Friday, June 30, 2006

I remember back in 1978,

seeing Richard Donner's SUPERMAN for the first time, and leaving the theatre thinking "Holy Crap a man CAN fly"! After this first film, Superman 2 came out, then the other sequels that really didn't make much of an impression, in fact, for the purposes of this post, let's pretend they DIDN'T even happen.. they were just a bad dream. Unfortunately, those sequels pretty much killed the Superman Franchise, and its laid dormant for over 20 years.

Now, after this long hiatus, and with a TON of fanfare, Warner has resurrected the Superman franchise with director Bryan Singer jumping ship from the X-Men franchise (unfortunately) to bring the man of steel back to the screen in SUPERMAN RETURNS.

Singer dispenses with backstory trying to tell the origins of Superman, and jumps right in to the story, which gives this a feel of a CONTINUATION of Donner's Superman and of course Superman 2. Superman goes back to check out the remnants of his home planet, and comes home after being gone for 5 years. When he returns, he finds a different world and Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) now has a son, is engaged to be married, and has won a Pulitzer for her article "Why the World doesn't need Superman". Also coming back into the picture is Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) who wants revenge on the man of steel.

SUPERMAN RETURNS not only tries to deal with the SUPER in Superman, but the MAN as well. Singer has given Superman/Clark Kent an inner conflict, where he has to deal with his emotions of finding out that Lois has moved on, and also keeping up with his fighting the bad guys. The movie is sometimes a little too heavy handed, using the "Christ" metaphor a little to liberally.. with shots of Superman falling to earth, arms outstretched like he's being crucified, and dialog like "You say that the world doesn't need a saviour, but every night I hear people calling for one". There is also the shot of Superman in a pose like the God Atlas. When you see the movie, you'll get all the religious references.

What you might also get are all the HOMAGES to all the different incarnations of Superman himself, especially the Donner film, which starts with the opening credits, and sprays them liberally throughout, even down to the pacing, which is almost the same as the '78 version.

Some critics have said that the movie has lost the "fun" aspect of the Donner film by bringing the Human aspect into Superman. I disagree with that. I think what Singer has done is try to pull off a balancing act with this movie.. Kickstart the Superman franchise after a 19 year absence, while trying to make the movie a homage to all the other incarnations before it. I think he did a good job.

Superman Returns: B

As I noted in an earlier post, Superman Returns is the first film that uses the new IMAX process of converting a film shot normally into 3D. The 20 minutes of footage in 3D I thought looked impressive. If you've seen it in 3D, tell me what you thought of it.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

I like Jack Black.. he can

be a funny guy. School of Rock was good, he was also good in Hi-Fidelity, Even in Peter Jackson's KING KONG, He brough Carl Denham a smug sense of humour. In my mind, Jack Black is one of those guys you see in a movie, and can't help but smile when he's on screen.
Which makes me ask why in the name of GAWD did he end up in this steaming TURD of a movie?

Nacho Libre has Jack Black playing a monk that lives near a small village in Mexico, serves crap to orphans, has a crush on a nun, and takes on a secret life as a masked wrestler. That's the setup.

The problem with this movie is that it's a one line joke, stretched out and never gives the payoff. It isn't Jack Black's fault. It's the movie.. it never takes off. The problem is there's no content.. It's disjointed... things happen, but it's like someone stuck in a VERY deep rut in their life.. they go through the motions, with nothing ever really happening. The basic rule of a COMEDY is that there has to be at least some jokes that hit the mark. The gags in Nacho Libre have set-ups, but no payoff.. it's like this:

Here's a joke: A guy walks into a bar with a duck and sits down.. Has a drink.. Then leaves.

See... a set-up.. but no payoff. In a COMEDY, that isn't a good thing. Now imagine the above example happening for 80 MINUTES, and you're sitting there... waiting.

Its been 24 hours since I've seen the movie, and I'm still shaking my head. Director Jared Hess who made NAPOLEON DYNAMITE shows he has promise with that movie, and one of the screenwriters was Mike White, who wrote School of Rock, The Good Girl, Orange County and a few others. He has talent as well... I just can't put my finger on who's to blame for this movie, all I know is its the first time I didn't smile when I saw Jack Black on screen in quite a while.

This movie is like a 80 minute joke... only without the funny part, and told really badly, with some fart noises thrown in to try and save it..

Nacho Libre: F-

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Do you live in the Calgary Area?

Do you like going to movies?

If you do, I'm thinking about starting an informal movie discussion group. It's a group where people who like movies can get together, go see a movie and then head out and discuss the film with other people over coffee.

If your interested, send an email to to be subscribed to learn more information as we start things up

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Before going to see

A PRAIRIE HOME COMAPNION, I have to admit I'd never heard the show on radio, since it doesn't play up here in Canada that I can find. I was aware of Garrison Keillor, but hadn't really heard the radio show this was based on.

Keillor concocted the screenplay about a radio show very much like the one he's been broadcasting since July 1974 from St. Paul, Minn. With the exception of scenes in a diner, The entire movies takes place as a "fictional" show prepares for the last show before the theatre they use is torn down by the Texas conglomerate for a parking lot.

But no big deal is made of the occasion, as the cast treats it like it's just another show. Robert Altman follows the various performers both onstage and backstage, capturing their quirks and private agendas, as their personal and private lives mix.

Its a tool Altman has used many times, including in his films about other artistic backdrops, such as "The Company" (dance), "Kansas City" (jazz), "Ready-to-Wear" (fashion), "The Player" (film), "Vincent & Theo" (painting) and "Nashville" (country music). Altman's first significant professional job was as a radio writer, and while the film doesn't concern itself with the craft and mechanics, there is a comfort with the setting that dovetails with Altman's evident delight in the performers he's put in front of the camera.

Many of the characters are carried over from Keillor's actual radio show: cowboy crooners Dusty and Lefty (Woody Harrelson, John C. Reilly), whose ongoing banter culminates in a final number, "Bad Jokes," in which the off-color lyrics are indeed as bad as they are hilarious. Adding more down-home flavor is L.Q. Jones as a vet country singer. Private Detective "Guy Noir" I'm told is one of the COMPANION'S most long time and memorable characters, and for the context of the movie is slightly rejigged as a chronically underemployed P.I., who does security for the show. The part is played wonderfully by Kevin Kline in 40's threads and attitudes.

As well as being narrator, Guy is supposed to keep an eye on things but gets distracted by a mysterious blonde (Virginia Madsen) who materializes to incorporate herself into the proceedings in unforeseeable ways.

But the most prominent characterss here are Yolanda and Rhonda Johnson (Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin), the surviving half of what used to be a promising quartet of sisters. In the company of Yolanda's teen daughter Lola (Lindsay Lohan), who writes suicide poetry, the two gals yack on in wacky ways about family, special memories and disappointments.

All through the show, GK refuses to acknowledge that it's the finale. "Every show's your last show. That's my philosophy," he explains. Nor will he mention it when one cast member dies offstage during the broadcast; "I don't do eulogies." Where these quips may have come from Keillor, I can imagine what kind of meanings they would have for Altman, who was 80 when he filmed the movie. The films fleeting style doesn't betray for a moment. The spectre of death, or something like it hangs over the project but in a light way, as if ignoring it is the only thing to do.

The humour comes from many places in the film, but first and foremost is Kline whose comic timing in an uproariously silly phone scene, brings him almost in a class that could be compared to Cary Grant, and Woody Harrelson, who has a deadpan style that shines in every scene he's in.

All in all, A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION is Altman's loving look at a slice of Americana, and brings me back to his other work, and this can be held up among them with no shame.


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

It was a sad day for most

fans of comic book movies when they heard the news that Bryan Singer was leaving the X-Men franchise to work on Superman Returns. The fear was that a new director was going to screw up what Singer had started. For most, their fears were realised when Fox brought Brett Ratner (Rush Hour 1 & 2, Red Dragon) on board to complete the X-Men Trilogy with X-men: The Last Stand.

In this third outing an anti-body is invented that suppresses the "X Gene" allowing mutants who are injected with this drug to lose their powers and become "normal". This movie exapnds on the subtext set forth by the first 2 movies equating Mutation with homosexuality. Of course, the discovery of this "cure" causes the mutants to rise up and try and form a mutant army to go out and destroy it.

Another story line is (from what I've been told) the appearance of "The Dark Phoenix", which is a watered down version of the storyline from the graphic novel, and disappoints many of the comic fans out there (again, from what I've been told).

The major difference between this movie and the other 2 is obviously directing style. Where Singer brought a lingering feel to even the quietest moments, Ratner seems occupied with speed. This movie clocks in at 105 minutes, 20-30 minutes SHORTER than the previous 2, and because of that there's a rushed disorganized feel to the movie. It drops and picks up subplots randomly, and the movie doesn't blink at bumping off major characters while adding new ones.

It's only towards the end where the film FINALLY gets it's legs, and starts to try and get its groove, but ultimately it's too little too late.

The X-men Trilogy suffers from the same problem as the Original Star Wars Trilogy, where the third film in the series is a letdown, having a rushed feel that makes it unsatisfying. X-Men: The Last Stand is the RETURN OF THE JEDI of the X-Men series. It's sad to see Rattner take everything that Bryan Singer and crew build, and tear it down with absolutely no thought or feeling whatsoever.

X-Men: The Last Stand: D

As for the title... X-Men: The Last Stand may mark the end of this trilogy, when any movie makes 100+ million its opening weekend, you can be sure that there will be a movie like X-Men: The Next Generation to keep the franchise going.