Wednesday, July 12

Superman Returns review

Superman Returns
a review based on a dream of going to see it

Superman Returns, the newest entry in the long-running Man Of Steel franchise, proves to be one of the oddest films in Bryan Singer's distinctive career. The movie begins in total darkness, and using audio clues only, the audience must decipher the following information: Superman and Jimmy Olsen are hanging out with their scientist girlfriends on a dock on Lake Michigan, when Swamp Thing surfaces near them. Swamp Thing has the ability to emit human pheromones, and the two girls (both played by Erika Christensen) become very aroused, and plead with their boyfriends to let them have sex with Swamp Thing. However, Superman rescues them by grabbing them and flying away, I would guess.

After the rather spartan opening credits, we're whisked back to Clark Kent's teenage years, which take place in an idyllic Smallville curiously similiar to the Austria of The Sound Of Music, except that all the farms are connected by an intricate network of waterslides. The Kents are visiting family friends, who have twin three-year olds. Clark's told that one of the twins is "big." Big how? he asks, only to turn around and discover a twelve-foot tall proportional toddler in a British schoolboy outfit (Carson Kreesley). Clark, his mother, and the toddler begin to ride a waterslide and discuss the toddler's sister. It's here that Singer's script really shines:

MRS KENT: He's a big boy.
CLARK: A big one, all right.
MRS KENT: You should see his sister.
CLARK: She's bigger?
CLARK: She's smaller, like atom-sized?
CLARK: She's normal?
MRS KENT: No, she's...a photograph!

Flash forward to the present, where Superman has a terrific fight scene with Boba Fett, who uses a dynamic fighting style not seen in the Star Wars movies to bring the match to a draw. Superman, though, is preoccupied with remembering four bunsen burners which are heating a giant vat, somewhere far away.

After the fight, look for a cameo from me, as I sit in the produce section and write a rough draft of this review using a laptop and one of the advertising TVs mounted on the wall. (My initial complaint about the movie is that Lois Lane doesn't show up at all.) The film then shifts tones and becomes a stunning meditation on paternity, as I give my stepfather a ride home from the theater, and he gives me a $100 bill. Then I wake up.

Though not the spectacular film many "Supes" fans were waiting for, Superman Returns is a great, if puzzling, popcorn flick, and is highly recommended if you have a couple of hours to kill sleeping on the couch in your clothes, only to wake up after dark, confused and sweaty.

My grade: B

Superman Returns: (Action/Adventure) 2 hrs. 34 min. Rated PG-13 for some intense action violence and hallucinogenic imagery.

Saturday, July 8

If You Could Read My Mind

On my list of Totally Embarrassing Songs That Completely Break My Heart, Gordon Lightfoot's "If You Could Read My Mind" has always had a special place. None of the other songs on the list--Lionel Ritchie's "Stuck On You," Carole King's "So Far Away"--have the overachieving quality of Lightfoot's song.

On one hand, it's absolutely one of the most wretched examples of the worst period of contemporary music--the mid-70s faux-country AM radio hit--all high-school-literary-journal lyrics ("a ghost from a wishing well"?) and cloying string section.

But on the other hand, there's that completely heartbreaking chorus, when the singer tries to make sense of a dying relationship, using an almost Raymond Carver straightforwardness: " "I never thought I could act this way, and I've got to say that I just don't get it. I don't know where we went wrong, but the feeling's gone and I just can't get it back." (Note that the singer indicts himself for losing that lovin' feeling as much if not more than his partner.)

But...right, it was Gordon freakin' Lightfoot. So I was cheered to discover that Johnny Cash had covered the song on the last American album, out this week. Now I'm no Johnny Cash cultist--I knew dudes who CRIED when he passed away--and I don't think that his cover of something is automatically more authentic somehow; I still prefer the originals of "I See A Darkness" and "I'm On Fire." However, if I have to choose between Johnny Cash and Gordon Lightfoot, well...

However, I was completely unprepared for his cover of the song. It's still heartbreaking, I'll give him that...but not in the way that I meant up above. It's heartbreaking because it's the sound of a blind diabetic with only weeks left to live gasping through a last handful of songs.

Frankly, it's hard to listen to...and not because it's bad. If anything, it's a weird reversal on the so-bad-it's-good genre: it's so good it's bad. It's tough to hear Cash sing it. A lot of people think that "Hurt" is the ultimate memorial, but Cash seems out of place in the fussily art-directed (and embarrassingly literal) video of the hipster cover. "If You Could Read My Mind" seems like a much more fitting tribute to him; it's a song reminiscent of his decades in the Nashville pap industry, but sung with the intensity of of an old man raging against the dark.

Tuesday, July 4

Eastern Bloc

Check out these amazing movie posters done in the style of medieval Russian illuminated texts.

As far as anyone can tell, the movies are:

1. a Russian film starring Mickey-Mouse rip-off, Russian Olympic Mascot, and "sovok" icon, Cheburashka.
2. Terminator
3. The Matrix
4. Lord Of The Rings
5. Another Cheburashka film, this one starring his friend Crocodile Gena.
6. Spiderman
7. Star Wars
8. Harry Potter
9. Firewall, maybe?
10. No idea.
11. Fahrenheit 451
12. Anaconda 2: The Search For The Blood Orchid. (LOL!)
13. War Of The Worlds.


Even better than those are these truly awesome (and totally real) Polish posters for movies from the early 80s. I'd point out some of my favorites, but really this whole page is amazing.

Sunday, July 2

Adam Green's "Emily"

Maybe you guys know Adam Green as half of The Moldy Peaches, or maybe you know him as "that guy who did that song about Jessica Simpson just before she became a super-star."

Anyway, he has a newish album out, with a great single called "Emily."

Please watch this video for Adam Green's "Emily."

(Much smaller, but much clearer, version here.)

Okay, listen: this video is GENIUS. It so perfectly captures the vibe of roughly 1981, but not in any sort of obvious or retro way, so that it ends up triggering a memory of our childhoods, but in a way we can't...quite...put our...fingers on. You know?

Some obvious touchstones for the video include late-early-career Billy Joel (post-Captain Jack, pre-Uptown Girl), Joe Jackson, Taco, Graham Parker, footage of an Alice Cooper performance, and the video for the Steve Miller song "Abracadabra". I'm sure we could think of about fifty more. Oh, and some video we only saw once on, like, USA's Night Flight that we rememebered because it had a pre-Letterman Paul Schaefer on piano.

I really can't say enough about how awesome that video is! Some of the best parts include: the feathers, the white gloves, the harpsichord, the bust of Julius Caesar, the completely bare stage lit starkly from above, Adam Green's outfit, and that absolutely perfect fish bowl.

But the most amazing thing about it is how insanely perfectly it captures the early 80s version of "elegance." I'm surprised there was a chrome ball or one of those amber infinity mirrors.

I'm not exactly used to being positive about stuff here on MFN, and I can't quite articulate what is so great about it, how the director (Roman Coppola) just totally replicates a vibe THAT I NEVER REALLY UNDERSTOOD EXISTED until I saw his re-creation of it. Does that make sense?

(Also highly recommended: Nat King Cole and Baby's Gonna Die Tonight.)