The One With “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” In It

Batman v. Superman!

Which grim-‘n’-gritty breakfast mascot’s product do you think should win: Batman Chocolate Strawberry cereal or Superman Caramel Crunch cereal? Both are real things now in stores, and they’re banking on this movie to sell them somehow.

Look, everyone else online had a turn venting about Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice the past few days, so I want my turn now. The TL;DR version:

* Not the worst Zack Snyder film ever
* Definitely not the worst super-hero film ever
* It had good things in it
* The good things were outnumbered
* I don’t actively root against DC’s films to fail, but I’m not gonna mollycoddle them with blind adulation, because superheroes are not my religion
* Filmmakers still don’t get Superman
* This movie is more about superpowers than about superheroes
* I’ve been collecting comics for 37 years and I’m 98% certain I’m not this film’s target audience
* If Monday night’s Supergirl/The Flash crossover was an Earth-1 team-up, BvS is its Earth-3 doppelgänger

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Ben Affleck IS Batman IN “Batman Presents Man of Steel 2”

Ben Affleck, Batman

Who wants a copy of my audition reel? Show of hands? (photo credit: GabboT via photopin cc)

It is written! Hollywood Reporter and other official sources have confirmed the Bat-hunt is over: Academy Award Winner Ben Affleck will be following in the footsteps of Christian Bale as the new Batman in the still-untitled DC film, allegedly a Man of Steel sequel even though Batman has more box-office clout, sells more comics, and inspires funnier memes.

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“Argo”: Heroics More Harrowing Than Hilarious

Ben Affleck, "Argo"I can’t remember which reviewer or random Internet commenter gave me the impression that director/actor Ben Affleck’s new film Argo was surprisingly funny, or words to that effect. If I could recall their identity, I’d express mild annoyance in their general direction. My general opinion is in lockstep with the theater-going majority who’ve given it a collective thumbs-up and touted it as a likely nominee at next year’s Academy Awards in some fashion, but for some reason I walked into it expecting something more along the lines of satirical movies-about-movies such as Wag the Dog, Living in Oblivion, or even The Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult. My expectations were a little off-base.

Certainly the film takes its potshots at Hollywood. Affleck is our hero Tony Mendez, a CIA agent assigned to the task of exfiltrating six stranded Americans from Iran during its prime hostage-taking years. His plan: enter the country posing as a filmmaker, build cover identities for the sextet as part of his film crew, and hustle them out of the country via commercial airline. Phase One of his plan enlists John Goodman as an Oscar-winning makeup artist, who in turn recruits Alan Arkin as a longtime director. The three of them create a fake production company, purchase a space-opera script in turnaround for chump change, hire a storyboard artist, and spend CIA dollars on a lavish pre-production advertising campaign and press-party announcing their fake intent to pretend to rip off Star Wars. Goodman and Arkin have all the best scenes as old friends who know the eccentricities of their surroundings all too well as they push their faux-flick Argo upon an audience that will never see a frame of it.

The moviemaking scenes comprise a minority portion of the running time. They’re prefaced with a jolting reenactment of the day the American embassy fell, and surrounded by a subdued political thriller whose searing images of religious conflict aren’t too far removed from the present-day future thirty years hence. The era and situation are rife with all manner of tension and discomfort. The claustrophobia and paranoid isolation of the refugees, forced to hide out for months at the Canadian ambassador’s place. The monotonous grind of the child laborers tasked to reconstruct mountains of shredded American documents. The Ayatollah Khomeini’s loyal followers, furious in their yearning to hold the Shah accountable for acts against Iran in general and Allah in particular. The tumult of an Iranian bazaar, no good place for Westerners. Even Mendez has personal struggles off the job, as he does his best to be a generous non-custodial father when time allows between covert ops.

All of this dovetails serendipitously in the final sequences involving airport security issues, cumbersome red tape, split-second timing, Bryan Cranston shouting at people, Kyle Chandler clogging up the works through force of smugness, and those seemingly futile Argo storyboards, unwittingly chronicling a sci-fi allegory of the Iranian revolution that connects with a command audience at just the right dangerous crossroads.

I’ll be curious to see what sort of attention it garners during this winter’s awards nomination processes. I just wish I hadn’t entered into it with the unjustified mindset that the humor at Hollywood’s expense would be a more pervasive presence, like a Kevin Smith film with a larger budget. In retrospect I’m pleased it wasn’t, and richer for the experience.

Two final notes, in keeping with past movie entries:

1. I caught no veterans from The Wire among the cast, but Buffy/Angel fans should refrain from blinking or else miss a literal three-second cameo from Tom Lenk (Andrew!) as one of several suckered entertainment reporters.

2. The end credits have no scene at the very, very end, but I recommend sticking around through the extras in the first half. Cast photos are juxtaposed with copies of their real-life counterparts’ real-life fake IDs. Several key scenes are juxtaposed with the period-specific photos that inspired them. And the entire movie is capped with a brand new soundbite from a certain erstwhile Commander-in-Chief about this previously undisclosed moment in his administration’s beleaguered history.

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