Man of Steel (2013)

Man of Steel

(PG-13) 2h, 23min

Plot Summary: Kal-El, one of the last of an extinguished race disguised as an unremarkable human, is forced to reveal his identity when Earth is invaded by an army of survivors who threaten to bring the planet to the brink of destruction.

Director: Zack Snyder

Writers: David S. Goyer (screenplay & story), Christopher Nolan (story), Jerry Siegel (Superman created by), Joe Shuster (Superman created by)

Stars: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon

Serious Jest: animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd) (Must See) This is new and improved Superman. Today’s audiences generally don’t care for flawless characters who are all-powerful, morally inpenetrable, and have all the answers to every problem in life. Snyder and company dirty Superman up a bit, focusing on his formative years. You can recognize Nolan’s influence on this film. Viewers get to observe as young Kal struggles with impossible situations to develop his moral compass, as well as to survive battles in which he is the underdog. Theology fans will appreciate the many subtle biblical analogies inherent throughout the movie.

As we discussed in Episode 23, Part 1, of the podcast, not since Christopher Reeve has any actor embodied this role so effectively that it becomes hard to picture anyone else playing Superman, and Cavill does so while changing the direction of the character. Not only is Cavill utterly convincing in his gritty portrayal of Superman’s loneliness, confusion, bottled-up anger, idealism, and loyalty, but he even looks more like Superman than anyone else that has ever worn the costume.  Beyond having the strong jaw, cleft chin, and piercing blue eyes, acccording to IMDB, Cavill trained for 11 months to take his already-V-shaped physique to the next level, ingesting five 1,000-calorie shakes a day to bulk up, then dropping to 1,500 calories a day to shred to 7% body fat, all while shunning steroids and working out with Gym Jones trainer Mark Twight until he couldn’t walk out of the gym. Snyder made it a point to include shirtless scenes in the film just to show that Cavill’s hard work on his body was real and not just the costume or CGI.

However, at least from an acting perspective, Cavill does not do all the heavy lifting by himself. The rest of the cast is top-notch.  As also discussed on the podcast, Shannon established his own intense and unyielding interpretation of General Zod. Adams portrays Lois Lane as a combat journalist, which gives the character a very different dynamic than the passive, helpless cheerleader that she has been in the past. Russell CroweAyelet Zurer, Diane Lane, and Kevin Costner not only make you care about Superman’s parents through their charismatic performances, but their characters are also legends to the map of Superman’s psyche, through which you can recognize aspects of his personality and moral code.

The visual effects in this film are stunning. They are everything that you could ask for in terms of big explosions, mind-blowing CGI, and breathtaking scenery. Krypton is its own character in this movie.

My only disappointment was that some hokiness was present throughout the film, beyond what is inherent in a comic book. For instance, it is silly to have a school bus full of kids plummet off a bridge, hit the water, and cut to every kid in the bus still sitting in their seats, unharmed; the impact with the water would have resulted in numerous injuries and kids flying all over the bus.

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Inception (2010)

(PG-13) 148 mins

Synopsis: In a world where technology exists to enter the human mind through dream invasion, a highly skilled thief is given a final chance at redemption which involves executing his toughest job to date: Inception.

Director: Christopher Nolan

Writer: Christopher Nolan

Stars: Leonardo DiCaprioJoseph Gordon-LevittEllen PageKen Watanabe

Serious Jest:  (Theater)  Not since The Matrix has a blockbuster blown audiences’ minds like this film.  The plot, storyline, dialogue, cast, special effects, score/soundtrack, and cinematography are nothing short of amazing.  This is the movie in which Gordon-Levitt went from promising young actor to bona fide star; his spinning hallway fight scene was truly awesome, and he did it himself (not a stuntman).  Page went from cute and clever girl to confident, intelligent, and sexy young lady.  DiCaprio was truly outstanding, as usual.  Tom Hardy was smooth, precise, and imposing…he could be the next Bond; can’t wait to see him play Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.  Watanabe exuded confidence as a corporate general who practiced the art of war by a strict code of discipline and honor.  Cillian Murphy convincingly wore years of rejection from his father on his face.  And Marion Cotillard was a passionate, desperate, angry, scary, vulnerable, loving, confused, helpless, and pretty human wraith…all at the same time.  Well done.

I rated it a Theater movie because I went to see it in the theater…twice.  It’s poetic that the recurring theme throughout this movie is mazes & puzzles…and this movie is one big puzzle itself…it’s a puzzle that the characters must navigate, but also one that the viewer must solve in order to fully understand.  After watching the film once, I was dumbfounded by what I had just seen…it was so creative, so different, so complex, that I wasn’t sure if it all made sense, but I loved the ride.  The second time through, I tried to solve the puzzle, but it seemed as if some pieces still weren’t fitting right.  At that point, it seemed to me that Nolan simply had not closed some loops.  I started to feel that maybe Matt Stone and Trey Parker were right when they created that South Park episode suggesting that this movie was not as smart as it pretended to be…I thought that maybe the extremely intelligent puzzle posed by the film was really just a paradox, like Penrose stairs, created to distract the viewers for a finite amount of time while the producers took their money and left them dazzled by great special effects and an all-star cast (sound familiar?).  But, like many a good puzzle, you walk away from it for a while, come back to it, and the answer you were looking for was right there, in plain sight.  By the third time I watched this movie, I was satisfied that Nolan had not cut across the lines to solve his own carefully constructed maze…no, this maze was a masterpiece…one of my favorite all-time movies ever.

Following (1998)

(R) 70 mins

Synopsis: Christopher Nolan (Memento, The Dark Knight) writes and directs this odd, claustrophobic neo-noir film about a seedy young Brit (Jeremy Theobald) who’s obsessed with following people — albeit harmlessly at first. After meeting a like-minded bloke (Alex Haw), the twosome graduate to breaking and entering — but meet their match in a tough blonde dame (Lucy Russell) who may have dubious plans of her own.

Serious Jest:  (Worth Watching)  The low budget and black-and-white make this film rely on its story…and it works. While I did not find the acting impressive (which would have jumped this movie to four stars), the script was excellent. I didn’t realize this was the same director from Memento (also the new Batman trilogy and Inception, etc.) until after I watched it, but knowing that adds historical value to having watched this film.