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New films: Batman v Superman, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, Eye in the Sky

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Directed by Zack Snyder

In my review for “Man of Steel,” I said three things that I’ll repeat here. First, I described it as “solid but uninspiring.” Second, I didn’t enjoy the long and dull battle between Superman and General Zod in which they fought “at great length to the detriment of everything around them.” And third, I said “it could be one of those rare series where the second film is better than the first.” Well, two out of three ain’t so bad – at least not as bad as this film.

But let’s focus on the second of those observations for a moment. I couldn’t help but think at the time that if I was somebody watching my town being torn apart by Supes and Zod, I might not be the greatest fan. And this is how Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) felt too, apparently, as he watched his buildings destroyed and his employees hurt and killed – a resentment that festered for a couple of years as he fantasized about bringing down Superman (Henry Cavill). His basic logic being that anything capable of that level of destruction is too great a risk to have around.

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Across town, we discover that young LexCorp heir Lex Luther (Jesse Eisenberg) has been keeping tabs on those with special abilities and helping to fuel this eventual showdown. The problem being that these two storylines never quite feel like they’re in harmony with each other. It’s a little like two films directed by different people and then thrown in the blender.

The early part of the film is relatively slow, although that didn’t especially bother me. Bruce Wayne’s brooding was at least internally logical and seemed realistic. And while the later part of the film speeds up, it ends up feeling like a patchwork that exists largely to set up films that might come later. The worst part being when all the early logic gets thrown out in a heartbeat, prompted by a single odd coincidence.

It’s also unclear, in the Lex Luthor story playing parallel to the title bout, how he’s come by all his knowledge. At one point he takes control of a Kryptonian ship, seemingly well versed in its capabilities and protocols. He even knows the secret recipe for Cave Troll.

It’s this messiness and inconsistency that hurts the film most. Even at two and a half hours, it felt rushed and crowded, as if details that might have helped had been cast aside. That may seem like a lot of content but, again, it feels like two films being squeezed into that length, not just one. With that in mind, it’s interesting to read reports of content that was excised, including at least one entire character, that’s expected to be reinserted for a later R-rated cut. I’m hoping that might make for a good film because this version wasn’t.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2
Directed by Kirk Jones

When “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” opened in 2002, it did so quietly, making just $3M in its first wide release weekend. However, it became a rolling juggernaut of positive word of mouth recommendations and ended up making $241M over the course of a year in theaters – and all of that on a reported production budget of only $5M. So it held natural appeal for a sequel, on purely financial terms.

The first film was cute but somewhat inconsistent, at times feeling like a series of interconnected skits or joke setups, rather than a flowing narrative. But it clearly appealed to people. If anything, the second film is even more like that – there’s an imperative in the writing to reference and build on the earlier jokes, even those that are somewhat played out. But it’s still funny and it gets away with a lot of repetition because the characters, especially Toula’s father Gus, are repetitive and that’s part of the joke.

Time has passed and Toula and Ian’s daughter Paris is now a high school senior and subject to much of the same “find a nice Greek boy and get married” harassment from Gus as her mother was before her. But Toula herself is also a clinging mother and having a hard time dealing with the idea that Paris might go away to college. Meanwhile, as the title suggests, there’s a wedding afoot (not the one you might expect) and all the requisite chaos that entails.

I generally enjoyed the film, despite its stiltedness, but there were a few moments along the way that bothered me. Most notably, there’s a scene in which the women in the family joke about wedding nights, with one piece of advice involving the wife pretending to faint so that the man can carry on while she feigns unconsciousness. While it’s no “How to be Single” in this regard, it seems like another instance of humor based on the appearance of lack of consent in the moment. Also, given the family dynamic, it’s hard to believe that it would be so unremarkable for Paris to miss the wedding in favor of her prom, however important that event might be.

But, such concerns aside, the preview audience seemed to enjoy it and on balance, I also modestly enjoyed this bigger, fatter, Greeker sequel. It’s an appropriately cheesy follow up to an intentionally cheesy original – albeit with a few parts that crumble like Feta.

Moviebriefs

Helen Mirren plays the military officer in charge of a drone attack in “Eye in the Sky,” a political drama more than an action thriller. The operation is a joint venture between British and American forces, which is complicated enough as it is, but things go off script when a young girl enters the blast zone. This causes various politicians to run for cover, behind assorted superiors as the parameters change. It’s an interesting film but not an especially exciting one, raising difficult questions and also comparing the attitudes of those in the two countries. It would be nice to think that this much discussion and soul searching goes into every such operation but it also seems a little too much to hope for. It’s also worth noting that “Eye in the Sky” features the last onscreen performance of the late, great Alan Rickman.

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About the author

Tony Sheppard

Tony Sheppard

Tony is a Professor at Sacramento State, Co-Director of the Sacramento Film & Music Festival and a long-time writer, primarily on topics related to film and the film industry. He is an active supporter of the local arts community, an amateur photographer, and has an interest in architecture and urban planning topics. He is currently designing a 595 sq.ft. house on a very small infill lot in Sacramento.

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