Thursday, November 23, 2017

Lady Bird and Justice League

                                                Conflict Resolutions

                                       Reviews by Ken Burke
                                     Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig)

“Executive Summary” (no spoilers)It’s clear from the start Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson’s a dissatisfied senior at a Catholic high-school in 2002-2003 Sacramento, CA, yearning for an upgrade to an elite East Coast college (even though her family finances, grades, and marginal extracurricular activities hardly support such ambitions). Throughout this very-funny-but-at-times-heartbreaking-look at the life of a teenage girl un-romanticized for filmic purposes (in arguing with her mother she suddenly jumps out of a moving car, then wears a cast on her right arm for much of the story; she and a friend snack on unconsecrated Communion wafers; she secretly throws a math teacher’s grade book away forcing him to accept the students’ memories of how they were doing in order for her transcript to improve; she gets suspended for challenging an assembly speaker about abortion; she buys a pack of cigarettes and a Playgirl on her 18th birthday just because she can) based loosely on the younger life of actress-turned-screenwriter/director-Gerwig we also encounter a combative-but-caring-mother, a reclusive-but-helpful-father, some various passing friends and/or love interests, and revelations of how a seemingly-stable-family can be on the brink of financial disaster in this thriving-in-some-places, disastrous-in-others contemporary economy we’re all enjoying/enduring.  Lady Bird’s clearly one of the best-written, best-acted films of the year with solid Oscar talk already swirling around, especially Best Supporting Actress consideration for Laurie Metcalf as Momma Marion.  This film’s not in a lot of markets yet but hopefully will be expanding on a much wider basis as pre-awards-season continues to build up our expectations and anticipations.

Here’s the trailer:  (Use the full screen button in the image’s lower right to enlarge it; activate that same button on the full screen’s lower right or your “esc” keyboard key to return to normal size.)

If you can abide plot spoilers read on, but as this blog’s intended for those who’ve seen the film—or want to save some bucks—to help any of you who want to learn more details yet avoid important plot-reveals I’ll identify any give-away sentences/sentence-clusters like this:  
⇒The first and last words will be noted with arrows and red.⇐ OK, now continue on if you prefer.
What Happens: We begin with an onscreen-quote from Joan Didion, “Anybody who talks about California hedonism hasn’t spent a Christmas in Sacramento,” which sets the tone for this bittersweet, frequently-funny tale of Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson’s (Saoirse Ronan) senior year at Sacramento’s Immaculate Heart of Mary all-girls-high school, in which her mission in life is to escape the brain-dead (in her opinion), pseudo-wild-west-realm of her homeland for the supposed-intellectual/artistic-wonders of East Coast colleges, even though her mother, psychiatric nurse Marion (Laurie Metcalf), prefersin a sarcastic, demeaning mannerself-named Lady Bird should try for a school closer to home (maybe Sac City College with a transfer to UC Davis [but far too agriculturally-boring for our aspiring protagonist]), especially later when Dad Larry (Tracy Letts) loses his job, then has to compete against much-younger-competition including his adopted son, Miguel (Jordan Rodrigues)—a bit older than his biological McPherson sister but also living at home, along with girlfriend Shelly Yuhan (Marielle Scott) whose parents kicked her out due to her openness to sex.  Added to Lady Bird’s mostly-self-imposed-troubles are her attempts to find her own romance, which looks promising when she follows close friend Julie Steffans (Beanie Feldstein) into auditions for the combo-school-musical (with nearby all-boys St. Francis Xavier High) where she shows better talent than most of the others then falls for Danny O’Neill (Lucas Hedges)—a charming representative of every Catholic school’s multi-sibling, hard-drinking Irish family (families)—but soon is crushed by catching him kissing Julie’s supposed boyfriend in the school restroom during a dance.  On a much-lighter-note, the Junior Varsity coach has to take over as director of the next play, Shakespeare’s The Tempest, which he diagrams for the actors as if it's a football game.

 Lady Bird’s attentions move to budding-bass player/anarchist Kyle Scheible (Timothée Chalamet)—so "enlightened" he smokes clove cigarettespart of the upper-crust-circle of Jenna Walton (Odeya Rush) whom Lady Bird tries to befriend but ultimately falls woefully short in the financial department when Jenna learns Lady Bird’s been using Danny’s grandmother’s upscale address to hide her real home on the “wrong side of the tracks.”  Kyle helps Lady Bird lose her virginity, then she’s again devastated to find out he’s had prior experience (yet asks “Are we still going to prom together?” even though she decides to go with Julie, helping overcome her friend’s loneliness) ⇒so she rekindles the Julie connection, makes peace with Danny who desperately needs a friend as he’s terrified of coming out to his “Reagan Country” family and classmates, anxiously awaits word from the East Coast colleges she secretly applied to (financial-aid-applications supplied by Dad, even as he’s struggling with bouts of depression), finally gets on a waiting list at Sarah Lawrence (in Yonkers, NY just north of Manhattan)—where she’d need massive aid, given the roughly $54,000 tuition-plus-fees-rate (housing’s another $10,000; $2,800 for health insurance), then is accepted much to Mom’s anger, goes there, finds some letters Dad snuck into her luggage from Mom (but never given to her daughter) in which she finally admits her true care for Lady Bird, starts calling herself Christine but lies that she’s from San Francisco, almost immediately gets so drunk at a party she has to go to an emergency room, then calls home to leave a message for Mom about how much she really does love her because Marion’s seemingly-hard-hearted-attitudes are ultimately intended to help Christine live a better life than Mom had to do with alcoholic, abusive Grandma.⇐

So What? Given my overall admiration for the extensive attractions of the cinematic universe (not to be confused with the much-more-limited-environments of the Marvel Cinematic Universe [MCU] or the DC Expanded Universe [DCEU], both of which will be explored in the next review just below), with its collection of superb talents including actors, scriptwriters, and directors, it’s a triple joy to celebrate an artist in one of those areas becoming a notable force in the others as well.  That’s the case here with Gerwig, building on her marvelous presence as an actor in such films as Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach, 2012; review in our May 30, 2013 posting), Mistress America (Baumbach, 2015; review in our August 27, 2015 posting)20th Century Women (Mike Mills, 2016; review in our January 27, 2017 posting), and Maggie’s Plan (Rebecca Miller, 2016; review in our June 28, 2016 posting) as she’s now created a marvelous script, further enhanced by her debut in directing it (which is gaining traction as a screening presence, now jumping up to 238 domestic [U.S.-Canada] theaters after starting small, which accounts for the mere $4.9 million in ticket sales during its 3 weeks in release, with hopes strong word-of-mouth will lead to much wider exposure [up to #8 in domestic sales last weekend, but its debut on November 3, 2017 in just 4 venues yielded an average of $93,903, best yet for 2017, as well as being the highest ever for a female-directed-film—to go along with Patty Jenkins now holding the record for highest-grossing-live-action-film directed by a female, with her stupendous Wonder Woman {review in our June 8, 2017 posting}]).  One factor that may help ticket sales for Lady Bird is buzz about Oscar nominations, with some of the strongest consideration being voiced for Metcalf as Best Supporting Actress, although—depending on what else is released between now and the end of the year—I hope that Ronan garners some consideration for Best Actress along with Gerwig for her Original Screenplay.

 Some might grouse about how original the script is given Gerwig’s admitted much of what we see on screen’s inspired by her real life as a Sacramento native (just like Didion), although she clarifies nothing’s specifically autobiographical, but since when should any writer be penalized for drawing upon true experiences rather than fabricating all of them?  (Even Mario Puzo admits the book [and resulting script] for The Godfather [Francis Ford Coppola, 1972] is based on research about the actual Mafia, even though the specific events of the Corleone family are fictionalized.*What becomes quasi-autobiographical for me, though, and even more so for my wife, Nina, includes the Sacramento setting (where I have a close friend who formerly lived there as well as long-time friends now residing in CA’s capital city, whom I’ve visited there a couple of times in recent years) along with the much-more-important aspect of both Nina and I being raised Catholic, attending Catholic school (me through 8th grade, her all the way through high school), and the depiction of a parents-child-relationship Nina admits (with permission for me to write this, although she’d prefer I not get into detailed descriptions about one of her priests that now fall into the Roy Moore-Al Franken morass) resembles her own with an overbearing mother constantly in conflict with a rebellious daughter while the father remains the “good cop” in the background, often secretly undermining Mom’s decrees because he has such a hard time saying “no” to his devoted offspring.

*But, as art and life continue to intermingle, the recently-deceased-Sicilian-Mafia-“boss of bosses,” Salvatore Riina, came from the actual town of Corleone (source of the mob film family's surname) where portions of both The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II (Coppola, 1974) were set and shot.

 Nina and I agree, though, that Gerwig doesn’t lay any attacks on Catholicism as such (except Lady Bird’s humorous refusal to even consider attending a Catholic college [which also brings up memories for me that I was a close-to-be-hired-faculty-candidate at 2 prominent CA Catholic colleges where I had to wrestle at the time with how I’d be able to reconcile my own evolving rejection of this faith—and all others, except for their meditative and “good works” aspects—with the environments I’d be teaching in, but not being chosen at either place—probably for the best—resolved those conflicts]) nor does she present any of the Immaculate Heart nuns (especially realistic-but-tolerant Sister Sarah Joan [Lois Smith], who laughs off Lady Bird and Jenna’s “Just Married Bride of Jesus” adornments to her car) as being like some of the scary presences we faced in the classroom (although at the Homecoming dance there’s a bit straight out of Nina’s memory where a nun tells the dancers to pull apart by at least 6 inches [for Nina, it was a priest insisting the distance be the length of his flashlight], but even there the couples are allowed to full-body-press as the night goes on while a girl isn’t sent home for wearing a “Save A Horse Ride A Cowboy” T-shirt).

Bottom Line Final Comments: As you’ll find in reading on through the rest of this posting, I’ve gone on at length about the DC superheroes in Justice League even though their movie earned just 3½ stars of 5 from me while Lady Bird easily garnered 4 stars (with my ongoing inner deliberations right up until posting time as to whether I should enhance it to my rarified-4½), yet I’ve given less space to describing/analyzing Lady Bird (including no mention until now of the short but touching role of Stephen McKinley Henderson as Father Leviatch a troubled priest who joined the clergy after the death of his son, seeks help from Marion).  Unfair as that may seem (and indicative, as usual, about how I return to childhood memories whenever these superhero movies pop up, as they constantly do, celebrating known quantities for a specifically-targeted-audience while showcasing the constantly-evolving-triumphs of Computer Generated Imagery [CGI]), it’s also an indication of how tightly-effective Lady Bird is, that all you have to do is see it (or maybe just read about it if your critic [even me] is eloquent enough in trying to translate audiovisual mastery into words accompanied by limited illustrations) to know how marvelous is this rare combination of well-crafted scripting, acting, on-screen presentation. (Verified by the even rarer phenomenon of the critical-consensus-site Rotten Tomatoes offering a pure 100% response of positive reviews, even though that represents a survey of 155 critics [at least by the time I went to post], something I’ve seen from them this year only one other time in regard to an RT film that I also reviewed, Dolores [Peter Bratt; my review in our September 6, 2017 posting], but that other 100% was based on only 33 reviews so it was a slightly-more-achievable-conquest [not to take anything away from this great documentary]; over at the other noted critical-consensus-site, Metacritic, you’ll find a 94% average score for Lady Bird, this time the sole-highest-score for anything both they and I have reviewed so far during 2017 [76 films or movies—I’m specific in these terminology applications—to be precise].)

 I try (unless I’m just completely conceptually stumped) to end each review with a Musical Metaphor to provide a final perspective on what’s under consideration but from the viewpoint of the aural artforms, so in this case I kept thinking about The Beatles “And Your Bird Can Sing” (recorded in 1966, released in the U.K. on their version of Revolver, in the U.S. on the eclectic-compilation Yesterday and Today [the one intended to be released with the "butcher" cover until cooler, more-public-image-conscious-heads prevailed]), but since Beatle music became available on iTunes it’s not readily available in free sources anymore so I’ll give you multiple options of the best versions I can find: a guitar-player-video-game (seemingly with the original song plus animations of the Fab Four) at, then a tribute band (possibly called The Tribute) from 2008 and the actual band Wilco from 2013.  What comes to mind for me is how Lady Bird (with reflections on The Beatles' song’s likely reference to a “bird” as a young woman, maybe John Lennon making snotty comments to Mick Jagger about Marianne Faithful, as has been suggested by various sources), when we observe our protagonist over this important transitional year of her life, would say to those around her she considers ostentatious—with their various ornamental birds of splendor—that “you don’t get me, you don’t get me” (which could also refer to how her more-unique-persona’s rarely understood by anyone around her, especially long-suffering-Mom), but, yet, for those in whom she perceives a glimmer of intrigue—such as Kyle, maybe even Jenna—she can also offer the consolation of “When your prized possessions start to weigh you down Look in my direction, I’ll be ‘round, I’ll be ‘round,” although where she’ll be “ ‘round” to in a few more years'll be anybody’s guess; maybe Gerwig and Ronan will treat us to a revisit someday.
        Justice League (Zack Snyder [and Joss Whedon])
Yeah, technically it's a spoiler I'm showing Superman alive again here, but I think the word's out already.
“Executive Summary” (no spoilers): When we left the story in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice last year the world at large had finally been introduced to Wonder Woman (along with glimpses to us of The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg) but was faced with the tragic death of Superman during battle with the monster, Doomsday.  This current movie picks up with the intrusion of a long-banished supervillain, Steppenwolf (the resemblances here to the plotline of Thor: Ragnarok are noticeable, but any of this could have come from previously-published-comic-book-sources for all I know so I’ll just chalk it up to coincidence), determined to acquire the 3 powerful Mother Boxes from the Amazons, Atlantis, and humans in order to remake our planet at the command of even-more-evil-Darkseid (not shown this time but surely in the Justice League's future).  In order to combat the powerful Steppenwolf and his army of flying demons Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince seek out the 3 previously-unknown-superheroes noted above, although their recruitment efforts fail (except with The Flash) until further disasters finally bring about this new warrior amalgamation.  That’s all I can say without getting into spoiler territory except, as you might expect, there are many loud, violent battles (within the realm of PG-13 limits) that will either satisfy you if you listen to me (and a few others) or be a complete waste if you agree with the general critical consensus which has been harsh on many attributes of this movie (except for Gal Gadot’s ongoing impact as Wonder Woman, possibly because so many of us reviewers are star-struck-males), so read on if you wish, choosing carefully if considering buying your own ticket.

Here’s the extended trailer (8:50):

       Before reading any further, I’ll ask you to refer to the plot spoilers warning far above.
Many critics complain about the quality of the CGI work; illustrations such as this may prove them right
at least some of the time, with the additional problem of there being few differentiated promo
photos that I can find to illustrate this review so please just bear with me as best you can
What Happens: (Despite scathing reviews, attendance was so good in my Hayward, CA neighborhood that when I arrived for a screening last Sunday afternoon it was already sold out so I had to zip over to nearby San Leandro where that theater quickly filled up also; therefore, I couldn’t take notes with my little flashlight as usual, resulting in this summary being based just on memory [considerably more compressed than what I’ve usually offered with these DC superhero movies as I note in the next section of this review], but I think you’ll get the important points well enough.)  The world in general, along with Lois Lane (Amy Adams)—now writing kitten stories for The Daily Planet until she’s over her grief—Martha Kent (Diane Lane)—forced to move from her Smallville farm due to foreclosure—and Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck)—holding himself responsible, due to previous clashes with the Kryptonian superhero—mourns the death of Superman (Henry Cavill; as seen in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice [Snyder, 2016; review in our April 1, 2016 posting]), but social disrupters are becoming bolder in his absence (Wonder Woman [Gal Gadot] breaks up a terrorist bombing attempt in London; Batman encounters a mysterious, deadly humanoid-insect-creature we later find out’s called a Parademon).  Even bolder is the return of the huge, monstrous Steppenwolf (voice and motion capture by Ciarán Hinds)—from the distant, deadly world of Apokolips, under the command of the grotesquely-evil Darkseid—(after Steppenwolf was banished eons ago by a combo force of Amazons, Atlanteans, Olympic gods, humans, and Green Lanterns) to take command of the 3 Mother Boxes (1 protected on the Amazons’ Themyscira island, 1 protected in Atlantis, one hidden somewhere by humans) so as to remake Earth by Darkseid’s will.

 After the first of many active, violent clashes Steppenwolf steals the Amazons’ Mother Box, leading Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) to alert daughter Diana Prince/Wonder Woman so soon she and Batman are rounding up other previously-hidden-superheroes to join in repelling Steppenwolf.  Young Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) eagerly joins up, a loner desperate for friends to whom he can prove his fast-speed-superpowers as The Flash can be used for social benefit (sorrowful his father Henry‘s [Billy Crudup] in prison, wrongly convicted of killing Barry’s Mom); however, dedicated loner Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa) prefers to stay beneath the oceans in Atlantis where I assume he rules (his mother was queen) but he’s more preoccupied with bitter memories of being abandoned (later explained as for his own protection in that previous war against Steppenwolf) until the Atlantean Mother Box is also taken during a savage battle.  Similarly, Victor Stone (Ray Fisher) is in angry self-isolation about not only being turned into a quasi-human by his father, Silas (Joe Morton)—a member of the team still analyzing the semi-destroyed Kryptonian spaceship from Man of Steel (Snyder, 2013; review in our June 19, 2013 posting)—as the only means of saving his son’s life after a horrible accident but also because of his constantly-manifesting-yet-not-always-controllable superhuman powers, cybernetic abilities; he rejects the team-up offer until Dad’s kidnapped by Steppenwolf in his attempt to force likely humans to surrender the last Mother Box.

 ⇒Turns out he’s right because Silas has the Box (used to turn his son into the character we’ll know as Cyborg).  Our now-unified-team (with plenty of inner tensions, just like when the Avengers first connected) manages to free the human captives, then—after some intragroup-soul-searching—decides to dig up Superman’s body, immerse it in the incubation waters of the Kryptonian ship, zap this soup with the Mother Box.  Superman revives but he’s not yet himself so he fights with the group (more or less to a draw with Diana) until he’s calmed down by the arrival of Lois, brought by Wayne’s colleague, Alfred Pennyworth (Jeremy Irons).  Superman flies off with her to the Smallville farm, recovers his memory, knows it’s his duty (as always) to join in the battle against Steppenwolf, who slipped in during this last battle scene to make off with the unguarded, vital 3rd Mother Box.⇐

 This monster, surrounded by his demons, has taken refuge in an abandoned nuclear facility in a remote part of Russia, soon to be attacked by our original 5 Justice Leaguers, with local civilians being led to safety so our heroes can give a full-fledged-fight to the evil ones.  Many of the Parademons are dispatched (although plenty more remain), but Steppenwolf proves difficult to conquer even by Wonder Woman while the Boxes are slowly merging, unleashing the power desired by Darkseid.  Just as you’d imagine, Superman arrives in the nick of time, works with Cyborg to keep the Boxes apart, helps turn the tide against Steppenwolf whose new-found-fear causes his own demons to attack him, then these beasts all fly away leaving our heroes committed to ongoing work as the official Justice League (with headquarters in the being-rebuilt Wayne Manor, an acknowledgement of its destruction in the non-DCEU-canon-movie [but still from DC/Warner Bros.] The Dark Knight Rises [Christopher Nolan, 2012; review in our August 5, 2012 posting] although Batman’s retirement with Catwoman there doesn’t really mesh with Wayne’s ongoing life as the Caped Crusader), all of them recommitted to their best (now more public) natures, even as Lois gets her moxie back, Martha reclaims her farm (billionaire Bruce simply bought the bank that acquired it; why he didn’t do so earlier, knowing Clark’s secret identity, is something we don’t bother with explanations about).  An extra scene within the credits shows Flash and Superman about to test each other to see who’s the fastest (no winner shown), followed by a post-credits scene: Lex Luthor's (Jesse Eisenberg) escaped from Gotham City’s Arkham Asylum, recruiting Slade Wilson (Joe Manganiello)—I don’t know anything about him yet—in forming a counter-league of villains.⇐

So What? As with my older reviews of the various movies from the MCU—all of which I’ve seen except Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (James Gunn)—and the DCEU—all of which I’ve seen except Suicide Squad (David Ayer, 2016)—previously released over the past decade (feel free to compare the titles from these links to the summary of Two Guys reviews in the Related Links … section farther below to read my accounts of any of them if you like), mostly all I can do—except for sharing a bit more knowledge of the major DC superheroes from my comic-book-reading-days of years past (rekindled for some of DC’s terminations of their universe [or multiverse, as the case may be] in order to give their characters’ storylines a fresh start, keeping them at roughly their same ages rather than have them grow older as the publishing decades continue to mount)—is respond to these huge-budget-enterprises based on what fills the screen instead of making much commentary on the wealth of backstory references (Easter Eggs) these cinematic stories incorporate from their connections to other, earlier incarnations of these superfolks in print, TV shows, video games, etc.

Young Barry Allen (The Flash) can hardly believe how his life's just changed by being recruited into the JL.
 With that in mind, those of you who pick up on the myriad in-the-know-insertions to be found in Justice League are welcome to address such in the Comments section of this posting far below, although you might want to first watch the 2nd entry of Related Links to this movie (not quite so far below) where you’ll find a good number of those things already accounted for (many of which were previously unknown to me).  Further, once you’ve seen Justice League (or at least read enough about it if you’re turned off by the barrage of negative criticism—also addressed here, in this review’s next section) you might have some unanswered questions which, I admit, provide some fodder for negativity from those other reviewers, ⇒such as how does Clark Kent’s reappearance (shown briefly in the post-Steppenwolf/happy-times-wrap-up) get explained, given that he died (and was buried) in the chaos created by the Superman-Doomsday battle in Batman v Superman …?*

*Here’s a short video (5:36) exploring the Kent question (Which now causes me to wonder if Clark's body is the one previously buried, what supposedly became of Superman's body after the Doomsday battle?) along with other unanswered aspects of this movie: After that final confrontation, what happened to the Mother Boxes? Why wasn’t there more about Darkseid? Will Cyborg turn on the Justice League when they battle Darkseid, given the connections to his life-generating-Mother Box?  Where was Green Lantern?  (The previous Green Lantern movie [Martin Campbell, 2011]) isn’t officially part of the DCEU [just another DC/WB story], but the Green Lantern Corps is briefly seen battling Steppenwolf millennia ago, so where are they now?) Why was no one else—human, Atlantean, etc.—helping the newly-formed Justice League confront Steppenwolf? (Although, if it took such a mighty army to subdue this cosmic monster long ago it's amazing he could be taken down by just 6 superheroes now, but let's not completely spoil the plot, shall we?)⇐

 However, if you’re willing to admit such questions are pushing the rationale for a simple entertainment-based-superhero-movie derived from comic-book-sources (even as they may distract from the continuity of what’s on screen, but makers of such fare always face a problem when they have to deal with character origins—especially multiple ones in this case, with Steppenwolf, The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg all having to be given some quick-and-dirty-context within a narrative structure that doesn’t exceed the 2-hour-running-time-standard so favored by both audiences and theater owners, although this particular tale could have used some extra minutes to better launch the new characters)—I’m willing to cut Snyder (and Whedon, who stepped in to finish off this project after Snyder’s 20-year-old-daughter committed suicide) some slack regarding all these complaints (most, if not all, of them will likely be answered in upcoming DCEU movies anyway), but I must say the ancient battle of Steppenwolf and his demons vs. all of the various aligned warriors would also have been more impactful if more time had been devoted to it, allowing us to get a better sense of the gods as part of the protective force (I couldn’t have told you Diana’s half-brother/future nemesis Aries [David Thewlis] was even in there had I not read it later) as well as better noting the presence of the Green Lanterns (especially for those of us who find delight in these Power-Ring-bearing-characters, despite the lambasting of that maligned Ryan Reynolds’-starring-attempt to give some screen presence to these members of the DC superhero pantheon).

 Further, I’ll agree with the criticisms (although not as forcefully as many of my colleagues) about how the many battle scenes set in the present get repetitious, but not so much in narrative structure (after all, most superhero movies spend an awful of screen time on huge fight situations, both to answer target-audience-expectations and to show off the continually-evolving-visual-power of CGI) as in dark settings with the Parademons and superheroes all bouncing (destructively) off various surfaces in wide shots that at times make it difficult to quickly see who’s the valiant hero, who’s the vicious antagonist.  Yet, in context of the entire storyline, we do get some nice quiet moments when the League’s tentative members begin to reveal their inner conflicts, displaying the variety among these character types providing a bit more diversity (especially with the powerful female presence of Diana, quickly establishing herself as being equally capable as her male companions—if not more so in some scenes—as she emerges as a group leader along with Superman, as Batman proves pivotal in the recruiting efforts but obviously faces limitations the others do not as being the only ordinary human in the group [despite well-developed muscles, combat training, and intellect], dependent on huge machines to give him a fighting chance against such exaggerated opponents) than within Marvel’s ever-growing-Avengers-cast where variations on feats of bulk strength are often all we have to differentiate one character from another (their scripts aren’t yet as overcrowded as are the other Marvel movies featuring the huge casts of X-Men [and women] mutants, but the Avengers are getting to be almost too many to keep up with; I’ll just hope the Justice League maintains some limits on its membership, even as I know they have so many in the vault to call on).

 There’s no doubt the many Avengers group and solo movies have set the modern standard for this aspect of the fantasy genre (there’s too much magic and pseudo-science going on here to call these stories sci-fi) as the DC/WB entries sputtered along over the years (with the exception of such offerings as Superman [Richard Donner, 1978], Superman II [Richard Lester, 1980], Batman [Tim Burton, 1989], and the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight trilogy [2005, 2008, 2012]—although as I note below, I also find the more recent Superman stories to be reasonably effective, even if other critics don’t), losing their opportunity to be standard-setters rather than catch-up-aspirations, but especially with the commanding presence of Wonder Woman to enliven future Justice League stories I hope the DCEU will finally become a more-viable-parallel-of-possibilities alongside MCU.

Bottom Line Final Comments: Going in the opposite direction from the RT critics’ embrace of Lady Bird, we find those surveyed by this site for Justice League gave it a miserable 40% positive reviews (with the folks at Metacritic not amused either but at least a bit more generous—unusual for them—with an average score of 46),* so, once again, I find myself vastly off-beam from most of the critical collective regarding recent cinematic exploits of some of DC/WB’s most famous protagonists, but that’s also been the case with both of the previous contemporary Superman stories. (Man of Steel [my aforementioned review with considerable backstory on what I’ve known of this character in older vs. more current incarnations—and a run-on-paragraph layout that now makes me cringe] to which I also gave a hearty 3½ stars [remember, I rarely go over 4, even for Lady Bird] compared to RT’s 57%, MC’s 55%; Batman v Superman … [my review offers another lengthy analysis, indicating my better knowledge of these characters than the backstories of the MCU protagonists, but at least this one’s got better layout for all the verbiage] with me once again at 3½ stars while RT was even lower than now with a mere 29%, MC was about equivalent to today with 44%; we all did agree on Wonder Woman [as my review layout continues to improve—an ongoing project] where I’ve given one of my only four 4-star-ratings to a superhero film** in 6 years of writing for this blog while RT answered with 93%, MC went rather high for them with 76%.)  Audience response has been considerably better with worldwide grosses after just the debut weekend already in the vicinity of $279 million (about $94 million of that domestically), but even that success is being downplayed as being inadequate compared to what these characters seemingly should be able to draw (a reasonable point, in that Marvel/Disney’s Thor: Ragnarok [Taika Waititi; review in our November 15, 2017 posting] has taken in about $739 million worldwide after 3 weeks, while DC/WB’s Wonder Woman soared to almost $822 million worldwide since it’s June release, even the much-maligned Batman v Superman … raked in about $873 million worldwide in 2016).

By putting this photo in here it's clear Superman comes back to life; that's not really a spoiler by now, is it?
*A summary (6:54) of their complaints comes down to these factors, whether you agree with them or not: Uninteresting villain in Steppenwolf; CGI’s not sophisticated enough; poorly-CGI-erased-mustache on Henry Cavell (he had to wear it during shooting Justice League because he was also shooting M:I 6—Mission Impossible [Christopher McQuarrie, scheduled for July, 2018 release] at the time as shown in the photo just above; no fake fuzz for M:I 6 ... I guess); Affleck’s portrayal of Batman is too reserved, as if he’s atoning for his actions in Batman v Superman …; the plot’s too redundant of the Avengers concept (true at some level but the Justice League [and their 1940s predecessors, the Justice Society] was in the DC comics long before Marvel but WB’s just not done the same superb job of building the DCEU franchise as has Marvel with their MCU); Superman’s not as inspiring as he was before; Cyborg’s not as well-developed as are The Flash and Aquaman; overall weak plot, not rescued by strong characters.  I'll say most of this didn’t feel that way to me. 

**2 of the others went to Marvel: The Amazing Spider-Man (Marc Webb, 2012; review in our July 12, 2012 posting) and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Webb [the perfect directorial name for his version of this arachnid-inspired-franchise], 2014; posted on May 8, 2014), with DC getting 4 stars for The Dark Knight Rises—but, sadly, all these reviews are still from the infamous CLE (crappy-layout-era).

 I’d already seen a good many negative reviews of Justice League before I could get to a theater so I was prepared to be disappointed in something I’d waited decades to finally see realized on the screen.  Fortunately, I also got a bit of uplift from my Australian colleague, Jason King, at his Salty Popcorn site, where he joyfully gave it 4 of 5 popped kernels, giving me reason to believe I’d be more satisfied than disappointed.  After all, just how bad could anything be that features this mesmerizing version of Wonder Woman? Or is that an inappropriate remark about her? I don’t mean to trivialize in any manner the needed revelations coming out now about all the horrible harassment that’s been going on in recent decades—as well as forever, prior to our times—by men in power against women who felt they had little hope years (decades, centuries, millennia) ago about speaking out against their power-wielding-abusers.  Still, can I just honestly, objectively say Gal Gadot is a beautiful, mesmerizing, sexy screen presence without that coming across as sexist, patronizing, or demeaning?  If not, I guess I’ll have to join the ranks of the apologizers—even though my wife, Nina, knows this is all just reasonable male appreciation for a strong, attractive female screen presence, just as there are movie-star-men she’s quite happy to get frequent looks at—but until I’m called to task, I’m still going to say I find both Gadot and her Amazonian character to be superb enhancements to superhero-screen-presences, giving viewers of both the singular Wonder Woman release (earlier this year) and Justice League excellent reasons to become acquainted with this aspect of the DCEU, even if Affleck doesn’t suit your tastes as Batman, Cavell may not have the charm of Christopher Reeve from those earlier Superman tales, or neither Aquaman nor Cyborg have been developed enough to feel like they could carry their own movies the way a proper rendition of Green Lantern could—even though I still think Reynolds fits that character as well as he does the most offbeat of the Marvel crowd in Deadpool (Tim Miller, 2016; review in our February 23, 2016 posting) but I know we’ll never see him with a Lantern ring again.

 For the Justice League Musical Metaphor I’ll just be lazy (while admitting I can’t think of an alternative, anyway) and use the same first song the movie does under the final credits, John Lennon’s “Come Together” (from The Beatles’ 1969 Abbey Road album [giving me double-Beatles-Metaphors this time—"And you know that can't be bad"]) because of its minor reference (in a otherwise surreal collage of lyrics about such things as “ju-ju eyeballs,” “toe-jam football,” “walrus gumboot") to mutual cooperation, seemingly a reference to the formation of this somewhat-difficult-to-unite-but-effective-when-it-occurs-group of superheroes (a description just as apt about The Beatles in this last-stage of their increasingly-dysfunctional-career—although some say the song’s chorus celebrates mutual orgasm which maybe gets us back to that brief flirtation between Wonder Woman and Aquaman, a decent pairing of semi-immortals, given that Superman’s still smitten with merely-human Lois Lane), with a new version done by Gary Clark Jr. (again—the old man admitsI don’t know a damn thing about him) which you can find at as the official video of this song with scenes from the movie interspersed with footage of Clark (Gary, that is, not Mr. Kent) or, if you like, here's one with the same music but just movie shots, or maybe, if you don’t need to hear this with the same sense as all of the cinematic explosions of Justice League, you’d be content with just the original audio version (with lyrics under the screen), taken from The Beatles’ 1, a 2000 compilation of their 27 U.K. and U.S. #1 hits.  

 So, feel free to come together in any manner you prefer until next we meet in the Two Guys in the Dark corral.  Until then, Happy Thanksgiving or Joyous Indigenous Peoples' Day or happy-however-you-prefer-to-mark-this-current-holiday-weekend intended to help unite us all toward better days.
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!

*A Google software glitch causes every Two Guys posting prior to August 26, 2016 to have an inaccurate (dead) link to this Summary page; from then forward, though, this link is accurate.

Here’s more information about Lady Bird: (46:53 interview with writer-director Greta Gerwig)

Here’s more information about Justice League: (11:22 breakneck-speed-delivery of commentary on context of other recent DC movies, Easter Eggs from DC comics and other media products, cameos, and the 2 post-credits scenes [OK, 1 of them’s mid-credits], along with a little Star Wars commentary toward the end) 

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*

*YouTube keeps deleting links to this Eagles performance so I keep putting a newer version back in but you’ll just find dead links in our previous postings prior to November 15, 2017, so don’t be confused.

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.  But wherever the rest of my body may be my heart’s always with my longtime-companion, lover, and wife, Nina Kindblad, so here’s our favorite shared song—Neil Young’s "Harvest Moon"
—from the performance we saw at the Desert Trip concerts in Indio, CA on October 15, 2016 (as a full moon was rising over the stadium) because “I’m still in love with you,” my dearest, a never-changing-reality even as the moon waxes and wanes over the months/years to come.
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 24,770; below is a snapshot of where and by what means those responses have come from within the previous week:


  1. Hi Everyone, For those of you who may be viewing this on Google Chrome, there's a layout mess-up at the beginning of the Justice League review where the "Executive Summary" heading jumps way into the right margin. I was able to fix this in Safari before I posted it so I have no idea why it's still goofy in Chrome nor how to fix it (once when I went into Chrome to repair something I got more problems than I started with so I don't do that anymore). Sorry about the glitch in Chrome but this problem looks fine in Safari or Firefox if you'd rather use one of those Web browsers. Ken Burke

  2. I just remembered something I intended to include in the Justice League review but forgot to do (and I'm not going back into the formatting swamp to add it), so I'll note it here. In my previous posting (11/15/2017), at the very end of my review comments I made a brief mention of the JL trailer, saying that Superman's not shown alive in it, thinking the brief shots of him and Lois Lane were a flashback from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but now that I've seen the new movie I realize this is current stuff after all, in their brief trip back to the Smallville farm.

    I don't feel too bad about the mistake, though, because I've just seen that Michael O'Sullivan of The Washington Post said the same thing in his promo of holiday films "Likely Worth Seeing," although he called it a "dream sequence from the trailer." Just continues to show how great minds think alike. Ken Burke

  3. This movie struck a lot of personal chords for me, and perhaps those that did not enjoy it have not had these experiences. Being a passionate young woman that is trying so hard to differentiate is not an easy part of life. You are doing the best you can but you don't know all the ways you are messing up. Motherhood is a lot the same. You don't get a playbook and you have to figure it out with so many strong emotions always rolling around. There is disappointment and bitterness at times of wishing life had been a bit different, and a slow grind of years and achievements that never come.... Lady Bird is a young, exuberant fool who is just starting to ram up against those disappointments in life. The mother has had plenty and they have virtually pickled her at that point, they are oozing out of her so intensely. She is overworked, coping on behalf of a depressed spouse, stressed, and bitter. Her daughter's dissatisfaction with their life kicks her over the edge repeatedly, not that the things she says help at all.
    I really enjoyed the performances and it was honestly hard to watch at many moments, but in a good way. The either warmth or disconnection between characters was palpable and well played IMHO. You honestly wanted Lady Bird to wise up and enjoy the people that enjoyed her more instead of trying to be something else, but it's a process. The nature of family as dysfunctional but necessary against the cruelties of life is portrayed well. Even if you are at odds with those people they are still better allies than most of the rest of the world.

    1. Hi Jaxon Beiber, Sorry I’ve been so long in getting your comment published and replying to it, but there was some kind of glitch so I wasn’t even notified you’d sent it in. In the future, I’ll go into my Blogspot mailbox once a week to make sure I’m aware of any submitted comments. Clearly I agree with your extensive comments regarding Lady Bird; thanks for offering so much. Ken Burke