‘Phil’s Quick Capsule Review’ (a nod to legendary comedian Bill Hicks who coined the phrase when he reviewed ‘Piece Of Shit’ movie Basic Instinct)… where a perfect 10 is rarer than a rain free British summer!
Written by Phil Hobden – UK based podcaster, writer and former filmmaker. Part of the All Things Film network…
Phil’s Quick Capsule Review: Triple Frontier is yet another slightly underwhelming star studied Netflix vehicle. Okay so it’s not at all bad but what should be an exciting adrenaline pulsing heist/on the run action thriller just feels flat by the end of it’s third act. Yes there’s a few surprises along the way and the film flirts with some dark ideas (sadly without ever committing) but with a cast this good you just want someone to jump of auto pilot just for a few minutes. Sadly no-one does. J.C. Chandor has made some very strong films so far so maybe the bar was set higher than it should have been. Ultimately Triple Frontier passed the time but I won’t remember it in a few months…
Best Bit: The heist
Buy, Stream, Avoid: Stream (Netflix)
If You Liked this Try: The Accountant, Inglourious Basterds, Three Kings
Phil Hobden is the former Film Editor & Writer for renowned martial arts focused COMBAT MAGAZINE in the UK. He is also a filmmaker in his own right, having produced two cult Independent action films in LEFT FOR DEAD and TEN DEAD MEN. He was the host for the award nominated Filmsploitation podcast for 4 years, currently co-hosts Ross And Phil Talk Movies and is a writer/editor for his own blog Phil’s Quick Capsule Review…
It’s The Smoking Lamb Movie Podcast. A weekly, no-holds-baa-aa-arred, and R-rated look at the world of movies.
On this episode: After ages and ages of waiting, bringing with it a whole load of baggage in its wake, it’s finally here at last. Episode 79 of The Smoking Lamb.
By which I mean of course Justice League has finally reached the cinemas, dragging behind it a weight of expectations and a whole tea shop’s worth of gossip and rumours.
We delve into all of that with our review, split into a non-spoiler and spoiler section (which you can find after the end credits of the podcast). In addition we have our top five Sidekicks to discuss, both Josh AND Steve get a dose of education and then go head-to-head in Address the Lamb!
After witnessing first hand the wanton death and destruction brought upon Metropolis from the epic scrap between General Zod and Superman, Gotham’s Bruce Wayne (Affleck) swears to kill The Man Of Steel by any means possible. Meanwhile serious questions are being asked by the government and public alike about Superman, regarding what he really stands for and whether he poses a serious threat to humanity.
Three years ago i wrote my first piece for AllThingsFilm on why i felt that a Batman V Superman film was a bad idea – my reasoning was that since Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy seemed to tell the defining story of Batman, there was simply no need to reboot him all over again. This i felt would simply confuse audiences, who would rightly be asking which version of Batman they where seeing – is it a continuation of the one Christian Bale played? Or are we watching the Keaton/Kilmer/Clooney character? And if its none of those versions then would it be wise to just introduce Batman to a Man Of Steel sequel with no hint of a back-story (i.e. how he became Batman) and just pray that no one would care? To be honest after seeing BvS i still don’t have the answer and am simply hoping that the three hour R rated special edition DVD and/or the recently announced Affleck starring solo Batman film gives me some peace of mind.
Anyhow – onto the film itself. Over all i have to say that i did like it and it by no means does it in any way deserve the near vitriolic reviews that have been aimed at it from a great deal of highbrow film critics – who frankly, in my opinion wouldn’t know a decent movie from a hole in the ground.
Not to say that i didn’t have a number of issues. The plot itself seems to be all over the place and is far too Bat-centric, with not nearly enough focus on Superman. Plus rather than just concentrate on the business of getting Batman to fight Superman, director Zach Snyder frustratingly concentrates on a huge amount of exposition and overly serious talk whilst clumsily shoehorning in some confusing story strands that are simply there to be picked up again in the now filming two part Justice League movie. Not only that but he doesn’t seem to know what to do with the whole love/hate affair that the public have with Superman. Indeed just as the Man of Steel is about to defend himself in front of the US Congress and Holly Hunter’s crusading senator, Snyder maddeningly pulls the rug out from under the audience by blowing everything to smithereens – which for me, cut short what should have been Superman’s defining moment in this film – the chance to speak for himself and turn the tide of public opinion in his favour. There also seemed to be a lack of believable motivation for some of the characters -in particular Bruce Wayne’s reasoning to kill Superman seemed very forced and not really plausible, as does Lex Luthor’s (Eisenberg) creation of the un-killable Doomsday monster from the dead body of General Zod. Yes ok Doomsday is there to kill both our superheroes – but Snyder never goes into what Luthor plans to do with him afterwards -i.e. how does he expect to control the monster? and what will he use him for? – Questions that are never answered – again very much like the introduction of Batman – we are just expected to accept it.
However my biggest bugbear was the fight between Batman and Superman which after all is the principal reason for this film to exist. Frankly – its simply way too short, ends in an entirely and horribly copped out manner, is very contrived and completely lacking the kind of brutality, fury and excitement that one would expect from what should have been the absolute mother of all dust ups.
Now i have to say that despite the above issues, there was a great deal that is very good about this film. To begin with the performances are all universally excellent – Affleck is absolutely brilliant as Bruce Wayne/Batman and just may well have delivered the best interpretation of the character since Michael Keaton in Tim Burtons 1989 blockbuster. A self confessed comic book nut in real life , Affleck superbly delivers a performance full of anger, sorrow, violence and conflicted angst that Christian Bale never quite managed in Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. Henry Cavill, reprising his role as the last son of Krypton is also very good, but still comes up short when compared to the great Christopher Reeve – who in all honesty will never ever be bettered as Superman. Amy Adams and Laurence Fishburne are solid as Lois Lane and Perry White, and even though there isn’t enough of Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman, when she is on screen she’s really great and certainly matches the lads for sheer arse kicking toughness. Jeremy Irons as Alfred is also excellent, however at the moment Michael Caine will always have given the definitive performance of this character – however i certainly wouldn’t put it past an actor of Irons stature to really make the role his own in future Batman/Justice League films. Finally (and with a certain degree of surprise) Jesse Eisenberg is extremely effective as Lex Luthor – playing him as a smug, petulant psychopath, prone to fits of rambling rage and harboring a far more insidious evil than we ever saw from Gene Hackman or Kevin Spacey’s rather silly takes on Superman’s arch nemesis.
I also would like to point out how well made it all is – Snyder’s direction of the action scenes is as sure handed as ever, particularly his re-enactment of the destruction of Metropolis from a ground up point of view and a cracking climactic set piece which sees Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman teaming up against Doomsday in what proves to be the most enjoyable part of the film. The visual effects are also all exceptionallyl realized, as is the cinematography by Larry Fong, which lends a real gritty darkness to proceedings that serves things well throughout.
So over all a good film – very enjoyable and engaging throughout with some really great performances – particularly from Ben Affleck. However Zach Snyder really needs to deliver the goods with the upcoming two part Justice League epic or one gets the feeling that this new (and very late to the party) DC expanded film universe could come to a sudden crashing halt – or be looking for a new director – time will tell. So for the for the moment Marvel Studio’s Kevin Feige and The Avengers really shouldn’t start losing any sleep just yet – however they mustn’t get complacent ether -later this year sees the release of the much anticipated Suicide Squad, a now filming Wonder Woman adventure and a potentially Affleck directed Batman solo outing – so don’t count DC out just yet.
I am not ashamed to say it – I am a film geek, i have been since I was 4 years old and will remain so until I shuffle off this mortal coil to the great cinema in the sky. However, I’ve never been that much into comics –in my youth I dabbled in 2000AD and Dark Horse’s Alien/Predator series, plus I own a couple of Alan Moore graphic novels – but that’s about it.
However since seeing Richard Donner’s Superman in 1978, I have probably watched every single theatrically released superhero film ever made – as a result I feel I am more than qualified to write this article and voice the concerns I have about DC’s upcoming Man of Steel 2 and their proposed Justice League production.
Since the release of Iron Man in 2008, we have been living in an almost golden age of Superhero cinema – this has virtually been down to one studio – Marvel.
Of course DC produced the Dark Knight Trilogy and last years Man of Steel, but its been Kevin Feige and his team at Marvel Studios that have really hit the jackpot, dominating the market with X Men and the quite astounding Avengers characters.
On paper none of this should have worked – lets be honest, 6 years ago, unless you were a massive comic fan you would have had very little idea who Iron Man, Thor or Captain America were – let alone Nick Fury, Black Widow or Hawkeye – or for that matter who the hell the Guardians of The Galaxy are.
But thanks to some serious risk taking (i.e. unusual choice of directors/casting the previously uninsurable RDJ as Tony Stark) and a quite brilliant slow build marketing campaign – Marvel have pulled off the impossible and created a high quality multi billion dollar superhero franchise the likes of which has never been seen. The crowning glory was, of course, the Avengers in 2012 – and continues to this day with the upcoming Captain America 2, X Men Days of Future Past and the aforementioned Guardians of The Galaxy. Ok, it hasn’t been all plain sailing – The Fantastic Four film was awful as was its sequel, X Men 3 and the two stand alone Wolverine’s were a bit iffy, and their track record of character reboots is chequered to say the least – The Punisher has had 3 screen incarnations – all of which fell flat, they only got the Hulk right on the third attempt (and that was down to Joss Whedon) and don’t get me started on Ghost Rider as I’m still trying to get over the monstrosity that was Spirit Of Vengeance.
However Marvel’s hits have far outweighed their failures and this, brings us neatly to DC.
Now, once again, unless you are comic book reader, there are probably only two DC characters that you can name – Batman and Superman. To be fair Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy will stand the test of time as 3 of the greatest films ever made and, despite being too CGI heavy, last years Man Of Steel was very good indeed. The only other character DC recently got to the big screen was The Green Lantern, a horrible SFX driven load of nonsense, featuring an annoying Ryan Reynolds in the title role and Mark Strong with a massive pink forehead – needless to say it was a critical and commercial flop.
Putting it mildly, DC are now a distant second to Marvel, seemingly lacking the same risk taking flair as Marvel and seemingly frightened to try any thing new, they appear to only have Batman and Superman as viable products, resulting in the now in production Man of Steel 2, which for the first time ever will see The Last Son of Krypton face off against Gotham’s Dark Knight.
When this film was announced at the 2013 San Diego Comic Con, the cheers and screams of joy from the assembled audience nearly blew the roof off -some weeks later, this was replaced with hoots of derision and general gnashing of teeth when it was revealed that none other than Ben Affleck would be donning the cowl and cape opposite Henry Cavill’s Supes. In addition, it was recently announced that Fast and Furious’ Gal Gadot had been cast as Wonder Woman, Jeremy Irons would be Alfred Pennyworth and oddly, Zombieland’s Jessie Eisenberg had been tapped for Lex Luthor.
Now none of this bothers me – I personally like Ben Affleck – his output of late has been fantastic and, despite the critical and fan boy kicking he had as Matt Murdock in 2002’s Daredevil – I actually thought he did a pretty good job. I have no opinion ether way on Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, and whilst the casting of Jessie Eisenberg as Lex Luthor seems odd, it will certainly be interesting to see what he does with the role.
But that folks is where my enthusiasm for this film stops. Granted the whole thing seems interesting and I will be the first in the queue to see it when its released in 2016. However here are my 5 reasons why Man of Steel 2 and the already mooted Justice League movie are potentially very bad ideas – none of which have anything to do with the cast:
The Avengers was too good -Literally millions of people saw Joss Whedon’s 2012 masterwork – adding up to the fact that audiences will be very cynical about another multi character super hero film coming out so soon, one can almost hear the cries of “rip off” and “shameless cash in” already.
Batman vs Superman/Justice League is happening too fast. It took four years, five inter weaving films, a lot of planning and a great deal of very clever end credit teasing to get to the Avengers – DC just seem to be ploughing ahead with an almost in your face sledgehammer approach that smacks of urgent desperation to capitalise on Marvel’s success.
Zack Snyder – Don’t get me wrong Snyder has made some smashing films – 300 is incredibly entertaining, Watchmen was a damn good adaptation of a previously thought unfilmable graphic novel and his Dawn of The Dead remake was outstanding. The problem is that, very much like George Lucas and James Cameron, his films lack a bit of humour, his scripts are no where near as sharp as Joss Whedon’s and he uses too much green screen and CGI. So Zack if you want to succeed– my advice is to do what Joss would and focus on character and inject a few laughs.
Plausibility –Superman and Batman have featured many in multiple separate films – so the idea of two very well known , good guy heroes ending up battling each other in the same universe just doesn’t seem plausible – just a bit – well – silly.
Batman – For me this is the major flaw of the whole thing. The main question is – how do you bring anything new to a character that has been rebooted twice already and played by 4 different actors?
The Affleck Batman is supposed to be totally unrelated to both the Chris Nolan and Tim Burton films. They cant squeeze in an origin story as Man of Steel 2 would end up being too long, and without one no one will have any clue as to what incarnation of the character he is supposed to be – most will wrongly think he is a continuation of Nolan’s version, others will just be confused. The Dark Knight Trilogy concluded Batman almost definitively, and the only way to plausibly bring him back in Man of Steel 2 was to bring back the Christian Bale version as we saw in Nolan’s films or continue with TDKR’s Robin as played by Joseph Gordon Levitt. – this of course is not the case and is the main reason why Superman vs Batman may well not work.
Of course I sincerely hope im wrong, no one loves a good blockbuster more than me and I never like to see any film flop. I will be very interested to see what the final movie looks like, no doubt it will be entertaining and make millions for DC – but unless Messrs’ Snyder and Nolan can capture the same magic Marvel have done to such amazing effect so many times – this really could be as bad for DC as the disaster that was Batman and Robin – and that my friends is a very sobering thought.
I invite any rebuttals to the above from my fellow film fans – no doubt my erstwhile friend Mr Phillip Hobden will have something to say on the matter…
Phil’s Quick Capsule Review: Hollywood Executive: “Ben, fancy slumming it in some gambling thriller starring Justin Timberhips?”
Ben Affleck “Not really!”
Hollywood Executive: “How about it we pay you $10 million, then film in Costa Rica. All you have to do is turn up. No effort required”
Ben Affleck “Maybe…”
Hollywood Executive: “There will be lots of half naked women and boats and fast cars and planes…”
Ben Affleck “Where do I sign?”
And that my friends is Runner Runner where everyone slums it. even the audience.
Best Bit: Costa Rica is lovely
Rent, Borrow, Buy, Stream: Save the money so you can go to Costa Rica instead.
If you liked this try: Giving up ever watching films again.
Phil’s Quick Capsule Review: So depending on what you thought of the previous Riddick films will very much decide where you sit with this one. If like me you loved Pitch Black but hated Chronicles, then Riddick will be mostly meh retread of the much better first film. If you loved Chronicles then chances are you are so brain dead already that this will just feel like the best film ever as it veers from seriously misjudged to occasionally interesting. Visually it’s nice to look at but there’s little else when that wears off…
Best Bit: Picking your jaw up off the floor after THAT line as you realise that sometimes hollywood just has no idea.
Rent, Borrow, Buy, Stream: Borrow. If you REALLY have to.
If you liked this try: Pitch Black (8/10); Fast 6 (8/10); Chronicles Of Riddick (4/10)