Man of Steel: Spoiler Review

Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, look, it’s that other superhero movie that all the critics hated!

Man of Steel reintroduces the world’s most iconic hero, to a more modern world, with a somewhat darker and more serious tone. Directed by Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen, SuckerPunch) and produced by Christopher Nolan, MOS  delves into the live of Kal-El, discussing his childhood through flashbacks, as he discovers his powers. As time progresses, he eventually stumbles across the remains of a Kryptonian ship, where he finds that he’s the last of his kind, and uncovers his Superman suit, sans the red underwear. However, trouble arises when General Zod makes contact with Earth, seeking the last remaining Kryptonian.

I have to admit: I’m not a big Zack Snyder fan. The only movie I’ve ever seen of his is Watchmen and, to be honest, I’m much more a fan of the book than the adaptation. Snyder is much more of a visual director than he is at handling dialogue or characters.  However, there are good elements in the movie.

The Good:

The best thing about the movie is, by far, the casting. Henry Cavill was perfect as Superman/Kal-El/Clark Kent. He managed to pull off not only the Superman element, but he also was able to manage to provide a surprisingly human element to the character. Russell Crowe is a perfect Jor-El, Michael Shannon did a great job as General Zod (though at times he was definitely overacting), Amy Adams was a phenomenal Lois Lane; and not to mention the casting of Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as John and Martha Kent. And the movie really benefits from a great villain with Faora, who really managed to pull her own against Zod.

I really liked how they established Krypton and its culture. Even though we only got to see a few minutes of the planet itself, it was interesting to see what life and establishment there was on Krypton before the eventual destruction of the planet.

Hans Zimmer’s score is an amazing addition to the movie. There are points in the music where I actually got chills. Much like what he did for the Dark Knight trilogy, he does away with the old ‘classic’ themes for the character and revamps a new one. In the case of Man of Steel, we get a rousing heroic theme with “What Are You Going To Do When You Are Not Saving The World?”. But the other songs in the soundtrack work perfectly with the movie, giving excitement to the epic fights and highlighting emotional, more quiet moments for characters to stop and reflect.

The Bad:

The product placement in this movie is ridiculous. It makes Iron Man 3’s use of product placement look subtle and nuanced in comparison, when Superman just conveniently happens to crash through a Sears and an IHOP. I understand that no movie gets made without funding, but product placement should at least be subtle.

I hate shaky camera work. And watching MOS, I could tell that there was a cameraman holding the camera in almost every single shot. The frame kept moving around unnecessarily, which, to me, distracts from the fact that I’m watching a movie. Additionally, Snyder does a lot of odd and unnecessary zoom-ins which are jarring to watch.

Sometimes, the effects in the movie were less realistic and felt more like they belonged in a video game. Yes, I realize that this is a movie about an unrealistic alien who can fly, lift buildings into the air, has heat vision coming from his eyes, etc. But, with the budget for this movie, they couldn’t afford better effects? It just seemed a little ‘cartoonish.’

The Spoilers:

Here’s where viewers will either draw the line or will accept what happens at the very end. Zod, whose sole mission was to protect Krypton, begins terraforming the Earth in an attempt to rebuild Krypton, thereby eliminating everyone on the planet. Several more fights ensue, but the one that draws the most criticism is the one in which Metropolis is practically decimated.

The final act of the movie, to me, was a little long and drawn out. Not to say that I didn’t enjoy the fight scenes, but it felt like what I would call “disaster pornography.” Entire buildings are destroyed, and, presumably, thousands of people are killed in the fight between Superman and Zod. In a way, it felt like the ending to Return of the King, in that there are so many endings to wrap everything up. There’s Superman’s fight in Smallville, his fight against the world-engine, the fight to protect Metropolis and the fight against Zod. The movie might have benefitted from a little less fighting, honestly. But, as I said, I did enjoy the fights.

And the most controversial part of all: in order to protect a family from Zod’s heat vision, Superman makes a split second decision and snaps Zod’s neck. This was the decision that split a lot of fans. The way I see it: when he was put into a decision like that, Superman made the best decision he could make to protect innocent people. And it’s not like he celebrated killing one of his own people either. He cried out in agony over the fact that he killed the last remaining Kryptonian.

It’s come out recently that Chris Nolan was not a huge fan of how the movie ended. And while I can see where he came from, I’m okay with Superman snapping Zod’s neck.

Lastly, I’d just like to discuss the critical reaction to this movie. Listen, I love movie criticism. I love offering my opinion (not that it really matters) and I equally enjoy hearing what others have to say about movies I’ve seen. However, there has been a lot of almost vicious response to this movie. It’s currently sitting at 56% on Rotten Tomatoes, which makes it clearly rotten. Because clearly, whatever Rotten Tomatoes’s rating score says is the be-all/end-all final say on movie reviews. It reminds me of an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, where the movie that Mike and the bots were forced to watch received 2 and 1/2 stars from film critic Leonard Maltin. (Video starts at 11:44)

But just to highlight what’s wrong with Rotten Tomatoes, here are some movies rated higher than MOS:

Spider-Man 3-63%

The Amazing Spider-Man-73%

Quantum of Solace-64%

X-Men: The Last Stand-57%

Iron Man 3-79%

If you know me, I was less than pleased with Iron Man 3, so seeing that it has a higher rating than Man of Steel was astonishing to me.

Final Verdict:

While flawed and imperfect, Man of Steel is an interesting reintroduction to Superman’s origins. There’s definitely something here, but with the right people, MOS could have been a fantastic movie. It’s nowhere near as perfect, in my opinion, as the Dark Knight trilogy (a vibe this movie was definitely trying to go for), but it’s an entertaining experience nonetheless. B+.

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Gravity: No Spoiler Review

Yes, I saw the Breaking Bad finale, yes I promised a review of Star Trek Into Darkness and they’re coming…but I have to talk about this movie first because it won’t go away and I need to talk about it.

This will be a spoiler-free alert, so you have nothing to worry about. But you should still see it anyways.

Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) are astronauts sent up to repair the Hubble Telescope, when their space shuttle gets hit by debris, causing Stone to become separated. From there, she has to make her way back to Earth however she can.

Despite what some may think, this isn’t a science fiction movie. Nor is it similar to Open Water. On the contrary, it’s a story about human strength and survival in the face of overwhelming odds, death, life and rebirth and technology.

Alfonso Cuarón (who returns to the director’s chair after 2006’s Children of Men) proves that he understands how to set up a shot and how to make interesting and engaging characters that you want to see do well.

Cuarón is known for establishing shots in which there are no cuts. And that particular scene in Gravity is a phenomenal sequence. The opening shot of the movie is an amazing 13 minute shot in which there are no cutaways to anything else: just the camera floating out in space, zooming in on characters and moving all around.

Gravity will make you believe in the art of filmmaking again (an art that is sadly lacking in today’s oversaturated market of movies). It’s an amazingly powerful movie with lots of subtle (and sometimes not-so subtle) metaphors about life, death, rebirth and faith. In an age where CGI is almost always either noticeable and/or over used to the point where it’s almost not only expected but it’s lost it’s charm (I’m looking at you Transformers movies), there are moments that will make you wonder how Cuarón got those specific shots.

For an example, there are shots where the camera literally goes inside of Stone’s helmet. You get not only her perspective in this situation, but you actually feel that you’re right there with her.

Additionally, Gravity manages to do something that no other movie this year has made me do: think. A lot of movies this year were made solely for the purpose of making money with no thought put into them. Cuarón manages to make a movie that’s not only entertaining and engaging, but also one that makes you think about life and the big questions in the way that Inception did in 2010.

Even more impressive, as someone who appreciates movie scores, is the soundtrack scored by Steven Price. It’s beautiful, it’s mournful, it’s haunting. And it works in perfect harmony with the vast emptiness of space in the movie.                                                              

I was a little surprised that the movie was much shorter than I expected, but when you watch it, you won’t believe that the movie is only an hour-and-a-half long.

Cuarón provides the viewer with the most realistic depiction of space I think I’ve ever seen in a movie. Example, when the debris hits the shuttle (not a spoiler, as you can see it in the trailer), there’s no sound when the shuttle is hit, as there’s no vacuum in space to carry the sound. Any sound that you do hear is from the perspective of Stone herself, which means sounds are either muffled or come through the communication of the technology that she has with her. Then again, I’m not an astronaut, nor an astrophysicist, so I don’t know all the technicalities of living in space. And given the things that Stone has to do, that’s no easy feat.

Because the movie heavily relies on Bullock’s acting, there are moments where she has to act against computers. And boy does her acting really shine in this movie. You really start sympathizing with her character and want to see her do well and get back to Earth.

This is just my opinion regarding the symbolism of the movie, but I thought I would mention what I thought about it.

1)      Man vs. Technology: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Computers: Without technological advances, space travel is an absolute impossibility. And yet, to see the level of sophisticated technology that the astronauts employ in their day-to-day work is astounding. In regards to Gravity, technology is seen as both good and bad. The good is that it allows people to understand the wonder of space. The bad is that it tethers us, makes us incredibly reliant on artificial means of sustainability that we don’t know how to survive on our own (kind of like the message in Wall-E).

2)      Rebirth: throughout the movie, there are many religious symbols, like a Buddha statue, a picture of a Russian Orthodox Jesus, etc. Interestingly, now that I think of it, what better way to be closer to a God than to be in space?

3)      Isolationism and the strength of the human body: the majority of the movie revolves around Bullock’s character trying to survive by herself. Given that that environment is space, that’s not an easy task.

Gravity will leave you not only breathless, but also on the edge of your seat with tension. Bottom line, you have to go see it. Just don’t expect to go into space for a while. If Star Trek promised that space could be exciting, prepare to have your hopes dashed. But believe the hype: you’ll fall for Gravity.

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Recapping Bad: Episode 5×14 “Ozymandias”

Ozymandias

“…’My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.” -Percy Bysshe Shelly

Never before has an episode of Breaking Bad left me this speechless. By far, this is the best episode not only in the final season, but perhaps in the entirety of the series itself.

As usual, SPOILERS AHEAD if you haven’t watched last night’s episode. So, you’ve been fairly warned.

It was pretty obvious right from the very beginning how this episode might play out. We watch as Walt and Jesse (from season 1) prepare a cook, as well as see the loving relationship between Walt and Skyler, as they discuss naming their infant daughter, Holly. A very stark contrast from the man he would become in later seasons of the show.

Flash-forward to the present-day: Gomez ends up dead, with imitation Matt Damon’s uncles and friends taking charge of the shootout. Walt desperately pleads to save Hank’s life by bribing one of Todd’s uncles with the $80 million that Walt had hidden in the desert. Needless to say, the bargaining doesn’t end well, with Hank getting shot and buried in the desert. Walt, in horror, falls to his knees crying (the first real emotion we’ve seen him show in, I’d argue, many many episodes), while the others dig up Walt’s money. Walt is left to himself, with one barrel of money left before he notices Jesse hiding underneath a nearby car and orders Todd’s uncle to have him killed. Todd, however, makes the suggestion that instead of killing him, they take him back to their hideout and question him in regards to what he told the D.E.A. Walt agrees, as they all drive out of the desert, but not before Walt confesses to Jesse that he could have saved Jane’s life (his girlfriend from season 2) but instead, he watched her die.

Marie, on the other side of town, visits Skyler at the car-wash and informs her, out of earshot of Walt Jr., that Walt had been taken into custody. She also reached out to Skyler and told her that she believed that Skyler could change her ways, but on the condition that she a) turn in the video of Walt’s “confession” and b) she admit to Walt Jr. about everything that’s been going on. Needless to say, he didn’t take it too well.

We also got a small look at what happened to Jesse: beaten and tortured to a pulp, and chained to Todd’s meth lab. I imagine he won’t be staying there for too much longer.

Skyler drives the kids back home only to discover a strange truck parked in her driveway. Walt, having been stranded without a vehicle in the desert, bought a native Indian’s truck to transport his money barrel. Skyler and Walt Jr. stare in disbelief as the man they loved hurriedly packs several suitcases and demands his family do the same. Skyler, however, asks Walt what happened to Hank, and comes to the conclusion that he was killed and, upon hearing the truth, she decides to take matters into her own hands and fends off her husband with a knife, demanding that he leave. After a brawl between the family, Skyler manages to slice Walt’s hand and Walt Jr. calls the police, causing Walt to flee, but not before kidnapping Holly in the process.

A little while later, in the home of the Whites, Skyler receives a phone call from Walt, who does nothing but insult her and demean her, and going so far as to blame her for all of his problems. Breaking down into tears, he confesses to Skyler, Marie and Walt Jr. that they’ll never be seeing Hank again, and that he tried his best to save him. But, before destroying his phone, he says, “I still have things to do.” He decides to unhand Holly, and leaves her in the care of a nearby fire station in a fire truck. The end of the show showed that Walt took the “vacuum cleaner” deal, riding off into the horizon.

Overall thoughts: I think “Ozymandias” was an appropriate title, seeing how Walt’s meth empire came apart at the seams this episode, losing his home, his money and his family. It’s such a strange contrast from the Walter White of season 1, who could be sympathized with because of his situation. But to see how he’s stooped so low as the series progresses, it’s really very sad to watch his whole world crumble apart. Furthermore, I think that this episode should be the one to be under Emmy consideration: everything about it was really well done; great acting (especially from Bryan Cranston), great pacing, great story-telling and great drama. I wouldn’t be surprised if Breaking Bad wins several awards for this very episode.

My predictions for the next episode, entitled “The Granite State?” Well, in the promo, we saw that Saul is interested in helping Jesse. So, it seems like those two will team up to finally try and take down Walt. As for the rest of the episode, I’m not sure what else they’ll do, but I imagine there will be a flash-forward to Walt’s future (re: Denny’s and the return to his home on his 52 birthday).

So, that was “Ozymandias!” What did you guys think? What will happen in the remaining two episodes of the series? Leave a comment and let me know what you thought!

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Recapping Bad: Episode 5×13 “To’hajiilee”

So, with only four more episodes left in the entire series of Breaking Bad (and having just recently been caught up in every single episode of the show), I thought I would do a couple of recap posts for the final episodes (with the possibility of an entire series review). With that being said, if you haven’t watched the latest episode of BB, there are major spoilers ahead.

This week’s episode started off with imitation Matt Damon and Lydia discussing how disappointing the latest batch is. Frustrated, Lydia tries convincing Todd to cook the actual blue meth that her clients have been accustomed to. But enough of the boring stuff.

The entire episode revolved around the end of the White/Pinkman relationship. Having discovered that Walt was actually responsible for poisoning Brock in season 4, Jesse decides that he’s had enough and joins forces with Hank to take him down “where he really lives.” And with that, Hank and Jesse decided to take down the one thing that mattered most to Walt: the money. Hank decided to fake Jesse’s death in order to get one of Saul Goodman’s men to talk about Walt’s money.

Before we get that far, however, Walt makes the difficult decision to have Jesse killed by Todd’s uncle and/or friends. Walt, still having a modicum of respect for Jesse, wants his potential assassins to take him out quickly and painlessly, but only on the condition that he returns to the business to help Lydia. Walt reluctantly agrees to help them, but only after they’ve taken care of the “Jesse problem.”

What’s really sad is, towards the end of this episode, I really got the feeling that somewhere, in the monster that is Heisenberg, Walt really bonded with Jesse and wanted to see him do well. But, that being said, can I trust anything that this guy has ever said before? Like, ever? He did completely lie about poisoning Brock just to get Gus out of the way.

In an attempt to lure Jesse out of hiding, Walt makes a surprise visit to his girlfriend’s house and persuades her to call him. He also happens to run into Brock who, for probably good reason, is not a fan of speaking to the man who tried to kill him. When Hank intercepts the call to Jesse, they decide to, instead, lure Walt out by threatening his money. Thus, when Walt gets a phone call from Jesse saying he found a majority of his money and threatens to burn it, Walt speeds off to their supposed location. On his way to Jesse’s location, Walt calls Todd’s friends and asks for their intervention.

The title of the episode refers to a Navajo reservation in New Mexico. But in Breaking Bad lore, it takes us back to the beginning. As Jesse tells Walt upon his capture, “this is where we first cooked.” To me, I saw this as a sign that the loose ends are being tied up with Walt’s “past” and what will propel him into the flash-forwards that we saw early on this season.

Walt suddenly realizes that no one is at the location that Jesse told to him, and discovers it’s a trap set up to capture him. Hidden behind a rock, Walt decides to call back Todd’s friends and cancel the previous order for their assistance, telling them not to bother coming. And surely enough, Walt turns himself into Hank and Jesse, getting right into the back of his car. Hank, basking in the glory, decides to call his wife and let her know that their nightmarish ordeal is over.

However, right after that, Walt’s help shows up heavily armed. Chaos ensues, bullets fly and…fade to the credits.

Overall, I thought that this episode showed Walt at his most desperate and human hour, which is something I felt needed to come back, after watching the monster that is Heisenberg torture and terrorize the people in his life. Perhaps by surrendering himself, the real “Walt” came back to his senses and wanted everything to just be done and over with. Of course that’s probably not the case, because there are still three episodes left to go this season.

Here are my predictions for next week’s episode, entitled “Ozymandias.” Firstly, Ozymandias (not the Watchmen character) refers to a poem written by Percy Bysshe Shelley and alludes to the decline of leaders and their empires. It’s apparently so important that the trailer for the final eight episodes featured Bryan Cranston reciting the poem himself (an allusion to the decline of Heisenberg, perhaps?):

I think that Walt will take the vacuum repair deal that Saul mentioned (which would, effectively, give him a new identity and a new life), as possibly alluded by the first episode of season 5, in which Walt celebrated his 52 birthday in, I assume, New Hampshire.

Obviously, it looks like someone’s going to die next week. My money’s firmly on Hank (what with the “I love you’s” that were exchanged between him and Marie after they got Walt), but I see Jesse actually surviving the series. Additionally, with the “Ozymandias” allusion, I imagine that there will be some kind of danger to Skyler and her children (whether they die or not, I can only speculate).

So, there are only three episodes left in the entire series! What did you think of this week’s episode? Who do you think will be dead in next week’s show? And how do you think the series will end? Leave a comment and check back for next week’s recap!

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Update: September 11, 2013

Hello everyone!

This is just a quick update to let everyone know that I’m still active with this blog and that I have several articles planned for unspecified times in the future. I know that a lot has happened between my last post and today, and I do plan on blogging for several of the important issues on my mind. I’m just not sure what order it’ll be in just yet.

In terms of what I have planned in the future: keep your eyes out for a special segment I’m calling “Recapping Bad” in which I do a recap of the week’s Breaking Bad (which I finally managed to get all caught up to surprisingly as well as a “Blu Review,” wherein I review a movie that I saw in theaters, but didn’t get to review during its theatrical run. The first of these will be for Star Trek: Into Darkness. Look for that pretty soon. Additionally, I still have to finish my James Bond countdown (I have the order all ready to go, I just haven’t written it yet).

Here’s a list of other upcoming articles that you can look forward to:

-A Hunger Games review/comparison

-A new segment called “First Impressions” in which I review the first episode of a TV series to discuss whether or not it would be worth watching

-My thoughts on Ben Affleck being cast as Batman

-A “Blu Review” of Man of Steel and Pacific Rim when they become available on Blu-ray

Thank you again for your patience and for continuing to check back on the site. I promise to try and keep this blog updated as timely as possible.

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Superman to face off against Batman in Man of Steel sequel

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Pinch yourself. Because this is really happening.

At this year’s San Diego Comic Con, director Zack Snyder announced a sequel to Man of Steel.

During the announcement, actor Harry Lenix (who played the general in MoS), came on stage and read a quote from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns:

“I want you to remember Clark. In all the years to come. In all your private moments. In all the years to come, my hand at your throat. I want you to remember, the one man who beat you.”

The movie will bring back the entire Man of Steel cast, including Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Lawrence Fishburne and Diane Lane. Additionally, Snyder is set to direct, along with Christopher Nolan as executive producer and David S. Goyer set to write the script. The untitled sequel is set to be released in theaters in 2015. It’s unclear as to who the villain will be, or what the story would be about. It could be a possibility that the movie might contain elements of The Dark Knight Returns, based on the quote above. However, nothing is, as of yet, confirmed regarding the story.

There are a couple of thoughts I have regarding this surprising announcement. I have somewhat mixed feelings regarding this.

First, the negative to get it out of the way. I’m not completely sold on Zack Snyder as a director. While I enjoyed Man of Steel quite a bit, being one of a few who, despite what I would consider ‘nit-picky’ criticism from movie critics, I’m not a fan of Snyder’s directing. Yes, he knows how to frame a shot and make it look visually stunning, but I’m not sure that he can handle dialogue or dramatic moments that are needed for comic book movies. Take for example the shaky camera work in Man of Steel, where it was obvious that a man was standing in the room holding a camera. That type of camera work needs to go.

Second, I can’t help but think that Warner Brothers is worried about a Superman-series. That is to say, instead of allowing Superman to have his own set of movies (like the Dark Knight trilogy featured Batman on his own), I can’t help think that they needed Batman to help sell a Superman movie. A minor criticism, but still a concern on my mind.

Lastly, regarding the Dark Knight himself. I have no idea who they’ll get to play Batman. Both Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale have stated clearly that the Dark Knight trilogy was a separate story to whatever Warner Brothers has planned for their DC characters, so it’s unlikely to see Bale or even Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Batman. Additionally, will this actor play the new Batman in the Nolan-produced reboot? Knowing that Kal-El is in safe hands, I worry about how Snyder will handle the new Batman (a particularly favorite comic book character of mine).

I don’t want to end this article by sounding completely negative. On the contrary, I’m excited to see where this announcement/movie leads. Seeing both the Man of Steel and the Caped Crusader is a step in the right direction if Warner Brothers wants to do their proposed Justice League movie. And if this goes well, then maybe there is hope for the remaining DC characters in the Justice League (I’m looking at you Green Lantern).

What do you think? Which actor would be good as the new Batman? Who should the villain be? Leave a comment below!

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Report: Sam Mendes to Direct Bond 24

Never say never, especially when it comes to Bond.

According to reports, Sam Mendes has decided to return to direct the next 007 movie after initially bowing out of the project. Mendes had, at first, declined to direct Bond 24 due to his commitment to directing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and King Lear on stage in London. However, after some persuasion from Bond producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, Mendes has agreed to come back to helm 007’s next adventure.

An article from the U.K.’s Daily Mail adds, “[the] Bond family has told Mendes they will wait until all his theatre projects are out of the way and then he can commit to Bond 24 full-time. Mendes, unofficially, has agreed.”

Additionally, Bond 24 will be written by John Logan, who helped write the script for Skyfall.

Looks like Christopher Nolan is now out of the running, but as I said earlier: never say never to Bond.

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