Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Batman v Superman: Not That Bad

Critics hated Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but it's making a killing in the box office.

Sucks to be a critic.

It wasn't so bad. I at least felt like I got my money's worth. It was mostly everything I expected. In some areas, it delivered more, and in others it delivered less. The CGI was fantastic. The usual Snyder comic cinematography was awesome, both in visual grandeur and in emotional content. The darkness was refreshing after seeing so many MARVEL movies. The big fight was fantastic and worth the money all by itself, thus answering a decades-old question. And the plot ... well ... not all movies can be perfect. At least it was Shakespeare compared with Jupiter Ascending.

Batman's story was a little disappointing. It started out very well with Bruce living out the death of his parents, and then experiencing the Kal-el v Zod showdown with strong overtones of 9/11. That part pulled me in. But his hatred of Superman felt like a stretch. Why didn't Bruce fall in line with most other people realizing Zod was the baddy and Superman was saving their butts? Bruce's dream sequences were confusing and sometimes misleading.

Overall it painted a nice, dark picture of Batman, but it no longer pulled me in. I wanted to yell, "Come on, Affleck. Stop being sad and get over it!"

Jessie Eisenberg was ... different ... playing Lex Luther. It was almost as if he was trying to out-Heath the Ledger. He somewhat pulls off crazy, but he comes off as very harmless until you realize later in the movie exactly what he's capable of.

And did you notice that if you took Wonder Woman out of the movie completely, it would make the movie about 20 minutes shorter, but change nothing else? In one of the trailers, Superman (or Batman) says, "Who's she?" The other says, "I don't know. I thought she was with you." And that's how I felt. But then again, I didn't hear too many people complaining.

My recommendation: Big Fight. Big Screen. Loud Sounds. See it now.

With the movie's success, we are sure to get more DC/Snyder movies. Yay!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

10 Cloverfield Lane: See It While You Can

To be honest, when I saw this Super Bowl trailer, I though 10 Cloverfield Lane was going to be a remake of The Amityville Horror. Sure, the house looks nothing the same, but I didn't know what else it could be. The name "Cloverfield" in the title clued me in that this was some kind of horror film by J. J. Abrams, similar what he released eight years ago.

I almost passed it up until I read that this was actually a sequel to Cloverfield ... well ... kind of. So, I went and was surprised at how good the movie is.

John Goodman plays a man who takes in an injured woman, locks her in a cellar with him, and nurses her back to health. He says the world has come to an end, and she needs to stay inside. However, she doesn't know what to believe, and senses that he may be crazy. A third party also stays with them, adding to the whole mix.

The direction, by Dan Trachtenberg is superb, very much like Alfred Hitchcock, but better. The acting is good from all three main actors. John Goodman is freaky good. At times it got a little slow, but everything seems to fit the story as a whole. Also, it shows you don't need to breach Rated R territory to be scary.

My recommendation: go see this movie before it leaves the theater.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Serafina and the Black Cloak

Have you ever come across a relatively unknown book that was so good that you wondered why most people haven't heard about it? This may be one of those books. Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty is new, just published this past July 2015 through Disney's Hyperion line. I only came across Serafina when I went to a local book festival. The author Robert Beatty described his novel to an audience of about fifty, and practically all of us were hooked in a matter of minutes.

Serafina is a young girl with interesting talents. She's good at catching rats, she's sneaky, and she has yellow eyes. She lives with her poor father in the basement of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. When a mysterious man comes to the Biltmore with a mysterious black cloak, children start disappearing. Serafina decides to come out of hiding and see if she can help find the missing children. Along the way, she comes to learn of her unknown past.

The main target of this book seems to be middle-school-aged children. It's a little too dark for younger kids -- similar to Harry Potter. The writing style is very simple and effectively stays out of the way of the story. Sometimes it gets a little too simple, but the story is so interesting that it's hard to notice. The use of the Biltmore estate is both interesting and daring, even though a few times I found myself thinking, "I heard about that in the tour." At least Beatty did his research. The Biltmore Estate did approve his use of the house and the Vanderbilts as characters. The house fits the story well, and the interactions with the Vanderbilts seem believable.

Overall the book has good pacing and a satisfying ending. Plus it sets up nicely for a sequel (which will come out this July 2016).

I highly recommend Serafina to anyone with children in the 11-18 age range, and for adults who happened to like reading the Harry Potter series.