retail news in context, analysis with attitude

I've now had a week to think about Batman v. Superman: Down of Justice, which in some ways is way too long to think about one of the most cumbersomely titled movies, not to mention extravagantly overproduced and overthought films, that I've ever seen.

I didn't like it all that much when I saw BSDJ, and I found that the more I thought about it, the less I liked it. Not that I have a problem with two of our most iconic superheroes fighting it out; I actually think there's a pretty good movie in the idea that one is darkness and one is light, and that their world views eventually would come into conflict, only to discover that they need each other. (It isn't an original notion - it has been exploited numerous times in comic books.)

What I have a problem with is that this version of the conflict isn't so much about light vs. dark, as really dark vs. somewhat less dark. There is a humorlessness about the whole enterprise that I find to be disturbing - BSDJ is so pessimistic about humanity that the movie becomes depressing instead of uplifting. That's a problem for a film that is, at its core, a comic book movie; it is okay to give such a movie a serious context, but for me, it has to end with the audience feeling good about where they've been.

There are some good things about BSDJ. Ben Affleck's turn as Batman/Bruce Wayne is authoritative and world weary, and I'd love to see him in a standalone movie. I thought Jeremy Irons was great as Alfred, his butler and aide. And whenever Henry Cavill, who plays Superman/Clark Kent is in a scene with Lois Lane (Amy Adams) or his mother, Martha Kent (Diane Lane), it brings out a tenderness that is otherwise missing from his performance.

So, I think I've made it clear that I didn't like BSDJ much. But I also have to concede that as I write this, the movie has made $500 million worldwide, thrilling the folks at Warner Bros., who built this movie as a launching pad for a whole series of movies featuring heroes from the DC Comics universe. Considering that BSDJ was almost universally reviled by critics, they have to be sighing with relief that audiences don't seem to care.

It is hard to argue with success. And I have to concede that when they made BSDJ, they weren't doing it for a 61-year-old guy who started reading Superman and Batman comic books more than a half-century ago. It also ends up that they weren't making it for my 29-year-old and 26-year-old sons, who may have disliked it more than I did; then again, I raised them right, and they were watching old movies and good movies in early childhood.

But I think I'm worried about the mindset of a generation of moviegoers who find the darkness and humorlessness of BSDJ to be attractive and entertaining. On the other hand, BSDJ is only half as humorless and dark as some of the political campaigning I've been watching lately.

So maybe it actually is a movie for our time. Which makes me shudder.




A far less costly movie, and yet one that is far more interesting and tension-filled, is Eye In The Sky, which stars Helen Mirren and (in his last role) Alan Rickman and is about the ethical and moral decisions that go into drone warfare and the fight against terrorism.

This is a really good movie, as it focuses both on drone technology as well as the political and military chains of command that go into its use. From beginning to end, it sets up a morally ambiguous scenario in a way that will have audiences discussing it long after they leave the theatre. It isn't big or showy, but it is ambitious and specific ... and I heartily recommend it.




I finally saw Steve Jobs last weekend, and ended up kicking myself for not making more of an effort to see it when it originally was in theaters late last year. Written by Aaron Sorkin to look at three specific product launches by Jobs, the movie got mixed reviews from critics and audiences alike; a lot of people felt that Sorkin picked the wrong three product launches, that it took too many liberties with real life, and was insufficiently comprehensive in its depiction of Jobs' life and personality.

All of that may, in fact, be true. But I really loved it anyway, in part because it was so theatrical and never seemed terribly concerned about being accurate. What I think Jobs does do, in its own way, is get at some of the truths of Jobs' obsessive persona and belief that his "reality distortion field" could alter space and time to meet his own needs and desires.

Accuracy and truth are not the same thing, especially when it comes to art. I'm totally comfortable with that.

For me, the best scenes in the movie are between Michael Fassbender as Jobs and Jeff Daniels as John Scully, the former Pepsi exec who Jobs enticed to run Apple, not knowing that Scully eventually would engineer his departure from the company he founded. None of those scenes may have happened in the way that Sorkin writes them, but that's the nature of dramatization ... Jobs is a movie, not real life. I suspect there will be plenty of other movies about him, and that's okay. They're all pieces of a human puzzle that could be maddening, but that changed the world.




Finally, I would suggest that you track down the HBO documentary Everything is Copy: Nora Ephron - Scripted & Unscripted, which offers an affectionate look at one of the most distinctive journalistic and artistic voices of our generation. It is filled with great stuff - how Ephron successfully challenged the male-dominated field of magazine journalism, and eventually moved into writing and directing movies (When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail) while living an absolutely fascinating life. I'm a big Ephron fan, but I don't think one has to be in order to enjoy Everything Is Copy ... I'd suggest you check it out.




I have a couple of wines to recommend this week ... the 2013 Pipoli Aglianico del Vulture, which is a terrific and nuanced red wine that is great with Italian food ... and the 2014 Carlton Cellars Sauvignon Blanc Yamhill-Carlton, which was great the other day when the weather got warm and simply demanded a bright, fresh white wine.



That's it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.

Slàinte!
KC's View: