Superman Returns Redux

After a second viewing of the film this morning, I feel I have a pretty good handle on my likes (many) and dislikes (not-so-many), so the only question is where to begin. I'll start with the obvious bits first, then the "eh" moments, before moving on to the good stuff. I will avoid major spoilers to the best of my ability.

Obvious: the special effects are incredible. Beautiful, even. Whether it's Superman corkscrewing around a plummeting jetliner in the first major action sequence or taking Lois on a late-night flight above Metropolis, this movie is nothing but eye candy. Hell, even the opening credit sequence, with its homage to the original film's credits, is gorgeous. And the special effects teams, along with Superman himself, Brandon Routh, truly make you believe, even more than the original film, that a man can fly.

The music, also, is wonderful. John Ottman (who also co-edited the film) did a great job of incorporating John Williams' score into the new music he wrote for the movie. There were numerous times, especially toward the beginning of the film, when I'd hear that familiar music and I'd find myself with tears in my eyes.

Now, on to the not-so-great parts: Lex Luthor's plot, his scheme, his dastardly plan...it's kind of weak. It's the weakest park of the film. Don't get me wrong, Kevin Spacey does a fantastic job with the role. He evokes fond memories of Gene Hackman's Luthor from the first two Superman films, but he seems a bit more...sinister. Slightly more maniacal, less campy, though he does have some great, humorous moments throughout the film. But...his scheme...it's silly. It's comic book-ish. For a film that tries so hard (and mostly succeeds) to ground the idea of a "Superman" in reality, Bryan Singer and his writers dropped the ball here.

I came to realize, however, while watching the end credits role the first time I saw the film, Luthor's evil plan is not the driving force of the film. It exists merely because it has to exist. It's a Superman film. It's a big summer action-packed blockbuster and there needs to be a tangible, physical antagonist for our hero to fight, someone the audience can boo, but the heart of the story, the meat, the point, for lack of a better word, lay elsewhere. And that is where the movie fires on all cylinders.

Bryan Singer has always been drawn to outcasts, people on the outside of mainstream society. Adopted by Jewish parents, Singer was always different. Being gay just pushes him that much further outside the "norm." That's why he so-perfectly understood the X-Men. And that's why he was the perfect filmmaker to bring Superman back to the big screen.

Superman is the ultimate outsider, an immigrant sent to this planet as Kal-El, the Last Son of Krypton, to be adopted and raised by a farmer and his wife in a small Kansas town. What could be more All-American than that? But he never quite fit in. He's not "one of us." He's an alien, an outcast, forever on the outskirts of humanity no matter how hard he tries to assimilate as the geeky, nebbish, bespeckled Clark Kent. Superman doesn't know where he belongs, if he belongs, and that is the key to this story.

After the events of Superman II, astronomers discovered what they believe to be the remnants of Krypton and in a rush of excitement and hope, Kal-El leaves Earth without saying "good-bye," in an attempt to reconnect with his home planet, with his people. He's gone for five years. A lot can change in five years.

Upon his return, Superman learns that Lois Lane is engaged to the nephew of Daily Planet editor-in-chief Perry White, Richard, who's an editor at the Planet and, like Superman, flies, though he prefers to use an airplane. Richard is as good-looking and American-as-apple-pie as Superman. It's no wonder Lois is attracted to him, but can he fill the Superman-shaped void in her life?

Even more surprising to Superman is that Lois has a five-year-old son, Jason.

With the world, and the people he cares about most, having moved on without him, Superman doesn't know his place in the world anymore. This is the emotional bedrock of the movie.

Brandon Routh, who was born and raised in a small town in Iowa, is absolutely perfect as both Superman and Clark Kent, nearly identical in mannerism and speech to the late Christopher Reeve (to whom, along with his wife, Dana, the film is dedicated). It's like he's channeling Reeve throughout the movie.

The weight of the world, the pressure he feels to be our "savior," has never been more evident than when Superman floats easily, high above the planet, his eyes closed, listening to the cries for help of countless people (don't ask me how he hears anything when he's floating in space).

Speaking of casting, the one role I was concerned about was that of Lois Lane. I just wasn't sure Kate Bosworth had the chops to pull this one off. I mean, she's 23 (22 when filming took place) and is portraying a woman with a Pulitzer Prize and a five-year-old kid. But she pulls it off much better than I expected. Lois is the same driven, hard-nosed reporter she's always been, and instead of always getting into trouble and playing damsel-in-distress for Superman, she's much more capable this time around, coming to Superman's rescue once or twice.

One of the best performances is that of James Marsden, who plays the aforementioned Richard White. Bryan Singer finally figured out what to do with him after working together on the first two X-Men films. Richard is a great guy. He loves Lois, yet knows deep down that Lois still loves Superman and probably always will. That's gotta be tough. I mean, how does he compete with a god?

And speaking of God, yes, there are quite a few allusions to Superman as a Christ-like figure, not the least of which is Superman, after saving the world, unconsciously floating through space, arms outstretched as if on a cross. Singer wasn't exactly going for subtlety in this department. And you know what? Whatever. I mean, we all know Jesus was Jewish, right? Whatever your beliefs, whatever your faith, there are some pretty powerful iconic images and Singer has no qualms about using them to get the emotional response he wants.

To sum up this movie, all's I can say is...Superman's back. It's been 19 years since he last graced the movie theatres, and about 25 years since he did so with a good movie. I didn't know how much I'd missed him until I teared up during the opening credits last night. For anyone of my generation, mid-20s to mid-30s, Christopher Reeve's Superman was a big part of our childhoods. It just felt...good, seeing him, Superman, up on the big screen again. His legacy is definitely in good hands.

Now if only we could get Christian Bale's Batman and Brandon Routh's Superman in the same movie. That would be sweet.

Superman Returns

To the cast and crew, to the screenwriters, and to director Bryan Singer...Thank you.

More later.


Tasty Apples

The whole family went out for dinner tonight out at Village Pointe, sans children, which was extremely nice, and we went for a walk around the mall afterwards, where I discovered this:
I was fairly surprised when I saw the logo (nevermind my tipsy sister-in-law standing in front of the web address). You know you've finally made it as a city when you get an Apple retail store.

The weekend is nearly over. My aunt and uncle leave early to head back to California. My brother and his family are probably going to head back to Colorado relatively early, too. And then...quiet. Relaxing quiet.

Don't get me wrong. I love seeing my family (which is something I never thought I'd say), but when the visits are short and there's this need to spend the whole day together, and it gets to be a little much. But the company was good and the food was plentiful (a little too plentiful, perhaps), so I can't complain too much.

Still, my summer classes start on Monday, so it'll be nice to be able to just chill and relax for a bit before the grind starts up again.

I'll probably have more pictures of the weekend on my flickr site once the month ends and I get more storage in my account.


Birthday surprise

Today's my mother's 60th birthday and my sister cooked up a little surprise for her, which I feel free to mention here because my mother barely knows how to check her email, let alone my idiotblog.

60 is a pretty big number, a milestone, if you will, and to commemorate said milestone, my sister hatched a plot to surprise my mother with not only a party, but with visits from some out-of-town guests. My brother and his family should be getting to town sometime early this afternoon, which will be surprise number one. And then, after dinner, surprise numbers two and three will probably occur at the same time, with surprise three being the party, unless surprise number two's plane arrives in time for them to join us for dinner.

My uncle, my mother's brother, is flying in for, well, a day and a half, really, from Sacramento, with his wife, which will be great because I don't remember the last time I saw them. I think it would have been my my sister's wedding 6 years ago...

Anyway, my mother doesn't know about any of this. She's been kept in total darkness for the past few weeks as my sister devised and hatched her plan. She will be quite surprised, without a doubt.

I shall take this opportunity to wish my mother a happy birthday, even though she'll more than likely never read this: Happy birthday, Mom. I'm glad I've been around for nearly half your life. It's been a ride, hasn't it?

And speaking of birthday surprises, about an hour ago I received an email from my buddy Mick informing us of the birth of his daughter, Joss. (Yes, she's named after Whedon.) So a big congratulations goes out to Mick and Kris. Cigars all around!


College World Series

I went downtown to Rosenblatt for first game of the day yesterday, North Carolina against Cal State Fullerton (whom I rooted for because, well, I did sort of live there for a bit), with my father, brother-in-law and nephew. It was, as they say, good times.

Perfect weather, though a little more wind would have been nice, but it wasn't all that hot, and the tickets my brother-in-law got from another attorney in his firm were great: halfway up, along the first base line, and since the game started so late in the afternoon (at 4:00), we hardly had any sun on us.

I wouldn't have minded staying for the second game of the night, the Rice/Oregon State (Go Beavers!) game, but my nephew wasn't going to make it. We were pretty lucky he lasted as long as he did for the first game. He got a little restless, being only 5, but he stuck it out until after the 8th inning. Then my father took him out to the car while Brian and I hung around for the 9th.

It was a good game, for college ball, with a lot of hits, a lot of runs and a few great defensive plays. After a while, though, that PING! of the aluminum bat starts to get on your nerves. I like my bats like I like my Keanu Reeves performances - wooden.

Anyway, there are some photos up on my flickr site with more to come. I used up my monthly uploading allotment already, so I have to wait til July.


Shakespeare on the Green

The Taming of the Shrew begins tomorrow night (I have no real desire to see Antony and Cleopatra) and runs through the 25th, with performances again on July 6th and 8th. Who's goin' and what dates work for ya?


Superman Returns

I'm looking at going to an 11:45 AM screening of the movie Wednesday morning over at AMC. Anyone interested?


There's a cool new "social networking" site, a la MySpace, called myNetSpot. It has all the requisite photo sharing and blog aspects, plus embedded music videos for your profile, chat rooms and games to kill time with.

You can get in now on the ground floor. There's only a few hundred members so far. My profile is located here.

I've found that it's a great way to meet new people from Ohio.


Vote 4 Chion '06

Yes, it's that time of year again, dear readers, to take a couple minutes out of your day and do something nice for someone else. Consider it your mitzvah of the year.

Chion Wolf has been nominated for Best Female Vocalist and Best Solo Artist for the annual Hartford (CT) Advocate Grand Band Slam. If she wins, she'll have a chance to perform at this huge festival in August. She's a great singer/songwriter and really deserves the opportunity.

Hear for yourself. Check out her website, listen to her tunes and click here to vote. Scroll down a bit and click on the image in the lower righthand corner, where it says "Vote Here!" It literally takes 2 minutes.

Voting runs through June 19th.

Chion would be greatly appreciative of your support.


Father's Day

I've spent all day thinking about what to write about my father. It's become more and more difficult, the older I get, to compartmentalize my relationship with, and feelings for, him.

When I was younger, a child, everything was so easy and simple, when saying "I love you" said it all. I look at my nieces and nephews, at their blissful ignorance, and I sometimes miss being so carefree.

As I got older, like most everyone, I imagine, I became aware that there was more to the world than only myself. I realized that my parents were not simply Mom and Dad, but real people with real emotions, real flaws, real personalities. It's almost a sobering moment when you come to understand that your parents have a life outside you, had a life before you, when you were nary a glint in your father's eye, have wants and wishes and desires that have absolutely nothing to do with you...

...ah, fuck it. I'm not in the mood for this maudlin crap right now. My father is who he is and I wouldn't want him to be anyone else, depression and all. He helped make me who I am today and, other than my previous aborted attempts at an academic career, I have no regrets about what I've done or who I am. Despite his own internal struggles, my father has been nothing but supportive of me, stupid decisions and all. And that's really all any child can hope for.

I love you, Dad. Happy Father's Day.


Now I've seen everything

Yesterday, on Blondo, I saw an old farmer driving a tractor while talking on a cell phone.


Hoop jumping

On Saturday, I received a letter from UNO informing me that I didn't meet a certain requirement for receiving financial aid for the upcoming Fall and Spring semesters. It seems that I've gotten an F in at least two-thirds of the classes I've enrolled in over the years, which doesn't sound completely accurate to me, but I haven't looked at my transcript yet.

There's an appeal process, for which I'll write a letter explaining my less-than-stellar performance in previous years (I simply didn't care) and point out my renewed resolve (I care now) and the grades I've received in more recent classes (8 'A's and a 'B+').

I understand the relunctance to hand out money to students who would squander the opportunity, like I did in the past. But it seems fairly obvious that, if one were to actually look at my transcript over the past year, I'm not the same student I was when I first began my college career (and, boy, after all this time, does it ever feel like a career). I think my most recent performance should speak for itself. Unfortunately, it appears to be drowned out by past mistakes.

So I will jump through their hoops and write a heartfelt appeal and more than likely receive the financial aid money. It's frustrating, is all. Now that I actually want to be in school, now that I enjoy it, all these roadblocks have been erected with the sole purpose of making it just that much more difficult.

Of course, I can't really complain. After all, it's my own fault. I wouldn't have to navigate these obstacles if I hadn't helped build them in the first place.


POTUS in Omaha

Today, on the 62nd anniversary of D-Day, one of the most pivotal battles of World War II, as we find ourselves mired in what more and more looks to be an unwinnable, unending war, the president of the United States came to Omaha. It is mere coincidence that today is the sixth day of the sixth month of the sixth year of this century.

A group of protesters, organized by the UNO College Democrats, greeted President Bush's motorcade as he arrived at his hotel. Mostly students, with a handful of older men and women, they chanted and waved signs deriding Bush's policies both domestic and foreign, from the mishandling of the war in Iraq to his nonstop tax-cuts-for-the-rich to his stance on immigration reform. Essentially, since the president comes to Nebraska so rarely, they threw everything they could think of at him.

Given the short notice (I received a phone call about the protest mere hours before we were supposed to congregate) there was a fairly decent sized crowd on hand, maybe 50 or so. Another protest is scheduled for tomorrow morning at 33rd and Q. However, given my sleeping habits of late, I do not see myself attending an 8:00 AM rally, sorry.

That being said, I feel it incumbant upon myself to mention my disappointment at this evening's crowd. They were energetic, certainly, and seemed to be having a good time, but I felt there was something lacking: Anger.

Our country has been taken over and corrupted by ring-wing neo-cons and Christian fundamentalist wingnuts. The poor continue to recede into debt while the rich keep getting richer. Our constitutionally-protected civil rights and liberties have been slowly erroded away. They yammer on and on about "traditional" families and "traditional" values, falsely claiming that Americans feel threatened by the idea of a gay or lesbian couple getting married when that's not even an issue for the majority.

How many members of Congress subscribe to the so-called ideals of the religious right they pander to so willfully? How many have gotten divorced? Gotten a blowjob? Had sex (with only their wife or husband, of course) for the sole purpose of procreation? How dare these hypocrites attempt to tell us how to live our lives when they themselves make a mockery of their supposed "traditional" values.

Nearly 2500 American soldiers have been sacrificed for a needless war we chose to start. And that's an important word, "chose." We brought this upon ourselves with faulty intelligence and even faultier military planning, not to mention a whackjob president who thinks God put him in office.

Where's the anger? Where's the indignation? Why can not we liberals and progressives unify our voices and cry out for an end to this sham of a presidency and reclaim our country for the people to whom it belongs?

Oh, if only this were the End of Days Bush and his ilk believe in so fervently. I would gladly welcome the Rapture if only to wipe the planet clean of these pompous, self-righteous bastards. Let them ascend to whatever heaven they believe in and leave the rest of us in peace. We'll all be much better off without them.

Normandy - June 6, 1944

Thanks, guys.


Superman/Batman #26

Quick reminder that Sam Loeb's issue of Superman/Batman hits stands today, with stories and art by some of the top creators in comics.

If you'll recall, Sam is the 17-year-old son of writer Jeph Loeb who died of cancer last year.

Go to your local comic shop today and pick up a copy or two.