Superhero movie flashback: ‘Superman’ (1978)

"Superman" (1978) is a product of its time, something that's more evident today when contrasted with the muscular and modern "Man of Steel" (2013). Still, if a viewer puts themselves in the mindset of a 1978 movie-goer, it's clear why this movie is beloved. Indeed, it even rates a 7.3 on IMDB on compared to 7.1 for "MoS."

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In 2013, the controversial ‘Man of Steel’ laid the foundation for the DC Extended Universe

Now a franchise of five films with the addition of "Justice League" this week, the DC Extended Universe launched in 2013 with "Man of Steel." Written by the Dark Knight Trilogy's David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan and directed by "Watchmen's" Zack Snyder, "Man of Steel" attempts to balance everything we love about Superman with a fresh examination of his character and place in the world. Every subsequent DCEU film – despite having a variety of writers and directors -- has followed that formula, to varying degrees of success. Here are three things that have become trademarks of the saga, for better or worse:

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Six dumb things and six cool things about ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’

"Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" (2106) is the epitome of a movie where the end result is less than the sum of its parts. The three-hour Ultimate Edition, when watched at home in about six sittings, is better than the theatrical edition, but it still has problems at its core. It also has some cool stuff – when separated from the movie's overall context. In advance of this weekend's "Justice League," here are six cool things and six dumb things about last year's DC Extended Universe blockbuster:

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‘Suicide Squad’ will someday be thought of as an OK movie

For the sake of getting up to date on the DC Extended Universe, I watched "Suicide Squad" (2016), which is now available on HBO. It's the most maligned of the four DCEU movies, rating a 6.2 on IMDB, compared to 6.6 for "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice," 7.1 for "Man of Steel" and 7.6 for "Wonder Woman." It has some major problems, but I actually connected with the characters faster than I did with Supes or Bats in their DCEU debuts, and I wouldn't mind following this bunch into sequels so I can get to know them better.

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Gal Gadot, explorations of war make ‘Wonder Woman’ a winner

"Wonder Woman" -- now available via Redbox and streaming -- poses the question: What would happen if a superhero was dropped into the middle of a human war? The easy answer is we'd get lots of cool action scenes. In the film's centerpiece spectacle amid the Great War, the Allies and the Germans are entrenched, with 200 yards of no-man's-land between them. The Germans have taken civilians as slave labor. Diana (Gal Gadot) wants to rescue them, but it's tactically impossible – except for the wild-card factor of her superpowers.

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‘Apes’ pre-make trilogy wraps with masterful ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’

Watching "War for the Planet of the Apes" – now available via Redbox and streaming – is like seeing a movie from the future. Every scene has an ape in it; there's never a sense that the filmmakers are being frugal with the special effects, but at the same time, they aren't showing off. While I know the trick is achieved with motion-capture and computer animation, there are moments when I wondered if actual chimpanzees were used (They were not, the web tells me).

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‘John Wick’ films strip down action/revenge genre to make it fresh again

There are many impressive things about the "John Wick" films – the second of which, "John Wick: Chapter 2" (February 2017), recently hit HBO – even beyond the lead character's kill count of 204 between the two pictures. What I like most about them, though, is that they simplify and refresh the genre, reminding us why we love action films in the first place.

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With thrilling 'Split,' it's safe to say M. Night Shyamalan is back

Propelled by can't-look-away performances by James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy and meticulous writing and direction by M. Night Shyamalan, "Split" (which hit theaters in January and is now on HBO) was one of the year's first great films. It's buzzworthy for its closing surprise (more on that after the spoiler tag below), but it's worth seeing in its own right for its sci-fi-tinged examination of split personalities.

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‘The Big Sick’ is the year’s feel-better comedy

I used to listen to Kumail Nanjiani's "X-Files Files" podcast, and occasionally he'd reference the time when his girlfriend was in a coma. Although it registered with me as an unusual thing to have in one's background, I didn't realize it was enough of a story for a full movie. A few years later, I'm lauding that movie -- "The Big Sick" (now available via streaming and Redbox) -- as 2017's best comedy so far.

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'It Comes at Night' builds evocative apocalyptic world, but tells too small of a story

"It Comes at Night" (now available via Redbox and streaming) is the latest scary/smart horror-thriller, eschewing haunted houses and possessed children and instead taking its place with "Maggie," "It Follows," "The VVitch," "Don't Breathe" and "Get Out" by showing how people react in intense situations. It throws us into a world where a plague – which can only be contracted at night, hence the title – has wiped out most of civilization. It's like if you tuned into a conventional outbreak drama after the opening act.

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