Suzanne Hanover/Columbia Pictures-Sony/Associated Press
Suzanne Hanover/Columbia Pictures-Sony/Associated Press
Durango Stadium 9
(Next to Durango Mall, 247-9799, www.allentheatresinc.com)
New in theaters
(Both playing at the Durango Stadium 9.)
Man of Steel. (In standard format and digital 3-D with surcharge.) It has been a black eye to Hollywood that throughout this, the unending and increasingly repetitive age of the superhero blockbuster, the comics’ most iconic son has eluded its grasp like a bird or, if you will, a plane.
New hopes of box-office riches and franchise serials rests on Zac Snyder’s 3-D “Man of Steel,” the latest attempt to put Superman back into flight. But Snyder’s joyless film, laden as if composed of the stuff of its hero’s metallic nickname, has nothing soaring about it.
Flying men in capes is grave business in Snyder’s solemn Superman. “Man of Steel,” an origin tale of the DC Comics hero, goes more than two hours before the slightest joke or smirk.
This is not your Superman of red tights, phone booth changes, or fortresses of solitude, but one of Christ imagery, Krypton politics and spaceships. Who would want to have fun at the movies anyway, when you could instead be taught a lesson about identity from a guy who can shoot laser beams out of his eyes?
“Man of Steel” opens with the pains of childbirth, as Lara Lor-Van (Ayelet Zurer) and husband Jor-El (Russell Crowe) see the birth of Kal-El, the first naturally born child in years on Krypton. The planet – a giant bronze ball of pewter, as far as I can tell – is in apocalyptic tumult (the disaster film has gone intergalactic), and General Zod (Michael Shannon) attempts to take over power, fighting in bulky costumes with Jor-El.
His coup is thwarted (though not before killing Jor-El, who continues on in the film in an Obi-Wan-like presence), and he and his followers are locked away, frozen until Krypton’s implosion frees them. Baby Kal-El has been rocketed away with Krypton’s precious Codex, an energy-radiating skull.
Kal-El rockets to Earth, setting up not a Midwest reprieve to the lengthy Krypton fallout, but a flash-forward to more explosions. Our next glimpse of Kal-El is as a young adult Clark Kent (the beefy Brit Henry Cavill) aboard a fishing vessel on stormy seas, where he – shirtless and aflame – saves the crew of a burning oil rig.
At this point, your Codex may be spinning. Working from a script by “Blade” scribe David S. Goyer and a story by Goyer and “Dark Knight” director Christopher Nolan, Snyder has clearly sought to avoid some of the expected plotlines and rhythms of the familiar Superman tale. There’s a constant urge to push the story to greater scale – a desperate propulsion that will surely excite some fans but tire others.
The film hops back and forth from Clark’s grown-up life and his Smallville, Kansas, upbringing with Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane). Costner, back among the corn stalks, makes the strongest impression of the cast as a severe father urging Kent to hide his gifts.
We’re meanwhile introduced to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Lois Lane (Amy Adams), fresh off a stint embedded with the military for the Daily Planet. Adams, as she usually does, helps animate the film, as she plunges into a bulldog investigating of Clark and spars with her editor (Laurence Fishburne).
Snyder brings to the film a sure hand for overly dramatic compositions that take after comic strip panels. He has a clearly sincere reverence for the source material (originally created in 1938 by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster). He’s a filmmaker who, even with his last film, the abysmal “Sucker Punch,” seems to precisely make the movie he intended.
Eager fans will likely thrall to the film’s many overlong action set pieces, as Superman battles with Zod and his minions. There’s little creativity to the fight sequences, though, which plow across countless building facades.
But Snyder doesn’t have the material or the inclination to make “Man of Steel” as thought-provoking as Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy. Superman wrestles with his allegiance to humans or his home planet, but the quandaries of a superpowered man betwixt worlds doesn’t have any real resonance. The gravity that cloaks “Man of Steel” is merely an en vogue costume.
While Snyder has succeeded in turning out a Superman that isn’t silly (not a small feat) and will likely lay enough of a bedrock for further sequels, it’s a missed opportunity – particularly with a bright cast of Shannon, Adams and Lane – for a more fun-loving spirit.
Cavill’s performance is less memorable for his introspective brooding than for his six-pack (a fetish for Snyder, the director of “300”). He’s handsome and capable, but one can’t help missing Christopher Reeve’s twinkle. At least he smiled.
The awkward acrobatics to modernize “Man of Steel” are most evident with its new explanation of Superman’s shield. The “S,” we are told, doesn’t stand for Superman, but is a Krypton glyph meaning hope. But if “S” doesn’t stand for “Superman,” “Man of Steel” is the one with the identity issues – not to mention a spelling problem.
“Man of Steel,” a Warner Bros. release, is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, and for some language. Running time: 144 minutes. HH out of four.
Jake Coyle, AP Entertainment Writer
This is the End. The seemingly exhausted gross-out comedy genre gets a strange temporary reprieve with “This Is the End,” an unlikable but weirdly compelling apocalyptic fantasy in which a bunch of young stars and stars-by-affiliation jokingly imagine their own mortality. A sort-of “The Day of the Locust” centered on successful comic actors, rather than down-and-outers, facing a conflagration in Los Angeles, this is a dark farce that’s simultaneously self-deprecating, self-serving, an occasion to vent about both friends and rivals and to fret about self-worth in a cocooned environment. With everyone here officially playing themselves, the result is like a giant home movie and a reality horror show, different enough from anything that’s come before to score with young audiences.
With the “Hangover” series outliving its welcome, Judd Apatow moving on to quasi-serious stuff and Johnny-come-latelies like “21 & Over” and “Movie 43” falling short, outrageous comedies aren’t what they used to be a few years back. Early on in “This Is the End,” James Franco and Seth Rogen explore story ideas for a possible “Pineapple Express” sequel, but it’s hard to know, five years on, what the public appetite would be even for that.
Instead, Rogen and co-writer/co-director Evan Goldberg reached back to 2007 for inspiration, to a nine-minute short they and Jason Stone made called “Seth and Jay Versus the Apocalypse.” It is said to have cost $3,000 and starred five of the six main actors from the present feature – Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Franco, Jonah Hill and Danny McBride.
The central conceit is that this is a film about showbiz’s young and privileged that’s supposedly being honest about their sense of entitlement, their access to constant sex, drugs and money, neuroses and special bonds both professional and personal. This isn’t Franco and Rogen and Michael Cera and everyone else playing characters getting completely trashed on coke and weed, this is a movie in which audiences can get off seeing actual movie stars behaving like stupid rich frat boys. At least that’s the sense of special access “This Is the End” is purporting to afford the eager viewer.
The occasion is a housewarming party at Franco’s dazzling new house (“Designed it myself” the famously multitasking actor-writer-director-grad student modestly points out). The first 15 minutes are crammed with pretty funny party banter, star sightings – Emma Watson, Rihanna, Mindy Kaling and Cera getting serviced by two babes at the same time – and the overweening discomfort of Baruchel, who’s come down from Canada to visit his best bud Rogen and outdoes Woody Allen in his expressions of distaste for L.A. and the people who live there, especially the hated Hill, with whom he’s now obliged to hang.
But in a startling manner as if co-devised by Nathaniel West and Irwin Allen, a Biblical-scale disaster strikes in the form of explosions, rumblings, the ground opening up, fires raging, cars crashing and shafts of light beaming down from the heavens. Los Angeles is burning and many guests are swallowed up by a lava-filled sink-hole while others flee into the acrid night. In the end, those left in the seeming sanctuary of Franco’s crib are Rogen, Baruchel, Hill, Craig Robinson and Franco, who arms himself with a World War I-vintage pistol left over from “Flyboys.”
“This Is the End” goes places you don’t expect it to, exploring the guys’ rifts and doubts and misgivings just as it wallows in an extravagant lifestyle that inevitably attracts public fascination. It also expresses the anxiety and insecurity of comics conscious of the big issues in life they are expected either to avoid or make fun of in their work. Rogen and Goldberg take the latter approach here, in an immature but sometimes surprisingly upfront way one can interpret seriously. Or not.
“This Is the End,” a Sony/Columbia release, is rated R for crude and sexual content throughout, brief graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violence. Running time: 107 minutes.
TODD McCARTHY, The Hollywood Reporter
The Internship. Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson play out of work salesmen looking for a way in the back door at Google. Rated PG-13.
The Purge. Once a year, people get 12 hours to do whatever they want to whomever they want. Right on. Rated R.
An Evening with Ekman, Leon and Lightfoot, Eyal & Behar, and Inger. (Sunday and Wednesday only.) Nederlands Dans Theater 2, the main company’s breeding ground for new talent in dancers and choreographers, puts its signature on this program featuring newcomers and familiar faces, along with live accompaniment by Holland Symfonia. Ballets such as “Studio 2,” choreographed for the company’s 50th anniversary, and the award-winning ballet “Dream Play” by Johan Inger will be performed. Two world premieres will complete the evening including “Sara,” a work by former Batsheva Dance Company stars Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar, and “Maybe Two” by choreographer Alexander Ekman.
From up on Poppy Hill. (Wednesday only.) An animated feature in which a group of Japanese teenagers try to save their school from demolition to make way for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
After Earth. A buddy pic with a twist: after Earth becomes unlivable, Will Smith is a general who crash lands on the ol’ rock with his son (real son Jaden) who must then fend for the both of them when Dad gets injured. Rated PG-13.
Now You See Me. A group of super magicians keep pulling off bank heists while they’re on stage, much to the chagrin of a confused FBI. Rated PG-13.
Epic. Apparently in Hollywood, making these animated things is like printing money. In this one, some girl in the woods has to battle evil and save the world. I guess we should thank her. Rated PG.
Fast and Furious 6. More high-adrenaline street racing. One would think audiences should know what to expect by now. Rated PG-13.
Star Trek Into Darkness. (In standard format and digital 3-D with surcharge.) Another prequel wherein a young Kirk (Chris Pine) goes on an intergalactic manhunt to stop a bad guy. He would go on to do this many times. Rated PG-13.
Back Space Theatre
(1120 Main Ave., 259-7940, www.thebackspacetheatre.org)
Talking Story. (Saturday only.) Told from the unique perspective of Marie-Rose Phan-Lê, an apprentice healer born in Vietnam and educated in the west “Talking Story” chronicles the lives, rituals and wisdom of healers and spiritual leaders from diverse world cultures. Its unique approach of utilizing the personal journey humanizes the fight for cultural preservation and the importance of maintaining Perceptual Diversity—the different ways each culture perceives the world. Not rated.
The End of Love. Writer/director Michael Webber spends most of this movie in conversation with his real-life toddler son. It’s a documentary style narrative story about a newly single father and what lies ahead.
(102 Fifth St. Next to the railroad depot, 247-8133, www.allentheatresinc.com)
Man of Steel. See review this page. Rated PG-13.
The Quartet. At a home for retired musicians, the annual concert to celebrate Verdi’s birthday is disrupted by the arrival of Jean, an eternal diva and the former wife of one of the residents. Rated PG-13.
Mud. Two teen boys befriend a fugitive (Matthew McConaughey) and help him evade the law and find his gal (Reese Witherspoon). Rated PG-13.
Ted Holteen and The Associated Press
Clay Enos/Warner Bros./Associated Press