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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3:10 to Yuma

(R) 122 mins

(R) 122 mins

Plot Summary: A small-time rancher agrees to hold a captured outlaw who’s awaiting a train to go to court in Yuma. A battle of wills ensues as the outlaw tries to psych out the rancher.

Director: James Mangold

Writers: Halsted Welles (screenplay), Michael Brandt (screenplay), Derek Haas (screenplay), and Elmore Leonard (short story)

Stars: Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Ben Foster

Serious Jest: animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd) (Worth Watching)  This is a very solid film, with a compelling plot and solid cast, featuring two of the most notoriously ill-tempered actors in the business.  Who will be the bigger jerk?  Watch it and find out!

Also, Foster brings the same leashed intensity that inspired Mark Wahlberg to give up some of his own pay in order to recruit Foster for Lone Survivor.  Foster is one of my favorite supporting actors.

You can enjoy this movie as a straightforward classic action Western, or you can delve deeper into the psychological underpinnings, which are spread throughout the movie and which culminate in an ending that can either anger you or inspire a subsequent deep discussion with others who have seen the film.

For Western aficionados, this flick is an instant classic and Must See.  For the rest of us, you could live with missing this one, but once you start watching it, you’ll be hooked.

Les Miserables (2012)

(PG-13) 158 mins

(PG-13) 158 mins

Plot Summary: In 19th-century France, Jean Valjean, who for decades has been hunted by the ruthless policeman Javert after breaking parole, agrees to care for a factory worker’s daughter. The decision changes their lives for ever.

Director: Tom Hooper

Writers: William Nicholson (screenplay), Alain Boublil (screenplay), Claude-Michel Schönberg (screenplay), Herbert Kretzmer (screenplay), Alain Boublil (stage musical “Les Miserables”), Claude-Michel Schönberg (stage musical “Les Miserables”)

Stars: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway

Serious Jest: animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd) (Don’t Bother)  A compelling story with visually pleasing cinematography and a top-notch acting cast…however, I generally don’t favor musicals, unless they’re able to break into the songs somewhat organically, as Moulin Rouge! did.  But this movie sang. just. about. every. word…this dragged the film into the unnecessary territory of 2 1/2 hours.  I heard there’s a non-musical version.  Gonna try that one after a reasonable “cooling off” period.

The Man with the Iron Fists (2012)

(R) 95 mins

(R) 95 mins

Plot Summary: On the hunt for a fabled treasure of gold, a band of warriors, assassins, and a rogue British soldier descend upon a village in feudal China, where a humble blacksmith looks to defend himself and his fellow villagers.

Director: RZA

Writers: RZA (story & screenplay), Eli Roth (screenplay)

Stars: Russell Crowe, Cung Le, Lucy Liu

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)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd) (Must Own)  Imagine a legitimate old-school kung-fu flick with various interesting characters, masterfully executed stunts, beautiful landscapes, a knocking hip-hop soundtrack, skillful camera work on high-tech equipment, and proper special effects.  The RZA did an amazing job putting this one together.  Also, I can’t think of anyone who would have played Liu’s role better than her.  I appreciate the homages to the classics, as well.  I will be watching this one again, probably more than once.