Man of Steel

120px-Film-stripFirst review in some time as I was almost forced to go to the cinema against my will. Mainly as I’m knackered. We’ve missed some (apparently) great films recently – the new Star Trek and F&F’s for a start – but we had a window and it was either Man of Steel or the new Simon Pegg one. We opted for the big budget release as I already knew people who’d seen it and liked it.

Man of Steel

“People are afraid of what they don’t understand.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Oh, come on. It’s a Superman reboot.

See it if you like: the current run of Superhero films.

I’m not sure if I enjoyed this film or not. Which is a weird way to start a review.

On the plus side, it’s a new take on the mythos which brings it into a more contemporary setting. There’s no follow-on from any previous Superman film. It’s big in scale, brash and littered with generally very impressive special effects.

Downsides include some dreadful shaky camerawork that doesn’t so much emphasise action or destruction (much of it is during conversational scenes) so much as it cries that the film-makers wanted to make your eyeballs hurt. The dialogue seemed bland, which is surprising given the quality of the cast, They just didn’t seem to be stretched, with the possible exception of Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent. He gives an exceptional performance and about the only one in the film that dragged any emotion out of me.

The big thing that didn’t hook me was, surprisingly, the scale of destruction. The effects were good – very good. But destroying stuff is just so common in films these days that it gets boring. The bigger the film-makers try to make it, the more it seems to be there to distract from the plot. Much as I enjoy watching a skyscraper collapse, I’d much rather have some decent dialogue and a plot twist or three.

Looking at it from a positive point of view, there was a good merging of the stories from the original Superman: The Movie and Superman II. The vision of Kryptonian architecture as organic rather than crystalline makes a nice change. The constant flashback jumps back and forth in Clark’s life makes for something slightly non-linear, but the events they portray all make the same point. It very much labours the “you have to keep your powers hidden” message.

The story borrows from several sources and just doesn’t seem particularly original. Obviously, the Superman origin story is expected. But then there’s the way the ships hang in the air and send light beams down. It just seems like a scene from too many sci-fi films (and TV series) in recent years. The way that Jonathan mentors Clark is too similar to the Peter Parker / Uncle Ben relationship.

On the other hand, I sat through all 140+ minutes of it and never really felt bored, or that it was over-long.

So, in my own head, I’m no further forward. I didn’t hate it or find it a bit silly (like Thor), but I also didn’t really take to it the way I did the first Iron Man.

So while most other reviews are polarised – quite literally love- or hate-filled – I’m afraid I’m going to have to sit on the fence. Overall, it’ far more good than bad. It’s just not awe-inspiringly brilliant or “film of the year” material.

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The Cold Light Of Day / Battleship

Starting to get back on form with a two-film evening, making three this week so far. Kicking off with…

The Cold Light Of Day

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Young man’s family go missing, but who’s to blame and who’s on his side trying to get them back?

See it if you like: Moderately low-budget Euro-thrillers

It’s always good to see Sigourney Weaver putting in an appearance and in this Spanish-set thriller she’s as much of a bitch as you’ve ever seen her. Alongside Bruce Willis, who’s in a hell of a number of films this summer, and new-ish star Henry Cavill (soon to don the blue, red and yellow of Superman)  the group tear up Madrid in this conspiracy thriller.

Dragged to Spain on holiday with his parents while his company goes under, Will Shaw (Cavill) gets in a bit of a strop and wanders off. Upon his return, he finds his family missing and a mysterious man rather interested in taking him in, too.

It turns out papa (Willis) isn’t a harmless government office bod after all, but a CIA agent in charge of a briefcase that quite a few people are very much desperate to get hold of. Desperate enough to kidnap his family, in fact.

Things take a turn for the worse by the end of the first reel and we’re left wondering as much as Shaw who can be trusted and who can’t.

The action scenes are gritty and the acting good from all the leads, although there are a few “twists” which are about a surprising as finding a cornflake in a packet marked “Cornflakes”. It’s got that very typical European feel to it, with the car chase scenes being very twisty turny rather than full of enormous explosions.

If I had a problem with it, it was the sound. This could have been due to the print or the cinema, but it sounded as if I was listening through earmuffs and made some of the dialogue very hard to make out. It suspends reality a little too much in quite a few areas, too – the falls and gunshots are lovely and brutal but the characters simply shouldn’t be getting up and walking after some of them!

Overall, it’s not too bad. Short and snappy like a short story, a decent plot and some good acting. No classic, but well filmed and worth seeing if you’re between other films.


Plot-in-a-nutshell: Aliens attack and this time it’s the navy’s turn to save the world.

See if it you like: Switching your brain to neutral and enjoying yourself. A lot.

I will say this now – Avengers Assemble has something to live up to. Battleship was so good that it’s already tainting my view of films I’ve not seen yet.

Remember that feeling you had when you first watched Armageddon or The Rock? Yeah, it’s like that. All the way through. Big, silly, overblown, funny, over the top, cheesy, exciting… it’s all of these and more.

Alex (Taylor Kitsch) and Stone Hopper (Alexander Skarsgard) are brothers, the former a waster and the latter an up-and-comer in the US Navy. After an amusing opening twenty minutes or so, Stone forces his brother to sign up in the navy and we skip forward an undetermined length of time to the present day.

Serving under Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson), the daughter of whom (played by Brooklyn Decker) Alex is dating, the pair are involved in an international naval manoeuvre when aliens respond to a signal we sent… by dropping some smegging huge missile-toting machines into the Pacific. Erecting a force field around the area, they cut a handful of ships and an island off from the rest of the world and start their plot to take over Earth. As aliens are wont to do.

Oh, they also blow **** up and sink ships and invade and stuff, too. All good fun.

The key story is split into two parts – the actions of Hopper Jr as he makes good on his wasted early life, and a small group on the island who take on the marauding aliens hand-to-hand. This group consists of Shane’s daughter, a mad scientist and a retired double amputee soldier played by Mick Canales – an actual retired double-amputee soldier. In fact, he’s not the only real veteran to play a part in the film. A sizeable group of retired sailors feature as well.

The board game of Battleships seems a weird film license, but they actually manage to shoehorn in the gameplay, believe it or not. They don’t, however, manage to get someone to utter the immortal phrase “You sank my battleship!” which is a shame. The thing is, it doesn’t matter.

Battleship is over two hours of hugely enjoyable explosions, one-liners, cheesy sequences, explosions, special effects, monsters, explosions… And some stuff blowing up.

It is completely silly and over the top, but it never makes any attempt to take itself seriously so all the nonsense is completely forgiveable. Even the complete disregard for the laws of physics. It falls very much into the Fast Five camp on that score.

I loved this film. I don’t know if it would bear a repeat viewing, but it’s definitely worth seeing on the big screen.


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