Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice is apparently a very polarizing movie. Either you love it or hate it. I loved it. The story is a little convoluted, but, for me, worked out well, setting the stage for the next movie or two in the series from DC. There are some early plot spoilers in this review, but nothing for the second half of the movie, which has a runtime of 151 minutes.

The film starts where Man of Steel ended. Superman (Henry Cavill) has defeated General Zod and his forces, leaving Metropolis destroyed. The death toll is large, and many blame Superman for the devastation. Among them is Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), who owns Wayne Industries. One of the buildings of his corporation was utterly destroyed in the fight, and becomes convinced that Superman will lead to the destruction of the entire human race.

On his own, there are other consequences to Superman’s actions. He rescues Lois Lane (Amy Adams) from the clutches of a probable terrorist leader, which leads to the massacre of innocents within that country later on. They blame him for either causing it or failing to stop those who actually did it.  It’s all uncertain. Back in the U.S. Senator June Finch (Holly Hunter) is holding congressional hearings as to the nature of Superman’s behavior. Is he a menace who acts without thinking of the aftermath, or is he aware of the situation and does nothing to stop it?

The relationship between Lois Lane and Superman has really gelled in this film. Gone is the silly pretense that one of the best investigative reporters in the world has no clue that Clark Kent is his secret identity. That always annoyed me in past films.

We are introduced to Lex Luthor(Jesse Eisenberg), who is beguiled by the presumably unstoppable Man of Steel. He finds out that the U.S. government has discovered Kryptonite in the wreckage of the two ships from Krypton that were left behind after the failure of General Zod. He attempts to gain access to all of these via Senator Finch, who isn’t so ready to let him. Bruce Wayne is also aware of the discovery, and realizes he needs the Kryptonite to bring Superman down. There’s a bit of interplay between Luthor, Wayne, and Clark Kent that comes into play.

The story goes on from there, and to me, was quite satisfying. It was no the typical linear story that you’ve seen in many other superhero movies, and it was a welcome relief. In those films, the heroes discover the villain, who has a plan to defeat them. They attempt to thwart him, but there’s a twist that prevents them from initially becoming victorious, but our heroes find a way to do that, eventually. There are no nuances and very little in the way of surprises in those. In this film, some of that occurs, but things are more complex than previously expected, which showed more depth than most of the films.

I do have a couple of gripes about the film, but most of them pertain to Batman’s portrayal. He’s a bit more single-minded than we’ve seen before.  Alfred (Jeremy Irons) is an effective voice of reason in the movie, even if he’s a bit ignored. Wonder Woman is introduced in the film, and is used well, IMO. There is one moment in the film that just seemed too convenient, but I’ll just leave it at that.

I cannot comment further on the storyline and such without spoiling the rest of the film. The scripting seems more adult-aware and less comic-booky than most of the other superhero movies. I’ll just say that the choices they made were quite surprising, given the subject matter and the long history of comic books.

I’m one of the few who can recommend this movie. I expect that it may polarize some people, but so be it.

Golden Kingdom (2015)

Golden Kingdom is a movie told in a non-traditional sense, at least in the Western world. It has to be experienced, and the interpretation is left to the viewer.

Four young Buddhist monks life in a remote monastery in Myanmar. They live, with their master teacher, relying on the good graces of the nearby village, who delivers food daily. There is a certain regularity in their lives, but it is all called into question when their master is summoned for some unknown reason. The oldest of them, Ko Yin Witazara is put in charge, and he tries to maintain order.

They survive, by going about their daily rituals, and sharing stories. One day, the food deliveries stop. The youngest monk wanders off, and they find him, but he’s sick. They find a family who helps, but we come to find that there’s an armed rebellion going on. Eventually, they return, but are again alone. Poeple passing through visit them, but it’s not enough. Witazara wanders off for help.

That’s about all I can say about the plot. As I mentioned, this movie is better experienced than explained. There is beautiful imagery and  there are wonderous landscapes. A lot is left for the view to interpret.

I enjoyed this film, but for those who expect the story to be spelled out will have to look elsewhere. I presume that the tenets of Buddhism weigh heavily in this film, but I am not all that knowledgeable to say with any certainty. At the interview after the film, we came to find that there aren’t any deals to distribute the film in the U.S., but that may change.

Remember (2015)

Remember is a black comedy involving Senior Citizens and Nazis. It is a challenging and entertaining movie.

Zev Guttman (Christopher Plummer)  is a 90 year old man, living in a nursing home. His wife has just died. He is losing his memory, and needs to be reminded of the simplest of things. His neighbor, Max Rosenbaum (Martin Landau), tells him he has to begin his trip. Zev promised Max to seek out and murder Otto Wallisch, a block commander at Auschwitz, who got away before he could be captured. Otto has taken the name Rudy Kurlander and pretended to be a Holocaust survivor. Max has tracked down 4 Jews with that name, and he can’t be sure which one is Otto, so he’s sent Zev to go investigate. Zev and Max are the only survivors who can identify him. Max cannot go because he is wheelchair bound and living on an oxygen supply.

Max arranges tickets for Zev. He wrote a detailed letter of what Zev is supposed to do, in case he forgets, which he does, frequently. Zev’s son is distraught when he learns his father just walked out of the home without anyone stopping him. Max hangs by the phone, reminding Zev of what he has to do and waits to hear the results.  With the help of many people along the way, Zev continues onward.

Christopher Plummer’s portrayal of Zev is the driving force of the film. Zev is a frail man, but has an inner strength that keeps him going. Martin Landau as Max was equally strong. It’s a mystery what he’ll do next, and Plummer is perfect in convincing us that he doesn’t know, either, even though it’s spelled out for him in the letter from Max. It makes for a very suspenseful movie.

Much like Mr. Holmes from last year, this movie deals with issues of ageism quite well. Remember is already on my list of favorite films of 2016. I definitely recommend this film for people who can handle the subject matter.

My Golden Days (2015)

My Golden Days is a quintessential French film, subtitled in English, in its U.S. release. Malaise is the driving force of the film.

Paul Dédalus is a man, departing form Tajikstan, and is detained for questioning. The government thinks he is a spy, and wants to interrogate him further. He reveals nothing, so a second agent is brought in . This gentlemen gets him to open up, so he starts talking about his childhood, where it all began. The flashbacks are told like a set of chapters in his story.

As a teen, Paul and his siblings hated their mother. In one scene, he’s threatening her to protect himself and his two siblings, Delphine and Ivan. He runs away and stays with his aunt, and while there, learns that his mother has killed herself. He returns home and helps care for his brother and sister. The father is there, but entirely uninvolved, and has a job where he travels almost constantly, leaving Paul in charge.

While hanging with his sibs, he meets Esther, the popular girl that no Delphine and Ivan dislike. He befriends her. She is very needy, and he is indifferent,  but they fall into a relationaship, regardless. Paul eventually goes off to college, and ingratiates himself into the anthropology program, working closely with a professor. Esther and he exchange many letters, read over the top of scenes throughout the film.

Their relationship deteriorates, and the only reason they seem to stay together is that they need something from each other, but Paul cannot fathom why he needs her, and never admits to it, directly. Paul travels for his schoolwork, most of the time, and it becomes clear to us that he is becoming his father, repeating his patterns to the letter. Paul does not.

I’ve read that this film is a prequel, of sorts, to a 1996 film, My Sex Life, or How I Got Into an Argument.  I have not seen that film, so I cannot comment on how relevant it is. On its own, My Golden Years is not a great movie. Nothing is “Golden”, and the opening of the film has no resolution. Everything that transpires just sort of happens, with Paul and Esther just stumbling onward. They don’t really take charge of their fates – Paul just fails upward, and Esther lets her life  be decided by others.