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Changing My Tune

Friday 7 June 2013, 16:20

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

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People accuse me of being prejudiced but in fact there is nothing I like more than being surprised by a film turning out to be good when I was expecting the worst - and I can prove it.

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Man of Steel

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    Comment number 1.

    Your vocal impression of Zack Snyder is spot on; in interviews his voice is just an octave too high. Anyway, Mr. Snyder's career has had a rocky path: the good - Dawn of the Dead; the downright ugly - Sucker Punch and 300; to the overlooked Watchmen: I thoroughly enjoyed it; thought it was well executed, with good performances - that's not to say it's without flaws. Lets hope with Man of Steel, that he can prove his worth with the genre - and not rely on Chris Nolan's involvement.

    I've heard Zimmer's efforts, and was pleasently surprised. Okay, it's not John Williams but it fits Snyder's vision perfectly. Williams' version died with Chris Reeve; it belonged to him.

    The actor that used to annoy me was Bradley Cooper - hated everything he did pre-Silver Linings. So it does go to show how somebody's career can make a complete u-turn.

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    Comment number 2.

    I'm sorry Mark, but you are completely wrong about Watchmen. Yes, it had problems: Malin Akerman and Matthew Goode were both miscast, and the ending had plot holes that you could drive a tank through. But it is, like Sin City and 300, one of the best faithful comic-book adaptation of all time, and is Zack Snyder's most underrated masterpiece. I went into Watchmen expecting the worst, being a fan and all, but Zack Snyder did with Watchmen was clearly taking the source material, bringing it to life, whilst making it its own creature. The visual style of the movie is outstanding and it explores what it is to be a Superhero movie, far less a superhero.

    Also, I see Watchmen as having the potential of being a Blade Runner type film, the kind of film which comes to be more and more appreciated on home viewings over the years. There's a lot going on in the story, and unlike many of its peers Watchmen is truly a film which merits multiple viewings, unveiling new and exciting elements each time. I do think it's as close to the source material as possible and I do think this the best version of Watchmen we’re ever going to get, and this is coming from someone who has read the graphic novel, and it wasn't in any way boring. I recommend you watch it again Dr. K as you might change your mind afterwards. Remember what happened with Blue Velvet?

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    Comment number 3.

    Add me to the Bradley Cooper re-evaluation crowd. The Bradley Cooper from The Hangover and The A-Team had a punchable smug face and a thoroughly annoying screen presence. The Cooper from Limitless and Silver Linings Playbook made me reassess him completely. I now think he's a likeable star with some decent acting chops.

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    Comment number 4.

    Have to agree about Bradley Cooper. I didn't think much about him until The Place Beyond the Pines.

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    Comment number 5.

    Can Zack Snyder forge a new direction for Superman as Chris Nolan did for Batman? DC hope so, the Justice League Movie depends on it. Guess we will find out next week.

    However Mark, l think the unquestionable forthcoming event for me and probably a lot of other wittertainment listeners will be when Pain & Gain arrives. Will that be the one Michael Bay movie you can tolerate?

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    Comment number 6.

    Just wanted to say that I am a proud fan of Watchman, a film that is derided by the graphic novel fan-boys. I'm also, to a lesser extent, a fan of Revolver.

    Bring on the backlash.

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    Comment number 7.

    So can we say that after this blog, if Danny Dyer ever does (even know we all know its 99.9 per cent unlikely that he will!) give a great performance even if it's just a so-so kind of film, that you'll stop doing the 'PIMP' impression of him every time he is brought up?!!!

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    Comment number 8.

    Whenever a single role, like Killer Joe, drastically alters the trajectory of an actors career, i always refer to it as "their Archie Rice" in reference to the role which transformed Olivier's career. For years Woody Allen was regarded as a gag writer who made slapstick knock-about comedies, and then came Annie Hall, and the rest as they say is history.
    As for Man of Steel, i will see it, but i can't get excited about a Zack Snyder movie, whilst i liked Dawn of the Dead, Watchmen bored me and i didn't even bother with seeing Sucker Punch. But watching that trailer i feel more optimistic, and fingers crossed, this could his Annie Hall.

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    Comment number 9.

    Watchmen was incredibly faithful to the graphic novel and all the better for it. Gilliam would have made a mess of it. Knightley in A Dangerous Method was embarrassing to watch, emoting a caricature of how mad people behave. And AI is still a disappointing film.

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    Comment number 10.

    I love being surprised by a director or actor. Although I loved Guy Ritchie's first two films, he really lost his way during his "Madonna" period, and I thought his career was over, but he really came back with Sherlock Holmes.
    As for actors, there's many who surprise me, but the main one is Tom Cruise: normally, I hate him. I've hated him since Risky Business; I hate the all-American jock character he seems to love playing. Then I saw him in Magnolia, and was completely blown away: given a chance, and a great role, he can really act. It's just a pity he doesn't get more roles like that.

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    Comment number 11.

    "Who pays the piper calls the tune"? Don't worry Dr. your secret is safe with me!

    I was looking at: Wiki: Superman_in_film

    3.1 Superman (1978)
    3.2 Superman II (1980)
    3.3 Superman III (1983)
    3.4 Supergirl (1984)
    3.5 Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)
    4 Superman Returns (2006)
    5.1 Man of Steel (2013)

    And under #Box_office_performance: Total takings worldwide for all the above Supermans = $889,412,997. Superman and the reboot Superman Returns (2006) both took the majority in the region of 300$m each.

    You can do the same for Wiki: Batman_in_film

    There's been only 6 Supermans (incl. supergirl) and 8 Batmans. Notably the Batmans have taken considerably more, especially the ww performance of the last two each over 1$b and total for all: $3,718,343,339 (under #Box_office_performance)

    I will predict about or over 500$m for Man Of Steel. So the critics will probably like it which will bump up it's success and I guess the formula (they're really attempting to make this one work hence the origins) will be popular with movie-goers too. The team making it seems experienced etc.

    It's considered gauche to talk about money, even though it has it's place at the table, so long as you don't have to talk to someone through the paywall of talking about money to get their notice (!). So overall I've seen 300 and Watchmen (Zach's other films) and he is good at doing BB action and spectacle. 300 was a good romp, but the book Gates of Fire by Stephen Pressfield is an awesome actiony book to read, so it was always going to have half a leg to stand on. Watchmen captured the cynical side to Super heroes so worked on that part, but overall it was a very enjoyable film, with too many side-tracks that were unconvincingly staged, imo.

    So I think Man of Steel will be a good chance for Synder to get it right. But I don't think I'll be surprised by Man of Steel Again. Maybe if Superman dies... . What is interesting is genre hopping and out-of-character acting. Nolan has impressed me with this and iirc The Wachowski bros or sibs now I guess, with Bound then The Matrix.

    I really like Keira Knightly because the way I always saw her was someone who actually surpassed herself: I think was a great fit or type for certain roles and a lot of actors/actresses just ride with that, but she seems to have continued adding to that lucky start imho. She was voted actress that "most women have a problem with" in one of those daft polls (possibly in a trashy mag/news source) which makes me chuckle. Perhaps Bradley Cooper is the men's equivalent.. hehe. Brad Pitt surprises me all the time: He was on the cover of Empire as a bombshell but he's really gone off-beat roles despite his "Greek good looks". Good man.

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    Comment number 12.

    Mark, even if Man of Steel turns out to be the best movie ever made please please please please please keep calling zack synder ZACK SYNDER ZACK SYNDER ZACK SYNDER!!!!!!!!!

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    Comment number 13.

    I agree with Ryan Pollard about Watchmen. I'm not a comic book fanboy, so didn't have any preconceptions about the film, and yes it would have been a far better film with a better director, but I could watch the 3hr version over and over. It's incredible and fascinating, no doubt helped by the depth of the comic book. But for all its flaws, there's never a dull moment and how many 3hr movies can you say that about?

    Btw, really angry about today's news of the potential closure of Bradford's National Media Museum. I've been going there since I was a kid, have seen hundreds of films at both the Pictureville Cinema and the IMAX, many of them small independent films you'd never see at a multiplex, and have visited the exhibits and attractions many times over the last quarter of a century. Yes, I understand Bradford is fast becoming a toilet, nothing like its vibrant neighbour Leeds, but to close the museum would be a disaster with all it has to offer. Maybe it could be relocated to Leeds - a city on the rise, where I'm sure it would do much better business. Typical Tory scum, selling the soul of the nation while their rich disciples continue to avoid their income tax and do nothing to contribute to this great country.

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    Comment number 14.

    Hmmm.....What if Danny Dyer is cast in a Ken Loach film.....!
    I think Dr K should enter into a Werner Herzog eats his shoe type pact ! Any suggestions for a wager ??
    Thats bad news @13DDOS, that was my first and best Imax experience. Hope it doesn't happen as it'll be another blow to the North.

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    Comment number 15.

    Sometimes it just becomes fashionable to knock someone (filmmaker, singer/songwriter, whatever) that has a success. I think Guy Richie was one director it became fashionable to knock; though it’s surprising how many actually liked Lock, Stock & Two… at the time.

    Some people pay their dues and then surprise with their choices. I agree with the Bradley Cooper comments above. I didn’t expect much at all from Silver Linings Playbook; pleasantly surprised by both Cooper & Jennifer Lawrence’s performances.

    Zac Snyder. I quite liked 300. Watchmen was a decent fist at turning the graphic novel into a movie; both have flaws, but in both those flaws derive from the source materials. Many seem to place Moore’s Watchmen on a pedestal as ‘the greatest graphic novel’ ever produced. It isn’t.

    Superman. It looks like a darker reboot of Donner’s (Chris Reeve) Superman, but with Superman trying to hide from his ‘destiny’. I guess that means the first half will be all angsty before General Zod arrives and Superman has to kick some butt. The problem is it’s a well worn plot line, didn’t Thor have similar problems with Loki?

    The issue superhero movies face is the law of diminishing returns as they get constantly rebooted. It’s going to be a brave director that takes on the next Batman reboot.

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    Comment number 16.

    I both get and respect you have a totally different opinion to mine in regards to 'Watchmen' but I simply have to disagree with in the strongest but most respectful terms, Mark sir, that adaptation was stellar in my humble opinion, and Stanley Kubrick himself couldn't have done a better job had he took it on... I'm no fan of Zack Snyder's other work, but credit where it's due, he filmed the supposedly "unfilmable" and in my humble opining, he bloody well knocked it out of the park in doing so! That film is still one of the very best and most certainly the boldest big-budget CBM to date... just re-watch the scene where Rorshach makes his last stand and tell me that's not one HELL of a powerful piece of cinema!

    I never liked M Night Shyamalan's 'The Village' until I re-watched it recently and really enjoyed the heck out of it, whatever you think of the twist, you can't deny it's a well-crafted, accomplished, and genuinely very moving piece of work... even if it is the last good movie he made thus far!

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    Comment number 17.

    Glad youve brought up this subject as Ive just read on the nme site that Keith Lemon is writing a new film, this time with a different "direction", so that'l be a nice treat for you to look forward to wont it Mark ?.
    Possibly the ultimate test of your theory. All the same, have that dictionary on standby, i sense the Kermode "canister" may be in for another self inflicted bashing.

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    Comment number 18.

    I quite like Watchmen. Being a huge fan of the graphic novel I went in expecting it to be a mess. It was a mess but an interesting very entertaining mess. Yes some of it doesn't really work (The parts on Mars don't work at all) But I rather like it. Yeah there is some miscasting (Goode and Akerman as people have said) but its probably the best version of Watchmen we are ever gonna get. Which I am fine with

    Count me in on the Bradley Cooper front. He blew me away in Place Beyond the Pines. He was even better then Gosling in that.

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    Comment number 19.

    What we may be overlooking, or oversimplifying our way past here is the collaborative nature of film. Guy Ritchie directing his own scripts gives you at best Lock Stock... and at worst Revolver. His Holmes movies (and upcoming Man from U.N.C.L.E.) flowed from other pens, leaving us with his possible strengths: visual flair, good handling of actors, and unapologetic understanding of bloke-iness. Many of Woody Allen's post "early funny movies" were co-written (Annie Hall, Manhattan: Marshall Brickman, Bullets Over Broadway: Douglas McGrath), and I'd even make the argument that Midnight in Paris, the rare bright spot in his decades long slump, was a collaboration with history, which provided genuinely interesting characters instead of his stock neurotic writers, their unaccountably attractive girlfriends and shallow wealthy NYers. We agree that Jackie Brown is the high point to date of Tarentino's canon, this is at least partially down to it being an adaptation of Elmore Leonard (which is usually a pretty high starting point).

    As far as Matthew McConaughey, and other actors, it's easy to conflate performers with characters when they've done a series of annoying roles, regardless of how well they performed in them, or whether the rest of the movie around them is any good. I found him irritating in Contact (a good solid film and performance), and creepy (but that's the point) in Dazed and Confused. I admit I disliked him partially because (not his fault) he was being spuriously touted as the next Paul Newman, 'cause he looked a little like the young Paul Newman. I skipped his leaning rom-com phase. Oddly, in an exception proving rule moment, I liked him in Sahara (a film which doesn't quite succeed at being a quirky goof on action heroes, which I know I'm in a minority enjoying). McConaughey's turn in Tropic Thunder was the point at which it looked like we might expect better things from him, and his career has been strength to strength since. Look at his Sahara co-star Steve Zahn, who once had a lock on the annoying side-kick but has turned in great work since, particularly in Treme.

    It's great that you have an open mind, as I had no doubt about, though not sure why you're at pains to explain this (ahh, the ever hungry vblog...). I appreciate that the radio show / Podcast puts you in the position of being a bit of an entertainer as well as a critic, but the vocal tics about Mr Snyder, Ms Paltrow, (and however much he may warrant it) Mr Dyer, get old quick, and aren't doing anyone any favours. Let's just hope your career doesn't get stuck with everyone expecting you to continue doing your earlier funnier rants.

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    Comment number 20.

    (oh, and although not specifically on topic, but as many in this thread have brought it up:

    Watchmen is not an overlooked masterpiece. It has a superb visual design and is faithful to the source, but like the first two Harry Potter films directed by Chris Columbus, it merely illustrates rather than interprets. I liked much of the visual style and even the casting, but the film doesn't really convey the characters well, or make me care about them or the plot, and the satirical details in the original are lost ('cause, like, you'd have to explain history, particularly the cold war, and Nixon to its target audience). It left me bored. I'm pretty sure Gilliam might have made a hash of it, but it would have been interesting, entertaining, and not at all po-faced. Too bad the timing was such that it didn't end up as an HBO series instead.)


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Outspoken, opinionated and never lost for words, Mark is the UK's leading film critic.

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