At the Movies: Green Lantern, Mr. Popper’s Penguins

DC Entertainment would like you to know that there’s more to the company than Superman and Batman.

Unfortunately, they haven’t had a lot of success outside the Big Two. Consider their track record in film: “Supergirl,” “Steel,” “Catwoman,” “Constantine,” “Jonah Hex.” Nothing to be proud of, and they haven’t even been able to get a “Wonder Woman” movie made.

Which brings us to “Green Lantern.” One of DC’s popular superheroes in comic book circles, he’s mainly unknown to the general public. Still, DC was willing to sink a reported $300 million into his feature film debut.

Was it worth it? Well, “Green Lantern” is a better film than the ones listed above, but it’s not among the A-list of super hero movies. DC better not take Batman off the Rolodex just yet.

The movie opens with a prologue that will probably leave some in the audience wondering what they’ve gotten into.

Ages ago a race of short, blue aliens called The Guardians harnessed the green energy of willpower and used it to forge an intergalactic peacekeeping force called the Green Lantern Corps. Green Lanterns dispense justice through power rings that tap into the green energy and allow the wearer to create constructs of whatever they can imagine.

The greatest enemy of the Green Lanterns is Parallax (Clancy Brown), an entity that harnesses the yellow energy of fear. Ages ago, Green Lantern Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison) captured Parallax and imprisoned him on a remote planet. As the film opens, Parallax has escaped and is seeking revenge.

Parallax mortally wounds Abin Sur and Sur escapes to Earth. With his dying breath, he sends the ring out to find his replacement.

Enter Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), a cocky test pilot with authority and daddy issues. Jordan’s on-again, of-again love interest is his boss, Carol Ferris (Blake Lively). The ring selects Jordan as its new owner and whisks him off to Oa, home planet of the Corps.

Jordan is instructed in the ways of the Corps by fish-faced Tomar-Re (Geoffrey Rush) and put through his paces by bulldog-faced drill instructor Kilowog (Michael Clarke Duncan). Meanwhile, Green Lantern Sinestro (Mark Strong) is urging the Guardians to let the Corps confront Parallax.

Back on Earth, the government has asked scientist Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) to examine the dead body of Abin Sur. While examining Sur’s wound, he’s infected by the evil yellow energy and it begins to change him.

Let’s cut to the chase or we’ll never get out of here: Parallax senses his energy in Hammond and also notices that the ring of his arch-enemy is on Earth, so he heads that way to destroy it. Jordan turns to the Guardians for help, but they decide Earth isn’t worth the risk. Gotta look at the big picture.

Can newbie Green Lantern Hal Jordan defeat the Corps greatest enemy alone? The future of “Green Lantern” sequels rides on it.

“Green Lantern” is a special effects extravaganza and on that level it works pretty well. The outer space bits look nice, the design for the Guardians is suitably creepy and the power ring constructs are clever. It all looks very much like it came out of a comic book.

It’s on a story level that the cracks show. Origin stories are always a chore to get through and Green Lantern has more to get through than most — and a lot of it is pretty silly (green power of will? yellow power of fear?). Still, the movie moves along at a decent pace despite all the exposition that has to be delivered. Character development gets shorted as a result, particularly Hammond.

There’s also a strange lack of wonder to it all. Jordan gets hijacked to outer space and drafted into an alien police force and doesn’t react with the shock and awe that you’d expect. In fact, he doesn’t seem the slightest put off by what’s happening to him.

The film’s biggest failing: It’s really not a good idea for your Big Bad to be a giant, yellow, squid-like blob with no personality.

Did it work for me? I thought director Martin  Campbell did a decent job of bringing the Green Lantern story to life. It’s not one of the great super hero movies and it’s not as good as “Thor” or “X-Men: First Class” but I don’t think it deserves the thrashing it’s been getting in many corners.

Oh, and as usual, don’t bother with the 3D version.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins

‘Mr. Popper’s Penguins’ is a patently predictable, pre-processed motion picture precisely produced to appeal to parents and their progeny.

In other words, it’s an OK but uninspired family movie.

Based on a children’s book by Richard and Florence Atwater (but bearing little resemblance to it), “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” tells a story that should be very familiar to anyone over age 10.

Jim Carrey stars as Mr. Popper, a hot-shot in real estate who’s one big deal away from being made a partner in his firm. Popper’s obsession with work has, of course, put a strain on his personal life. He’s separated from wife Amanda (Carla Gugino) and alienated from daughter Janie (Madeline Carroll). Only son Billy (Maxwell Perry Cotton) still has faith in him.

What could possibly turn Popper’s life around, make him see what’s really important in life, and reunite this family? How about a sextet of penguins?

You see, Popper’s papa was an explorer or somesuch, and in his will he leaves Popper with a special gift — a penguin. Popper tries to send the bird back, but in your typical movie mixup, he winds up with five more instead.

Cue countless scenes of penguins farting, screeching, biting and pooping. When did this kind of crap — pardon the expression — become popular family entertainment?

When the family comes to visit, Billy thinks the penguins are a birthday present and mom and sister go along. Because who wouldn’t think that live, wild, antarctic birds belong in a New York apartment? So now, to keep the family happy, Popper must keep the penguins.

This could be a problem thanks to a nosy neighbor and a determined zoo official (Clark Gregg). The penguins are also making it hard for Popper to pull off his critical business deal.

“Mr. Popper’s Penguins” is cute, I guess. I just feel like I’ve seen this story a hundred times in one form or another. There’s no clever twist, no clever anything, really — unless you find pooping penguins to be clever. Jim Carrey plays his usual manic character, so if you still find that funny there’s that.

Did it work for me? “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” is one of those movies where all the funny bits are in the trailer. So just watch that a couple of times and save yourself some $$$.

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