Tag Archives: Russell Crowe

“Man of Steel” (2013) – Review

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Director: Zack Snyder

Writer: David S. Goyer

Stars: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, Ayelet Zurer, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, and Michael Shannon

We begin on Krypton with the birth of Kal-El to Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and Lara (Ayelet Zurer). From there we are with Jor-El as he presents the impending doom of Krypton to the ruling council, the revolt by General Zod (Michael Shannon), the launch of Kal-El into space towards Earth, the trial of General Zod and his imprisonment into the Phantom Zone, and then the destruction of Krypton. Later we see Kal-El’s ship appear in our solar system and then head to Earth, specifically Kansas. And just before the ship crashes in the field we cut-to present day, a trawler fishing ship.

The principal weaknesses of Man of Steel are the story and the storytelling by the director, Zack Snyder. The story has to cover a lot of ground: the destruction of Krypton, General Zod’s background, Clark Kent discovering his powers, Kal-El discovering himself, the world discovering Superman, and Superman saving the world. Also, in intending to remove kryptonite as a cheat to defeat Superman the filmmakers use General Zod as the primary antagonist. In doing so the audience looses all relatabilitybetween both the good and bad guys. When they battle it is truly gods going to war and we mortals suffer for their conflict.

And though the film has to tell an expansive story it feels flabby. It lingers too long on Krypton at the beginning of the film, and stays too long on the climatic battle scene between Superman and Zod. Put simply, one building collapsing is impressive but by the twentieth it is tedious and numbing.

Where Man of Steel does succeed is in the Clark Kent scenes–the smaller human scenes. How did Clark feel when his powers manifested? How did he learn to control them? How did he find himself as he trekked through life? It is during these smaller intimate scenes we truly connect and identify with the man who would become Superman, and understand the choices he will make.

Henry Cavill makes both a great Clark Kent and Superman. Besides looking the part, he carries the weight of the “otherness” of the Superman character well. Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe are well cast as the adoptive and birth father, respectively of Kal-El. You connect more with Diane Lane as Kal’s earth mother than Ayelet Zurer as his Kryptonian mother; owing more to screen time than anything else. Amy Adams delivers as the investigative reporter Louis Lane but lacked chemistry with Cavill to present a believable attraction. As for Michael Shannon, his General Zod was definitely physically threatening but unfortunately lacking menace.

The look of the film was incredible. Krypton was excellently conveyed as a stagnant civilization. Though they were technologically advanced, everything in their society was in dull shades of grade and looking of being made of stone and not metal. The Smallville of Clark’s youth was filmed in warm & soft lighting. Clark’s present had the blue/gray tones of someone looking for something but not finding it.  The final confrontation with Zod and his forces before the final fight with Superman was well choreographed and looked impressive

Overall, though Man of Steel tries to go for too much it is on par with The Avengers.  It is a successful retelling of a story we are all familiar with set in a world we can believe exists.

Grade = B

P.S.  How does the Man of Steel shave?  According to the “Man of Steel” comic mini-series from the mid-80’s he reflects his heat-ray vision off a piece of his rocket ship to burn the stubble from his face.

Click on image to view trailer

Click on image to view trailer

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“Les Miserables” (2012) – Review

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Click on image to vie trailer

Director: Tom Hooper

Writers: Claude-Michel Schoneberg & Alain Boublil (Show Book), Herbert Kretzmer (Lyrics), James Fenton (Additional Text[?]), and William Nicholson (Screenplay)

Stars: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Helen Boham Carter

We begin with song as prisoners toil to bring a listing French war ship into dry dock. At the end of their day of labor Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is presented his release on parole by Officer Javert (Russell Crowe). Branded as a former criminal for life Valjean is unable to find work and is harassed by the people. Eventually he finds sanctuary in a monastery through the kindness of the Monsignor. The kindness is repaid by theft as Valjean steals the silver in the night, but is quickly caught by the authorities and brough back to the monastery. But there he does not find condemnation but forgiveness.

The Monsignor once again extends a hand of friendship and gives Valjean the silver and a second chance. Overcome by the act, Valjean becomes a changed man. Renouncing his old life he also renounces his name and becomes Monsieur Madeleine. Years pass and he becomes a successful factory owner and town mayor. But then Inspector Javert enters his life again. Suspicious of Valjean after an extraordinary display of strength rescuing someone beneath a horse cart, Javert inquires into “M. Madeleine’s” past. But his suspicions are initially proved false when he discovers that Valjean has been recently captured and will face a court for breaking his parole. Once informed of this, the real Valjean suffers a guilty conscience for the wrongly prosecuted man and reveals his true identity. What follows is a cat and mouse game between Valjean and Javert through years, cities, and history by the end of which both become changed men.

Forgetting this is a film and not a Broadway show, William Nicholson the screenwriter is too slavishly loyal with his adaptation. Though I have not seen the show yet, it is obvious by the lovers that fall too quickly in love–Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) & Marius (Eddie Redmayne)–and the disjointed lapses in time within the same segment–Fantine’s (Anne Hathaway) fall from grace–that the screenplay does not veer far from the show book. What works on the stage where there is greater audience suspension-of-disbelief comes across as lazy writing of character development & motivation in a film. With the exception of Valjean throughout the film and Fantine in the beginning, why any character does anything is never properly shown. Also, great Hollywood musicals are films where characters speak to each other with dialogue and only break out into song at pivotal moments. Having every spoken word sung causes a distraction to regular dialogue and minimizes those moments where the songs are meant to be impactful.

As for the direction, Tom Hooper in wanting the audience to make sure we aware that the actors in fact sang while they were being filmed choses to show almost every scene in close-up. Though this is a powerful choice with the emotional solos of Fantine and Valjean, it becomes nauseous when more than three actors are involved and the shot is constantly cutting between performers. That being said, the choice of actually filming the actors sing their performance was an excellent one.

Anne Hathaway is rightfully praised for her performance of Fantine, and her moving rendition of I Dreamed a Dream. Hugh Jackman also holds his own both musically and by his acting as Jean Valjean. Russell Crowe has been unfairly maligned with his singing performance as Javert. When called to sing during the powerful songs and his solos Crowe succeeds, but falters with the sung dialogue. Eddie Redmayne is the biggest surprise as Marius, both for his acting and vocal abilities. Sacha Baron Cohen & Helen Boham Carter steal every scene they are in as the married con-artists and comic relief.

The set design is interesting; almost a stage production on steroids. The backgrounds are noticeably askew and a little unbelievable, but appropriate to the story. They are off, but in a good way.

Les Miserables in the end is a flawed film with great performances. The end of the film is emotional and impactful, but does not make up for what comes before. I was left more with a feeling of what could have been.

Grade = C