Reel Critics: 'Lantern' needs more than just special effects

The latest superhero film is "Green Lantern." Played by Ryan Reynolds, the hero draws his powers from a glowing green ring. Ancient guardians of the universe choose him to replace his dying predecessor. He becomes much more of a space cowboy on intergalactic adventures than an Earth-bound crime-fighter.

Thirty years ago, a new superhero movie with state-of-the-art special effects generated excitement months in advance of its opening. Back then only a few studios had access to the highest tech quality. Christopher Reeves as Superman in 1978 was the first comic book mega-hit of this genre.

Since then, producers learned to duplicate the whiz-bang CGI of the big boys. Movie versions of Batman, Hulk, Fantastic Four, Spiderman, Iron Man, Thor and many others followed. With many sequels to boot, they have all now become ordinary summer cinema.

First-rate special effects are not so special anymore. We take them for granted. It's the characters and the story that have to captivate us. The screenplay for "Green Lantern" is all formula, lightweight and predictable. But the action and adventure is up to summertime popcorn standards. It will satisfy the teenage target audience.


Lots to love about 'Beginners'

A wistfully funny, touching story about love — whether for a child, parent, lover, spouse, or an adorable little dog. It's simply told and totally charming, especially with Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor playing father and son.

When recently widowed Hal (Plummer) comes out of the closet after 45 years of marriage, Oliver (McGregor) is confused, supportive, and even envious to see his dad find real bliss at the end of his life. Oliver finds love too, with a charming actress (Mélanie Laurent), but he is unsure. Having grown up in a pleasant but passionless home, he doesn't know what real love's supposed to be like.

The pleasure of "Beginners" is seeing both men find their way toward reconciling their pasts and being unafraid to embrace the joys life offers up.


Soapy feel of 'Bride Flight' doesn't distract

The lives of three brides-to-be and one adventurous young man are forever intertwined when they emigrate from post-war Holland to New Zealand. Ada, Esther, Marjorie and Frank all meet on the same plane. All are beautiful in their youth with dreams of a better life and warmer climate.

But, of course, fate has other plans for them.

This is a beautifully filmed tale of bittersweet love, sex, betrayal, and tragedy. While "Bride Flight" may be a glorified soap opera, the characters are genuinely likable and have us rooting for them to achieve some semblance of a happy ending.

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator.

SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa.

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