Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Reviews: Man of Steel, Trance, Star Trek

In yet another re-launching of the Superman franchise, director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen, etc...) takes the reigns from Bryan Singer's failed 2006 reboot by bringing us Man of Steel.  Henry Cavill is the new man in the blue suit, supported by Amy Adams (Lois Lane), Russell Crowe (Jor-El) Kevin Costner (Jonathan Kent), Diane Lane (Martha Kent), Laurence Fishburne (Perry White) and Michael Shannon as the evil General Zod.

Cavill is well suited to play Kal-El / Clark Kent as his physique is in top shape and he gives a reserved-enough performance that lends itself to a mild-mannered man with a super-secret.  Much of the first part of the film takes place on Krypton where we get to see Russell Crowe shine in a role much more suited for him than Javert in Les Miserables.  In follow-on scenes we get to see a vision of Crowe play off of Cavill in some heart-to-heart family discussions.

Cavill and Crowe are joined by the rest of the supporting cast in hit-and-miss performances.  Costner is outstanding as papa Kent and you can see some of his Field of Dreams father-son philosophising in his conversations with Clark.  Adams is ok as Lois but her character feels kinda forced and in-the-way in several scenes (including the one where Superman discovers his alien ship).  Shannon is very menacing as Zod but he doesn't come close to match the bravado of Terence Stamp's epic portrayal in Superman 2.  And Fishburne is a welcome sight as White but is underutilized throughout, especially one rather annoying scene near the end where he desperately tries to save some woman named "Jenny" that we really don't care about at all.

Hans Zimmer is the real star of this movie.  His score for Man of Steel is muted and reserved with minimal tones that totally supports the action and tension on screen.  The J.J. Abrams style lens flares throughout and the blue hue of the film blends in perfectly with the driving score.  The core of the movie is centered around the ideal of having one person from another world lift the spirits of the human race.  Snyder does a good job of driving this home but his chaotic actions scenes during the final third of the film seem overdone and simply added for eye candy (albeit candy that doesn't taste that good).

Overall I wasn't blown away by this latest Superman adaptation.  The effects for the most part were good but the fight scenes were so cartoony and overblown that it felt like playing a videogame at times.  All of the back and forth between Earth and space seemed like the wrong fit for a Superman movie.  I know that Superman is from another planet but I think the stories set on Earth are more interesting and compelling than the extraterrestrial portions.  I can see the next film being better now that everything is set up so I hope I will enjoy that one more.  A good but not great 3.5 out of 5 JRs for Man of Steel.

NOTE:  Sorry for the lack of posting.  I am about to go on a movie-watching spree over the next few weeks so things should pick up.

Bonus - Two quick reviews of movies I never got around to posting about.

Trance is Danny Boyle's latest effort and features James Mcavoy in the lead as an art thief who develops amnesia during a heist and must go under hypnosis from therapist Rosario Dawson to recall where he put a painting.  Vincent Cassel plays the leader of the team of thieves and the two leads end up fighting over Dawson during a mind-bending second half.  This film is all over the place but is saved by some quality acting from Mcavoy.  It's sort of like Inception-lite.  3 JRs for this one.

Star Trek: Into Darkness is the J.J. Abrams follow-up to the 2008 Star Trek reboot featuring Chris Pine as Captain Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock.  Now I love everything Abrams does and this film is no exception.  A thrill-ride from start to finish with awesome visual effects and great acting from an ensemble cast that is obviously more comfortable with one another.  Without having the origin story, Abrams is able to jump off right into a new story.  I saw this film in IMAX at UDVAR-HAZY and was blown away by the epic scope of the film.  Pine is witty and worthwhile in the lead role and the addition of Benedict Cumberbatch as a sneaky ruthless villain helps add to the story.  I have one major gripe about Cumberbatch's character which I can't reveal without giving away spoilers.  That issue alone keeps Star Trek from earning 5 JRs.  A near miss 4.5 out of 5 is what I end up giving this movie and I look forward to the next chapter in the new Star Trek saga (even if Abrams isn't along for the ride due to his Star Wars 7 duties).

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