Snyder-Whedon mash-up ‘Justice League’ has no surprises, but works as a theme park ride (Movie review)

Comic book writers love their heroes, and are less likely to give love and attention to their villains. That’s human nature, I suppose, but boy does it hurt modern superhero movies. “Justice League” (2017), now available for home viewing, is the latest film to suffer from a bland, predictable villain, and it keeps a fun blockbuster from becoming something substantial. Steppenwolf – no, not that Steppenwolf – wants to destroy the world because, as a Geico commercial would say, “If you’re a supervillain, it’s what you do.”

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6 dumb things and 6 cool things about ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ (Movie commentary)

“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2106) is the epitome of a movie where the end result is less than the sum of its parts. The three-hour Ultimate Edition, when watched at home in about six sittings, is better than the theatrical edition, but it still has problems at its core. It also has some cool stuff – when separated from the movie’s overall context. In advance of this weekend’s “Justice League,” here are six cool things and six dumb things about last year’s DC Extended Universe blockbuster:

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‘Suicide Squad’ will someday be thought of as an OK film (Movie review)

For the sake of getting up to date on the DC Extended Universe, I watched “Suicide Squad”(2016), which is now available on HBO. It’s the most maligned of the four DCEU movies, rating a 6.2 on IMDB, compared to 6.6 for “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” 7.1 for “Man of Steel” and 7.6 for “Wonder Woman.” It has some major problems, but I actually connected with the characters faster than I did with Supes or Bats in their DCEU debuts, and I wouldn’t mind following this bunch into sequels so I can get to know them better.

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‘Batman’ flashback: ‘The Long Halloween’ (1996-97) (Comic book review)

(Note to readers: This is part of a series where I look back at various works of “Batman” lore from the perspective of a casual “Batman” fan who enjoys the current TV series, “Gotham.”)

In addition to its titular tie-in to the holiday, I found “The Long Halloween” (1996-97) to be a good “Batman” story to read now because it gives us comic-book portrayals of most of the rogues’ gallery to contrast with what we know from “Gotham.” At 13 issues, it’s not a one-sitting read, but it’s much less decompressed than the four-issue “Dark Knight Returns.” Writer Jeph Loeb and artist Tim Sale use big panels and colorist Gregory Wright favors black-and-white (even though it’s a color comic) to create a noir-soaked collection that flows like “Year One,” at least when read today. When it came out, this story was released over a 13-month span, so it must’ve felt like a very slow-burn yarn.

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‘Batman’ flashback: ‘The Killing Joke’ (1988) (Comic book review)

(Note to readers: This is part of a series where I look back at various works of “Batman” lore from the perspective of a heretofore casual “Batman” fan who enjoys the current TV series, “Gotham.”)

Completing the holy trinity of Bat-comics, after “The Dark Knight Returns” and “Batman: Year One,” comes “The Killing Joke” (1988). While Frank Miller wrote the first two, another comics legend, Alan Moore, penned this one. I know him best from “V for Vendetta,” which came out concurrently with “The Killing Joke” (and which was beautifully adapted into a movie in 2006) and five odd-but-fascinating “Star Wars: Devilworlds” tales.

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‘Batman’ flashback: ‘Batman: Year One’ (1987) (Comic book review)

(Note to readers: This is part of a series where I look back at various works of “Batman” lore from the perspective of a heretofore casual “Batman” fan who enjoys the current TV series, “Gotham.”)

Just as “The Dark Knight Returns” is considered the definitive late-career Batman story, “Batman: Year One” (1987) is hailed as the definitive early career Batman story. Remarkably, they were both written by Frank Miller, and within a year’s time. (And they’re both SET in the mid-Eighties, which requires a reader to understand the comic-book principles of multiverses and floating timelines.) But while “Returns” trod all-new ground, “Year One” trod ground that was already covered: Batman’s origin story, as told in “Detective Comics” No. 33 (1939) and “Batman” No. 27 (1948).

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‘Batman’ flashback: ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ (1986) (Comic book review)

(Note to readers: This is part of a series where I will look back at various works of “Batman” lore from the perspective of a casual “Batman” fan who enjoys the current TV series, “Gotham.”)

Something I should understand as I embark in my “Batman” journey is that I can’t be attached to continuity if I’m going to enjoy it. This is hard for me as a “Star Wars” Expanded Universe fan. “The Dark Knight Returns” (1986) is set in the year of its publication (elements such as Reagan being president and a cold war with Russia attest to this); 10 years after Batman’s retirement is sparked by the death of the second Robin, Jason Todd; when Bruce is 55 years old; and when Commissioner Gordon is about to retire. But writer Frank Miller – whose work I know from the deliciously stylish “Sin City” movies, which are live-action adaptations of his comics – wasn’t following the comic continuity of the time: Batman hadn’t been gone from the drugstore racks for a decade when he wrote this; he didn’t retire in 1976. Nor was Jason Todd dead, although the mainstream “Batman” comics did kill him off later.

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One-season wonders: ‘Birds of Prey’ (2002-03) (TV review)

On somewhat of a “Batman” kick while enjoying the latest strong season of “Gotham,” I decided to explore some other corners of the Bat-verse. While “The Killing Joke” or the Nolan films or “Batman: The Animated Series” might’ve been wise choices, I’m apparently a glutton for punishment, because I selected “Birds of Prey” (2002-03, WB; now streaming on CW Seed) as my window into past lore. While the 13-episode series is fodder for plenty of talking points and trivia – for example, it’s the only live action Bat-verse TV series other than the 1960s “Batman” and “Gotham” – it’s not particularly enjoyable to watch.

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First episode impressions: ‘Gotham’ Season 3 (TV review)

The “Gotham” Season 3 (8 p.m. Mondays on Fox) premiere showed again why it’s one of the best shows on TV – packing in lots of story and stylized comic-book intrigue while staying fairly faithful to the lore. As the “Mad City” arc begins, it’s a good time to look up the “Batman” comic histories of some of the new characters while also checking in with an old favorite who is about to undergo a major change.

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Checking in on ‘Gotham’s’ rogues gallery as Season 2 winds down

Part of the fun of watching “Batman: The Animated Series” after school in the ’90s was waiting for the title card to come up, as it usually revealed the featured villain in the episode. Sometimes as an episode wrapped up and Batman delivered a bad guy to Arkham Asylum, we’d get glimpses of many members of the rogues gallery in their cells, and sometimes multiple villains would star in the same episode.

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