“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,” 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.
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 super
hero 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.
“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.”
Relative newcomer Stephan James is brilliant all the way through the finish line as groundbreaking Olympic champion Jesse Owens in “Race,” a stirring biopic that chronicles the legendary track and field athlete’s struggles to break through the color barrier in the 1930s. Beginning with the racial strife Owens faced as a collegiate star at Ohio State University, the film increases in intensity as it moves along into the Berlin Olympics in 1936 as Adolf Hitler purs
ues his vision of Aryan supremacy in Nazi Germany.
“Race” feels similar in tone and look to “42,” and like the compelling sports biopic about Major League Baseball groundbreaker Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman), the film benefits from the casting of an unknown instead of an established personality. James brings a quiet sense of determination and complexity to his portrayal of Owens, which is complimented by a surprising dramatic turn by former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Jason Sudeikis as Owens’ college coach and confidant, Larry Snyder. The always-great Jeremy Irons also stars as Avery Brundage, the then-American Olympics Committee head (and future International Olympics Committee president) who enters into a shady deal with Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels (an unnerving Barnaby Metschuart), who aims to use the games to push Hitler’s agenda.
‘Risen’ (PG-13) 3 stars (out of 4)
Director Kevin Reynolds presents a fascinating, alternate look at the resurrection of Jesus with “Risen,” a biblical epic that examines the events in the weeks after Christ’s crucifixion through the eyes of a non-believer (Joseph Fiennes).
Fiennes stars as Clavius, a fearless Roman Military Tribune ordered by Pontius Pilate (Peter Firth) to investigate what happened to Jesus (Cliff Curtis) after his body disappeared from his tomb. First skeptical of claims of the risen Messiah, Clavius begins to question his doubts as he tracks down Christ’s disciples and experiences events he thought weren’t possible. “Harry Potter” star Tom Felton also stars as an aide tasked with helping Clavius solve the mystery.
“Deadpool” (R) 4 stars (out of 4)
“Zoolander No. 2” (PG-13) 2 stars (out of 4)
“Where to Invade Next” (R) 1/2 star (out of 4)
“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” (PG-13) 3 stars (out of 4)
“The Finest Hours” 3 1/2 stars (PG-13) (out of 4)
“Kung Fu Panda 3” (PG) 3 stars (out of 4)
Original Interviews, Reviews & More By Tim Lammers