Monday, July 31, 2006

Miami Vice

by Brian
Let's start off by saying what Miami Vice is not. It's not another Heat, or even another Collateral. But it's also not Bad Boys 3. It's well made and beautifully shot, and while the action scenes don't match Mann's previous work, they're still more exciting than the rote overkill by the Michael Bays of the world. And while the plot does stretch credibility, the film never feels stupid and never insults the viewer.

The biggest problem is that, well, there doesn't seem to be much of a point. It lacks the urgency and depth of previous Mann films. Heat was a masterpiece of mood and character, but there's little effort at a consistent mood or character development here. Crockett and Tubbs are complete blank slates; no background or motivation is ever given, and besides a couple of by-the-numbers sex scenes, they have no personal moments at all. There's an interesting movie to be made about the psychological tolls of undercover work, but Mann surprisingly doesn't pay much mind to this angle at all except for a couple of tossed-off lines of dialogue. Despite the inviting warmth of the wonderful digital cinematography (better here than in Collateral), this is a cold, cold movie.

This would be OK if the plot wasn't so perfunctory, but as labyrinthine as it is, it's not particularly interesting. Mann might have taken the opportunity to delve a bit deeper into the drug trade, but we don't see much except for some crates being loaded onto boats. The film doesn't really drag, exactly, but afterwards I was wondering just how the 146 minutes or so were filled. Scene after scene comes and goes without making much of an impact.

As for my long-running crusade against Colin Farrell, this is the first movie I've seen him in since Minority Report that I didn't find him actively annoying. On the other hand, that's probably because Mann gives him absolutely nothing to do. He walks through the movie without bothering to so much as react to the things going on around him - even faced with a third-act twist he just seems to shrug it off and keep shooting. Since Foxx, an unquestionably talented actor, does the same thing, I have to assume this to be a directorial choice. So, all things considered, in the Mann v. Farrell life-force contest, I'll call it a draw.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Everyone's a Critic

by Jackrabbit Slim
There is a lot of Internet chatter about the replacements for Roger Ebert while he is ailing. So far Jay Leno and Kevin Smith have been announced, which lets us know that the producers of this show don't see it as being anything remotely near serious film criticism, but simply a sideshow. But this all got me to thinking--is there any film critic I take seriously any more? Ebert and Roeper are not even carried in the New York area anymore--or if they are, I don't know when. I read Ebert pretty consistently, but found he has softened in his old age. I still love to listen to the man talk about issues film-wise or not, but I wonder if he still has the edge that made him much more interesting twenty years ago.




I don't read too many other critics. I subscribe to Entertainment Weekly, but just look at the final grades that Glieberman and Schwartzbaum assign the films. Sometimes I read Manohla Dargis, and think she's a good writer, but she's too steeped in avant-garde film for me to value her opinions on summer cheese. Anthony Lane of The New Yorker is the most fun to read, particularly when he is eviscerating a film, but I'm not sure I trust his judgement. Mostly what I do is take a look at the summaries on Metracritic.com.

Does criticism still matter? Are there any critics you guys and gals read that will put your ass in a theater you might not have gone to? What's more important--agreeing with a critic, or just enjoying the writing, even if you don't agree?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Opening in Dallas, 07/28

by Brian
Miami Vice (trailer): Even if this wasn’t a Michael Mann movie, it would probably be at the top of this list, because it’s really a crap week. That said, it is a Mann picture, so high expectations naturally follow. On the other hand, it’s also a Colin Farrell movie, so low expectations naturally follow. I’m looking to this movie to see who has the greater life force; Farrell’s already defeated Oliver Stone and Terrence Malick, so the stakes are high.

Once in a Lifetime (trailer): Documentary about the New York Cosmos soccer team with a super-annoying trailer. I’ve read good things but I’m skeptical; rise-and-fall stories are rarely very interesting when you think about it. And stories about pop-culture fads are even more rarely interesting.

Scoop (trailer): …and just like that, after Match Point, Woody Allen is back to doing the broadly farcical stuff that I almost never like, even when it’s made by somebody else.

The Ant Bully (trailer): I saw Monster House last weekend, and it was really good. It was funny and intense, but what really set it apart is that it didn’t look down on its audience like so many kids movies do. Judging by the trailer and the pointlessly star-driven cast, I doubt The Ant Bully sets itself apart in such a manner.

John Tucker Must Die (trailer): I expect this to open relatively big this weekend, because Fox has really put on the hard sell to the teenage demographic. And I’m sure all those teens will have a proper good time.

The Celestine Prophecy (trailer): As far as I can tell, this movie’s being targeted at only a very narrow group of people: those who have read and enjoyed the book, of which I’ve never heard.

I Don't Heart Huckabees

by Jackrabbit Slim

I Netflixed I Heart Huckabees the other night, and it's been a long time since I had such a negative response to a movie. I mean, I've seen worse films, but this one got under my skin and festered. The reason I rented it is that I've been watching a lot of Naomi Watts films lately. A while back Brian mentioned that he was working on a theory that Emily Watson was the best actress in film today--I don't disagree, but I think she has competition from Watts, and I wanted to back myself up by seeing some films of hers I've missed.

Anyway, I got to this film, and I'm left wondering--how did it get made? Does David O. Russell have that much clout that he could have pitched this to Focus and they nod their heads like Bobblehead dolls, and say, "Let's do it!" For the uninitiated, the film is about "existential detectives," who solve people's existential crises. It's full of blather about reality and connection and the universe. I wouldn't be surprised if Russell wrote the script when he was in college while on an all-nighter, full of benzadrine and cocaine.

I would have read this script and thrown it in the garbage, but someone ponied up dough for it. And got a great cast--Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin, Jude Law, Isabelle Huppert, and, of course Watts. (It also stars Jason Schwartzman and Mark Wahlberg, but they are not draws, in my book). There are several moments when I wanted to just give up on the whole thing, perhaps the nadir was when Schwartzman and Huppert wallow in a puddle, smearing mud on each other before rutting.

Of Russell's other films, I have seen Three Kings, Flirting With Disaster, and Spanking the Monkey, which I all liked but did not love. I'll be very careful about seeing his next film.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love M. Night Shyamalan

by Chris
I didn't hate Lady in the Water, despite its flaws. The plot was a huge, convoluted, hole-ridden mess. The mythology was ridiculous and didn't mesh very well with Shyamalan's extremely heavy handed use of metaphors. But the movie worked, for me, because the bed-time story theme tied all of this together and made sense enough for me to put it all aside and enjoy the colorful characters, performances, and gorgeous cinematography.

Colorful characters: Blonde and Redhead!

I was intrigued by the cartoonish nature of the residents of the Cove. I thought the monsters were cool and pretty scary, although nothing compared to Night's almost-human aliens from Signs. Bryce Dallas Howard is such a striking presence, I couldn't take my eyes off of her. I think Shyamalan is aware of this; her face is usually obscured in scenes where the viewers' attention needs to be somewhere else. Giamatti was good, as usual, even though the stutter was too much (I have a stutter, we don't sound like Porky Pig). I honestly believe that Night casted himself as "the writer who's words will inspire change" as a joke. He seems like a funny and smart enough guy to know how people feel about him and I really think he's just playing with that.

Night really needs to stop writing his own scripts. There isn't really a twist in this one, but there is a role-assignment game that begins in the second act and takes too many unneccesary convolutions before the ending. Don't try to pick this one apart while watching it or try to guess a secret ending. Writing is actually a theme in this movie, so the plot is intentionally forthwright and plays with our expectations and the cliches of the fantasy genre (by "plays with" I mean "beats us about the head and neck with.") There is no concept of subtlety in this movie, but should a movie that is about a bedtime-story-come-to-life be subtle? I'm not even gonna go into the dialogue, anyone going to an M. Night Shyamalan movie for quality dialogue needs to first buy a clue before buying a ticket to Lady in the Water.

A moment of impossible beauty

I have a soft-spot for fantasy, so I was able to accept Lady in the Water. It is filled with moments of impossible beauty. The final sequence is one of the most strikingly beautiful things I've seen in a movie to date. I admire M. Night Shyamalan for sticking with his vision and the themes that interest him (hidden enemies, how a person can choose whether the death of loved ones can either destroy them or inspire them to do greater things). Say what you will about Lady in the Water, but at least it isn't another sequel or TV show adaptation, and that buys a lot of points with me.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Opening in Dallas, 07/21

by Brian
Monster House (trailer): Honestly, I wasn’t really looking forward to this all that much, but Ebert and Roeper flipped out about how great it was a couple weeks back. They can thumbs-up some strange stuff (more Ebert than Roeper on that score), but they sounded … convincing. So I’ll take a look.

Favela Rising (trailer at official site): It’s not a very good week, and the trailer for this is pretty good, so it gets second billing.

Lady in the Water (trailer): Remember a couple of years ago, when Signs came out, and so many people liked it? For a while, it was hard to find someone who didn’t. Where did all those people go? It’s not just the media that’s turned against Night - it seems like almost everyone has. Hell, these days it’s moderately difficult to find someone who admits to liking The Sixth Sense (I do).

My Super Ex-Girlfriend (trailer): I’m not quite as down on this as Professor Wagstaff, but I’m hardly stoked. I do think there are three good moments in the trailer: 1) after the just-broken-up-with Uma flies through the roof, and Luke Wilson looks up, and says “Oh, no”, 2) when Uma tells him, “I always knew you’d come back … that’s why I didn’t kill you”, and 3) when she throws that damn shark at him. Unfortunately, I have a hunch that that’s the best the movie has to offer.

Clerks II (trailer): As an occasional Kevin Smith fan (meaning that I liked Chasing Amy, thought that Dogma, Mallrats, and Clerks had their moments, hated Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and didn’t even bother with Jersey Girl), I’ve slowly come to a strange realization as the Clerks II release date drew near: I don’t care. I just can’t imagine it being any better than a few good moments, of which I’ve probably seen identical moments in his other movies anyway. So maybe I’ll end up seeing this some night when I’m bored and have nothing better to do. Or not, I don’t know. And I don’t care.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Did someone say high concept?

by Professor Wagstaff

Not since these two delights were due to be released have I ever been so as exicted about an upcoming film.

The sad thing is that I've seen the preview of it and it actually comes across worse then the poster and central 'concept' does.

Ivan Reitman has really fallen away in recent years... or at least it would've been if he was any good in the first place.

Monday, July 17, 2006

South Park's "Trapped in the Closet" is back

by jaydro
Comedy Central will finally be re-airing that controversial Scientology-themed South Park episode "Trapped in the Closet" on Wednesday, July 19th. You may recall its previous repeat getting yanked from the schedule back in March, allegedly at the behest of Tom Cruise in the run-up of M:I 3 publicity. I thought I recalled Chris mentioning his consternation over this and Isaac Hayes's departure from the show, but I can't find that in a search (and my apologies if I'm misremembering).

Speaking of M:I 3, I saw it a week ago and posted a comment to Nick's old review that didn't make it to the main page:

I finally saw this. Happened to be near our local second-run cinema grill when I was hungry and close to showtime, so I decided to check it out. I thought it was better than the second, but still not as good as the first.

The concept was the best yet, but the execution was poor, I thought. I thought the action scenes were some of the most poorly directed/edited I've seen in a while, besides making little sense at times, though they did have their moments. At times I didn't care what they were trying to do, and the details of the capers were often glossed over as if unimportant--but in a film like this, what is important? The beaded sweat on Cruise's nose?

What bothered me was that the filmmakers tried to be so smart at times and show us yet more cool stuff that let our heroes do their thing, but at other times they seemed to ignore all that while bordering on ridiculousness. For me the recent Bourne films have set the bar for this kind of thing, and this M:I film just doesn't rank in today's world of action/caper/spy films, IMHO.

Cruise didn't seem much different to me in this one, as I recalled Nick's comments about halfway through the movie. Maybe it was all the media hype surrounding its release that made things seem different.

I don't know if it's Cruise or the movie or the Bush administration, but I ended up feeling disappointed that our hero and his cohorts weren't wiped out leaving Hoffman's character the victor--PSH was very good in this. He seemed to take on playing a supervillain the same way he might play Kenneth Lay of Enron.

And I liked the display of actual teamwork and frequent use of the old Lalo Schifrin music.

Friday, July 14, 2006

In Which I Suddenly Become a Hugh Jackman Fan

by Brian
Everything about this poster is just great. I especially love the date spectrum on the bottom:



Also, check out the trailer for Christopher Nolan's The Prestige. That's one hell of a one-two punch, there.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Opening in Dallas, 07/14

by Brian
Early this week!

Army of Shadows (trailer): Another Rialto reissue, although this one looks particularly special. Jean-Pierre Melville’s film about the French Resistance during World War II was never released in the US until this year, and the trailer is pretty awesome.

A Scanner Darkly (trailer): Yet another Keanu Reeves casting decision that has pissed off fans of the source material. Poor guy can’t catch a break. I’m interested in this but I have reservations, mostly that Richard Linklater’s reputation generally seems to exceed what his actual work would justify.

Strangers with Candy (trailer): I originally missed the TV show that this is based on, but caught a couple episodes on re-runs not long ago. It was amusing enough, but what really struck me is how committed Amy Sedaris is to this character. She gave it enough depth that it managed to avoid feeling overly like an SNL sketch, as it otherwise may have. If the same is true for the movie, it’ll probably not be half bad.

Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man (trailer): I’ve been listening to some Leonard Cohen lately; like most people my age, I really only knew him from his songs in Natural Born Killers. After listening a bit more, I think his songs are generally very impressive, while the arrangements are generally less so. It’s seems somewhat surprising to me that he hasn’t suffered the same fate as, say, Kris Kristofferson, being known much more for other people’s versions of his songs than his own. Given that, I wonder if the controversial decision to feature a lot of other acts performing his songs in the movie isn’t the way to go.

Who Killed the Electric Car?: (trailer): I have little to add to Alex’s review.

You, Me and Dupree (trailer): Contra Wells, I am kinda tired of Owen Wilson. In his defense, though, this movie looks plenty bad anyway. I wonder if Kate Hudson will ever get serious about doing another good movie?

Little Man (trailer): I’ve already said all that I need to say about this one.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Who Killed the Electric Car?

by Alex Stroup
Yesterday I saw the new documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? It is mostly about the life and death of GM's EV-1 all electric car but touches on the larger issue of altnernative fuel cars. While the movie admits that the market failure of the car is complex and has many causes it is obviously slanted towards blaming the car and oil companies for actively fighting campaigning against them. Normally, I am somewhat suspicious of such conspiracy theories (as one guy in the movie says "GM would sell you a car that ran on pig shit if enough people wanted to buy one") but it makes its case reasonably well. The interests the oil companies have in resisting all-electric cars is obvious but why would GM resist production if there was a profitable level of demand?

The movie never really makes the case that demand was sufficient for a major auto manufacturer to continue mass production (at its peak, GM was making only 4 EV-1s per day). So it is easy to accept that GM simply wasn't making enough money to continue production. But it is how they behaved towards the cars already built and in the hands of consumers that is eyebrow raising. They had never allowed outright purchase of the cars but only leased them. As the leases ran out, GM refused to release or sell the cars, repossessed them and then destroyed almost every single one of them (a few disabled ones ended up with auto museums). This despite more than enough demand for the vehicles already constructed and an offer of $1.3 million to buy the last 70 or so temporarily stored in a lot in Southern California. Ford, Chrysler, Honda, and Toyota, all did similar things with their full-electric models (remember the Th!nk? or the electric Rav-4?)

To be completely honest, I think the movie needed to lay more blame at the feet of consumers. I can't really begrudge a person making $1000 a month needing a car, any car, to get to their job so they buy a 22-year-old gas guzzling, smog belching beater. But at a certain point of income altruism is affordable and what responsibility do we have to make that choice?

I drive a Civic Hybrid from Honda. My wife and I were one of the first dozen or so to own one in Northern California and the fuel economy was the primary reason. Not because it saved us money (with the premium paid for the car the savings on gas will take many years to kick in) but because it was overall better for the environment (I know, there is some debate as to whether the total savings are better, but I am still of the opinion that it congegrates the negatives into areas easier to cope with than just spewing it into the air).

Other than a few very minor details the Honda Civic Hybrid is indistinguishable from the standard Honda Civic. And yet I know many people who could easily afford to pay the $1-2,000 extra for the Hybrid that still choose to buy the standard model. Not because they have any good reason to reject the hybrid technology but just because they don't care enough.

If, when given essentiallly identical options the average consumer still doesn't take the more fuel efficient version, that is a tough hill for the auto manufacturers to fight. Still, recalling and destroying the electric vehicles that were made is essentially unconscienable as presented. Nobody currently from GM is interviewed in the movie, though, so there may have been valid legal or regulatory reasons for it. One of their official bloggers did address it to a degree but not sufficiently in my opinion.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Opening in Dallas, 07/07

by Brian
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (trailer): Yeah, OK, I’ll list it first, but my heart’s not really into it. I was OK with the first one, and I expect I’ll be OK with this one too, but it’s hard to be enthusiastic with “OK”.

The Heart of the Game (trailer): Documentary about a high school girls’ basketball team that’s gotten rave reviews so far. I guess the question is, is this a generic sports doc that would play out the same way no matter who it was about, or something that looks a little deeper than that?

Cavite (trailer): Small movie from Cuban/Wagner’s Truly Indie distribution line. Stephen Holden calls it a “gripping no-budget political thriller”. Looks interesting. I should check it out.

The Blood of My Brother: A Story of Death in Iraq (trailer at official site): Documentary about the Iraq War, but from a vengeful Iraqi’s point of view. While I don’t doubt that there are millions of stories to be told from all sides about the war, I wonder if we’re not long past the point where any doc about Iraq wouldn’t be preaching to the choir. We’re three and a half years into it; people see what they want to see. Or maybe I’ve just soured on political docs in general.

Wassup Rockers (trailer at official site): I’ve seen this trailer approximately 744 times and I’m tired of it. At this point, I doubt there’s much Larry Clark would conceivably do that would be interesting to me.

La Dolce Vita

by Jackrabbit Slim

I have not seen as many of Federico Fellini's films as I would like. I have yet to see I Vitelloni, La Strada, Nights of Cabiria, Fellini's Roma, Satyricon, or Amarcord. I did see, in college, probably his two most well-known works, 8 1/2 and La Dolce Vita. 8 1/2 is one of my favorite films of all time, but La Dolce Vita remained more elusive. Just a few days I rented the DVD and found a new appreciation for it.

The film follows the activities of a gossip writer, Marcello (played by Marcello Mastroianni) in the swinging jet-set of Rome in 1959. The film is episodic, covering roughly eight segments, each of which begins during the night, with the promise of romance and adventure, and ends in the gray light of dawn, either in despair, disappointment or tragedy. Marcello would like to be more than just a scribbler, he has hopes of being a real writer, and idolizes an intellectual friend, Steiner. He has a girlfriend who is devoted to him, but he can not love with equal intensity. He lacks the personal courage and strength to better himself, and even when he is offered redemption he shrugs it away.

The film has offered a couple of iconic images and phrases: Anita Ekberg, as an American actress (perhaps modeled on Jayne Mansfield?) cavorting in Trevi Fountain, and the word paparazzo comes directly from this film, as it is the name of Marcello's colleague, who is a celebrity photographer (I believe the word means "buzzing insect" in Italian).

At times La Dolce Vita is not easy to watch, as it is a film about indolence and self-loathing, but it is frequently breath-taking, particularly the black and white photography.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

W.C. Fields

by Jackrabbit Slim

To someone of my generation, if W.C. Fields is mentioned, one thinks of an advertising gimmick for corn chips. To someone younger, the response may be a blank stare. Unlike other comedy film giants of the early sound era, Fields is somewhat forgotten. At least his films are, perhaps his persona still looms large.

Unlike the Marx Brothers or Laurel and Hardy or certainly the Three Stooges, Fields movies didn't play much on television. I Netflixed the features that are available on DVD: It's a Gift, International House, You Can't Cheat an Honest Man, My Little Chickadee and The Bank Dick. They are a mixed bag, quality-wise, but Fields strength as a performer shines through. But his image, unlike the other comedians of the period, was not warm and cuddly. The characters he played were inevitably irascible drunkards. Unlike, say, Laurel and Hardy, he did not play people you wanted to cozy up to.

In International House, a curious concoction that comes across like a Vaudeville version of Grand Hotel, complete with performances by Burns and Allen and Cab Calloway, Fields plays a force of nature, an aviator who crash lands into a Chinese hotel. He's all id, lusting for either booze or broads, and whenever he's on screen (he doesn't appear until half-way through) he's magnetic. In You Can't Cheat an Honest Man he is a crooked circus operator, but really functions as comic relief behind the romantic story involving Edgar Bergen (!?)

My Little Chickadee is a clunker. In one of those casting hook-ups that sounds good on paper but don't pan out, Fields is teamed with Mae West. Reports were that they did not get along (West wrote most of the script, and hated the way Fields improvised. She also deplored his drinking). The result is a soggy, unfunny dud.

His best films are probably It's a Gift and The Bank Dick. In both of these films Fields is a hen-pecked husband who wants nothing more than a drink and to sit in the sun. It's a Gift has more laughs, with great set-pieces involving a blind man near a table full of light bulbs and Fields trying to get some sleep on his porch. It is in this film that he comes closest to being lovable, but it does have his signature bit: When challenged by one of his children that he doesn't love them, he cocks his fist and says, "Of course I love you!"

In the documentary as part of the Fields collection, a family friend says that he was funnier off screen than on, and that's easy to believe, as his films, at least his features (he made several shorts) are shambling and have stretches where not much happens. Compared to the diagrammed lunacy of the Marx Brothers, Fields comes up short. However, he certainly deserves to be remembered more than just a pitchman for Fritos.

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Graduate: Part Two

by LesterG
What happens when a highly-respected writer/director runs completely out of ideas?



Oh yeah, that.

And here I was thinking that Tolkin was a sleeping giant...

Over the past 7-8 years, he's been toiling away (albeit making millions) as a script doctor on every Hollywood blockbuster to come down the pike. Sure, he hasn't had an original screenplay produced in nearly a decade - but I was convinced that the man who brought us early 90's triumphs like The Player, The New Age, Deep Cover and The Rapture was just laying low...biding his time. Sooner or later, he'd be back on the scene and slicing the jugular of the West Coast's elite with another razor-sharp satire.

Instead, we get a goddamned Player sequel. The man has come full circle, becoming exactly what he used to mock.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Superman Returns

by Alex Stroup
It has been a while since I posted. Sorry about that but I really haven't been seeing very many movies lately for various annoying reasons.

I did get to two screenings this week. Once in a Lifetime, a documentary about the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League back in the '70s. Somewhat interesting story told with not much flair. It felt like a good PBS documentary. The overall reviews I've seen have been terribly positive so I'm probably just missing the boat on this one. I also saw Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. I still have to write my review of that so I won't comment much more than to say it is more of the same as in the first, with a bit more depth of character. If you liked the first you'll probably like this one. If you didn't like the first you probably won't like this one.

But the movie I came to talk about is Superman Returns. In the David Poland/Jeff Wells catfight I must say I ended up on Poland's side. There just isn't that much to redeem the movie. Some clever set pieces though the quality of the effects varied quite a bit. I found the increased emphasis on Superman's role as "savior" to be interesting but never felt like Singer or the screenwriters went anywhere with the idea.

Spoilers, Spoilers, Spoilers ahead

The image of Superman floating in space listening to the entire world is potentially powerful but significantly undercut but which "prayers" Superman chooses to answer. With a whole world of misery, tragedy, and misdeeds what problems does he decide to stop? A bank robbery, a runaway car, a convenience store robbery, and a ledge jumping suicide.

The Clark Kent half of the persona is completely ignored in the movie. There is no clear reasoning on why Superman returned and felt compelled to revive his alter ego. At no point in the movie does Clark Kent do anything.

Unfortunately, since I wasn't enjoying the story it left me with time to nitpick the little details of mechanics in everything. These are things that in a compelling movie are disregarded or never noticed in the first place. But how is it that not only is Superman bullet proof but so is his suit? I understand that he wears the Superman outfit under his Clark Kent clothes, but how does he cover up the red leather boots? Why is it that any object can apparently maintain cohesion regardless of where Superman decides to hold it from ("I'll just pick up this giant structure by this piece of decorative ironwork, surely it was designed to support many tons"). Why was the connection between a space shuttle and the 737 on which it was piggy-backed designed so strongly? Speaking of the space shuttle, did Richard Branson win an internet contest for a cameo?

The good: the attempt (even if unfulfilled) to focus on Superman's savior role. What was supposed to be the "shocker" near the end was handled well even if obvious from the beginning. The space shuttle set piece was appropriately intense even if completely irrelevant to the overall movie. The Lex Luther scene that looks so stupid in the trailers is actually the only amusing scene involving him in the movie.

All of which is to say that I didn't really like it.

As an aside, and continuing the mention of the pissing match between Poland and Wells, I now know 9 people who have seen both Superman Returns and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. All 9 of us liked one of the movies and not one of us liked both. So I wonder if the Poland/Wells switcheroo is a sign of a bitter schism. Though so far I know Wells hasn't yet commented on the movie having actually seen it yet. So maybe he'll love it after all.