Cody Clarke v ‘Batman v Superman’


Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Directed by Zack Snyder
Written by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer
182 min. (‘Ultimate Edition’)
151 min. (Theatrical)

Very mild spoilers ahead.

I had no interest in this movie until the bad reviews started rolling in, and rolling in hard. My favorite Batman movie has an 11% on Rotten Tomatoes, so a new one sitting comfortably at 27% with critics seemed like it could be way up my alley.

But then, audiences started digging it. (To date, it currently sits at 65% with them.) And that didn’t bode well. ‘Divisive’ is not what I look for in a superhero movie—‘universally-panned’ is. This formula doesn’t always work out—Catwoman really is that bad—but it has lead me to some gems, such as the modern body horror masterpiece Fantastic Four from last year; Shaquille O’Neal’s charming, homegrown-vibed Steel; and of course, the afore-alluded to Batman & Robin, which I loved when I saw as a kid, then instantly hated on after I left the theater because everyone else was hating on it, then finally re-watched a year ago and realized that my initial assessment of it as great was spot-on and I never should’ve kowtowed to something as philistinic as popular opinion.

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Love ‘The Room’? Then ‘Room Full of Spoons’ is Required Viewing.


Room Full of Spoons (2016)
Written & Directed by Rick Harper
114 min.


There’s nothing more nerve-wracking when it comes to watching movies than sitting down to watch a movie made by a friend of yours. I don’t ever pray harder for a movie to be good than in that moment before it starts.

And there’s nothing more exciting than when a movie made by a friend of yours is great.

By that dramatic paragraph break, I guess you can tell that I enjoyed this film. And if you have any interest in The Room, you will too.

Continue reading Love ‘The Room’? Then ‘Room Full of Spoons’ is Required Viewing.

Cody Clarke Reviews ‘The Night Before’


The Night Before (2015)
Dir. Jonathan Levine
Written by Jonathan Levine, Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, and Evan Goldberg
101 min.


Caught a free advance screening of this last night. Just made it, in fact—the two people behind me were the last of the 250 or so admitted. And behind them, the line stretched far down the rest of the long Manhattan block and then back up alongside itself, kind of like what the snake in the game Snake sometimes has to do. I’d say at least as many didn’t get to see it as got to see it.

The line, and subsequent audience, was quite diverse—age and race all over the place, gender right down the middle. I’d assumed this would be an 18-35 white boy crowd, with maybe a smattering of dragged-along girlfriends who don’t mind a Seth Rogen vehicle here or there, but nope—it seems the combo of goofy and brash Rogen, boyish and sensitive Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and absurdly underrated and capable Anthony Mackie is a brilliant one, as far as widespread appeal.

Who knows what the actual demographic of paying customers will be, or what critics will think of the movie, or what the box office will be, but, if the crowd I saw it with is any indication, the word-of-mouth will be good, and this movie will be enjoyed by most who do see it. There was even a bit of applause at the end, which should not be construed to mean that some people will downright love this movie and that it’ll become a cult Christmas classic—it’s simply that this movie is so not-as-bad-as-you’d-think that, by the end, applause seems kinda justified.

As far as my own enjoyment with it, my expectations were low, and they were more than surpassed. I laughed during pretty much every scene I was supposed to, and I was touched by pretty much every scene I was supposed to be touched by. But, and maybe this is just me, but in my head, I kept hearing jokes, or tag lines to jokes, that should have been gone for but weren’t. Short sentences here and there that could’ve taken B scenes to A+ heights. And pretty much every scene suffers from this. Maybe the actors needed an Apatow, or an Adam McKay, or a David Gordon Green, shouting spur-the-moment new lines from behind the camera for them to say, as you often see in DVD bonus features. That certainly worked for Knocked Up, and Stepbrothers, and Pineapple Express. And who knows, maybe Jonathan Levine did in fact do that here. But whatever the case, it just feels like it wasn’t done, and as a result, the film’s comedic heights only go about ceiling level.

What Levine does excel at though is getting three-dimensionality out of his actors. The performances out of damn near everyone here are unusually good. Even people with only a handful of lines get across a level of depth that seems damn near impossible given the lines that they’ve been given. People really feel like people, which is refreshing, as so often movies of this ilk treat that as an afterthought, focusing too heavily on humor instead. And that’s one thing this movie has over the three I just mentioned—sure, those are better movies as far as pure enjoyment goes, but the characters in them seem flat by comparison, mere mouthpieces for jokes. And that really makes me wanna check out Levine’s previous work, of which I’ve seen none, and from what I understand are dramedies rather than comedies, so, less pressure to be funny, which probably works better for him.

The story itself is kinda simple, but clever. Essentially it’s just a three-guys trying-to-get-to-a-party plot, a la Superbad. But here, there isn’t really much standing in their way, and the stakes aren’t high. Sure, some problems occur along the way, but the problems are pretty small and surmountable. Which sounds like it could be dumb, or not exciting enough, but oddly enough, it kinda works—it leaves more room for interpersonal drama, and even allows for each of the characters to experience beats of internal drama as well.

Some of the story does feel quite forced though. There’s some Christmas Carol-esque past, present, future stuff that is tangental the plot and doesn’t really feel necessary. And there’s a scene where they shoehorn in an allusion to How The Grinch Stole Christmas that doesn’t really land or make sense at all. And the film itself is bookended by tongue-in-cheek storybook narration. It’s almost as though they—or likely, a studio exec—didn’t feel the script was Christmas-y enough, and requested another rewrite be done to make it more so.

Had the Christmas tree that is this film been less covered with random ornaments that clash and don’t belong, I do think this could’ve been somewhat of a classic. Not a watch-ever-year one like Elf or It’s A Wonderful Life (or one of my personal favorites, Holiday Affair with Robert Mitchum) but maybe one you could watch every few. As it stands, it’s a movie you probably don’t ever need to see more than once or twice, and don’t really need to see in theaters at all. But, if you’re in the mood to go with your family or friends to a holiday movie this year, you could do way worse. So fuck it, see it.

3 1/2 out of 5 Codys.

‘Whiplash’ is Anime


Whiplash (2014)
Written and Directed by Damien Chazelle
107 min.

Finally saw Whiplash, last year’s little-engine-that-could (and did—four Oscars). Can’t say I’m surprised at all that it was so well-received by critics and audiences alike—it’s a visceral, exciting film, one that, given its mundane subject matter, takes you by surprise with its intensity. An artificial, superimposed intensity, sure (a realistic film about getting good at drums would be more the vibe of Jeanne Dielman, but louder) but an intensity that is undeniably effective. At certain moments, I was quite literally on the edge of my seat.

My praise for the film ends there though, other than to say that J.K. Simmons delivers a phenomenal performance, his career best. And, there’s a few genuinely funny parts when you least expect them. In general though, the film is a shallow one. More specifically, it’s two-dimensional—so two-dimensional it’s damn near cel-based.

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That Hercules Movie with The Rock in it is The Greatest Movie Ever Made


Hercules (2014)
Directed by Brett Ratner
Screenplay by Ryan Condal & Evan Spiliotopoulos
98 min.

Trust me, I’m as surprised as you are. I mean, I thought I’d like it—The Scorpion King is serviceable, cheesy fun and I figured this one would be up that same alley—but holy shit, this thing is a masterpiece. Easily the best film I’ve seen all year long. And while yes, the title of this piece is hyperbolic, it’s not as hyperbolic as you might think. There is true brilliance in this film. It is a singular work with something truly unique to say, just waiting to be discovered.

Continue reading That Hercules Movie with The Rock in it is The Greatest Movie Ever Made