Showing 1 - 3 of 3 Reviews
Posted on 7/22/06 07:21 PM
Well, after much delay I have finally seen Superman Returns. I figured that not only had I been bad-mouthing a picture I hadn't seen, but also I was going through cinema-withdraw. So it was a match made in heaven.
Too bad it really wasn't worth the effort. :-/
Despite a great first 30 minutes, Superman Returns becomes quite yawn-inducing and tedious quickly. And I hated the ending, all 45 minutes of it.
Let me start be first detailing why I held out so long to see this movie:
1. Superman is a boring superhero. The man can do anything. Fly. Laser vision. Ice breath. Strong enough to move mountains, literally. X-ray vision. Lightning-quick reflexes. Hell, he can even turn back time when required. Hard to exactly empathize with someone like that. It's not like Spiderman or Batman, who could die at any minute by any means, no. Superman is invincible. Well, except for kryptonite, which is just a shoddy contrivance created with the sole purpose of giving Superman a weakness. But seriously, how lame is it when someone's only weakness is a crystal that doesn't even exist in real life?
2. Lex Luthor is a boring villain. The guy simply doesn't have the personality of a classic villain. There's no menace, no real threat that ever exudes from him. At heart, he's just a businessman. Yawn. Where's the manic-depressive mood swings or insanity?
3. Hype, hype, and more hype. Nothing puts me off wanting to see a movie more than having it rammed down my throat at every turn. Got milk? Superman does. Fandango? Yep, that too. Cereals, crackers, snacks, cars ... blah. Give it a rest. And to make matters worse, this movie has been in the press for well over a year, thanks to it's $260 million budget. It's all enough to make me sick.
4. Brandon Routh is a dead-ringer Christopher Reeves. It's as if they share a strand of DNA. Spooky. But more to the point, insulting. Why bring back a franchise if only to say to audiences, "Ya know, we really can't do better than Christopher, 'cuz let's face it - he was superman! So let's just get someone who looks an awful lot like him." Too bad they didn't continue that train of thought, because it would have led them to the conclusion that Superman did not need bringing back.
Ok, having listed my stance prior to seeing this movie, back to the review.
I can see why SR has created such a divisive audience, as it is definitely a mixed bag. Calling it uneven would not be fair, because it is consistent in one regard: it gets worse as it goes along.
The first 30 minutes are actually quite thrilling (although the title design could use some work). There's some required exposition, but it's punctuated with an action piece that is intense and believable. Kudos to the writers and special effects team.
The film also has a fine sense of humor throughout. Not huge belly laughs, mind you, but laughs built out of genuine observations and situations. Some of the best work comes from Parker Posey as Kitty, Lex's gal pal. If only she were on screen more, because she truly gave the movie a much needed jolt.
Now, there are some big misfires.
First, Lex's 'diabolical' plot is ultimately retarded and laughably bad. Back to my point earlier, he is just not a compelling villain. Kevin Spacey does have a few good scenes, but he is wasted in this movie.
The character of Jimmy Olsen is an annoying fuck. And I don't think he was meant to come off that way, either. But damn, every time he was on screen I was annoyed beyond belief. I kept asking myself: did they run out of time during casting and get stuck with this yahoo? He took me out of the movie experience every scene he was in. Not good.
The chemistry between Lois & Superman (Routh & Kate Bosworth) just wasn't there. Without a spark between these 2, there's no reason for us to root for them to get together. Personally, I'd pick James Marsden (who plays Lois' [font=Tahoma]fiancé) any day, especially after seeing him with his shirt wet. Mmmmm.[/font]
And the ending, holy shit, drags on and on and on. Superman in a hospital, are we kidding ourselves? And as for the resolution of Lex's character, there is no payoff. All I can say is the writers must have given up and decided to just leave the door open for a sequel. Lazy fucks. This is the man who brought Superman to the brink of death and there's no climax, no final confrontation? Unacceptable.
The best way to describe SR is: it's simply not fun. There's no joy in watching the story unfold. It tries for romance, but fails. It tries for action, but fails. It tries for pathos, but fails. It's a plodding piece of work that becomes a real chore to watch.
My overall reaction to SR is meh. Which in Latin means '$260 million can't cover-up a bad script.'
Posted on 7/08/06 02:00 AM
Like most people, I unexpectedly fell in love with the first Pirates of the Caribbean. After all, a movie based on a Disney theme park animatronic ride? But thanks to a wonderfully playful script and a ballsy performance by Depp, it was easy to feel like a 10 year old watching the movie: swordplay, damsels in distress, pirates, ghosts, witty banter, cursed treasure, and a wicked monkey.
The sequel suffers a bit because that fascination, that wow-factor of a genre reborn is no longer there. Rather, the sequel is merely riding the coat tails of its predecessor. But that is not to say the sequel sucks or is without its own merits. :-)
The story revolves around Jack Sparrow (Depp) and his journey to outwit Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) from a debt owed, namely Jack's soul. Nearlyweds (they were arrested prior to the ceremony) Will Turner (Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Knightley) are blackmailed into retrieving Jack's special compass by the East India Trading Company, whose motives are not entirely clear. Thusly, the fates of all 3 characters are once again entangled. Jack is willing to part with his compass if they first locate the Dead Man's Chest, which is said to have a special connection to Davy Jones.
The story works, and the motives for all characters are distinct and strong and allow for the plot to move along, save for Jack. His allegiances seem to change in every scene, but that's just the kind of scallywag that we have grown to love.
[color=#666666]Now, the movie starts off a tad slow. And there are some pacing problems throughout. This is partly due to the 2 hour 35 minute run time: it's simply too long. Another problem is that the story sags when only one of the three main characters is on screen. Examples: when Jack is interacting with his crew, when Will is alone on Davy Jones' ship, when Elizabeth is cross-dressing as a stowaway. These scenes tend to drag and are ultimately dead weight for the picture. The stellar interaction between the main characters is what sells these Pirates pictures.[/color]
Because the movie is so long, it was tempting to walk out of the theatre feeling underwhelmed. But the more I thought back on all the laughs and great action sequences, I realized that the biggest problem was that the slow and/or uninteresting passages really hurt the flow of the movie. By shaving 15 minutes off the running time (ok, maybe more like 25), this would have been a wall-to-wall juggernaut.
The early action scenes on a cannibalistic island are clever and exciting, as Will and Jack are forced to make separate escape attempts from the clutches of the cannibals. Depp has always had a gift for comedy, and he shines brightly here right out of the gate. Rule of thumb: flying fruit is funny.
Will's father (Stellan Skarsgard) plays a crucial role, and this side-story consumes much of the 2nd act. I wasn't very impressed overall with how it played out, and I think too much time was devoted to it. Unless this was setting up something for the third installment, then I think rewriting this section to exclude the father/son dynamic would have been for the better of the movie.
The final 45 minutes are spectacular, with fanciful and exciting swordplay (serioulsy, there is a 5 minute stretch on top a water mill wheel that is breathlessly entertaining), a glorious CGI Kraken, and more than a few twists and surprises.
The biggest complaint, besides the length, is that Jack Sparrow seemed to have the least screen time of the 3 major characters. But when he was onscreen, it was wonderful. My favorite Jack bits this go around:
1) His entrance in this movie
2) When he trades in the monkey
3) His homophobic reaction & comment to hearing "I'm looking for the man I love." as a recruit's response to why they wanted to join the crew
In short: this movie is twice as funny as the first.
The special effects are amazing, with a shout out to not just the Kraken, but to Davy Jones. Not only is the character design flawless and imaginative, but Bill Nighy's performance is great. It was nice to feel honest menace from a movie villain.
There is a twist at the end involving two characters that comes from left field, but I enjoyed it without completely understanding the motives. I'll assume all will become clear next summer, when the third movie opens.
POTC: DMC is riotous romp that is fun and exciting, yet also frustrating with its inclusion of too much filler.
Posted on 6/30/06 03:42 PM
What's more powerful than an "after school special" vibe? Good art direction and fine, comedic acting. :-)
Yes, the story is predictable pretty much from the get-go. There are future plot points dropped into early conversations with all the subtlety of a Wile E. Coyote anvil. Yet, the movie never derails into the all-too-familiar melodramatic genre that the opening scenes seem destined for (although it gets VERY close at times).
The ride is made enjoyable by Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway, who play off each other wonderfully for some great comic timing. Anne is great, and plays Midwestern naive very well. But Streep steals the show, with her arrogant demeanor and glacial line readings. And the nastier Streep gets, the better the movie gets.
Again, the story is not the movie's strong point: Andy (Hathaway) is an aspiring writer who gets a job as a second assistant to Miranda (Streep), a demanding editor of the fashion magazine Runway, in the hopes that after a year of faithful service Andy can use Miranda and her connections in the publishing world to obtain a prestigious journalism position. Much of the comedy comes from Andy's gradual transformation from run-of-the-mill, sweat pants wearing girl to a woman of high fashion. However, the better she dresses, the further she drifts from her circle of friends and boyfriend (Adrian Grenier), but the more Miranda comes to entrust her.
Enter the "after school special" vibe: Will Andy chose her growing career over her friends?
Even though we know where we're going, the movie is filled to the brim with wonderful performances (including a great turn by Stanley Tucci as the token gay guy), set designs, and wardrobe, so that we feel the journey is fresh and new. We really do sense that Runway is the pinnacle of the fashion world, and that the decisions made by Miranda are influential.
But there are some problem areas. The dialog is occasionally uneven, most noticeably in the (inevitable) breakup scene between Andy and her boyfriend. It's as if anytime the movie stepped into emotional territory, the clichés just sprang out of nowhere. Also, there is one character who displays a complete 180 change in personality in the 3rd act without provocation, simply for plot purposes. I won't reveal which character, as it gives away a small surprise, but it truly is from left field, as nothing in what we have come to know about this character prepares us. It's a cop-out, plain and simple, and is used solely to move the plot towards its conclusion.
But the ending, however sugary, also comes with a nice after dinner mint: a final "chance meeting" with Andy and Miranda that I'll admit, brought more than one tear to my eye. This was immediately followed by a great belly laugh as Streep closes the picture with a signature growl, expression, and line delivery. Classic.