December 31st, 2009

SUPERMAN (1978) ****

As far as movies based on a comic book go; you can’t get any better than this. Director Richard Donner treats the Superman legend with intelligence, warmth, and reverence; and as a result creates one of the finest motion pictures ever made. In an age where far too many comic book movies approach the material with their tongue in cheek (like Batman and Robin) or take themselves way too seriously (yes, I’m looking at you Dark Knight); Superman strikes the perfect balance between humor and respect. From the destruction of Krypton, to Clark Kent’s early days in Smallville, to Superman’s first appearance in Metropolis, the film is truly epic in scope and Donner’s direction always keeps you fully enthralled, no matter how many times you’ve seen it.

As much press as the casting of name stars like Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman generated, it was the then unknown Christopher Reeve who made the movie such a joy to watch. Whether he’s essaying Clark Kent’s endearing clumsiness or portraying the embodiment of truth, justice, and the American way; he totally rocks. When the ads for this movie promised that we would believe that a man could fly, it wasn’t the special effects that made us believe; it was Reeves’ performance. And the scene where he fails to save Lois Lane and lets out that bloodcurdling scream will send chills down your spine. He is, and shall ever remain the DEFINITIVE Man of Steel.

The other crucial element that makes Superman a classic is Donner’s direction. He really pulls you in with the opening Krypton scenes piles on memorable set piece upon memorable set piece. The scene of Superman’s first night of crime-fighting is a lot of fun (I especially liked the part when Superman saved a kitty out of a tree) and the eye-popping finale is still a doozy.

Seriously, there is not one false note in this movie. People seem to have a major problem with Hackman’s performance as Lex Luthor, but I think it’s the actor’s best work. Although Hackman makes the character humorous and the interaction with his idotic underlings (Ned Beatty and Valerie Perrine) is hysterical, his criminal genius is still more than a match for the Man of Steel.

Superman is a great movie, but what makes it a perfect movie is the John Williams score. While the story and acting are powerful enough to make Superman a classic; it’s the music that elevates it to mythic status. While the triumphant theme is among the best Williams ever did (and that’s really saying something), I have to admit a particular fondness for Luthor’s comical music too. Heck, I even like the goofy “Can You Read My Mind?” freestyle poem Lois busts out while flying with Supes for the first time. Damn, I love this movie.

Three Reeves starring sequels and one ill-advised Bryan Singer directed Supes flick followed.

Superman is on The Video Vacuum Top Ten of the Year for 1978 at the Number 2 spot; which places it below Halloween and above I Spit on Your Grave.

SHERLOCK HOLMES (2009) *

You know the saying, “No shit, Sherlock”? Well, this movie is all shit. It’s not elementary my dear Watson; it’s ALIMENTARY.

I would tell you about the plot of Sherlock Holmes but it would be just too damned depressing to even think about this movie again. Let’s just say that this is the worst movie that Guy Ritchie ever directed. And remember, I’ve seen Revolver.

It’s almost as if the screenwriters never read a single solitary Sherlock Holmes novel. There is nothing here that remotely resembles the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle character. Gone is the goofy looking hat, oversized pipe, and magnifying glass. Instead, this new stupid-ass Sherlock trashes his room like a rock star and participates shirtless in underground boxing matches. More depressing is that Holmes is no longer a highbrow detective but a dumbed-down-for-the-masses action hero. There’s even a scene where Holmes outruns a giant fireball in slow motion. Seriously, when has Sherlock Holmes ever been known for outrunning giant fireballs?

Folks, if you strip Sherlock Holmes of everything that makes him Sherlock Holmes, at some point he stops being Sherlock Holmes.

At all times, the movie seems like a video game. A very bad video game. Holmes and Watson spout some pithy dialogue then fight a pack of random thugs before going toe to toe with the “boss” of the level; usually a big dirty Frenchman. I wish I was making this up.

I’ll admit that the previews of this flick didn’t look all that great. However, I thought that the inspired casting of Robert Downey Jr. as the greatest detective who ever lived would make the movie worthwhile. I was wrong. While he brings a miniscule spark of life to the proceedings, it isn’t enough to save this wretched turd. As Dr. Watson, Jude Law minces around like a prissy 19th century model and looks like he was wishing he was home banging Sienna Miller in her poop shoot.

So, I guess you’re wondering: Just how bad is it? Well, Sherlock Holmes is so bad, it makes The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother look like Young Sherlock Holmes in comparison. I guess if you’re a total illiterate who has never heard of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is afflicted with ADD, and drinks a gallon of Vault soda daily; you might like it. Everyone else will want to steer clear.

(500) DAYS OF SUMMER (2009) **

Here’s a Chick Flick that’s at least semi-tolerable for the guys in the audience. Sure, it’s not that great and the chick in the flick gets on your damn nerves in record time, but it’s not terrible or anything. Shit, it featured a dance number and random ass animated birdies and I still didn’t completely hate it so that should at least tell you something.

Basically Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is an Emo greeting card writer that falls in love with this slut in his office named Summer (Zooey Deschanel). She cockteases him endlessly and mindfucks him a whole bunch but the poor dope still clings to her because she let him do her in the shower once. After a lot of moping around, Tom eventually comes to his senses and ditches the dumb broad.

Your enjoyment of (500) Days of Summer will probably rest solely on your ability to stomach Deschanel. Personally, I couldn’t stand her. She’s all kinds of irritating in this movie. In fact, she’s twice as annoying here as she is in those damn cotton commercials. Luckily, Levitt is pretty great in this (not nearly as great as he was in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, but oh well) and his immensely likable performance keeps you watching.

Although (500) Days of Summer starts off well, things quickly unravel long before the flick limps to it’s inevitable conclusion. It certainly earns points for originality (it’s filled with clever narrative leaps). Overall, these little touches aren’t enough to make it worthwhile. A Chick Flick is still a Chick Flick, no matter how you dress it up. There is one great dialogue exchange when Tom’s friend asks him if Summer gave him a handjob and he replies: “No jobs, I’m still unemployed!”