TVWriter™ Contribs See MAN OF STEEL Pt. 2 – Herbie J

As we’ve said, MAN OF STEEL has become the most-discussed film of the year among TVWriter™ visitors/staff/students/fans. We presented one view of the movie below. Here’s the second POV:

by Herbie J Pilato

Man of Real Steel (2)In their mutation from the printed/digital comic book world into the live-action feature film universe, Marvel’s superheroes are overwhelmingly the victors while to DC’s camp go the spoils, the clunkers and the position of a distant second best.

Marvel not only continues to throw all the right the heroic punches, as much as it consistently enters the ring with sheer, unadulterated courage and innovative product.

To put it simply, Marvel has guts – they simply deliver their superior human flicks in the right manner. They stick to the mythology of their selected comic book origins and hold back on the edgy innovation. It’s still there – but they don’t make such a big deal out of the alterations – as does DC.

For what seems like eons, DC, and its Warner Bros. studio partner, have been dragging their collective butt in spotty attempts to, for one, get their Justice League (as a group or individually) up on the big-screen. Although their Christopher Nolan-directed Batman/Dark Knight trilogy was a massive hit, and the new Nolan-produced Man of Steel, directed by Zach Snyder, has granted a potent shot in the arm to the Superman franchise, the success of Marvel’s multi-guided Captain America/Thor/Iron Man/Avengers movies (not to mention their Spider-Man flicks, Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield editions) have far superseded (sorry) DC’s less-than stellar entries into the genre (hello and goodbye Green Lantern).

To put it simply again, Marvel’s wonder mutants are just a lot more fun to watch; they have more pep, the casting is spot-on – and their “joy factor” is tremendous.

On the other hand, DC’s super frenzy of motion picture heroes lack the vibrant spirit and color (in tone, cinematography and costume) of their comic book page origins.

Man of Steel (MOS), for one, is utterly vacant of joy – not to mention downright depressing (which itself goes against the very core of the original Superman comic-book mythology). What it then lacks in figurative character it additionally lacks in characters, period, namely, The Daily Planet junior photographer Jimmy Olsen.

Most likely, Jimmy may show up in a sequel (probably in some dark form; which see later dark references). But that’s not good enough. He should have been in this initial reboot, if anything, in place of that ridiculous Steve Lombard reporter character (annoyingly played by Michael Kelly).

And are they kidding with the hand-cam cinematography? Millions of dollars were allocated for this movie – and portions of it are filmed like a low-funded Billy Jack remake – minus the cinescope?!

Equally disturbing is the over-whelming volume of sound, the overt-destruction of Smallville and Metropolis (thousands had to die?!), and the excessive alien-space/sci-fi-ness to it all.

It was all so distracting and disappointing, as were some of the casting choices, the actors and their acting; the writing, the dialogue and the directing.

Helmer Snyder might know what he’s doing with large-scale, action-adventure landscaping, but when it comes to intimate scene-editing , and guiding actors and getting legitimately human emotions and interactions from and between them – well, Tom Whedon (The Avengers), he ain’t.

I found myself actually shaking my head through a good portion of the film, in awe of how sophomoric was its execution in general; and while assessing specific aspects of it such as the miscasting of villain General Zod (played by Michael Shannon with a seemingly-Mary Poppins voice), and those Russell Crowe-Jor-El/mirror/on-the-Krypton-vessel moments (Seriously?!).

As to Henry Cavill, who embodied Clark Kent/Superman, the dude’s great looking – but his presence just isn’t big enough, vertically and dynamically. He’s too short – and that cape was too long (it was clearly dragging the ground with dirt on it in certain moments – and that no one would catch that – or that anyone would allow that to make it on screen – is head-shake worthy). Cavill clearly worked hard to get that body – but Superman is BUILT…not developed.  There’s a difference.

Christopher Reeve, who is considered by scores as the one and only true cinematic-Superman, was born with his form (God bless him), while Cavill had to develop (and sometimes pump it up before shooting (which was painfully obvious in a few scenes with the actor’s awkward physical movements). Reeve was 6′, 6,” larger than life and had personality.  Cavill is just “life,” minus the personality.

And although casting an African-American actor (Laurence Fishburne) as Perry White was a progressive move on the studio’s part, having Amy Adams portray Lois Lane was a mistake. She just didn’t do it for me. (And since when does Lois Lane have red hair? Apparently, since she developed absolutely no on-screen chemistry with Clark Kent.)

Overall, the MOS presentation was again, just too dang dark, dingy and sad and, consequently, I was sad upon leaving the theatre.

Unlike, the essence of DC’s Batman, Superman is not dark by nature. Therefore, it’s totally acceptable that the Dark Knight trilogy would be dark in tone, in character, in story, and in execution.

But as explained in the earliest DC comic books (and to some extent, in the later editions) what transpires in the life and development of Superman, from an organic standpoint, is ultimately quite upbeat. Firstly, in attempt to save his life (which they ultimately do), his parents jettison him from their dying home planet of Krypton to Earth. He falls into the farm fields and loving arms of the childless Martha and JonathanKent (in MOS played by a ridiculous Diane Lane and an okay Kevin Costner). They raise him to be a fine upstanding young man, who retains an assortment of additional extraordinary powers, including astounding strength, heat vision – and the ability to fly.

How cool is that?!

Super cool!

So, why in tarnation would the DC/WB crew decide to darken that world and destroy that optimistic and hopeful view with the heavy-laden Man of Steel? As Cavill’s Clark tells Adams’ Lois in one scene, the S on Superman’s skin-tight garb is his home-world monogram for hope.

Thank goodness he explained that because otherwise one wouldn’t have surmised as much upon viewing the rest of the MOS.

With its implementation of the movie, the DC/WB camp may have figured that since director/producer Nolan did such a great job with his dark take on Batman that he could pull a similar stunt with the Superman films.

But such has not transpired. In fact, with Man of Steel, the dark issues were merely intensified with Nolan’s decision not to direct the project, and to instead hire Snyder – who, as mentioned, guided the equally joyless (and very bloody) 300. In effect, a Kick-Ass film director does not a kick-ass Superman film, make (or something like that).

Certainly, DC/WB made a noble attempt to hire Nolan and subsequently Snyder.

The objective was to think out of the box and make something really different.

That’s all fine and good.

But in doing so, one cannot – nor one should not – go too far outside the box, or one may not find any audience outside at the box-office.

Clearly, this did not happen with MOS. The movie is doing extremely well. But I’m not so sure that is a testament to its quality as more to its brilliant, massive and somewhat desperate-looking marketing campaign.

And please note: this cinematic opinion isn’t about a baby-boomer’s misunderstanding of a contemporary take.

Good is good; well-done is well-done – in any era and in any genre.

The music of Frank Sinatra and Beethoven will always be great music whenever it’s heard. Casablanca and Citizen Cane will ever be considered genius filmmaking in any decade in which they are screened.

In like (or dislike) manner, sub-par movie-making is sub-par movie-making, whether the budget is a college-bound five thousand clams or a multi-million dollar studio-endorsed epic like Man of Steel.

With that said, in only in the last few minutes of MOS do we catch a mere glimpse of the fun the entire production might have embraced and showcased from the get-go had Snyder, Nolan, DC or Warner Bros. saw the forest through their superhero tee’s and camera angles.

For my money, whoever is in charge of the sequel (or the Justice League, in general, for that matter), should hire a happy director (who will at the very least start things off by bringing back that original bright red and blue costume!).

Because this time, we have nothing but a loud, noisy, spiritless film in which Superman (spoiler alert) actually kills someone – which once more – goes against the very grain of everything the character has stood for from day one (in DC Action Comics Number 1).

And if DC ever hopes to catch up with Marvel’s supersonic hero-based films and their perfectly-balanced mix of success, quality and sincere critical acclaim, then first off, Nolan and Snyder have to exit the arena. From there, DC, WB, and whoever replaces Nolan and Snyder, will then need to step into the ring with their gloves off and they’re thinking caps on, and leave any clouded-egos at the door.

If not, the consequences will be dire, with less than worthy product like Man of Steel – the very core of which in the big-screen, superhero scheme of things, seemed like an empty and hallow re-telling of the Tin Man – without the heart or a personality.

Kathy Sees “Warm Bodies”

If only all zombies were so sexay.
If only all zombies were so sexay.

Despite my intense dislike for all things zombalicious, I’ve been excited about “Warm Bodies” ever since I saw the previews during that hideous movie Twilight: Breaking Dawn 2. I thought the premise was interesting: a young zombie meets a cute girl who revives his cold dead heart. Plus his skin wasn’t peeling off in thick oozing layers. And there was a hint of snarky humor, something I can appreciate.

Alas, the humor is only a hint, the story not as interesting as promised, and most of all, the whole thing just reinforced what I’ve concluded is my main problem with zombies in general–they’re boring. They move in slo-mo, their primary form of communication is grunting, and they eat brains as a main course. What’s so exciting about that? What’s scary about that? Now if they could turn invisible, moved faster than the speed of light, and sucked your brains out of your left nostril, then that would be a little unsettling.

These zombies? Meh.

Granted, the zombies in “Warm Bodies” are zombie-light on purpose. The main character, R (named thusly because he can’t remember his name) is not your ordinary zombie. For one thing, he speaks in voice-over. Although I don’t usually care for voice-overs in movies, Nicholas Hoult nails this part and the movie as a whole. Oh, the irony that the dead gray guy is the bright shining light in this flick. R’s internal thoughts are both witty and poignant. Hoult also does a great job with the physicality of the role. 

And then he meets the blonde…I don’t even remember her name. I’ll just call her KStew II. And the rest of the movie slides into mediocrity, complete with CGI skeletons that were way scarier when they were first done in “The Mummy” over a decade ago (and those were so not scary). Even John Malkovich is wasted in this movie, something I didn’t think could be possible.

However, “Warm Bodies” is near-perfection compared to the Twilight movies, so there’s that. And honestly, the movie would be a good Red Box rental. I’m still intrigued by the premise, so I might just read the book (which as you know is always better than the movie).

Then again…maybe not.

Thinking Man Reviews: Boss – Pilot

By Anthony Medina

**Be aware this review contains spoiler** 

Season 1 Episode 1

“Listen”

“You think this is easy?” – Mayor Tom Kane

The Specs

Originally Aired: October 21st 2011

Creator: Farhad Safinia

Director: Gus Van Sant

Writer: Farhad Safinia

Channel: Starz

You may know him as Frasier or even Side Show Bob. But funny man Kelsey Grammar has put aside his wine glass and big floppy shoes to give us Tom Kane, the ruthless and powerful Mayor of Chicago. So if your looking for the usual good hearted high brow comedy we’ve come to expect from Mr. Grammar, look else where, because the Boss ain’t #$&*ing around.

The Rundown:

Personal

We open on Tom Kane, as he sits patiently listening to his doctor describe the rare neurological disorder that will take his mind and eventually his life. After hearing this disturbing news he calls his estranged daughter but it unable to reach her. As we delve further into his personal life we find that his marriage to Meredith Kane (Connie Nelson) is a sham, maintained only for appearances. Tom Kane has no one.

Politics

For reasons as yet unknown, Tom has turned on his political ally, Governor McCall Cullen, in favor of State Treasurer Ben Zajac (Jeff Hephner). On the surface Zajac appears to be a family values, church going man who works in the interest of the people. However, we quickly learn that there are skeletons in his closet as he begins an affair with Kitty O’Neill (Kathleen Robertson), Tom’s political adviser.

City Business

When Native Art work is found in a construction site, a man named Moco takes it upon himself to report it to the local news. Unfortunately for him, this project has been in the works for 22 years and Mayor Tom Kane has been at the forefront for the expansion of the O’Hare International Airport. And now his plans are threatened by this act of show and tell. Tom calls a meeting with the Hispanic Council Member overseeing the project and delivers a devastating and terrifying speech chastising the man for this failure. The Councilor gets the message and vows to make amends. He does so by delivering the ears (yup actual human ears) of the man who spoke to the reporters. The Mayor attempts to deal with this issue by adding an amendment to a garbage bill that would give him sole authority over the archaeological artifacts. But he meets opposition and is unable to pass the bill.

Thoughts:

For those of you most familiar with Kelsey Grammar as Frasier, the lovable quirky therapist, you will be quickly relived of that sentiment as Tom Kane is a ruthless, corrupt and monstrous man whose sole aim is maintaining and augmenting his power. There is nothing likable about Tom Kane. Even his illness garners little sympathy as we see him abuse his position in ever self aggrandizing maneuvers. And yet we are left with the unassailable impression that Tom Kane is definitely an effective leader. And maybe even a good Mayor.

Farhad Safinia the creator of Boss and the writer of this episode strives to present a grittier, more realistic approach to politics by showing us the darker side of democracy. There are no good guys or even bad guys, just human beings each working to their own advantage. In the end this episode is highly entertaining and beckons the viewer to continue watching. If you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and go watch Boss, you won’t regret it.

Thinking Man Rating: 9/10

Kathy sees THE DARK KNIGHT RISES

Epic epicness

Warning: Parts of this review are spoilerific, so if you haven’t seen the movie and you read this review and I spoil it for you…well, sorry about that.

Okay, fess up time: I saw this movie over a month ago and am just getting a chance to write the review. So I had to reach way back into the crevices of my brain to remember what this movie was about. Certain parts stuck with me–Bane’s awesome headgear, the uselessness of Catwoman, the fact that Batman always sounds like a ten-pack-a-day-smoker ready to choke on his own phlegm at any moment. My overall recollection of the film is that it was good. More than good. I’d say a very good film that I would easily rent on DVD.

Rent, not own.

Because I had some serious problems with this film. As stated before, the character of Catwoman was useless. There were times during the movie I actually forgot about the character, not just because she was forgettable, but because she was gone. Poof like magic pixie dust, only to come back at a deux a machina moment and completely steal the satisfactory disposal of the main villain. Whywhywhy? What was the point of killing Bane (I guess he’s dead, I mean is anyone really dead in a super-hero movie?) if freaking Batman doesn’t do it?

I also had problems with dear Alfred and the way he was shoved out of 3/4 of the movie. It’s nonsensical and I won’t get into it here; you can go see the movie and find out for yourself why its bad writing because this is a blog post and not a treatise on how proper motivation is necessary for conflict to be believable, and in this case, acceptable. It just made Alfred’s tear-jerking near the end of the film seem manipulative.

Other than those problems, I enjoyed the emotional depth the writing and the actors brought to the movie. I like a good superhero/villain beat-down as much as anyone, but coupled with an emotional arc that makes both Batman and Bane sympathetic and irrational at certain points definitely made for a richer viewing experience. I have high hopes for the continuation of the franchise, which seems to be headed in Robin’s direction. Joseph Gordon Levitt, I will be watching you.

Thinking Man Reviews: Nikita Season Two Finale

BY ANTHONY MEDINA

**This episode originally aired in May 2012. If you are unfamiliar with the series, be aware this review contains spoilers.**

“Power Mr. President. Real power.” – Percy

It was another fast paced and action packed finale for the CW’s Nikita, as her war against Division finally comes to an end and she is forced back into the life she abandoned long ago.

That’s right. Nikita (Maggie Q.) has finally defeated the wonderfully evil Percy Rose (Xander Berkeley) in the season two finale “Homecoming”. But rather than destroy the organization she hates, Nikita and the gang must take control of Division and reform its practices in order to save the lives of the Division agents led astray by both Percy and Amanda.

But how is it that Nikita came to such a precarious position?

(EDITED BY munchman TO ADD: Ooh! Ooh! I know the answer to that question. Because somebody at the CW saw the last season of ANGEL, where he takes over the Demon Law Firm that’s been the enemy for years and said, “Hey, I have a bright, fresh and new idea! What if we–” Nevermind. Sorry to interrupt.)

Well, it all started when Dr. Evil Percy called up the President and told him he had sharks satellites with freaking lasers pointed their way under his control, which he proved by blowing up a power plant. After that the Nikita crew mobilized to disarm the satellite and take it out of Percy’s hands. Nikita and Michael (Shane West) achieved this by infiltrating Division and not-so-subtly blowing up a big computer.

Problem solved. But, hey, this is Percy we’re talking about, ain’t no way he’s going down that easy. Percy calls the President again and reveals that it was all a fake out. He had convinced the President of the United States that he was shooting laser beams from outer space when all he really did was plant a bomb in the power plant. Oh Percy, you so crazy.

He also tells the president that his top man (Roan) will set off another big bang unless Percy gets immunity and a nice retirement package. Little do they know that Percy had been given membership in an international shadow organization (the Evil League of Evil I assume) that will take him to the next level of… evilness?

Meanwhile, Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca) and Shawn (Dillon Casey) were having trouble tracking down Roan (Rob Stewart). Inside Division Nikita was forced to protect Percy and get him out safely so he could call off the attack.

It seemed as though everything was coming up Percy. But just as they made their way to the surface, his pride and ego refused to cooperate and he turned on Nikita beating her down and threatening to kill her. Unfortunately for him, the only reason any of us are alive is because Nikita allows it. And as you might expect, she quickly turned the tables and caused him to fall to his death.

Fortunately, Alex and Shawn managed to find Roan before the bomb was set and gave him a nice one-two punch to save the day. Crisis averted. Nikita wins. Huzzah!

With Percy down and Division disarmed, the government considered killing the remaining Division agents but Nikita and company decide to take control of it themselves and hopefully return it to the principles for which it was originally created.  And with that it’s all over. Except one thing, Amanda is still out there and in the final scene we discover she has a deciphered blackbox. Season three here we come!

Season Two 

Thinking Man Rating: 15 Thumbs Up

Season Two Finale

Thinking Man Rating: 14 Thumbs Up

**Be aware the Thinking Man rating system is based on awesomeness and should be disregarded if you are not now, or have never been, awesome.**