Pass the Popcorn

One of the best things about having an eleven-year-old grandson is you’ve got a built-in movie buddy to see the big stupid summer blockbusters your wife won’t sit through. He and I have been on quite a roll lately. Here are my capsule reviews of our last three Saturday matinees.

“Man of Steel” – The special effects are cooler, the soundtrack is louder and the supporting cast is a who’s who of slightly over-the- hill Hollywood stars like Kevin Costner and Diane Lane (sorry Diane; I still have a crush on you). But any way you dress it up, it’s still the Superman origin story we’ve seen so many times before, from the Moses-like escape from Krypton to the final showdown with the evil General Zod (boring and repetitious, by the way). The Superman franchise is the closest thing we have to an American messiah saga, which is why we connect with it on such a deep level. But I’m ready to move beyond another reset. How about “Superman vs. the Mole Men,” my favorite episode from the classically cheesy George Reeves series ( Let’s throw a hundred million at that high concept and see what happens. C+

“World War Z” – My problem is I read the book first. And loved it. I know books and movies are two separate mediums and films should stand on their own. But I can’t help it. The movie is like two chapters in a 40 chapter novel. Still, Brad Pitt is appropriately stalwart as the former UN investigator tapped one last time to save the world (and his family) from certain destruction. (I’m happy to see he’s getting craggy around the edges and not afraid to show it.) The CGI effects are above average and there are a few genuine jump-out-of-your-seat moments. But I like my zombies slow and shambling, not fast and pissed off. At least I feel like I’d have a chance against the shufflers. It’s by no means my favorite zombie flick (that award goes to the original “Dawn of the Dead,” followed closely by “Zombie Land” and “Shawn of the Dead”), but I did have a good time. I just wish they’d made it into a mini-series instead. B

“Pacific Rim” – They call the monsters by different names, but it’s essentially Godzilla and his minions duking it out with mankind’s last hope, an all-star lineup of giant human-operated badass robots. The writers try to add a dash of dimensionality with some “this time it’s personal” subplots and a tepid love story, but it’s the heavyweight battles that steal the show (while wiping out many of the world’s major cities including, yes, poor Tokyo once again). Even Ron Perlman shows up late to steal the show as a black market trader of monster pieces parts. (Be sure to stay for a bonus scene following the credits.) This flick is fun with a capital “F.” I enjoyed every minute, all the while acknowledging the epic dumbness. It’s the payoff for all of us who desperately wished the old Japanese monsters didn’t look like cheap puppets squirting hair spray out of their mouths. Highly recommended if you take a kid. B+