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Movie Review: ‘Justice League’ does justice to DC with fun, lighter tone

Justice League (PG-13)

DC’s answer to Marvel’s Avengers, “Justice League,” is finally here, and the long- awaited big screen union of some of DC’s biggest superheroes — Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, the Flash and Cyborg — was worth the wait. It’s not perfect, but a definite improvement over 2016’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

Justice League picks up not long after the tragic ending of Batman v Superman in 2016 where (spoiler!) Superman dies in an explosive showdown with the monstrous Doomsday. A new, threat is looming this time, though with the villainous Steppenwolf, who is looking to gather three mother boxes, which contain an apocalyptic power to destroy the earth. And while the newly formed Justice League proves to be a worthy opponent for Steppenwolf, the group really needs to the power of Superman to defeat him, that is, if Superman (Henry Cavill) can somehow rise from the dead.

Like other DC films, Justice League has a grittier feel than its Marvel movie counterparts, yet, this time around the tone is far lighter, more fun and has many more laughs than “Batman v Superman” or its predecessor, “Man of Steel.”

And while the film takes a good hour for the group to come together, the Justice League, when fully formed is great, from Ben Affleck as Batman, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, and Ray Fisher as Cyborg, as well as Gal Gadot and Ezra Miller as the movie’s biggest standouts as Wonder Woman and The Flash, respectively. The visual effects are spectacular as expected, but hover dangerously close to overwhelming the story.

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Movie review: ‘Suicide Squad’

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“Suicide Squad” (PG-13) 2 stars (out of four)

Blah is the operative word for “Suicide Squad,” an anti-hero film in

the superhero genre that was meant to pull DC Comics out of its cinematic doldrums following the tepid response to “Batman v Superman.”

Not so much bad as it is disappointing, “Suicide Squad” – which assembles DC’s baddest of its stable of villains – starts off with a bang as it creatively introduces each member of the squad that the U.S. government recruits to keep the country safe from meta humans that want to do them harm. From there, the film sadly devolves into the formulaic stuff we’ve seen in countless times in the genre.

Writer-director David Ayer has good intentions as he clearly tries to go with the R-rated vibe that made Marvel bad boy “Deadpool” a massive hit earlier this year.

The Joker (Arkham Asylum Version) DC Comics Sixth Scale Figure

The difference is, the subversive  anti-hero was given free rein to trounce the landscape with his F-bomb-laced dialogue and ultra violence, while “Suicide Squad” remains confined to the limiting PG-13 rating.

As a result, the Suicide Squad, including Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Deadshot (Will Smith) and their band of maniacal misfits are left to operate in a familiar environment against one of the weakest supervillians in superhero movie memory.

The person who plays the villain — who will remain unnamed to avoid any spoilers — simply does not have the acting chops or presence to make the ultimate throwdown memorable enough. In fact, the performance is so silly at times that it may qualify the person for a Razzie nomination come year’s end.

Lost in shuffle is The Joker (Jared Leto), whose turn as the Clown Prince of Gotham is supporting at best. Spending most of the movie trying to spring his girlfriend and partner-in-crime Harley Quinn loose, The Joker’s time would have been much better served as the supervillain the Suicide Squad ran up against instead of a thorn in their side.

Leto gives it his best with a combo Heath Ledger-Jack Nicholson read of the iconic character (with more of an emphasis on Nicholson), but in the end falls far short on both accounts. He’s good, but doesn’t nearly live up to the hype of the months-long publicity of his take on the iconic character leading up to the release of the film.

Thankfully, Viola Davis, who plays the head of the secret government organization who assembles the Suicide Squad, and Robbie, who is clearly having a blast playing Harley Quinn, pick up the slack to combat some of the weaknesses. Still, it’s just not enough to save the movie.

All told, “Suicide Squad” will go down as one of the biggest letdowns of 2016.

Hear Tim’s review of “Suicide Squad” with Tom Barnard and the “KQ92 Morning Show,” beginning at 10 minutes in.

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Movie reviews: ‘Batman v Superman,’ ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2’

Warner Bros.

By Tim Lammers

“Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” (PG-13) 3 stars

Director Zack Snyder creates an exciting template for the long anticipated “Justice League” movie with “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,&

#8221; which finally pits DC Comics’ two most iconic superheroes against each other on the big screen. The film picks up 18 months in the aftermath of General Zod’s attack on Metropolis, where, as we find out, involved a personal loss for Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck). Unlike others who look upon Superman (Henry Cavill) as a savior, Wayne perceives the alien from Krypton a threat to humanity, and he devises a plan to suits up as Batman to stop him.

The introduction of other members of the Justice League are sensible, especially the stunning Gal Gadot as Diana Prince and the butt-kicking Wonder Woman. The casting is terrific all around, including the return of Amy Adams as Lois Lane and Laurence Fishburne as Perry White, and the introduction of Jeremy Irons as Bruce Wayne’s caretaker, Alfred, and Jesse Eisenberg — who’s great as the sniveling, off-kilter Lex Luthor.

Snyder squeezes a lot of material into the 2 hour, 33 minute frame of “Batman v Superman,” including some huge plot developments that you won’t see coming. It’s not a perfect movie: the ending feels drawn out and the special effects in the third act get to be a bit exhausting, but overall the movie is a rousing, crowd-pleasing experience that’s made for fans and not highbrow critics.

“My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” (PG-13) 3 stars

It’s taken 14 years, but Nia Vardalos and John Corbett are back with another look at the delightfully eccentric Portokalos family in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2,” a heartfelt and funny follow-up to the surprise blockbuster original. The story picks up 17 years after the events of the first “Greek Wedding,” where Toula (Vardalos) and Ian (Corbett) are fretting over the decision of where their 17-year-old daughter, Paris (Elena Kampouris) will be going to college.

Exhausted already over the day-to-day happenings, Toula’s life becomes even more complicated when a huge family faux pas involving her dad and mom, Gus (Michael Constantine) and Maria (Lainie Kazan), is revealed. The film has several moments of inspired humor, and other moments that feel familiar, but overall, if you loved the first film, you’ll embrace this second invitation to a “Greek Wedding” whole-heartedly.

Interview: Jeremy Irons talks Alfred, ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’

Warner Bros.

By Tim Lammers

If you look over Academy Award-winning actor Jeremy Irons’ immense body of work, it shouldn’t take long to realize that no genre is beneath the legendary screen veteran. He’s done it all, from biographical films like the recent Jesse Owens biopic “Race” and of course, “Reversal of Fortune” (which earned him his Best Actor Oscar); to voicing the menacing Scar in the animated Disney film classic “The Lion King” and a role in the upcoming big-screen adaptation of the hit video game “Assassin’s Creed.”

Yet for all Irons has accomplished in his four-plus decades in the entertainment business, he’s never done any work in the superhero genre — that is, until he took on the iconic role as Bruce Wayne’s lifelong caretaker, Alfred, in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” The interesting thing, Irons said in a recent phone conversation from London, is that he’s never gone out of his way to see superhero films.

“I haven’t watched a lot of them — maybe only if I ran across them on television. I saw ‘Man of Steel’ and enjoyed that, and saw ‘Batman’ with Jack Nicholson as the Joker,” Irons said. “But having a chance to play in one is quite different, especially since this was multi-layered. The characters (in ‘Batman v Superman’) really have three-dimensional qualities.”

Opening in theaters and on IMAX screens Thursday night, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” finds two of DC Comics superheroes, Superman (Henry Cavill) and Batman (Ben Affleck) at odds when the Dark Knight fears the Man of Steel man be more of a threat to humanity than a hero as his actions appear to go unchecked. Alfred stands to be the only voice of reason for the tormented Bruce, who is so blinded with rage over Superman that he doesn’t realize another threat is emerging with maniacal industrialist Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg).

Directed by Zack Snyder, and written by Chris Terrio and David Goyer, “Batman v Superman” also stars Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman, Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Diane Lane as Martha Kent and Laurence Fishburne as Perry White.

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“Batman v Superman” paints a portrait of Alfred who is decidedly different that anything we’ve seen before in live-action form. Much more than a butler and longtime caretaker of the orphaned Bruce, Alfred, as we discover, is an experienced tactician with military skills — which becomes vital in the preparation of Batman’s armory and the operation of his vehicles and weaponry when the Dark Knight faces a formidable threat.

Irons said his take on Alfred was partly informed by an experience he had with a former neighbor of his who happened to be one of the richest men in the world: John Paul Getty. The people working for him may have seemed like they were doing mundane jobs for the billionaire, but looks, as Irons found out, were quite deceiving.

“I remember arriving at his estate with my wife and the gates were opened by two gentlemen, and then I drove and parked by the house, where there was another gentleman who took my car,” Irons recalled. “Then once we went into the foyer, another gentleman took our coats and then there was another, standing with a tray of champagne.”

Later that evening, Irons said he learned that all the employees he encountered were once members of the British SAS: “They were Special Forces, so everybody, from his valet to his gardener, were all people who could turn into a very defensive force if they had to.”

“John Paul Getty, of course, had a bad experience from his children being kidnapped, so I thought, ‘Well, wouldn’t Mr. and Mrs. Wayne do the same thing for Bruce?'” Irons said. “They may call Alfred ‘the butler’ or they may call him ‘the guardian,’ ‘the mechanic’ or whatever. He’s a man who can do all those things, but behind the scenes he has a myriad of talents he could use, depending on the situation. That was very interesting to me. It was a really fascinating quality of the character that I could run with.”

Irons also noted that Alfred is different in this Batman tale because Bruce is in different state of mind than we’ve ever seen him before on the big screen because he’s targeting Superman. Being Bruce’s only voice of reason, Alfred may be the only person who can stop him from making a terrible mistake in facing off against the Man of Steel.

“I think one of the strengths of this movie is that Chris Terrio has written some scenes for Bruce and Alfred where you see Bruce tussling with his conscience and tussling with his morality,” Irons said. “I hope that you can see that these two people have spent a lot of time together over many years and that they’re interdependent in a strange way. Even though Bruce is Batman and the employer, he still needs Alfred’s support.”

Irons said he emerged from “Batman v Superman” a huge fan of Snyder, who was completely graceful under the pressure of his enormous responsibility as the architect of the film.

“I was in awe watching him and just knew how much was in his head. There’s a lot in every director’s head, but when you’re doing a movie of this scale, a director like Zack is carrying a massive weight,” Irons said. “Yet, when he was working with us on set, none of that showed. He was just there for us in that scene we were doing. He would just throw out ideas and jokes, and made me feel very much at ease. That’s important when a movie that’s been rolling four or five months and you come in and do your little bit. It’s a great talent for a director can pull you in and make you feel like you’re the most important person there.”

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