arnold schwarzenegger, batman, E.T., hollywood, jack nicholson, man of steel, movies, one flew over the cuckoo's nest, satire, schindler's list, shirley maclain, spielberg, Stephen Roth, summer, superman, tarantino, terms of endearment
Today, my wife and I are planning to go see the new Superman movie, Man of Steel. I feel a little sheepish about shelling out $10 a ticket for Hollywood’s latest revival of a tired superhero franchise, but I’ve always had a soft place in my heart for Superman movies. I’ve been hooked since my mom took me to watch the first one shortly before Christmas in 1978. I even kind of enjoyed Superman III with Richard Pryor (I was 12 years old at the time), as well as the maligned 2006 sequel, Superman Returns. I’m looking forward to the latest interpretation, even though I know from reviews that young Clark Kent will be portrayed as a brooding, conflicted loner, and that the battles with the General Zod will involve collateral damage on a ridiculous scale, and that I’ll probably be annoyed by the self-important seriousness of it all, just as I was with the latest Batman series. Okay, maybe I’m not so excited to see this movie.
As you are well aware, Hollywood almost never produces original movies with unproven story lines and fresh characters anymore, especially not during the blockbuster summer season when the financial stakes are highest. However, this summer does feature some intriguing sequels to beloved films from the days when Hollywood actually cared about artistic side of movie-making. Here’s my guide to the ones that are getting the most buzz from the entertainment press:
One Flew Back to the Cuckoo’s Nest (R) After years of wandering the Columbia River valley, Chief realizes he misses the “gang of nuts” at the hospital, and decides to re-commit himself. It is the early 1980s, during government budget cuts and de-institutionalization, and Chief and Nurse Ratched become unlikely allies as they testify before Congress to save their mental hospital from closure. Jack Nicholson makes a brief appearance as the ghost of R. P. McMurphy during the nuts’ annual fishing trip off the Oregon coast. My rating: 2 1/2 jolts of electroshock therapy.
Schindler’s Sh*t List (NC-17) Shortly after the end of World War II, Oskar Schindler and a ragtag team of Holocaust survivors exact revenge by hunting down Nazis hiding in South America, then subjecting them to sadistically inventive deaths. Quentin Tarantino’s long-awaited sequel to the 1994 Steven Spielberg classic signals a career comeback for Arnold Schwarzenegger, who puts his Austrian accent to good use as the cocksure, swaggering Schindler. My rating: 43 1/2 original ways of using the F-word.
Batman Begins Again (PG-13) In what promises to be the darkest, most ominous Batman movie ever made, Bruce Wayne loses most of his fortune in an elaborate Ponzi scheme, and joins the Riddler’s crime syndicate as a way to fund his exotic drug habits. It’s up to the Boy Wonder, heroically played by Seth Rogan, to get Batman back on track and teach him how to trust humanity again. My rating: 3 1/2 fight scenes in which Batman should have broken his spine, but emerges unscathed.
E.T. in 3-D: The Extra, Extra Terrestrial (PG) His planet taken over by the evil Admiral Zurd, E.T. returns to Earth to enlist the help of his old friend, Elliot, who is now a NASA scientist. Elliot convinces the government to green-light a massive rocket program in an effort to fight off Zurd’s forces, who now threaten Earth. Several space battles ensue, all to the soundtrack of Neil Diamond’s new single, “Reboot Your Heartlight.” My rating: 3 1/2 spectacularly exploding planets.
Terms of Endearment II: Aurora Returns (R) Shirley MacLain reprises her greatest role as Aurora moves back to Houston to care for aging astronaut and ex-boyfriend Garrett Breedlove (Jack Nicholson), who is dying from a rare venereal disease. Jeff Daniels steals the show as Aurora’s former son-in-law, now a best-selling author who helps Garrett get into a world-class hospice/spa resort. My rating: 2 1/2 boxes of soggy Kleenex.