Aisle of the Damned: 07/14/17- With Steve Urkel as Electro

Up next: Sadie Hawkins DanceHe’s doins’t whatever a spider can, but can Spider-Man: Homecoming save the wallcrawler from the evil clutches of the Sony executives? We discuss it in this episode. Kent also takes a look at the Sam Elliott character piece The Hero.

In addition, we have some various DCEU and Quentin Tarantino news, and a look at the trailer for another Child’s Play sequel for your earholes.

All this and less on Aisle of the Damned!

Music:
The Aquabats- Stuck in a Movie
Michael Giacchino- Spider-Man Theme Song
The Ramones- Spider-Man

Aisle of the Damned: 8/11/16- Suicide is Aimless

Mom, my crayons melted

Bryan and Kent take on a mission with little chance of survival; they’re bringing you their thoughts on Warner Bros.’ latest DC offerings, the controversial-for-all-of-five-minutes-because-of-an-R-rating Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (The Ultimate Cut) and David Ayer’s Suicide Squad.

After discussing the showy failures of Squad, they also discuss the tempered rewards of the 13th film in the Star Trek franchise, Star Trek Beyond.

Plus, Kent talks about Jason Bourne and Lights Out and the fellas give their recommendations for the week, one DC related and one decidedly not.

All this and less on Aisle of the Damned!

Music:

The Aquabats– Stuck in a Movie
Death Hymn Number 9– I Reckon You Gonna Die

Kent’s Damned Movie Reviews: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Sad Batman is Sad

I’ve been a defender of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. Despite the issues I have with it (the terrible color correction, the insane death of Jonathan Kent, etc.), I thought it made the best of some source material that I always found questionable, aka forcing a Xerox of Batman’s spirit quest around the world into his mythology. I guess I was so relieved to finally have a Superman movie without an awful, over-the-top bumbling Clark Kent performance, a nonsense Luthor scheme, fluctuating powers that defy the movie’s internal logic, bastard kids or a thoroughly dislikable Lois Lane that I could overlook the flaws. After all, despite the bleakness, there’s promise in the film. Clark has finished a costly first battle and is in a position to use that sacrifice to learn and be the hero he should be. He can take his actions from Man of Steel and build on them, vowing to never take another life. Though unlike all the people who apparently have forgotten both the comics and the ending of their beloved Superman II, I had no problem with Clark killing Zod, seeing as how he’s the one character Superman has ever knowingly offed.

The question was, would the sequel build on that promise, or would it double down on the unique problems this take brought to the franchise? All of the marketing material seemed to indicate this would not so much be a Superman sequel as either a proto-Justice League movie or a jumping off point to a Frank Miller Batman franchise, none of which sounded particularly appealing. Unfortunately, this is largely correct. Superman seems like an also-ran in his own film for the most part.

After a strangely gripping prologue that gives a street level view of the devastation wrought by the battle between Clark and Zod in Man of Steel, the film settles in for an hour or so, spending a lot of time introducing us to this version of Batman, who follows the natural through line from Burton to Nolan to Snyder, finally adopting a fully-functional Dark Knight Returns-style Batman who is equal parts psychotic and broken. An impotent man who takes out his fury by torturing criminals and not especially caring if people die in his pursuit of self-serving justice. It’s certainly not my favorite style of Batman (I skew much farther towards the Denny O’Neil-style well-rounded version) but much as certain fanboys may deny it, this version of Batman is what many of them have been angling for.  Be careful what you wish for.

Meanwhile, we see Superman performing many acts of heroism, saving people around the world from disasters, intercut with footage of a world who doesn’t know how to react to him or trust him. It’s not so much a bad portrayal of Kal-El, but it certainly does create a morose environment surrounding him. After much sturm and drang, this overall paranoia leads to the confrontation of the title. To reveal much more would be to give away the mechanics of the plot, but it is fair to point out the much touted appearances by other Justice League members don’t just feel distracting, but actually lower the excitement over Warners’ plans for their characters.

The good news is that while the film is full of bad ideas, the ideas are filmed and acted competently. The bad news is that competence doesn’t fix bad ideas, it simply makes them go down easier. Make no mistake; there are some things to enjoy in the film which make it still worth seeing. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman does great things with her limited screentime. Gadot herself, apart from seeming to have trouble getting her Israeli accent around some of the overinflated dialogue, is a wonderful physical actress. Jeremy Irons’ Alfred manages to be an absolutely necessary source of humor in an otherwise dour affair. The majority of the acting is fine, even Ben Affleck’s, though he comes up short selling Batman’s character arc and revelation moment. The major exception is Jessie Eisenberg who seems to be edited in from a completely different film. While I’ve never been a fan of the way Luthor has been used in the Superman films, it’s quite a shock to go from the intelligent menace of Kevin Spacey’s portrayal to Eisenberg’s collection of tics and vocal contortions masquerading as a performance. He plays Lex Luthor as some kind of bizarre Joker variation, his motivation either making him pathetic or a puppet. Sometimes he is effectively creepy, but mostly he comes off as annoying.

The plot grabs famous storylines from the two characters at random like Scrabble tiles from a bag. In the end, what we have is a mess. A mess that is interesting, but overly long and needlessly complicated. It has a fourth act tacked on because there was never a scenario where the Superman/Batman fight could be dramatically satisfying as a conclusion.

Worse, in their misguided race to force a rivalry with Marvel Studios, Warner Bros. attempts to cram huge amounts of set-up into the film and none of that set-up feels earned. Watching it feels like we missed a few movies that were released between Man of Steel and now. Many audience members may even be completely lost as to what a lot of what is going on. When your entire movie is based on laying a foundation for future installments, that should be rather disconcerting. As of this moment, I’m not particularly looking forward to Justice League. Or Suicide Squad with its copy and paste characters who look like they stepped out of a 90s pitch meeting when “edgy” was still a buzzword. Wonder Woman and the Lego Batman Movie are they only DC film projects which continue to pique my interest. As I am a person who was a big DC fan until fairly recently, that kind of reaction should have Warner Bros. concerned. Somehow, I don’t think they’ll care.

(Two and a half damns given out of five)

Aisle of the Damned: 3/29/16- Batman Can’t Get a Boner

The right one is up front

In the historic tradition of such epic cinematic grudge matches as Godzilla vs Mothra and Kramer vs Kramer comes Batman v Superman. As DC bets the farm on Frank Miller fanboys, Bryan and Kent also set about to fighting; one of them hates it while the other… hates it less. Also, looks at 10 Cloverfield Lane, London Has Fallen, Zootopia, the Ghostbusters ’16 trailer and our host recommendations. All this and less on Aisle of the Damned.

Music:
The Aquabats- Stuck in a Movie
Will Arnett- Untitled Self Portrait

Kent’s Damned Movie Reviews: Argo


Ben, the two of us need look no more...
Ben Affleck has made one of the best films of the year.

And no, I never thought I’d say those words. Especially considering fifteen years ago the only things he seemed to be any good in were Kevin Smith movies (and the great commentaries on the accompanying DVDs, largely consisting of making fun of Affleck to his face.)

In Argo, Affleck has managed to capture a specific place and time in the history of 20th Century American outrage and done so in a way that is not so much in the tradition of the melodramatic Oscar-bait that usually accompanies the kinds of films that receive the type of praise it has, but that is highly entertaining and, dare I say it, fun to watch.

A lot of the credit no doubt comes from the cast he’s assembled. While Affleck would be considered the main character of the piece, he wisely underplays his portrayal of CIA extraction expert Tony Mendez, following up his humorous and sad introduction with a subtle performance that lets others get the glory. John Goodman and Alan Arkin practically steal the film out from under him and deserve all the praise that can be ladled upon them during this awards season. They are not just engaging, but just on the right side of softly cynical, knowing the system that needs to be worked, even as they acknowledge how ridiculous Hollywood is.

In a vastly streamlined account of a true story, the film recounts a classified incident from the days of the Iran hostage crisis. While the furious revolutionaries under the new Ayatollah laid into the American Embassy and took the US citizens inside hostage for over a year, a half-dozen low-level employees managed to escape the besieged compound and took refuge in the Canadian ambassador’s residence, hiding from the government. As a part of what Mendez’s boss (portrayed by the always great Bryan Cranston) calls, “by far the best bad idea we’ve got,” the CIA fabricated a film production, inserting the agent and then extracting him and the fugitive Americans under the guise of being a Canadian film crew, scouting locations in the Middle East. Goodman is John Chambers, a Oscar-winning make-up man for Planet of the Apes who has worked with the CIA before, while Arkin is a producer he brings into the plot in order to facilitate the business aspects of the operation.

Broken into three distinct acts, all of which are entertaining in their own way, Argo shows not just the escape of the Americans from the compound and their subsequent escape from Iran, but features a brilliantly funny portrait of Hollywood as the Agency puts together a piss-poor Star Wars rip-off over the course of four days in order to give their cover identities credibility. A screenplay is chosen, a table-read is performed and even the legendary comic artist Jack Kirby (Michael Parks) is recruited to produce production art. The humor and surreality of the Hollywood segment helps alleviate the tension just long enough before it is ratcheted up in a finale that is most likely not an accurate timeline of events, but is certainly fantastic filmmaking.

Argo is not a traditional spy film, political thriller or caper film. However, it manages to wrap up the best parts of all three into a shiny, new package while maintaining a high-wire act one could almost call “old-fashioned” in its style and entertainment value. (I will admit a certain amount of nerd-glee over the use of the 70’s era Warner Bros. logo at the beginning of the film, which immediately set me in the mood for what followed.) Despite knowing how the story ends, the film manages to keep the audience highly engaged in the fate of these countrymen in the face of overwhelming odds. That it is done with style, humor and top-notch acting makes it one of the most successful movies I have seen from 2012.

(Five out of five stars)