25 July 2006

Superman Returns

Superman Returns with Style

I recently relocated to St. Louis. I moved down here from Chicago. There are a lot of differences between the two cities, but thank goodness they both have an IMAX. I saw Singer’s latest foray into comic book movies, Superman Returns, in the IMAX out the south side of St. Louis. I have to say, totally worth the extra $1.

I watched the first two Christopher Reeve Superman movies before going to see this one. I think that it helped. The Lex Luthor of the television series Smallville and Superman: The Animated Series is such a different approach to the character, that I forgot the Gene Hackman version. I also enjoyed watching Christopher Reeve himself. This helped me appreciate Brandon Routh’s take even more. Brandon was able to channel Christopher in his stumbling, clumsy Clark Kent. He also made a great Superman. While I am on the casting, Kevin Spacey was absolutely fabulous as the over the top, over smart, land hungry, bald Lex. As for Kate Bosworth, she was not “swell.” She was the weakest link in this film. Sam Huntington made a decent Jimmy Olsen, though one thing I have noticed about the film versions of Superman is that they tend to play down the character of Jimmy. Back in the 50s with George Reeves, Jack Larson was as important as Lois Lane or Perry White. In Lois & Clark, he was integral as well. Yet, in the film versions, he is not well developed or used. Frank Langella made the best Perry White since Lane Smith, may he rest in peace. And I don’t want to forget about little Parker Posey. Her Kitty Kowalski made a fantastic replacement for Miss Teschmacher. Fans of the old Adventures of Superman show will be happy to see Noel Niel and Jack Larson in cameo appearances.

“Great Caesar’s Ghost!” The script had many lines that referred to the first two 1970s movies as well as the old 50s show. I liked that. It gave those of us that have seen them and enjoyed them a deeper connection with the new film.

Superman Returns tackles storylines that I do not think the comic books would attempt. Without giving spoilers, well, I can’t even do it. As for the plot, it was well developed and fit the tone of its predecessors. Since the movie was supposed to take place after the second film from 1980, the computer incident with Richard Pryor has not happened, nor the engagement to Lana Lang. So, Superman returns after a mysterious 5-year absence since astrologers found remains of his home planet, Krypton. Upon the triumphant return of Superman with a plane crash, he finds that the world has survived without him. His biggest fan won a Pulitzer Prize for and article titled, “Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman,” has a son, and is engaged to Richard White, the nephew of Perry. Clark is then forced to try to come to terms with things have changed in his absence. Lois’s world is thrown in disarray as her love for the Man of Steel re-ignites. This creates a “love-square” between Lois, Clark, Superman, and Richard. The love story does a wonderful job pulling on the viewers’ heartstrings.

In the mean time, Lex is loose and visits the Fortress of Solitude. There, he gains all the knowledge he needs to hatch his next evil plot. Without giving too much away, Luthor puts his plan into action and it is up to Superman to stop him. He plans to make land with the knowledge from Jor-El, and sell it for a premium price. The one plot hole that bugged me, was that Lex stabs Superman with a knife-like piece or kryptonite and as soon as it is pulled out of him, Superman recovers quickly. Yet, when a sliver of kryptonite was embedded in him, he goes into a “coma” even after it is removed. I don’t get it.

The movie’s visual effects were amazing. They didn’t over do them like I had feared may happen. The whole airplane crash in the beginning was breathtaking and an original take on the famous scene. Now, as for the 3D portions of the film, there were four different segments. The first was during his flashback of Smallville, Kansas. That scene was decent, but nothing spectacular. The next was during the heroic airplane scene. This made the scene even more spectacular. This was my favorite 3D scene and made the $1 worth spending. The third scene was where the new land was rising out of the ocean. It reminded me of the scenes in Spy Kids 3D. They looked like they were made for the 3D effect. I think that the scene would have been the same in 2D. But the boat on the “spire” was pretty cool. The fourth and final scene in the third dimension was at the very end when Superman is flying around the city and the off the screen into space. It lasted like 45 seconds. It was pretty stupid. Superman looked 3D, but the cityscape looked flat.

Verdict: I have to say that I was disappointed. I was expecting a 10, but I only got a 9.5. I loved it, just not as much as I was hoping I would. I am disappointed in the box office numbers it has been pulling, too. Where are all the Bryan Singer fans that hated Brett Ratner? Why didn’t they go see Singer’s new film twice and help it gross more than X3?

As a fair warning to all, the movie does have an impressive running time of over 2 hours and 40 minutes.

I, personally, saw this movie for $0.50. It pays to buy a lot of DVD’s, especially if they contain free tickets to movies. I did, however, offer to see it again with a family member. I will see this movie again in theaters, and you should, too.

On a side note, Superman fans should rent and/or buy Look! Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman documentary. Totally worth the $9.96 and 110 minutes.

The Devil Wears Prada

Devil Wears Thin in the End

I wanted to see this movie for a few reasons. The number one reason, Anne Hathaway is hot. That reason alone got me through this movie. With that said, on with my review.

The Devil Wears Prada centers on a homely girl named Andy, and her journey in New York trying to make it in the journalism world. She goes to work for Runway magazine, which is not a real magazine, my wife tells me. Here, she works for Meryl Streep. This was a great casting and acting job. Streep portrays Miranda Priestly, a boss that we all fear we might have to, or might have to again, work for. She walks around with her nose up in the air. She tends to ask for outrageous things, and expects them to be done. Some charades include getting the 7th book in the Harry Potter series and getting her steak lunch before the restaurant opens. You see Andy grow into the assistant that Ms. Priestly needs. These changes in Andy cause her friends and boyfriend to always remain second in her life. The movie focuses on the relationship Andy has with her boss and co-workers and with her old friends. It also begs the questions, “What are you willing to do, how far are you willing to go, what are you willing to sacrifice, to get what you want?”

In the beginning, the jokes and situations were funny, the script was witty, and I enjoyed myself. In the last half hour, I am not sure what happened to this movie. It became a movie about friendship, losing who you are, and finding yourself. It became so sentimental that I almost gagged. Anne Hathaway was great, Stanley Tucci was great, Meryl Streep was great, and the ending was just not what I wanted to see. My wife, being the Devil’s Advocate, told me, “That’s the way the book ended. It was based on the girl’s real life and that's what happened.” I don’t care. I didn’t like the ending. It was based on a book by the same title about the author’s true-life experience working for Vogue magazine. I liked the movie enough not to cry over the loss of $10, but I think it could have been better.

Verdict: Save the $10 and rent this in 5 weeks. I feel bad leaving a review this short, but there is not a whole lot to say.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Bored Man's Chest

I loved the first Pirates of the Caribbean. I think that it should have been nominated for Best Picture instead of Master and Commander a few years back. I think that Johnny Depp’s nomination was well deserved. I think that Gore Verbinski ought to have been nominated for his direction. Hans Zimmer’s music was also divine. When the trailer for the second came out, I watched it over and over and over again. When the reviews started coming out for it, I was appalled to see how many critics did not enjoy the second installment. As I mentioned in a previous review, I recently relocated to St. Louis. That moved set me back a week or two in seeing the new releases. So, by the time I got around to seeing this movie, I had heard from critics and friends, that it was not good. Pajiba’s headline was “Too Much of a Mediocre Thing.” Sadly, I agree.

In the first hour of this 150-minute “epic” nothing of any importance happens. It reminded me a lot of Peter Jackson’s King Kong. In this first 60 minutes of pain, they try to scare you with this mystery of what the plot might be. They don’t tell you. It is all whispers and hush-hush. There is also plenty of dazzling visual effects, which have no point in the plot or movie either. The only thing that is set-up in the beginning is that Will and Elizabeth are arrested for helping Jack escape in the first film. Their Captors then use this to blackmail Will into getting a compass from Jack Sparrow. Also, for some reason, some tribe thinks that Jack Sparrow is a God of some sort. That led to mayhem and pointless visual effects and boring script. Finally, after an hour of nonsense, the plot is revealed.

The plot is actually not that bad. It tells the tale of how Jack made a deal with Davy Jones so he would raise the Black Pearl from the ocean’s depths and that he would be captain for thirteen years. Then, after thirteen years, he owes his soul to Davy Jones. They mumbled part of this in the first hour, but you couldn’t understand what Will Turner’s father is saying. We also find out the past story of Davy Jones. His love left him because he loved the sea too much, so he put his heart in a chest, and locked it. So, Sparrow needs to find the key, then find the box, and stab the heart to cancel his debt with Davy. So, visual effects ensue that are so intense that you get bored with them. I love visual effects, and I got bored. I just wanted the scenes to end so that the story could continue. There was a really big squid-octopus-like creature that attacked and ate ships. Davy controlled this sea monstrosity. The Flying Dutchman, the boat that Davy travels on, is apparently a submarine as well as a ship. More visual effects were required to show that.

Finally, the climactic final battle happens, and the story doesn’t end. It turns out that the final joke is on us as viewers. This entire movie’s purpose was to set-up the third. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest could not, and will not, stand alone as a separate adventure of Will, Jack, and Elizabeth. I thought that this movie was just going to be a new adventure. But it was just an episode. Now we all have to wait a year for the next one to open in theaters. If I had known this going into it, I don’t think that I would have been as disappointed. And by known, I mean, had the studio told us this, or marketed it in a way that we could have figured it out.

Verdict: If you like sound and visual effects as much as I do, I say you need to see this movie in theaters. I am glad that I did. If you are like my wife, and you want to see a “good” movie in theaters, then rent this. Let’s face it, with the way the studios waste no time getting movies to video, why spend the $10? After seeing this movie, I have met my quota of visual effects for a while.