Mini-Reviews – Justice League, Lady Bird, Coco & Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Hey everybody!

Welcome to another edition of Mini-Reviews. It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. I know I’ve been slacking on my movie reviews, so please forgive me for that, I have been watching movies but I haven’t had a real chance to sit down and write full reviews. So this is going to make up for it, with some of the big movies I’ve watched. Movies not included are Daddy’s Home 2, Roman J. Israel Esq., Murder on the Orient Express.

 

Been a while since I’ve done one of these, so please, bare with me. So let’s get to it, shall we?

 

*As always, these will be spoiler free reviews*

 

Lady Bird

Director: Greta Gerwig

Writer: Greta Gerwig

Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Beanie Feldstein, Lucas Hedges, Odeya Rush, Timothee Chalamet, Jordan Rodrigues, Marielle Scott and Tracy Letts.

Synopsis: In the early 2000s, an artistically-inclined seventeen year-old comes of age in Sacramento, California.

 

Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial effort, Lady Bird is a great coming-of-age story following Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), who wants out of her town but is not financially able to go to a big college. It also doesn’t help that her mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf) is working non-stop and thinks she should think more logically about college. During all of this, we follow Lady Bird, which is what she wants to be called, go through her final year at school, love and thinking what her future holds for her.

I had heard a lot about Lady Bird during its film festival run, and when I finally got the chance to see it, I can see why people really loved it. Gerwig’s writing was fantastical, nothing ever felt forced and Ronan is simply amazing as Lady Bird. The main thing for me about the movie is, despite the movie being set in 2002, it doesn’t really feel that way. Sure we have flip-phones and the whole, “the government is going to put trackers on us” mentally by one of the characters Lady Bird interacts with, and the news of attacks overseas by our government, but the time period isn’t really that important – at least from my point of view of watching.

The thing that makes Lady Bird work for me is the chemistry between Ronan and Metcalf. Any time they are on the screen together it makes the film pop, and it’s both fun and hard to watch as you see them argue and fight one minute and then suddenly have a heart-to-heart the next. It would be really hard to imagine if none of these ladies including Gerwig, are not nominated for the major award shows.

All in all, Lady Bird is a greatly acted film with top notch writing and humor that feels real. While I did feel it loses only a slightly bit of steam near the end, the cast and the script really make Lady Bird worth the while.

Lady Bird

4 out of 5

 

 

Justice League

Director: Zack Snyder

Writers: Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon

Cast: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ray Fisher, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, Joe Morton, Connie Nielsen, Amber Heard, J.K. Simmons, Diane Lane, Henry Cavill and Ciaran Hinds

Synopsis: Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy.

 

Justice League has had a long and hard road to get to the big screen. From the scarped George Miller-directed movie, to the DCEU’s battle to get fans and critics to go all in for their movies, the movie has finally arrived and it’s just okay. If you didn’t know, Zack Snyder directed the movie at first, but had to step down for the reshoots because of the death of a loved, and Joss Whedon – who had done some script work – came in to take over.

To be honest, I didn’t have a lot of hopes for this. I still had the bad taste of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice with me, but I was willing to really give Justice League a chance. Unfortunately, Justice League was a huge misstep for me. The CGI was really off in places – I’m looking at you Henry Cavill mustache removal!

Justice League has a rather simple plot; Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) gathers together the team of the Amazon, Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), the speedster Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), the loner Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and the cybernetically enhanced Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher) to stop the threat of Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciaran Hinds), an intergalactic threat that comes to Earth to find the Mother Boxes, cubes with massive power. It’s up to them to stop him and save the world.

The problem with Justice League is, besides some of the terrible CGI, is it doesn’t really take the time to get to know the new characters. We know Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman, but we get the cliff notes of Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg, which doesn’t help considering we’re suppose to care for these characters, and they’re the new big characters we’re going to follow. Miller’s Barry is too jokey; Stone’s Cyborg is a bit too stoic – although he does loosen up at the end – and Momoa’s Curry/Aquaman is a bit too “bro” for me, which is fine for a new approach, but I didn’t really get into it.

All in all, despite all that, yes, Justice League does have some fun and cool moments, but a lot of the negatives and drawbacks of the movie – some I didn’t even mention – really make it hard to enjoy the moments entirely. Justice League does take the DCEU into the right direction of more hopeful and fun, instead dark gritty. Hopefully, the DCEU continues down this route, otherwise the franchise is in a lot of trouble.

Justice League

2.5 out of 5

 

 

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 

Director: Martin McDonagh

Writer: Martin McDonagh

Cast: Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Lucas Hedges, Caleb Landry Jones, John Hawkes, Amanda Warren, Samara Weaving, Kerry Condon, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Clarke Peters, Sandy Martin, Zeljko Ivanek, Abbie Cornish, and Peter Dinklage

Synopsis: In this darkly comic drama, a mother personally challenges the local authorities to solve her daughter’s murder, when they fail to catch the culprit.

 

Martin McDonagh, who directed In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, is a director that I will also keep a look out for now. When I found out about Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and the cast, it immediately jumped into my “Must Watch” list, and I’m glad I did, because this was a film that really stuck with me.

The film follows Mildred (Frances McDormand), who has recently lost her daughter in a brutal way, and after the police have seemed to give up on the case, she decides to buy three billboards that target the police for not doing their jobs. The billboards get the attention of the police, more specifically Sheriff Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) and Officer Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell), and the townspeople who are heavily against them. The film then follows Mildred as she deals with everyone seemingly against her, and Dixon and Willoughby trying to finally figure out the case.

There is a lot more going on in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri that I won’t even hint at here, mainly because this film really does lend itself on knowing the least amount of information possible to thoroughly enjoy it and really get into the world that this movie takes place in. I will say it’s a dark comedy, so prepare yourself for that, and if you seen McDonagh’s other films, then you’d know what to expect.

I will say Frances McDormand is great as always, but I’d argue that this movie belongs to Sam Rockwell. He’s absolutely fantastic in this, and dare I say, this is one of his best performances he’s ever done.

All in all, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a wonderfully entertaining dark comedy with great performances by Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell. Seriously do yourself a favor and try to avoid anything about the movie, and go watch it.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

4.5 out of 5

 

 

Coco

Director: Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina

Writers: Adrian Molina and Matthew Aldrich

Voice Cast: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael Garcia Bernal, Alanna Ubach, Renee Victor, Edward James Olmos and Benjamin Bratt

Synopsis: Aspiring musician Miguel, confronted with his family’s ancestral ban on music, enters the Land of the Dead to work out the mystery.

 

I am willing to admit that I had serious doubts about Coco. I knew that Pixar had been working on a Dia de los Muertos movie for a while now, but I was a huge fan of another Dia de los Muertos film called The Book of Life. However, Coco completely blew me away. The movie follows Miguel, who is banned from playing, listening or even thinking about music, but like all kids, he doesn’t follow his family’s rule. Miguel is inspired by a deceased musician from the town, Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), and through magic, enters the Land of the Dead on The Day of the Dead to find de la Cruz and find his place in the world.

Along his journey there, he meets his deceased family and a con man named Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal). But, Miguel finds out that he has to get back to the living world before he’s stuck in the Land in the Dead forever.

Like any Pixar movie, the movie has a great story, great characters and amazing visuals. The beautiful and bright colors of The Land of the Dead really pop and I kind of wish we could see more of it as a whole, and not just sections. I also liked that they really dug into the actual culture of everything, and it’s cool to see that represented in a movie like this.

More importantly, and the thing that will put any movie on my list of anything, this tugged on every emotional string that I had. I’ll admit, I was on the verge of tears A LOT. The characters actions and even some of the music, more specifically “Remember Me” started up the waterworks.

All in all, Coco is a great film with eye-popping visuals and an amazing soundtrack. I will admit, something in the final act was a little jarring, especially for a kids and Pixar movie but I guess it worked out at the end of it all.

Coco

4.5 out of 5

 

‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ Review

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Director: Zack Snyder

Writers: Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer

Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jessie Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Gal Gadot, Scoot McNairy, Callan Mulvey, Tao Okamoto, and Holly Hunter

Synopsis: Fearing the actions of Superman are left unchecked, Batman takes on Superman, while the world wrestles with what kind of hero it really needs. With Batman and Superman fighting each other, a new threat, Doomsday, is created by Lex Luthor. It’s up to Superman and Batman to set aside their differences along with Wonder Woman to stop Lex Luthor and Doomsday from destroying Metropolis.

 

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: There is no end-credits scene.*

*Reviewer Note 3: There will be a spoiler discussion released later this week*

 

 

The DC Comics Cinematic Shared Universe is alive! While arguably Man of Steel started this new gritty version of an interconnected universe, but Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is the true start to their shared universe that will lead to Justice League movies. Whether you liked the movie or not, Dawn of Justice does something that many thought they would never see: Batman and Superman on the big screen together. However, is it any good? Are the negative reviews justified? Well, sadly yes, for the most part.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice begins by giving us a look at the new Bruce Wayne (Affleck). We get a brand new, and beautifully done, retelling of Bruce’s parents getting gunned down. But, we skip ahead in time and see him trying to get to a Wayne Enterprises building in Metropolis during the battle between Superman (Cavill) and Zod (Michael Shannon) from Man of Steel. As Bruce stands in the wreckage of what was Wayne Enterprises, he sees Superman and Zod fighting off in the distance and his facial expression says it all. He’s powerless at that moment, and wants to get back in the fight.

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We skip ahead in time a little more, as some LexCorp employers find something in the wreckage of one of the fallen Kryptonian ships that could help them fight Superman – if it ever comes to it – a rock of Kryptonite. The Kryptonite of course goes directly to Lex Luthor (Eisenberg), who might also have his own plans for it.

While all this is going on, Senator Finch (Hunter) leads a hearing against Superman and his actions. The brunt of it being that Superman should be accountable for his actions and whether or not he should be put in check. It’s not completely out there, as seen in Man of Steel, but also given the fact that Superman can if he wanted to – as Bruce says at one point – bring everything to the ground. This is what starts also sparks Bruce to don back the suit and become Batman again. If no one else is going to put Superman in check, Batman will. What follows is an eventual fight between our two heroes and the eventual team up with Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman (Gadot) to fight off a creation of Luthor’s doing; Doomsday.

Alright, let’s start off by saying this, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is not the perfect movie. However, it’s not a terrible movie either. There are some parts that standout, some that are underdeveloped, some that don’t even make sense or are too ambiguous, and others that just don’t really work – like all movies. But, when it comes to BvS, it’s a little more true. The main thing about the film is that it’s too busy, and with it being too busy, it’s a bit of a mess. I hate to say it, but it suffers a tiny bit from The Amazing Spider-Man 2-syndrome. There’s a point in the movie where it introduces the bigger world, which I’m sure everyone knows – and given the title – where this is leading. But while the introducing the grander world, it comes off underwhelming. Sure I was excited to see the universe expand, but the way it was handled left something to be desired – at least for me.

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Thankfully, the film only spends a handful of minutes on expanding itself and keeps the focus on Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent/Superman. The film takes its time for us to get to know them as much as possible. Although they could have been more developed and given just a tad bit more depth, you know where each of them stand. All Superman does is try to help everyone, but because of what he and Zod did when they battle, he’s still considered dangerous – as he should be in reality – and Bruce aka Batman sees him the same way, and has his own way of bringing justice to Gotham as The Batman. This leads to Clark thinking Batman is a ruthless vigilante that has to be stopped, and Superman might be the only way to do it.

With that ideology for both men, it was bound the two would eventually butt heads. Of course, the two do fight in this, but it takes a long while to get there. When it finally does happen, it’s pretty rough-and-tumble. It’s a bit more brutal than I thought it would be, but I kind of wish it was longer. The movie is long itself, something I try not to be nit-picky about, but BvS could have used some more time on the cutting room floor. Anyway, back to the fight, I think there is enough there for fans, and casual fans, to get a kick out of it. However, the way the fight ends is bound to leave some people, in the most hardcore comic book fan, a bit disappointed and unsatisfied.

However, when it comes to seeing Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman team up at the end against Doomsday, no matter if you’re a fan or not, seeing them together is so great. I won’t mention anything from the fight with Doomsday in the review, but to say it gives us a nice preview at what could come with future films.

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So let’s talk a little more on the cast, more specifically the new cast members. Ben Affleck’s Batman is fantastic. He’s a much more brutal Batman than we’ve had on the big screen – his solo fight scene is incredible – but it makes sense for the world the film is set in. He’s a Bruce Wayne that has been doing the hero thing for a while, and he has potentially finally met his match. Everyone complained when Affleck was casted and now many are saying he nailed it. I was always behind Affleck and, yes, he does nail Batman down here. Helping him along the way is his trusted butler Alfred, played by the great Jeremy Irons. Irons’ Alfred is more of a partner-in-crime here as he helps him when the situation calls for it, and knocks on Master Wayne when he can.

Gal Gadot as Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman is a great addition to the film. Like Affleck, Gadot’s casting was criticized, even to the point of people saying she wasn’t right because she didn’t have bigger breasts, which is one of the stupidest things I read online when it broke out. And, like Affleck, Gadot is being praised, by many, for her work in the film. Seeing her fully embrace Wonder Woman character is a sight to really see. I know because I’ve seen the movie twice and when she appears in her Wonder Woman costume at the end to help fight Doomsday, both theaters loudly applauded.

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Holly Hunter’s Senator Finch character only appears in the first half of the movie and while her character plays a bit of an antagonist to Superman, you know what she’s doing is for the “greater good.” Scoot McNairy also pops in as someone who was affected by the events in Man of Steel, although Hunter and McNairy, who are great actors, are kind of wasted here in their small roles. Callan Mulvey also appears as a secondary villain, who comic book fans will know more of, but doesn’t really do too much to standout.

Finally, Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor. You want to talk about being audiences being split on something; Eisenberg’s Luthor is going to be one of them for sure. I, unfortunately, had a kneejerk reaction when Eisenberg was casted, but I knew that Eisenberg probably had what it took to play Luthor. Well, he played of version of Luthor alright. I appreciated that Zack Snyder was going for a new iteration of Luthor, but this new version came off as annoying and a bit unhinged. This is fine for a character if you’re taking him a certain direction, but that wasn’t the case with this Lex Luthor. Something about this Lex just didn’t click with me and his motivations are a bit murky at best. Eisenberg is a find actor, so maybe it was just the script or how Snyder told him to play it, but I wasn’t sold on Luthor.

All in all, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has a lot of things going against it. Some things are even bought up that are never fully developed or are left with unsatisfying conclusions. Is that hard to say as a fan that’s been waiting to see two of the biggest superheroes on the big screen together? Hell yes it is. However, despite all of that, there are some great things about the film. Look, might be weird considering this is a review – not that I’m getting paid to do these reviews – but don’t listen to the reviewer out there. If you want to listen to the guy or gal that already saw the movie and you trust their opinions on movies, then okay, but if you had intentions to go watch the movie, than watch it. Some movies are review-proof whether their good or not (I’M LOOKING AT YOU TRANSFORMERS).

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice won’t be for everyone. Yes, it’s a bit tad long, even for a guy that doesn’t like thinking about films runtime, and it has some pacing and timing issues. However, the new players to it all in Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot and Jeremy Irons are great. There is also some interesting and nice twists to see that they put in, but I don’t know how that will come across to everyday movie fans. Is this a good sign for the Justice League movies? Who knows, and some are already saying probably not, but you know what? We’re going to watch it anyway. And a lot fans are liking the film. So, what’s more important, critics or fans?

 

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

3.5 out of 5

Podcast Episode 3: Ghostbusters Trailer, Snyder’s 300-Style George Washington Movie, This Week’s Releases & More

In Episode 3 of The Movie Pit Podcast we talk about the Ghostbusters and Finding Dory trailers, Zack Snyder’s idea for a George Washington 300-Style film, a few remakes on the way and in the works. Finally, this week’s movie releases, and finally, what the podcast will finally be like.

 

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