Man of Steel (2013)

man of steel

Anymore, superhero films are treated more like stepping stones than standalone entities. They’re the bait to get you to the next chapter, where they’d like you to think the real fun begins. We can probably thank Marvel for this because it worked so damn well with Iron Man and the entirety of the Avengers universe. With Man of Steel, Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan are placing their bets that their vision will do the same for DC. The good news is they mostly succeed.

While I enjoyed Batman Begins, overall I find Nolan’s Batman films to be too heavy for my taste. Comic book aesthetics replaced with harsh realism just doesn’t work for me, mostly because superheroes don’t exist in my world and I wish Hollywood would stop trying to convince me that they’re somehow relevant. Of course, I’m obviously in the minority here, since this trilogy went on to make a shit ton of money and now we have a new Superman series modeled on the same grim universe. Give the people what they want I suppose.

Man of Steel attempts to do just that with a brooding and conflicted Superman, more civilian deaths than any other film in recent memory, and a shroud of seriousness over everything. If Richard Donner’s 1978 film was too silly, Snyder’s version goes way too far in the other direction. In spite of itself, some fun peeks through every so often, but for the most part this is a very joyless interpretation of Superman.

The film tries desperately to be more of everything. It’s bigger, louder, handsomer — it has more science fiction, special effects, action, muscles, and lens flares. This isn’t entirely a complaint, but at some point the sense of awe wears off and it simply becomes sensory overload. The flight sequence was exhilarating(!)…and then it went on for 5 more minutes. The first super-fight-scene was pretty badass(!#%)…and then it went on for 15 more minutes. After a while, I started to lose interest not out of boredom, but exhaustion.

All that being said, the saving grace in Man of Steel are the people in it. Henry Cavill is very much the embodiment of the comic book Superman that I grew up with, plus he’s handsome as hell. Rawr. Amy Adams is a ballsy, no-nonsense Lois Lane and she’s smart enough to realize when the same person is standing in front of her, with our without glasses. Kevin Costner makes Jonathan Kent his own and brings a lot of heart to the role, as does Diane Lane. Thanks to this, the flashbacks of his time in Smallville are the best parts the film and at least help me appreciate how they are trying to set up this new version of Superman. This time around he quite literally has the weight of two worlds on his shoulders, and there’s no quick fixes like turning back time to make things better. There are consequences in this film and really just an enormous amount of people die. It’s kind of ridiculous.

In conclusion? As what I would call a hardcore Superman fan, I am not at all offended by this film or the new direction. I would say I mostly enjoyed it and I’m curious to see where they take things now that this world and origin story have been established.

It doesn’t come close to the 1978 film (which fills me with pure, giddy, joy every time I watch it) but it baits me well enough that I’ll be sitting in my usual seat the night its sequel opens. Also bring on the Justice League.

Grade: B

Attack the Block (2011)

Attack the Block

I didn’t know much going into this film, other than it was a big hit at SXSW. This is one of those rare occasions where I hadn’t even watched the trailer, so my expectations were pretty much zero. I’m happy to say I was pleasantly surprised by this contemporary Critters in the inner city. Sure it’s flawed and filled with plot contrivances, but the fun you have makes up for it.

The dynamic of the kids keeps you hooked and laughing through the absurdity. Think the Goonies where the gang is comprised of little shits that mug people and use their teenage machismo to battle the gorilla-wolf-motherfuckers that are invading their block. Throw in some over-the-top drug dealers and an overly dramatic climax and you’ve got yourself a silly little film that hearkens back to the 1980s. It’s not a great film, but it’ll make you smile.

Grade: B

Blow Out (1981)

Blow Out (1981)

Blow Out (1981)

De Palma is one of those filmmakers that I don’t particularly like, but I can’t stop watching his films. I love to gripe about him, and yet I keep coming back for more. I think that’s part me wanting to know what the hell everyone else sees in his films and part the fact that they are pretty intriguing on some level. Mostly stylistically. I won’t argue that DePalma is a downright fantastic visual filmmaker, but it’s pretty rare that the story he’s telling lives up to the visuals. In the case of Blow Out, I find parts of the story just plain sloppy and that makes it hard to take the suspense seriously through the finish.

I first saw Blow Out years ago on DVD and remember being none too impressed with the very blatant mashup of Antonioni’s Blowup and Coppola’s The Conversation, albeit with a bit of a giallo twist. But when I saw the Denver Film Center was screening a 35mm print for a DePalma series I jumped at the chance to see in on the big screen. My mind had been changed before by the theatrical experience, maybe here was my chance to see what’s so great about DePalma. While I may not be a believer just yet, I did come out with a bit more of an appreciation for what may very well be De Palma’s best film. It’s not my favorite mind you, that will always be The Untouchables, but from a technical perspective I think Blow Out is the epitome of De Palma the auteur.

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Predators (2010)

Predators (2010)

Finally, a Predator film that’s actually worthy of the title. Does that mean it’s a great film? Not particularly. In fact, it’s not even that great of a summer action film — but it’s about 100 times better than AVP, and really, that’s all it needed to be.

Predators starts off fairly well, as the main characters are literally dropped into the jungle and try to figure out what the hell is going on. Adrien Brody, beefed up and doing his best Batman voice, is sadly no Arnold..but he gets an ‘E’ for effort. He’s just believable enough to help me ignore the awfully convenient plot points that drive the film forward. Did anyone else notice how easily they figured things out in this alien world? Yea me too. Thankfully my suspension of disbelief remained intact for most of the film. I can forgive things like plot contrivances for the sake of story, but for a film that appeals to geeks, I sure wish it was a little smarter.

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Little *ucker (2009)

The screeners I get from Allhorrorfilms are usually pretty humorous, though this is the first time the film was surprisingly watchable.

Little ucker isn’t necessarily a film you should have high expectations for, but on the other hand, if you have high expectations (wink wink cough cough) you just might find yourself enjoying this silly little film. Directed by Michael Muscal, Little ucker hearkens back to the B-Horror films of the ’80s giving it a distinct, almost Troma-like feeling. Since the film aspires to be nothing more than a B-film, this means that when it stumbles it fortunately doesn’t have far to fall…and it does stumble.

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