Lackluster Summer Movie Season So Far

It has not been a stellar movie season of yet, but if the viewers can get to right movie for them, than they can enjoy something out of the summer films released so far. Here’s a peak at Man of Steel, The Internship, and This is the End.

Man of Steel: One Finale After Another

Director Zack Snyder’s retelling of Superman’s origin story has tremendous special effects, and the 3D often jumps off the screen at the right movement to `intensify the excitement and suspense. The opening, set on Krypton, is a detail representation of an alien world deteriorating but the inhabitants abused their planet. Although the environmental theme is strongest in this part of the film, the lesson that a planet needs care is lost when Earth is threatened with an invasion that will reform it into a new Krypton, killing all life on Earth. Unfortunately, the special effects and set design are best thing about the film.

The story is familiar: Krypton is a dying planet, and Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and Faora-Ul (Antje Traue) can only hope to save their child, Kal-El, by tucking him into a space craft and sending him off into the universe, hoping that some good people will find him. Luckily, Jor-El’s spacecraft crash lands on the Kansas farm of Martha (Diane Lane) and Jonathan (Kevin Costner) Kent, a childless couple who epitomize the best of the American middle class, and they adopt the child as Clark Kent.

The adult Clark (Henry Cavill) drifts around the country, looking for his place in the world and saving the day when disaster strikes, and eventually ace reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams) gets wind of his “superman” activities. Meanwhile, General Zod (Michael Shannon), who was banished from Krypton in it’s dying hours for a failed coup, seeks former friend Jor-El’s son as part of a plan to repopulate a new Krypton, but there’s also an element of revenge in Zod’s desire to find Kal-El.

The complexity of the story is dumped out in expository dialogue and is weighted down by excessive backstory. The themes of patriotism and self-sacrifice coupled with multiple storylines each requiring a big, fight-to-the-dead battle for resolution, giving the film a series of false climaxes at the end that make it seem like a never ending story.

While dark and brooding, conflicted “humans” with superpowers, and old heroes remade for a “darker” modern era generally make for interesting twists on familiar tales, it’s been done. Maybe what people crave is the simpler, squeaky clean hero of yesteryear. Maybe the hyper patriotism attempted in this version is a return, in part, to the Superman of the 1950s. However, what this film lacks is adequate character development for any characters and chemistry between the actors playing the parts.

The only solid chemistry is between Costner and Cavill, which is fitting because part of Clark/Superman’s problems are related to father/son relationships. The scenes between Cavill and Adams play like a cheap knockoff of the tv series Friends, and Adams seems to channeling her best Jennifer Aniston. Unfortunately, Man of Steel is overly long and the characters are not developed to be sympathetic. A Warner Bros. release, Man of Steel is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction and runs 143 minutes.

The Internship: Mostly Heart

In this fish-out-of-water, feel good comedy, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson reteam as two unemployed watch salesmen, who need to change their lives. Having heard from a client that their jobs are gone, Billy McMahon (Vaughn) and Nick Campbell (Wilson) start searching for jobs, but find that they hopelessly under skilled for the tech age.  Their job hunt stalls because no one needs the old-time schmoozing salesmen who wine and dine their clients. Billy McMahon (Vaughn) hears about internships available at Google and figures he and Nick can learn about technology on the job.

After oddly impressing the Google recruiters with an online interview from a children’s library, Billy and Nick head to Google’s headquarters to compete with 98 other interns for five jobs. Nothing they know fits this new work environment. With Google’s appearance of cool and fun, Billy and Nick are surprised that their old job skills, such as drinking with the boss and dating coworkers, are forbidden.

When the interns are divided up into 20 teams of five, Billy and Nick get stuck with the rest of the losers. Although the rest of the team doesn’t think that Billy or Nick will be any help, these youngsters learn that there’s more to life than the isolation of social media and online interactions and even get a chance to loosen up at a benign strip club.

The Internship does not have a lot of big laughs, and there is never any real doubt about which underdog team will win, but the heart of this amusing film is good and ending uplifting. It’s also fun to see inside the Google Headquarters, despite the fact it feels like one big product placement. A Twentieth Century Fox release, The Internship runs a bit long at 119 minutes and is rated PG-13 for sexuality, some crude humor, partying, and language.

This is the End:  Apocalyptically Quirky

In this comedic horror film spoof, the young stars of Hollywood play themselves as metacharacters and face the apocalypse during a housewarming party at James Franco’s home. Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, and briefly Emma Watson take refuge with Franco.

The story is rife the interpersonal conflict and neurotic quirks of those who aren’t lifted into heaven by a beam of blue light, survive the giant sinkhole, and end up hunkered down in Franco’s modernist nightmare of a house. Baruchel, who’s visiting “best” friend Rogen, has a Woody Allen-esque hatred for LA and the Hollywood lifestyle, but mostly he hates Hill.

Oblivious to the disaster, McBride uses much of the remaining water to wash and cooks most of the food for breakfast. Then he makes it his personal mission to consume or waste as much food and water as possible, which makes the others want to expel him from the house. In other complications, Franco has the only gun; Rogen is the peacekeeper, but can’t back up Baruchel’s story about the beams of blue light, and Hill gets raped by a demon.

At first, the man-boys pass time by making a short, home movie version of a Pineapple Express sequel, but as water and food run short, things get more tense and behaviors more extreme. When Emma Watson shows up, the guys have a conversation about six guys, one girl, and the “rapey” vibe which Watson over hears, leading to other plot twists. Watson’s report that LA has been invaded by zombies casts doubt on Baruchel’s theory that it is the apocalypse, but that doesn’t stop him from quoting from the Book of Revelations.

Between exorcisms, the rapture, and all the Christian iconography, these young men of various religions all contemplate guilt, hedonism, and ignoring their faith and the possibility of redemption. Mostly sophomoric, often vulgar, and at times hilarious, this tongue-in-cheek, insider joke looks like to was as much, if not more, fun to make as to watch. Goldberg and Rogen co-direct This is the End, a Sony Pictures release of a Columbia Pictures film, which is rated R for crude and sexual content throughout, brief graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use, and some violence and runs 107 minutes.

More of Olmsted’s reviews are available on www.thecinematicskinny.com.



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