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Released in February of 2000, Scream 3 is the third installment in the Scream film series and the final installment in the Scream “trilogy,” wrapping up the story that began in Scream. As expected, it was directed by Wes Craven, but not written by Kevin Williamson; it was instead written by Ehren Kruger. This was due to Williamson being unavailable to write a full script for the new movie; what he did, instead, was write a 20 to 30 page outline that was used to aid Kruger in re-writing the script. This change in writers is where 3‘s biggest flaw comes into play: the script – it’s just not as good as the first two’s. However, this doesn’t mean Scream 3 is a terrible movie (as some may have you believe); while the violence and gore is toned down a bit, the scares are still there and the comedy is as abundant as ever. But it wouldn’t be a Scream movie without self aware humor, satire, and subverted cliches.

The film (apparently) takes place three years after the events of the second film. The setting has once again changed, this time to Hollywood, CA. where Stab 3 is being filmed (and believe me, Stab 3 is very important to the film’s plot). The plot involves Ghostface, once again terrorizing people and trying to kill Sidney Prescott (played by Neve Campbell), only this time he’s leaving clues that relate to Sidney’s deceased mother. To say anymore would be to spoil a surprisingly great plot with a twist that’ll have you in shock.

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The main cast that survived Scream 2 are here again: Neve Campbell (who I like more and more as the series goes on) as Sidney, David Arquette as Dewey, Courteney Cox as Gale Weathers, and Liev Schreiber as Cotton Weary (though, he only shows up in the opening scene).  New faces include: Patrick Dempsey as Detective Mark Kincaid, Scott Foley as Roman Bridger, Lance Henriksen as John Milton, Deon Richmond as Tyson Fox, Matt Keeslar as Tom Prinze, Jenny McCarthy (in an extremely minor role, similar to Sarah Michelle Gellar’s minor role in Scream 2) as Sarah Darling, Emily Mortimer (very cute) as Angelina Tyler, Parker Posey as the annoying but amusing Jennifer Jolie, and Patrick Warburton as Steven Stone, Jennifer’s security guard. Scream 3 also has more cameos this time around (probably due to the Hollywood setting), which include Jay & Silent Bob, Carrie Fisher, Kelly Rutherford (as Cotton’s girlfriend), and Heather Matarazzo (as Randy’s sister). There’s even a special guest appearance by Jamie Kennedy as Randy, who let’s us in on the rules that govern the final installment of a trilogy. And, as it should be, everyone in the film does a great (or good) job.

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The presentation is once again great: the sound, the cinematography, the anamorphic widescreen, it’s all good. The scares were really great too; I found myself caring more and more about these characters as the film’s progressed, so by this point I was really scared when a character I really liked was attacked (even though most of the cast in this movie is new to the series). As I mentioned before, the violence and gore in 3 is toned down a bit, but not too much, so there’s still plenty of great death scenes and chase sequences. Marco Beltrami’s score is at its best here, being more haunting and moody then ever before.

The one thing I really want to talk about is 3‘s script. As far as story is concerned, it’s actually really good, but as far as dialogue and characterization is concerned, it has issues. The story genuinely entertained me, keeping my interest throughout. Some of the dialogue, and its delivery, was either a little silly or awkward at times. In fact, this seems to be Scream 3‘s other biggest flaw: it’s too silly. From some of the acting to some of the events that occur, 3 has more then its share fair of silly moments. But of course, there are plenty of good things in 3, too; I really liked the psychological aspect of the story (which I won’t reveal) and the film’s self aware humor is still around, flaunting it self wherever it can.

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Things of note: Scream 3 never seems to mention the events of Scream 2, making it almost seem as though Scream 2 either A) Never happened or B) Happened a long time ago (which, given the film’s three year gap between 2, makes some amount of sense). This isn’t anything too unusual, however, since certain trilogies do do this, so I was okay with it. Sidney’s character doesn’t show up as much this time around, so we get to see more of the new cast and the love-hate chemistry between Dewey and Gale (which is never really boring). I really liked the new characters (especially Dempsey) and they all seemed to be varied enough to warrant different types of personalities; the one thing most of the new cast has in common, however, is that most of them either play actors or movie makers. The blend of reality and fantasy doesn’t seem to be too apparent this time around, but the film is just as self aware as ever, so I would still say the film plays around with reality and fantasy to some degree.

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While it isn’t as good as its predecessors, Scream 3 still manages to deliver wonderful scares, great performances, comedic self aware satire, and an excellent conclusion to the “trilogy.” If nothing else, Scream 3 is terrific entertainment that just aims to be fun and enjoyable. But probably the most rewarding thing about Scream 3 is that it reminded me of what the Scream franchise really is: a series of slasher movies, with a touch of satire.

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Directed by Wes Craven and written by Kevin Williamson, Scream 2 is (obviously) the sequel to the hit slasher film ScreamScream 2 was released only a year after Scream was released, but the film (apparently) takes place two years after the events of the first film. It stars most of the original main cast: Neve Campbell once again as Sidney, David Arquette as Dewey, Jamie Kennedy as the film geek Randy, and Courteney Cox as the ever snoopy for a story Gale Weathers. The comedy and scares are balanced extremely well the second time around and the film manages to be more entertaining and interesting than the first.

The film’s story is similar to the first: a killer is on the loose. However, the setting has changed to a college campus and town (which is something I really liked) and the movie, and it’s characters, are well aware that this is a “sequel.” The self aware humor is one of the things that made Scream so great and it’s in full bloom, once again, in Scream 2. Right from the opening scene (a preview screening for Stab, a movie based on the events of the first movie), the film is all too aware that it’s a sequel. Of course, this is mentioned by the characters, who reference the new killings as a sequel to the first killings. It’s all done way too well and I enjoyed every second of the self aware attitude this film proudly flaunted. But of course, as I saw in the first film, Scream 2 is serious and scary when it needs to be. Ghostface feels more threatening here, but he’s/she’s also shown to be even more clumsy and amateur then in the first film; this asserts the realism that was seen in the first film. The death scenes are excellent and even more frightening this time around; the editing is also better and the score is as good as always (although snippets of scores by Hans Zimmer and Danny Elfman are also used). Craven’s use of anamorphic widescreen is put to better use in 2, as we see him really take advantage of the space he has for some of the more important scenes. On another note, I only saw one tipped-to-an-angle shot this time.

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The returning cast is as great as always, but there are some new faces: Jada Pinkett (Smith) shows up in the opening scene, Timmy Olyphant plays Mickey (a friend of Randy’s who is dating Sidney’s roommate), Elise Neal plays Sidney’s roommate Hallie, Jerry O’Connell plays Sidney’s college boyfriend Derek, Duane Martin plays Joel  (Gale’s new cameraman), and Liev Schreiber returns to play Cotton Weary, the man who was originally accused of having killed Sidney’s mother in Scream. Schreiber’s appearance in this film surprised me; I remember him being in Scream for about 10 seconds, but his role in this film is much, much bigger – he even gets semi-top billing in the film’s cast credits (but so did Pinkett). Since I’m already a fan of his, I really enjoyed his performance in this film – but of course, his performance (as well as everyone else’s) was great regardless. The film also has a couple cameos: Heather Graham plays the Stab version of Casey from the first film, and Sarah Michelle Gellar plays Cici, a sober sorority girl.

Things of note: I really loved the fact that anyone in this sequel could be a victim; but of course, I’ll keep the details of that to a minimum. The blend of realism and fantasy is spot on once more, with some really good social commentary thrown in; this is a satire, after all. The chemistry between Dewey and Gale is ever so fun and sweet to watch, having only gotten a small taste of it in the first film. Kennedy plays Randy just as good as he did in Scream, and he even lets us in on the rules that govern a sequel. I didn’t fall in love with the climax this time around (like I did with Scream), but it was still great with a twist I didn’t see coming; I also thought the ending was better than the first film’s. It seems that everything that I thought was (merely) good in Scream was great in Scream 2, which also means that whatever I thought was good in 2 was done better in Scream. 

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Scream 2 manages to out do the original by simply being a better overall movie. The self awareness, comedy, and satire are all excellent, the subverted cliches are as great as always, and the performances are even more enjoyable than before; but 2 also manages to be scarier and more violent then its predecessor. It proves it self to be more then just a great slasher movie, but a great movie in general.

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Released in December of 1996, the Kevin Williamson penned and Wes Craven directed Scream is truly a unique piece of horror. It attempts and succeeds in satirizing and subverting slasher films and their cliches. However, in this process, it creates a film that is smarter than you might think and a whole lot funnier then you would have expected. The film might be known as a horror comedy but it does have plenty of genuine scares and surprises, all the while playing it straight and joking around.

The story goes like this: a killer is on the loose in a small town. That’s pretty much it. There is some exposition, but I’ll be the last to spoil it for you. The film’s cast of characters is surprisingly lovable (as opposed to likable): Neve Campbell plays Sidney, the main protagonist; Skeet Ulrich plays Sidney’s boyfriend Billy; Rose McGowan plays Sidney’s (extremely) attractive best friend Tatum, who is dating Stuart (played phenomenally by Matthew Lillard); Jamie Kennedy plays Randy, a movie geek who lets everyone know the rules of horror flicks; David Arquette plays Tatum’s older brother Dewey, a deputy in town; Drew Barrymore plays Casey, one of first victims who only shows up in one scene, although, it’s probably the most famous scene in the whole movie; rounding out the main cast is Courteney Cox as Gale Weathers, a nosy reporter who is also a local celebrity. The acting done by this cast is varied and enjoyable, with the highlight going straight to Lillard (for all the right reasons).

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The presentation is spot on, with Craven’s trademark anamoprhic widescreen in check. The editing is really great too, and the film has a handful of scenes that are tipped to an angle, making it proto-modern if you ask me. The scenes featuring violence are also handled very well, and the deaths themselves are great (for the most part).

Things of note: The film’s most famous quality is its villain, Ghostface. Ghostface acts more like an entity then an actual person with a knife and the film plays with this idea cleverly and expertly. Whenever Ghost appeared on screen, I was on the edge of my seat and scared like everyone in the movie. However, the film also manages to be something else: hilarious. There are so many funny scenes in Scream but there’s no way I’ll reveal what they are. Another thing Scream managed to do was have a scene that completely elevated it from being a good movie to a great movie, and that scene is the climax. The biggest twist is revealed during the climax and I cannot tell you how hard I was laughing during this scene; although, the scene it self wasn’t exactly funny, but it is arguable the scene is funny in a dark sense. The film’s score (by Marco Beltrami) is also worthy of mentioning, maintaining the haunting and self aware attitude the film goes by. There’s also some obligatory ’90s songs thrown in, but that’s okay.

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Two things I loved in this film were the sense of realism and fantasy throughout. This is probably one of the most realistic films I’ve ever seen, in terms of characterization. I completely believed all of the character’s emotions, behavior, and actions as genuine and real; that feat alone is something to admire. The idea of using an easily available costume to terrorize people is also one of the film’s strong points in establishing a realistic setting. Ironically, though, the film also lives in a world of fantasy – like the ones in the movies. Plot points and the subverted cliches help establish this film in a movie world that is self aware of all the cliches and plot points. The blend of realism and fantasy make this film all the more enjoyable to watch (and re-watch).

Scream was a breath of fresh air at the time of its release and still is today in the twenty-first century. It’s a funny and scary movie that satirizes the slasher genre by subverting the cliches and surprising you at every available opportunity, all the while making you wonder: Who’s really the killer? It succeeds in turning the slasher genre on its head and making a mockery of it, while giving the audience some great twists that make it more then just an average horror flick. But in the end, that’s exactly what Scream is: an easily mock-able slasher film.

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Superman and Superman II were originally to be filmed back-to-back, but ultimately, production on II was halted to complete Superman. Once it was completed and a success, the crew went back to finish II. However, Richard Donner, the director of the first film, was not asked to finish the film (that job went to Richard Lester); the reasons vary, but the main reason seems to be creative differences. At this time, Donner had already filmed what he says was 75% of the film, so what ended up happening was Lester re-filmed certain scenes and changed up some stuff, which led to the film being, technically, co-directed, with 65-75% of the film being shot by Lester and the reaming being done originally by Donner. To this day there is still controversy on the whole thing. Donner’s true vision was never shown to the public until him and some of the crew restored and made Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut in 2006. Regardless of the controversy and problems, Superman II was a big hit with fans and critics alike, with some saying it surpasses the original.

Indeed, Superman II manages to be better than its predecessor – as a movie, anyway. What I mean to say is this: Superman had a better story but Superman II was a better movie overall. Much of this has to do with the fact that Superman II is really a continuation and conclusion (of sorts) to the story that began in Superman. The film stars everyone who was important in the first film (except Marlon Brando) and the cast do an excellent job again. While some characters don’t get as much spotlight as they did in the first film (Lex Luthor, Perry White) the film makes up for it (and makes you forget about it) with three characters that first appeared in the original: General Zod (Terence Stamp), Ursa (Sarah Douglas), and Non (Jack O’Halloran). These three are the main villains of the movie and are the best part of Superman II. But what would Superman II be without the Man of Steel himself? Christopher Reeve returns, being just as great as he was in the first one and Margot Kidder also returns as Lois Lane, who is much more likable this time around.

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The story continues from Superman, bringing along with it slight allusions to the story of Christ (Resurrection) and great themes concerning the idea of self-fishness and accepting one’s destiny. Like I said, the story isn’t as good or as epic as the first film, but it’s continuing a story so it’s understandable and forgivable, especially when the action makes up for it. That’s something Superman II has that Superman didn’t seem to have too much of: action.

The bad guys are great and true individuals: Zod is an arrogant egomaniac who keeps telling people to kneel before him and plans to rule the planet Earth (because he can, right?); Ursa is Zod’s second in command and she is a sexy and cold foe with moves of her own and an attitude that shows she cares not for human life (her outfit is also the only one of the three that has opened slits on it’s arms and legs, revealing her skin, which didn’t seem like a surprising choice of style in her costume’s design); Non is a brute that is -what else?- mute, but still a force to be reckoned with. The three Kryptonian villains wreak havoc whenever they’re around and it’s their interactions with Earth and it’s people that is, in my opinion, the best part of the movie. Every scene involving them is excellent and arguably their scenes alone can make the film worth watching. As for Superman? He’s just as super as ever: saving the day and being the good guy he was born to be. Clark Kent is also just as fantastic, maybe even better than how we was last time, but that’s debatable (not to mention a pointless thing to debate). Lois Lane seems to be the most improved here, not being as annoying and being more entertaining. Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman, receiving top billing once again) is just as arrogant and hilarious, but like I mentioned before, he isn’t in the movie as much (some of his scenes were cut). Even so, he still has scenes that are true highlights (one scene involving him and Ursa is a particular favorite of mine).

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Sadly, I don’t have as much to say about this film as I did for the first (probably because it’s not as epic and doesn’t have as much depth), but I do have some other things to say: The film is a bit shorter than SupermanII also features a main title sequence nearly identical to the first film (with some scenes from the first movie thrown in). The score isn’t composed by John Williams this time, but it still features some of his original compositions. Unlike SupermanII doesn’t seem to take place in a specific year, but we can only assume it’s ’79 or ’80. The film has plenty of humor but didn’t make me laugh as much as the first film did – maybe because I saw it in the morning in a college library as opposed to how I saw the first film: in my house at night with a glass of soda. There’s also a scene that I thought was awesome for no reason involving Superman and a cellophane S (you might even know what I’m talking about). Also, Marlboro has its brand shown more than once throughout the film, but is only obnoxious about it in one popular sequence; this is because Marlboro was II‘s biggest sponsor. The one scene I found a tad unnecessary involves Zod and Ursa using their blow-wind-from-my-mouth power to blow people and cars away. There’s nothing wrong with the scene itself, I just think it went on longer than it had to. Also, it should be mentioned that the special effects in this film are spectacular.

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Superman II is a film that doesn’t so much improve on its predecessor as much as it takes a slightly different approach and makes a better film overall. While the story isn’t as grand, the film has more action, more enjoyable characters, a great ending, and terrific dialogue, featuring some of the best quotes I’ve heard in any movie (“Lex Luthor, ruler of Australia”). The action is great and the romance between Lane and Kent builds up to gather interest (or at least some interest). And even with a less than amazing story, the film still manages to address grand themes of sacrifice and destiny that, if elaborated on in this review, would surly spoil the film. Overall, Superman II is an excellent picture that rivals the original and has still to this day garnered respect and praise by fans and critics alike.

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There is absolutely no proper way to describe Nobuhiko Obayashi’s House (which retained its English title in its native country of Japan as a way of keeping things “taboo”). An actual review of this film would only consist of a brief plot summary and explanations of the various events that occur during the course of the film’s running time. The film was released by Toho, a popular and well known film company in Japan. Toho decided to take a chance with this film, which was partially written by Obayashi and inspired by the imagination of his daughter. It was hated by Japanese critics but a hit with young audiences, so it was quite successful. The film never saw a North American release date until only recently, when Janus Films bought the distribution rights and released it theatrically in 2009; the result was a hit with the midnight-movie crowd and more positive reception from critics, helping this one-of-a-kind film achieve cult status.

The film’s plot concerns a girl and her 6 classmates, each of them going by a nickname: Gorgeous, Sweet, Prof, Fantasy, Mac, Melody, and (my personal favorite) Kung Fu. Gorgeous invites them all to her aunt’s house after their initial summer vacation plans don’t work out. Once there, weird things start to happen.

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Majority of this movie takes place in the titular house (or mansion, whatever you wanna call it), but even from the beginning, this movie acts strange. From odd camera styles, to questionable transitions (wipes, fades, those sorts of things), this film lets on early that it’s weird. Most of the things that happen have no meaning or anything like that; it’s just random. Weird things happen for absolutely no reason — there are so many bizarre events and occurrences that trying to describe them all or explain them all is pointless, but describing the events can also spoil it for anyone wanting to see this movie. Some highlights that I don’t mind mentioning include the cat Blanche (watch out for that cat!), a scene involving pieces of wood, a scene involving large lips, and a scene involving what can only be described as a dance sequence (you’ll know it when you see it).

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While the plot may seem nonsensical, it apparently has underlying themes on WWII and what not. This mainly has to do with the aunt, but I won’t go into it. I’d rather talk about the main characters, because they’re pretty interesting and unique. Each of their nicknames reflects them in some way: Gorgeous is seen to be the most beautiful and glamorous of the group; Sweet is, well, the sweetest and probably the cutest of the group, as well as the most innocent; Prof is the brains of the group, wearing glasses and reading at various points during the film; Fantasy is the one who starts to see the odd events before anyone else realizes they exist, so naturally, they say it’s her imagination; Mac is always hungry and eating something; Kung Fu is a martial artist and takes the initiative to do things, as well as use her martial arts skills to defend the girls (but she also uses her skills to do other non-lethal stuff). Another character worthy of mentioning is Mr. Togo, who was originally going to take the 6 girls (not including Gorgeous) to some training camp thing, but it didn’t work out, so he also got invited to go to Gorgeous’s aunt’s house. This character doesn’t show up very often, but he’s extremely humorous and gives, what in my opinion is, the funniest line in the whole movie (“Bananas!”); the line itself may not be too funny, but the way he says it and the context in which he says it makes it hysterical.

Overall, House is the craziest movie I’ve ever seen (Eraserhead, eat your heart out!). It’s a film that features intentionally cheesy effects, random background music, unique characters, and a house full of stuff that kills people. I don’t know if I’d recommend it to just anyone, but given its odd ball approach and anything goes way of being, I’d say anyone can see it if they want to. There’s a few scenes of nudity and gore, but for the most part it’s just a silly and (believe it or not) joyous film that only aims to entertain. If you’re a fan of midnight movies or Japanese cinema, I definitely recommend it. If you’re a fan of movies that make no sense and mess with your head, I highly recommend it. In the end, there is no proper way to review House or explain it; you’ll just have to see it for yourself. And if you do decide to see it, be aware that what you’re going to see isn’t from this planet.

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Noted as the first superhero film, the one that started the trend, and still noted as one of the best of all time, Richard Donner’s Superman (also known as Superman: The Movie, which is more of a marketing title, since it’s just called Superman in the credits) is a tale of epic proportions. With a beautifully orchestrated score by John Williams, excellent performances from the cast, amazing special effects (for it’s time and even today), and a timeless story who’s influence is dabbled in religion and mythology, this film stands head and shoulders above the majority of comic books films.

Divided into three parts, Superman begins on the planet Krypton, with Jor-El (played wonderfully by Marlon Brando) banishing General Zod (Terence Stamp) and his gang (only two other people) into the Phantom Zone. He later tells the council he’s a part of that the planet will be destroyed soon and they will all die if they do not evacuate. Of course, no one listens to him, but Jor-El takes the necessary precautions and sends his infant son Kal-El to the planet Earth, were he will have extraordinary powers, due to Kryptonians being light-years ahead of human beings (or something like that). He sends him in what resembles a star (noted as a Biblical reference), but not before also placing a green crystal in his ship (the ship is made up of white/clear crystals).

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The second part has us seeing Clark Kent (played by Jeff East but dubbed by Reeve) as an 18 year old living in Smallville. He wishes he could show everyone his amazing abilities, but of course, he can’t, so he’s no where near as popular in school as he could be (but Lana Lang takes a liking to him). His Earth father Jonathan (Glenn Ford) and Earth mother Martha (Phyllis Thaxter) are a great influence to him and stay in his heart and mind for the rest of his journey. The green crystal eventually shows it self to Clark in the family barn and he goes off to the North (where there’s nothing but ice and glaciers). Once there, he throws the crystal into the distance, and it lands in the ice, changing the land area and forming the Fortress of Solitude. It is here where Clark sees his father in the crystals, and where the answers to his questions are found. After 12 years of learning and training (which we mainly hear and sort of see in a montageesque sequence, featuring excellent dialogue from Brando which still packs a punch and has grand influence today) he sets off to help the world in any way he can in a blue and red outfit.

The third (and longest) part thus begins with the mild-mannered and bumbling Clark Kent getting a job at the Daily Planet. It’s here we meet the characters Jimmy Olson (Marc McClure), hot-tempered boss Perry White (a hilarious Jackie Cooper), and professional, yet prone to misspells, writer Lois Lane (Margot Kidder). While I’ve already talked about the film’s plot (in embarrassing detail), I’ll say very little regarding the rest of it. As is expected, a bad guy by the name of Lex Luthor (a hysterical and evil Gene Hackman) comes up with a plan to make the West coast his own by drowning half of California. The people he mainly interacts with are his bumbling henchman Otis (Ned Beatty) and girlfriend Eve Teschmacher (Valerie Perrine). Their interactions with one another are some of my favorite parts in the whole movie; seeing the apathetic Eve deal with Lex’s actions and seeing what happens when Otis messes up an order by Lex are always a delight to watch.

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The main star of the film (no matter what the main credits and end credits might tell you) is, of course, Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent/Superman. Let it be known, till the end of time, that Reeve is Superman. He’s also excellent as Clark Kent, pulling off both personas as if he were born to play the roles. While many actors before and after him have played the part of Clark Kent/Superman, it’s no surprise that, even to this day, Reeve is the one most remembered and revered in the role. I have absolutely no problem with seeing different actors interpret the role of an iconic hero in their own way (truth be told, I love it), but I think Reeve will forever be engraved as the Man of Steel. (One reason for this probably has to do with the fact that he played him for all 4 movies, not counting Superman Returns.)

The rest of the cast (as aforementioned) is great. Just like how Reeve is Superman, Brando is Jor-El (but again, I’m all up for different interpretations by other actors). Brando’s Jor-El is so well done and respectable, it’s no wonder his quotes and monologues are referenced and mentioned to this day. Margot Kidder does a great job as Lois Lane, a woman who’s mainly concerned with work but falls head over heels for Superman. Jackie Cooper as the head boss provides some of the funniest moments in the film. But the main scene stealer is Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor, who seems to be having a lot of fun playing an arrogantly intelligent and evil character; you could even say his acting is campy or over-the-top. Either way, it’s a great performance and maybe even the best one in the whole movie — but that’s all up to debate.

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When it comes to themes, Superman has a lot of them, maybe even too much, so I’m just going to brush over the main ones. The story of Superman parallels with the story of Jesus Christ (as well as Hercules if you want to go that far): a man sends his only son to Earth so that he may find his destiny and do good and help the people of Earth. Jor-El even says some lines that talk about him always being in his son and his son always being in him, further alluding to the Biblical story. Other Biblical allusions include the banishing of Zod and his gang into the Phantom Zone (seen as God banishing Satan out of Heaven) and Kel-El having adoptive parents on Earth who couldn’t have a child of their own (alluding to Mary and Joseph). Another thing I’d like to note is that the crest on Superman’s outfit (which resembles an S) turns out being the House of El crest (making it the El family crest). This is never directly stated, but apparent in the council scene near the beginning of the movie where Jor-El and his fellow Kryptonians are discussing his doomsday theory; all of the Kryptonians in this scene have different crests on their outfits.

John William’s score (conducted by the London Symphony Orchestra) is amazing, nearly tying for Best Superhero Score Ever with Tim Burton’s Batman. Right from the opening main titles (which is easily one of the best main title sequences in motion picture history) the score makes its presence and importance known as credits flash across the screen. The music in Superman is extremely important, since it emphasizes moments that are epic (main titles), romantic (Superman flying with Lois Lane), imminent (Superman facing kryptonite), or inspiring (the last scene of the film).

ImageOther things to note: The film happens to take place in a specified year (1978, the year of the film’s release), but the movie never out right tells you what it is; you’ll have to piece it together (which, I promise you, is not hard to do). Due to it taking place in the late ’70s, certain trends of the time show up in some of the scenes containing extras walking the street or hanging around (plain looking clothes and collars popped outside of coats, for example), but somehow, it makes the film look modern as well as retro all at the same time. Those types of things can sometimes bother me, since it can make a film look dated, but in the case of Superman, I didn’t care — especially since it takes place in a specified year (like in the Back to the Future films), which helps the film not look as dated as it could have looked. The special effects in this film were completely innovative at the time and looked amazing back then, but even today, they still look incredible and still hold up. They have a magic charm that I don’t think could be replicated today, due to the excess use of CG these days. I sometimes thought Kidder’s Lois Lane came off as annoying, but for the most part she came off as a city girl with a strong attitude and state of mind. There’s a scene I found particularly amusing and a nod to the old-fashioned style of Superman: When Clark Kent first becomes Superman publicly, he’s outside as Clark and needs a place to change; he looks at a phone booth (his most famous and iconic changing place) only to realize it’s a lot more modern with no booth surrounding the phone. Something I’d really like to mention is how the film starts up: After the main Warner Bros. logo, curtains show up and pull a part a little bit to uncover a 4:3 screen showing us a brief black and white interlude (starting with the words June 1938) talking about the Great Depression and how it affected the Daily Planet. I honestly have no idea what purpose this interlude has, but within the screen between the curtains the film unexpectedly segues into the main titles, and that I must say is really cool. Still, the interlude caught me off guard (was that the intention?) and no matter what explanation I might find that explains it’s purpose, I’ll still find it oddly unnecessary — but the terrific segue makes up for it.

As a piece of pop culture or as a comic book adaption, Superman is an excellent film that transcends its initial superhero genre by telling a timeless tale with class and genuine drama, making it unlike any other superhero movie I’ve ever seen (although this might have something to do with it being the first real superhero movie ever produced). It has its share of action, romance, danger, and most surprising of all, comedy. The film never takes it self too seriously, but at no point does it become a campy parody. The symbolism, the themes, and the overall lesson and tale Superman weaves, along with its brilliant casting, effects, and music, make this classic film a masterpiece in its own right. Trust me when I tell you that, when you watch this movie, you’ll believe a man can fly.

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Before the late ’80s, the image most associated with Batman was the one portrayed in the Batman television series from the late 1960s. This was a campy and spoof like version of Batman that actually didn’t stay true to what Batman really was or represented. Never the less, the television show was popular (even among Bat fans) and helped the Caped Crusader gain a wider audience. During the ’80s, graphic novels such as Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moor’s The Killing Joke helped bring back the dark image and themes that were associated with Batman. By the late ’80s, Warner Bros. released a film that brought Batman back to his dark roots, with the help of macabre director Tim Burton.

The result was Batman, a dark and atmospheric film that, for the first time on screen, showed us who the Dark Knight really was. The film was a huge commercial success and garnered, for the most part, positive reviews from critics and fans who applauded the return to a darker Batman while also criticizing a few things here and there. The film stars Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne/Batman, but it’s Jack Nicholson who gets top billing (literally) as Jack Napier/The Joker. Other characters and actors include Kim Basinger as Vicki Vale, Robert Wuhl as Alexander Knox (the most ’80s character in the whole movie), Pat Hingle as Commissiner Gordon, Billy Dee Williams as Harvey Dent, and of course, Michael Gough as Alfred. The whole cast does a great job, with the ultimate highlight and praise going towards Nicholson and Keaton, respectfully.

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The story is fairly simple: Joker vs. Batman. That’s really all that needs to be said. I mean, there’s more to it then that, but not only is the story not a strong focus (a negative or positive depending on how you see it) but possible plot points can be revealed if too much of the story is discussed.

One of the most interesting things about Batman is that, right at the start, Bruce Wayne is already Batman. I’ve never seen another superhero movie (that isn’t a sequel) have the main character already be the superhero right when it starts (Daredevil and the X-Men films don’t count). What this does is establish that in Gotham City, some “bat” or guy in a bat outfit is going around and getting bad guys. Not a bad way to start the movie at all, and it feels a lot more comic book-ish, since most first issue comic books of a superhero already have the protagonist going around being the superhero while establishing an origin story later on. Whether the movie firmly establishes how Bruce becomes Batman might be up to you to decide, but again, I won’t go into that. On the other hand, we are shown how Jack Napier becomes the Joker. Nicholson is terrific as the wild and crazy villain who is absolutely unpredictable with a dark sense of humor. I used to think this movie just had Nicholson playing himself, but when I saw the film (and saw it again) I saw that it really was Nicholson playing an insane character while still staying within the confines of reality (to some degree). Some of the my favorite scenes involving him are when he doesn’t look like the Joker (but still has his “smile”), like the board meeting with him and some gangsters. One my favorite scenes in the whole movie is when Napier is at a surgeon’s place and he sees his reflection in a mirror, breaks the mirror, gets up, and walks out of the place (up stairs), all the while laughing manically. The place where the surgery is done, and the surgeon’s character, mixed with the subtle music, the minimal lighting, and Napier’s reaction, make it a one of a kind scene in my book.

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Arguably, one could say there’s more emphasis on the Joker then on Batman, and to that I say it’s the writer’s faults. By already establishing Batman as Batman, and showing us who the Joker is before he becomes the Joker, it seems the script is set up to show us more of a character we know very little of as opposed to a character we should already be familiar with. But is any of this a bad thing? No, not really, especially since Nicholson is always a delight when he’s on screen.

Now, about Bruce Wayne/Batman: Keaton does an excellent job as Batman; he’s simply awesome in the role as well as convincing. I at first didn’t like his Bruce Wayne but came to like it more with repeated viewings. When he’s Wayne, he’s completely unassuming to the point where I could never believe this guy is Batman. And then he puts on the suit and kicks ass. It’s nothing short of phenomenal that he pulls off the role of Batman while still being utterly convincing as some playboy millionaire called Bruce Wayne. Michael Gough as Alfred is pretty good; there isn’t too much to say, but he plays his part and plays it well. One interesting thing to note is that not too much is said as to what happened to Wayne earlier in his life, but as usual, I’m not go into that. One of my other favorite scenes is when Wayne confronts the Joker in Vale’s apartment and he utters one my favorite lines in the whole movie. (And in case you’re curious as to what line that is, it’s during the part where he “gets nuts.”)

The cinematography and art direction is beautiful, in a dark kind of way of course. Many of the costumes and buildings look inspired by film noir and art deco architecture, helping to make the film look modern and old fashioned all at once. The only thing that sticks out in this regard are some of the vehicles; they look too modern (or at least, too ’80s modern) in this type of environment. Exceptions would include the Batmobile (which is awesome) and anything driven by the Joker and his henchmen.

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The film has two soundtracks: a score by Danny Elfman and original songs by Prince. Some of the Prince songs show up in the movie (notably during the museum scene and the parade), but Elfman’s score dominates this picture. This film has what is probably my favorite (if not the greatest) score for a superhero film ever (Superman would be the close contender); the main titles theme still gives me chills. The main titles itself is one of the greatest main title sequences I’ve ever seen in any film; it establishes the mood and atmosphere while moving around a landscape that eventually shows it self to be the Batman symbol.

Overall, when all is said and analyzed, Batman is a great piece of superhero action and a great example of a superhero movie. It started off the Batman movie series and helped establish the dark mood of Batman that we see today, as well as help make the Batman animated series possible. Tim Burton knew what he was doing with Batman, and Keaton and Nicholson are at the top of their game as the heroes and villains of this Gotham City tale. However you like your Batman, and whatever your stance on superhero movies in general is, this is one you shouldn’t miss; it still holds up today as a fine adaption of a well known and beloved icon.

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