Justice League

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Rated Greg’s Five Worst Superhero Movies

  1. Justice League
  2. Batman & Robin
  3. Daredevil
  4. X-Men Origins: Wolverine
  5. Spiderman 3

1997’s Batman & Robin is widely considered to be the worst iteration of Batman ever created.  Some circles would even refer to it as the worst movie of the 1990’s, effectively killing the careers of decade heartthrobs Chris O’Donnell and Alicia Silverstone (George Clooney obviously survived).  But twenty years later, Justice League accomplishes the impossible.  It surpasses Batman & Robin in sheer horrendousness and lets Clooney’s bat nipples off the hook.

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This movie is sooooo bad, let me count the ways:

  • Ben Affleck looks MISERABLE.  He clearly wants nothing to do with the role of Bruce Wayne anymore.  As poorly received as last year’s Batman v Superman was, I actually thought Affleck was one of the redeeming qualities of that movie.  But here he’s basically that person in a relationship that wants out but doesn’t want to do the breaking up with, so they just act like a dickhead until the other person is forced to end it.  I honestly won’t be surprised if he takes a page from the younger generation and just ghosts all of Warner Bros once the press tour is over.  New phone, who dis?

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  • Some say a superhero movie can only be as good as its villain and Justice League’s Steppenwolf is very low on the totem pole.  A god-like figure that wants to take over the Earth via a collection of magical blocks just isn’t interesting.  Be better.  Remember in Batman Returns when the plot was basically that Batman had to stop The Penguin from winning the popular vote in Gotham City?  That was fun.  Bigger rarely means better when it comes to villains.
  • Terrible writing all around.  Most of the jokes are given to teenager The Flash, but they come off as cutting room floor material leftover from Spiderman: Homecoming.  Cyborg, the African-American member of the team, literally says “Boo-Ya” as he vanquishes an enemy.  BOO-YA.  What year is this?
  • The following people are way too talented to be given so little to do in this movie: Diane Lane, Billy Crudup, AMY ADAMS!, and J.K. Simmons.  The Simmons offense is most noteworthy because this pic of him “training” for his role as Commissioner Gorden broke the internet for a day last year….. and yet he’s in the movie for less than a minute, with full length sleeves no less. What the hell were all those curls for?!

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  • Wonder Woman is noticeably shot at different, “butt-friendly,” angles than her male counterparts.  Maybe we’re all hyper-aware due to the recent climate change in Hollywood, but it’s just kind of tasteless how many times they show a close-up of Gal Gadot’s ass.  It does a disservice to the goodwill her stand-alone film made over the summer.

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All in all, Justice League is trash.  There’s already a date set for Justice League 2, however the Rated Greg prescription would be to scrap those plans all together.   These team-up movies (Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad, Justice League) just aren’t working at WB. Tonally, it doesn’t make sense to have a gritty, street level character like Batman exchanging inside jokes with Wonder Woman, an actual goddess.  There’s something off about the super team and it’s embarrassing that what was supposed to be their biggest movie of the year got significantly out-earned by a quirky Thor sequel.

As for the stand-alone movies, I think it all comes down to leadership.  Hire the right directors and I bet WB would still be able to erase the bad taste in everyone’s mouth. After all, great directors rarely make bad movies.  Wonder Woman is obviously in good shape with Patty Jenkins returning for the sequel.  And as much shit as I just talked about Batman, his next slated solo movie has a lot of potential with Matt Reeves (War for the Planet of the Apes) at the helm, Affleck or no Affleck.  For the Superman sequels, I would write Christopher Nolan a blank check to at least executive produce and write (assuming he wouldn’t want to direct).  His influence is everywhere in 2013’s Man of Steel and unpopular opinion alert: I think most of that movie is quite good.  But yeah, Justice League 2?  I’m sure you can find a better way to spend half a billion dollars.  Grade: F

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Thor: Ragnarok

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Rated Greg’s Favorite Non-Avenger Performances from The Avengers

  1. The Town (Jeremy Renner)
  2. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (Robert Downey Jr.)
  3. Rush (Chris Hemsworth)
  4. Match Point (Scarlett Johansson)
  5. Scott Pilgrim vs The World (Chris Evans)
  6. Foxcatcher (Mark Ruffalo)

Much is lamented about the death of the medium sized movie due to the superhero industry, but if there’s one silver lining it’s that at least Marvel is letting interesting people toy around with their properties.  Earlier this year they released a $175 million dollar Spiderman movie via Jon Watts, a director with no prior movie under his belt that had a budget over a million dollars.  That is BONKERS.  It’s basically the equivalent of a Single-A middle relief pitcher being promoted directly to the closer of an MLB playoff roster.  All they got in return was a delightful homage to John Hughes high school comedies, but within a Spiderman arc and a $317 million dollar domestic box office return.  The story of Thor: Ragnarok and its director Taika Waititi is even crazier.  It was Marvel that had to recruit Waititi, a New Zealand indie director, and convince him that this was worth his time.  Waititi was hesitant given honest ambivalence towards the Thor character, but the Disney suits really thought his brand of sassy humor was perfect for the direction they wanted to take the alpha Hemsworth brother.

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I, along with the rest of America, can report back that it was a match made in heaven.   Thor: Ragnarok isn’t just funny for a superhero movie, it’s arguably the funniest movie of the year (remember, there’s not a lot to choose from).  It’s weird in a good way and it’s original in a great way.  Via an improvise-encouraged set under Waititi, Chris Hemsworth is fully unleashed, revealing a perfect mixture of insecurity and bravado that Indiana Jones himself would be proud of.  Oh and Cate Blanchet.  Have you heard of her?  Yeah, she’s pretty good.

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However these results are bittersweet. I would honestly prefer these movies to not be good at this point.  When are they going to wrap this up for Downey, Johansson, Hemsworth, etc?  I mean, we’re ten years into the Avengers.  George Bush was still President when they came on the scene and Downey has played Ironman SEVEN times!  How many Kiss Kiss Bang Bangs did he pass up due to superhero duty?  Maybe the reason Jennifer Lawrence always plays characters ten years her senior is because Johansson is always booked with Black Widow.  Is Chris Evans a good actor or just a perfect Captain America?  Something tells me the latter, but lets at least give him some more reps and see what he’s got.  Grade: B+

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Lady Bird

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Rated Greg’s Top 5 Directorial Debuts

  1. Michael Clayton (Tony Gilroy)
  2. Get Out (Jordan Peele)
  3. The 40 Year Old Virgin (Judd Apatow)
  4. Gone Baby Gone (Ben Affleck) Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig)
  5. Reservoir Dogs (Quentin Tarantino) Gone Baby Gone (Ben Affleck)

Let’s get straight and to the point.  Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut, Lady Bird, is a masterpiece.  The coming of age instant classic follows Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson as she navigates her senior year of Catholic high school in Sacramento circa 2002.  For some reason it reminded me a lot of last year’s Manchester by the Sea, not that the two movies have a ton in common.  Manchester is heavy drama within east coast personalities intermixed with soft moments of humor, while Lady Bird is a comedy within west coast personalities intermixed with lighter drama, but the experience of watching both is so damn life affirming that I couldn’t help but equate the two (Lucas Hedges also appears in each).

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I’m guessing this was a very personal project for Gerwig given that she hails from Sacramento herself and likely graduated from high school around the same time.  It’s not overly rife with signifiers of the era (a hit song here, a puka shell necklace there, sidenote: Rated Greg also graduated in 2002) but it does a great job of capturing the senses of that small period of time in America that was post 9/11 yet still before the internet became a focal point in everyday life.  I don’t really care how much of Lady Bird is truly autobiographical or embellished because it’s just SUCH an enjoyable 93 minutes, what difference does it make?  

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I do have to ashamedly admit that I didn’t really enjoy much of Gerwig’s previous work. She was great in last year’s 20th Century Women and I’ll also ride for Francis Ha, but other than that she always just seemed like she was playing herself in semi-intellectual, quirky movies not really meant for the Rated Greg brand.   However I guess that’s not that big of a deal, it’s not like Bruce Willis has ever tapped into someone other than himself.  Not everyone needs to be a borderline psycho like Jake Gyllenhaal.  Anyways, I’m in love with this movie and can’t recommend it enough to go to the theater for.  At 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, clearly I’m not the only one and am glad Lady Bird’s acclaim will only lead to greater directorial opportunities for Gerwig down the road.  Grade: A-

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The Killing of a Sacred Deer

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Rated Greg’s Top 5 Colin Farrell Movies

  1. Miami Vice
  2. Pride & Glory
  3. Minority Report
  4. The Lobster  The Killing of a Sacred Deer
  5. Seven Psychopaths  The Lobster

The Lobster is unequivocally the weirdest movie of 2016.  Yorgos Lanthimos wrote and directed The Lobster.  The Killing of a Sacred Deer is unequivocally the weirdest movie of 2017.  Yorgos Lanthimos wrote and directed The Killing of a Sacred Deer.  I liked the Lobster, but I hear a lot of people hated it.  I liked The Killing of a Sacred Deer, but I have a feeling many will be completely turned off by it.  If you liked The Lobster, or even just thought it was ok, I highly recommend The Killing of a Sacred Deer.  However if you didn’t like The Lobster, than The Killing of a Sacred Deer probably isn’t for you.

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Weird as they are, I think the reason these movies have resonated with me more than maybe other viewers is that, in both films, it’s relatively impossible to guess where the plot is going in any given moment. When you watch as many movies as I do, you start to automatically pick up on certain movie beats (i.e. introduction, problem arises, things are going well, things fall a part, redemption, credits) and I’ve just come to really appreciate witnessing something 100% original.  I can’t even imagine how Lanthimos comes up with this shit.  Drugs?  It’s gotta be drugs.  His past two films, both award-winning at Cannes, are so OUT THERE and refuse to adhere to any sort of typical mainstream movie rhythm. It’s fascinating.

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Where The Lobster is a dark comedy based purely in a science fiction Irish countryside, Sacred Deer is a psychological thriller/horror based “mostly” in a Cincinnati reality.  Not to say there wasn’t anyone laughing in the theater, but it was definitely more of a nervous laughter.  One thing the two films do have in common, other than peak Colin Farrell, is the dialogue.  Just the way people talk is as strange and eerie as ever, which fits the trepid ambiance.  I can’t really say much more about the plot because trying to figure out WTF is going on with Dr. Colin Farrell and his family is the most enjoyable aspect of Sacred Deer.  If you like weird shit, trust me the reveal is worth it.  In addition to Farrell, this stars Nicole Kidman, Alicia Silverstone, and Dunkirk’s Barry Keoghan.  Grade: A-

The Big Sick

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Silicon Valley’s Kumail Nanjiani tells the story of how he met his now wife and that time he spent weeks getting to know his future parents in law while now wife was in a coma. Needless to say, The Big Sick isn’t a hoot. It’s definitely not the kooky Meet the Parents, but that’s fine. This actually is the third time Judd Apatow has produced a story about a stand up comic going through a difficult period in his personal life, with Funny People and HBO’s Crashing coming before it. Like the two predecessors, the stand up jokes don’t really translate to the screen but the emotional beats make up for it well enough. Full disclosure, I was way more invested in the relationships of the two sets of supporting parents in this film than I was in the primary relationship. Holly Hunter and Ray Romano in particular are just wonderful.  Grade: B-

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American Made

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Rated Greg’s Top 10 Tom Cruise Performances

  1. Vincent – Collateral
  2. Barry Seal – American Made
  3. Jerry Maguire – Jerry Maguire
  4. Les Grossman – Tropic Thunder
  5. Ethan Hunt – Mission Impossible 1, 3, 4, and 5*
  6. Vincent Lauria – The Color of Money
  7. Cole Trickle – Days of Thunder
  8. Maverick – Top Gun
  9. Cage – Edge of Tomorrow
  10. John Anderton – Minority Report

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It doesn’t seem like people realize that Tom Cruise can still make a REALLY GOOD movie in 2017.   Are you aware?   How about you in the back?  A few weeks ago I was raving about Cruise’s latest, American Made, to my brother and his only response was “Wait, you still like Tom Cruise?” No Scott, you pompous lush, I fucking love Tom Cruise.  He’s an American treasure.  In fact, on the Mount Rushmore of Toms, he’d be Washington to Tom Petty’s Lincoln, Tom Brady’s Jefferson, and Tom Sandoval’s Roosevelt.

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Without a doubt, Tom Cruise is my favorite actor of all time.  The number of bonafide hits he’s made the past 35 years is absolutely unparalleled, a desert island filmography if there ever was one.  But somewhere down the road my guy became a punch line.  What with the couch jumping incident on Oprah, a curious lack of aging, and an apparently damning segment in the HBO Scientology documentary, I can understand that some side-eye is warranted.  Sure, Cruise is also prone to duds here and there at this stage of his career (i.e. The Mummy), but if we’re going to make fun of him for his recent bad movies, he deserves high praise for his recent good ones.  He’s the opposite of George Clooney, who low key has made exactly one good movie (Gravity) in 6 years and yet is still thought of at the top of his game (not to mention, SPOILER ALERT, he’s killed off 20 minutes into Gravity!).

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American Made is based on the escapades of real life pilot Barry Seal, who was simultaneously running various operations for both the C.I.A. and Pablo Escobar throughout the 1980’s, unbeknownst to each other.  Before you even know that Cruise is involved, doesn’t that just sound like an awesome movie?!  This entertaining as hell script would have been catnip for an A-lister like Leonardo DiCaprio or Christian Bale, a project that would allow them to have fun and get a nomination at the same damn time because they are who they are (see Damon, Matt in The Martian).

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But those actors, while obviously serviceable, wouldn’t have been as good as Cruise is here.  He isn’t going to be nominated for American Made because of Academy politics, but he damn well should be.   You could argue that this is the best Maverick has ever been and it’s directly because director Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow, Bourne Identity) has given him so much to work with.  Because his brand in the 21st Century has almost exclusively been PG-13 good guy action hero, it’s so refreshing to see Cruise let loose and get filthy in a hilarious R Rated movie.  American Made is basically Blow meets Wolf of Wall Street.  Grade: A+

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