Ian Casselberry is a freelance writer, currently based in Asheville, NC. He is an editor at The Comeback and Awful Announcing

Previously, he has been a contributing writer for Yahoo! Sports' Big League Stew, and SB Nation. In addition, he was a lead baseball writer for Bleacher Report. 

You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook, where he craves your attention.

He still plans to write that novel someday. 

("Pearls Before Swine" © 2005 Stephan Pastis)
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Entries in movie reviews (17)


The week's writes and reads, 02-14-16

More of a productive week, writing-wise, thanks to the Super Bowl. Although staying up late Sunday night into Monday morning to get those pieces done made me a zombie for the early part of the week. 

In addition to my usual appearances on ESPN Asheville, I was on the Marty & Miller show in Iowa to talk about daily fantasy sports and some baseball, as we get closer to spring training: 

Marty & Miller Show in Des Moines, IA - Thursday (02-11, Hour 3, 20:00 mark)

All righty, the week's writing and reading links are below. Thanks for checking in! 


The 10 Best Super Bowl 50 Commercials - The Comeback
Super Bowl 50 halftime: Bruno Mars, Beyonce blow Coldplay off the stage - The Comeback

The 10 Worst Super Bowl 50 Commercials - The Comeback
Hail, Caesar! lets its stars have a blast, making fun of 1950s Hollywood - The Comeback
LeBron James among NBA All-Stars to voice characters on Cartoon Network - Awful Announcing

Fox marks down DraftKings investment by 60 percent, as company’s value drops $95 million - Awful Announcing
Samantha Bee stands on her own with Full Frontal's debut - The AP Party
Watch: Conan O'Brien spoofs Cam Newton's post-Super Bowl press conference - The Comeback
Watch: Daniel Bryan says goodbye to wrestling fans; WWE Network pays tribute - The Comeback

The People v. O.J. Simpson recap: He might kill himself, but what about me? - The Comeback
Baseball writer Tom Singer passes away at 67 - Awful Announcing

Watch: Do not mess with Batman in final Batman v Superman trailer - The Comeback

Deadpool slices up superhero tropes with relish, joking the entire way - The Comeback
Where's Oscar? Mike Francesa has issues with ESPN's all-time NBA Top 100 - Awful Announcing
Claiming censorship, Kevin Kiley resigns from Cleveland sports talk radio show - Awful Announcing
Dallas Mavericks analyst says during broadcast that Saskatchewan is named after sasquatches - Awful Announcing

Proud that I could sneak a reference to Marvel Comics Alpha Flight into that sasquatch piece, which I'm sure very few noticed or cared about. Canada's superhero team! 


-- VICE seems like a media company ready to truly break out, but maybe their reach is exceeding their financial backing? But TV could change that. [Variety]

-- It's been a choppy two weeks for Marco Rubio. A bad performance in the New Hampshire debate, followed by a bad finish in that primary. But after doing well in the South Carolina debate, maybe he'll do well in next week's primary? This race is nuts. [NY Times]

-- This week's episode of FX's The People v. O.J. Simpson (which I recapped above) dramatized the June 17, 1994 Bronco chase that became a signature event in our culture. What were you doing that day? [Washington Post]

-- It's been a year since David Carr died. I wasn't entirely comfortable reading this post by his daughter, but I know writing about grief can help process it. [Medium]

-- I haven't read many Deadpool comics, though am familiar with the character. But here's a good piece on how his popularity has developed over the past 25 years. [Vulture]

-- New York Mets reliever (or former Mets reliever) Jenrry Mejia, 26, either has a significant dependency issue or is the dumbest athlete currently throwing a ball. He's failed three PED tests in the span of 10 months, resulting in a lifetime ban from baseball. [Sports Illustrated]

-- Considering how big a role Twitter plays in my life (professionally and personally), I often forget how little it matters to people who don't necessarily live online or consume media 12-16 (or more) hours a day. So that lack of importance may have finally caught up with it. [NY Times]


The week's writes and reads, 02-07-16

I adore my little niece. She's one of the truly good things in my life and I cherish every bit of time I can spend with her (and her little sister). But when she's around (as she was Wednesday through Friday), even when she's sick, it's hard to get work done. I managed to fit some in between coming up with ways to entertain her, but it was a struggle. 

Oh, and I was able to hide in a room to take a couple of radio calls, including this one from Iowa:

Marty & Miller Show in Des Moines, IA - Thursday (02-04, Hour 2, 37:00 mark)

This week, I started my weekly recaps for FX's The People v. O.J. Simpson, which I volunteered to write. Hope I don't regret that. That, along with more writing and reading links from this week are below. Thanks for stopping by! 


The Finest Hours starts slow, but strong cast saves Coast Guard rescue story - The Comeback
Video: Jeremy Lin's hair has attracted plenty of attention from NBA announcers - Awful Announcing

Louis C.K.'s Horace and Pete shows ambition, but tests fan loyalty - The Comeback
Charlie Rose loses bet, wears Cam Newton pants on CBS This Morning - The Comeback

The People v. O.J. Simpson recap: The Juice did it, right? - The Comeback

Serial recap: What, you guys couldn't shave? - The Comeback
Katie Nolan's response to Gronk's FS1 lapdance might surprise you - Awful Announcing

After NESN departure, Don Orsillo encouraged by Yankees manager Joe Girardi - Awful Announcing
Wayne Rooney meets Deadpool in ad, Manchester United and Fox form partnership - Awful Announcing


-- If he hasn't already, Daniel Norris is going to become a favorite of Detroit Tigers fans. He's certainly piqued my interest. And he's a pretty damn good photographer! I won't jinx him by buying his jersey t-shirt. []

-- This is the second time I've linked to a story about New York Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis. And as usual, I've been slow to watch the NBA. But I'm intrigued by this guy. Now I just have to watch him play more. [Sports Illustrated]

-- One of my favorite memories of going to the University of Iowa is being in that state during an election year. I wish I'd have participated in a caucus, but it was enough to be visited by every candidate and several celebrities. Ryan Lizza captures the atmosphere well. [The New Yorker]

-- I confess I haven't been enamored with Trevor Noah's version of The Daily Show. Noah is funny and talented, but I just want Jon Stewart during this election. Apparently, I'm not the only one who feels that way. [Slate]


The week's writes and reads, 08-16-15

OK, I'm pretty sure that's a Photoshopped image of Ice Cube, at least the cover of the book he's reading. But putting a picture of him reading during the week when Straight Outta Compton hits theaters was too irresistible. 

Kind of a tough writing week, as I had to help out watching my little nieces (getting them ready for school and dropping them off) while my sister's husband was on vacation. I absolutely love those girls and cherish any time I can spend with them. But this definitely threw the regular routine off, especially in the morning.

Hopefully, the work didn't suffer too much. Here's what it looked like for the week: 


'The Gift' is a smart, creepy thriller that deserves your attention - The AP Party
Watch: HBO's 'Westworld' trailer asks to question the nature of reality - The AP Party

Notre Dame's 2015 football season will be documented in new Showtime series - Awful Announcing
David Price calls out ESPN for referring to Blue Jays as 'beer league softball team' - Awful Announcing
It's on! Arrow's Stephen Amell will face Stardust at SummerSlam - Awful Announcing

Mariners' Hisashi Iwakuma throws no-hitter in 3-0 victory over Orioles - The Outside Corner
Going Blue? Michigan football social media accounts were hacked - Awful Announcing
Colin Cowherd confirms move to Fox Sports, debuts on Utah-Michigan pregame Sept. 3 - Awful Announcing
NFL Hall of Fame Game draws big ratings for NBC - Awful Announcing
'The Flash' previews original Flash Jay Garrick with comic book tribute - The AP Party

Watch: Teaser trailer for Quentin Tarantino's 'The Hateful Eight' - The AP Party 

'Straight Outta Compton' shows why N.W.A. mattered, but takes on too much - The AP Party
Video: Bradley Cooper may make you sick with longing in 'Burnt' trailer - The AP Party
'Sesame Street' will air new episodes on HBO, before going to PBS - The AP Party


-- Grantland writer Steven Hyden posted an essay on his Facebook page to commemorate his 15th anniversary of working in media. Anyone aspiring to make a living as a writer, and maybe those who currently are, could learn much (or be reminded of what's important) by reading what he has to say. As someone who's been working increasingly as an editor in recent months, I certainly appreciated what he had to say about writers' responsibility toward their editors. [Steven Hyden]

-- More of the writer's life, this time from comic book writer Ron Marz. The focus of this column is working from home, something I'm entirely familiar with. (I've realized over the years that two of the professions I was interested in growing up — writing and illustrating — likely would have involved working from home. Apparently, it always appealed to me. "Know when to quit" and "get out of the office" parts are tips I should follow more often. [Comic Book Resources]

-- I was surprised to see that James Poniewozik had decided to move from TIME magazine to the New York Times. Not because the NYT isn't a better gig or anything like that, but because Poniewozik had written for TIME for 16 years. He's one of the seminal TV bloggers, one of the first I can remember who really took advantage of the blogging form for a mainstream outlet. And he got to do it during the new golden age of television. [TIME]

-- John U. Bacon writing a book about Michigan football? Here, take my money. His book on the Rich Rodriguez era, titled Three and Out, provided compelling insight into the politics and machinery of Michigan athletics during that time, explaining a lot about why Rodriguez just didn't work out in Ann Arbor. So I'm eager to read his reporting on the pursuit of Jim Harbaugh. Here's an excerpt, I believe from the first chapter of his new book Endzone. [Wall Street Journal]

-- Speaking of Harbaugh, the story of a former player coming back to coach his alma mater is so romantic, so triumphant. Big things are obviously expected from Harbaugh, with the expectation that he'll restore Michigan football back to glory. But that story hasn't always had a happy ending for other coaches. []


The last 10 films I've seen

It's been almost two months since I posted one of these lists, but I can fill one up pretty quickly these days. With the summer movie season under way and trying to keep up with things for The AP Party, I'm seeing most of the big current releases and writing reviews of them. 

Here are the last 10 films I've seen (with links to reviews I wrote), as of June 7, 2015. 

Spy - Paul Feig, 2015
Entourage - Doug Ellin, 2015
Aloha - Cameron Crowe, 2015
San Andreas - Brad Peyton, 2015
Tomorrowland - Brad Bird, 2015
Poltergeist - Gil Kenan, 2015
The Road Warrior - George Miller, 1981
Mad Max: Fury Road - George Miller, 2015
Mad Max - George Miller, 1979
Avengers: Age of Ultron - Joss Whedon, 2015

The moviegoing is very blockbuster-heavy, as you might expect this time of year. So I haven't seen as many of the smaller, indie releases as I would like, but tried to move in that direction over the past couple of weeks. Still not getting to the movies as often as I'd prefer, though. 


Movie review: Elysium

What's amazing about Elysium is the world that director Neill Blomkamp has created for his story.

(Perhaps you've seen this referred to as "worldbuilding" in various reviews and commentary on the film. I don't often use such fancy words. Unless I think of them first.) 

The special effects in this movie are truly impressive. As far as computer-generated images have come, there are still far too many instances in which it's clear that the actor and the monster or superhero or flying object don't really occupy the same space.

Sometimes, the pixels are just a little too apparent. Often, there's a "weightlessness" to the effects. You can just tell that's not really a human being jumping or a car crashing to the pavement. 

That is most certainly not the case in Elysium. The shuttles and robot police officers look incredibly real, much like the prawns in his Blomkamp's first film, District 9. I was surprised at myself for how impressed I was simply by a shuttle car lifting up off the ground and moving through air space. Everything — the light reflecting off the surface, the dirt and corrosion, the exhaust it emitted — looked much like a car you'd see on the road next to you.

Now maybe there was a real shuttle car and it was lifted in the air by a crane, and I'm just a goober too easily impressed by shiny, flying things. But this has been a summer in which we've seen a lot of shit flying around and being torn down at the movies. So is it a surprise that a quieter CGI moment got my attention? 


The appeal of Elysium lies in its premise. Science fiction at its best provides an allegory for the current culture in which it's created, and that definitely applies here. Blomkamp isn't subtle — at all — about where our contemporary debates over immigration, health care and the economy could take our society. 

Earth — almost entirely represented by Los Angeles here — has basically been reduced to a global shanty town 150 years in the future. The working class — the 99 percent, if you will — is living in slums, all of our natural resources apparently wrung dry.

Meanwhile, the elite class — the one percenters — lives high above, looking down upon us from a giant space station in which the perfect conditions have been created. The skies are blue, the air is clear, the grass is green, and most importantly for the purposes of our story, everyone on Elysium has a miracle atomizing machine that wipes out any form of disease or injury that a person might have. 

Cancer? Forget about it. Broken arm? Ain't broken no more. Face blown off by a grenade? This machine will take care of that (which the movie shows us in impressively gruesome detail). 

But eventually Elysium does have to build a story around this setting. The plot is simple enough. Matt Damon's Max is someone who's aspired to live the good life above ever since he was a kid, but circumstances have (literally) kept him down. Stealing cars is no way to live in space, son.

So Max lives in a shack and works in a factory, helping assemble the robots that keep the scourge of humanity in check. That is, until he gets radiation poisoning — the kind of poisoning that one of those fancy-dance machines on Elysium would wipe out. 

Here's where the action kicks in. You've seen the images of Damon getting an exoskeleton screwed onto his body (and into the back of his head), which will presumably give Max the strength and power needed to bull his way to the space station.

Yet if the radiation poisoning doesn't kill Max, infection probably will. At least that's what I kept thinking as the movie progressed. This understandably isn't addressed in the film — because there's shit to blow up real nice and pretty — but the stitches and bolts used to make Max a cyborg aren't exactly installed in the most sterile environment. I kept imagining pus would be a factor later in the movie. Thankfully, it wasn't. 

Once Damon straps on that exoskeleton, however, Elysium abandons any pretense of being some sci-fi think piece and jumps straight into action-movie territory. And Blomkamp gives his characters some cool toys to play with, such as exploding bullets that detonate before impact and laser shields that can block those explosions as well as any other threatening projectiles. 

The action gives us probably the most enjoyable part of the story, which is Sharlto Copley's batshit crazy operative, Kruger.

Kruger has all sorts of metal implants throughout his body that allow him to add various weaponry. We don't necessarily see those weapon ports used, but they convey the impression that this is a guy who long ago turned himself completely over to his shadow military service. He doesn't have a purpose unless he's being asked to kill people or blow shit up real good. 

Copley's South African accent serves him well here, as he gets more difficult to understand while becoming more angry and frenzied. It actually makes him sound, well, insane at times. (Unfortunately, Copley is also saddled with some of the script's worst dialogue, such as "I was gonna heal your daughter, but now I'll see to it that she's never healed!" The accent doesn't help there.)

But it's also apparent that he's having a total blast, maybe the one guy in the movie who's really having fun. Somebody make Copley a Die Hard villain. Except please don't make another Die Hard movie. Maybe he can be a James Bond adversary instead. He'd certainly be a strong physical match for Daniel Craig. I'm digressing.

So maybe you noticed that I'm nearly 1,000 words into this review (thank you for reading this far) and I haven't yet mentioned Jodie Foster. Isn't she a co-star in Elysium, getting billing right alongside Damon? Yep. But she's terribly underused here and, I dare say, probably also miscast.

Foster's character, Delacourt, is Elysium's secretary of defense, holding the line against any dirty, filthy Earth residents who want to get to the space station (and those sweet healing machines). She's like an anti-immigration politician who wants to build a wall on the border or would just prefer to shoot those grubby moochers down. 

Besides the fact that Foster simply isn't in the movie for very long, another curious thing about her character is that she has an accent for no really discernable reason. The accent is hard to peg as well, though I've read that it's supposed to be French. I guess the idea is to make Elysium and its government seem worldly and multi-cultural. But why not just cast an actress with an actual foreign accent?

I get that Delacourt is meant to be a ballbuster, someone who can stand up to a president, defy him and tell him how things are really going to run. Foster certainly carries that sort of presence. But couldn't Emma Thompson have done this also? What about an actual French actress? Or do Juliette Binoche, Marion Cotillard or Julie Delpy not bring enough star power? 

Besides, I'm mostly disappointed that Foster is basically wasted in this movie. The same goes for William Fichtner, one of our great character actors. He, too, is also saddled with a strange accent and isn't in this movie nearly long enough. 

But ultimately, the disappointment is that Elysium doesn't have the story to go with its compelling premise. There are too many elements shoehorned into this movie, making it less focused and character-driven than District 9. Maybe it's not fair to compare Blomkamp's two films, but with a larger budget and big stars in his cast, he didn't make a better movie. 

Regardless, I'm looking forward to what Blomkamp does next. There aren't enough filmmakers creating original sci-fi films out there. It would be fascinating to see what he could do with something like a Star Wars sequel, but there are enough sequels and comic-book adaptations out there already. Even if this experiment didn't fully pay off, it's gratifying to see Blomkamp get to try. 


Movie review: World War Z

I wasn't terribly excited about World War Z when I heard it was being made. I didn't read the book, for one thing. (Apparently, I didn't have to.) And though I like Brad Pitt, he's not a must-see actor for me. (In other words, he's no George Clooney.) 

But did we really need to see more zombies on the screen? The Walking Dead, Shaun of the Dead, Dawn of the Dead (I'm thinking more of the Zack Snyder version), Zombieland and the 28 Days Later movies seemed to have covered that territory rather thoroughly. 

Would World War Z have anything new to say? Would this movie's take on zombies seem fresh? Snyder's Dawn of the Dead and Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later took the innovative step of making zombies move faster. These zombies could run after you. These weren't shambling piles of brain-hungry decay that gave you a chance to get away, as in George Romero's films.

Well, I don't know if World War Z added anything new to pop culture's zombie mythology. I'm two seasons behind on The Walking Dead and didn't see Zombieland or the sequel to 28 Days Later, titled 28 Weeks Later. So maybe there are some new angles to zombie stories that I haven't seen. (And I haven't even mentioned video games.) 

What I do know is that I really enjoyed Brad Pitt's zombie flick.

This is a tense, scary movie that keeps you riveted. Yes, director Marc Forster resorts to a couple of cheap jump scares. (And yes, I jumped. Hey, I was watching the movie in 3D!) But they wouldn't be nearly as effective if he hadn't created a setting in which the characters really don't know where the next threat is coming from. 


The scenes in which we first see the zombie outbreak developing around Pitt's character, Gerry Lane, and his family in Philadelphia are incredible. There's mass panic in the streets, but we don't quite know why. (Well, of course we know, but we can't see why.)

Somewhere among the terrified crowds of people are the zombies. But where are they among the people? The threats don't stand out mixed in with a stampede of citizenry. Then eventually, the frenzy clears a bit and we see what Lane sees. Some of those people are attacking other people, chasing after them with ferocity and biting them. 

It's different from what we've seen in zombie movies before. This isn't a lone figure walking down a deserted, demolished post-apocalyptic city street. There isn't a slow-moving mass of monsters moving toward its next victims. It's total chaos, fueled by perhaps the most feral, animalistic zombies shown to us on screen. 

The movie doesn't really slow down from there, though there are obviously some scenes of exposition that explain to us (and Lane) just what the hell is going on. Things are probably slowest at the very beginning, when we see Lane's seemingly tranquil family life. Here's a guy who really did leave his job (with the United Nations) to spend more time with his family.

But the story moves along pretty fast after that initial outbreak in Philadelphia. Lane and his family are taken to an aircraft carrier for safekeeping, thanks to connections at the U.N. The military essentially blackmails Lane into aiding their efforts to find the source of the epidemic — and presumably a cure — and we're off to South Korea. Then Israel. And finally to the U.K. 

What's interesting is that the final confrontation between humans and zombies in this movie is rather quiet. World War Z is being sold on the imagery of zombies swarming and climbing on top of each other like ants, coming at their victims in waves. They're the unstoppable force. Yet salvation might be found through intelligence and experimentation, rather than putting an axe through a zombie's forehead.

Lane doesn't become an action hero with a chainsaw strapped to one arm and a rocket launcher to the other. (Though he does duct-tape a knife to a rifle at one point.) He does have his bad-ass moments, whacking zombies with a crowbar and chopping off someone's hand to make sure the zombie infection doesn't spread.

But our hero ultimately doesn't use a weapon (at least not in the traditional sense) to gain an advantage over the enemy. And it all works, because both Pitt and Forster (along with screenwriters Drew Goddard and Damon Lindelof) have amped up the tension. 

(Evidently, the original ending was a blockbuster battle in Russia. I doubt we'll ever get to see that climactic confrontation, which was actually filmed but cut. That's why Matthew Fox is listed fourth in the final credits, yet seen in the movie for only about 30 seconds. Maybe in an anniversary Blu-Ray someday.) 

Forster was one of my biggest question marks about this movie. I've enjoyed some of his previous work, such as Monster's BallFinding Neverland and Stranger Than Fiction. (Actually, I love Stranger Than Fiction.)

But some guys are better suited for smaller, more intimate films rather than blockbusters. Forster's one attempt at a big action movie — the second Daniel Craig James Bond film, Quantum of Solace — was really kind of a mess. There were some great looking sequences and memorable shots, but the whole thing just didn't hold together very well. 

Apparently, however, Quantum of Solace's issues were tied to the Hollywood writers' strike, leaving Craig and Forster to write parts of the movie themselves on set. But with reports of major problems during the World War Z production — rewrites, reshoots, Forster and Pitt allegedly not speaking to each other — it looked like Forster was in for another misfire. (Calling it a "disaster" seems harsh.) 

Stories of the massive overhaul World War Z underwent makes for fascinating reading, especially if you're a film and screenwriting buff. It's possible that such behind-the-scenes scuttlebutt could be more entertaining than the movie itself. 

Because of that off-screen drama, it felt like critics had their knives out, ready to slice World War Z to shreds. How could the movie not stink if the script and production needed so much work? Was this going to be 2013's John Carter, which never recovered from all of the pre-release negative press and was deemed a flop before anyone had actually seen the film? 

Fortunately, all of the repair work done on the film paid off. This is actually one of the pleasant surprises of the summer so far. With Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness and Man of Steel all having some problems and disappointments, World War Z looks like the one blockbuster that may have exceeded expectations. 


Movie review: Man of Steel 

Typically, my biggest fear with a movie like Man of Steel is that I've anticipated it so much and for so long that I'm bound to set myself up for disappointment. 

But the newest Superman movie definitely lives up to expectations. All the cool visual spectacles weren't used in the trailers. (Although maybe most of the good emotional scenes were already shown.) There are certainly some surprises. If there's one thing director Zack Snyder can do, it's create some memorable, beautiful shots. 

Yet I don't think the story flowed as smoothly as it could have. It wasn't because of frequent flashbacks and bouncing from the present to the past. But it felt like Snyder and screenwriter David Goyer just wanted to bull through the origin story so we could get to Superman (Henry Cavill) flying and trading punches with equally superpowered villains. 

However, I liked the choice not to tell a straightforward story and cover familiar territory. 

We know Clark Kent left Smallville for Metropolis and eventually became Superman. But what happened in between the small town and the big city? Like Batman Begins, this is the story that largely hasn't been told.


What may be most surprising is that Man of Steel is a science fiction tale more than a superhero fable. But how can it not be when you're telling a story about an alien? The beginning of the film that takes place on Superman's home planet of Krypton is not a prologue. It's a significant part of the story because it fuels so much of what comes afterwards.

Though a Superman movie obviously can't be realistic, he can be made to seem plausible. The Krypton part of the story is meant to explain why Superman wears his costume. The "S" on the suit's chest is supposed to be a symbol of hope. Superman's natural father, Jor-El (Russell Crowe), envisions his son being an inspirational figure for the people of Earth.

But depicting an otherworldly culture doesn't just demonstrate that Superman is an alien. It informs the worldview of the movie's villain, General Zod (Michael Shannon), making him more than a mustache-twisting megalomaniac. This is a man who's lost his home, his way of life, and wants to recreate it on Earth. 

Zod doesn't just challenge Superman physically, resulting in the best superhero fights we've ever seen on screen. (No one is ever again going to complain, as with Superman Returns, that Superman doesn't throw a punch.) But he also challenges the hero's values, leading to a painful decision later in the movie.

The choice Superman makes is impossible to fully discuss without giving away a major spoiler in the story. But it's a shocking moment because it's so unlike what we believe this character — the big blue boy scout — would do.

Superman is always supposed to do the right thing. This violated his moral code, the pledge he presumably took when deciding to use his abilities for good and set an example for the world to follow. 

Was it out of character? The reflexive impulse is to say yes. Yet I enjoyed the willingness of Snyder and Goyer (along with producer Christopher Nolan) to try something daring. So many people say what Superman is supposed to stand for, yet also lament that the character is boring. He's too powerful. He's too good. There's nothing bold or edgy about him. 

My friend Joe Lunday believes that the challenge of superhero storytelling is telling new stories within the framework and mythology that already exists. Generally, I agree with that. But Snyder and Goyer are trying to create a new framework, a new mythology. What is out of character if that character hasn't been fully formed yet? 

Did the filmmakers go too far in trying to establish that this isn't the Superman you know? Maybe. At times, I thought this was a surprisingly cynical movie. 

Superman's adopted father, Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner), doesn't believe that people will embrace an alien being with extraterrestrial abilities. They will fear what they don't understand. They won't trust something more powerful. And thus, people can't really be trusted.

For most of the movie, the people that Clark encounters prove Jonathan right. They pick on Clark for being different, for turning the other cheek rather than engage. Do we even deserve a hero like Superman? At times, it felt like that was the question the movie was asking. 

When Clark finally meets an apparition of Jor-El, and Superman's absentee father tells him why he was sent to Earth and what purpose he needs to serve, I almost expected our hero to say, "But Dad, these people are the worst."

This cynicism is pushed to extremes throughout the story. As shown in the first full trailer, Jonathan admonishes Clark for lifting a school bus out of the water and saving his classmates, putting himself at risk of revealing his secret. When Clark asks if he was supposed to let those people die, his father replies, "Maybe." 

It's a rather jolting stance for the character that has always influenced Superman's moral view.

While that seemed like a refreshing change to the Superman origin, this philosophy gets taken even further later in the film. One of the more important moments in the story occurs when Jonathan refuses to yield at a great personal cost. It felt like an attempt to burden Clark with a Spider-Man type of pathos. If you don't act, bad things will happen. 

It's difficult to imagine that Clark wouldn't have taken action in this scenario, and it's one of at least two crucial character choices that have outraged hardcore Superman fans — and apparently film critics as well. 

But I'm going to argue that if Snyder and Goyer walked down the same path that so many other comic book, novel and screen writers have already traveled, Man of Steel would've been heavily criticized for that too.

Haven't we already seen this story? Tell something new! This is why Superman is boring!

Well, we got something new and I admired the effort. Besides, who's to say that this version of Superman won't eventually become something closer to what we're accustomed to? Maybe the choices that he's faced with and the decisions that he makes in this story end up forming the morality that we associate with the character. 

What about the amount of carnage and destruction leveled on Smallville and Metropolis during the superpowered battles between Superman and his opponents?

I can't say that it didn't bother me at least a little bit. Nearly 20 years ago, I was troubled by the amount of destruction seen in Superman: The Animated Series, in which Superman would punch villains through buildings and demolish them, yet not seem terribly concerned about people getting hurt. 

But maybe this also helps build Superman's belief system. He sees the damage that occurs when his powers are fully unleashed. This is a story point that could be used in future movies. Imagine Lex Luthor using Metropolis' destruction to turn public favor against Superman and create the fear and paranoia that Jonathan Kent dreaded. 

However, we can only speculate about what might be. The movie at hand is what has to be judged. Man of Steel should stand on its own. Maybe it ultimately doesn't because it's clearly the beginning of Superman's story. This Clark Kent didn't know who he was, nor what he had to do. He was burdened with self-doubt. 

I think a foundation had to be built, a modern take on the character had to be established. Though a phrase like this tends to make my eyes roll, this really is a redefining of an icon for a new audience. This Superman is more fallible, he's more human. He's not the embodiment of an ideal. At least not yet. 

Now that Snyder and Goyer are freed from that responsibility, the next Superman movie these guys make will be the best one we've ever seen.


Movie review: 42

In getting back to blogging here, I wanted to write some movie reviews again.

The good news is that I wrote one. The bad news (well, not really) is that my review for the new Jackie Robinson movie, 42, is at my new baseball writing home, The Outside Corner

We do get an idea of what made Robinson special, how he was able to keep a stiff upper lip and reign in his emotions in the face of horrifying racial prejudice and hatred. The movie would be an utter failure otherwise. (Just in case you don't comprehend when Robinson might be viewed as heroic, the camera tilted upward at him and the swelling strings of the musical score lets you know.)  

Much of the credit for that should go to Chadwick Boseman, who portrays Robinson. I had never seen him in anything else before, but after this performance, we'll surely be seeing more of him on the big and small screens. Boseman's Robinson comes across as defiant, stoic, quietly angry and, perhaps most importantly, charismatic. 

I love when two things I love collide, so it was fun to write about a baseball movie at my new gig. Otherwise, I probably would've written a review here, but it was nice to go to a movie "for work" last night. 

Overall, I wouldn't call 42 a great movie, but it's a good one. I'll always wonder what Spike Lee's Robinson biopic (starring Denzel Washington) would've been like. However, I'm glad to see Robinson's story portrayed on screen, even if it left me wanting more.