A Relentless Battle in Dunkirk

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Dunkirk is one of the rare war movies that spends the entirety of it’s running time in conflict zones. This may sound normal in a war movie but normally there is some sort of an aside like scenes on the homefront, flashbacks from the lead or even a life before a war. Dunkirk is deliberately made to show the war from beginning to end and leaves us with wondrous visuals, a uniquely executed story but a lack of character development.

There is little story in Dunkirk in terms of a large sequence of events. The battle of Dunkirk is the entire movie.

According to the man himself, Nolan intentionally made Dunkirk have a lack of character development and one could easily speculate why. I believe that he wanted Dunkirk to have a ring of authenticity in which characters are not explored as they are focused every minute on survival. Is this a mistake? Who knows? Dunkirk was an excellent movie either way. I believe it is more emotionally resonating in a war film if there were characters you get to know and therefore care more. I am reminded of Hacksaw Ridge in which Andrew Garfield fleshed our a memorable war hero called Desmond Doss who fought on and off the battlefield for his faith and everyone around him. Dunkirk has very few discernible characters let alone well-developed characters that I saw in Hacksaw Ridge.

Despite that one main complaint, I still recommend seeing Dunkirk because aside from little character development, Nolen does everything you could possibly do for a movie of this nature. He does achieve setting the realism being under attack. Instead on focusing on the casualties he focuses on survival. I would argue that Dunkirk is more sensory than anything else.  The visuals are something that you need to see on the big screen. Every location from land, air, and sea is something that is breathtaking. For most war movies you will see shades of green, in Dunkirk, you will see it in shades of blue. There are many wide shots of the planes hovering above the sea which was the best visual in my opinion. The sound of the planes swooping in the land are piercingly loud and music literally sounds like ticking time bomb. The visuals and sound mixes beauty and tension together to create a unique war movie.

I also like the cohesiveness of Dunkirk despite the multiple perspectives. Generally, when I see movies that decide to this I normally dread it. That is because the movie comes off like an unfocused mess. In Dunkirk, all of the transitions from the multiple story threads feel like they together to make one overarching story. I don’t have to think “what was that subplot about 40 minutes ago?” and I actually know when the transitions occur unlike in Manchester by the Sea. The smooth transitions in Dunkirk reminded me of the smooth transitions of the movie Nocturnal Animals in that it feels like one movie and they were all coherent.

This is one of the rare times I will say this but don’t watch Dunkirk with a critically open mind. Don’t expect to know people’s names let alone their personality. I am not saying that Dunkirk is a dumb movie but I believe it’s more of a movie best left experienced than watched. It is not a film with a message on war like Apocalypse Now, nor is a film that involves developed characters and emotional swings like Hacksaw Ridge. Dunkirk is a movie more set on realism than anything else. So get swept up by that realism and even though I thought it was great, you might like it more than me. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Cult Following will be Strong With Baby Driver

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Baby Driver is going to be a cult movie because of all the interesting quirks targeted at a young audience. One of these quirks is how they introduce Baby. All you need to know about Baby is the cadence and rhythm of his walk to the beat of his music as he orders coffee. We know who he is while nothing was said and it is damn fun to watch.

Yes, Edgar Wright has done it again. His movies are both style and substance intertwined with multiple genres and Baby Driver is no different. Wright is famous for the Cornetto trilogy (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End) This time, Wright has created another miniature film festival contained in a movie. Baby Driver reminds you of the classic car movies of yesteryear for today’s audience.

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The gang

Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a professional getaway driver that has been forced into a life of crime by Doc (Kevin Spacey) Baby repays his debt to Doc when he has something new at stake: a waitress (Lily James)who is the woman of his dreams.

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The Job

Baby Driver is a template for great escapist movies. It relishes in minuta while constantly focusing on the story. It is constantly fun and engaging and many elements of Baby Driver does that with the brilliant dialogue, the fleshed out performances from the entire cast, the stories twists, and turns, the stripped back realistic action sequences. All of this makes it feel like a fun and creative low-budget thrill ride.Another excellent element I have noticed is that Baby Driver is the rare movie that used rock music as the tone and not merely as a gimmick. Lots of movies (including Marvel movies) use retro songs in scenes as if to scream out “this is the scene that you need to have fun in” Baby Driver uses the music to serve the purpose of creating a rhythm in all the scenes. The music is a seamless flow like a movie should be instead of coming off like a rigid formulaic structure.

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The girl

What also works seamlessly in Baby Driver the genre shifting from action to comedy to romance and how well all these elements work together. What is also surprising is the unpredictability of the changes, yet the transitions are so smooth that the changes never feel out of place. Never is Baby Driver a predictable film in a mad libs fashion like “Insert joke here” “Insert catchy song there”. You never knew what was coming around the corner while covering a variety of styles and tastes. This is especially entertaining as a person who has an eclectic taste in movies.

 

In combination with the various styles, sequences, and genres Wright has come up with a blueprint for making a great movie. Baby Driver is the movie college freshmen in film school will draw inspiration from. It’s the small movie in the sea of blockbusters that stands out for its uniqueness and will garner a cult following over the next several years ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2

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The end baby!

Spiderman’s Homecoming

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Spiderman lives up to the hype that seems to come with most Marvel installments. There are several cool action sequences in addition to some good acting and storytelling. All of this makes it fun to watch. With the exception of a couple of surprising moments, Spiderman Homecoming is exactly what you would expect.

Spiderman Homecoming starts off with a teenage Peter Parker/Spiderman (Tom Holland) being told to resolve minor disturbances in the city by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) believing that Parker is not ready to be an Avenger. That is until Spiderman sees a superweapons deal taking place that will lead him to a superweapons-like cartel led by Vulture (Michael Keaton) to which Spiderman feels he needs to stop.

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I wonder how Keaton got the part to play Vulture? I’ll ponder that thought.

What Spiderman Homecoming nails is the performances more than anything else. Holland does nail portraying a teenage Peter Parker who does play it an overly optimistic way that is (somehow) charming. Keaton has a great scene stealer that gave me a hearty chuckle and works best when he plays detective more so than a villain. The newcomer Jacob Batalon who plays Ned, Peter’s best friend also surprised me as well.

The second greatest thing about Spiderman Homecoming is the coming of age story that evolves throughout the second half. On paper, the story is standard and unoriginal but I loved the execution of it. Spiderman Homecoming is the old “If your nothing with X, then you are nothing without X” that places Parker as the awkward adolescent that fights with his overzealous ambitions that go with being an adolescent.

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My favourite scene in the entire movie occours in Keaton’s car

 

My favorite moment in the story occours just before the “homecoming” in which Spiderman is tested, not on a ground of combat but on a ground of morals and choices. It is a relief that those moments are not overdone with the image of the hero looking down and reflecting on the suffering and/or injustice that is seen in too many superhero movies these days.

There are little moments in Spiderman Homecoming that annoy me in which the story back peddles slightly. Moments of earned pathos and drama are unnecessarily cut off by a joke. It shows me that even great movies have safety nets, to which I want to go away. That being said, most of the jokes land when they are meant to.

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One of the more memorable moments in Spiderman: Homecoming

And yes, there are multiple action sequences that are entertaining but the most suspenseful one is set at the Washington Monument. I sometimes wonder how they filmmakers shoot these scenes sometimes. The ferry action sequence was decent, but the climatic fight on a plane nearly gave me seizures from lights flickering all over the place.

I would have said that Spiderman Homecoming was a very good film with entertaining action set pieces, acting and storytelling, but the coming-of-age story that is emphasized in the second half put the movie over the edge ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/4

 

The House Review

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Comedies like The House make me yearn for R-rated comedies to succeed in being funny. That is because The House has some entertainment value in there yet not enough of the material translates into laughter, at least not for a feature length film. The House has the acting talent, but the talent is not enough to rise the movie above the repetitive gags.

The story is that (Will Ferrell) and (Amy Poehler) and (Jason Matzukis) are running an illegal gaming operation in order to cover each other’s debts and expenses. This means raising half a million dollars in 4 weeks. Ferrell and Poehler want to get their daughter into college, Matzukis was to avoid foreclosure.

Tell me if you have heard of any of these stock characters before:

1. The cop who is so idiotic that he is not believable in any way.
2. The corrupt leader of the local council who hooks up with his co-worker behind closed doors.
3. The optimistic stoner who is both dumb and happy-go-lucky (every Jason Mantzoukas character ever)
4. The parents who will become overly rebellious when the chips are down.

Those are all the main characters in the movie and the gags are an assembly line of water down gags that are associated with those stock characters.

To be fair to Ferrell, Poehler and especially Mantzoukas, they try to make it work. This was the main reason I could watch this movie to the end quite easily. I have seen comedies in which actors were apathetic and lazy knowing their material was not funny.The three actors have chemistry, but they lack a funny script that translates well on the big screen.

Laughs exist in The House, but they are few and far between. The first 20 minutes beginning does not work at all and I was expecting a trainwreck. Fortunately, things do pick up from there with the best bits starting to come in when the trio start to make some money and it became mildly entertaining for awhile. But The House does not achieve the belly laughs it intended to do.

Sadly, The House does not have enough laughs or entertainment value for 90 minutes. Enough for a TV show maybe. The actors stopped it from being a disappointment, but this movie will easily be forgotten ⭐⭐1/2

Transformers: (Hopefully) The Last Knight

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Acting: ⭐⭐
Build: -☠☠
Writing: -☠☠
Characters: DUD
Visuals: ⭐⭐⭐

Transformers: The Last Knight is like Batman vs. Superman overloaded with more vacuity. It starts off with promise before the story gets lost in the bad humor, slow motions, unfunny jokes, fast cars and overbloated special effects.

At the end of the movie a child said to his father “Daddy that movie was so awesome. I took two naps!” I thought “You lucky bastard”. I was not surprised if anyone got multiple naps in as the movie went for 149 minutes.

The story to Transformers: The Last Knight begins with a segment of the story of King Arthur and Merlin before it segways into Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) and Laura Haddock (Viviane Wembly) being the present day embodiment of the medieval characters as the try to save the world from Transformers that crash land into earth.

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I can see the difference between two bulking scraps of metal in Transformers: The Last Knight. That’s a good start!

There were so many things that were wrong with this picture but the one good thing was the cinematography at a certain level. Transformers: The Last Knight does look visually pleasing and I can tell which Transformer was fighting what or whom. I could even tell which one was winning.

Beyond that what you have got here is an overblown, convoluted mess. The sound was too loud, the script was full of anti-wit containing moronic unfunny jokes and dumb insults, each scene feels like forever and you just lose complete focus because of the structural mayhem.

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Bay’s pyrotechnician.

The structual mayhem primarily comes from the editing. The movie just cannot cut away fast enough to get the next shot from the multiple camera angles that Michael Bay set up. You are given absolutely no room to breathe or take anything in. It aims to do a 149 minute sprint by which I did not (nor any reasonable person should) have the stamina for that speed.

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Every second shot, the aspect ratio changes (the black bars on the screen)

What made the cinematography and editing even worse is I noticed the images were stretching in and out constantly. What I had realized was that Transformers: The Last Knight changes aspect ratio nearly every single shot. Once I noticed this, I could not help but notice the black bars on the screen changing sizes. It was distracting as hell to watch.

Transformers: The Last Knight was a film that I expected and dreaded because the June/July session is when movie studios put their blockbusters out on release and normally any semblance or sanity or even excitement is crushed by the weight of visual and auditory sensation.This is often done without and substance, context or justification. To paraphrase The Hollow Men by T.S. Eliot. Transformers: The Last Knight is “Shape without form, shade without color, paralyzed force, gesture without motion” This movie talks about the chosen knight but has the heart and soul of a hollow man, a stuffed man. ⭐

P.S. The revisionist history this film make up is hilarious. In this movie, autobots were responsible for the toppling of the Third Reich, the abolishment of slavery, the medival Chinese wars and toppling the Saxons. In the movie there are photographs and sketchings of the autobots and yet the movie want me to believe that the transformers did it all secretly.

Cars 3: Same Gear, Still Speeding

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I had a nice time watching Cars 3. The positives outweigh the negatives on this one. Yes, there are many cliches and lacks the strong emotional punch of previous Pixar installments, but Cars 3 makes up for it with storytelling that develops as the characters develop themselves.

Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is no longer the fast one of the track as many new and improved cars are taking the tarmac. McQueen seeks the help of a car fitness instructor called Cruz Ramerez to get McQueen up to speed with the younger cars in order to reclaim the Piston Cup.

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The movie is centered on the relationship beitween Lightning McQueen and his new fitness coach Cruz Ramirez

Cars 3 is like a light-hearted escapist movie with a bit of a brain. There is a lot of races going on where McQueen and Ramerez speed around beaches, tracks, a smash-em-up derby and racing simulations. All of which is at least mildly entertaining with the brightly colored animation, dialogue, and action sequences.

Cars 3 also serves as justification in making a sequel by making the themes somewhat different. The action and the racing is similar (which I don’t mind) but the themes do involve a car learning about what he wants in his late career. It’s just a pity that there was not a satisfying payoff of that in the end. There are some decent moments but because the ideas Cars 3 dabbles in are not fully realized, Cars 3 does not separate itself from the rest of the pack.

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It’s a battle between old scool and new school and a battle of driving faster or driving smarter.

In between all of the action and ideas are some moments of humor and social satire. There a funny class between old-school fitness training with new-school fitness training. Cars 3 also satirizes sports broadcasting by the female cars giving superfluous sporting statistics and Cars 3 even makes fun of Pixar themselves turning into a cash cow franchise.

Ultimately I see Cars 3 as a movie that is firmly on the right track but lacks the courage of it’s convictions to go the distance. For another analogy: They built the car but not the road to drive on to experience the feeling of freedom. Still, it’s a pretty nice car to own. ⭐⭐⭐1/2.

 

 

 

 

Despicable Me 3 Review

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Acting ⭐⭐⭐
Build ⭐1/2
Writing:⭐⭐⭐1/4
Characters ⭐⭐3/4
Visuals: ⭐⭐⭐1/2

The Despicable Me franchise has always had it’s childish slapstick embedded into a story and it has usually worked. With Despicable Me 3, it is used as the crux and has it’s hits and misses. Because of that, Despicable me has some laughs and insightful moments, but can never fully develop them.

The story: Gru (Steve Carrell) who discovers he has a twin brother called Stu. They work together as criminals to try and take a diamond that was stolen by Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker) who is using that diamond to create a monster to destroy the world.

Illumination Entertainment knows you like the Minions so they are going to give it to you. There is a ton of kids slapstick humor with the Minions that kids will enjoy. I did not mind either until they kept doing Minion gags for what felt like forever. Eventually, I started to lose interest in the comedy as I felt it was getting stale.

After the entire first act of wacky comedy do we finally start to develop characters and eventually the plot. They try to develop characters such as Gru’s insecurities and Agnes (Gru’s youngest adoptive daughter) supposed loss of innocence but never works as well as it could have. I feel that’s because they spent so much time on action and comedic sequences that the story inadvertently falls by the wayside.

While Despicable Me 3 is a decent movie it plays so frustratingly safe that I have become somewhat disappointed in the franchise. The reason I am disappointed is that I know they can make great movies like the original. The original balanced the tones between action, comedy and drama perfectly. By the thrid time around it seems to have lost some of the substances by creating too much tiresome slapstick and little action or drama to counterbalance it ⭐⭐3/4

The Mummy: Dead on Arrival

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Acting ⭐1/2
Build ⭐⭐
Writing ⛧⛧
Characters ⭐3/4
Visuals ⭐⭐1/2

Creating Universes are now a trend in movie industry now more than ever and Universal have responded badly to the changing trend. The Mummy, the first movie of the “Dark Universe” franchise Universal have made and it’s like watching paint dry. It is so boring that Tom Cruise couldn’t save it. If an energetic Tom Cruise can’t save it, that’s all you need to know about how bad The Mummy was.

Tom Cruise plays a soldier stealing ancient artifacts and selling them for profit. When he gets involved in a conflict zone, he finds an underground temple that awakens Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) and Cruise has to stop her from creating her new world order.

That is the jist of the plot, though The Mummy makes it feel needlessly complicated. To be fair on the movie’s part, there are two action scenes that were good and the CGI is not too terrible. While in any movie, that is not a pass mark, it is certainly a redeemable film if I can easily spot some redeeming qualities.

What redeeming qualitys The Mummy had however vwas swallowed up in a sea of bland boring badness. There are many bad things about The Mummy but I will limit it to two major components which are the tedious dialogue and the zany genre shifting that never gels together nor works on their own.

The writing is terrible in ways that make me wonder if the six writers ever proofread what they were writing. The writing is a flood of expository dialogue that is never interesting. This is due to The Mummy needing to “build the franchise”.

The expository dialogue is either narration, expositions of mythology or lazy writing to get out plot holes. Russel Crowe must have been bewildered with the amount of dialogue he had to read for his role. Eventually, The Mummy stopped becoming a film and more about an audiobook on ancient Egyptian mythology narrated by Russel Crowe.

Beyond the bad writing, The Mummy also loves to shift between genres like horror and action-comedy whenever it wants to without it ever feeling like a smooth transition. This did not matter much as the horror scenes were not scary, the comedy was not funny and the action only mildly thrilling. The only good scenes are when Tom Cruise gets to be Tom Cruise (which is about two or three sequences). Trust me, you will know what those are because they will stand out from the 120 other minutes of nothing.

The Mummy is the worst kind of franchise building that you could imagine. It’s the kind where they introduce characters and have limited depth to them for which they will be revealed in subsequent films. It also feels like a stopgap for other subsequent movies and this is the first in the franchise. The Mummy is unusually bad. ⭐1/4

Baywatch: In Name Only

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Zack Efron and Dwayne Johnson’s physiques are emblematic of Baywatch the movie: All strength and no stamina. Every actor’s talents were wasted by the actors playing themselves or stock characters. Baywatch might have gotten away with it if it was at least funny.

Admittedly, I did laugh twice. But twice in the span of 116 minutes is quite a thin spread. Baywatch is in name only as it’s less of a movie about lifeguards on the beach as it is a buddy cop movie. It kept reminding me of a far lesser grade of Beverly Hills Cop. Or if that’s too archaic of a reference, it more like a lesser grade 21 Jump Street.

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I expected Johnson and Efron to interduce themselves as Axel Foley and Sgt. Tagget. Only 80’s movie fans will get that joke.

The story follows a two-time olympic gold medalist Mike (Zac Efron). Mike has fallen from grace as he vomited into a swimming pool competing for this thrid gold medal. Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson) is the head lifeguard at Baywatch and both have to investigate a drug ring that is smuggling flakka on the shores of Baywatch.

You may wonder why lifeguards, not the police, are investigating and planning a potential drug bust. I saw the movie and I am still wondering why. It has too many tonal shifts between beach comedy and drama and action comedy and drama. It eventually settles with criminal espionage with lifeguards instead of cops none of which is particularly funny or thrilling.

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Where the gags go in Baywatch: In the bin and recycled again and again.

There are gags in Baywatch that constantly repeat, making me want them to move on. There is one where they constantly reference that hot people run in slow motion and another string of gags where lifeguards name Efron’s character different teen-bop artists. While not particularly funny, at least there is variety in the name calling with the various punchlines. He was called “Justin Bieber” “NSNYC” New Kid on the Block” and various other names. Those gags got tiring quickly and the movie constantly rehashed the same joke.

There were also scenes that were a complete waste too as they added nothing to the story. There were entire scenes which you could take out and the movie would have made just as much sense. Why they made an entire scene with David Hasselhoff instead of a quick cameo appearance with Pamela Anderson I have no idea. Why Efron did a complete obstacle course that had nothing to do with the lifeguard recruitment process I also have no idea.

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“Baywatch works because we follow rules” HAHAHAHAHA!

Overall, I believe that Baywatch is so long because all the actors have to get all their shit in while constantly running out of steam by flip-flopping between genres and locations. It also looked like the editor forgot his scissors on he day at work as pointless scenes made the final cut and made the movie 116 minutes long. Because of this, I highly doubt the filmmakers had a solid idea for the movie before they started filmmaking. ⭐3/4

PS: Baywatch has the fakest CGI fire I have ever seen. I have seen Zack Snyder films with more convincing CGI.

Wonder Woman- FINALLY!

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After three movies in their cinematic universe, DC have finally got a firm step in the right direction with Wonder Woman. Prior to Wonder Woman, I felt that DC movie had a vision of what they wanted, they just did a bad job executing it. Now, with Wonder Woman it looks like they have realized that vision. I got what they were going after but now I am starting to like it.

Set in the time of the First World War, Gal Gadot plays Wonder Woman- Known as Diana and raised on a secluded island of female Amazons- who sees a pilot (Chris Pine) who crashed his plane next to the island, fleeing from German forces. After the pilot tells his story of escape, Wonder Woman believes that Aries, the God of War, is the instigator of the war and seeks out to defeat him.

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The island Wonder Woman inhabits during the first act. Well shot, looks luscious.

Yes, it took me awhile for me to program the fact that an ancient God instigated a war, but in the mind of Wonder Women, that’s her belief as she was a sheltered child who knows nothing about the outside world. This film is aware of her naiveté but I’m glad the movie never makes her look dumb and stupid. Chris Pine, does a great job of reacting to her flaws, generating both light-hearted humor and drama without being too condescending to her. He does a great job here is an underrated actor.

Wonder Woman has taken all the good of previous DC movies and pushed away a lot of the bad from DC movies. It has the darkness of Batman vs Superman minus the murkiness. Wonder Woman incorporates mild doses of humor to compliment the dark tone of the material whereas Suicide Squad did it so erratically.

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One of the minor problems in the movie is the sword. It a payoff that ultimately does not happen for its purpose.

Adding from that, Wonder Woman has told a story which never feels confusing or lost in the making of the film. In the combination of both the balance in tone and creating a simple story that never feels confusing, DC have made a good film. Six months ago, that thought would have never entered my head.

I don’t see Wonder Woman as the breakout movie for DC that will immediately turn heads, but I see Wonder Woman as the starting block. Even though it was an entertaining film, I still think there is a better film from DC that has not been made yet. It is certainly a firm step in the right direction ⭐⭐⭐3/4