“Look, up in the sky…!”
June 28th, 2013 @ 5:30 PM

"Look, up in the sky...!"

Wednesday – 26 June 2013 Thursday – 27 June 2013 Friday – 28 June 2013
I finally saw Man of Steel Monday night.

Man-of-Steel-Poster-3

Many of my friends who saw the movie – and know that I am a Superman fan – were kind enough to not spoil the movie for me. They also asked that I give them my opinion of the new film when I saw it.

Here it is.

In the same way that I did for Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen Suckage, This is going to be a two-part review:

  1. The first part will be more of a synopsis and spoiler-free.
  2. The second part will be more in-depth.

Consider yourselves duly warned.

Part One: Synopsis
I liked this movie.

That said, it is not your father’s (or your grandfather’s) Superman. It’s a modern retelling of the tale. One that’s not campy or that contains a ludicrous land-grab plot by the villain. The movie presents a man on a quest to determine who he wants to be. And, oh yeah, he’s really strong, too. And he gets to punch things. That’s something you don’t often get to see in a Superman movie/show, unless it’s animated and he’s fighting robots.

The movie is also far more serious and… heavy… in tone than the 70’s and 80’s movies. The premise being: How would people react if a being like this existed in the real world. (Or, at least the silver screen’s interpretation of “the real world.”)

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(Possibly 8.5, but I don’t have a half-shield icon…)

Part Two: In-Depth Observations
You’re still here.

That obviously means that you want to know what I thought about different aspects of the movie.

Bully for you.

As I mentioned above, I’m a Superman fan. I have been since I was a kid. Yes, other heroes/teams may have supplanted the Last Son of Krypton as my “favorite,” but I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for him in just about every incarnation that’s come along:

And we won’t even go into how long I’ve been collecting Superman comics. Let’s just say “a long time” and leave it at that.

I’ve been looking forward to this movie since it was announced. When Zach Snyder was identified as the director, I was a little leery, but I was willing to give him a bit of latitude since I enjoyed 300, Watchmen and Sucker Punch. I wasn’t sure how his style would work with DC’s flagship hero, but I was curious to see how things would play out.

I wasn’t disappointed.

Zach Snyder brought a new Superman to the screen. He did something that I liked: He showed a Clark who learned at a relatively young age of his heritage and then spent the twenty years trying to figure out what to make of this knowledge. In most previous incarnations of the character, the gap between “Hey, son, you’re really from space” and “Hey, I’m Jor-El, your space-dad” has been pretty brief. In this movie, you watched as Clark tried to find his place in the world. And, even more important, what it cost him to make certain choices as he made his journey.

As to the (major) performers:

  • Henry Cavill: I found him to be a solid choice for Clark Kent/Kal-El/Superman. He conveyed the sense of a man doing the best he could to help people while trying to figure out who he was and who he wanted to be. He also had an air of a man who wanted to help, but wanted to stay out of the spotlight. Viewers also got a little insight into what it cost him every time he saved someone — having to drift from place to place, being leery of using his powers openly, out of concern/fear of how people might react.
  • Amy Adams: I’ll preface this by saying that I’m a fan of hers and was quite happy to hear that she was cast as Lois Lane. David Goyer gave me the Lois I wanted to see: A capable, unafraid to get her hands dirty reporter. She was dogged in her pursuit of the mystery man who acted as guardian angel to so many in many different places. I appreciated that she wasn’t just in the movie to be rescued from falling helicopter (which is actually one of my favorite scenes from the 1978 movie) or caught in an earthquake; she was in the thick of the action. And held her own, in a couple of cases.Even Margot Kidder, Lois Lane from the ’70s and ’80s movies, even liked Ms. Adams’ performance:

    “I thought [Man of Steel] was wonderful and I thought that young Amy Adams was just terrific. I wanted a lot more of her, I wish they had more scenes for her.”

  • Michael Shannon: I know that many people are familiar with him from Boardwalk Empire; I do not count myself among them, so I didn’t know what to expect. I quite enjoyed his performance as General Zod. I like that they gave him more motivation than “Son of our jailor, we will hunt and kill you.” Zod was, in my opinion, fully realized as the leader of Krypton’s military. He was the epitome of the quote “The villain is the hero in his own story.” Everything that he did was due to his breeding, caste and training:

    No matter how violent, every action I take is for the greater good of my people.

    I found him to be a worthy adversary for this Superman, possibly even more so than Terence Stamp‘s Zod. Possibly. I’ll have to rewatch Superman II to make a fair call on this one.

  • Russell Crowe: I wasn’t sure how I felt about him being cast as Jor-El; he can be kind of hit-or-miss for me. I think that this role was “hit.” And, as much as I love the ’78 movie and Marlon Brando, his Jor-El just seemed… too old… to have an infant son. Crowe seemed more believable in the role of father to a newborn. He also conveyed the sense of a scientist who realized that his world was doomed and wanted nothing more than his son to have a chance at life… even at the cost of his own. I even liked his take on the Jor-El simulacrum in the Kryptonian scout ship.
  • Kevin Costner: This was another hit-or-miss casting choice for me. I was hopeful when I heard his voiceover in the early trailers for the movie. I also noted that a lot of my friends were leery of a later trailer when he told a young Clark that maybe he should have let the students in a bus crash die. I didn’t take that as a failure of morality on Jonathan’s part. I saw it as a father trying to protect his son from public scrutiny and possible government intervention. I think that Clark summed it up, rather nicely in this quote:

    My father believed that if the world found out who I really was, they’d reject me… out of fear. He was convinced that the world wasn’t ready. What do you think?

    In thinking about it later, I also think that part of it may have been him thinking of it in terms of “Perhaps it was their time” or  “We don’t know if that was part of God’s plan.” And, the scene where Jonathan died? It was just a different spin on the same situation in my eyes, only this time it was Jonathan showing that he was willing to sacrifice himself to protect his son’s privacy and life.

  • Diane Lane: I don’t feel that the audience (or, at least, I)  really get to see enough of her Martha Kent. That notwithstanding, I think that she had a fantastic scene – hinted at in the trailers – when she was trying to calm Clark down after his powers got the best of him in school. You could believe that she was a mother who loved her son.
  • Laurence Fishburne: Good casting, as if that really needed to be said; I just wish that he had more screen time.

I am aware that many people didn’t like the fact that Clark spent most of the movie figuring out who/what he was going to be. I think that many people expect a Superman who always knows what to do and act accordingly.

This wasn’t that man.

And I think that this is one of the things that stuck in peoples’ collective craws.

I, on the other hand, was alright with seeing a conflicted man. Even a conflicted Superman. Why? Because it allowed for growth and maturity, even in the compressed timeframe of the movie. Clark had to choose not only to accept his Kryptonian heritage, but also to live up to the potential that his both of his fathers saw in him. Did I think that he completed that journey in this movie? Possibly not, but I think that by the end of the movie he was a lot farther down the road than most people give him credit for.

Now let’s get to the elephants in the room: I know that many people were surprised and even disappointed that this movie gave us:

  1. …not only a Superman who killed, but also
  2. …a Superman who left A LOT of collateral damage in the wake of his fights with Zod and his lieutenants and the seeming nonchalance of the loss of life.

To the first point: It’s not the first time that Superman has killed.

Mull that one over. I’ll give you a few moments to ponder it.

Still here? Good. Okay. As I said: This wasn’t the first time that we’ve seen Superman kill someone. There are three incidents that came pretty quickly to mind when I thought about it:

  1. At the end of Superman II, Superman dispatches General Zod and Non in the Fortress of Solitude, after depowering them; Lois is the one who takes care of Ursa.

    NOTE: Apparently, in the Richard Donner cut of the movie, the villains weren’t killed, but were taken into custody by the Arctic Patrol. I will have to watch this to determine the veracity of this.

  2. In the Post-Crisis on Infinite Earths DC Universe, Superman killed a parallel universe’s version of General Zod, Zaora, and Quex-Ul.
    superman_22
    Superman-Kills-Kryptonians-22-John-Byrne
    These three Kryptonians destroyed the Earth that they were on, killing all humans in the process. When they learned of Superman’s home dimension, they vowed not only to find it, but to conquer/destroy it as well. Doing the math, Superman realized that they were serious in their threat and decided that he would act as judge, jury and executioner.This wasn’t without any cost, however. Upon returning to his home dimension/Earth, Superman started having what was effectively a mental breakdown. It even went so far as him creating third persona… one that neither Clark nor Superman was aware of. (He got better, though.)
  3. Doomsday, the beast that slew Superman was also killed – for a while – by the Man of Steel.
    superman-doomsday1
    superman-doomsday2

Since I knew that I wouldn’t be able to see the movie opening weekend, I tried to avoid as many spoilers about it as possible. Despite this, I couldn’t help but hear things about “the controversial ending.” I remembered that Zach Snyder had said that there was no Kryptonite in the movie. With that in mind, I more or less guessed what would/might happen.

So, fast forward to me in the theatre, watching the movie’s climactic battle… and there it was: Kal-El vs. General Zod, with Zod making his final declaration that the battle would only end with one of them dead. A few times during the fight, Superman tried to sway Zod’s thinking and convince him that he could live with/among the humans. But, Zod was having none of it. He went on to threaten the family in the train station and effectively say that there was nothing that Superman could do to keep him from slaying them.

As Zod bore down on the family, Kal-El killed him.

It was his last resort.

You could see in the look of anguish, tinged with rage, on Superman’s face that it was far from the option that he would have chosen. You could see that it cost him a little piece of himself to do it: With Zod’s death, Kal-El lost his last living contact with his people… and would have to live with the fact that Zod died by his hand.

As for the second item, the destruction of property: Give. The. Man. A. Break.

He’d been “Superman” for all of, what… two minutes2… before Zod and company started smacking him around? And let’s face it, it was the first time – EVER – that he’d fought anyone in his proverbial weight class. I’m not sure that he was prepared for the level of ruthlessness that he faced in Smallville. Also, he was kind of busy getting beaten down not just by Kryptonians  – bred and trained to be soldiers – but the U.S. military, as well, so he might have been slightly distracted.

I might allow for the argument about the destruction in…? of…? Metropolis, however. You would think that knowing that he was fighting someone who was just as powerful as he was, he might have led Zod off to a more remote location for their showdown. And, yes, there possibly should have been some points deducted for kissing Lois in the middle of the downtown Metropolis wasteland, too.

While some might say that it was a case of “too little, too late” when we see Superman trying to save the family in the Metropolis train station from Zod’s heat vision, we did see him try and save people earlier in the movie. Most notably on the oil rig and on the school bus.

So, in the final analysis, I will say that the movie wasn’t without flaws, but it was an enjoyable bit of cinema.

And there you have it.

Namaste.

1 – Anyone who says that there was a III and/or IV is lying to you. They. Never. Happened. Period. Full stop.

2 – Okay, longer than two minutes, but you get my point.


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Team DiVa Tuesday – 25 June 2013
June 25th, 2013 @ 4:47 PM

Tuesday – 25 June 2013
Better late than never, I say.

These pictures were taken Sunday, at Sara!’s parents’ house, while the girls were playing in the sprinkler.

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Diana (l) and Vanessa

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They had a ball and both girls were sopping wet by the time dinner was ready.

Namaste

 


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everyday glory · family and friends · kids
“Now is the little girl a bride…”
June 18th, 2013 @ 8:35 AM

"Now is the little girl a bride..."

Monday – 17 June 2013 Tuesday – 18 June 2013
This has been a wonderful (and wonderfully taxing, at times) trip. In doing the pre-vacation math, I figured out that I haven’t been home in three years (NC) or five years (MD). That is far too long. If it’s within my power, it won’t be so long between visits the next time. And hopefully not nearly as harried, either.

The impetus for this trip was to see my youngest sister get married. (And to be in the wedding, too, but that wasn’t the main point.) On Saturday, Kristen jumped the proverbial broom. Jeff, her new husband, has been nothing but a stand-up guy in my encounters with him; I’m happy to welcome him into the family. I could not be happier for nor prouder of Kristen. And I feel all the more privileged by the fact that I was able to be a part of her special day.

Jeff and Kristen

Jeff and Kristen

But, let’s backtrack a bit…

We left the Zion Curtain behind in Wednesday. We got up, out and on the way to the airport for Team DiVa’s first trip on an airplane and their first visit to the Right Coast. I can happily say that they did very well on the ride, although Vanessa had a bit of a meltdown about 20 minutes before the plane landed.

The girls have talked with my father on Skype on many occasions, but Wednesday was the first time they met him, so there was a bit of “we think we know this guy” warm-up time involved. But after that, Vanessa would hardly let the man out of her sight. It was a constant barrage of “Ga’pa!” “Ga’pa!” Morning. Night. And if we went out, the first person she wanted to see when we got back was… you guessed it… “Ga’pa!”

Vanessa and Grandpa - BFFs

Vanessa and Grandpa – BFFs

Thursday, we ran out to visit my aunt, who also babysat me when I was the girls’ age. We actually paid her and my uncle a surprise visit. It was exactly the reaction that I expected and totally worth the trip. There was also a sense of… a “Circle of Life” kind of completion, I guess… in having the girls running around and playing in the same place I played as a kid.

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Thursday afternoon, Rana came into town and brought Grace, Sophia and Leila up to meet the girls.

Bit, Pixel, Rana and Widget

Bit, Pixel, Rana and Widget

Bit and Pixel

Grace and Sophia

Other than the occasional video chat, I haven’t seen Grace or Sophia since Sara! and I got married and I’d never met Leila. All three are fine young ladies. Grace, being three-and-a-half years older than our girls, was more patient than I had expected. (Of course, having two younger sisters probably factors into it somewhere…) Sophia was the mediator, trying to calmly settle “I want this toy now” fights by saying that they all had to share. Leila, being the same age ( plus two weeks) as Team DiVa, just wanted to know “Who are these new kids and why are they playing with my toys?!” The eight off us went out for a late lunch at Earth Wood and Fire.

Friday, we got up and hit the road for North Carolina. We got a slightly earlier start than I had originally planned and it was a good thing: Traffic was snarled in a few places and we had to make longer-than-I-was-used-to stops with toddlers. The car ride was not as idyllic as the plane ride had been – there were mini-meltdowns along the way. Add to this, the fact that we were under the gun, with respect to time, as I needed to pick up and try on my tuxedo (in Greensboro) before heading to the hotel (in Winston-Salem) and on to the wedding rehearsal. Ugh… But, we made it. I was late to the rehearsal, but I was there. I also finally got to meet my niece (Kris’ daughter), Kennadi, for the first time:

Kennadi

Kennadi

The rehearsal dinner was at a nice event center/art gallery. The girls did fairly well, putting up with being fawned over with their usual aplomb until they hit the wall and were just done width everyone. It’s worked out well for Sara! and me: We took the opportunity to stop at a nearby Bojangle’s for Cajun Filet Biscuits and seasoned fries. (Vanessa helped herself to about a quarter oh my sandwich.)

Saturday, we headed to Greensboro to meet Don, Christine and their boys for lunch at Five Guys. It was great to see them and to be able to catch up with what’s been going on in each others’ lives. After lunch and a quick shopping run, it was back to Winston-Salem to get ready for the wedding.

Dressed. Up. Out.

Until the wedding pictures are back, this is the only picture I have of me in my wedding tuxedo.

Until the wedding pictures are done, this is the only photo I have of me in my wedding tuxedo. (Along with my Godsister, Tammy)

The venue was only a couple of blocks from the hotel, so we walked over. Unfortunately, there was a bicycle race going on between both places. Thus, we had to wait for breaks in the action – and the go-ahead from local law enforcement – to walk across the streets. When we got to the event center, I headed off to find the wedding party, leaving Sara! to wrangle Team DiVa by herself.

Things did not go well.

Why? Well, between me posting pictures of the girls in various places and my mother doing the same, there were A LOT of people who wanted to meet the girls in person. Let’s look at a few simple facts:

  • Two toddlers,
  • One long plane ride,
  • One long car trip,
  • Off-kilter sleep schedule (especially naps), and
  • Dozens of people who want to pinch/poke/prod/kiss/cuddle/you-name-it the girls.

Yeah, you add those things up and they can only equal one thing: Meltdown.

And that’s exactly what happened. They hit their threshold for dealing with people – especially a bunch of people they didn’t know – and just hit the wall. And Sara! had to deal with it. (I really do have the Best Wife Ever.) Here’s a picture she managed to get between episodes:

DiVa_meltdown

Sara managed to intermittently calm the girls down with crackers and water. This was one of those moments.

The three of them missed the ceremony and the reception. I missed most of the wedding party photos because we took the girls back to the hotel after the the ceremony; Sara! sent me back to the reception. (To my credit, I did bring her food and cake when I got back to the hotel.)

Sunday, we left Winston-Salem and headed back to Greensboro. On the way, I stopped in to see William and Charlie. They and their family are doing well. From there, it was on to Harlem Bistro for a small brunch for Kris and Jeff before they jetted off on their honeymoon.

Kristen, Kennadi and Jeff

Kristen, Kennadi and Jeff

We headed to Reidsville to get a hotel room for the night and to let Team DiVa get a nap. It partially worked. We got the room and they got a nap, but they never made it to the room for their nap. I wound up driving them around town while the room was being prepared. Go figure. Since the girls were up, we headed to my mother’s house for a bit. They discovered Mom’s piano. Mom, in turn, asked when we were signing them up for lessons.

Monday, it was back over to Mom’s before hitting the road again. We picked up breakfast and spent a little time with the North Carolina parental units before piling back into the car for the journey to the Baltimore parental units’ house. Team DiVa not only rediscovered the piano…

Is anyone really surprised by this...? I think not.

Is anyone really surprised by this…? I think not.

…but they also played with Kennadi…

Team DiVa and Team Kennadi, just hanging out...

Team DiVa and Team Kennadi, just hanging out…

…at least as much as an 8-month-old can play with two year-and-a-half old toddlers. But, they made it work. All too soon, it was time to say goodbye.

On the way back to Baltimore, we stopped off to visit Sara!’s cousin, Katie, Royce and their kids. Turns out that they don’t live too far from Rana and John. (Good to know for the next time we’re on this side of the country.) The visit was nice not only because we got to see Katie and company, but also because Team DiVa had someone to play with for a bit.

We finally made it back to Baltimore and reunited Vanessa with her BFF. And all was well.

Tomorrow Today, I have some running around to do, but I also get to spend a little time with Bret, whom I haven’t seen in at least five years, and some of my classmates from Park, whom I haven’t seen in 25 years.

It should be a good day.

Namaste.


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Tick. Tick. Tick.
June 8th, 2013 @ 9:40 PM

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Saturday – 08 June 2013
Good afternoon, Mr. President. Sorry I’ve been away so long. I won’t let you down again.” -Superman1

Life’s been good. And busy. All things considered, that’s not a bad combination.

Yesterday, Diana turned 21 months; today, Vanessa did the same. Yesterday was also my mother’s birthday.

It's hard to believe that this was almost two years ago...

It’s hard to believe that this was almost two years ago…

Okay, we took a break. Let's go!

Pictures of the Adventure Toddlers from a few weeks back.

I’m looking forward to having only two (2) more days of work before I’m on vacation. (Cue: Sunblock, by emmet swimming) We’re heading eastward for my youngest sister’s wedding. I’m sure that by the time we get back, we’ll need a vacation to recover from our vacation, but somehow, I don’t see that happening. On the other hand, in talking with Sara!, we realized that it’s been roughly three (3) years since we headed to the Right Coast. It will be good to catch up with family and friends – including some old classmates – in person, rather than just over the phone or online.

Reeling By on Celluloid
Some of the movies we’ve watched over the past few weeks:

Another group of four movies that are quite different and for which I had different expectations.

  • Gangster Squad
    gangster_squadwide
    This was a cops versus the mob period piece, set in 1940s Los Angeles. The fashion and style were good; the movie was okay. Nothing stellar, but nothing that made us want to claw our eyes out, either.
    prop-police-badgeprop-police-badgeprop-police-badgeprop-police-badgeprop-police-badgeprop-police-badge
  • The Last Stand
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    Arnold is back, this time as a sheriff whose small town is in the path of an escaping high-profile fugitive, making a run for the border. This movie harkens back to chase movies of the 60s and 70s as well as “small town sheriff fights outside of his weight class” movies.

    It wasn’t a great movie, but it had some fun moments. If you’re looking for a fun, “turn off your brain and enjoy the ride” kind of movie, this might not be a bad way to go.
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  • Superman: Unbound
    supermanunbound
    This movie was based on Geoff Johns’ “Brainiac” story arc from Action Comics in 2008. Given that – and the fact that it was such a good story AND the fact that it had some good voice talent behind it AND the fact that I’m something of a Superman fan – I had rather high expectations for it.

    Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to it. I wasn’t overly thrilled with the animation. And the ending was very anti-climactic, to say the least.

    I don’t think that I’ve been this disappointed in a DCAU feature since Superman: Brainiac Attacks.
    superman_shieldsuperman_shieldsuperman_shieldsuperman_shieldsuperman_shield

  • Mama
    Mama-Movie-Wallpaper-2013
    This was Sara!’s last Movie Date Night pick. We hadn’t seen a good horror flick in a while and Guillermo Del Toro’s name attached to a project – even if he’s not directing it – usually means that you’re in for a good ride.

    I wish that was the case with this movie. It had moments of genuine creepiness, but they were more situational and psychological than anything else. The visual effects were… meh. And ,if I had to give a “Best Performer” award to anyone in the cast, it would probably go to young Miss  Isabelle Nélisse for her performance as Lilly… with only about five lines of dialogue in the whole film. Why? Because she was probably the most creepy kid in a film since Damian Thorne. Or the twins in The Shining.

    And the ending? I don’t even know what to say about the ending. (Not in a good way.)
    Emperor Moth (Male)_jpgEmperor Moth (Male)_jpgEmperor Moth (Male)_jpgEmperor Moth (Male)_jpgEmperor Moth (Male)_jpg

Stray Toasters

That’s good enough for now.

Namaste.

1: Superman II (1980)


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Team DiVa Tuesday – 04 June 2013
June 4th, 2013 @ 4:21 PM

Team DiVa Tuesday - 04 June 2013

Tuesday – 04 June 2013
Here we are… and here we go…

On the way to the zoo!

On the way to the zoo!

Vanessa, trying to decide if she's okay with the splash pad

Vanessa, trying to decide if she’s okay with the splash pad

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Diana, trying to decide if she's okay with the splash pad

Diana, trying to decide if she’s okay with the splash pad

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And a little playtime video…

Namaste.


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everyday glory · kids · toys