Tag Archives: Ben Affleck

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Review)

Directed by Zack Snyder, US, 2016

Part of me can’t believe I’m writing this, but I didn’t hate this movie.  Given the number of characters introduced, the hot mess that was Man of Steel (2013), and the amount of negative press the film has gotten thus far, I expected it to be horrible.  Legendarily horrible.  Sean Connery in Zardoz (1974) horrible.  Instead it wasn’t awful.

Ben Affleck makes a fine Batman, and Gal Gadot makes a fine Wonder Woman.  Gadot is underused, but she makes the most of her limited screen-time.  Affleck nails the “older Batman” role with a fine balance of weariness and general Batman-ness.  Even the final battle sequence avoids the indulgences of Snyder’s previous action movies.

That being said, it’s not a great movie.  Henry Cavill is still soulless and dull as Superman.  Jesse Eisenberg is a bit off-putting as “all of a sudden Lex Luthor is Marc Zuckerberg.”  I liked the “Lex Luthor is more of a Nelson Rockefeller type” that the comic books had in the 1990’s.

Overall, the Superman characters are fine.  Not perfect but fine.  This is, after all, mostly a Batman movie.  The real issue with the film, why it’s merely okay but not great, is that there are long stretches of boredom.  Case in point, I actually left the theater for about ten minutes during the first act and missed absolutely nothing.  It was almost like Snyder was overcorrecting for the non-stop “boomfest” that was Man of Steel.

Overall, Batman v Superman isn’t a bad comic book movie.  It’s better than probably a third of the comic book movies out there.  If you just need a decent diversion this weekend and an excuse to go to the movies, you can do much worse.

You might like Batman v Superman if: You just feel like seeing a comic book movie and you’re fine if it’s mediocre.

You might not like Batman v Superman if: You are expecting it to be great in any way, shape, or form.

(c) 2016 D.G. McCabe

Gone Girl (Review)

Directed by David Fincher, U.S., 2014

The elements that separate film noir from other thrillers are threefold.  Most importantly – dim lighting, which sets the mood and it’s why most classic noir is black and white.  Second, unpredictable plot twists.  Finally, psychological warfare.

A dark, twisting novel like Gone Girl can only be told on film as a noir.  Fortunately, David Fincher understands this.  Unfortunately, this also means the film is prone to noir’s biggest flaw – flat, inconsistent characters.

But do we care?  Like the best noir, Gone Girl grabs your attention and doesn’t let go.  Broad daylight is filmed in a dark haze, conveying an ever-present sense of dread.  Without giving away crucial plot details (surprises are critical to enjoying Gone Girl), the film is a twisted game of cat and mouse, where it’s unclear which character is which animal until the very end.

The somewhat weak characters are also exceptionally well played.  Ben Affleck nails it as the frustratingly inconsistent Nick Dunne.  Between this and his actor/director films, I conclude that it wasn’t Affleck’s lack of talent that sunk his career for time, but his poor choice of roles.  Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, and Tyler Perry also give excellent performances, once again demonstrating Fincher’s talent for working with actors.

Gone Girl is by no means a perfect film or a perfect story.  But like the best film noir, its imperfections can be forgiven if it’s approached not as a story, but as an experience.

You might like Gone Girl if: You enjoyed the novel, or you enjoy film noir in general.

You might not like Gone Girl if: Film noir drives you bonkers.

(c) 2014 D.G. McCabe

Really? They Made a Movie About That?!? Top Five Worst Ideas for Movies in the Last 10 Years

By D.G. McCabe

Green-lighting some movies can get you fired, at least if there’s justice in the universe.  The sad part is that some people put good time and money into making films with premises that a fifth grader may well have come up with.  I haven’t done a list post in quite some time, so here we go with the top five worst ideas for movies in the last 10 years:

Gigli (2003)

With Ben Affleck’s career rebounding thanks to the stellar resume of thrillers under his directoral belt, it seems like bad timing to point out the film that almost ruined his career.  Still, could you imagine being in that pitch-meeting?  “Say,” you’d start out, “Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez are quite the item, why they could be the next Hepburn and Tracy!  Let’s put them in a movie together, only the twist is, she’s starts the movie as a lesbian and he ‘converts’ her by the end.  And if you think that’s good stuff, let’s put in a really over the top, developmentally disabled guy!”  Who could say no to that?

The Ringer (2005)

If you weren’t already offended enough with Gigli’s homophobia and mean spirited mocking of the disabled and vulnerable, this movie takes it to the next level.  “So you know that guy on TV with no acting ability but those hilarious stunts on that show ‘Jackass?’  Isn’t that show great?  Let’s get that guy, and get this – he joins the Special Olympics as a ‘Ringer’ to try to beat all the disabled kids!  But it’ll be okay, in the end he learns his lesson. And the best part – we’ll call the movie ‘The Ringer!'”  Sure, because learning his lesson at the end totally makes this a great idea.

All About Steve (2009)

So everyone loves Sandra Bullock.  She won an Oscar for 2009’s The Blind Side, so she was clearly on a role that year, right?  “Sandra Bullock is so bankable, we could put her in anything!  Anything! You challenge me – fine!  Accepted.  Let’s have her star as an unfunny, bipolar stalker…but get this – it’s a comedy.  Funny right?”  Fortunately no one except a few unfortunate critics actually saw this movie and Ms. Bullock got so much praise for her Oscar winning role that it didn’t affect her career.

Jack and Jill (2011)

Now Adam Sandler has always been the master of the silly and the stupid, but he’s well past his prime as a comedian.  One could say he wore out his welcome ten years ago, or when we all realized that Billy Madison (1995) and Happy Gilmore (1996) are basically the same movie.  Still, “You remember Adam Sandler?  Of course you do!  He’s hilarious, right?  So he hasn’t been in anything that’s made any money in years but I think we can get another drop or two out of that udder, so I have an idea.  He plays twins, only one is a overweight, obnoxious, ugly woman and the other is a total misanthropic douchey man!  Awesome right?”  The only thing that could excuse the guys who said yes to this slop was the fact that Sandler himself wrote part of the screenplay, so they probably didn’t have a choice.

Battleship (2012)

The board game Battleship lends itself to an action movie if your idea of “action” is calling out letters and numbers until someone mercifully cries out “You sunk my battleship!”  It isn’t as bad as all of that when you’re a kid, after all kids are pretty easily amused (give them a ping pong paddle with a ball and string attached if you don’t believe me – fun for hours).  Still, “Let’s make a movie about Battleship!  Yeah, the board game Battleship!  The merchandizing of the game alone will be worth it!  But, I think we’ll need aliens, and something with them being hidden, or something…meh we’ll make something up.  As long as there are explosions it won’t matter if it doesn’t make sense.  Still, think how much money we can make on special edition board games!”  Apparently, whoever pitched this had them at “special edition board games.”

I’m tapped out – until next time!

(c) 2013 D. G. McCabe

Argo (2012)

Argo

Directed by Ben Affleck, US, 2012

With its recent win at the Golden Globes as motivation, I saw Argo this past weekend.  I had originally thought that I would watch the movie later on HBO or Amazon.  I’m glad that I didn’t wait that long – this is a film that is worth your $8.

There is a high bar of difficulty when re-telling a true story.  After all, the audience already knows the outcome most of the time.  Although Argo isn’t based on a particularly well known story, movie critics, usually the guardians of spoiler protection, have no qualms telling the prospective audience about the movie’s outcome.  After all, you should have known ahead of time, right?

In any event it should be noted that Argo masterfully overcomes this difficulty by providing the audience with a fast paced, well constructed thriller.  I am always skeptical about directors who act in their own movies, although some (Welles, Chaplin, Olivier), have been exceptional at both acting and directing.  In this case, Ben Affleck, who was written off as washed up in Hollywood less than a decade ago, constructs the film beautifully by emotionally investing the audience in the characters and their situation.  He also does a fantastic job in the lead role of the picture, showing maturing acting skills.

The rest of the cast is fantastic as well, with every actor succeeding at what their roles were supposed to accomplish.  That, I think, is another feather in Affleck’s hat for this film, since managing actors may be one of the most overlooked aspects of directing.

It should be noted that Argo presents only a sliver of the story of the Iranian Revolution, its motivations, and its impact.  While the introduction of Argo (a storyboard montage that appears to pay homage to Kevin Smith, who provided Affleck’s first break in show-business) touches on the historical backstory, that is not the purpose or focus of Affleck’s film.  That’s not to say that Argo lacks intellectual heft.  While it is not overly epic, it does demonstrate the power of the Hollywood myth, the consequences of intelligence failures, and the problem of institutional inertia.

Anyone looking for a film that tells the story through the Iranian perspective or details the hostage crisis should look elsewhere, as Argo is neither of these things.   Instead, it is a well constructed, thoughtful, and entertaining thriller about a small part of a large event.

You might like Argo if: you enjoy well constructed, thoughtful, and entertaining thrillers.

You might not like Argo if: you insist that every historical film dwell on the historically over-story or reject the American point of view of those stories as played out.

(c) 2013 D.G. McCabe