Cinepub


Review: Man of Steel by Jamie

Superman. There was a time that when someone said the word superhero, the big blue boy scout was the image that would pop into your head. That might not be so true nowadays what with the proliferation of superheroes as a whole in the pop culture milieu nowadays. Sure, there were some who’d think Batman but those people would be wrong. Batman isn’t a superhero, he’s just an awesome detective in a bat costume. Would you call Sherlock Holmes a superhero? Probably not, not even if you dressed him as a small flying mammal.

Anyway, my point is that Superman is THE Superhero. He was the one that kicked of an entire genre of comic books and set the standard on which later heroes would be based. The cape, the spandex, the secret identity? All a result of Superman. Still, Superman himself has had a rather spotty record when it comes to his cinematic outings. Sure, the first two Superman films starring Christopher Reeve were great if perhaps a little too campy when looked back upon now. Then came the third which inexplicably starred Richard Pryor as someone who’s good at computers for some reason. The less said about Superman IV the better.

Supes finally returned nineteen years later in well, Superman Returns. It was not considered a success. It’s been a while since I’ve watched it myself but I don’t think I hated it. It was just a thing that kind of happened and that was that. And it’s not surprising that it was a failure to be honest. The cinematic superhero genre had come a long way since the first series of film. This was film was released not long after the first two X-Men films and the first two Spider-Man films had come out and kind of redefined what a comic book movie was. People wanted deep characters with deep motivations. Superman was not these things.

Let’s be honest for a moment. Superman is a boring character. Yes, I’ll admit that he deserves a little respect for being the first but an indestructible, flying man with lasers for eyes who only has one weakness is just not interesting. Throw in the fact that his motivation never really developed much further beyond “Truth, Justice and the American Way”. That kinda shit just doesn’t fly anymore.

So DC recently relaunched their entire universe (sort of) in 2011 and I bought each of the new number ones. I liked the stuff that they did with Superman. He was no longer specifically on the idea of the law but rather a Superman of the people, doing what was right not necessarily what the government wanted. He was a Superman for the Occupy generation. Also his powers had been toned down somewhat since he was a younger character still developing his them. It was an interesting concept and one that I enjoyed even though I didn’t stick with buying any more of them.

So could Zack Snyder, David Goyer and Christopher Nolan bring the world’s first superhero into the 21st century on the big screen? Well…

Look, I didn’t hate this movie. I want to get that out of the way right up front. It’s just that I can’t say that I really liked it either. So let’s get into what I did like first. One of my biggest problems with Superman has always been that Lois Lane is supposed to be one of the bet journalists on the planet and yet she can’t tell that someone is the same person when they remove a pair of glasses. I’ll suspend disbelief that Supes is from an alien planet where evolution has resulted in a dominant species identical to ours and that being from said planet grants him abilities such as invulnerability, flight and laser eyes. Fine. But that Lois Lane thing is a step too far and this movie solves that problem brilliantly in a way that resonates with the character.

I also really enjoyed the opening scenes on Krypton though they were somewhat rushed and involved characters yelling exposition at each other but you know what? I can live with that. It’s a movie and, as important as Krypton is to the Superman mythos, it’s not the main focus of the character. Still it might have been nice to flesh out the character of Zod a little better during these scenes. Despite this, like I said, I enjoyed the sequence though it did feature one of the oddest design choices I have ever seen in a film. Zod and his followers are sealed in stasis pods. Here, I done a rough art of what these pods look like:

Kneel Before Zod’s Giant Bronze Space Penis!

I’m not kidding either. Zod and his followers are literally locked away in giant, bronze dongs. They even have the beginnings of little scrotal sacks at the bottom. I get it. You want something that will fit a human being standing to attention inside it. You have to account for the feel and the rest can be a long pole-looking structure. Fine, that would have resembled a somewhat cartoonish penis, I would have giggled and we all could have gotten on with the movie but to actually put a bulbous head at the top of the shaft… I mean, seriously? Did nobody notice this during production? They had to have, right? So does that mean that this was entirely done on purpose? It’s just… Wow.

Anyway, where was I? Oh right, giant bronze penises. I mean Man of Steel. Ok. Another thing I enjoyed was the action. You know what, it was big, it was loud and it was awesome. I’ll admit that by this point I’d completely lost interest in the story. The villains motivations were inexplicable which is kinda becoming a theme in blockbuster movies lately but the action scenes got me through it. It was the first time I got a sense of just how powerful the Kryptonians on Earth. Obviously this is a little unfair to the previous films since didn’t have the kind of effects that this film does but it really is cool to see Superman creating sonic booms as he flies or to see one the villains leaping and crashing into things. There’s weight behind it all, it feels physical and there is mass devastation as a result. It’s pretty sweet.

I’ve also gotta say that I can’t really single any actor out as being bad. Everyone was pretty much bringing their A game with Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner playing Jor-El and Jonathan Kent respectively. Also Christopher Meloni is in it and I always have respect for a man whose IMDB bio begins with “With his piercing, blue-eyed glint, brawny looks, cocky “tough guy” stance and effortless charisma, TV’s Christopher Meloni drew on his sexy Italian heritage to grab audiences attention, male and female alike, finding breakthrough stardom playing on both sides of the law.” Well played Meloni’s IMDB bio. Well played.

So what about the bad, though I’ll admit that there’s a fairly decent amount of bad listed in the stuff that I supposedly liked about the film. Well, the story is a major concern and it also has a lot to do with the way the film is put together. After we see Kal-El’s pod crash land on Earth there is a cut to Clark working on a fishing boat. It is one of the worst cuts I have ever seen in my life. It was so jarring and unnatural looking that I actually thought that there might have been a problem with the projector and the film had skipped ahead. The middle of the story then is mostly made up of flashbacks as Clark tries to find out exactly what his role in human society is. The young man is torn and conflicted due to his pa telling him that he must hide who he really is until the world is ready to accept him.

He’s a tortured soul you see, someone with amazing and incredible gifts who must hide who he is because revealing himself would terrify the people he wants to protect. He’s an X-Man, you see. Ok, that’s a little unfair. In actuality this is gritty Superman. This is tortured Superman. This is Batmanified Superman. And it doesn’t work. The problem is that I think it could work. I think that the basic core idea is a solid one. I just think they went about it in totally the wrong way. The flashbacks suck any sense of development out of the story. Showing me an adult Clark getting in a situation and then flashing back to a scene of young Clark explaining why he reacts to this situation in the way that he does is one hundred percent less effective than having the story and my understanding of the character develop naturally and organically.

Then there’s the “romance” between Superman and Lois. It just sort of happens because, you know , that’s what happens in superhero movies, right? The hero needs a damsel in distress to save and so they are forced together and are making out in a devastated city on top of what must be the corpses of literally thousands after only really meeting each other a couple of times. It’s another symptom of the fact that there just isn’t any real development going on in the characters or story taking place in the present. All of the character development is shown a having taken place in the past in flashbacks relevant to the current situation and, again, that’s a really shitty way of doing things.

Overall it’s really a shame. To have such great acting, such great action and little flashes of brilliance here and there just to have it fall down on the single most important aspect of a movie, in my mind at least, the story is the biggest disappointment of all. Still, I left the cinema feeling somewhat hopeful. This could provide the background for a really nice sequel. It almost feels as though that’s exactly what they were thinking too. Rush through this film to retell the one superhero origin story that literally every human being knows, because at this point he’s been around since before many of our grandparents were born, and we can really focus on making the next film a great one. It is Batmanified Superman after all so why not just completely follow the formula of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films? Batman Begins had the advantage of having a vastly more interesting central character than Man of Steel but it still has to be admitted that The Dark Knight is when people sat up and paid attention and so I can see it being the same way with this.

Will they be able to pull a truly epic sequel off? Only time will tell and I hope that I’m proven right. It’d be nice to see Superman reinvented properly for a new age. Of course The Dark Knight had the advantage of having the Joker as the villain. A Man of Steel sequel will have to settle for Lex Luthor and it will be Lex Luthor.

And that's terrible...

And that’s terrible…

So I come to the end of this review a little disappointed. If indeed it was their plan to get through an origin movie just to provide the backdrop for a better sequel, did they need to waste Zod on it? It’s a shame but as I said, despite this disappointment I do remain hopeful and I feel it’s right to feel that way. After all hope is what the on Superman’s chest stands for.

Oh one last thing. Zod has one line, Snyder, Nolan and Goyer. One line that he is famous for. I know you’re trying to be all gritty and serious but c’mon, you couldn’t have thrown it in?

Two pints out of five. Laterz! Giant bronze penises to you all!

(In case you’re worried, that “And it will be Lex Luthor” line isn’t a spoiler for some post credits scene. There isn’t a post credits scene. It just will be Lex Luthor in the sequel obviously.)



2011 in Film: Number 3 : The Dilemma by Jamie

Oh, Kevin James. Kevin James, Kevin James, Kevin James. Those two words strike fear into my heart. I have never seen a film that starred Kevin James that was in anyway worth watching. It’s not fair to say I hate the man, though he certainly doesn’t make it any easier on himself by releasing shit like Paul Blart: Mall Cop and Zookeeper.

So it is with no small amount of trepidation that I watched The Dilemma, a film starring James, Vince Vaughan, Jennifer Connelly and Winona Ryder. It’s a relatively good cast, aside from James, to be fair though Vince Vaughan certainly has his off days. The basic premise of the story is that Nick (James) and Ronny (Vaughan) are two best friends and partners in an automobile engineering company. They’ve developed a new type of electrical engine which makes the noise of the muscle car engines of the past. They need to get all of the kinks out before a big meeting with Dodge that could make or break their company.

At the same time, Ronny is planning on proposing to his girlfriend Beth(Connelly) and whilst checking out the botanical gardens that he thinks will be the perfect place in which to do that, he spies Nick’s wife Geneva (Ryder) making out with a different man, Skip (Channing Tatum). This understandably shocks the fuck out of Ronny and he finds himself in the titular dilemma. Should he tell his best friend? Confront his cheating spouse? Would telling him bring more stress to a friendship that is already strained by the importance of the deal with Dodge? Yes, it certainly is a dilemma indeed.

Anyway, the rest of the film is filled with the kind of wacky misadventures that you’d probably expect from this kind of film, many of them ending with Ronny getting injured in some manner. I suppose the moral is if you don’t do the right thing then really you’re only hurting yourself. His sneaking around trying to catch Geneva out also has the unintended consequence of making all of his friends and family think that he has fallen back into an old gambling addiction that he apparently had. Still, this is a pretty formulaic film and I’m sure you can guess how the whole thing ends.

Along with all of these shenanigans, the movie seems to throw in dramatic and emotional scenes, creating tonal shifts that could cause whiplash. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt about movies in January it’s that they are generally released at this time because the studios don’t seem to have much faith in them and it seems to me as though the number one reason that they lack that faith is because the movies don’t seem to know what they want to be. I guarantee you that if this had just been a straight up comedy featuring James and Vaughan, it would have received a later release date. I’m not saying it would have been any good, it just would have been released later.

Perhaps the part of this movie that I enjoyed most was Channing Tatum. He is actually a genuinely funny guy and his few scenes in this film actually made me laugh more often than not. Good for him. He’s made me really kinda wanna go and see 21 Jump Street. Other than him though, the film, whilst not particularly terrible, isn’t in anyway recommendable either. On the whole, it was a little better than I thought it would be but not by a lot. There are major problems with the plot such as it being too formulaic, too predictable and it also doesn’t really address the fact that Beth’s infidelity isn’t her fault alone with Nick clearly having some part in the break down of the relationship. Maybe if you catch it on TV it might be worth a watch but that’s the only time I’d bother. Two pints out of five. Laterz.



Review: Inception by Jamie

Another spoiler free review. Well, I say spoiler free but since the plot of Inception has been kept so quiet, pretty much everything is a spoiler. No endings or anything will be given away though. Also, I’m sorry if this review seems a bit weird or if there are more spelling or grammar mistakes than usual but I hit my head pretty hard on Saturday night and I’m having a hard time focusing on what I write for too long. Anyway, enjoy.

Christopher Nolan has certainly made quite a name for himself round Hollywood way. The man seems to be a master story teller with a real flair for incredible visuals. Essentially he’s a world builder, taking odd or interesting concepts which could easily seem otherworldly and bizarre and manages to ground them in some sort of plausible reality. Take ‘The Dark Knight’ for example. He managed to make a man dressed as a bat trying to stop a terrorist dressed as a clown seem perfectly rational. That takes quite a bit of genius to achieve.

So when the hype began to build around his latest film, ‘Inception’, the world began to take notice. The trailer didn’t give too much away and the plot remained fairly under wraps until the films release. In fact the secrecy surrounding the film is probably the most impressive thing given that we now live in the internet age where things are leaked or crew members accidentally give things away on Twitter to such a degree that you often know the plot of a film before you go in. Somehow Inception managed to avoid all that which must have been pretty sweet for a big summer blockbuster.

So what exactly is the film about? Well, to tell you exactly would be kind of spoiler territory so how can I do this properly. Well, Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his team are a bunch of extraction experts who use their special skills and equipment to head into peoples dreams and extract important information and secrets. The title Inception comes from actually implanting ideas inside peoples heads which is apparently very difficult to do.

The film looks about as stunning as you’d expect something from Christopher Nolan and his cinematographer Wally Pfister (Hehehe, Pfister) to look. From the streets of cities to snow covered mountains, it’s all very crisp and clear. The CGI is impressive as well, particularly the scenes you’ve probably seen in the trailer of streets rising up to a 90 degree angle. The important thing and something Nolan seems to be pretty consistent with is that the CGI is used very sparingly. After all, as one of the characters says in the film, dreams are generally pretty normal and you don’t realise you’re in them until you notice something amiss or something really crazy happens.

There’s also a nice sprinkling of physical effects as well. For example there is a scene in which a fight occurs in a zero gravity environment and, as I understand it, all of that was done practically with a giant tube that span around a lot of something. I did know the technical term for that once but the smack to my noggin seems to have knocked it out of my brain box. Fuck. The point is that it’s a kick ass action scene as most of the action scenes are.

In fact there seems to be a lot of hype surrounding this film about how complex and intricate everything is but to be fair I didn’t really see it that way. I actually thought that the whole thing played fairly straightforwardly as a slightly more intelligent than average action film would. Of course I think the level of complexity that you consider the film to have all depends on how you take the final scene. That’s all I’ll say about that. If you have seen the film and you want to know my take on it then you’ll have to ask me in person, over twitter or over facebook or something.

All of the acting is fairly solid though some of the characters were the kind of stock characters you’d find in any heist film (and yes, at heart this is kind of a heist film). You’ve got you’re intelligent and cautious character who just wants to get the job, you’re comic relief who’s a bit cocky, you’re character who’s providing the money and the job in the first place who’s never done a heist before but insists on coming along anyway and you’re rookie who’s brought in because they’re skilled in a specifically specialised job that the team needs for this mission. In a lesser film this kind of thing would annoy me but here it all works fairly well and most of the characters are fleshed out a little better than what I’ve just written would suggest. Fuck feeling woozy again.

There is one major problem I did kind of have with the film though and I’m afraid that in order to address it I’m gonna have to enter some very light spoiler territory. If you haven’t seen the film and don’t want anything at all revealed then perhaps you should go away now. I was going to give the film four and a half out five anyway and highly suggest you watch it so there you go.

Right, are they gone? Good. Ok, the only real problem I had was the fact that everyone keeps on going on about how difficult inception is, how hard it is to implant a fresh idea in someone’s head without them realising that it’s been planted there but to be honest it kind of seemed as though it wouldn’t have been that difficult if not for the fact that their target had had his mind trained to protect itself from extraction and one of the crew had severe problems that was infecting the targets dream state. Honestly, it looked their mission would have been pretty damned easy if not for those two elements but hey, I guess I’m kinda nitpicking here. Oh, speaking of nitpicking it did seem to me as though Joseph Gordon Levitt was kinda young to be an expert at extraction but hey, he turned in a solid performance so I guess I can let it slide.

Right, I’m sorry, I’d love to write more on this review but I’m just having trouble concentrating on words being typed on a screen without feeling really dizzy so I’m gonna have to stop. Maybe I’ll have another, fuller review written when the Blu-Ray comes out and everyone’s had a chance to see it. I’ll sum up by saying Inception is a damn fine film but I didn’t find it as complex as everyone’s been saying. In fact, I found the Joker’s plot in ‘The Dark Knight’ and the way he played everyone in Gotham City to be far more complex but again, I think it all comes down to how you take the ending. That’s it, apologies again but I have to end this now. Four and a half pints out of five. Laterz.




%d bloggers like this: