Following are Susan Granger's reviews of the latest movies in area theaters:
"MAN OF STEEL"
The challenge for director Zack Snyder ("300," "Watchmen") was to re-envision the classic Superman legend and make it relevant in the contemporary light of the 21st century: combining fantasy with reality, making familiar things new and new things familiar.
The original story begins on Krypton, a disintegrating planet. In hopes of saving his species, renegade scientist Jor-El (Russell Crowe) places his newborn son Kal-El in a space capsule and launches him toward Earth, infuriating General Zod (Michael Shannon), who has staged a military coup.
Kal-El is adopted and given the name Clark by Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha (Diane Lane) Kent, who insist that he control his incredible powers, knowing that chaos would erupt if people realized that an alien was living on a farm in Smallville, Iowa. As he grows up, Clark's (Henry Cavill) subterfuge isolates him from his peers, turning him into a drifter, hiding from the world.
Eventually, an intrepid, yet often imperiled, newspaper reporter, Lois Lane (Amy Adams), learns the truth. When she tries to "scoop" the story, her editor (Laurence Fishburne) refuses to publish it. So she leaks it on the Internet before realizing the consequences. Just then, megalomaniacal General Zod, who's been searching for Kal-El, and his troops launch an invasion of Earth. So Kal-El/Clark Kent must make some fundamental choices.
Flashbacks punctuate the tightly focused, adroitly written screenplay by David S. Goyer from a story by Goyer and producer Christopher Nolan ("Dark Knight" trilogy), and it's stylishly directed by Snyder. Casting is perfection, particularly Cavill (TV's "The Tudors"). My only quibbles are with the overly frenetic pace, sudden jump cuts and shaky camerawork. Redefining the essential mythology and filled with awesome, eye-popping action, this is an innovative, amazing incarnation, worthy of the world's most iconic superhero, whose "S" is a symbol of hope. And seeds are discreetly planted for future Justice League/DC Universe pictures.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Man of Steel" soars with a fun-filled 9 -- the most exhilarating comic book movie of the summer.
Admittedly, the satirical premise of this sci/fi horror story is provocative. In 2022, when the unemployment rate is at 1 percent and the poverty rate below 5 percent, the U.S. government under the New Founding Fathers of America has legalized all crime, including homicide, for one 12-hour period a year to serve as a national catharsis for society's knife-wielding, gun-toting maniacs, allowing them to commit acts of violence with no fear of retribution. So, according to the 28th Amendment, from 7 p.m. March 21 to 7 a.m. March 22, anything goes. It's "Release the Beast" time in a "nation reborn." No police calls will be answered; no emergency services provided.
James Sanlin (Ethan Hawie) is his company's most stellar salesman of home security systems, and he's installed top-of-the-line surveillance equipment at his own luxurious McMansion within a gated community where the privileged live. While he and his wife Mary (Lena Headley) are prepared for the coming lockdown, hunkering in behind steel shutters, watching the mayhem on television, his family is thrown into chaos, particularly his teenagers, Charlie (Max Burkholder) and Zoey (AdelaideKane), when James accidentally kills Zoey's older boyfriend, mistaking him for an intruder.
Then there's the very real threat posed by a homeless black man (Edwin Hodge), an injured drifter seeking sanctuary, whom Charlie has allowed into the house. When an angry mob comes looking for the man, they demand his release, threatening to "purge" the entire family.
"Things like this aren't supposed to happen in our neighborhood," James wails.
Whether consciously or unconsciously, writer/director James DeMonaco ("Assault on Precinct 13," "The Negotiator") uses the same scary, dystopian, class-warfare concept as
"The Hunger Games" but, unfortunately, the sacrificial potential for psychological suspense and tension, revolving around aggression, simply disintegrates into the idiotic gory carnage of a home-invasion thriller. And the macabre masks that the marauding mobs of Freaks wear seem like an obvious homage to "A Clockwork Orange."
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Purge" is an improbable, yet blood-splattered 4. Interesting idea: execrable execution.
The line between a legitimate feature film and a product placement-filled infomercial grows thinner than ever with this underdog comedy set on the Google campus, a techie Mecca often reverently referred to as Eden.
When affable traveling salesmen Billy (Vince Vaughn) and Nick (Owen Wilson) discover that their watch company has folded, they're in their mid-40s and out of luck in the modern workplace. While Billy takes a temporary job selling mattresses for his sister's randy boyfriend (uncredited Will Ferrell) in Los Angeles, Nick decides to Google Google and look for a job at the giant of the high-tech world.
While a brief Skype interview reveals how little these "dinosaurs" know about the digital world of search engines and social networking, it somehow works in their favor because of Google's determination to achieve age diversity among its employees.
Soon they're on their way to a summer-long internship at Google's corporate headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., where they not only discover the free coffee, fruit and bagels but also the coveted nap-pods. But they're not alone. There are many other aspiring programmers, called Nooglers, many of them prodigies, who yearn to spread the Silicon Valley corporate gospel, including a cynic (Dylan O'Brien), home-schooled shy guy (Tobit Raphael) and Comic-Con geek (Tiya Sircar). Predictably, Nick flirts with a mid-level exec (Rose Byrne), and Billy trades barbs with a British bully (Max Minghella) -- and neither of them comprehends the "X-Man" Prof. Charles Xavier reference. Then there's the bonding strategy of an awesome Quidditch match, motivated by a "Flashdance" metaphor.
Written by Vince Vaughn and Jared Stern, based on a fish-out-of-water story by Vaughn that was inspired by a "60 Minutes" segment on how Google was one of the best places to work, it's directed by Shawn Levy ("Night at the Museum"). Although it's being touted as a sequel to "Wedding Crashers," it isn't -- except for a brief party scene in a San Francisco strip club.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Internship" is a tame, dreary 5. Bing anyone?