Film Review: Superman Returns (2006)

Also known as: Superman V, Superman Reborn (working titles), Red Sun (fake working title)
Release Date: June 21st, 2006 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Written by: Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris, Bryan Singer
Based on: Superman by Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster
Music by: John Ottman, John Williams (original themes)
Cast: Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, James Marsden, Frank Langella, Eva Marie Saint, Parker Posey, Kal Penn, Sam Huntington, Kevin Spacey, Marlon Brando (archive footage), Richard Branson (cameo)

Legendary Pictures, DC Comics, Peters Entertainment, Bad Hat Harry Productions, Warner Bros., 154 Minutes

Review:

“You can print money, manufacture diamonds, and people are a dime a dozen, but they’ll always need land. It’s the one thing they’re not making any more of.” – Lex Luthor

I haven’t seen this film since it first came out. There were things I liked about it but I never had much urge to revisit it. Seeing it again, twelve years later, I was reminded why.

To start, this is a motion picture that had it’s heart in the right place. It was an homage to the style and tone of the first two Christopher Reeve Superman films. In fact, this is a loose sequel to those; it ignores SupermanIII and IV.

But while this does have its heart in the right place, it was lacking a soul. It tried quite hard to pull off the magic that existed in the first two Reeve films but it lacked its spirit and its charm.

That being said, I did like Brandon Routh as Superman and I thought his Clark Kent was good. But if I have to compare him to Reeve, he is short on personality. I don’t think that’s his fault though, as he is pretty damn charming in a lot of other films and television shows he’s been in. He’s one of the shining stars of Legends of Tomorrow. But I feel like he was sort of forced to give an understated performance here. And maybe the studio was too afraid to make him too Reeve-like but if he is playing the Reeve version of Superman, there should be some consistency.

I wasn’t crazy about most of the cast, despite the fact that most of them are talented. Kate Bosworth’s Lois Lane also seemed to lack the energy and spirit she needed. She didn’t have the spunk of Margot Kidder and felt less like that version of Lois than Routh felt like the Reeve version of Superman.

Kevin Spacey was okay as Lex Luthor but he also didn’t feel like the Gene Hackman version.

So are you starting to see the problem here?

This film exists as a new Superman III but the new cast doesn’t quite fill the shoes of the first two movies. I think that this comes down to the script, as none of the characters are written in the same way as they were in those Richard Donner directed classics from 1978 and 1980.

Another big issue I have with this is that the story is boring and Lex’s evil scheme is mundane. Maybe this was all done to setup something bigger in the future but since this didn’t get any of the planned sequels, all we got was a lot of drama and Superman throwing a continent into space. Hell, the scheme in the real Superman III was much better than what they came up with here.

As far as positives, I did like the score and the inclusion of the original John Williams themes. Honestly, the Williams theme immediately gets you pumped up during the credits and it actually makes this film better. Ultimately, as I said, the heart was there and the tone felt right. But then again, the tone sort of loses its essence. As the film rolls on, it doesn’t seem to go anywhere and we’re given a threat that doesn’t create any sort of exciting battle or action.

Most of the action in the film is vehicle action: a runaway car, a seaplane in danger, an out of control airplane hauling a space shuttle and Lex’s helicopter escape.

This film came out in a time when digital effects could do anything but all Superman really did was lift a large land mass. They could have had him fight Darkseid, Brainiac, Metallo, Mongul, Doomsday or any other great villain from his large rogues gallery.

I wish that this would have been a great film. I wish it would have birthed a new series of films. It just didn’t resonate with me, most critics and or the audience.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the first two Christopher Reeve starring Superman films and Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy.

Documentary Review: Power of Grayskull: The Definitive History of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2017)

Release Date: September 9th, 2017 (Power-Con premiere)
Directed by: Randall Lobb, Robert McCallum
Written by: Randall Lobb, Robert McCallum
Cast: Dolph Lundgren, Frank Langella, various others

Definitive Films,FauxPop Media,Pyre Productions USA, 95 Minutes

Review:

This documentary recently dropped on Netflix, so being that Masters of the Universe was one of my first loves as a kid, I definitely wanted to check this out.

Power of Grayskull does a nice job of telling the He-Man and Masters of the Universe story from before its conception up to modern times. It even spends a good amount of time on the motion picture, which I still love, even if it took tremendous liberties and wasn’t quite the Masters of the Universe that I knew.

The first part of this is very similar to the Masters of the Universe episode of the Netflix show The Toys That Made Us. It talks about where Mattel was at, going into the early ’80s, and all the events leading up to them needing to develop a solid toy property for young boys.

This gets into more detail than that TV episode though, as this isn’t whittled down to television length. It spends more time discussing the key players involved and the steps taken as the franchise expanded into new toys, a second show called She-Ra: Princess of Power, the 1987 live action movie, what happened when the property started to cool off and how it still finds a way to circle back around and have some success.

The highlight of this whole thing was the portion that was devoted to the live action movie. At least, it’s what I found most interesting. Especially, since Dolph Lundgren and Frank Langella did interviews and both stated their love of working on the motion picture.

If you are a fan of Masters of the Universe, this is a cool documentary to check out. It brought me down memory lane and even reminded me of characters I had forgotten.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Other documentaries on specific fandoms: Turtle Power, Ghostheads and the Netlfix TV series The Toys That Made Us.

 

Film Review: Brainscan (1994)

Release Date: April 22nd, 1994
Directed by: John Flynn
Written by: Brian Owens, Andrew Kevin Walker
Music by: George S. Clinton
Cast: Edward Furlong, Frank Langella, Amy Hargreaves, T. Ryder Smith

Admire Productions Ltd., Coral Productions, Triumph Films, 96 Minutes

Review:

“It doesn’t have to make sense. All these horror movies you watch… does ‘Death, Death, Death’ make sense? No. It’s not about sense. It’s about death, death, death.” – The Trickster

I remember the trailers for this when I was a young teen but I never had the urge to see this. Even when I worked at video stores, I didn’t have the desire to waste one of my free rentals on Brainscan.

However, I figured I’d give it a whirl now, as I don’t have any sort of nostalgic attachment to it, good or bad. And really, I’ll watch anything just to review it.

This came out at the tail end of Hollywood’s short lived Eddie Furlong experiment. Granted, I think the actor’s personal problems contributed to his sudden lack of work until he turned things around a bit with his role in American History X, four years later.

This is about a hardcore horror nerd who is given a game that will be the most immersive horror experience he could ever have. Well, it is. Little Eddie Furlong thinks he’s playing a game but he’s actually out murdering the crap out of people. The game’s host, The Trickster, who drops the “The” and only introduces himself as “Trickster”, leads Little Eddie Furlong into madness.

All this crazy stuff happens in the most mundane way possible and there really is no suspense or anything exciting in the entire picture. Granted, it does have some sort of grunge rock/heavy metal ’90s vibe that works. And The Trickster is actually interesting enough to keep you engaged in his scenes, even if he does look like a really bad ’90s cliche.

The real problem with this movie is that it is dark and fucked up but then it shows that it actually doesn’t have any balls and erases all the evil shit when it’s revealed that it was actually just a game all along. Or was it? They give you a little twist after the twist and this film has a sort of non-committal, non-ending that shows me that the filmmakers had no idea how to wrap the film up.

Brainscan is fine if you have 90 minutes to waste. But I certainly wouldn’t go out of my way to see it.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: The Lawnmower Man and Arcade, which is a terrible movie but still fairly similar.

Film Review: Masters of the Universe (1987)

Release Date: August 7th, 1987
Directed by: Gary Goddard
Written by: David Odell
Based on: He-Man and the Masters of the Universe toy line by Mattel
Music by: Bill Conti
Cast: Dolph Lundgren, Frank Langella, Courtney Cox, James Tolkan, Christina Pickles, Meg Foster, Billy Barty, Robert Duncan McNeill

Golan-Globus, Cannon Films, 106 Minutes

masters_of_the_universeReview:

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was a huge franchise in the 1980s. There was a massive toy line, a cartoon, a spinoff called She-Ra: Princess of Power and a bunch of other stuff. Then, after the fanfare sort of settled down towards the late 80s, we got a live-action movie.

This film is awesome! Well, truthfully, it is pretty bad from a critical and snobbish standpoint but it is incredibly enjoyable because of Frank Langella’s portrayal of Skeletor. Sure, Dolph Lundgren is awesome but his He-Man was pretty generic. Langella’s Skeletor on the other hand, was fantastic and still comes off as a great on-screen villain and one of my favorite cinematic bad guys from my childhood.

This movie was pretty much panned by critics and everyone else. I don’t care. It’s a far from perfect film but it has so much charm and 80s awesomeness that it stands above most of the big blockbusters today. Its practical effects and makeup were spectacular, its animated bits were greatly done for a film on a tight budget and the cinematography and art direction were fantastic. This movie captures your attention in a visual sense and it delivers something pretty unique, especially for its time.

The plot is pretty weak; the story doesn’t even matter that much though, as the audience for this film just wanted to see He-Man and Skeletor throw down in the most anticipated final battle since Return of the Jedi. Additionally, it’s a non-stop fantasy action picture from beginning-to-end. It has a Star Wars meets Dune meets Conan the Barbarian vibe and it does it well for seemingly pulling from all three of those franchises to some degree.

Not only does this film give us Lundgren and Langella duking it out for the title of “Master of the Universe” but it gives us a really young and even cuter Courtney Cox, a stunning as ever Meg Foster, an awesome as always Billy Barty and Strickland that assistant principal from Back to the Future that called everyone a “slacker”.

I love this film. I don’t care if most people hate it or refer to it as “stupid” or “horrible”. Sure, it doesn’t follow the He-Man mythos that closely and it is full of cheesy moments but I don’t give a shit. Back in the day, most film adaptations of non-film stories or franchises did whatever the hell they wanted anyway.

Masters of the Universe is an incredibly flawed film. However, with Langella’s Oscar worthy performance as Skeletor and the fact that this still brings me back to my younger days when He-Man ruled the world, I’ve got to give it serious props.

Besides, popcorn goes best with mindless cheesy fun.

Film Review: Draft Day (2014)

Release Date: April 7th, 2014 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Ivan Reitman
Written by: Rajiv Joseph, Scott Rothman
Music by: John Debney
Cast: Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Denis Leary, Frank Langella, Tom Welling, Sam Elliott, Ellen Burstyn, Chadwick Boseman, Terry Crews

Odd Lot Entertainment, Montecito Picture Company, Summit Entertainment, Lionsgate, 110 Minutes

draft_dayReview:

*Written in 2014.

Being that tomorrow is the real 2014 NFL Draft, I figured that I should finally get to the theater to see the film Draft Day. Being a fan of Kevin Costner and sports movies in general means that I am a really big fan of sports movies starring Kevin Costner. Plus, this film also stars Denis Leary, Frank Langella, Terry Crews, Sam Elliott and a multitude of other stars I like in addition to countless cameos. It’s also directed by Ivan Reitman, who’s work filled my youth with joy – most notably Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters II, Twins, Stripes, Kindergarten Cop and Meatballs.

Now this is hardly Reitman’s best work and certainly not Costner’s best sports movie. That doesn’t mean that this wasn’t a worthwhile and enjoyable film. It was a fresh angle on football films and showed that the action behind the scenes is just as tough, heavy and stressful as it is on the filed, if not more so.

The film showcased the difficult job of being the general manager of a major sports franchise and the level of responsibility that comes with such a position. Kevin Costner did a great job with the material he was given and his presence added a level of respect and charisma to the role that a lesser actor wouldn’t have been able to bring.

Leary was great as the coach. I especially enjoyed the bit where he pretty much dissed the City of Cleveland for being a shithole compared to the wealthy lifestyle he had in Dallas – his previous coaching gig. Leary, along with Langella and Jennifer Garner, added some good depth to the cast. Chadwick Boseman who starred as Jackie Robinson in last year’s 42, did a good job as one of the potential draftees in the film. He was a natural fit and it was nice seeing him move on into a new role after his great performance in 42.

Overall, the film wasn’t great but it was fun and entertaining and certainly not dull or redundant. Sports films are a dime a dozen but this is one that stands a little bit above the average films in the genre. It’s no Rudy but it also isn’t The Replacements.