‘The Man of Steel’
Anyone expecting “The Man of Steel” to be on par with Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy will be disappointed, though it tried mightily. However, Zack Snyder’s (“300”) turn at telling the tale of the boy from Krypton is still one heck of a superhero film that lays the foundation for a trilogy moviegoers will assuredly clamor to see, unlike 2006’s “Superman Returns.”
The film begins on Krypton, a planet that is dying because its inhabitants have used up all of its resources. However, the world’s lead scientist Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and his wife Lara (Ayelet Zurer) have foreseen the coming events and have taken measures to ensure their son, the first naturally born in generations, would escape the planet with the codex, which contains the DNA of all future Kryptonians. Though many comic book aficionados are well aware of Superman’s story, this film in essence is an origin tale that stays pretty close to the source material but adds to it as well.
The film is already well under way before we meet our hero who is in the midst of a Christ-like journey. He’s 33 years old, shirtless, saving oil rigs and leaving a trail of good deeds in his wake. The allusions to Jesus Christ are scattered throughout the film. Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) is mankind’s savior, and he lives up to that billing as General Zod (Michael Shannon) and his group of outcasts dramatically make their entrance, intrusively introducing themselves to Earth via worldwide telecommunications. Zod was cast from Krypton along with his subordinates for attempting a military coup.
Shannon (“Premium Rush”) is excellent as Cavill’s arch-nemesis who was destined at birth to preserve Krypton’s future, at all costs. You can almost sympathize with his character who, unlike Kal-El, didn’t have a choice in who he became. And Cavill (“The Tudors”) is excellent as a brooding superhero whose limited dialogue doesn’t hinder his ability to express the frustrations you’d expect an alien would have on a strange planet learning to hone his senses.
As would be expected with a screenplay by Nolan, this adaptation is much more serious and darker than the campy Superman films starring Christopher Reeves. I remember precisely one instance when the audience laughed. But, as with Batman, this new retake on the man of steel provides the audience a different and much needed perspective on one of the oldest and most revered comic book characters.
It also helps that Cavill has an excellent supporting cast. Amy Adams is perfect as the investigative journalist Louis Lane. Laurence Fishburne does a lot with a little role as the Daily Planet’s editor, and Christopher Meloni plays the most hardcore Airman in the history of aviation as Col. Hardy. Kevin Costner and Diane Lane perform admirably as Superman’s earthly parents, the Kents.
And of course, the film’s action sequences are in overwhelming abundance. Rarely do I appreciate 3-D, however this film was meant for it. At times it was difficult to follow the fight scenes as everything happened so quickly, but it was thoroughly entertaining for the most part.
Eventually, as you could probably surmise, Superman and General Zod square off at the extreme detriment to Metropolis. And, it’s really no secret who prevails. But, the action sequences along with stellar acting and plot make for a very good film. You really find yourself caring about the characters and are left wanting a sequel, which I’m sure was no coincidence.
This film is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, and some language.
‘This is the End’
Who knew “The Revelation to John,” more commonly known as “Revelation,” and the coming Armageddon could be so shamefully fun. Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, who previously collaborated on “Pineapple Express” and “Superbad,” team up again with “This is the End,” a film that centers on friendship with the end of times as the backdrop for what feels like an extended albeit outrageously funny running joke.
The Apatow crew reunites again, but this time they play sensationalized versions of themselves. Jay Baruchel (“Knocked Up”) heads out to Los Angeles to hang out with his longtime and fellow Canadian friend Seth Rogen (“The Green Hornet.”) Baruchel has a disdain for Hollywood and those who reside in its hills, but he reluctantly accepts an invitation from the ever-lovable Rogen to attend a house party hosted by James Franco (star of everything.)
Of course, a who’s who of A-list celebrities is in attendance. It’s here we meet the rest of the team: Jonah Hill (“Moneyball”) who weirdly is super nice despite having a beef with Baruchel; Franco, who’s a modern self-absorbed renaissance man with an affinity for Rogen; and Craig Robinson (“The Office”) who is flat out hilarious. But, what makes the party, and much of the movie, so entertaining is the plethora of cameos such as Michael Cera playing himself as a rowdy coke and sex addict. Later, the world’s sexiest man makes an appearance in the most weirdly amusing way.
Baruchel is eventually fed up with his surroundings and heads to a convenience store with Rogen. It’s here that all hell breaks loose, or rather the Apocalypse. A gaping hole opens up in front of Franco’s home and many of the party goers meet their untimely though amusing ends. I anticipate from the party on, a few audience members may find some of the scenes too offensive and call it quits, but like one unfortunate character’s cranium, it had me rolling.
Baruchel, Rogen, Franco, Robinson and Hill are left alone and spend a sleepless night completely oblivious to what’s happening around them – they initially insist it’s an earthquake. When they wake, the sixth member of their group makes a surprising and unwelcome appearance – Danny McBride (“30 Minutes or Less.”) Ever the obnoxious and completely ignorant idiot, McBride alienates himself from the group in no time. Soon, he’s voted off the island, but fear not, McBride is the type of person who would thrive in an Apocalyptic City of Angels.
The comedic heavyweights are put through the ringer as you might expect. Hill is violated by a demon; Baruchel and Robinson are chased by a giant monster, and the whole group is robbed by an impish Emma Watson (“Harry Potter”) after a conversation she overhears goes amiss, etc.
Eventually they figure out why they were left out of the Rapture, which would seem pretty obvious if you’ve ever seen any of their previous films. However, with an act of selfless sacrifice they soon figure out they can be redeemed. And, unfortunately for one, they figure out you can be redeemed and then unredeemed just as quickly.
It felt as though Rogen and Goldberg took a single broad idea – the Apocalypse – invited some of their comedic friends to a set and rolled film. It seemed as though scene after scene was ad-libed as if the screenplay simply said, “insert joke here.” And, it works. Give a group of the world’s funniest men free rein and you get “The End of Times.” Trust me it’s not for everyone, but if the thought of the raunchiest movie you’ve ever seen bumped up 10 notches sounds like a good time then head to the theaters this weekend.
The film is rated R for crude and sexual content throughout, brief graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violence.