Archive for the Movies Category

My Thoughts on Man of Steel

Posted in Movies on June 16, 2013 by silveraged

(SPOILERS! Don’t go below the symbol if you haven’t seen it!)

All the key points are there, well, most of them. Jor-el, Lara and the birth of Kal-el, Krypton (and yes, it blows up real good, for those of you that heard that it didn’t), Earth (of course), Jonathan, Martha and Clark Kent, Smallville, Metropolis, Lois Lane, Perry White, big fights, massive property damage, x-ray and heat vision. The ones that aren’t are not things I’ve ever thought of as deal breakers in a Superman movie. What’s missing from this list? Things and characters you’ve seen in every other Superman film but not this one? Jimmy Olsen, Lex Luthor, glasses on Clark Kent (until the last scenes, that is), the split-personality relationship between Clark, Superman and Lois, the Fortress of Solitude (ice pillar palace or cliff face with giant yellow door, which, unfortunately, never made a cinematic appearance, I miss that giant yellow door and airplane marker key!) and Kryptonite. I didn’t miss them, especially Luthor and Olsen (although there was a rumor that the female intern that was trapped in the street that Perry and Steve Lombard were trying to rescue was Jenny Olsen, I didn’t stay for the credit roll since I had to pee and stop my ears from bleeding from the IMAX soundtrack.

To get this film made, and to get an audience in sufficient numbers to jump-start the DC Comics film franchise beyond periodic Batman trilogies, changes had to be made from the previous attempts and from the comics, I knew that going in, I was prepared for them and, thanks to the Internet I was aware of a lot of them years ago. Things like the suit – I accept that, the no red trunks thing, no real problem here. Perry White is black, who cares? Not me. Pete Ross is white again. (He was black in Smallville, he was created as white, blond and fit in the comics, now he’s white and fat in Man of Steel, but really, he’s a fourth tier character so he’s lucky to be in there in any form!) Therefore I was feeling pretty good about my level of acceptance of the differences between the Man of Steel with whom I grew up and the newest cinematic offering. Until the last, climactic scene of the movie. More on that later when I spoil the ending.

(This paragraph has little or nothing to do with Man of Steel so skip it if your are only interested in movie bits.) My film (TV really) Superman is and always will be George Reeves of The Adventures of Superman. I encountered that show at an impressionable age and George Reeves will always be Clark Kent/Superman in my mind. And I place Kent before Superman because I actually prefer Reeves Clark any other actor’s version. He played Kent as a hard edged investigative journalist who just happened to strip off in alleyways towards the end of each episode to justify the name of the show! The first season of that series is a great example of action, adventure, mystery and a little more terror than you would have expected in a kid’s series from the mid 50s. Each episode was like a mini serial adventure with thrills and chills galore. Then the sponsors made them tone it down and become a truly bland kid’s show. Christopher Reeve was the best actor to embody the classic comic Superman. He looked like a good Clark but I thought he went too far with the timidity. But that scene in his first film in Lois’ apartment, when Clark straightens up and let’s his voice go deep – that’s the best transition I’ve seen. But there was too much Otis/Luthor foolishness in those films for them to supplant the first season of the George Reeves TV series for me. My comic book Superman is the Curt Swan drawn version from the early 60s and 70s written by many authors and edited by Mort Weisinger and Julius Schwartz. Comics made for kids, but I was a kid then so it worked for me. Since then there have been many reboots and gradual revisions in the character, some of which I followed, some that were too extreme for me, nevertheless my lifetime of haunting comic shops have allowed me to be aware of them even if I didn’t read and collect them. I mention this, for those who have read this paragraph, to establish a basis for my comments on the new movie.
The production design for the Krypton scenes was unlike anything I’ve seen before. Instead of the sterile ice planet of the Richard Donner/Chris Reeve films we get an H. R. Giger look on a worn-out desolate planet with 4 winged critters as private transport. Kryptonian display devices consist of an exaggerated version of those toys made of tightly packed pins or nails that push up or down to make a fist or other things you press into them. Interesting but it makes for a dull, monochromatic planet. And it begs the question, why is the Kryptonian suit for Clark in red, yellow and blue when every other Kryptonian from Jor-el to Zod dressed in blacks, grays or browns?
Kryptonian ArmorThe movie is not at all linear in it’s storytelling. It jumps back and forth from adult Clark to young Clark, which is fine, I found it easy to follow. But the camera work in many of the scenes is unnecessarily jerky. It sorely needed a steadicam. Perhaps Snyder did this to make a fantasy film seem more realistic but all he did was give me headache!

Henry Cavill makes an excellent Superman with a spectacular physique and a face that matches the comics better than many of his predecessors. His Clark Kent demonstrates  the conflicted feelings presented by his fear of using his extraordinary abilities, instilled in him by Jonathan Kent, played by Kevin Costner. The two younger actors, Cooper Timberline and Dylan Sprayberry, who play Clark are also adept at playing the isolated, frightened boy. Amy Adams is a very good Lois Lane. (A few words here about the digital image in films these days. The image is so clear, sharp and detailed I, for one, find myself getting distracted from the movie by seeing all the pores, moles, folds and imperfections in the extreme close-ups on the actor’s faces. Laurence Fishburne’s face looks like it’s made of concrete!) All of the actors do well in their roles. Of them all I was only disappointed in Jonathan Kent and that was in the writing of the character. I thought they made him too stern and paranoid towards the eventual fate of his adopted son. That would have been mollified with a scene or two of he and Clark enjoying one another’s company.
Film Review Man of Steel
What makes for a successful film these days are long, violent fight scenes and massive property damage. Man of Steel has those in abundance, possibly more than we saw in The Avengers. While watching the Metropolis scenes I kept thinking of the massive death toll in all those collapsed buildings. Another blog told me what was bothering me about all that implied death, in The Avengers we were shown scenes of the super heroes acting to save innocent bystanders in addition to fighting the enemy. In the Metropolis fight scenes I don’t recall seeing Superman try to save anyone. That is counter to the basic principles of the character. In the final fight scene between Superman and Zod, Superman does act to save a family but in doing that he violates another basic principle, he kills Zod, by breaking his neck. There is a precedent for this in the comics, there was a story line where Superman had to kill Zod and some other Kryptonian villains, but that was in the 90s, I believe, not my Superman. The classic Superman always finds other ways to defeat the villain rather than killing. (Of course that was when Superman, and comics in general, were a disposable, cheap entertainment medium for children. Comics today are neither, they exist as springboards for movies (if they aren’t, they want to be) and have been aimed at an adult audience for decades.)
So, not a perfect Superman film, in my considered opinion, but, I think it went less astray from the Superman of the comics than did Superman Returns several years ago. The changes in the suit for Man of Steel are more acceptable to me than than those in Superman Returns. I don’t like the killing of Zod and the lack of concern for bystanders in Man of Steel but since the killing happened in the comics I find it better than the Peeping Tom use of x-ray vision and the illegitimate son in Superman Returns.

When it comes out on DVD I’ll buy it, if only to rewatch it without having to stick my fingers in my ears during the battle scenes!

Addendum, a couple of days later;
I’ve read several reviews of the film and I’d like to pass on links to two. The first is from writer Mark Waid, the second is by Steven Padnick at the TOR Books site.
I can sympathize with both in some measure. I don’t hate the movie as Mr. Padnick does but had this film caught me at a different point in my life I would have. I’m more cynical now (if you know me you might find that hard to believe) and I realize the people behind this film were only interested in making money, and it did that. Our society has become much darker, violent and unpleasant than when I was first becoming the Superman fan that I still am. To reach the youth market these days you’ve got to be dark, destructive and willing to kill.

Now if you will excuse me I’m going to go to my bookshelves and read my SHOWCASE editions of the 60s Superman and John Byrne’s Man of Steel series.


John Carter Movie Review

Posted in Movies on March 11, 2012 by silveraged

John Carter has finally reached the multiplex theaters of the world to the resounding boos of the critics and, hopefully, the ka-ching of the box office cash registers. As I write this, on Sunday afternoon of the opening weekend, the IMDB site is reporting receipts of $30.6 million U.S., $101.2 million world-wide balanced against a reported cost of more than $300 million including marketing costs. (The director, Andrew Stanton, has been stating in interviews that it cost $150 million to make as opposed to the $250 million figure.) So much for the “business” facts, or rumors. I’ve been waiting (not really anxiously, because I do not believe that a book being made into a movie is the best fate for said work) to see what a film version of “A Princess of Mars” would be like for 49 years.

In 1963 I bought the first of the Mars books by Edgar Rice Burroughs as a Ballantine paperback. This was my first look at John Carter and Dejah Thoris by Robert Abbett.

Since then I’ve been buying the series again whenever a new cover artist was assigned so I’ve seen many different interpretations of the characters and the equipment of Barsoom (the inhabitants name for their planet).

One of my main concerns with this film was would I like their designs – and I did. Most important are the Green martians, the Tharks and Warhoons (tribes of Green Martians). Their choice was to go tall and lean which reflects, but doesn’t copy Michael Whelan’s visualizations, one of the best of all the Mars cover artists.
The Red Martians are described in the books as having red skin like that of Native Americans. The film has their skins as suntan red with henna tattoos which works okay considering the current fad for tattoos.

The writers, Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon, have pulled apart the first three books in the Mars series and refitted pieces into one film which worked for me. I know that there have to be changes made from page to film and all I ask of movie makers is to accurately reflect the source material. I don’t demand that everything be the same in both; it can’t and work as a film as it did as a book. Especially a book that was written in 1911!
Taylor Kitsch does a good job as John Carter, giving a convincing portrayal of a Victorian era Southern gentleman without turning it into a caricature. Lynn Colliins is a beautiful Dejah Thoris that has been given much more to do in the film than simply be a Princess to be rescued as she was in the novels.

The Earthly sequences that lead up to Carter’s transposition to Mars has been retooled and expanded from the book. There are recurring flashback scenes to Carter’s lost family on Earth that are new elements that I found a little odd as I saw them as unnecessary but my wife saw a rationale for them.

My wife and I really enjoyed the film and when it’s released on DVD I will buy it. We had to see it in 3D which I try my best to avoid but no theater in this area was showing a 2D print. I found the 3D to be a distraction in the beginning and after I got used to it I didn’t think it added anything to my enjoyment. I hope it stays in the theaters long enough to make enough cash to justify another installment.

And we’re back – Star Trek mini review

Posted in Movies on May 9, 2009 by silveraged

I liked it!

When you boil it down to essentials that’s all that matters, I enjoyed the movie and may even pay to see it again – before the DVD release, which I may also buy.

I won’t go into a detailed breakdown of the film since, as I write this, it’s still the movie’s first weekend and I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who has not as yet seen it.

I will however go into a few points of relief and very slight irritations;

I liked all the new cast.

Scotty was always my favorite character in the original series and even though Simon Pegg looks significantly different than James Doohan I really enjoyed his portrayal and will look forward to seeing more of him in the next film, if that happens. (More Scotty, that is – I’m sure there’ll be a new ST 2)

Karl Urban is a great new Bones and I really admire how the writers gave us McCoy’s backstory in one clear, concise passage of dialogue as he and Kirk met one another.

I was really hoping the Corvette in the Chasm scene from the trailer was one of those sequences that was shot for the trailer and would not be in the film.

In the trailer I was irritated by seeing the Enterprise being built planetside. The design of the ship just isn’t aerodynamic enough to get into orbit, but the scene passed so quickly in the movie that it didn’t bother me so much. I was already on board by then.

I was really pleased to see that this was not Kirk and Uhura as I had inferred from the trailer. The relationship they give Uhura is sufficiently weird but not as weird as this would have been.

Iron Man Reviewed

Posted in Movies on May 5, 2008 by silveraged

Iron Man is a great movie! I am not alone in that opinion since it took in an estimated $104 million, domestic, $96 million overseas, in it’s opening weekend.

The film succeeds on the comic geek level and the civilian level, also proved by the box office estimates since the comic geek population can’t have that much money, or have gone to that many repeat showings in a four day period!

Most first time comic films can get bogged down when spending as much time as this one does getting the main character into his superhero outfit and into the big fight(s). Iron Man has the advantage of having cast Robert Downey Jr. who is actually more engaging as Tony Stark than the glimpses we get of his face within the Iron Man armor when he’s in action. Iron Man also has the advantage that he is more suited to CGI than your regular lycra-clad character such as Spider-Man or Superman. Plus his “thing” is the armor, unlike Batman who they had to armor to some degree to make him believable to a film audience.

I’m not a huge Iron Man fan although I was a sporadic reader of his solo comics from the sixties up until the late seventies. Iron Man is a very important fixture in the Marvel universe and made appearances in most all the other comics. He was a founding member of the Avengers, and may be so again in the film sequels. It’s a given that there will be at least one more movie based on the opening receipts. Anyone with the patience and an iron bladder that stayed in the theatre past the excruciatingly long credits are aware of a possible direction for said sequel.

All the important notes from his origin are in the film, updated in a very acceptable fashion. His supporting cast from his beginnings are present, Pepper Potts, the faithful secretary not-so-secretly in love with her playboy boss, “Happy” Hogan, the faithful chauffeur and dogsbody (played by the film’s director) who, in the comics, actually married Pepper if my memory serves. James Rhodes is a cast member from the late seventies comics who would become the second Iron Man when Stark had an alcoholic interlude and later died (as much as any character “dies” in comics – he got better!) When Stark went back in the armor “Rhodey” was given (or possibly took) his own slightly different designed suit of armor and became known as “War Machine.” Clunky code name. I don’t recall Obidiah Stane as a comics character. I just checked Wikipedia and he is listed among Iron Man’s enemies first appearing in 1982. His armored character was called Iron Monger but then Jeff Bridges’ version didn’t hang around long enough to be christened.

The only element that occasionally took me out of the movie experience was the height of Gwinneth Paltrow’s shoes! I don’t know how she could walk in those much less run away on slick floors! I wonder how many times she fell or what shoes she was really wearing during the fleeing scenes?

At Iron Man we saw trailers for the new Batman movie which was my first exposure to the Heath Ledger Joker. Not bad, but it looked and sounded as if Ledger was channeling Steve Buscemi. Also a minimalist trailer for the SPIRIT. That was just bad. Bad, bad, bad. The SPIRIT wears blue, not black, Will Eisner’s name should come first and be the largest, not Frank Miller’s, the rooftop running and jumping was unconvincing and they appeared to be building to the character standing atop a trademark Eisner architectural SPIRIT logo, but no – some crappy font instead. This looks like a disaster in the making.

Posted in Movies on June 20, 2007 by silveraged

 Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer Spoilers Abound!

Tuesday was my birthday, and as is our tradition, the lovely wife and I went to a “birthday movie.” My choice for this year was the second Fantastic Four film. I preface this review with the reminder that I enjoyed the first one. (In fact I recently bought the extended DVD, but mainly for the documentary extra material on Kirby and the comic itself.) I really liked it right after we left the theater – afterwards I saw the flaws in the adaptation from page to screen but I have always been of the mind that a movie is not a book (or comic) and it’s a mistake to expect the film to exactly mirror the source material. I’m also cynical enough to expect Hollywood to screw things up so I’m happy when they don’t completely decimate the source material. Some comic fans that posted on the internet believed they did just that.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer crams three comic book stories into one screenplay. The wedding of Reed and Sue from the first FF Annual, the original appearance of the Surfer and Galactus, issues #48 – 50, and the third appearance of the Surfer from issue #57 when Dr. Doom hijacked his powers. Even though that sounds like a lot to pack into a movie it doesn’t feel as tightly packed as what some people have written about Spider-Man 3. (I didn’t see that one – I don’t like Toby Maguire and I’m not that much of a Spidey fan.) Even with the Dr. Doom element, which I thought was unnecessary it all flowed well.

What scenes do we have to have in every Fantastic Four story? Reed being more interested in his science and gadgets than the people around him – got that. Ben and Johnny playing practical jokes on one another – not so much. Sue wanting a normal life – check. Big superhero action scenes – of course, but only the Kirby era had the right stuff. What scenes do we have to have in every Fantastic Four movie? Johnny being a jerk – got plenty of that. Johnny with a succession of hot babes – yep. Sue Storm naked, yet strategically filmed – yep. Bare chest shot of Chris Evans (Johnny) – got that but in a scene that really makes no sense. What Michael Chiklis looks like under the Thing suit – got that. Cameo by Stan Lee – got that, this time playing himself! Big superhero action scenes – got that, more than in other recent films (“Superman Returns”)

The personalities of some of the characters were better handled in this outing. Specifically Reed Richards. In the origin movie he was more or less a dishrag, not the leader type at all. That was corrected this time. The Thing didn’t have enough to do physically although there are a couple of nice personality scenes with him, Alicia and Johnny. Sue Storm comes off as a bit of a whiner until the end and Johnny Storm is a bit more obnoxious than I recall from the first film. (I’ve got the DVD, just haven’t watched it yet – except for the Kirby documentary and the FF comic overview. They are both excellent!) The Julian McMahon Dr. Doom doesn’t really have a personality in my opinion, he’s just oily, annoying and unnecessary.

Months ago shots of the Fantasti-car were revealed. I thought it looked pretty good. Nowhere near at great as the second one Kirby designed but good for a movie. It’s shrouded shape appears early in the film but it’s not revealed until the climax but since everyone had seen it what was the draw for the big reveal? Maybe the dumbest example of product placement I’ve seen to date. A “DODGE” logo on the leading edge of the hood and the exchange between the Torch and Mr. Fantastic, (Torch) “A Hemi” (Mr. F) “Of course!” Extremely stupid. I was surprised when it split into individually flying sections as all good Fantasti-cars must. We have to assume that expert piloting of a craft none of them had seen before they had to fly it in a dogfight situation is among the skill set of the Invisible Woman.

I think a bit too much emphasis was placed on the Torch. Giving him the power of all four team members for the climactic battle with the powered up Doom not only takes away from the team aspect of the film, which should always be maintained, it also effectively eliminates any possible later introduction of another of the villains from the early, best days of the Fantastic Four comic run, The Super Skrull. Should they decide to use that character in subsequent films they’ll have to radically change him (which they would probably do anyway!) because viewers would say they’ve seen those effects before! Of course Chris Evans came out of the first film as the most popular character so the writers yield to the urge or pressure to give him more screen time. That impulse should be restrained in the future.

The special effects were satisfying. I’m not one to dissect a film’s effects to the ultimate degree but if they aren’t convincing and take me out of the experience I’ll notice it. The Surfer effects were great. That bit with him melding into and through his board is very effective. There’s also a noticeable difference in his sheen when he’s separated from his board. He doesn’t have any. He looks like dull unpolished metal, but sparkles right back up when he steps back on the board. When he performs a bit of business at the end of the film that you just know he’s going to do he actually tarnishes with the effort which was a nice touch. Reed’s stretching could still use some fine tuning but it was so heavily criticized in the reviews of the first film that I was watching that more closely than anything else. Still not as convincing as the corridor door scene in “the INCREDIBLES” but much better than the first film. At times he looked just a bit too watery. But his part in the giant ferris wheel rescue scene was very nice. I wanted a good “strength of the Thing” scene but didn’t get it. The Invisible Woman’s power display was very well done. I just wished it was done by some other actress.

I still have problems with the casting of Jessica Alba as Sue Storm, the Invisible Woman, and Julian McMahon as Dr. Doom. Alba doesn’t look the part. In this one her tan is so dark it makes her too-blonde hair look like the wig it probably is. Also, what’s going on with the woman’s lips? She looks like she has special effect appliance make-up on! In the last scene she has on bright red lipstick that makes them look like candy wax lips! (What’s really odd is that we stopped into a Border’s book store after the film and she was on about 5 magazine covers and on none of them did her lips look so overly poofed up.) Julian McMahon was completely the wrong choice for Dr. Doom. Yes, he can do the oily villain quite well but Doom needs an imperious, regal supremely overbearing villainous aspect. When he first appears he’s in the armor, briefly, then does a Star Wars evil emperor riff with twisted features hidden in a voluminous cloak. Could be anyone, certainly doesn’t have to be Julian McMahon until he’s struck by the Surfer’s blast and seems to be miraculously cured from his rotting, partly metallic state. From then on he’s just that creepy guy from “Nip/Tuck” until he gets the power to use the board, then he puts the armor back on. Why? They’ve built him up to be a vain, narcissistic person then when he gets the power of a god he hides his face. McMahon’s voice is not the voice of Doom!

And Galactus is a cloud. Which is probably for the best. Kirby’s giant humanoid in red and purple armor with a fantastic trash can helmet most likely wouldn’t work on the screen. I would however have traded that sort-of-the-helmet silhouette crawling across the planet for a murky head shot in the roiling cloud during the conflict between the Surfer and his Master.

All that being said, we liked it, I’ll probably buy it on DVD whenever the inevitable extended version comes available.

Last Thoughts on “Superman Returns”

Posted in Movies on August 3, 2006 by silveraged

Shattered S movie logo

The more I think of “Superman Returns” the less happy I am with it. The character portrayed in this movie is not an acceptable version of the comic book superhero who stands for “Truth, Justice and the American Way.” Maybe that’s one reason they didn’t use that line in the film but chopped it down to, “… truth, justice and all that stuff.” (More probably, as has been suggested by other bloggers, it was to keep from damaging the foreign box office in the increasingly large numbers of countries that don’t like America these days.)

Today it seems that the ultimate thumbs up or down on a film is; A. will you pay to see it more than once, to get that “big screen” experience, B. will you add it to your DVD collection six months (or sooner) down the road when it first comes available for purchase and C. will you, in a year also buy the “expanded, collectors edition of the same movie when it comes out on DVD.

No, I won’t. I won’t pay to see it again, I won’t have it on my shelves and I look forward to the time when the memory fades of everything except the special effects super-power sequences. That’s where the 200 million dollars (or whatever was the actual cost) were spent (certainly not the dialogue and the plot) and those are the only things worth remembering.