Man of Steel
What happens when you take one of the most iconic superheroes of all time and pair him with the filmmakers behind the most critically-acclaimed superhero film trilogy of all time? You get Man of Steel, a take on Superman that’s equal parts Dark Knight Trilogy and something else entirely. In this reboot of the Superman film continuity (eschewing 2006’s Superman Returns‘ attempt to continue Richard Donner’s ’70s Superman films), Henry Cavill plays Clark Kent / Kal-El (note: the name Superman is barely mentioned in this film) as a more conflicted individual than we’ve seen in previous incarnations. The reasons for the conflict can ultimately be traced to two diverging thoughts regarding Clark’s abilities: Kryptonian father Jor-El believes his son will be a god to the people of Earth, while Earth father Jonathan Kent thinks Clark will be an outcast. This dynamic creates a far more interesting origin story for the character than we’ve seen in 1978’s Superman. That doesn’t even touch on the action, which may very well be the most impressive on-screen superhero brawling I’ve ever seen (and yes, that includes The Avengers‘ mega-battle). The cast is uniformly excellent, with Cavill creating a Superman who’s distinctly different from previous film and TV versions. Amy Adams’ take on Lois Lane finally shows Lois as a legitimately excellent reporter, something I’ve longed to see. Michael Shannon’s General Zod, meanwhile, belongs in the pantheon of Great Superhero Film Villains. If there’s one film I’d recommend seeing above all others this summer, it’s this one.
This Is the End
In all honesty, I had no expectation that This Is the End would be any good. A slew of actors playing versions of themselves around an apocalyptic storyline? This sounds like a potential disaster. Instead, This Is the End is one of the flat-out funniest films of the summer. The plot in a nutshell: Jay Baruchel comes to L.A. to visit best friend Seth Rogen. Seth ends up dragging Jay to a party at James Franco’s house; while they’re there, all hell breaks loose. What makes the film work are two things: (1) every actor in this film is willing to send up their image in some way, and (2) the film is incredibly raunchy—I don’t think I’ve seen this much male genitalia in a mainstream film in quite some time. The film isn’t for everybody, certainly, but if crass stoner humor is your thing, this may be the funniest film you see this summer.