October 23, 2018

Posted June 17, 2013 by Ed Goldberg

I am finally beginning to post written reviews on the All Classical website.  Many people have taken me to task for my failure to blog about movies, but all things come to those who wait.
I will start with the latest attempted blockbuster, being the latest “re-boot” of a venerable character.

Man of Steel
Director: Zack Snyder
With: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, et al.

First, the good things about this film.  It is beautiful to look at.  The design of the doomed planet Krypton, the space vehicles, the costumes, and the expansive landscapes are all gorgeous.
Then, there is the Lois Lane character (Adams).  Far from the girly and helpless incarnations of the past, we meet her as a tough, competent and fearless journalist who takes no crap from her editor (Fishburne).  In fact, all the parts are played by good actors from film and TV.
That is all.  Talk to a fan of superhero/comic book stories, and say, “Your favorite character is getting a movie, and Zack Snyder is directing it.”  The classic good news/bad news situation.
Snyder is responsible for the film Watchmen, a much-loved graphic novel.  To say he screwed it up is an understatement.  He was given Superman, the most iconic, and, arguably, best-loved superhero of all time, and the potential for disaster was in the air.
Well, he didn’t ruin Superman, but only because the character is invulnerable.  Many recall the 1978 Christopher Reeve film with affection, even if the sequels weren’t quite up to it.  What those movies had that this lacks is warmth, and self-aware humor.  The script is somber to the point of parody, and the “jokes” seem to have been added as an afterthought.
It takes us back to the origin (once again), and the destruction of Krypton.  The story reprises Jor-el (Crowe) putting his son Kal-el in an escape pod aimed at earth, later to be pursued by a bunch of baddies led by General Zod (Shannon).
One nice touch is that when the super-boy’s powers begin to manifest themselves, the kid becomes terrified and disoriented.  His human foster father (Costner) has to guide him through the terrors by teaching him to focus.
And the Lois Lane character is a revelation.  I’d watch a movie about her any time.
Then, of course, comes the climax.  A special-effects extravaganza of super-beatings, massive explosions, and computer-generated horrors.  [Yawn.] Haven’t we seen this before?  You betcha.
Clark/Superman (Cavill) is physically right for the part: tall, buff, chiseled, boyishly handsome.  But, Snyder’s reputation is well deserved.  He has missed the point of his own movie.

Fill the Void
Director: Rama Burshtein
With: Hadas Yaron, Yiftach Klein, Irith Sheleg, Renana Raz

The 21st Jewish Film Festival at the Northwest Film Center begins Sunday, June 16, at 7PM with Fil the Void, an Israeli film about an ultra-orthodox family in Tel Aviv.  Shira (Yaron) is 18 years old, and her family is arranging her marriage to a desirable young man.  Then, her older sister, Esther (Raz), dies in childbirth.  The family is grief-stricken, but worse is the fact that her widowed husband, Yochay (Klein), may be marrying a woman in Belgium, and taking away Esther’s son.  (Oy, gevalt, a shonda!)
Shira’s mother (Sheleg) can not have this.  So, she tries to talk Shira into marrying Yochay to keep him there.  Shira, anguished, is torn between her desire to be her own person and her guilt-tripped duty to marry her sister’s husband.
I have some experience with orthodox Judaism, though not the Haredi version practiced by this family.  To a non-Jew, this must seem like an anthropology-class movie.  The customs are strange, even for American Jews of the less-than-ultra-orthodox persuasion.
The situation is nothing less than Shakespearean.  The human-ness of the reactions to this plight transcend cultures, although it is not unknown for young women to be expected to replace their dead sisters in many parts of the world.
Yaron’s shining face projects her turmoil, Sheleg’s distress is contagious, and Klein’s injured bewilderment makes him a sympathetic, if distant, character.  This is some fine acting.
And, there is wonderful Jewish humor.  When they consult a rabbi for guidance, he has to take time out to help an elderly woman pick a new oven.
This film is worth seeing.
I will try to see, and blog about, more films in the festival.