Monthly Archives: April 2016

‘Batman v. Superman’ Doesn’t Fly Well

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LOGO Greater than the fights between Rocky and Apollo! More powerful than the clash of the titans. Stronger than King Kong against Godzilla. Look, up on the big screen. It’s a battle! It’s a war! It’s “Barman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.” Yes, it’s “Batman vs. Superman,” potential blockbuster from Warner Brothers that can shatter box-office records, earn millions for its makers, and which, in paving the way for the next film in the series, carries on the movie tradition of bigger, louder, and the Hollywood way.

Yes, several weeks ago one of the most eagerly anticipated and highly hyped films of the summer smashed, crashed, battered, banged, detonated, and all other forms of exploded into theaters nationwide, and despite some undeniably spectacular special effects, the overly long, extremely dark, and sometimes tedious “Batman vs. Superman” disappointed me.

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The film begins 18 months after the battle with Gen. Zod at the end of “Man of Steel,” and some major changes have occurred in the life of mild-mannered Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent aka Superman (Henry Cavill). For starters he is now living with Lois Lane (Amy Adams), who now knows his secret identity, and because he has been involved with some incidents (the conflict with Gen. Zod for one) causing collateral harm to many people, Superman is no longer held in universal high esteem.

While Superman is attempting to cope with his tarnished image in Metropolis, Bruce Wayne aka Batman (Ben Affleck), who reigns over Gotham City, has decided that Superman now poses a danger to people. Conversely Superman sees Batman as someone who doesn’t have the best interest of humanity at heart, and this sets up the inevitable conflict between the two.

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Now I’m not going to waste either my time or yours by going into any detail about the film’s complex plot. Instead let’s just say that it involves a rather silly Kryptonite spear, our old friend Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), a behemoth Lex manufactured from Gen. Zod’s body, and enough explosions and pyrotechnics to last 10 lifetimes.

In the film’s production notes director Zack Snyder (“Man of Steel”) explained the rationale behind the film’s rather unusual beginning and what Superman is coping with.

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“We felt an interesting way of beginning this story was to examine Superman from another perspective, Batman’s perspective. Bruce doesn’t know who Superman is; all he knows is what the public knows. He blames him for the lives lost in Metropolis, lives that he felt responsible for. His hatred has been building up inside, and now, all this time later, he’s finding reinforcement of those feelings in the media.

“When we find Superman, he’s been dealing with everyday life as a superhero, but there’s a distinct shift happening in how his heroic efforts are viewed, thanks to the unintended consequences of those acts. Every action has a reaction; one guy’s rescue leaves another in distress. We wanted to explore the reality of saving people and what intervening can really mean. The classic idea with Superman is that he’s a good guy trying to do the right thing and that he isn’t political, but in truth, in today’s world, it’s impossible not to be, no matter your intentions.”

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Of course as part of this film’s title implies, it paves the way for “The Justice League” in 2017, and thus we have Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) joining Batman and Superman in the film’s climactic battle against Doomsday, Luthor’s King Kong wannabe creation. Before the movie’s somewhat surprising conclusion, however, we do get to see Batman and Superman go head to head, which is the fight everyone wants to see.

Yes, they do fight. Is there a clear winner? Kind of. Does the fight live up to expectations? Maybe. Is the film’s ending satisfactory? Perhaps. Could I sit through it again? Never.

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Let’s begin with the positive aspects of the film. Both Affleck and Cavill are effective superheroes, and in the production notes each them offered interesting insight into their relationship and respective characters.

“I think the story really sets the stage nicely for understanding why Batman wants to fight Superman,” Affleck said. “It’s logical to assume that they’d be friends since they’re both good guys, but this film takes a more nuanced view of how these characters might exist in the real world and what sort of complications might come about as a result of their abilities and actions.”

“Superman is beginning to face the exact challenges Jonathan Kent was worried about,” said Cavill. “The world is filled with fear after being attacked by aliens and literally shaken to its very core. Despite having what they look to as a redeemer, the people need to direct their fear at something. In the meantime, Superman is still trying to do right by everyone and ignore the slings and arrows.”

Also on the positive side, Gadot is sensational as Wonder Woman (Eat your heart out, Lynda Carter.), and Adams is appealing as Lois Lane. Of course, as you would expect, the special effects are spectacular.

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In the negative corner, with a running time of almost 150 minutes, the movie was much too long for me, and I thought it actually dragged in places early on to the point that I actually dozed off a now and then. Although the CGI was impressive, it also was a bit excessive, and the explosions became tiresome after a while. Eisenberg’s portrayal of Luthor as a giddy buffoon was extremely irritating, and finally I much prefer the traditional cape and cowl for Batman instead of what appeared to be his iron armor in this movie.

The film undoubtedly will be huge at the box office, but it definitely did not live up to its hype for me. Therefore, it earns the final score of an unimpressive six. I’ll take Rocky versus Apollo any day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Heartland” Is Television At Its Finest

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LOGO Television has unquestionably bypassed the silver screen in providing quality viewing entertainment, but many of the best dramas are aimed at adults. What I have for your consideration today, however, is a TV series that provides topnotch, wholesome entertainment for the entire family, including children from the age of 6 and up. Too good to be true, you say? Nay, nay, I say. This program is not just great; it’s also quite simply one of the finest series I’ve ever watched, and I’ve seen a gazillion of them.

On Oct. 14, 2007, “Heartland” made its debut on Canadian television (CBC), and it ultimately became the longest-running scripted series in the history of Canadian TV. In fact, it recently has been renewed for a 10th season. Based upon Lauren Brooke’s “Heartland” books (25 novels), the series tells the story of Amy Fleming (Amber Marshall), who lives on ranch near the fictional town of Hudson in Alberta, Canada, situated at the edge of the picturesque Alberta Rockies.

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In the first show of the series we meet Amy, who is 15 years old, and her mother, Marion (Lisa Langlois), a legendary horse whisperer, as they are on their way home from rescuing a horse named Spartan from its abusive owner. Sadly they are involved in a terrible accident that kills Marion and seriously injures Amy and Spartan. This tragedy sets up the basic situation for the series: Amy and Spartan survive, and Amy, who has her mother’s gift for curing troubled horses, carries on the horse-whispering tradition.

After Amy fully recovers from the accident, she settles into life at Heartland with her grandfather Jackson “Jack” Bartlett (Shaun Johnston), who is the wonderfully sage voice of reason in the show and her older sister, Samantha Louise “Lou” (Michelle Morgan), who has just moved back to the ranch from New York City. She left behind a prestigious job and a boyfriend, but she realized Jack needed help managing Heartland.

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Before Amy’s mother died, she had made arrangements for a young man named Tyler “Ty” Borden (Graham Wardle) to work as a ranch hand at Heartland. When Ty was just a child, his stepfather abused him, and when Ty became older, he attacked the man while he was assaulting his mother. As a result Ty ended up in Juvenile Hall, and Amy’s mother offered him the job at Heartland to help him fulfill the obligations of his probation.

In addition to these main characters, the following also are regulars in the series: Chris Porter as Timothy “Tim” Fleming, Amy and Lou’s estranged father and a former rodeo champion who at one point deserted his wife and daughters; Kerry James as Caleb O’Dell, a wannabe rodeo star Jack hires as a ranch hand; Gabriel Hogan as Peter Walter Marshall, a young oil tycoon who ultimately vies for Lou’s affection; Nathaniel Arcand as Scott Cardinal, the local veterinarian; Jessica Steen as Elizabeth “Lisa” Stillman, the wealthy owner of a horse-racing business who has romantic designs on Jack; and Jessica Amlee as MalloryWells, a young and amusingly mouthy neighbor who spends more time at Heartland than she does at home.

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UNDATED — Shaun Johnston, left, and Amber Marshall in Heartland. HANDOUT: CBC

What makes the show so refreshing is it’s completely character driven, and thus we become totally wrapped up in the lives of Amy and her family. After Amy discovers that she has inherited her mother’s gift for working with troubled horses, she dedicates herself to helping people who have various problems with their horses. Hudson is a small town, and so word spreads rapidly about her gift.

But “Heartland” is much more than a girl healing the wounded psyches of horses. Above all else it is the story of a family living on a ranch and trying to make the best of their lives. After just the first episode, I was completely drawn into this show, and after watching a number of programs, I felt as if I knew these people personally.

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Every single member of this terrific ensemble cast is so good that you never feel as if you are watching actors play a part. They are all so natural that it’s like observing a real family from somewhere they can’t see you. Of course because of the nature of the books much of the focus is on Amy, and Marshall was born to play this part. If you were to go to a dictionary and look up all-American girl, you would find her picture there. And she is such an accomplished rider that she actually becomes one with the horse in the scenes where she gallops across the breathtaking Canadian landscape.

Each episode advances the story line, and because it’s such an extended series, we have the chance to see the characters grow and mature. In an online interview Marshall explained how this factor sets “Heartland” apart from other shows.

“Something wonderful about ‘Heartland’ is that each character has room to grow and age. Development in a person in the real world happens daily as they learn new things, meet new people, and form new values. On some TV shows characters are restricted to a lot of growth due to the nature of the show. Take a look a show like ‘Degrassi’ or ‘Saved by the Bell.’ These characters are trapped in a high school realm and are unable to grow beyond.

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“Amy has covered a lot of ground. When you’re a teenager, time seems to go slower, and a whole lot can happen in four years. Amy has had to overcome the death of her mother, learn to live with her high-maintenance sister, reunite with her father, fall in love with her best friend, then lose him, then earn his trust all over, work and develop her passion for healing horses, and mend ties with her friends Soraya and Ashley. There has been an incredible journey that our audiences have followed us through.”

When you watch this show, it’s also obvious that the actors are really enjoying themselves and that the chemistry among them is perfect. In the same interview, Fleming mentioned the closeness of the cast members are.

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“It is funny how close you become to those you spend so much time with. I definitely feel like Michelle Morgan (Lou) is my sister and Shaun Johnston (Jack) is my grandfather. When all the Fleming/Bartlett characters have a dinner scene together, this becomes most prominent. We all laugh and joke and carry on just as a family would at the dinner table. Sometimes that makes it hard for the director when we are all giddy and happy right before a serious scene. I believe you have to have fun in order to make a great final product.”

Trust me when I tell you that this show has it all – drama, humor, love, loss, hope, despair, mystery, and anything else you can think of. And the cinematography defies adequate description. I have never been as completely captivated by a series as I am with this one, and it earns the final score of an irreversible 10+. Once you visit “Heartland,” you’ll never want to leave.

 

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