Tagged: movie

Michael Davis: Alone In My Room

Davis Art 130702-1The other day I was sitting in my studio at 4 AM working on a double page spread for a graphic novel I’m writing and illustrating.

There was a movie playing in the background, coffee and tequila on my side table and my dog Puffy laying at my feet. The house was silent, well silent except for the screams of the guy Jason Statham just threw off a roof in the movie I was watching.

Other than that guy screaming like a little bitch, my house was silent.

All of a sudden it hit me. I’m an artist.

I went to school to become a professional illustrator. I wanted to study to be a cartoonist because I wanted to do comics so badly!

Davis Art 130702-2But…

My cousin told me if I became a cartoonist I would “stave and die.” My cousin was also my mentor and if not for him there was a very good chance I’d be in jail or dead now.

No joke.

He’s also a world-renowned artist. How renowned? The house I live in cost less than one of his paintings and I live in a pretty nice house.

Again, no joke.

So when your cousin who is also your mentor who also saved you from death and/or prison who is also a world-renowned artist tells you if you became a cartoonist you will stare and die, you listen.

I listened.

I became an illustrator and as luck would have it the industry changed so as an illustrator I could still do comics just not the traditional way they had been done.

My illustration career was pretty damn good before I got into comics that I did pretty damn bad. It took me a while to understand the medium but once I did the work got better…I hope.

Somewhere along the way my illustration and comics career stopped completely as I found myself working in other media: television, publishing, radio and education.

Before I knew it I had a mini entertainment empire going and the only art I was doing was doodling a  fat Batman every chance I got.

At 4 AM the other day sitting in my studio I realized that all is right when I’m doing art. Just me, my dog, my Captain Action mug for my coffee and tequila, a movie and my work is freakin awesome.

No Hollywood drama, no politics, no egos, no bullshit.

It’s like when I was in the sixth grade drawing the adventures of The Fighting Five my very own superhero group. The Fighting Five were, the Liberator, (spelled Liverator; I went to public school) Bulldozer, The Anything Man (because I couldn’t think of anything else to name him) Judo Master (stolen from Charlton Comics but I felt I could use him because his book was cancelled) and The Human Torch (but it was the original Human Torch and I felt I could use him also since Marvel had thrown him away).

When I was alone in my room in the projects with my art nothing else mattered and I was the happiest I’d ever been as a child. Now, I’ve come full circle as I sit in my studio alone at 4 am in the morning happy with what I’m doing and who I am.

People have a hard time putting me into a category because I wear so many hats. I usually just say I’m a content producer but that’s never really felt right to me. It’s just an easy way for me to say, I’m a writer, TV producer, etc., etc., Shado, Shado (a invitation to my annual San Diego Comic Con party to the first person that gets that joke) I just figured out at 4 am in the morning sitting in my studio what and who I am.

I’m Michael Davis… and I’m an artist.

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold Presents Pulp Pulchritude

THURSDAY MORNING: Dennis O’Neil Goes Fourth


Mindy Newell: Trojan Horse

Newell Art 130701I didn’t know that writer blockitis was catching, but it must be, because just like my buddy and fellow columnist John Ostrander, I seem to be suffering from the same ailment today.

Signs and symptoms include sluggishness, an inability to form ideas, a lack of imagination, a desire to smash the computer, great interest in infomercials, and reading the Sunday New York Times.

Oh. Wait. Here’s something.

It’s an article by Brooke Barnes in the Arts & Leisure section, and it’s called “Save My Blockbuster!” Considering all the words and thoughts that have gone into discussing Man Of Steel by the columnists (including me) here at ComicMix since its opening on June 14, as well as the other comics, science fiction, and pop culture cinematic adventures that have already hit the screen (Iron Man 3, Star Trek: Into Darkness, World War Z) or are still to come (The Lone Ranger, Pacific Rim, R.I.P.D., The Wolverine, Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters, Elysium, and The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones) this summer of 2013 – all involved studios praying that their production will be The Blockbuster of the season – Mr. (or is it Ms?) Barnes’s article is not only interesting, but also relevant.

But just when did the summer become the season of the adventure/science fiction/fantasy/comics/pop culture Blockbuster?

The summer of 1975. Jaws.

In 1973, Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown were producers at Universal. David Brown’s wife was Helen Gurley Brown, editor of Cosmopolitan. He found a pre-publication copy Peter Benchley’s Jaws in the fiction department of the magazine. Cosmo’s book editor had written a detailed synopsis of the plot, which concluded with the comment “might make a good movie.” Zanuck and Brown both read the book overnight, decided that it was “the most exciting thing they had ever read,” and purchased the movie rights They hired the still chancy Steven Spielberg, although the 26 year-old director was starting to make a name for himself for directing Joan Crawford in the pilot of Night Gallery (“Eyes”), defining “road rage” in his adaptation of Richard Matheson’s Duel for an ABC Movie Of The Week – I clearly remember watching Duel perched on the arm of a sofa in my dorm’s packed-to-the-walls common room, every single one of us with eyes glued to the small 19” television set – and The Sugarland Express, his first theatrical film.

Jaws hit the movie screens of America in 1975. It became the archetype of the summer movie for Hollywood. It had a wide national release (“saturation booking”) and massive media buys, i.e., lots and lots and lots of television, radio, and magazine advertising. It made money, and now every studio wanted a Jaws. According to Lester D. Friedman’s book on Spielberg, Jaws “defined the Hollywood hit as a marketable commodity and cultural phenomenon.” Before Jaws, summer was the seasonal dumping ground for Hollywood studios, the home of films they were sorry they made. After Jaws, summer became “the prime season for the release of the…biggest box-office contenders, [studios’s] intended blockbusters.”

1975 was, let’s see, how many years ago?


This summer Hollywood will have released, as the New York Times relates, “13 movies costing $100 million and up (sometimes way up), 44 percent more than in the same period last year. And because these pictures need to attract the global audience possible” to see any kind of profit, “they are increasingly manufactured by committees who tug this way and pull that way: marketing needs this, international distribution need that” and “the all-too-common result is a Frankenfilm” – I love that description! – “a lumbering behemoth composed of misfit parts.”

To test this assertion, Brooks Barnes conceived a movie titled “Red, White, & Blood” with the tagline “The only thing faster than her car was his heart.” The opening of the pitch reads “Think Fast & Furious meets Nicholas Sparks meets Die Hard.” He (she?) then presented it to a producer, a marketer, a studio executive, a researcher, a global marketer, and a writer.

This is what they said:

The Producer: “We need hotter weapons. Huge, big battle weapons – maybe an end-of-the-world device.

The Marketer: “There needs to be a wisecracking set of man candy here, and those actors are shirtless at least once in a TV campaign.”

The Studio Executive: “I’m a huge believer in a good tragic ending – it worked for Titanic.”

The Researcher: “If you try to appeal to everyone, you will end up appealing to no one.”

The Global Marketer: “Just be smarter then making a nationality or a culture the bad guys.”

The Writer: “Consider adding time-traveling aliens, or if that’s unrealistic, a regular alien and a time-traveling human.”

Jaws is a great movie. I have seen it at least a hundred times.

But it was a Trojan horse.


TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Partly Cloudy, with a Chance of Davis


Dennis O’Neil: Roy and Supes

Dennis O’Neil: Roy and Supes

O'Neil Art 130627Look, up in the sky. It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s….

…the third consecutive week that the Geezer, also known as me, used that hokey lead. Pathetic? You decide.

But as long as we’re here…what’s the Man of Steel doing this time? Looks like he’s holding his ears. That must mean that he’s somewhere near the end of his hit movie, at the climactic battle, before a kind of lengthy denouement. Because that was one noisy climax. But first, a geezerly digression.

When I was young – and we’re talking really young, like six or seven – I much enjoyed the “cowboy pictures” I saw at the neighborhood theater on Friday nights. The dime Mom gave me bought a cartoon, maybe a Three Stooges feature and two cowboy pictures with real good guys: Hopalong Cassidy, Sunset Carson, Tim Holt, Red Ryder, and once in a while even – o joyous epiphany in the popcorn-scented darkness! – Roy Rogers, the King of the Cowboys! Somewhere in those innocent years, I imagined what I would think would be a really neat cowboy picture. It would have a long time, minutes and minutes, of non-stop gunshooting. Just bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang. Because, see, the parts of the pictures that had gunshooting were the most exciting parts.

You have to admit that there’s a certain logic here, and I wonder if some vastly mutated iteration of this logic isn’t operating up there on the screen with Superman. And not only Superman – with other cinematic superheroes, too. The fights are big and noisy and go on and on and on…and before the final biff is powed, I’m out in the auditorium getting just a bit antsy. Not bored, just, maybe, wishing that the screen combatants would end it, like my preadolescent self wished that the mushy parts of the pictures would end, the parts that usually involved a girl. (And, in those day, I didn’t have long to wait.)

I understand that spectacular physicality is the lingua franca of superheroes, as essential to their genre as Roy’s horse Trigger was to his. But can’t less be more? Let the tension and suspense get bigger and bigger, let it build and build and then give the folks in the seats a final burst of action that solves the hero’s problems and vanquishes the villain and allows for a quiet and satisfying ending. Don’t serve me a protracted bunch of noisy clashes with essentially faceless pawns before the finale. Define the geometry and conditions of the combat and let us see it clearly and don’t put in anything that doesn’t somehow bear directly on the spine of the story. Such would be my advice.

And such is my quibble, for quibble it is. Almost half way through my eightieth decade, I can enjoy the fantasy melodrama I see as much as the grade-school me enjoyed the cowboy pictures. Okay, except for the ones with Roy Rogers – nothing can be as good as them.


FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases

REVIEW: Movie 43

REVIEW: Movie 43

M43_BD_SpineGrowing up in the 1970s, there were plenty of movie parodies that broke down into two camps: the really smart ones that required a familiarity with film and culture (Blazing Saddles, et. al.) and those that were outrageous fun (Kentucky Fried Movie, The Groove Tube). The latter also showcased up and coming talent before and behind the camera, shooting on a shoestring so the studio had a low-risk offering. The other thing the latter films offered were the vignette approach, letting different creative types strut their stuff, making for an uneven but generally entertaining experience.

That same approach was recently used (and Kentucky Fried Movie cited as an inspiration) to mount the not very good Movie 43, out now on disc from 20th Century Home Entertainment. The difference is that it was made by a ton of talented, pedigreed cast and crew yet still managed to be offensive, unfunny, and amusing. The overall production lacked wit and the directors didn’t get much out of their cast.

The film is framed with a demented man (Dennis Quaid) threatening a studio exec (Greg Kinnear) with death unless he heard his pitches for the ultimate feel good movie. Each pitch led to a vignette and then back to the frame where things were escalated. In some ways, the frame is the most interesting aspect of the film as we got to see the Stockholm syndrome play itself out.

As it turns out, the most polished of the short pieces was the first and was shot to secure everyone else’s participation. A woman (Kate Winslet) goes out on a blind date with the city’s most eligible bachelor (Hugh Jackman) and as they sit to dinner, she realizes he has testicles attached to this neck. Everyone is oblivious to this physical manifestation but she cannot take her eyes off them and supposed hilarity ensues.

There are 12 directors and 43 actors (get it?) so the shorts are wildly inconsistent but often tread just over the line of good taste with crude language, playing with social mores and taboos, and never quite knowing when to end it. The cast is game although none are given a chance to play with their screen types, instead, are asked to inhabit genuinely clueless or unlikeable characters. A recurring theme in the sketches is how clueless (and tasteless) some people are so rather than guffaw you tend to go “ewwww”. The worst may be the faux-Batman (Jason Sudekis)’s description of faux-Supergirl (Kristen Bell)’s nether region to an embarrassed Robin (Justin Long). The set-up is amusing but played all wrong so is annoying rather than funny (and totally wastes John Hodgeman as the Penguin). Runner up is Chloë Grace Moretz in the uncomfortable situation where she has her first period in a household of male clichés who freak out or don’t know how to handle the delicate situation (although it ends with them watching a commercial that is actually funny).

The package comes with a Blu-ray, a DVD, and a digital copy. Perhaps most interesting is the Blu-ray which comes with an alternate version, one shown overseas, that uses a different framing sequence running several minutes longer, and is less funny. The sole other extra is a cut sketch with Julianne Moore and Tony Shalhoub as parents asking an off-screen investigator to help find their missing daughter, who was glimpsed on a  Girls Gone Wild-style video Mr. Shalhoub just happened to order and repeatedly watch. The gimmick is that girl has a tendency to flash the camera in Christmas cards, high school yearbooks, etc. A short with Anton Yelchin as a necrophiliac was shot and promised for the disc but is missing.

A great premise, gathering some of today’s funniest people (headed by Peter Farrelly) and top stars to have some fun, goes nowhere and is not as clever as the crew think it is. A serious misfire of a film which sank without a trace at the box office.

John Ostrander: We Have Met The Enemy

Ostrander Art 130623Finally got around to seeing Iron Man 3 this week (which I enjoyed). Yeah, I know. We’re way behind on our movie viewing at this url. At the rate we’re going, we won’t see Man Of Steel until Labor Day.

In any case, I was struck by the underlying premise of the movie and certain events of the past week. (SPOILER ALERT: To discuss this, I’m going to have to tell things about Iron Man 3. If you are even more behind in your movie going than I am but still intend to see it and want to be unspoiled, you may want to avert your eyes.)

Central to the whole plot of Iron Man 3 is the idea of creating a terrorist threat to provoke a reaction in the American public and justify certain acts. In the news in our so-called real world this week, it’s been revealed that the NSA has not only been reading our emails but is creating a massive building to store and analyze everything they read. All in the name of “National Security,” of keeping us safe from terrorism. The idea is that we trade in our freedoms and we are safe from the hands of terrorists.

Except we’re not. To quote Rocket J. Squirrel to Bullwinkle J. Moose who was trying to pull a rabbit out of his hat, “But that trick never works.” Not completely. Of course, the justification becomes that the measures the government is taking makes terrorism more difficult, that some plots are stopped even if you can’t stop all of them, that some American lives are saved. Doesn’t that make it worth it? If it saved your life or the lives of those you cared about, wouldn’t the sacrifice of those freedoms be justified?

I think of the British people during the Battle of Britain in 1940. To break the ability of the UK to defend themselves in the air after the fall of France, the German Luftwaffe launched massive air attacks that escalated, finally, to terrorist bombing missions against the civilian populations in key British cities, notably London. Everyone has seen the photographs and newsreels, especially of the aftermath – the burning buildings, the shattered homes, the struggling people.

The purpose of the terrorism was to drive the British government to an armistice or even to surrender. That’s one of the key things to remember about terrorism – the acts of violence are not the purpose in and of themselves. As terrible as they are, the purpose is to achieve some other goal.

The Germans failed in 1940. The British people stood defiant. They did not break.

The purpose of the acts of violence on 9/11 was not the death and destruction alone that they caused. The purpose of the architects of those acts of terror was to change us, to make us destroy ourselves, our values, our way of life. We’re doing that.

For an illusion of safety, we seem to be willing to trade in at least some of our freedoms.

When we allow the government to tap our phones willy-nilly, to spy on us, to even kill some citizens deemed hostile combatants without any pretense of due process of law, the terrorists win.

The alternative is to live with the threat of destruction, of death for ourselves or those we love, of more horrific, terrifying images such as we saw on 9/11. To stand firm as the British did in the face of Nazi terrorism and not surrender.

In hard boiled fiction, the “tough guy” is defined not so much as the one who can hand out punishment but take it and not give in. Today, we seem more interested in someone who is “bad ass” – who can hand out the blows. Personally, I’ll take a “tough guy” over a “bad ass” any day of the week. They show more character.

So, gentle readers, what do you think? Do we trade in some outdated “freedoms” and maybe sleep better at night or do we take some chances in the interests of being who we are or are supposed to be?

You tell me.




REVIEW: Stoker

REVIEW: Stoker

Stoker_Rental_BD_Spine_rgbWhen you name a thriller Stoker, you immediately have people concluding it has something to do with Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, and therefore maybe the movie involves vampires. The film’s characters address that at one point but let’s stipulate that there are no members of the undead here. Instead, we have a stylish, noirsh film that marks a mostly successful American debut for Korean director Chan-Wook Park. Starring Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, and Matthew Goode, it’s an uncomfortable story of family.

India Stoker (Wasikowska) has just lost her father, shattering their close bonds. Distraught, she is withdrawn, and initially shrinks further within Goth herself when Uncle Charlie (Goode) turns up and comes to live with her and her mother Evelyn (Kidman). In her eighteen years, India has never heard of an Uncle Charlie and more, what she begins to hear strikes her as fantastic and contradictory. Is he a rich adventurer, an ex-con, an opportunist? Maybe all of the above. But, as Charlie insinuates himself into their Tennessee home, life changes.

India is uncomfortable around Charlie until his charismatic personality begins to change how she acts and more, how she sees herself. There’s a hint of sexual desire pouring forth while her own mother, dealing with the loss in her own way, seems equally drawn, making dinner time more than a little awkward. There’s a piano duet that is nicely sexually charged and the film is filled with visual metaphors that make this a cut above most thrillers.

Wentworth Miller’s script was inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt down to naming the mysterious stranger Uncle Charlie. There are plenty of structural ticks Miller picks up from the old master, successfully maintain the tension throughout the 99 minutes. Unfortunately, like Hitchcock, the characters are cold, never quite warming up to one another or the audience and undercuts the movie’s impact. And trust me, this film has plenty of impact, especially when things get violent and here Park exceeds Hitchcock, bringing his natural talents to the fore.

The performances are strong and should have been stronger and this might be a culturally issue as Park works with his Australia/English cast in an American setting. Goode (Watchmen) is nicely creepy while the women vie for coolest character.

This is a strong transfer to Blu-ray, out this week from 20th Century Home Entertainment. Cinematographer Chung Chung-hoon’s imagery is well preserved, letting the atmosphere ooze into your home. The matching audio allows you to enjoy the splash of rain, the crack of a hardboiled egg and the eeriness of Clint Mansell’s excellent score.

The disc, which comes with an Ultraviolet digital copy, contains a handful of extras. There are three deleted/extended scenes (10:01), none of which are really missed; Stoker: A Filmmaker’s Journey (27:50), a Making Of mini-documentary that is cut above others of its ilk; Photography by Mary Ellen Mark (11:15), on-set photographs that can be auto-played or manually advanced;

London Theater Design (2:35), showing how a London theater was transformed for the film’s premiere; and,  Theatrical Behind-the-Scenes, seven short featurettes that were repurposed from the documentary and rehashes that material. You also get the theatrical trailers.

Martha Thomases Stands for Hope

Thomases Art 130621Late to the Man of Steel party, but I am compelled to weigh in. Here are my thoughts, which I don’t think are spoilers, but be warned if you’re squeamish about such things.

When I worked at DC in the 1990s, I was known as the person who liked Superman. Which is odd, really, because without Superman, there would be no DC. In any case, the consensus was that Superman wasn’t cool because he wasn’t dark or broody. Over the next decade, Superman became cool, not only in the comics, but also on a top-rated television program. People stood on line at Macy’s anchor store for the chance to meet editor Mike Carlin.

And then Superman Returns bombed, and the conventional wisdom was that Superman, as a character, needed to be dark and brooding after all. He had to be made “modern.”

Anyone who was reading Superman before John Byrne’s 1986 reboot will remember a dark and brooding character. The late, pre-Crisis Superman was always thinking mournfully of his lost planet, his lost birth family, his lost adopted family, and his sense that he could never have a family of his own. Alan Moore captured this brilliantly in his 1985 story, “For the Man Who Has Everything.”

This film is certainly dark. In a recent interview, Bill Nye said, “Space brings out the best in us.” But not, apparently in our production design.

On all of Krypton, it seems, the only colors are blacks, grays and metallic. There do not seem to be any blondes. We don’t see any vegetation above ground, and the Kryptonians we see wear either armor with capes or robes that appear to be ceremonial. It’s beautiful, but it really took my out of the movie, as I wondered how any civilization could be so determinately dreary. I suppose it’s possible that an entire planet could have its own art director to show how Seriously Dark and Mature they are, but to me it just seemed like the everybody went Goth at the same time. When we have the big reveal of Kal-El’s Superman suit, I wondered when Jor-El had discovered blue and red.

Amy Adams is a delightful Lois Lane, maybe the best I’ve ever seen. Her performance is completely believable as a hard-charging, ambitious reporter. She never plays girly or helpless. I only wish she would give lessons to Maureen Dowd.

Laurence Fishburne is a terrific Perry White. If only he had more to do.

The real hero of the movie, to me, is Christopher Meloni, in his most memorable movie role since Wet Hot American Summer.

Which brings me to my biggest regret. The body count in this movie is ridiculously high. The final battle over Metropolis must kill hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people. And it’s not just Zod and his minions who destroy. Superman topples his share of skyscrapers. My Superman would have moved the battle to an ocean. The ending, to my mind, is completely out of character. I know it’s been done in the comics, but there was immediate fall-out and regret, which we don’t see here.

It’s especially disturbing, given that Warner Bros. apparently went out of their way to market this movie as something traditionally religious families would enjoy. The script makes a big deal about Clark being 33 years old (which seems to me to be too old for Clark to be so naive, but I’m not in film marketing), Even if one can ignore the Jewish roots (which, before that, were Babylonian, Assyrian and Egyptian) of most of the Superman mythos, one would still notice the tug-of-war between Jonathan and Martha Kent over whether Clark should stay in or out of the closet about his differences.

Maybe this is the problem. Maybe trying to make a film that will appeal to those too self-conscious to be hopeful at the same time trying to appeal to evangelicals produces a mush.

Or maybe the creative team needs another film to find their legs. That’s what happened with Batman.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

SUNDAY: John Ostrander


Mike Gold: Apes… Lots of Apes

Gold Art 130619About every dozen years or so, I sit myself down and ogle King Kong. It’s a great movie, all the more impressive as it only offers a merely adequate cast (by and large). It ain’t Casablanca or Citizen Kane, and some (often me) say Mighty Joe Young is a better ape flick. But King Kong is responsible for two major events: it taught the moviegoer that movies are capable of playing to our sense of wonder on an astonishing level… and it gave birth to the whole ape-fad thing.

Outside of movies circa 1930s and 40s, nowhere is this phenomenon more visible than in comics. To this very day, massive primates threatening our safety if not our sanity are common to the comics racks. While Hollywood keeps on grinding out pathetic great ape imitations and senseless remakes of the original, comics seem to churn out contemporary simians like clockwork.

A partial list – very partialof simians both sinister and simply silly includes The Ape Gang (Judge Dredd), Axewell Tiberius (Monkeyman and O’Brien), Brainiape (Savage Dragon), Captain Apemerica (MCU), Congorilla (Congo Bill), Cy-Gor (Spawn), Djuba (B’wana Beast), The Gibbon (MCU), The Gorilla Boss of Gotham City (Batman; a personal favorite), Gorilla Grodd (DCU), Gorilla-Man (Atlas/MCU), King Solomon (Tom Strong), Kriegaffe (Hellboy), The Mod Gorilla Boss (Animal Man), Monsieur Mallah (Doom Patrol), The Primate Patrol (Nazi gorillas; go figure), Sam Simeon (Angel and the Ape), Solovar (The Flash), Super-Apes (Fantastic Four), Titano (Superman), and the Ultra-Humanite (Superman, his first continuing villain)… and that doesn’t even count the apes who dominated Julie Schwartz’s science-fiction line or who possess their own planet, as well as those many apes who answer to the name Cheeta or to “Bolgani” or “Mangani.”

Many of these very apes made it to the animated incarnations of their host characters.

The reason for all this is so obvious I won’t insult your intelligence by stating it. However, to update this for the modern Doctor Who fan, “apes are cool.”

So. Why did I choose to bring this to your attention?

Because I haven’t seen Man of Steel yet… and, gosh-darn-it, I like apes!

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases


Springsteen & I Examines The Boss’ Influence in July

Springsteen 1We don’t usually cover music but then again, there are few performers who have had as much of an influence on culture as Bruce Springsteen has since his debut in 1972. As a result, we wanted to make you aware of the documentary being released next month.

Centennial, Colo. – June 17, 2013 – With more than 120 million albums sold worldwide and numerous awards, including a staggering 20 Grammy Awards®, Bruce Springsteen’s music defines a generation. In celebration of 40 years of iconic musicNCM Fathom Events and Arts Alliance Media present Springsteen and I in select U.S. movie theaters on Monday, July 22 and Tuesday, July 30 at 7:30 p.m. local time. Springsteen and I will take audiences on an emotional journey through the personal insights and reflections of their fellow Springsteen fans. Directed by Baillie Walsh and produced by Ridley Scott Associates and Mr. Wolf, Springsteen and I incorporates the efforts of more than 2,000 fans around the world who submitted personal video clips to make the ultimate collective filmmaking experience about how Springsteen and his music became the soundtrack to so many lives.

Springsteen 2Including Springsteen performing some of his greatest hits and exclusive never-before-seen archival concert footage, the cinema event features unreleased big-screen performance highlights from the London Hard Rock Calling Wrecking Ball tour and a behind-the-scenes fan meet-and-greet with their hero.

“This beautifully crafted film provides a unique insight into the powerful bond between a recording artist and those who connect so profoundly with his music,” said Ridley Scott.

Springsteen and I will be presented in nearly 500 select movie theaters around the country through NCM’s exclusive Digital Broadcast Network. Tickets are available at participating theater box offices and online atwww.fathomevents.com. For a complete list of theater locations and prices, visit the NCM Fathom Events website (theaters and participants are subject to change).

“Springsteen and I is totally unique – audiences have never seen Bruce and his influence presented like this before,” said Dan Diamond, senior vice president of Business Development for Fathom Events. “This Fathom Event is a rare opportunity for fans to gather together in movie theaters, experience and share their love of all things ‘Bruce’ – as it was produced by the fans, for the fans.”


Emily S. Whitten: Superman and Man of Steel

Whitten Art 130618As I’ve mentioned here before, I’ve been a Superman fan pretty much forever. Superman was my first encounter with superheroes, beginning with watching the first Christopher Reeve Superman movie when I was very small. Through the years, Superman has remained one of my favorite superheroes. Sure, I love Deadpool (obviously!), and I’ve always been a big X-Men fan… and Batman… and Spider-Man… and I could go on and on from there – but Superman, the most unequivocal and steadfast symbol of hope and ethical humanity in the whole collection, has always been there in the background, informing my appreciation of the rest of the bunch.

Some people say that Superman is a boring character. He’s too perfect. He’s incredibly powerful and can do almost anything, way beyond what most of us can fathom, and he’s constantly doing the “right” or noble thing. How interesting can someone like that be?

Very interesting, I think. It’s Superman’s decision about how to use his power; his nobility; and his steadfast idealism in the way he decides to live his life for humanity and constantly be striving to do that right thing that have made him a multi-generational symbol and inspiration. At the same time, it is also his choice to live for humanity that drives him to live amongst humanity, and thus empathize with their plights, and, eventually, fall in love with one of them – Lois Lane.

Lois is the other half of what makes Superman so interesting. She’s a strong character in her own right, as she has to be to match up to someone as powerful as Superman. But she’s also only human, with human difficulties. Lois humanizes Superman, she pulls him back to Earth from the skies in which he might otherwise constantly float above us all. Sure, as a child, Superman is in touch with humanity, anchored by his parents and their desire to raise him with a strict moral code that respects and teaches responsibility for humanity. But once Clark seriously takes on the Superman persona and is living far from his parents as an adult in a strange city, someone else’s influence is needed. Enter Lois.

In most iterations of Superman, Lois does not, for at least a significant period of time, know that Superman and Clark Kent are the same man. Various reasons for this remaining the status quo of their relationship exist, from the potential danger to Lois if she knows Superman’s secret identity to Clark’s insecurity about her feelings for him as Clark, or his desire for her to, essentially, “like him for him,” and not for being some kind of alien demigod. This dynamic not only serves to anchor Clark, but also to drive the story – as a lot of the drama, humor, and interest of the Superman story stems from Clark’s attempts to live a double life and somehow still win over the woman he loves and attain a very human kind of happiness.

Superman’s power and nobility, combined with Clark’s very human relationship with Lois Lane, are what make him such an interesting character, and what make me throw up my hands in disbelief when someone says that Superman is boring. Because how could an interaction of our human struggles with our human desire to be heroic be boring? How could it be just another story? Well, if people make it that way, I suppose. If people stray from what makes Clark-and-Superman great, and try to instead fit him into the box of every other superhero out there.

Now, let’s talk about Man of Steel.


On a strictly is-it-an-enjoyably-watchable -movie level, I liked Man of Steel. Except for the overly long fight scenes (of which there were several), the pacing is pretty good. The cinematography is good. The story is fairly cohesive and easy to follow (despite some odd plot holes/questions, like how Superman’s costume was just hanging around on a ship that had been buried in Earth’s icy caverns thousands of years before the destruction of Krypton). Henry Cavill is delicious, and also shirtless in pretty much his very first scene. Shirtless and on fire. And it’s hot (all puns intended). Amy Adams is also adorable. Overall the acting is pretty top-notch. And there are many recognizable genre, TV, and mainstream actors to clap about (including at least two Battlestar: Galactica dudes, Tahmoh Penikett and Alessandro Juliani). There is also some blatant product placement…that works (Clark’s childhood friend Pete Ross works at an IHOP. After watching the movie, my friend and fellow journalist Alicia and I were forced, forced I tell you, to go to IHOP because we suddenly had IHOP cravings. But it was delicious, so that’s okay).

On a Superman mythos level, things get a lot shakier. One thing I did enjoy was the minor Superman character name-drops. Pete Ross, as mentioned, shows up in both Clark’s flashbacks and present day. Dr. Emil Hamilton is there as a military scientist or consultant. Steve Lombard is working at The Daily Planet. And there’s a wee Lana Lang on the flashback bus when it goes into the river. I also actually really enjoyed the first part of the movie, from Krypton through about the first two or so flashbacks. This is one film I’ve seen that actually world-built Krypton to a realistic extent and then spent some time there. Sure, there are echoes of what’s been developed before, and the combination of technology and organic, mythical-looking creatures was a bit weird at first, but I loved details like the floating silver orbs that are a combination of personal assistants and bodyguards, and also allow for a sort of 3-D video communication (or for a 3-D ultrasound!). And I liked the extent to which they managed to make the look of Kryptonian attire realistically tie in with Superman’s costumed appearance.

After Krypton, the first few scenes establish a Clark who’s wandering the world, interspersed with some growing-up time. These scenes are very enjoyable. The current scenes show a Clark that, like a well-developed Krypton, we don’t usually get to see much on screen. Clark’s soul-searching and wanderings as a young man are referenced in several versions of the Superman story, but we don’t often actually see them. And each of the early flashbacks shows a young Clark who is learning about his powers, and about his responsibilities, in a way that is organic and not heavy-handed.

Once the movie has spent some time on this, however, it moves more firmly into the present day origin story, with just a few more flashbacks here and there. These are of an older Clark and, while I get that teens are difficult and superteens perhaps even more difficult, these scenes are devoid of the familial love and warmth that marks the earlier scenes. They also include a scene in which Clark literally stands fifty feet away from his dad and watches him get swept away by a tornado. While the movie tries to make this into a character development point, it’s such a wrong note for Superman that I just couldn’t get behind it. Keeping his powers a secret or not, no Superman I’m interested in would be that selfish, even if his dad was telling him not to save him. It’s around this point that the movie also moves firmly into being, essentially, an alien disaster movie that happens to feature Superman.

Given the trailers we’d been seeing, and the fact that both Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan were signed on, I feared that we were going to get a very grimdark Superman in Man of Steel. And although the first several scenes were all fairly serious, since they cut back and forth it relieved the grimness somewhat, and I thought maybe my fears were going to be unfounded. Well, not so much. After the first few cuts back and forth, things turn continuously grim and grimmer in Man of Steel. Death and destruction (on a global scale) begin to appear everywhere and only increase for the rest of the story; and boy, is it exhausting to watch. It’s also not what I wanted to see in a Superman movie.

During Man of Steel, we are told by Jor-El that the S on Superman’s chest means “hope” to Kryptonians. And that’s exactly what Superman is supposed to be for us – a symbol of hope. He is our hope that there are people like him out there, and that it’s okay to believe they exist – which is important, because if they do exist, and succeed at existing, then maybe it’s not so unrealistic for us to try to be a little bit like them. Maybe we can be heroes too, at least now and again. In a way, Superman is the first part of that iconic last line of The Great Gatsby: “So we beat on, boats against the current…” Superman reflects the best of human idealism, and the struggle to move forward, despite obstacles, and to continue moving forward. Superman is a symbol of hope…but this is not a hopeful movie.

There are a lot of dark superhero movies out there. The recent movies of Superman’s sometimes-partner Batman, for instance, are dark; and that works for him. I loved The Dark Knight, but I don’t need a hundred Dark Knights. The world is depressing enough right now, and I don’t need to constantly see destruction and death on the big screen; because we see it every day. What I need right now, what I crave, is a movie that shows me a hero who strives and succeeds at being better than that. At being better than all of the “reality” we are facing both in reality and in our current media. At actually “saving the world,” and not being beaten down by it in the end. At being a steadfast constant who won’t break under the pressure. And what I really want to know, after seeing Man of Steel, which could have been the perfect vehicle for this, is: why couldn’t this movie’s producers have been “the brave and the bold” movie team who dared to actually celebrate an ideal and a hopeful future in which disaster is not an inevitable and acceptable norm? In which there is somebody who can actually stop the world from being destroyed before half of it is gone?

Instead, they opted for a Superman whose introductory film features a final body count that at least equals if not exceeds that of the villain, General Zod (and that includes General Zod, since Superman, albeit reluctantly, straight-up snaps Zod’s neck in the end). As someone on Twitter said, “There is no Man of Steel criticism more stark than the fact that Earth would have been better off had Kal-El died on Krypton.” And as writer Brian Reed snarks, a conversation between Zod and Superman that would easily fit in this movie could be: “I’ll kill all of these humans you love.” “I punched you through 30 buildings. I’ve probably killed more of them than you at this point.” That…is a sad state of affairs.

Along with all of the death, the film also features a metric ton of property (and Earth) destruction, and Superman and the Kryptonians constantly whaling on each other to the point where my soul was craving even a smidge of character development, and welcomed Perry White and Steve Lombard’s struggle to free some random Daily Planet intern from rubble. You know your Superman movie is in trouble when a watcher is more interested in that than in Superman. Maybe because your Superman movie tries but fails to show the complexity or nuances of being both Superman and Clark Kent? Because it’s too busy showing things blowing up and the whole world falling apart? Yeah, maybe that.

One way in which the movie does try to humanize the adult Clark is via the introduction of Lois, and his interactions with her. But in my view, this is another great failure of the movie. Lois, as a character in Man of Steel, is great. She’s smart and upbeat and determined and fearless and loyal and successful and kind and has a strong sense of what’s right. She goes after the story, and gets the story, and has earned the respect of her editor and fellow reporters, and she is all around the sort of Lois I want to see. Lois and Superman, in their interactions, are also very strong.

But do you notice what’s missing about the previous sentence? Any mention of Clark. The meeting of Lois and Superman in this movie is just that – a meeting in which Lois knows him as Superman from the get-go. Yes, his name might be Clark, and she knows that too, but that’s incidental to all of their interactions. And while that may not greatly affect the dynamic of this particular movie as a movie, what does it do to the Superman mythos and to any potential sequels? Well, it strips out the human factor, the fun, the heart, and the drama that all come from the original Lois and Clark dynamic. It strips out a large part of what makes that story great.

As mentioned, when Superman is forced to be Clark around the woman he loves, and to wonder if she’ll ever love him for himself, rather than just for his powers as Superman, it brings him down to Earth, and to humanity, and gives him a reason to strive to be a better human, as well as a better superhero. It also makes the story a lot more fun; even if eventually, Lois does discover the truth. The story leading up to the reveal makes the reveal that much better, and also makes the relationship that much deeper. But here, it’s like they decided to skip right to the third season of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman – when those first two seasons were what makes anything after them work at all.

To catastrophically misunderstand this dynamic to such an extent was so unbelievable to me that, even though it’s a weak storytelling element and has been done before, in Man of Steel I kept waiting and hoping for amnesia. I seriously thought that when Superman saved Lois from the burning Kryptonian escape pod and she said, “I’m sorry…” the sentence was going to end with, “…but I don’t remember how I got here.” I couldn’t believe that they’d seriously set up the entire relationship to be Lois and Superman-who-also-happens-to-masquerade-as-Clark-to-other-people. And yet, they did. What a disappointment. Sure, maybe they can make it work if they do another movie, or a Justice League movie, or whatever; but it won’t be the Superman I know anymore, or the Superman I love.

In our post-mortem discussion of this movie, my friend Alicia said that Henry Cavill, while very good, would never be her Superman. And while I love Henry Cavill, and think he acquitted himself as well as the script would allow, I agree with her with a bit of a rephrase (because really, Henry Cavill isn’t the problem). Man of Steel will never be my Superman. And while I realize that heroes can be re-made for modern times, and sometimes should be to keep things fresh, Superman is one of those rare few where messing with his core story too much just flat out ruins who he is.

Superman is known as the Big Blue Boy Scout for a reason. Sure, the nickname is affectionately snarky; but it’s also a great compliment – a nickname for a hero who always does the right thing and acts to help others, and who is always prepared to solve the world’s problems and deal with its disasters. The goal of making a movie about Superman should be to maintain the bright ideal he has always been when at his best, without making him unrelatable or cheesy. I don’t know what Man of Steel set out to do, but in the end, it certainly didn’t feel like that. If I don’t leave a movie about Superman feeling like there’s some hope in the world, then that movie is not about the Superman I love. And Man of Steel didn’t leave me with much hope.

Well, that’s about all the movie analysis I can manage for one day, but until next time, Servo Lectio!