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 Eagle, Faster, Sucker Punch and Mars Needs Moms

Four films in a contracted form due to me being knackered after a long week!

The Eagle

“I hate everything you stand for.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Roman goes in search of something belonging to his dad that some Scots pinched.

Originally titled The Eagle of the Ninth and based on a 1954 novel by Rosemary Sutcliffe, this is the story of a young Roman, Marcus Aquila (Channing Tatum) who heads to Britain in charge of a small fort. There, he begins a promising career despite the black mark on his family’s history caused by his father losing a whole bunch of soldiers and a gold eagle standard.

Events give him the chance to team up with a slave, Esca (Jamie Bell), and head north of Hadrian’s Wall into a land of savages and cut-throats. So kind of like a stag night in Glasgow, then.

Visually lovely, with the majority of the filming being done in Scotland itself. The remainder, just out of interest, taking place in Hungary. The sets, costumes and scenery are wonderful. The dialogue isn’t bad, and I enjoyed the way the non-Roman speech was done in what I assume is an old form of Scots Gaelic and subtitled.

It’s not the most complex of storylines, but the source material is aimed at young adults. Don’t think this is a kids’ film, however. Though definitely tamer than the likes of TV’s recent Spartacus – Blood and Sand, the combat is still moderately bloody.

I did miss the first five minutes, but this didn’t cause me any problems. In fact, if anything I enjoyed the trip just that bit more as it meant I didn’t have to sit through that bloody Orange advert for the millionth time.

Good stuff and worth seeking out for an entertaining bit of viewing.


“God can’t save you from me!”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: There’s a plot? Oh, yeah. Something about people getting shot.

This film is a deliberate homage to 1970’s action films and it shows, with the rumbling engines of stupidly big cars, cringe-making dialogue and utterly mental storyline. It’s cheesier than a cheese factory made of cheese.

If you can handle the smell of stale socks, though, it’s not a bad bit of film in a dopey way.

The main characters are known simply by their titles. Driver (Dwayne Johnson) is seeking revenge for his brother’s murder as the upshot of a robbery which also landed him in prison. He’s being hunted by Cop (Billy Bob Thornton) and a hired Killer (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), who happens to be banging a bloody hot chick played by Maggie Grace. She’s only a side character, but by Jimminy. WOW.

If ever there was a film where you could switch your brain into “drool”, this is it. The relentless Driver is simply there to bulldoze through any attempt at plot and kill people. The Killer adds the cool and the Cop adds the “troubled soul heading for retirement”. Hell, one of his first lines is the fact that he’s only a few days from retirement.

A guilty pleasure, but pleasing all the same.

Sucker Punch

“If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: I’ll get back to you once I figure out what the hell it was about.

I believe this is Zack Snyder‘s fourth film and I’ll give him this – he’s consistent. I’ve consistently found his films just not quite getting there in terms of enjoyment. Visual spectacle, perhaps. But otherwise somewhat empty. Sucker Punch leaves you winded.

The opening ten minutes or so are completely dialogue-free as we’re rushed through the back story. The character we come to know as Baby Doll (Emily Browning) loses her mother, falls under the wing of an evil uncle who needs her out of the way to claim the inheritance, accidentally shoots her sister while trying to defend herself from aforementioned bad man and ends up being committed.

Here, she it put into some kind of programme whereby she dances for rich people as some kind of therapy. When she does this, she regresses into some inner fantasy as a kind of escapism. Or something. I think. Anyway, what happens in there (during some incredible CGI scenes) marginally mirrors the “real” world.

I think.

Basically, ignore the plot – what there is of one. Enjoy the visuals, which are staggering. Leave the cinema and wish they’d put as much effort into a decent story as they did into the graphic design.

Pretty but ultimately unsatisfying. Like any girl band you care to mention.

Mars Needs Moms

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Young boy has a fight with mother who is then kidnapped by Martians. He sets about rescuing her.

I saw this with Mister 3-Year-Old only as Miss 10-Year-Old had been sulky and her punishment was to go shopping instead. I think she might have got a bit more out of the film, especially as it’s about learning to realise how important your mother is to you when you’re a child.

The thing is, for a kid that age the film may come across as mawkish or at least trying to force a point. To the younger audience it’s simply not colourful enough. The majority of it is deliberately grey and drab to emphasise the Martian world since The Supervisor (Mindy Sterling) took over and separated male and female babies for life.

That is until she kidnaps Milo’s mom (Joan Cusack) and finds Milo himself (Seth Green / Seth Dusky) running rampant around Mars when he inadvertently hitches an interstellar lift.

There are a handful of action scenes, but until late in the film these are still all in shadow and greyness. Not much for a 3-year-old to fixate on.

While I thought it was kind of alright, the little mister did very well to sit still for the whole of it. If you want to see Seth Green doing good animation, watch Robot Chicken. It’s somewhat adult, but small children will find more enjoyment watching toys being dismembered.

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