JayDee's Movie Musings

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Aside from Seven Samurai obviously I've also watched and reviewed Throne of Blood and Rashomon. In addition I've seen Yojimbo and Sanjuro and I feel there was another but can't think of it just now. What was the film were a signal was sent on a stream with flower petals/blossoms? Was that Yojimbo or Sanjuro or something else?

There are a number of others I want to watch plus I'd like to rewatch Throne of Blood, Yojimbo and Sanjuro. Throne especially I'd like to rewatch to see if that could join Seven Samurai on my top 100.

Also, The Hidden Fortress is an excellent samurai movie that inspired Star Wars being made.

Looking forward to the next set of reviews!

We've gone on holiday by mistake
While I continue to contemplate a possible hiatus/hibernation I just wanted to say that I remembered the other director I had on my shortlist to focus on this year. It was Akira Kurosawa. I've seen 5 or 6 of his films and really liked/loved every one of them so want to expand my exposure to his work. There were also a few other directors I considered but didn't get as far as checking which of their films I had access to or were interested in tracking down - Oliver Stone, Peter Weir, John Woo, Paul Verhoeven etc

Oh and I've had a fairly sizeable season of Scorsese films over the last few weeks, which may or may not have inspired a review or two.

See I don't believe you. I don't feel that you're being entirely sincere, feels a little disingenuous to me!
I'm doing the same in regards to Kurasawa. Recently bought a load of his films and have watched Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, Ran and Kagemusha in the past 6 weeks or so with a few more to be watched.

Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
The next installment of my superhero season. Now usually I present you all with a review, with a little bit of trivia mixed in as a bonus. This time out it's more a post of film trivia, which just happens to have a little bit of a review thrown in! It just happened to have a lot of trivia that I found rather interesting


Year of release

Directed by
Richard Donner

Written by
Mario Puzo /// David Newman
Leslie Newman /// Robert Benton /// Tom Mankiewicz

Christopher Reeve
Margot Kidder
Gene Hackman
Marlon Brando
Ned Beatty
Jackie Cooper



Plot - On the distant planet of Krypton a scientist named Jor-El (Brando) is convinced that their world will soon face destruction. Unable to convince the planet's ruling council however, Jor-El and his wife make the heart-breaking decision to send away their infant son, Kal-El. By sending him to Earth they realise that he will possess great powers and that he can become a champion of truth and justice. Found and raised by the Kents, an elderly farm couple in the small town of Smallville, he adopts the name Clark. Realising he must use his abilities for good he travels to the city of Metropolis where he becomes Clark Kent (Reeve); mild mannered reporter for the Daily Planet....who just also happens to be the caped superhero who goes by the name of Superman. In both guises he forms a relationship with another Daily Planet reporter, Lois Lane (Kidder). There is a problem though, she has no idea that they are one in the same and only has eyes for Superman. An even greater problem arrives in the form of Lex Luthor (Hackman), the self-proclaimed greatest criminal mind in the world, who plots to pull off the greatest real estate swindle of all time; a plot that will result in the deaths of millions.

As will have become very evident to anyone who has spent even a little bit of time perusing my reviews, I love superheroes! I just do. I love them both in comic book form and up on the big screen, having seen just about every superhero film to have so far hit the big screen. Despite this however I had never seen any of the original four Superman films, including this film which kicked it all off; the granddaddy of all superhero movies. This is largely as a result of the fact that as a character I just don't like Superman. Of all the caped crusaders and masked heroes out there, I'm struggling to think of any that I have less interest in than old Supes. I've just always found him to an exceptionally dull character, completely lacking in the intrigue that comes with a Bruce Wayne or a Peter Parker and being nowhere near as relatable. So as a result of that lack of enthusiasm for the character I was really pleasantly surprised by just how much I enjoyed this film.

I was under the impression (perhaps wrongly) that 'real' Superman fans had a fair degree of vitriol for the 90s TV series, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. I thought they held it up as an example of messing with and undermining the true nature of the character, similar to how 'real' Batman fanboys regard the campy exploits of Adam West's Batman in the 60s TV show. So it was a bit of a surprise for me to discover just how similar I found this film to be to the TV show which cast Dean Cain as the orphan from Krypton. The film takes a really quite cheesy and tongue-in-cheek approach to the material, featuring humour of the goofy and occasionally slapstick nature. I think you'd struggle to get away with such an approach these days but it's done with such an earnest attitude that it works. It seems very apparent that the filmmakers have a great affection for the character and the source material and that definitely comes through on the screen.

Film Trivia - The search for an actor to play Superman proved to be a long and arduous task. The search began in 1975 and ended with a press announcement on 23rd Feb 1977 just 35 days before filming was due to begin. During that time Robert Redford, Clint Eastwood, James Caan, Warren Beatty and Burt Reynolds all turned down the opportunity to take on the role. Redford wanted too much money, Eastwood said he was too busy and Caan said, "There's no way I'm getting into that silly suit." Pual Newman was actually offered the choice of playing Superman, Lex Luthor or Jor-El for the fee of $4 million, but wasn't interested in any of them. Other actors who were considered for the part included Kris Kristofferson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ryan O'Neal, Jeff Bridges, Jan-Michael Vincent, David Soul, Robert Wager, Richard Gere and Jon Voight. The filmmakers also auditioned over 200 unknown actors for the part, including Christopher Walken and Nick Nolte. Legend has it that Nick Nolte was actually offered the role but said that he'd only take it if they agreed to make Clark Kent a schizophrenic. /// The original screenplay that Richard Donner inherited (and quickly rewrote) included one infamous camp moment where Lex Luthor encountered Telly Savalas playing Kojak in a railway station. Kojak then offered Luthor a lollipop and asked him his trademark line "Who loves ya, baby?”
The script may concern itself with a really quite simple story but it does it well, and is also really quite witty. This is especially true in terms of its dialogue, presenting some great one-liners for Perry White and creating amusing interplay between Lex Luthor and Otis. The script splits the film into three very distinctive phases and acts. The first act of the film takes place on Krypton, detailing the planet's destruction and the decision that his parents take to send him away from the doomed planet to Earth. That early stretch really is pure, campy 70s sci-fi; never more so than when it comes to the white jump suits that all of Krypton's inhabitants wear and that seemed to plague every sci-fi film of that era. I've got to say that I actually found the opening to be a bit dull, lifted only by Brando's performance. I was rather worried at what I had let myself in for due to how very seriously it seemed to be taking itself. Following that the film becomes a more traditional comic book movie, covering his coming-of-age story and origin tale. Thankfully this phase is a lot more fun, really embracing its tongue-in-cheek and playful tone. And then lastly the film becomes something akin to another 70s staple, the disaster movie.

In a number of ways I was actually surprised by some of the quality on show. For whatever reason I had been expecting something really cheap and tacky, but instead found a lot of really quite impressive. It was really well shot and featured some very nice cinematography. There are also a few great sets to be spied throughout the film, with the locations of Krypton and Superman's Fortress of Solitude being particularly noteworthy. My favourite set however was certainly that of Lex Luthor's underground lair. A bit of a classic Bond villain creation it is a great fit for the character, really playing up to Lex's eccentric billionaire side. Chock-full of art and knick-knacks it's like a cross between a museum and a library, which just happens to have a pool!

Even though I had never seen any of his appearances in the famous red y-fronts until now, I was well aware of the fondness that fans had for Christopher Reeve's portrayal of the character. From reading the likes of SFX magazine and frequenting sites and forums that appeal to my geek side, I know just how highly fans regard him. And having finally see the man in action I can begin to understand why. I found him to be a highly engaging and likeable anchor for the film. When he dons the famous suit and cape as Superman he is very noble and heroic, and most importantly I got the feeling that he really believed in the character he was playing. Recently I saw an article in which Christian Bale revealed that when he was auditioning in costume for the role of Batman he felt stupid. But here Reeve seems to embrace it and you can feel his sincerity and the film benefits greatly. As good as he was in the guise of Superman, it was as Clark Kent however where he really flourished. He is exceptionally charming in the bumbling goofball persona that he adopts to avoid suspicion, really endearing himself to the audience. I actually found there to be quite a strong Cary Grant vibe to his performance given Clark's glasses and blundering nature. There's an excellent moment in the film where we see Clark contemplating whether to reveal the truth to Lois; it allows us to see the great effort Reeve put into creating the two distinct personalities. As Superman he stands tall, barrel chested and gives the impression of having an imposing frame. For his Clark Kent persona however Reeve appears to completely change his whole physical presence, altering his stance, posture and gait to become this clumsy, slouching figure who appears like he would offer no resistance in a physical confrontation.

Film Trivia Snippets - When it came to the part of Lex Luthor, both Jack Nicholson and Gene Wilder were considered while Dustin Hoffman actually turned down the part. Nicholson was again under consideration to play Lex Luthor for a proposed Superman film in the 1990s which ultimately fell through. And then even when Gene Hackman was cast there was a problem. He initially refused to cut off his moustache for the film, and early one-sheets feature Hackman with a moustache. Before Hackman met Richard Donner face-to-face, Donner proposed to him that if Hackman would cut off his moustache, Donner would do likewise with his. Hackman agreed to this, but it later turned out that Donner didn't have a moustache at all. He wore a false moustache that he peeled off at the last moment. /// During its initial run, Superman topped the box-office charts for an astonishing 13 consecutive weeks. It's eventual $300 million gross made it the 6th highest grossing film ever at the time of its release. /// Can I just say what a d!ck Marlon Brando was. He was paid $3.7 million and a percentage of the profits for playing Jor-El for just 12 shooting days. The fee (plus the percentage) also covered the sequel, which was being simultaneously shot with the original. Brando did not appear in the sequel, however, as he was involved in a lawsuit with Ilya Salkind over what Brando said was the producer's non-payment of his profit-participation for this film. He ultimately received about $14 million for his mere ten minutes on film. All that money and yet he still refused to memorise his lines in advance. In the scene where he puts infant Kal-El into the escape pod, he was actually reading his lines from the diaper of the baby.
Opposite him I found Margot Kidder to be quite delightful as Lois Lane, the iconic love interest of the Superman mythos. She was very sexy as the feisty, brash and impulsive news reporter and very much created the Katharine Hepburn to Reeve's Cary Grant. Together they have a great chemistry and their interplay very much reminded me the screwball comedies of the 30s and 40s which Grant and Hepburn were so famous for. Also a lot of fun was Gene Hackman hamming it up as the diabolical Lex Luthor. While I'm not a big fan of the series this incarnation of Lex certainly isn't what I associate as being the classic version of the character. That aside he is just immensely entertaining, conveying a wonderful sense of superiority and stealing just about every scene he is in. Ned Beatty also generates quite a number of laughs in his role as Luthor's sidekick, Otis. While it may not match that of Reeve and Kidder, the two men also share a nice chemistry. I've got to say that I was also really quite impressed by Marlon Brando's brief contribution in the role of Kal-El's father, Jor-El. While I've not seen a great deal of Brando's work, anytime I have he has always been very hammy as he attempted to chew his way through every piece of the scenery. So I felt that throwing him into a superhero film of all things (not exactly a genre prone to subtle performances) could have met with some disastrously overblown results. So I was rather surprised at just how straight he plays the role, bringing a welcome seriousness and gravitas to proceedings.

It certainly is a film very much of its time, both in terms of tone and its look. This film is now 35 years old. In terms of being an effects-packed spectacle that pretty much makes Superman an ancient relic. So credit to the filmmakers then that a number of the effects still hold up today as being both impressive and just downright engaging, able to draw you into the magic of the film instead of pulling you out of it as you sneer at the stone-age effects. And even the effects which don't work and now look decidedly ropey I didn't feel really hurt the film, if anything they just seem to add to the film's naïve charms. The film has one of the all-time great taglines; “You'll believe a man can fly.” While I perhaps wouldn't go that far it's actually surprisingly effective how they pull it off. And then there's the part played by John Williams' famous score and his iconic Superman theme. When Reeve takes to the skies backed by that classic theme even I, a self-admitted Superman hater, couldn't help but get momentarily swept up in the magic and wonder.

Conclusion - A very pleasant surprise. I came in expecting very little and was met with a really fun escapade; a sweet-natured little film imbued with a sense of playful innocence. It took a while to get me really involved, it wasn't until Reeve showed up that the film really got going in my eyes, and at over 140 minutes it does feel a bit overlong. However a sharp script helps to bring out a series of great performances from the whole cast who really seem to throw themselves into proceedings with gusto. It's a film with a warm heart and a sharp wit, both attributes largely arising from Reeve's winning performance in the central role. And who can't enjoy a film which features a character flying around the Earth so fast that not only do they turn back time, but I'm guessing destroys the minds of every scientist watching!

Bonus Trivia - A number of well-known directors were offered the chance to direct the film. Both William Friedkin and Sam Peckinpah were offered the chance to direct. Friedkin turned down the offer outright. Peckinpah dropped out of the running when he produced a gun during a meeting with Ilya Salkind. Stephen Spielberg was also offered the chance to direct, but the producers balked at the salary he demanded. They decided to wait until they saw how "this fish movie" (Jaws) that he had just completed did at the box office. The movie was a huge success, and Spielberg went on to other projects. /// The film was a mammoth undertaking. It was 3 years in planning, 2 years in filming at the height of which there were over a thousand full time crew on 11 units spread over 3 studios and 8 countries. Over a million feet of film was used and at the time it had the highest production budget. /// At one point it was planned that the film would end with a giant hologram of Superman flying out into theaters. /// Richard Donner had a single word, printed in big letters, on numerous signs, sent to every creative department involved with this film: VERISIMILITUDE. "It's a word that refers to being real . . . not realistic - yes, there IS a difference - but real," explained Donner. "It was a constant reminder to ourselves that, if we gave into the temptation we knew there would be to parody Superman, we would only be fooling ourselves." /// According to Jeff East (who played the teenage Clark) during the shot in which young Clark jumps in front of the train, he was nearly hit by the train. But stuntman Richard Hackman grabbed him just in time and he avoided being injured. /// For his portrayal of Clark Kent, Christopher Reeve based his performance on Cary Grant's character in Bringing Up Baby. I promise I did not know that when I made the comparison in my review!

Leben findet einen weg...
Love Reeve as Superman. And yes, Brando was a complete turd. He even got his name on the cast sheet before Reeve.

Who ever heard of the lead role, and the titular role, getting shunted down the list?

One thing that always gets me is that Reeve was 25 years old when he was cast and 26 when they finished filming.

25-26, yet he portrays himself as someone who has a knowledge in their 50s.

Kidder was 29-30 from casting to completion yet seemed much younger.
Originally Posted by doubledenim
Garbage bag people fighting hippy love babies.

I love this movie! I get a nostalgia-gasm from thinking about it! I remember being a kid in Hong Kong running around the furniture while the soundtrack was playing on the folks stereo system. And for me, Reeves IS Superman the same way Kevin Conroy is Batman, and RDJ is Iron Man.

I am very happy you liked this movie dude. I hope you like Superman II as well. But as for statement about cheap... don't have high hopes for Superman III and IV. The budgets for the sequels got cut in half for each subsequent film.

We've gone on holiday by mistake
Great review JD!

Everyone try this on for size, put the volume to MAX, hit play and shut your eyes! The movie theme of the 20th century no doubt about it.

Superman 1 and 2 were maybe top of the list of my childhood favourites. The first half of Superman feels like a dead serious origins story of real importance whilst the second half changes things up and becomes quite camp and silly in parts.

Brando was certainly a dick but he brings real gravitas to the film, especially with some of his early lines (that he was reading from the diaper according to JD trivia LOL), "Son becomes the Father, and the Father the Son". Hard to imagine the film without Brando.

Reeve is great as Superman but his performance as Clark Kent is legendary imo. You find yourself almost looking forward to the next Clark scene to see what the clown is gonna do next. They really lucked out with Reeve who fit the role like a glove. Shame he was typecast by the role and never really had any success outside of the blue suit and cape. Sadly ironic that the Superman would finish his life crippled after a horrific accident. Also hard to believe that he was only 25 when he could easily pass as a 35 year old.

In fact all the cast are on terrific form, especially Kidder as Lois Lane. No Lois Lane since has come close to her awesome performance. Don't know what they were thinking casting 40 odd year old Amy Adams who is borderline ugly opposite young Henry Cavill.

Superman made it into my top 50, you have to be able to look past the dated effects when watching an old classic like this.


Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
Taking a brief break from my superhero marathon for a couple of current films. I like to do so because I know there are loads of you out there who wait with baited breath for my views on current films so you can decide whether to spend money on seeing them or not.

And I'm actually giving you a double bill. First up is a review that I already posted in the 'Rate the Last Movie You Saw' thread but have since extended. Whether I've added anything of any substance to it I don't know


Year of release

Directed by
David O. Russell

Written by
Eric Warren Singer
David O. Russell

Christian Bale
Amy Adams
Bradley Cooper
Jennifer Lawrence
Jeremy Renner
Louis C.K.

American Hustle

Plot - A fictional film set in the alluring world of one of the most stunning scandals to rock our nation, American Hustle tells the story of brilliant con man Irving Rosenfeld (Bale), who along with his equally cunning and seductive British partner Sydney Prosser (Adams) is forced to work for wild FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Cooper). DiMaso pushes them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and mafia that's as dangerous as it is enchanting. Carmine Polito (Renner) is a passionate and volatile New Jersey political operator caught between the con-artists and Feds. Despite all the best laid plans, Irving's unpredictable wife Rosalyn (Larence) could be the one to pull the thread that brings the entire world crashing down.

I know this film has amassed quite a sizeable fanbase on here but what can I say, I wasn't particularly excited by it. I'll certainly give it credit for being a well made and exceptionally well acted film, unlike the marks that the con artists target however I never felt myself being taken in by their charms. In the knowledge that this may well incite a small riot on here, dare I say I even found it all a little bit......dull? I'd certainly say that was particularly true of the opening hour, with the film really taking considerable time to get into the real swing of things. It was only when the sheikh 'arrived' in the jet and the con got under way that I felt the story start to come to some sort of life. Even then however it never matched my expectations; perhaps it was the fault of the film's advertising but I was expecting a far breezier, more comedic venture. When it comes to con films/TV shows I think it should be a lot slicker, flashier and sexier than what this was. And its running time of 138 minutes felt way too long for a story of this nature. Cutting out a chunk of that running time would perhaps have helped the film find that energy that I felt was lacking.

As I said at the start though the performances across the board are almost uniformly excellent. Christian Bale delivered one of his most impressive performances that I've seen in the role of Irving Rosenfeld. Going by some of the interviews he has given over recent years, I got the impression at times that Bale was never greatly comfortable taking on the mantle of Batman. Well if that were true then he probably couldn't have succeeded in choosing a role more different from the Caped Crusader than Irving Rosenfeld. Sporting a ridiculous combover and substantial beer belly he has left his days of superheroics well and truly behind him with this performance, certainly more sad sack than superhero. He acts as a fairly strong anchor at the heart of the film. Butting heads with Bale's Irving, and following on from their collaboration on Silver Linings Playbook, Bradley Cooper once again excels under the direction of Russell. His performance is one of great fire and determination in the role of Richie DiMaso, a man of initially good intentions who eventually begins to capitulate thanks to his excessive ambition. With ever larger carrots being dangled in front of him it's not long before his sights move on from catching mere con artists to politicians, senators and gangsters.

While Bale and Cooper deliver strong work that has already attracted awards recognition, the undoubted stars of the show for me however were the leading ladies of the piece. As the apple of Irving's eye, I thought that Amy Adams was excellent as the manipulative Sydney Prosser, or Lady Edith Greensly depending on the situation. She was the one character that I really couldn't put my finger on, whose intentions I was never entirely sure about. Adams also proves to be damn sexy in a series of elegant and very revealing outfits which allow Russell's camera to place great emphasis on sideboob! So much so that I feel her breasts should actually have gotten their own mention in the end credits. And whoever her costume designer was deserves an Oscar for services to humanity! Despite all this talk of great performances, when it comes to the question of who deserves the MVP plaudits there is no doubt in my mind that it's Jennifer Lawrence. As Irving's wife Rosalyn she was far and away my favourite component of the whole film. Displaying an incredible charisma and alluring nature, whenever she would appear on screen the film gained a spark that I felt was otherwise lacking. She once again shows that she really could be something pretty special, and without a doubt she was the film's saving grace. Well to be fair she was actually one of two saving graces, with the other to be found in the very amusing and combative discourse between Cooper and his boss, played by Louis C.K.

Film Trivia Snippets - The film is a highly fictionalized telling of the Abscam (short for Arab scam) scandal of the late 1970s and early 1980s, an FBI operation that began as an investigation of trafficking in stolen property, but was later expanded to include political corruption. /// This is not however the first time that attempts have been made to adapt the story for the screen. In the early 1980s French director Louis Malle adapted the Abscam story into a film script entitled "Moon Over Miami" which was set to star Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi. Plans for the film were abandoned however with Belushi's death in March of 1982. /// The script was originally titled "American Bullsh*t" and came in eighth place on Hollywood's 2010 Black List. Originally Ben Affleck was in consideration to direct but he dropped out in favour of directing an adaptation of Stephen King's 'The Stand', which he has also dropped out of subsequently. /// In 1980, Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha was targeted by Abscam but not indicted since he didn't accept the bribe. He would later be saved from a House Ethics Committee punishment by Charlie Wilson. Coincidentally Amy Adams also starred in the film Charlie Wilson's War. /// David O. Russell stated that Robert De Niro didn't even recognise Christian Bale on the set even after they were introduced to each other. De Niro pulled Russell aside, pointed to Bale and asked who he was. First De Niro didn't believe it was Bale but after Russell convinced him of that De Niro noted, 'Wow, he looks really different", and nodded his head as a sign of approval. Russell then had to re-introduce the two now that De Niro knew who Bale was.
Alongside the cast that he was able to assemble, also in line for credit are Russell, his cinematographer Linus Sandgren and the production design crew because the film does look and feel very much like the 70s, or at the very least like a 70s movie which is the closest that I can equate to. Oh and Hustle also features a really fun soundtrack as well, composed of an eclectic mix of songs from the period that covers both the very familiar and the lesser so. Russell's direction certainly seems quite confident and assured, with his work and the film as a whole having quite a strong Scorsese vibe. In particular the film attempts to peer inside the world of con artists in a similar fashion as Goodfellas did with the mob, with a great deal of similarities shared between the two films. Both films open in a tremendously similar fashion as the main protagonist delivers a narration that details who they are and the world they operate in, complete with flashbacks to their younger, formative years that attempt to highlight how they ended up where they did. And from then on a great resemblance can be seen throughout between the two films, whether it be in their shared period setting, the cool soundtrack or in Russell's mobile, roaming camera that seems to ape Marty whenever possible. While the film may evoke the work of Scorsese however, I'd certainly class it as 'Scorsese Lite.'

And perhaps this is just a feeling that I imbued the film with personally, but throughout I got a sense of smugness and self-satisfaction about the whole project, with the film seeming really proud of itself. And I really didn't feel that it should have been. The script is often clumsy, relying heavily on contrivances and characters occasionally acting out of character. The plot, especially for its lengthy running time, is pretty basic and lacking in substance while it's characters don't have a great deal of depth, coming across as under developed and largely unlikeable. In fact that was one of the main obstacles to my really enjoying this film; I never came to care for any of the characters and so had little interest in who came out on top of the various games of cat and mouse. That marked a major departure from how I felt about the characters in Russell's last film, Silver Linings Playbook. And while it's not so much a fault as just a missed opportunity, I didn't feel that the film fully exploited its 70s setting. While I understand it was set there due to the true story it is partially based on, I felt it could have explored it more. Other than the odd comment here and there that refers to events of the time there wasn't a great deal of it. Oh and perhaps I'm mistaken but at one point did Amy Adams' character talk about running off to Russia or Estonia? In 1978? Haven't these people ever heard of the Cold War? Surely that would create some issues for that plan.

It's a decent enough film that has its moments, but just as many flaws, and is strongly acted. All in all however I really was left slightly baffled as to why Hollywood and film critics have fallen so in love with it. There already seems to have been a bit of a backlash against the film amongst cinema audiences and I think that will only grow if it somehow sneaks off with the Best Picture at the Oscars. In a few years time I could easily imagine it being talked about as one of the weaker winners of the big prize. To me the film felt like the halfway point between Ocean's Eleven and The Grifters, with it unfortunately coming up short of the respective attributes of both films. I didn't feel it had the slick, flashy frivolity of Oceans; nor did I feel it had the substance, depth or grit of Stephen Frear's The Grifters.

Conclusion - American Hustle actually represents a very accurate depiction of the cons that its central characters ply their trade with. It promises much, looks great and says all the right things but in the end you don't get what you were expecting and are left disappointed. I think that myself, and indeed many other viewers, might have been more welcoming to the film's attributes had it been released in August for example, and billed as just a 'normal' film. Its release smack bang in the middle of awards season however, and all the accolades that said award shows have been quick to lavish upon it means that expectations have been raised. And for all its style I didn't feel it came close to having the substance required to meet those expectations.

Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
And following on from American Hustle here is the second review of a film currently in cinemas (at least here in the UK).

So far in this thread I've dedicated reviews to many of my regulars (honeykid, mark f, Gunslinger, Rodent, Miss Vicky etc). Well I'd like to dedicate this one to Sexy Celebrity. He probably can't be bothered to even read it! and he'll certainly think it should be rated higher but I know he's a big fan of it.


Year of release

Directed by
Jean-Marc Vallée

Written by
Craig Borten
Melisa Wallack

Matthew McConaughey
Jared Leto
Jennifer Garner
Denis O'Hare
Griffin Dunne
Michael O'Neill

Dallas Buyers Club


Plot - Dallas, 1985. Electrician, occasional rodeo rider and strict homophobe Ron Woodroof (McConaughey) is shocked and horrified when he is diagnosed as being HIV-positive and given just 30 days to live. Refusing to accept the death sentence that has been dealt his way he begins to read whatever research he can get his hands on, leading him to the drug AZT which is currently in clinial trials. Despite pleading to his attending physician Dr. Saks (Garner) she informs him that she cannot get him a supply of the drug or into the trials. So Ron decides to get the drugs himself by whatever means necessary, eventually leading him to Mexico and Dr. Vass (Dunne). Dr. Vass however does not supply him with AZT, believing it to do more harm than good, and instead gives him a cocktail of other drugs and vitamins which have not been approved in the US by the FDA. Taking notice of the improvement in his health, Ron strikes a deal with Dr. Vass and begins smuggling these drugs back across the border into the US. He begins to sell the drugs to other affected inviduals, eventually establishing a partnership with an HIV-positive transgendered woman by the name of Rayon (Leto). While not an amicable relationship to begin with it does prove fruitful as they establish a 'buyers club' that sells memberships to HIV+ patients and then gives the drugs away for free in an attempt to avoid breaking the law. This doesn't satisfy the FDA however who begin to target him and his operation.

While I'm aware that I am unlikely to be the first person to draw a comparison between this film and Jonathan Demme's 1993 hit, Philadelphia, I really do think the similarities between them are quite strong, beyond the obvious link they share in their Aids-driven narratives. Just as with Philadelphia I wouldn't say that this is an especially great film on its own merits. It is told in a fairly straightforward, conventional manner with its plot unfolding in a predictable manner that offers little in the way of surprise. In many ways it could even be viewed as unexceptional. Also like Philadelphia however, the film features two performances that are anything but. And it's those performances which give this film its power and vitality, and that make it a film that deserves to be seen. I can't remember where it was now but I read a review recently that concluded by saying that this was “a 3 star film with 5 star performances”, and I'd certainly say there is something to that.

The first performance I have to talk about is of course the astonishing turn from Matthew McConaughey in the film's central role of Ron Woodroof, the purveyor of the titular Dallas Buyers Club. It has been a while since I've seen a film whose main character is so spectacularly unlikeable. For the large majority of the film Ron is a pretty despicable individual, completely devoid of any redeeming features. He is the absolute epitome of the term 'trailer trash.' A homophobic drunk with a drug addiction and a propensity for cheap, tawdry sex there is absolutely nothing to admire here. And yet you can't help but start to like him (even if you may hate yourself for it initially) because you do admire his sheer will to survive and to fight. As is a commonly known fact, there are five stages of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Across the film's running time we see Ron hit every one of these stages (even if it is sometimes in an unconventional manner - see the prayer he offers up to God while sitting at a strip club as a naked woman gyrates in front of him); every stage that is except for acceptance. No matter the diagnosis and words of warnings from doctors he continues to fight it. I just love his rage towards everything; the disease, the doctors, the medical profession, his friends who turn on him etc. The most obvious aspect of McConaughey's performance is without a doubt the dramatic physical toll that he put himself through for the role. Having dropped close to 50 pounds there is no doubt that his gaunt frame cuts a striking and troubling figure. It would do so for any actor, but to see one of the men so often acclaimed as one of the sexiest in the world look so dreadful really does add to its power. To focus solely on the weight loss and not see beyond it however would be a sin as its a tremendous, powerful and utterly electric performance. The best thing I could say about it is just how real and natural a performance it is. He conveys this incredibly relaxed nature as if he isn't really trying.

Film Trivia Snippets - Following a 1992 article about Ron Woodroof in The Dallas Morning News, and just a month before he died, Ron was interviewed by Craig Borten in the hopes of creating a screenplay about him. Borten recorded many hours of interviews with Woodroof and was also given access to his personal journals. Borten went through 10 drafts of the script before he attempted to get the film made in the mid 1990s when Dennis Hopper was attached to direct with Woody Harrelson in the role of Ron Woodroof. The project fell through at the time when it was unable to secure financial backing. Jared Leto has admitted that he was actually sent a script at the time but never read it. /// Following this a couple of other director/actor duos attempted to get the project off the ground. In the late 1990s Marc Foster circled the project with the intention of Brad Pitt fulfilling the role of Ron, and then in 2008 director Craig Gillespie and Ryan Gosling were in talks with producers until Vallée and McConaughey signed on. //// Ron Woodroof's sister was reportedly very pleased with the eventual casting of McConaughey in the role of her brother. Having shown earlier concern when Pitt and Gosling were attached, she was delighted that McConaughey became involved because she felt he shared a similar swagger and personality.
If McConaughey is the fire and fury that drives the film, then it is Jared Leto who provides the heart and soul as transgendered Rayon, a fellow Aids sufferer. If Ron is spectacularly unlikeable then Rayon is the complete opposite. From her first moment on screen you find yourself just loving this fascinating and unique character of such vitality and energy. Rayon really could be the poster-child for the sentiment “we're here, we're queer, get used to it!” Even in this close-minded and homophobic environment she is never anything less than herself. Even against all of the looks and comments she garners she never lets it dissuade her. Though behind closed doors we do see a more troubled and tragic side as she resorts to a reliance upon cocaine. It's a role that would be so easy to get completely wrong but Leto just nails it. In fact he makes you so fully believe in this character that on the one instance where we see Rayon wearing men's clothing it just seems completely wrong. You wonder just what the hell she's doing, this isn't her. And together Leto and McConaughey share such a great chemistry whenever they are on screen together. I was going to call it a bromance of sorts but I think it's too antagonistic for that. It's more like a classic buddy cop relationship. And in the tradition of a film like 48 Hrs the initial relationship between them is one of hate, and even when tensions have eased somewhat they continue to butt heads and needle each other. The third main performance in Dallas Buyers Club comes for a more unexpected source. Were it up to cinema audiences to cast the role of Dr. Eve Saks I don't think many people would have instantly thought of Jennifer Garner. Despite this I've got to say that I thought she did a good job. She may struggle on the odd occasion and her character was never going to make the kind of impact that Ron and Rayon do, but I think she does a commendable job. Her inclusion also allows for an additional, perhaps unintentional, thread to McConaughey's performance. Typically you would expect to see these two individuals brought together for a romantic comedy, as was the case in Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. So watching McConaughey's faded lothario attempt in vain to woo her is rather sad, touching back to Ron's own past but also playing into McConaughey's established screen persona which he appears to be putting behind him in recent years.

Given the nature of the film's story, audiences could be forgiven for expecting or even fearing a much more melodramatic experience than its end result proves to be. This is predominantly down to the characters and their outlooks on life. Despite their shared illness both Ron and Rayon continue to live their lives to the fullest extent that they can. Ron refuses to just lay down and give in, while Rayon is such an effervescent and spirited individual who just seems so at peace with herself even in such a hate-filled environment. So despite the opening exchanges seeing Ron diagnosed with Aids and given just 30 days to live, Dallas Buyers Club actually turns out to be a film more about living than it is dying, more about life than death. Also quite surprising is just how funny the film actually is, delivering a decent amount of laughs. Admittedly most of those laughs do come from quite a crude and coarse place so it might not appeal to everyone, but for myself and the audience I saw the film with just about every one of them landed.

At the start of this review I made note of how conventional and perhaps predictable it is, and that largely arises from the script by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack. Even before I say this I know it's going to sound strange, but if anything their script is a little too 'perfect.' It just feels a touch too polished with the characters and plotting seemingly lifted straight from Screenwriting 101. Despite being based on true events the only character based on a real individual is Ron. Outside of that everyone else is a fictional creation, all of whom seem to exist only to aid in the development of Ron's character and the story. Ron's homophobia is established instantly in the bluntest of terms with the addition to the story of Rayon clearly acting as the instigator for Ron's evolution and the barometer by which we can measure his journey. The two doctors responsible for Ron's treatment (Garner's Dr. Saks and Denis O'Hare's Dr. Sevard) just happen to be at polar ends and represent the differing points of view amongst the medical profession. While the FDA are cast in the role of this large, sneering villain; a real 'big bad' for the film so that once again in a move similar to Philadelphia, the film's protagonist is cast as the little man up against this large corporation in a real David v Goliath battle of good versus evil.

Film Trivia Snippets - Before filming began both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto lost a substantial amount of weight. Jared Leto lost over 30 pounds for the role and has confessed that at one point he stopped eating so he could lose weight quicker. The lowest recorded weight that he got down to was 114 pounds. McConaughey meanwhile lost an incredible 47 pounds, prompting newspaper reports to describe him as look “terribly gaunt” at the time and that he was “wasting away to skin and bones.” /// Hilary Swank was originally cast in the role of Dr. Eve Saks, while Gael Garcia Bernal was cast as Rayon. Both dropped out before filming and were replaced by Jennifer Garner and Jared Leto respectively. /// Due to budgetary constraints the film was shot in just 25 days with a single camera and no customary lighting set-ups. Rehearsals were excluded and to the relief of the actors, no post-production looping requested. McConaughey apparently revelled in this style of film-making, saying that “I was riding a new way of making a film. There were no lights, one camera, 15-minute takes.” And Jennifer Garner has stated that McConaughey actually “gave an even wilder performance in takes that didn't appear onscreen.” /// Throughout those 25 days of filming Jared Leto stayed in character as Rayon for the entire time. At one point Leto went grocery shopping in character to a local Whole Foods where he received numerous stares and double takes.
It's unusual for a film to achieve such critical acclaim and recognition at major awards shows, with little recognition going the way of the film's director, certainly not in terms of awards or nominations. Having now seen the film however it is not something that surprises me all that much. Very rarely throughout the film did I ever find myself noticing Vallée's hand at work, and perhaps that's the way it should be. For a story of this nature anything all that noticeable may come across as being nothing but obtrusive, when he should instead just be allowing the performances to speak for themselves. Alongside a jittery and rushed style to recreate the condition and ailments of Ron, there are really only a couple of instances where its the visuals as opposed to the performers that catch your eye. The first actually comes from the film's very first images. Opening at a rodeo we find ourselves in one of the bull stalls where Ron is engaged in wild sex with two women. As he thrusts and grunts his way through this encounter we can see through the slats in the stall to the ongoing rodeo where a rider is thrown violently from his bull to the ground and left motionless. With an unsettling audio mix of the roaring crowd, the rowdy sex and a strange, high-pitched ringing accompanying the images of the fallen rider Vallée is clearly establishing the danger that Ron has placed himself in.

The other notable visual from the film occurs as it nears its conclusion. While visiting a doctor's clinic down in Mexico, Ron is drawn towards a strange sound emanating from a room in the back. Entering the room he finds himself surrounded by hundreds, perhaps even thousands of butterflies. As he adjusts to his surroundings he notices that a couple of butterflies have landed upon him. Spreading out his arms to embrace the situation he soon finds himself covered by dozens of them. The scene quite clearly acts as a representative for the beauty and wonder of life if you open yourself up to it as Ron now has, and it makes for quite a striking scene. Taking into account the metamorphosis of character that Ron undergoes across the film's running time it would also not be much of a stretch to see the image as a metaphor for Ron himself. Just as the caterpillar transforms into this creature of great beauty, Ron too has grown. From his origins as this horribly homophobic, hateful scumbag he evolves into this much more enlightened, accepting individual. And his white trash appearance and attitudes actually belies a keen mind, a mind that is capable of studying and understanding all of the medical information involved with his disease and its treatment, capable of setting up and running such an operation and capable of battling against the government. From hating and then exploiting the gay community he comes to genuinely care for and respect them. In his own way Ron too has managed to become a creature of beauty worthy of our admiration.

Conclusion - As a film Dallas Buyers Club may not be perfect but it certainly has its heart in the right place and it enriches the spirit. It takes a difficult subject and presents a unique take on it, delivering the story in a digestible and engaging fashion that even manages to be joyous and uplifting on occasion despite its inherent sadness. And whatever flaws it may have can be overlooked fairly easily because of the two incredible, award-worthy performances at its heart. Both McConaughey and Leto are excellent and are reason enough alone to make this a film worthy of anyone's time.

I like Dallas Buyers Club quite a bit. I will agree that the performances deserve much more mention then the direction. But I do say the film is more then a thee star movie with 5 star performances. That was American Hustle for me.

Great reviews JayDee

I liked Dallas Buyer's Club a little more than you did, but your minor criticisms are valid. I'm still unsure how I feel about the character of Ron. I'm not totally convinced that he just wasn't all about the money, at least at the beginning. And I'm not completely sure he became a better man. A lot of people, when they have serious problems, start to act differently towards others. Often times it's because the person needs sympathy for themselves. You're not going to be rotten towards others when you need a lot of help yourself. He may have become a better person out of necessity, rather than having a change of heart. I'm not sure though, at least he appeared to become more tolerant. But if he was suddenly cured, would he have gone back to his old ways? I also agree with SC's comment about the butterfly scene, it ended way to abruptly.

I haven't seen American Hustle yet. When I saw the first trailer for it, with the Led Zep song playing, and the era, and the style, I was looking forward to this movie like no other. I was hoping for something in the mode of a Boogie Nights. When I saw the next trailer, with the dialogue and hints of the story, my anticipation waned dramatically. I still want to see it, but my expectations are now not very high. It looks to be very lightweight, in contrast to what it could've been.

I'm glad that you enjoyed Dallas Buyers Club, but I don't agree that it has much in common with Philadelphia beyond the obvious superficial similarities.

And "disappointing" is exactly the right word to describe American Hustle. It disappointed me the first time and I liked it even less on the rewatch.

I still haven't seen Philadelphia. I couldn't say -- but I bet Miss Vicky is right.

A bunch of people have come forward and said that the real Ron Woodroof actually wasn't homophobic at all. In fact, according to his wife, he was bisexual. His own doctor considered him one of her gay patients and other people said he had gay relationships.
I don't know either way, but it's not like he'd be the first homophobic closeted gay guy.

Excellent review, JD.
5-time MoFo Award winner.

We've gone on holiday by mistake
I'll read those 2 after I've watched them sometime in a couple of months when the DVDs come out.

Looking forward to American Hustle after watching the brilliant Silver Linings Playbook like 3 times recently.

Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
Alright, JayDee, I read your whole review. Aged five years reading it, but whatever.

Thank God Gael Garcia Bernal did not play Rayon...........

How long does it take you to write these reviews, JayDee? You put a lot of information in there. Very nice.
Well I'm touched by your great sacrifice Sexy. How long does it actually take you to read these reviews? I know they're rather lengthy but you talk as if they take you 30 minutes or something.

What did you make about the other possibles for the character of Ron? Not sure I could see Pitt or Gosling in the role, although I'd have been curious to see how Pitt would have done. Woody Harrelson however I think could have been great in the role.

Well I saw the film on Tuesday afternoon/early evening and made a little start that night. I finished on Thursday during the day and then at night did the plot and trivia. How long it actually took when combined I'm not sure.

Great reviews JayDee

I liked Dallas Buyer's Club a little more than you did, but your minor criticisms are valid.
Thanks cricket. And as I was writing the review and reflecting on the film I actually felt I should bump the score up a little bit to
- or even
. However I decided to stick with my instant gut instinct leaving the cinema. Can always bump the score up on a repeat viewing. And I think I'm also a little harsher these days when rating films on their initial viewings. I've seen 28 or 29 films from 2013 and only 4 got a rating of
or higher, and two of them were superhero movies which are my achilles heel/weak spot and almost don't count!

I'm still unsure how I feel about the character of Ron. I'm not totally convinced that he just wasn't all about the money, at least at the beginning. And I'm not completely sure he became a better man. A lot of people, when they have serious problems, start to act differently towards others. Often times it's because the person needs sympathy for themselves. You're not going to be rotten towards others when you need a lot of help yourself. He may have become a better person out of necessity, rather than having a change of heart. I'm not sure though, at least he appeared to become more tolerant.
At the start it definitely was all about the money for him and any help he gave to others was either for monetary reasons or by mistake. However I do think he became a better person. Beyond coming to care about Rayon obviously, I think he does become much more compassionate towards the gay members of the buyers club and that it becomes much more about procuring the drugs for those that need them rather than the money. We even see him selling his car to fund the operation

I'm glad that you enjoyed Dallas Buyers Club, but I don't agree that it has much in common with Philadelphia beyond the obvious superficial similarities.
Thanks Vicky. Nice to see both yourself and Commodus making a return to the thread. Although you did miss out on the reps, just an oversight I'm sure!

And to be honest Philadelphia is just one of any number of films I could have chosen to illustrate the point that I felt it was a good/very good film without being truly special, but that it was elevated because of two excellent performances. Given their Aids link it just seemed the obvious, and I suppose you could say the lazy choice. I'd certainly say that when it comes to addressing Aids Dallas Buyers Club is certainly not as safe and a bit more in your face on the issue.

I still haven't seen Philadelphia. I couldn't
say -- but I bet Miss Vicky is right.
Not trying to just go by the gay stereotype but I'm surprised you've not seen it given your apparent interest in films about gay individuals and issues. Have you actively avoided it or just never got round to it?

Excellent review, JD.
Thank you very much HK. I'm actually a little surprised that you read and repped it given its 21st century status! Is Dallas Buyers Club a rare one that you actually have some interest in?

I'll read those 2 after I've watched them sometime in a couple of months when the DVDs come out.

Looking forward to American Hustle after watching the brilliant Silver Linings Playbook like 3 times recently.
I'll hold you to that! In fact I think I need to start keeping a little notebook with all these promises. So that's you for American Hustle and Dallas Buyers Club, Godoggo for Thor: The Dark World etc. I'll become like the debt collector of reps. If you don't pay up with your reps, I'll break your freaking legs!!!

And good luck with American Hustle, I hope that you enjoy it a lot more than I did. Not a patch on Silver Linings Playbook in my eyes, and not close to being as engaging and satisfying an experience as Dallas Buyers Club.

Thanks Vicky. Nice to see both yourself and Commodus making a return to the thread. Although you did miss out on the reps, just an oversight I'm sure!
Fine, rep whore.

I read your review over Rush, and I agree with a lot of the points that you made in the movie. The focus on the two-characters individuality is probably the best that I have seen since The Departed with Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio. Also, the story is wondrously beautiful to the point where you'd assume that it's romanticized, however, Niki Lauda actually commented on this movie, praising its authenticity and the reality that it carried as a whole.You walk into this movie ready to assume one person as the good guy and one person as the bad guy, and this was a movie that showed that things don't have to be so black and white.

Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
Returning to my season of comic book movies now although this was not originally part of it. I only just watched this recently and finished writing the review last night but thought I'd throw it in just now. Oh and aplogies to my good buddy Rodent who I know despite everything still did rather love this.


Year of release

Directed by
Zack Snyder

Written by
David S. Goyer
Christopher Nolan (story)

Henry Cavill
Amy Adams
Michael Shannon
Russell Crowe
Kevin Costner
Diane Lane

Man of Steel

Plot - The planet Krypton is on the verge of destruction, with nothing being done about it despite the warnings of Jor-El (Crowe), the planet's chief scientist. With Krypton's council overthrown by General Zod (Shannon) and his followers, Jor-El and his wife are able to send their newborn son, Kal-El, to safety by putting him on a spaceship bound for Earth. The ship lands in Smallville, Kansas where the infant boy is found by Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane) who raise him as their own. As he grows up the young Kal-El learns the truth about his birth and begins to discover that he has incredible powers at his disposal. Now an adult, Clark Kent (Cavill) wanders the Earth, living a Nomadic lifestyle when he discovers a Krytonian ship that crashed on Earth thousands of years ago. Also discovering the ship and Clark's secret is Daily Planet journalist Lois Lane (Adams), who after hearing his story decides to keep his true identity a secret. By accessing the crashed ship however, Clark has alerted General Zod to his presence. Travelling to Earth with his followers, Zod demands that humanity turns Clark over to them or face destruction. The only way that Zod can be stopped is if the newly dubbed 'Superman' can do so.

For anyone who has not seen Man of Steel yet but plans to subject themselves to it be warned that there are major spoilers ahead.

The release of this film sparked two main questions. The first was obviously about the quality of the film itself. And secondly, was Henry Cavill able to fulfil Christopher Reeve's substantial shoes and make for a worthy Superman? Well I personally think that both questions can be answered in almost the exact same way. Aesthetically they achieved the 'look' with a decent degree of success (Cavill's physique and Weta's visual effects respectively) but I found both the Superman character and the film as a whole to be completely lacking in any sense of warmth, heart, wit, humour or just good old fun. Over the course of the last decade Christopher Nolan took the superhero movie to new heights of credibility with his serious, realistic take on the Caped Crusader. With Nolan acting as a producer this time out, and having supplied the story alongside David S. Goyer, the film attempts to port over the same grim, gritty approach that worked so well for Batman. But this is Superman!!! Placing him in such a bleak world just does not feel right on any level.

As anyone who has paid a decent amount of attention to my reviews will know, I love my action movies! Were I forced to choose just a single genre to live with for the rest of my life, then action may well be the front runner. But as this movie proved, even I can suffer from action fatigue. There's an accepted way to approach a film such as this; spend 30-45 minutes building up the character to a point where we care about them and then throw them into the action. Well Man of Steel completely ignores that approach and turns it on its head. Right from the opening moments it is pretty much just one action sequence on top of another, with the film never really getting around to that pesky character development whatsoever. The film's final act does pretty much consist of just one never-ending smackdown that pits Superman against Zod and his cronies, a sequence which lasts some 45 minutes! Now it's possible to get away with this as long as the action is imbued with a degree of creativity and variety, as was evident in the big conclusion to The Avengers. Sadly I found both of those qualities to be completely lacking throughout their battle. It was just a constant stream of the characters punching and throwing each other through the infrastructure of Metropolis, destroying one building after another. This also threw up an issue that similarly affected Star Trek Into Darkness in my eyes - the glazing over of collateral damage. Just as with the final sequence of Into Darkness, the large scale destruction of their battle must have resulted in thousands, perhaps even tens of thousands of deaths. And yet not once is it acknowledged. We never see a body and there is no mention of those who will surely have perished. And while Zod is responsible for much of the destruction, Supes himself would have to take some of the blame. It gives the impression that he doesn't care about the people of Metropolis, and yet when Lois is in trouble he springs into action.

Film Trivia Snippets - Across the numerous roles required for the film it seems that just about every name in Hollywood came into consideration at one point or another. When it came to the role of Clark's parents Julianne Moore, Lisa Rinna, Jodie Foster, Sela Ward and Elisabeth Shue were considered for the role of Martha Kent; while for the part of Jonathan Kent names under consideration were Dennis Quaid, Bruce Greenwood, Michael Biehn and Kurt Russell. When it came to the role of Jor-El both Sean Penn and Clive Owen were contemplated on, while Viggo Mortensen was in the frame to play General Zod. /// Now when it came to the characters of Lois Lane and Zod's henchman Faora it really does seem like every 20 or 30-something actress in Hollywood was pondered over. When it came to Lois Lane, names considered included Natalie Portman, Charlotte Riley, Anne Hathaway, Dianne Agron, Kristen Stewart, Malin Akerman, Rachel McAdams, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kristen Bell, Lake Bell, Olivia Wilde, Mila Kunis and Jessica Biel. And as Faora was concerned, Diane Kruger, Rosamund Pike, Alice Eve and Lindsay Lohan were talked about. /// Although Amy Adams did have quite a patient wait before she finally landed the role of Lois Lane. She had actually auditioned for the character twice before, first for an abandoned Brett Ratner version and then for Superman Returns.
One of my main gripes wit the film was the entire look of it. The colour palette of the film matches its much bleaker tone, its aesthetic throughout is very drab, grey and washed out with nary a primary colour in sight. Again it just doesn't feel like a natural fit for the character or his world. I also had a lot of problems with Snyder's directorial style, hating many of the stylistic choices he went with. There's a style that is very prevalent these days and seems to be aimed at adding a sense of realism to a film. It's the shaky, handheld camera look with the lens flares and clumsy manual zooms. It's a style that works for certain types of films but not for a film of this nature. The tale of an alien dressed in blue tights fighting against other aliens isn't a story crying out for realism. Now as I mentioned in my opening statements of this indictment the visual effects by Weta are admittedly very impressive, so it's a shame that Snyder's clumsy, shaky direction works so hard to obscure them. The action sequences really do just become a chaotic blur that assaults your senses and attempts to beat you into submission by becoming ever and ever louder. While the credits may list Zack Snyder as Man of Steel's director I have my doubts about that. Throughout the film and especially during that mind-numbing finale that appears to last forever, I had someone else in mind shouting out directions - Anchorman's Brick Tamland.

Alongside Snyder's direction where this film really falls down is with Goyer's woeful script which manages to fail on pretty much ever level. The plot was simplistic and completely uninvolving, the dialogue was clumsy and on occasion laughable and pretty much every single character was mishandled. Every single character across the board has absolutely zero depth and gives us no reason to care about them whatsoever. To call them merely one-dimensional would be generous in the extreme. And even the very few characteristics that Goyer does attempt to imbue them with feel completely wrong for such established characters. Particularly getting the shaft in this respect are Ma and Pa Kent. In pretty much every screen iteration so far, whether it be the original 1978 film, the 90s Lois & Clark TV show or the Superman prequel show Smallville, it has fallen to Jonathan and Martha Kent to raise Clark and teach him about the values of humanity. It is they who help mould Clark into this great beacon of hope for the world. Well not in Goyer's world they don't! That role is completely snatched away and given to Crowe's Jor-El, and even worse than that they are lacking in their typical humanity and compassion. At one stage Costner tells young Clark that perhaps he should have let his classmates die in a bus crash to preserve his secret. What?! Come on, that isn't even close to feeling right. And that leads us onto that scene. Even though its barely six months since the film was released, already the 'tornado scene' has reached a level of infamy in superhero circles that is arguably matched only by Peter Parker's emo dancing in Spider-Man 3. And it's certainly worthy of such infamy because it's a dreadful scene. To start with, the logic of Jonathan risking his life instead of the invincible Clark is already pushing it. The fact that Clark then holds himself back and allows his father to die? Beyond the poor writing of the scene it is also constructed and shot really poorly, resulting in a scene so bad that it's laughable.

While I understand that Man of Steel is a reboot of the character and the franchise, and that some things are perhaps going to be tinkered with, many of the story choices they have made are just baffling. As you'd expect the film opens on Krypton which admittedly is presented in quite impression fashion in terms of its visuals, and does feel decidedly alien. However I didn't think that it actually felt like Krypton; a feeling that was only enhanced when Jor-El hitches a ride on a f*cking dragon!!! Like I said I don't have an in-depth knowledge of Superman history so perhaps I'm missing something but where the hell did that come from? The only conclusion I was able to come to was that with Weta providing the visual effects for both this film and James Cameron's Avatar, they mistakenly included an errant CGI file of one of Avatar's flying beasties. Then there's the complete mishandling of the Superman/Clark Kent character. A large part of the reason why I've never particularly liked the Superman character is that as an invincible alien who is little more than a perennial do-gooder I don't find him all that relatable or interesting. It's the Clark Kent persona that brings some interest. It's the Clark Kent persona that brings humanity to the character and endears him to audiences. And yet this film chooses to withhold that side of his character until the very last second. Doing so also robs the film of that classic established dynamic that should exist between Clark and Lois, of Lois falling in love with Superman completely unaware that she is working side-by-side with him. In fact the whole relationship between the iconic lovers is really poor, never giving us any indication of any attraction or possible love there until out of nowhere their lips lock in a clinch at its conclusion.

And then there's the character of Superman and his sense of justice. I addressed Jonathan's death earlier, and as bad as that scene is, amazingly it has some strong competition in the controversy stakes amongst its viewers thanks to the conclusion of Superman and Zod's battle which sees Superman kill Zod by snapping his neck. Now while the scene didn't pain me as much as it does many other Superman purists, it still felt completely out of place for Superman to do such a thing, particularly in such a brutal fashion. And beyond how right or wrong it was for the character my other question about it would be - you can kill a Kryptonian just by snapping their neck? That seems a little bit simple. And if it was just that easy and Clark was willing to do it why not do it a lot earlier and save thousands of lives and millions/billions of property damage when he was just throwing him around Metropolis? Much of the film's dialogue too is clunky and risible, and at times I imagine I could feel the embarrassment of the actors having to deliver such lines, many of which would qualify as amongst the worst lines of the year. And at times the dialogue didn't even make sense, for example the moment where Zod tells Superman that “there's only one way this ends, Kal; either you die, or I do.” Hmmm. Now I'm not claiming to be a great maths whiz or anything, but I'm pretty sure that's two ways you've given there Zod old boy.

Film Trivia Snippets - For the iconic role of Superman himself, Henry Cavill emerged from the final shortlist of names to grab the part. The other names on that shortlist were Matthew Goode, Arnie Hammer, Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, Zac Efron and Colin O'Donoghue. And this finally allowed Cavill to shake off his tag as a nearly man. He had actually been attached to play Superman in the ill-fated “Superman: Flyby”, a project written by J.J. Abrams, directed by McG and set to star Robert Downey Jr. as Lex Luthor which eventually fell apart. When the project was revived a couple of years later Brandon Routh was instead cast in the role. Cavill had also been the runner-up to both Daniel Craig for the role of James Bond, and Christian Bale for Batman. /// /// When Zod broadcasts his message to Earth we see it being delivered in English, Chinese, Portugese, Esperanto and Klingon! /// Most of the scenes set in Smallville were filmed in Plainfield, Illinois. Coincidentally, a massive tornado actually destroyed much of the town in 1990 killing 29 people of of the town's 4500 population. A tornado obviously plays a large part in the film itself, leading to the death of Jonathan Kent. /// When it came to who would take the directorial reins, Darren Aronofsky, Duncan Jones, Ben Affleck, Tony Scott, Matt Reeves and Jonathan Liebesman were all considered before Zack Snyder was eventually chosen.
When it comes to describing the performances, the all-encompassing keywords would be along the lines of 'bland' and 'flat'. Once again though this largely harkens back to Goyer's character development, or lack thereof, because the cast are given absolutely nothing to work with. And it's a real shame because it's actually quite a strong cast of talented individuals that was assembled, individuals such as Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner and Laurence Fishburne. And yet not one of them is able to rise up above the severe constraints placed upon them by the script. Cavill may have an impressive physique but his performance never hints at the charisma of Christopher Reeve, the man who will always be Superman. As for Amy Adams, I'm a big fan of hers but she just feels completely out of place for the entire film. And with so little material to work with it's no surprise to find that Cavill and Adams have absolutely no chemistry together. Now when it comes to villains for this type of venture there are generally two directions they can go in. You either get the over-the-top, colourful villain or you get the sadistic villain full of menace. Sadly Shannon's General Zod is pitched pretty much right in the middle, resulting in a very unmemorable nemesis for Superman to combat.

In the epic fanboy war that is Marvel v DC, I'm very much a Marvel guy, both on the page and the big screen. And in terms of the latter, if this is really the best that DC has to offer then that certainly won't be changing anytime soon. Make Mine Marvel!

Conclusion - Slower than a lackadaisical slug. Flimsier than a piece of wet cardboard. Able to flop spectacularly in a single movie. Man of Steel is a complete turkey. A turd. Or a turd-key if you would! Back in my review for Richard Donner's revered 1978 effort I noted how it was quite evident that the film-makers had a great affection for the Superman character. Well with Man of Steel I didn't detect a single trace of affection whatsoever from Goyer, Nolan and Snyder. Bleak, joyless, nihilistic and completely lacking in any warmth, humour, heart or simple fun. I may not be a Superman guy, but even I know this isn't right for a Superman film.

I think you know my thoughts on this movie VERY well considering my own review of this turd. You hit the key points and then some. Needless to say Marvel rules the big screen.