Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Man Of Steel Review.

The Man Of Steel. Superman. Kal-El. The Last Son of Krypton. The Big Blue Boy Scout. Sent as a baby by his parents to seek refuge from his dying home world, young Kal-El is raised by humans Martha and Jonathan Kent as their own son, Clark. Gifted great power by Earth's yellow sun, the young Kryptonian becomes Superman, a hero and an incorruptible symbol; fighting for truth, justice, and the American way. You know this already. This is well-trodden ground. Any film trying to re-tell Superman's origin story desperately needs to add something new to surmount the overwhelming sense of familiarity. Man Of Steel fails miserably.


Man of Steel copies Batman Begins' structure of front-loading its opening hour with prologue mixed with flashbacks, but whilst in Batman Begins Bruce Wayne's flashbacks were prompted by his conversations with Ducard, and used Bruce's relationship with his father to explore Bruce Wayne's own psyche, in Man Of Steel Clark Kent just wanders around by himself, remembering his childhood. He doesn't actually have a conversation with anyone until 25 minutes after his first appearance. This bizarre decision robs the flashbacks of any context, because the adult Clark has no-one to discuss his memories with.


Therefore we learn about the young man and his father, but nothing about the man he has grown up to be. It's a fatal problem, as we're left with a blank page where our lead character should be.


Furthermore, whilst Kevin Costner is perfectly cast as Jonathan Kent, Clark's adoptive father, there's way too much of him. The very fact that he's played by Kevin Costner tells us everything we need to know about this character, and his character is given no space to develop beyond this despite his significant screen time.


This first hour kills the film. It's overlong and almost entirely redundant, and the rest of the film, when the plot actually starts, feels rushed by comparison. Scenes lurch drunkenly from one to another without impact or suspense, and it feels like whole chunks have been cut out of the film to make it fit an already hefty 243 minute running time. Key plot points are introduced and then discarded (much is made early on of the potential impact the discovery of alien life could have on society, but once Superman is revealed to the world the reaction of society is never once shown or discussed), and some of the plot holes boggle the mind.


With so much time devoted to the prologue there's no time to get to know any of the characters we are then expected to care about once the actual plot kicks in. This problem is compounded by several poor casting choices. Russell Crowe delivers an enjoyably tough, if ultimately unconvincing take on Jor-El, but Amy Adams singularly fails to muster the required bolshiness to convince as Lois Lane and Laurence Fishburne is a painfully timid and bland Perry White. These are all fine actors, but they each get so little to do except run and shout that their performances have to be judged against the original comic book characters. On that basis, they fail.


Michael Shannon, as the villainous General Zod, fares little better. Shannon normally has a commanding presence, but the the film's attempts to give him credible motivations founder under director Zack Snyder's weirdly selective ADD disorder. An early opportunity to explore Kryptonian society and give his motivation a proper underpinning is abandoned in favour of an extended chase ripped straight off of Avatar. Zod's actions therefore make little sense and he ends up seeming even more ludicrous than Terrence's Stamp's portrayal (and not in a good way).


The one thing that isn't rushed are the action sequences. With the exception of one stand out, four-way Kryptonian smackdown that consciously echoes Superman II, all succumb to the Transformers CG overkill syndrome. Most blockbusters now end with 25 minute CGI cartoons and Man Of Steel is no exception. There are so many explosions and buildings blowing up that I estimate the civilian death toll must have been in the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands (this, of course, is not commented on) and yet it's devoid of tension because the main character's invincible and the other characters are all just cyphers. Superman gets thrown through something and then someone else gets thrown through something and something blows up...


At the time of writing I finished watching it 111 minutes ago, and I already can't remember what happened. It's that boring.


Rating: 1/5
Reviewed by Andy Croucher.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Rich's Televisual Ramblings - Banshee

This column is going to be a regular feature in which I am going to explore some of my favourite TV. In this column I will discuss and hopefully promote TV which I think deserves attention and recognition. I am going to focus on the first episode and will try to avoid potential spoilers as I want you, the reader, to check out these series after you've finished reading.

For my first column I’m going to look at an American show called Banshee which first aired in the US on Cinemax and is a co-production between Your Face Goes Here Entertainment, Tropper Schickler Productions (the production company of the show’s creators, first timer show runners, Jonathon Tropper and David Shickler) and One Olive.

Banshee is the story of an ex-con who is released from prison after serving 15 years as the result of a botched diamond robbery. The main character real name is never revealed but he decides to assume the identity of the town’s new sheriff, Lucas Hood, after he witnesses the real man shot in a bar room brawl by some thugs and follows him in his role as the town's new sheriff and as he attempts to track down the woman he loves and the diamonds obtained in the heist.

One thing this show does brilliantly is three dimensional and fascinating characters. For example, did I mention that Kai Proctor, in addition to being the shows primary antagonist and a psychopath (well that’s to be expected right?), was raised and subsequently shunned from the local Amish community. This makes him perhaps television’s first and most probably only homicidal, Amish, criminal kingpin. Another character with an interesting backstory is Job, who besides being Lucas’ accomplice and friend, is actually a transvestite, computer hacker and hair stylist. Next season I've heard there going to introduce a character who in addition to being a Hell's Angel also has a penchant for wearing jodhpurs and  farms llamas. I’m being a little facetious now of course, but the point I’m making is that this show manages to create some of the most original characters I have seen in a long time and doesn't make them feel completely ridiculous.

The acting is also very adept from a cast who despite being relative unknowns have managed to turn in some very assured performances and in no place is this more evident than with the casting of the shows’ main character, Lucas Hood. The characterisation and acting by New Zealand actor Anthony Starr, who is perhaps best known for his role in The World’s Fastest Indian with Anthony Hopkins (which I’m sure most of you have in your DVD collections, right?), is excellent and, though played with an  intensity, is someone you want to truly succeed at every turn. Danish actor Ulrich Thomsen who plays Kai Proctor plays a character that is literally brimming with hatred and resentment as a result of being shunned by his family and this is channelled into his criminal dealings.

There are a lot of comparisons that can be drawn about this show. The first and perhaps most notable would be the 1997 Oliver Stone movie U-Turn which has the story of a man on the run who gets trapped in a small town and is surrounded by danger at every turn. The movie is produced by screenwriter Alan Ball who is notable for being the creator of Six Feet Under and writing both American Beauty and for True Blood. All of which can be seen as being heavily influential especially as they share some of the same raunchy elements with sex scenes being prevalent in all. 

Now just from that brief synopsis alone I’m sure you've already got some questions you want answering, Will he be able to keep up this charade? Will people discover his real identity? Will he find the diamonds? Will he be reunited with his former lover? Well you’re going to have to watch the show to find the answers to those, but what I can say is that these questions will create tension and plenty of twists and turns along the way.

Banshee can currently be seen in the UK on Sky Atlantic on Mondays at 22:05.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Pot Noodle, Why try harder???????????

Does anyone eat a pot noodle and actually not feel an immense sense of shame? Have you seen the latest Advert? "why try harder" is the tagline. Talk about appealing to the non aspirational lower classes. I count myself among the working classes and i for one am not interested in the class system but i am interested in striving to achieve. Not in a monetary way but in a creative fulling manner. "why try harder" pretty much sums it up. Don't cook, fill your body with shit. Don't bother striving to achieve anything than above your status. Buy into the system. Don't bob above what is expected off you. I despise everything this advert stands for. There is nothing wrong in eating unhealthy food sometimes, in chilling, being content with what you are doing. But the fact that a company is using that as a tagline is disgusting. Another one of their taglines is "the slag of all snacks" hmmmm classy. Do you not want more from food, like a pleasurable experience? Perhaps something satisfying, a little bit naughty and extravagant. Maybe your skint this week but for gods sake give me beans on toast any day which at least have some nutritional value as well as pence per meal is actually cheaper?! I will finish with a quote from Red Dwarf, they have just crash landed "what do we have left then?" " half a bag of soggy smoky bacon crisps, a tin of mustard powder, three water biscuits, a brown lemon, two bottles of vinegar, a tube of bonjela gum ointment, a pot noodle and a tin of dog food. "its obvious what we are eating last then, I cant stand pot noodles"