40 Years of SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE (Warner Brothers 1978)


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Unlike today, when superheroes dominate at the box office and your local multiplex, costumed crusaders were dead as the proverbial doornail in theaters of the 1970’s. The last was 1966’s BATMAN, at the height of the camp craze, but after that zer0… zilch… nada. I didn’t care; my comic book reading days were pretty much at an end by 1978, driven away by other distractions, like making money, girls, beer, and girls. I had moved on.

But when Warner Brothers announced they were making a new, big budget Superman movie, I was intrigued. I’d always loved the old 50’s TV series starring George Reeves as the Man of Steel, corny as it was, and with a cast featuring Marlon Brando , Gene Hackman , and Glenn Ford , not to mention that girl from Brian DePalma’s SISTERS as Lois Lane, I wanted to see this new version. I also wanted…

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This 4th Of July, Make The World Safe For Democracy With These Patriotic Super Heroes!


This 4th of July, while celebrating America’s birthday, don’t forget that there was a time when superheroes not only starred in movies but also made the world safe for democracy!  From World War II, here is a gallery of patriotic super heroes fighting for the freedoms that we enjoy today!

Not even the most powerful of heroes could do it alone.  For that reason, when they weren’t beating the enemy in their own backyard, they were encouraging their readers to support the armed forces by buying war bonds.

Over the course of World War II, 85 million Americans purchased war bonds totaling an estimated $185 billion.

Finally, what other way to end this patriotic post than with a musical tribute to the Star-Spangled Man With A Plan?

And to all the real, flesh-and-blood heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice to save the world from tyranny, thank you.

RIP, Margot Kidder


Margot Kidder was born in Yellowknife, a mining town in Northern Canada that was so remote that it didn’t even have a movie theater.  She didn’t see her first movie until she was 12, when she and her mother were visiting New York City.  Kidder later said, “I saw Bye Bye Birdie, with people singing and dancing, and that was it. I knew I had to go far away.”

Kidder started her career in her native Canada, appearing in 1968’s The Best Damn Fiddler from Calabogie to Kaladar and going on to appear in films like Black Christmas and Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx.  Even after Kidder found stardom in the United States, she continued to appear in Canadian films and won two Canadian Film Awards and one Genie Award for her performances.

In 1973, she played dual roles in Brian DePalma’s Sisters.  As detailed in Peter Biskind’s Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, it was during this time that she and her Sisters co-star Jennifer Salt shared a Malibu beach house that became a gathering place for such up-and-coming Hollywood directors as DePalma, John Milius, Martin Scorsese, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg.  Briefly, she and Spielberg even dated.

 

For a generation of filmgoers, though, Margot Kidder will always be Lois Lane!  In 1978, Kidder beat out over 100 other actresses for the role of Lois.  (Among the others who tested:  Anne Archer, Susan Blakely, Lesley Ann Warren, Deborah Raffin and Stockard Channing.)  Superman was the first great comic book film.  In the aftermath of both Watergate and Vietnam, Superman made audiences that a man could fly.  As important as Christopher Reeve was to the success of Superman, Margot Kidder was just as important.  In many ways, Kidder’s Lois was the audience surrogate.  We saw Superman through her eyes.  At the same time, Kidder gave such a lively performance that it was impossible not to join Superman in falling in love with Lois.  When Superman spun the world backwards to bring her back to life, nobody questioned it because they would have all done the same thing.

Kidder was even better in Superman II but, unfortunately, she was also forever typecast as Lois.  In her later years, she would be better known for her health struggles than her acting.  After having a widely publicized manic episode in 1996, Kidder became just as well-known as an outspoken mental health activist as an actress.  Though her acting career may have slowed down, Kidder never stopped working, appearing in movies and television shows up until her death.

Margot Kidder died yesterday in Montana, at the age of 69.  To many, she’ll always be Lois but she was so much more as well.  Rest in Peace, Margot Kidder.

Pulp Fiction #2: The Man of Steel Turns 80!


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On April 18, 1938, National Publications presented Action Comics #1, showcasing typical comic book fare of the era like master magician Zatara, sports hero Pep Morgan, and adventurer Tex Thompson. And then there was the red-and-blue suited guy on the cover…

Yes, it’s Superman, strange visitor from another planet with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men… who can change the course of mighty rivers… bend steel in his bare hands… and so on and so forth! Eighty years ago tomorrow, Superman made his debut and changed the course of mighty comic book publishers forever. An immediate hit with youthful readers, Superman headlined his own comic a year later, spawned a slew of superhero imitators, became a super-merchandising machine, and conquered all media like no other before him!

Wayne Boring’s Superman

And to think he came from humble beginnings. No, not the planet Krypton, but from the fertile…

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Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane: RIP NOEL NEILL


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She was never a major Hollywood star, but for millions of kids who grew up watching reruns of THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN, Noel Neill was a true icon. She was the first TV crush for many of us… after all, what kid could resist an attractive, plucky girl reporter who just happened to be a close, personal friend of the mighty Man of Steel?

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Noel Neill was born in Minneapolis in 1920, daughter of a journalist, foreshadowing her future screen occupation. Her mother was a dancer, and young Noel had a knack for performing. She got a gig singing with Bob Crosby’s orchestra, and did some modeling. Noel was ranked the #2 pin-up girl by GI’s during World War II, second in popularity to only Betty Grable. Hollywood came calling, and she was signed by Paramount Pictures. But her screen career went nowhere, and eventually Miss Neill moved to Poverty Row Monogram Studios.

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Batman v. Superman Latest Trailer Drops


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Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice has been gathering steam and buzz since it was first announced a couple years ago at San Diego Comic-Con. The film is now just a little over 4 months away from release. The fact that we’re even talking about latest trailers and clips about this film was an accomplishment all on its own.

This was a project that had been talked about for so many years, but never got on track. While some DC fans might decry what I’m about to say I do think they should thank the success of the Marvel Studios-produced films for getting this film on the fast track to being made. It made DC and Warner Bros. realize they weren’t the big bully in the blockbuster block anymore and needed something monumental to catch up.

With Man of Steel dividing comic book fans this film had to be made whether it made sense narrative-wise or not. Another so-so Superman film would not do. So, what better way to juice up the Son of Krypton franchise than by pitting him against DC’s other juggernaut property: Batman.

So, without further ado, here is the latest trailer for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Batman v. Superman Finally States It’s Case to the Public


 

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A funny thing happened to the Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer that was set for a release at a special IMAX screening event next week. No one bothered to tell someone with a cellphone not to secretly record the trailer. A lo-res cam version of the first teaser trailer for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice was leaked just hours after Disney released the second teaser trailer for the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Warner Brothers scrambled to take down the lo-res trailer and made sure to use their power to threaten with legal stuff if people continued to disseminate the illegal recording. During the 24 hours since the leak someone with a much more cooler head over at WB decided to just go the Avengers: Age of Ultron route (that film’s first teaser was also leaked ahead of a planned event) and release the hi-res version of the teaser trailer instead of waiting days for the planned screening event.

So, here’s the very first teaser trailer as Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment finally make their case that whatever Disney and Marvel can do they can do as well.

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is set for a March 25, 2016 release date.

Trash Film Guru Vs. The Summer Blockbusters : “Man Of Steel”


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I know that, in this day and age, we as a society seem to get off on tearing down our myths and legends and “humanizing” them, but seriously — when did Superman develop a split personality?

Before you jump to any conclusions based on that admitted “gotcha” of an opening line, allow me to state for the record that I didn’t actively dislike Zack Snyder’s Man Of Steel, it’s just that it spends its first half or so rather half-heartedly trying to portray its title character in more human terms than we’ve seen in previous iterations before finally throwing all that out the window and deciding that it actually wants to tell a story about a God who walks (and flies) among us, and the film definitely suffers as a result of this abrupt shift in tone.

But first the “plus” side of the ledger : Man Of Steel is pretty much the most awesome visual spectacle the movies have ever produced. I’m no fan of CGI as a general rule, but damn if every single effects shot in this flick isn’t enough to take your breath away, particularly the sequences on Superman’s home planet of Krypton, which Snyder and his WETA-employed staff depict in a markedly new and exciting “biotech on steroids” fashion. When the action goes earthbound, the optical awesomeness continues, never fear, so if spectacle is what you’re after, you’ll walk away from this well pleased indeed.

Pitch-perfect (with one notable exception which we’ll get to in a moment) casting doesn’t hurt matters any, either — Henry Cavill makes an immediate impression in both his Superman and Clark Kent personas; Russell Crowe is suitably above it all as his Kryptonian father, Jor-El; Kevin Costner and Diane Lane are almost too spot-on for words as his adopted human parents; Laurence Fishburne’s Perry White is old-school newspaper vet all the way (even with the pierced ear); and the always-underrated Michael Shannon oozes psychotic menace as lead villain General Zod. Watching all these people at work is a genuine joy.

Granted, the script — by Dark Knight veteran David S. Goyer (from a story co-plotted with the head honcho of this whole enterprise, Christopher Nolan) — doesn’t do any of them any favors dialogue-wise (apparently Kryptonians have evolved beyond good, old-fashioned conversation and speak entirely in grandiose pronouncements — but it’s not like the mere humans in this film are any less prone to dull, dry, wooden,  faux-poetic waxings themselves), but the players by and large manage to rise above the material they’ve been handed.

I say “by and large” (and here comes that exception I talked about a moment ago) because, sadly, one has been dealt such a losing hand that I’m not sure what she could really have done about it — I’m speaking, of course, about Amy Adams’ Lois Lane. Goyer does some brave and interesting things in terms of shaking up the established Clark-Lois backstory ( let’s just say she won’t be sneaking glimpses of him at sly angles when his glasses are off to see how much he might or might not look like Superman), but the cold, emotionally distant nature of this particular big-budget beast means that the whole love story angle falls pretty flat. By the time Goyer, Nolan, and Snyder decide they want to play the Nietzchean uberman card for all it’s worth, the independent, confident journalist we meet at the outset is reduced to becoming more awestruck than she is lovestruck, and rather than being “Superman’s girlfriend” she comes off more as his disciple. Who just so happens to kiss him. I mentioned the abrupt tonal shift in the film at the outset of this review, and poor Lois definitely suffers the brunt of it.

The messianic poses Cavill is forced into during all the flight and battle sequences get pretty old pretty fast as well, it’s gotta be said, and with no real transition period in the way the story is structured between its “simple farm boy from Kansas”  and its “demi-god here to save us all from the evil forces originating from his own homeworld” (that he inadvertently brought here himself, but hey, let’s not dwell on that) segments, well — let’s just say not much thought apparently went into how jarringly that would all play out. Hans Zimmer’s typically percussive, insistent musical score only augments the problem, and while there’s no way anybody was gonna have fans forgetting about John Williams, a “stripped-down,” “less over the top” orchestral accompaniment really doesn’t work when you’re trying to portray Superman as a fucking deity.

Superman purists, for their part,  may also find themselves semi-outraged by more than the snakeskin-fetish-wear take on his costume. There’s no Jimmy Olsen here, no Lex Luthor (although the “Lexcorp” logo appears here and there on props throughout — as do the logos for Sears, 7-11, and an unending and highly annoying litany of corporate sponsors), and “Metropolis” is never mentioned by name even though the entire final act takes place there. So be ready for at least some “nerd-rage” on the internet. Still, if those were the only things that bugged me about Man Of Steel, I’d be feeling a little bit better about it as a whole right about now. Not that I’m all that pissed or disappointed —-just, well, kinda perplexed.

I can’t say that Man Of Steel isn’t a fun movie to watch, because it is — hell, it’s an absolute visual marvel, and if you want to shut your brain off and just be taken along for a wild adventure ride, you’re not gonna do much better this (or any other) summer  Still —my mind kept drifting back to the famous first-encounter-between-Supes-and-Lois scene in Richard Donner’s Superman : The Movie (still the gold standard for all superhero flicks as far as I’m concerned) : when Lois asks him “who are you?,” and he replies, simply and with a smile, “a friend,” that told us all we needed to know right there. Sure, he was faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but at the end of the day , Superman as envisioned by Richard Donner, Mario Puzo, and Christopher Reeve was one of us.

By contrast, Superman a la Snyder, Nolan, Goyer and Cavill is above us. He’s not here to help humanity, but to redeem it. He’s not our hero anymore, he’s our savior — whether we want one or not.

Film Review: Man of Steel (dir. by Zack Snyder)


New%20Man%20of%20Steel%20PosterHere the short of it, for anyone looking to make a decision based on what’s being written here (spoiler free part): 

Man of Steel is a great film, though has it’s flaws. The film is a coming of age story of an individual who knows what he’s capable of, but in fearing the world’s reaction to his existence, keeps it at bay until he can discover who and what he is. Where Marvel celebrates the removal of the Masked Hero (with Iron Man), DC looks towards giving the audience a reason why Superman has to be Clark Kent, which I thought worked very well. Carried by some fantastic casting, the film manages to raise the stakes for Superman (and the damage level of anywhere there’s a fight – I’m talking Dragonball Z levels of damage) in a way that up until now really wasn’t depicted well. Rather than taking the lazy route of Superman Returns (which just took Superman II’s ending and ran with it, saying that III and IV just didn’t happen), Man of Steel tries to re-invent things a little, which works on some levels, but not on all.

The faults of the film lie in the same problems that plagued the entire Dark Knight Trilogy. There’s a scene or two that ends without “closing the loop” and work within a bubble of action – a catastrophe occurs for one or two people, but before you can wonder how everyone else in the area fared, you’re left to believe “Well, let’s just assume they’re all okay and everything was fixed.” It’s the same as the Joker throwing Rachel Dawes out of a window and leaving the audience to believe that the Joker’s crew just left the way they came with no fuss or muss. The film also suffers from the physical fight issues of “Batman Begins”. It all moves so fast that in some cases, you’re left with this shaky-cam feel. It almost warrants a second viewing just to try to see the punches / kicks you may have missed the first time around. And the last act has a lot of that. This is the thing that may hurt the film with older movie goers. Imagine having something you’ve grown up with for who knows how long displayed at a speed so fast, it moves like a video game? That could be jarring.

And for those of you want to read more (it may get just a little – very little – on the spoilery side here): 

I’ll start with this. I’m not a huge fan of Superman overall. Although I’ve seen all of the previous film (many of them at the movies), I’ve always thought of Superman as a seriously overpowered character. With the pieces of his own planet being the only thing that could hurt him, what were the chances anyone could find that stuff? For this, I found the Marvel characters more interesting and relatable. How many stories can you really write about the Hulk, or Namor / Aquaman for that matter? That’s where I put Superman in the scheme of things.

That said, Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel did manage to invoke an emotion in me that I’ve never felt for the character in all these years – Sadness. It was like watching a Bond film and actually worry about Bond, imagine that. You figure this guy has all these powers, he can frickin fly, dammit. He has heat vision, x-ray vision and freezing breath. One could choose, with all that power to just dominate humanity. It’s Clark’s parents – all of them – that give him the power of choice. To decide as he grows to become who he wants to be and how to use those abilities.  That has to be pretty difficult. One scene hit home for me, involving Clark learning an ability. It’s short, but reflects the isolation of someone who is considered very different from those around him.

I loved Man of Steel. It’s does have its issues, but for me it’s such a step in a better direction for the Superman franchise. That isn’t to say that the films before it were terrible or horrid (save for Quest of Peace, which was utter crap), but Man of Steel brings so much more action and love for the character overall. Where Superman Returns was more of a drama with slices of action, perhaps Man of Steel is best consider a reversal.

When it comes to the story – penned by Christopher Nolan and David Goyer, and with Goyer doing the screenplay – I liked where it went. It didn’t try to recreate anything from the first two movies, nor did it sway so far away from it that you wondered what it was all for (Amazing Spider Man, with its thousands of radioactive spiders that could make any scientist Spider-Man with a well timed bite). The origin parts are delivered piecemeal though flashbacks, which allowed the whole story to flow pretty evenly. It’s when the movie gets into the third act – the “Hero has to face said Event” sequence that Goyer loves so much that it starts turning right back into the Batman Begins train sequence. At least the level of the event is big enough so that only Superman could really deal with it, but personally, I’ll admit that I wanted a bit more for what was done.

Casting wise, I don’t think they could have done much better than this. Henry Cavill, who I remember from 2002’s The Count of Monte Cristo and Showtime’s The Tudors, is damn near perfect as the Man of Steel, though he has so much seriousness to him that you wanted to say…”Hey, Hakuna Matata, dude. It’ll all work out. Just lighten up a little.” There’s very little playing around here.  Then again, given the way the character was written this time around, he doens’t have all that much to laugh about, I suppose.

Amy Adams really isn’t the Lois Lane I expected. She’s not written in the style of the intrepid reporter that has to get herself in trouble, but still manages to find herself facing problems in the pursuit of a good story. She wasn’t bad at all, really, but one smart thing the story does is forces her to have to be in the mix of this in less of a spectator role and more of a participant. That I enjoyed.

I gave Michael Shannon a lot of flak for his performance in last year’s Premium Rush, but I owe him an apology. All that craziness in that film is just gone here, his General Zod is subdued and even. I also enjoyed that they gave him something more to work with other than “Dominate the creatures of this planet because we hate the son of Jor-El”. His Villain has a fully plausible reason for what he’s doing, so much so that you could almost empathize with it. He’s not very different from Magneto against the X-Men in that fashion, and I felt it added quite a deal to this story. Don’t get me wrong. Terrence Stamp was great, and his “Kneel Before Zod” was always cool, but the premise in Superman II was a little odd. I figure they’d get bored with us kneeling after a while and just leave the planet once discovering our love for reality tv (Pawn Stars for me).

Someone pointed out online that both of Kal-El’s parents were Robin Hood. Both Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner do indeed play Clark’s fathers and both are used better in this than in previous versions. Each character has a view in what Clark can be become, and both individuals seem to be right, but between the two I thought Costner fared better. One thing about Crowe, he’s given quite a bit to do in this film, which surprised me. I did really didn’t expect to see much of him in this.

Diane Lane is a sweet Martha Kent. While I love Lane in her movies, I don’t know. I kind of feel anyone could have played that. She performs the role well, though. Laurence Fishburne makes for a good Perry White, channelling his character from Hannibal, as does Christopher Meloni as a Military General. I really want to see more from Meloni, actually. The scene stealer, by far (and future Hottie of the Day, if I can find enough pictures of her) is Pandorum’s Antje Traue as Zod’s henchwoman, Faora. Every scene she’s in makes her to be that Darth Maul /   Hellboy kind of supporting baddie, providing as much of a challenge to Superman as Zod. And for the time she has on screen, Ayelet Zurer sells it totally as Lara, siding with her husband to send their child away for a chance at a better life. That can’t be an easy decision for anyone or anything, but I could at least feel she was bothered by it.

Personally, I didn’t want another origin tale. The way I view it, some of these characters are so burned into our minds that we really don’t need to know the back story. However, Man of Steel does provide an origin tale that seems to make sense with the way things are today. We don’t trust what we don’t understand and unless we can catalog and easily reference it to something comparable, we usually consider it something bad. As this story tells it, Superman may or may not have the luxury to openly say “Hey, I’m Kal-El, from Krypton, let me walk among you.” as easily as Tony Stark could proclaim he was Iron Man.

As for the DC Cinematic Universe, if this is the first film that’s going to lay the groundwork, it’s a nice start. It doesn’t leave any breadcrumbs for audience expectation for a Justice League movie, but if  DC is smart, they’ll get whatever the next movie they want to do started right after this. That’s the hope, anyway.

With a new direction in tone also comes a new score. Hans Zimmer knocks the soundtrack out of the ballpark with this one. Bringing together nearly 12 drum legends for percussion (including Sheila E. And Jason Bonham), Zimmer creates a theme for the hero that will undoubtedly be reused in sports venues for years to come. It’s uplifting in places and creepy in others. Some themes borrow a little bit from his own Angels & Demons, but this is something Zimmer is known for. Having listened to the score for most of the week, I’m already humming it off and on.

And what about the kids? The kids should be fine seeing this. There’s a childbirth sequence in the very beginning that may require some explaining to the littlest of viewers, and there’s violence all over the place, but all it’s worth, there’s not a whole lot of blood and very little gore. Nothing anyone who plays Call of Duty on the regular couldn’t handle.

Oh, one more thing. The 3D is good here, particularly in the flight sequences, but you’re not really missing anything if you happen to catch it in 2D. Note that there isn’t anything after the credits with this film.

Trailer: Man of Steel – “Fate of Your Planet”


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Leading up to this film I was still hesitant to embrace it after the underwhelming Superman Returns. I think the more fun and energetic Marvel Studios fare has spoiled me to the the more dour (though still entertaining) take on the DC main heroes (though the Green Lantern one was neighter serious, fun or enjoyable).

The trailers and teasers already released for Man of Steel has focused a lot on the existential question about who or what Superman is and his role on Earth. Some of the teasers and trailers even try to ape the Terence Malick visual-style with the close-ups of waving wheatfields and background narration asking deep questions. But this latest trailer now switches gear and focuses on the villain of the film and more action.

I’m not hugging this film 100%, but this latest trailer has me closer to embracing it.

Will Man of Steel be too dour a la Christopher Nolan or two much a visual overload by way of Zack Snyder or will the two differing storytelling styles be able to meld into a perfect balance to finally give Superman his day in the sun once again.

Man of Steel is set for a June 14, 2013 release date.