Superman Returns – A Movie Review

*minor spoiler warning*

Let’s get something straight: Superman is, by nature of his super powers, always in danger of being utterly boring.  Everyone likes Superman, but few people think he’s terribly interesting.  Let’s face it, how much suspense can a Superman story have when the guy can lift mountains and get shot in the eye with bullets and be fine?  So, if you’re going to jumpstart a Superman movie franchise, you’d better bring something different to the table.

And Bryan Singer, the director of Superman Returns, has done just that.

You all know the premise of the story for Superman Returns.  It takes place five years after the events of Superman I and II from the late seventies and early eighties (but pretend those movies only happened five years ago).  Superman III and IV have been erased from existence.  

Superman left Earth five years ago and has returned to a world that has moved on without him.  The love of his life, Lois Lane, is engaged and has a small child.  In fact, she has won a Pulitzer for writing an article about just how little Superman matters.  Of course, the heart of this story deals with Superman trying to adapt to the changes that have occurred with the woman he loves.  Does he respect her new life, or does he try to win her back?  This is truly a fight that Superman’s powers will not give him an advantage with.

Now, does that mean that Superman Returns is just a sappy love story?  Not at all.  There is action to spare in this film, and finally, finally, technology has caught up to what we all want to see from Superman.  You will believe a man can fly.  You will be cheering from your seat.

I thought our newest Superman, Brandon Routh, did just fine.  Yes, Singer is paying homage to Superman I and II, but I didn’t see Routh as simply imitating the iconic Christopher Reeve.  There were consistencies with the character of Clark Kent and Superman between the two actors, and I think that is done to satisfy the audience who enjoyed the previous films.  But let’s understand something: Superman is a big, dark-haired, blue-eyed, square-jawed guy.  Of course Routh and Reeve are going to look similar!  They both played Superman!  Their both big, dark-haired, square-jawed guys!

Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor was great.  He harnessed the comedic timing of Gene Hackman from Superman I and II, but he also brought some real danger to the character.  At times I laughed hysterically at Spacey, and at other times he gave me nervous chills, and I had no problem with that.

Kate Bosworth was not given a fair shake as Lois Lane.  With the small possibility of spoiling a small part of the film, Lois sucks as a mother.  Seriously, she’s got to be the worst mother of all time.  My wife and I both walked out of that film saying, “Wow, they really painted Lois Lane in a poor light, didn’t they?”  I think Bosworth is a decent enough actress, she just didn’t have a great depiction of character to work with. 

I took slight issue with a major component of the film that presents itself near the end, and I won’t spoil it, but it certainly rubbed me a bit wrong.  However, I understand this is a Superman for 2006 and they are desperately trying to make him a character in need of emotional resolution, so I’m not going to make a big stink of it.  I’d rather have a Superman with change I don’t care for than the same old stereotypical Superman that everyone would get tired of after a few movies. 

There were also many, many plot holes, but as my old Shakespeare professor use to say, “We must employ the suspension of disbelief.”  In other words, don’t think about things too hard, just enjoy the show!

I’ll tell you this, the music made the film magical.  The intro was just like the intro to Superman I and II, and that was a perfect touch.  I literally had goose bumps as that wonderful John Williams’ theme song started up with some updating by composer John Ottman.   

In other words, for me, this movie worked, despite some early concerns.  The special effects were magnificent, the costume and the small “s” shield were just fine, the acting was more than adequate, and the movie had real heart, especially because it embraced the Superman movies that came before it. 

It definitely lived up to my expectations and then some.

Underworld: Evolution – A Movie Review

Do you like vampires?  Do you like werewolves?  Have you ever wondered if a vampire and a werewolf/vampire hybrid could have sex?  If the answer is “yes” to any of the above, then Underworld Evolution is for you!

Okay, so this movie was a little light on story and logic, even less so than the original, but hey, if you’re into cool, ninja-like monster fighting, you’re going to love this bad boy.  It had everything I wanted from it: great special effects, cool cinematography, and elaborate action sequences.  What it didn’t have, however, was enough of a variety of vampires and werewolves.  Unlike the original film, which made use of many, many characters even if not well developed, Evolution focused more on only a few characters, but they still remained rather under-developed, so that was a little disappointing for me.

All in all, I had a good time with Underworld: Evolution.  It didn’t pretend to be anything it wasn’t and I appreciated that about it.

Failure to Launch – A Movie Review

There are three things in this world I never wanted to see: Colin Farrell’s vd report, Star Jones’ stool, and Terry Bradshaw’s bare naked butt.  Sadly, after seeing his film, one of those things is burned into my mind’s eye forever.

You know, I didn’t mind this movie.  I actually thought the premise was pretty good.  Sarah Jessica Parker plays a woman who offers her services to help parents get their grown sons out of the house.  Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew McConaughey’s charm sizzles off the screen and there are some truly funny moments.  Yeah, the cheese factor is high (so high the air is rare), and you’ll need to tape a pillow to your forehead you’ll be slapping it so much with the last twenty minutes, but I’ve seen worse (Must Love Dogs, anyone?).  Give it a shot if you’ve got nothing else to watch.

The World’s Fastest Indian

I believe that some movies are bound to be good based upon the actors involved alone.  Now, this is not a perfect formula, but it works for me more often than not. 

That being said, when I saw that Anthony Hopkins starred in The World’s Fastest Indian, and after I learned the movie was a true story about an old man from New Zealand who had customized a 1921 Indian motorcycle in order to break a land speed record in 1967, well, I was sold.

Though there were not nearly enough scenes with the actual racing of the Indian, I couldn’t help but fall in love with Hopkins’ character.  The story mostly deals with his charm and eccentricities, of which there are many, and his difficult plight in getting from New Zealand to Utah, where the land speed races were held.  Just like most old men, no offense to the old men out there, Hopkins demanded everyone repeat everything they said to him as he turned a good ear to them, he mumbled, he crept along, and he seemed to have that general body language that only an old man can have. 

Though it’s a true story and you can easily look up Hopkins’ character’s name, Burt Munro, on, I won’t ruin the ending for you.  I will say, however, that it is truly an inspirational film that had my wife weeping at its end, and, don’t tell anyone, brought a little tiny bit of moisture to my eyes as well.

Match Point – A Movie Review

This may be some form of sacrilege, but I’ve never seen a Woody Allen film.  Never.  I don’t even think I’ve ever watched ten minutes of one.  So why did I decide to check out Match Point?  Simple.  I’ve never seen a Woody Allen film.

Full of tension and immoral behavior, Match Point was an exercise in discomfort.  The story is about a former professional tennis player turned instructor, named Chris, who eases his way into a rich family after Chloe, the daughter in the family, falls for him.  However, he soon finds himself lusting after the rich family’s son’s fiancé, named Nola, and becomes obsessed with her.  He marries Chloe before the son, Tom, unexpectedly breaks it off with Nola.  Our tennis player now feels he has every right to pursue a relationship with Nola, despite the fact that he is now married to Chloe who desperately wants a baby.  From there the suspense ensues, and while this film was wrought with predictability, it also had some nice moments of genuine surprise.

One thing that bothered me is that some say it’s a story of a man who gets involved in the darker side of high society.  No, that’s not true at all.  It’s the normal man who is the villain here.  He is the one turning his back on his wife and pursing an extra-marital relationship.  The rich family is quite helpful and pleasant throughout for the most part.  I believe this is a story of how anyone can become a monster when they let their lust and envy control their actions.

Match Point was far too long, coming in at just over two hours.  It easily could have been trimmed back.  There were moments of just waiting for something substantial to occur. 

The acting was adequate, though not terribly charismatic.  Of the two main characters, Scarlet Johansson, who plays Nola, is satisfactory but Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, who plays Chris, seems like a Jude Law clone in terms of demeanor.  I actually got confused as to whether I should be rooting for or against Rhy-Meyers’ character.  He was sometimes quite likable and at other times smarmy, and at still other times overtly nefarious.  As far as the rest of the cast, I actually enjoyed all of the minor characters far more than the two stars. 

Overall, the ending of the film is quite engrossing, but the rest of the film sort of plods along.  As I said, there is tension throughout, not because of a suspenseful storyline, but more because it just made me uncomfortable to watch a man flirt with ruining an innocent family over his own base desires.

Is this a typical Woody Allen film?  I have no idea.  Not terrible, but not much beyond being just good.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest – A Movie Review

As you probably know, the critics have been making this movie walk the plank . . . bad joke, I know, it’s what I do.  Anyway, despite the critics’ best efforts, this thing has been a cash-making sea cow.  Again, bad.  I know.

Here’s the thing, this movie was fun.  Period.  It was fun!  The props were incredible, the special effects were out-of-this-world, the costumes were great, the pacing was quick, Johnny Depp was hilarious, and the cinematography was outstanding.  In other words, everything that worked in the first film worked for the second.

Consequently, just like with the first film, there were plot holes that could sink a ship, but hey, let’s employ our suspension of disbelief and have a nice time, shall we?  Orlando Bloom, of whom I am apparently a “hatah,” gave yet another wooden, stoic performance, but you just have to expect that sort of thing from him.  He would do well to follow in Depp’s eclectic footsteps or else he is in terminal danger of being typecast for the rest of his career.

Yes, this is a middle film.  Sometimes middle films leave you feeling satisfied, like The Empire Strikes Back, and sometimes they don’t, like The Matrix ReloadedDead Man’s Chest falls somewhere in the middle.  Luckily, we don’t have long to wait for the next Pirates film, so very soon we’ll simply think of them as one seamless saga. 

The movie moves very fast despite its 2.5 hours of running time and it really is very entertaining.  I particularly loved the fact that so much of the first film is brought back for the second, even things that were just mentioned in passing.  I’d tell you to go see it right away, but I have a feeling you already have if its box office earnings are any indication.

After the Sunset – A Movie Review

Hey, this film is what it is.  Directed by Brett Ratner and set on an island paradise, you couldn’t help but enjoy it for the fantastic shots alone.  We’ve got a charming Pierce Brosnan and Salma Hayek as retired jewel thieves hanging their hats on a lovely island far beyond the FBI’s jurisdiction.  That doesn’t stop Woody Harrelson, the FBI agent they regularly made a fool of, from hunting them down to make sure they really are out of the game. 

We’ve got some really, really fun moments between Woody and Pierce and Salma is as smoldering as ever. 

While this film didn’t break the mold by any means, it was fun to watch and moved along at a fairly quick pace.  I’ll even give it props for a little twist at the end that made it all worthwhile.

The Libertine – A Movie Review

This is a film starring Johnny Depp that deals with the 17th century poet, John Wilmot.  A true period piece, the costumes and sets were amazing.  The cinematography was stellar as well, as it truly looked as though all interior shots had no more lighting than several very bright candles.  In other words, there existed an ever-present flicker.

I suppose the acting was very good, but I enjoy a zany Johnny Depp more than a straight-laced, deplorable Johnny Depp.  Of course, he as the libertine, and a libertine is one who is morally unrestrained, so you can imagine who likable he was.

Ultimately, I didn’t think much of the story and I felt the film rather boring.  If you enjoy period pieces and/or anything dealing with John Wilmot, this may be the film for you.  Otherwise, I think you could stand to pass on this one.

Closer – A Movie Review

Apparently the stage version of this film was a hit, and thus, they decided if it was a hit on the stage it would only be natural for it to be a hit on the silver screen as well.  I’m afraid I couldn’t disagree more.

This film essentially dealt with four people who couldn’t make up their minds who they wanted to be with.  I seriously felt like I was watching a teen drama, but all those things that can sometimes make a teen drama cute were noticeably absent because we weren’t dealing with teens, we were dealing with adults in their thirties and so their behavior was just depressing. 

Sure, this sort of thing probably happens in real life, but I don’t want to see it on the screen.  This film was slow, depressing, pointless, and ultimately anticlimactic.  I can’t believe Julia Roberts and Natalie Portman agreed to star in it, and I have to say that Jude Law and Clive Owen are propagating my theory that English movie starts love playing immoral, sniveling men in today’s films.

Shopgirl – A Movie Review

Based upon a smart novella by Steve Martin (yes, that Steve Martin) this film is about a young woman played by Claire Danes who has moved to LA in the hopes of furthering her art career.  She takes a job at Saks nestled away behind a glove counter.  Bored out of her mind, she eventually meets a quirky young font artist played by Jason Schwartzman (who’s stock is quickly rising in my book) and dates him basically for lack of nothing better to do. 

Eventually a much older character played by Steve Martin takes and interest in Danes’ character and they get very involved.  However, Martin’s character is afraid of commitment and so he keeps Danes always at a distance.  The problem for Danes’ character is that Martin provides her every want, but does not provide her every need, which is the need we all have, the need to be loved.

Superb and idiosyncratic acting made this a joy to watch, though I, as usual, enjoyed the book more than the film.  This is not a fast-moving film, but it is a great character study and the actors’ chemistry and charisma jump off the screen.  Martin was the weakest of the three, but he still did an admirable job.