Foreplay: Superman Returns (2006)
As Netflix’s Superman month draws to a close, here’s a real piece of demoralizing Kryptonite. Director Bryan Singer treats the Superman legend with the same juvenile cynicism of his X-Men movies—turning comic book heroism to passionless displays of brutality. The scene where the Man of Steel is relentlessly pummeled, or bluffs a bullet to his eyeball, neglects the audience’s awareness of his invulnerability. It’s just dumb, repetitive violence which becomes particularly offensive when Kate Bosworth’s Lois Lane is brutalized during an airplane flight. What happened to chivalry? It got chewed-up in Singer’s perversely sexualized clichés. Who else but a Hollywood hustler would cast Superman for fashion model beefcake blankness? Don’t blame young actor Brandon Routh who smiles appealingly. It’s not his fault that the movie was sold via the salacious meme “Routh rhymes with mouth.”
Press Play: Vanilla Sky (2001)
After the success of Jerry Maguire, writer-director Cameron Crowe must have thought he could get away with anything. This is his bid at imitating French New Wave montage—playing games with time, memory and expensive special effects—in this story of a publishing magnate (Tom Cruise) who, after an accident, undergoes plastic surgery and memory reassignment about his selfish love life. Penelope Cruz plays the barely intelligible Spanish side chick and Cameron Diaz plays the scorn psycho chick but Cruise gets lost in the director’s obnoxious homages to Francois Truffaut and Bob Dylan. Nothing exceeds like excess and Crowe’s background as a highly successfulRolling Stone magazine writer parallels Cruise’s dilemma but it adds nothing to this story of wealth, privilege and selfishness beyond wealth, privilege and selfishness.
Playtime: Boogie Nights (1997)
Not as much fun as the disco-skating film Roller Boogie but this Paul Thomas Anderson film does have Rollergirl, a sad sack porn star who screws with her skates on. She’s one of the lowlifes employed in the San Fernando Valley porn industry. Anderson explores that subculture like ripping-off a condom to expose America’s greedy, skanky, drug addicted and brain-dead essence. This is a Robert Altman carnival with STDs. Mark (Marky Mark) Wahlberg plays the moronic teen who becomes Dirk Diggler, the X-rated stud whose little head is attached to a big moneymaker. Burt Reynolds got an Oscar nomination for playing the shady skinflick entrepreneur and Anderson won acclaim as the new Tarantino simply for scoring all the screwing and coke sniffing to ‘70s radio hits. Stay tuned for the big reveal: Diggler unzipping and hauling out what is too-obviously a rubber night stick.