Man of Steel

Man of Steel is just awful. It’s a busy, loud, incoherent and unsatisfying mess of incomplete ideas, smugly self-referential homilies, bombastic (but dull) set pieces and too, too big a budget. The story is pathetically shallow: General Zod, banished from the planet Klingon, arrives in Kansas to reclaim an ancient codex that’s been stored in Superman’s DNA, and with which he can colonise Earth. That’s it. That’s all. Really.

man-of-steel

So we get sit through two turgid hours of extrapolated back story of Superman’s Dad (Russell Crowe playing Marlon Brando playing Jor-el) and environmental collapse of the home planet. And flashbacked tales of how the young Clark struggled to fit in as a child without belting the big boys. We get another metropolis destroyed by rampant aliens (imagine Avengers flashbacks. Only Avengers did it better.) We get Amy Adams as a reporter who’s more whiny than awesome. We also get lots and lots of scenes of warring protagonists charging each other, shouting. Why do they do that in movies? Its just too dreadful. Henry Cavill (Henry Freakin Cavill) is gorgeous as usual, but there’s zippety spark between him and Lois, or him and anyone actually. Man of Steel is really just boring, bloated, joyless, insincere and completely lacking in novelty or imagination. I hated it.

Julie and Julia

In Julie & Julia, Meryl Streep is joyful, resplendent, lovely as Julia Child, the woman who brought French cooking to servantless Americans. Amy Adams (sob!) is ghastly as Julie Powell, the grasping, strident, petty, whining, self-obsessed, miserable and really quite horrid (oh, ok, one day I’ll come down off the fence and tell you what I really thought about her….) housewife who blogged about her experience of cooking Julia’s recipes. Think Babette’s Feast meets Mommie Dearest. There’s a pivotal moment towards the end of the movie when we learn that Ms. Child thinks Ms. Powell’s efforts are disrespectful. We’re supposed to know, I think, from watching the movie that that’s not the case. Actually, in reality, the entire movie leads us to believe quite deeply that the Julie character is a kind of psycho bridezilla, and everything in Julie’s life is only about Julie, which does indeed come across like a slap in the face to the refined Julia.

I expect though that one of the benefits of being Meryl Streep is that you get to choose where you film, and in spite of the inimitable French-ness of the story line, most of the drama was actually shot in and around New York City and its boroughs. I thought Montreal, but no, aside from some establishing shots, New York it was. The ultimate rooftop celebration, where we finally get to kiss that narcissist Julie a less-than-fond farewell, shot at 12-17 38th Avenue, Queens, New York City.

Oh and one last gripe: what is it about filmmakers and food? In order to express the working man’s appreciation of fine cuisine, we’re subjected to scene after scene of him shovveling plate-loads of gunk into his slack-jawed mouth, whilst continuing lively conversation – like some marauding Viking who’s just sacked St. Bede’s. I have never seen Americans eat like this (and I was trapped in a waiting room at a Denver dog shelter during a Pit Bull amnesty where every man woman and child wore tats and a wife-beater and drank hard liquor from hipflasks so I’ve been around manners.) So why the celluloid sham? It’s off-putting. Just stop it.

Night at the Museum; Battle of the Smithsonian

Larry the hapless Museum Guard is now a successful inventor with little time for his waxy old pals back at the Museum. Which is why he’s more than a bit concerned when he learns they are all being packed away and moved to the Smithsonian Institute in DC . The mystical Egyptian tablet that brings EVERY exhibit to life is going too, which promises complete mayhem in what is – with 19 museums, 9 research centres and a zoo – the largest museum in the world. Cue Larry’s madcap attempt to rescue his friends and stop the tablet falling into the hands of some evil Pharoah chappy, assisted en route by the plucky Amelia Earhart, General Custer and a bunch of Tuskegee airmen…….

I watched this movie with two ten year olds and a precocious nine year old who all thought it was too fantastic. I enjoyed it as well – though in my mind, Amy Adams can simply do no wrong. Her presence in this film raises it above the simply entertaining.

What I do also admire is the way the Smithsonian grasped the economic import of what was being offered to them with this movie (Night 1 generated an additional 50,000 visitors – a 20% increase in numbers – for the American Museum of Natural History in New York) and worked with the filmmakers to offer unprecedented access to the Mall. There’s a great article about it here at the Chicago Tribune.

Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day

I love Amy Adams. I loved her in Enchanted, I loved her in Talledega Nights, I loved her in Junebug and in Charlie Wilson’s War. The fact that she’s from small-town Colorado has something to do with it. The fact that she’s outrageously talented does too. I so love Amy Adams, I’d watch her in washing powder commercials, or selling funeral insurance.

On the other hand, I hate EPKs. Electronic Press Kits are like predictive text or bullshit bingo; you know exactly what they are going to say, how they are going to say it, and none of it really has much to do with the movie-going experience.

 “The director is so giving…..”

“She’s so warm and generous as a performer….”

“He’s the best director I’ve ever worked with.”

“We had so much fun.”

Yadda yadda yadda. I await the day when someone says “The director was an idiot who knows zip about directing actors and it was complete hell on set.” But I digress.

I can’t say that the EPK for Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day was particularly awful. But since Dame Frances McDormand is evidently more than a little thesp (she’s interviewed in costume, sitting on the stairs, with the set being shifted behind her – she’s THAT real) and is therefore held in terribly high esteem by other yet-aspiring ack-tors, the EPK was all a bit of a love-in. Which is a shame, because it didn’t give a fair reflection of the movie, which actually is quite sweet and entertaining.

Ms. Pettigrew is a penniless middle-aged woman who (in sheer desperation) scams her way into the life of starlet Delysia LaFosse (Adams) as her new social secretary – thereby setting in motion twenty four hours that change both of them entirely.

Set in London in 1939, as the country slides inexorably towards war, the design and cinematography is excellent, the period deco of the sets and props is sumptuous, and you can almost smell the wet wool and coal smog and lack of personal hygiene products. Apart from the odd establishing shot (hello again The Savoy!) Miss Pettigrew was mostly filmed at Ealing Studios. But since Ealing was the home of British cinema in the forties, there’s even an aptness to that.