Shazam! Fury of the Gods and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures
Directed by David F Sandberg
The announcement of James Gunn taking over the DCEU has certainly put this and a few of their other recent projects in an awkward position. Sure, there are questions of continuity and whatnot which I’m sure will be hashed out eventually, but these are projects that were built from the ground up under a regime that is no longer in charge, and it’s still a huge question mark as to how much Gunn is willing to carry over from the years that can be charitably called misguided. Still, the future is a concern for another day and the first Shazam movie was definitely a bright spot in the DCEU’s darkest days and perhaps it’s better suited than most to make the leap from old DCEU to Gunn’s DCEU. Does this movie prove that this is a viable character and film series going forward, or will this be a depressing reminder as to why they handed it over to Gunn in the first place? Let’s find out!!
A few years after the events of the first film, we find Billy Batson (Asher Angel) and his family (Ian Chen, Jovan Armand, Grace Caroline Currey, and Faithe Herman) are still protecting Philadelphia from whatever crimes and random disaster befalls their city using their Shazam powers that turn them into super hunky adult superheroes (Zachary Levi, Ross Butler, DJ Cotrona, and Megan Good). Still, the one thing their powers cannot overcome is the ceaseless march of time and Billy is already seventeen which means he’s going to age out of the foster system soon and doesn’t know what to do with his life if he’s no longer with his family who will also one day go their separate ways. Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) in particular seems ready to fly the coop and start a solo act with his superhero persona (Adam Brody), but when he gets caught up in a plot by three Gods (Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu, and Rachel Zegler) who steal his powers and want to do… something nefarious, Billy and the rest must find a way to save him and stop these Gods before Philly is destroyed. Will Freddy find a way to be heroic even without the superpowers gifted to him? Will Billy be able to stop these Gods and come to terms with growing up and moving forward with his life? Will the other Shazam heroes also find something to do in this movie, or are they just kinda there for emotional support?
The Batman and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures
Directed by Matt Reeves
I wasn’t sure what to think about them doing yet another Batman movie when this first got announced. Say what you will about the Marvel movies, they haven’t beaten characters into the ground as thoroughly as Warner Bros have done to Batman and his crew. Multiple continuities and actors playing the same characters within years of each other, and all of them pale in comparison to The LEGO Batman Movie! Still, despite this looking like the grimdark fantasies of a nineties teen, it has an immense amount of talent that I genuinely respect behind it; particularly Robert Pattinson who has swiftly become one of my favorite actors. Is this a refreshing change of pace and a genuinely excellent interpretation of the character, or is this a whole lot of effort and prestige going to waste? Let’s find out!!
In the heart of Gotham, there is a man wearing a very strange costume attacking criminals and striking fear into the worst that the city has to offer. Unfortunately, this is not Batman doing it and it’s not the costumed bad guys who are getting their heads caved in; rather it’s some guy calling himself The Riddler who is murdering the corrupt politicians and their enablers. He’s also leaving cryptic clues for the city’s other vigilante, the one that attacks the easier to ignore bad guys, and so it’s up to Batman (Robert Pattinson) to find out who this brat is and bring him to justice! His investigation leads him to some shady figures in the underworld including Oswald Cobblepot (Colin Farrell) and Carmine Falcone (John Turturro) who are connected to this Riddler fellow in some way, and he even stumbles across a cat burglar (Zoë Kravitz) who may know more about this case and the people involved than she’s letting on. Can Batman solve the clues and find the man responsible for these killings before he gets to his grand finale? How has being the Batman affected the man beneath the cowl, and will this latest mystery push him too far into the darkness? Seriously, fanboys; what’s your beef with Robert Pattinson? Is he somehow not broody enough for you!?
The Suicide Squad and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros
Directed by James Gunn
I was more positive than not about the first Suicide Squad movie, but there was absolutely a ceiling to how much I could appreciate it and frankly, I don’t think David Ayers getting his own AYERS CUT would end up improving things. It was a lot of good ideas and solid performances wrapped up in a script that felt half-baked at best and an editing job that struggled mightily to wrangle it all into something coherent. Fortunately, Warner Bros and the DCEU are in a much better position now as they’ve toned down the excessive budgets and improved the overall quality and tone of the films. Best of all, they got James Gunn to direct it who’s made some of the best movies in the genre with his Guardians of the Galaxy films! Sounds like the makings of a darn good movie to me, but are we looking at a perfect storm of awesomeness or are we just setting ourselves up for disappointment? Let’s find out!!
Task Force X is a secret government program that is the brainchild of Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) and uses dangerous criminals to take on missions that are too dangerous for anyone else. When there’s a regime change in a South American country to a government that is not so US friendly, Waller needs a crack team of weirdos to go in there and destroy a secret project known only as Starfish that is hidden below a research facility in the center of the country’s capital, and while some of them like Bloodsport Peacemaker, and arguably even Harley Quinn (Idris Elba, John Cena, and Margot Robbie), some of the others just seem to be there to either be cannon fodder or to just get them out of the prison system’s hair. I mean seriously what are you supposed to do with a guy like King Shark (Sylvester Stallone) and some dude named THE POLKA-DOT MAN (Davis Dastmalchian)? There are several others assigned to this mission such as Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior) and the always dependable Rick Flag as the leader (Joel Kinnaman), but it doesn’t take long for things to go sideways and for the team to have to more or less wing it as they try to find a way into the city undetected so they can kidnap the country’s super-scientist known as The Thinker (Peter Capaldi) to get them inside the research base and just figure it out from there. Can this rag-tag group of super-losers save America from whatever this Project Starfish is and secure their freedom in the process? What isn’t Amanda Waller telling them about the mission and just how much is at stake if they end up failing? I mean whatever happens it can’t be as bad as having one of your own team members take over a city and turn everyone into her zombie servants. Sure it’s a low bar to clear, but you’ve got to start somewhere!
Justice League 2017 & Justice League 2021 as well as all the images you see are owned by Warner Bros Pictures
Both films directed by Zack Snyder
I can’t say I was ever looking forward to this day as I was one of the people who actually LIKED the original cut of Justice League and then spent the last four years seeing people opine (and worse) for a movie that they already got; not to mention the awful news that broke about how the reshoots went for Ray Fisher. Still, Warner Bros is looking for ANY sort of cash cow to make their HBO Max service a success, so they threw a bunch of money at Zack Snyder and company to make an extended version of the movie they already made and feed into the LOST SNYDER CUT narrative that has been stuck with us for so long. Now that the movie is finally out, was it worth all the hype and can it possibly justify the ridiculous over the top actions its most ardent supporters took? Well obviously not, but instead of just doing a straight up review as the films are very similar in a lot of ways, I think it’d be much more interesting to take a look at what this new version gets right as well as where it falls short of the original cut. Let’s get started, and beware of Spoilers ahead!!
Something Good: The colors make more sense
The drastic change in pallets between the early trailers and the later ones was a definite sign that things were changing significantly and a lot of scenes in the movie ended up suffering for it. Batman in particular always looked like an overstuffed sausage in bat-pants stuffed with pudding (which isn’t COMPLETELY gone but is much less prominent now), and there was a garishness to certain scenes where they pushed the colors up just a little bit too high. The corrections here definitely fit more with what was being filmed and the pallet fits well with the new tone of the movie.
Something Bad: The colors are more boring
And yet I just couldn’t get behind it. Sure the colors didn’t always WORK, but for the most part they were bright and colorful which added a much needed cheeriness to a franchise that until then was stuck in its own morose grander. Thankfully later movies like Shazam, Aquaman, and arguably even Wonder Woman 1984 built a brighter look from the ground up and the aesthetic fits better with those movies, but going back to this kind of look after those films is just deflating; even if it’s more competently done. And I’m also going to throw this in here, I just don’t get why they insisted on using an IMAX aspect ratio for a moving going to a streaming service. It’s distracting the whole way through and I never felt like it added anything.
A year on this website wouldn’t be complete with a rundown of some of the games I managed to play in the preceding twelve months; almost none of which came out that year! Frankly unless it’s a big Nintendo release or something REALLY up my alley like a Hideo Kojima game, I rarely buy games when they come out and 2020 proved to be pretty anemic for big releases that caught my attention. Still, my backlog is enormous and it’s worth pointing out what games were really good (or really bad) even if they aren’t the freshest things out there. I mean heck, with Steam and online storefronts being what they are, who can even say what’s relevant anymore and what games can or cannot capture a bit of the spotlight? Probably not most of these games though as I tend to not have much in terms of “taste” but let’s see take a glimpse at what kept me entertained in the bad year to end all bad years!
Batman: Arkham Knight (PC)
Developed by Rocksteady Studios
My big purchase of the year was a brand spanking new graphics card for my very old and out of date system, and one of the games I got to kind of benchmark it was this. The Batman games to me are kind of like Dynasty Warriors in that I ignore pretty much everything going on around them when they’re released and will just pick and choose the ones I want to play years after everyone stopped caring. To its credit, whatever bugs plagued this game on release don’t SEEM to be there anymore as I had a very smooth experience, and while the narrative is eye rolling tripe the gameplay was interesting enough for me to stick with it for a while. What kind of sticks out about the Batman games is that they do go the extra mile to make things feel like a “Game” and not just an open world sandbox of repetitive action. Sure, you can while away the hours picking off random things if you really want to, but the story missions aren’t just concentrated arenas for the same open world gameplay. The last mission I played before I put it down for a while (I’ll try to get back to it at some point) was the blimp level, and the fact that they bothered to introduce this shifting angle mechanic to give it something distinctive was very much appreciated. If you liked the Batman games and aren’t burnt out by them just yet then this is more of the same with a next gen sheen to it (though I guess at this point it’s decided CURRENT if not LAST gen) and one of these a console generation seems to be the right amount.