2014: The year of Scarlett Johansson

It looks like Scarlett Johansson is becoming the superhero of 2014. She’s in the new Captain America movie:

She’s a space alien in “Under the Skin”:

And this summer, she’s going to be some kind of super smart, strong, deadly character in Luc Besson’s “Lucy”:

That’s three movies to look forward to in the coming months.

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Man of Steel: Cement for brains

Spoiler alert: I’m going to talk about one of the things that really bothered me about the movie “Man of Steel.”

If you saw the movie, you know the end is mainly one overwhelming battle of super beings in Metropolis. And you have to see the movie to fully understand the magnitude of the devastation of the city. If you thought the destruction of midtown Manhattan in “The Avengers” was over the top, that was noting compared to what happened to Metropolis:

Click here to see an editorial by Daily Planet Editor Perry White, which includes this:

perry white

So here’s what bothers me about “Man of Steel.”

The Superman I know would never let a battle like this happen in Metropolis. He would have first disabled the terrible machine wrecking the city by flying to the other side of the Earth and destroying the machine’s counterpart there, forcing the super villains to chase him to that part of the planet, where the destruction of life and property would be minimal.

But this Superman didn’t do that. He kept the battle in Metropolis. And what was the result? Here’s the estimate by disaster expert Charles Watson and his crew at Watson Technical Consulting and Kinetic Analysis Corp., requested by the folks at Buzzfeed.

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That’s right. Almost 130,000 confirmed dead and $2 trillion in damage.

With a protector like that, who needs terrorists with nukes?

And by all counts, the Avengers were far more responsible in limiting death and destruction. If you remember, Captain America directed the team to contain the fight to midtown Manhattan, between Grand Central Station and 30th Street. Yes, there was carnage, but according to estimates (from Wonkblog):

The damage to Manhattan in “The Avengers” is estimated at around $160 billion.

Not small change, but nowhere near $2 trillion.

I liked “Man of Steel,” though the fight scenes did go on too long. But I remember back in 1980, the previous time Zod appeared in Metropolis. Superman faced battle then saw what was happening to the city and took off. Folks were upset that he “ran,” but he knew what he was doing.

Yes, there is a lot of destruction in this. But it isn’t even close to what happened in “The Avengers,” and definitely not anywhere near what happened in “Man of Steel.”

See, this is the Superman I know. He saw people were in danger and he took the battle to somewhere safe.

That guy in “Man of Steel” was totally irresponsible.

‘The Avengers’: assorted reviews

I saw “The Avengers” at a well-attended Saturday morning matinee in D.C. Didn’t go to an IMAX viewing or a 3-D viewing or an “IMAX 3-D” viewing. Just a regular two-dimensional, flat screen, though everything is in HD these days.

It is the best superhero action film ever made.

Now, “The Dark Knight,” is the greatest dramatic superhero film ever, but Marvel’s “The Avengers” is, without a doubt, the most entertaining comic-book movie I have ever seen. There are six heroes: Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, the Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye. You’d think that with so many characters, one of them would have been shortchanged. They weren’t. Every hero leaves you with an “out-of-body/did you see that!” scene. The dialogue is great. There are some remarkable laugh out loud lines, and they don’t all come from Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark/Iron Man. And as bad as his previous movies were, the Hulk has the scenes where you want to jump up on your seat and give him a standing ovation.

So I looked at the newspaper movie reviews after I saw it, and, though generally good, I couldn’t believe how tepid they were, like this from the New York Times:

You may occasionally encounter (as I have, a few times in the past months) a walking relic of an earlier era of pop-cultural fandom who wonders if they have, at last, made another movie out of that fondly recalled British spy series from the 1960s. “They” have not, and those poor souls who cherish old daydreams of Diana Rigg in leather will have to console themselves with images of Scarlett Johansson in a black bodysuit.

So “The Avengers,” which has been foreshadowed by post-credits teasers in (deep breath), “Captain America,” “Thor,” “The Incredible Hulk” (the one with Edward Norton) and both “Iron Man” pictures, is not without its pleasures.

That’s just like the Times: Make some snobbish reference to what the reviewer perceives as a culturally superior British show from the 1960s to sniff condescendingly at something with the same name today. Obviously, the reviewer doesn’t remember the crappy review the Times gave that version of “The Avengers” when it was released in 1998:

Sometimes major movie studios should be afraid to screen expensive fiascos for the press, but they go ahead anyway. “The Avengers” is Warner Brothers’ would-be blockbuster that has actually had its light hidden beneath a bushel until opening day, and no wonder.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post had this to say about the superhero extravaganza:

Then again, breaking ground is precisely the last thing fans want from movies that at their best play like elaborate pop-up versions of their source material, with enough psychological complexity to keep things interesting. In this case, that extra interior layer has to do with reconciling with one’s own shadow material, even at its most frightening and destructive.

Yeah, I have no idea what this psychobabble is trying to say either.

Leave it to the guys at Spill.com to get it right:

These guys need to give up their day jobs and review movies full-time. Their stuff is priceless. (Listen to their audio review. It has a lot more, but it’s NSFW.)