What We Learned This Week: June 23-July 6

LESSON #1: WE ARE LIVING IN A GOLDEN AGE OF SPIDER-MAN— What was broken beyond repair a few years ago couldn’t be in a better place today.  Spider-Man: Far From Home is Tom Holland’s second solo film and fifth total movie appearance as Peter Parker and he is maturing and progressing the character just about perfectly.  The movie was given the responsibility of closing out the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe phase and it did not disappoint. Combine the live-action take with the stellar animated off-shoot of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and the character finds himself as popular as it has ever been.  If Marvel was looking for the next flagship character to lead the MCU after the departure of Robert Downey, Jr., look no further.

LESSON #2: GET FREE STUFF WHILE IT LASTS— Amid the streaming wars sits two wonderful services available for free with many public library cards.  Folks on this site and group have long sung the praises of Hoopla and Kanopy. The price of free is amazing and, possibly soon, too good to be true.  The usage tab on the library’s end of things might start putting limitations on Kanopy, which would be a damn shame.  Between its Paramount and A24 offerings, Kanopy is invaluable for open discovery.  It would be a shame to see it dropped at some libraries.  

LESSON #3: 30 YEARS LATER, BATMAN STILL HOLDS UPs— We’re all living today at the MCU buffet, but the older among us reminder the sensational time of frenzy and hype that came with 1989’s Batman from Tim Burton and Warner Bros. Pictures.  As a movie, it redefined superhero films and showed that dark could sell and camp could be corrected (albeit until Joel Schumacher digressed the franchise).  The lore of Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson have diminished little, even after Christopher Nolan’s reimagining nearly two decades after. As an event, it was a blockbuster that broke marketing models and changed the way Hollywood did business.  The MovieFilm Commentary team recorded a track you can play alongside the film and Gena Radcliffe of The Spool had a nice column piece.  I too hopped on Mike Crowley’s “You’ll Probably Agree” podcast recently to reminisce.  Like Seth Rogen in Neighbors talking to Zac Efron, Michael Keaton is still my Batman.  

LESSON #4: LOOK AT A CANDIDATE’S MOST CRUCIAL QUALIFICATIONS— Speaking of Warner Bros., the media giant hired its first-ever woman CEO recently.  Ann Sarnoff was a proven winner at the BBC, raising subscriptions, and she will work to do the same at WB.  It doesn’t matter that Ann is a woman. She’s good at what she does. The same can be said for Halle Bailey being cast as Ariel in the upcoming Little Mermaid re-imagining.  Just listen to that woman sing.  That’s the important trait for that role, not hair or skin color.  Disney made a fantastic hire and so did the WB.

LESSON #5: IF THINGS ARE TOO BRIGHT AND COLORFUL FOR YOU DURING THE SUMMER, LOOK TO THE SHADOWS— In the recommendation slot, I am surely aware summer is not everyone’s thing.  Some folks want nothing to do with the hot rainbow loudness of this season. If that’s you, might I suggest something colder and hard-boiled.  Look into this list of the top 100 noir films from Slant Magazine or 33 neo-noir selections from Vulture.  Use this summer heat for some home viewing that hard boils your plots and characters.  I call that perfect palette-cleansing counter-programming for this time of year.

 


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#106)

FF+ Batman vs. TMNT, Batman: Hush, To Binge or Not, and Top 3 Fantasy Team-ups

In this week’s episode of FF+, we review the newest DC Animated film as well as react to the trailer for what’s coming next from that studio. We also have a conversation about how people consume serial shows and whether binge-watching is the best way to go or not. And we wrap up by having a bit of fun and sharing our Top 3 Fantasy Team-ups in honor of the Batman/Ninja Turtle cross-over event.

 

New For You 

Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles  0:02:04

 

Trailer Talk

Batman: Hush – 0:16:55

 

In the News

To Binge or Not to Binge? – 0:23:57

 

Just For Fun

Top 3 Fantasy Team-ups

 

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Music: City Sunshine – Kevin MacLeod

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What We Learned This Week: January 19-February 2

LESSON #1: YOUNGER IS BETTER AND LONGER LASTING— Before you say “that’s what she said,” let me explain that I’m are talking about Batman.  Word hit hard that Ben Affleck is retiring (i.e. passed over and forced out) from the role of the Caped Crusader, one he already entered while in his 40s (granted, they sought a veteran intentionally).  Warner Bros. moves forward with the Matt Reeves-helmed The Batman for 2021 and I’m begging they go younger.  Don’t do another guy over 40 and don’t even do another actor in their mid-to-late 30s.  Lock in a steady Batman in his prime and past his overly-told origin story in the starting age range of 25-29.  Let that guy own the role for a decade instead of being interchangeable like bad underwear.

LESSON #2: THE INDEPENDENT SPIRIT AWARDS ARE LOOKING BETTER THAN THE OSCARS RIGHT NOW— Between the many harebrained decisions and non-decisions being made by the Academy and their show producers (awards during commercial breaks, go/no-go on song nominees) and their semi-questionable nominees, the Oscars are looking like a, pardon my French, a s–tshow right now.  I look the day before the Oscars at the slate and schedule for the Independent Spirit Awards and I’m duly impressed.  Those are true nominees of the best of film.  That’s a red carpet and party I’d rather be at.  

LESSON #3: NETFLIX KNOWS WHAT’S GOOD FOR THEM— Speaking of the Oscars, there has been an anti-Netflix sentiment for the last few years.  This simmering industry stench of haters surrounds how Netflix’s streaming service does not commonly include theatrical distribution.  One of the Academy’s rules for awards qualification is to have at least a soft theatrical release somewhere. Netflix has bent to that in small ways (Mudbound) and big ways (Roma).  Well, their biggest bend of all dropped soon after Netflix snagged 15 total nominations when they agreed to join the MPAA.  It’s an olive branch of commitment to make nice and do good by the industry that they are steadily part of reforming every year.

LESSON #4: NETFLIX KEEPS REMINDING US HOW AMBITIOUS THEY ARE— At the same time the streaming giant shows industry savvy, Netflix continues to stoke its hubris fires with the burning of subscription dollars (thanks, price increases!).  Back at the end of December, Netflix announced its intentions of pacing to churn out 90 films a year with budgets as high as $200 million.  That’s beyond huge.  That’s bigger than Disney’s output.  With every high profile acquisition, every word-of-mouth hit, and, more importantly, every influx of subscribers, Netflix becomes a bigger player.  A critic like me or Aaron and Patch on Feelin’ Film could cover only Netflix films and fill a year’s worth of review quota.

YOU CAN’T BEAT FREE— Marvel is partnering with AMC Theatres to re-release Black Panther for FREE at several locations during Black History Month.  Folks, you won’t find a better price to see an Oscar nominee short of some library screening or summer kids club event at a daycare center.  You get Ryan Coogler’s gem with all the bells and whistles of a real big screen. Go catch it again or for the first time.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a new member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over a year, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the special “Connecting with Classics” podcast program.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.

What We Learned This Week: December 3-9

LESSON #1: IF YOU CAN’T BEAT THEM, BUY THEM— Barring any final hang-ups, big media will be getting bigger.   The entertainment universe is abuzz with the prospect of Walt Disney buying 21st Century Fox (more than just parts or assets of it as initially rumored), a $60 billion deal that could be done as early as next week.  Word is Fox would retain its sports and news properties (dammit), but the film wing is what has folks dreaming.  Fanboys go straight to the fantasies of seeing the X-Men/Fantastic Four worlds merged with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I cannot blame them for those tingles. I have them too, but circle back to some of the little things we’ve seen Disney do over the course of the year (many reported in this column): the blackout of critics from certain publications, the price hikes for theater dividends, taking their ball to their own convention and streaming service, and more.  There is something to be said for healthy competition and not a one-stop shop that is the size of an empire.  For example (and I bet you didn’t know this one), buying 21st Century Fox would give Disney controlling interest in Hulu.   Combine that potential with Disney’s ESPN service and their own streaming platform coming in 2019 and Disney could have the power to squeeze the life out of Netflix like a corporate anaconda.  Plainly put, I hope the deal doesn’t go through.  If Disney wants to use X-Men and the Fantastic Four, broker a sharing deal with Fox the way they did with Sony for Spider-Man until the rights run out and the properties are free agents again.  Share and play nice together instead of bully with a takeover.

LESSON #2: SPEAKING OF BIG BUSINESS, LET THE JUSTICE LEAGUE AFTERMATH BEGIN AT DC/WARNER BROS.— I have been one of the vocal minority to tip my hat at Warner Bros. going the bolder and more adult direction with their superhero properties as an antithesis to the sunny and safe market cornered by Disney’s MCU.  They had the balls to be different.  The bottom line, unfortunately, is that even the cajones have to sell.  I wouldn’t say Warner Bros. is losing money from its DC films, but you can tell a boardroom somewhere looks at their receipt and then looks at Marvel’s receipts and sees lost earning potential.  They’re making money, but they think they should be making even more money.  Go figure.  Justice League is being seen as a business failure and a rumored producer and operational shake-up made headlines this week.  Adding salt to the wound for many (even though I saw this coming as soon as the Flash solo film was titled Flashpoint, implying the out clause for a reboot), there is strong desire to recast Ben Affleck as Batman in the future Matt Reeves-directed film.  You had to know they were going to need to go younger at some point and it’s reading this was according to plan for Affleck too.  As much as I admire their attempt to be different, I’m fine with a shake-up and some changes to normalize these characters and their potentials.

LESSON #2: “STANDARDS OF CONDUCT” ARE NOW NECESSARY TERMS TO HAVE ON THE BOOKS— The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the governing and voting body of the Oscars, have enacted a “standards of conduct” requiring members to “behave ethically by upholding the Academy’s values of respect for human dignity, inclusion, and a supportive environment that fosters creativity.”  In this day and age, what should be common sense for personal behavior now has to be spelled out in specifics and put into print because of how flippant and rampant those unwritten rules have been broken.  It’s never pretty to need this measure, but it’s one that should be applauded.

LESSON #3: LOS ANGELEANS ARE DIFFERENT THAN NEW YORKERS— The critics’ groups from the two largest and leading cities have spoken with their year-end award picks.   Both are trendsetters, yet both are different.  As reported here last week, the New York Film Critics Circle stumped for Lady Bird for Best Picture and Best Actress.  This week, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association went in the direction of Call Me By Your Name for Best Picture and Best Actor with equal love shown to The Shape of Water for Best Director and Best Actress.  If those three non-conformist films are your Oscar frontrunners, this is going to be a feather-rustling awards season with bold independent film leading the way.

LESSON #4: RYAN REYNOLDS HAS NOT TURNED THE CORNER FROM MAKING BAD DECISIONS–Before Deadpool resurrected his career, Ryan Reynolds could not have put together a trashier resume if he tried.  Just when you thought being enlivened striking gold with the “Merc with a Mouth,” here he goes signing on to be the lead voice in a Pokemon movie named Detective Pikachu.  Come on, man.   You’re back.  You’re better than that crap now.  Did you not learn your lesson? Stick to the good stuff, Ryan.

LESSON #5: QUENTIN TARANTINO’S INVOLVEMENT WILL EITHER BE FUN OR A HOT MESS— News bounced around this week that J.J. Abrams and Quentin Tarantino are meeting to hash out some ideas for a Star Trek film.  Word around the campfire is Tarantino pitched an idea to Paramount and Abrams they thought was awesome and now the two filmmakers are putting together a team of writers to develop the screenplay.  If all goes well, Tarantino, a self-professed Trekkie since the original TV show, could also direct.  Follow-up word says that an R-rating has been given a green light.  I don’t know what to think about that potential.  I don’t think you need profanity and R-rated violence in a Star Trek film, in any shape or firm.  Would it spice things up?  Sure, but it’s out of character, even for this rebooted universe.  I’ll grant that Tarantino has panache like no other.  He could take an old TV episode premise like “City on the Edge of Forever” and jazz it up well for the big screen.  However, unchecked Tarantino is silly and excessive when not reined in.  I’m glad other screenwriters are involved to keep the chatty Cathy Tarantino grounded.  Hire a crack editor while they’re at it to keep it from being a 170-minute yak-fest.  I don’t see a middle ground between awesome and disaster when it comes to a guy like Quentin.

LESSON #7: THIS IS YOUR LAST WARNING FOR STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI SPOILERS— Folks, next week is the week.  It’s finally here!  Star Wars: The Last Jedi!  I humblebragged this week that I have yet to watch the supposedly spoiler-ish final trailer and I’m pleased as punch that I made it this long.  If you’re avoiding stuff like me, be ready for radio silence next week right around Tuesday morning (hint, hint).  Be cool.  Don’t be a troll.  Don’t ruin it for people.  I promise a spoiler-free review, as always.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on FacebookTwitterMedium, and Creators Media.

 

Episode 085: Justice League

Andrew B. Dyce of Screenrant joins the fellas for some discussion on the newest entry into the DC Extended Universe.  This conversation covers the positives and negatives of our Justice League experiences, and we also give our take on the DECU’s progress thus far. Having Andrew on the show always results in insightful chat so give it a listen and let us know what you think!

What We’ve Been Up To – 0:01:51

Aaron (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Wonder)
Patrick (The Death of Superman / A World Without Superman)
Andrew (#MarthaWatch2017, The Punisher on Netflix)

Justice League Review – 0:23:25

The Connecting Point – 1:48:16

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Intro/Outro Music – “Air Hockey Saloon” by Chris Zabriskie

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MOVIE REVIEW: Justice League

Justice League (2017)

GOING IN

The lead up to Justice League has been at times joyful to witness, and at others incredibly frustrating. Zack Synder’s DCEU has plenty of loyal fans defending its dark tone, but legions more who seem to prefer the more comedic and light-hearted nature of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As a big fan of all previous DC comic book films not named Suicide Squad, I can’t help but find myself in the former category. I have thoroughly enjoyed Snyder’s willingness to go deeper into the psyches of his characters and despite not loving every casting choice or action sequence, my overall response to the DCEU has been highly positive. While I mostly prefer solo superhero films, this initial team-up of the Justice League does have me very excited. The fanboy in me is really hoping for a Green Lantern appearance. I’ll also admit that I am a bit concerned about the Whedon script doctoring that occurred after Snyder took a hiatus due to the terrible tragic loss of his daughter. My hope is that Synder’s tone is not completely replaced by a focus on humor and lack of stakes.


COMING OUT

Well, consider me surprised. All of that Joss Whedon rewriting that I was concerned about? Totally worked. In fact, the film holds together well with two distinctly different tones flowing throughout, even if the difference is always noticeable and occasionally distracting. Whedon’s dialogue is mostly a hit, and especially so when it comes out of the mouth of The Flash (Ezra Miller). Flash provides us with the quippy nature the MCU has embraced, but it works because only one character is a goofball and not all five. The team dynamic is great and consists entirely of unique personalities. Aquaman (Jason Momoa) is a strong and powerful, independent bad-ass living the life of a loner but with a heart of gold. Cyborg (Ray Fisher) is brooding and angry, certain his new form is a curse. Batman (Ben Affleck) has renewed hope in humanity, regret over Superman’s death, and wants to save the world, while Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) follows-up her strong solo debut with a nice little arc of her own about what it means to be a leader. Truly, what Justice League really has going for it most is the cast chemistry. The relationship between Cyborg and Flash really stands out. These two “accidents” have a lot in common and are both discovering and coming to grips with their powers together, along with slowly developing trust and a friendship.

Its rather miraculous that Whedon’s humor and light-heartedness intertwine with Snyder’s serious storyline so easily. This is still a superhero universe with a lot at stake, where humans die and superheroes are vulnerable. But the dialogue works by delivering moments of levity instead of turning the film into a comedy. Justice League does bring up philosophical questions and ideas that carry over from previous films, too. In doing so, it balances those heavier topics with the epic sense of fun that we should get from reading or watching superheroes in action.

When it comes to the action, it’s vintage Snyder all the way. Fast cuts with explosive visuals and some well-timed slow motion feature prominently. I was worried that the movie might have a serious fake CGI look to it, but surprisingly it didn’t bother me at all. The majority of the action sequences are moving so fast that it’s hard to get a good handle on what’s going on, however, there are a few stand-out scenes – most of them involving Wonder Woman in some capacity, and that’s never a bad thing.

The film isn’t perfect, though. The opening scene and early setup feels rushed and incohesive. Once the team is together everything feels great, but getting there is just a little clunky. The villain is also not particularly memorable, although I did enjoy him more than previous DC baddies. His personality was lacking but the action involving him was a lot of fun, and he conveys a sense of otherworldly strength that was necessary for us to believe in the threat he poses.

One last thing to mention is that the film has two very good GREAT post-credit scenes. One right after the film ends and another all the way at the very end of the credits. They are both worth waiting for. Do not miss these. The final one, especially, is textbook for how a post-credit scene should be done.

Verdict

Justice League endured a lot of changes during its production and the result is a film that has glimpses of greatness but never quite reaches that plateau. Still, the film balances its dual tones just fine and manages to provide well-rounded character development  for the whole team. Ezra Miller steals the show as The Flash and team chemistry, in general, is a big highlight. A movie doesn’t have to be perfect to entertain, and Justice League does plenty of the latter. It is a joy to see these heroes together on the big screen and many emotions were felt. My prevailing thought when walking out of the theater with a huge smile on my face was simply,  “I want more,” and that happiness is a big relief.

Rating:


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on how his expectations influenced his experience. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

Minisode 003: Negative Film Criticism and Fandom Rage with Andrew Dyce

Special guest Andrew Dyce, editor at Screenrant.com and co-host of the Total Geekall podcast, joins us to discuss a concerning trend of negative groupthink toward films and angry fandom. Using films such as Batman v Superman, Avatar, and Ghostbusters, we try to figure out why moviegoers are so enamored with hating films instead of loving them.

Guest Links
Twitter – @andrewbdyce / @screenrant / @totalgeekall
Website – http://screenrant.com/

Total Geekall on iTunes


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