looking at superheroes - myth, pop culture, ideology...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

best movies of 2006

ok. its come that time of year.... reviewing the films of 2006. firstly, i see most of the films that come out. i've forgotten the names of all of them, but if you asked me (have you seen blah blah) i'd probably say yes. or no. i don't know. but keep that in mind with this best of list. best of 2006, as much as i can remember right now

1. Little Miss Sunshine
2. Children of Men
3. Snakes on a Plane
4. United 93
5. Hidden
6. Tristram Shandy
7. Drawing Restaint 9
8. The Prestige
9. The Weather Man
10. Manderlay

Also good...

- V For Vendetta
- Kenny
- 3 Burials of Melquiades Estrada (really, its a masterpiece)
- Mysterious Skin
- Transamerica
- Munich
- Superman Returns
- The Hills Have Eyes
- Syriana
- Jackass 2
- Borat
- The Departed


- Over the Hedge
- Ice Age 2
- Children of Men
- Gravehopping (from Sydney Film Festival)

Memorably ungood
- X Men 3
- Stay
- Miami Vice (great cinematography though)
- Pirates of the Carribean 2
- Jindabyne (1st half great, 2nd half shit. brilliant premise)
- Kokoda
- The Covenant

Saturday, December 09, 2006


SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) - After 12 months of naked partisanship on Capitol Hill, on cable TV and in the blogosphere, the word of the year for 2006 is . . . "truthiness."

The word - if one can call it that - best summed up 2006, according to an online survey by dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster. "Truthiness" was credited to Comedy Central satirist Stephen Colbert, who defined it as "truth that comes from the gut, not books."

"We're at a point where what constitutes truth is a question on a lot of people's minds, and truth has become up for grabs," said Merriam-Webster president John Morse. "'Truthiness' is a playful way for us to think about a very important issue."

Other Top 10 finishers included "war," "insurgent," "sectarian" and "corruption." But "truthiness" won by a 5-to-1 margin, Morse said.

Colbert, who once derided the folks at Springfield-based Merriam-Webster as the "word police" and a bunch of "wordinistas," was pleased.

"Though I'm no fan of reference books and their fact-based agendas, I am a fan of anyone who chooses to honour me," he said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

"And what an honour," he said. "Truthiness now joins the lexicographical pantheon with words like 'squash,' 'merry,' 'crumpet,' 'the,' 'xylophone,' 'circuitous,' 'others' and others."

Colbert first uttered "truthiness" during an October 2005 broadcast of "The Colbert Report," his parody of combative, conservative talk shows.

© The Canadian Press, 2006

Friday, December 08, 2006

Eras of superman.

This article from Comics/IGN
Superman In Film

We analyze the two eras of Superman movies and offer our opinions on how faithful they are to the franchise.
by Richard George

US, December 1, 2006 - If you heard thousands of comic book nerds cheering this week, you weren't imagining things. For over 25 years, fans of the original Superman movie have been asking to see the cut that Richard Donner intended to create. For those not familiar with the story, Richard Donner was hired to direct two Superman films back-to-back (similar to how Peter Jackson filmed the Lord of the Rings trilogy). The producers of the films were not happy with Donner's approach. When he was nearly done with the films, the producers rushed him to complete the first movie and quickly fired him. A replacement director was hired who restructured the second film into the version that was seen in the theaters. Donner's film was never finished and released to the public - until this week.

In celebration of the release, and the massive 14 disc collection that became available on the same day, we thought we'd meander through the Superman films and take a look at what they've done right and what they've done wrong in terms of the comic book lore that they've tried to adapt. We'll take a look at the major characters (Clark, Lois and Lex), Superman's powers and their chemistry with each other in each of the two major versions (the Donner era films versus the Bryan Singer sequel).

Christopher Reeve - Clark Kent/Superman


We start with the best. Christopher Reeve is the definitive Superman and there really hasn't been anyone close since his portrayal. As Superman Reeve had a commanding presence tempered with warmth that was perfect for the Man of Steel. The character has always been a boy scout at heart and Reeve gave a nuanced performance that pulled this off. The movie scripts of the Donner Era films called for sequences where Superman would save a cat in a tree or become enraged, but Reeve inherently had those qualities built in to his performance. You could tell that this character was capable of unleashing his true power while still being able to be kind and gentle to those who deserved that treatment.

Though his Superman performance was excellent, it is Clark Kent that defined Christopher Reeve. In fact Reeve nailed the guise and the transition between the two better than the comics routinely do. We've noticed over the years that Clark Kent doesn't really seem like a nerd anymore; we'd know from personal experience. In fact all portrayals of Superman, aside from Reeve, seem to make a blind assumption that no one could possibly recognize Clark Kent. We were relieved to see a sequence very early on in the Donner Cut of Superman II that blatantly exposes this flaw even though Reeve's Clark Kent is the most convincing we've seen.

As we mentioned though, it's the transition between these two characters that is so good. It seals the performances into something that simply has to be seen to be believed. Watching Clark Kent straight his back, remove his massive goggle-like glasses, deepen his voice and change his mannerisms is astonishing. In most cases we have trouble suspending our disbelief. In Reeve's case that was not necessary.

For the most part the Donner movies (and subsequent sequels) were true to the comics. The writers weren't afraid to use the full spectrum of his abilities - heat vision, flight, super strength, frost breath, X-ray vision and super speed were all present. The one problem we have, and surely if you've seen the movies you know what we're going to say, is the time-traveling aspect that was injected into the storylines. We hate the fact that Superman can spin the Earth backwards to manipulate time. Not only is it a cheap plot device, it makes Superman look stupid.

Margot Kidder - Lois Lane


In our opinion Christopher Reeve carried Margot Kidder. Her Lois Lane performance only worked 50% of the time and even then had some problems. Lois's interaction with Clark Kent was workable. There is a chemistry there that Superman Return's Brandon Routh and Kate Bosworth did not have. Kidder's Lane has an edge and energy about her that grinds against Kent's cheery yet bumbling mannerisms. In other words, it's perfect.

Unfortunately the grit in Kidder's Lois Lane doesn't wear off when she's trying to be in love with Superman. Lois is a strong, fierce and determined female lead who still knows how to turn on the charm. We didn't get so much of that in the Donner Era films. For the record, we think Erica Durance, from Smallville, gives a brilliant performance. Sassy, sarcastic yet playful and seductive, Durance is the best future Mrs. Clark Kent yet.

Gene Hackman - Lex Luthor


We love Gene Hackman but hate his Lex Luthor. Sadly his goofy, comedic, loser of a character is not at all his fault. Lex Luthor is written to be a joke - something that was picked up from an era of light-hearted comic books and a live action Batman television show. It was hard to take this version of Lex seriously. He surrounded himself by incompetent assistants, came up with ridiculous plots to acquire land and generally operated in the dumbest way possible - despite his assertion that he was brilliant. Hackman's chemistry with his co-stars made for some very funny moments, but the Lex Luthor in comic book is not that funny.

This Donner Era Luthor was also unbelievably simplistic. He repeatedly declared that he was evil, wanted to kill people for the fun of it and wanted land so he could make money. The comic book version believes he is the savior of the human race. He views Superman solely as an alien invader who will ultimately ruin the world (and ruin his plans to gain more power). He doesn't seek to kill people but doesn't mind eliminating anyone in his path or killing if it serves a purpose. Finally the comic book Lex is rich, doesn't hide underground and certainly doesn't aspire to strictly be a wealthy beachfront property owner.

If you haven't gathered by now, we have many problems with Gene Hackman's Lex Luthor.

Brandon Routh - Superman


Brandon Routh does an admirable job as the second film-based Man of Steel, but he falls short of Christopher Reeve. To be fair, Reeve had several movies to refine his role and Routh isn't necessarily trying to imitate his predecessor. Despite those acknowledgements, Routh's Clark Kent and Superman aren't that far apart. It's easy to see through the differences in mannerisms. Routh plays both characters as relatively reserved, and his version of Kent isn't very bumbling, nerdy or distinguishable from his super counterpart. Despite his subdued performance, Routh still looks the part. He blends in the Clark Kent role, he just needs to accentuate certain aspects of the Smallville farm boy. Likewise we think his Superman could be a bit more bold and regal. It's important to note that while Routh seems like a decent Superman, he doesn't act like a leader. That is the most jarring aspect of his performance since the comic book Superman is the leader of the most powerful team in DC - the Justice League of America.

In terms of power level, the Superman Returns version of the Man of Steel is quite good. We don't have time traveling or anything else equally absurd. Superman's powers are all represented well and the special effects are stellar. Our one complaint, and this applies to the original movie series as well: why can't we have Superman punch something. Yes, we know he's strong, but we still want to see a battle. To make a comparison, imagine a Hulk movie where he doesn't smash anything because we all know he's strong. Imagine a Spider-Man movie where his agility isn't tested because we all know how agile he is. It's a silly excuse not to give the fans something they want to see. We hope Singer can rectify this injustice in the inevitable sequel.

Kate Bosworth - Lois Lane


Kate Bosworth doesn't stack up to Margot Kidder who doesn't stack up to Erica Durance. Bosworth's Lane character ignores Clark Kent, but doesn't have the chemistry or fiery repartee with her colleague. The spark is completely missing. Her love for Superman tends to shine through though even that is easy to mistake for an apathetic look. It doesn't help that Brandon Routh doesn't exactly shine in his roles either. Margot Kidder's shortcomings are easy to overlook because Christopher Reeve is so brilliant. Kate Bosworth doesn't have that crutch. We would love to have seen Erica Durance spin some lines with Reeve or even Routh.

Kevin Spacey - Lex Luthor


Though we tend to favor Smallville's Michael Rosenbaum, Kevin Spacey does a stellar job as Lex Luthor. Again we have a great actor who is hampered by a script. Spacey's Lex is more menacing, sinister and suave than Hackman, but his motivations and means to achieve them are still bordering on goofy. Clearly we can see the influence of two decades of more serious comic books, but Bryan Singer's Superman I tribute hinders the development of a Lex Luthor that would truly represent the comic book character.



No doubt you've noticed a couple references to the show in this article so we thought we'd briefly mention it before we wrap things up. Smallville isn't perfect, but by observing the successes and failures of past Superman projects, the producers, actors and directors have done a lot of things right. Erica Durance and Michael Rosenbaum are two specific actors who have really brought a lot to their roles and have raised the bar for their respective characters. Though some of the episode plots might stray away from the characters' cores, the performances are ultimately very much on target. Our dream would be for the movies and Smallville to begin to find some common ground.


Common ground is the key word we think should apply to the entire Superman franchise, film or television. Christopher Reeve is the ideal Clark Kent though Bryan Singer's homage obviously creates a more believable Superman. Erica Durance is a brilliant, albeit a bit youthful, Lois Lane (we wonder how her chemistry would have been with Reeve). Michael Rosenbaum's Lex is superb though Kevin Spacey brings a very palpable rage to the screen as well. Mixing and matching the qualities of all of the eras of Superman on the screen would give us a true representation of the comic books. Nothing is ever perfect, but we can see something close to it when we look over the Donner, Singer and Smallville products.