REVIEW: FRED CLAUS

 

CAST

Vince Vaughn (Delivery Man)
Paul Giamatti (The Amazing Spider-Man 2)
Rachel Weisz (The Bourne Legacy)
Miranda Richardson (Sleepy Hollow)
Kevin Spacey (L.A. Confidential)
Kathy Bates (Bad Santa 2)
John Michael Higgins (Couples Retreat)
Elizabeth Banks (Power Rangers)
Ludacris (2 Fast 2 Furious)
Stephen Baldwin (8 Seconds)
Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen)
Dylan Minnette (Goosebumps)
Burn Gorman (Game of Thrones)

A baby is born, and within a few minutes of his birth, he starts saying: “Ho, ho, ho!”. Mother Claus calls her son, Frederick, over to meet his new brother, whom she has decided to name Nicholas. Mother Claus lovingly refers to the new baby as her little Saint Nick. During Christmas, when Nick opens his gifts including Fred’s, he decides to give them away to orphans which makes Fred angry. Mother Claus advises Fred to be a better person by stating he should be more like his brother; this in turn causes Fred to resent Nick. Feeling isolated, Fred often climbs a tree to confide his problems in a bird. On one occasion, Nick cuts down the tree, saying that now Fred can bring it inside since he liked it so much. However, the birdhouse Fred’s confidant lived in is smashed, causing the bird to leave; this causes a permanent rift between Fred and Nick.In the present day, it is revealed that when Nick becomes a saint due to all his good deeds, he, Fred, and Mother and Father Claus become frozen in time, never to age. Nick has become the modern-day Santa Claus, giving gifts to people and Fred works as a repossession agent in Chicago to take them away. His girlfriend, Wanda, gets mad at him for forgetting that her birthday was the next day. Wanda refers to a previous birthday where Fred promised to take her to France. When Fred gets back to his own apartment, he watches TV when a young orphan boy named Samuel “Slam” Gibbons comes in. Slam talks about wanting a puppy named Macaroni for Christmas. Fred is attacked by countless men dressed up as Santa and after he gets arrested, he calls his brother for $5,000 bail money. He also asks for an additional $50,000 for a get rich quick scheme. Nick agrees to give him the bail money, but tells him that if he wants the $50,000, he has to come to the North Pole and work for it.Soon after, an elf named Willie shows up to take Fred to the North Pole. He is the head elf and has a crush on Santa’s Little Helper, Charlene. Once Fred and Willie arrive at the North Pole, Nick welcomes Fred and shows him around the North Pole. There is a snow globe in the main area of the workshop, where you can say any person’s name and see if they are being naughty or nice. While Fred starts working, Nick introduces Clyde Northcut, an efficiency expert who has come to evaluate the North Pole. Clyde takes Nick to the workshop and on the way tells Nick that he has three strikes. If Nick gets three strikes, the workshop will be shut down for good. Meanwhile, the workshop is in a state of chaos because of Fred, and Clyde says that Nick’s inability to control his work staff is strike one. That night at dinnertime, Nick convinces Fred to come to dinner with Mother and Father Claus and Clyde. Sitting down at the dinner table, Mother Claus continues to praise Nick, while Fred storms out and heads to Frosty’s Tavern, an elf bar, where he meets Willie, who discusses his lack of self-confidence regarding Charlene. Fred teaches Willie to dance, and Willie then falls down in front of Charlene, embarrassing himself. A pep talk by Fred later lifts his spirits.Meanwhile, Clyde deliberately sabotages the mail sorting department by shredding countless children’s letters, which later gives Nick a second strike. Believing that Fred is putting Nick under stress, a family meeting is called (which Fred was tied up and taken to) with Wanda present, and Fred leaves by saying that therapy is for families who want to be together, and their family does not have that problem. When Slam is placed at the top of the most naughty list, Fred understands that Slam has just had it hard and is not naughty. He then stamps every kids’ description as nice.Furious at what Fred has done wrong, Nick ends up fighting with him, in which Nick injures his back. Angry with Nick, Fred leaves the North Pole with his $50,000, but Nick gives Fred a present to take with him. Fred waits until he returns home to open the gift, which is a birdhouse, a replacement for the one on the tree, and a note from Nick which says, “I’m sorry for cutting down your tree. Love, Nick.” Fred is confused and enters a Siblings Anonymous meeting. At the end, Bill Clinton’s younger half-brother, Roger Clinton Jr, makes a speech about his brother’s success. Back at the North Pole, it looks like Christmas is lost. Nick is in bed and cannot make his Christmas Eve journey of delivering presents.Willie reminds Fred that, according to a long-standing rule, only a member of the Claus family can deliver the presents and Fred qualifies. Fred begins delivering presents to children around the world and Willie joins him to assist with the flying of the sleigh and the navigation. Meanwhile, Clyde sabotages their efforts at midnight by shutting off the power, which was the only way for the North Pole to communicate to Fred and Willie, helping them navigate. While Fred and Willie attempt to finish delivering the gifts for the children, Nick talks to Clyde by realizing that when he was a boy, Clyde did not get what he wanted from Nick because he would act up due to bullying, which resulted in him growing up to be the man he is. Nick realizes, thanks to Fred, that his definition of naughty was flawed. Nick makes peace with him by giving Clyde the Superman cape he wanted as a kid but never got.Fred stops by the foster home to visit Slam and bring him the puppy (Macaroni) he wanted. Fred faces away from Slam to hide his identity and explains to Slam that he should become a better person. As the rest of the elves anxiously wait in the tavern, Willie marches in and, with newfound confidence, he walks up to Charlene, grabs a chair to stand on, and kisses her. After Fred announces that Christmas has been saved, everyone gathers around the giant snow globe to watch the children of the world open their presents. Nick tells Fred that he is the best big brother anybody could ever ask for, and they finally make amends.Fred returns to Wanda’s house and she is initially upset to see him and tells him to leave. He refuses and states that he is moving in with her. He gives her a present. Wanda opens it to find a teddy bear holding a French flag. That night, Fred takes Wanda to France in Santa’s sleigh, and they circle around the Eiffel Tower (“It’s a company car. It’s one of the perks.” says Fred). The two continue dating, and Charlene and Willie are now happy together. By next Christmas, Slam is adopted, but Fred never stops watching out for him – even becoming the coach of his Little League Baseball team. As for Clyde, Nick hires him as an efficiency consultant and he teaches the elves how to use a spreadsheet. Nick and Mrs. Claus, as well as Nick and Fred’s parents visit Fred’s and Wanda’s house for Christmas. It is evident that Fred and his mom have grown closer. Fred has also become a true Claus; while Nick has lost a bit of weight, Fred has gained some. The movie ends by showing the bird house hung up outside Fred’s window, and a bird, who looks like the one Fred befriended, perched on it.I do not recall the last time I have seen such entertaining Christmas movie. “Fred Claus” is funny and has many hilarious moments. The message that there is no naughty child and consequently every child deserves a Christmas gift is great. The cast leaded by Vince Vaughn is fantastic and I really loved this movie. A great film for the Christmas holidays.

Advertisements

REVIEW: L.A. CONFIDENTIAL

CAST

Kevin Spacey (House of Cards)
Russell Crowe (Robin Hood)
Guy Pearce (Iron Man 3)
James Cromwell (Star Trek: First Contact)
Kim Bassinger (Pret-A-Porter)
Danny DeVito (Batman Returns)
David Strathairn (Eight Men Out)
Ron Rifkin (Alias)
Paul Guilfoyle (CSI)
Simon Baker (The Mentalist)

In early 1950s Los Angeles, Sergeant Edmund “Ed” Exley, son of the legendary LAPD detective Preston Exley, is determined to live up to his father’s reputation. His intelligence, insistence on following regulations, and cold demeanor contribute to his isolation from other officers. He exacerbates this resentment by volunteering to testify in the Bloody Christmas case in exchange for a promotion to Detective Lieutenant. This goes against the advice of Captain Dudley Smith, who states that a detective should be willing to shoot a guilty man in the back for the greater good. Exley’s ambition is fueled by the murder of his father, killed by an unknown assailant, whom Exley nicknames “Rollo Tomasi”.Officer Wendell “Bud” White, whom Exley considers a “mindless thug”, is a plainclothes officer obsessed with violently punishing woman-beaters. One such incident leads him to confront a former cop named Leland “Buzz” Meeks, a driver for Pierce Patchett. White comes to dislike Exley after White’s partner, Dick Stensland, is fired due to Exley’s testimony in the Bloody Christmas scandal. White is sought out by Smith for a job in which they harass and beat up out-of-town criminals trying to fill the void left in Los Angeles following the imprisonment of gangster Mickey Cohen for tax evasion. The Nite Owl case, a multiple homicide at a coffee shop, becomes personal after Stensland is found to be one of the victims.Sergeant Jack Vincennes is a narcotics detective who moonlights as a technical advisor on Badge of Honor, a popular TV police drama series. He is providing Sid Hudgens, publisher of the Hush-Hush tabloid magazine, with tips about celebrity arrests that will attract more readers to Hudgens’ magazine. When he becomes involved in Hudgens’ scheme to set up actor Matt Reynolds in a homosexual tryst with L.A. district attorney Ellis Loew, and Reynolds is killed as a result, Vincennes becomes determined to find the killer.

Three African Americans are initially charged with the Nite Owl murders, and later killed in a shootout. Although the Nite Owl crime initially looks like a botched robbery, Exley and White individually investigate it to discover indications of corruption all around them. White recognizes Nite Owl victim Susan Lefferts as one of Meeks’ escorts which leads him back to Pierce Patchett, operator of Fleur-de-Lis, a call girl service that runs prostitutes altered by plastic surgery to resemble film stars. He begins a relationship with Lynn Bracken, a Veronica Lake look-alike prostitute. The body count rises when White searches a storage room under Lefferts’ mother’s house, and finds the decomposed corpse of Meeks.When Vincennes approaches Smith with the evidence he has found with Exley, Smith realizes his scheme to take over Mickey Cohen’s heroin empire is threatened. Smith shoots Vincennes, who utters “Rollo Tomasi” before dying, the origin of which Exley told Vincennes in confidence. Exley’s suspicions are aroused when Smith asks him who Rollo Tomasi is. During an interrogation of Hudgens, Smith arranges for White to see photos of Bracken sleeping with Exley, which sends White into a rage. Confident that White has gone after Exley to kill him, Smith kills Hudgens. Exley investigates and discovers Meeks and Stensland used to work closely with Smith. White drives to the police station and begins to fight Exley, but Exley is able to convince White that Smith is corrupt and has set them both up. The two decide to team together to take down Smith. They are able to obtain evidence against Smith by threatening Loew, and later find Patchett murdered. Exley and White realize that Smith himself has been taking over after Cohen, and the killings have been Smith tying up loose ends.Exley and White are set up with a trap against Smith and his hitmen. After a gunfight that kills all the hitmen, Smith shoots White in the face, but then is forced to surrender to Exley. As police arrive, Exley shoots Smith in the back, killing him. The LAPD cover up Smith’s crimes and say he died a hero in the shootout to protect the department’s image, and in exchange Exley bargains to also be hailed a hero and receives a medal for his bravery. Upon leaving City Hall, Exley sees Bracken, who tells him she is returning home to Arizona with White, revealing White survived the shooting. Exley and White shake hands and Bracken drives off into the sunset.5616cde899678This was easily the best Hollywood movie of 1997, this just may be one the smartest movies you haven’t seen. With great performances from an ensemble all-star cast and a clever script, the dramatic tension of this modern film-noir classic is an absolute must-see! Told through a variation on the theme of “good cop, bad cop” with an overarching corruption angle, this film cleverly deals with issues of racism, social justice and ethics in a non-discriminatory manner. Character development is well-done and the dramatic tension is superb. If you are a fan of crime-drama and detective stories, you won’t be disappointed

REVIEW: AUSTIN POWERS IN GOLDMEMBER

CAST

Mike Myers (Shrek)
Beyonce Knowles (Dreamgirls)
Michael York (Logan’s Run)
Robert Wagner (Two and a Half Men)
Michael Caine (Batman Begins)
Rob Lowe (The West Wing)
Seth Green (Family Guy)
Verne Troyer (The Love Guru)
Heather Graham (From Hell)
Mindy Sterling (Minions)
Fred Savage (The Wonder Years)
Clint Howard (Apollo 13)
Masi Oka (Heroes)
Brian Tee (Jurassic World)
Fred Stoller (Little Man)
Greg Grunberg (Alias)
Rachel Roberts (Flashforward)
Nathan Lane (The Birdcage)
Kristen Johnston (3rd Rock From the Sun)
Tom Cruise (Legend)
Danny DeVito (Batman Returns)
Gwyneth Paltrow (Iron Man)
Kevin Spacey (American Beauty)
Britney Spears (Crossroads)
Tommy Lister (The Dark Knight)
Nichole Hiltz (Smallville)
John Travolta (The Punisher)
Kevin Spacey (Superman Returns)

 

In his new headquarters behind the famous Hollywood sign, Dr. Evil plans to travel back in time to 1975 and bring back Johan van der Smut, aka “Goldmember”, who developed a cold fusion unit for a tractor beam which Dr. Evil names “Preparation H”. He intends to use the tractor beam to pull a meteor into the Earth, striking the polar ice caps and causing a global flood. Moments after this plan is revealed, Austin Powers and the British Secret Service attack the base and arrest Dr. Evil. Austin is knighted for his services, but is disappointed when his father, the famous super-spy Nigel Powers, does not attend the event. Basil Exposition later informs Austin that Nigel has been kidnapped, and the only clue is that the crew of his yacht have had their genitalia painted gold.Austin visits the imprisoned Dr. Evil, who tells him that Goldmember is behind the abduction. Time-travelling to 1975, Austin infiltrates Goldmember’s roller disco club and is reunited with his former lover, FBI agent Foxxy Cleopatra, who is undercover as a disco singer. With Foxxy’s help, Austin locates his father, but is unable to rescue him. Goldmember takes Nigel through Dr. Evil’s time machine into the present day. Foxxy wants revenge on Goldmember for murdering her partner, and accompanies Austin in his pursuit. In the present, Dr. Evil and Mini-Me instigate a riot in their prison, allowing them to escape. A British Intelligence mole named Number 3 informs Austin that Dr. Evil has moved to a new lair near Tokyo. Austin and Foxxy travel to Tokyo and confront Fat Bastard, who is now a sumo wrestler, but still does work for Dr. Evil. Fat Bastard explains that a Japanese business man, Mr. Roboto, is working on a device for Dr. Evil and Goldmember.Austin and Foxxy later meet with Mr. Roboto, who pleads ignorance about Nigel’s whereabouts. Unconvinced, Austin and Foxxy infiltrate Roboto’s factory where the command unit for the tractor beam is being loaded in Goldmember’s car, and Roboto hands Goldmember a golden key needed to activate the beam. Foxxy confronts Goldmember while Austin attempts to free Nigel, but Goldmember escapes with the command unit and flees to Dr. Evil’s submarine. Unable to settle their differences, Nigel and Austin part ways when they disagree on how to deal with the situation. Meanwhile, Dr. Evil’s son, Scott Evil, has become increasingly evil in an attempt to prove himself to his father, to the point that he too is going bald. Scott presents his father with sharks with laser beams attached to their heads, a request that had gone unfulfilled in the first film. Dr. Evil replaces Mini-Me with Scott as his favored son; the rejected Mini-Me defects and joins Austin.Austin, Foxxy and Mini-Me (now a miniature version of Austin) infiltrate the submarine, but Austin is captured. Dr. Evil prepares to activate the tractor beam, but Foxxy has stolen the key and frees Austin. Austin prepares to shoot Dr. Evil, when Nigel appears and reveals Dr. Evil and Austin are brothers, separated when they were toddlers when an assassination attempt killed their mother, and Dr. Evil was found and raised by Belgians. Dr. Evil and Austin embrace, enraging Scott, who flees to pursue his own vengeance, whilst Goldmember commandeers the tractor beam’s controls, unzipping his pants to reveal his gold-covered genitals to be a spare key. Goldmember activates the tractor beam, but Austin and Dr. Evil work together to reverse its polarity, destroying the meteor and saving the world. The heroes arrest Goldmember, who turns to the camera to reveal the entire string of events was adapted into a film by Steven Spielberg, starring Tom Cruise as Austin, Kevin Spacey as Dr. Evil, Danny DeVito as Mini-Me, and John Travolta as Goldmember. Austin, Foxxy, Dr. Evil, Mini-Me and Nigel are in the audience of a Hollywood theater watching the film. Upon exiting the theater they run into Fat Bastard, now thinner but flabby, thanks to the Subway diet. As Austin and Foxxy kiss, in Dr. Evil’s Hollywood lair, Scott – now completely bald, dressed like and laughing in a manner similar to his father — declares he will get his revenge on Austin and begins dancing like Michael Jackson.The third is fantastic… funny, disgusting, clever and uplifting! Mini-Me and Fat Bastard are back with even better gags and the usual crude humour from the latter!!! But Mike Myers has triumphed in adding the hilarious dutch roller skating villain “Goldmember!” And the casting of Michael Cane as Nigel Powers, Austins father… or farja if you’re Goldmember… is excellent!

REVIEW: SEVEN

CAST

Brad Pitt (Allied)
Morgan Freeman (The Dark Knight)
Gwyneth Paltrow (Iron Man)
Kevin Spacey (Superman Returns)
R. Lee Ermey (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre)
John C. McGinley (Scrubs)
Richard Roundtree (Shaft)
Richard Schiff (Man of Steel)
Leland Orser (Alien: Resurrection)

In an unnamed American city, soon-to-be-retiring detective William Somerset is partnered with short-tempered but idealistic David Mills, who recently transferred to the department, moving to the city with his wife Tracy. Mills introduces Somerset to Tracy, after which Somerset becomes her confidant. Tracy is unhappy with the city and feels it is no place to raise a child. She discloses to Somerset that she is pregnant and has yet to inform her husband. Somerset sympathizes with her, having a similar situation with his ex-girlfriend many years earlier, and advises her to tell Mills only if she plans on keeping the child.Somerset and Mills investigate a pair of murders. The first victim is an obese man forced to eat until his stomach ruptured. The second was a wealthy defense attorney who died from both fatal bloodletting and the removal of a pound of flesh. At each crime scene, the murderer leaves behind clues for the detectives, including a single word: gluttony at the obese man’s home and greed at the attorney’s office. Somerset recognizes them as part of the seven deadly sins and realizes the murders are related. Other clues lead them to a possible perpetrator’s apartment. There, they find another victim, a known drug dealer and child molester, strapped to a bed, barely alive and emaciated, with a series of pictures indicating he had been tied to the bed for an entire year. The word sloth is scrawled on the wall. The photos also indicate the killer has been planning these deaths for some time.Somerset and Mills identify a man named John Doe, who has checked out several library books on the deadly sins. Doe flees when they go to his apartment, and Mills gives chase. Doe eventually corners Mills and holds him at gunpoint, but after a few moments, turns and escapes. At Doe’s apartment, they find hundreds of handwritten journals showing Doe’s apparent psychopathy, and clues leading to a fourth victim. They arrive too late to prevent the death of the victim, a prostitute killed by an unwilling man forced by Doe to wear a bladed S&M phallic device on his genitals and to rape and kill her while severely traumatizing him. They find lust written on the door. They are alerted to their next victim, an attractive young woman, presumably a model, whose face has been mutilated by Doe; she was given the option to call for help and be disfigured, or to commit suicide by taking pills. She chose suicide. The word pride is written on her wall.Shortly after, as Somerset and Mills return to the police station, they are approached by a man covered in blood, surrendering himself. Mills recognizes him as Doe and arrests him. They discover Doe has been removing the skin on his fingers to avoid leaving behind prints; the blood on him is from a yet-to-be-identified victim. Doe, through his lawyer, advises there are two more victims and offers to take the detectives to them and confess to all the murders, but only under very specific terms, or he will otherwise plead insanity. Somerset is wary, but Mills agrees.The two detectives, following Doe’s directions, drive him to a remote desert location. Within minutes, a delivery van approaches them. Mills holds Doe at gunpoint while Somerset goes to intercept the driver, who had been instructed to bring a box to them. As Somerset recovers the box and sends the driver away, Doe begins telling Mills about how jealous he is of Mills’ life and marriage to Tracy, antagonizing Mills. Somerset opens the box, and in horror, tells Mills to stay back and not listen to Doe. Doe continues to taunt Mills as Mills frantically asks what is in the box. Doe reveals that he was so jealous of Mills that he killed Tracy, her death being a result of his envy, and that her head is in the box. Doe tries to goad Mills into vengeance, to become wrath and shoot him. Somerset desperately tries to convince Mills not to shoot Doe, but then Doe reveals that Tracy was pregnant. The revelation is too much for Mills and he shoots Doe six times. Doe’s death completes the seven sins. Police converge and take a devastated Mills away. The police captain reassures Somerset that Mills will be taken care of. When asked by the Police Captain where he will be, Somerset hints that he will not retire.A film deserving of the term ‘classic’ and arguable one of the best serial killer thrillers ever made. The last 10 minutes are some of the most tense of any I can remember.

REVIEW: AMERICAN BEAUTY

CAST
Kevin Spacey (Superman Returns)
Annette Bening (The Siege)
Thora Birch (The Hole)
Wes Bentley (The Hunger Games)
Mena Suvari (American Pie)
Chris Cooper (Red Dawn)
Allison Janney (Mom)
Peter Gallagher (Mr. Deeds)
Scott Bakula (Chuck)
Sam Robards (A.I.)
John Cho (Sleepy Hollow)
Lester Burnham is a middle-aged magazine writer and advertising executive who despises his job. His wife, Carolyn, is an ambitious real estate broker; their sixteen-year-old daughter, Jane, abhors her parents and has low self-esteem. The Burnhams’ new neighbors are retired United States Marine Corps Colonel Frank Fitts and his introverted wife, Barbara. Their teenage son, Ricky, obsessively films his surroundings with a camcorder, collecting hundreds of recordings on video tapes in his bedroom. His job as a part-time bar caterer serves as a front for his secret marijuana dealing. Col. Fitts is a strict disciplinarian, and had previously sent Ricky to a military school and briefly committed him to a psychiatric hospital. Jim Olmeyer and Jim Berkley, a gay couple who live nearby, welcome the family to the neighborhood; the homophobic Col. Fitts angrily asks Ricky “why these faggots have to rub it in”.
Lester becomes fixated with Jane’s vain cheerleader friend, Angela Hayes, after seeing her perform a half-time dance routine at a high school basketball game. He starts having sexual fantasies about Angela, in which red rose petals are a recurring motif. Carolyn begins an affair with her business rival, Buddy Kane. When Lester’s boss and efficiency expert Brad tells him that he is to be laid off, Lester instead blackmails him for $60,000 and quits his job. Lester takes a minimum wage job at a fast food restaurant, trades in his Toyota Camry for his dream car, a 1970 Pontiac Firebird, and starts working out after he overhears Angela tell Jane that she would find him sexually attractive if he got in shape. He begins smoking marijuana supplied by Ricky, and flirts with Angela whenever she visits Jane. The girls’ friendship wanes after Jane becomes involved with Ricky. Jane and Ricky bond over what Ricky considers the most beautiful imagery he has filmed: a plastic bag being blown in the wind.
Lester discovers Carolyn’s infidelity, but reacts indifferently. Buddy ends the affair, fearing an expensive divorce. Col. Fitts becomes suspicious of Lester and Ricky’s friendship when he finds his son’s footage of Lester lifting weights while nude, which Ricky captured by chance, leading him to believe that Ricky is gay. After spying on Ricky and Lester through Lester’s garage window, the colonel mistakenly concludes the pair are sexually involved. He later confronts and beats Ricky for the affair and accuses him of being gay. Ricky falsely admits the charges and goads his father into kicking him out of their home. Carolyn is sitting in her car in the rain, she takes a gun out of the glove box while a voice on the radio talks about not being a victim. Ricky goes to Jane’s bedroom, finding her arguing with Angela about Angela’s flirtation with Lester. Ricky convinces Jane to flee with him to New York City and assures Angela that she is ugly, boring and ordinary.
Col. Fitts confronts Lester and attempts to kiss him; Lester rebuffs the colonel, who tearfully flees. Carolyn puts the gun in her handbag shouting “I refuse to be a victim!” Lester finds a distraught Angela sitting alone in the dark; she asks him to tell her she is beautiful. He does, and he begins to seduce her.
Carolyn drives through the rain, rehearsing a confession to Lester. As Lester strokes Angela she admits that she is a virgin, and Lester changes his mind. He instead comforts her and the pair bond over their shared frustrations. Angela goes to the bathroom and Lester smiles at a family photograph in his kitchen. An unseen figure raises a gun to the back of his head, a gunshot sounds and blood sprays on the wall. Ricky and Jane find Lester’s body, while Carolyn breaks down crying in the closet. A bloodied Col. Fitts returns home, where a gun is shown to be missing from his collection. Lester’s closing narration describes meaningful experiences during his life; he says that, despite his death, he is happy because there is so much beauty in the world.
American Beauty is a pure cinematic triumph that is both funny and sad. It’s disturbing… and yet, it’s extremely provocative and deep. The film is an extraordinary achievement that reveals a tragic and realistic story about a family that is anything but ordinary. It’s a film with so many layers that it is almost impossible to dissect them all in one single thought.

REVIEW: SUPERMAN RETURNS

CAST

Brandon Routh (Legends of Tomorrow)
Kate Bosworth (Wonderland)
Kevin Spacey (House of Cards)
James Marsden(X-Men)
Parker Posey (Blade: Trinity)
Frank Langella (All Good Things)
Sam Huntington (Fanboys)
Eve Marie Saint (On The Waterfront)
Marlon Brando (The Godfather)
Kal Penn (Van Wilder)
Tristan Lake Leabu (While The Children Sleep)
Jack Larson (Adventures of Superman)
Noel Neill (Superman 1948)
Peta Wilson (La Femme Nikita)

Superman Returns opens in a world without a Superman. The Man of Steel (Brandon Routh) left Earth without a word of warning, spending the past five years investigating the ruins of his home planet of Krypton. The world he left behind has suffered in his absence, prompting an embittered Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) to pen a Pulitzer Prize winning article titled “Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman”. He’s able to return to his life in Metropolis as Clark Kent with ease, but the world he knew has changed. Lois now has a fiancé (James Marsden), the nephew of Daily Planet publisher Perry White (Frank Langella), and she’s also mother to a young, asthmatic son. Most of the world at large is thrilled to have Superman return as its savior with the exception, of course, of Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey). Fresh out of prison and flush with cash, Luthor has discovered Superman’s Fortress of Solitude and schemes to use its advanced alien technology to wipe out most of North America and create his own continent.

Bryan Singer isn’t a director shamelessly trying to cash in on a high profile franchise. This is clearly a movie by someone with boundless passion for the material, and Superman Returns is a worthy follow-up to Richard Donner’s films. Singer has done a remarkable job staying true to Donner’s vision from a quarter-century earlier while still feeling rooted in the here and now. Most of the campier elements from the earlier movies have been gutted. Ned Beatty’s Otis has been discarded, and Superman Returns’s equivalent of Miss Teschmacher has been dialed down a few notches, even if the character is still ultimately useless. Kevin Spacey’s spin on Lex Luthor is faithful to Gene Hackman’s performance while having more of a menacing edge. Spacey’s Luthor seems like a genuine threat in Superman Returns, not just a wealthy, eccentric goof, and his eventual confrontation with the Man of Steel in the finale is wincingly brutal. I’m not entirely sure why he’s convinced a barren, uninhabitable rock of an island would have any resale value, but that’s beside the point.

Taking the reins from the late Christopher Reeve after his near-legendary turn as such an iconic character must have been indescribably daunting, but Brandon Routh does a tremendous job as both Clark Kent and Superman. His Kent in particular is a seamless transition from where Reeve left off and is a pitch-perfect recreation of the nervous energy and awkwardness he brought to the character. Routh does play a very different Superman, however. Superman may be a strange being from another world, but Reeve exuded the kind of warmth you’d expect from someone embodying truth, justice, and the American way. Routh’s colder, more alien Superman is in keeping with the tone of the story, where he’s been removed from humanity for five years and feels detached from the world at large, but I didn’t feel nearly as strong an attachment to him.

Routh is about the same age that Reeve was when cameras started rolling on the original Superman film, but he looks so much younger that it’s easy to forget occasionally that this is supposed to be Superman Returns, not Superman Begins. I have some slight misgivings about the way Superman was handled in this film, but if the rumors of an impending sequel are true, I’m looking forward to seeing what Routh brings to the character the second time.

With most action movies, it seems as if a small army of writers scattered themselves across a conference table, brainstormed the most elaborate, over the top, effects-driven sequences they could imagine, and then haphazardly tossed together a story to string ’em all together. I was left with the opposite reaction to Superman Returns. Singer paints Superman as some sort of messianic figure who’s a savior, not a fighter, and he literally doesn’t throw a punch in the entire movie. There are several phenomenal effects sequences that are certain to get pulses racing — the world’s re-introduction to Superman as he rescues a plane that’s careening into the stratosphere, steadying a crumbling Metropolis as Luthor sets his megalomaniacal scheme into motion, and sparing hundreds of millions from certain death in the film’s closing moments — but those really just see Superman intervening as disaster looms. Only a bank robbery has Superman struggling against an actual opponent, although even much of what happens there is passive; Superman just stands there and lets ricocheting bullets do the work for him. I’m not trying to downplay what an adrenaline rush these sequences are, but one of the most frequent criticisms of Superman Returns has been its lack of action. I admittedly did not find the movie at all dull despite the lack of Kryptonian soldiers or twenty story robots.


Lois is in love with Superman but never felt it thanks to the utter lack of chemistry between Bosworth and Routh. At least Margot Kidder managed to sell Lois as a spunky reporter, but Bosworth doesn’t even attempt to capture that sort of tenacity. Bosworth also seems much too young for the role; she looks like she may have just gotten her undergraduate degree in Journalism, but a seasoned, Pulitzer Prize winning writer? Not so much. Bosworth is passable but instantly forgettable.

Giving Lois a son also strikes me as a misfire. Hollywood has been churning out action sequels for decades now, and in the history of cinema, there have been two…maybe three…cases where adding a kid into the sequel wasn’t an unmitigated disaster. For some inexplicable reason, directors are determined to keep trying, and Lois’ wheezing tyke is as ill-conceived an idea as ever. Give the audience a little credit for being able to suss out the kid’s parentage from word one too.


Bryan Singer’s sequel inhabits the same world as Richard Donner’s films, but the core of the story is almost excessively faithful to the original. A spaceship crashes to Earth from the long-dead planet of Krypton. Superman makes his presence known to the world by rescuing intrepid reporter Lois Lane from a mishap involving an aircraft. He later has a rooftop interview with Lois and whisks her across the night sky. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor schemes to cash in on the creation of new beachfront real estate at the cost of untold millions of lives, and he has his ditzy but good-hearted moll feign danger as a distraction for a theft. Luthor gets his hands on some Kryptonite to bring Superman to his knees near the climax, and it all ends with the Man of Steel soaring heroically into space. Roll credits.

I didn’t have a problem watching Superman Returns a few months after Donner’s Superman, but sitting through the two back-to-back would undoubtedly inspire a nasty case of déjà vu. Sometimes its adoration of Donner’s original works incredibly well, though. It’s a thrill to hear John Williams’ instantly recognizable orchestral score again, and reincorporating some digitally manipulated archival footage of Marlon Brando is a clever and effective touchstone.

The movie is littered with subtle nods to various incarnations of Superman, from the casting of Noel Neill and Jack Larson to an homage to the cover of Action Comics #1 . For months, I’d heard Superman Returns praised, assaulted, analyzed, and dissected from every conceivable angle. It’s such a polarizing movie that I wasn’t sure what my reaction would be when I got around to seeing it, but I never expected to feel so completely indifferent. Superman Returns is a movie I appreciate on a great many levels, but for something so enormously anticipated, just being okay doesn’t seem like enough.