Dec 292008

In a country in the grips of evil, in a police state where every move is being watched, in a world where justice and honor have been subverted, a group of men hidden inside the highest reaches of power decide to take action. Based on the true story of Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg and the daring and ingenious plot to eliminate one of the most evil tyrants the world has ever known.

A proud military man, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg is a loyal officer who serves his country all the while hoping that someone will find a way to stop Hitler before Europe and Germany are destroyed. Realizing that time is running out, he decides that he must take action himself and joins the German resistance. Armed with a cunning strategy to use Hitler’s own emergency plan – known as Operation Valkyrie – these men plot to assassinate the dictator and overthrow his Nazi government from the inside.

With everything in place, with the future of the world, the fate of millions and the lives of his wife and children hanging in the balance, von Stauffenberg is thrust from being one of many who oppose Hitler to the one who must kill Hitler himself.

Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, Thriller, Biopic and War; Running Time: 2 hrs.; Release Date: December 25th, 2008 (wide); MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and brief strong language.

Cast: Tom Cruise, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Carice van Houten, Eddie Izzard, Thomas Kretschmann, Terence Stamp, Christian Berkel, Kenneth Branagh, Halina Reijn, David Bamber, Kevin McNally, Jamie Parker, Tom Hollander, David Schofield, Werner Daehn, Harvey Friedman, Matthias Schweighoefer, Waldemar Kobus

Director: Bryan Singer

Lay and I went to see this movie on Christmas Day at its first showing in Gastonia, NC, so the theater wasn’t packed.

A story such as this can be a very difficult story to tell. Because it is based on a true story, it only has credibility if the movie is true to the story, but that can be difficult when the topic is complex, and so much of the story known only to a few. Because the outcome is known, it can be hard to maintain the suspense and tension needed to make a good movie, and a movie about a takeover attempt like this is hard to setup, as the real action doesn’t come until the event itself.

Despite these challenges, Singer does a good job putting out the story. I’m no historian, but have read a couple of reviews by people who purport to be historians, and they seem to feel the movie was reasonably true to the actual events. Perhaps the one gripe (and this is understandable due to the time constraints of a movie), in some cases the approach to possible fellow-conspirators was rather abrupt. I would expect more caution in such situations.

Singer managed to maintain a surprising level of tension and drama throughout the movie, and I found myself rooting for the conspirators and forgetting that the plot actually failed. It was also interesting to learn of the many considerations involved in such an action that go beyond the mere killing of Hitler.

I thought all the actors did an excellent job with their parts. I’ll admit to having been a Cruise fan for a while after “Risky Business” (but then what gay man wasn’t hot for Tom Cruise after the underwear scene in that movie), but my attitude towards him has cooled. But he did a nice job playing the part. The other actors carried off their parts in a very believable fashion.

All in all, a movie well worth seeing.

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Superman Returns

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Jul 052006

Superman_Returns.jpgAfter a long visit to the lost remains of the planet Krypton, the Man of Steel returns to earth to become the peoples savior once again and reclaim the love of Lois Lane.

Directed by
Bryan Singer

Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi

Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey, James Marsden, Parker Posey, Frank Langella, Sam Huntington, Eva Marie Saint, Marlon Brando, Kal Penn, David Fabrizio, Tristan Lake Leabu, Ian Roberts, Vincent Stone, Jack Larson

Lay and I picked this movie hurriedly last evening. We went based on the fact that the Yahoo ratings gave it a B+ from viewers and a B from critics. I don’t know where that come from.

Special effects? Good.

Script? Terrible. No plot. No depth. No meaning. This film rendered Superman as a meaningless hero, a hero with no archetype. In the original film, he represented America in the Cold War. Here, he represented nothing but a Hulk.

First, there is the casting?the most important part of any film attempting to match an original that has become so iconic, its actors have replaced the comic book characters in America’s collective conscience. Newcomer Brandon Routh most definitely looks the part (besides being too young), but has half the screen presence of Christopher Reeve. Although Superman isn’t known for his emotional instability, it seems that Singer played it safe by limiting Routh’s range to avoid having the new Superman give a poor performance. Instead, we are left with almost no performance.

Kate Bosworth is equally as bland as Lois Lane (and again, too young for the role). And with her lifeless brown hair that left me aching for her typical screen blond, she isn’t even much to look at. Kevin Spacey’s performance as Lex Luther also left something to be desired?though I’m not sure exactly what. He’s hardly the lovable Lex that Gene Hackman played. The rest of the cast was decent, with the exception of Frank Langella. His dull portrayal of Perry White made me wish they had grabbed J. K. Simmons straight out of Spiderman to talk about his barber.

The film had no depth whatsoever. I cannot see how anyone can come away with anything meaningful from this film, when Superman was, and is, daily created to be a meaningful hero in not only comics but also in people’s minds. This was a real waste of money considering how many directions this film could have taken.

Just a few instances: Lex Luthor could have been a villain of global corporatism, political domination, totalitarianism, and on and on and on. He was just another goofball Hackman incarnation.

And Superman? For what did he stand in this film? Nothing but another hack “savior” figure.

Wait until it comes to the dollar theater if you see it at all.

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