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Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Superman Returns

Posted by austinburns on July 17, 2006

Superman Returns

What can I say about this movie? If I had to sum it up in two words, it would be “perfectly mediocre.” Everything about this movie was plain. Let’s start with the acting.

  • Brandon Routh as Clark Kent/Superman, thumbs up. I thought he was very believable as Superman. He barely was in there as Clark, but he did good in that role as well.
  • Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane, thumbs up. Ashley didn’t like her, but I thought she was fine.
  • Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor, thumbs down. I didn’t care to much for him. He swayed between hamming it up and understating the performance. He really needed to either rein it in or overplay the whole thing. Uniformity would have been nice.
  • James Marsden as Richard White, thumbs up. He had a shitty role, but he did well with it. He plays editor Perry White’s nephew and Lois Lane’s 5 year romance and father of her 5 year old kid. Or is he? I really liked the Superman love triangle when it was between Supe, Lois, and Clark. It was intriguing to have a love triangle with only two people. To add a third person means that there’s not much else for Clark to do. That being said, the Richard character was all to predictable, but Marsden brought some empathy to the role, which is all he really could do. At least it wasn’t a cliched love triangle where one guy is a total douche, but the girl doesn’t realize it. Richard is truly a good guy, believes his son is his son, but how can he compete with Superman?
  • Some supporting characters: Parker Posey as Kittie Kowalski, thumbs up. Ashley seems to think that she and Lex were romantically involved, I’m under the impression that Lex likes the man-meat (prison will do that to you). If she and Lex weren’t an item, then her role in the movie is a little less clear. Basically, she’s a henchman (henchwoman? henchperson?), but she’s funny when she needs to be. Sam Huntington as Jimmy Olsen, thumbs up. It’s really hard to screw up Jimmy Olsen. Kal Penn as Stanford, thumbs up. Stanford is Lex’s main techie henchman, and the only one who is not an idiot. Kal did a great job with a role with no speaking parts. His role in the movie has a pretty shitty farewell, however.
  • Lastly, Frank Langella as Perry White and Eva Marie Saint as Martha Kent, thumbs up. Langella was a prefect Perry, even uttering the classic, “Great Caeser’s ghost!” at one point in the movie. A very different contrast to J. K. Simmons and his portrayal of J. Jonah Jameson from Spider-Man. And Eva Marie Saint was perfectly cast as Martha Kent. Hardly in the movie, but played a worried/grieving mother perfectly.

The direction was just there. Maybe I expected too much of Bryan Singer after his masterful directions of X-Men I and II. It seemed that just about any action director could have directed this movie.

The story was also pretty ludicrous. Superman has been gone for five years. No one knows where he went. One day, he just left. Turns out he went looking for Krypton. Lois is super pissed at him for not saying goodbye. Superman saves a bunch of people, including Lois. Lex’s plan involves the crystals from Supe’s fortress of solitude to build a new continent off the coast of New York City Metropolis. Wanna guess how it ends? After Singer turned the X-Men story into a thoughtful allegory of homosexual acceptance, I had high hopes that he would do something similar with the Superman story. There was only one mention of something more. Lois writes a piece titled, “Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman” while Supe was gone. When Superman asks Lois about it, she replies that the world doesn’t need a savior. It’s easy enough to draw a line between Superman and Jesus, and Singer could have used that a little better. He could have articulated the difference between the need of a savior and the want of a savior. Instead, there’s one line, a bunch of shots of Superman ascending into the clouds, and a shot of a fatigued Superman falling to earth with his arms outstretched in a cross-like fashion. Singer dropped the ball.

With the average acting, the directing needing work, and the story needing help, I give it a generous



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The Break-Up

Posted by austinburns on June 7, 2006

The Break-Up

Wow. This movie is NOT a romantic comedy. Even though it is marketed as such, this movie will surprise you. I wouldn't really call it romantic, and a good part of the time is not comedic, either. This movie is brutally real. I have heard the conversations before from first-hand experience. The title of the movie is very appropriate. This movie is about a Break-Up. Plain and simple.

Vince Vaughn is hilarious. He is at his funniest (I'd say) since Swingers. Vincent D'Onofrio is inspired casting as Vaughn's brother. Jon Favreau is really good as his friend. Jason Bateman is good in the few scenes he's in as the couple's realtor. Jennifer Anniston is suprisingly strong in this movie. Joey Lauren Adams is her best friend and is either a psychologist or just someone who reads nothing but self-help books. Justin Long is great as a receptionist at Anniston's job.

The screenwriters did a good job, and I read that Vaughn had a story credit, so kudos to him. The director was Peyton Reed, who also directed Down With Love, another good "romantic comedy."

All in all, a pretty brutal movie, very funny, and very real.


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Everyman, by Philip Roth

Posted by austinburns on June 1, 2006

Ok, so I finished this book a couple of days ago and have been trying to find it's meaning. So far, I haven't been very lucky. I read it because Slate's podcast is going to be discussing it later this month. It starts out at the main character's funeral, so you know he's dead from the get-go. The book meanders through his life, where he was married and divorced three times. Only one out of his three kids talks to him. He cheated on every wife he had. He alienated his brother. He didn't have very many redeeming qualities.

Am I supposed to learn from this story? Is this a cautionary tale? He didn't seem very sorry for any of his actions. He did what he did, and he couldn't change it after the fact. The only redeeming part of this book was that it was only 180 pages or so.

I'm sorry to say I can't recommend this.


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The Plot Against America by Philip Roth

Posted by austinburns on May 27, 2006

The Plot Against America

Wow. What a great book. What a weird book. What a creative book. This book is about what happens when Charles Lindberg wins the presidency at the start of World War II. He keeps America out of war and starts a sort of “Anti-Semitism lite” policy. The story centers around a young boy, Philip Roth (it’s written as kind of a memoir), and his Jewish family living in Newark. His family goes through the best and the worst of the new presidency.

Also, at the end of the book, he gives a true timeline of all the player’s involved. Great reading.


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X-Men 3: The Last Stand

Posted by austinburns on May 26, 2006

X-Men: The Last Stand

Oh boy, I had forgotten how insane midnight showings can be. There wasn't a trailer that wasn't cheered and applauded before the movie. I never understood why people applaud at movie theaters. Unless the creators of the film are in attendance, who are you applauding for?

Anywho, the movie. I've tried to restrain myself from reading any reviews of the movie so as to not taint my outlook. I thought it was pretty good. Not as good as 1 or 2, and I think it had to do with Ratner as director. There were a few storylines that were never really fleshed out completely. A lot of things were just left alone. I will say this, a lot of mutants die in this movie. I won't spoil exactly who dies, but let's just say some pretty big names go.

The whole movie is about a "cure" for the mutants. Some of whom don't think there's anything wrong with them. It has obvious parallels with homosexuality, which some people claim to "cure" as well. I did read part of an interview with Sir Ian McKellen who said he channeled a lot of his rage through him being a homosexual and having people want to cure him. This movie hit home for him. I liked the message of the movie, but I felt that it could have been executed better.


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Da Vinci Code (the movie)

Posted by austinburns on May 22, 2006

Da Vinci Code

Oh boy, where to start. This movie was terrible. I hate to agree with so many critics, but it’s true. When I first read the book, I thought it was good, but not great. The story was intriguing, but the dialogue was bad. Unfortunately, this was carried over into the film. With the storyline stripped to its bare essentials, I never realized how lame it could be. Cheesy flashbacks, bad exposition, and wooden dialogue plagued this movie.

I heard a review from LA Times critic (I think) who said that it seemed the everybody was so afraid to mess up the story that it hampered their ability to act. I believe that.

Tom Hanks was OK. Definitely not his best, but definitely not his worst. Audrey Tautou was good. Her accent was a little thick, but I guess I’m too much of an Amelie fan to let that bother me. Ian McKellen saved the movie. He seemed to be the only one passionate enough about his lines to actually put some feeling into them, rather than just say them. Jean Reno was a waste of Jean Reno. Paul Bettany was Silas, and I think I had too high of hopes for his character. He was very one-dimensional. I guess he was supposed to represent the worst of religion with his blind devotion, not to God, but to a bishop who saved his life.

Unfortunately, I cannot recommend this movie. I’m anxious to see how someone who hasn’t read the book would like the movie.


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Over the Hedge

Posted by austinburns on May 22, 2006

Ashley and I went to see this movie since Da Vinci Code was sold out, and it was OK. Not good, not great, not bad, just OK. Steve Carell was the stand out as a hyperactive squirrel. Bruce Willis was fine. Garry Shandling is the only actor left to play a neuortic character after Billy Crystal and Albert Brooks were taken. William Shatner was pretty good, but I thought Adam West would have been better. Avril Lavigne did a terrible job. And real-life man-and-wife Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara were terrific as a married porcupine couple. Allison Janney did good as the crazed president of the homeowner's association. And Lowell, I mean Ned, I mean Thomas Haden Church was fine as the exterminator, although Patrick Warburton would have been better, but he's in too many cartoons already, I guess.

All in all, a decent flick. It had it's funny moments, but it tried to hard to shove the "people eat too much junk and destroy forests for subdivisions" theme down my throat.


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Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell

Posted by austinburns on May 22, 2006

Sarah Vowell is one of my new favorite authors. She is able to blend humor with insight remarkably well. She simultaniously loves her country while hating her president. She is able to get past that and praise why she likes America.

All of these essays relate somehow to America. Whether it's about a family Thanksgiving in New York to why the Canadian West was different from the American West (it was the mounties).

All in all, a fantastic book for anyone to read.


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Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Posted by austinburns on May 17, 2006

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll

Really good children's novels. For some reason, I thought they would be longer. Some tidbits I found out while reading:

Most of the visual style for the Disney version of Alice in Wonderland came directly from Carroll's illustrator, John Tenniel. From the cards, to Tweedledee and Tweedledum, to the Mad Hatter, I felt like I was looking at cels from the movie when looking at the pictures in the book.

Second, I found out that it's unlikely that Carroll was taking drugs at the time. Growing up, I had heard that he was an opium addict, but that turns out to be a myth. He was a clergyman and a mathmetician. He just really liked kids and decided to write a story to entertain them.

Third, it's unlikely that Dogma's interpretation of The Walrus and the Carpenter (that it's an indictment of organized religion), while a valid interpretation, was probably not the intention of Carroll. Besides being a clergyman, he supposedly gave his illustrator three options that would fit the meter of the poem: a carpenter, a butterfly, or a baronet. Tenniel chose the carpenter. So, it's unlikely that the carpenter had much meaning.

Overall, great read. It was a pretty quick read, but it was good.

Wonderland: A
Looking-Glass: A

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One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey

Posted by austinburns on May 13, 2006

What a great book! I've been trying to go back and read some of the "classics" and this one was definitely worth it! Randal P. McMurphy (RPM) is such a great, manic character! And Chief Bromden is great. I saw the movie a couple of months ago, and it was fantastic and stayed suprisingly close to the novel. A lot of the Chief's hallucinations and theories about the Combine were left out of the movie, but they nailed each of the character's personalities. Jack Nicholson doesn't look anything like McMurphy was described, but he acted exactly how McMurphy acted. I'm glad that most of the story stayed intact. Just as shocking and just as fun to read as it was to watch.

This book is a masterpiece and is highly recommended!


I just bought 4 books at B&N, plus I had two or three lying around waiting to read, but I think I'm going to tackle Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass next. Bring on the classics!

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