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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Take Shelter (2011)

Starring Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Tova Stewart, Shea Whigham, Katy Mixon, Natasha Randall, Ron Kennard, Scott Knisley, Robert Longstreet

Directed by Jeff Nichols

Expectations: Low, as I know nothing about this other than it’s about obsession, which is a subject I have an obsession with.


Take Shelter is a film I saw out of circumstance instead of desire. I happened to get off work a few hours early and decided to finally check out the hype surrounding Drive. Only problem was that Drive was only playing later in the day and I had about two hours to kill. This led me to check out Take Shelter in the meantime, as I had heard good things, and if there’s one constant theme I enjoy, it’s filmed obsession. I’m really glad this worked out the way it did, as Take Shelter is one of the best films I’ve seen all year.

Take Shelter focuses on Curtis (Michael Shannon) and how his dreams of a coming storm slowly begin to break down his life. He does his best to keep it all under wraps from his wife (Jessica Chastain) and his deaf daughter, but when his obsession over the nightly apocalyptic dreams starts to affect reality, it’s pretty hard not to notice. This is one that works really well not knowing much about it, so I’ll refrain from any more specifics.

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Mini-Review: Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)

Starring Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Jennifer Coolidge, Val Kilmer, Brad Dourif, Xzibit, Fairuza Balk, Michael Shannon, Vondie Curtis Hall

Directed by Werner Herzog

Expectations: Low due to Nicolas Cage, but optimistic because of Werner Herzog.


Until now, I had not seen a Werner Herzog movie I didn’t enjoy. I unabashedly love his documentaries. His fiction films are less interesting, but so far I’ve seen enough to know that his work is usually engaging on some level and worth my time. This is not the case with Herzog’s latest, Bad Lieutenant. Nicolas Cage plays the same character he’s been playing for years, the washed up drug-addled fiend that can’t quite get his life together. Does he at least play it well? Not really, but I’ve never been a big fan. To his credit, the supporting cast is worse than he is, with an overweight, bored Val Kilmer at the top of the trash heap. Brad Dourif plays a bookie and has the distinction of being one of the few believable actors in the film.

Cage plays a drug addict cop that is slowly slipping over the edge into oblivion. He is surrounded by the rest of the clichéd corrupt cop genre characters; the call girl, the useless partner cop, the dealer, the woman with a baby at the door of the dealer’s house who let’s on where the dealer is hiding. You get the idea. Cage is investigating the murder of a family of immigrants from Senegal, but the story goes haphazardly between the mystery and Cage getting off in some way, be it sex or drugs or both. Herzog likes to deal with madness and obsession in his films, and Cage’s character has both in spades, but he doesn’t do anything to make it engaging. I love a good obsession film, but this was just boring. Cage really should hang it up at this point, or at least take a few years off. It would be unfair though to lay all the blame on the actors as Herzog seems to be as uninterested in the story as I was. I was hoping that the film might rise above the swampy filth it had been sulking in, but alas, the pull was too great. On a positive note, the film’s score by Mark Isham is pretty good in spots.

So yeah, I hated it. I do have an odd desire to re-watch it, though.

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