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Rating History

Shazam! (2019)
3 years ago via Flixster

A film with a long and storied history, Shazam! is one of those rare creative visions of a big-budget blockbuster escaping from the depths of development hell, and being all the better for it. It's a safe superhero movie compared to more relative and ambitious outings, but that comes a bit from the way that it shows its age, ironically making it a very risky film in HOW safe it plays itself. It's essentially a Raimi-era superhero film in an era where Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight and Jon Favreau's Iron Man have set a new standard. Under the New Line Cinema banner, it seems to hearken back to a time of Batman Begins, Blade movies, and Incredible Hulks. But more than anything, it belies a sense of wonder few modern superhero films seem ready to embrace - this is essentially DC's Spider-Man Homecoming, willing to tell a different story of coming of age through superpowers that divides itself from any larger, continuity-spanning narratives. You see nods to other heroes, but not once is the story ever truly dependent on a larger universe or multiverse. The entire Freeman family stands out as unique, diverse, relatable and enjoyable, and not to spoil anything, but there's a point in the film that really makes the family dynamic come together in a fun summer blockbuster way. It's just a straightforward play on what a child would do with superpowers and how they would cope with finding their moral compass after being suddenly granted such amazing powers, and it doesn't rewrite any rulebooks, but it definitely brings back some old-school superhero staples that have been missing for a good, long time.

Batman Forever
5 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

While Burton's 'Returns' was not exactly a box-office bomb, it made half the ticket sales of its' predecessor at double the production cost: not the most promising numbers when you're talking about the sophomore release in what a big-time studio like WB intends to turn into a blockbuster franchise. To top it off, WB put the final nail in the coffin when they made a deal with national theater chains to take a *much* larger cut of ticket sales than ever before, namely under the assumption that 'Returns' would far outsell the original '89 film. Also, WB gave Burton full creative control, but spent ludicrous amounts of money on a kid-friendly marketing blitz that dwarfed even the hype of the original film, with little to no oversight during production. When the film finally hit theaters and turned out to be *far* darker than anyone had previously imagined, there was an enormous moral backlash.

Tasked with making Batman a more family-friendly silver-screen superhero, while keeping the film cinematically stylish and 'edgy' for MTV and Nickelodeon-era teens, Joel Schumacher's first effort in the Bat-franchise was a monumental one, and one that has not exactly aged well (although it does fare far better than its' 1997 follow-up, 'Batman & Robin'). 'Batman Forever' is a little too cartoonish to be a film for teenagers, and a little too visually bombastic to be a film for kids - and while it boasts perhaps one of the most stellar casts in a Batman film to date, a lot of the roles feel like so much wasted potential under the screenwriting of Akiva Goldsman and Lee & Janet Scott Batchler.

Indeed, Val Kilmer was at the height of his popularity, Jim Carrey was an enormous box-office draw, Nicole Kidman looked to have all the makings of a leading lady, Chris O'Donnell made for an extremely marketable Robin, and anyone who has seen Tommy Lee Jones act knows that he could have easily made an excellent Two-Face. As it stands, Kilmer makes a serviceable Batman, and even gives some small measure of gravity to the role, even if it is mostly superficial. Tommy Lee Jones trades in an opportunity to paint one of the dark knight's most troubled foes in a sympathetic light, instead opting to merely treat Two-Face like an angry impersonation of Jack Nicholson's Joker. Jim Carrey, on the other hand, does exactly what Jim Carrey did best in the 90s': in short, spastic slapstick. It's a little more toned down in comparison to movies like Ace Ventura, The Mask and Dumb and Dumber, but the obvious flair for physical comedy is still there, and it all feels very much like the trappings of a Saturday morning cartoon, which is both its' biggest flaw and its' saving grace.

Indeed, as a film, it's largely inoffensive to the tastes. In this day and age, where we're used to superhero movies being set to a slightly higher standard, it's sure to upset quite a few people; but more than anything, it was merely a product of its' time - and to its' credit, the formula paid off. At the end of the day, its' story and performances are no worse than an expensively-produced Saturday morning cartoon. Kidman plays a love interest that is sorely lacking for depth and dimension, but fills the role of damsel-in-distress and eye-candy extraordinarily well. And Chris O'Donnell's Robin is, like the rest of this film, enjoyable in the right mindset; not particularly noteworthy, but not particularly bad either. The costumes and set design are a little garish, even when compared to 'Returns', but are still well-designed (bat-nipples notwithstanding, although I don't seem to have the problems with them that most people do).

When all is said and done, even with Kilmer trying to wax poetic about the origin of Batman - a Batman that is actually fairly well-developed - 'Batman Forever' is a shallow-yet-enjoyable 90s blockbuster that can be worth a watch if you're willing to not take it so seriously. But in comparison to the types of superhero fare produced in this day and age, it couldn't really hope to stand up to any kind of major scrutiny.

Meet My Valentine
5 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Your standard Hallmark channel romantic drama fare: a family man discovers he has an inoperable brain tumor, and attempts to hide it from his family as he puts his wife on a dating website to try and find a suitable replacement for him after he's passed. For a film with such heavy subject matter, there is little dramatic tension, and the reality of Tom's (the husband in question) illness is never really explored in much detail. If you're looking for a realistic depiction of illness or a tale that is emotionally gripping and weighted, you might want to look elsewhere. But for a lighthearted date night film that tugs on the occasional heartstring, it's a decent night in on Netflix (on which it is currently available).

Scott Wolf (whom I remember fondly from my youth as Bailey Salinger from the overly-sentimental 'Party of Five') stars in 'Meet My Valentine', and admittedly as the film's moral center, he does a decent job, although that's not saying too much. As usual, he comes from the George Clooney school of acting - which is to say that he emotes quite well, but he is unable to act 'in-character' and instead must rely on his own natural charisma (of which he does have a considerable amount) to make his character likeable. He succeeds, but as with most of these feelgood made-for-TV movie pieces, it gives you the feeling that these are not fully-developed characters that you're watching.

Nevertheless, it's good for a viewing if you're into that sort of thing (I'm not, unfortunately, but I thought I'd hazard it anyway).