Man of Steel (2013)

Man of Steel (2013)

Original Theatrical Release Date: June 14, 2013
Director: Zack Snyder

Kal-El was sent from his dying planet, Krypton,  as an infant by his father Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and his mother Faora-Ul (Ayelet Zurer). With him, they sent the hopes and wishes of their entire Kryptonian race. Raised by human parents after crash-landing on Earth, Kal-El was renamed Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) and eventually had to come to terms with his extraordinary and god-like abilities, using those abilities to help others though they didn’t always realize it. However, when another survivor from Krypton – Zod (Michael Shannon) shows up and demands that Earth give up this “Superman” or face dire consequences, Clark/Kal must choose a side. The Kryptonians or the Earthlings.

Now, before I get down to brass tacks, I need to say something: I am not the biggest Superman fan in the world. Don’t get me wrong. I love the basic idea of his character, and his abilities are cool for the most part…but the dude is just too invulnerable. Sure, he’s got his weaknesses but they sort of change over time depending on the needs of the story line (in the comics, anyway). Plus, they’re really specific weaknesses – like Kryptonite, a rare green rock from space – really?! Also, Superman is an alien and it’s hard to identify with him already on account of his insane god-like abilities – but when you also throw in the fact that he’s not even human, then there is definitely a disconnect.

With that said, I don’t think this was the worst Superman movie I’ve ever seen.

I came into this film with no real expectations other than to be entertained for a while. I was entertained for the most part, for sure. Zack Snyder’s direction was the usual fare of fight sequences and thoughtful, introspective scenes. The writing by David Goyer was decent, but some of the elements were too clearly designed to be almost like a parable. The acting was decent by Henry Cavill and the rest of the cast, and it was nice to see Russell Crowe back in shape a little bit. He’d been looking a little chubby the past few years. However, some of the special effects were wonky and some of the story elements had me going “really?”, and that’s all on top of the movie being way too long. Two and a half hours with not much really to show for it.

Now, I had been entertaining the idea that this would be sort of a darker version of Superman, sort of how Christopher Nolan brought Batman back to his gothic roots. I was right in a way, but wow…I was not expecting the level of wanton destruction Superman caused during the fighting with Zod. In other incarnations of Superman, Supes would have tried to direct the fight to the countryside or somewhere uninhabited….but in the film, Superman uppercuts his opponents through skyscrapers, toppling the buildings, and he doesn’t have time to save anyone. Crazy. My other gripe was the way in which Jonathan Kent’s (Kevin Costner) character was handled. The writers wanted him to be “Uncle Ben” to Clark but it didn’t translate nearly in the same way as the poignant character of Uncle Ben did to Marvel’s Spider-Man.

All in all, it was decent as an action flick. I wouldn’t go in thinking much more than that, even if you’re a Superman fan. I am interested to see if they change anything up during the sequel. Guess we’ll find out! (EDIT: I’m feeling like the upcoming sequel will be a shit show, but I hope they prove me wrong. They are CRAMMING IN so many characters. It’s crazy.)

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Man Of Steel

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Justice League: Doom (2012)

Justice League: Doom (2012)

Original Theatrical Release: February 28, 2012
Director: Lauren Montgomery

The Justice League is a team of powerful superheroes dedicated to protecting Earth from all manner of supervillains and other dangers. Batman (Kevin Conroy), the most human of the Justice League, has created contingency plans to defeat each individual member of the famed superhero team. Vandal Savage (Phil Morris) has plans of world domination and decides to send Mirror Master (Alexis Denisof) to sneak into the Batcave and steal all of Batman’s files, including the weaknesses of the Justice League. This results in Batman, Superman (Tim Daly), Wonder Woman (Susan Eisenberg), Green Lantern (Nathan Fillion), Martian Manhunter (Carl Lumbly), The Flash (Michael Rosenbaum) and Cyborg (Bumper Robinson) all having to fight for their very lives as Batman’s contingency plans prove all too effective.

Taken from the Tower of Babel story line, the events in this film mostly mirror those found in DC Comics, with some differences. However, with only 77 minutes to tell this story, I think they managed to do a good job, overall. Still, some fans of the original material might feel like this doesn’t adequately translate Mark Waid’s original writing. Movies will almost always lack the depth of their source material, so it’s best to treat them as separate entities if you can.

The animation was very slick and stylized. The voice acting was consistently very good, and it was nice to see the Legion Of Doom go up against the Justice League. You could get a sense of the classic rivalries between the characters even without knowing all of the years of back story behind them.

DC seems to really have a handle on all of their animated features – I will give them that. DC characters are sort of larger than life and tend to lend themselves more to animated adventures, where Marvel characters tend to be more gritty and aside from characters like Spider-Man, are more suited to the big screen.

With that said, in this (too) short animated feature, you will find copious amounts of action, danger and adventure…and you will feel that the League really is close to being defeated, because they are…and it’s because of one of their own members. (Thanks a lot, Batman…)

JOE Rating:  ★★★★

Trailer for Justice League: Doom

Stand By Me (1986)

Stand By Me (1986)

Original Theatrical Release: August 8, 1986
Director: Rob Reiner

Stand By Me, based on the novella “The Body” by Stephen King, is the story of four childhood friends who go looking for the body of a missing local boy. Once they find his remains, the boys discover that they aren’t the only ones and must confront the local knife-wielding gang leader, Acce Merrill (Kiefer Sutherland) and his crew.

This movie has so much going for it.

The best part is that the boys and their journey evoke lots of images from a simpler time in all of our lives. As we travel with these four kids from a small town in Oregon, we recall long, drawn out Summer days with lots of exploring through woods and through streets not our own, childhood friendships both fleeting and lasting, and the times where responsibility meant just coming in once it got dark outside.

Rob Reiner made excellent casting choices with the sensitive and intelligent storyteller, Gordie (Wil Wheaton) the tough-guy with a heart of gold, Chris (River Pheonix) the sometimes-crazy Teddy (Corey Feldman) and the boy afraid of everything, Vern ( Jerry O’Connell). ESPECIALLY the psychotic, leader of the local hoods, Ace (Kiefer Sutherland). Richard Dreyfuss made an excellent narrator (Gordie when he’s older) and even John Cusack made a brief appearance as Gordie’s older brother.

The movie is hilarious, sad, whimsical, nostalgic and fun. I challenge anyone who watches it not to be charmed by its sense of adventure and childhood innocence. ( I also challenge anyone to go into a lake without thinking of the leeches and then having second thoughts)

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Stand By Me

 

DC Universe Online (2011- PS3)

DC Universe Online (2011)

Original Release Date: January 11, 2011
Developer: Sony Online Entertainment
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment and WB Games

As far as the storyline goes, you begin the game by watching a really cool cinematic battle between the Justice League and a bunch of DC villains. The heroes are all killed in the battle, even Superman, with the Joker and Lex Luthor still standing. Then, Brainiac shows up with an army of metahumans he’s created by “downloading” the powers of the DC heroes and villains for years. Lex Luthor can do nothing but watch. So, Lex travels through time and warns the heroes about Brainiac and also releases stolen exobytes (nano-sized mechanisms that attach to humans and give them superpowers) into the atmosphere, creating thousands of metahumans which will be able to help in the fight against Brainiac once they are trained by either the Justice League (With mentors being Superman, Wonder Woman or Batman) or the DC villains (With mentors being Lex Luthor, Circe and Joker).

The character you create is one of those new superheroes, just learning how to use their powers.

Jim Lee is at the helm of the game (awesome) so the art and production is pretty amazing. Geoff Johns does the principal writing, so the story is decent as well.

I played through the entire game with my own character, Captain Kinesis, and reached the level cap. (30, currently) It didn’t take me too long and I didn’t have to pay to play, although I ended up subscribing so I could make more characters. (You only get two slots, initially, unless you pay…which is $15 a month) Captain Kinesis is a mental-based superhero who can fly, use telekinesis to lift buses and cars into the air to throw at villains, and he has super-strength….pummeling the bad guys with his fists. There are tons of power combinations for characters. (I also have another character, an anthropomorphic fox named Permafox who has super-speed and ice-based powers and uses a shield like Captain America)

I found no real down sides about the game aside from character creation problems (more on that below). It was consistently fun, the graphics and art were great and the PVP modes were always fun (and you could play as major DC characters like Superman or Batman).

One drawback, though, was actually in the character creation mode. When you try to name your character, more often than not you’ll get a message that says “Already taken, please try again” or something to that effect. HOWEVER, they don’t give you any other options and there is no way to tell what’s already been taken unless you try. Sometimes, I would sit for a half hour or more, trying various names (I refused to name the character the same way I would name a screen name in a chat room…”SuperDude23″) I don’t consider myself not creative and I imagine if they had a way to list available variations or have a list with names already taken once you try to type it in, that it would be a lot faster.

Most of the fun in this game and in others like it is creating your own superhero and seeing them interact with a comic book universe that you’ve grown to love. I’m way more of a Marvel guy than a DC guy, but I can still appreciate Metropolis and Gotham. There is plenty of that as you travel through those cities, mostly, and you fight crime alongside other new heroes or even alongside seasoned, canon characters.

The other downside was the download time for the actual game. I think it took more than four hours, and that was consistent with other folks I knew of who downloaded it. Make sure to leave yourself some time for that.

Since it’s free to play, you should give it a try! Especially if you have played and liked games such as Champions Online or City of Heroes/City of Villains or Marvel Heroes – You won’t be disappointed.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Game Trailer For DC Universe Online