Monday, July 17, 2006

Movies: "Superman Returns" "The Devil Wears Prada"

Directors: Bryan Singer, David Frankel 2006
I find myself in San Diego with some time on my hands, and since I don't surf I've been going to the movies, as in paying 10 bucks for a ticket and walking into a theater only slightly smaller than the Coliseum (with squawking kids and guys bearing buttered popcorn in tubs the size of bushel baskets). This is a novelty for me in these days of DVDs and TCM. First come the annoying ads for Coke and other crap, then endless trailers which I rarely remember. Although one that ran before "Superman Returns" was for the forthcoming "Hollywoodland." Not sure what the eight year olds thought about this flick, which delves into the suicide-or-was-it murder of George Reeves, the actor who played the Man of Steel on TV in the 50s. Pretty dark stuff.
Then "Superman Returns" began and it's prettty dark stuff, too. Also pretentious, overlong and not a lick of fun. What was Hollywoodland thinking? Yes, the production values are great, the acting fine (even newcomer Brandon Routh, who obviously is channeling Christopher Reeve). But to cast Superman as the Son of God (Marlon Brando is resurrected from the 1979 "Superman" talking about earth receiving "my only son") puts a strain on the material. Then there is a Pieta pose with Supe and his adopted mom (an under-utillized Eva Marie Saint), plus Krypton's most famous survivor has this weird habit of vertically hovering over earth with his arms outstretched like Christ crucified. There's enough religious iconography in this turkey to make the head of the Russian Orthodox Church very happy. But its biggest sin (sorry) is that it's a bore. Sure there are some impressive action sequences. But this is based on a comic book. I know that comic books are more adult these days and Superman has undergone a transformation over the decades, but come on! What made Reeve (and even Reeves) so enjoyable was his interpretation of Clark Kent. Here, Clark Kent has zero personality, and you feel sorry for Lois Lane always having this hangdog hanging around. Skip this movie and rent the first two Reeve films, or the TV show (if available on DVD) or even better, check out the great Max Fleischer cartoons from the 1940s.
As for "The Devil Wears Prada" it's a pleasant time-passer that's about absolutley nothing and has a cable sit-com quality ("Saks and the City," perhaps). Only Meryl Streep redeems it, and even she is saddled with a script that never really explains her nastiness. Being smart and good at your job isn't a justification, although in Hollywood people not so smart or good at their jobs act that way every day.


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