Wonder Woman: Patty Jenkins nails the directing, Gal Gadot nails the role

Last weekend I made the mistake of not reserving my movie tickets for Wonder Woman ahead of time and ended up having to decide whether I wanted to see a later showing or go home. I opted for an extra hour’s wait — and it was worth it.

Here is what I wrote **pseudo-spoilers ahead** for Conservative Book Club:

Director Patty Jenkins can make a strong case that she had one of the most pressure-packed Hollywood tasks in recent memory — making Wonder Woman a blockbuster for Warner Bros. She needed to please fans of a character with over 70 years of history while overcoming doubts about the direction of the DC Extended Universe and Gal Gadot’s acting.

Mission accomplished.

Wonder Woman, much like Joe Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger in 2011, was the kind of job where studio executives pull one off to the side and say, “Good luck, but don’t you dare screw this up.” Ms. Jenkins, like her creative peer, responded by churning out an upbeat film of solid craftsmanship across the board. Gadot’s Princess Diana just so happened to make her debut during World War I instead of World War II (both ideal backdrops for films pitting good against evil).

As is the case with most quality superhero origins, Wonder Woman takes its time establishing the character’s backstory before fists start flying and guns go blazing. This fish-out-of-water tale required the women of Themyscira to meet military men like Captain Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), and Ms. Jenkins wisely dictated slower pacing. The DC Universe is one where Greek mythology meets Judeo-Christian beliefs, but writer Allan Heinberg (story byJason Fuchs and Zack Snyder) made it work.

The plot is simple: The first World War literally breaks through a protective bubble put in place by Zeus to hide the Amazons from the god of war, Ares. Diana saves Captain Trevor when his plane crashes into the ocean, which serves as the impetus for her to leave utopia and save mankind. She believes that locating and defeating Ares on the field of battle will end all war. Steve humorously goes along for the ride as a means of getting home, although a romance between the two heroes eventually grows.

Perhaps what is most impressive about Wonder Woman — besides a memorable “No Man’s Land” scene and the iconic “lasso of truth” — is the way Diana’s improved understanding of love and free will allow her to fully realize her potential. The god of war eventually comes across as a Satan stand-in, and Wonder Woman adopts, for all intents and purposes, a Catholic definition of love (i.e., willing the good of the other as other).

Check out the rest of the review here.

 

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‘Justice League’ trailer arrives: Fool me twice, shame on me…

The new Justice League trailer arrived today, and the good news is that it looks awesome. The bad news is that Batman v Superman looked just as amazing and then turned out to be a sloppy mess.

Zack Snyder is an strong visual artist, but at this point in his career it seems like his Achilles heel is a propensity to sign off on scripts that are half-baked.

Check out the trailer below, watch my YouTube video, and then let me know that you think about the fate of Justice League in the comments below. I really hope Warner Bros. took the fans’ criticism to heart, because overall they know what they’re talking about.

Exit question: Can any movie be bad if the trailer use’s “Icky Thump,” by the White Stripes? If Justice League doesn’t do Jack White proud then your friendly neighborhood blogger we be one angry blogger…

Ben Affleck, puffy Batman, slurs up storm during ‘Deflategate’ ‘f–k’-fest

Ben Affleck Any Given Wednesday

Batman v Superman is now in the rearview mirror and the general consensus is that it was a sloppy mess. Warner Bros. says changes were made to Justice League after the critical tsunami rolled in, but now its key star — Ben Affleck — is once again acting like a fool in public.

Sometimes “Batman” says he doesn’t like Republicans. Sometimes “Batman” nearly cries when someone says Islamic terrorism is, in fact, Islamic in nature. Sometimes he volunteers to do a show on finding one’s roots and then tries to cover up the fact that his ancestors owned slaves. These days, however, the puffy-faced (Botox?) star is launching into slurred f***k-fests that make him look like an immature frat boy. He is 43 years old.

Mr. Affleck, aka Bruce Wayne, looked like an alcoholic on Bill Simmons’ Any Given Wednesday, and now it will be exponentially harder to forget his antics when Justice League finally arrives in theaters.

Ben Affleck tweet

Here is 1:33 minutes of Mr. Affleck’s rant on the NFL’s decision to go after Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for “Deflategate”:

“Deflategate is the ultimate bulls**t f***ing outrage of sports — ever. It’s so f***ing stupid that I can’t believe it.  Do you realize (slurred) they gave him a suspension for a quarter of the regular season, which would be equivalent of suspending a baseball player for 40 f***ing days … which is what they do when you get busted taking steroids. And by the way, if the NFL had real testing, it really knew how to test for steroids and HGH in the NFL, there’d be no f***ing NFL.

So instead, what they did was suspend Tom Brady for four days for not giving them his f***ing cellphone. … I would never give an organization as leak-prone as the NFL my f***ing cellphone so you could just look through emails and listen to my voicemail. … The first thing they’re going to do is leak this s**t. … Maybe Tom Brady is so f***ing classy, and he’s such a f***ing gentlemen, that he doesn’t want people do know that he may have reflected on his real opinion of some of his coworkers.”

Ben Affleck Pats tweet

HBO’s Bill Simmons tried to quell talk about the star being drunk by noting how the show tapes in the morning.

Note to Mr. Simmons: You just made things worse.

Either Ben Affleck was still drunk from the previous night, or he was drinking in the morning — because there is no mistaking what fueled his weird facial expressions, slurred speech, and countless f-bombs.

Bill Simmons

Fact: I said in my review for Batman v Superman that Ben Affleck did a fine job. An unpolished script and Jesse Eisenberg’s Jar-Jar Binks-like performance nearly destroyed the movie. I do not have an irrational dislike of the actor, but it is difficult to cheer for him when, in many ways, he acts like the pompous jerk who tried to embarrass his character in Good Will Hunting.

Ben Affleck Good Will Hunting

Warner Bros. needs Justice League to be pitch perfect after dropping the ball with Batman v Superman, and that will not happen if Mr. Affleck’s personal life prompts him to act like a buffoon.

When a man slurs his speech and acts like a drunken fool before millions of YouTube viewers, then he becomes a joke. When he becomes a joke, then millions of fans will not consider him a convincing Batman. That is the truth. If the people coughing up money for Justice League want to see a profit on their investment, then they will speak to the actor about his behavior sooner rather than later.

Watch the video and determine for yourself if Ben was merely “fired up.”

Batman v Superman: The truth — for DC Comics fans in denial

Batman v Superman desert

Last weekend this blog gave an honest review of Batman v Superman because your friendly neighborhood writer is always in search of truth, justice and the American way. I said it was a movie that had its good parts (e.g., Ben Affleck), its excellent parts (e.g., visuals), and parts that were just plain ugly (e.g., Jesse Eisenberg). I did that for the same reason I will readily admit that Iron Man 2 was a creative mess that was barely saved by Robert Downey Junior’s awesomeness — it’s the truth.

All this is relevant because something peculiar happened when box-office numbers came in on Sunday: Hardcore DC Comics fans and those with a vested interest in the movie’s success started framing its $420 million global gross over the weekend as proof that critics were all wrong.

CBR, for example, reported Monday:

Overcoming a torrent of negative reviews that triggered social-media backlash from die-hard fans, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” stormed theaters worldwide over the weekend, exceeding most box-office predictions and breaking records left and right.

It turns out that, after all the hand-wringing by fans and Warner Bros. executives alike, “Batman v Superman” really was review-proof.

My wife asked me what the numbers meant as they started rolling in and I said we wouldn’t really know until next weekend.

I will now let Forbes explain why:

Batman v Superman has set a new record for the worst Friday-to-Sunday drop for a superhero movie release in modern North American box office history. In dropping 55% from its $82 million Friday debut to its $37 million gross on Sunday, it pummeled all prior records for weakness in theatrical staying power. It even beat the nearly universally reviled and now long-forgotten Fantastic Four reboot, which dropped a comparatively modest 48% across its opening weekend in the summer of 2015. …

Superhero movies that don’t hold up well over their first weekend tend not to sustain much energy at the box office over the longer course of their theatrical runs. …

The steep decline in the Batman v Superman numbers points to the unfortunate likelihood that, apart from DC Comics fans, North American audiences don’t like the movie very much.

One of the biggest challenges in life is to see things as they are instead of how we wish them to be. The optimist sees things through rose-colored glasses and the pessimist seems things as unrealistically grim. The mind has a funny way of making any “true believer” immune to cold, hard reality, which is why the truth about BvS should be spread far and wide.

I want Warner Bros. to succeed with its long-term plans, but that is not likely to happen if executives do not come to terms with the film’s flaws. Having websites out there calling the movie “review-proof” does no-one any favors.

Filming for Justice League is scheduled to start April 11, but Warner Bros. may want to consider stepping on the breaks for a month or two if that it possible. The script of BvS was disjointed and Bruce Wayne appeared to be the only character who was not underdeveloped. Given that the same creative team is working on Justice League, it would be wise to pause, analyze what didn’t work with BvS, and then fix any problems that inadvertently carried over into the current project.

This blog may favor Marvel fare, but I have no desire to see DC properties crash and burn. The superhero genre has plenty of people who are eager for its demise, which is why Warner Bros. needs to right its ship before its too late.

Zack Snyder’s ‘nightmare’ sneak: Scowling Superman terrifies

Superman nightmare

Zack Snyder has released a new “Batman v Superman – Exclusive Sneak” for the upcoming movie, and it is frightening. The “nightmare” clip begins with Batman trapped in a desert bunker manned by some sort of shock troops loyal to Superman. The Man of Steel arrives at the remote location and approaches his prisoner with a scowl normally seen by the Dark Knight.

Batman nightmare

Yes, it is possible to make Batman wet his pants. Bruce Wayne is righteously terrified (hence, the nightmare). Imagine a man with the power of a god — unaccountable to no one and restricted only by his own definition of right and wrong. Would the world hope and pray that this “superman’s” moral compass had a lifetime warranty, or would they not want to chance it and find a way to destroy him?

Superman scowl nightmare

Nations around the world would only tolerate Superman’s existence as long as there were equal or greater threats out there that he could defend them from. Leaders would jockey to win his allegiance. Wars would be fought because of him, and in the end it is entirely plausible that he would finally succumb to the temptation to end the madness by declaring himself our global king.

Batman v Superman nightmare

Some fans are already bemoaning the movie and its depiction of “nightmare” Superman, even though it won’t even be in theaters for another four months.

Perhaps the most hilarious feedback came from Dan Slott — the guy who “killed” Peter Parker for over a year and then put Doctor Octopus behind the mask.

He said: “I’d rather have a Superman who inspires and gives people hope — and not a dark & gritty alien who inspires fear.”

Dan Slott Superman

The lack of self-awareness is astounding. Replace “Superman” with “Spider-Man” and “alien” with “Doctor Octopus” and then ask him how he has the gall to critique Snyder. But I digress.

Online critics who are oddly upset that Henry Cavill will not become a Christopher Reeve simulacrum are missing the point: Synder has elevated great characters to their well-deserved mythological status. He is exploring big ideas about larger-than-life characters. To do the movie justice (no pun intended), he can’t be beholden to some idealized version of Superman that simply would not work in the cinematic universe Warner Bros. has created.

Whether you’re on Team Snyder or a Team Slott, let me know what you think in the comments section below. I’d love to hear what you think.

‘Justice League: War’: DC delivers action that may leave some viewers with battle fatigue

Superman Justice League

Is it possible to have too many explosions in a superhero movie? DC’s latest, ‘Justice League: War’ is 79 minutes long, and almost the entire run time is filled with things going “boom.” In theory that sounds great, but there are only so many hordes of Parademons a guy can watch get sliced in half, bashed and vaporized before one asks: “Is this all there is to it?”

For those who are unfamiliar with the tale, Batman, Cyborg, Flash, Green Lantern, Shazam, Superman and Wonder Woman find themselves together for the very first time, fighting the forces of Darkseid in a battle that will determine the fate of the earth (of course). The movie was adapted from the 2011 reboot by writer Geoff Johns and artist Jim Lee (although the animated movie replaces Aquaman with Shazam).

In short, ‘Justice League: War’ is great if you like endless strings of carnage and destruction, but less so if you expect at least a few scenes with emotional depth. Only Cyborg gets dealt a decent hand in the characterization department, and even that is rushed though as quickly as possible to get back to the front lines. While the final battle with Darkseid is impressive, the ease with which Superman, Wonder Woman and the rest dispose of Darkseid’s minions becomes tiresome after 30 minutes.

Perhaps the worst aspect of ‘Justice League: War’ is writing that directly undercuts the heroes’ complains that they’re irrationally feared by the general population. For instance, Wonder Woman acts somewhat incredulous that a group of angry protesters outside the White House are wary of super-powered beings, and then later in the movie she forces a street vendor to feed her and a child ice cream, free of charge, at sword point.

Could it be, Wonder Woman (i.e., writers at DC), that people “fear” you because of your “might makes right” mentality? Just wondering. It’s hard to root for a hero when her idea of “justice” is whatever she decides from moment to moment.

Wonder Woman Justice League War

‘Justice League: War’ also is diminished by gratuitous use of foul language. What could have easily been an animated movie for adults and kids to enjoy was squandered by the random interjection of “shit,” “ass,” “whore” and a joke about cross-dressing that seemed to serve no other purpose than to push the rating to PG-13. Does anyone ever watch a DC movie packed with action and say, “I would have given it an ‘A’ but Green Lantern didn’t swear enough for my taste,”? Of course not. Watch some old episodes of ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ to see how top notch DC entertainment is done.

Batman Justice League War

Speaking of Batman, ‘War’ actually does get an ‘A’ for its treatment of him this time around. True, I was disappointed that Kevin Conroy wasn’t voicing the Dark Knight, but Jason O’Mara did a decent job. DC nailed Batman’s interactions with Green Lantern — they were quite humorous — and there is a scene between Batman and Superman that captures the dynamic between the two of them almost flawlessly.

Superman Batman Justice League

How many mortal men can hold up their hand to Supes like a traffic cop and get him to come to comply? Not many, but Batman is one of them. DC deserves kudos for writing the scene so it all transpires believably.

Wonder Woman Justice League War Darkseid

While ‘Justice League: War’ does tend to drag on at times due to the never-ending stream of Darkseid’s minions populating the earth, the final battle is rather satisfying. It truly takes the team to take down Darkseid, and each hero has their moment to shine. Nobody’s power is underutilized and nobody is treated as if they don’t belong. While all of them essentially know deep down that Superman is in a “league” of his own, they also treat each other as equals on the battlefield. In fact, it is a collection of inferiority complexes — not pride — that often threatens to derail victory. It is only when the warriors begin to feel comfortable in their own skin — and trust the hero next to them — that victory is sealed.

Check out ‘Justice League: War’ if you get a chance, but don’t go in expecting some of the weightier issues tackled by, say, ‘Batman: Under the Red Hood.’ If you do that, you probably won’t go away disappointed.

Related: Superman vs. The Elite explores the big dilemma: Christ or Patton? To kill or not to kill?

Geoff Johns’ Simon Baz: Politically correct Green Lantern joke

Two tattoos — but only one of these characters is a car thief. Hint: He’s near and dear to liberal writer Geoff Johns.

Geoff Johns’ new Green Lantern, Simon Baz, has something in common with me — we both have “courage” tattoos. The major difference between us? He’s a car thief, and I’m a law abiding citizen. I got mine while I was on leave with my Army buddies in Greece and everyone from my platoon decided it was time to get some ink. I hated all the options available, but I wasn’t about to deal with the jokes that would follow if I punked out. Simon Baz? His ink seems to stem from all the hardship he had to endure as a Muslim American, post 9/11. Sadness. The kind of sadness that propels a man to a life of crime.

The Four Color Media Monitor and Carl’s Comics beat me to covering Green Lantern 0 — the politically correct nightmare of a comic that couldn’t have come out at a worse time for Johns — but this one is too good to pass up. Johns, taking a cue from the Obama administration, was probably hoping to hit the “reset” button on September 11 with the introduction of a prominent Arab American superhero. He was hoping his portrayal of the racist, Islam-fearing Middle America and the water-boarding U.S. government would tell Muslim comic fans everywhere, “Hey, we’re the bad guys, but there are liberal creative types like me who are exposing it to change the world.”

Unfortunately for Johns, the Libyan militias who murdered Ambassador Christopher Stevens, two former Navy SEALs and another American on September 11, 2012 had other plans. It turns out that the world is more complex than a Geoff Johns comic book after all. Who knew.

Here’s the abridged version for how Simon Baz came to be:

  • 9/11 happens. Simon Baz, from Dearborn Mich., is subsequently harassed for his heritage after the attacks.
  • Somewhere along the way, Baz becomes an automotive engineer. He loses his job, and becomes a car thief.
  • Baz steals a car that ends up having a huge bomb in it. He drives it to his old, abandoned factory during a police chase, and it explodes.
  • Baz is interrogated. He becomes frustrated that in a post 9/11 world, in Dearborn Mich., that a Muslim engineer directly linked to a blast that took down an entire factory is suspected of having terrorist ties, and yells: “I’m a car thief, not a terrorist!”
  • The government doesn’t believe him. Let the water boarding commence! (Oddly enough, this happens under the current administration. Sadly, “President-indefinite-detention-for-Americans-Obama” is not mentioned by name. That sort of thing, name-dropping a sitting president in a negative light, stopped in comics when Bush left office, I guess.)
  • The famous ring chooses Simon Baz to become a Green Lantern, telling him “You have the … error … ability to overcome great fear.”
  • Cliffhanger.

Personally, I don’t care that Simon Baz is Muslim. I really don’t. What I care about is that once again we have a liberal writer who feels the need to jam his politically-correct vision of the world down the reader’s throat.

Note: Images below are not in the order they appear in the book. If it’s not obvious why, feel free to ask in the comments section.

Look out! It’s post 9/11, and gangs of predominantly white anti-Islam bigots are roaming the streets looking to pick on a random girl wearing a hijab. Yawn.
Cop #1: “Hey Chief, we chased this guy down. He drove a car filled with enough explosives to take down an entire automobile plant. It’s rubble. Lit up the night sky. Background check says he’s an engineer. Muslim American. Yes, he’s from Dearborn, Mich., but I think we can rule out terrorism, dontcha think?”
“I told you, I’m a Muslim-American carjacker and NOT a terrorist! Why does everyone go to the terrorism thing every time there’s a lone Muslim dude at the scene of a megaton explosion? Yeesh. My parents should have stayed in the Middle East, where Christians like you guys are second class citizens and you don’t have the power to pull this kind of crap.”

While I’m sure the “error” message Simon got from the ring will explain why a thief was chosen as a Green Lantern, it is rather interesting that out of all the good Muslims in the world … Geoff Johns chose a guy whose instinct is to resort to crime when he’s in a jam. PS: His costume also looks like something that he pulled from a Hamas bargain bin. Might want to change that one, Mr. Johns.

Hamas called. They want credit for the new Green Lantern costume or they’re taking you to court, Geoff Johns. Well, that or they might kill someone.

Ah yes, no American comic featuring a Muslim would be complete if the creators didn’t make sure to let everyone know how dark and twisted America is at its soul. I heard that if you’re Muslim and you get caught jaywalking, you might wind up with a black bag over your head at an undisclosed location. Geoff Johns told me, so it’s probably true.

Again, I really don’t give a rip that Simon Baz is Muslim. I don’t even care if he puts a force field around himself during battle to take time to pray to Mecca. Knock yourself out, Mr. Johns. But what I do care about is the lopsided debate that you’re injecting into the material. Sure, you’ll go to the Arab-American National Museum to do research, but I doubt anyone like Ayaan Hirsi Ali will ever be reached out to. Ever. So instead of getting a thought-provoking read about culture clashes and religion, we get yet another lecture from the sensitivity police. No thanks. I think I’ll save the disposable income.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll read Guy Delisle’s Pyongyang for the tenth time.

Note: The Pyongyang review is here.

DC’s ‘prominent gay’ superhero comes out of the phone booth soon

DC has announced that one of its prominent superheroes will come out of the closet soon. I predict they will go with Power Girl or Wonder Woman because they are two of the safest choices the company can make.

It wasn’t long ago that Grant Morrison announced that Batman was gay. At the time I said that my assumption was that he really just wanted to get the editorial ball rolling in that direction, and perhaps he did. Although, according to DC, President Obama helped them “evolve” on the issue:

Honchos at Superman’s comic book home, DC Comics, said this weekend that one of their most identifiable (but as of yet unnamed) straight characters will soon be coming out of the closet, according to a report.

At the Kapow Comic Convention held last weekend in London, DC co-publisher Dan DiDio said the publisher would be reintroducing a previously existing character who would now be “one of our most prominent gay characters,” the website BleedingCool.com reports.

Didio said DC’s position had shifted on the subject since he said in an interview last year that any homosexual characters would be new introductions, and that none of their existing characters’ sexual orientations would shift.

DC vice president Bob Wayne likened DC’s change in tune to President Obama’s shift on gay marriage, explaining that DC’s policy “has evolved,” the report says.

DC’s original plan — to introduce new gay characters instead of switching the sexuality of existing characters — was the appropriate step. As I said before, when editors go out of their way to shove the Progressive worldview down their readers’ throat it backfires. If DC decides to take a character with a history that includes heterosexual relationships and says, “Just so you know, The Flash, Barry Allen … yeah, he’s gay now,” it’s jarring. People don’t like when the integrity of a character or his continuity is messed with. If they freak out over superpower alterations, you can bet they’d freak out if Dan DiDio said, “Superman always had a thing for Jimmy Olsen. We’ll be exploring that relationship this summer.”

My guess is that if DC is going to make one of their heavy hitters attracted to the same sex it will make Wonder Woman a lesbian. The company will want all the attention that comes with its “evolution,” but they won’t want to annoy the guys who still buy the comics. She’s a character whose had her past messed with multiple times, so it’s not as if they can’t change it back. She also came from a land of Amazon women … so it would be hard to argue with an editor who took the next logical step in regards to romance for that world.

However, my Wonder Woman prediction is mostly based on one simple opinion: It’s perhaps the most cowardly choice DC can make for such a “brave” evolution. DC’s editors don’t care about religious objections to their decision — they care about sales. They will make the most money on big-busted, scantily clad women making out in the pages of their comic. Need a quick cash cow? Do a cover with Woman Woman making out with another lady. They will even make variant covers (I guarantee it). The number of complaints DC will receive from a guy-guy decision will be much higher than if they go with girl-girl. I’m not saying that it’s right — I’m just acknowledging reality. And again, this all depends on DC not pulling a fast one (no Flash-pun intended) and naming a lower-tier character as its gay superhero.

Only choosing Power Girl might be more cowardly. She’s a woman who is a prominent character, but not really on the level of Wonder Woman. She falls in that grey area in between, because all comic fans know who she is but yet the average person on the street would not.

So there you have it: Wonder Woman or Power Girl. Those are my predictions. When the actual decision is made I’ll be blogging on it. See you then.