Thursday, June 8, 2017

I, Daniel Blake and Wonder Woman

                       The Agony And The (occasional) Ecstasy

                                                            Reviews by Ken Burke
 This week it’s wonderful for me to be able to write about 2 4-star-cinematic-pleasures (although “pleasure” refers more to satisfaction with artistic truth in the first instance than what you could call truly “enjoyable”), with the slight irony being that I’ll say considerably less about the Loach film, even though it’s the more significant one, just because it’s so successfully direct in its content and impact whereas Wonder Woman comes with many cultural attachments that need more explication.
              I, Daniel Blake (Ken Loach, 2016)
An older British construction-worker carpenter is forced to quit working because of a heart attack, leaving him in a conundrum when his doctor won’t release him to regain a job yet the government deems him fit so he’s denied benefits; in the difficult process of an appeal he befriends a young woman and her children also dealing with problems in this powerful drama.
“Executive Summary” (no spoilers): Daniel Blake's a 59-year-old carpenter living in Newcastle, England but no longer working because of a heart attack; his doctor advises him against attempting to return to a job just yet, even though his local government office that oversees Employment and Support allowances deems him capable, which both denies him benefits while forcing him to seek employment in a community where there is none for him, with the further difficulty of having to file his appeal online even though he’s completely computer-illiterate.  This is a very straightforward story of decent people put through the wringer by bureaucratic structures set up to demand regulatory conformity rather than desperately-needed care, with no overblown drama, just a careful look at how people desperate for survival in affluent societies become dehumanized by a structure that can’t allow itself to take more personal interest in the lives of those needing help the most.  In the process of his own travails, Daniel meets Katie, a single mother of 2 also struggling to get by and conform to soul-stifling-standards; they develop a strong friendship, but with meager resources there’s little they can do to help each other out of their common plight.

 This somber film won the prestigious Palme D’Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, has been out in Europe since last fall, but is just now making its way into our domestic (U.S.-Canada) markets.  Although critically acclaimed, it’s barely made a dent yet in our northern North American theaters; therefore, while I highly recommend it you’d have to look far and wide to find ... Daniel at this time, leaving me encouraging you to keep an eye out for it when better availability of some sort arises.

So, curious readers, if you can abide plot spoilers in order to learn much more about the particular cinematic offering under examination this week please feel free to read on for more of the traditional Two Guys in-depth-explorations in our brilliant (!)-but-lengthy review format.
What Happens: Widower Daniel Blake (Dave Johns) is a 59-year-old carpenter living in Newcastle, way up in far northern England, eager to get back to work after a recent heart attack.  Yet, even as his meager savings are running out he’s “Caught between the longing for love And the struggle for the legal tender”* trying desperately to get financial aid from the local welfare office but constantly running up against procedural nightmares.  The film begins with opening credits on a black screen while we hear the increasingly-frustrating-conversation between Daniel and a snippy non-medical “health care professional” as he’s going through the questionnaire of a work capacity assessment (for him, in his rising anger, it’s too much about extraneous matters, not enough about his heart health) which leads to a denial of Employment and Support Allowance because he’s deemed fit to work although his doctor hasn’t cleared him.  When he goes to the local office to appeal the decision (after waiting almost 2 hours on telephone hold, listening to the infernal Muzak-like “distraction”) he finds he must apply online, yet he knows nothing about computers.  He gets some tips at a local public library but mistakes in the process leave him unfinished when time’s up.  Back at the welfare office he sneaks help from understanding Ann (Kate Rutter), only for her to be called out by her supervisor for breaking procedure, leading to another appeal-submission-failure. 

*From Jackson Browne’s “The Pretender”; more about that at the end of this review's next section.

 In the process of all this he meets Katie Morgan (Hayley Squires) and her 2 kids, Daisy (Briana Shann) and Dylan (Dylan McKiernan), also desperately in need (further, moved from their London home to Newcastle as the only place with available housing) but thrown out of the office for demanding to see a counselor even though she was barely late for her appointment (confusion over bus schedules in her new city), with Daniel likewise dismissed when he tries to stand up for her.  They form a friendship as he gives her a little cash to pay her overdue electric bill, shows them how to extend warmth in their cold apartment without heaters, carves little fish mobiles for her children.

 While we find that there’s occasionally a little  bit of legitimate comedy in the midst of all this personal misery (mostly knowing laughter coming from the audience as the stern bureaucrats demand that everyone must follow established procedures, even as most of the innocently-unemployed sit patiently [or not] in the bland waiting areas).  Things get worse for both Daniel and Katie, as he’s required to look for work where there is none (doesn’t help he’s using a handwritten resume [the computer problem again], although a neighbor did finally help him get his online appeal filed) while she’s almost arrested for shoplifting (she’s so desperate—and hungry—that in one scene at a food bank she breaks open a can of beans to eat, then breaks down crying, but at least here the workers are supportive of her situation) then turns to a prostitution job she’s offered by the supermarket security guard.  Daniel’s frustration getting his appeal scheduled results in him spray-painting his needs on the welfare building’s outside wall (to hearty approval from passersby, then being let off with a warning just like in Katie’s crime); when the long-awaited-day finally arrives, Katie accompanies him to the hearing (despite their falling-out over her hooker decision [she hates it also]) where he gets encouragement prior to his appearance, but when he makes a last-minute-stop in the restroom he’s overcome by another heart attack.  At his sparsely-attended, government-paid “pauper’s funeral” (done in mid-morning to get it out of the way prior to the big fully-paid-ceremonies) Katie reads the speech he wrote for the appeal, brief-but-poignant-statements about how “I’m not a dog […] I’m a citizen.”

So What?  I readily admit that I don't know much of anything directly about Newcastle beyond what I've recently read in some websites (and the tasty Brown Ale originally from there), but this place seems a likely setting for this film as it’s a solid example of the odd contrasts between an active commerce and arts scene vs. the grim reality of a metropolitan area’s terrible poverty, excessive noise pollution, low-life-expectancy in the most extremely deprived neighborhoods, tragically high levels of obesity in children and adults, plus deaths from smoking, hospital stays related to alcoholism (none of these maladies affect Daniel, but he’s got enough to deal with concerning his general health, made worse by depression over his circumstances).  Published images and reports about Newcastle make it seem quite attractive; however, Loach shot his film in the less-appealing regions, emphasizing the aspects of urban blight that characterize the living conditions of struggling people like Daniel Blake, representing many of those of all ethnicities living in formerly-industrialized-cities throughout the Western world.  Another unique aspect of Newcastle seems to be its local Geordie dialect, which made some of the dialogue simply incomprehensible to me (and my viewing companions), although you can still easily get the gist of the story from its unadorned-context; the interview in the 3rd link far below for this film notes it carried English subtitles (along with French) for its showing at Cannes; unfortunately, that’s not part of the distribution plan within the dominantly-English-speaking-world, so if you do see I, Daniel Blake—not easy in the domestic (U.S.-Canada) market yet, playing in only 12 theaters with a mere $70,000 take (no info on overseas grosses) you might be best served by watching it on video where you can enable closed-captioning, even if you’re not hearing-impaired.

 Of course, given what Daniel and Katie are going through, you might not want to hear much in the way of details, lest your experience of watching their hardships becomes even more depressing; yet, this is the sort of story needing to be told over and over, as those of us who bemoan the so-called “populist” rise of politicians such as Donald Trump in the U.S.A., Marine Le Pen in France, along with the European Union-disruptive-Brexit vote, so often fail to understand the deep despair of forgotten neighbors in our societies who, like Daniel and Katie, feel left on the dock “While the ships bearing their dreams Sail out of sight” (from Jackson Brown’s “The Pretender” [on his 1976 same-named-album], not being used here as a Musical Metaphor but just done so in my previous posting in regard to The Lovers [Azarel Jacobs], so visit there if you’d like to hear this great song).

Bottom Line 
Final Comments: 
As just noted above, I, Daniel Blake offers me an opportunity to see life from a very different perspective than my existence made up of West-Coast-left-wing-liberalism/comfortable-retirement-savings-from-my-lifetime-of-college-professor-work-aided-by-decent-Social-Security-income/full-medical-coverage-through-Medicare-plus-my-CA-state-employee-wife’s-additional-retirement-benefits, all of which yield an outlook that often fails me in understanding how so many Rust Belt voters (along with their under-employed-parallels regarding recent elections in other Western countries) could be so easily seduced by Donald Trump’s fabrications about “Making America Great Again” by bringing back lost manufacturing jobs, stemming immigration by the assumed “rapists” and “terrorists,” providing tax breaks and medical coverage for “everyone,” but then I don’t live—or even see directly—the shattered lives of limited-skill-laborers left behind in the global marketplace, being un- or under-insured so they turn to overburdened emergency rooms and opioids, angry over how their former cultural dominance now gives way to legal protections and social celebrations for those who don’t look, talk, love, worship, or assume like they do; that doesn’t mean I support the too-easy-reassertion of bigotry of all kinds that has accompanied this straight, White, often-male backlash (don’t be fooled by the blather on certain TV cable news, radio talk shows; some of these people are truly “deplorables,” just not as many as Hilary Clinton foolishly claimed in comments she should have known would be repeated endlessly on social media), but I admit I don’t mingle with the economic left-behinds even in my own CA Central Valley where conditions for many are just as bad as in those areas that carried Trump to Presidential victory, Great Britain out of the European Union (with recent terrorist attacks in England adding ironic emphasis to concerns about public violence, even when committed  by homegrown jihadists).

 I, Daniel Blake hits me square in the face with the reality that governmental safety nets I support can become miserable failures for the people they’re intended to serve (reminding me a little of my own experiences when trying to provide long-distance-care for my widowed, mostly-blind mother, waiting for hours on hold trying to get through to needed Medicare assistance for her—yet another irony of this film is the welfare office that’s so difficult for Daniel and Katie has been privatized, outsourced to an American corporation more so than the British government it represents).  This film shows how legitimate welfare clients can be horribly cast aside, even as overworked welfare providers are prevented by policy from offering relief these essentially-forgotten-folks so long for.

 Yet, to say more about I, Daniel Blake just feels to me like beating a dead horse (I'm sorry for the comparison, Daniel, but at least you’re not being sent off to the dog-food-factories—or at least we don't yet know about it) because Loach has done such a masterful job in such a direct manner to get the points of this film across without bending to sentimentality or making needless romance occur with his protagonists.  It’s a simple story told about struggling people (easily recognized, appreciated by us in their situations, no matter what society they may live in), shown by a powerful film that's masterful in conception, writing, acting, and intent, a viewing experience leaving us with a gut punch of final frustration.*  I always like to end these reviews with a Musical Metaphor to attempt one last look at my current subject of cinematic analysis (but from the artistic perspective of another medium), yet I try to not repeat myself with these songs.  However, in this case I’m drawn again (used twice before) to Pink Floyd’s “Time” (from 1973‘s The Dark Side of the Moon album) at z7Lv_B_c (a video of Roger Waters’ October 2016 show in Mexico City, close to the same time I saw him that month do this performance at the Desert Trip concert in Indio, CA—with growing anticipation of seeing him again here in Oakland, CA this Saturday, June 10, 2017) as I watch Daniel and his mates “Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day […] Waiting for someone or something to show you the way [… because] one day you find ten years have got behind you.  No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun […] Shorter of breath and one day closer to death [… with Daniel personifying that] Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way [… even as his] time is gone [his] song is over.”  This is a terribly sad film, one that speaks eternal truth; if you’d like something more upbeat, though—despite its own dose of troubles—then let’s get heroic.

*Well received in its critical support, with 92% positive reviews from the commentary at Rotten Tomatoes, a 78% average score from those at Metacritic; more details are in the links far below.
                                        Wonder Woman (Patty Jenkins)
An Amazon princess living on a secluded island is forced to acknowledge the destructive ways of humans in WW I when a pilot crash-lands into her nearby ocean; despite opposition from her mother, the Queen, she defiantly goes with him to the battlefields in an attempt to both stop further carnage and follow her sacred duty to rein in Ares, the fierce god of war.
“Executive Summary” (no spoilers): On the long-hidden-island of the Amazons, Themyscira, Princess Diana, against her mother’s (Queen Hippolyta) decrees, insists on taking her finely-honed-warrior-skills into the world of humanity, currently suffering the ravages of WW I in 1917 as she’s learned from crashlanded-pilot Steve Trevor, because she knows from long-time-Amazon-lore war is the result of the destructive god, Ares, so she arms herself with a indestructible shield (matching her likewise metal-repelling-bracelets), the golden Lasso of Truth (a powerful weapon in itself but also one which forces a captured opponent to speak only veracities), and a sword that her Aunt Antiope (the greatest of the Amazon warriors) tells her was left to these women by supreme Zeus as the only weapon capable of stopping Ares (who killed all the other gods—including Zeus—before being weakened by his father in their final battle).  Hippolyta objects to her daughter going on this deadly mission but acknowledges it must be done, with Diana as the new warrior-in-chief, possessing additional powers beyond those of the other Amazons she’s just now beginning to discover.  When he accidently crashed into the Amazon realm, Trevor was eluding German pursuers (who follow him to the island, leading to their deaths in battle with the Amazons, many of whom also perish, including Antiope) as he’d stolen a notebook with plans for a horrible hydrogen-poison-gas-weapon.  Together they travel to Europe, Steve with the goal of destroying
the gas factory before it can be used in a terminal assault against the Allies, Diana with the different but related goal of finding the resuscitated Ares to put an end to his eons-old-command of warfare.

 Unless you're the sort of moviegoer who detests superhero stories, I highly recommend you should see Wonder Woman for several good reasons: It features a strong, self-assured, powerful female as its protagonist in a useful counterpoint to the many male superheroes who dominate this well-reimbursed-movie-genre; it’s spectacularly-constructed in its use of computer imagery to create the Amazon island, the WW I battlefield scenes, and the fiery chaos occurring when Diana, Steve, and their 3 companions finally meet the object of their mission; ultimately, this movie carries a strong antiwar message embodied in the determination of Diana to save a planet she’s never had contact with beyond the shores of her home, benefiting a species of humans she’s never met, all in the name of her birthright duties.

 As these are 2 separate reviews (no attempt at Short Takes this time [I finally did it right in my previously-mentioned last posting so I don’t want to spoil the “streak”]) the above Executive Summary option is for those who don’t want to know too much before seeing this blockbuster superhero movie (although if you haven’t seen it yet and want to, you’re likely among the few outliers on the planet).  Below, as always, the actual review is full of Spoilers, so be forewarned.

This isn't a pitiful publicity photo; this is actually how it looks in the movie, as it's shot during WW I.
What Happens: We first meet Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) in present-day-Paris where she’s an antiquities expert at the Louvre, receiving a package from Bruce Wayne (now that they know each other from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice [Zack Snyder, 2016; review in our April 1, 2016 posting]), a very old photographic plate of her and 4 male companions.  From there we’re into flashback mode for most of the rest of this story, in 1917 on Themyscira, island-nation-home of the legendary Greek Amazons, ruled by Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), where we watch various stages of growth of her daughter, Princess Diana, who yearns to be trained as a warrior as are all the other women of this realm (hidden from human view in—according to some sources—the Atlantic Ocean’s Bermuda Triangle).  Her mother rejects the girl’s request (“Fighting does not make you a hero.”) so she’s trained in secret by her aunt, Antiope (Robin Wright), the best of them all, until the ruse is discovered one day when Diana accidently crosses her bracelets together, unleashing an extraordinary power.  Antiope finally convinces her sister to allow further training, in case the island’s ever attacked, leading the aunt to also explain to her niece how the Amazons were created by the gods to reign in the wayward humans made by Zeus, who’d been corrupted by his son, Ares, god of war, with the goal of the Amazons restoring them to attitudes of love and peace.  Ares retaliated by killing all the other gods, including Zeus, who managed to weaken his son before his demise, then created the hidden island for the Amazons, providing them with a Godkiller weapon, which Diana understands to be a magical sword.  From this protagonist-origin-point, Diana’s life takes a drastic turn when pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes into the ocean just off Themyscira.

 Diana jumps into the waves to save him, then when he’s under the spell of the Lasso of Truth after refusing to divulge any facts about himself he tells them of the horrors occurring in WW I (they had no sense of it even though their mission from Zeus always was to rise up against Ares should he ever get powerful enough to start wars again), how he’s an American spy who's recently infiltrated the German war machine where he found the Allies’ weakened-adversary now ready to turn the tide of the “War to End All Wars” with a deadly hydrogen-gas-weapon, the formula for which he stole from evil Isabel Maru (Elena Anaya)—“Doctor Poison”—then escaped in a getaway plane (while blowing up the weapons lab in the process), chased by the forces of Gen. Erich Ludendorff (Danny Huston); they shot him down over what turned out to be the Amazon island (so the invisibility shield protecting them all these millennia was more like a cloak than a barrier, because German troops are soon storming the beach).  In a fierce battle, in which the Amazons initially might seem to be outmatched as arrows, swords, and shields are pitted against bullets, the invaders are soon all dead but not without killing some of the women warriors including 
Antiope, who sacrificed herself to save Diana.  Despite Hippolyta’s stern edict about how her daughter is absolutely  to have no involvement in human affairs, Diana’s determined to leave her home in order to find and kill Ares because she's decided he must be the one responsible for this horrid war, so she climbs to the citadel where the lasso, sword, and an indestructible shield are housed, then heads off in a boat with Steve (after first confronting her Mom who finally, begrudgingly accepts Diana’s mission without telling her the full truth about herself so as to not allow Ares to find her Princess too easily).  Soon they’ve made it to London; Steve promises to get her to the front lines in Belgium so she can locate Ares, but first he delivers the notebook (which only Diana can read, as she’s fluent in many languages, including obscure ones) which encourages Sir Patrick Morgan (David Thewlis) of the Imperial War Cabinet to secretly back the expedition to destroy the new gas-weapon-factory but with the caveat that it must be done fast so as not to interfere with the armistice negotiations intended to soon bring an end to the war.  Steve recruits 3 old friends to help—disguise-master Sameer (Saïd Taghmaoui), Charlie (Ewen Bremmer) a skilled marksman suffering from PTSD, and Chief (Eugene Brave Rock) a Native American smuggler.

 Once in Belgium they’re stuck in the trenches until Diana storms across No Man’s Land by herself, bouncing bullets off her bracelets, allowing Allied soldiers to support this unstoppable warrior in her quest of routing the Germans, then liberating the nearby town, leading to the discovery of some unknown pleasures for her such as snowfall then dancing (and an implied night of sex) with Steve (plus posing for the photo of these liberators from back at the beginning of our story).  Next, they find Ludendorff is scheduled to be at a gala party of the atrocious German high command to be held in a nearby castle so Steve—determined to track down the gas-weapon-location via the General—and Diana—determined to kill this German she’s convinced is actually Ares—manage to sneak into the event, but even as our protagonists argue over strategy the gas weapon’s tested on that nearby village, killing everyone, leading Diana to go it alone, furious with Steve all these innocent people are now dead.  From this point, through a lot of furious action, we have Diana killing Ludendorff but shocked his troops are still loading the grotesque gas bombs onto a plane bound for an attack on London, Sir Morgan suddenly appearing to tell Diana he’s really Ares intent on allowing the bomb attack to 
occur, as well as the armistice to be signed so that disillusioned humans will continue to eradicate themselves later, when the treaty fails to bring peace as promised (Ares always believed we were inherently-flawed-beings, needlessly polluting the formerly-pristine-planet), inviting her to join him in the ultimate destruction of mankindwhich she refuses to dotelling her it’s not the sword but herself that’s the true Godkiller because she’s actually Zeus’ daughter by Hippolyta (making her Ares’ half-sibling), then battling her to prevent his own prescribed death.
 In the end—after some spectacular visual effects—the 3 “invader” companions blow up the weapons lab, Steve commandeers the airplane then fires a bullet at the bombs causing them to explode harmlessly high in the sky (with him dying in the process), Diana (inspired by Steve’s sacrifice) finally turns Ares’ power against him in a blast of final destruction (which evaporates the soldiers’ hostilities, with the Armistice soon thereafter bringing the war to an end).  This all wraps up back in the present, with voiceover narration from Diana about how she realizes all humans balance the capacity for good and evil, with her determination to stand boldly against our self-destructive-tendencies, by embracing love over violence, as the now-revealed Wonder Woman to the rescue against all crime.

OK, excellent start, but we need Green Lantern in this group.
So What? As with other superhero movies from the extensive DC/ Warner Bros. combine I’ve got a fairly good idea about the various evolutions of their main protagonists (unlike with Marvel and their various partnerships with movie studios such as Disney, Sony, 20th Century Fox, where I’m not that much up on the enormous cast of characters from the various comic-book-heritages, so I’m forced to focus on the screen's actions rather than how these multiple-Marvel-plots show stories from their print-version-past), allowing me to have a useful dose of context as to how what happens in Justice League-based-cinematic-stories can either enhance how these 2-dimensional-heroes come to life or be a bit distracting when the origin-presentations and their present-day-follow-throughs deviate noticeably from what I’d previously witnessed in print over the years.  Although with DC that requires more investment in the comic-book-output than I’ve been willing to make lately, given they’ve kept creating storylines to reboot their entire universe (or, at times, multiverse) over recent decades so I don’t always know what’s going on in the most contemporary comics anyway.  Case in point: A little background research showed me an earlier explanation of how Princess Diana came to be, sculpted from clay by her mother then given life and various powers from some of the Greek gods, but in her current incarnation she’s directly the daughter of Queen Hippolyta and Zeus; similarly, in this movie the clay-birth-story’s what she’s told by Mom as a means of hiding the truth about Zeus so as to not encourage her to make herself known any sooner than necessary to Ares, possibly also to discourage her from taking on such a powerful entity in direct combat had she known from the start she’s the designated Godkiller, not her sword.

 In this current movie's plot, it’s a little odd for me to relocate Diana’s limited “coming out” to the world of humans during WW I instead of her actual comic-book-beginnings in WW II,* but it does conveniently help clean up things with the rest of the DC Extended (often referred to as “Cinematic” by fans, to parallel that name with the “official” Marvel superhero movies, most are owned now by Disney) Universe as the origin of this possibly-ageless-female-warrior’s entry into Earthly battles is set at a time when Superman, Batman, and other members of the Justice League aren’t even born yet, giving the Wonder Woman crew the freedom not to have to explain the whereabouts of her superhero friends when danger strikes, a bit of a clumsy problem for members of Marvel’s Avengers in their solo movies having to clarify why their entourage isn’t around to help out when crisis inevitably strikes again.  (Although that situation is getting more complicated as well, with the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming [Jon Watts, set for July 7, 2017 release] starring the newest Web Slinger actor, Tom Holland, in a Columbia-Sony production, mentored by Iron Man [Robert Downey Jr.] from the Marvel-Disney Avengers group—the backroom-profit-sharing-deals just go on and on, don't they? [in yet another twist, Holland was also Spider-Man in the Disney-Marvel Cinematic Universe movie
Captain America: Civil War {Anthony and Joe Russo, 2016; review in our May 13, 2016 posting}].)  

*Here’s DC Comics’ official take on the character, although this site gives you considerably more info, even as the Wikipedia overlords call for edits, apparently because they don’t care for extended entries under each topic (a chief reason why I never bother to submit anything to Wikipedia)—OK, I know these Wikipedia “edits” are just links to allow user contributions, but I couldn’t resist taking a shot at my own verbosity.  (Don’t you wish you could edit my posts?  That’s why I don’t allow such.)

 However, despite Diana’s indication in voiceover at the end of Wonder Woman that she’s spent the last 100 years fighting evil wherever it manifests, she must have done it clandestinely because no one seems to be aware of her exploits until she revealed herself in the battle against the Doomsday monster in Batman v Superman …, with neither of our titular heroes ever having previously known about her (I guess Sameer, Charlie, and Chief stayed mum on her Belgium battlefield exploits, with everyone else who saw her in action back in 1917 deadto tell no talesby the end of that story).

 But, past history (and how she kept herself occupied over the last century) aside, William Moulton Marston’s original 1941 comic-book-conception, after existing for decades in print and various TV manifestations (most notably Lynda Carter’s from 1975 to 1979 on ABC, then CBS), has finally come full-blown to the big screen with a huge-splash debut of $103.3 million domestically (plus another $125 million from foreign venues, thereby nicely balancing out the huge $149 million production budget), justifying plans for a sequel (especially with this movie now being the highest-grossing-opening ever from a female director)—very likely to happen, with both director and star under contract to do so—as well as giving further impetus for seeing Diana in action again later this year (November 17, 2017) in Justice League (Zack Snyder, Joss Whedon) starring along with Batman, Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg (but even though he’s not in the promo poster, don’t be surprised if supposedly-dead-Superman shows up also in that he came back from a similar death from Doomsday in the comic books and Henry Cavill’s in the cast list).  Just how much we’ll see of Wonder Woman in this group effort will have to prod our curiosity-concerns to consider for the next few months, although the full-cast-Avengers movies have been relatively successful in balancing a host of extraordinary-crimefighters so far so I have great hopes that Justice League will do likewise, especially in giving a prominent role to a female powerhouse destined to overshadow what we’ve seen from Marvel’s Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), although in all fairness as Marvel keeps adding troops to its Avengers cast (including Black Panther, Vision, Ant-Man, and Spider-Man in … Civil War), it gets increasingly harder for any of them to get appropriate screen time especially with audience expectations of seeing a lot of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and the Hulk; I just hope that DC/WB can contain themselves with Justice League, not allowing the future packing in of more superhumans (as happens in their comic books, with the League eventually being as overpopulated as Marvel’s X-Men stories so the print tales become just as bloated as those X-Men narratives).

Bottom Line 
Final Comments: Unlike many superhero movies which don’t get a lot of love from the critics (although … Civil War and Doctor Strange [Scott Derrickson, 2016; review in our November 10, 2016 posting where it got 3½ stars from me, but then I also gave 3½ to Batman v Superman … while the tomato-tossers could muster up only 29% positive reviews, the metacritics coming in not much better with 44%] each achieved a 90% Rotten Tomatoes result), Wonder Woman’s been well-embraced with 93% positive RT reviews, an average 76% score at MC (generally speaking, quite high for them for this sort of movie; more details in the links below), possibly another factor in the strong audience response so far, added to the rare occasion of seeing a female superhero take command of her situation—a treat for girls and women of all ages in our worldwide-still-struggling-for-gender-equality-societies (with the drama alleviated in one scene where Steve insists Diana needs contemporary women’s clothing rather than her warrior clothes so she tries on various ridiculous outfits, finally settling for a tailored coat, skirt, hat, and glasses)—while triumphing in loud, active, computer-enhanced-battles that should keep the male audience content as well (not to mention the stunningly-attractive-appearance of Gadot, who’s compelling enough on her own but further enhanced with a costume that’s battle-worthy in itself but with its prominent breastplate, miniskirt, and tall boots [along with that golden lasso] it evokes not only Wonder Woman's original battle-dress from yesteryear but also easily plays into bondage fantasies) so I can imagine a wide range of men (and women; let’s not be sexist about this aspect of human intrigue) finding great visual pleasure with what’s on screen in addition to the explosions and deaths (all handled in an appropriate PG-13 manner, so while lots of extras die there’s nothing bloody or grotesque about it, even given the reality of horrible WW I slaughterings).

 However, there have been male protests about a few "women-only" screenings at the Austin, TX (my long-ago-hometown) Alamo Drafthouse Cinema (as if there aren’t plenty of other opportunities for men to see this movie; the protests might be more satire than indignation, although in Texas you never know what to expect), while the government of Lebanon banned Wonder Woman, offended by Gadot as an Israeli who also served in her country’s armed forces.

 My only plot-concerned-questions (though I agree I really shouldn't dwell on these much in a fantasy-based-story, any more than I should try to make sense of those Force-channeling-midichlorians in the Star Wars movies) that arose as I was watching Wonder Woman concerned why weren't the Amazons alerted to the endless wars of humankind during their several-millennia-isolation on their island (but their non-response is justified, more or less, by Ares’ later explanation to Diana about how, in his long-weakened-state he was merely able to prod our species to make our own destructive decisions, so I guess these warriors didn’t sense the actual manifestation of Ares, thereby not justifying their reappearance in our realms of the world*) as well as what exactly happened eons ago with the creation of humans and Amazons (explained by Aunt Antiope, but too quickly for me to catch all of it, so it seems that while trying to restore peace among the people antagonized by Ares the Amazons were captured at some point [?], freed by Antiope, then given their island home by Zeus as protection for baby Diana before the ruler-god went into final battle with his destructive son) along with at what pace an Amazon matures, given that Diana’s referred to in various places as being 5,000 years old so I have to assume that all Amazons don’t age beyond a certain point (as their elders don’t show many signs of physical loss) even though they’re mortal (seen as the invading Germans shoot several of them), but either Hippolyta had a monstrously-long-gestation period with her daughter, Diana’s growth from girlhood to womanhood took place over centuries rather than just a couple of decades (as implied by the scenes of her ongoing maturity), or she’s been a young adult for an enormous amount of time, notably younger in appearance than her mother and aunt but about the same as many of her Amazon companions.  Or, maybe Einstein would find that time moves differently in Themyscira?

*Why Ares suddenly regained his physical presence and full command of his powers during WW I isn’t clarified, but maybe it was just the scope of the human-produced-mayhem that brought him back to full evil presence, despite his unproven claim of being the god of truth, not the god of war.

 I’ll ignore the lack of attempted-rationalization of these anomalies (just as I’ll ignore original Greek myths—admittedly full of their own conflicts/ contradictions as they all evolved from differing oral traditions into later forms of written accounts—that the original Amazons were actually a warlike-race sired by Ares, but that doesn’t fit with this storyline at all so you can read about that on your own).  What I don’t want to ignore is my decision to focus my choice for this Musical Metaphor on the positive motivation for Diana’s entry into the world of humanity, with her naïve (but instilled, in keeping with Hippolyta’s restricted revelations to her only daughter of the full situation of the child being a demigod) yet determined hope that simply killing Ares will forever banish war from our planet rather than some song more focused on Diana’s prowess as a warrior (Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman” [from her 1971 I Don’t Know How to Love Him album] comes to mind; if you want to hear it anyway, go here)—not that there’s anything wrong with that, but to actually hear one of these superheroes blatantly say “I’ve come to bring peace (even if I have to destroy the chief warmonger to do it)” rather than lead with “Bring it on!” is a refreshing change of attitude for this type of story, so I’m going with Diana’s underlying goal of “Give Peace a Chance” (from various John Lennon albums, including 1975’s Shaved Fish) at watch?v=tlKX-m17C7U, a live video with Lennon and Yoko Ono from one of their famous “Bed-Ins for Peace” in 1969 (the first was at the Hilton Hotel, Amsterdam, this one at the Fairmont’s Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal; this video also contains footage from antiwar demonstrations at UC Berkeley and other places [I’d say NYC’s Times Square, Washington, D.C.’s main mall, somewhere in London]).  If you want to sing along, the chorus is easy to follow, the lyrics not so much so you might want to refer to this link for guidance to keep you harmonizing in idealism until next we meet.
Related Links Which You Might Find Interesting:
We encourage you to visit the summary of Two Guys reviews for our past posts.*  Overall notations for this blog—including Internet formatting craziness beyond our control—may be found at our Two Guys in the Dark homepage If you’d like to Like us on Facebook please visit our Facebook page. We appreciate your support whenever and however you can offer it!

*We’re sorry to say that a Google software glitch causes every Two Guys in the Dark posting prior to August 26, 2016 to have an inaccurate (dead) link to the Summary page, but there are just too many to go back and fix them all.  From 8/26/16 forward this link is accurate, with hopefully not too much confusion caused by this latest stupid snafu from the Alphabet overlords’ programming problems.

Here’s more information about I, Daniel Blake: (39:52 press conference with director Ken Loach, actors Dave Johns and Hayley Squires, writer Paul Laverty, producer Rebecca O’Brien, cinematographer Robbie Ryan)

Here’s more information about Wonder Woman: (12:18, 10 Wonder Woman secrets)

Please note that to Post a Comment below about our reviews you need to have either a Google account (which you can easily get at if you need to sign up) or other sign-in identification from the pull-down menu below before you preview or post.

If you’d rather contact Ken directly rather than leaving a comment here please use my new email at  Thanks.

By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile. Ken*

*Please note that YouTube keeps taking down various versions of this majestic Eagles performance at their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame so I have to keep putting in newer links (of the same damn material) to retrieve it; this “Hotel California” link was active when I did this posting but the song won’t be available in all of our previous ones done before 4/12/2017.  Sorry, but there are too many postings to go back and re-link every one.  The corporate overlords triumph again.

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.


Finally, for the data-oriented among you, Google stats say over the past month (which they seem to measure from right now back 30 days) the total unique hits at this site were 36,571, an All-Time High (from silent-partner Pat Craig and myself, we thank our worldwide audience); below is a snapshot of where and by what means those responses have come from within the previous week:

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