‘The Dark Knight’ 10 years later

Images courtesy Warner Bros.

It’s the Citizen Kane of superhero movies.

That comparison gets thrown around a little more often than it should, but it’s completely appropriate in this case. Citizen Kane in 1941 was really the movie that alerted mass audiences to the fact that movies are, in fact, art, and a host of imitators followed immediately in its wake — there’s more to it than this, but basically every film noir released in the coming decade, and even up to today, owes its existence to Citizen Kane.

The Dark Knight is one of only a handful of films in history that truly had a comparable impact. It brought with it this sudden inescapable realization that comic book movies, these pulpy crowd-pleasing things, could be art. Not just art, they could be the pinnacle of their format.

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‘Superfly’ is sort of fly at times, but mostly forgettable

As much as I didn’t want to use this image, I think it’s kind of telling that it’s the only presentable one I could find. There’s certainly style present in the shot, but the colors aren’t working together and it just doesn’t pop. Jackson is trying to look pensive and failing while his hair does most of the acting for him. Much like the movie, I really want to like this still because it’s clearly trying, but it’s just no there. Image courtesy Sony Pictures Releasing.

3/10 I was really looking forward to Superfly, and my excitement was vindicated from the first shot to, I don’t know, maybe the end of the second scene. Those two are slathered in style that, for some reason, the rest of the movie almost completely lacks.

Youngblood Priest (Trevor Jackson) is a rising star in the Atlanta underworld, and it’s put a target on his back. When he’s shot at by a rival gang at the film’s outset, he vows to quickly find his way out of the drug trade, a goal he pursues by aggressively seizing control of cocaine traffic in the entire southeastern U.S. Maybe not the most direct path toward your stated goal there.  Priest is beset on all sides by the gang that is still at war with him, the cartel that supplies him and a corrupt, murderous police force.

While I initially got some really strong Luke Cage vibes with the dark, saturated colors and the smooth dialogue, the style doesn’t extend beyond the purpose-built sets. It’s certainly not in the camerawork. Director Julien Lutz — I’m not calling you Director X, fuck off — just doesn’t do enough to get the most out of these scenes.

The moment I stopped trying so hard to like Superfly was its lifeless, overlong sex scene. After an unremarkable plot point, Priest steps into his shower and his girlfriends Georgia and Cynthia (Lex Scott Davis and Andrea Londo) join him for probably the most joyless threesome I’ve ever seen. The camera lingers on Priest and these background decoration characters for a solid two minutes as they listlessly go through their various positions, carefully avoiding Priest’s and Georgia’s genitals while making sure Cynthia’s are conspicuously center frame — it’s never a good look when only some of the actors are down for nudity.

I don’t like sex scenes very much, but they can be a great point for a movie to impose its style. I remember a few years ago being really excited to see that The Raid 2 had explicit sexual content, I was genuinely interested and a little nervous to see what sex looked like in this grimy Indonesian world being shot and choreographed by absolute madmen. Well, I know what a sex scene looks like in Superfly, and it’s incredibly boring.

The engaging plot is built around the prideful desire to have it all, and the seemingly more specific concept of being “superfly.” It’s one of my favorite uses of a title in recent years. Priest’s main fight isn’t with his antagonists as much as the incompetence they represent. The snow patrol wants him dead for petty jealousy. His supplier Scatter (Michael K. Williams) ends up dead for betraying the cartel. The police, represented by just two corrupt narcotics officers, also end up nailed for their dumb-as-bricks extortion scheme just a few weeks into it.

Priest’s power comes from his intensive research of his business partners, which he uses for blackmail — in the first scene, he walks into an enemy’s club unarmed and soon has everyone in it at his mercy this way. He compares himself to God in his omniscience, but his world is dictated by the people around him and their inability to think things through. “It doesn’t matter how smart you are in a world of stupid mother fuckers,” he says at one point.

Unfortunately, this interesting dynamic throws Superfly into direct comparison with 2004’s Layer Cake, a much stronger film about the same subject matter. Check it out, it’s a personal favorite.

Overall, Superfly also reminds me a lot of another movie — Proud Mary, from earlier this year. It’s the story of an expansive crime saga with meaty themes about ambition and the nature of power stuffed into the body of a cheap blaxploitation flick that very obviously outsourced most of its action sequences to second units. As much as I want it to be great, it just isn’t.

Leopold Knopp is a UNT graduate and managing editor of The Lewisville Texan Journal. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook, follow it on Twitter and Instagram and support it on Patreon. You can reach me at reelentropy@gmail.com.

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‘Fallen Kingdom’ falls hilariously on its face

For such a terrible film, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom has a lot of really striking imagery. This was the keynote shot of the first trailer. Images courtesy Universal Pictures.

2/10 The unabashed joy of watching Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is like watching a bitter rival trip over his own shoelaces. You’re laughing at the movie, not with it, but you’re laughing hard, and isn’t that the point?

Several years after the disaster that closed Jurassic World, a catastrophic volcanic eruption is imminent on Isla Nublar. Animal rights activists, partially led by former park employees such as Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), urge the government to save at least a few of the dinosaurs that now roam the island freely, to no avail. Their prayers are answered by Sir Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), a billionaire connected to the original park’s founder, who underwrites a rescue operation dependent on the park’s old tracing system, which only Dearing has access to. There’s also another catch — the deal is conditional on bringing in the raptor, Blue, who is too smart to be hunted and can only be brought in by her old handler, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt).

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‘Tag,’ somehow, is a fun and thoughtful movie

Image courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures.

8/10 Tag is proof that you can make a rich, interesting movie out of just about anything.

Based on the true story of a group of Spokane, Washington friends who had been playing the same game of tag for 23 years, Tag follows a much smaller group of friends in Hoagie Malloy (Ed Helms), Bob Callahan (Jon Hamm), Randy “Chilli” Cilliano (Jake Johnson), Kevin Sable (Hannibal Buress) and Jerry Pierce (Jeremy Renner). The film is framed loosely through the eyes of Wall Street Journal reporter Rebecca Crosby (Annabelle Wallis) who discovers the story while interviewing Callahan, though Malloy is much more the central character. He’s rallying the group to finally catch Pierce, who across the decades the game has run has never been tagged once.

Tag is highly entertaining. It’s got a spectacular cast, and they’re all 100 percent down to clown.

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Was that really a sequel to ‘The Incredibles?’

Images courtesy Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

4/10 In 2004, after almost a full 10 years of redefining children’s media in the shadow of the Disney Renaissance, Disney Pixar released its magnum opus, The Incredibles.

Pixar had been making waves for years with media that struck a balance between approachability for young viewers and complex conflict for adults, but this movie was clearly on another level. It examined the tension created by exceptionalism within a group dynamic by examining superheroes through a cost/benefit lens and through Syndrome, one of the most recognizable and well-crafted villains ever put to film, all while sharply satirizing the superhero and super-spy movies of previous decades.

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