The LEGO Movie

The LEGO Movie

The LEGO Movie

Well it’s been a while since I’ve actually seen a kids movie in theaters primarily because there are none that were released that were actually interesting. Well that is until now. This movie I am reviewing today is a movie that has received almost unanimously positive reviews and you would think at first that the concept would be silly but it is probably one of the most brilliantly executed movies in a good long while. And this movie also marks a milestone for me because this movie is actually not the first movie that I have seen in 3D overall (that honor belongs to Friday the 13th 3D) but this movie marks the first movie released to theaters that I have seen in 3D. So without further ado, here is my review of the movie that has taken the world by storm: The LEGO Movie.

This movie has been in development for several years even though I’m pretty much convinced that this film’s existence is primarily due to the success of shows like Robot Chicken and also due to the success that LEGO has had with its video game adaptations of popular film franchises such as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Lord of the Rings, Batman, and Pirates of the Caribbean among others and there are plans to release games based on Ghostbusters (in June) and Back to the Future (next year.)

However, enough said here. Now let’s get on to the movie.

The movie focus on a LEGO minifigure named Emmett (voiced by Chris Pratt) who is basically an Average Joe construction worker who isn’t really creative or popular yet maintains an overly optimistic outlook. However, he is soon mistaken to be the man known as the Special who will find the Piece of Resistance which is the key to stopping a weapon that threatens all of LEGO-kind. Opposing him is Lord Business (voiced by Will Ferrell) who is also the president of the dystopian LEGO city that Emmett lives and works in and his right-hand man Good Cop/Bad Cop (voiced by Liam Neeson.) When we first meet Lord Business, he is wearing a headpiece that kind of makes him look like Mola Ram in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and he is seen stealing the secret weapon known as the Kragle which has the ability to freeze all the LEGO figures in place.

Soon Emmett is joined in his quest by a mysterious woman called Wyldstyle (voiced by Elizabeth Banks from The Hunger Games), her boyfriend LEGO Batman (yes, you heard that right. Her boyfriend is LEGO Batman and he’s voiced by Will Arnett who actually does a decent job portraying the LEGO version of the Dark Knight,) a wise blind sage called Vitruvius (voiced by Morgan Freeman) and Princess Uni-Kitty (voiced by Community’s Alison Brie) among countless other.

As far as the pace of the movie goes, there isn’t really a bad thing I can say about this. Pretty much every joke used in the movie works. The 3D effects are pretty good and I also like the effects involving the construction of many various LEGO objects and they put the number of the product right next to the blueprints. I also like the transistions that pop up throughout the movie like for example at the beginning of the movie where Emmett is singing the theme song of the movie he remarks that he could sing that song for hours. Then the caption comes up “Five hours later…” and he’s still singing. The voice acting is pretty decent, especially by Liam Neeson, who sounded like he was having a good time playing the bad guy. And there is a bit of a twist toward the end that I won’t spoil here. And also look for some cleverly-placed cameos from all the characters that LEGO adapted into video game characters, such as LEGO Superman, LEGO Wonder Woman, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and even a cameo by the Millennium Falcon piloted by Han Solo with Lando Calrissian and C3-PO in tow (Note: With the exception of Han Solo, Lando and C3-PO are voiced by the original actors.)

So in short, if you haven’t gotten out to see this movie, you have to see it while it’s still in theaters. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a kid or a kid at heart and don’t let people say that you’re too old for a movie like this. I’m 36 and I enjoyed this movie. I’m glad I went to see it and I’m really proud to say that this is the first movie I saw in 3D in theaters.

So there’s nothing really left to say about The LEGO Movie except that just like the theme song says, “Everything is awesome!”

Man of Steel

Man of Steel.

Man of Steel.

Okay, here it is folks. The review you have all been waiting for. Here is a review of a movie that I have been waiting several months to see and I originally was supposed to attend a special opening night screening of this movie that was sponsored by Walmart this past summer but then Mother Nature decided to cancel my plans and give us a flood warning instead so I couldn’t be able to go. And so I waited and waited and waited until I finally bought it on DVD. Well I finally watched it and since I still owe everyone this review now seven months later I am finally going to deliver. Ladies and gentlemen, here is my long-awaited review of this past summer’s Superman reboot as produced by Christopher Nolan (who successfully reimagined Batman for modern audiences) and directed by Zack Snyder (300 and Watchmen.) And without further ado, here is Man of Steel.

When this came out, I was shocked at the fact that it holds a 56 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and the reception for this movie has everyone on the Internet split right down the middle as far as whether this movie is good or this movie sucks. Now what do I think about it? Well, I actually thought that the movie was pretty good for a reboot of a character that many people cannot really relate to as I mentioned in my review of Superman IV. I mean, how can people relate to a man from another planet that appears somewhat God-like? I guess that was the whole point of the reboot: How to make Superman more relatable to a modern audience, hence the reason for the dark tone of the movie. In this movie, Superman is portrayed more as an outsider who is conflicted about what his lot in life is. He has all these powers, he’s indestructible and all that stuff. But he’s torn over whether he should use his powers for good or evil. He was practically raised to do the right thing but as an outsider, he is conflicted. Like he says at the end of the movie, “I’m from Kansas. That’s as American as it gets.” And for generations the Midwest has been known for its good moral values.

So why does this movie have everyone split down the middle? Let’s find out.

The movie opens on Krypton (of course, this is an origin story) and the Krypton scenes are very well done, almost to the point where it looks more like Pandora from Avatar than it does the Krypton we saw in the Christopher Reeve Superman movies.  On Krypton, they ride winged creatures as well as space vehicles. Russell Crowe is actually pretty badass as Jor-El and he turns in a pretty decent performance and on the plus side, at least he doesn’t sing  in this movie.

"I WILL FIND HIM!" Must be the 21st Century's version of "Kneel before Zod!

“I WILL FIND HIM!” Must be the 21st Century’s version of “Kneel before Zod!”

The scene where they put the baby Superman (Krypton’s first natural birth in centuries as opposed to everyone else who are actually harvested like in the Matrix movies) into the spaceship is handled with a bit more emotion than in the original version. At the same time, Krypton is under attack from General Zod, an ex-military general who wants to take over Krypton. Here he’s played by Michael Shannon and like Crowe as Jor-El, he is more badass than Terence Stamp although Terence Stamp’s interpretation of Zod in the Reeve films is still iconic. I mean, Zod in this movie doesn’t even say “Kneel before Zod!” like he does in Superman II. The closest he gets is when he shouts “I WILL FIND HIM!” before he is sent to the Phantom Zone.

Of course everyone knows the story up to this point. Baby Superman flies toward Earth; General Zod gets sent off to the Phantom Zone; Krypton go boom; Baby Superman crashes on a fishing boat. Wait, what?

Well, I guess the remainder of the first half of the movie plays like a remake of Batman Begins recast with Superman.

Right after the Krypton scenes, we cut to the grown-up Clark (now played by Henry Cavill) who is working on a fishing boat when they come up on an oil rig that is about to explode. Clark saves the people on the rig, but then we cut to Clark as a boy in school discovering his powers. Then we cut back to him as a man and then we cut to the young Clark saving a school bus full of kids. And you pretty much get the idea.

And here’s where we come to the first real low point of the movie: Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent. When he chastises Clark for exposing himself to save a bunch of kids, it shows you how much of a dick he is in this movie. And I agree with a lot of the Internet reviewers on the grounds that Kevin Costner is the worst Jonathan Kent ever. As far as I’m concerned the best Jonathan Kent ever was Bo Duke on Smallville with the guy who played him in the original Superman movie a pretty close second. The part that pissed a lot of people off (myself included) was when Clark asks, “What was I supposed to do, let them drown?” To which Kevin replies, “Maybe.” I literally shouted “What the hell!” I mean, this is not Field of Dreams Kevin Costner. This is not Dances With Wolves Kevin Costner. Hell, this isn’t even The Bodyguard Kevin Costner. This is Waterworld Kevin Costner and this is the Kevin we’ve known for the last 20 years.  Does that mean that every movie he’s done since The Bodyguard was bad? No, but unfortunately he hasn’t had any good ones either. The last Kevin Costner movie I actually enjoyed post-Bodyguard was 3000 Miles to Graceland and that was because he was so hilariously bad in that movie as the psycho Elvis impersonator. And to think Kevin passed up Django Unchained for this. You know what? Maybe he should have done Django Unchained.

As far as Jonathan Kent telling Clark to let the kids die instead of risking exposure, I don’t buy it for a second. You’re supposed to be raised to do the right thing and then you turn around to let kids die? If I had super powers and I had to deal with a busload of kids drowning, I would have done the same exact thing Clark did: Save the freakin’ kids!

And later in the movie when Jonathan dies in a tornado, it’s basically done for the stupidest of reasons. He tries to rescue a dog and ends up breaking his leg. And this is something that he could have sent Clark to do but you know Jonathan, he doesn’t want Clark exposing himself because he’s afraid those pesky scientists will take him away and experiment on him. So he ends up getting swept away by the tornado. And the reason I don’t like this is because it cheapens Jonathan’s death to the point where the audience does not feel sorry for him when he buys the farm. I’m sorry but I’m not sorry to see this character go. At least with Jonathan Kent’s death scene in the original film, him dying of a heart attack and Clark being powerless to save him, at least that scene had more emotional oomph than Kevin Costner’s death in this movie.

But anyway, I don’t want to drag this on any longer, let’s continue. Right after the whole Kevin Costner controversy, we revert back to the present time where after being humiliated by a truck driver and later avenging that by crucifying his truck on an electric pole, Clark heads up to the North Pole where the US Military have discovered an unidentified object which turns out to be a Kryptonian ship buried in the ice. This also attracts the attention of reporter Lois Lane (played by Amy Adams, who is actually the best Lois Lane ever.) This Lois comes off as gutsy, independent and a risk taker as opposed to someone who just gets into trouble just so Superman could save her. And at least this Lois has the guts to say to Colonel Hardy (played by Christopher Meloni from Law and Order: SVU,) “Now that we’re done measuring dicks, you want to tell me what you found?” Let’s hear Margot Kidder say a line like that.

And the less said about Kate Bosworth the better.

So anyway, Lois sees Clark entering the Kryptonian vessel and follows him inside only to be attacked by one of the robots which Clark destroys and he heals her wound with his heat vision. Then he dumps her outside the vessel and takes off with it. And while Lois attempts to get her story of the spaceship out, Clark is learning all about his destiny and heritage from a hologram of Jor-El which leads to him putting on the costume (which in this case actually looks like a special body armor but not that far removed from the iconic costume that we all know and love) and learning how to fly.

And while that’s going on, let’s talk about another member of the cast: Laurence Fishburne who is playing Perry White (in a little twist of racial irony.) When we first meet him, we think he’s going to be another dick like Kevin Costner’s Jonathan Kent but at least Perry White has a valid excuse (he’s the editor of a newspaper.) When he first refuses to run Lois’ story, she considers putting it out on the Internet, but she eventually reconsiders running the story when she eventually tracks Clark down to Smallville. I actually like the fact that she knows that Clark is not of this world before he actually turns into Superman as opposed to her finding out later like she does in both comic and film canon.

However, General Zod resurfaces (apparently after Krypton was destroyed he and his followers were automatically released from the Phantom Zone) and takes over the world’s communication systems in an X-Files meets Independence Day sort of way. He demands that Clark surrender to them or they will destroy the planet. And so Clark arrives in costume and surrenders himself to the military to show them that he is not a threat and he talks to Lois (who had also been arrested by the government for what she knows) and here’s where we finally learn what the S on his chest really means. And the S doesn’t mean Superman. It is actually a symbol on Krypton meaning “hope” which makes sense because Superman is supposed to be the embodiment of hope.

Eventually Zod’s soldiers (including an Ursa lookalike) arrives to collect Clark and they take Lois too and Clark cannot adapt to Zod’s vessel’s atmosphere because it’s Kryptonian and he has been on Earth all his life. Well, you get the idea there. And it is here where Zod tries to get Clark to join him because Zod has a terraforming device that he wants to use to create a new Krypton. And if you remember Star Trek II (the original Star Trek II not the JJ Abrams version,) when a terraforming device is used on a planet where life exists, all life will be wiped out.

A new Superman for a new audience.

A new Superman for a new audience.

And with that, Lois and Clark escape from Zod’s ship with the assist of the hologram Jor-El and set out to stop the Kryptonians from destroying the Earth with their terraforming device which they have two such devices installed: One over Metropolis and the other over the Indian Ocean.

After saving Smallville (what’s left of it after the battle and finally convincing the military that he really is on the side of good,) Clark finally becomes known as Superman and sets out to destroy the terraforming device that is over the Indian Ocean while Lois and the military try to destroy the one over Metropolis. They eventually succeed but not before Metropolis ends up looking like 9/11, therefore making Man of Steel the second summer movie released in 2013 with said references (the other one being Star Trek Into Darkness where Khan attempts to crash the USS Vengeance into Starfleet Headquarters.)

And the final fight between Superman and Zod begins with even more destruction and this was also heavily critcized by audiences primarily because of the collateral damage assuming that Superman was also responsible for several deaths even though we don’t actually see any dead bodies in the wake of the falling debris. And here is where we come to the most controversial scene in the movie: The part where Superman breaks Zod’s neck.

Now before you get started on the whole “Oh, Superman doesn’t kill people!” rant, he has killed before, both in the comics and in Superman II and in both instances, the victim was General Zod. The point is that Superman does not enjoy killing people which is why he has that code in place and since this is an origin story, we need to see how Superman gets his no killing policy. And the main reason why he kills Zod was because Zod gave him NO OTHER OPTION! He was actually going to kill those people with his heat vision despite Superman telling him to stop. And it also shows Superman screaming in remorse even though in this case he did the right thing.

And as far as whether or not that scene bothered me, it didn’t.

However, the ending is kind of rushed although the joke about the female army captain remarking how hot Superman is was actually funny. And the movie ends with Clark finally donning the glasses and working for the Daily Planet.

And now on to performances. Henry Cavill actually did an awesome job and gave us a fresh take on the character. And here is the difference between him and Brandon Routh in Superman Returns. While Brandon Routh was trying to play Christopher Reeve, Henry Cavill was trying to play Superman. However it’s safe to say that Christopher Reeve’s legacy is safe. Amy Adams is by far the best actress to play Lois Lane. It erases the bad taste in my mouth that I got from Kate Bosworth in the last movie. Michael Shannon I mentioned before; Russell Crowe I mentioned before; Kevin Costner I mentioned before so no need to revisit that again but I do have to make one more remark about that: You know your Superman movie is in trouble when Russell Crowe ends up being the better father figure than Kevin Costner.

As far as everything else goes, Zack Snyder did a pretty good job with directing. Visuals were good even though it suffers from the same problems that many people accuse the JJ Abrams Star Trek films of: Too many lens flares and the Battlestar Galactica Shakycam effects. Hans Zimmer’s score is good even though I miss the John Williams score.

So as far as Man of Steel goes, it is at least as long as the original Superman movie (just under 2 and a half hours) and while it seems to fit right in with the movies that are released for people with short attention spans and expect movies like Michael Bay’s Transformers movies. However, Man of Steel is actually a pretty good movie. It fixed most of the problems that plagued Superman Returns (except for the whole Superman as a religious figure idea.) In short, Man of Steel is good despite its many flaws. Is it as good as the first two? No. Is it better than the other films? Yes.

And some final thoughts on Batman vs Superman which is currently set for release on May 6, 2016. How do I feel about Ben Affleck as Batman? Well I guess I’ll have to wait until that movie comes out. Christian Bale will be the best Batman ever but if Ben can pull it off then more power to him. Same goes for Gal Gadot (the hot girl from the Fast and Furious franchise) who had just been cast as Wonder Woman.

So my final thoughts: Don’t let the negative publicity surrounding this film dissuade you from seeing. If you want to see this film, see it with an open mind. If not, well just stick with the Christopher Reeve films. Well, except for Superman IV because we all know that was the worst Superman film ever.

 

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace

Up, up, and crash and burn!

Up, up, and crash and burn!

After the critical failure of Superman III, no one wanted to do another Superman movie and the father/son production team of Alexander and Ilya Salkind went on to do the spinoff movie Supergirl. Remember, Supergirl was originally supposed to appear in the original story of Superman III but was dropped because well… Richard Pryor. But anyway, Supergirl ended up bombing horribly and it pretty much sucked anyways. No need for me to review that one.

After the failure of Supergirl, the Salkinds decided to relinquish their hold on the Superman franchise. Enter the Cannon Group. Remember all those schlocky 80’s action movies you saw as a kid? Chances are a good chunk of them were distributed by this organization. You may also recall that not many of those movies were box office hits and they were going bankrupt. So they decided that maybe producing a Superman movie would save their studio. And so they attempt to bring back the late Christopher Reeve, who by then had decided to move on from Superman to other things. So the Cannon Group offered Reeve an offer he could not refuse: If he returned as Superman in Superman IV then the Cannon Group would produce a pet project that Reeve was doing at the time: A movie called Street Smart, which in the end fared much better with the critics than Superman IV. That’s what happens when you have Morgan Freeman as your co-star in that movie. But getting ahead of myself. We’re supposed to be talking about Superman.

Well Reeve agreed to the deal with an added bonus: The producers gave him creative control over the movie. And so Reeve decided that the Man of Steel should tackle a real-world issue and what better issue for him to tackle than the Cold War, even though by 1987 the Cold War was pretty much over. The main dilemma is should Superman play God and disarm the world as far as nuclear weapons go. And this should result in a better movie than the last Superman movie, right? Nope. This one was much, much worse. It grossed a disgraceful 15 million dollars at the box office which is not even a third of what the last movie did and it currently holds a 9 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes which means it’s the lowest of the low. And Rotten Tomatoes is never wrong… apart from that 56 percent approval rating they gave Man of Steel. What the hell?

Well, I’ve said enough because I have a whole lot of territory to cover with this one. So let’s rip into the movie that not only killed the Superman franchise but slaughtered it: Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.

The movie begins with the opening credits back to flying at the screen except that the credits take place against the backdrop of the earth and it looks like it was edited by an amateur using Windows Movie Maker. Ah, the joy of budget cuts. Next we see a Russian spacecraft getting struck by a wayward satellite therefore causing it to careen out of control and sends one of its astronauts floating off into space… well at least until Superman shows up in a really bad visual effect shot of him flying at the screen. Get used to that image, people, you will be seeing that same crappy shot of Superman flying at the screen over and over and over again throughout the remainder of this movie. Again, budget cuts.

Time for backstory!

As I mentioned before, the Cannon Group had been in bankruptcy for years prior to the time of this movie and they have had a reputation for stealing budgets from other movies for other projects they were developing at the time. At the time, the Cannon Group had the rights to Marvel’s superhero line and they were planning to produce a Spider-Man movie and they needed a lot of money to make that film work. So they cut the budgets from two major summer blockbusters that were planned for the summer of 1987: This movie and the He-Man movie, Masters of the Universe. The original budget for Superman IV was 36 million dollars, which would have put it on par with the other three movies which were made for close to 40 million dollars apiece, which in those days were the equivalent to the 150-200 million dollar “blockbusters” that you see nowadays. However the budget for Superman IV was slashed down to a pathetic 17 million dollars which meant that a majority of the visual effects crews that worked on the other three films had to quit in protest, hence the bad visual effects.

But the visual effects weren’t the only thing in this movie that suffered from budget cuts. The story itself had to be trimmed down repeatedly. In fact the original running time for this movie was 2 hours and 15 minutes. As a result of the budget cuts, 45 minutes was cut from this movie bringing its final running time down to an hour and a half exactly. And from what I was told, none of those scenes really went anywhere anyway so whether or not any of the cut scenes would have helped improve the movie remains a debate to this day.

But anyway back to the movie. After Superman saves the Russian astronauts, he returns to the farm he grew up on in Smallville, Kansas where he finds a crystal hidden in the ship that brought him to Earth as a baby in the first movie that will play a key role later on. However the rest of the Smallville scenes were pointless. Next cut to Lex Luthor (played once again by Gene Hackman) who wound up on a chain gang after we last saw him in Superman II. Anyway he escapes with the help of his dim-witted nephew Lenny (played by Jon Cryer who at the time was capitalizing off his success in the teen comedy Pretty in Pink) and together they hatch another plot to destroy Superman and you guessed it, take over the world.

Meanwhile Clark returns to Metropolis to find out that the Daily Planet had been taken over by a Rupert Murdoch-wannabe who proceeds to turn the paper into a standard tabloid Fox News-type paper and makes his hot daughter Lacy the editor-in-chief. Lacy is played by Mariel Hemingway, the granddaughter of legendary author Ernest Hemingway and had a string of successful movies prior to this. Personality-wise, Lacy is the prototype of Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and basically every bad society girl that have been in the media in today’s society. And surprise, surprise: She’s got the hots for Clark, the “oldest living boy scout” as Lois Lane refers to him. Clark is obviously not interested but then again who could blame him? After all, he’s only been serious with one woman (the fling with the blonde bimbo in Superman III doesn’t count because he was in his Superdouche mode at the time) so it’s understandable that he doesn’t really want to go to a place where practically everyone’s been before, if you catch my meaning.

However, before the whole Clark/Lacy thing can play out, the main story starts to kick in therefore giving Clark his dilemma about disarming the world because of the whole arms race where both the US and Russia (back when it was known as the Soviet Union) each pledged to strive to be second to none. Now when he landed on Earth, Superman was forced to adhere to a non-interference policy in terms of the natural order of things here on Earth, an act that he boldly went against in the first movie where he reverses the orbit of the Earth to undo the earthquake damage and resuscitate Lois after she dies. So what does Supes do, after a bit of soul searching that includes a pointless and visual effects-challenged flight around the world with Lois that sort of rips off the first movie? He goes to the United Nations and makes a little speech where he says, “Even though I am not of your world, the Earth is my home too and I can’t stand by and watch it get destroyed. So I’m gonna get rid of all your nukes.” And the weird thing is that everyone applauds, which is very unrealistic.

Meantime, cut back to Lex Luthor because like it or not, he’s in this movie too. After getting out of jail and hearing about Superman’s goodwill mission to destroy all nukes, he breaks into a museum and steals a lock of Superman’s hair that he had on display propping up a thousand-pound weight using a pair of garden shears. Logic: This movie sucks at it. The reason why ol’ Lex is stealing a lock of Superman’s hair is because he wants to create a clone that is even more powerful than the Man of Steel himself.

"Um, excuse me, sir. The He-Man auditions are down the hall to your left."

“Um, excuse me, sir. The He-Man auditions are down the hall to your left.”

Another interlude: When this story was first conceived, Lex created two versions of the being that would come to be known as Nuclear Man. The Nuclear Man that made it into the final cut of the movie was actually the second Nuclear Man. Scenes featuring the first Nuclear Man were among the 45 minutes that were cut from the movie. And it was probably a good thing that they did that. Because the first Nuclear Man looked like a horribly deformed giant baby who fought Superman while making bell and whistle sound effects. I’m serious. Not that the Nuclear Man they ended up with was any better. The film’s Nuclear Man kinda looks like he got lost on his way to the He-Man auditions. In fact, they actually wanted Reeve to play Nuclear Man (being that he is a clone of Superman) but Reeve declined because, well… Superdouche in the last movie.

So Lex gets his genetic stew made and plops it on a nuclear warhead which Superman throws into the sun along with the rest of the world’s nukes. The explosion causes Nuclear Man to be born and that sequence is absolutely silly.

Cut back to the Clark/Lacy relationship. There were other scenes involving them going out to a nightclub that is interrupted by the first Nuclear Man. Unfortunately you won’t find the nightclub scene in the deleted scenes section of the DVD because it doesn’t exist anymore even though the scene with Clark and Lacy at the night club was featured in the film’s promotional campaign and in the comic adaptation. In the meantime, the scene with the two that the producers kept was the scene with them working out, primarily because they needed to have some comedy in this movie, not to mention a little sex appeal courtesy of Ms. Hemingway in sexy workout clothes. Boy, all that yoga must have paid off. To this day, she still looks the same as she did when she did this movie. And it’s also funny to see Clark get a little payback against one of Lacy’s douchebag ex-hookups (who made fun of him) by throwing a heavy barbell on him and saying “No pain, no gain.”

And this leads to a humorous double date between her, Clark, Lois and Superman. All this does is provide more comedy that is humorous enough to avoid duplicating the mistakes that Superman III made with the slapstick humor. After all, the movie’s already bad enough on its own. Thankfully, Lex interrupts the goofiness by inviting Superman over to meet Nuclear Man, leading to a really stupid round-the-world brawl that involves the destruction of the Great Wall of China and Superman rebuilding it with his rebuilding vision? The hell? There were also scenes where Nuclear Man causes a tornado in Smallville and an attempt to nuke the Russian government heads with a nuclear missile inserted into the mix but like everything else, it was cut from the movie even though producers wanted to save the latter scene in case they made a fifth Superman movie. However it all ends in Metropolis when Nuclear Man threatens to drop the Statue of Liberty on innocent bystanders. (How very 9/11 of you.) But of course Superman prevents this from happening but Nuclear Man breaks out his radioactive manicure and scratches our hero in the back of his neck and then is kicked into space while his cape comes off and lands on top of the Statue of Liberty’s torch.

So anyway, Superman has been defeated by Nuclear Man and is presumed dead by everyone. Lois finds out that he actually is home sick with the flu or what could be cancer brought on by that radioactive scratch and it also ages him rapidly until he digs out that crystal that we saw earlier in the Smallville scene which restores him for some pointless romping and stomping with Nuclear Man which climaxes on the Moon. And how Supes defeats Nuclear Man here you will have to see to believe and yes it is extremely stupid.

Oh, yeah and there is one more thing I forgot to mention here. Nuclear Man also has a weakness. While Superman’s primary weakness is Kryptonite, Nuclear Man’s is total darkness. You put him in a room away from direct contact with sunlight and he drops dead where he is. Kinda stupid but makes sense unlike a lot of stuff in this movie.

So will Superman triumph in the end? Well, you know the answer to that one.

Admit it, this scene was the only reason you plunked down money on this thing, didn't you?

Admit it, this scene was the only reason you plunked down money on this thing, didn’t you?

As far as the acting goes, Christopher Reeve gave his all as can be expected but not even he could save this movie. And I feel really bad for him because the Cannon Group really screwed him over with this movie both creatively, professionally and practically everything else under the sun. Gene Hackman plays Lex for laughs and is still not menacing enough to be taken seriously. We’ll have to wait until Unforgiven for that. The rest of the supporting cast has next to nothing to do here, probably to give Mariel Hemingway more screen time. Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane got a more expanded role from the last movie but her being in the movie was kinda pointless. At least Mariel is actually trying to give a decent performance and to her credit actually plays the Kim Kardashian-ditzy rich girl role pretty well. Not to mention looks good doing it.

As far as everything else goes, I’ve already covered the really bad visual effects so no need to go back to that. A lot of the story doesn’t make sense. Its heart is in the right place but even that is hampered by the corporate greed of the company that produced it. And it was made to end the Cold War even though another fictional character did a much better job ending it than Superman did. That fictional character’s name was Rocky Balboa and the movie was Rocky IV.  Yes folks. Rocky Balboa ended the Cold War. So that makes the morals and the purpose of this movie completely null and void.

"Look, Ma! I'm breathing in space!"

“Look, Ma! I’m breathing in space!”

So as far as what happened after this movie. Well we all know what happened to Christopher Reeve. Margot Kidder ended up getting a little cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs back in the late 90’s, and the guy that played Nuclear Man never acted in Hollywood again. So apparently the ones who get out of this train wreck unscathed are Gene Hackman, who again went on to win an Oscar for Unforgiven, Jon Cryer… well, we all know what happened to him because of Two and a Half Men and Mariel Hemingway is still doing well with her yoga DVD’s. But still, I’m sure they’re still haunted by this movie. And last but not least, when Superman tells Lex Luthor that he’ll see him in twenty, he wasn’t that far off because this movie was so bad that there would not be another Superman movie for another 19 years! And last but not least, the Cannon Group is now an extinct production company, even though Golan and Globus are still in the business.

Congratulations, Cannon Group. You did the one thing that Lex Luthor, General Zod, and Richard Pryor could not do: You killed Superman. You delivered a movie that is so horrible that no one, not Superman, hell not even Mariel Hemingway in sexy workout gear could save this movie. THIS MOVIE SUCKS!

That is all.

Superman III

Richard Pryor's ruining my franchise?! This is a job for Superman!

Richard Pryor’s ruining my franchise?! This is a job for Superman!

As you know, this week the movie Man of Steel flies into theaters and fans as well as moviegoers are hoping that this Superman movie will be the movie that the iconic character deserves. And yes I am reviewing it. In the meantime we’re going to take a look at a Superman movie from the existing franchise which starred Christopher Reeve (god rest his soul) as the Man of Steel. And many people are convinced that he was the one and only Superman, especially in the later years of his life after his tragic horse riding accident which left him a quadriplegic and as a result, he became the real-life Superman and a symbol of courage and hope to the world.

However, I don’t want to start this review on a downer, especially since today I am reviewing one of his bad Superman movies. And surprisingly this one isn’t as bad as people make it out to be. And no, I am not talking about Superman IV, that’s next week. Today we are going to talk about Superman III.

To this day, this movie remains the only Superman movie I have seen in theaters. I saw it at the Hyde Park Drive-In when I was a kid back in 1983. And if you don’t know where Hyde Park is, well. I am originally from downstate New York, Dutchess County and Hyde Park is about five minutes up from the road from Poughkeepsie. And I think to this day, the Hyde Park Drive-In is still in operation as part of the few drive-ins that are left in the world.

But enough of my personal nostalgia. Let’s get into the backstory of the movie.

As everyone knows, the first two Superman movies are among the best comic-book movies ever made. Both films received critical praise and have performed really well at the box office. So it was inevitable that there would be a third Superman movie. In the commentary on the Superman III DVD, producer Ilya Salkind revealed that the original plot of Superman III was supposed to take place in space where Superman was supposed to battle Brainiac and another villain from the comics named Mxyzptlk (I’m serious. That’s how it’s spelled.) And it was also supposed to introduce Supergirl into the mix. Unfortunately that plan was abandoned presumably for budgetary reasons but the main reason why the original story idea was abandoned was because of an appearance by Richard Pryor on the Tonight Show which was hosted by Johnny Carson at the time. On the show he made a remark that he wanted to be in a Superman movie. The producers apparently saw the show and said to themselves, “Why not?”

So the writers came up with a story idea involving computers which were slowly starting to dominate every aspect of society at that time and make the movie more about the character Richard Pryor would be playing. As a result, the writers gave Richard Pryor more screen time than Superman. And that is the first major problem with the movie. The end result was this movie grossed only half of what Superman II made and critics had a field day with all the negative reviews, especially on the casting of Pryor and the overly comedic tone of the movie.

So how much worse can this movie get? Let’s get started.

"How dare you have more screen time than me."

“How dare you have more screen time than me.”

The movie opens with Gus Gorman (Pryor’s character) a chronically unemployed welfare-abusing loser who finally gets his welfare cut off. However, he does get a job with a computer programming firm that is run by humanitarian tycoon Ross Webster (played by Robert Vaughn and I’ll get to him in a little while because he’s another problem this movie has.) And there is where Gus learns about his hidden talent as a computer genius.

However before that, we have our next big problem with the movie: The opening credits. In the first two, we had the credits flying at you on the screen. Here, the credits are hardly noticeable because they are intermixed with a slapstick sequence where everything in Metropolis gets all screwy. Are you sure we’re watching Superman here or are we watching a parody of Superman?

Anyway on with the story. The story continues with Clark Kent (Christopher Reeve) being invited to his high school reunion in Smallville and he wants to do a story about it for the Daily Planet. In the meantime, the love of his life Lois Lane (Margot Kidder who winds up making cameo appearances to bookend the movie, partly as punishment for speaking out against the Salkinds for not allowing Richard Donner to finish directing Superman II) is off to Bermuda on vacation. Aside from a quick stop to put out a chemical plant fire as Superman, Clark arrives at his reunion and reconnects with his childhood sweetheart, Lana Lang (Annette O’Toole), who is now a divorced single mother trying to fend off the advances of the town drunk played by the same guy who played Chuck Cunningham on Happy Days.

Meanwhile after hacking the payroll and swindling the company out of the half-cents that are floating in the system (an act known as salami slicing that found its way into the movie Office Space by the way,) Gus’ talent with computers attracts the attention of Ross Webster, a humanitarian tycoon who secretly wants to, you guessed it, take over the world. OF COURSE! And as I said earlier, he’s another problem with the movie. He comes off as a kinder, gentler version of Lex Luthor. The producers initially wanted Frank Langella to play Webster but settled on Vaughn, who had already been widely known for roles in The Man from UNCLE and The Magnificent Seven. However, Langella would find his way into the Superman universe years later when he played Perry White in Superman Returns. I still haven’t decided yet if I’m going to review that one. Along with his ugly sister and his hot air-headed mistress, they plot to take over the world’s oil supply.

Lois is not gonna like this. lol

Lois is not gonna like this. lol

 

Realizing that Superman is still a threat to their plan, the trio have Gus try to acquire Kryptonite but not knowing what unknown element was in Kryptonite, Gus fills in the blank by adding an ingredient found in cigarettes. Smoke, smoke, smoke that Kryptonite. And when Gus lays it on Superman, it turns the Man of Steel from the overgrown Boy Scout he’s always been into a super douchebag who goes off and does such terrible things as straightening the Leaning Tower of Pisa, blowing out the Olympic torch, and causing a major oil spill all in the name of truth, justice, and to get laid with blond bimbos.

However, Superdouche’s antics catch up to him when he ends up splitting into two beings which leads to probably the best scene in the movie: The big fight between Superdouche and Clark Kent in a junkyard. The real Superman wins and flies to the big confrontation with Webster and his super computer in a stunning showdown that includes the Man of Steel becoming part of a live video game involving real missiles. Maybe that scene was the actual inspiration for Angry Birds. The missiles are the birds while Superman is the green pig.

So will Superman triumph? Will Webster reign supreme? What will happen to Gus? Do you even care what happens to Gus? A lot of people would have to say no.

For all its faults, people tend to forget that there are some good things in Superman III. For starters, Christopher Reeve is actually still in top form, even though he had less screen time than Richard Pryor, but with what screen time he had, he makes it count. In fact many would argue that this movie was actually one of his best roles because he’s playing not two roles, but four roles. In addition to his normal roles as Superman and Clark Kent, he plays Clark with a little more of a backbone when he goes back to Smallville and he is even more believable when Superman becomes Superdouche. Also what works is the subplot involving Lana Lang. Annette O’Toole is decent in the role and actually seems like a better fit for Clark than Lois does. It’s kind of ironic that years after this movie came out, O’Toole went on to play Superman’s mother on Smallville. Plus her presence helps bring out Clark/Superman’s humanity a lot better than Lois did. And of course I mentioned before the big fight between Superman and Superdouche was the best scene in the movie. Also the visual effects were still very good, most notably the flying effects including a scene where Superman freezes an entire lake and carries it to put out a fire. If you want bad visual effects, see next week’s review.

We feel your pain, Supes.

We feel your pain, Supes.

Now to sum up what doesn’t work: The main story which was written as a comedy to reflect the fact that Richard Pryor was going to be in it. And considering that the writers for this movie were David and Leslie Newman who also collaborated on the screenplay on the first two Supermans with Godfather creator Mario Puzo, this is inexcusable because these two should know better. The villains were too weak not to mention miscast; the returning cast members’ roles were too short; and did I mention Richard Pryor? And even worse, the person who thought putting him in a Superman movie would be a good idea. Instead, he singlehandedly turned the movie into a joke and not a funny one. If Richard Pryor wanted to be in a Superman movie so bad, give him a freaking cameo. Don’t give him more screen time than Superman. I go to a Superman movie to see Superman. I don’t go to a Superman movie to see Richard Pryor.

Just think. This same fate almost befell Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home when Eddie Murphy expressed interest in being in a Star Trek movie. At first it seemed like a good idea but thankfully, the producer of that movie must have had these five words in mind: “Richard Pryor in Superman III.”

However in all fairness, there are some Richard Pryor jokes that do work, such as the scene where he gets Chuck Cunningham so drunk he passes out and also when he disguises himself as an Army general and delivers a silly speech while trying to give Superman the Kryptonite that turns him into Superdouche. Otherwise, too much Richard Pryor comedy in a Superman movie is not always a good idea.

So is Superman III really as bad as people say it is? Well, it’s not as good as the first two, but it doesn’t completely suck. People tend to use the bad to overshadow the good. I guess you can say I kinda view this movie as a guilty pleasure. The movie’s not good but there are some redeemable qualities to this movie. It’s stupid but it’s enjoyable. And as far as enjoyable goes, you could do worse. And you’ll see worse next week. So take this movie for what it’s worth.

The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises

Well friends, this is it. The big one. The review that everyone has been waiting for. A review of the most anticipated film of 2012. So sit back, relax, and buckle up because I am about to get this review underway. Ladies and gentlemen, here is a review of the final chapter of Christopher Nolan’s Batman saga, The Dark Knight Rises.

But before we get started, I want to offer an apology for not reviewing the previous film, The Dark Knight. I was just starting to film myself on YouTube at the time The Dark Knight came out and I meant to do a review of that film at the time, but I forgot all about it and by the time I would have gotten around to it, everyone would have said everything I was going to say about it anyway so I decided not to go through with it.

So as my way of atoning for that, I am going to review this movie. One suggestion I would make about this movie is that you better pack a lunch because this film is almost 3 hours long. You heard that right, folks. Almost 3 hours long, a rarity for a summer movie blockbuster. So let’s not waste any time, shall we?

I’m gonna start off with a recap of the last movie, so this is hardly a spoiler because it’s safe to say that everyone by this point has seen The Dark Knight. Batman is wanted by the cops for murdering District Attorney Harvey Dent, even though by that time, Dent was corrupted by the Joker and turned into Two-Face. As Two-Face, Dent kidnaps Commissioner Gordon’s family and Batman saves them, even though Dent is killed in the process. In order to ensure that Dent’s good-guy reputation is secure, Batman and Gordon hatch a plot in which Batman will take the fall for both Dent’s death and the crimes Dent committed as Two-Face.

When this movie begins, its 8 years later and Batman has pretty much disappeared and the man behind the Bat, Bruce Wayne (again played by Christian Bale) has become a crippled recluse. Meanwhile two new villains have emerged to plague Gotham: Selena Kyle (played by Anne Hathaway), a cat burglar who we all know in the comics as Catwoman even though she isn’t called Catwoman in the movie and the main villain, Bane (played by Tom Hardy.) Now here is where I have to show some praise. Despite a liberty taken here and there, this movie’s Bane is closer to the real Bane as seen in the comics as opposed to the ass-raping the character received by Joel Schumacher in Batman and Robin. This is one of Batman’s most dangerous villains and the only real villain to actually defeat Batman and he is portrayed as such here but I’m not going to give too much away. I mean, it’s hard to do a movie like this without giving away too many spoilers.

Anne Hathaway does a pretty decent job here as Catwoman (I’ll call her that even though Nolan doesn’t call her that in the movie.) She has the right amount of sex appeal, physical prowess, and vulnerability that the character should have. And we sort of do feel the conflict that Catwoman has: She doesn’t know whether she wants to be a villain or a hero, just like in the comics.

The actions of both these villains force Bruce out of self-imposed exile and puts on the Bat suit again to save Gotham. Yes, folks, Christian Bale’s Bat-voice is back too, although it’s more toned down here than it is in the previous two movies. And what ensues is probably the biggest battle of his life.

And some of the supporting actors in this movie are pretty good too. Nolan Bat-regulars Michael Caine gives off an extremely touching performance especially for having significantly less screen time than in the last movie. Morgan Freeman again shines as Lucius Fox. Gary Oldman again does a pretty decent job as Commissioner Gordon. And the newcomers do a pretty decent job as well. Note that at least five of the main actors came over from Nolan’s last film, Inception (also a good movie I saw in theaters.) In addition to Tom Hardy (Bane) and Michael Caine (Alfred), Marion Cotillard (who appeared with Bale in the film Public Enemies) does fairly well as Miranda Tate, who has been handling Wayne Enterprise activities in Bruce’s absence.  You might think she doesn’t play a major role in the story, but she does (especially towards the end of the movie.) And Joseph Gordon-Leavitt as idealistic cop John Blake does most of the hero stuff whenever Batman is off-screen. And he does share a connection to Batman (which I also will not give away.)

The visuals are absolutely incredible. Everything from Batman’s newest vehicle, the Bat (a variation of the Batwing from the Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher franchise) to Bane blowing up various sections of Gotham City (including a spectacular sequence where a football field is destroyed while one player plays on oblivious to the destruction around him.) And the climactic battle between Batman and his army of cops and Bane and his army of liberated criminals will clearly take your breath away.

Also of note is that this movie was filmed in New York City during the Occupy Wall Street movement which actually gives a hint of realism to this film (something the Nolan Bat-films have done pretty well) and from what I’ve heard, actual protesters were used as extras in the film further adding to the authenticity of the film.

So now on to the story. The story is a mixture of some of the best Batman stories ever told in the comics: “Knightfall” (the Batman/Bane storyline), “No Man’s Land” (criminals controlling a cut-off Gotham City) and the landmark mini-series, “The Dark Knight Returns” (Batman returning after a prolonged absence) and the story is told really well. In fact, the pacing is so good that you forget that this film is almost 3 hours long. If a movie can do that, then that’s the sign of a good movie.

So now the moment of truth: Is The Dark Knight Rises good or is it a colossal letdown? Well, in my honest opinion, The Dark Knight Rises is really, really good. In fact, I think I liked this better than The Dark Knight. It kept me really interested and it is clearly the ultimate Batman movie. A true epic and it’s also one of those rare threequels that is actually just as good as or better than the original movies. Other examples of this include Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, and Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (even though I never seen it and as I’ve mentioned before in previous videos, I am not a Lord of the Rings fan.)

So there you go viewers. That is my take on The Dark Knight Rises. I highly recommend it to everyone and if you don’t want to see the Olympics, I suggest you go to the movies and check it out.