Sydney Film Festival Review: Mekko

An inspired blend of hardboiled neo-noir and Native American mysticism, it’s hard not to admire the ambition on display in Sterlin Harjo‘s Mekko. The film sees the titular ex-con struggle to survive on the streets of Oklahoma City only to find that while modern life is very different to that of his ancestors, the threats presented by malevolent spirits linger on.

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When it comes to the genre’s history of brooding protagonists, Mekko finds himself a natural fit. Mekko (Rod Rondeaux) himself casts an impressive shadow with his feathered-cap further distinguishing his silhouette. Beyond this visual, however,  he’s a bit of a muddled allegory. As a character, he’s a challenge to pin down and it’s never clear if he’s being written as a representation of the struggles of minorities, ex-cons, the homeless or the all-too-common combination of all three. Rondeaux’ performance conveys the idea that there’s a lot of nuance to this character under the surface. Unfortunately, that complexity never feels adequately tapped by the film’s script.

Likewise, Mekko’s script works to emphasise the humanity of various characters that Mekko encounters but more oft than not, performances are too mechanical to match the material really gets fleshed out to the same degree. The only real standouts here are Mekko’s friend Matt (Scott Mason) and the film’s antagonist (Zahn McClarnon) for whom sociopathic silence does most of the work.

As a result, it always feels like something is off in the film’s dialogue and things feel like they’re unfolding far slower than they actually are (though if the crisp 84-minute runtime doesn’t reflect that). Even so, the film’s final confrontation felt like it was all over too quickly and it gallops towards the credits seemingly without a thought for the consequences of Mekko’s actions. Put simply, the film’s efforts to bring both style and substance to the table trip over one another and while the results are interesting to behold, they never quite reach their potential.

Harjo’s direction and cinematography are similarly at odds. Locations ripe for the noir-treatment are instead shot through a realist lens. Meanwhile, more mundane moments are handled into a darkly atmospheric fashion. A reserved and ominous soundtrack does salvage the film somewhat but it can only do so much. Taking each individual element at work, Mekko is easy to appreciate. However, its impact is never extends beyond the sum of its parts. 

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As a film, Mekko‘s heart is in the right place. As a character, Mekko is a cipher – and a lack of understanding of him quickly unravels the film’s better qualities. The film’s audacious efforts to tie together the struggles of Native American authenticity with the tropes of neo-noir thriller are admirable. Unfortunately, the results don’t deliver.

Mekko is showing at this year’s Sydney Film Festival. More information and screening details available here.

Film Review: Warcraft: The Beginning

Warcraft is a film that’s taken a hell of a long time to get made. The project has changed directors several times (once residing in the hands of Sam Raimi) but after ten years it’s finally made its way into cinemas for fans and newcomers to the franchise to see. However, video game films have a sketchy track record at best and even under the guidance of director Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code) there’s a lot that could go wrong.

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Presumptively-titled Warcraft: The Beginning, the film kicks off by introducing us to the orcish side of the franchise’s central conflict. Faced with an uninhabitable homeland, the orcish warlock Gul’Dan (Daniel Wu) uses dark fel magic to tear open a portal in time and space for them to invade the lush and peaceful world of Azeroth. Even at the prologue-stage, this movie goes pretty all-in on the heavier lore right from the get go in a way that’s both intimidating and kind-of exciting.

Faced with a string of brutal defeats against an unknown enemy, the King of Stormwind (Dominic Cooper) enlists Lothar (Travis Fimmel) and Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer) to summon the Guardian Medivh (Ben Foster) and learn the source of the troubles. Meanwhile, back on the Horde side of things, the orcs struggles with growing dissent between traditionalist and radicalist factions in their midst.

As mentioned previously, there’s a lot of world-building happening in this movie – and we haven’t started on the appearances by elves, dwarves and murlocs. Still, Durotan (Toby Kebbel) acts as an effective anchor for the orcish side of the film. Like the human characters, he’s driven by a sympathetic desire to protect his own over any hunger for battlefield glory. Kebbel’s performance is very much the most in-tune with the material here, offering up a character who feels right out of the games. If anything, it’s the humans of Warcraft that are the weakest part.

Though it’s definitely worth acknowledging all this setup presents a steep learning curve for newcomers, the payoff is that the final film doesn’t always play out the way you might expect a traditional fantasy story to. The orcs aren’t depicted as a faceless horde of monsters, the good guys don’t always win and, in a surprising move for the start of a franchise, people die. Foster’s Medivh feels a little underdeveloped, but that aside the plot hangs together about as well as any other modern franchise film. If Jones’ goal with the film is to introduce us to the world of Azeroth through the first contact between orcs and humans, it’s hard not to call it adequate.

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The exaggerated faux-edginess of the source material remains mostly intact – for better or worse – but the film isn’t afraid to have fun with it. Interactions between Garona (Paula Patton) and the human cast yield some unexpectedly humorous moments and there’s one particular use of magic that comes so far out of left field it’s hard not to smile and enjoy the moment. There’s a geeky weirdness here that feels faithful to the franchise.

The designs for the orcs themselves is mostly handled well – though Patton’s Garona feels out of place as the sole non-CG orc. At its best, it feels on par with something like Avatar and the battle scenes often feel right out of the games. On the other hand, the special effects for the magic in the film are a bit more uneven. When eyes start to glow and lightning sparks from the fingertips of characters, it becomes hard to the film take seriously. The other big weakness of the film is the pacing. The first half hour is a roller-coaster ride of big visual moments and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it world-building. However, the film drops off sharply after that. It becomes mired in the melodrama of its human cast before settling into a relatively comfortable pattern of building and breaking tension each time the heroes of the two sides come into contact.

Still, it’s hard not to have at least a little fun here. The film’s thematic focus on the corruption of power and the humanity of war occasionally feels a little self-serious – but it does feel true to the source material. What’s more, it gives the film somewhat of a defined identity that separates from other fantasy blockbusters. 

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Warcraft isn’t going to go down as one of the best fantasy films ever made. It’s not going to win awards for its performances or script and it’s far from the best action movie to grace screens over the last twelve months. As much as I like the Warcraft franchise, its insatiable lust to be cool occasionally veers the material off into strange, cartoonish and frankly-dumb directions. However, I’ve often enjoyed the franchise in spite of this characteristic and it’s the replication of this quality that makes the film feel like a breath of fresh air and kind-of exactly what a Warcraft movie should be.

It’s to the credit of Jones that a mainstream blockbuster based on Warcraft feels this way and as a long-time fan of the franchise, it’s hard to imagine a film truer to that material than this one. Warcraft has always played with big ideas just as likely to turn out inane and ridiculous as they are compelling, and the film feels the same way. It lacks the effortless-grace of Lord of the Rings and the grand scale of Game of Thrones but Warcraft: The Beginning feels like, if nothing else, a foundation upon which something really special could be built. In the meantime, the film makes for an ambitious experience even if it strains (and ultimately buckles) under the weight of its own mythology. 

The Gaff #009: Stan’s Wolf Creek

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THIS WEEK:

We substitute our regular weekly rewind segment to share our excitement over the Sydney Film Festival programme being revealed. We give you a taste of a few films, running through our picks, films we decided not to see, and which films both boys are seeing.

Luke plays Nashen’s real voice for Sam, and the boys dream of becoming fast friends with the Festival Director. Sam makes the prediction of 10 more films coming out of Cannes [edit: Whoa! Spot on!] and tells us about seeing the film schedule while at work.

Sam’s coming at this festival as his ‘learn to swim’ moment, whereas Luke has been going for the past few years. We won’t list all the titles here, check out the episode. We’ll have potential reviews and discussion coming in the Festival episode/s ahead once we decide on the format. Maybe we’ll record on the road.

WEEKLY REWIND:

Well, we sort of cover some viewing. During the trailers segment, Sam and Luke spontaneously talk about the genius of The Knick. Sam’s only seen one episode so far, but we have a lot to say about the production design, the music, the medical gore, Soderbergh’s retirement, picking up the title on sale, the possibility of a third season and comparing it to Fargo.

TRAILERS OF THE WEEK:

Yoga Hosers looks to be quite light in tone, which we expected from Smith’s Opera House talk, and even Sam as a devout Kevin Smith fan isn’t expecting too much. But we are excited for the proper debut of Harley Quinn Smith and Lily-Rose Depp and the sheer absurdity of the Bratzis.

Assassin’s Creed is revealed in a Kanye soundtracked teaser that shows off the production design and location shooting. We talk percentage of past versus present, Marion Cotillard and ask if the photos better than the trailer.

Sam talks social media and technology gone wrong in modern thriller Nerve. Starring Emma Roberts and Dave Franco, Sam gives a plot synopsis and we talk about the colourful look of the film.

On a roll with the plot recaps, Sam tells us about Don’t Breathe, a tense looking thriller with Stephen Lang as a gruff, dangerous blind man stalking teens that have invaded his home. We talk about the editing of the US trailer being much better and not wanting to sit through 5-second previews for previews.

Outcast, a show all about demonic possession, is on our radar for being an adaptation of Robert Kirkman material alone. But the visuals are slick and this Cinemax series could be the best horror show on TV when it airs. We talk about other horror shows and trip down a rabbit hole, going from The Omen to Richard Donner to Lethal Weapon to Rush Hour.

We also look at the intriguing trailer for The Accountant starring Ben Affleck and its use of droning and repetition. Plus, Ethan Hawke being an abusive dad in baseball drama The Phenom. Luke’s excited for Park Chan Wook’s latest, The Handmaiden, and also recommends you check out trailers of Into the Forest, The Woods, The Shallows and Hell or High Water.

TOPIC OF THE WEEK: STAN’S WOLF CREEK

The Stan Original series Wolf Creek picks up where the Australian horror classic film franchise left off as Lucy Fry’s Eve finds her family slaughtered and sets off on a path of revenge against John Jarratt’s Mick Taylor. We’ve been looking forward to this series for a while, here at The Gaff!

After Sams give a brief synopsis, the boys discuss; the writing and structure of the series, exploration of recurring characters including Uncle Jack Charles, impressive location filming, the amount of nudity and gore, homages and connections to the films, episode pacing, viewing statistics, iconic horror villain Mick Taylor and his backstory, Lucy Fry’s performance and Eve’s trajectory, and even (without spoilers!) the finale and possibilities for a second season.

A good portion of the discussion revolves around the malevolent, unforgiving landscape in this and a number of Australian films which seems to manifest these characters. We recommend some titles that feel similar, including; The Rover, Strangerland, These Final Hours, The Hunter, and even Chopper, and Lantana.

FAST FORWARD:

The boys buzz about Cleverman, another original Australian drama series coming to ABC, the future of Stan, our upcoming gaming episode and the Sydney Film Festival.

CREATIVE CONTRIBUTIONS:

If you’ve got mad Photoshop skills, mock up a movie poster or blu-ray cover for what you imagine “Wolf Creek 3“ would look like, and send it through. We’ll showcase it on our social media and give you a shoutout on the show.

CONTACT US:

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The Gaff #008: Captain America: Civil War

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THIS WEEK:

In our Weekly Rewind Sams and Fergus tell us why they loved inspirational biopic Eddie the Eagle, Luke and Fergus share their thoughts on American Crime Story Season 1, Sams updates us on Last Man on Earth Season 2, and Luke starts a discussion on visual concept albums by way of Beyonce’s Lemonade.

TRAILERS OF THE WEEK:

We cover Taika Waititi’s new New Zealand classic Hunt for the Wilderpeople. It looks to be quite funny with a great little cast and gives us hope for levity in Thor: Ragnarok too. Coming off previous film What We Do in the Shadows, Sam expounds on parody comedies from Blazing Saddles to Airplane/Flying High and Shaun of the Dead, and the genius title for the Shadows sequel.

Cell reunites the 1408 combo of John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson and Stephen King. Does it look any good though? Well, Cusack is the second man Sams would turn for and while Luke sees it sitting on the shelf, Sams sees this one sitting on his shelf.

The Duel, a moody southern gothic Western, looks interesting if for no other reason than starring Woody Harrelson. He’s always a good reason to watch as he’s great no matter what he’s in.

Further trailers that we give brief lip service to include: Guardians, Big Fish and Begonia, Tulip Fever, Me Before You, Southside with You, Kubo and the Two Strings, Captain Fantastic, The Fits and Snowden.

We also revisit where our name came from, and decide we should do a commentary episode for The Phantom, and a debate episode for The Mighty Ducks.

TOPIC OF THE WEEK: CIVIL WAR

Does Civil War surpass Sams’ low expectations? Join Luke, Sams & return guest Fergus Halliday as they break down their favourite moments, characters and dialogue from the film, while also noting the issues they had with Avengers 2.5.

We cover those big-ass title cards for the locales, the (mis?)treatment of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, how relative newcomers Scarlet Witch and Vision are doing, the structural similarities to DC’s Batman v Superman, the secrets of the airport fight scene, and violence, villains and fatalities.

A big part of the discussion rests on the introduction of both Spider-Man and Black Panther to the MCU. Is Tom Holland a case of third time’s the charm for Spider-Man casting? Are we eager to head to Wakanda with Chadwick Boseman?

Other talking points include that freakily young Robert Downey Jr, the standalone quality (or lack thereof) in Phase III MCU films, the brilliant comedic timing and chemistry of Anthony Mackie as Falcon, Jim Rash’s cameo, characters flip-flopping with their stance on the Sokovia Accords, obvious product placement and the sudden total death of Peggy Carter on screens both big and small.

CREATIVE CONTRIBUTIONS:

If you’ve got mad Photoshop skills, mock up a movie poster or blu-ray cover for “Christmas Adventures with Tony Stark” and send it through. We’ll showcase it on our social media and give you a shoutout on the show.

CONTACT US:
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Mailbag : gaffpodcast@gmail.com

The Gaff #007: Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

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This week on The Gaff:

We finally hit Episode 7 and so we talk about Episode VII. Star Wars is back in our lives. Plus, in the wake of his death, we devote some time to talk about Prince and more specifically, his first film; Purple Rain.

Weekly Rewind:

Sams saw Eye in the Sky this week, the last film starring the late Alan Rickman. Luke’s been catching up on quality TV; American Crime Story S1 and Better Call Saul S2. Both the boys saw Jungle Book this week… but only one saw the whole thing start to finish.

Trailer Trash:

  • The Founder
  • Independence Day: Resurgence
  • The Infiltrator
  • Magnificent Seven, Jason Bourne and Equals

Contact Us:

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The Gaff #006: New Release SVOD Horror (Hush & Holidays)

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THIS WEEK ON THE GAFF:

Remember that week we had a couple horror trailers? Well two turned up on streaming and VOD! So we’re here to talk about Mike Flanagan’s home invasion thriller ‘Hush’ and the depraved annual holidays anthology ‘Holidays’. Watch the films and join us!

WEEKLY REWIND:

We both rewatched Star Wars in prep for next week’s episode. Luke watched the end of Fear the Walking Dead Season 1 and the start of Season 2, as well as rewatching Game of Thrones Season 5. Sams picked up the Spielberg blu-ray collection and saw Duel.

Which brings us to an impromptu discussion about well-presented boxsets. We talk about Kubrick, Hitchcock, availability issues and the Batman ’66 TV show blu-ray boxset. This is one we both own and Sams recounts the story of tracking down his copy. We talk about the design, the contents, the lack of an official home video release for so long, Adam West and his Walk of Fame star, and the importance of the 60’s Batman to the current iterations of Batman. You even get to hear us do a rendition of the theme song.

TRAILER TRASH:

Reshoots for added humour or added action? Regardless, there’s going to be a lighter side to SUICIDE SQUAD. An indigenous superhero in a diversely-cast, Australian-made genre TV show? CLEVERMAN looks amazing and we will be supporting it at The Gaff! Nicolas Winding-Refn’s latest, NEON DEMON, is a mess of neon, glitter, lasers and pulsing sound and we can’t wait to be awed by it.

TOPIC OF THE WEEK:

HUSH / HOLIDAYS

Because Luke wants to cover Star Wars in our ‘Episode 7’, and because we both streamed a couple of horror titles this week, we decided to dig into those. What we liked and what we didn’t. We covered the trailers a couple episodes ago; home invasion indie ‘Hush’ and anthology horror ’Holidays’.

In Hush, we talk about expectations from the trailer, the reality of the film, pacing and execution. It’s available on Netflix – in Australia no less. Is the trailer scarier than the movie? Is Maddie responsible for John’s death? Why didn’t she bandage her wound before putting her jeans back on?

Luke’s love for horror anthology runs deep but this is a first for Sams, and it’s Kevin Smith who brought him here. We cover our favourite segments, which may differ from the ‘best’ segment. The flow of an anthology film is important and we discuss the ups and downs of this one.

How does the acting fare? Which actor does Sams know? Does either film have good pacing and the right amount of scares and gore? Do they get the GAFF Seal of Approval? Join us AFTER watching both films!

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The Gaff #005: The Walking Dead S6 Finale

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THIS WEEK ON THE GAFF:

Deviating from our original topic at the loss of our guest, we decide to talk about the Season 6 finale of The Walking Dead. TWD finally introduced us to Negan and Lucille, and Sams decided that was a worthwhile reason to check back in on the show.

WEEKLY REWIND:

Luke watched American History X and Requiem for a Dream in prep for this week’s original topic. Sams watched Gerard Butler action movie, London Has Fallen. We also talk briefly about Ender’s Game.

TRAILER TRASH:

Following the cast pic reveal, we finally get a proper glimpse at the first ‘A Star Wars Story’ film; STAR WARS: ROGUE ONE. We talk about the teaser for the teaser on GMA, discover Luke absolutely cannot pronounce ‘Bothans’, and revel in the voiceover from one Forest Whitaker.

Mel Gibson’s latest has him on the hunt for his daughter, in BLOOD FATHER. A grizzled Gibson makes us wonder about the Mad Max 4 that might have been. One would hope NOT Son of Max.

It’s no secret that we’re both Batman fans, so we were excited to see the first footage of animated adaptation, BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE. The latest in DC’s animated offerings, it looks faithful but will it hold its own against the Dark Knight Returns adaptation?

Sams expresses his love for Paul Dano and we marvel at the sheer absurdity of SWISS ARMY MAN. Daniel Radcliffe plays a talking, karate-chopping, farting corpse that becomes Paul Dano’s best friend.

TOPIC OF THE WEEK:

THE WALKING DEAD S6 FINALE

‘Previously on AMC’s The Walking Dead’… well, Sams wouldn’t know cause he hasn’t been watching! He dropped out after Season 4. Luke talks about waning interest during Season 5.

We cover a lot of ground here. Sams liked Season 1 so much it spurred him to read the first 90-odd issues of the comics. Even getting an issue signed by inker Tony Moore. But, he also explains his abandoning the show, and it mostly boils down to the handling of a particular Governor and a certain anti-climactic war waged against said Governor.

However, he decided to jump into the S6 finale for the introduction of his favourite villain, Negan. Sams went in with low expectations and gives his opinion on the episode itself, compares The Governor and Negan, and talks about Negan as a charismatic villain, his casting in Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and who he would’ve cast as The Governor. There’s also some discussion of the difference between Laurie’s death and Rick’s grieving her as seen in the show versus the comics.

More generally we talk about; the appearance of Trevor from GTA V, the hopelessness of the situation for our main characters, the problem of child actors growing up, the importance of writing and signage in the show’s visuals, foreshadowing character demises, RVs on AMC, and the Lucille victim in the comics and who it might be in the show.

Is there a difference in the AMC audiences for The Walking Dead versus Breaking Bad? How faithful was the finale to the comic book source material? Can we forgive the show for leaving us with THAT cliffhanger ending? Will Sams watch Season 7? The answers await your ears in this episode.

We consider the future of the show and the introduction of super-communities, the potential fallout from this finale’s cliffhanger, and briefly mention other upcoming comic book adaptations Preacher (also for AMC) and The Boys.

CONTACT US:

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The Gaff #004: Future of the Cinema-going Experience

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THIS WEEK ON THE GAFF:

Sams & Luke debate the future of the cinema-going experience as they discuss new release, on-demand platform ‘The Screening Room’, other subscription services, high frame rate (HFR), 3D and even virtual reality.

WEEKLY REWIND / TRAILER REEL:

Luke recounts seeing Brian Wilson at the Sydney Opera House. Sam encourages him to check out the biopic Love & Mercy. We take a couple of short detours into covering our opinion on 10 Cloverfield Lane’s originally intended ending and Sams rants about Bait 3D.

The boys talk about the upcoming Stan Original series ‘Wolf Creek’ and its first full trailer. We also talk about silent home invasion indie horror ‘Hush’, ‘Everybody Wants Some’ Richard Linklater’s spiritual successor to Dazed and Confused, and ‘Search Party’ the latest comedy from Hangover director Todd Phillips.

OUR FOCUS OF THE WEEK:

THE SCREENING ROOM:

Sean Parker’s The Screening Room promises day-and-date on-demand viewing of new release films at home for US$50 for a 48-hour rental window, on a US$150 set-top box.

We cover a lot of ground here; studios and filmmakers who support/oppose the idea, the cost vs value of the whole proposition, Sams’ belief in the cinema as a cathedral, fancy options when it comes to venue or premium tickets, standard Australian ticket pricing, the forming of UNISPHE as a home entertainment distributor, large format screens such as IMAX, the atmosphere and collective reaction of an audience, special event screenings with Q&As and special guests, streaming bandwidth and quality issues, notion of movies as disposable entertainment and the rise of high production value cable TV shows.

As we move on to talk about the evolution of cinema, we focus on the current iteration of 3D and whether it enhances the experience. We weigh up the differences between shot in 3D vs post-conversion and staged depth vs gimmick pop-up effects. Luke even tries on active, home use 3D glasses on-air for your amusement as we talk about good and bad examples of the format.

Beyond 3D, we talk about high-frame rate (HFR) and if it enhances or detracts from the viewing experience. In the case of fantasy against reality, do we need HFR? How does it combine with 3D.

Finally we touch on VOD options, piracy, subscription services, convenience, escapism, the importance of a screening space, film vs digital and audience participation.

FAST FORWARD:

On the next episode of The Gaff we had intended to talk about extreme films such as Requiem for a Dream, American History X and Trainspotting. Instead you’ll find we settle on the Walking Dead S6 finale. Make sure you watch before listening in next ep!

Just a reminder that we’re available via iTunes, Stitcher, LibSyn and the DIYFS website. Please subscribe if you like what you hear and reach out to us:

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In Defence of… Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

**Disclaimer – This is just how I perceive the film, not the ‘correct’ way, or the way that everyone should.
This what I, CorduroySams, liked and didn’t like about Batman v Superman**

** Also… SPOILERS! **

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So when this film came out, I dropped that it was a 7/10 – all darkness and no fun. The amount of people messaging me with “When are you going to review BvS?”, “Why did you like it so much?”, and “WHAT?! A 7/10?! WHAT, DID YOU THINK IT WAS ANT-MAN?!?!” and I reply to them “Soon”, “I just enjoyed the fucker”, and “No, I didn’t think it was Ant-Man, did you see a 3/10?”

So I thought I’d write up a ‘small’ review. I will also explain my scale to people in the first paragraph, so you understand why it sits at a 7 out of 10 for me. Since people now believe 7 is a “FUCKING MASTERPIECE”, I think a scale of 1-10 needs to be spelled out to them… sadly.

Firstly, my scale. My scale actually goes to 12. I’ll explain 1-10 first.

1 – Shit
2 – Not so Shit
3 – Below Average
4 – Under Average
5 – Average
6 -Above Average
7 – Over Average
8 – Close to good
9 – Pre-tty, Pre-tty, Pretty Good.
10 – Good.

At this point you ask, “So explain 11 and 12, Sams!” as I will:

11 – Great, Fantastic, Amazing
12 – Masterpiece, cannot be topped.

A rating of ’11’ is kind of common. During the year there will be, on average, 3-5 films that I see that, to me, are astonishing. And then there is the sacred ’12’ rating which is a rarity. It’s not so often I will give a film a ’12’. And there’s only been two films I believe are worthy of my 12/10 rating: 12 Angry Men and Whiplash (and maybe When Harry Met Sally). The only two films ever, for me, to kneel at cinema god-like. Now saying that, I know there are more out there that reach this level; I just haven’t seen them yet. If you can’t tell, this system was inspired by This Is Spinal Tap.

Okay, so how does Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice get a 7/10 from me?

Let me explain.

There are some things in this film that I goddamn adored, and have never seen or heard in a lot of other comic book movies. And then… there are other things that make me sad. Given that the list of things I liked is a lot longer than the list of things I didn’t like, I’ll be flat out honest in this piece. So I’ll start with what I loved.

Cinematography

Easily the best thing in this movie is the cinematography. You have scenes in BvS like the origin scene of Batman right at the start which are shot so fucking beautifully that it’s amazing. The storyboard was a comic book that Snyder brings to life to the screen, would love to see the storyboards on this film, it would look just like a comic book!

You have scenes in BvS like the origin scene of Batman right at the start which are shot so fucking beautifully that its amazing; the close up shot of pearls of Martha’s neck breaking as the gun shoots a bullet into her skull. Fucking beautifully shot, and again something that has been missing from… I would say 8/10 comic book movies. Now I know in defence of this you may say: “Sams have you not seen Whedon’s shots in Avengers?” and I say to you Yes. I have but they are NOT as frequent as the works of Snyder and Larry Fong (DOP on BvS). This movie plays like a comic book and that has been something missing from this genre. As someone who has shot on cinema quality cameras and tried my absolute most to make shots look as perfect as they can be on a screen, this film’s cinematography is something to appreciate as art. Purely the greatest thing in BvS – Marvel, take notes.

Music Score

Now, not the best score in a film, but I goddamn adored it. It’s Han Zimmer’s best for a comic book film. So much heart, and so much effort is in most of these tracks, especially the character themes. And the music drives a lot of the scenes more than the movie itself. With the help of Junkie XL (what a name), who was also the composer for Mad Max Fury Road, and Warner Bros., you took mad advantage of that. This is one of the most phenomenal soundtracks featured in any comic book film to date.

Characters & Actors

Even if you hated this movie, if anything, you cannot diss the acting from Affleck, Cavil, Gadot, Irons, and I will include Eisenberg because the motherfucker was just so evil, which brings us to…

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Batman

Now firstly, anyone who said Ben Affleck would suck as Batman/Bruce Wayne are probably eating their words now! Ben’s acting more than makes up for that assumption, and now you’re biting your words for this. I’ll admit the character side of Batman was unusual; to see him straight up kill dudes in it, but he has in comics before and after fighting crime for 20 years, the guy is starting to get sick of people’s shit. By the end of the movie he realises it’s not the right way to do it, and should be a better vigilante.

Also, one thing that makes me happy, Bruce and Batman is a detective more in this than ANY OTHER Batman film, going back to the roots of the character in the original comic book. Seeing elements of Batman that we never got before on the big screen, and really giving him so much more depth than ever before.

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Superman

Not a big fan of Superman in general but Henry Cavill is the only actor since Dean Caine to make me excited to look at the character again. Superman in this one is being challenged by everyone in a world where he just wants to help protect it from itself and other threats. I stand by saying that BvS is a solid Batman film, but they don’t ignore the Superman character or Clark Kent. There are times where I found parts of this… slow, to say the least. Having said that, I am not the biggest fan or most learned of the character. So for what I saw, I enjoyed. For the most part.

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Lex Luthor

As far as villains go, fuck me, Lex is evil. Yes, nothing like the comics, and more like the Joker if anything. But the motherfucker wants power more than anyone else I have seen in a DC film. He literally despises anyone with a shred of more power or access than himself more than anyone else.

My assumption of the character is that Lex Jr is that he has grown with power for the last 20-30 years of his life, and growing up with that power has also grown his greed. Not for money, but to be more powerful than anyone else in his family. And when his father is out of the picture he becomes obsessed with being that powerful. Until a God enters the picture, and when he does his greed becomes stronger than ever. He wants a God to kneel before him, and eventually he does. Evil, cynical, and just a straight-up prick. Eisenberg made the character so strongly memorable for me, and for those things I loved his portrayal.

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Lois Lane

When you give a thin character like Lois Lane a lot of screen time in a movie, it just doesn’t work out. Amy Adams shows this really hard with only one scene being performed well, which is only four words; “It’s his mother’s name”. It’s hard when that’s all she says, and actually acts those lines.

The issue is here the film is huge, and the most lacking part of the film for me is that the relationship between Lane and Kent is… lacklustre and forced. We have to like this because it may be promised. Also, Lane comes across as your classic Mary Jane, a Damsel in Distress. She’s not. Lois Lane is a powerful female character from the DC comics that really can stand for anything… but in BvS she is a tool used to get Superman’s attention, which reveals him as Clark Kent more obviously than his fucking glasses.

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Wonder Woman (a.k.a. Diana Prince)

I’ll be flat out honest. I have no understanding or knowledge of the character of Wonder Woman/Diana Prince. It was just a character that never excited me. Next to Superman, I’ve always been a hardcore Batman fan. But I loved Gadot’s performance as Wonder Woman/Diana. She stole the screen every time she appeared. I felt myself slapping my legs to the beat of the drums when she appeared in that badass outfit. She’s powerful, confident, and smart and strong… and this just makes me more excited for her standalone film coming out next year.

The casting was a fitting choice, although I still think Wonder Woman should be more of a brute, but still not complaining about it. Gadot makes the Amazonian Princess the warrior that everyone knows and loves (me as well now). I’m not 100% sold on the character because, yes, not a lot of screen time in this film. But remember it is BATMAN v SUPERMAN, she is only a side character in this movie. I want more, and I’m sure that was Zack Snyder’s, and Warner Bros.’ intention with her character.

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Alfred Pennyworth

Jeremy Irons’ relationship as Alfred to Affleck’s Bruce Wayne was great. It reminded me more of Earth One Alfred, and not the servant that did things for Master Bruce because he was afraid of being cut out of the will, but instead wants to help him and make sure he is in the right direction. Even with his decision-making he guides Bruce in the right way, by not suggesting, but outright telling him that Superman might not be the villain he has come to suspect.

This character relationship between the two makes me keen and excited for the standalone Batman flick. Finally we dropped the fragile and campy Alfreds from previous instalments and gained the man that trains Batman to be strong.

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Doomsday

So, where do I stand on Doomsday? I didn’t hate it, if that’s what you mean. He was scary, and big, and the whole destruction porn doesn’t faze me for one reason. Shit isn’t real! Doomsday for me was entertaining and actually frightening. The idea of the trinity taking on a character like this as their introduction to each other? Well talk about a mother-flipping challenge!

What I don’t like about Doomsday? The fact it was given away in a trailer. Why fuck that up, WB/DC?! Did you not see how Terminator killed Genisys?? You give away the biggest deal of the film, and instantly you have nothing to hide from your audience. I know you were nervous but fuck me if you had hidden this you would have been fine and stable for at least a bit. You left nothing for the audience to guess. And if you had hidden this from us, it would’ve worked better. But you screwed that up… didn’t you?

So, that’s it for the acting/characters, went on a streak but I felt some of the performances had something to be said. So sue me.

I gotta say this, I can’t contain my love for the opening scene. It’s not needed at all, we’ve seen it and heard it all before! BUT FUCK ME! It has never been told this perfectly, with only one word in the whole scene. The cinematography is so beautifully done that you forget you’re watching a movie and literally think you’re watching a motion comic book. Now I know, it’s not down Crime Alley/Park Row as the legend is said of the location of Martha and Thomas Wayne, but man, I do not care. Synder knows how to make moments of history of this world come alive; and this is the greatest example of it. Everyone I know to have seen the film once or twice says the same as each other: “Man, we do not need another Batman origin story. But fuck me, it was worth it.”

I’ma add one more thing to this. A little point of the scene if you will, in this scene you watch Thomas Wayne defend his family by standing in front of his Wife and Child to the gunman. And he swings a punch but the gunman shoots and kills Thomas . That is the last thought that Bruce has of his father; a strong man who never stopped. That moment shapes Bruce into the Batman he is in this series.

** SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT**

Tone

BvS is a dark film. Which I like. Some say it’s too dark and no fun. Which I loved. I wanted a dark superhero movie because I’m sick of how bright and happy it is in the Marvel cinematic universe. I’m just over this ‘fun’ logic they give us, where no one dies, everyone is always a friend in the end — 10/10 how civil war will end; just watch both Avengers movies and you’ll have Stark and Cap holding hands saying “sry bro, will miss you!” — Whereas DC brings in a character like Doomsday, and gave it away horribly (shit marketing team there) which made fans say, “Well, that’s pointless ’cause they will never kill off Superman”.

And the fuckers did.

They killed off superman.

An attempt at something Marvel has gotten scared shitless over, even with a small side character like Phil Coulson. In a desperate attempt to keep the fans on their side they will bring him back to keep everyone happy; but will fuck up a character like the Mandarin. And please, do not mention Quicksilver in Age of Ultron. Introducing him, and killing him off in the same film! What is this, the same writing staff as AMC’s The Walking Dead?

DC, you grew balls! Big, brass, mother-fucking balls, and I love you for it! Thank you. Thank you, for growing these beautiful plums, in a beautiful bluish hue. (Three people, if they had read this far, will lose their shit at that).

BvS also uses modern terrorism in an attempt to make both Superman and the American government look like the bad guy by using Western terrorism and the terrorism of the Middle East. Example of Western Terrorism American president without saying no decides to nuke Doomsday without thinking of what it will do to Superman who is trying to do the right thing by helping them, which if he did his plan would of worked and the world would of been safe. Also looking at terrorism of Superman/Kryptonians destroying cities and monuments as aliens with no respect for humans, and in a modern way to get the modern audience on the side of understanding the best thing to do is to use what our real fear is in this world at the moment; being terrorism.

Colour grade

BvS is getting a lot of flack for these two things. As someone who takes pride in his own editing and grading, I can honestly say I feel that BvS is on the ball. The grading is great. It matches the tone explained above and has the warm feelings for Superman, the cold feelings for Batman and the gritty feeling for Doomsday. I love a well-shot and graded film. Doesn’t at fail at any point in making you feel what it wants you to feel, just by colour alone, and makes you believe those moments.

Editing

The editing is getting heaps of shade. I feel the issue here is people are getting it mixed with ‘pacing’. Now there’re a lot of fuck ups with pacing, that if the scenes were placed in the correct order, it would actually solve a lot of people’s issues. Some being that Lex changes suits in one scene because the start of the scene was a flashback and the end of the scene was bullshit and fucking confusing. Granted I didn’t notice it until the second viewing but still if those issues were fixed, we would have a lot of things sorted out. But please don’t hate on the editing. The film was well cut. The issue is in the screenplay…

Screenplay

Look I followed the plots happening in this film and didn’t find it confusing. But man, I can see why this pissed people off. The amount of subplots in this film would make anyone that is new to this universe, or a Marvel expert (from the films, not the comics) hate this film. It’s too much for some to be able to pay attention.

But for me, knowing the characters and this universe I didn’t think that was the bad thing about the screenplay. For me, it has to do with being based on my favourite comic book arc, The Dark Knight Returns. It only has one fucking scene from the comic, and puts it in there with hopes that it’s enough. It’s not enough! I get that Batman doesn’t trust Superman, but geez there are 2 books that set it up in TDKR. Where the fuck is that!?

And the immediate turnaround of the multiple ‘Martha’s??? — I admit guilty pleasure as a mama’s boy I dug this — still isn’t as strong as the comic. Batman should’ve kicked Supe’s dick in and said “Remember, I can kill you when I want. So be cool, dick”. Rather than freaking out over a name coincidence. Look I enjoy the emotion in the scene but its so thin in reality. Bad Goyer and Terrio. BAD! *Slaps hands*

Also, stop giving Snyder shit for the script. Yes, it’s a bad one. But his job as director is to present that script in the best way possible and he does make it a lot more bearable than it would be on the page, so give the mother fucker a break. Instead write your tweets to David Goyer and Chris Terrio. Again, I will defend this. The script is not all shit. There is some well-written dialogue for example:

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“What we call God depends upon our tribe, Clark Joe. Because God is tribal. God takes sides. No man in the sky intervened when I was a boy to deliver me from daddy’s fist and abominations. Mm. I figured way back: If God is all powerful — he cannot be all good.

And if God is all good, he cannot be all powerful. Just like you.”
— Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg)

Some of these lines of dialogue are written and performed with so much heart and in context of the character they are based on. It is one of the things that holds the film together well, whether it’s wit, or emotional writing, in some scenes it’s pulled off. Especially how Eisenberg pulls them off, chews the scenery and at the same time steals the show.

One thing that shits me with the film is the geography. What the fuck? Gotham is across the pond to Metropolis? Now this may be realistic in the comics and such, but even then, what the fuck?! Then, why does Gotham have Batman when Supes could probably decimate the crime in Gotham in one night? This makes no sense. I guess it makes sense in the world building but I always had this idea that Metropolis was like Vancouver in Canada, more towards that side of North America, and Gotham was like Chicago/Boston/New Jersey. How did these end up so close together? I… I just can’t even try to defend this. Im sorry. I failed you BvS, you’re on your own for this one.

Admittedly there is not a lot that annoyed me about the film that should. Comes down to the pacing of the screenplay and the geography of this new DCEU that really pissed me off. But, this isn’t the worst Batman movie to come out — yes, I said Batman movie, Batfleck’s moments were a lot stronger than Superman’s, so it’s a Batman movie to me and for a lot of other people.

Clark and Lois’s moments are really boring to a lot of people and some were not even needed. We need to take Amy Adam’s screen time and give it to Gal Gadot. Whether she be playing Wonder Woman or Diana Prince. Whatever, Adam’s part in this is not needed as much as it is made out to be, and that time would be better spent developing Diana Prince’s character.

When it comes down to it, it’s painting a huge fucking picture in 2-3 hours and it doesn’t do too bad a job of it. I know that there will be a fan edit of the film to take out some unnecessary scenes, and probably rearrange scene order and then people might respect it. But I can’t hate this movie. I’ve seen it 3 times now and each time it doesn’t slow down for me, it excites me and I notice small things I missed in the background and such. For me I got what I wanted/predicted: a dark Batman movie. And I am excited to see what comes next of this DCEU. Suicide Squad looks like it will have the fun that everyone is so upset about. That’s the Marvel Effect — comic book movies can’t be dark… THEY HAVE TO BE FUN!

If anything, this isn’t a perfect film. But what fucking comic book movie is? Hardly any will make it to a solid 10/10. They’re all above average and then Deadpool comes around, which has content we don’t get often in the comic book genre and we lose our lids! TEN-OUTTA-TEN FROM EVERYONE! Comic book movies have come a far way since Raimi’s Spider-Man — there were others before that, but fuck it, that’s the one where everyone started to care about this genre — and realistically since then, there has only ever been two comic book movies that reach a solid 11/10 on my scale: Dredd and Spider-Man 2.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is an epic at nearly 3 hours long (whether theatrical or the upcoming extended cut) and has a whole lot of shit going on. It’s a world building exercise and shows a lot of potential for the series of films to come. From what I have seen from negative reviews, both fan and critical, it’s that BvS is something they doesn’t match what they’ve seen in the Marvel films. So you will hear a lot of “It’s too dark, not funny, and not fun”. Translation: “It’s not a Marvel film”; which really doesn’t even discuss the film itself. Yes, there are a lot of subplots in it that cover the range of drama, action, political and some romantic, but it gives this film and the characters in it a whole lot more depth than ever before.

For me BvS had what I wanted to see, which was not a Marvel movie. PERFECT! It also has elements that don’t get used to powerful effect as they should in Marvel movies: Cinematography, Colour Grading, Score and ballsy moments. That’s what I wanted to see. I gave it a 7/10 because there are flaws in this movie, but what movie in the comic book genre doesn’t?

In a world where people defend how great the Fast and Furious franchise is or expound on Michael Bay movies, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is not bad, it’s just different to what the Marvel audience and critics wanted. You want a bad comic book movie? Feel free to watch The Punisher with Dolph Lundgren. Because how the fuck can you hate one of the best fights in any superhero movie you have seen or will see:

Batman fighting Superman

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Which was fucking awesome.

Peace off

~ CorduroySams

The Gaff #003: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

The Gaff Podcast | 3000px LQ10 Artwork

THIS WEEK ON THE GAFF:

We return from a short break with a bumper 2-hour superhero special! Sams and I are joined in the studio – that’s right, a proper studio recording! Thanks JMG Studios – by Sams’ friend Fergus Halliday, film reviewer for entertainment website, The Iris.

WEEKLY REWIND:

Sams saw two comedies this week, the long-overdue My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 and Sacha Baron Cohen’s Grimsby. Luke finally got around to watching Deadpool after all the hype and finished up Black Sails: Season 3. Fergus has been watching Shameless and American Crime Story.

TRAILER REEL:

The three of us talk about the slew of recent horror trailers, including LIGHTS OUT, CONJURING 2 and THE DARKNESS. We also look at two very different comedies that deal with war; Ricky Gervais dodging dangerous reporting in SPECIAL CORRESPONDENTS, and Jonah Hill and Miles Teller running guns in WAR DOGS. Finally, we look at the LEGO Batman Movie teaser as the perfect segue to…

OUR FOCUS OF THE WEEK:

BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE

We decided we wouldn’t spoil the movie… and kinda spoiled a bunch of stuff anyway. Decidedly less so than 10 Cloverfield Lane though.

Anywho, we talk about; the several opening prologues, script issues, Doomsday’s reveal, universe building and how the DCEU is playing catch up with the MCU, the serious tone, Wonder Woman finally hitting the big screen, detective work and political thriller elements, surprisingly good Batfleck, the titular conflict between Supes and Batsy and the chasm of acting skill between them, Lois Lane’s lack of anything to do and orphan boys bonding over their mothers.

We discover one podcast participant loves Lex Luthor less than the other two and theorise what content may appear in the extended cut. We discuss the mixed metaphors of Christ-like symbolism and 9/11 imagery evoking the war on terrorism, the overall pacing of the piece, Snyder’s comic book cinematography sensibility and the Hans Zimmer & Junkie XL score.

We break down the Knightmare sequence and the cameos that introduce us to the rest of the Justice League heroes.The fact that BvS:DoJ acts as a giant teaser has us talking about the difference between the CW Grant Gustin Flash and the DCEU Ezra Miller Flash, and looking forward to the 2017, WWI-set Wonder Woman film. Before we sign off, Sams shares an anecdote about the time Zack Snyder answered his question about film piracy.

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