Justice League

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MJustice League

Directed by: Zack Snyder

Screenplay Written by: Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon

Story by: Chris Terrio & Zack Snyder, based on characters from DC, Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster

Produced by: Charles Roven, Deborah Snyder, Jon Berg and Geoff Johns

DC Super Heroes: Ben Affleck as Batman, Henry Cavill as Superman, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Ezra Miller as The Flash, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, and Ray Fisher as Cyborg

Also starring: Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Jeremy Irons as Alfred, Diane Lane as Martha Kent, Connie Nielsen as Hippolyta and Joe Morton as Silas Stone, and expands the universe by introducing J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon, Ciarán Hinds as Steppenwolf, and Amber Heard as Mera.

Based on characters from DC comics, Justice League is a team of superheroes brought together by Wonder Woman and Batman to fight against the world’s old nemesis, Steppenwolf.

Previously conquered in the ancient past by the Amazons, the inhabitants of Atlantis before the city sunk into the sea, and even the gods; they all fought side-by-side to stop the warlord from Apokolips from taking over the world.

Now, Steppenwolf has returned with an army of parademons (think a cross between an insect and vampire) to claim what he believes is rightfully his.

After seeing Wonder Woman in the recent film set during World War I, Justice League is present day – depicting an, approaching-middle-aged Batman and the ageless yet, powers-unseen-by-the-public, Wonder Woman.Justice League

Now that Superman is dead, the population is grieving and unable to see any hope for the future – chaos is gaining power as the people sink into darkness with newspaper headlines asking, Why are all the superheroes disappearing?  With Prince and David Bowie pictured alongside Superman.  Which I thought was quite clever, but also depressing, right?

I was also beginning to think the film was going to be a history lesson into each character.

Yet, the introduction of: Aquaman, shown to be just as strong on land as under water; Flash, the hero in training and Cyborg, a biomechanic meta human (and a new addition and update in the current techi-driven world), was necessary and brief.  And somewhat offset by the antics of Flash, adding some light humour to the mix.

The story could have gotten messy trying to give weight to each hero, but it worked.

Each character had their own personal conflict to conquer, giving the film layers beyond action.  And I could feel the humanity of Batman, not quite metahuman, his self-professed only super power being rich.

The need for this super-powered Justice League team fighting together stems from the power of Steppenwolf – the super villain.

The film flashes back to the past, giving Steppenwolf backstory, yet I wanted more grit, more than just another villain wanting to conquer worlds.  I would have also liked to have seen more of his home world of Apokolips…  But I had fun watching this film.

Gal Gadot has continued to shine as Wonder Woman and the sparks of humour from Ezra Miller as Flash were funny.

I wasn’t blown away, but Justice League was a fun ride – more of Aquaman in the water next time!

Live by Night

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Director / Screenwriter / Producer: Ben AffleckLive by Night

Based on a novel written by: Dennis Lehane

Director of Photography: Robert Richardson

Starring: Ben Affleck, Elle Fanning, Brendan Gleeson, Chris Messina, Sienna Miller, Zoe Saldana, Chris Cooper, Matthew Maher, Miguel J. Pimentel, Max Casella.

Joe Coughlin (Ben Affleck) is a man recently home from WWI.  After seeing so much wasted bloodshed, he refuses to believe in a system that applies no value to the people it governs.

The son of Boston’s Deputy Superintendent, Thomas Coughlin (Brendan Gleeson), a good cop and a cop who loves his son, Joe goes about life without regard for the law.  He robs banks and falls in love with a gangster’s Molly, Emma Gould (Sienna Miller).  Joe wants to be free.  And he is free, until the Italian Mafia decide they want the Irishman on their side. 

Live by Night isn’t one of those gangster revenge films full of sociopaths and relentless shoot-outs.  This is a film shown beautifully through the authentic setting of those 1920s streets of Boston and the vast skies reflected in the snake-like curving rivers of Miami.  LIVE BY NIGHT

It took a while but I was eventually absorbed by this story based on a novel written by Dennis Lehane (winner of the 2013 Edgar Award for Best Novel of the Year).  The screenplay written by Ben Affleck has the benefit of well-thought characters and a ring of truth about the era: Prohibition and the underground rum trade in Tampa, racism, the fight for the American Dream.  But what is The Dream?  Girls, money, power, love?  Freedom?

There was a complexity here.  This is a story about a man who wants to survive.  But not at any price, not while there’s still a piece of heaven here on earth. 

With an adaptation of a novel, it’s not easy to convey all without glossing over moments that would have been given more depth in the text.  Although each character was portrayed so the fierceness, evil and beauty was shown in the dialogue, some extra seconds of those facial expressions would have conveyed more.  LIVE BY NIGHT

Offsetting the lack of depth was the beautiful camera work by Robert Richardson, giving access to the film through the depiction of setting.

I imagine it must have been difficult for Ben Affleck to act and direct in the same film.  To be the one to portray what you have written, to show the vision of the story must be a hard task.  And it shows.  Ben being the least impressive actor in the film.  I’m not saying his acting was bad, I’m just saying it wasn’t as believable as the performance of say, Sienna Miller or Matthew Maher (as RD Pruitt).  Thankfully, the rest of the cast are phenomenal, given direction by the screenwriter, Ben.  A headful, I know.  And a hint into the space that is Ben Affleck.  What an achievement. 

Overall, Live by Night is one of those quiet movies that creeps up on you, a slow absorption into the point-of-view of Joe that doesn’t smack you in the face because that’s not in his psychological make-up: ‘I don’t want to be a gangster.  I stopped kissing rings a long time ago.’

A sometimes bland film but a cracker of a story.

The Accountant

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Directed by: Gavin O’ConnorThe Accountant

Screenplay: Bill Dubuque

Starring: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J. K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal, Jean Smart, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Jeffrey Tambor and John Lithgow.

Based on a screenplay written by Bill Dubuque, The Accountant is one complicated, cracker of a story: flash backs, fight scenes, number crunching montages, loud shots from military grade riffles to the quiet of an accounting office to the chink of cutlery in a jail cafeteria; wry humour, Crime Enforcement agents to stone cold killers to the dynamics family.  All combined with the overriding discussion of autism.

There was so much going on it was hard to keep a handle on all the threads.

On the one hand, this is a character driven story about family and autism; on the other, The Accountant is an action-packed crime thriller.

Chris Wolff (Ben Affleck) is an accountant, but not your everyday H&R Block style, CPA certified accountant – Chris is a high functioning autistic who’s a savant when it comes to numbers.  He also works for drug dealers and assassins; criminals who call in a guy who’s clean and can uncook their books to find any missing money.

With heat coming from the Treasury Department’s Crime Enforcement Division, Chris needs an above-board job.  He needs to get under the radar.  So when a job to find missing funds from a robotics company comes up, his handler sends him to meet Lamar Black (John Lithgow).  But there’s more going here than the ordinary.  And Chris shows himself to be more than an accounting whiz – he’s an autistic action hero.

The Accountant

I was pleasantly surprised by the attention to sensory detail: colours of paintings, an eye disappearing through a crack in a door that’s slowly closing; flashes of light and loud music…

Epileptics with a photic sensitivity be warned: the flashing light is bright and about 3Hz – a dangerous but effective addition to the film.  But yeah, there should be a warning here!

So, the sensors were certainly entertained and the association with autism and the effect of sensory stimulation on the character were cleverly worked into the story.  What I did miss was Ben Affleck’s cheeky grin.  There’s a deadpan humour that works well, but the constant blank face of Chris felt a bit forced.  People with autism do smile.

I really wanted to love this film as I’m always looking for that thriller that surprises, giving so much more than expected.  And although complicated, director Gavin O’Connor did tie the whole story neatly together, but the main character, Chris, was just too incongruent at times.

A strong performance from J.K. Simmons helped pull the story together, but aspects of the film just didn’t quite fit.  Putting such emphasis on The Accountant having autism was dangerous territory and requires getting it right.  And some aspects of the character grated as they didn’t feel authentic.

I don’t want to give too much away as there’s a lot going here and this is a great story with an interesting message, but getting all the moving parts right felt like a stretch.  Everything was there from story to characters to time spent on delivery.  And I know it sounds like I’m bagging this film but I’m being harsh because I love a good crime/thriller.

As a series, The Accountant would have been perfection.  As is, a cracker of a story that’s so close but not quite for me.

And a grin from Chris would have gone a long way.