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Can't Stop the Movies

Justice League (2017)

Superman is dead, and with him the hopes that humanity might join him in the stars. Batman, wracked with guilt over his role in Superman's death, feels the rumblings of an invasion and begins assembling a team to confront the horrors of the future.  Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon direct Justice League, with the screenplay written by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon, and stars Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, and Ray Fisher.

Zack Snyder started the cinematic superhero renaissance with Watchmen, anticipating and critiquing the blithe indifference of most superhero films.  Warner Brothers initially went all-in on Zack's vision, resulting in the deeply empathetic and triumphant Man of Steel, and following up with the complex interrogation of United States ethics in Batman v Superman.  David Ayer and Patty Jenkins added their stamps with Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman, further complicating the ethical pool and questioning the good of heroics for a species prone to perpetual war.

Now, thanks to Joss Whedon, what was once a series of complex and challenging films has been reduced to just another superhero film.  It might seem unfair to place the blame squarely on his shoulders but to say otherwise would mean ignoring the vast changes he made as soon as he took the production over from Zack.  As a director, Joss' vision has not evolved passed the "people standing around talking" visual level that even fellow nerd savant Kevin Smith got bored with.  His involvement tears Justice League to pieces, resulting in a third of a film that puts the best of us on the front lines for a spiritual reckoning, and the other two-thirds where Joss gets to write a joke about how thirsty Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is.


In Appreciation – Deborah Snyder

Say hello to the driving force behind the most fiercely debated mainstream blockbusters of the 21st century. (image source)

Cinematic partnerships have been the foundation of onscreen legend.  Bogie and Bacall, Astaire and Rogers, Powell and Loy - all performers who found a partner that bring out the best in each other and find ways to push their already considerable talents to new levels.  Partnerships behind the camera sometimes result in similar transcendence with pairs like Scorsese and Schrader, Tarantino and Menke, or - one of my recent favorites - director Tom Ford and musician Abel Korzeniowski.

With Justice League on the horizon, I wanted to take some time to write about one of my other favorite pairings where one half gets too much attention and the other a bare minimum.  To the former, Zack Snyder - the latter, Deborah Snyder.  Zack's films are the most challenging big budget extravaganzas being made today and, ever since I learned Deborah produced all Zack's films since 300, I've had this nagging sensation that the easily excitable Zack has only been able to reach his full potential because of Deborah.

Put simply - there is no Zack Snyder without Deborah Snyder.  Zack gets most of the attention but it's Deborah's work behind the camera putting the correct pieces in play that makes Zack's films click.  Broadly, this makes her an excellent producer.  Specifically, the shift in quality between Zack's first and second films, Dawn of the Dead and 300, along with details about her increased involvement in the creative process in-between those films, point to how important she is to their production company - Cruel and Unusual Films - as well as her growing influence on the industry overall.


Changing Reels Episode 31 – Saved!

Film critic Kristen Lopez returns to Changing Reels for the first of two shows looking at the representation of disabilities in cinema. This episode we revisit Brian Dannelly’s 2004 satire Saved! The film follows Mary, a student at American Eagle Christian High School, whose life takes a drastic turn when she becomes pregnant after losing her virginity in hopes of “saving” her boyfriend who has recently admitted he is gay. We also take a moment to dive into our two short film picks (available online for free): Cousin by Adam Elliot and Hole by Martin Edralin.

Show notes:

If you like what you hear, or want to offer some constructive criticism, please take a moment to rate our show on iTunes! If you have a comment on this episode, or want to suggest a film for us to discuss, feel free to contact us via twitter (@ChangingReelsAC), follow us on Facebook and reach out to us by email ( You can also hear our show on SoundCloud or Stitcher!

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The Ultimate Quake Playthrough: Part I

If this is your first time reading Pixels in Praxis or are averse to spoilers, check out our FAQ before proceeding.

Having recently taken a romp through several of my old Star Wars games (specifically the Jedi Knight series), I marveled at the creative use of these early First Person Shooter engines. Star Wars licensees have been using FPS engines as far back as Dark Forces which used rendering techniques on par with the original DOOM, albeit with number of impressive little improvements. Digging through my aged collection of retail games, I decided to open up Ultimate Quake, which contains the retail versions of the first three games in the series. Interestingly, the only one I had played all the way through (without cheating) when I originally bought these games was Quake III Arena. I still play Quake Live, a modern variant of Q3A. However, I never got past the second episode of the original Quake, and I had essentially skipped Quake II altogether. So I decided it was high time to do a play through the whole boxed set.


A Letter to Three Wives (1949)

Deborah, Rita, and Lora Mae stand at strained points with their husbands.  A letter from a mutual acquaintance, Addie Ross, arrives and informs the women she's taking one of their husbands and running off.  This prompts suspicion and reflection, as all three remember the hard times with difficult to love men.  Joseph L. Mankiewicz directs A Letter to Three Wives, with the screenplay written by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and Vera Caspary, and stars Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell, Ann Sothern.

A Letter to Three Wives has a mean streak as subtle as it is all-encompassing.  It starts playfully enough, with a lovely voiceover telling the audience what we're about to watch "might be fictitious" and any character resemblance "might be purely coincidental."  Barely a minute later, after director Joseph L. Mankiewicz's camera takes a jaunty float through town and comes to rest in front of a gorgeous home, the same woman teasing about the veracity of this tale says the home belongs to Brad Bishop (Jeffrey Lynn) - the man who gave her a first black eye and a first kiss.  The playful pretense continued, but I couldn't join in knowing what Brad was capable of, and if he's so genial the rest of the husbands deserved the same suspicion.

The tension I felt in this introduction sustained my interest and racked my nerves throughout the rest of A Letter to Three Wives.  I know that Brad's capable of violence, and with that knowledge I couldn't help but cast a suspicious eye on the rest of the men.  This suspicion grew uncomfortably real in George Phipps' introduction - first because George is played by Kirk Douglas, a man so comfortable dominating the screen it feels as though everyone else has to shirk back by default.  Second because he's trapped visually in a frame made from the car window, and as Deborah Bishop (Jeanne Crain) speaks with him his energy grows to genial if somewhat menacing trapped in that space.