I was ecstatic when I heard Bruce Timm was returning to DC for a new animated feature. One of the creators behind Batman: The Animated Series and Justice League Unlimited, the animated DCU just hasn’t been the same since his departure. When I heard the premise of the movie, however, I was more skeptical. It turns out I need not have feared that Bruce Timm might be corrupted by the grit of the New 52 that’s turned so much of DC’s comic and video output to shit. Timm certainly delivers a darker and more adult story than expected but it’s still grounded in a profound understanding and love for these characters that is far too often lacking in much of DC’s current output.
Although the word Elseworlds doesn’t appear in its title that’s exactly what Justice League: Gods and Monsters is: a story set in an alternate version of the DCU vastly different from the any we know. The result is as unexpected as it is enjoyable. It may not be classic Timm, but the man certainly hasn’t lost his knack for characters, design, or storytelling.
Originally released in theaters 10 years ago, Mr. & Mrs. Smith stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie who, unbeknownst to each other, are rival spies for competing spy organizations. Doug Liman‘s 2005 film has held up pretty well over the past decade. Pitt and Jolie are fun together in a script that allows them to play off each other and, when called for, kick each other’s ass in one hell of a prolonged action scene that leaves their suburb home destroyed.
Most notable for its action set pieces, Simon Kinberg‘s script also has its share of humor (including a Fantasy Island joke that never fails to tickle my fancy no matter how many times I see the movie). It’s not a great film by any standard, but it still works well as a mostly-entertaining action flick (especially the first hour). Released several times on both DVD and Blu-ray, the new version includes pre-released extras and a digital copy of the film but sadly the Blu-ray only includes the theatrical cut of the film as the unrated extended version isn’t available on this release.
The tail end of the summer movie season is pretty much a crap shoot. While I was pleasantly surprised with the under-appreciated The Man from U.N.C.L.E., director Nima Nourizadeh‘s stoner-action comedy is more what I’ve come to expect from this time of year. American Ultra isn’t a bad film, but it’s not all-together a good one either. A hodgepodge of ideas from both better and worse movies, American Ultra is an occasionally enjoyable B-movie mess.
Jesse Eisenberg stars as stoner convenience clerk Mike Howell with a girlfriend (Kristen Stewart) too good for him, friends (most notably John Leguizamo) just as mentally-challenged, and a brain full of secret CIA training which has been locked away for years until the most over-the-top Topher Grace ever captured on film decides to have Howell killed by agents that make the bad guys in Hudson Hawk look like Bond villains.
Activated by the former leader (Connie Britton) of the project, Howell soon finds himself with the ability to instinctively kill in a variety of bizarre ways without ever understanding exactly how, why, or what he’s doing. Dumb, but at least it looks cool on camera.
Two things are immediately evident from watching Henry Cavill in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. First, there’s no disputing that the man is a bona fide movie star. Despite having issues with some of the projects he’s chosen (such as Zach Snyder‘s horrific re-imagining of Superman), there’s no doubt Cavill has “it.” Second, based on his appearance as con man turned super-spy Napoleon Solo, it’s obvious that he would make a terrific James Bond balancing the swagger and inner-bastard of the character with aplomb. Not since Connery have we seen a character like this on-screen.
As I was rather lukewarm on Divergent, the first movie of this series based on the young adult novels by Veronica Roth, it should come as no surprise that my reaction to its sequel is much the same. Insurgent continues the adventures of Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) on the run in a dystopian future broken into strict factions which neither properly fits into. Although the movie has a nice message about individuality, the ponderous path it takes to get there leaves something to be desired.
Despite a strong performance by Woodley as a character far more heroic in her actions and convictions than Katniss Everdeen, time has not made the premise of the series any easier to swallow. Not making that job easier this time around is the sequel’s plot which involves a magic Pandora’s box which only a true divergent may open and which Jeanine (Kate Winslet) believes she can use to crush the outsiders once and for all.
Some movies age more gracefully than others. Even 20 years later Sneakers continues to entertain despite how much of the plot revolves around technology of the time. Robert Redford leads an unusual team of experts blackmailed by who they believe to be the NSA into stealing a Russian mathmatician’s little black box which is the key to decrypting all known codes.
With the stellar cast (which also includes supporting roles by Ben Kingsley and Stephen Tobolowsky), Sneakers provides a humor-packed thriller complete with conspiracies, blind-man stunt driving, and the best use of Scrabble ever seen on film.
The first pre-screening I ever attended as a critic was 2005′s Fantastic Four. It was, in retrospect, a brutal right of passage. One would hope that after a decade full of comic book films (the good, the bad, and everything in-between) 20th Century Fox would have learned their lesson and seen fit not to unleash such a travesty onto an unsuspecting movie-going audience yet again. One would be wrong.
Although it began a series of increasingly good summer blockbuster over the course of two decades, 1996′s relaunch of the television series of the same name as a theatrical film (which introduced the world to Tom Cruise‘s most successful ongoing character in IMF Agent Ethan Hunt) is problematic at best. Poorly plotted, including a huge fuck you to fans of the original series by turning the television show’s central hero (Peter Graves) into a greedy villain (Jon Voight) selling CIA secrets to the highest bidder, the film hasn’t aged well. Turning Jim Phelps into a villain would be like rebooting Superman into a coldblooded killer. What kind of an asshole would do that?