New Debate Series (And Top 5 Favorite Films)

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We will be bringing you a new series where we debate all sorts of things eventually. For now, we are focusing on films. Adrian Jonklaas at http://adrianjonklaas.com will be debating me on on movies. We will let you, based on the comments below the debates, decide who won. We will try to keep this going until it goes 15 rounds or one of us gets knocked out.

A little about me. I consider myself knowledgeable about movies. At one point in my life, I wanted to go to film school and direct movies like many other teenagers, except reality set in and I chose a more stable path. As a hobby, I devoured film. Foreign films. Documentaries. All of the acclaimed movies and the cult classics of the past. My top 5 favorite films are:

1. Pulp Fiction (1994) Quentin Tarantinodcd5c1e6-4198-4f65-8259-6c5837ee7906.jpg

“Now that’s a tasty burger.”

This is the movie that made Quentin Tarantino a household name and made him a target of controversy for language, tone, and subject matter. When I first watched this movie in my early teens, I didn’t quite understand what I was watching. Over the years, it grew to become my favorite film. It was the movie that resurrected John Travolta’s career. It put Samuel L. Jackson on the map. It was the first movie that made me consider wandering the earth for a living.

2. The Empire Strikes Back (1980) Irvin Kershner

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“I know.”

This is science fiction space operate at its finest. The heroes of Star Wars get chased across the galaxy and end up at Bespin. Luke receives training from Yoda. Han seeks help from his old friend and original owner of the Millennium Falcon. The tale is dark and personal and makes the hero make the most difficult choice of his life. Many people felt empty leaving the theater with a cliffhanger in 1980, but the story grows in stature each year as nothing has come close to beating this as the best Sci-Fi film of all time.

3. Drive (2011) Nicholas Winding Refn

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“You blinked.”

He is the drive with no name. I almost didn’t want to see it when the previews came out, but when I finally saw it on DVD while in a foreign country, it blew me away. I watched it back-to-back, then watched it every night for a week. I broke down each scene cut of the movie. It was masterful. The shooting script was only 81 pages and the crew worked to cut it even more to allow as much acting and scope and breath in the film and the result is a beautiful film. It was the best movie I had seen in a decade.

4. Fight Club (1999) David Fincher

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“The first rule about fight club is …”

This is another poorly marketed film in the late 90s. When I eventually saw it I was blown away. When I see an epically constructed film, I don’t usually attribute it to the actor. I look at the DVD cover and look for the director. “David Fincher … who is that?” I looked him up and he was the same guy that did Se7en. “Oooh, that is why it looked so dark. What else did he do? The Game? Holy cow! This guy is amazing.” Sixteen years later David Fincher remains my favorite director today.

5. Die Hard (1988) John Mctiernan

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“Get the detonators.”

Die hard is the greatest action film of all time. It is also the greatest Christmas movie of all time. It made Bruce Willias an action star. It proved yet again John Mctiernan is one of the best in the action genre (until his little fiasco). The poster pretty much captures it all. This was the movie that started the trope off. Everything after was “Die Hard on _______.” What the movie got right was having Alan Rickman (in his first role) play the villain almost from his point of view. He is just an entrepreneur who wants to collect his interest on the beach.

ADRIAN JONKLAAS

Though I despise having to pick favorites or rank things, I realize “Top 5 / Top 10” type lists work well with blog posts. As such, I’m taking a stab at a “Top 5 Favourite Movies” posts.

A couple of comments:

  • I have tried to pick from a diverse range of movies spanning genres, times, foreign films, etc.
  • If you ask me what my Top 5 movies are in a month’s time, the list may have changed. What will not have changed is that the movies I list below are memorable movies that I will always love because they resonated with me. If you haven’t watched them, I encourage you to do so.

Without further adieu, the list of “My Top 5 Favourite Movies”:

1. Pi (1998) by Darren Aronofsky

“The Torah is just a long string of numbers. Some say that it’s a code sent to us from God.”

This is an intense psychological thriller. The protagonist is a brilliant mathematician who is pursuing the secret of “Pi”; not as in “apple”, rather, the “3.1415” kind. His computer spits out a mysterious 216-digit number as he conducts his research. What is this number? A shady group of business people think it is the secret to forecasting the stock market. A sect of Jews thinks it is the secret name of God and a door to esoteric knowledge and power. His mentor had a stroke researching the secret of the number and the protagonist himself is on the verge of a total breakdown.

One of Darren’s Aronofsky’s best movies (along with Requiem for a Dream) before fame got to him and he produced such tripe as “Noah”.

2. Princess Bride (1987) by Rob Reinerthe-princess-bride.jpg

“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

The best fairy-tale ever, full of charm and wit. This movie is sprinkled with delightful characters throughout – save perhaps for the Princess Buttercup – who make the movie utterly engaging. Some of the scenes, driven by dialogue more than action, e.g. the battle of intellect between Westley and Vizzini, will stay with you for ever. Though the happy ending is expected, the plot has several interesting twists and turns along the way.

3. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980) by Irvin Kershnerempire-movie-poster-star-wars-empire-strikes-back-20604952-1369-2125.jpg

“Try not. Do… or do not. There is no try.”

I watched this movies as a 5 year old when it was released in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Needless to say, it gave me nightmares. This movie is all about arguably the greatest movie villain created, Darth Vader. My little heart leapt out of my chest when Lando opens the door to the dining room in Cloud City and Han, Leia, and Chewbacca see Darth Vader siting at the table – what a way to be introduced to the concept of betrayal. Perhaps the movie will always be known for the mind blowing plot twist at the end of the fight between Luke and Vader. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, pull your head out of the sand and watch this movie!

4. Underground (1995) by Emir KusturicaUnderground_film_poster.jpg

A thought provoking, satirical, tragicomic film about the modern history of Yugoslavia through World War 2, the Cold War, and the Yugoslav Wars. Explanation for the title: One of the characters, Marko, leads a group of friends and relatives into an underground cellar where he cons them that World War 2 is still continuing for 20 years. The people in the cellar manufacture weapons that Marko sells and profits from enormously. The scenes from when the chimp, Soni, blows a hole in the wall with a tank and the inhabitants of the cellar head out for the first time in two decades are poignant and heart wrenching. World War 2 may be over but war still blights their land.

 

5. Ex Machina (2015) by Alex GarlandEx-machina-uk-poster.jpg

“And for the record, Ava’s not pretending to like you. And her flirting isn’t an algorithm to fake you out. You’re the first man she’s met that isn’t me. And I’m like her dad, right? Can you blame her for getting a crush on you?”

A brilliant slow boiler of a thriller. Caleb believes he is conducting a Turing Test on an android, Ava, that his billionaire boss Nathan has built. Ava is a captive in a glass cage and is clearly intelligent. His interactions with Ava make Caleb begin to wonder what the real purpose of the “test” is ? Is he the android? Is Nathan playing him? Or is Ava?

Now on to our first debate (ROUND 1)

Movie Reviews: Batman v Superman

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Batman v Superman directed by Zach “CGI” Snyder

This is going to be a spoilerific review that is pretty much going to tear apart this film. If you haven’t seen it, then please don’t read what is about to follow.

We last left off the story of Superman in “A Man of Steel” which was itself a pretty weak movie in regards to the actors (Superman is played by an actor who plays him robotically). At least Christopher Reeve added some campiness and humor when he played Clark Kent. Much the interplay between Lois and Clark is missed because an origin story is told, but not really, because it is all told with interspersed flashbacks. The movie was not without failure. They got the villain down pat. Zod was awesome. His henchman and henchwoman were particularly cool to watch. And Russell Crowe pretty much steals the show every second he is on screen (I would have rather watched “Father of Superman” in retrospect). The middle was particularly boring except for the campiness thrown in (throwing logs in the semi-truck at the restaurant) which should have been with Lois (Why not do a bunch of amazing things happen around her). But no, the movie destroys the cannon (Father gets killed because he doesn’t want his son to reveal himself to be a savior, although he is faster than a speeding bullet so who would see him anyway). I did dig the older Lois version as a reporter with some experience rather than what they went with in “Superman Returns.” (I shake my head at that too).

So where are we? Well, Marvel (Disney) has the Avengers, so DC (WB) pretty much said they need their own version. They added Batfleck to the cast playing Bruce Wayne, and to me, he did the best he could with the role. He is a net positive for the film because he is the main character and does something different. The movie opens with him as Batfleck Guiliani running toward the infamous Superman-Zod Metropolis fight trying to save his people. It was awesome to see the movie open like this and gave a little weight to why he was pissed off at Superman. Through the film, he is a little bit dark, but does what he can in his singular pursuit of the man in the red cape. I didn’t dislike Batfleck as much as I thought I would.

What I did dislike what just about everything else in the film. The plot as a whole was dumb as hell. The villain isn’t Lex Luthor, it is his son? Played by a guy who is acting spastic the entire time (more like a pre-Riddler) or something. Eisenberg was horribly miscast and isn’t really menacing at all. I have no idea why they didn’t get Bryan Cranston for the role. He would have been a counterweight to the plot. So Eisenberg wants to secretly make Batman angry at Superman (although he was already pissed about the Zod-Superman attack) and have them battle to the death, so that he can then what? Create a monster nobody can control and destroy Earth? Why go through all that trouble creating a Doomsday? Why wouldn’t he just weaponize kryponite to destroy Superman? Lex Luthor was usually all about power and some financial gain. His son? A bombastic jokester idiot I guess.

People make a big deal out of Wonder Woman showing up. I thought she was a highlight of the film, but not because of the reasons people saw. She was a good counterweight when she played cat and mouse with Batfleck. Everyone knew who she was Wonder Woman because the trailer ruined it for everyone (the trailer pretty much ruined the entire movie anyways). I thought she was horribly played as soon as she entered the battle. She looked pretty good as Wonder Woman, but Zach Snyder pretty much used her for eye candy. She uttered so few lines and pretty much just fought Doomsday. She had all those powers and that awesome sword, but there was no sense of vulnerability to her. She says something to the effect of having killed other things not from earth, and I rolled my eyes. She isn’t scared at all? She then gets hit and smacked up and doesn’t have a scratch on her. (Okay, whatever, she is a wonder-being or whatever) Did you watch her face though? She was smiling and acting like she was enjoying it, which took me out of the it. It’s like Zach Snyder just told her to “act hot” much like the actresses in “Sucker Punch.” Compare the two films. His direction to Wonder Woman was pretty much the same I think. Even when Superman dies, she doesn’t give a shit. Batfleck is brooding, while she is just standing over the body looking off in the distance. Since her appearance was ruined in the previews, why couldn’t they have included her from the very beginning and given her something more to do? Why couldn’t it have been her that hacked Luthor’s database? She has been alive for-who-knows-how-long yet only Batfleck can’t break into the “military-grade” encryption. Give me a damn break. She can’t find any hackers?

Jeremy Irons was okay as Alfred. He is a little jaded at Batfleck’s new pursuit but if the rumors are true that the graffitied costume was indeed Robin’s (presumably from the Joker) then why wasn’t that mentioned? Irons seems underused and mostly as a way to add a British accent to the film. All his advice fell on deaf ears and I didn’t sense there was any love from the caretaker who raised him. I think he brings him one trey of food the entire film. Michael Caine acted like he loved him as a son, which one of the key relationships in the Christopher Nolan universe (still the gold standard for comic book films).

And what about the end? To be honest, I didn’t give a shit. As soon as the monster was called Doomsday I knew it was the end of Superman. I don’t know why they needed to use the damn Spear of Krypton in the fight, because I always liked the uppercut & over-the-back fist-pound from the comic books. People know he will come back, so what was the big deal? We already saw Superman heal in space from a nuclear explosion. What was he saving? Wonder Woman was clearly enjoying her sparring match. Batfleck (after getting tossed around in his fight with Superman, and a fight saving Martha) seems to be looking fresh as he dodges death rays. Batfleck was supposed to be acting human, but I guess with a grappling hook you can be faster than a speeding bullet.

As a plot:

1)WTF-how many times does Lois have to be in danger in the film? The first time we see her in the desert, getting tossed from the building, and getting trapped underwater she needs saving from one person. Damn, Lois is really
“growing” in this film.

2)WTF-Why doesn’t Batfleck make kryptonite bullets for the confrontation? Wouldn’t that end it there? He knows damn well bullets won’t work.

3)WTF was with the Batfleck Rocky training montage? Did I need to watch him train up for the fight because the suit was large and clunky (he could still most fast as shit though with that super-grappling hook). The myth that Batfleck is human was kind of ruined in the movie.

4)WTF didn’t they move the ship out of Metropolis? Couldn’t they have asked a certain red caped person to take it to the desert? What about all the crash sites?

5)WTF wasn’t the other wreckages explored by Governments within 18 months after the attack?

6)WTF was Wayne Manor burned down? Are we kind of taking the events of Batman Begins and saying this is a Christian Bale type universe (but then again, there was no robin in a suit yet).

7)WTF didn’t Superman just kill Batfleck? His mom was in danger.

8)WTF was up with Luthor doing the research to find all the other Metas but doing nothing about it? Wouldn’t he have tried to recruit? Or is he better at detective work than say a certain man in a bat suit who unlimited funds.

9)WTF was up with Luthor being able to find Clark Kent’s identity and where his mom lived? Batfleck couldn’t have done this, or is the spastic-Luthor just so much better at finding shit out.

10)HTF are nukes going to track aliens fighting in space? When Superman fought Zod, the military wasn’t launching nukes because aliens were fighting. Dumb continuity.

11)WTF did they go through all the crap about Superman’s funeral being at two places (not sure the Government who launched a nuke at him, who just had the capital building blown up the same time he showed up would not check the coffin). There was some nonsense of needing to find the others and Batfleck punching a wall in Luthor’s cell (why was this even in the film?). Then we see some dirt rising from the coffin. Did they not think they would already piss off fans from the first 2 and a half hours of shit? It’s like the end of Sherlock Holmes 2 when they have to reassure people the character isn’t dead. This basically undoes any suspense. It’s like everyone is too chickenshit to be be bold and just kill a character.

12)WTF couldn’t have Superman tracked down those Luthor agents early on in the film? They were only on motorcycles.

13)WTF is Metropolis across the bay from Gotham? I’ve  never heard this shit before.

Cool shit:

1)The new Bat cave looked awesome. Maybe the best bat cave yet.

2)Wonder Woman was the best looking eye-candy woman in a Batman or Superman movie yet. Too bad Zach Snyder didn’t want to give her a brain.

3)The future apocalypse scene was cool (Although dream sequences happened too many times in the film)

4)The Batfleck Guiliani opening scene was cool.

5)The piss-tea reveal was pretty neat. It was still a surprise when I watched it.

Matt’s Overall Rating: 3/10 Kryptonite Spears for Plot, 7/10 Piss-teas for Eye Candy visuals

ADRIAN JONKLAAS’ COUNTERPOINT REVIEWBatman-v-Superman.jpg

What a powerful start to the movie. Seeing the destruction of Metropolis and Gotham city – a clever touch, placing the two cities across the water from each other – from the perspective of a human on the ground. Gods battling in the sky, Superman vs. Zod, pummelling each other through buildings and searing each other with heat rays; all to the sound of the Kryptonian world engine as it pulses energy into the ground shattering the city and the belief that we, puny humans, are in control of our destiny. God’s walk fly amongst us.

This reminder of our mortality as he watches Wayne Tower come down in a plume of dust, eerily reminiscent of 9-11, is what drives Bruce Wayne on his mission of ultimate risk management; Superman must be destroyed. Trusting that this alien god being, Superman, is good is not enough; if there is even the slightest possibility that Superman operates by his own rules, it is too much of a liability for the safety of the human race.

The golden tinged god created in the Man of Steel movie is shown worshipped by humans who have built an idol of his likeness in Metropolis. This is what worries Bruce. What if God is really the Devil who will subjugate us under his iron thumb? What if most of humanity goes along with it? Human’s have a history of being attracted to strongmen and dictators after all e.g. Genghis Khan, Hitler, Trump. Does Superman value the sanctity of human life that way Batman does / did?

Bruce himself is ageing and cynical; beaten down by the endless darkness that plagues the underbelly of Gotham and the human condition. He fights his own inner demons, branding bad guys, sexual predators specifically, knowing they will be killed in prison. Perhaps it is the existential threat of a tyrant Superman that saves Bruce in the end, forcing him to pull himself out of the darkness into which he is sinking and giving him moral clarity once again.

A nice touch by the script writers to create Doomsday, the films other villain, from Zod’s body. Even nicer that the script follows (some of) the DC canon that Superman can indeed bleed and…

The casting:

Ben Affleck may be the best Bruce Wayne / Batman ever. And Jeremy Irons is arguably a better Alfred than Michael Caine. Yes, I said it.

A less controversial statement would be that Batman is the clear star of the show. It’s a nice touch by Synder to carry over the gravelly voice, the look and feel of the Batmobile (the suped-up, stealth dune buggy look), and the sound effects of the Batmobile from the Dark Knight movies. There is a general sense of continuity between the Batman in BvS and the Dark Knight trilogy.

The least successful casting is Eisenberg as Luther Jr.  Perhaps the intention of casting Esienberg is to further the impression of a mad Zuckerberg: a brilliant billionaire millennial gone bonkers. He plays the role a bit too twitchy and manic to my liking…more the Joker than a Luther. Eisenberg had the opportunity to play the definitive Luther (I would argue Michael Rosenbaum’s Luther on Smallville is a better version than Hackman’s in Superman I, II, and IV), which is unfortunately not taken.

Long limbed Gal Gadot is stunning as Wonder Woman and carries her own against the men, toying with Bruce Wayne at Luther’s party and kicking ass in the final battle against Doomsday. We see too little of The Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman to get a sense of how they will be played by Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, and Jason Momoa respectively. First impression is that Jason Momoa will make a great Aquaman, physically intimidating to say the least. Ezra should be a good casting too, bringing the humour to the Justice League.

An aside:

The dream sequence with the Flash (coming back in time?) to warn Bruce that Lois is the key was intriguing. Is this from some alternate reality DC universe such as the Injustice: Gods Among Us mini series where Superman becomes a tyrant after he is tricked into killing Lois by the Joker? I am curious to see if this is resolved in future Flash / Superman / Justice League movies.

Nevertheless, the promise of the Justice League vs. the ultimate DC villain bad guy (and my favourite comic book villain), Darkseid, hinted at by the parademons in Batman’s dreams is tantalising. Imagine Omega rays being unleased on the Justice League.

Note to the uninformed, the Marvel supervillain Thanos in the Infinity Wars arch was created by Marvel as a response to Darkseid i.e. Thanos is the poor man’s Darkseid 😉  I hope I haven’t triggered some epic fanboy battle with that statement!

In conclusion:

Needless to say, Zach Snyder’s CGI heavy action sequences are spectacular; in particular, the titular confrontation between Batman and Superman. Though it is clear that at first Superman is holding back the fact that Batman wins through clever use of technology and tactics is believable.

All in all, its almost refreshing to see DC continue the dark themes, look and feel of its movies from the lighthearted fluff that Marvel has been serving up especially with the Avengers franchise.

BvS is not a great movie but a solid one; it is powerful enough to leave you breathless at the thrilling action as well wondering whether to watch it again to get some of the deeper heavier political intonations. “Given the politics of our times, particularly the debates surrounding the value / perceived threat of aliens and immigrants, this movie is relevant.3.5 out of 5 stars.

Comment below on who is more convincing.

NOW SEE A MOVIE REVIEW OF A GREAT FILM

OR CHECK OUT 10 Things Adrian liked about Star Wars Episode 7