In DC Comics, Batman and Superman have been portrayed as both allies (fighting together for good) and enemies (with diametrically opposite views on how to fight crime).  Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice tries to combine both of these concepts, plus lay the groundwork for a Justice League franchise (while borrowing from the comic books Batman: The Dark Knight and The Death of Superman).  The end result is terribly, horribly flawed.

Following the events of Man of Steel, Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) has become convinced that Superman is too dangerous a being to be allowed to live.  Meanwhile, Clark Kent/Superman (Henry Cavill) believes Batman is a dangerous vigilante operating beyond the law.  The public seems to be on both sides of this division of views, highlighted by Senator Finch (Holly Hunter) calling for hearings about Superman.  Meanwhile, a chatty Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) has gotten access to General Zod's corpse and the downed Kryptonian ship, Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is investigating a mysterious prototype weapon found in the Middle East, and a mystery woman (Gal Godot) has Bruce Wayne's eye as she looks into Lex as well.
While these storylines could have come together well, the execution is pretty awful.  The actors do what they can, but director Zack Snyder has a terrible sense of pacing and throws together poorly-done CGI, unnecessary slow motion, and scenes that are artificial and inauthentic.  (It doesn't help that Eisenberg's Lex Luthor comes across as manic-depressive rather than evil or brilliant.)  The movie is relentlessly grim, in both color scheme and tone, and at least a half hour could have been cut out of the movie and improved it greatly.  The romance feels forced, and there are numerous plot holes that a small child could have pointed out but somehow eluded the movie studio.
Marvel movies, with their flaws, managed to capture the heroism and fun of the comics.  Much as I'd like to see a good Justice League movie, Batman v Superman is a pretty scary preview of what that could be like.  This movie failed on almost every level (though Gal Gadot could make a good Wonder Woman, with better material) and I couldn't wait for it to end.

Overall grade: D
Reviewed by James Lynch



Life can be rough for athletes after their career ends.  Some continue in other areas of their sports, some find other interests, and some try to keep trying to relive their glory days.  The latter is the beginning for the expletive-filled comedy The Bronze.

Back in 2004, Hope Annbelle Greggory was an American Olympic gymnast.  When she injured her ankle and continues on to win the bronze medal, she became America's sweetheart.

Jump ahead to 2012, and Hope (Melissa Rauch) is still obsessed with her former fame and career -- in quite a unique way in the opening scene.  She lives in Amherst, Ohio, cursing at and insulting everyone who doesn't treat her as a superstar.  She has no time for young up-and-coming, ultra-nice gymnast Maggie Townsend (Haley Lu Richardson), and she refers to gym owner Ben Lawfort (Thomas Middleditch) as "Twitch" due to his facial tics.  Hope lives with her postman father Stan (Gary Cole) -- yelling at him as much as everyone -- and she gets money from an allowance from him, along with stealing money from letters before her father can deliver them.  She drinks, does, drugs, and will have sex in exchange for very little.  And she always wears the tracksuit she got in the Olympics.
When her father cuts off her allowance and locks up his mail truck, Hope sort of starts looking for a job.  Then an unexpected opportunity comes along: Before Hope's former and Maggie's current coach killed herself, she sent a letter to Hope leaving her $500,000 -- conditional on Hope training Maggie.  At first Hope is fine slacking off and even hurting Maggie's shot at the Olympics, getting Maggie to eat so much junk food she develops a "beer gut."  But them Olympics gold and silver winner Lance Tucker (Sebastian Stan) turns up as in charge of the American gymnastics team and wants to take over Maggie's training, so Hope starts taking her coaching job seriously.  Then it's a path to the Olympic trials, then the Olympics, and whether Hope will help Maggie eclipse her former fame.
The humor in The Bronze comes almost exclusively comes from Hope's never-ending stream of cursing, insults, and selfishness -- and that's far from enough to sustain the film.  Melissa Rauch doesn't bring much to make her character any more likable or sympathetic through the film, giving us a protagonist who's pretty terrible from start to finish.  There are scattered funny moments through the movie -- notably a gymnastics-filled sex scene -- but the story arc is predictable, the romantic subplot feels inauthentic and tacked on, and The Bronze is, in the end, forgettable except for the copious amount of profanity.

Overall grade: C-
Reviewed by James Lynch



So, is it psychological horror or an extraterrestrial menace?  This is the central question of 10 Cloverfield Lane, a claustrophobic suspense film that could almost be a three-person play.
The movie opens with Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) rapidly cleaning out her city apartment (but leaving her -- engagement?  wedding? -- ring behind) and driving off.  Driving in the countryside, her car is rammed by another vehicle, and when she wakes up she's in a room made out of cinder blocks, hooked to an IV and handcuffed to the wall.
She soon meets Howard (John Goodman) and learns that she's in his underground bunker.  He tells her that there's been some sort of attack on America -- maybe the Russians, maybe Martians -- the air is contaminated and everyone above ground is dead.  He rescued her from her wrecked car and expects -- sometimes demands -- her thanks and obedience.  He keeps the keys to outside on him at all times, along with a gun.  He expects them to be in the bunker for at least a year or two.  And the only other person in the bunker is Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), a local guy who helped Howard build his bunker.
Naturally, Michelle is skeptical.  She wonders if Howard caused her car accident, she wonders if there really was any attack, and she swears she hears cars and other sounds from outside.  But while Howard's stability seems to come and go, there are also plenty of warning signs outside as well.  The trio soon find themselves bouncing back and forth between paranoia and being an impromptu family.

10 Cloverfield Lane has a simple and effective setup, as the three characters are forced together in a waiting game whose rules seem to keep changing.  The cast is good, especially John Goodman, and there's plenty of suspense generated by their "what if?" situation.  The resolution isn't quite as interesting as what happens beforehand, but 10 Cloverfield Lane is interesting and entertaining.

Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch



Horror movies would not exist or be much shorter if the characters in them would just follow instructions.  Instead, they always seem to ignore warnings and read from forbidden books, feed Gremlins after midnight, or engage in dubious burial practices.  The latter is a key plot point in The Other Side of the Door, a supernatural horror film that's very familiar.

Maria (Sarah Wayne Callies) and her husband Michael (Jeremy Sisto) are an American couple living in Mumbai, India.  They have a young daughter named Lucy (Sofia Rosinsky) and seem like they should be happy -- but that's not the case.  Maria is always depressed, because (as we learn in a flashback) they also had a young son named Oliver, and when the car went into the river Maria had to leave Oliver to drown while she saved Lucy.

After Maria almost overdoses on sleeping pills, the housekeeper Piki (Suchitra Pillai) has an unusual solution for her: If Maria goes to a remote temple in the forest and spreads Oliver's ashes at its steps, when night falls she will be able to speak to Oliver through a locked door and say her final goodbyes.  But Piki makes Maria promise that no what she hears, she is not under any circumstances to open the door.
Of course Maria makes the trip -- and of course she winds up swinging open the door.  It's not long afterwards that strange things begin happening: Aborigine-type men appear and chant, Oliver's favorite stuffed animal begins turning up, things in the house keep moving, Lucy claims she's playing with Oliver, and mysterious figures start appearing.  Soon these events become much more menacing, Maria's nightmares seem to be coming true, and things keep getting worse and worse...

The Other Side of the Door isn't a terrible horror movie, but it has far too elements that have been used many times before.  The grieving parent whose bringing back a deceased child with terrible results has been used plenty of other times -- from "The Monkey's Paw" to Pet Sematary -- and nothing original or surprising is done with that cliche here.  I was hoping the Indian setting would lead to more exotic elements, but that's almost never the case here.  Instead, we get dark figures either lurking in shadows or creeping forward, over and over.  This movie was a letdown.

Overall grade: C-
Reviewed by James Lynch



There are plenty of cartoon animals who wear clothes and act like humans -- and in Zootopia, predators and prey live together and generally get along.  This being a Disney movie, there are also lessons about not judging others, dreams coming true, and some mystery to boot.

Ever since she was little, bunny rabbit Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) dreamed of leaving her family's carrot farm in the sticks and becoming a police officer in the massive metropolis of Zootopia.  She worked hard, got great grades, and finally made it.

However, life in the big city is hardly what she wants.  Lots of the larger animals look down her (literally and figuratively), and the water buffalo Police Chief Bogo (Idris Elba) sticks Judy on traffic ticket duty while the other police officers look into the disappearance of 14 predators.  Mayor Lionheart (J.K. Simmons) thinks Judy's assignment is a token program, while Deputy Mayor Bellwether (Jenny Slate), a sheep, is thrilled a small animal is getting a chance at a serious job.
 Judy gets the chance to prove herself when she agrees to find the missing Mr. Otter within 48 hours -- or resign if the fails.  To do this, she blackmails the con artist fox Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) into helping her.  Their investigation leads the reluctant duo into underworld critters, predators turning savage, medical mysteries and assorted conspiracies.  And life lessons.
 Zootopia is more cute than funny.  The voice talent and animation are good, and there are plenty of jokes and references for adults: Tommy Chong as a hippie yak, references to The Godfather and Breaking Bad, and the character Gazelle who looks a whole lot like her voice actor Shakira.  But the story is very predictable and there are more chuckles than outright laughs.  Zootopia is entertaining and very, very light.
Overall grade: B-
Reviewed by James Lynch