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Injustice: The Failure of Justice League, and Where It Leaves DC

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*Warning* This article contains spoilers for all five DCEU films, Man of Steel, Batman V Superman, Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman and Justice League *Warning*

Justice League, the culmination of all Warner Bros and DC’s hard work, has finally hit cinemas, taking us into an amazing world with Zack Snyder’s epic vision, a blend of spectacular action and thoughtful storytelling that finally brings all these characters together on the big screen.

Sorry.

That’s not even slightly true. It’s what I wanted to be able to say. I really wanted to like this film, or at least have fun with it.

There’s a strange disillusion that critics and reviewers hate comic book movies. Absolutely not so, check out the reviews for Wonder Woman, Thor Ragnarok and Logan, and that was just 2017. This strange belief strengthens under the guise of, “Critics hate DC movies”. Pretty sure that isn’t true either, the aforementioned Wonder Woman was a massive critical and financial success, and for good reason. But otherwise, DC have struggled to get a coherent vision out into the world, maybe it doesn’t help that these newer films come on the heels of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy (another comic book trilogy that critics loved), and more than that, a crushing weight of expectations.

Justice League, with its ‘Unite The League’ and ‘All In’ taglines we’ve been seeing for the last year, is the first live action film to feature all of these characters, to have Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman (even though they already did that in Batman V Superman, more on that film later), Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg on screen together. That’s a huge thing, there’s no pretending it isn’t, these characters have been around for 80 years, they are basically the equivalent American mythology, a part of legend and folklore, at this point. To see the whole League, fighting together, sometimes fighting each other, but coming together for a common goal, it should have been massive.

Trailers came thick and fast, for well over a year, and much to people’s surprise, it didn’t look terrible. The failure of the film, much of it out of DC/WB’s control, mixed with tragic circumstances and clearly fumbled reshoots, resulted in a tone that jarred from scene to scene, a nonsensical smorgasbord of cheap looking (although I’m sure it wasn’t, $300 million is the rumoured price tag, not to mention the cash flashed on moustache removal, something else we will get to later) special effects, a heartless, free from stakes and drama, film that felt like it had no direction.

The film itself is an unqualified mess from start to finish. Early estimates put Snyder’s original cut and 180 minutes, and that sounds reasonable given the intended scope, but after a personal tragedy, Synder stepped away from the film and Joss Whedon was brought on to finish the reshoots. Along with a mandate from the studio that the film come in at under two hours, the two directors delivered two very different films and then an editor smashed them together. We ended up with a quipping Batman, Superman forced back into the world by story necessity instead of anything close to common sense, several literal ‘deus ex machinas’, an incredibly choppy story that failed to establish a villain or the future to come. Only the post credits sequence really set anything up for further films, giving us our first look at Joe Manganiello’s Deathstroke, and Lex Luthor threatening to set up a ‘League of his own’.

The problems with Justice League are many, but to fully understand them, and how we got to this point, a point where the flagship film in this ever expanding franchise ended up with the lowest opening weekend of the DCEU, and is beginning, in Hollywood terms at least, to be on its way to financial failure, we need to take a step back.

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, to give the film its full title, was meant to be the big, bold start for the shared universe. Man of Steel had come a few years earlier but existed mostly in isolation with few references to the larger DC Expanded Universe, but BvS was the big one. It needed to be a hit, and financially it was, but still it never quite hit the heady billion dollar mark they wanted. It gave us a new Batman, fairly comic book accurate, amidst controversial casting of Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne. Affleck turned out to be excellent in the role but the film was a mess, too short and too long simultaneously, stuffed with characters it didn’t need and actors (Jessie Eisenberg, I’m looking at you) who failed to fit their roles. It insisted on telling the story of The Death of Superman, at the hands of Doomsday, one of the most famous comics of all time, but the story wasn’t earned, this Superman did not deserve his godlike status amongst humanity, it all came too soon and it felt like we’d missed a few films in between.

Looking back now, BvS doesn’t seem quite so bad. That film had a clear vision, it might have aligned with long term fans but it stuck to its guns and managed to gather quite a following, with new fans stepping up to defend it. The Ultimate cut that surfaces on home release was indeed a huge improvement and actually ended up perfectly illustrating that they should perhaps have trusted Zack Snyder to complete his vision, rather than putting out the clearly damaged theatrical release. BvS gave the world more good than bad in the end, a near pitch perfect screen version of the Dark Knight, and more importantly it gave us the gift that keeps giving, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman came out earlier this year, and it really, really needed to be a hit for a number of very important reasons. It was the first female led superhero film in a very long time, directed by Patty Jenkins, and most important of all, DC needed a critical and financial hit. Luckily it was both. The film took less than BvS, that is true, but this was a superhero origin movie, a story that hadn’t been told, it wasn’t seen as a sure thing by most, and this film connected with fans and critics unlike anything else DC have put out so far. But there’s a very good reason for its success, they crafted a wonderful film full of joy and wonder, mixed with the usual superhero antics (including a final CGI boss battle the film didn’t really need), yet, it worked through a charming story and a fantastic performance from Gadot, who managed to be everything we needed Diana to be.

The other big DC film was Suicide Squad, a film butchered in its edit, apparently without the directors approval, leaving entire subplots on the cutting room floor along with most of Jared Leto’s new take on the Joker. It begins to form a picture of interference, almost all of these films have had huge reshoots and were edited to death. Despite being crammed full of brilliant actors (when they most interesting and enjoyable performance ends up being Jai Courteny, you know you have a serious problem), Suicide Squad was narrative mess on a level rarely seen these days, a film that genuinely doesn’t sense. However, the film did make money, and a sequel and spin offs were greenlit. Which leads us to another problem.

It’s clear WB/DC don’t have much of a plan in terms of going forward, every film announced has felt random, with no cohesive whole on the horizon. And they keep announcing new films. In various stages of production are;

  • Aquaman – 2018
  • Wonder Woman 2 – 2019
  • Shazam – 2019
  • Flashpoint
  • Suicide Squad 2
  • The Batman
  • Batgirl
  • Green Lantern Corps
  • The Joker and Harley Quinn
  • Nightwing
  • A Joker Origin Story
  • Justice League Dark
  • Gotham City Sirens
  • Man of Steel 2
  • Deathstroke solo movie
  • Black Adam
  • Lobo
  • Cyborg
  • And one would have to assume, Justice League 2

That’s a lot of films.  And it is ever changing. Notice only three of them even have confirmed release dates. Most of these films have directors attached, and actor rumoured/cast for many parts. But how many will even get made? Aquaman is out next year, Wonder Woman 2 and Shazam are going into production shortly. Flashpoint and Suicide Squad 2 are pretty much a given, but all the others feel like they’re cancellations waiting to happen. Maybe there is a chance they could refine their vision along the way, and let Wonder Woman lead that charge.

Is Justice League a complete and total failure? Probably not. A low opening weekend won’t stop it doing well worldwide, and it does have a few positives, mainly Henry Cavill’s Superman finally feeling like a real version of the character we know and love, we get a few good laughs, and of course, Wonder Woman truly steals the show, becoming the heart and leader of the team, her scenes are some of the few with real charged emotion and weight behind them, but that largely comes off her solo film being so close to this one’s release. One of the biggest talking points, quite ridiculously, ended up being about moustache removal. Cavill’s facial hair for another film (Mission Impossible 6) couldn’t be shaved so WB spent millions of dollars using CGI to digitally remove it for the numerous rehoots required for Superman. To say that’s it’s noticeable would be an understatement, and in the end a poorly edited out moustache feels like a bizarre metaphor for the film in general.

People ask, what should they do next, how do DC/WB fix this? Judging from Justice League, and the majority of people’s reaction to it, it might not be possible to fix the larger problems. Justice League represented a tonal shift, an attempt to appeal to those they had previously alienated/upset.

It hasn’t worked, if anything the issues have been compounded and made worse. These films don’t work as a shared universe, and normally that would be fine, they don’t have to, but equally, they don’t work on their own either. A course correction is needed but one so severe that it changes almost everything, there’s every chance Flashpoint will be used to hit the reset button, giving us new actors (Ben Affleck is basically out of the door already, with a replacement being lined up) in roles and a different DC Expanded Universe.

One great film out of five, with the big team up movie being a commercial and critical failure, does not a franchise make. After all, Diana of Themyscira can’t save it all. Can she?

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Everything Amazon Prime, Netflix, MUBI, and Now TV’s got coming for October 2018

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Between the increasing number of streaming platforms in our lives, there’s far too much great entertainment being released day after day for any sane person to keep track of. 

There’s streaming giant Netflix, the curated offerings of MUBI, all the latest releases on NOW TV, and online video emporium Amazon Prime. There’s something for everyone, on demand, just waiting to be selected. What a time to be alive!

But that doesn’t help when you’re looking for something to wile away the evening with, so let us lighten the load and make your viewing choice that little bit easier with our weekly updated round-up of everything being added to your favourite platform.

Monday, October 1st

  • The Elf
  • Four Christmases
  • Halloween: Resurrection
  • Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers
  • Halloweeen H20: 20 Years Later
  • Lights Out
  • Runaway Jury
  • Scream 2
  • Scream 3
  • Shaun the Sheep Movie

Thursday, October 4th

  • The Mercy
  • Runner Runner

Friday, October 5th

  • 16 Blocks
  • Alexander
  • Black Beauty
  • Every Which Way But Loose
  • Final Destination
  • Get Carter
  • The Man in the High Castle: Season 3
  • Seven Bridges for Seven Brothers

Monday, October 8th

  • Attack the Block
  • Chloe
  • Dog Pound
  • Donkey Punch
  • The Ghost Writer
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Kill List
  • Larry Crowne
  • Last Night
  • The Losers
  • Spread
  • Submarine
  • Tyrannosaur
  • Vicky Christina Barcelona
  • War Dogs

Wednesday, October 10th

  • Status Update

Friday, October 12th

  • The Conjuring  
  • Cool Hand Luke
  • Project X
  • The Romanoffs: Season 1
  • What Ever Happened to Baby Jane
  • The Witches 
  • Wrath of the Titans

Tuesday, October 16th

  • Crowhurst

Wednesday, October 17th

  • Notting Hill

Friday, October 19th

  • The Blind Side
  • Clash of the Titans
  • Dolphin Tale
  • The Great Gatsby
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
  • Lore: Season 2

Tuesday, October 23rd

  • Midnight Sun

Friday, October 26th

  • All the President’s Men
  • Best in Show
  • The Campaign
  • Crazy Stupid Love
  • Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot
  • Fool’s Gold
  • Gravity
  • The Hangover Part III

 

Tuesday, October 2nd

  • 1428
  • Manhunter

Wednesday, October 3rd

  • Mothers

Thursday, October 4th

  • Quality Control

Friday, October 5th

  • Inspector Bellamy

Saturday, October 6th

  • A Girl Cut in Two

Sunday, October 7th

  • Pontypool

Wednesday, October 10th

  • Tape

Thursday, October 11th

  • Cinnamon

Friday, October 12th

  • The Bridesmaid

Saturday, October 13th

  • The Swindle

Sunday, October 14th

  • Line of Demarcation

Monday, October 15th

  • Season of the Witch

Wednesday, October 17th

  • Ears, Nose and Throat

Thursday, October 18th

  • Three Quarters

Saturday, October 20th

  • ’Til Madness Do Us Part

Sunday, October 21st

  • Shivers

Monday, October 22nd

  • Episode of the Sea

Wednesday, October 24th

Outcast of the Islands (1952)
Directed by Carol Reed
Shown from left: Ralph Richardson, Trevor Howard

  • Outcast of the Islands

Thursday, October 25th

  • Spicebush

Saturday, October 27th

  • Kill List

 

Monday, October 1st

  • The Big Bang Theory: Season 11
  • Brad’s Status
  • Fishtail
  • Four Weddings and a Funeral
  • I Spit on Your Grave
  • Paranormal: White Noise
  • Platoon
  • Fiddler on the Roof
  • La Doña: Season 1
  • Life as We Know it
  • The Mask You Live In
  • Thelma & Louise
  • The Titan
  • Trash
  • A Witches’ Ball

Tuesday, October 2nd

  • Better Call Saul: Season 4 (new episode)
  • Joe Rogan: Strange Times
  • MeatEater: Season 7
  • RED 2

Wednesday, October 3rd

  • Angela’s Christmas
  • Operation Finale

Friday, October 5th

  • Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet the Wolfman
  • Big Mouth: Season 2
  • Cheech & Chong’s Next Movie
  • Dancing Queen: Season 1
  • Elite: Season 1
  • The Good Place: Season 3 (new episode)
  • Hannibal
  • The Land Before Time
  • Little Things: Season 2
  • Malevolent
  • Priest
  • Private Life
  • Red Dragon
  • The Rise of the Phoenixes: Season 1 (new episode)
  • Sixteen Candles
  • Super Monsters: Season 2
  • YG Future Strategy Office

Sunday, October 7th

  • The Girl on the Train

Monday, October 8th

  • Chesapeake Shores: Season 3 (new episode)
  • Mo Amer: The Vagabond
  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Tuesday, October 9th

  • Better Call Saul: Season 4 (new episode)
  • Hickok
  • Ronald
  • Terrace House: Opening New Doors: Part 4
  • Twilight
  • The Twilight Saga: New Moon
  • The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
  • The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1
  • The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2

Wednesday, October 10th

  • 22 July

Thursday, October 11th

  • Riverdale: Season 3 (new episode)
  • Salt Fat Acid Heat
  • Saw: The Final Chapter

Friday, October 12th

  • Apostle
  • The Boss Baby: Back in Business: Season 2
  • The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell
  • Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil
  • Feminists: What Were They Thinking?
  • Fightworld: Season 1
  • The Good Place: Season 3 (new episode)
  • The Haunting of Hill House: Season 1
  • ReMastered: Season 1 (new episode)
  • The Rise of the Phoenixes: Season 1 (new episode)
  • Tarzan and Jane: Season 2

Saturday, October 13th

  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Season 4 (new episode)
  • Dynasty: Season 2 (new episode)
  • Nocturnal Animals

Sunday, October 14th

  • A Taiwanese Tale of Two Cities: Season 1 (new episode)

Monday, October 15th

  • Chesapeake Shores: Season 3 (new episode)
  • Contagion
  • The Goonies
  • Octonauts: Season 1
  • Octonauts: Season 2
  • The Seven Deadly Sins: Revival of the Commandments

Tuesday, October 16th

  • Black Lightning: Season 2 (new episode)
  • Looking Glass
  • The Prince & Me
  • Ron White: If You Quit Listening, I’ll Shut Up

Wednesday, October 17th

  • Along Came Polly
  • American Pie Presents: Beta House

Thursday, October 18th

  • The Last Days of Mars
  • Riverdale: Season 3 (new episode)

Friday, October 19th

  • Accidentally in Love: Season 1
  • Ask the Doctor: Season 1
  • Best.Worst.Weekend.Ever.
  • Daredevil: Season 3
  • Derren Brown: Sacrifice
  • Gnome Alone
  • The Good Place: Season 3 (new episode)
  • Haunted: Season 1
  • Hip-Hop Evolution: Season 2
  • Illang: The Wolf Brigade
  • Making a Murderer: Part 2
  • Miss Representation
  • The Night Comes for Us
  • The Rise of Phoenixes: Season 1 (new episode)

Saturday, October 20th

  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Season 4 (new episode)

Sunday, October 21st

  • Superbad
  • A Taiwanese Tale of Two Cities: Season 1 (new episode)

Monday, October 22nd

  • Chesapeake Shores: Season 3 (new episode)
  • Louis Theroux: Dark States – Murder in Milwaukee

Tuesday, October 23rd

  • Adam Sandler: 100% Fresh
  • Black Lightning: Season 2 (new episode)

Thursday, October 25th

  • Den of Thieves
  • Great News: Season 2
  • Riverdale: Season 3 (new episode)
  • Ronnie Coleman: The King

Friday, October 26th

THE GOOD PLACE — “The Snowplow” Episode 304 — Pictured: (l-r) Manny Jacinto as Jason Mendoza, William Jackson Harper as Chidi — (Photo by: Colleen Hayes/NBC)

  • Been So Long
  • Castlevania: Season 2
  • Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Season 1
  • Dovlatov
  • The Good Place: Season 3 (new episode)
  • Jefe
  • The Rise of Phoenixes: Season 1 (new episode)
  • Shirkers
  • Terrorism Close Calls: Season 1

 

 Monday, October 1st

  • Lowlife

Tuesday, October 2nd

  • Social Animals

Wednesday, October 3rd

  • April’s Daughter

Thursday, October 4th

  • House of Willow Street

Friday, October 5th

  • Downsizing

Saturday, October 6th

  • Dear Dictator

Sunday, October 7th

  • Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Monday, October 8th

  • Permission

Tuesday, October 9th

  • Screamers

Wednesday, October 10th

  • Two Lottery Tickets

Thursday, October 11th

  • Habit

Friday, October 12th

  • Black Panther

Saturday, October 13th

  • Zombillénium

Sunday, October 14th

  • A Little Something for Your Birthday

Monday, October 15th

  • Room for Rent

That’s it for this week, but don’t forget to check back each week for a fresh round of new releases for the UK on streaming platforms Amazon Prime, MUBI, NOW TV, and Netflix.

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Venice, Cannes, London, Wherever: Film Festival Tips

A film festival veteran, Rehna Azim gives her tips on how to survive at film festivals wherever you are in the world.

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Film Festival Tips Movie Marker

I suppose I can be called a film festival veteran now. I’ve covered enough of them over the best part of a decade to be able to pass some, hopefully, useful tips on to those who might find themselves at one of the many film festivals that seem to spring up every 15 minutes. There’s a festival for everyone and pretty much everything. A fan of Korean cinema? You’ll find a festival in London. Sci-fi freak? Horror fanboy/girl? Gay, lesbian? Woman over 40? Someone somewhere will be running a festival of films you’ll love. Even towns you weren’t sure had a cinema seem to have a festival going on.

The biggies in Europe of course are Cannes and Berlin with London coming up in recent years. San Sebastien is growing in stature and there’s Ghent, Locarno, Edinburgh and many more. Wherever it is and whatever crowd it’s for, festivals are big business and popular. So here’s how to make the most of them:

Make sure your stomach is full and your bladder empty. The bigger the festival, the longer the queues and the more uncomfortable you’ll feel as you line up with a cast of hundreds to watch the latest gem from that Bulgarian auteur you thought only you loved. A film festival will draw a cine literate crowd that will fight you to the death for the last seat in the house. (At Cannes earlier this year, journalists almost came to fisticuffs in the huge, sprawling line that waited to catch the pearls of wisdom that fell from Christopher Nolan’s lips). A couple of years ago there was an angry stamping of feet as La La Land was, inexplicably, put on a small screen that couldn’t possibly accommodate all those who wanted to see it. At Venice earlier this month the lines stretched out perilously close to the canals. So you see, if you’re serious about festivaling, like a Boy Scout, you always have to be prepared. You simply can’t take the chance of popping away for 10 minutes to grab a quick burger or spend a penny. Go before you come, as it were. Carry a snack with you in your bag (trust me, even that festering flapjack at the bottom will seem enticing when you’re starving during a 3 hour long Ingmaar Bergman retrospective. Keep a small bottle of water with you at all times, not least to avoid the headaches that dehydration can cause.

Sacrifice glamour for comfort. Unless you’re going to a red carpet premiere, wear sensible shoes you can run between venues in. Layer your clothing. It doesn’t matter which city or country you’re in, you will either be too hot or too cold in whatever you wear. Taking something off or putting it on will be the best way to deal with whatever weather comes your way. I speak as someone who has been caught in sudden, monsoon level thunderstorms in both Venice and Cannes on brilliantly hot days when I was swanning around in skimpy summer dresses.

Film Festival Movie Marker

Plan your festival days. Screening times often overlap or just outright clash. Check the programme in advance, decide what you absolutely must see and what is a ‘if I have the time’ choice. Once you’ve made your choices, schedule your days accordingly. Those covering the festival for media outlets have to factor in interviews, talks and red carpet coverage as well as time to do the write-ups. It may seem like teaching your grandmother to suck eggs (did anyone’s grandmother actually ever do that) but sometimes the simplest, most obvious tips are the most helpful. I’ve known the super organised to create elaborate flow charts for their daily schedule but a simple list in a notebook will suffice.

Always keep a note pad and camera with you. Whether both are on your latest model phone or you have the old fashioned type, you will need them. Film festivals are exciting. Celebrities are swanning around everywhere, funny, interesting, record-able things are happening all the time and you will invariably meet people you want to stay in touch with. Writing a number or email address on the back of a receipt may seem a good idea at the time but you’ll never copy it out ‘properly’ into an address book. Most likely you’ll throw the receipt away when you’re next cleaning out your bag then spend hours rummaging through it later looking for the number of that nice agent/producer/actor/attractive person you met over drinks and really want to meet again. Network, make contacts, make friends. Festivals are fun!

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New entertainment platform CHILI launches in the UK

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Are you scrolling through the TV guide, trying to decide what to watch on your first night in for weeks, only to change your mind for the fourth time? Sounds tragically familiar, which is why I am very pleased to announce that European entertainment company CHILI have big plans for film and TV fans in the UK.

CHILI is a subscription-free entertainment platform that has launched in the UK after it’s recent success in Italy, racking up 1.6 million registered users since launching in 2012. Backed by the studios we all know and love, Warner Bros, Paramount Pictures, Viacom, Sony Pictures, and 20th Century Fox, the on-demand service offers an array of content available at the click of the button.

What makes this different from say, Netflix or Amazon? The website offers a huge range of films and TV shows, from foreign art house to big screen blockbusters – as well as being a one-stop show for cinema; there is a newshub to give you the low-down on all film and TV news, you can purchase physical movies, merchandise and tickets to the cinema all in one place. Founder and chief executive Giorgio Tacchia describes CHILI as an entertainment hub; with customers discovering a new movie or TV show that they love and then browsing the merchandise to see what’s in store. From Star Wars Lego sets to beautiful concept art books, there really is something for everyone.

The platform is also filled with new premieres, including Amy Schumer’s I Feel Pretty, Marvel Studios’ Avengers Infinity War and Greg Berlanti’s Love, Simon. Customers can choose the quality they want their digital purchase, or choose to order a Blu-Ray or DVD instead.

My favourite section is the ‘highlights’ page which tailors content around your preferences and also offers flash sales and offers of the week. And with your first film on them? That’s an offer I can’t refuse.

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