Thursday, March 25, 2021

Zack Snyder's JUSTICE LEAGUE (movie review)

Love it or hate it, fan boys asked for the director's cut and this past weekend their wish was granted. The highly-anticipated J
ustice League was to the D.C. Comics what The Avengers was to Marvel Comics. Business rivals with valuable intellectual property, there exists two separate cinematic universes for superheroes. While Marvel has a successful track record for varied storytelling and popcorn fare that you can take your children to go see in theaters, D.C. has continued to provide us with darker fare thanks to the talented director, Zack Snyder. In full disclosure, I am not a fan of Snyder’s style: muted tones and monochrome color to convey a cold, desolate universe populated by action sequences that are sometimes difficult to make out. While executives at Warner Bros. prefer Snyder’s renditions to differentiate from the bold primary colors of Marvel, a studio that maintains straight-ahead camera shooting and quips intercut with chaos, the D.C. style has not always been a home run. Zack Snyder’s Justice League miraculously saw the light of day after fanboys petitioned long and hard… but does the “director’s cut” live up to the hype?


Marvel cooked up a recipe involving individual superhero movies that culminated into a superhero team-up, and box office success. Executives at Warner Bros. chose to go work the other way with a team-up and later individual movies with each of the superheroes. After establishing the new rendition of Superman and Batman, the first of what was meant to be three Justice League movies went into production. After significant pressure from the studio who wanted to quickly cash in on the success of Marvel’s The Avengers, Zack Snyder suffered a personal blow during production of Justice League – the suicide of his daughter, Autumn. For two months he attempted to complete work on the film as a means of coping with his loss but ultimately had to walk away. Spiraling into disaster control mode, after review of the costs already put into production, the movie studio turned to Joss Whedon, who scripted and directed The Avengers, to jump on board and help finish the film. The studio executives were not pleased with the dark style of Zack Snyder, and asked Whedon to incorporate a brighter tone, cut the runtime down significantly (in accordance to a studio mandate), and complete the film for theatrical release.


Anyone who saw the theatrical rendition knows the film wavers back and forth between scenes. You could tell which ones were scripted and shot by Whedon and which ones were directed by Snyder. In total, 90 percent of the finished film were Whedon’s scenes. Fan boys had high hopes for the movie based on the popularity of the comic book stories, but the film received mixed reviews and financially the movie was a box-office bomb. Zack Snyder was advised by his close friends and family not to watch the theatrical release in fear he would react to what he saw.

Following the theatrical release, and without knowing that Snyder had hours of unused footage on the shelf, fanboys launched a campaign that included petitions, comic con gatherings and billboards in Times Square in the hopes the studio would consider giving Snyder the green light to assemble the unused footage for a director’s cut. Ultimately the studio gave the go-ahead and a small budget for Snyder to complete CGI special effects and a music score. Released on HBOMax on March 18 is Zack Snyder’s Justice League, a four-hour epic that is a completely different movie from what we saw in the theatrical release. 


More than just an alternate rendition, numerous characters who received minimum screen time now take center stage, there is a larger villain in the background pulling the strings, and subtle details that required explanation are now extended for clarity. Barry Allen (a.k.a. The Flash) gets more screen time, the character of Cyborg has purpose beyond looking flashy on the big screen, and Wonder Woman commits an act of brawn that you would never expect to see going in. But while we are treated to the best of Zack Snyder, we are also treated to his worst. The film is bloodier, lacked human qualities, contained vulgarity that was not found in the theatrical versions, eliminated humor, and our heroes are practically gods who would not crack a smile if they knew what a joke was. At least three separate times I saw our heroes standing around discussing what action they should take, in a manner that looked like cardboard cutouts, with no emotion as they recited their lines. Clearly had Snyder finished the movie back in 2017, retakes would have polished those scenes. Is Zack Snyder’s Justice League a better film than the theatrical movie? Yes. But only because there is a different story and so much new footage.


The director’s cut contains over three-and-a-half hours of footage unseen until now. Director Patty Jenkins insists Zack Snyder’s Justice League fits within the D.C. Cinematic Universe when it comes to continuity with the Wonder Woman movies, but when it comes to the underwater scenes involving Atlantis and Aquaman, there are noticeable differences. Among the obvious was how the Atlanteans were unable to talk under water normally, like in the James Wan movie, and respond to each other by trilling; Also, Mera has an English accent instead of the American Accent she uses in Aquaman. She is also referred to as Domestic Abuser Mera instead of Princess Mera. Also, her parents are revealed to be dead, when King Nereus is clearly alive in the solo movie. Finally, Arthur comments that his mother left him on his father's doorstep as a baby. This is slightly different from the story told in Aquaman, where Arthur is a toddler when Atlanna left him and Thomas Curry to protect them. 


Towards the end of the film the director provided us with a hellscape besieged by insect-like Parademons, who make up the army of a cosmic tyrant known as Darkseid. This was only to provide fans with a vision of where he planned to take the next movie and since the director and studio already parted ways, makes me wonder why it was included in the first place. If anything, the film is exhausting. Only once in the four hours was I cheering for one of the superheroes. For anyone who never saw the theatrical release, the director’s cut will be a fantastic feast for the eyes. But Zack Snyder’s Justice League reminds me of Alfred Hitchcock who once said the length of a movie should never last the endurance of the human bladder. Clocking in two minutes over four hours, I question why the movie could not have been cut to three hours. 

Friday, March 19, 2021


Like most of us, Dennis Wright discovered old-time radio programs on sheer happenstance and was immediately hooked. At the age of 16, during the winter of 1973, he dial surfing the AM radio band when he heard Orson Welles starring in Lucille Fletcher’s “The Hitch-hiker” on Suspense. As the years passed, his passion for old time radio grew along with his desire to collect the old-time radio programs that brought him so much entertainment. This eventually led to a feverish desire to collect and preserve photographs of well-known radio personalities, followed later by a fanatical search for old-time radio premiums and memorabilia. Bitten by the collecting bug, he grew “a passion that keeps you going during the day, but an obsession that keeps you up all night.”

In 1988 he became a CNA (Certified Nurse’s Assistant), and as his collection of radio premiums grew, he began to share them with he patients and soon discovered they enjoyed reminiscing about old-time radio as much as he liked talking about it. He looked into other opportunities to share his collection with other museums, retirement homes and assisted living facilities and finally during March of 2016, Dennis and his wife opened the Radio Days “theater of the mind” Museum in Sutherlin, Oregon. This is a small town with a population of 7,000, located about three hours south of Portland.

His first radio premium collected was the Sergeant Preston Police Whistle, now on display in the museum. Most of what is in the museum today is from his own collection. He shops eBay and other auction sites and sometimes purchases from private collectors. “We have on permanent display some vintage broadcasting equipment, vintage and antique radios,” Dennis explained to me. “Also old-time radio album art, posters, comic art and radio premiums from the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s. Our rarest display pieces would be the Captain Midnight Sun God ring, and two complete Lone Ranger Frontier towns from 1948 (one unpunched in four sections and the other assembled for all to see). One of my favorite pieces is the 1947 Green Hornet secret compartment ring. We have an exceptionally large collection including items from: Space PatrolBuck RogersCaptain MidnightTom MixThe Lone RangerStraight ArrowSergeant Preston of the Yukon and other radio shows.”

The recent worldwide pandemic restricted his ability to share the collection with those in retirement homes and assisted living facilities, but that should soon revert back to normalcy by summer. The Museum is regularly scheduled Wednesday to Saturday, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Dennis was kind enough to send me photographs from the museum so feel free to enjoy them. But open or close, the museum is always open for donations – including collectibles. Personally, I went upstairs and found a few things I could easily part with and shipped out a package containing a few donations – including an original Charlie McCarthy comic book, autographed photos from radio celebrities, and other goodies that will no doubt go on display in the museum. If you have an item or two among your collection you would like to donate, feel free to send them to Radio Days Museum, Po Box 845, Sutherlin, Oregon 97479. I am certain he would appreciate the donations and add them to the displays.

Friday, March 12, 2021

NIGHT GALLERY: The Art of Darkness

When the name Rod Serling is referenced, most people think of The Twilight Zone. But for fans of his work, Serling's name also brings up such classics as Playhouse 90, The Loner and Night Gallery -- the latter of which is now the subject of a lavish full-color, glossy coffee table book. Authors Scott Skelton and Jim Benson have put together a fascinating treasure of high-resolution images of all the paintings on the program that ran three seasons. Benson wrote a great book on the history of Night Gallery, which also comes recommended, so the information contained in this book is accurate and highly-detailed. 

Besides a fascinating and well-written history of the TV series, with never-before-seen behind-the-scenes photographs, there are concept photos for the paintings, a history behind each of the paintings, information about the sculptures that also appeared on the program, and a fascinating chapter about the fate of many of those paintings. 

All of the paintings were created by the same one artist (which is remarkable as he attempted different styles for each of the paintings) and after Night Gallery  When Universal Studios decided to take a warehouse and create the E.T. ride, the props were auctioned off, sold, and some were even victims of theft. Owners of the paintings were tracked down to acquire high resolution photographs for this book -- the studio even allowed a 35mm screen grab for some of the paintings which were considered a Holy Grail for the authors.

Scott told me personally that he was close to finishing the project when a few things came to surface that forced him to delay the book a few additional months to ensure additional material that was worthy of inclusion. His slide show seminar at Serlingfest a few years ago was mouth-watering and fascinating. Hollywood director Guillermo del Toro even provided an introduction to the book.

If you are a fan of Rod Serling's Night Gallery, I recommend both books.