“Man of Steel” (Action/Science Fiction: 2 hours, 24 minutes)
Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane and Russell Crowe
Director: Zack Snyder
Rated: PG-13 (Intense sequences of violence and strong language)
Movie Review: Since the 1978 film “Superman” and its three sequels, which starred Christopher Reeves, modern movies about Superman have continually retold how Superman came to earth to become an American hero. Each film starts by retelling how Superman was sent to Earth from a dying Krypton, his home planet. After that, they forget to develop Superman. Even more, general audiences know the story, so producers should just start with new material that follows Superman after the arrival. “Man of Steel” is good entertainment that does a neat job of retelling the story, but falls prey to some inept story pitfalls of not developing Superman as a person and not just the superhero in action.
Clark Kent (Cavill) is just trying to be normal, moving from one job to the next. Kent is not normal. He has superhuman abilities. He can see through objects, hear sounds from great distances and lift the heaviest items with ease. Clark Kent’s resolve is tested when other Kryptonians led by General Dru-Zod (Shannon) arrive on Earth, looking for Kal-El, who is Clark Kent. Kal-El is Kent’s Kryptonian birth name. Zod says he only wants Kal-El, but Zod has bigger plans for Kal-El and Earth. Clark Kent must relate to his Krypton roots as Kal-El to become Superman to stop General Zod.
This version of Superman is spectacular when it comes to action and eye candy. The fight scenes are violent but tolerable feats of brute force. The film never becomes boring because the action is plentiful and continuous. The special and visual effects are also engrossing. The set designs and costumes add the visual treats. In this sense, this movie is like a grand comic book, except this Superman doesn't mind getting his hands dirty.
Think of each scene as being like a panel of a comic book’s page. This means the action jumps from one scene to the next. The pace is intriguing but hardly allows time to showcase multiple characters of which many are present here.
Many of the characters are unneeded. Goyer and Nolan should have saved some of these debuts for the next film.
Superman is great entertainment, but the story is scattered. The film could easily be three screenplays. The first is the beginning 20 minutes that tell what happened on Superman’s native planet and how a baby Kal-El made it to Earth. The second shows Clark Kent trying to find peace on Earth while rescuing humans from dire consequences and occasionally from each other. The remaining film delves into Superman attempting to defeat Zod and his minions. The seeming three parts are interesting in their own accord but haphazardly mixed, especially when the film throws in multiple flashbacks.
Even more, “Man of Steel” throws in a pretentious romance with newspaper reporter Lois Lane (Adams). Their relationship is forced; they instantly fall for each other without really falling for each other.
For some antiquated reasoning, Hollywood still feels the need to have a damsel in distress and a love interest for every superhero, even when unnecessary for the plot. Directed by Snyder (“300,” 2006), David S. Goyer wrote this screenplay based on the adapted story he and Christopher Nolan devised. Goyer and Nolan both collaborated on the writing of “The Dark Knight” (2008). “Man of Steel” is a jumbled mix of stories and concepts equal to, as aforementioned, at least two films.
Diane Lane and Kevin Costner are great as Martha and Jonathan Kent, but their use is limited. Laurence Fishburne is Perry White, editor-in-chief of the Metropolis newspaper The Daily Planet. They are there, only to facilitate a story when needed. Otherwise, they are merely reduced to tertiary characters.
Cavill looks the part of Superman. He is handsome and buffed for the role. He works as the typical image people have become to think of when visualizing the Man of Steel. However, this story does not give Cavil — or anyone else for that matter — enough time to relate to the character. Cavill and others do a good job, but their characters are hollow and overpowered by an action-packed script of generic blockbuster fight scenes and destruction of two cities.
After all of this, “Man of Steel” is a likable production. Its story has its faults, but it remains grand. It is definitely worth the money if one wants pure entertainment and cares little about story continuity and character development. Entertainment quantity is super at the expense of a quality story.
Grade: C+ (Superman is great entertainment, but the story is not solid steel.)
“This Is the End” (Action/Comedy: 1 hour, 47 minutes)
Starring: James Franco, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride
Directors: Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen
Rated: R (Profanity, nudity, violence, sexual innuendo, sexuality, and drug usage and crude humor)
Movie Review: This is not the movie to take your grandparents or the pastor at your church to see. This is truly an adult film with all the risqué antics, profanity and crude humor in tow. However, this comedy is funny. It is a sly adaptation of Jason Stone’s short film, "Jay and Seth vs. The Apocalypse."
Playing themselves somewhat, James, Seth, Jay, Jonah, Craig and Danny are celebrities who find themselves at James Franco’s house in Los Angeles. They are there to party. Drugs, alcohol, sex and rowdy behavior is ever-present. The party quickly ends when beams of light take people into the sky and multiple earthquakes, sinkholes and monsters or aliens appear. The guys find themselves barricaded in James Franco’s bachelor pad. They are afraid to return to the outside world for fear what is out there will harm them. Therefore, they stay in the large house irritated by each other.
This film is fictional, yet is a part reality movie also. The actors play themselves. The six previously mentioned and many movie stars and talents make cameo appearances. The noteworthy are Michael Cera, Emma Watson, Rihanna, Kevin Hart and Channing Tatum. The result is a comical mix of action and suspense filled with a slew of Hollywood’s young elites.
The world is ending. No need to care when watching the main characters trying to survive is hilarious. Their unwise choices and foolish actions are great folly. The silliness continues throughout in an irreverent manner. The guys do not back down from delivering what could be controversial moments on screen. No subject is taboo for these men. They ridicule sexuality, honor, religiosity, ethnic groups and each other.
The result is entertainment that inspires laughter. The actors are young and talented. They make their audiences laugh and enjoy it. Seth Rogen especially multitasks. He helped direct and write the screenplay with Evan Goldberg, and Rogen, Golderg and Baruchel are also three of the co-producers. Rogen and Franco also did some of the art in scenes.
However, these men's major talent is making audiences laugh. That, they do well here. If this film does not make you laugh, you arrived to see it unconscious or inebriated or, worse yet, dead.
Grade: B (The place to find good comedy.)
“Before Midnight” (Drama: 1 hour, 48 minutes)
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy and Yiannis Papadopoulos
Director: Richard Linklater
Rated: R (Sexual content, nudity and profanity)
Movie Review: In 1995’s “Before Sunset,” audiences witnessed Jesse (Hawke) and Céline (Delpy) meeting on a train in Europe. They would later spend an unforgettable night in Vienna. After that introduction, moviegoers saw them encounter each other again in Paris on the French leg of Jesse's book tour nine years after having first met (“Before Sunrise,” 2004). Nearly another nine years have passed in these characters' lives since their rendezvous in Vienna and Paris, and we now find them in Greece on vacation as a couple. They are now a family of three, although Jesse’s son lives with him only during the summer.
Richard Linklater has directed Hawke and Delpy in this film and its two prequels. This outing, Hawke and Delpy also helped Linklater pen the screenplay. The three films are very similar. They are all romantic dramas.
This film is good. It takes a limited cast with just a few settings and makes an entire movie with just a few people chatting, mainly one-on-one conversations with Hawke and Delpy’s Jesse and Céline. Their relationship remains a main part of this tale.
Jesse and Céline and a few friends are still having deep life-inspiring, philosophical questions. They tackle some. Others remain unanswered.
A rare treat is seeing a full-fledged, lengthy dialogue that is uninterrupted in United States’ films. Usually, dialogue is shorter with action sequences, exaggerated visual effects and forced underdeveloped character relationships.
“Before Midnight” emphasizes the art of talking in films. And, these characters talk and then some. Actually, the cast talks to the point that they border on tedious occasionally. This aspect is especially true when Jesse and Céline argue. Their argument continues for some time like real life. The neat part is that their argument easily invites you to observe and take sides without really knowing the full details of the disagreement. You do not have to know what the full argument is.
This is the brilliance of “Before Midnight.” Like its prequels, it nicely delivers intelligent dialogue in a manner that charms for those with long attention spans.
However, the way the film ends leaves one not wanting to care any more. Jesse and Céline argue and then get over it before the conclusion. Now, the rest of us should return to the real-world relationships that make our lives as interesting as Jesse and Céline’s lives.