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James Gunn
Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Liv Tyler, Kevin Bacon, Michael Rooker, Andre Royo, Sean Gunn, Stephen Blackehart
Writing Credits:
James Gunn

Shut up, crime!

When sad-sack loser Frank (Rainn Wilson), a short-order cook, sees his ex-addict wife (Liv Tyler) willingly snatched away by a seductive drug dealer (Kevin Bacon), he finds himself bereft and unable to cope. But he decides to fight back under the guise of a do-it-yourself superhero called Crimson Bolt. With a red hand-made suit, a wrench, a crazed sidekick named Boltie (Ellen Page) and absolutely nothing in the way of superpowers Crimson Bolt beats his way through the mean streets of crime in hopes of saving his wife.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$46.549 thousand on 11 screens.
Domestic Gross
$322.157 thousand.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 96 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 8/9/2011

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director James Gunn and Actor Rainn Wilson
• Deleted Scene
• Behind the Scenes Featurette
• “Making of Main Titles” Featurette
• “How to Fight Crime at SXSW” Featurette
• Trailer
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Super [Blu-Ray] (2011)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 1, 2011)

In the same vein as 2010’s Kick-Ass, 2011’s Super focuses on an ordinary person who tries to become a superhero. Frank Darbo (Rainn Wilson) leads what he describes as a life of “pain, humiliation and rejection” with only two notable highlights: the day of his wedding to lovely Sarah Helgeland (Liv Tyler) and the time he helped cops apprehend a crook.

A former addict, Sarah slips back into her old ways and ends up leaving Frank to be with drug dealer Jacques (Kevin Bacon). In denial, Frank believes Jacques kidnapped her and tries to get the police to intervene. Since they understand this isn’t a kidnapping or missing persons case, they decline, so eventually Frank takes matters into his own hands.

With a little help from God – or at least what Frank believes is a vision of God, who touches him on the brain and inspires him to become the Crimson Bolt, a costumed avenger. He adopts a pipe wrench as his weapon of choice and goes after street criminals like drug dealers and child molesters. Eventually he brings comic store employee Libby (Ellen Page) into the fold as Boltie and the two go on to become the vigilante talk of the town – all while Frank continues to attempt to get back Sarah.

If you want to find the Most Misrepresented Film of 2011, I suspect you’ll want to pick Super. Watch the ads for the movie and you’ll see it touted as a wacky action-comedy.

Which it occasionally is, but Super definitely engages in a dark side to which the promos don’t hint. Sure, they show some of the graphic violence – watch the trailer and see people explode – but the ads leave the impression that Super will be an over the top romp without a serious bone in its body.

That’s not what it delivers. While it does engage in comedy at times, it seems much more dramatic than anticipated. Some of this comes from the depiction of Frank. The movie launches with a montage of his pain and humiliation, all depicted in a way that makes it tough to know whether we’re supposed to laugh or cry.

We don’t really do either, but we do see Frank as a pathetic figure and certainly not the comedic sad sack we expected. He’s just a lost soul with obvious mental health issues – he’s always had schizophrenic “visions” – and he goes totally around the bend when he loses Sarah.

Rather than treat Frank’s transformation into the Bolt as redemptive, this change comes across more like another sign of his mental illness. At first, the Bolt goes after worthy foes; while his wrench-wielding methods might be a little more violent than necessary, at least he hits real scumbags.

But this eventually changes and it appears that Frank can no longer tell the difference between real criminals and simple jerks. We see this shift occur when he viciously assaults a couple who cut in line at a movie; to teach them a lesson, Frank/the Bolt splits open their heads with his wrench.

Do we laugh, cheer or gasp at this scene? Mostly the last one, partially because of the film’s tone. As I noted, Super hints at comedy-action but it’s too dark and depressing to really go down that path. This means that while a movie with a more obviously satirical bent could get away with laughs in this scene, Super becomes shocking. Although we don’t like the line-cutters, we don’t think they deserve to be severely injured for their rudeness.

But Super can never quite figure out how to depict this scene and others like it. The film feels tentative, like it wants to amuse us but understands how horrible the events it depicts really are so it teeters on the ledge between dark humor and drama.

This ultimately makes it unsatisfying, as the erratic tone robs the movie of much of its value. At its heart, I think the film wants to be a drama and it wants to counter the waves of superhero movies with a more realistic tale that shows the repercussions. Kick-Ass flirted with some of those issues but was too much of a standard comic book flick to truly deal with the violent facts of life that’d come with real-life superheroes.

Super doesn’t shy away from those at all. The Bolt brutally beats people and gets hurt himself along the way. Others end up severely injured and multiple gruesome deaths occur. None of this is treated with great horror or solemnity, but neither does the film view these events as funny.

So where does that leave us? It sticks us with a movie that could’ve been an intriguing take on a schizophrenic who decides to fight crime – and suffers the inevitable consequences. Instead, it tries to have its proverbial cake and eat it too, which leaves it without a satisfying feel.

At least most of the actors do well, though I could never quite get used to Tyler as Frank’s wife. She does a spectacular job with the role – arguably the film’s only realistic person among a sea of nutbags and cartoon characters – but I just find it tough to swallow that a babe like her would marry a schlub like Frank. Yeah, the film goes out of its way to explain this, but I still can’t fully accept it.

But that’s just me, and as noted, Tyler offers an excellent performance. Wilson is also quite good in the lead, and Bacon provides a nicely sleazy take on his one-dimensional part. Unfortunately, Page is a bit of a weak link, as she’s just too manic as Libby. Her character’s even more nuts than Frank, but she doesn’t give the role much more life than crazy energy; you start to wonder why even a wacko like Frank would choose to associate with such a loose cannon.

Ultimately, I think Super presents an intriguing tale and delivers it with good acting, but its erratic tone creates too many potholes. While I certainly don’t insist that films find one genre and never deviate, this one’s lack of focus makes it a weird experience that doesn't gel.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

Super appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. No notable problems mar the transfer.

Sharpness was usually very good. A sliver of softness popped up a couple of times, but the image mostly came across as accurate and well-defined. I saw no signs of jagged edges or moiré effects, and the presentation lacked edge haloes. Source flaws were also absent, as the transfer didn’t suffer from any specks, marks or other distractions.

Despite the potentially vivid world of the superhero, the film’s colors remained subdued. The image opted for a somewhat sepia/desaturated look with only occasional splashes of brighter hues. Within those constraints, the colors seemed good. Blacks were deep and dense, while shadows displayed positive clarity. Though not quite “A”-level, this was a consistently nice presentation.

I also felt pleased with the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Super, though it didn’t have great kick to it. Yeah, the soundscape popped to life on a few action occasions – especially during an ultra-violent climax – but this wasn’t a film with a ton of slambang scenes. Still, it gave us good movement and environmental information that used the various channels in a satisfying – if not consistently exciting – way.

Audio quality worked fine. Speech was natural and concise, while music seemed full and dynamic. Effects offered nice accuracy and heft; bass was loud and tight when appropriate. Though there wasn’t enough pizzazz here for a grade over a “B”, I still felt pleased with the mix.

When we head to the disc’s extras, we start with an audio commentary from writer/director James Gunn and actor Rainn Wilson. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at sets and locations, cast and characters, the production schedule and its development/financing, music, the opening credits, editing and cut scenes, visual effects, stunts and action, and a few other topics.

Gunn and Wilson keep things lively and light, but they still deliver a good amount of information. We learn a lot about the flick and its creation through their chat, and they ensure that we’re reasonably entertained along the way. This ends up as a useful piece.

One Deleted Scene lasts one minute, eight seconds. In it, we see the signs that Sarah is slipping back into addiction as she and Frank argue about her use of alcohol. It’s unclear whether this would’ve appeared in real time or it would’ve been a flashback. In either case, it’s not especially useful or interesting.

Behind the Scenes goes for 18 minutes, 37 seconds and includes notes from Gunn, Wilson, producers Ted Hope and Miranda Bailey, VFX supervisor Louis Morin and actors Ellen Page, Liv Tyler, and Kevin Bacon. The featurette covers the film’s roots and development, cast, training and performances, the rapid shooting pace, visual effects, and some other production notes. “Scenes” doesn’t boast a ton of depth, but it’s a good overview that benefits from nice on-the-set footage.

Next comes the four-minute, 50-second Making of Main Titles. It features remarks from animation supervisor Shad Petosky, producer/character designer Julia Vickerman, animation director Mike Owens, designer Vincent Stall and animator/compositor Victor Courtright. As expected, they detail the work done from the animated credits as well as some other parts of the film. Despite the clip’s brevity, it proves to be pretty informative.

Finally, How to Fight Crime at SXSW runs three minutes, 59 seconds. It features Wilson and Page in character as they romp around Austin, TX. It’s mildly amusing.

The disc opens with ads for The Other Woman, Peep World, Salvation Boulevard and An Invisible Sign. We also get a trailer and a TV Spot for Super.

As a story of a real-life loser who tries to redeem himself as a costumed crimefighter, Super has its moments, and a strong cast helps elevate it somewhat. Unfortunately, it attempts too much in terms of tone, as its mix of drama and comedy doesn’t mesh; that makes it unsatisfying in the end. The Blu-ray comes with very good picture and audio as well as a decent set of supplements. Despite some effective spots, the movie fails to live up to its potential.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.3333 Stars Number of Votes: 3
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