Great archetypal college characters. An amazing young cast brings the… MoreGreat archetypal college characters. An amazing young cast brings the characters to life.
Why has National Lampoon fallen so far in recent years. Well I guess they started out incredibly high with this gem, and now a days they have so many competitors. This was the first one though. It broke conventions and represents a loss of innocence.
I saw this as part of a double feature at our local drive-in. I… MoreI saw this as part of a double feature at our local drive-in. I recently watched the director's cut of the 1978 film with Christopher Reeve, but still need to watch Superman II in which General Zod makes his first screen appearance. I was surprised by how much the beginning of this movie on Krypton and in Smallville resembled Richard Donner's film. It is as if Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer directly adapted Superman's origins from that '78 screenplay. The cast of that movie was thought to be fairly prestigious. With Crowe, Shannon, and others this flick has high caliber acting talent also. Crowe and Zurer as Jor-El and Lara are a bit more on equal footing. The liquid metal graphite that seems to be a major building block in Kryptonian technology looked cool. It reminded me of some Terminator 2 effects. The design of Krypton includes other creatures living along side the humanoids. Shannon as General Zod, Traue as Faora-Ul, and the other military insurgents stage a more violent coup than we saw in the earlier film. The Phantom Zone for the criminals is represented by a more traditional ship this time. And in a similar fashion baby Kal-El is sent rocketing to Earth in his pod. Next we see Clark Kent in his youth (Timberline and Sprayberry) confronting a wider variety of developing superpowers with guidance from Lane and Costner as Martha and Jonathan Kent. What this script does differently during this introduction is use a nonlinear timeline to jumpcut between a bearded incognito Clark (Cavill) picking up odd jobs on his way to the arctic, while still coping with not knowing where his powers come from, and his younger days. We meet Adams as Lois Lane, who is a much tougher and more resourceful investigative reporter. She tracks down the strange stories surrounding this alien wanderer. Fishburne as Perry White with Kelly and Buller as a couple other Daily Planet reporters again don't make much of an impact when the plot has bigger fish to fry. Eventually Zod and his followers find Kal-El and initiate their plan to seek revenge against the house of El and take over Earth. The U.S. military with Lennix as a General, Schiff as a scientist, and Meloni as a Colonel realize they can trust Lois and Superman to help defeat the invading Kryptonians. Many other reviewers have already said it, but the last act with Superman and Zod pounding each other and their surroundings to a pulp gets old. Zack Snyder loves explosions and destruction a bit too much. Thank you Superman for saving humanity, but could you really not be more careful to avoid damaging satellites in space, most of downtown Smallville, and hundreds of skyscrapers throughout Metropolis, not to mention those countless lives, while you have your little fist fight with the villain from your home world?! The torment he feels from the actions he's been forced to take are palpable though. Henry Cavill looks like Christopher Reeve at times. Clark doesn't join the staff of the Daily Planet until the very end. Lois knowingly welcomes him with a nice zinger. And I look forward to sequels of this Superman reboot.
I was familiar with the end of the movie and had seen clips from the… MoreI was familiar with the end of the movie and had seen clips from the parts dealing with Clark meeting and working with Lois. I finally got around to watching the movie beginning to end before Man of Steel was released. It is Donner's Director's Cut that I am reviewing. I checked the trivia on IMDb to get some idea of the differences between the theatrical release and the director's cut. It appears that there weren't a whole lot of changes. Donner only restored a few bits of dialog and bits of business. I plan to see Superman II soon, which I understand includes more drastic changes to what Donner intended, since scenes for that film were shot consecutively with this one, and then re-shot under new direction.
The excessive opening credits raised one of my eyebrows right from the start. From all accounts, producer Ilya Salkind was probably the source of all sorts of turmoil. Between Mario Puzo, David and Leslie Newman, Robert Benton, and Tom Mankiewicz having a hand in the script I'm not sure who to blame for the campiness. John Barry's production design looks pretty good throughout, although many of the special effects are not great.
There is a fairly lengthy prologue with Brando and York as Superman's Kryptonian parents, a dozen or so Elders, and Stamp, O'Halloran, and Douglas as General Zod and his followers. I was unaware that this movie so clearly sets up the plot for the sequel. Of course for anyone remotely familiar with the mythology, you know there is planet wide destruction on Krypton. The effects of baby Kal-El rocketing to Earth look acceptable, but on the other hand, the Phantom Zone is foolish. Next we have another sizable segment with Ford and Thaxter as Pa and Ma Kent along with Jeff East playing the teenage Clark. I was also unaware that so much time was spent in Smallville. And it isn't until after East as Clark has trekked to the Fortress of Solitude in the arctic and learned of his origins from a holographic Jor-El (his intelligence, not just a pre-recorded message) that Christopher Reeve appears. Reeve is immediately convincing as both Clark and Superman. Amidst all the camp you can believe Reeve is the best choice for this character. I didn't like that Kidder as Lois, the ace reporter, evidently is a terrible speller. Cooper as Perry White wasn't that memorable and McClure as Jimmy Olsen basically takes the damsel in distress role in equal measure with Lois Lane. I was not a fan of the romantic flight when Superman takes Lois above the clouds. The effects are cheesy in this sequence and the voice-over by Kidder over the sappy music made me want to gag. Hackman as Lex Luthor with Beatty and Perrine as embarrassing excuses for henchmen provide the goofy comic relief and not much menace. Some of the jokes were amusing though I must admit. Turning time back out of grief by reversing the rotation of the Earth strains any verisimilitude for pure fantasy.
The only praise I can muster up is for the Art Department. The… MoreThe only praise I can muster up is for the Art Department. The futuristic buildings and interior of the spaceship have some originality. I thought it was noteworthy that none of the trailers mentioned that Shyamalan was the director. Will Smith and Shyamalan are both credited as producers and writers (amongst others) and there is evidence that Smith shares responsibility as director as well. I liked Will's and Jaden's previous co-starring effort in The Pursuit of Happyness. Here the father, playing a hero named Cypher, has lost that spark of charm that made him a star, and the son, playing a ranger trainee named Kitai who is thrust into a wilderness survival race against time, seems to be one-dimensional. The plot is formulaic and boring. It doesn't make sense how Kitai seems to read his authoritative father's mind. Whether they are in communication and keeping secrets from each other, or their communication system is being interrupted, there are too many instances of the plot being dishonest and overly complicated. The multiple references to Moby Dick and the tagline, "Danger is real. Fear is a choice.," which sums up the moral of the story, attempt and fail to give the movie some deep meaning that it simply doesn't possess. This gives me no confidence in Smith's plan to make this world a multiplatform franchise.
I've been wanting to compare this side by side with Scarlet Street… MoreI've been wanting to compare this side by side with Scarlet Street from the following year. They have a lot in common. I happened to watch this one second of the two and was not quite as impressed. Both thrillers are directed by Fritz Lang. Both star Edward G. Robinson and Joan Bennett with Dan Duryea and Arthur Loft in supporting roles. Milton Krasner photographed both as well. They both include a painting of Bennett, the use of radio ads to set the scene, and a murderer trying to cover up their crime under pressure. Here's how they differ. Nunnally Johnson adapts this screenplay with Robinson as a slightly more charming professor of psychology. Professor Wanley is friends with his doctor (Breon) and the District Attorney (Massey) at his gentleman's club. They tease him about being a temporary bachelor since his wife and children are out of town. By a strange coincidence he soon meets Bennett's character Alice while admiring a portrait of her. Joan Bennett has a less nuanced role to play here. I wondered for awhile if she would turn out to be more cunning than she appears, but she is the slightly more mild mannered one here. The murder happens much earlier in the plot. Wanley and Alice contrive to cover up the murder with their limited knowledge of criminal activity and go about their lives. Wanley quickly learns who the victim was from his friend the D.A. and clumsily begins admitting facts about the crime that could get him caught. He tries to stay one step ahead by staying close to the investigation. A man (Duryea) shows up intending to blackmail Alice and her accomplice. Can the amateur criminals hope to outwit this man with a record and the police? There is plenty of suspense. The twist at the end shows it is only meant to be a morality lesson, but the darker ending would probably have been better.
I've been wanting to compare this side by side with The Woman in the… MoreI've been wanting to compare this side by side with The Woman in the Window from the year before. They have a lot in common. I happened to watch this one first and decided it is a bit better. Both thrillers are directed by Fritz Lang. Both star Edward G. Robinson and Joan Bennett with Dan Duryea and Arthur Loft in supporting roles. Milton Krasner photographed both as well. They both include a painting of Bennett, the use of radio ads to set the scene, and a murderer trying to cover up their crime under pressure. Here's how they differ. Dudley Nichols adapted this screenplay in which Robinson is a mild mannered cashier with a shrew of a wife, who does not approve of his painting hobby. His name is Chris Cross. It's a funny name, but I like it. Chris is soft spoken and completely taken in by Bennett's character Kitty when he thinks he saves her from a thug in an alley. The thug is really her scum of a boyfriend Johnny (Duryea). Kitty is a hot-blooded femme with a lot of attitude, who can play Chris like a virtuoso. They decide to pull the wool over Chris's eyes and guilt him out of some cash, so they can live on easy street. Johnny's plan involves cheating him out of earnings for his art. Who's the biggest dope though? He is not really the rich and famous artist they think he is. The murder happens late in the story, then the mood shifts. The investigation leads to convicting the wrong man and Chris is driven mad by guilt. The camera work, use of shadows in the last act, and skipping record earlier in the tale make this movie more difficult to forget.
The trailer made it look cool. Wait, is this another Inception? No.… MoreThe trailer made it look cool. Wait, is this another Inception? No. Freeman and Caine are in it together. Is Christopher Nolan somehow associated? No. Producing partners Kurtzman and Orci, who wrote the Transformers movies and have often worked with J.J. Abrams are involved. So, it's a big special effects filled summer movie? Yes. Action movie director Leterrier seems to think big crowds, big pyrotechnics, and big twists are better. So, it's like a big mind-bending magic show with lots of slight of hand? Um, sometimes. First time screenwriter Ricourt worked with Boaz Yakin, who's had a spotty career in a handful of genres, to develop the story and then it appears stand-up comic writer Solomon was brought in to add jokes. Is it well written? No. Hell, no!
I was not impressed with most of the jokes. Eisenberg is basically the same smart ass he was as Zuckerberg. Trying to squeeze a romance in between Ruffalo and French actress Laurent, the agents investigating the magicians' crimes, was a mistake. The movie dragged and the writing was particularly bad in their scenes together. Listen to the names of The Four Horsemen, the magicians at the center of this scam: J. Daniel Atlas (Eisenberg), Merritt McKinney (Harrelson), Henley Reeves (Fisher), and Jack Wilder (Franco). They're so ridiculous. The women are pretty faces, but not much else. Isla Fisher is definitely not given equal screen time with the three men. Caine as a financier looked worn out and deserved a better character. Freeman has a few good scenes as an online/tv video celeb debunker of magic. In an effects heavy movie like this stage magic has no meaning. With editing and post-production I cannot suspend my disbelief very far. Still movies are all about giving away the secrets with so many behind the scenes featurettes on DVDs, so Freeman and later the Horsemen's connection to the mystical organization The Eye explaining how all the tricks were done was fun.
I loved writer/director Jeff Nichols' previous film Take Shelter. This… MoreI loved writer/director Jeff Nichols' previous film Take Shelter. This one was also very engaging. The music is again provided by David Wingo and Adam Stone is the cinematographer. Michael Shannon has a smaller part as the uncle of one of the boys. Nichols is showing great talent developing well thought out scripts and drawing natural performances from the cast. Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and his friend Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) live in a small Arkansas town near the Mississippi. They are coming-of-age and seeking independence through a little danger and adventure. They meet Mud (McConaughey), a superstitious loner who spins half truths and is hiding out on an island in the Great River. Ellis and Mud are really two of a kind. I could see Ellis getting stuck in a certain immature way of thinking and turning out like Mud. Blankenship (Shepard), the older guy who lives across the tributary from Ellis's family, is quite mysterious and has some sort of history with Mud. Mud admits to killing a guy who was messing with "his love" Juniper (Witherspoon) and he just wants to reunite with her and vaguely live happily ever after somewhere. At first Ellis is more gung-ho about helping this adult that he thinks knows more about love than his parents, who are separating soon, but later Neckbone shifts his cautiousness to being more helpful when he sees something he can get out of it. I thought it was kind of funny that Witherspoon is filmed wearing a lot of short shorts to make her look long legged, but she is obviously eye to eye with these fourteen year old boys in a couple scenes. Nichols is refreshing in the different way he portrays families. They argue, but they support one another and seem to love each other more than in so many indie films that are full of dysfunction. Sarah Paulson and Ray McKinnon don't give a false note in their portrayals as Ellis's parents. There is a good amount of tension throughout and things turn more dangerous than might be expected, yet the human drama through simple things like father/son relationships is what makes it honest.