Review – Holy Team Effort, Batman! (“Justice League”)

The flip side of those MARVELous Avengers, these DC heroes are here to save the world from an intergalactic threat. Batman & Wonder Woman meet up again with the new kids on the block, the Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg. Oh yeah, then there’s this guy in the blue tights that everyone said was dead…

*

It’s bad enough that Thanos wants those damned Infinity Stones to rule the world (sorry, wrong universe), here comes a new intergalactic baddie to run your weekend: it’s Steppenwolf (no, not the 60’s rock band, silly)! A CG alien (Ciaran Hinds) comes here (along with his legion of bug-like Parademon soldiers) do a snatch ‘n’ grab of three super-powerful ‘Mother Boxes’, which can transform Earth into his home planet. Ickk!

Meanwhile, Batman (Ben Affleck) isn’t having a good day. He knows some sort of an attack is coming and is in dire need of allies, since Superman (Henry Cavill) is dead and buried. Luckily for him his fighting pal, Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), who is saving people in London, is a just a call away.

And allies they’re gonna need when Steppenwolf gets Box #1 and wreaks havoc. Bats and Golden Lasso assemble a makeshift team, but it isn’t easy. The Flash (Ezra Miller) is a wise-cracking kid who just wants to have some friends, Aquaman/Adam Curry (Jason Momoa) is a hard-core ocean prince with a passion for adventure, and young half-man/half-machine Cyborg (Ray Fisher) is coming to grips with his new metal body and cybernetic interface.

After Steppenwolf acquires Box #2 and trounces our DC heroes, a deadly decision is made: use the old Kryptonian ship from Batman v Superman to resurrect you-know-who. It’s a sticky situation as no one knows exactly what will happen (I mean, how often do they bring dead superheroes back to life?) This means BIG news to Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane), needless to say.

In the middle of all the ensuing chaos, Steppenwolf nabs Box #3 and, making his camp somewhere in the remote Siberian backwoods (because… reasons), he decides to start his empire. I guess he likes the scenery. But celebrations will have to wait as Batman and his League crash the party, trying to take back those Boxes. Mayhem and destruction ensue while an innocent Russian family scurries for safety.

With more fun and less emo that the previous Batman v Superman epic, the script by Joss Whedon and Chris Terrio (BvS:DOJ) packs quite a wallop and alot of info in the short 2hr running time, which is unfortunate, as I would’ve like to have seen more of the backstories of Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman. Yes, they’re ALL getting their own feature films, but at least give me more than a taste here. As generic as the plot and villain are (and they are VERY generic), the LOTR-ish story is about as standard as Steppenwolf; a boring A-typical intergalactic bad guy with a poorly rendered CG face. Forget him and go with the Supers!

Once again, Gal Gadot steals the picture with her likable presence, as does the overly-eager Ezra Miller, who offers the comic relief. Mamoa is outstanding with his macho wit and charm, and Fisher just oozes tortured angst as teenager Cyborg. And I gotta admit it, Affleck makes a formidable and true Batman, even though it’s been reported he wants to give up his cowl for the upcoming solo Batman movie. Real shame. Another sad note was director Zack Snyder, who had to leave this project when his daughter died, making Joss Whedon the new director. Not that Whedon isn’t good, mind you, but I would have liked to have seen a completed Snyder film with his mark on it.

Team America: World Police (2004)

*

Only from the irreverent minds of South Park’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone could come such an outlandish and hilarious spoof of all those British “Super- Dynamation” marionette TV shows of the 60’s (SuperCar, Fireball XL5, Thunderbirds), AND lace it with raunchy puppet sex, F-bombs, and pattern it after super hero movies.

Re-cut over nine times to avoid a NC-17 rating (I kid you not!), we have Team America, a paramilitary anti-terrorism force that opens the movie by eliminating a gang of terrorists in Paris. . .and also destroying the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Louvre Museum in the process. The team is comprised of young Lisa (voiced by Kristen Miller), a young psychologist, Carson (Parker), her love interest, psychic Sarah (Masasa Moyo), super jock Joe (Parker again), and martial arts fancier Chris (Stone).

After Carson dies, Team Leader Spottswoode (Daran Norris) brings in Broadway stage actor Gary Johnston (Parker yet again) as his acting skills will be necessary to infiltrate a terrorist cell. Unbeknownst to the team, dictator Kim Jong-il (yes, Parker again) is supplying international terrorists with WMD’s. But after Gary infiltrates a terrorist group in Egypt and botches the assignment, the team kills the terrorists and leaves the city is in ruins, drawing criticism from the Film Actors Guild, led by Alec Baldwin (Maurice LaMarche).

After Gary and Lisa have wild puppet sex, terrorists blow up the Panama Canal, which the Film Actors Guild blames on Team America. Gary, believing it’s all his fault, leaves Team America and gets SO drunk he vomits out twice his own weight in body fluids. Eww! The remaining members depart for the Middle East, but are captured by North Korean forces, so naturally Gary sobers up and goes to North Korea, where he uses his acting skills to infiltrate the base and free the team. He even engages in a fight with other Hollywood actors and. . .a ferocious puppet-eating kitten!

Heroically, Gary convinces the world’s leaders to unite and it works, finally killing Kim Jong-il, only to find out he was an alien cockroach all the time that flees in a tiny spaceship! Written by Parker, Stone, and Pam Brady and directed by Parker, this movie was an experiment the guys said was the worst experience they ever had. Not only were the complexities of making and operating marionettes an exercise in futility, but filming was a nightmare. Due to Parker and Stone’s obsession with detail and craftsmanship, the film took forever to shoot with painstakingly realistic items like a tiny $1000 Uzi and real prescription glasses for the Kim Jong-il puppet!

But it all paid off as the movie made bank at the box office and garnered a bunch of awards. There are reports that Kim Jong-il (an obsessive film buff) saw the movie and immediately banned the movie from his country. It’s no secret that both Parker and Stone have a deep resentment towards not only the M.P.A.A., but also the S.A.G. (calling them the F.A.G. in this movie) and brutally skewer many Hollywood icons in this film. On a happier note, we are treated to Parker & Stone’s wonderful musical talents with several original catchy and damn funny songs like, “America, F— Yeah!”, “I’m So Ronery”, and my favorite, “Montage”.

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