Man Of Steel
Rated PG-13 for profanity, sci-fi violence and intense action sequences
Superman’s Roots Explored In Riveting Reboot Of DC Comics Series
To my generation, Superman was just “a strange visitor from another planet” who was “faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound“ in “a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way.” But in this age of information, audiences want to know a lot more about a superhero’s backstory.
Furthermore, what passed for special f/x on the original tv show were cheesy flying sequences in which support wires were plainly visible to the naked eye. And the underwhelming fight scenes generally ended when the bumbling villain with little imagination ran out of bullets and threw his pistol at the Man Of Steel’s chest in sheer frustration.
Over the intervening years, Superman has been revived twice on television (Lois & Clark and Smallville) and five times on the big screen. This sixth film version stars Henry Cavill in the title role opposite Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Russell Crowe as Jor-El, Laurence Fishburne as a black Perry White, and Rebecca Buller as a gender-bent Jenny, not Jimmy, Olsen.
Director Zack Snyder (Dawn Of The Dead) has ostensibly envisioned Man Of Steel as a reboot of the storied franchise, given that plans are already in the works for the character to reappear in an adaptation of DC Comics’ Justice League slated for 2015. Thus, like a lot of other origins tales, this episode devotes considerable attention to an explanation of Superman’s roots.
The picture’s point of departure is Krypton, where we find the parents (Crowe and Ayelet Zurer) of the planet’s first naturally conceived child in centuries secretly sending their newborn on an otherwise unmanned spaceship headed to Earth. This development doesn’t sit well with genetic engineer General Zod (Michael Shannon), a megalomaniac in charge of deciding which of Krypton’s bloodlines are allowed to continue, and this renegade’s definitely not one of them.
The rocket crash-lands in the cornfields of Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane), a kindly couple who proceed to raise the baby as their own. Of course, Clark isn’t like other boys, and he does his best to harness and hide his superpowers, although they occasionally come in handy like when he rescues a school bus full of students that’s sinking in a river.
The plot thickens when aliens arrive from Krypton with annihilation in mind. Not surprisingly, they’re led by none other than the diabolical Zod, who commandeers the mass media, spouting typical invasion malarkey warning the “People of Earth” that resistance is futile. Not if Superman has something to say about it.
At this juncture, the action the kids have been waiting for finally kicks into high gear, with a spectacular battle royal replete with dizzying technical wizardry and acrobatic dexterity mercifully replacing the pretentious dialogue laced with lots of pseudo-scientific babble. Ultimately, good triumphs over evil, à la the American way, and Superman survives to defend truth and justice in upcoming sequels and spinoffs.
A righteous, riveting relaunch leaving no doubt that, even after 80 years, you still don’t tug on Superman’s cape!
Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 143 minutes
Rated R for profanity and disturbing violence
Barricaded Family Fights For Survival In Futuristic Horror Flick
The setting is America in 2022, a disturbing dystopia where the prisons are even more overcrowded than we find them today. Consequently, the overwhelmed authorities have come up with a unique way of dealing with crime, namely, designating one night a year on which the rule of law is suspended, and anything is legal, even murder.
The idea is that, with the cops turning their heads the other way, armed vigilantes can indulge their bloodlust and dispense justice simultaneously, thereby doing society a favor by ridding the streets of vermin. However, this means that it isn’t safe to be outside during that very dangerous 12-hour period known as The Purge.
For that reason, James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) has carefully barricaded his family inside its heavily fortified mansion. Besides outfitting the house with a state-of-the-art security system, the wealthy homeowner has purchased a couple of guns just in case an intruder still manages to break in post-lockdown.
But that seems highly unlikely once James punches in the computerized code, thereby dropping bulletproof steel shields over all the windows and doors. As the 7 p.m. siren signals the start of the gruesome festivities, he settles down with wife Mary (Lena Headey), son Charlie (Max Burkholder) and daughter Zoey (Adelaide Kane) in front of a bank of video surveillance monitors to watch whether anyone attempts to enter the premises.
What they didn’t bargain for was Zoey’s boyfriend Henry (Tony Oller) hiding in her bedroom, or the sight of a wounded, homeless black man (Edwin Hodge) on the perimeter of the premises begging for sanctuary from a bloodthirsty mob. Soon, the boundary is irreversibly breached when kindhearted Charlie lets the stranger inside at a moment of weakness, leading to a terrifying ordeal that lasts till dawn.
So unfolds The Purge, a futuristic horror flick written and directed by James DeMonaco (Little New York). His riveting thriller plays much bigger than a picture shot on a relatively modest budget of just $3 million.
Be ready to scream at the top of your lungs in response to the spine-tingling fare cleverly edited to make you jump out of your seat when you least expect to. Meanwhile, the picture proves to be equally thought-provoking, given the philosophical questions it raises via a most unusual method of social engineering.
A cerebral screamfest certain to give you goosebumps!
Excellent (3.5 stars)
Running time: 85 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening June 14, 2013
This Is The End (R for crude humor, coarse sexuality, graphic nudity, drug use, violence and pervasive profanity) Ensemble comedy about celebrities forced to face their mortality when the apocalypse arrives while they’re partying at James Franco’s house. With Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, Michael Cera, Rihanna, Emma Watson, Kevin Hart, Craig Robinson, Mindy Kaling, Channing Tatum and Jason Segel.
20 Feet From Stardom (PG-13 for profanity and sexuality) Backup singers belatedly get their due in this overdue documentary paying tribute to some of the best in the business, including Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer, Darlene Love, Claudia Lennear, Tata Vega and Lynn Mabry. With appearances by Bette Midler, Mick Jagger and Sheryl Crow.
Aliyah (Unrated) Dramatic thriller, set in Paris, about a 27-year-old drug dealer (Pio Marmai) who’s considering making a fresh start working in a relative’s restaurant in Tel Aviv in order to escape his burdensome, deadbeat brother (Cedric Kahn) and a love life complicated by an ex (Sarah Lepicard) and a new girlfriend (Adele Haenel). With Guillaume Gouix, David Geselson and Olivier Desautel. (In French with subtitles)
The Bling Ring (R for profanity, sexual references, drug use and underage alcohol consumption) Sofia Coppola co-wrote and directed this true tale about a gang of computer-savvy teenagers who embark on a crime spree burglarizing the homes of Hollywood stars by using the internet to monitor the celebrities’ whereabouts. Featuring Emma Watson, Katie Chang, Leslie Mann and Israel Broussard.
Call Me Kuchu (Unrated) Chilling, equal rights documentary chronicling the aborted efforts of murder victim David Kato (1964-2011), Uganda’s first openly gay citizen, to lobby against the proposed law making homosexuality a capital crime in his country.
Far Out Isn’t Far Enough (Unrated) Reverential biopic about the life and times of prolific children’s book author and illustrator Tomi Ungerer, a subversive artist committed to challenging the status quo. (In English and French with subtitles)
The Guillotines (R for graphic violence) Qing Dynasty drama revolving around the daring exploits of a top-secret squad of five, sword-wielding assassins assembled by the emperor (Andrew Lau) to eliminate his political opponents. With Ethan Juan, Shawn Yue and Xiaoming Huang. (In Mandarin with subtitles)
Hatchet III (Unrated) High body count horror sequel finds the revenge-minded heroine (Danielle Harris) attempting to break the curse of the seemingly-invincible sociopath (Kane Hodder) who has been terrorizing her haunted Louisiana swamp for decades. Cast includes Caroline Williams, Derek Mears and Zach Galligan.
In The Fog (Unrated) World War II saga set during the height of Nazi occupation on the Western Front where a man (Vladimir Svirskiy) wrongly accused of collaborating with the enemy must fight to save his name. With Sergei Kolesov, Vladislav Abashin and Nikita Peremotovs. (In Russian with subtitles)