Posts Tagged With: Entertainment

Review: Man of Steel

Superman doesn’t do anything halfway. He can’t. As a near indestructible alien from a destroyed world, raised on a farm in the middle of America, the character simply does not know how to do things halfway.

This, however, is a double-edged sword – it means his failures are equally catastrophic.

The same goes for Superman movies, and after the failed last attempt to reboot the movie franchise, I will admit I was trying not to worry too much about how well Man of Steel would do with re-introducing the character.

It has been said that a hero is only as good as its villains. While I think this is not entirely true, it certainly has some weight within the concept of superhero movies.

To an extent, because of how powerful Superman (Henry Cavill) is, there is even more need for a solid villain to stand against him.

General Zod (Michael Shannon) certainly has the ability – as a fellow Kryptonian – to stand up against the Man of Steel, as far as power goes, but more importantly, his character – while certainly very tightly focused in purpose and logic – is very well presented.

This is important, as just because a character should be able to challenge Superman does not mean they are portrayed well in doing so. Previous movies with Lex Luthor as part comedy relief and part stupid crazy – rather than a cold and ruthless business tycoon – prove my point.

This is not a problem in Man of Steel. With the movie starting during the last days of Krypton, we get to see General Zod act in a cold and ruthless manner in a misguided coup attempt he believes is necessary to save the Kryptonian race.

This does a great job of placing the character and his motivations, while allowing the the reasoning behind the infant Kal-El – the someday-Superman – being sent to Earth to shine through, as well as how and why the General was banished to the Phantom Zone.

Unfortunately, while General Zod is a very ruthless and challenging enemy, especially with his Kryptonian technology and soldiers, the writing really struggles with him. As a being specifically designed to fit a military role both genetically and through training, he should be able to easily crush first the scientist (and Superman’s father) Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and later the untrained Superman.

The movie’s plot features a great central plot, as Zod invades Earth searching for the wayward Kryptonian, and does well in neither completely ignoring Clark Kent’s childhood growing up in rural Kansas, nor in spending too much time on it. While the movie did jump from the destruction of Krypton to an adult Clark Kent, it uses well-placed and written flashbacks to help define the moral growth of the character and his motivations.

Dylan Sprayberry – the actor who played young Clark Kent – does a great job, as do both Kevin Cosner and Diane Lane as Ma and Pa Kent. While there is a solid story woven throughout these flashbacks, and this manner of revealing things seems to work better at keeping the film from falling into three different stories of Krypton, young Clark, and Superman, it does also feel like there could have been a lot more to Kal-El’s development as a child.

The side characters seem to suffer from the same problem. It is great to see the strong human element of what goes on around Superman, and to see both the military and civilians like Perry White (Laurence Fishburne) and Lois Lane (Amy Adams) stand up and act heroically against threats most humans would bail from. However, there’s just so many storylines and such huge town-shattering fights going on around the cast that we don’t get to see much character interaction, which is a shame.

Other than the poor depth of character interaction, another weakness of the film is the camerawork.

Far. Too. Much. Shaky cam.

During the battles, it’s not a problem as fights are actually very nicely demonstrated, but I don’t need the camera shaking during a council meeting. It’s distracting.

Other, calmer times where the camera was not steady also detracted from my ability to focus on the scene, which weakened it. I don’t even know where to start with how stupid I thought the close ups on Superman learning how to fly looked. They just looked poorly conceived and not any better brought about.

I do give credit, though, for some of the comic book Easter Eggs that managed to get worked in. Certainly, they aren’t needed to enjoy the movie, but if you do catch them they’re a nice touch.

Overall, I think Man of Steel was a successful action flick and a nice reboot. It doesn’t always hit the mark but generally it holds up well, and despite its flaws there was enough substance there that I left satisfied.

6.5/10 – Fun film, but points off for disappointing camerawork.

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Review: Epic

With only the visually impressive display in the theater lobby and the movie trailer I’d seen at a previous show, while I knew I wanted to see Blue Sky’s newest animated film, Epic, I wasn’t entirely positive what kind of movie it would be. A young human woman shrinking down in a forest and meeting a magical race that lives there protecting the place sounds a lot like Fern Gully. Visually, the Boggans that were the force of corruption looked much more like orcs from Lord of the Rings, just smaller. Unfortunately, while enjoyable, Epic needed to be a little bit more to live up to its title.


Not so epic, Epic.


This animated 3D film misses being truly fantastic due to many small reasons, rather than any one glaring mistake. This certainly keeps the movie enjoyable, but doesn’t push it into the realm of being a fabulous adventure that tugs on one’s emotions. With the last two films I’ve seen in theaters being Star Trek Into Darkness and Iron Man 3, this movie just fell short of wowing me like they did. This might be an unfair comparison, so I will also say that the last animated 3D family film I saw, The Croods, was more “Epic” than this film.

Certainly, the plot doesn’t push itself. It is a bit cliché, having the good forces of the Leafmen fighting the evil forces of the Boggans. The magic of Queen Tera (voiced by Beyoncé Knowles) keeps the corruption of the greedy Mandrake (voiced by Christoph Waltz) in balance within the forest. This is unacceptable to the wicked leader, so he hopes to strike during the time she selects her heir, which happens only once every hundred years, when the moon is full during the height of the summer solstice.


Within the larger area of this forest there is the human Bomba (voiced by Jason Sudeikis), an eccentric scientist and father of Mary Katherine (“I go by M.K. Now”, voiced by Amanda Seyfried), who pays him a visit after years of separation. She hopes to reconnect with her father after the recent passing of her mother, but finds his obsession with finding an advanced civilization of tiny people living in the forest just as crazy as her mother – and the scientific community as a whole. Again, a little cliché, but this theme of parents and children trying to connect appears in multiple places through the cast.


In addition to M.K. feeling she cannot connect with the only parent she has left, there is the relationship between General Ronin (voiced by Colin Farrell) and Nod (voiced by Josh Hutcherson). These characters do not have any actual blood relation, but the general has been trying to watch out for Nod as he is the son of a good friend and fellow Leafmen member who passed away. Nod has found himself unable to live up to the expectations of the leader of the military forces defending the queen and forest, which keeps them both upset with each other.


Mandrake’s son, Dagda (voiced by Blake Anderson) works hard to make his father happy and emulate him. At the start of the show these two seem to have the closest relationship, even if it isn’t perfect, of the three parent relations.


Unfortunately, while all of these potentially very emotionally moving relationships exist in the movie, none of them pick up enough weight to become emotionally moving. They’re just parts of the whole story instead of their own tales being told alongside.


The parenting theme is more loosely continued on into the main plot as well, which focuses on Queen Tera’s heir. It is the selection of, protection of, and potential corruption of the pod that will pass on the Queen’s power over the forest that forms the central story. Through the telling of this we manage to see the few flashes of something Epic that, unfortunately, do not last quite long enough.


The first hint of an Epic story is in the huge Boggan attack that forces Queen Tera to flex her Mother Earth powers as she tries to escape, and ends with M.K. being shrunk down and pulled into the role of guardian for the pod. The revelation of the massive numbers of Boggans and the Queen’s power was impressive.


I am not sure if this lack of a sense of urgency and intensity was purposeful or not. I could see it being something they chose to avoid to try and keep the whole more family friendly.


On the plus side, the comedy relief characters were not obnoxious for the sake of easy humor. Mub (the snail voiced by Aziz Anasari) and Grub (the slug voiced by Chris O’Dowd) did add amusement in places without going over the top. They even had their own separate personality traits. Mub wanted to be a Leafmen while Grub was sure that M.K. was into him, so saw Nod as a rival for her affection. The characters were certainly imperfect, but not to the extreme level that so many animated movies rely on. There was likely at least one person similar to one or the other of them that you knew in school.


Let the staring match begin…

Overall, there were many great characters. In addition to those already mentioned, my favorite of the whole film is the glow worm Nim Galuu (voiced by Steven Tyler). He gives great personal advice and helps them find their way even if he doesn’t have all the answers.


However, with the fantastic setting, culture and characters, the story just doesn’t hold the intensity that it should. I didn’t get deeply invested in any of the characters’ problems.  


There were aspects of the characters that were touched upon or hinted at that never saw any revelation. What was Queen Tera and General Ronin’s relationship before their responsibilities came to them? How did the Queen know that M.K. would be the key to victory, but not know how to avoid the problem being created in the first place? How did the family dog lose his leg? Well, okay, that last one isn’t perhaps as important, but since it was brought up that he had been a four legged dog before the separation and was now a three legged dog, it did make me wonder, which seems a silly distraction.


In the end, while I certainly enjoyed the movie, it really comes down to the fact I wanted more. Certainly, there is a good version of wanting more when you see a movie. Wanting to see the characters face more challenges in a sequel is a good thing. But here it was seeing the outline of an epic storyline and not getting it fleshed out and paced in a way to make it feel truly larger than life. I do not believe this was because the members of the forest civilization were so small or because the story did not hold massive consequences. Instead, I fear what happened were that the choices made in pacing and elsewhere to create this family film kept it from growing as ‘epic’ as it needed to be.


Enjoyable, but could have been better. 7/10


While there is no end scene in or after the credits, I did find the layout of the scrolling credits over a background of Bomba’s research notes and equipment to actually be an enjoyable addition.

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