredevil’s love interest. Now the character has been brought back by actress Elodie Yung (G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Gods of Egypt).

So now we get to the second season and find out what’s going on in Hell’s Kitchen and how does it involve these two. It takes place weeks after the events of the first season with the demise of Wilson Fisk and while Daredevil has been hard at work, so have others. Copycat vigilantes have sprung out but only one is taking matters to new extremes and Murdock is forced to confront not just a person but his own moral code. The results of Frank Castle soon begin to sway public opinion away from Daredevil and more into harsher vigilante justice. With the arrival of The Punisher, Hell’s Kitchen is divided between what works and what is right.

The only thing worse than a psycho who has an arsenal and knows how to hurt you physically is a woman who knows how to hurt you emotionally. Elektra comes back into Murdock’s life after a significant meeting in his past to help him confront an enemy from the first season. Murdock soon realizes that he’s part of something much more complicated than a simple gangland vendetta. Being pulled in all sides, Murdock begins to be stripped apart of everything he thought he was and begins to realize who he was meant to be. The only thing that is guaranteed at the end of this season is there will be more questions than answers.

Charlie Cox took fans into a deeper level of Matt Murdock’s life with the introduction of Elektra and the significance of her to Daredevil. Much like Catwoman to Batman, these two are opposite sides of a coin but can’t truly be whole without each other. The chemistry between Cox and Yung was fair considering there wasn’t much time together in the season, you have to conclude they have a long history. The chemistry between Cox and Bernthal gave a better connection with Bernthal’s portrayal of the punisher. They have a scene that was both intense and important in the convictions of The Punisher and the challenge of morality in Daredevil.

Overall, this season was as good as the first and the reason I truly feel that it didn’t out due was because it felt rushed. In the first season, there was one main focus and one main villain to conquer in order to save Hell’s Kitchen but there were too many subplots. First there’s Castle, then there’s Elektra, Matt’s personal life is falling apart, and then there’s a threat that turns Hell’s Kitchen into a war zone. I honestly feel that the subplot with Elektra could’ve been stalled for a later time since most of the season was focused of Frank Castle and his pursuit of redemption. I give this season a strong 8 out of 10 and anxiously look forward to seeing who comes next season.

As for The Punisher; it’s clear that he will most likely get his own spinoff because while Thomas Jane was a good Frank Castle, Jon Bernthal fit the character to the barrel. Yung’s was a good fit as Elektra and her new look was more professional and reasonable. If you were looking for something all red and sexy like Jennifer Garner’s look then you’re going to be disappointed but Yung was plenty of sexy in this season. If fans thought that Murdock had a rough start becoming a hero before, then you’re going to be in for a rollercoaster that has an eerie cliffhanger at the end. Season 2 is full of action, intense fight sequences and emotional drama that will leave the audience wanting more; but we will all have to wait another year.   

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Antichrist Lives in Damien

If I were a religious man, I would say that I be leaving for church right now after seeing A&E’s new show Damien which is based off the classic horror franchise, The Omen. I can remember seeing the horror trilogy when I was in my teens and being absolutely terrified by several elements; the demonic theme music, the dark settings, and the supernatural killings that took place. With a strong fan base, this series is a breath of fresh air for a franchise that was feared dead after the bomb of the 2006 remake. Damien completely erases that and is a spinoff of the classic 1976 version directed by Richard Donner and stars Gregory Peck. If you’ve never seen any of the films then here’s a quick summary.

Gregory Peck plays an American ambassador who decides to adopt a son with his wife and they both soon figure out there’s something wrong with the child. Through a series of unfortunate events, they soon find out he has arguably one of the darkest destinies ever prophesized. It’s a saga full of biblical horrors and disturbing scenes that supposedly ended with The Omen 3: The Final Conflict starring Sam Neil in 1981. Like all good things however in Hollywood, someone didn’t have the good sense to leave it alone and tried to reboot the franchise in 1991 with The Omen 4: The Awakening. The film was so bad that instead of reigniting the inferno, it just sent the saga into the 9th circle of Hollywood.

But last night at 10 p.m. eastern time on A&E, The Omen was reborn by bringing back familiar elements from the 1976. The show starts off with introducing Damien Thorn played by Bradley James (IZombie, Homeland), who is now 30 and apparently a simple photographer for a media outlet in New York. Oblivious to his childhood past, he continues to live his life almost in solitude out of fear for the safety of others. When an incident revives his memories; he begins to investigate what he forgot only to realize that some things were best left forgotten, especially numbers. When it becomes clear that Damien has a destiny he doesn’t want a part of, he does everything in his power to deny his throne.

Now the problem that stands out is Damien is thirty and in present day. The film came out in 1976 so the age is off but then again, they never addressed the dates so it slightly passes. The other problem is that the episode is filled with relics that dedicate this series to the classic version so fans will catch them instantly and be excited but would be fans will ignore them completely. The introduction music closely resembles the original opening theme that still gives goosebumps and the ending gave a chilling cliffhanger along with a preview of what to expect this season. The preview promises the first season to be just as terrifying and suspenseful as the first three films with Damien fighting his destiny.

While the series is original, it’s basically a remake of the second film Damien: The Omen 2 and using the same plot to bring it into modern times. It’s more than likely this will be picked up for a second season but will it go on, possible if the show can keep the momentum going. Damien gets a 7 out of 10 for creating an original story around a classic and bringing it into modern times. I may not be a religious man but I am a fan of true horror films like The Omen and this series brings back a feeling that’s almost nostalgic. Much like Bates Motel, Damien is a hit that will attract new fans while bringing back the old ones loyal to the franchise, so hats off to A&E.