Robert Downey Jr. is a rich(er) man

Word has come down that RDJ signed a deal with Disney/Marvel to return for Avengers 2 and 3. No word on Iron Man 4 at this time.

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Downey was reportedly asking for 100 Million to reprise the character. Large portions of this were to be paid to his fellow Avengers co-stars to supplement their meager (in comparison) salaries. No word on how that breaks down, nor will it likely be made public. Good job Iron Man!

R.I.P. James Gandolfini (1961-2013)

James Gandolfini. photo: Barry Wetcher

Sad news out of Italy today. It is being reported by Variety, TMZ, and other entertainment sites that James Gandolfini, Tony Soprano, has passed away from a suspected heart attack/stroke.

The Sopranos was HUGE in my household . I watched it. My brother watched it, even my mother watched it! Gandolfini was a tremendous actor who’s career stretched far beyond The Sopranos. I remember first noticing him in the remake of 12 Angry Men with Jack Lemmon- a superior adaptation of the story. He was seen last year as Leon Panetta in Zero Dark Thirty.

He was 51.

Fast and Furious 6

The 370th film I have seen in theaters…

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After my longer review of Man of Steel, I will keep this short and sweet.

Plot

Luke Hobbs (The Rock) recruits Torreto and his team to take down Shaw- a very dangerous thief who specializes in car heists. Leddy, Dom’s formerly deceased girlfriend, is discovered to be working with Shaw. The team gathers in London to take him down and get back Leddy.

Cast

All returning cast was great, especially Han and Giselle, who make their final appearances in this film. Gina Carano adds some female badassery to the mix as Hobbs’ partner.

If you liked Fast Five, you will Like Furious Six. I actually might prefer Fast Five for the lighter story and emphasis on the Heist, but this was worthy, and I am sorry to see Director Justin Lin leave the series.

Man of Steel

The 368th film I have seen in Theaters…

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I have finished a second viewing of this film, in IMAX 3D no less, and it’s time to share my thoughts. Spoilers WILL follow

Plot

Krypton: Right out of my childhood

The film begins with the birth of Kal-El, son of Jor-El and Lara Lor-Van. They live on the planet Krypton, and formerly great society that has now fallen into decay. Governed by a RIGID caste system, Kryptonians are gestate in “Genesis Chambers” instead of wombs. All the genetic coding for Krypton is done according to the planets needs. A Soldier is engineered to be a soldier in the chamber. A scientist is engineered to be so in the chamber. It has led to a degredation of their society as there is no deviation, no spark of freedom in life choices. Jor-El sees this flaw and, against all the laws of their people, fathers a natural born child with Lara, an act of heresy.

I must interject here with one point. This idea of a sterile Krypton is straight out of my childhood. In 1985, when John Byrne “reinvented” Superman for the big Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot, he made a cold, joyless, and sterile Krypton a part of that. Even the floating robot from that series, ” Kelor”, is in the film!

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Kelor is the Robot that assists Jor-El in the Man of Steel comic. He is also in the film, and addressed by name. Even the look of the Kryptonians is inspired by the comic. For most of Superman’s history, Jor-El and Lara, and most Kryptonians, looked like this:

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in 1986, John Byrne created this:

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While there are some differences, there is a clear design tie between this version of both Jor-El and Lara, and the Kryptonian Council in the new film. Note the metallic spiky headress and the “Only face showing” head covering:

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So basically, in the first 5 minutes of the film, they directly referenced my absolute FAVORITE interpretation of Superman, and Krypton. That’s a damn good start.

As Jor-El is meeting with the Council to discuss a plan to save Krypton, the Civil War happens.

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The Military leader of Krypton, General Zod, leads a rebellion and murders or imprisons the ruling council. He also takes Jor-El, who manages to escape and steal the Codex- the genetic record that is used to  “birth” Kryptonians. Jor-El makes his way back to his lab, where he, and Lara, place little Kal-El into a spaceship, encode him with the genetic library of the codex (hidden in his DNA) and rocket him off to Earth, just as Zod breaks in and kills Jor-El. His coup having failed, Zod is taken prisoner. He and his followers are placed in the Phantom Zone for punishment. Krypton explodes. Kal-El reaches Earth.

Nomad

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We next see Kal-El, now Clark Kent, traveling the world, working odd jobs here and there, trying to find clues of his heritage as an Alien. He is compelled to help people as he travels, being at heart a decent man. Up in northern Canada, the US government has discovered an object buried in the ice. It is huge, and it has been there for 18,000 years. Reporter Lois Lane travels to study this story and sees a worker from the dig going off alone. Sensing a story, she follows him. The worker is Clark, who knows that the object in the ice is somehow related to the rocketship that brought him to Earth. He makes his way inside, and discovers that it is a spaceship. Using a Kryptonian Flashdrive, placed in his capsule by Jor-El, he activates the ship and an Artificial Intelligence, implanted in the drive, uploads to the ship. Lois runs afoul of some security bots and is injured. Clark rescues her and heals her wound (Cauterize baby!). He flies off in the ship, and leaves her safely on the snow to be rescued by troops.

Lois tries to publish the story of this Alien visitor, but cannot due to lack of evidence. She then spends some time tracing Clark’s travels through America as he helped people in his various jobs. The trail leads back to Smallville, Kansas.

Clark, on the ship, meets the A.I. which is a copy of Jor-El. He learns his true name, his origins, the fate of Krypton, and is given a Suit, of Kryptonian make bearing the symbol of the House of El- the famous S-Shield. Jor-El tells Kal to test his limits, become stronger, and use his powers for good, to be an example of hope to the people of Earth. He then jumps away, leaping tall building in a single bound, until he figures out how to fly.

Lois tracks down Ma Kent and goes to Jonathan Kent’s grave, where Clark meets her and expresses the fear that the people of Earth would fear him, rather than accept him.

Flashback

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Through this past section, Clark has flashbacks to his young life. We see him dealing with his x-ray vision and super hearing- how they overload his senses and scare him. His mother teaches him to focus his mind and essentially meditate the scary stuff away. He learns to be a decent person, never picking a fight. He protects the innocent by saving his school mates from a bus accident. He is show his spaceship and his father’s fear that Clark will be discovered is repeatedly shown. Pa Kent would rather his son stay secret, but he realizes that this might not be viable, at least not until he is ready. Kent is killed in a Tornado, giving his life rather than be saved by Clark- the act of which would have revealed his powers. Back in modern times, as Clark visits with his mother, something strange has happened.

Invasion

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The activation of the 18,000 year old spaceship has alerted General Zod to Kal-El’s presence. After the destruction of Krypton, the rebels were released from the Phantom Zone. Knowing that Kal-El, and the codex, are the key to Krypton’s ressurection, they travel from Kryptonian outpost to outpost for 30 years in search of him. With a location, he flies to earth and delivers a terrifying message.

Deciding to trust the people of Earth, Clark turns himself over to the Military to protect Earth. The Kryptonians land, take him and Lois up the their mothership. There Superman meets Zod, and learns of his plans to destroy Earth and make  “New Krypton” on its ashes. Using the aid of the Jor-El hologram, he and Lois escape back to Earth as Zod lands in Smallville searching for the Codex.

From here on out, the film moves into Action Movie heaven. Superman fights the Kryptonians in Smallville, and beats them back. They decided to use their “world engine” to destroy Earth and start the conversion process. Superman attacks the engine, in India, as the mothership starts to destroy Metropolis. The Army attacks, without avail, while Lois uses a plan, hatched by Holo-Jor-El to send them back to the Phantom Zone. Spectacular battles follow, and the plan eventually works. The Kryptonians are sucked away to the P.Z. and only Zod remains. What happens next is the greatest superhero fight ever put on screen. Zod versus Superman is a thing of beauty. The battle plays out, and it comes down to one moment- Zod now wants to kill everyone on Earth. Superman must stop him. He has him pinned in a headlock. Zod uses his heat vision and is trying to fry a family (mom, dad, kids) right in front of Superman. Having no option, he snaps Zod’s neck- killing him. Superman lets out a scream of anguish at the guilt of what he had just done.

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whoa.

The story finishes up at this point. Clark dons the glasses, and starts working alongside Lois at the Daily Planet.

Cast

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Henry Cavill is seemingly born to play Superman. He is physically a complete match to everyone’s conception of the character. He brings a true sense of humanity, and a little fear, to Clark as he struggles to become Superman.

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Amy Adams is a near perfect Lois Lane. Rather than be an idiot, she discovers Clark’s identity and is a willing partner to him. The chemistry between her and Cavill was intense. Also, she is the latest Redhead to take on the role, after the perfect for her time Noel Neill.

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Michael Shannon is Zod. Terence Stamp has been washed away. This PHENOMENAL actor infuses Zod with such passion! He is never a mustache twirling villain. His motivations are clear. He is a soldier and acts as such. So good.

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Diane Lane and Kevin Costner provide a real moral center to this film. Their work in the Smallville scenes are the strongest in the film. Costner has never been better.

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Russell Crowe absolutely owned the role of Jor-El. This is, by far, my favorite interpretation of the character. In the few minutes we see him, we know Jor-El’s morals, motivations, and desire to do good. He is just as much a hero as his son will become.  Ayelet Zurer is Lara Lor-Van and really sells a mother’s pain in her brief appearance.

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Antje Traue plays Faora- General Zod’s second in Command. As awesome as Zod was, she was the clearly best realized Kryptonian. She hands Superman his ASS in their fight. She was just phenomenal.

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Lawrence Fishburne enters the series as Perry White, editor of the Daily Planet. He did not have much to do, but what little there was, particularly his scene with “Jenny” Olsen, was well done.

Production

Hans Zimmer gives a great score to this film, no easy feat without using the John Williams theme. The script, by David Goyer and Story by Christopher Nolan, was pretty damned good. Zack Snyder (300, Watchment, Sucker Punch) directs, and brings his experience with action flims to great use in Man of Steel.

Thoughts

This movie is fairly divisive with audiences. What I think is being missed here, is that The Richard Donner Superman is not the ONLY Superman story that exists. The big gripe is that this movie is “joyless”. What nonsense. By “joyless” they mean that there is no comedy relief. Sometimes it can be included, to great effect in these films, but I feel it was wisely left out. Avengers, a movie I adore, is essentially action, joke, action, joke, rinse and repeat. Joss Whedon is very good at this style of story. This, along with similar style in past Marvel Films, and the comedy of Otis in the original Superman movies, is that people equate comic book movies (not starring Batman) to need Comedy.

Much of the hate I see coming to this movie stems from the choice of Superman to kill Zod. Back in 1988, there was a phenomenal Superman story involving “Kryptonian villains”. For some reason they did not call him Zod, but it was Zod. They cause tremendous acts of genocide and Superman knows that they need to be stopped. He uses Kryptonite to execute them, saving billions of lives in doing so. This was the last story John Byrne did in his amazing 2 years on Superman. The effects of this story, and the tremendous guilt felt by Superman, were a driving force for YEARS to come. Superman does not kill. This comic showed why, and its ripple effect demonstrated what happens to Superman when he crosses that line. He does not sink into darkness, but rises above it, striving to be a better man. That’s Superman.

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The Man of Steel is a well written, well acted, well directed film. It is not a comedy, it is a serious movie. This is action drama at it’s finest.

This is the End

The 369th Film I have seen in Theaters…

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What can be said about this, the latest film from the minds that brought us Superbad, Pineapple Express, and Your Highness?

If you loved the previous films, you will adore this movie.

A group of actors, playing themselves, arrive at James Franco’s house for a party when…

THE APOCALYPSE HAPPENS!

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Seriously! The end of the world!

The film follows the survivors as they try to survive. It might be the most bug-nuts insane film released in years.

The casting was impeccable. lol

That’s all the review you get. Go see it- a well spent 2 hours.

Man of Steel-Initial thoughts

The 368th Film I have seen in Theaters…

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Holy Shit.

I have returned from a first viewing. I had intended my IMAX 3D viewing on Monday Night to be the first, but as some friends could not make it, and in laws were in town… we snuck off to see a regular 2D showing.

I think my brain is broken. I need to see this again.

Some History

I am the king of Superman in my immediate circle of friends. As a 2 year old, I am told that I was enthralled by Superman. I have no memory of this. I would leap off of the furniture, holding a small blanket around my neck and dive onto the ground (I was a rambunctious child). In one horrific incident, I leap off and smashed my head on the coffee table- cracking my head open. Bad. I still carry a scar above my left eye from the incident.

As the years went on, my devotion to this character continued. Christopher Reeve was a God to me. Even as the movies dropped in quality, I stuck with them as a child. I devoured the Super Friends and every other permutation of the Super Powers franchise. I watched the old George Reeves Superman show in reruns and got VHS tapes of the old Max Fleisher Cartoons. I had tons of Superman toys. All of this WITHOUT READING ONE COMIC. (except those included with the action figures).

Then, in 1988, on Superman’s 50th Anniversary I convinced my mom to buy me some comics at the newsstand, a now nearly extinct creature. It was revelatory. Adventures of Superman 441:

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It was a story of Mr. Mxyzptlk- a name I can spell from memory I’ll have you know! It was enough to get my started. I quickly discovered that there was a dividing line in DC Comics- Pre Crisis and Post Crisis. Crisis restarted the Superman Story from scratch with a mini series called…

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yup, same name as the damn movie. If you pay attention, the spaceship that brings him to Earth is similar to this one. In fact, for the attentive reader, there is a HELL of a lot in this film that synchs up with Late 80’s and Early 90’s Superman lore. More on that in the full review.

1988 was a crazy year to get into comics. It was the Batman titles that really grabbed my attention with the death of Robin, but I was happy with Superman. I enjoyed a near weekly habit with the Man of Tomorrow’s adventures. As I aged, and Superman went through his famous “Death/Rebirth/Red/Blue” era, I stuck with him. I learned the love the creators of this period. 1986-1999 was my favorite era of Superman. As time went on, I expanded my collection backwards. By 2005, I had a complete Superman Collection from 1958 to 2005- including superboy, supergirl, Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane and any other damn tie in. I got them cheap before they skyrocketed in price. I sold it all off in 2005 to make ends meet. What I never parted with was a few issues- the original “Man of Steel” mini series and the White “Wedding Issue” which I have signed by the dozens of creators that contributed- all in person at various cons. Never did get my Curt Swan…

I evolved into more of a Green Lantern fanatic as I grew to manhood, but I always hid a secret place in my heart for “Big Blue”. I watched Lois and Clark every week, dived into the animated series of the late 90’s and appreciated what Smallviille became. Superman Returns was not a bad movie, but it had some serious issues. As wonderful as it was to see a continuation of the old series, it was a misstep. Superman needed to be reinvented. What we got this week, was the reinvention we needed.

I was not kidding earlier- my brain is broken. This movie starts off absolutely FASCINATING (evoking so much of the Krypton of 1986’s revival, while weaving in modern (mid 2000’s) idea of the Kryptonian caste society) As the story progresses, it very slowly builds up, hitting plenty of character notes for the supporting cast to shine… and then it goes BOOM!

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I have never seen super hero spectacle played out as witnessed in Man of Steel. It puts the Superman/Zod fight of Superman II to shame.

There are a few nitpicks I can, and will, make. However, this might be the movie of the year for me. However, as stated, my brain is still broken.

Full review to come…

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