Monthly Archives: March 2016
If there’s one word to describe this movie….It would be incoherent at best.
Now before you all try to verbally murder me, let me first give the run down.
This movie takes place two years after Man of Steel. We see now that Bruce Wayne was in Metropolis during the fight, and his building got completely demolished. His employee got his legs removed cause of the fight, and he lost a good friend due to the wreckage caused by Superman himself. He was in the middle of everything. So of course he would have a cold bitter shoulder towards Superman. Through a lot of weird things going on he and Superman eventually do throwdown but it turns out they need to fight an even bigger enemy.
THAT was the short version. Longer one has spoilers.
Let’s talk about what’s good because there’s quite a lot of it.
- The FREAKING BATFLECK.
I COULD. GUSH. About this Batman forever and ever and ever. Is he the dark brooding sometimes cold detective? No. Does he completely ROCK as Batman? Oh heck yes. This Batman swears (once), he kills people, he’s rough around the edges. He’s an aged Batman.
- The Wonder Woman.
Let’s be honest. Gal Gadot and Ben Affleck are reason alone to see this movie. Her Israeli accent is incredibly thick but kind of gorgeous as I’ve never heard one before. She’s small but you know she can hold her own, and she shows that in the final fight against Doomsday. More on him later on. She’s witty, clever, and just plain awesome. The look on Bruce Wayne’s face when he realizes he was outsmarted by Diana was PRICELESS.
- The Cinematography/Action
Zack Snyder knows how to put together an action sequence. Or several. The Batmobile chase scene in terms of the Kryptonite was awesome to watch-Batman really knows how to maneuver that vehicle. The throwdown between Batman and Superman was admittedly short, but shot beautifully and seemed realistic enough. Batman could hold his own, but only after using his Kryptonite gas to weaken Supes. The way the fight ended was questionable at best, but to me it seemed reasonable.
The Cinematography deserves its own full page of gushing it really does. The opening sequence with the death of Bruce Wayne’s mother and father was shot in a beautiful way that made you feel like you were there. The extreme close up of the gun barrel, the sound mixing and editing in general, is just to die for. Normally I’m not a fan of too many close ups, and there are a few in this movie, along with the slow motion shots. But something about the way they’re done, really works. It’s Snyder’s specialty-action and cinematography. Everything else…..Less so.
- The Jesse Eisenberg.
I think I can see what they were trying to do with this character. Lex or sorry….”ALEXANDER “LEX” LUTHOR” since I KNOW he’s the son of Lex, seems to have been abused here but there’s no real hint to this reasoning behind his performance. In Smallville you could tell he was disturbed, but he was a real legit threat to Clark Kent. Here…..it’s like he’s trying too hard to be the Joker or the Riddler. I’m with everyone else-Eisenberg would’ve been a better Riddler than Luthor. He’s just not that big of a threat-the only time he feels like a legit threat is when he forces Batman and Superman to fight because of Superman’s mother and that’s all I’m going to say because spoilers.
- The Lois.
Lois does nothing. She is nothing. She is not the key. She doesn’t have big stakes in this. If they do Injustice I’m not sure how I’ll feel should she be killed by the Joker cause she doesn’t have personality. She’s something for Clark to come home to and fight for. There’s no development here. At all. Ever. She’s smart and witty at least in Man of Steel. Here? A damsel who causes trouble for Superman every turn.
- The Story. This…..I…….AHHHHHHHHHH!
This really needs its own page. It REALLY does. It’s a mess. It’s all over the place. Some moments feel perfectly weaved together. The cameos were well done. It’s tie into the future solo movies and the Justice League movies is fine. As its own movie….it doesn’t work as a standalone film. Unlike the dozens of Marvel films that have incredible staying power, I’m just not sure this movie has that strength because of the story. For some it doesn’t matter. For me, if the story doesn’t work, then the movie falls apart. If you don’t have good story, or good characters, why should the audience be invested and care about their journey? The story concerning Batman and Bruce Wayne and his world was extremely well done. Superman’s side less so. Wonder Woman’s introduction is smooth, classy, and well handled. She steals the show. After the second half however, SOMETHING happens that just causes the movie to fall apart. The first half is just incredible to watch-the issues of the last movie are being dealt with, the question of Superman’s place is dealt with. There’s stakes, there’s reasoning for everything that happens. But again after the first half….I’m not sure what happens but…The movie just feels badly paced. Also…THE FREAKING ENDING PISSES ME OFF TO NO END. BAD. BAD DC. BAD. SHAME ON YOU ALL.
Some things are incredible. The acting overall, from everyone even minor characters, is incredible. For the most part. The soundtrack is wonderful. If you were worried about Ben Affleck or Gal Gadot don’t be. They hold their own and hold the movie together in terms of Affleck’s performance. I don’t hate the movie. I liked it, but certain aspects were just too hard to ignore and drag the movie down. I’d watch it again, and probably own it on Blu-Ray but I just can’t go out and say “this movie is so good, it’s freaking amazing.”. it has amazing moments, but they’re few and far between.
I’m going to have to give it a 3.5/5 stars. It’s just above average. Good, but not great like it could’ve been.
Deep Dive; In Retrospect – Batman
Keeper of the night. Defender in the Dark. Bat of Gotham. A dark knight. The Caped Crusader.
The man who defends Gotham City has been known by many names since he first appeared in 1939. He’s been on the scene getting rid of crime for 77 years now. And now in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) he once again squares off against Superman in perhaps one of the greatest gladiatorial matches ever created, and helps DC set up it’s “Extended Universe” to contrast and even compete with Marvel’s “Cinematic Universe”.
So with the biggest gladiator match now in theaters everywhere, of course with a COMPLETELY non-contrived reason for them to be fighting because why not WHY NOT-let us look at the Caped Crusader of Gotham City. A hero the people need but don’t deserve, someone who can become anything and nothing…..Batman.
The Era of Violence. Aka From Humble Beginnings.
MANY people will have issue with Batman using actual weapons that can do damage and kill people in the new movie. BUT when Batsy first appeared on the scene, he was completely okay with killing and in fact showed no remorse for doing so. His background or origin story was revealed in issue 33, in the year 1939. A few years pass, and Batman’s creators turned Batman from a downright vigilante okay with violence as a means to protect into a respectable citizen motivated by the tragic loss of his parents. It wasn’t until 1940 when “Batman” a solo spin off series, showed off not only Joker and Catwoman, but the Defender of Gotham shooting down monstrous giants to death. It was then decreed by the editor Whitney Elisworth that the Caped Crusador would no longer kill and no longer use guns as a means to defend the city.
Television Time! (The Animated Series)
Things seemed to change when Batman got his own animated series. It was dark, heavy, funny, a new take on cartoons for kids and something even adults could get into. It was what set Batman onto the screen as a mainstream hero for a lot of people more so than his comics, and even the Adam West tv show. It explored other characters such as Batgirl and Robin, introduced crossovers with Superwoman, and a few other DC characters such as Catwoman and Nightwing and it gave us the beloved Harley Quinn. Yes. Harley Quinn didn’t originate from comics. But from an animated show.
It’s the animated series that seemed to really dive into who Batman is and what he stands for. However, many seem to forget that while what he stands for can SEEM universal in every iteration, it can vary tone wise or even morally depending on whoever writes for Batman at the time. The show wasn’t afraid to dive into his clear psychological problems, nor was it afraid to show what his burden truly was. It also dives into “is Batman REALLY doing Gotham any good at all?” which is what “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” does for Superman: it tackles the importance of “when DOES the world need superheroes, and do we even need them with how much damage they can cause in the first place.”
This show’s Batman was dark, edgy, dynamic and complex. But we’ll talk more about this show another day. Moving on.
From Burton to the Nolanverse.
When it was announced that Tim Burton of all people would direct the live action movie of Batman (1989), the world wasn’t sure what to think. The tone was certainly different, the setting more based in “our world” realities, and Batman seemed more plausible than ever before. Burton took it a step further into the dark and mad world in Batman Returns, and then Joel Schumacher took over and his movies NEVER. HAPPENED. THEY NEVER HAPPENED.
It would be almost a decade (eight years to be exact) before Batman made his comeback to the silver screen. Batman in every sense of the word, was revived thanks to Christopher Nolan taking over the character and telling his story in a sort of terrific trilogy. The third was just okay.
In the Nolanverse, Bruce is portrayed to have several different facets to his character. The playboy. The millionaire. The philanthropist (hey maybe he and Tony Stark would get along rather well eh?). The Caped Crusader defending Gotham in the dark of the night. Christian Bale says he wasn’t too happy with his overall performance. But I’d disagree. Bale did a good job portraying that interoperation of Batman/Bruce Wayne. Young, a bit idealistic, always on the side of good, never using weapons, his morals set in stone. Never once wavering until the death of Rachel. But even in Dark Knight Returns when Batman returns, he’s still the same even though you could tell he’s aged.
This is a Batman so against killing, he wouldn’t murder the insane clown who blew up the woman he loved, and put Gotham through hell itself.
What Makes Batman….Batman
When you ask someone be it an adult or their kid what their favorite superhero is, odds are….You’re going to hear “Batman” or “Batman is my second favorite.” It seems like Spider-Man and Batman are the people’s choices for top hero. But why?
In short…They’re human beings. Through and through. Okay so Spider-Man is metahuman with his powers but Batman himself is one of the rare heroes who is an ordinary human. No special powers, just his mind, his strength, and his will to keep going despite the world being against him.
Perhaps that’s why he’s still relevant and why his story is still being told over and over 77 years later.
Bruce Wayne isn’t too charismatic. Though he is charming. He’s not the kind of guy a woman would think of being with considering how many he’s BEEN with. Bruce has his own company but needs an inside guy for Wayne Enterprises. His only real friend in the world is his butler Alfred. Half of his life is secrecy.
Batman is stoic. His backstory tragic. He’s dark, mysterious, brooding. Always willing to do the right thing no matter the cost. He has a contingency plan for every one of the Justice League members including himself. He has trust issues. He’s brave. He’s bold. He’s strong of mind and spirit and body. He’s a ninja. He’s human. He doesn’t have super strength or speed, or hearing or a lasso of truth or a shield of impeccable strength and accuracy or a suit of iron and fire power.
Bruce Wayne’s reasoning for wanting to fight crime are as noble and tragic as they get. Watching one’s loved ones-parents in this case-die brutally before your eyes will change you. For Bruce it destroyed his childhood and turned him into the Batman before he even knew it himself. He uses his fear of bats as his symbol, to etch fear into Gotham to protect it. Batman is both someone one can look up to, and someone to be completely afraid off. He walks the line of good and evil on a tight rope with no net underneath. All of these could be reasons why so many-myself included-both look up to, or even connect with the Caped Crusader.
Perhaps….It’s simply because Batman is a lesson. A lesson of how easy it can be to lose yourself to an alternate identity. To fade away. To become a memory or ideal. Or….Maybe he’s a lesson of how anyone can become a hero. Or how anyone can become a villain. It just simply depends….On what you choose.
There’s a saying- you’re never too old for Disney.
That has never rang more true for some of its animated shows such as Phineas and Ferb-we’ll talk more about that show later-and this show; Gravity Falls.
Created by Alex Hirsch, based around his own life adventures, the show centers on two preteen children who are forced to live with their Grunkle Stan (short for Great Uncle Stanley) in Gravity Falls, Oregon. Once the two arrive however, they discover there’s much more to the little town and they and their friends get wrapped up in mystery after mystery, leading to a final epic showdown with someone named Bill Cipher.
That’s just the show in a nutshell. The rabbit hole goes FAR deeper than that with this show my fair readers.
There are episodes that deal with exorcisms of vengeful spirits, episodes that show off the main villain Bill Cipher who is the biggest Cool Ranch Doritos fan, that deal with the possibilities of leaving your family and growing up, and an episode that shows just what goes on underneath a mini golf course. Hint – to those who thought it was tiny little men…..You got it right.
In my other post about how cartoons now beat out those of the past, I mention that one reason, is because of the characters. Gravity Falls is an incredible example of amazing character growth and development.
Dipper Pines (Jason Ritter) is an adventurous nerd, the younger of the twins. Yet always ready and willing to come to his big sister’s aid. Kids can easily identify with him as the kind of awkward introvert hero who just wants to do what’s right. Or they can see themselves in the social butterfly and polar opposite Mabel (Kristen Schaal). She’s really quite adorable. Adults can relate to the loveable grump Grunkle Stan (Alex Hirsch), and Grunkle Ford (JK Simmons; yeah. THAT JK Simmons). Wendy (Linda Cardellini) is the badass chick able to stay cool under tense situations, while Soos (Alex Hirsch) is the loveable idiot who actually has some baggage in his past.
And of course….We need to talk about the villains.
A kid known as Gideon….What a little creeper. He is the main villain of season one.
And the villain of the entire show…..Bill Cipher (Alex Hirsch). This dude. This. DUDE.
His design is as simple as it gets. He’s a triangle. He’s a closet Cool Ranch Doritos fan but….Immediately when he comes on the show for the first time by the end of season 1, there’s been so much build up and mystique to his character, that not only does he pay off, but you feel like he’s a legitimate threat to the heroes of the show. And the more you see him, the more you’re worried every time he interacts with the mains of the show. His manic personality mixed with a bit of humor really works, but the humor doesn’t downsize how threatening he is-this rings true in the finale Weirdmageddon Part 3: Take Back the Falls. Where he straight states he needs to turn the younger Pines twins into CORPSES. Remember this is a DISNEY cartoon.
The writing is at some points sheer genius. At other times, you realize “oh yeah this is from Disney.” It’s gonna have its cornball moments, but more often than not the writing is so good you can ignore that. The comedic timing is as quick as ever, and the in jokes, references, and all around comedy is just golden. But there’s also quite a few serious moments within the show, such as the episode “Into The Bunker”….Good luck sleeping after witnessing a shapeshifter as Dipper get frozen into crystal while screaming. Or how about that episode “Northwest Mansion Mystery/Noir”; in which Dipper fights an unholy ghost who wants revenge against the Northwests? There’s a point in the episode where the animal heads on the wall start chanting “ancient sins” while bleeding REAL LOOKING BLOOD from their eyes and mouths. It’s a filler episode certainly, but it doesn’t at all feel like a filler episode. Even episodes from the critically acclaimed Avatar the Last Airbender at some points, had to be filler before getting back to the main story. That’s not the case here.
The writing in terms of the characters is also wonderful. There’s never a dull moment between each character interaction, and everyone is given room to grow and develop.
The focus is more on the characters than the overall mystery hanging over Gravity Falls, Oregon. That’s a central focus of the show-finding out who the author is, and stopping Bill Cipher from trying to take over the planet. BUT even if the show were to be canceled before it’s time, not having a set ending wouldn’t be such a big deal, because you wouldn’t mind going back to hang out with those wonderfully written characters, and expertly paced episodes. The show does pay off with its ending, but again, even if it pulled a lost on its audience, the writing and characters are so good, it wouldn’t matter.
Back to referencing my other post about cartoons today….A reason why they’re so much better, is simple. They look stunning. The character designs for the show are incredibly simple-back to Bill Cipher who’s a damn triangle. The mains a look like simplified humans-complete with the big Disney eyes, and flimsy looking noodle arms. The simpler the character though, the faster episodes can come out. And the more time can be spent on the background animation, and artwork.
Usually in cartoons, the opening sequence is the only thing that looks amazing, while the animation in the episodes is pretty low key, unless it’s a big several part episode. That’s not the case with Gravity Falls. Every. Single. Episode has absolutely stunning animation, from the first episode to the Weirdmageddon finale trilogy. The backgrounds look amazing, and the lighting, shadows, and overall look and feel of the town is gorgeous to look at in each episode.
There’s no doubt that this is a Disney product. You have that sense going in straight away. And with Disney, all of their films have a nice little message for their audience-sisterly love can conquer all. Face your fears and overcome your past. True love can save the day. The message in Gravity Falls is something not only for the children, but for adults. And that is that family can overcome just about anything. Along with be true to yourself no matter what. There are a lot of parallels between the two generations of Pines twins. BUT where one set of twins fell out and did everything wrong in terms of treating family, the other seems to get it all right-even when faced with the end of their world. They have fights, they have distrust, but in the end they’re able to work together, and remain close despite their obvious differences in personality. The show does a good overall job of showing that Dipper and Mabel Pines work best together, not separately.
Also the overall theme of solving mysteries and clues is a fun one as well. Having kids and adults try to figure out the ciphers at the end of each episode is just brilliant.
Whether or not Gravity Falls has staying power, remains to be seen. But for now, it’s captivated not just children, but full grown adults. The Walker Brothers-Doug Walker aka the Nostalgia Critic and Rob Walker-both got into the show after a fan of theirs gave them the DVD set. I myself only got into the show after hearing about it from their vlogs of each episode. After witnessing “The Hand That Rocks the Mabel” I was hooked-I needed to learn the secret of the vending machine. And I’m 23. I got a friend of mine to watch it and she loved it. It’s a show for everyone, not just the children. At the end of every episode, there are ciphers to be decoded that were created by Alex Hirsch himself. Those codes would become clues to future episodes such as the code “Stan is not what he seems, Stan is not what he seems, Stan is not what he seems.” And BOY did we get a storm in the episode “Not what He Seems”.
The show took risks, as Disney has recently been doing with their feature films. The characters all stand out, and are extremely memorable. The episodes are well paced and well written, and there’s something in it for everyone. If you love good tv, not just cartoons but actual good tv, and a good mystery, this is the show for you.
Gravity Falls Final Rating – 5/5 Stars
You’re talking about cartoons then the inevitable “oh the 90s were SO much better.” Comes up and a debate ensues. It makes you wonder….WERE the 90s as good as everybody says? I personally can’t vouch seeing as I grew up in the 2000s so of course I’m going to be a bit biased. But if we took a simple comparison of the shows of the 90s to the shows now….
With shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender, Ben 10: Alien Force, Gravity Falls, Adventure Time, and Transformers: Prime, it’s hard to argue against the 2000s-2010s. 10 years of shows speaks for itself.
So….Why ARE the cartoons of the present beating out the toons of the past?
As we continue to grow and expand as a species, so does technology. What once took hours, now takes minutes. Though don’t get me wrong, it still takes a long time to produce animations over live action. In regards to anything being made. But with simpler designs, comes quicker results. Sure the characters in Gravity Falls look human, but rather simplified. Especially compared to the more realistic versions in Transformers Prime. Technology is also responsible for how stunning shows now look. They look like works of art rather than a simple cartoon. But good tech isn’t the only reason shows now are better than ever before.
When it came to developing Transformers Prime, the show used a wondrous mix of 2D and 3D (otherwise known as CGI) animation. The style is a bit wonky and takes getting used to, but it does prove effective especially in the case of the design of the Transformers themselves.
When it came to shows of the 90s, character designs were more complex. An anthropomorphic rabbit with a wisecracking attitude, Gargoyles that came to life at night, and more and more anthros than ever before. These characters were memorable, but took longer to design and create. Therefore, it took longer for episodes to be produced. Sometimes, technology had to be invented just to get things off the ground- such as the case for the wildebeest scene in The Lion King.
Feedback is as quick as it comes in the information age. We’re always connected, and feel completely at lost without our smartphones or tablets. We’re always onto something new, always looking for that next big thing. Even large companies can’t escape from it-Marvel and DC have had several trailer leaks days before their trailers were supposed to be released. And thanks to the power of YouTube, sharing clips, and showing just how much we can like or dislike something, is immediate.
Back in the 90s, word of mouth spread slower. People had to use focus groups-a demographically diverse group of people who help companies by giving them feedback to help sell products and the like. The internet was slower, it was mostly used for messages, and Facebook wasn’t even invented until 2004.
There are still focus groups, but thanks to YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, companies kind of find out either way whether or not their shows and movies are selling. Believe me Disney must’ve gotten an EARFUL when it was announced Gravity Falls would only have two seasons rather than the standard three.
While cartoons are more often than not steeped in imagination, they tackle real life problems and events better than most of the stuff in the 90s or even live action. Where the 90s had to barely dabble in things like sexuality, or political agendas, or inner demons….Cartoons now not only are able to sneak it in in a smart way, but dedicate entire characters and episodes to those issues. Sometimes entire seasons. Gravity Falls teaches the importance of family over the bigger things in life, as well as never make a deal with a closet Cool Ranch Dorito fan. Avatar the Last Airbender, and Legend of Korra teaches children and adults East Asian philosophies, as well as how to overcome loss, guilt, and inner fear. Legend of Korra took it a step further, by putting Korra and Asami together as a couple. Getting the jump on what was right and made sense, even before the American Government.
Something that might very well not happen in the transition era of the 90s. Star Wars: The Clone Wars was entirely war based, and Steven Universe features a power where two people must combine themselves to create a new power. Talk about an identity crisis. Shows now are able to truly explore things like governmental power, sexuality, depression, abandonment, romance, betrayal, the importance of responsibility, in ways that’s blatantly obvious, and cleverly snuck in.
They’re Focusing on What’s Important – The Characters
Odds are if you grew up in the 90s, you’ll be quoting your favorite shows left and right, as well as remembering your favorite characters, and those awesome moments. However, in today’s age, it’s not just the main characters that get the focus. EVERY character has a chance to shine. Things that might seem trivial and nonsensical come back in surprising ways. Everyone’s symbol in Gravity Falls-from Soos’ question mark, to Dipper’s pine tree, to Grunkle Stan’s fez fish-all come back in the finale. To do absolutely nothing thanks to Grunkle Stan’s grudge against his twin, but still.
In Avatar the Last Airbender, nearly everyone we’ve met in the show prior to the invasion of the Fire Nation, returned for the battle. And they were reintroduced in a genius way, thanks to Toph, who had never met these characters before. We wanted to see these characters again, even if they weren’t the main ones.
Putting the focus on the characters and their issues, rather than on the overall story, makes for more memorable episodes, scenarios, and people. The people in Transformers Prime are so memorable because you already know what the Autobots and Decepticons transform into. So relying on new characters and new interactions was key. But they didn’t focus on “cool look Arcee is a motorcycle.” They focused on her developing and growing as a character. They focused on the fact that the children had substantial roles in the plot other than “they just accidentally met and now they’re here cause we need human elements cause reasons”. Their relationships with the Autobots feel genuine. And therefore we’re going to remember them more than humans in past Transformers shows.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the 90s had amazing shows. A lot of what’s on now, is based on something in the nineties, or inspired by those shows. People who saw Batman the Animated Series, might’ve been inspired to create something equally as good or even better in Avatar or Legend of Korra. The 80s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, gave way to the Turtles we have now-the 2003 run was able to be much darker than that of their 80s counterpart. Because the creators learned what they could get away with. However, when you look at today’s shows, and see how beautiful, progressive, smart, funny, serious, dramatic, and intense they are, you just have to face the facts.
You see more and more cartoons now winning all kinds of awards. Transformers Prime has won several Daytime Emmy Awards-including some for Outstanding Animation, Story, and Sound Mixing. Just as well-Gravity Falls has awards for “best opening title theme music” because OF COURSE, Creative Arts, and the 42nd Annie Awards for Directing in Animated Achievement. Avatar the Last Airbender, along with Gravity Falls, is often praised for it’s serious approach, and both are critically acclaimed.
There’s nothing wrong with the shows of the past. Plenty of them changed things for the better and even pushed the envelope a bit…It’s just that shows now, have gradually grown, and expanded into something beautiful, and unique and different. They’ve also completely burst through that envelope as well. They’ve changed and changed for the better. And we can only HOPE that they continue to grow. Because I’d rather kids watch something intriguing like Gravity Falls over something like Dog with a Blog.