Man of Steel (2013)

manofsteel_1Starring Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane, Russell Crowe, Antje Traue, Harry Lennix, Richard Schiff, Christopher Meloni, Kevin Costner, Ayelet Zurer, Laurence Fishburne

Directed by Zack Snyder

Expectations: I’m so excited.

twohalfstar


When they announced Man of Steel as a darker, Nolan-influenced take on Superman, I rejoiced. The Christopher Nolan Batman films were great! So this would be too! What I failed to think about was that by darkening the character and his world, it inherently changes a lot of what I enjoy about the Superman films. This is definitely a better stab at Superman than audiences were given in 2006 with Superman Returns, but even that film had something of a sense of fun. Man of Steel is virtually devoid of fun, and in that I found it to be one of the least enjoyable films I’ve reviewed throughout my Superman review series.

Man of Steel is considered a complete reboot of the series, but in a lot of ways it’s something of a streamlined remake of Richard Donner’s Superman I and II. The film opens with a lengthy sequence on Krypton, setting up an interesting dynamic between Jor-El and General Zod, as well as the traditional “baby Supes blasting off of the dying world” that everyone expects. This begins something of a pattern with the film where it doesn’t exactly feel as unique and fresh as they’d like you to think it is. Imagine The Dark Knight containing scenes featuring the “Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?” lines from Tim Burton’s Batman, and you’ll feel something of what I felt during this film. This is something they probably couldn’t avoid too much when trying to tell the story of General Zod, but I could have done without another version of Zod landing in middle America and smashing up a small town. There’s even a scene that’s very reminiscent of Supergirl‘s “flying ballet.”

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The Master (2012)

Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Laura Dern, Ambyr Childers, Jesse Plemons, Rami Malek, Lena Endre, Madisen Beaty

Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

Expectations: High. I’m a big PTA fan.


I don’t know… I don’t know… I don’t know… These were the words that I repeated as I left The Master and walked to my car. I continued through the car ride, and now I’m typing them. The feeling hasn’t gone away in the slightest. I don’t know if The Master was good, I don’t know what exactly The Master was saying, I don’t know if I liked The Master. It’s a tough one, this film, and coincidentally I felt somewhat similar after seeing There Will Be Blood in the theater in 2007. But where that film ended with a definite conclusion, and a scene that remains unforgettable and distinctly quotable, The Master does neither.

The Master is about two men. One is Joaquin Phoenix, playing a troubled ex-Navy man named Freddie. The other is Philip Seymour Hoffman, playing the master, the leader of The Cause, a cult/movement concerned with curing people’s problems by confronting their past traumas and digging up past lives. Through the movie, we’re glued to these two men, for better or worse, and through them we are supposed to uncover the story of the film. I don’t really mean that in a plot sense, as the film contains a narrative that makes sense and is easy to follow, I mean it like the true story of the film is in the subtext of their interactions and it’s for us to unravel what the character’s motivations are and any meaning we might derive from this.

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The Muppets (2011)

Starring Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Rashida Jones, Steve Whitmire, Eric Jacobson, Dave Goelz, Bill Barretta, David Rudman, Matt Vogel, Peter Linz

Directed by James Bobin

Expectations: High. Muppets were my thing as a kid.


OK, this review could very easily slip into a 1200 word rant on why this is a disingenuous attempt at bringing back the Muppets, characters I’ve loved for as long as I can remember. These guys are in my soul, from Sesame Street to Fraggle Rock to the Muppets proper. When I heard Disney was producing a new, old-school Muppets movie, I became instantly excited. Star and screenwriter Jason Segal assured everyone that it was his passion, and that no one would be disappointed. On one hand, they’ve totally pulled it off: The Muppets is a fun, lighthearted movie for the whole family. But on the other hand, for hardcore fans of Jim Henson’s work and the three original Muppet films, there’s a distinct difference in the quality of the end results.

The Muppets is essentially a remake of The Blues Brothers, with the Muppet Theater in jeopardy from an evil oil baron and Kermit forced to get the band back together for one big fundraisin’ show of a lifetime. Before we get to Kermit and the rest of the gang, though, we’re introduced to Gary and Walter. Gary is a human (played by Jason Segal) and Walter is a puppet. They’re brothers and no one ever mentions how or why he has a puppet for a brother. Walter does notice the difference, though, and feels like an outcast until he discovers the Muppets. While Walter is ultimately a good addition to the cast, he is also part of the problem.

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Mini-Review: The Fighter (2010)

Starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, Mickey O’Keefe, Jack McGee, Melissa McMeekin, Bianca Hunter, Erica McDermott, Jill Quigg, Dendrie Taylor, Kate B. O’Brien, Jenna Lamia, Frank Renzulli, Paul Campbell

Directed by David O. Russell

Expectations: I saw this a couple months back and loved it.


I watched The Fighter a couple of months ago but chose not to write about it. I loved it from the opening moments, all the way to its thrilling climax and I just didn’t feel like breaking it down. I ended up watching the film again and the same feeling permeated the air around me. It’s not that I don’t think it’s worthy of a writeup. In fact, The Fighter may be the best picture of 2010, and any film garnering that kind of talk is always worthy of some dissection. I almost didn’t see this film too, as I had tried to completely avoid it because “I’ve seen enough underdog boxing movies.” Realistically I have, but The Fighter is about more than boxing.

It’s about family. The relationships between Micky, Dicky, their mother and their sisters are incredibly realistic thanks to stellar casting and acting from everyone. I’m unsure how accurate to life the storyline is, but it comes off very natural. Sure it hits a lot of clichéd beats here and there, most notably the “girlfriend re-bandaging our heroes wounds” routine that is in practically every movie, but The Fighter still feels genuine. David O. Russel’s handheld camera work and his dedication to licensed songs instead of a traditional score help paint the picture of the era and the location, and go a long way for believability in my book.

A lot of praise has been directed towards Christian Bale’s exuberant performance, and he’s very deserving of the talk, but I was especially taken with the work of Amy Adams. She did get an Oscar nomination for the role, though, so it would seem I’m not the only one that liked her here! She’s just dynamite in everything I’ve seen her in, but this just might be my favorite role of hers yet. I think what I was most taken with was how different she was from her role in Doubt. Adams exudes sex appeal and a resilient strength that few actresses can believably pull off.

If you’re like me and you think you’ve already seen all the boxing movies you can stomach, give this one a shot. It’s an incredibly well-made film that manages to be about more than just boxing. To me, the result of the final bout is inconsequential even, because the real story is about Micky’s familial relationships. The Fighter is a film that knows just how to get inside your soul and stick with you, and I look forward to future David O. Russell films.

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