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CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT REVIEW: MAN OF STEEL (2013) – Another View by L.L. Soares

Posted in 2013, Based on Comic Book, Blockbusters, Cinema Knife Fights, DC Comics, LL Soares Reviews, Reboots, Remakes, Special Effects, Superheroes, Villains with tags , , , , , , on June 28, 2013 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: MAN OF STEEL (2013)
Review by L.L. Soares

man-of-steel-posters-visuasys2-470x695

(THE SCENE: An outpost in the middle of the Arctic. A group of SCIENTISTS in heavy coats are looking down at a spaceship encased in ice, as workers use machines to melt and cut through the frozen surface. L.L. SOARES comes up from behind, wearing a Hawaiian shirt and drinking a Margarita.)

LS: What are you guys up to? Is this another remake of THE THING?

SCIENTIST 1: I have no idea what you are talking about. What is zis…thing?

LS: It’s a movie, Chop Top. About an alien shape-changing monster found in the ice in the Arctic. That’s why we’re here, right? (slurps drink loudly through straw)

SCIENTIST 2: We are here to welcome the last son of Krypton, Kal-El.

LS: Kal-El? Doesn’t Nicolas Cage have a son with that name? What, is he all grown up and dating a Kardashian now?

SCIENTIST 1: No, no. This has nothing to do with Nicolas Cage or monsters.

SCIENTIST 2: We are here to greet Superman.

LS: Superman? He’s back again?

SCIENTIST 2: Yes, and he will fight for truth, justice, and the American way.

LS: That’s nice. I was wondering when they were going to bring that overgrown Boy Scout back to the movies, considering all the success Batman has had lately. Y’know, I really didn’t mind SUPERMAN RETURNS  (2006). Brandon Routh was actually pretty decent in the role, but he got the short end of the stick. It should have been a hit.

SCIENTIST 1: Brandon Routh? How dare you mention his name here, in zis sacred place. (Points down at the ship frozen in the ice)

LS: Get over it, Doc. I bet nobody is even in there. You guys are standing around in the cold for nothing. Speaking of which, anyone got a spare jacket? I didn’t bring the right clothes for this trip. That’s what I get for asking Jimmy Buffet for travel tips.

SCIENTIST 2: So why are you here anyway? We did not invite you?

LS: I’m here for the ambiance, and to review the new movie MAN OF STEEL.

SCIENTIST 1: Yes, MAN OF STEEL. You mean zee Superman. So you are here for zee same reason as we.

LS: The Man of Steel and Superman are the same thing? Imagine that!

SCIENTIST 2: You have been joshing us all along. Busting our jaws, so to speak.

LS: Busting your jaws? Yeah, yeah, that’s it.

SCIENTIST 1: So go ahead, movie man, give us your review of zee MAN OF STEEL.

SCIENTIST 2: Yes, stop your joshing.

LS: Okay, okay. First off, I want to preface this by saying that my Cinema Knife Fight cohort, Michael Arruda, reviewed MAN OF STEEL when it first came out. You can read that review here. So this is kind of an afterthought. I saw the movie myself recently and figured I’d give my two cents.

SCIENTIST 2: Enough with the preface. What did you think of it?

LS: Well, I should first get around to a brief synopsis. MAN OF STEEL is the story of Kal-El, who would later go on to become known on Earth as Clark Kent…

SCIENTIST 1: And Superman!

LS: Yes, of course, Superman. That’s the whole point, isn’t it? But he has to get there first.

SCIENTIST 2: So his father Jor-El sends him here from the planet Krypton.

LS: Yeah, and I thought the way the movie handled Krypton was kind of interesting. Usually in these movies, it just looks like a futuristic version of Earth, with crystal buildings and stuff. However, in MAN OF STEEL, it actually looks like an alien planet, and a dying one at that. For once, we get to see some of the animal life on Krypton. And their machines and technology looks so weird. I liked this a lot. And everyone has these robots who are like CGI machines, constantly creating weird shapes and they seem to have a mind of their own, even as they serve their human-like masters. I just really liked the way the Krypton scenes looked. I wanted to spend more time there.

I originally had a hard time picturing Russell Crowe in the Marlon Brando role of Jor-El, but he’s actually pretty good here. He’s older and kind of stately now, and he fills in for Brando pretty well. I also really liked the Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer as Superman’s mother, Lara Lor-Van. They were both commanding and classy, and you could see them as the parents of someone as colossal as Superman.

SCIENTIST 1: Do not forget zee General Zod.

LS: How could I forget him? Michael Shannon plays General Zod, the head of Krypton’s military. He’s in the middle of a coup, trying to take things over from the decrepit leaders who rule the planet. The old guard have botched things and the planet is on the verge of dying, so Zod decides it would be better if he was in charge. Of course, Zod and Jor-El are friends from way back, but they disagree about how to handle the last days of Krypton, probably because Zod’s big plan to change things comes way too late in the game. He claims he wants to alter the future of Krypton, but, let’s face it, there is no future there. At least Jor-El and Lara have a plan to keep their race alive, involving shooting little Kal-El out into the universe shortly after he is born. A plan which, for some odd reason I didn’t understand, Zod is completely opposed to. He’s so opposed to it, he goes to great lengths to try to stop them, even to the point of killing poor Jor-El. But Lara beats him to the punch – or rather, the launch button.

It’s not long afterwards that Zod and his officers are arrested and tried for treason. So much for his big takeover attempt. Zod and his pals are shot up into space in some weird giant tooth ship that turns into a black hole, or something like that. The other dimension they’re sent to is called the Phantom Zone, by the way.

Meanwhile, little Kal-El shoots through space like a Kryptonian sperm looking for the big mother egg of Earth.

SCIENTIST 2: A vivid image.

SCIENTIST: Enough of zee sex talk. What about Kal-El. He gets found by zose farmers!

LS: Yes, the Kents. They find him after his ship crashes in Kansas and amazingly nobody tracks the ship down or knows anything about their intergalactic adoption, so they raise the little tyke to be their son. Of course, they realize early on that Clark isn’t like other boys. And Pa Kent teaches him to control his temper so he doesn’t get arrested for murder on a daily basis. When Clark saves a school bus full of kids that crashes into a river, there are witnesses, but they just chalk it up to an act of God.

Kevin Costner is actually pretty good as Jonathan Kent. You know, when he was younger and a big star, I didn’t care for him all that much, but now that he’s older and plays more character roles, I’ve grown to like him a lot. And he’s a perfect choice for Pa Kent. The great Diane Lane, who I always liked, plays Clark’s mother, Martha Kent. So we’ve got more good casting here.

So eventually, Clark grows up and decides to go out into the world. He becomes a kind of quiet loner, drifting around the earth, taking a variety of jobs from fisherman to bartender to construction worker, trying to figure out where he came from, and why he’s here on Earth. It’s in the Arctic that he finds an alien ship that is pretty much the Fortress of Solitude, and a hologram of his father pops up to explain everything.

SCIENTIST 1 (looks down): And zat is what is in zee frozen in the ice beneath us.

LS: I guess so. Boy, you think Russell Crowe is dead in the movie, and then he’s onscreen more after he’s dead than he was before. I almost got sick of seeing him. And he always shows up just at the right minute to help out.

SCIENTIST 2: What about the great Cavill?

LS: Henry Cavill? The guy who plays Superman?

SCIENTIST 1: Yes! Zee great Cavill.

LS: He’s not bad here. While I still think Brandon Routh got cheated by not getting to be in any sequels, I have to admit, Cavill’s pretty good. He plays the role completely different, though.

And this is a big part of why I liked the new movie so much. I have never been a Superman fan. I always thought he was too one-dimensional. Superman = Good. It’s all so black and white. There was never any dark side to him. You knew what you were getting, and you knew he would always do the right thing. And frankly, to me, that’s pretty damn boring. Not like Batman, who at least has enough darkness to him to make him a wee bit unpredictable.

In MAN OF STEEL, Superman is still a force for good. It’s not like he suddenly turned into an anti-hero. But the movie plays up the fact that he’s an alien from another world. That he doesn’t belong here. That, even though he grew up here and has been assimilated into this world (something that will come in real handy during his battles with Zod), there’s still a kind of “otherness” to him. And I liked that. It made him more interesting than the kind of character Christopher Reeve played him in the original SUPERMAN films. All good and golly gee. I liked Reeve, but I like Cavill’s Superman better. I like that there’s actually some mystery to him.

SCIENTIST 1: What about Lois Lane?

I liked Amy Adams a lot as Lois. She seemed more like a real reporter than in previous incarnations. But there is a vulnerability to her. Even though she’s in a job that can be dangerous, she never seems particularly tough. And if she acts like a damsel in distress when Zod and his minions come to Earth—well, any human would seem weak in the face of such super-powered beings.

SCIENTIST 2: And Zod?

Michael Shannon was the main reason I was excited about seeing this movie going in. I didn’t know much about Henry Cavill, but I’ve been a Shannon fan for years. He’s been pretty amazing in independent films for years, and stuff like William Friedkin’s BUG (2006) and he had a supporting role, but was a scene-stealer in REVOLUTIONARY ROAD (2008). But his most impressive role so far has been as Prohibition Agent Nelson Van Alden in the HBO series BOARDWALK EMPIRE. Van Alden has gone from a do-gooder government agent to a much darker character who’s rather unpredictable, and capable of murder and violence. It has been fascinating seeing his character grow and change through the seasons of that show.

I actually liked Shannon in MAN OF STEEL, but I had a mixed reaction to his General Zod. Mainly because I still remember the great Terence Stamp’s portrayal of Zod in SUPERMAN II (1980). Stamp’s take on the character was more that of a sadistic soldier with a god complex, and he had a bit of a dark sense of humor. In comparison, Shannon plays the character completely humorless. This isn’t really a man who is pushing his own agenda and a lust for power. Shannon’s Zod is a zealot who believe he is doing the right thing. He was bred to be a warrior and to safeguard the Kryptonian race, and he takes this responsibility very seriously. I think I still like Stamp’s version of the character better, he was a hoot and you could cheer him on as a real bad guy. I’m not sure I like Shannon’s Zod as much, but the actor takes him into a completely different direction, and I can appreciate that.

I also really liked German actress Antje Traue as Zod’s “right hand” woman, Faora-Ul. She’s just as ruthless and formidable as Zod  is, and is a strong ally, instead of being just another faceless flunkie.

I also like that there was so much destruction in the movie during the battles between Superman and his Kryptonian enemies. These people have god-like powers, and would make as much of a mess as Godzilla if they fought it out in a major city. It was just nice to see some of the fall-out from that. By the time the fighting is over, Metropolis looks like a bomb hit it.

The script for MAN OF STEEL  is by David S. Goyer, the guy who gave us the BLADE movies and the really cool script for DARK CITY (1998), as well as Christopher Nolan’s excellent DARK KNIGHT trilogy. He’s a solid screenwriter and has become the go-to-guy for a lot of superhero stuff. And I liked what he did with Superman here. By the way, Goyer’s script for MAN OF STEEL is based on a storyline he wrote with Christopher Nolan.

The movie is directed by Zack Snyder, who has also done his share of comic book adaptations, like Frank Miller’s 300 and Alan Moore’s WATCHMEN. I thought he did a good job with MAN OF STEEL. I like the more science fiction focus of the film, since Superman is an alien being, and there would be repercussions about this—something that previous films completely ignored. He’s not just some super strong guy who fights crime, he’s proof that we’re not alone in the universe. And it was nice to see a movie finally address this.

While I like the script and the direction and the acting, there are flaws. I’m actually sick of seeing Superman’s origin story yet again, even if it’s used to give us a different perspective this time around. And the action scenes are pretty good, but, as usual, go on way too long. The movie is definitely longer than it needs to be, but that seems to be a common thing among blockbusters these days—there’s this idea that more is better. But, with tighter editing, and a more focused storyline, a little shorter film could actually be an improvement.

But my complaints are actually kind of minor. I think everyone involved tried to do something different with a character we’ve seen a hundred times before, and they succeeded in breathing new life into the concept. I’m still not a huge Superman fan, but I’m more of a fan than I was.

I give MAN OF STEEL, three knives.

SCIENTIST 1: Arruda only gave it two and a half knives.

LS: I know. I liked it more than he did. I would have given it even more knives if they had ditched the origin story and done something really daring. But, for what it is, it’s a solid, well-made superhero film.

I’ve got to go now. What is it you guys were waiting for again?

SCIENTIST 1: We are waiting for Superman to emerge from zee ship.

LS: The ship trapped down there in the ice? You guys are idiots. Nobody’s in there.

(LS suddenly leaps into the air and flies away)

SCIENTIST 2 (staring up into the sky): WTF?

-END-

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives MAN OF STEEL ~three knives.

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Quick Cuts: Featuring SUPERMAN

Posted in 2013, Aliens, Based on Comic Book, DC Comics, Quick Cuts, Reboots, Remakes, Sequels, Superheroes with tags , , , , , on June 21, 2013 by knifefighter

QUICK CUTS:  SUPERMAN
Featuring Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Peter Dudar, and Daniel Keohane

man_of_steel_poster_by_hammond09-d5930z8MICHAEL ARRUDA:  With the release of MAN OF STEEL (2013) this past weekend, tonight on QUICK CUTS we’re talking some Superman.  Joining L.L. Soares and myself on tonight’s panel are Peter Dudar and Daniel Keohane.

First question, gentlemen, who’s your favorite Superman?  George Reeves?  Christopher Reeve?  Brandon Routh?  Kirk Alyn?  Dean Cain?  Tom Welling

L.L. SOARES:  I guess my favorite Superman would have to be Christopher Reeve, only because I haven’t seen Henry Cavill yet.

ARRUDA:  Not a George Reeves fan?

SOARES: I really enjoyed the George Reeves SUPERMAN TV show as a kid. It was really campy, and if you watch the show now, it’s even funnier. The storylines made no sense at all.

George Reeves in the 1950s TV series THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN

George Reeves in the 1950s TV series THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN

DANIEL KEOHANE:  Oh, I still have such fond memories of the old George Reeves SUPERMAN television show.

SOARES:  Good for you!  What do you want, a medal?

KEOHANE:  I would run and leap in the air onto the couch making that flying shooshing sound to recreate the guy jumping out of the Daily Planet window.

SOARES:  What a goober!   I bet you still pretend to be Superman when no one’s looking.

KEOHANE (laughing):  No, it’s been a while since I leapt onto my couch trying to be Superman.  Although I used to struggle whenever I walked by a phone booth—.

ARRUDA:  Lucky for you, there aren’t too many of those left.  No one’s into Tom Welling?

KEOHANE:  I assume Welling is the new guy?

Tom Welling as a different kind of Superman on the TV show SMALLVILLE.

Tom Welling as a different kind of Superman on the TV show SMALLVILLE.

ARRUDA:  No.  He played Superman in SMALLVILLE.

SOARES:  I tried several times to get into SMALLVILLE, but it just didn’t grab me. I thought it was boring. And I didn’t care for Welling all that much.

ARRUDA:  I liked what I saw of SMALLVILLE, although I didn’t follow the show towards the end.

PETER DUDAR:  I remember being a kid and having my dad take me to see the 1978 Alexander Salkind/Richard Donner version of SUPERMAN.  Christopher Reeve was larger than life on the silver screen, both as the bumbling, mild mannered Clark Kent and as the confident bastion of non-religious righteousness that was Superman.

SOARES:  Confident bastion of non-religious righteousness?  What is this, a college lecture?

DUDAR:  If you can’t handle the big words, I’ll be happy to dummy it down for you.

SOARES:  Dummy this down.  (Raises his middle finger to his forehead.). Speaking of dummies, where’s Lil’ Stevie? I thought he was the brains of your outfit?

DUDAR: I was six years old at the time I saw SUPERMAN; an age far too young to grasp either dramatic acting performances or the criminal genius of Lex Luthor’s (Gene Hackman) sinister real-estate plans.  What I do remember was the man in the blue uniform and red cape who could fly and break through steel doors and somehow managed to make the earth turn backwards until time regressed and Lois Lane was saved from dying in the earthquake. 

Christopher Reeve as Superman

Christopher Reeve as Superman

ARRUDA:  I saw SUPERMAN at the movies too, though I was a bit older than you when I saw it.

SOARES: Same here.

ARRUDA: Christopher Reeve is my favorite Superman, as well.  Not only did he make a believable and likeable Superman, but he also was hilarious as Clark Kent. 

I’ve always thought that Reeve never received enough recognition for his role as Superman.  I remember back in the day critics were none to kind to Reeve.  It’s a shame that it took a horse riding accident which left him paralyzed and eventually killed him to really make people take a good hard look at his acting achievements.

I will say that I recently watched a bunch of episodes of the ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN TV show, and I was really impressed with George Reeves’ performance as Superman. 

SOARES:  Sit down, Dan!  Don’t go leaping off your chair now!

KEOHANE: It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s—.

ARRUDA:  The first season of the George Reeves show, in black and white, was the best.  It was far superior to the subsequent seasons in color, as these latter seasons were geared more for kids and were often silly.  The first season had some pretty cool episodes.

SOARES: Great Caesar’s Ghost!

ARRUDA (laughing):  That’s my favorite line from the series!  Good old Perry White. 

But I still prefer Christopher Reeve as Superman, and he gets my vote for being the best.

SOARES: I guess I was never a big enough Superman fan to really care. Reeve wins by default. I don’t think his Superman was all that amazing, but it’s probably the best we’ve had so far.

KEOHANE:  I thought Christopher Reeve was a good Superman too, but to be honest, I’m still traumatized by that first movie’s slow, terrifying death of Lois Lane, even if she did get saved by the Big Guy turning back time – though the car should have still fallen into the crack in the earth after he saved her. That mistake always pissed me off.

I have no idea who Kirk Alyn was – was he the original pre-Reeves guy?

Kirk Alyn played Superman in movie serials from 1948 and 1950.

Kirk Alyn played Superman in movie serials from 1948 and 1950.

ARRUDA: Yep.  He starred in two Superman serials, in 1948 and 1950, which predated the George Reeves TV show by a few years.  Alyn actually has a cameo in the Christopher Reeve SUPERMAN movie.  He’s in that brief scene on the train, where we see little Lois Lane with her parents, her dad played by Alyn, and her mom played by Noel Neill who played Lois Lane on the George Reeves TV show. 

SOARES: I actually think Brandon Routh was the most underrated Superman. I actually liked him a lot in the role, and didn’t mind his movie all that much, but it has been put down so much that he’ll never play the role again. But I liked him, and would have liked to see him in some sequels. He got robbed.

ARRUDA:  Yeah, I agree with you about Routh.  I didn’t like SUPERMAN RETURNS (2006) all that much, but it wasn’t Routh’s fault. He was good in it.

Brandon Routh in SUPERMAN RETURNS

Brandon Routh in SUPERMAN RETURNS (2006)

KEOHANE:  I like the look of the guy in the new movie.  Superman with a beard is kind of cool.  How can he shave, though?

SOARES: Kryptonite Razors?

ARRUDA:  Good question!  I should have asked it for this panel.

Instead, our next question is:

What’s your favorite SUPERMAN movie?  Or TV show, if that’s your preference?

KEOHANE:  My favorite Superman movie is a tie between SUPERMAN III (1983) with Richard Pryor and SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE (1987).

ARRUDA:  Are you nuts?

KEOHANE:  No, no— I’m just kidding.

I still twitch a little thinking of those, though SUPERMAN III had some cute parts in it.

SOARES:  Superhero movies shouldn’t be cute.

ARRUDA:  I’ll say.  Unless you’re talking about a kid’s story, cute is probably the last word you want to hear describing your work.  “I liked your movie.  It was— cute.”  Ugh!  But that being said, Dan is right.  SUPERMAN III does have a case of the cutes, and that’s one of the reasons it’s such bad movie.

KEOHANE:  All joking aside, I’d have to go with SUPERMAN II (1980) as my favorite Superman movie.  It had a lot of action and was the Superman franchise’s WRATH OF KHAN when you think about it.

ARRUDA:  Khan!!!  Or, in this case, Zod!!!

SOARES:  Okay, you two STAR TREK geeks, let’s get back to the subject at hand, Superman.

My favorite Superman movie is easily SUPERMAN II as well, with Terence Stamp as General Zod. And I totally agree that it’s like the WRATH OF KHAN in that it was the second film in a franchise, and the best of its given series. I thought the first SUPERMAN movie with Christopher Reeve was kind of boring for at least half its running time, as we got his origin again. This is one origin story that has been done to death. SUPERMAN II was a self-contained story, and was all the better for it. After the second one, the series went downhill fast. You can see just about the same exact arc with the 80s STAR TREK movies.

ARRUDA:   SUPERMAN II (1980) starring Christopher Reeve is my favorite Superman movie as well.

Terence Stamp as the first General Zod in SUPERMAN II (1980)

Terence Stamp as the first General Zod in SUPERMAN II (1980)

I’ve always enjoyed the climactic battle between Superman and General Zod and his two friends, although the special effects are clearly dated now.  I also enjoyed the back story of Clark Kent and Lois Lane, as in this movie Lois finally discovers that Superman and Clark Kent are one in the same.

SOARES:  It took her long enough! I thought she was supposed to be smart.

ARRUDA:  Yeah, those glasses of his aren’t much of a disguise, are they?

DUDAR:  If you guys are through discussing SUPERMAN II, I’d like to talk about the better Superman film, the first Christopher Reeve SUPERMAN movie, which is my favorite.

(SOARES yawns)

I recall revisiting SUPERMAN every time it appeared on HBO, and then on network television, and then countless times more through syndicated cable stations.  With time and age, I found the few moments of the film that could be dismissed as cinematic cheese, like Ned Beatty’s Otis who played out as campy comic relief, but not to the detriment of the film, but as a whole, the film has stood the test of time as one of the great superhero films. 

ARRUDA:  I would agree with that.  There’s also something very cinematic about it, as it plays out on a grand, epic scale.

DUDAR:  Yes, and seeing it made you believe Reeve was really flying in some of those shots. 

SOARES: You thought he was really flying? You weren’t a very smart kid, were you?

I still say that at least half of the movie is a total snooze.

ARRUDA:  I’m glad you brought that up, Peter, as that was one of the taglines from the movie, “You’ll believe a man a can fly.”  That was a big part of SUPERMAN, the special effects that for its time were superior to any other “flying” effects before it.  Compared to MAN OF STEEL, which has CGI effects that are the same as every other movie with CGI effects, the 1978 SUPERMAN was much more cinematic, much more special.

MAN OF STEEL boasts effects that, while very good, aren’t anything we haven’t seen before.

DUDAR:  And Margot Kidder in SUPERMAN seemed to fit in fine as Lois Lane, the street-tough reporter that seemed to melt whenever Superman entered the room.

And let’s be honest…the fact that she couldn’t differentiate between Clark’s glasses and Superman’s never-moving curlicue made her all the more endearing.  What the hell kind of reporter is she? 

SOARES: A dumb one.

DUDAR: The SUPERMAN sequels went on a progressive downhill slide.  SUPERMAN II had the great Terrence Stamp as Zod who, along with his two cohorts, posed the greatest threat ever to Superman’s existence:  Three of them against one of him.  The odds alone are enough to create massive tension.

The film delivered terrific special effects and a storyline that was filled with drama based on the character arcs of Clark, who was ready to give up being Superman to follow his passion for Miss Lane; Lois, who finally embraces her inner bitch at the end and slugs one of the baddies right in the kisser; and Lex Luthor, the returning Hackman, who is willing to “kneel before Zod” in order to rid the world of Superman…talk about putting your pride in check!

This is a cool movie and worthy sequel, but it never captures the heart of the first film.

Henry Cavill as the new version of Superman in MAN OF STEEL.

Henry Cavill as the new version of Superman in MAN OF STEEL.

ARRUDA:  Perhaps, but it’s just so much damned fun that I’ve always liked it a wee bit more than the first SUPERMAN.

SOARES: Yeah,  SUPERMAN II is better than the first one because it has General Zod in it.

As for Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor, wasn’t he like in every single Christopher Reeve SUPERMAN movie?

ARRUDA:  He’s not in SUPERMAN III, but he’s in I, II, and IV.

SOARES:  Enough was enough! He wasn’t so great that we needed him involved in every plot. In fact, I thought he was second-rate compared to a villain like Zod.

Luthor was supposed to be the smartest man in the world (the big brain vs. Superman’s brawn), but I never once believed that about Hackman’s performance. He wasn’t so smart, he was more like a glorified Damon Runyon character. His version of Luthor was just so-so.

And what bugs me the most is that there were so many other villains from the comics who deserved screen time more than Hackman’s Luthor—like Brainiac or the Space Parasite, or later on, Doomsday. And Superman had some really absurd/surreal villains that would be terrific in a movie: Bizarro Superman—and all of Bizarro World—.and Mr. Mxyzptlk top my list of characters I would most like to see in a Superman movie.

ARRUDA:  I agree.  Bring on the other villains!

DUDAR:  The other sequels are instantly forgettable, other than noting that Richard Pryor appeared in SUPERMAN III.

SOARES:  That “cute” movie which Dan loves so much!

KEOHANE: No, no.

Before we move on from this question, I’d just like to give a special nod to George Reeves’ black and white TV show for the fond memories and his perfect Clark Kent.

SOARES: Didn’t we discuss George Reeves already? Why are we going back to him now?

KEOHANE:  Because I chose SUPERMAN II as my favorite Superman movie, but I want to give a nod to the George Reeves TV show, too.

ARRUDA:  Dan is right, though. George Reeves did make a great Clark Kent.  He wasn’t the bumbling comedic Kent portrayed by Christopher Reeve in the movies.  Reeves’ Kent is actually pretty heroic.

DUDAR:  I still prefer Christopher Reeve.  For me, Christopher Reeve will always be the real Man of Steel…though I am curious to check this summer’s next big blockbuster.

ARRUDA:  Tonight’s final question:

What’s your favorite scene from either a Superman movie or TV show?

I’ll answer this one first.  I’ve always liked the Niagara Falls sequence from SUPERMAN II.  Lois and Clark go up to Niagara Falls for an assignment, and it’s here that Lois discovers Clark’s true identity.  After a nifty rescue scene where Superman saves a little boy from falling into the falls, Lois deduces that Clark is never around when Superman is, and she also questions why  Superman just happens to be at Niagara Falls.  Is it just a coincidence that he’s there, or is it because Clark is there?

Later, to prove that Clark is Superman, Lois jumps into the water so Clark will turn into Superman and save her, but Clark doesn’t do this, and in one of the movie’s more comical scenes, attempts to rescue her on his own as Clark Kent.

And of course the sequence concludes when later that evening, Clark accidentally trips into a fireplace and doesn’t get burned, and at this point Lois has her proof.  Clark admits as much, that he is Superman, and they also admit their feelings for each other, in one of the film’s more touching moments.

SOARES:  How cute!

I have two favorite Superman scenes. The first one is also from SUPERMAN II, when General Zod says to Superman “Kneel before Zod.”  Finally a scene where a character is strong enough to make goodie-goodie Superman kneel!

The second one is not even in a Superman movie. It’s David Carradine’s speech about Superman in Quentin Tarantino’s KILL BILL VOLUME 2. In that movie, Carradine’s Bill gives a long (and wonderfully written) speech where he concludes that Superman thought human beings were simpering cowards, because in trying to fit in with them he took on the guise of Clark Kent, who he played up as a weakling to separate him from Superman. It’s a really terrific theory about how Superman’s alter ego revealed his negative perception of the human race.

KEOHANE:  My favorite scene isn’t from any of the movies or TV Shows, but from a rare comic book called Superman Versus Aliens. Supes battling the Xenomorphs from the ALIEN movies was just too cool.

DUDAR:  I don’t really have a favorite scene. 

But I will say that the soundtrack to SUPERMAN absolutely kicks ass! 

ARRUDA:  I’ve always enjoyed John Williams’ score as well.

DUDAR:  Whenever I’m accomplishing something manly or heroic, that’s the song that leaps into my brain.  When I hear it, I am unstoppable. 

SOARES:  So when you’re writing your novels you’re listening to Superman music?

DUDAR:  Of course!

ARRUDA:  To conclude, we have a special treat.  (Takes out an IPod and begins playing the SUPERMAN theme.)

DUDAR:  Time for me to go chop some wood.

KEOHANE (stands on his chair):  Up, up, and away! 

SOARES: If I have to choose a John Williams score that’s inspiring, I’d have to go with  his Imperial March from the STAR WARS films. It’s better than anything in a SUPERMAN soundtrack.

ARRUDA:  Well, folks, we’re out of time- thankfully!  Thanks for joining us everybody!  We’ll see you next time on QUICK CUTS.

—END—

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda, LL Soares, Daniel G. Keohane and Peter N. Dudar

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:  MAN OF STEEL (2013)By Michael Arruda

Posted in 2013, 3-D, Action Movies, Alien Worlds, Aliens, Cinema Knife Fights, DC Comics, Michael Arruda Reviews, Reboots, Superheroes, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on June 17, 2013 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:  MAN OF STEEL (2013)|
By Michael Arruda

Man-of-Steel-poster2-610x904(THE SCENE: A diner.  MICHAEL ARRUDA sits at the counter sipping coffee talking to a group of patrons about MAN OF STEEL.)

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Well, at least Russell Crowe doesn’t sing!

Normally I’d be meeting my Cinema Knife Fight partner L.L. Soares to co-review today’s movie with him, but he’s off winning himself a Stoker Award, so it looks like I’m doing this one solo.

If you folks would like to listen, I’ll review today’s movie, MAN OF STEEL (2013) right now.

(To WAITRESS)  Everyone’s breakfast is on me.  (The group utters a collective “thank you.”)  Don’t mention it.  I’ll put it on L.L.’s tab.  (laughs.)

Anyway, MAN OF STEEL is the new reimagining of the Superman story by director Zach Snyder, screenwriter David S. Goyer, and producer Christopher Nolan, who also received story credit.

It begins where all Superman origin stories begin, on the planet Krypton.  It’s a familiar story by now.  Krypton is dying, and Jor-El (Russell Crowe) is trying to convince his elders that they need to save the planet.  It’s a much more action-oriented opening than past Superman origin tales, as General Zod (Michael Shannon) leads a coup to take over the land, and Jor-El, while a scientist, seems to have gone to the “kick-ass” school of science, as he’s quite adept at kicking butt when he needs to.

You already know what happens, as Jor-El and his wife send their infant son Kal-El to Earth before Krypton is destroyed, while Zod and his followers are arrested and sentenced to prison in deep space, thus sparing them from Krypton’s destruction.

The next time we see Kal-El, he’s already an adult, going by his Earth name Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) having been found and adopted as an infant by Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane).  Fortunately, the story jumps around and we learn about Clark’s childhood via flashback, and so we’re spared the time it would normally take to explain the traditional back story, which again, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you already know.

But even with the creative spin put on the story this time around, there’s still no getting past the fact  that the Superman tale has been told many many times, in the comics, in the movies, on TV, and even in cartoons.  Can’t we just throw Superman into a new adventure and skip the back story?

I recognize that in this case, the whole idea was to reimagine the story, to reboot the whole thing, and screenwriter David S. Goyer does deserve credit for telling this tale from a totally new perspective, but the bottom line is it’s not enough to overcome the fact that MAN OF STEEL has little or no depth when it comes to its characters and its plot.

There were parts of the screenplay that I really enjoyed.  Lois Lane (Amy Adams), for example, meets Clark before he even thinks about joining the Daily Planet.  She also learns right away that he possesses superhuman powers.  I also liked how the story utilized flashback. But one drawback to this style is the film never really establishes a sense of place.  We never get a feel for life on the Kent farm, which is fine by me, but we also never get a feel for life in Metropolis, which is less fine by me.  The story hops around all over the place, and it plays like a video game landscape.

Moving on to the characters, I enjoyed the General Zod character up to a point.  The story makes it clear what his mission is.  Right or wrong, he’s all about saving Krypton, and if it means destroying the human population of earth in the process, then so be it.  I also really enjoyed Michael Shannon in the role.  He makes a very cold General Zod.

(GENERAL ZOD approaches the counter)

ZOD:  Glad to hear I was so enjoyable.

MA: But on the flip side, Shannon’s Zod is no fun.  Compared to Terence Stamp’s portrayal of Zod in SUPERMAN II (1980), Shannon’s Zod is a bore with no personality.  This is a problem the film has as well.  It’s got no personality.  There’s no joy to it. It’s soulless.

Russell Crowe as Jor-El.

Russell Crowe as Jor-El.

ZOD:  That I’m not glad to hear.  I shall have to destroy you now.

MA:  Can you at least wait until after the review? I really would like to finish this.  If you stay and listen, you might hear some more good things said about you.

ZOD:  Really?  Okay.

MA:  Where was I?  Oh, yes.  MAN OF STEEL has no camp, little humor, and ultimately it’s no fun.

ZOD:  I don’t know how to take that. Is that good or bad?

MA: Well, if you’re evil, that’s probably good.

ZOD:  Okay.

MA:  I know they were going for a darker film, but this style worked better in THE DARK KNIGHT movies because Batman tends to be a darker character than Superman.

Russell Crowe fares very well as Jor-El. In fact, in his brief screen time, he was one of my favorite characters in the movie.  He’s a much more active Jor-El than Marlon Brando was in the first Christopher Reeve SUPERMAN film (1978).  It’s actually a superb performance by Crowe, who in a role like this, could have easily mailed it in, but he didn’t.

Superman meets Lois Lane....again!

Superman meets Lois Lane….again!

I’ve become a huge Amy Adams fan of late, and I really enjoyed her here as Lois Lane.    She’s strong, smart, and feisty, not to mention sexy, but one drawback is I didn’t think she and Henry Cavill shared much chemistry as Lois and Clark.

And that’s because Henry Cavill doesn’t generate much chemistry at all in this one.

ZOD:  He’s a wuss.

MA:  Quiet.  I’m reviewing the movie, not you.

ZOD: How dare you hush Zod!

MA: He’s not the most engaging Superman ever to grace the screen. Yet, I have to believe, judging by the way this movie plays out, that he portrays Superman here exactly the way he was supposed to.  But there’s something lacking.  He doesn’t have much of a personality.  He’s not the goodie-goodie Christopher Reeve Superman, but don’t expect a dark brooding superhero either.  He’s not Christian Bale in a red cape.  And that certainly is a problem.  One of the strengths, for example, of the recent Marvel superhero movies is their superheroes are so full of personality.  Cavill’s Superman is kinda boring.

ZOD:  Zod is much more interesting.

MA:  Kevin Costner enjoys some fine moments in his brief stint as Jonathan Kent, and Diane Lane is also memorable as Martha Kent.  Laurence Fishburne makes for a less cranky Perry White, but the rest of the new characters, military types and scientists, are all largely forgettable.

The biggest problem I had with MAN OF STEEL is it suffers from the video game syndromeit has that look of a video-game turned into a movie, and it contains long drawn out battle scenes that bored me to tears.  For all its creativity with its story, MAN OF STEEL lacks grandness and cinematic vision.  There’s no sweeping cinema here.  It’s just CGI effects, and none of them stand out.

ZOD:  I like long drawn out battle scenes!  I could watch them all day!

MA:  Well, I can’t.

The reaction I had to MAN OF STEEL was similar to the reaction I had with STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (2013).  I liked it, but I didn’t love it. There’s just so much going on in both films, you just want things to slow down a bit so you can get to know the characters more. Once the audience gets to know the characters in a movie, and if they like these characters, then they’ll follow them anywhere.  But we have to get to know them first.

Give the characters some depth, and then we will enjoy the action.

Director Zach Snyder inundates us with special effects, none of which really wowed me.  I wish he had spent more time on characterizations and plot.

I don’t really feel as if I knew Superman in this movie.  He’s upset at a young age that he’s different, and later as an adult he goes off in search of his heritage.  Once he learns the truth about his past, he goes off to fulfill his destiny.  Along the way, does he like Lois Lane?  Obviously, the answer is yes, but you wouldn’t know it from this movie.  More effort should have been made to define this new Superman, because right now, he’s not all that exciting.

WOMAN: But he’s so hot!

MA:  Okay, I’ll give you that.  But I think Amy Adams is hot, too, but sex appeal isn’t enough to make a successful movie.

WOMAN:  I think it is!

MA:  Well, I’m sure you’re not alone in that opinion.  But I need more.

One thing I don’t need, however, is more 3D.  I didn’t see MAN OF STEEL in 3D, as I’m sick and tired of shelling out the extra money.

MAN OF STEEL is not as good as THE DARK KNIGHT (2008), THE AVENGERS (2012), or IRON MAN (2008), nor is it up to par with SUPERMAN (1978) with Christopher Reeve.

I wasn’t a big fan of the previous Superman movie, SUPERMAN RETURNS (2006), and I’m not a big fan of this new one.

MAN OF STEEL is ultimately about trust.  Can Superman earn the trust of the world, or specifically in this movie, of the American government?  It’s also about General Zod attacking Earth so he can conquer the planet and reestablish the Kryptonian race.  Neither one of these two plot points did much for me.

Michael Shannon as General Zod!

Michael Shannon as General Zod!

I think Superman is a hard sell nowadays anyway because, one, his story is so familiar, and two, he’s so powerful it’s difficult to write interesting stories about him.  If you really wanted to make Superman darker, he should have gotten involved in some predicament that troubled his conscience or something.  About the only thing troubling Superman in MAN OF STEEL is whether or not the U.S. military thinks he’s good guy or not.

I wasn’t impressed.

I give it two and a half knives.

ZOD:  Are you done?

MA:  Yes.

ZOD:  Then it’s time for me to destroy you.

MA:  Wouldn’t you rather ask one of these fine young ladies out on a date?

ZOD:  Huh?  Do you really think they’d go out with me?

MA:  You’re Zod!  A great general!  Of course they’d go out with you!

ZOD (blushing):  Well, in that case—. (Turns to women next to him)

MA:  Okay, while Zod is busy with his new dating reality show, I’ll slip out the back door so I can be around to review next week’s movie.

Thanks for joining me, everybody!

ZOD (to WOMAN):  Did anyone ever tell you you’re the most beautiful woman to ever belong to an inferior race?  (She rolls her eyes and turns away)  What?  Was it something I said?

—END—-

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda

Michael Arruda gives MAN OF STEEL ~ two and a half knives!

man-of-steel-poster

Quick Cuts Plays “WHAT’S MORE LIKELY?”

Posted in 2013, Based on Comic Book, Comic Book Movies, DC Comics, Quick Cuts, Sam Raimi, Twilight, Vampires, Zombies with tags , , , , , , , , on May 10, 2013 by knifefighter

QUICK CUTS: WHAT’S MORE LIKELY?
With Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Nick Cato, Daniel Keohane, Paul McMahon, and Jenny Orosel

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Welcome to another edition of QUICK CUTS.  Tonight we’ll be playing a little game.

IRON MAN 3 opened in theaters last Friday, May 3rd.  The Marvel superhero movies have enjoyed a nice run going back to X-MEN (2000) and Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man movie, SPIDER-MAN (2002).  Here we are in 2013 and they’re still going strong.

So, tonight we’re going to play a little game called “What’s More Likely?”

Our panel of Cinema Knife Fighters includes, in addition to L.L. Soares and myself, Nick Cato, Daniel Keohane, Paul McMahon, and Jenny Orosel.  Thank you all for coming.

So, tonight’s game, “What’s More Likely?” works like this.  Looking ahead to the next ten years and answer the following questions. 

First question:  What’s more likely? That there will be more Marvel movies in the next ten years, or more zombie movies?

 Spider-Man-2-Movie

NICK CATO:  I think there will always be both, but superhero films seem to be more lucrative.

ARRUDA:  So, more Marvel movies then?

CATO:  Yes.

JENNY OROSEL:  Seeing as they’re now owned by Disney, we’re going to see more Marvel movies than ever.  I fully expect they’ll do two direct-to-video sequels or prequels for every one they have in the theater.

ARRUDA:  I hope not.  There’s nothing like a direct-to-video release to kill off a movie series.  Ugh!

dawn_of_the_dead(2004) L.L. SOARES:  Oh, what do you know!

Turning to the zombie genre for a moment, hopefully, oversaturation will result in a dwindling of zombie movies.

Marvel, however, has a nice variety of characters they can draw from (including many who have never been in a movie before), and should go strong for many years.

ARRUDA:  I agree.

PAUL MCMAHON:  With the success of THE AVENGERS (2012), there will definitely be more Marvel movies. I won’t be sure about zombie movies until we see how much money WORLD WAR Z (2013) makes. With all the buzz about production problems, it could either bring about a reanimation of the zombie sub-genre or put a bullet through its head.

SOARES:  I’m sick of zombies.  I wouldn’t mind putting a bullet through the head of the genre.

DANIEL KEOHANE: I’m going with Marvel movies, without a doubt.

Zombie movies are popular right now, but the superhero movies have a much wider reach and end up making more money, overall. And there are so many characters and teams to choose from, whereas zombies pretty much lumber along the same way each time.

ARRUDA:  I’m going with Marvel movies as well.

Okay, on to our second question: 

What’s more likely? That we’ll still be seeing Marvel movies in ten years, or that we’ll still be seeing movies based on books by Stephenie Meyer?

the-avengers-1235-wallmages

Dan, why don’t you start us off this time?

KEOHANE:  Marvel movies.

(The panel cheers.)

KEOHANE:  Thank you, thank you.

SOARES:  We’re not cheering you.  We’re cheering your pick.

KEOHANE:  Don’t ruin my moment.

Where was I?  Marvel movies.  Because as good a writer for her age group as Stephenie Meyer is, she can only crank out so much content.  Marvel not only has a slew of new comics coming out every month, they have half a century of classic stories already in the can ready to become movie-ized. Even the Avengers movie was loosely based on one of the first Avengers comics (I think). Not to mention DC’s Superman movies. They’ll keep making the same origin story over and over ad infinitum.

Twilight_poster_4

SOARES:  What are you bringing up DC comics for?  This question is about Marvel movies!  Pay attention, Dan!

ARRUDA:  But he makes a good point.  Not only does Marvel have more stories to choose from, but they can remake their own origin stories. Heck, they just did it with their latest SPIDER-MAN movie.

Let’s move on.  I don’t want to give Meyer any ideas.  The last thing I want is a TWILIGHT remake!

SOARES:  I predict that Stephenie Meyer will find a way to continue the Twilight series.

ARRUDA:  No!

SOARES:  You just don’t put a cash cow like that out to pasture.

However, the future for Meyer-related projects is iffy – especially if something new grabs the public’s interest. Meanwhile, I think Marvel movies will be going strong in 10 years.

CATO:  Ten years from now?  Hopefully Meyer will be retired by then.

ARRUDA:  I’m with you.  I hope she’s retired.  I’ll be happy if I never have to see another movie based on a Stephenie Meyer book ever again.

KEOHANE:  I think Meyer is a very talented writer, and you’re not giving her enough credit.

ARRUDA:  Maybe so, but the TWILIGHT movies were awful, and they killed any interest I might have had in seeing THE HOST (2013).

SOARES:  I think you secretly like the TWILIGHT movies.  You talk about them so much.

ARRUDA:  Yeah, right!

MCMAHON:  Marvel movies, no question. They have new ideas and maybe some new-to-the-screen heroes as well.

And sorry, Michael, but it’s entirely possible, though, that in ten years they’ll be remaking the TWILIGHT movies. We can hope not.

ARRUDA:  That’s a horrible thought, though I agree with you.  In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that it’s bound to happen.  If film history has taught us anything, it’s that remakes are always with us.

What about you, Jenny?  In ten years, Marvel movies or Stephenie Meyer movies?

OROSEL:  Ooh, that’s a tough one, since I fully expect Disney to eventually buy Stephenie Meyer, and turn Bella into a Disney Princess. 

ARRUDA:  This panel is getting more painful by the minute.

OROSEL:  I call it a tie.

ARRUDA:  Okay, it’s time for the third and final question of the night.

What’s more likely? Robert Downey Jr. plays Tony Stark/Iron Man again, or Christian Bale plays Batman again?

Robert Downey Jr. in IRON MAN 3, and still going strong.

Robert Downey Jr. in IRON MAN 3, and still going strong.

MCMAHON:  Downey is already going to play Tony Stark in THE AVENGERS 2. There will probably be an IRON MAN 4. I can’t see him ditching that cash cow while the iron is hot. Ahem.

(Someone in the audience groans.)

MCMAHON:  I don’t think Christopher Nolan intends to do another Batman movie, and I can’t see Christian Bale playing that character under another director

ARRUDA:  Good point.  And I agree with you.

I say Robert Downey Jr. plays Iron Man again.  Between THE AVENGERS movies and the IRON MAN series, you’d think that he’d at least be back one more time as Iron Man if not more.

From what I’ve read, Bale is done as Batman.  You never know about these things, but I don’t expect him to play Batman again.

 

Christian Bale is Batman in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.

Christian Bale is Batman in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.

OROSEL:  It’s going to be hard for Bale to keep it going as Batman as he ages, while even if Downey looks ragged and worn, it fits the Stark character.  Unless he ends up in rehab again.  Then all bets are off.

KEOHANE:  Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man without a doubt. This is just a guess–.

SOARES:  Really, Dan, it’s a guess?  You mean you don’t know? 

KEOHANE:  Sorry.  I left my crystal ball at home.

So, this is just a guess, but Downey seems to be enjoying himself immensely up there on the screen, whereas Christian Bale puts so much angst into his characters, his doctors will probably have him committed if he even thinks about doing another one of those.

CATO:  It may be too early to tell, but hopefully Downey will continue to play Stark…he’s perfect in the role, whereas we have yet to find a Batman everyone seems to agree on.

SOARES:  That’s for sure.  It’s all about the mask anyway.  Anyone can play Batman.

Both Downey and Bale probably want to focus on more artistic movies. That said, I think Batman is replaceable, as we’ve seen several people play him over the years, while Downey remains the definitive Tony Stark. I think it’s more likely Downey will be convinced to play Stark again.

ARRUDA:  Okay, there you have it.  It seems the general consensus is that Marvel movies will be around for a while.

That’s all the time we have for tonight.  Thanks for joining us everybody, and we’ll see you next time on QUICK CUTS.

—END—

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Nick Cato, Daniel G. Keohane, Paul McMahon and Jenny Orosel

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2012)

Posted in 2012, Action Movies, Based on Comic Book, Cinema Knife Fights, DC Comics, Revenge!, Superheroes with tags , , , , , , , , on July 24, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2012)
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(SCENE: INTERIOR OF THE BAT CAVE. MICHAEL ARRUDA enters and presses a button that opens a secret panel. Inside is a BATMAN costume, which he puts on. He is next seen standing in front of a mirror, looking at himself)

ARRUDA
(Looks very serious)

I’m Batman.

(L.L. SOARES suddenly appears behind him, also wearing a BATMAN costume.

SOARES

No, I’m Batman.

ARRUDA

Not this again! We can’t both be Batman!

SOARES

That’s right. So you’ll have to change.

ARRUDA

I was Batman first.

(ALFRED the Butler arrives and pushes the two of them apart)

ALFRED

Enough of this fighting! You two hooligans have a movie to review.

SOARES

He’s right, you know. Alfred’s always right.

ARRUDA

Then why don’t you start it off, then.

SOARES

Maybe I will!

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2012) is the third movie in the Batman trilogy by director Christopher Nolan, which began with BATMAN BEGINS (2005) and THE DARK KNIGHT (2008). As this new movie begins, it is eight years after the events of the last one. The death of Harvey Dent, the crusading district attorney who was also the villainous Two-Face in the last movie, has been blamed on Batman. Bruce Wayne—who is Batman’s alter ego for anyone who just arrived from Mars…

(JOHN CARTER walks by.)

JOHN CARTER

Thanks for letting me know.

SOARES

So, as I was saying, Bruce Wayne not only retired his caped persona, he completely retired from the outside world, holing up in his room and becoming a mysterious, unseen figure who everyone thinks is a reclusive nut like Howard Hughes. Wayne now walks with a cane and has his meals delivered to his room by servants.

Enter Selina Kyle, a waitress for a party at Wayne’s mansion, who is really a nefarious cat burglar (although she is never called it in the movie, she’s obviously the Batman nemesis Catwoman!!). She sneaks up into Bruce Wayne’s room to deliver his dinner, and robs his safe in the process. He lets her get away because he has a tracking device on the pearl necklace she swiped.

ARRUDA

Actually, the movie begins with a bang with the villain Bane kidnapping a Russian scientist from an airplane in mid-flight. It’s a rapid-fire action scene, that was very Bond-like.

SOARES

True enough. I liked that scene a lot, by the way, and I wish the whole movie was as action-packed.

What makes Bruce Wayne return to the world, especially his beloved Gotham City, is the arrival of the murderous Bane, who takes up residence in the sewers of the city, with an army of mercenaries who will do anything for him, even die. As Wayne (and we) eventually learns, his past and Bane’s are actually linked. And in this bad guy, Batman might have finally met his match.

So Bane is the main baddie here, but Selina Kyle shows up a lot to provide more villainy, although hers is less obviously bad, since there’s a lot of sexual tension between her and Batman. In a lot of ways, Catwoman seems more like an anti-hero who makes her living stealing expensive stuff than a true villain. And while there are moments when she proves she might not be the best person to trust, there are other scenes that give her a chance to redeem herself.

By the time Bane has taken over Gotham City with his gang of thugs, cutting the city off from the outside world by blowing up all ways out, and getting that previously mentioned Russian scientist to activate a nuclear bomb (formerly a fusion device to create unlimited clean fuel, but now turned into a weapon)in order to hold the city ransom, the story has become a comic book-inspired epic with only Batman standing between the life and death of Gotham! Bane tells the citizenry that he is doing this for their own good—leading a revolution to give the city back to the people—a revolution that includes freeing all violent convicts from their prison for some reason…

Of course, Batman isn’t much help later on in the movie when his back is broken!

ARRUDA

Yes, his back is broken, but not his spirit.

SOARES

Well, once again, Christopher Nolan delivers a big, nicely shot film with lots of atmosphere. Let’s face it, Nolan movies look great.

ARRUDA

I agree.

SOARES

But I had some big problems with this one. While I thought it looked good, and I liked the story for the most part, I thought THE DARK KNIGHT RISES was way too long, and that the pacing was incredibly slow at times.

ARRUDA

I don’t know if I’d call it incredibly slow, but yes, there were some parts where things slowed down a bit.

SOARES

This is not the first time I’ve felt this way about a Nolan movie. Both of his previous Batman films were over two hours long as well, with BATMAN BEGINS clocking in at 140 minutes and THE DARK KNIGHT coming in at 152 minutes. But THE DARK KNIGHT RISES has them both beat, clocking in at 164 minutes—well over two and a half hours!—and there were lots of times when the movie felt that long to me, if not longer. Instead of being an action movie, more than half of THE DARK KNIGHT RISES is an inaction movie. But this isn’t just the case with his Batman movies. I felt the same way about Nolan’s INCEPTION (2010), which was also big and complex and ambitious and flashy, but also painfully slow at times. This guy needs an editor who can actually say “no” sometimes. And if he finds one, he should lend the person out to Martin Scorsese, too, who has been just as indulgent the last couple of decades.

I just really don’t like the pacing here at all. And I think Nolan is only able to get away with this because he’s considered a director with “vision” —and the fact that these movies make a ton of money!

In comparison, a movie like Marvel’s THE AVENGERS is a lot less complex, but twice as much fun.

ARRUDA

Yes, THE AVENGERS is more fun, and I definitely liked THE AVENGERS more than THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, but it’s more fun because the whole Marvel superhero world is more fun than the darker DC Batman world.

 SOARES

But there’s a lot to like here as well. The performances by the lead characters are great. Christian Bale again plays Bruce Wayne/Batman, and he does a decent job here, even if I think Batman is a lot more interesting than Wayne.

ARRUDA

I would have to say that of his three performances as Batman, Bale impressed me the most here in this movie.  I bought that he had given up on the world, after the death of his girlfriend Rachel in THE DARK KNIGHT.  I liked his Bruce Wayne scenes here much more than in the other two movies, I think because he wasn’t going around as the silly billionaire playboy.  Bruce Wayne seems to be facing some problem in nearly every scene he’s in.

And I really felt his anger as Batman when he was trying to defeat Bane and failing.  Batman feeds off this anger as the movie goes on, and he uses it to drive himself to get back into shape, to heal his body and break out of prison and eventually get back to Gotham.

I really enjoyed Christian Bale’s performance in this movie, more so than in the previous two Batman movies.

SOARES

Anne Hathaway actually surprised me as Selina Kyle/ Catwoman. I have to admit, when I first heard she had been cast in the role, I thought it was a mistake, but she turns out to be one of the best things about THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. She’s pretty much perfect in her scenes, and I wished she was onscreen more!

(CATWOMAN pops up in a window)

CATWOMAN

That’s a simply puuurrrr-fect description of my role in this movie.

SOARES

Why thank you!

ARRUDA

I liked Hathaway a lot too.  She delivers a fine performance. However, I was more wowed by Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman in BATMAN RETURNS (1992).  Of the two, Pfeiffer delivered the more dominating performance.

(THE PENGUIN pops up from under the floor)

PENGUIN

But how come I’m not in this one? Quack quack quack.

CATWOMAN

You can’t be in all the movies.

PENGUIN

But I’ve never even heard of this Bane guy before. Quack quack.

SOARES

I always wondered, Mr. Penguin. Why do you always quack like a duck when you’re supposed to be a penguin?

PENGUIN

How dare you, you whippersnapper! I might just whack you with my old umbrella. Quack quack quack.

ARRUDA

I always wondered that too.

CATWOMAN

Me, too!

SOARES

I don’t think he knows a whole lot about birds.

ALFRED

The real Batman is on his way! He’s coming!

PENGUIN

Yikes! I better waddle out of here! Quack quack.

CATWOMAN

Me, too!

SOARES

I also really liked Tom Hardy as Bane. Not only is he a character who underwent the same physical training as Batman, and is not just brawn but brains as well, but his fight scenes with Batman are very intense and really seem dangerous. He’s a formidable bad guy who isn’t afraid to get his hands (or anything else) dirty, and Hardy makes him pretty menacing. With his thick, muscular body, and a freaky mask that looks like something out of the SAW films, Bane is visually intimidating as well.

ARRUDA

I liked Hardy a lot too, and his performance as Bane was one of my favorite parts of the movie. As you said, he’s a formidable foe—brutal, scary, and intense—and that first fight scene between Bane and Batman is one of the better scenes in the movie.  You really feel that Batman just wants to pound this guy, but since they’re so evenly matched, he can’t, and then, once Bane gets the upper hand, the shift in power make Bane all the more deadly and reduces Batman to a near-dead prisoner.

SOARES

I thought that fight scene, especially, was amazing. It’s so visceral. It has more in common with a great boxing movie than a superhero movie.

ARRUDA

I had heard that it was really difficult to understand what Bane was saying in the movie, but I didn’t find this to be the case.  Other than maybe for a brief line here and there, I understood him fine.

SOARES

Yeah, I understood him for the most part, too. But with that intricate mask of his, it is sometimes a little difficult to hear what he’s saying. Before I saw the movie, I’d heard a lot of people saying it was hard to hear him, too, but I noticed, if you listen carefully enough, it’s not that bad. Rumor has it that, for the final movie, Hardy redubbed some of his lines to make them more understandable, and yet sometimes you still have to listen closely to figure out what’s being said. For a big summer blockbuster, I don’t understand why his voice couldn’t have been even clearer. You shouldn’t have to struggle at all to hear a main character talk every time he’s onscreen.

ARRUDA

Like I said, I didn’t have a problem with this at all.

SOARES

I also thought Hardy should be applauded for keeping his mask on throughout the movie. If you notice, most actors want you to see their real face as much as possible. Think of Iron Man, who, even when he’s suited up, we get to see inside the helmet to see Robert Downey Jr.’s face a lot. It’s no doubt a matter of ego—actors, by nature, want to be seen—but in the comics, masks are a big party of the story, and movies that give us a lot of unnecessary unmaskings just to appease actors’ vanity (the Tobey Maguire SPIDER-MAN movies come instantly to mind) just annoy the hell out of me. If you’re going to play a masked character, go all the way with it, and Hardy does just that. But it doesn’t matter if you get to see his real face or not; he’s terrific in the role, and not seeing his face actually makes his character even darker. You forget that Tom Hardy is playing him and believe that this is Bane onscreen. The illusion isn’t broken.

As for the other characters in the movie, I always feel that the masked characters are the most interesting ones in a Batman movie, and I don’t care about the “normal” people as much. And the same is true here. No matter how much I think Gary Oldman is a great actor, his Commissioner Gordon mostly bores me to tears, as do most of the characters who aren’t the “big three.” Even Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a “cop with a secret,” while he might be the most compelling of the “civilian” characters, wasn’t exactly all that riveting a lot of the time. And Michael Caine is an acting legend, but his Alfred Pennyworth is one of his more mediocre roles at best.

ALFRED

How dare you!

ARRUDA

The role might be mediocre, but Caine certainly isn’t!  He’s excellent here as Alfred.  The same can be said for Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon.  Neither one of these guys is boring.

SOARES

Says you!

ARRUDA

And while Joseph Gordon-Levitt is very good here, I felt the movie spent too much time on him.  I would have rather seen more Catwoman scenes.

SOARES

Me, too. More Catwoman!!

But I’ve felt this way about all of the Nolan Batman movies, and thought this was the most glaring in the middle film, THE DARK KNIGHT, which might also have been the best film of the trilogy, where compared to Batman, Two-Face and especially Heath Ledger’s amazing turn as the Joker, the normal people were a total snooze.

ARRUDA

I completely disagree!  There’s not a boring nanosecond in THE DARK KNIGHT, what are you talking about?

SOARES

Maybe if you weren’t such a fawning fanboy, you’d know what I’m talking about. The whole Asian gangster storyline in THE DARK KNIGHT especially, is tedious as hell. The slowness of the rest of the movie is what makes the Joker scenes even better, because Heath Ledger is the only one in the movie with a real pulse!

ARRUDA

That’s crap.  The Asian gangster storyline in THE DARK KNIGHT isn’t dull at all.  Have you forgotten the scene where Batman abducts the head Asian gangster from his heavily guarded skyscraper in a daring airplane escape, not to mention the scene where the Joker humiliates the Asian villains in front of the other gangsters?

But we should move on from THE DARK KNIGHT and get back to today’s movie, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.

SOARES

What this means is when costumed characters on not onscreen, the movie lags. And when a movie has as many pacing problems as THE DARK KNIGHT RISES does to begin with, this can be a little painful.

(A strange little creature appears out of thin air, dressed in a little Batman outfit)

SOARES

Who the hell are you?

BAT MITE

I’m Bat Mite! Don’t you recognize me from the old Batman cartoons of the 1970s? They added me so that little kids would watch the show. How come I’m not in this movie?

ARRUDA

Maybe because you’re awful.

SOARES

Yeah, for some reason I think you’d be out of place in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. You’re kind of a silly character.

BAT MITE

Silly? How dare you! I’ll have you know that I was even more popular than Scrappy Doo!

ALFRED

The real Batman’s coming! He’s almost here!

BAT MITE

Yikes, I better get out of here before he yells at me!

(BAT MITE disappears in a puff of smoke)

SOARES

I never understood what kind of creature Bat Mite was supposed to be. Do you know?

ARRUDA

Enough about that. Finish the review before the real Batman catches us here!

SOARES

Okay.

The screenplay by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan (based on a story by Christopher Nolan and comic book-screenwriter extraordinaire David S. Goyer)is uneven, but has a lot of potential. With a decent editor, tighter pacing, and the removal of unnecessary scenes that do not further the plot, this script, and the movie, could have been terrific. But it’s weakened a lot by its inability to keep things brisk and exciting throughout.

There are also lots of holes in logic if you look at it closely, one of which is how Bane and his gang were able to occupy Gotham for three whole months without the government or anyone else being able to stop them. And where are the other superheroes in the DC Universe? I guess they don’t exist in Nolan’s movies, but Superman could have been a big help here.

And, when Bruce Wayne finds himself in a weird prison called The Pit in another country, how does he get back to Gotham City when he finally finds his way out? It looks like he’s in the Middle East somewhere. And it’s not like they left him with his wallet and American Express traveler’s checks.

And did I mention the movie lags at times?

I thought there was a lot to like about THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, but also plenty that inhibited it from being the masterpiece Nolan set out to make. It’s more a movie with lots of potential than one that totally delivers the goods. For that reason, I give it three knives out of five,  mostly because of the film’s epic scope and the fine acting of the leads.

What did you think of it, Michael?

ARRUDA

I liked it, but I can’t say that I loved it.

I can’t ignore the inevitable comparison to THE DARK KNIGHT, a movie that fired on all cylinders and was nearly perfect in its execution.  It’s nearly impossible to repeat perfection, and THE DARK KNIGHT RISES is no exception.  I agree with what you said about it being uneven.

First and foremost, the story isn’t as strong as the story in THE DARK KNIGHT.  I understood completely where the Joker was coming from in THE DARK KNIGHT and what he was doing.  He was all about one thing:  chaos.  It was simple, but it worked.

SOARES

Not entirely. The Joker’s storyline worked. Even the Two-Face stuff was pretty good. But the rest of it wasn’t all that compelling. I actually think, in some ways, the story in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES was a little better.

ARRUDA

I thought THE DARK KNIGHT story was tighter and much more compelling from start to finish.

Back to THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, I didn’t find Bane’s motives quite as easy to understand, and as much as I liked Bane as a villain, Tom Hardy doesn’t quite match the brilliance of what Heath Ledger did with his Joker.

SOARES

The characters are as different as apples and oranges. Bane was powerful and visceral and mostly spoke with his fists. The Joker was compelling because he was completely insane and unpredictable. Of course the more flamboyant role is going to be more entertaining.

ARRUDA

I don’t care if they’re not the same type of character.  They’re both villains, and as such, Ledger’s performance as the Joker was off the charts.  Hardy’s performance as Bane wasn’t.

The action scenes all looked good, but none of them really blew me away.  I did like that first fight scene between Batman and Bane, but the second time they meet, the fight should have been better, but it’s not.  That was disappointing.

I mentioned earlier how the opening scene was very James Bond-like, but at times, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES reminded me of another movie series:  ROCKY.  Like Rocky Balboa, Batman loses his “bout” to a stronger foe midway through the film, and then he has to train his older, broken body to fight against a stronger foe.  I could almost hear Bill Conti’s ROCKY theme playing when Batman was building himself back up in that prison.

Like you, I wasn’t wowed by the screenplay, thought there were too many characters, and would have preferred a tighter story about Batman, Catwoman, and Bane, because I really liked these three characters.

And again, I think this was Bale’s best performance as Batman.

I place THE DARK KNIGHT RISES in the middle of Nolan’s Batman trilogy, behind THE DARK KNIGHT but better than the first one, BATMAN BEGINS.

I give THE DARK KNIGHT RISES three knives.

 SOARES

That’s all? I was sure you were going to like this movie more than I did!

ARRUDA

In my book, three knives is a very good rating.  I view two and a half knives as average, and I certainly found THE DARK KNIGHT RISES to be above average.

SOARES

Barely…

(The REAL BATMAN enters the room and is shocked to find two imposters wearing his costume)

REAL BATMAN

Alfred, what’s going on here? Who are these two idiots?

ALFRED

I have no idea, sir. I told them they couldn’t stay here, but they won’t leave.

ARRUDA

Uh oh, I guess we’ll have to wrap this one up.

SOARES

Yeah, thanks a lot for finking on us, Alfred! (to Arruda) We better get out of here before he tries to break our backs.

REAL BATMAN

(Shaking his fist)

I’ll get you two yet!

-END-

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Michael Arruda gives THE DARK KNIGHT RISES~three knives.

LL Soares also gives THE DARK KNIGHT RISES ~three knives.

Quick Cuts Presents: “I’M BATMAN!”

Posted in 2012, DC Comics, Quick Cuts, Superheroes with tags , , , , on July 18, 2012 by knifefighter

QUICK CUTS: “I’m BATMAN!”
With Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Garrett Cook, and Dan Keohane

 

MICHAEL ARRUDA: Okay, everybody, it’s time for QUICK CUTS.

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2012) opens on July 20, which means once again Batman will be lighting up the big screen.

Now, some people contend that anyone can play Batman, that it’s all in the mask. All you have to do is put the mask on, and you’re good to go. I’d say there’s some truth to this, if you look at some of the actors who’ve played Batman in recent years, Christian Bale, George Clooney, and Val Kilmer, for example.

L.L. SOARES: It is all in the mask. Just about anyone can play Batman, including me. (Puts on Batman mask. and grabs MA by the shoulders.) I’m friggin Batman! Now get the hell out of Gotham before I kick your ass! (takes off mask). See?

MA: I see that with or without the mask, you’re still a maniac. It makes no difference what you wear on your head.

Anyway, let’s have some fun.

The question for today’s panel is, who would you NOT want to see play Batman? Who’s the guy you absolutely would not want to see wear that Batman mask—EVER!

Garrett, who’s that guy for you?

GARRETT COOK: I, for one, while I am of the unpopular minority that thinks SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD (2010) was a lot of fun and strangely heartfelt—.

LS: Good movie!

MA: I liked it, too!

GC: Anyway, with that being said, I would not want to see Michael Cera as the Dark Knight. While Will Arnett’ s Alfred would be an interesting mentor in life, I think the casting would be in the words of Gob Bluth “a big mistake.”

LS: I guess that cancels out Jesse Eisenberg, too, since he’s kind of a Michael Cera look-alike.

MA: My turn.

I’m going to go with Taylor Lautner. I don’t want to see Batman take his shirt off. If Lautner were to play Batman, it’d just about make me sick.

I also wouldn’t want to see Steve Carrell play Batman. I can see some director thinking that Michael Keaton did it, so why not tap another comedian? While I think Steve Carrell is great, I wouldn’t want to see him as Batman. He’d be the first millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne who couldn’t score with the women.

Lastly, I wouldn’t want to see John Cusack in the role. He’d be too intense, and as a result I think he’d be pretty unlikeable.

MA: Okay, Dan, who’s your pick?

DAN KEOHANE: OK, easy one right off the bat, and I’m surprised that none of you mentioned him yet: Johnny Depp.

MA: Good choice!

DK: I truly enjoy the actor in so many things, but I was a bit troubled by his Barnabas Collins role, both for the cartoonish freak he made him into, and for the disturbing fact that I actually found his performance quite creepy—no, liar!… no really—I hated the film, but liked him..

ANYWAY, please NO Johnny Depp for Batman, no, no, no!

My other contender for NEVER playing Batman would be Owen Wilson. Mostly because I think Batman might not be taken seriously if the nose on his cowl is bent all the time.

MA (to LS): Is there anyone you wouldn’t want to see in the role?

LS: Sure. There’s one guy I hope never gets the role, and that’s Corey Feldman! He’s so awful, he could ruin any role.

MA: Okay, folks, there you have it, our picks for the guys we least want to see put on that Batman cowl!

Until next time, thanks for tuning in!

—END—

Cinema Knife Fight COMING ATTRACTIONS for JULY 2012

Posted in 2012, 3-D, Action Movies, Aliens, Blockbusters, Cinema Knife Fights, Coming Attractions, Crime Films, DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Superheroes with tags , , , , , , on July 6, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT COMING ATTRACTIONS: JULY 2012
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(The Scene:  A crowded beach in July.  Sunbathers and swimmers are everywhere, and MICHAEL ARRUDA and L.L. SOARES are sitting on beach chairs, catching up on some summer reading.)

L.L. SOARES (puts down his copy of “Justine” by the Marquis de Sade):  As much as I’m enjoying this book, I wish things would liven up around here.  A visit from a great white shark, or some hungry piranhas would be just the thing!  Any chance these creatures will be showing up in our July movies this summer?

MICHAEL ARRUDA (puts down his copy of “SpongeBob Squarepants and Patrick Go to the Movies”): Unfortunately, no.  Just a couple of superheroes, a silly comedy, and Oliver Stone’s latest.

LS:  No piranhas?

MA:  I’m afraid not.  Didn’t you get your fill of piranhas last month with your review of PIRANHA 3DD?

LS:  It was over all too soon.

MA:  Which, for the rest of the planet, was a good thing!  How about we start our July Coming Attractions column?

LS:  Sure.

MA:  Up first, it’s THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2012), which actually opens on Tuesday, July 3, so technically, the first weekend of July, we’ll be doing two Cinema Knife Fights because we’ll also be reviewing Oliver Stone’s SAVAGES (2012) which opens on Friday, July 6.

In regards to THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, admittedly, I’m a sucker for superhero movies, especially the Marvel movies of the past decade, and so yes, I am definitely looking forward to this movie.  But that being said, there’s a part of me who isn’t into it, the part of me who feels it’s just too soon after the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire movies to be starting a new Spider-Man series, but that’s just me.

Based on the previews, Andrew Garfield looks like he’s going to make a good Spider-Man, and the film as a whole looks pretty good, again, based on the trailers I’ve seen.  No Mary Jane in this one, as Peter Parker’s love interest here is Gwen Stacy, as played by Emma Stone, who was in THE HELP (2011), and she was also in ZOMBIELAND (2009) a few years back.

And this time around the villain is The Lizard.

LS:  I’m not sure what to expect, either. Originally, I wasn’t too thrilled about them rebooting the series, telling Spider-Man’s origin all over again, etc. But the more I see of it, the more I think it could work. I was getting very tired of Tobey Maguire in the role of Peter Parker, and while I think Sam Raimi can be great, he was getting incredibly tiresome as the director of the Spider-Man series. SPIDER-MAN 3 (2007), especially, was a horrible movie. So it needed some fresh blood.

(BARNABAS COLLINS walks by, holding an umbrella to block out the sun)

BARNABAS: Did I hear someone say “fresh blood?”

LS: None for you, you Johnny Depp look-alike.

BARNABAS: Drat! How did you know I was a vampire?

LS: The heavy white-make-up, the aversion to the sun, the fangs?

BARNABAS: Oh!

LS: Now stop bothering us before I put a stake in you.

BARNABAS: Be seeing you guys (BARNABAS hurries off the beach)

LS: Have I mentioned lately how much I hated Tim Burton’s version of DARK SHADOWS? It’s actually one of these movies that I dislike MORE the more I think about it.

MA: I didn’t like it either, and I also have to agree with you about SPIDER-MAN 3.

LS:  Where was I? Oh yeah, Spider-Man. I think Andrew Garfield could be an improvement as Peter. Gwen was his first girlfriend, so it makes sense she would be in this reboot and not Mary Jane (who came later in the comics—Sam Raimi had it all backwards). And the Lizard is one of Spider-Man’s better villains. So this one has potential. I hope it blows the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man movies out of the water. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

Next up is SAVAGES, as you said. Based on the book by Don Winslow, it’s about three pot dealers who go up against a vicious drug cartel who wants to cut in on their business. I’m actually looking forward to this one a lot more than THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. I’m not a big Spider-Man fan, and SAVAGES looks more up my alley. A crime drama with lots of violence. It looks like Oliver Stone could be getting his mojo back. I hope so.

MA:  Yes, I’d expect you to be salivating over this one, since it stars one of your favorite actors, Taylor Kitsch (who earlier this year starred in BATTLESHIP and JOHN CARTER).  I didn’t like him in either of those movies, and so I’m looking forward to giving him another chance.

LS: Yeah, Kitsch deserves some success for a change.

MA: If anything, SAVAGES looks like it’ll be intense.  And yes, it’s directed by Oliver Stone, but truth be told, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen an Oliver Stone movie that I’ve really liked.  Interestingly, one of the screenwriters, Shane Salerno, also wrote the screenplay for ALIENS VS. PREDATOR: REQUIEM (2007), the second Alien vs. Predator movie, and one that I liked a lot.

Besides Taylor Kitsch, the other male lead in this one is Aaron Johnson, who played Kick-Ass in KICK-ASS (2010), and who looks completely different here. And the female lead is played by the beautiful Blake Lively, who we saw in last year’s THE GREEN LANTERN (2011).

I’ll also be looking forward to seeing Benicio del Toro in this one.

LS: Me, too. And don’t forget Salma Hayek as the head of the cartel. I’m betting this one is going to be a lot of fun.

MA: On July 13, there isn’t anything of interest opening at the theaters, and so most likely we’ll be bringing you a DVD review instead.

On July 20, we’ll be reviewing this summer’s most anticipated release, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES   (2012), Christopher Nolan’s third and final BATMAN movie.  I’m certainly looking forward to this movie, as I absolutely loved THE DARK KNIGHT (2008) and enjoyed BATMAN BEGINS (2005) a lot, too.  THE DARK KNIGHT is my favorite superhero movie of all time, as I believe it transcended the genre.  It’s one of my favorite movies period!

LS: I believe Heath Ledger’s portrayal of The Joker transcended the genre. Otherwise, I thought THE DARK KNIGHT was a pretty standard superhero movie. I like it, but I don’t think it’s some kind of masterpiece like you do.

MA: That being said, I can’t really imagine THE DARK KNIGHT RISES topping THE DARK KNIGHT, so my expectations for this movie aren’t that high.  I’m still looking forward to it, though.  Batman’s always been one of my favorite superheroes, and I’ve enjoyed the various portrayals of Batman over the years, from Adam West to Michael Keaton.  Strangely, as much as I’ve loved the Chris Nolan Batman movies, I haven’t really enjoyed Christian Bale as Batman all that much.  He’s okay, but he hasn’t been the reason why I’ve liked these films so much.

Anyway, it has a great cast, it’s got Nolan at the helm, and it looks terrific, so there you go.

LS:  THE DARK KNIGHT RISES might be interesting. I think the villain, Bane, has a lot of potential. In the comics, he broke Batman’s back. I wonder if that will happen here.

MA:  Yes, I agree.  I think Bane has the potential to be another cool villain.

LS:  I’m not as excited about Anne Hathaway playing Catwoman, but we’ll see what happens. I think DARK KNIGHT RISES will be better than you’re expecting, for some reason. As for the character of Batman, I still maintain that anyone can play him. He’s a cipher. Under that cowl, Paul Reubens could be playing Batman, and it wouldn’t matter.

(PEE-WEE HERMAN dressed as Batman skips by them, carrying a huge beach ball.  He stops, aims and throws the ball at MA, but it bounces off the arm of MA’s beach chair and slams PEE-WEE in the head.)

PEE-WEE:  Ouch!  Hey, I meant to do that!

MA:  Yeah, right.  Hit the road, Pee-wee.

PEE WEE:  Pee-wee?  I’m Batman!

LS:  You’re Pee-wee!

PEE-WEE:  I know you are, but what am I?  (Skips away)  Has anyone seen my Bat Bicycle?  (Exits)

LS:  And then the month concludes with the July 27th release of THE WATCH. This one features Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill as members of a neighborhood watch group who come across some extraterrestrial monsters. It could go either way.

MA:  I don’t have much to say about this one, except that based on the previews, it seems very mediocre.  We’ll see.  I like Ben Stiller sometimes, but I’ve never been much of a Vince Vaughn fan, and Jonah Hill is following up on the success of 21 JUMP STREET (2012).  I really enjoyed Hill in MONEYBALL (2011).

And it’s written by Seth Rogen, who last year gave us the uninspired THE GREEN HORNET (2011).

LS: Everyone involved has done good stuff—and some stuff that wasn’t so good. So like I said, it could go either way. I hope it’s good. I hope it’s funny. I just don’t have high expectations for it. But I certainly go into a movie hoping it will be better than I expect.

MA: Well, that sums up our movies for July.  Shall we get back to our reading?

LS:  I still wish we’d get a visit by some hungry piranhas.

MA:  Well, don’t look now, but you’re about to get your wish.

LS:  Really?

MA:  Look over there.  (points to ocean.)

(A group of swimmers start screaming, and a huge pool of red darkens the water.)

LIFEGUARD:  Everybody out of the water!  Piranha!  Piranha!

LS:  Ah, the sights and sounds of a beach on a summer’s day.  All is right with the world.  Hey, how did you know the piranhas were coming?

MA: A little bird told me.

(A seagull flies above them with a piranha in its mouth.)

LS: I guess it’s true that seagulls will eat anything.

—END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares