Christopher Nolan

Movie News

Robert Downey Jr. Joins Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’

While it sounds like a match made in comic book heaven – sorry it’s not a CBM – but it still sounds pretty epic as Robert Downey Jr. has joined the cast of Christoper Nolan’s upcoming Oppenheimer movie. It’s also reported that Matt Damon has joined the cast of the tentpole, which already includes Cillian

Movie News

Man of Steel 2 Rumored; David S. Goyer Offers Superman Insights

Man of Steel 2 may or may not be happening, but David S. Goyer happens to offer interesting insights into Superman and the DC film universe. Goyer wrote the Batman The Dark Knight trilogy with Christopher Nolan, as well as Man of Steel, which introduced Henry Cavill as the new Superman. While talking with THR,

Movie News Reviews

Interstellar (2014) Review

Bringing Even More Credibility to Sci-Fi

A Film Review of Interstellar



Is Christopher Nolan waging a losing battle to save the art of Hollywood-style filmmaking?  His most recent contribution to humanity’s collective creativity is yet another fine example of thought-provoking and entertaining storytelling via the finest audio-visual technology the good folks at Syncopy can provide.  Yet, amidst a sea of adaptation, rebooting and reimagining at the movies, the one detail about this film which is most unique and will be easily overlooked is Interstellar’s originality.  It is a story written by talented screenwriters Chris and John Nolan based on the theoretical physics of Kip Thorne (who also happened to be the scientific consultant and producer for this film).  When people complain about Hollywood’s cycle of regurgitated drivel that is based on X or inspired by Y, my recommendation would be to check out a Chris Nolan picture that isn’t a part of The Dark Knight Trilogy (for which he’s best known).  Sure, he doesn’t have the extensive library of the Steven Spielberg’s or the Ridley Scott’s, but his selectivity permits an investment in multiple levels of the filmmaking process for just about every project he helms.  It’s what makes him one of the last remaining auteurs in this business.  Nolan does it his way, and his narrative imprint is neither a constrictive millstone nor is it an overbearing hammer, but more like a key unlocking doors to new perspectives and scenarios outside of the mechanical mass production of formulaic filmmaking.

As much as I enjoyed Interstellar, the one thing I fully expected from this film (which I ultimately did not experience) was the definitive “IT” factor making it the hands down best film of the year.  Certainly, this is a situation where expectations can skew an experience as I was all but banking on the path Gravity (2013) paved for Oscar gold last year in the same way Moulin Rouge (2001) set up genre success for Chicago one year later in 2002.  As interesting as the plot is, as compelling as the characters endear and as visually stimulating as the effects impress, the story exposes a major hurdle that the audience can trip on: pacing.  “Adrenaline fueled roller coaster ride” is not something that would accurately describe Interstellar as a cinematic adventure.  The first third of the runtime is devoted to heavy exposition and a bevy of set-ups.  For this particular story, all of that groundwork is necessary for every single plot and thematic payoff that comes later on, but it is somewhat of a grind; so much so that people in the theater started engaging each other in small talk.  As much as I absolutely cannot stand people talking in the movies, the lack of activity and intrigue early on tempts distraction. 

The film’s second act features a significant increase to the stakes and the dangers which helps bring the audience back, but the narrative never sways from the concept of saving humanity as a species.  Just about everything from metaphysics, morality, conservation, sacrifice, faith, family, evolution (and a multitude of other themes and ideas) are touched upon because this film claims that just about everything that defines humanity is as connected to our salvation as we are to each other as individuals as we are to our environments.  I applaud the script’s ambition because these ideas are extrapolated from the fantastic, yet easily relatable scenarios that are presented thanks to some good characters and great performances.  The story does shift gears a second time during the third act which may present problems for some members of the audience not willing to take leaps of faith to get past a few plot gaps.  The action and conflict of the story become less about actual characters and realistic situations and become much more ambiguous and theoretical.  It’s at this point the story “transcends time and space” and while it is extremely interesting to view this different dimension, reality, form of thinking, experience of reality (or however you want to describe it); reconciling it with the rest of the story proves a challenge unless one simply accepts and moves on.  Fighting it by searching for some logical explanation for where the story wants to go may seem natural, but at that point in the story the rules of “reality” are out the window and should be viewed as such.  Those in the audience that can “make the jump” may find a hopeful and inspiring ending while the rest may find an ending that is contrived and convenient.  This moment could very well sweeten or sour the entire 2 hour and 49 minute film; no pressure.

Even if you don’t know what it is you are actually looking at on the screen, the visual effects at work during Interstellar never cease to impress.  Science fiction as a genre has presented a number of notable, visually effect driven pictures so there have been a number of concepts that have been rinsed and repeated.  I would say the same holds true for the basic “space flight” depictions of this film.  Ships enter and exit atmospheres in similar ways, they spin to simulate gravity, and the hull gets breached by debris or other external forces.  All of that you’ve seen before.  What you haven’t seen are some of the more amorphous spatial phenomena depicted in the manner they have been here.  We’ve seen wormholes in movies before as “pockets” and “funnels” of space/time that a vessel goes “into” but Interstellar presents it as a large, three dimensional sphere that a vessel “orbits” in order to cross into another galaxy.  We’ve seen singularities (or black holes) before, but never quite on a massive scale that dwarfs the size of the sun in comparison.  The process of entering a black hole in this film (warping, bending or otherwise destroying matter and light) takes a “less is more” approach by focusing on the subject which never breaks physical form and surrounding it with shear emptiness.  Then there’s “the next dimension” which I won’t spoil any further by describing it as infinitely abstract art.  All of these effects are masterfully crafted which reveal and obscure exactly what the director wants.  Above all, these effects attempt something different from the status quo which is most welcome.

Despite Nolan’s literary and technical wizardry in his films, he still manages to extract intense emotions and marquee performances from his casts.  Despite some of the fantastic scenarios his films are involved with, his need to ground them in reality by making it “feel” as real and relatable as possible to his cast allows for greater opportunities to connect with and relate to a larger range of viewers.  The same holds true for the cast of Interstellar.  Cast members from The Dark Knight Rises Anne Hathaway and Michael Caine return here as a father/daughter physicist duo that’s part of a greater team dedicated to saving humanity.  Their particular dynamic isn’t expressed by direct chemistry because the story doesn’t have them sharing the same space, but their individual performances evoke intense passion and even desperation for characters that are lifelong scientists.  Jessica Chastain plays Murph, a talented scientist, but an even more devoted daughter whose research is motivated by love and less by equations.  Murph’s journey as a character is a much more personal one which is defined by a series of disappointments, thus Chastain is called upon for several instances of anger and frustration without completely flying off the hinge.  The rest of the cast is equally impressive with very limited screen time (thank you John Lithgow), just be prepared to see a few A-List cameos drop in playing roles you never saw coming which are very happy surprises.

Of course, Matthew McConaughey plays Cooper, our protagonist and one of the better everyman characters I’ve seen in recent years: a man of machines as well as the land, a trailblazing explorer as well as family man, a man of unfulfilled promise as well as the excellence of execution.  Playing a great man that hasn’t done anything great in his own eyes is a challenge well suited for McConaughey’s natural persona (do I need to reference last year’s Oscar acceptance speech?).  Once again, his droll, the timing of his delivery and his desperate need to emotionally exhaust himself in just about every scene makes his characters easy to like, sympathize and identify with.  Not enough can be said of his performance in this film because it is absolutely vital to the audience’s experience.  Only his character gives the audience a window to every event and without that character being someone every viewer can get behind, this film fails.  Despite the slow start to this movie, every minute spent is used to endear Cooper to us and McConaughey nails every scene.

If Interstellar were a film that was more accessible to a wider demographic of moviegoers (and fleeting attention spans), the momentum for an Oscar victory would be an unstoppable force.  As it stands, it is not a movie for everyone despite all of its impressive accomplishments and must therefore be considered as an immovable object when being considered for some of the best examples of filmmaking this year.  This movie’s format and story can have stretches that may lose viewers who are not fully engaged.  It also discusses subject matter regarding humanity, its nature, its purpose and its direction that may be uncomfortable if not divisive for people of today to discuss or deal with at any level.  However, this film asks those questions in an intelligent, thoughtful, creative and dramatic way that simply dismissing it without giving it a chance would be downright criminal.  I loved this movie for everything it showed me onscreen and every image it meant to parallel in real life.  It may not end up being the best film of the year, but it cannot be missed if you are in the mood for a tantalizing adventure that electrifies the eyes, tickles the fancy and resonates with the soul.

Marvel Movie News Reviews

Who Leads DC’s and Marvel’s Cinematic Realities?

Divergent Adaptation

Who Leads DC’s and Marvel’s Cinematic Realities?

By Lawrence Napoli


Ah!  What a great time to be a fan of comics and movies.  The cinematic creation of characters once thought far too larger than life to portray on the silver screen due to the limitations of technology has become one of (if not the best of) the marquee staples of Americana Pop Culture in recent years.  Comic book film adaptations have not only set this country on fire, but they have been fascinating the global audience as well, and it shows at the box office.  Those who know DC and Marvel as comic book companies primarily know them for their characters, fewer know them by the individuals that created their respective icons and fewer still know them for the writers and artists that make their characters relevant today.  Regardless of where the comic book industry has been financially from the distant past and/or recent past, there is no question that the movement of Hollywood adaptations of super-heroes continues to be a boom for everyone that owns the rights.  So if these films are so popular and continue to boost the visibility of various franchises, which individual is ultimately responsible?


We know Christopher Nolan masterminded The Dark Knight Trilogy, we know Joss Whedon is behind Avenger films as well as Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., we know that Robert Downey Jr. is Iron Man, and we know that Bat-Fleck is happening for Batman vs. Superman or World’s Finest or [insert title here] and we know that both companies are aiming at an expanded universe where their respective characters coexist in an ever-evolving reality.  But who’s really in command?  Who’s bringing it all together?  Sure, all the businesses involved with super-hero adaptations each have their nameless-faceless board of directors that are held responsible for decisions by their stock holders, but the choice to go in one direction or the other, veto power, day to day operations, coordination, communication and unification of this cellular network of films is being made by real individuals.  These individuals bridge the gap between the corporate conglomerate and the artists of production.  Without their knowledge of the material, business savvy, political skills and organizational aptitude, none of these films get made – or rather, none of these films get made well.  These people are the most responsible for pleasing (or inciting) fanboys and girls around the world, and they are also the first to be fired or rewarded when the receipts are all tallied up.


Marvel’s man is Kevin Feige.  He got his start as an associate producer for the first X-Men film due to his extensive knowledge of the Marvel Universe and has gone on to produce virtually every Marvel character adaptation since 2000: Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, Daredevil, the X-Men trilogy, The Punisher, Blade: Trinity, Elektra, both Fantastic Four films as well as all of Marvel’s recent Avenger “Phase X” films.  We could debate the merits and failings of each and every one of these films, but they all (basically) made money and were obviously successful enough for those doing the hiring to continue to involve Feige at the highest level of decision-making for film production.  Simply glancing at his résumé suggests that Feige was thinking about birthing a unified cinematic reality for Marvel’s characters long ago, and he would be one of the few individuals to have enough production experience to think about its creation in practical terms.  When Iron Man was released in 2008, this theory took its first steps into reality.  Despite the fact that the screenplay was written by the collective of Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum and Matt Holloway, it was this film’s post credit scene that paved the way for The Avengers.  This must be attributed to Kevin Feige because none of Iron Man’s writers have gone on to be involved with any level of production for any subsequent Marvel film. 


Of course, the eventual wunderkind that would be Marvel’s Avengers was only a glimmer in the eye of anyone who knew Nick Fury and what “The Avengers Initiative” could possibly represent.  But it was also beyond a foregone conclusion for Feige himself because there was no public knowledge of contractual obligation for franchise expansion in any direction outside of Robert Downey Jr. which meant nothing more than more Iron Man films.  Who knows what was really agreed to behind closed doors (and at what point in time?), but the future teasing in the post credits of The Incredible Hulk (2008), Thor (2009), Iron Man 2 (2009) and Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) continued to prove in each film that audiences liked the interconnectivity of these (seemingly) unrelated plots and characters.  In many ways, the teases overshadowed the fact that all of these films from different directors and writing teams were successful by themselves, but had they not been, fewer would care about any sort of unification.  One of Kevin Feige’s best attributes as a leader in this industry is the respect and courtesy he shows for the writers, directors, cast and crew he works with and has done so with the “Phase 1” films.  More often than not, studio execs will throw their weight around to the point that it denigrates the production, but Feige is constantly credited (most notably by Joss Whedon) for providing leadership and direction without slapping on the creative shackles.

Introducing a massive franchise like The Avengers has proven to be successful in being introduced a bit at a time to audiences in a crescendo that built towards a pretty standard-issue “alien invasion of Earth” scenario, but let’s be frank.  The whole movie could have been the Avengers going out for shwarma and people would still have fan-gasmed because there they are: all together.  Big name actors playing big name characters and all in the same movie is a huge deal and completely beyond the minds of studio executives of yesteryear.  Feige organized this effort between multiple films as intuitively as possible and as practically as possible. Simply acknowledging their existence in the same space as in “by the way, this too is happening over here,” is much less maintenance than designing a complex plot from the very first film as the “unifying force.”  This too might have worked, but would unnecessarily marry one film to the other and the problems experienced in one might be inherited by a future production. 


Yes, that’s right; I’m talking about the Ed Norton recast for the Dr. Banner/Hulk character.  This situation is one likely reason for the audience not having seen a second Hulk film prior to The Avengers, and recasting a major role could have been a significant monkey wrench to the gears of this unified franchise. Who knows if that problem was ultimately money, politics or ego; the man was replaced by Mark Ruffalo, and he did a great job.  Had Ruffalo whiffed, we’d all be hearing no end of it from every critic working in every media outlet in the Western world.  I like Ruffalo as an actor, but I didn’t really have an opinion of him replacing Norton other than I’d rather have established continuity maintained, but The Avengers film put the actor into many successful opportunities for the audience to like his Banner to the point that this recast has been practically forgotten.  This is thanks to Joss Whedon, who in turn thanks Feige, who was knee-deep in the Norton situation, and their combined efforts made the necessary adjustments in the subsequent film to reconcile everything.  That’s some uncharacteristically efficient leadership in Hollywood which is known for dragging its feet through the political muck of “creative differences.”  Kevin Feige may be the unifying force for the Avengers Initiative, but he shows his leadership almost every day with interviews and public appearances and whenever people have questions, he has answers.  I’m not sure his position as President of Marvel Studios requires him to do this, but his visibility and confidence suggests a master plan at work.


So what about DC?  They have every bit the intriguing roster of characters as Marvel and (so far) have demonstrated an equally high dedication to enlist big Hollywood names and attach them to franchise pillars for multiple films.  This seems to be carbon-copied right out of Marvel’s playbook, but casting news for the Man of Steel sequel and its elusive title is evidence that the strategy for introducing its characters in a unified reality to audiences will be taking a completely different approach than Marvel Studios.  It remains to be seen if audiences will buy into this strategy or not because the first film hasn’t been made, but who’s there to answer that question?  Who’s there to lay our insecurities to rest?   This person was a tad more difficult to track down due to the fact that this DC movement is only in its infant stages and the only news out there to comment on is a growing cast for a film years from completion.  At first I looked at the closest corporate counterpart to Kevin Feige.  Diane Nelson is President of DC Entertainment and President & Chief Content Officer of Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.  According to DC’s website, “Nelson is charged with leading the efforts to fully realize the power and value of DC Entertainment’s rich portfolio of stories and characters, including such cultural icons as Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, across all media and platforms.”


First, I’d like to point out the order in which “DC’s icons” are placed as per Nelson’s title description (yep, Batman is #1).  Second, her title and description sounds like someone ideal in bridging the gap between the comic book people and the movie making people, right?  As it turns out, someone established more firmly on the Warner Bros. side of the equation will be overseeing DC’s adaptation expansion.  He is Greg Silverman the President of Creative Development and Worldwide Production for Warner Bros. and according to the WB’s website, “In this role, he has full oversight of Warner Bros. Pictures’ development activities, global production and budget.”  He began in Hollywood as a lowly craft services worker for indy films but eventually became an assistant at Tri-Star and Mandeville Films and eventually a production executive at Mad Chance.  He got his start at Warner Bros. in 1997 being a junior production executive for The Matrix, A Perfect Murder and Cats & Dogs.  WB credits him for “shepherding” the success of 300 (2006), The Dark Knight (2008), The Hangover (2009), and Inception (2010).

Silverman’s visibility is still on the low end with only his interview with Variety being his major public comments regarding “Batman vs. Superman?” and/or the franchise moving forward in which he addresses several concerns.


Regarding Ben Affleck:

“We knew going in that we had more information than the general public had.  We knew what the take of the movie was; we knew what the character was going to be.  We don’t take these decisions lightly.  We thought about everybody – brand new people, established people.  Ben is the perfect guy to play this role.”

Regarding Batman and Superman’s interaction:

“They both will be wearing suits, there are capes involved, there will be action, there will be excitement.”

Regarding Wonder Woman:

“Wonder Woman is an amazing character.  I think it’s a great opportunity both for box office success, but also to have an amazingly powerful female superhero.” 


Again, I note that this is merely the beginning for DC adapted unification and based on that, Silverman seems to be saying all the right things so far.  Nothing’s too committal, nothing’s specific and everything is going to turn out all right.  It’s your standard politician or rather, executive response.  If however, one is looking for a more personalized commentary regarding this next production, Zack Snyder is your man and has been at every stage of this production because every cast member revealed thus far has been a hot button topic.  Personally, I don’t care for some of the decisions that have been made so far, but I do respect Snyder stepping up to the plate when it really isn’t, technically, his job to do so.  When I first started hearing Snyder defend Affleck, I wondered if Snyder was the guy who really had all the answers or if he was just simply the only guy that had any authority in this new DC filmic reality to date.  If Silverman has been in place prior to Man of Steel and Snyder’s involvement moving forward will only be related to Superman related films then the latter is true and Snyder was the only one at the time to face the firing squad of public scrutiny.  If, however, Zack Snyder’s role expands to even that of a producer for any additional DC ancillary films, the significance of Greg Silverman as an individual directing this movement is greatly diminished and the true maestro will be revealed.

As a fan of movies and comics, I could care less about who’s making what call in regards to which movie, but I do care about seeing good movies, and I care even more when I see bad ones (especially when the potential was there for greatness).  If things go well, the right individuals ought to be praised.  If not … well you know what happens then.  So far, DC’s and WB’s leadership is feeling itself out and being only so forthcoming with the details this early, and that’s as it should be.  However, it still feels like this whole thing rests on Zack Snyder’s shoulders and many out there have him and Goyer fitted for pine boxes (figuratively, of course) should all of these interesting production and casting choices result in what is assumed to be a sub-standard envisioning of the Dark Knight and the Blue Boy Scout getting their hero on in the same movie.  Studio exec’s (unlike Kevin Feige) that stay out of the limelight tend to reap rewards with zero risk because their association with given productions is obscured.  I think Greg Silverman would be doing his own projects and people a big favor by getting out there a little more and putting on the best face he can to charm the pants off some reporters.  Then, if in two years time, whether Batman vs. Superman booms or busts, no one will accuse him personally of not making a better effort to sell the film.  But again, maybe this is what separates the Kevin Feiges from the Greg Silvermans?  It’s not for me to tell him how to run his business, but I don’t want him to fail, I don’t want this franchise to fail, and I certainly don’t want this film to fail.  The Justice League can be every bit as amazing as The Avengers.


That being said, here is where I personally stand in regards to this Batman vs. Superman film as of 2/8/2014.  This is my unlucky 7:

1) I don’t like most of the cast decisions regarding the newcomers to this franchise.  Everyone returning from Man of Steel is fine and Jeremy Irons couldn’t mess up Alfred even if he showed up completely drunk and high for every day of principal photography (that would sure be a different take on Mr. Pennyworth).

2) I think Henry Cavil is being done a great disservice by having to play second fiddle to a bigger actor and a better character in Bat-Fleck for the sequel that used to be his franchise.

3) I think another chapter in Superman’s tale (solo) would have done more to establish the perils of this new DC cinematic universe than teasing the rest of the Justice League sooner than later.

4) I think Warner Bros. studio executives are forcing this massive cameo extravaganza prematurely because they see the X-Men franchise doing it for 20th Century Fox and the Spider-Man franchise doing it for Sony Pictures – and they want that money ASAP!


5) If someone were to describe Jesse Eisenberg’s character based on the fact he’s playing it and how he’ll be a tattooed skinhead that will “earn” his wealth and intelligence on the mean streets of Metropolis, there’s no way I would have guessed him to play Lex Luthor.  Every previous manifestation of that character is much higher status than that of a street thug – and then there’s the whole Jesse Eisenberg is playing a street thug, thing (editor’s note: rumored).

6) With each new development, I lose more and more interest with this franchise because decisions are seemingly being made just for the sake of being different: different from Marvel, different from its comic book roots, different from Tim Burton, Chris Nolan and Richard Donner.  

7) I would reiterate Kevin Feige’s advice to the DC/WB powers that be in regards to their adaptation movement and that is: “have confidence in the characters, believe in the source material, don’t be afraid to stay true to all of the elements of the characters no matter how seemingly silly or crazy they are.”  

Movie News Reviews

Movie Review: Man of Steel (2013)

I’m More Than a Man in a Silly Red Sheet

A Film Review of Man of Steel

By: Lawrence Napoli


The DC/Warner Bros. alliance begins its rise to challenge Marvel’s Avengers Initiative with Man of Steel, and it certainly was a heck of a way to start.  This movie is big; like Michael Bay on steroids, crack and crystal meth, BIG!  It also looked really expensive to make with the expected cornucopia of CG effects constantly lighting up the screen.  All of the different POV perspectives on these shots as well as the aerial angles kept the audience amazed and engaged.  It also paid homage to the quaint origin story made famous in the Christopher Reeve/Richard Donner films in a way that communicates the drama and exposition without letting it run on for too long.  It also established Henry Cavill as the face of the Superman/Justice League franchise moving forward because the man has serious acting chops, is in peak physical condition and can be as impactful with his dialogue as he is with his fists.


Impactful.  Bang!

I am no particular fan of Zack Snyder mostly due to his efforts in Sucker Punch and Watchmen, but it’s all good because even he couldn’t screw up a story penned by the likes of David S. Goyer (Da Vinci’s Demons) and Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Trilogy).  As fantastic as Superman’s abilities are and as epic a scale as this film presents, there remains a conscious effort in the script to keep the story grounded in reality.  This was certainly one of the concerns when Man of Steel was first rumored to involve the man who created the definitive depiction of a realistic Batman onscreen.  The concept of Batman isn’t as much of a stretch because with enough tech, training and resources, anyone can be Batman (which also happens to be that character’s appeal).  NOT just anyone can be Superman, so how can an alien make a realistic connection with audiences that know full well that he is not human?  You do it by highlighting character relationships, and in the case of Man of Steel, three keys unlock a character we can relate with.  Superman’s relationship with his father, Jor-El, brings out his morality.  His relationship with his human parents, the Kents, brings out his humility.  And of course, his relationship with Lois brings out his determination and inspiration. 


There’s enough Lois & Clark, but there could have been more.

Those story elements were meant to converge on the question of whether a being with such powers should ever present him or herself to humanity, and just about every practical reason to remain anonymous is addressed from several perspectives, not just those within Superman’s camp.  Unfortunately, the story also had to include a significant action element in the form of a bunch of pissed off Kryptonians with an axe to grind with the House of El, so Superman doesn’t exactly have a say in the matter.  It’s a real shame, too, because extending a preemptive olive branch could have expanded the few scenes Superman shares with various American, government officials which gives the audience some laughs and food for thought as a plain speaking super being lays it all out for an organization that personifies the concept of control.  Fighting Kryptonians also cuts into Superman’s relationship with Lois a bit as I feel the romance that clearly gets established right away, was a bit rushed – but I guess all the ladies swoon for the man with the big “S” for “Swag.” 


Swag.  That’s right.

Clearly, the filmmakers wanted just about every basic element about this updated version of Superman to be firmly planted in the ground as quickly as possible before moving forward with any sequels or expanded fiction.  Part of me appreciates this strategy for being extremely efficient by conveying Clark’s youth via flashbacks, while another part of me feels the drama from those missing moments take a back seat to explosions.  It’s not an easy task to address an origin film in this way, but Goyer and Nolan make enough of the right decisions to error on the side of balance between the drama and action.  Overall, the story is entertaining and intriguing without any significant lapses in continuity while managing to deliver a whole lot more of Kal-El’s Kryptonian heritage and the events that preceded his home planet’s demise. 


Don’t worry son.  The origin tale will be quick and painless.

Do you know what $225 million tells me?  It tells me that a movie with that kind of budget had better deliver some phenomenal visual eye candy via effects and CG, or else I’m demanding my money back.  Thankfully, Man of Steel delivers the best onscreen effects and action sequences to date in the summer of 2013, and they all begin with the depiction of Superman’s powers.  Not all of his iconic abilities are on display (as he’s clearly still learning to “test his limits”), but the ones he does show like flight, super strength, invulnerability and heat vision are very impressive.  As excellent as they all look, the use of sound, from muffled grunts to the vibrations on the ground and in the air, enhances the guttural effort Kal-El exerts to do the amazing things he does.  Kryptonian combat has a significant presence in the very beginning and end of Man of Steel which delivers fairly standard issue laser blasts, space ships and otherworldly technology at work.  These all looked fine, but presented nothing you haven’t seen before in the likes of Avatar, T2 or (here’s an obscure reference) The 6th Day.  I could say the very same thing for the destruction of Metropolis at some point, which features some pretty scary buildings collapsing all over the place that were inspired from movies like Green Lantern and just about every other disaster film (ahem, pun intended right there). 


Uh, you guys know I’m on YOUR side, right?

I wasn’t as sold on the entire cast’s performance as our EIC outlined in his Man of Steel reflection.  Actors like Diane Lane as Ma Kent and Laurence Fishburne as Perry White are there strictly for star power as their moments to shine are limited, and they don’t do too much with them when they are front and center.  I was particularly unimpressed with Lane as she seems to overact the crotchety old lady persona a bit to sell her advanced age which the make-up department didn’t exactly hit a home run on either.  Kevin Costner is almost in the same boat for this criticism, but his contributions were worth it thanks to the poignant moment that explains his character’s tragic passing.  The best supporting character, by far, was Jor-El played by Russell Crowe who officially begins his comeback from Les Misérables right now.  I respect that he got into a bit better shape for this film, but his impeccable line delivery, presence and ability to gaze through the camera’s eye resonates with the audience. 


I don’t wanna hear nothing about no Javert!

I never liked most of Superman’s rogue’s gallery nor the fact that we were going to revisit General Zod in this reboot once again.  The first moment Michael Shannon spoke a single line of dialogue was an instant wash for his performance in my book because I could never get past the awkwardness of his voice.  I don’t know if he was purposely trying to grate his rear molars as he spoke, but he seemed like an over-angry, over-powered, spoiled little jerk who couldn’t lead fish to water.  The real villain that stole the show for me was Antje Traue as Faora-Ul who is fairly attractive in as plain as Hollywood gets, and her diminutive stature wouldn’t seem to pose much of a threat to Superman, right?  Wrong!  Not only does she kick some serious ass, but she delivers the perfect villain’s voice, stare down, threat and general demeanor.  Why these crazy Kryptonians aren’t following her is completely beyond me.


Explain it to everyone how I’m a superior villain to Zod.

Of course, a Superman origin story ultimately boils down to him and Lois, and although I like the casting of Henry Cavill and Amy Adams in these roles, I haven’t quite bought into their onscreen chemistry which I am completely aware that they didn’t exactly have many opportunities to fully explore here.  Cavill is (unfortunately) another perfectly cast, British born actor for this role thanks mostly to his exquisite physical condition and piercing blue eyes.  He approaches his character with respect and dignity, so it matters not if he delivers dramatic lines in a spandex body suit.  His performance as Superman isn’t going for adorable charisma like Christopher Reeve.  He’s going for a simple man that has great ambitions for the future with even greater powers to accomplish them with.  Adams could take a page out of Cavill’s book and loose a little “adorableness” to revisit the assertiveness she displayed in The Fighter in order to deliver a slightly less girly, Lois Lane.  I like my Lois the way I like my coffee: BOLD!


I was going for “bold,” but now I need dental implants.

I have no doubt that Man of Steel will probably be the best blockbuster, action adventure film you will see all summer long, so now’s the time to break out those loose dollars you were hiding in the cookie jar.  This is a movie worth seeing on the big screen, but not necessarily on an IMAX screen as (once again) the 3D effect is nice, but it could be distracting to some and doesn’t deliver a game-changing experience.  This movie sets up DC and Warner Bros. quite nicely to move their own franchise forward in a realistic-enough world that rivals The Avengers.  The thing is, I don’t believe they could find a dedicated enough actor who has everything Cavill brings to the table and more (in the form of experience) to project the character of Batman on equal footing as the blue boy scout than Christian Bale himself.  Seeing Man of Steel actually reaffirmed my belief in Justice League working as a film adaptation, but only with that particular Dark Knight.  It’s just too bad that we didn’t get any post-credit teaser at the end of Man of Steel which my natural paranoia interprets as those who control the franchise not having a clear vision for their own future.

Movie News Reviews

Lawrence’s Fantasy Draft: Robotech: Nolan, Fassbender, McAvoy, Neeson

(Editor’s Note: The following is part of The First Cosmic Book News Fantasy Hollywood Draft; keyword being “fantasy”)



Macross City

By: Lawrence Napoli

My fantasy Hollywood film is a live action adaptation of Robotech.  This film is a sci-fi/action/war genre hybrid that I would prefer to be rated R for adult content, but PG-13 is negotiable.  There has been so many rumors concerning a live action adaptation of Harmony Gold’s IP for years, and none of them have produced didley-squat in terms of real commitments and actual production.  For some odd reason, the rumored adaptation was tied to one Tobey Maguire because somebody got it in their head that he is “the perfect Rick Hunter.”  That statement couldn’t be less accurate unless it was compared to something like “Tobey Maguire is the perfect Shaft.”  Long story short, Maguire is not right for the Macross Saga done correctly: Namely taking it seriously, making social commentary about the human condition in regards to racism, war, and genetic manipulation and being able to distinguish true evolution from technological advancement. 

I only envision two films to get Robotech: Macross City to end with the events that culminate within the Force of Arms episode of the series (a massive invasion of Earth, the destruction of 90% of it, while the SDF-1 and allies survive).  The only circumstance I’d consider a trilogy for is if we take Hunter, Hayes and the original crew on the SDF-3 to depict their expedition to find the Robotech Masters on their home turf.

I love the story of Robotech because despite all the great action, technology and transforming robots, the story is rooted in heavy drama, deep character development and is driven forward by intense emotions like love, despair, rage, serenity and loyalty.  It’s also a story about the bubbles humanity chooses to live in various degrees because of our professions, our acquaintances, our gender and every other possible way we divide ourselves.  This irony is ultimately defeated in Robotech because the humanity contained within the SDF-1 sets aside its collective BS amongst themselves and those considered “aliens” which allows them to succeed.    

Here’s the breakdown for my draft picks as well as my supplemental cast:


Chris Nolan (Director) #3 overall pick

This man is arguably, the best director in the game right now not just because he directs critically acclaimed and commercially successful films, but because he also writes them.  Nolan is known for edgy grit and anchoring even fantastic scenarios in the real world with real consequences (see his Batman trilogy).  He is the most important addition to this production because the stakes will be even higher (the survival of the human species) and with all the transforming mecha running around in space, the tone of this film needs to stay disciplined in drama.  Nolan can insure that happens and I would think he would be interested in helming a production that goes to space.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:1874:]][[wysiwyg_imageupload:1876:]]Rick Hunter played by James McAvoy, #26 overall pick

Rick is the main character of the Macross Saga and James McAvoy has considerably more impressive acting chops than Tobey Maguire.  The original animation goes out of its way to present Rick as a naive boy in the beginning and this is something I’d like to tone down in my vision for Rick.  Yes he’s still a rookie, yes he loves to fly, yes he’s not too keen on killing, but his need to protect (specifically Minmei) allows him to overcome his ignorance/apathy of the Zentraedi invasion that evolves into his own personal sense of duty to his mentor Roy Fokker, his Vermillion squadron, the women he loves (Lisa and Minmei) and the SDF-1 in general.  McAvoy is on the extremely short list of actors that can turn vulnerability into strength, plus he’s got those baby blue eyes.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:1877:]][[wysiwyg_imageupload:1878:]]Roy Fokker played by Michael Fassbender, #31 overall pick

Yes, I realize I have transplanted the 2 main characters from X-Men: First Class, but the relationship between McAvoy and Fassbender’s characters is reversed in this adaptation.  Lieutenant Commander Roy Fokker is the best pilot in the RDF; a real hot shot when it comes to killing proficiency and style while doing it.  He also has personal history with Rick having flown in Hunter’s aerial circus in his younger days.  It is the reason Rick refers to Roy as “big brother” throughout the saga as Roy acts as a guiding mentor for the talented young pilot.  Roy is 50% hubris and 50% disciplined duty and that’s exactly how I’d classify Fassbender’s acting prowess and general demeanor.  Roy knows he’s the best, but that is not what drives his sense of duty.  Being able to temper arrogance with responsibility is Fassbender’s calling card.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:1879:]][[wysiwyg_imageupload:1882:]]Lisa Hayes played by Sasha Alexander, supplemental pick

Commander Hayes is the first officer on the bridge of the SDF-1 and is the third person in a love triangle with Rick Hunter and Lynn Minmei.  A career military woman and quite beautiful to boot requires an actress that has more than a pretty face.  Thus I present Rizzoli and Isles Sasha Alexander (you’ll remember her as Pacey’s hot sister from Dawson’s Creek).  The scientific and procedural demeanor she displays on Rizzoli and Isles proves she can carry herself in an equally disciplined, military manner while the softer side she showed on Dawson’s proves she can open up an insecurity in an attempt to pursue the younger Rick Hunter with whom she has become attracted to for his intense bravery and skill in defending the SDF-1.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:1883:]][[wysiwyg_imageupload:1885:]]Lynn Minmei played by Hikaru Utada, supplemental pick

Minmei is easily the most complex character to cast for because as one of the few civilians featured prominently in Robotech, her contributions to the war effort are derived from the character’s ability as a singer and actress.  A better known actress having her singing sequences dubbed over simply will not do.  Thus, I present Hikaru Utada (the signature voice behind the Kingdom Hearts theme songs) and quite a lovely Asian flower with whom Rick Hunter could easily be enamored with as another character in the love triangle.  Minmei represents an immature, yet extremely attractive budding pop star that becomes the SDF-1’s number one celebrity, but her singing ability introduces the Zentraedi race to the concept of true beauty (non-physical) which is so foreign, shocking and upsetting to them as individuals, their ability to assault the SDF-1 is severely diminished.  Hikaru may need additional support from Nolan with her acting performance (as it gets intimate with Rick), but her focus must remain within song.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:1886:]][[wysiwyg_imageupload:1887:]]Breetai played by Liam Neeson, #12 overall pick

Breetai is the commander of the invading Zentraedi armada who is known for his ruthlessness as well as a somewhat honorable dissection of the enemy in combat.  As I projected the kinds of actors for my cast, Neeson seemed to fit this violent combination quite well, but he was also the biggest “name” on my list, so I took a bit of a gamble by drafting him before my main characters.  Like all Zentraedi, Breetai is a hard man shut off from most of his emotions, but the song of Minmei eventually turns him into a believer that the Micronians (Earthlings) must control “the proto-culture” or the combined genetic, technological and behavioral means to evolve life to a higher plane of existence.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:1888:]][[wysiwyg_imageupload:1889:]]Captain Henry Gloval played by Gary Oldman, #17 overall pick

Veteran actors seemed to be going like hotcakes early in the draft so I was compelled to go after my first choice for the captain of the SDF-1 earlier rather than later. Oldman, a veteran actor capable of producing a satisfactory Russian accent seemed the obvious choice for the leader of the isolated slice of human civilization aboard the SDF-1. Gloval’s distinguished military record designates him as a warrior but his priorities shift to more of a statesman when simply surviving the relentless Zentraedi pursuit is the only course of action. Oldman has a commanding presence making him an appropriate foil to Breetai, but his ability to pull back on the intimidation makes him an ideal actor to portray Gloval as also a man of peace.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:1890:]][[wysiwyg_imageupload:1891:]]Maximillion Sterling played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, #40 overall pick

Max is an up-and-coming ace pilot under the command of Rick Hunter who demonstrates nerves of steel, but is uncharacteristically polite and well-mannered for a soldier of his caliber. Although he’s become a seasoned actor, Gordon-Levitt can still sell a boyish charm vital for Max as a character. His somewhat receding hairline is somewhat of a concern for me seeing how I’d need his hair to be closer to what it was during his Third Rock from the Sun days. His hair would look fine in a shade of blue.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:1892:]][[wysiwyg_imageupload:1893:]]Miriya Parina played by Olivia Wilde, #45 overall pick

Miriya is the stone-cold ace pilot of the Zentraedi fleet who puts Roy Fokker’s arrogance to shame. Unbridled confidence is the name of the game for Miriya and Olivia Wilde has got that all over! She must also demonstrate an ability to shift to humility as Miriya is bested on the battlefield by Max with whom she becomes obsessed with assassinating for the only defeat she has suffered in life. This humiliated obsession turns into attraction when she infiltrates the SDF-1 looking for Max. Miriya then becomes adorable for her desire to fit in on the SDF-1 despite her ignorance of Micronian culture. I’m pretty sure Olivia pulls off “adorable” quite well (see Tron: Legacy).

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:1894:]][[wysiwyg_imageupload:1895:]]Exedore played by Tim Roth, #54 overall pick

Exedore is the quirky Minister of Affairs for the Zentraedi fleet and is Breetai’s chief consultant who has an intimate knowledge of the concept of “proto-culture,” the understood ultimate goal for all Zentraedi third to war and conquest. Tim Roth has got “quirky” in the bag, but his past roles called for combining that with extreme violence (Planet of the Apes, The Incredible Hulk). The challenge for Roth will be to substitute the violence with a scientific, deductive paranoia that allows Exedore to be constantly questioning Micronian tactics to the point that he too becomes a believer in Earthling “proto-culture” and a proponent for peace. Roth will have to tap into the same kind of charm he demonstrated as “Pumpkin” in Pulp Fiction.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:1896:]][[wysiwyg_imageupload:1897:]]Khyron played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, supplemental pick

Khyron is yet another arrogant leader within the Zentraedi armada who gets called up as the first wave of reinforcements to capture the SDF-1. Rhys Meyers has all but perfected the art of ruthless arrogance (see his work on The Tudors), but he’ll have to work in a little incompetence to his performance because Khyron’s ability as a commander and combatant is not what one would classify as “marquee.”

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:1898:]][[wysiwyg_imageupload:1899:]]Claudia Grant played by Zoë Saldana, supplemental pick

Claudia is the second bridge officer of the SDF-1, best friend of Lisa Hayes and current lover tied to Roy Fokker. Ms. Saldana is strictly playing a support role that exists to provide a more mature counter-point to the opinions expressed by Lisa and Roy so confidence tied with casual friendliness is the order of the day for Claudia.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:1900:]][[wysiwyg_imageupload:1901:]]Azonia played by Vera Farmiga, supplemental pick

Azonia is the leader of the female battalion of the Zentraedi forces who gets called up by Breetai as additional reinforcements and as a means of getting Khyron’s shenanigans under control. If Vera could duplicate the same level of commanding indifference she displayed in Source Code, she nails this support role.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:1902:]][[wysiwyg_imageupload:1903:]]Ben Dixon played by Jason Segel, supplemental pick

For some reason, everyone on the internet sees Ben Dixon as the token funny fat guy of Robotech, so naturally everyone wants Seth Rogen to play this role. WRONG! Sure, Ben is a big lug that has many cheesy lines, but that needs to be reined in a bit and Jason Segel is the man for the job. Segel can be as loud and obnoxious as the rest, but Ben is a character that puts up that front to mask his genuine fear of the overwhelming odds the SDF-1 faces. Scaling back the absurdity to a degree of seriousness is something I see Segel doing quite well, plus his tall stature in relation to Rick Hunter (McAvoy) and Max Sterling (Gordon-Levitt) makes him more physically appropriate for the role.

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