Should you see Batman v Superman?

The short answer to this question is maybe. It depends on what kind of movies you enjoy. Here is some background information on the latest big-budget superhero film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

  • Batman v Superman is directed by Zack Snyder who is famous for 300, Watchmen and Man of Steel. If you have seen any of these films then you have a basic idea of Snyder’s style. Personally I find his films visually striking but often lacking in the narrative department. How much you enjoyed Snyder’s previous films will determine how excited you are for Batman v Superman
  • The stakes are very high for this movie. There is a lot of money invested so the risk/reward associated with the success of this movie is leveraged. Estimates are that this movie will need to earn somewhere in the range of 800 million to 1 billion dollars to be successful financially. Unfortunately for this film the early reviews have been overwhelmingly negative. It might be worth seeing but don’t expect the level of quality of a marvel film or Star Wars: The Force Awakens. 
  • Batman v Superman proves that money does not automatically ensure success when it comes to movies. If people aren’t willing to pay to see Batman v Superman then the movie will be a disaster. This is sad because movie are collaborative works of art. A lot of hardworking people will suffer if Batman v Superman flops.

I will not see Batman v Superman in theaters. I probably wouldn’t even watch it if it were free on Netflix. A superhero movie has to be pretty interesting for me to even consider watching it. They simply don’t appeal to me in their present forms. However I acknowledge that many people will see this movie and they might even like it a lot.

Marvel’s success making movies will lead other studios to try to copy Marvel’s formula. While Batman v Superman may not be an entertaining movie, it is interesting to examine as a cultural phenomena. I have accepted the fact that superhero movies are here to stay and the failure of one movie, no matter how massive, will not derail the trend.

 

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) Quick Review

Invasion of the Body Snatchers is one of those classic science fiction films that you always hear about but never sit down to watch in its entirety. The premise is brilliant in its simplicity. What if alien seed pods were to grow exact copies of humans? The copies incorporate all of a person’s memories and physical traits but none of their emotions. It reminds me a lot of an episode of the twilight zone.

In a sentence, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a very entertaining film. I am always impressed when movies that were made several decades ago can be this entertaining. It did take longer than usual for me to accept the world because it feels so different from the present-day, but It would be wrong to hold this against the movie. The characters are well-rounded enough and I imagine the world felt realistic to people watching the film in 1956. The best thing about this movie is how quickly life goes down the drain for the main characters. In just a few days, the protagonist goes from a normal doctor to a blabbering mad man. This character’s downward cycle is really fun to watch.

 

 

The Diary of a Teenage Girl Review

Here’s a movie that you probably didn’t know existed. It didn’t get oscar buzz or win awards but I think it’s one of the best movies that came out in 2015. The Diary of a Teenage Girl is a coming-of-age comedy/drama based on a graphic novel of the same name. It premiered at Sundance and had a limited release in August of 2015. It’s the story of a 15-year-old girl named Minnie who has an affair with her mother’s boyfriend named Monroe. With this kind of taboo relationship it’s easy to label it as statutory rape because that is what the law says. This movie does not give you that easy answer. The relationship between Minnie and Monroe is consensual. It’s easy to understand why a teenage girl would be attracted to an older man and vice versa. Their relationship is more natural and healthy than most relationships depicted in the media.

I love movies that don’t provide easy answers, mix different tones and possess human characters. This movie does all of those things. It could definitely be watched a second time as there is a ton of information and meaning packed into its shots. The team responsible for making this movie had a solid idea of what they wanted to accomplish.

When a movie is adapted from a source it can be difficult to determine what is original. A good rule of thumb is to look at what the author of the original work has said about the adapted work. In this case author Phoebe Gloeckner has not said very much, according to Wikipedia. The only revealing tidbit is that that writer/director Marielle Heller first created a play before the film so she was probably the most qualified person to make this film.

If you are at all interested in strong female characters, taboo relationships or good movies, The Diary of a Teenage Girl is required viewing. The world needs more movies like this one. It’s unfortunate that the film did not reach a wider audience but maybe that is a good thing. In a few years I could absolutely see this movie having a devoted cult following.

 

Dope Review: 2015’s Best Movie about Drug-Dealing Ghetto Nerds

Dope is about three ghetto nerds living in an area of Compton known as The Bottoms. These ghetto nerds are huge fans of 90s hip-hop and stick out like sore thumbs in present-day Compton. The protagonist ghetto nerd, Malcolm, is invited to a party by drug dealer, Dom, where he winds up with a backpack full of powdered MDMA (molly). Malcolm and his friends decide to sell the molly. This is the primary plot. Malcolm must also balance his college application to Harvard and his budding relationship with a girl named Nakia.

This movie is energetic. Once it starts you are immediately drawn into its world and characters. Sometimes it feels a bit unrealistic but I was willing to suspend my disbelief for this movie. Parts of this movie were really fun. I especially liked Blake Anderson’s hacker/drug dealer persona. Anderson brings enough exaggerated charm to make his character memorable. There’s no need for Anderson’s character to be realistic so he has freedom to make it as wacky as he wants. I would watch a movie based on this character’s life and probably like it more than Dope.

I have only a couple of complaints with this movie. Firstly more could have been done to make Malcolm and his friends more likable. Malcolm, Jib and Diggy are interesting on the surface but I did not get a good sense of their real personalities. This is a problem I have with a lot of movies these days. There’s not enough psychological substance to the characters. Fortunately this movie doesn’t need a lot of psychology because it has so much else going for it. It looks amazing.

I am happy that Dope exists. It’s relevant for dealing with issues of race and unique in its subject matter. There simply are not enough movies dealing with ghetto nerds in present-day Compton, California. Although it was hard for me completely buy in to the movie’s world, I felt it was absolutely worth two hours of my time. This movie can only get a greater following with more online exposure.

Anomalisa Analysis

At long last I watched Anomalisa, the new Charlie Kaufman movie with stop-motion characters. This is a weird movie. Thankfully its weird in a good way. The way that makes you think about something harder rather than dismiss it outright. As soon as I finished watching it, I searched desperately for what other people had to say about it. You should watch this movie more than once and you should watch it on as big a screen as possible.

Here’s the setup. Michael Stone is a customer service self-help writer of some acclaim. He travels to Cincinnati to give a speech where he stays at a hotel called The Fregoli, a nod to a psychological delusion that plays a role in the film. Michael Stone sees everyone as having the same face and voice. We as the audience see the world in the same way that Michael Stone does. It’s likely that the other characters don’t suffer from the same delusion. In his hotel room, Michael hears the distinct voice of a woman and frantically searches for her. He finds her and takes her to the bar for drinks. Soon Michael and the woman, named Lisa, are in Michael’s hotel room where they have sex. The next morning Michael starts hearing Lisa’s unique voice as the voice of everyone else. Instead of running away with Lisa, Michael decides to return home to his wife and son.

This movie requires attention to detail for it to be analyzed. There are a lot of very subtle signs that may or may not reveal larger thematic ideas. To properly analyze this movie, one would ideally have taken notes while watching it and possibly rewinded the movie during key scenes to watch them again.

This film could be analyzed from a material perspective. That is to say, what meaning can be found in how the film was created. The film walks a line between reality and fantasy. The events that take place could easily exist in the real world, so why did Kaufman use stop-motion animation for this particular story? Who really knows? Is the animation style merely a gimmick?

Not every story needs to have a lesson. I am somewhat familiar with this idea. Many stories exist to be didactic, meaning they have a specific lesson or moral. Often an entire story can be distilled into one specific lesson. This is true of fairy tales and stories in the Bible. I would say that the moral of Anomalisa is to look for beauty in other people, the basic gist of Michael Stone’s customer service speech. Empathize with other people. Everyone has pain and everyone is a unique being. Smile because it requires little effort and could potentially make someone else’s day a lot better. Anyone who has worked in customer service already knows this. It’s not a radical new idea. Everyone claims that Michael Stone’s book greatly improved their business, yet his advice seems obvious. He is telling people obvious ideas that they should already be implementing.

Also, Michael sees every other person as having the same face and voice so why would you take his advice. He literally treats all other people the same because they are all the same in his mind. Michael is also the kind of guy who immediately attempts to cheat on his wife the second he arrives in Cincinnati. His credibility is suspect. Maybe his advice works for other people, but his own life is certainly a disaster.

Later in the film, Michael remarks to Lisa, “Sometimes there’s no lesson. That’s a lesson in itself.” I really like this quote despite its circularity. No lesson is a lesson to people who expect lessons from stories/experiences. This might be the major theme of Anomalisa. This is also a depressing idea to think about. One can always look for a lesson so why deny someone this ability? I’m not sure where I’m going with this. I suppose I like lessons sometimes, so I’m not willing to accept a scenario where there are no lessons, especially in a movie where everything is seemingly littered with meaning. Humans are predisposed to find and create meaning wherever they can. To me meaning and lessons are practically interchangeable. If there’s no lesson at all in Anomalisa, then what’s the point of watching it?