By Lynn Venhaus

Worlds collide in a standard superhero spectacle involving the multiverse and time travel. But “The Flash” film wisely capitalizes on personalities, thus the intrigue builds in smart cameos, bounteous Easter eggs, and captivating performances both sentimental and sassy.

As DC Comics Universe superhero “The Flash,” Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) uses his super speed to change the past, but his attempt to save his family creates a world without superheroes, forcing him to rally help to save the future.

For someone whose childhood introduction to Batman was Adam West (1966-68) and Superman was George Reeves (1952-58) in the first television series of those classic comic book characters, “The Flash” feels both familiar and fresh in its use of Justice League mythology.

Flash’s first DC Comics was in 1940, and the Scarlet Speedster has smoothly transitioned to a number of film and TV series. Barry Allen’s superpower is superspeed, which occurred when he was struck by a bolt of lightning in a lab, resulting in a chemical bath.

Barry Allen and Barry ALlen

In the latest franchise reinvention, Ezra Miller first appeared in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” in 2016, and subsequently in “Suicide Squad: (2016), “Justice League” (2017) and “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” (2021).

In this stand-alone, their portrayal is actually spot-on, deftly depicting the nerdy, annoying, hyperactive young guy trying to come to grips with his abilities – his insatiable appetite is a running gag – and the responsibilities of coming to the rescue. They easily transition from snarky encounters to poignant interactions with his mother before her death, and his concern for his father in jail for her murder.

The elephant in the room is that Miller, 30, has made headlines for being arrested and charged with crimes, and later, sought professional help for mental health issues. Warner Brothers and the DC powers-at-be stuck with them for the role.

As an interesting artist, they made a mark as insecure outcast Credence Barebone (Aurelius Dumbledore) in the “Fantastic Beasts” movie trilogy, and their haunting breakthrough role was in 2011 as the evil Kevin in “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” following up that critical acclaim as Patrick in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”

As The Flash, they are spry in scenes with superheroes and villains alike but tugs at the heartstrings in the family flashbacks to give the film some emotional depth.

Sasha Calle as Supergirl

Using his powers to go back in time and save his mother, Barry unwittingly creates a world without heroes. Oh, General Zod (Michael Shannon) has returned, ready to wreak planetary havoc. The Flash enlists a Bruce Wayne, retired as Batman, another incarnation of himself, and an imprisoned stranger to help right the world.

Inspired by DC Comics’ 2011 “Flashpoint,” co-screenwriters Christina Hodson and Joby Harold have crafted a different type of Supergirl, aka Kara Zor-El, Superman’s cousin. Sasha Calle is impressive as the endangered Kryptonian.

Hodson, who was behind “Birds of Prey,” has cleverly twisted some of the old-fashioned tropes.

Director Andy Muschietti, who directed “It” and its sequel, has delivered an entertaining story, giving fans reason to cheer throughout the 2-hour, 24-minute film, but it does eventually run out of steam in those climactic bombastic battles.

However, the finale’s big reveal is a good one, and there is the proverbial end-credits scene to stay for, although not as thrilling as some of Marvel’s best.

But any film with the extraordinary Michael Keaton as Batman, scene-stealer that he is, is worth the admission price.

This is a spoiler-free review, but some of those superheroes who show up briefly in the galaxy made my heart happy.

“The Flash” may be imperfect, but it’s far from the dud other franchises have unsuccessfully mounted in the past two years (u,e, “Black Adam,” “Shazam: Fury of the Gods”).

Michael Keaton as “Batman”

“The Flash” is a 2023 action-adventure-fantasy film directed by Andy Muschietti and starring Ezra Miller, Michael Keaton, Ron Livingston, Sasha Calle, Ben Affleck, Maribel Verdu and Michael Shannon. Rated: PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, some strong language and partial nudity, it runs 2 hours and 24 minutes. It opens in theaters on June 16. Lynn’s Grade: B

By Lynn Venhaus
The grittiest, gloomiest, and most pitch-black of the entire Caped Crusader canon, “The Batman” expands the compelling mythology with a neo-noir approach and very gothic Gotham look.

Now in his second year as masked crime-fighter Batman, reclusive billionaire Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson) wades deeper into Gotham City’s underworld after The Riddler (Paul Dano) leaves a trail of cryptic clues, cyber messages and greeting cards addressed to The Batman. Wayne uncovers rampant corruption and abuse of power that has long plagued the metropolis while he seeks to apprehend a deranged killer.

Director Matt Reeves has set the iconic DC comic book character into year two of his “Batman Project,” where the scion of Wayne Enterprises, Bruce Wayne, calls himself “Vengeance” and roams at night, throwing punches with the “drophead” drug addicts and hoodlums overtaking his town.

His nocturnal alter-ego somberly narrates the film from his journals. “They think I’m hiding in the shadows, but I am the shadows,” he says in an intense, hushed tone.

This Batman works as a vigilante, delving into the detective work with Police Commissioner Gordon, played with his customary gravitas by Jeffrey Wright. After all, DC stands for Detective Comics, which Batman has been a part of since 1943.

Reeves, who helmed the found-footage thriller “Cloverfield” and two of the three “Apes” prequels “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” in 2014 and “War for the Planet of the Apes” in 2017, taps into modern-day fears here, much like a horror film. It’s not science that’s created an aberration, but human nature at its bleakest, because evil has seeped into the everyday fabric of big-city life.

Reeves and co-screenwriter Peter Craig, who specializes in gutsy action (Oscar nominee for “The Town,” the upcoming “Top Gun: Maverick”) take a page from Todd Phillips’ 2019 bold and menacing “Joker,” which depicted Gotham City’s slide into lawlessness as greed and sadistic forces rose.

No one out-broods actor Robert Pattinson, and he inhabits the Batsuit with an imposing physique – although a human one, battle-scars on his back. This superhero’s physical prowess is on full display in fierce fight sequences.  

The Bat and The Cat

He has the Bat “toys” at his disposal – a very cool Batmobile makes a splashy entrance and he uses a turbo-charged Batcycle in hot pursuit of justice.

Pattinson, who broke out as sensitive heartthrob and tortured vampire Edward Cullen in the “Twilight” Saga (2008-2012), took a few years to find his way in post-blockbuster projects but has been memorable in interesting but odd indies – “The Lost City of Z,” “High Life,” “The Devil All the Time,” and his acclaimed “Good Time” and “The Lighthouse” (Independent Spirit Awards nominations).  He projects vulnerability and an inner strength along with the physicality.

His re-imagined Bruce is even more emotionally bruised and psychologically battered than any previous characterization, although Christian Bale came the closest in the masterful Christopher Nolan trilogy (“Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises”).

For 80 years, the dynamic hero has grown a passionate fanbase and many spin-offs – including TV shows, animated series, and video games. Since Tim Burton’s “Batman” in 1989, there have been many incarnations of the Caped Crusader, each with their own take.

Bale perfectly embodied both the conflicted hero and suave bachelor, while glib charmers Michael Keaton and Ben Affleck played to their strengths as seasoned veterans. The OG, Endearing Adam West, of the landmark TV series and first movie in 1966, had fun with the kitschy camp and the bombastic cartoonish Joel Schumacher ones in the 1990s, with Val Kilmer and George Clooney, though charismatic, took a wrong turn.

With less to say and more to emote, Pattison is convincing as driven to restore order while wrestling with his demons. The poor little orphaned rich boy, traumatized by watching his parents murdered at age 10, has found a solitary life of purpose. He remains a lone wolf who doesn’t let people in easily – even his loyal butler Alfred.

After Michael Caine’s emotional turn in Nolan’s three, as a surrogate father and protector, to see a gruff Bruce keep Alfred at a distance is jarring. Andy Serkis, who was Caesar in Reeves’ “Ape” movies, is every bit the archetypal British gentleman and dutiful servant.

Nolan’s work remains the gold standard, but Reeves’ deeper dive into the crevices is interesting – and unrelentingly grim. The skies are either a gloomy gray or a foreboding hard downpour, reminiscent of “Blade Runner.”

Cinematographer Greig Fraser, Oscar-nominated for “Dune,” sets a moody atmosphere to emphasize the scummy cesspool, and uses very little daylight. Blood red punctuates the darkness.

Reeves has cast the ensemble well, with Zoe Kravitz intriguing as both Catwoman and Selina Kyle, who develops a complicated alliance with Batman.

While nothing will ever approach Heath Ledger’s fearsome Joker in “The Dark Knight,” the familiar villains here are fresh takes — Paul Dano plays The Riddler as a dangerous mastermind, revealing hard truths about the powerful and elite of Gotham, and exposing himself as an unhinged psychopath. He may not have the maniacal laugh of Frank Gorshin and Jim Carrey, but he will send shivers down your spine, nonetheless. You want more of his Edward Nashton.

The Riddler’s killing spree, brutally murdering political figures and lawmen as he baits Batman, ramps up the tension.

John Turturro excels as mob boss Carmine Falcone, a smooth operator who is as lethal with his words as his deeds.

Colin Farrell as The Penguin

Less successful is Colin Farrell, unrecognizable as the thuggish Penguin (Oswald Cobblepot). His sleazy character is not as developed as the other bad guys.

The tech work is solid, and production designer James Chinlund went farther with a crumbling Wayne Manor, a once-grand mansion that serves as a forlorn reminder of what all has been lost.

Reeves tapped his frequent collaborator Michael Giacchino to compose the score. Giacchino, who won an Oscar for “Up,” an Emmy for “Lost” and Grammy Awards for “Up” and “Ratatouille,” has created haunting character themes.

“The Batman” is one of the more complex reinventions in the DC-verse and signals a promising new story thread, but at 176 minutes, the pace is a detriment, for it seems unnecessarily slow. But it is rare that you get this much depth in a tentpole genre film.

“The Batman” is a 2022 action-adventure crime drama directed by Matt Reeves and stars Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz, Paul Dano, John Turturro, Colin Farrell, Jeffrey Wright, Andy Serkis and Peter Sarsgaard. It is rated PG-13 for strong violent and disturbing content,
drug content, strong language, and some suggestive material and runs 2 hours, 56 minutes. It is only in theaters starting March 4. Lynn’s Grade: B.

By Alex McPherson

“Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is an entertaining, four-hour superhero epic that greatly improves on Joss Whedon’s 2017 version. After leaving the first production due to a family tragedy, director Snyder is finally able to give fans what they’ve been craving. 

Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and another familiar face team up to take down a world-ending threat. This time, a horned monstrosity named Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) seeks to eliminate humanity from Planet Earth via three powerful “Mother Boxes” and rebuild it under the leadership of Darkseid (Ray Porter), who wants to control the galaxy. Feeling partly responsible for the death of Superman (Henry Cavill) in “Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” Batman becomes a reluctant leader as he and Wonder Woman bring the squad together. Heroes both new and old undergo their own arcs, to varying degrees — involving the topics of grief, faith, hope, and unity in times of crisis.

Aiming to please those who willed it into existence, “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is difficult to recommend to viewers who aren’t already fans of the DC Cinematic Universe. The film contains moments of emotional resonance and visual spectacle, but proves grueling by the final hour — reverting to predictable plotting and repetitive, CGI-reliant action sequences.

At least the central characters are given more opportunities to shine. From its opening frames, “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” establishes itself as a slower, mournful affair, with a 4:3 aspect ratio, dour chapter titles, muted color palette, and a clearer sense of organization. Snyder has crafted an unarguably more coherent storyline than before, maintaining a grittier tone than the original cut and giving scenes more time to breathe. Even though the storytelling itself is clunky, largely thanks to hit-or-miss dialogue and frequent exposition dumps, I appreciate Snyder’s ambition. 

The added depth to Cyborg (a.k.a Victor Stone) is particularly noteworthy. After Victor and his mother are killed in a car crash, his father, Silas Stone (Joe Morton) uses a Mother Box to resurrect Victor in a robotic body. Thanks to his new abilities, Victor becomes an all-powerful presence, able to tap into the world’s technological web with ease, and representing the League’s key to vanquishing Steppenwolf. Despite his powers, Cyborg is gripped with resentment towards his father and deeply uncertain of his own future. Fisher’s acting is endearing and empathetic, the most convincing in the entire film. His character  — practically deserving of its own standalone installment — remains the heart and soul of the whole endeavour. 

The Flash (a.k.a. Barry Allen) is also further fleshed out, but his journey lacks the nuance and complexity of Cyborg’s. He is much more confident in his speedy capabilities and doesn’t spout as many cringey quips as in the 2017 iteration. Batman, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman, on the other hand, aren’t given much new material to work with under Snyder’s guidance, but we’re given more context for their actions. This helps create a stronger sense of flow from scene to scene than before, and all the actors give decent performances.

In terms of antagonists, Steppenwolf’s goals are more clearly outlined. Exiled from his demonic homeworld, he’s trying to prove himself to his master, Darkseid. Even though we understand where he’s coming from, Steppenwolf is still difficult to empathize with. Revealing more about his history doesn’t automatically fix his blandness or render him memorable. He’s big, powerful, odd-looking, and ready to slice and dice his way to victory.

Speaking of violence, “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is rated R, allowing Snyder to indulge in bloody carnage that feels far more visceral than other cinematic comic book offerings. As expected, however, Snyder deploys an over-abundance of slow motion to present every shot as a work of art to be gawked at. Yes, there’s instances of beauty in his eye-popping, effects-heavy compositions, but they lose their thrill as the hours pile up.

Combined with an unnecessary epilogue that’s purely fan service, “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” doesn’t quite justify its existence for casual moviegoers. Nevertheless, I wholeheartedly support Snyder’s efforts to realize his vision. That being said, four hours is a huge time commitment, especially when viewed in a single sitting, and his film doesn’t differentiate itself enough to truly stand out.

A self-serious, over-indulgent, yet admirable effort, “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” isn’t the masterpiece that some have touted it as, but it proves sporadically enjoyable. I just needed a long nap afterwards.

“Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is a 2021 release from Warner Brothers that is exclusively showing on HBOMax, as of March 18. It stars Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Henry Cavill, Ray Fisher and Ezra Miller as the six superheroes in the DC Justice League. is Rated R for violence and some language. It has a run time of 242 minutes. Alex’s Grade: B –