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Man of Steel & This Is The End

June 20, 2013

Man of Steel (**) PG-13

If one were to go back and revisit director Zack Snyder’s take on Superman a second time, perhaps in the comforts of one’s home, I’ve got a perfect suggestion. It may even allow you to have a bit more fun than you did the first time around in the theater, if you left feeling a bit underwhelmed. I’ll call it the Man of Steel drinking game and it would go something like this; every time there’s an action sequence on screen when Snyder zooms in and his camera goes out of focus, you take a shot of your alcoholic beverage of choice. On second thought, that may not be such a good idea because you’ll probably be stone cold drunk before the first hour of the film is up if you were to take a drink each time that this transpires, so perhaps it’s best to scratch that notion.

The point I’m trying to make here by injecting a bit of humor into the proceedings is that the Superman reboot, Man of Steel, contains some of the most poorly shot and constructed action sequences I’ve seen come from a major studio film in quite some time. It boggles the mind to think that the budget of a film like this could supply the food for some third world countries and yet, the action sequences look like they were shot by an eight year old who’s just picked up a video camera for the first time and learned how to operate the zoom button. God only knows what Snyder was trying to achieve here but I know that it made me long for the days of Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder being flown by wires, with birds being thrown past their heads. At least that was rooted in some sense of reality, something that can’t be said for the new film.

But enough about the astonishingly bad action sequences—the CGI also looks more cartoonish than in any film of recent memory—as I’m sure you are wondering if Man of Steel has any redeeming value.

Cavill & Adams in Man of Steel

The answer is yes, there are some things to like about the film. The best sequences in the film turn up in the mid section where Kal-El/Superman/Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) learns who he is and what his purpose in life might be via some touching scenes with his earthly parents, Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane). It’s this type of human element the film could have used more of. The developing relationship that Clark has with Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is also nice, although Lane’s character comes off as more than a wee bit underwritten.

As for the film’s plot line, it’s basically the Superman origin story the we all know too well with the added touch of Superman’s genetic father, Jor-El (Russell Crowe) imparting his son with the genetics of his planet’s population via a piece of Kryptonian gadgetry. His hope is that the dying planet Krypton can be recreated on another planet, which turns out to be Earth. Of course the republic will stand before Zod will allow Kal-El to carry this plan to fruition and this sets us up for a final battle that is so poorly shot that it’s hard to tell what exactly is what. By the time the film is over you may feel something, but I can almost guarantee that it won’t be the feeling of anticipated exhilaration you might have been aching for. 

This is the End (** ½) R

The concept at the center of Seth Rogen’s freshman attempt at film directing—he co-directs here with longtime writing partner, Evan Goldberg—is the thing to behold in This is the End. The question forming the film’s concept is what would happen if a group of spoiled and pampered Hollywood actors were literally thrust into the midst of Armageddon as depicted in the book of Revelation. Rogen, Danny McBride, James Franco, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill, Emma Watson, Rihanna and Michael Cera are a few of the actors turning up as themselves, or facsimiles thereof, who attempt to answer that question, spending the film dealing with the after effects of a cataclysmic event. Yes, it’s a great concept and it works, for a while. Or at least until the seams begin to show and the film almost single-handedly is undone by the one-two punch of a lack of satisfactory resolution and gags that play out long after their punch line has become readily apparent. To say that the pic is an uneven affair would be an understatement.

The film begins in a scene with Rogen convincing pal Baruchel to tag along to a party that Franco is giving at his home. When the duo step out in the middle of the party to pick up a few things at a convenience store, they find themselves trapped in some sort of natural disaster.

Hollywood stars, playing themselves, in This is the End

At first glance it looks to be just an earthquake but later proves to be a bit more serious once they get back to Franco’s place and witness celebrity partygoers literally falling into the center of the earth. The rest of the film hinges on the surviving guests, along with Franco, attempting to find ample food and water without killing each other in the process. There are so many scattershot gross-out gags in the film that to go into them would prove useless. Some work and some fall flat, although there is a pretty high ratio of ones that work to those that don’t. Suffice it to say that if you’re a fan of Rogen’s brand of stoner humor, particularly his 2008 film, Pineapple Express (a proposed sequel to which is used as a great gag in This is the End), you’ll probably want to up my rating by about a star.

One complaint I must lodge against the film revolves around a certain performer in the film. I can’t recall a film where a single actor brought the proceedings to a screeching halt in such a large degree as actor Danny McBride manages to do in the film and that’s my biggest complaint about the pic. I’ll admit that McBride is an acquired taste, a taste that I haven’t yet developed, and it does help matters that he shows up—no pun intended—late to the party. When he does eventually appear, however, he manages to sabotage and mangle jokes with his over the top and wildly profane delivery to such a degree that he manages to bring the entire film down in some sections. A good example would be a scene wherein McBride finds himself questioned by Franco on his use of a nudie magazine. His answer goes on way too long and involves certainly bodily functions best left to one’s imagination and, worse yet, the scene isn’t even the least bit funny. It’s not that I’m a prude, mind you, but my advice is that if you’re going to be dirty then at least try to remember to bring some humor to the proceedings, something McBride doesn’t seem to know how to do. Or at least the way his characters are written.

These movies are playing at the Carmike Theater in Hickory and everywhere else.

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