June 16, 2013


YOU can always count on Zac Snyder to deliver a great spectacle. From Sucker Punch to 300 and Watchmen, he's the director who can always be relied upon to serve up a visual feast.

He's also, alas, a director who can always be relied upon to put style ahead of substance. Get past the thunderous setpieces and technical wizardry of his $225m Superman reboot and you're left with very thin soup indeed. Essentially a composite of Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980), the film begins on Krypton where our hero's biological father (Russell Crowe) sends his new baby into space just before the planet explodes. Fast forward to modern-day Earth and the child has grown into Clark Kent (Henry Cavill), a drifter desperate to keep his superpowers a secret.

He is forced to suit up, mind you, with the arrival of fellow Kryptonian General Zod (Michael Shannon) who's intent on destroying humanity.

Man Of Steel is never boring. We're treated to gunfights, an exploding planet, an oil rig collapsing in flames and a young Kent pushing a stricken school bus from a river - and all in the first half hour.

The action is then swiftly jettisoned as we learn more about Superman's inner turmoil, highlighted in flashbacks to his Mid-West childhood and his relationship with his adoptive Earth dad (Kevin Costner), and a burgeoning relationship with Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams).

While Cavill can't match the screen presence of Christopher Reeve and Adams is no Margot Kidder, both are reasonably convincing.

Then, just as things get interesting, attempts at characterisation are shredded as Snyder unleashes the big guns for a finale ripped straight from the Michael Bay 'more-is-less' school of filmmaking. As Superman goes head to head with Zod, we're never far from a spaceship crashing downtown, a road being ripped up or a skyscraper toppling. Lasting 45 minutes, it quickly goes from exciting to plain exhausting.

In the end, Man Of Steel flies without ever really soaring.

SUMMER IN FEBRUARY (15) EMILY Browning is aspiring illustrator Florence who leaves home for an artists' community in pre-First World War Cornwall. Despite being courted by the dashing Gilbert (Dan Stevens), she ends up falling for the freewheeling, ie prattish, painter AJ (Dominic Cooper, inset).

Based on a true story, the film feels an hour longer than it really is and suffers from its characters making no sense.

For a start, AJ is such a egocentric cad it's very hard to believe Florence would fall for him. Meanwhile, a scene where she toys with the idea of ending it all via a bottle of cyanide is so leftfield, you'll urge her to take a good long swig and put us out of our misery.

ADMISSION (12A) WHILE A Haunted House (see right) might be the worst comedy of the month, Admission runs it a close second. Despite starring the usually dependable Tina Fey and Paul Rudd, you'll be able to count the number of laughs on one finger.

Fey is a Princeton University admissions officer who, during a tour of north east America looking for promising students, runs into a former college mate (Rudd) teaching at an ultra-alternative school. It's here that she also meets a gifted pupil (Nat Wolff) who just may be the son she gave up for adoption years before.

While it's essentially a comedy, the film strives to touch on serious themes and it's here that the wheels come off.

Fey and Rudd may be wildly talented when it comes to getting laughs, but neither of them - on this evidence, anyway - have an aptitude for much else. The result is an erratic, uneven film short on both humour and drama.

A HAUNTED HOUSE IN 2007, the haunted house film was revived with the slickly terrifying Paranormal Activity, a movie that grossed almost $200m and inspired three - and counting - sequels.

Now, several years too late, Marlon Wayans delivers a spoof on the sub-genre. The result is about as funny as headbutting a set of recently-sharpened garden shears.

After inviting his girlfriend (Essence Atkins) to move into his new home, Malcolm starts experiencing spooky phenomena. What follows is depressing toilet humour and a scene where Malcolm humps a stuffed animal.

It's not just a criminally unfunny movie, but recurring gags about rape and homosexuality create a nasty undertone.

on dvd HITCHCOCK (12) FILM-MAKER Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) and his screenwriter wife Alma Reville (Helen Mirren) risk everything to self-finance "a nice, clean, nasty little piece of work" called Psycho. When principal photography eventually begins, Hitchcock nurtures an obsession with his blonde leading lady, Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson).

Hopkins delivers the lip-smacking one-liners with obvious relish. "My murders are always models of taste and discretion!" grins Hitchcock at one point.

Sacha Gervasi''s biopic is a handsomely crafted portrait of tortured genius, distinguished by scintillating performances.

WARM BODIES (12) A TERRIBLE epidemic has reduced most of the population to shuffling corpses.

Survivors of the disaster are crammed inside a high-walled metropolis patrolled by General Grigio (John Malkovich).

The general''s feisty teenager daughter, Julie (Teresa Palmer), ventures into the dead zone with her boyfriend Perry (Dave Franco) and best friend Nora (Analeigh Tipton), where they come under attack from zombie buddies R (Nicholas Hoult) and M (Rob Corddry).

R kills Perry and devours the boyfriend''s brain, which transfers memories of Julie. Something stirs within the zombie and he rebels against his carnivorous nature to protect the terrified girl.

Warm Bodies is a surprisingly sweet post-apocalyptic romantic comedy, that offers a refreshing twist on Romeo And Juliet.

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