Preface: This is a review I wrote two years ago.  I have, however, edited it a bit.

And lo, there was much controversy and arguing. So it was I saw finally got around to seeing the tale Man of Steel.  Zak Snyder, David Goyer and Christopher’s grimmer take on the Superman mythos.

In a lot of ways, this is a response to the toughly reviewed Superman Returns. One of the cries was “more action” and boy do we get it.

man-of-steel-posterFirst, the good. I think Henry Cavill did a solid job as Superman. The film spends it’s time focusing on a Superman who is not working for the Daily Planet, but rather Clark Kent roaming the planet and saving people. It is borrowing an idea from Mark Waid’s terrific Birthright…and while not quite as nicely executed, it makes sense to use it as a reference.

The film opens on Krypton, one like we have not seen in previous film or television adaptions. I am pleased to see they opted to break free of the influence of Donner for this film. It is a Krypton that has evolved to genetic engineering, something scientist Jor-El seeks to set his son free of. This happens in the midst of a military coup by General Zod (Michael Shannon). He and his followers are sent to the Phantom Zone, shortly before the destruction of Krypton.

Amy Adams is a tough and fearless Lois Lane who is on the trail of the mysterious hero. I liked her quite a bit in the role. She was aggressive and dedicated to finding her story. I also felt Zod and Faora were solid characters. As Superman’s parents, Russell Crowe, Ayelet Zurer, Kevin Costner and Diane Lane are all quite strong. Lara’s role is short, but she is strong and full of courage. Crowe is mainly there for exposition, but he makes it work.

The visual effects were great, seeing Superman use his powers was exhilarating. I truly had fun watching him use his powers.

The tougher stuff…while I liked Costner, I had the same problem with Man of Steel as I did with Smallville. Pa Kent is obsessed with “keeping the secret” which extends to “let people die”. This is troubling on a lot of levels. The action in the film is relentless, giving little time to catch our breath. The characters are also given little space to grow, so we get familiar, but new sketches, rather than full blown character moments. And the destruction becomes numbing…it is just to much.

In addition, Superman never appears as Superman until after Zod arrives.  Clark runs around saving people, but once he dons the costume, he saves one person directly, otherwise he is busy fighting Zod and his army.  You might ask why this matters…but if we had Clark appearing in Costume before Zod arrives, saving people and stopping crime, that establishes him.

We as the audience have every reason to see Superman as the good guy.  We get it, we have seen Clark use his powers to help people.  But in the world of the film?  The citizens of the world have no reason to trust Superman over Zod.  Donner’s original Superman film had a great sequence of Superman doing all sorts of heroics.  And it allowed us to see the city of Metropolis becoming excited about Superman.  We have seen from the teasers that in Batman vs  Superman they plan to explore the motif of hero worship.  And this could have set that up.

The other problem was, this feels like Nolan filtered through Snyder.  I like Nolan, I liked his take on Batman…but his Batman was grounded in a fairly real world idea.  There was no room for a Superman or Wonder Woman in the Nolan Bat Universe.  I also liked Watchmen by Snyder.  But between the two, they created a Superman world of darkness and paranoia.  Even the color schemes are digitally washed out and bleak.  This is still slightly better than Stalker Superman.

In the end, I still enjoyed this more than Superman Returns. It is imperfect, but not salvageable for the continuation of Superman.

For a mainstream movie.  I have never seen the Exorcist 2.  I skipped right to Exorcist 3.  But this trailer for the Exorcist 2 is…well..insanely funny.

so Michael Eisner was part of a panel and made the following comment:

During an onstage conversation with Goldie Hawn, he theorized on why she’d been so successful: “From my position, the hardest artist to find is a beautiful, funny woman. By far. They usually—boy am I going to get in trouble, I know this goes online—but usually, unbelievably beautiful women, you being an exception, are not funny.”

The first thing that stood out to me was Eisner knew he was going to get in trouble.  Now, someone pointed out to me that these incidences can lead to discussion and learning.  But I am, admittedly, unsure that Eisner is going to listen.  Often, when people tell you they know they will get in trouble for what they are about to say they see themselves as imparting some tough truth.  Maybe Eisner is open to realizing what a dumb statement he made.

And truthfully, my first instinct was to start listing funny very beautiful women in Hollywood.  Lots of people certainly presented evidence to refute Eisner.

But I am thinking my first instinct is part of the problem.  Why should beautiful be the primary criteria here?  Especially for comedy?  Comedy has a long history of overweight, less than handsome male leads.  They are often paired with gorgeous leading ladies.

Yet, when women are the lead, they have to be gorgeous above all.

And that is the real problem.  Talent, wit and timing are important comedic skills…and in the minds of far to many, hold second to…”Is she gorgeous?”  And that criteria needs to go.

I was hoping this one would come to be.  I really thought DuVernay’s Selma and felt that it would be good to bring some of that passion to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

ava_duvernay

AP Images

In a talk with Essence Magazine, she confirmed she was not going to direct.  Explaining that why she loved the people involved, she could not come to a place of agreement with Marvel.  This is certainly not the first time Marvel and a Director could not find a point where their visions aligned enough make things work.

A lot of this comes down to just how Avengers-centric the Marvel Cinematic Universe is.  There is seeming to be less and less room for specific visions within the films themselves.  Already Civil War looks less like a Captain America film and more like a mid season replacement for the regular Avengers.

Marvel Studios needs to start looking to expand their product.   Movies that are not connected to the Avengers and movies that might even be outside their theatrical universe. Warner Brothers has shifted films based on Vertigo comics to New Line.  Marvel needs to start exploring movies that are based in some of their more independent books.

As it stands, their vision and commitment to the Avengers franchise is becoming to restrictive to allow them to work with directors uncomfortable with making a film that serves the bigger puzzle.

With Warning (Calvary, 2014)

To be honest, I expected Calvary to be a somewhat plodding movie.  I thought it would be “Gee, it was good, but kinda slow.”

Calvary_movieposterInstead, it begins with a bang.  Father James (Brendan Gleeson) is in the confessional, but instead of a confession, he is given an unrepentant threat to his life.  The “confessor” tells of having been molested for several years by a Priest.  Father James asks if he has sought therapy or made an accusation.  But this sick priest is dead, so the confessor feels there is no chance for justice there.  And really, what good would it do to take his life were he still alive?  No, the confessor believes a truly bolder statement would be to kill a good and trusted priest.  He gives Father James one week to get his affairs in order.

As the week proceeds, Father James does little to try and prevent this threat to occur, instead, he tries to go about his life, helping the community around him, trying to help a community that has given up hope heal.  You wonder who might be the person who made the threat…Father James seems to recognize the voice.  And even when they meet on that fateful day, Father James seeks to bring healing.  Knowing what he may be going towards, he still takes the time to connect with the people in his community.  He seeks to help the man who has made it his purpose to end Father James’ life.

There is a great exchange that occurs late in the film…Father James is speaking with his daughter and says, “There is too much talk about sins and not enough about virtues.”  His daughter asks, “What would be your number one?” He responds, “I think forgiveness has been highly underrated.”

There is another bit about how dangerous people are who want to be hated and despised.  I think that is true.  There is a bizarre form of self righteousness that can occur in people who enjoy being hated.  They feel as if being hated justifies their belief.  People hate them because they are right.

Calvary is full of sly, dark humor and emotion.  It is easy to root for Gleeson, for he is a good priest.  This is not a story where we find out that he harbors all sorts of dark secrets.  No, he genuinely seems to care about his community.  He loves his daughter and feels regrets for retreating after her mother died.

It is a very well written film that is worth seeing.  If I had seen it last year?  It (like Locke) would have made my top ten of 2014 list.

I was asked what the title of the film means.  I believe my explanation is correct…but it is a huge spoiler to reveal it.  So read on only if you want to ruin the ending of the film. Read More

My short reaction to the newest Terminator film is that I did enjoy it. It had some good jokes, Arnold’s aged Terminator was a fun take, while feeling familiar. I thought Emilia Clarke did pretty well taking over for Linda Hamilton. Plus J.K. Simmons!

term_genThe cast is fun to watch, the effects are good.  And hey, that twist might have felt more crazy cool had it not been revealed in a trailer a few months ago.

I liked the numerous visuals clearly referencing the previous films.  Little moments meant to evoke the emotional beats of previous films. I was surprised that Arnold Aside, they simply recast characters from the first film.  I expected digital trickery on that front.

That said, do not try and figure out how it all fits. Trying to do so reveals that the film is a real mess.  Truthfully, this franchise is a mess made worse with each film. It does not fit, even though they clearly intend it to.  There are some pretty big questions raised.  One is, if Sarah and Kyle have sex and make a baby in 2017, it would simply be unlikely that it would result in John Conner.

The film feels like it was simply built from a series of sessions of people sitting around saying, “Wouldn’t this just blow the audiences’ minds?!”  In a fashion, a lot of the stuff will, but not in a good way.  Attempting to put it all together nearly gave Entertainment Weekly’s Darren Franich an aneurysm.