Joss Whedon Watch: Batgirl director uses teen cancer survivors as political weapons

At what point does a man look in the mirror and say to himself, “I’m politically unhinged and I need help before I sink into an ideological abyss and drown.” If your name is Joss Whedon, now would be a good time to ask that question.

For those who haven’t been paying attention to social media today, you missed the moment when Warner Bros.’ Batgirl director decided it would be a good idea to use teenage cancer survivors as a cudgel with which to beat President Donald Trump. Seriously. We have reached the point in Mr. Whedon’s life when children who somehow survived countless rounds of chemotherapy are fair game as weapons in a rhetorical war against political enemies.

Warner Bros. executives, if you’re listening, I have a question for you: Do you really want a man who is this unhinged — a man who brings this much baggage with him — at the helm of a big-budget superhero film? If so, then you too might want to consider getting your heads examined.

Check out my latest YouTube video to see Joss Whedon publicly demonstrate how easy it is for a man to die inside from ideological hemlock poisoning. Then, when you’re done, take a moment and vow never to emulate his behavior. You’ll be glad you did upon your own deathbed.

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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…

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.

Suicide Squad trailer released: Bohemian Rhapsody sets perfect tone

Will Smith Deadshot

The new Suicide Squad trailer is out, and the movie looks like a wild rollercoaster of violence and mayhem. Someone at DC and Warner Bros. was smart enough to make Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody the soundtrack, and the result — at least as far as trailers are concerned — is pure awesomeness.

Harley Quinn Suicide Squad

As someone who has an admitted aversion to anti-heroes, it pains me to say that David Ayer is probably going to get my money opening weekend. Will Smith looks like he’s going to kick butt. Margot Robbie is downright mesmerizing. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s “Killer Croc” appears to be winner, and we now have a trailer with Freddie Mercury’s voice accompanying people “going someplace very bad” who are “doing something that will get you killed.”

Sold.

The only question mark at this point is Jared Leto’s Joker, which is a total win for Warner Bros. — at least for opening weekend. I personally hope he pulls it off after the disastrous news cycle the studio had with his “Damaged” tattoo.

I’ll see you in theaters Aug. 5. If I don’t, then make sure to stop by the blog and let me know what you thought of the movie. A review will be up in short order.

Joke Suicide Squad

Jared Leto’s ‘Damaged’ Joker tattoo: Warner Bros. gives infantile culture the clarification it needs

Jared Leto Joker“Suicide Squad” director David Ayer has released an official version of Jared Leto’s Joker. Love it or hate it, one thing is clear: Warner Bros. thinks its target audience for the film is really stupid. In order to let everyone know that that The Joker isn’t a character worth emulating, a “Damaged” tattoo has been slapped across his forehead.

Most fans can get on board with a cheshire cat tattoo. They can accept a skull or playing cards. Writing “Damaged” across a villain’s forehead, however, just comes across as incredibly sad commentary on American culture. Warner Bros. could hardly do worse if “I am a bad guy” was scribbled across The Joker’s face.

When trying to decipher what studio heads were thinking when they decided to go the “We think our audience isn’t very bright” route, one must look for evidence that might lead them to such a conclusion. While there are many examples of moral relativism’s and political correctness’ adverse effects on our culture, perhaps the the most recent Joker-related evidence came in March; a bunch of feminists went into a white-hot rage over the character’s treatment of women.

Batgirl variantFor those who are unfamiliar with the story, a variant cover of Batgirl 41 was pulled when feminists deemed it “sickening.” Artist Rafael Albuquerque even turned on his own work, stating “My intention was never to hurt or upset anyone through my art. For that reason, I have recommended to DC that the variant cover be pulled.”

It should be no surprise that an intellectually infantile culture caters to its big babies, but that doesn’t mean we have to like the situation. Perhaps “Suicide Squad” will be a good movie. Jared Leto may turn out an amazing performance. People complained when it was announced that Michael Keaton would play Batman and they complained years later when it was announced that Heath Ledger would play The Joker. In both instances the critics were wrong. Regardless, American culture was in a vastly different place in 1989, and no one will ever charge Christopher Nolan with treating his audience like a bunch of children.

Twenty years from now, will Warner Bros. reinvent Batman in a way where Bruce Wayne tattoos “Hero” on his forehead? It sounds ludicrous, but there are days when it doesn’t seem too far fetched. With luck, maybe Ryan Reynolds will release a Deadpool promotional image with a strategically-placed “Anti-hero” tattoo, just to show the world how weird it has become. If he did that, then I’d be there opening night.

Christopher Nolan’s ‘Interstellar’ teaser: Escape the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God

Intersteller AstronautUpdate: My review of Interstellar is up: ‘Christopher Nolan’s ‘Interstellar’ hits the mark: We ignore the stars to ‘worry about our place in the dirt’

If there is such a thing as a flawless teaser trailer, the finished product for Christopher Nolan’s ‘Interstellar’ can count itself a member of the exclusive club. The narration, the gravel in Matthew McConaughey’s voice, the historical images that flash before the screen, and the score all combine to form what can only be described as something “stirring.” It says to the audience: “This is going to be a movie that seeks to tap into something deep inside you — if you’re willing to see just how much humanity is capable and just how often you sell yourself short.”

Here is what IMDB says of ‘Interstellar’:

A group of explorers make use of a newly discovered wormhole to surpass the limitations on human space travel and conquer the vast distances involved in an interstellar voyage.

And here is Matthew McConaughey’s dialogue from the teaser:

“We’ve always defined ourselves by the ability to overcome the impossible. And we count these moments — these moments when we dare to aim hirer — to break barriers. To reach for the stars. To make the unknown, known. We count these moments as our proudest achievements, but we’ve lost all that. And perhaps we’ve just forgotten that we are still pioneers, that we’ve barely begun, and that our greatest accomplishments can not be behind us because our destiny lies above us.

Amazing stuff. I couldn’t agree more.

Douglas Ernst Twitter space

Anyone who has left loved ones behind in search of “bigger and better” things has a pioneer in them. Anyone who has walked away from a stable job for a chance to do what they really love has an explorer in them. Anyone who has taken great financial risk to back a cause they really believe in has an astronaut in them. These days, the pioneering spirit is squashed in its infancy. Public policy is often pushed on the population that locks people in place and prevents them from exercising their entrepreneurial spirit, and as a result it atrophies — we forget that we were meant to reach for the stars.

The teaser for ‘Interstellar’ first seeks to remind us what we’re capable of if we put our minds to it.

We can make infertile land bear fruit.

Intersteller Dust Bowl

We can fly.

Intersteller flight

We can, to quote Ronald Reagan, slip the “surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God.”

Interstellar rocket

We can make the impossible possible because there are always men and women who swallow hard, leave loved ones behind, and find the grit in their spit needed to navigate uncharted waters.

Intersteller earth

The pioneers leave the comfort of family and friends behind, despite the pain and anguish it causes, because there is something deep within that compels them forward.

Intersteller Matthew M

We shed tears in the pursuit of our dreams because a love of the safety and security of “home” pits us against our desire to explore new horizons, blaze our own path and create something unique and special that we can call our own. And when we succeed, we give thanks to the family and friends who encouraged us to take that leap of faith and who promised to catch us if we fell.

Intersteller holding hands

Predication: Christopher Nolan’s ‘Interstellar’ is going to be epic. The man makes smart movies that work on multiple levels. Those who just want to watch characters navigate worm holes for a few hours will be entertained, and those who like movies with more layers than an onion will go home happy. That is the nature of Christopher Nolan’s films, and for that I am thankful.

Christopher Nolan “gets it.” It’s a joy to watch his work and hopefully he’ll be at it for many years to come.

Related: Christopher Nolan creates more jobs than Obama

Related: Inception and Liberalism: America Awakes

Related: The Dark Knight Rises: A conservative review

Ben Affleck to Republican Batman fans: I ‘probably’ don’t like you — but I want your money

Ben Affleck fans

In August I said that the thing that would hurt Ben Affleck the most as he attempted to become Batman was his outspoken politics: “If I were a betting man, I’d say that Mr. Affleck will continue saying and doing things in public that will make it harder for roughly half the nation to lose themselves in his version of “Batman” on opening night.”

Now, in an interview with Playboy, he proves me right.

Affleck: People now know me as a Democrat, and that will always be the case to some extent.

Playboy: Does that polarize viewers?

Affleck: It does, and you can bifurcate your audience. When I watch a guy I know is a big Republican, part of me thinks, I probably wouldn’t like this person if I met him, or we would have different opinions. That shit fogs the mind when you should be paying attention and be swept into the illusion.

Playboy: Still, won’t that happen whether you take positions on candidates or causes?

Affleck: I have misgivings about it, counterbalanced with the larger things I care about. I don’t blindly do this stuff when it makes it harder to do my own job. And there’s an awful lot of gross money-raising going on that has made me want to pull back a bit from pure electoral politics. […]

Yes Ben, if the guy you’re watching on screen is a Republican and you’re a Democrat, it’s safe to say that you’ll have “different opinions.” Your powers of deduction are not quite at Bruce Wayne’s level at the moment, but you are correct.

Here’s the part that is somewhat bizarre for the future Batman to disclose: “I probably wouldn’t like this person…”

There are a lot of things I think about Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and most of Hollywood’s liberal activists, but I only tend to think “I wouldn’t like them” when they come across as elitist jerks. How someone comports themselves dictates how I feel about them as a person — a political party affiliation alone does not. Does Ben Affleck have zero Republican relatives? He must not, or he wouldn’t say such ridiculous things.

I love my fellow Americans. I want to like all of them and I want to give them the benefit of the doubt, but it’s hard when guys like Ben Affleck and President Obama keep dividing people.

He’s what President Obama said to Univision in 2010:

“We’re gonna punish our enemies and we’re gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us.”

Here’s what Slate’s John Cook said in his maybe-sorta-kinda piece of satire (but not) titled ‘Thanksgiving Tips: How to pick a fight with your relatives this Thanksgiving.’ It was written just in time to coincide with the White House’s push to get family members to discuss Obamacare over the holidays:

First off, you should wait until everyone’s seated at the table before you try to get things started. That way you have a captive audience that has to watch the fireworks, and everyone is settled in for a nice long time. Getting the topic of conversation to politics shouldn’t be too hard. Stick to short, sarcastic, tendentious remarks to get things going. “I’m thankful for all that free stuff Obama gave me.” Once you’ve engaged the enemy, it won’t take much effort to pivot to whatever particular subject you feel most comfortable with.

Yes, according to the president and his most ardent disciples, your fellow Americans are “enemies.” Does anyone else find it weird that the president won’t call any number of thug-nations around the globe an enemy of America, but he will refer to his political opponents as such? But I digress…

Instead of just admitting that activist actors “fog the mind” of the audience with all sorts of extraneous junk, Ben Affleck lets us all know that an ‘R’ next to your name makes him immediately think that he “probably” doesn’t like you — even though he wants your money.

Why should I cough up my money for ‘Superman vs. Batman (vs. Wonder Woman?)’ when one of the lead actors openly conveys his disgust for me as a person? Because of my love of free markets, limited government, traditional American values and a strong national defense, Ben Affleck “probably” wouldn’t like me? It’s weird.

Yes Ben, it is possible to disagree with someone without being disagreeable. I know it’s hard for someone who lives in a Hollywood bubble, where everyone thinks along the same lines and tells each other how smart they are at cocktail parties (“Pass me the gruyère, will you?”) — but in the real world some of us get along with our politically-diverse family and friends just fine.

If Zack Snyder is smart, he’ll sit down privately with Ben and tell him to shut up with the political commentary until ‘Superman vs. Batman’ comes out. There are a lot of people who aren’t thrilled with the idea of Ben Affleck as the Dark Knight, and alienating roughly half the viewing audience out the gate is probably not a good PR move.

Hat tip to douglasernstblog.com reader PersonIsPerson for the story.

Related: Ben Affleck’s outspoken politics hurt his Batman more than his box office bombs

Related: Snyder’s ‘Man of Steel’ hits audiences with big ideas, soars over small-minded critics

Related: Man of Steel Trailer: Harbinger of an epic film

Related: David Goyer is right: The ‘Superman doesn’t kill’ rule hurts the character

Related: ‘Soldier of Steel’ campaign: Gym Jones shows what real men are made of

Snyder’s ‘Man of Steel’ hits audiences with big ideas, soars over small-minded critics

Man of Steel Zack Snyder

Zack Snyder’s ‘Man of Steel’ aims for epic, and on almost every level it delivers. That is probably why it set a new best-ever opening weekend record for June. It has grossed $125.1 million by its first Sunday in theaters. Audience reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, and yet the “professional” critics have been less kind. That is because ‘Man of Steel’ is about big ideas, and many critics have small minds.

A snapshot of some of the worse reviews indicate critics wanted something “fun,” which is probably a euphemism for “This isn’t anything like Christopher Reeves’ Superman.”

  • “Skimps on fun and romance.” (Newsday)
  • “There’s very little humor or joy in this Superman story.” Richard Roeper
  • “Man of Steel (has) a cold heart that no amount of spectacle can compensate for.” (Art House Film Guide)
  • “Where’s the fun?” (Movieline)

Could Zack Snyder have made a plucky Superman film? Sure. But that’s not what he wanted to do. He wanted to explore what it would really be like if someone like Superman walked among us. How would it affect him? How would the world react? Would it be a blessing or a curse?

Here’s what I said upon the release of the first trailer:

The truth is, the world would reject Superman. And in his love for humanity he would offer himself up to them. No matter how strong and powerful he was and no matter how much he tried to convince humanity that he loved it they would fear and, ultimately, seek to destroy him. A world in which Superman exists would thrust a moral weight upon the shoulders of its citizens that would be too uncomfortable to bear for millions (possibly billions) of people, and they would seek to find ways to cast off such a burden by banishing him from earth, discrediting or destroying him all together.

If Zack Synder plays his cards right he will have a hit movie on his hands that millions of its critics will hate for reasons they won’t be able to comprehend until years after the fact, if at all.

That is exactly the movie Zack Synder has made. It’s a movie about finding out why were put on this earth and what our purpose is. It’s about first knowing the difference between right and wrong — and then choosing the hard right instead of the easy wrong. It’s about having faith and hope and trust in our fellow man, but acknowledging that we are all fallible. It’s about a hero who we call Superman, but it’s also about the hero inside each and every one of us. ‘Man of Steel’ honors the individual, but stresses the importance of selfless service and the commitment we have to our family and our community.

The critics who say this movie has no “joy” are the ones who sound like they’re from another planet. ‘Man of Steel’ is one of the most uplifting superhero movies I’ve seen in ages, and it’s made better by a cast of actors who all basically knock it out of the ballpark.

Diane Lane is fantastic as Martha Kent, and the scene it which she soothes a young Clark as he struggles to understand his powers is pitch perfect. The tenderness she shows reminds us all of our own mother’s best moments — all heroes in their own right.

Kevin Costner’s role as Jonathan Kent is equally as impressive. He understands that work is a virtue. He has strong hands and a dirty shirt from his labor, but his heart is pure. He does his best to instill honesty and integrity in his boy in an imperfect world. And, even as he wrestles with moral conundrums, he gives his son a road map that will help him navigate life’s most difficult terrain.

Henry Cavill is Clark Kent. He is not Christopher Reeve’s Clark Kent — nor should he have been. Director Zack Snyder knows that when you start asking questions like “Who is Superman?” that you are also asking “Who is Clark Kent?” and “Who is Kal-El?” And the answer is that at his core he is pure, he is strong and he is kind. He embodies courage and selfless service. He represents our highest ideals — the ones we know we can never fully attain, but die honorably trying to pursue. How Clark’s essence manifests itself on screen will very from actor to actor, but Henry Cavill’s Superman does the character proud.

‘Man of Steel’ has its flaws, but one of them is certainly not the absence of joy. Zack Snyder knew exactly what he wanted, and everyone from the actors on screen to the special effects guys gave it to him. Love it or hate it, ‘Man of Steel’ is the finished product born out of a very clear vision of what a modern Superman movie needed to be in order to succeed.

At a pivotal point in the film, Clark realizes that as impressive as his powers are, he has not even begun to tap the well of potential inside of him. It’s a powerful scene — one in which millions of viewers will likely reflect on their own efforts to harness the greatness within them. That is a joyous thing. That gives us reason to smile, and hope for the future of all mankind.

Don’t worry about the critics, Mr. Snyder. People around the world have now listened to the words of Jor-El and know that while he was speaking to the character Clark, he was also speaking to them: they too can “accomplish wonders.” And for that, we are thankful.

Man of Steel Henry Cavill