Friday, June 30, 2006

Superman Returns (2006) spoilers:

"Superman Returns" is less a movie and more a sort of cinema sacrament what with all the religious imagery director Bryan Singer crams into the scenario. The Man of Steel in classic fallen angel style plummets from the sky not once but twice and adopts a crucifixion pose at one critical moment.
Well what of it?
This is a film over fifteen years in the making with dozens of appalling scripts and demented casting ideas on its rapsheet (Nicholas Cage as Superman anyone?)...These worshipful vignettes are a sort of benign pay off to the serious Superman fans who have suffered much anxiety on the road to the Multiplex this weekend.
So let me say this, it is a good film, at times a great film, Brandon Routh is a superlative Superman who can but get better with time, Kate Bosworth is a fine Lois Lane and Kevin Spacey's Luthor is ruthless and evil sans recourse to camp.
The film's real strength though is an internally consistent script, the dirty secret of the 1978 movie is that the screenplay was a horrific mess held together by Chris Reeve, Margot Kidder and director Donner's common desire to stave off the descent into pure Adam Westian farce.
This time some thought has gone into the scenario, the film takes up five years after the events of "Superman II", Kal El has left Earth for mysterious reasons of his own and come back to discover Lois Lane is now a single mom and world has forgotten him.
Public approval being Superman's real source of energy, Big Blue goes to work stopping crimes, saving people and reminding all and sundry of his overall ubiquity & usefulness.
As Superman recovers his street cred, Lex Luthor has quietly heisted some Kryptonian crystals out of Superman's Fortress of Solitude and is conjuring with creating his own pseudo-continents.
Yup you have that right, for some reasons even after twenty eight years, the writers can't come up with a better master plan for the mad scientist than yet another sci fi real estate swindle.
oh film is perfect.

Clark Kent meanwhile is heartbroken to see that Lois is engaged and utterly disdainful of her prior fling with the Last Son of Krypton.
Or is she?
Because lets face it, Lois can no more drop Big Blue than peanut butter can ditch wonder bread...Its fated that the world's most dysfunctional couple will hook up once again just prior to all hell breakin' loose.
The flying sequences are amazing in this film, Bryan Singer really got value for that $204M price tag.
The action set pieces move the plot forward at a good clip and support the emotional sub-plot nicely. Singer has called this one "a sort of chick flick" to the extent that Superman is trying to recover his humanity and put his Kryptonian heritage in context...That's the high concept in a nutshell.
Much is being made of Brandon Routh's superficial resemblance to the late Chris Reeve. They look a bit a like, but while Reeve was an actor with a nigh beatific smile (and a face that could cloud over in an instant in wonderfully dark ways, check out Superman III to see this), Routh has these tragic eyes and a good "I-mean-it" squint to back things up.
The film's most intriguing issue lies in Jason, Lois Lane's five year old son who adds little to the plot other than to illustrate the notion that the reporter has "moved on" in Superman's absence.
Well, other than the fact that his is Kal El's son from Lois and Superman's brief fling in "Superman II" a point that is a sort of open secret with the aud til the very end.
Given the fact the kid has little to do in the film other than get kidnapped by Luthor one wonders why he is included in the scenario at all?
I suspect Jason exists to prompt a marriage proposal from Clark in the inevitable sequel...Otherwise Superman is a very absent dad and that might be a bit much for today's audience.
After all, Lois & Clark are married in the comics and a wedding does make a good sub-plot for a sequel.

And believe me, there will be a sequel.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Today Marks the 130th Anniversary of the Battle of the Little Big Horn

Custer's storied defeat at the hands of the Lakota Souix out in the Dakotas.
We do love our epics of defeat here in the West, from Thermopylae to Waterloo down thru the Seventh Cavalry's sabres glittering in the sun on the bluffs above the Little Big Horn.
Custer has had strong popularity in multimedia as well...from Thomas Ince's 1912 film "The Death of Custer" down to "Little Big Man".
The weirdest film incarnation of the boy general is still under the tutelage of dependable Hollywood hack Sidney Salkow who directed not one but two "pro Indian" westerns about the Little Big Horn. "Sitting Bull" (1956) with J. Carroll Naish in redface as the mighty medicine man and "The Great Souix Massacre" (1965) featured red haired Darren "Kolchak the Night Stalker" McGavin as the only honest man in Custer's command. Both were about as historically accurate as a Ned Buntline dime novel and both suffered from an excess of naivete' about the position of Native Americans in the modern USA.
But what the hell, they are an attempt to break with past proactice no matter how silly or bumptious they may be.

Error in today's Sunday Globe Arts Pages...

therein it is asserted that Shakespeare & Co NEVER staged "Hamlet" in its long residence in Lenox Ma. That is a clear mis-statement, I myself saw Shakespeare & Co put on "Hamlet" in the Stables Theater back when they were at the Wharton Estate. It was an a stripped down version for the High School circuit, but trust me, S & C did Hamlet fer sherr.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Seer Zamparelli

Had lunch with Joe Zamparelli (Channel Zero's long suffering artist in residence) on Friday. He airily predicted that the Belmont Stakes would descend so deep into maudlin sentimentality that a live remote would depict the injured thoroughbred Barbaro in his stall at the Equine Hospital "watching" the race on TV.
Sure enough in the interminable lead up to yesterday's race we were treated to a live remote of a portable TV set up in Barbaro's stall so that the mighty horse could "watch the race".

Now if only Joe could get back to me with those damned powerball numbers.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Kathy Griffin's "My Life on the D-List" returns to Bravo this week...

How much d'ye suppose she charges to withold certain celebrity names from her stand up act?
Okay that was harsh speculation and I have no proof of the practice...but when you wallow in raw gossip hush money usually follows as night follows day.

Friday, June 02, 2006

X-Men 3: The Last Stand

Am I the only person in the world who thinks Sir Ian McKellen looks like a horse's patoot in that cockamammie helmet he wears as "Magneto"?

With the reliability of an unloved season we have laid at our feet yet another X-sequel which delves into a paranoid US Government's attempts to forcibly "cure" the mutant population, the resurrection of Famke Janssen's Jean Grey character and the usual show down between Magneto's evil mutants and Patrick Stewart's posse of good guys aka "The X-Men".
Got all that?
The film is otherwise a bit of a shuck and jive, James Marsden's performance as the tormented Cyclops amounts to a ten minute cameo, Janssen has about two lines of dialogue in the whole film and as usual Patrick Stewart's "Professor X" vanishes out of the plotline at the forty five minute mark.
Apparently the scriptwriters for X-3 had the same problem as the creative team for the previous films, they inevitably write Stewart out of the action because his character is a omnipotent telepath whose powers ought to be able to thwart any opponents attempts at subterfuge.
In practice this makes Professor X seem to be the most powerful and yet useless superhero in modern cinema history.
This being the case most of the film is carried by the histrionics of Sir Ian McKellen (who chews the scenery like a starving man) along with Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry who are starting to look really really bored with all this x-mishaugas.
And why shouldn't they?
The script simply recycles most of the last two film's pay off scenes loaded up with even more leaden dialogue....I mean no wonder Famke Janssen looks so confused and dishearted.
Much as I jab at the X-Men (they aren't my favorite superheroes overhyped and overexposed as far as I'm concerned) it is at the core an uncommonly well-cast franchise...all the actors are talented enough for the particular creative challenge of a big comic book based film.
So it annoys me to no end when the producers, writers & director end up making such a dreary unremarkable film.
But this being a big summer for super heroes the film will no doubt make millions but its a sad creative comedown and shrill bore overall.