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Batman V Superman is the Perfect 21st Century Global Superhero Masterpiece

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By John R. White

“Non sum qualis eram.” I am not what I once was.
– Horace

In 1978 I was 14 years old, an avid comic reader, and my comic books stacked across the room. When I first saw Superman the motion picture, I sat amazed as I did “believe a man can fly.” Chris Reeve was Superman.

I mean 1978 was perfect, and I would be sure to get the soundtrack for my 8 track player, and listen to it while I wrote my D&D character program on my brand new Radio Shack TRS-800. The future would be great, and there would be no terrorism because Jimmy Carter just signed the Camp David Peace Accords. Man, the future was going to be Awesome.

  • Henry Cavill would not be born for five years.


In 1989 I was 25 years old, and when my ex-wife and I finished up our management shifts at the Trumbull mall in Trumbull, Connecticut we went to see the midnight showing of the new Batman movie. We were of course still debating whether or not Michael Keaton could pull it off.

The movie was great but dark, and afterwards I would read all of the debates pro and con in Starlog, and watch them on Entertainment Tonight, which was the YouTube of our generation. Somewhere a seventeen year old Benjamin Geza Affleck-Bold was also sitting waiting for the same movie to start, not realizing that one day he would be wearing the cowl.

That was, of course, 27 years ago when Russia was withdrawing from Afghanistan and Nelson Mandela was still in jail and apartheid still existed.

Welcome to the 21st Century.

Instead of continuing Nolan’s films about the Dark Knight of Gotham, and living under the shadow of Christopher Reeve, Zack Snyder has chosen to approach Legends facing global issues, and it’s about time.

Yes, you can make an argument about how Marvel’s Steve Rogers and Tony Stark are both concerned about how SHIELD is engaging in government oversight, and how the world is concerned about superheroes, but the films have a uniquely American viewpoint. I mean it is Captain America. You may also listen to the critics say it wasn’t any fun! It was humorless. You’re right, this was neither the Avengers nor Deadpool, nor was it supposed to be.

Thank God.

Dawn of Justice is a thinking person’s film, and if Deadpool can have adult humor, language and nudity then Batman versus Superman can have depth, emotional turmoil and require thought. This is like comparing Kelly’s Heroes to Full Metal Jacket. Yes, they are both about the military, but really that’s about it.

Superman, if he existed, would be a global matter. Where he once fought for truth, justice and the American way, in the 21st century he would have to consider the planetary obligations of his powers. Now imagine that’s your cross to bear. How would you deal with that mentally?

Think about it for a moment. You’re a kid growing up in Kansas, and you suddenly have amazing abilities show up. You go to talk to your mom and dad, who drop the following: ‘You’re really a space alien. We’re not sure what to do with that, so just hide it and hide yourself from the world.’ So you do, until you stumble on the truth, and then space bullies show up, and fight you – and oops, the fight kills 10,000 people.

Paging Dr. Phil.

Superman has two real links to humanity: his parents, and Lois. That’s the only thing that gives him any humanity to begin from.

No, this is not the optimistic Clark Kent of the 40’s that Siegel and Schuster created; this is his Grandson who has long outlived them. This is a being of mass power that Bruce Wayne has every right to fear, and Lex Luthor would want so desperately to control.

Let’s talk about Bruce Wayne, shall we? Bruce has never been exactly stable, has he?

People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy and I can’t do that as Bruce Wayne. As a man, I’m flesh and blood, I can be ignored, I can be destroyed; but as a symbol… as a symbol I can be incorruptible, I can be everlasting.”

Easy there, Bruce.

Again Snyder deftly handles the Batman legend, and shows us something new on film: the Miller-esqe aging Dark Knight Detective. The manor is in ruins, Robin is dead at the hands of the Joker, and yet Wayne Enterprises are doing very well, and through of this the Batman is still fighting, and still unrevealed.

Where Kal-el’s touchstones to humanity are Lois and Martha Kent, Batman’s family is now his employees and obviously Alfred, and thus when the Kryptonian battle kills thousands of his family members Bruce very correctly sees Superman as a potential Zod himself, as evinced by some of his nightmares.

He has the power to wipe out the entire human race and if we believe there is even a one percent chance that he is our enemy, we have to take it as an absolute certainty.”

Bruce Wayne has now seen that Gotham is no longer his patrol ground; all of the earth is, as long as men like Superman and women like Wonder Woman exist, and in making such a realization he has become all the more frightened. Batman has never denied having fear, far from it.

“Bats frighten me. It’s time my enemies shared my dread.”

Batman is all about maintaining control, and does so with fear. That is why Batman wants to break Superman, to make him afraid, or if he can’t make him afraid, then perhaps to destroy him. Batman’s psychosis is such that he believes he can destroy or control the evil in Gotham, and beyond.

Think about some things that were said between Alfred and Bruce.

Twenty years in Gotham. How many good guys are left? How many stay that way?”

Bruce’s war has been going on since 1996. If we take events of Miller’s Batman: Year 1 as his probable starting point, he was still getting his feet wet in those early years when 9/11 occurred.

Alfred: “That’s how it starts. The fever, the rage, the feeling of powerlessness that turns good men… cruel.”

Much has been said about Batman killing people in this film, and everyone who is griping is failing to realize that Batman killed in the pages of Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s original works, where Batman was pretty much the Punisher with a cape and money. Even Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns showed Batman killing villains. (Bomb in clown pants much?) To believe that Batman would have the slightest issue with killing terrorists is a tad naïve to a man who started his career flying a biplane with a fifty cal.

 

 

Now, let us not overlook either Lex or Diana Prince.

Lex Luthor has had many iterations, from the fully coiffed mad scientist living in a flying city re-animating dinosaurs (Action Comics #23; April 1940) to his recreation as an industrialist in the 1986 Man of Steel Series by artist writer John Byrne. So a new, younger millennial non-Smallville Lex Luthor is fine with me. The fact that Lex is possibly possessing of Asperger’s or Tourette’s syndrome to me is fantastic because it’s giving the character depth, and humanity. The fact that Luthor is Bat-crap insane is, of course, a given.

Wonder Woman’s introduction was amazing, and powerful. Here was a woman shown on stage, where the only reference to her beauty was an aside by Bruce as a cover to get away from being held up. She was at no point seen as sexual being, but a mystery and then as a powerful force of her own, and both an asset and a potential ally. That Wonder Woman is from the Middle East, and is actually played by an Israeli is both a windfall and to be cheered. Kudos, Mr. Snyder.

To conclude, Dawn of Justice is about us, the whole of humanity, as we face the age of terrorism and fear. H.P. Lovecraft once stated, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” Humanity fears what it does not know and what it cannot understand. The bright and promising 21st century that we all dreamed of, a Roddenberry-ish utopia, was a lie. We never received it because the Taliban found that fear was the most powerful weapon. We all surrendered our heroes such as Christ, Gandhi, Mandela, and the Dalai Lama for demagogues and State Supervision. We looked to the powerful and entrusted them with our fears.

We hoped for Superman, and got the Bat.

Check it out on the big screen at a theater near you!

More about John R. White

Matthew Solomon on his feature film ‘Chatter’ at Shriekfest 2015

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October brings many things including Shriekfest, one of the top horror, thriller, and science fiction film festivals.  This year one of the top competitors was “Chatter,” the creative work of writer/director/producer Matthew Solomon.  It is a paranormal film with most of the interaction occurring via chat sessions.  The concept for chatter originated when Mr. Solomon was collaborating with others via Skype.

The cast includes:

Brady Smith (“Criminal Minds”, “Parks and Recreation”, “Dinner at Tiffani’s”)
Sarena Khan (“Johnny’s Sweet Revenge”, “Cavemen”, “Naughty or Nice”)
Tohoru Masamune (“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”, “Inception”)
Richard Hatch (Acting legend from: “Battlestar Galactica” old and new series)
Alison Haislip (“Attack of the Show”, “Mega Shark vs Kolossus”, “Team Unicorn”)

Producing a film relying heavily on Skype and using a big name actors are great gimmicks for getting attention, but does it have substance beyond that? Also, can the small screens of Skype sessions carry over onto the big screen?

Those were big questions before going in to watch “Chatter.”  As it turns out, the answer to these questions and more is a resounding yes!

The film starts with a tragic bang as Richard Hatch’s character, a paranormal investigator, unsuccessfully concludes his investigation of a haunted house in L.A. It then shifts gears to a later time when a musician has rented the place and is skyping his wife in England who plans to join him later.  The couple soon become aware of a paranormal presence.

This is not your garden-variety ghost but rather a predatory poltergeist that has learned to truly surf the web. Adding another dimension of creepy, they are also being observed by a voyeuristic member of Homeland Security. All these elements float smoothly into place in the first 10 minutes.

Skype as a teleconferencing tool, gives the user the ability to communicate as though they were there. Instead of being simply a gimmick in the production of this movie, it actually enhances the production.

In the real world, Skype users have already long been suspending belief and embracing the concept that this lets them be with their loved ones even though they are across the world.  So Skype becomes the tool by which the you are another silent observer of the couple’s chat interchanges.

Without a doubt, the horror fans of Shriekfest were attracted to the film by it’s interesting aspects as well as the actors.  The acting was top notch, but it also has a great story line that had the viewers at Shriekfest on the edge of their seats.

So if you are a horror,  paranormal, or Richard Hatch fan, this film is a must see. If you can see it on the big screen do it! Chatter is a great flick and well worth a 5 stars out of 5.

Oh, and any rumors to the effect that this writer screamed like a girl and made half the theater jump around him, well, those are just rumors.

For more about National Celebrity Examiner John N. Collins find him on TwitterInstagram, Youtube.

Tokyo Ghoul – Episode One Review

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Kelvin Thompson - The Weird Review's Minion in chief
Kelvin Thompson – The Weird Review’s Minion in chief

Ken Kaneki is a shy book nerd, who has trouble with girls. But one day, he lands a date with a delicate young lady named Rize, who happens to share all his interests. As it turns out, Rize is secretly a ghoul, a new breed of creature that’s been feeding on people, all over the city. Though she does manage to bite him, as luck would have it, an accident disposes of this bloodthirsty babe, leaving Ken to deal with a new change, he can’t quite comprehend. He’s beginning to crave human flesh.

In terms of production quality, “Tokyo Ghoul” really nails a chilling atmosphere. Drawing a stark contrast between the bright, golden daytime and the mysterious night isn’t new territory for horror anime. But here, Shuhei Morita paints nighttime as a world all its own, having saturated it with dark blues and reds, creating a feeling both cold and violent.

In terms of the horror, itself, the show stumbles a little bit in its first episode. Aside from spitting terrible puns that detract from her menace, Rize, our first big source of horror, also seems to be constructed from misogynistic ideas about gender and sexuality. She starts off shy, and demure, and timid. But when reveals she’s a ghoul, she becomes aggressive, her bloodlust utterly tinged with lasciviousness. And upon biting Ken, she ‘infects’ him with her ‘disease’.

Where the episode recovers, lay in Ken, himself. There feels like a bit of a gap between the sequence wherein Ken desperately tries to force-feed himself, as the reality of his situation sinks in, and his walk in the street where he begins to register other people with Rize’s bloodlust. The episode recovers in Ken, himself. Ken’s conflicted emotions are palpable, largely as a result of Natsuki Hanae’s suitably tortured performance. The dread sinking into his character is handled well.

All in all, “Tokyo Ghoul” is a potentially intriguing new title for the summer anime season. Its protagonist contends with a timeless horror concept. The acting is top-notch. And the atmosphere is downright ghoulish. This one is worth paying attention to.

Smothered Review

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In 2013 John Schneider (“Dukes of Hazzard”, “Smallville”, etc) set up a new film studio in Holden, Louisiana. As the studio’s first film, “Smothered” is the showcase film for John Schneider’s new film studio. It’s an experimental horror/comedy, taking well-known actors from the horror genre and reversing their roles. As is the director’s intention, this film will ultimately be enjoyed the most by horror fans: those most capable of catching all the genre jokes.

“Smothered” could also be enjoyed by fans of black comedy. As mentioned above, there are some wicked jokes in this film that don’t necessitate knowledge of the horror genre. But all in all, they’re the people this film will be most accessible to. They’re the people whom this film is appealing to. And if it succeeds in that capacity, then in the end, this film has succeeded at its primary goal.

In terms of production quality, Smothered is a fine-looking film. Director John Schneider has a serviceable eye, and he brings an offbeat quality to the film, adding in a number of strange, gritty touches where one wouldn’t normally expect them. He’s definitely a director worth watching, as his style is polished, he’ll undoubtedly turn out even better films in the future.

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“Smothered” has a non-linear plot. It doesn’t progress in a straight-line. When a story’s events are arranged out of order, it’s usually done to place a strong action ahead of its context to grab the audience’s more immediately, without potentially getting bogged down in explanations. This doesn’t necessarily work to the advantage of “Smothered”.

From a horror angle, this style of composition could serve the narrative, by disorienting the audience. After all, fear mingled with confusion makes for a more emotionally potent experience. And when the audience clears their heads, afterwards, then the film becomes intellectually rewarding, as they can analyze the timing and arrangement.

However the potential horror of the scenario is undercut, a bit, by knowing who the villain is. The film reveals to us, ahead of time, that the killer is a woman, which strips the murders of their suspense. Though a couple of them do sustain interest, through intriguing, ironic twists, such as Trixie’s.

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The manner of composition doesn’t necessarily aid from a comedy angle, either, as the humor is mostly reliant on genre jokes and mining irony from the contrast between our characters and their on-screen personas. It’s clear, from the beginning, that our characters are hardly living the high life.

Though exploring that contrast is the arguable high point of the film. The movie’s greatest strength is drama, rather than comedy or horror. The moments where it becomes apparent that our characters are lost in their screen personas, yet unable to profit off them, really do carry an emotional punch. It seems as though the film would’ve been much better, if that’s where the focus had remained.

All in, the greatest strength of “Smothered” Is its comedic potency. Though the editing and compositional style hurt the film from a storytelling perspective, it is a solid showcase for John Schneider’s directorial chops. There’s plenty here for fans of horror comedy, but fans of serious horror might be best served elsewhere.

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