Tagged: Jesse Eisenberg

Box Office Democracy: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

It’s easy to kick a studio while they’re down, and a little of that seems to be happening with the reactions to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Warner Bros. has struggled mightily in bringing their heroes to the screen in recent years (recent decades if we don’t count Christopher Nolan’s work) and there’s an attempt to pile on. If Batman v Superman were a Marvel Studios film I suspect it would be getting more positive coverage as people dug to find the good things and used them to redeem the things that don’t work; instead people are endlessly picking at the numerous mistakes. Don’t get confused, Batman v Superman is an awful movie and Zack Snyder should be stopped at all costs but in the hands of literally any other director I could believe there was a salvageable property here and there’s time to right this ship.

Superman as depicted in Batman v Superman isn’t fun to watch, nor does he feel faithful to the character. I’ll be honest: I stopped reading comics on a weekly basis in the winter of 2012 and I haven’t been keeping up since then, so maybe Superman has become an extremely violent, petulant baby in that time— but I sort of doubt it. The Superman in this film is terrifying to consider. He’s quick to anger and never particularly nice to anyone that isn’t Lois Lane; more like Miracleman than Superman. The only never ending battle on display in this film is the one Warner Bros. fights for Superman to appear cool, but they’ve succeeded in creating a character that would only seem cool to an edgy teenager or the 90s comics industry. I don’t know if I’m supposed to be rooting for Batman or Superman when they come to blows, but I’m almost certainly not supposed to be thinking Lex Luthor is right about everything— and yet that’s just where I was for 80% of this movie.

The non-Superman characters were mostly pretty good. Ben Affleck should release a video where he makes it very clear he’s addressing all the people who doubted he could be a credible Batman, drop the mic, and then walk away. He’s a great Batman; I’m ready to put him in the upper echelon with Bale and Keaton (and Kilmer but let’s not get sidetracked) after seeing this movie. He’s believable physically, and he captures that kind of arrogant paranoia that I think Batman should embody. The scenes with Wonder Woman in costume are a giddy rush, and they represent her so well in the fight scenes without any clunky exposition or holding anybody’s hand. We all know who Wonder Woman is, we’ve been alive in the world. The scenes before she puts on the costume are less good; they kind of play her like an off-brand Selina Kyle, but they might have been going for an air of mystery and were betrayed by the PR team. Jesse Eisenberg has the most off-beat take of any established character, and while there isn’t a strong comic book foundation to what he’s doing, it does feel like what a billionaire megalomaniacal industrialist would look like in the modern start-up culture and he’s so unsettlingly creepy that I’m going to give him a pass.

I generally find Zack Snyder’s work to be unappealing visually, and Batman v Superman is no exception. Things are too slick, slow motion is used too much, only a handful of scenes take place in daylight. Gotham City and Metropolis look the same because there’s no room for points of contrast. I suppose Gotham’s abandoned docks are supposed to feel seedy and give the city a dilapidated edge but Metropolis has a crashed alien ship taking up a huge part of their downtown so there’s no contrast there. The contrast between Superman and Batman should be reflected in every part of their environment and instead everything takes place on the same dreary streets and rooftops.

The common refrain after seeing a movie like this is that it “destroys their childhood” of the viewer, and that’s always nonsense. No one from Warner is going to break down my door and set any of my trade paperbacks on fire or draw a bunch of bloodstains in the margins or anything like that. However, superhero movies are trading on nostalgia. If they can’t get a dyed in the wool DC Comics person like me to feel a connection to this film (and if you go back and read paragraph three of this review I desperately want to feel this connection) then I can’t imagine who does. They’ve made a misanthropic film, an ugly film, and worst of all they made a Zack Snyder film.

Review: BvS Is A Four-Letter Word

Batman v Superman

Did you ever endure some sort of traumatic injury knowing full well that a minute or two after the moment of disaster it was going to hurt a hell of a lot worse?

That’s how I felt after seeing Batman v Superman. Bright-eyed fanboy that I am, I walked into the theater with the highest of expectations. I had heard from a couple of friends who saw the Los Angeles screening that it was pretty good. Now I’m reconsidering my position on medical marijuana. Maybe the fault here is mine: I had been on OxyContin following some dental surgery earlier in the week and I guess I quit taking that shit too early. I wanted to like the movie – for one thing, it took two and one-half hours out of my life. For another, successful movies inure to the benefit of the comics medium and, arguably, my cash flow.

Here’s the good stuff. The camera really loves Gal Gadot, particularly when she’s in her Diana Prince guise. I enjoyed her work so much I even briefly considered watching her Fast and Furious movies, and I lamented the fact that I lacked the foresight to join the Israeli army when she was a part of it. Also, and I guess this is critical, Ben Affleck was fine as Old Man Bats. Granted, standing next to Henry Cavill would make Emo Phillips seem like Robert Redford, but Ben did just fine. Diane Lane is always a joy to behold and her talent exceeded her part. And Jeremy Irons seems to have found Michael Caine’s Miraclo stash and became Alfred the Butler for about an hour.

All that in the aggregate does not come close to balancing out Jesse Eisenberg’s turn as Lex Joker Junior. If you saw him in any of the trailers then let me assure you that what you saw is what you get. Spoiler alert: he channels Gene Hackman at the end. Somewhere Kevin Spacey is buying him a condolence card.

And, holy crap, why does everybody in the damn movie have serious mommy issues?

The story is irrelevant. And negligible. Clearly, director Zack Synder thought he wasn’t spending enough money so he finagled a nice big CG Doomsday for reasons so oblique they do not bear repeating. Lois Lane starts out as the awesome investigative reporter she’s supposed to be and then quickly devolves into perpetual rescue bait. Jimmy Olsen turns out to be something Jimmy Olsen would and could never, ever be. The Flash zipped through just long enough for the audience to realize the filmmakers are idiots. And Aquaman was portrayed as an angry deep-sea fur ball with a fork.

The blame for this fiasco is squarely on the director. Zack Synder should not be given a blank check. By the end of the movie I was hoping the after-credits scene (note: there is none) was of John Wayne Gacy returning from the dead to eat Zack’s brains. Gacy, of course, would have been played by Samuel L. Jackson.

I’ll see Suicide Squad because I was there at its conception and because Affleck was swell. I’ll see Wonder Woman because Gal Gadot is that impressive. But the Justice League movies? If I succumb to peer-group pressure (the comics world remains a small donut shop), I’ll be hoping for that Gacy scene.

The best part of Batman v Superman? The trailer for Civil War.

Box Office Democracy: American Ultra

American Ultra would have been the coolest movie in the world in 1996. It has the lovable loser slacker protagonist with a quirky hobby and a mundane job, it has plenty of sudden graphic violence, and it even has a plot that’s a metaphor for parental issues.

Unfortunately, the last 19 years haven’t been particularly kind to these tropes, and this movie that would have easily swept the Independent Spirit Awards two decades ago instead feels less special and more tired. It doesn’t sink the movie, it’s still frequently a blast and features one of the most best ensemble supporting cast I may have ever seen but this is a movie that in another era could have been a home run and it’s disappointing to see it just be a long double.

While not a fantastic reflection on the originality of the film, American Ultra lends itself very handily to mash-up comparisons. It’s Chasing Amy meets A History of Violence, it’s Slackers crossed with The Bourne Identity, it’s SubUrbia having a baby with The Transporter. Mike Howell (Jesse Eisenberg) is a stoner convenience store clerk who draws an ambitious if nonsensical comic book in his spare time. Unbeknownst to Mike he is an old CIA asset that due to a power struggle within the agency has been targeted for termination. When the CIA assassins come to kill him Mike discovers he’s an amazing killer. The ensuing chaotic escalation of this operation ends up bringing everyone in Mike’s life in to the orbit of this violent struggle especially his girlfriend Phoebe (Kristen Stewart) who is the cliché suspiciously-attractive girlfriend of a total loser. There are enough clever twists and fun tweaks to the formula here to make the film exciting but maybe they go a little too far as there are all these vestigial bits of plot hanging off the edges like threads that they forgot to weave in to the main fabric of the story.

While both Eisenberg and Stewart are quite good— in fact, both seem to be trying very hard to shake of the notion that they are budget-friendly versions of bigger stars— the real winning performances in American Ultra come from the supporting cast. Topher Grace chews scenery hard as the smarmy evil CIA supervisor and I’ve seen him do this douchebag performance so well so many times I’m beginning to wonder if he’s not like that in real life and that’s probably the mark of an exceptional performance (or an exceptional jerk in real life, but I hope not). Connie Britton usually acting across from Grace does a great job bringing a grounded energy to those scenes, but when she’s doing scenes with any other characters she switches gears and becomes the scene stealing performer we know she is. Walton Goggins is a terrifying presence as the CIA lunatic killer Laugher turning in a performance that is 100% chilling nightmare fodder. The cast is so embarrassingly deep that Tony Hale and John Leguizamo, both national treasures and utter delights in this film, feel criminally underused but there just isn’t room for more of them.

By the time I’m writing this it’s pretty apparent American Ultra didn’t find its audience. We’ve even gotten the 2015 signature move of the underperforming movie and someone involved in the production has taken to Twitter to complain about the results of their labors. It’s a shame, this movie deserves better and I hope that eventually people discover this movie on Netflix or wherever because it deserves to be seen and to be appreciated. Not because it’s screamingly original or clever but because it’s an example of exceptional execution and the good work a solid cast can do to carry a middling script. American Ultra is a film that deserves better than it got from America this weekend and better than it got from whoever came up with this terrible non-descriptive title.

The Point Radio: Michael And Sara Make IMPASTOR Magic

After his long run on SMALLVILLE, Michael Rosenbaum is back on series television with the new TV Land project, IMPASTOR. He, and adorable co-star Sara Rue, talk about the show and show off the amazing chemistry that makes it work. Plus we begin our look at JUSTICE LEAGUE GODS AND MONSTERS, DC’s daringly different new DVD.

More in a few days with more on JUSTICE LEAGUE GODS AND MONSTERS. Be sure and follow us on Twitter now here.