retail news in context, analysis with attitude

First, let me get the business lesson out of the way. Man of Steel is, in the end, a subliminal treatise in the organics vs. GMO debate.

Yes, that's right. If you haven't yet seen Man of Steel, I'm not going to explain it to you. But if you have seen it, you know what I'm talking about.

Now, about the movie...

Growing up, I was always a DC Comics kid. I much preferred the adventures of Superman and Batman to those of the heroes of the Marvel universe, such as Spider-Man, Iron Man and the X-Men. Not sure why, except that maybe there just seemed like too much angst and suffering by Marvel's heroes, and I preferred the simpler, more straightforward values of the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel.

This, of course, has changed. The success of the various movies made about Marvel's heroes has the folks in charge of DC's various properties salivating at the thought of replicating those kinds of box office numbers. Thus, we had the Christopher Nolan-directed series of Batman films, which were about as reality-based as movies could be considering they were about a vigilante who dresses up as a bat. That said, they were gritty and character-driven, with a terrorism subtext, and extremely successful.

Now, we have Man of Steel, produced by Nolan, directed by Zack Snyder, and making the attempt to get under the skin of Kal-El, the last child of Krypton, who finds himself growing up in Kansas and torn between his human upbringing and his alien roots. Because this is 2013, Man of Steel is a far cry from the technicolor, tinged-with-humor Christopher Reeve Superman films of the late seventies and early eighties ... there are not a lot of yucks in Man of Steel, the palette is dark, the performances anguished and the world view is grim.

You may think from reading this that I did not like Man of Steel, but that would be an incorrect reading of my reservations about the movie. While the new film takes some liberties with the Superman mythos, I was okay with most of them; I think that filmmakers need to feel free to revise and revisit legends, to remake them for modern audiences. And I very much liked the first two-thirds of the movie; rather than simply retell Superman's origin story, it uses flashbacks to touch on moments of his upbringing, and this works, largely because so much of Superman's youth has been portrayed in film and TV shows. And the acting is excellent, from Henry Cavill as Kal-El/ClarkKent/Superman, Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as Ma and Pa Kent, Russell Crowe as good as he's been in years as Jor-El, Kal-El's Kryptonian father, and Michael Shannon as General Zod, the enemy of the piece.

But my enthusiasm breaks down when it comes to the third act of the movie, when Superman faces off against Zod and a crew of Kryptonian villains, and the filmmakers' near total focus seems to be on how much of Metropolis they can destroy, how many explosions and building collapses they can depict, and how little attention they can pay to actual character development and plot. (Sort of like the last act of The Avengers.)

Maybe I'm just getting old. My kids, who are in the demographic that the studios are targeting when they make these movies, loved Man of Steel. And the movie has made a ton of money, enough to justify a sequel ... which I hope will be better, because it'd be nice to have a Superman movie leap expectations in a single bound.

The Internship, the new Vince Vaughn-Owen Wilson movie about a couple of middle-aged salesmen who find themselves unemployed and trying to land internships at Google, is pretty much a one-joke movie, pretty much predictable, and not as good as their previous collaboration, The Wedding Crashers.

That said, I had a really good time at The Internship. And from the reactions of the audience we saw it with, I'd have to say that it has been a while since I've heard an audience having so much fun at a movie.

The movie may be particularly appealing to Baby Boomers, because it addresses the notion that we may all be sliding into a kind of professional irrelevance, suggesting that we have to continue to upgrade our interests and abilities. One joke, one lesson ... and one entertaining movie.

I have two wines to recommend to you this week...

the 2011 De-Classified Pinot Noir from Patton Valley Vineyard in Oregon's Willamette Valley, which my son brought home for Father's Day and which was just wonderful.

the 2012 Carlton Cellars Pinot Blanc, light and bright for these increasingly hot and humid summer days.

That's it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.

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