Dead Shadows (2012)

ImageThe overall story of Dead Shadows feels like an homage to 80’s scifi horror, in particular Night of the Comet.  In the first five minutes, we see our protagonist, Chris, watch his parents die after the Halley Comet flew by. Although it looks like modern times, we are suppose to believe ten years have passed. Chris becomes a tech nerd who slowly builds a relationship the girl next door. The first act makes the story feel like a slow burn Ti West movie. However, that script got thrown out for something that barely resembles a shooting script. The rest of the movie is a montage of campy and somehow diverse mutated parisians melting or ripping each other to shreds. Some scenes are stacked on top of each other in a way where it would have made more sense if we were given a missing scene title card. The only continuity that remained intact in the end was the characters consistent bad decision making. For example, why is he making out with that naked spider woman? Overall, this is a cheaply made scifi horror which gives it a nostalgic flavor. Maybe if they dumped the first act the movie would have felt more focused.

Justice League : War Review (2014)

JLWarDC Animation has decided to drop another Justice League Origin story on us. It’s based on the graphic novel called; you guessed it, Justice League: Origin. However, unlike the other origin stories where it focuses on various villains plotting together to take down the league, this time there is only one antagonist, Darkseid. His role is much less manipulative than Darkseid’s other stories. Also, none of the other New Gods come into the story to mix in cosmic elements. In fact, most of the battles are between our protagonists. Therefore, the plot is simple. Big evil baddy is coming to destroy the world and the heroes have to learn to work together in order to save it. With the marketing push for the Justice League War toy line, I can imagine they wanted to scale the story down a bit for the younger audiences. So, don’t expect something on the scale of Flashpoint or Dark Knight. With that being said, the flaws outweigh the merits of this movie.

First of all, the characterization of Wonder Woman was a complete train wreck. She is immature and culturally oblivious. She suggests that cross dressing is a sign of empowerment, and in the very next scene she strong arms a street vendor for ice cream by shoving a sword in his face. Meanwhile, she somehow plays a passive love interest to every single male protagonist that appeared in a scene with her. Much like Wonder Woman, Superman bullies everyone he meets. He lacks any moral reserve or signs of diplomacy. Like Batman says, he is their big gun, and that’s all Superman is for the bulk of this story. This Superman is not the Kansas farm boy. Instead, this incarnation is first seen throwing aliens through apartment buildings and killing anything he has a trouble with. This is kind of an odd change for Justice League because he is usually the hero who upholds JL’s moral code. Another odd twist is there was a great deal of casualties and collateral damage. By the end of the movie, when Batman asks about the human victims, it was kind of hard to remember which ones he was referring to since there had been so many. This movie definitely took a cavalier approach to the destruction.

Nevertheless, Green Lantern and Batman share most of the spotlight and their witty bantering is one of the high points of this movie. It was also nice to see how their relationship evolved. While Green Lantern is the hot headed cosmic empowered policeman, Batman is the cool headed one working off his earthly abilities. When the two of them were battling, it was always interesting to witness them working off of each other or one up the other. The only time they faltered was when it came time for the cliché, battle pep talk, but they quickly redeem themselves. If you’re a fan of these two in particular this movie is a treat.

The other high point is a well done origin for Cyborg. Vic Stone is introduced as a top ranking Football player who feels like his path disappoints his science orientated father. However, their paths collide when his father must turn him into a cyborg in order to save his sons life. Although the pacing of the movie was slowed down to flesh out their father son dynamic, it was well worth it. By the end, Cyborg becomes the hero the audience connects with and cheers for. And let’s not forget to mention Shazam coming in and helping with this character development.

Flash was in the movie but that is about all can be said. His moments were spot on but they flashed by so quickly one might not even remember him being in the movie after the credits rolled.

The animation style was a mix between The Batman’s 3D and JLU’s 2D. However, several scenes lacked cohesion. For example, they animated machinery such as robots or alien technology to have some parts with 3D and some with the 2D and from scene to scene or even within the scene it didn’t look like it was part of the same machine. It seems like the animators couldn’t decide how they should portray machinery so the end result lacked cohesion.

In regards to the voice work, most of the case was fairly decent. However, Jason O’Mara’s Batman/Bruce Wayne had made me flinch a few times, and I really hope he gets his Bruce Wayne down by the time Son of Batman comes out later this year.

Overall, for the dc comic book lover the subplot of Cyborg alone is worth checking this movie out. The dynamic between Green Lantern and Batman is a crowd pleaser. However, this movie isn’t a keeper, and it’s better to wait until it pops up on Netflix .

The Conversation (1974)

ImageThis is a slow burning tale of espionage/ surveillance which pits moral dilemmas against paranoid delusions. Unlike Coppola’s other sprawling and superfluous works, the direction, editing and writing remain focused and meaningful the whole way down. Meanwhile, every cast member is menacing and deserves every second of their spotlight. After all these years, The Conversation remains at top of the list of spy thrillers.

The FIfth Estate (2013)

ImageThis is a melodramatic story focused around melodramatic characters which lacked depth and failed to resonate. Rather than focusing on the breakthrough story of Wikileaks, it instead focused on the odd bromance between Julian and Daniel while oddly skimming over other key players such as Manning and Davies. The acting was good. The directing was mediocre and the “cyber world” was unneeded. The sound mixing for the score and music felt slapped together and sometimes felt as intrusive as a late night commercial.

Banshee Chapter (2014)

ImageErickson adapts Lovecraft’s “From Beyond” and throws in contemporary conspiracy theories surrounding MKULTRA and mysterious Shortwave Radio Number Stations. Although it was made with a shoestring budget, it was able to make up for it by balancing stock footage, found footage, and POV camera shots which gave it an immediate sense of tension. He also did a great job of letting the actors sucking us in with their escalating fear and paranoia. This is a worthy addition to the Lovecraft adaptations, and I can’t wait to see what he will pull off when he gets a bigger budget.

End of Watch (2012)

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With End of Watch David Ayer once again delivers another hyper-kinetic paced and hard boiled drama. His protagonist are more lovable than his previous detectives, and they still deliver the addictive quick quips and rolling monologues we adore. Although Gyllenhaal and Pena were phenomenal, what made End of Watch stand out was his creative use of camera perspectives and editings. This made the movie feel like a punch in the guts dramatic reenactment of our favorite COPS episodes.

Rampart (2012)

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In Rampart, James Ellroy has crafted his darkest tale yet. Although his other ventures in the Neo-Noir and Hard-Boiled genres lurked in depths of violent decadence, their endings would eventually embrace a transgressive crescendo. Instead, Woody Harrelson brilliantly drives his character off the edge and into an inescapable pit of hopelessness. Meanwhile, Moverman captures all the ugliness from a voyeuristic and sometimes cerebral point of view. For fans of Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant this is a contemporary treat.