MAN OF STEEL, the just-released action film which brings to the fore the beloved superhero known as Superman, is yet another special effects-laden extravaganza spotlighting slam-bang good guy-bad guy encounters. If this is to your liking, you probably will relish MAN OF STEEL. But if you are looking for some narrative cohesion and intelligence amid all the mayhem, MAN OF STEEL surely will disappoint.
I have in my hands a DVD of FUN SIZE, a PG-13-rated comedy aimed at the younger demographic that is presented by Nickelodeon Movies, an offshoot of the Nickelodeon cable television network, which produces programming for a teen and pre-teen audience.
Most movies come and go. They open theatrically, earn their box office bucks and, these days, end up in DVD obscurity. Few are truly memorable. Few are, to quote Humphrey Bogart in THE MALTESE FALCON, “the stuff that dreams are made of.”
I recently offered commentary on THE COMPANY YOU KEEP, the Robert Redford film which spotlights various now-aging political activists of the late 1960s and 70s. To be sure, THE COMPANY YOU KEEP is dramatically flawed, but at least it attempts to get at certain truths regarding the American counterculture of the era.
Sometimes, novels that are American classics have been transformed into motion pictures that are American classics. FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, THE GRAPES OF WRATH, ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST, and FIELD OF DREAMS (based on Ray Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe) are a few that come to mind. Some-- ALL THE KING’S MEN, for example-- have been the source for films that deserve all the acclaim they earn and remakes that are, in a word, execrable.
Once upon a time, back in the 1950s, there was a TV series titled I Led Three Lives. The “I” of the title was Herbert Philbrick, a Boston advertising executive who also worked undercover for the FBI and infiltrated the American Communist Party. This show came to mind while watching THE ICEMAN, a tough, fact-based new film that works both as a character study and a crime drama.
If you are of a certain generation-- Robert Redford’s generation, or a bit younger-- you will be well-aware that, back in the 1960s and 70s, there were political activists who did not just march on Washington or on their college campuses to oppose the war in Vietnam, say, or protest the everyday greed or racism that was so imbedded in American life. Instead, they tossed bombs or robbed banks or burned draft cards. And then, to avoid arrest and long jail sentences, they went into hiding, changed their names and identities, and blended in with the masses.
Films like AMOUR, QUARTET, and THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL, all released last year, examine the lives and dilemmas of senior citizens. All were high-profile, but they are not the only current films whose characters are coping with old age.
This week, I was planning to discuss in detail THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES. This was my agenda for two reasons. First, and simply put, this film is well-worth seeing and reviewing for a range of reasons. Second, it was shot on location here in upstate New York.
Of all the actors who came to the fore after the end of the Second World War, perhaps the best-recalled are Burt Lancaster, Gregory Peck, Kirk Douglas, Montgomery Clift, Robert Mitchum, William Holden... But they are not the lone stars of the era. Glenn Ford may not have appeared in as many timeless titles as the Lancasters and Pecks, but he was a prolific performer whose star glowed from the postwar years into the 1960s.