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in review

‘The Devil Wears Prada’ is humorous, engaging

Whether you think Prada is a large city in Eastern Europe, or you believe haute couture is a high end spa in Switzerland, no matter. Though “The Devil Wears Prada” is indeed set in the fast lane of the fashion industry, in New York, the only city that matters other than Paris, this isn’t a shallow film about designer gowns and the endless layers of attendant accessories.

Instead, it’s a humorous, engaging, over-the-top look at the personalities of those who are inside the fashion industry, with Meryl Streep giving one of her best performances in years. Playing Miranda Priestly, editor of “Runway Magazine,” Streep fashions, so to speak, a character that is both wonderful and horrible, the type of boss that assumes she is the center of the universe and is barely aware of the plebes who circle her, whose only mission is to attend to her every whim while doing whatever it takes to escape her quiet, glaring wrath.

Into this world of high fashion steps Andy, a recent graduate of Northwestern University. Her wish is to be a journalist, but she needs a job to pay the rent. She manages to land a spot with “Runway” and is told by everyone that most would kill to sit outside the office of Miranda, answering the phone, picking up her dry cleaning, and go-foring endlessly. For Andy, who arrives as an ugly duckling, it’s a world that dazzles, a world so self-important and self-perpetuating that it’s all but impossible not to be seduced into wanting to be part of it. The fact that she’s not writing, or working as a journalist, is a detail that begins to fade as she works mightily to please Miranda, just Miranda, always Miranda.

If her compromises — and they are major — seem a betrayal of her dream, well, it’s understandable. Who can be clear-eyed and steely when it comes to your future? Especially at such a young age. What is remarkable, however, is the amount of abuse that she and her coworkers are prepared to accept from one individual, no matter her title or Prada dress or power-base. Andy is turned into a slave class, and Miranda’s demeaning behavior is so far out of line that it’s remarkable that no one takes umbrage and gives her a good verbal thrashing followed by words approximating, “I quit.”

While “The Devil Wears Prada,” is about one mean, trash-talking woman (it doesn’t sound like trash-talk, coming from the beautifully made-up lips of Miranda) it isn’t a mean-spirited film. “Prada” is funny, engaging, even lighthearted, and Streep’s performance is dead-on. She is also supported by the top-drawer character actor Stanley Tucci, a veteran of many recent films, all made richer by his talent. Emily Blunt, who portrays one of Miranda’s young, obsequious go-fors, sparkles, stealing every scene she is in.

As an aside, though it is still early in the ramp up for awards, Streep’s portrayal might just be a contender. This is a movie not to be missed.

Two Reviews: ‘Superman Returns’

What’s it been? Twenty years since we last saw Superman up on the silver screen in “Superman IV”? It was an installment that had clearly run out of steam and audience, ending what had been, all in all, a successful franchise run.

Nevertheless, frayed as the last film seemed, it’s been too long. There’s no denying that this superhero has charisma and can raise audience goosebumps, on paper or on film, simply by running as fast as a speeding bullet while glasses, shirt and suit fall away and the iconic “S,” chest center, is revealed. It’s a rush.

Make no mistake, for 60 years wonks of the caped crusader, created by Jerry Siegel and Joel Shuster, have studied his every nuanced move, examined minutely his origins, and superhuman abilities, many identifying with the geeky Clark Kent who can transform himself into an extraterrestrial possessing powers beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. Think of it: one minute a bumbling reporter who is barely taken seriously, then the man of steel going vertical over the city of Metropolis. If only.

Anticipating the release of “Superman Returns,” there has been some buzz floating about regarding the sexual orientation of Superman — some academics, the uber wonks, have even referred to him as a homosocial character. That would be the hero who lives essentially an asexual life, stoic, ever mindful that he has been called to do great things, hence he can’t allow the distraction of romance to intrude — as much as he’d like to. Lois Lane does beckon. Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man all live like Trappist monks when it comes to their personal life. And it’s all in the best tradition of, well, the iconic, undomesticated cowboy who rides through the ascetic west, a stretching cloister of sorts, accompanied by his trusty sidekick, maybe following the herd, and on occasion going into town to hammer on the bad guys. All in all, cowboys hate to go into town. The open range is pure; towns are corrupting.

Perhaps the subtext that is most interesting is the religious. Consider Superman’s Christ-like backstory: As an infant he was sent to earth from Krypton, the only son of Jor-El. His mission was to use his powers for the greater good and to save mankind. In previous films we watch as Superman, aka Clark, is raised from infancy by an old farm couple, he Kents, and slowly prepares for the day he will be called to service. In “Superman Returns” there is actually a scene where Superman is resurrected and returns with his powers intact, stronger than ever. Myth merges with the search for ultimate answers. What more could we ask for?

Through it all — the comic books sold, the resilient film franchise — no matter the challenge, no matter the evil plans of Lex Luthor or his minions, Superman has remained true to his creed: fighting for truth and justice and the American way. And this latest installment, filled with renewed energy, gets the job done. Super movie.

Donald Lind Tidings Reviewer

Look, up in the sky: Superman has returned at last to the big screen after a very long absence in the anticipated “Superman Returns.” The long wait was worth it; this new entry into the series is one super-powered thrill ride.

Technically, Superman hasn’t been in a film since the series’ fourth entry, 1987’s “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.” But with a change in direction from director Bryan Singer (“X-Men — and 2,” “The Usual Suspects”), this film makes it seem like the Man of Steel has been missing since the second film from 1980.

Singer decides to make Superman’s return a direct sequel to “Superman II,” while ignoring the third and fourth entries in the series (which is a very wise decision). This allows Superman to finally have a film worthy of his first two cinematic outings.

“Superman Returns” is filled with amazing action and effects, but the film focuses more on the son of Jor-El’s other weakness, besides Kryptonite-his care for others. He is the only son of a dead world, and alone in the universe. All he has on this planet is the job to save humans in trouble.

But what happens when the savior of the world leaves? How would Earth react? And what would happen when he resurfaced?

Superman (relative unknown Brandon Routh) has spent five years searching for remnants of his home world Krypton. But when he returns to his adopted planet, he finds all that he knew has moved on.

As his alter-ego, Clark Kent, he is only able to get his job back at the Daily Planet, because his replacement died. The love of his life, Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth), has a young son and a boyfriend (James Marsden, following Singer from the “X-Men” franchise). And she is about to receive that elusive Pulitzer Prize for her editorial “Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman.”

One person who hasn’t changed much is Superman’s arch-rival Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey). After getting parole from a double-life sentence (no spoilers, but the reason is hilarious), Luthor schemes to become the Realtor for the world. He steals Superman’s crystals from the Fortress of Solitude and plans to use their abilities of adapting to the environment around them to create a new continent-and render the old ones obsolete.

“Superman Returns” is an emotionally satisfying film. It packs action thrills, great effects and very funny humor into its enormous two-and-a-half hour running time, but never feels long. It does a lot to wash out the bitter aftertaste of “Superman — and 4.”

And it also has a lot of heart. Singer takes a deeper look into the alien in blue-and-red and shows a lonely man who is unable to fully find his place on a strange world. When he reunites with Lois, it is far from the genial conversations they had in the original film. They are awkward; five years of time and lightyears apart have made these two feel like strangers.

But Singer does not just make Superman out to be all about angst for a lost love; he takes great care in showing Superman’s courage and determination to do what is right-and also give the occasional public service message about transportation.

Routh will never fill the shoes of the late, great Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel, but he channels his spirit and does a fine job. He is funny as the bumbling Kent and seems to be weary, yet still in awe of his own powers, especially when flying.

Spacey manages to out-do Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor. He still brings the sarcastic jokes, but is much more mean-spirited, cold, cruel and a genuine threat to Superman for the first time on film.

Bosworth does okay as Lois Lane, but can’t escape Margot Kidder’s performance in the first film. It doesn’t help that she is now a mother, yet looks too young for the part.

Marsden as Lois’ boyfriend Richard does well with a small role, but has much more to do here than in most of the “X-Men” series. Newcomer Tristan Lake Lebau as Lois’ son Jason, as well as Daily Planet regulars Perry White and Jimmy Olsen (Frank Langella and Sam Huntington, respectively) bring a lot of laughs. One big surprise is the use of archival footage of the late Marlon Brando as Jor-El.

Aside from a few cartoon-like shots, the special effects are off the charts, and a great compliment to the Oscar-winning effects of the 1978 original that had audiences believing a man could fly. Well, here they really can believe it.

The score by John Ottman (who also served as co-editor) was suitably epic, especially when spiced up by the classic John Williams theme. Cinematography by Newton Thomas Sigel was beautiful.

A lot of love and effort went into “Superman Returns” and it shows. Singer and company have finally made a film worthy of following the last two installments.

After 19 years of countless re-writes and red tape, the Man of Steel has returned to the big screen in a big way.

NOW PLAYING

An Inconvenient Truth

Former Vice President Al Gore’s crusade to raise awareness of global warming, warning us we have only 10 years to try and avert a major catastrophic climatic tailspin of epic destruction involving extreme weather, floods, droughts, epidemics and killer heat waves beyond anything we have ever experienced. With wit, smarts and hope, Gore brings home his persuasive argument that we can no longer afford to view global warming as a political issue rather, it is the biggest moral challenge facing our global civilization. A Davis Guggenheim documentary.

PG for mild thematic elements/98 min.

Prairie Home

Companion

A look at what goes on backstage at one of America’s most celebrated radio shows. Singing cowboys, a country music siren, a gumshoe and a host of others hold court on their last show after being bought out. Directed by Robert Altman (“Gosford Park”, “Nashville”). Meryl Streep, Garrison Keillor, Kevin Kline, Lily Tomlin, John C. Reilly, Woody Harrelson, Lyle Lovett, Lindsay Lohen, Virginia Madsen, Tommy Lee Jones, Maya Rudolph. PG-13 for risque humor/105 min.

Lake House

A doctor who once occupied a lakeside home begins exchanging love letters with its newest resident, a frustrated architect. When they discover they’re actually living two years apart, they try to unravel the mystery before it’s too late. Remake of “Il Mare”, a 2000 Korean film. Sandra Bullock, Keanu Reeves, Dylan Walsh, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Christopher Plummer

. PG for some language and a disturbing image/99 min.

Mrs. Palfrey at

the Claremont

An elegant elderly lady, recently widowed, moves from Scotland to London to be near her grandson. When he doesn’t return her calls, she falls into a friendship with another young man. He agrees to pose as the grandson so that she can save face with the other elderly residents of the hotel in which she lives. Directed by Dan Ireland “Passionada” Joan Plowright, Rupert Friend, Anna Massey, Georgina Hale, Millicent Martin, Clare Higgins.

Not Rated/108 min.

Say I Do

Ben and Sydney set out to have the perfect wedding, but end up by the side of a road. As things heat up and their plans fall apart, their relationship is put to the test, with Ben’s best friend capturing each moment on film. An unflinching and comical exploration into an unraveling relationship. Directed by Ron Vignone; Written by Ron Vignone and Joe Forte Ben Koldyke, Pamela Moore Somers, Samuel Bliss Cooper, Rebecca Rosenak, David BelAyche, Don Knowlton, Joe Forte

. Not Rated/90m min.

Pirates of the

Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

Captain Jack Sparrow dowes a blood debt to the legendary Davey Jones, and must find a way out of his debt or else be doomed to eternal damnation and servitude in the afterlife. Directed by Gore Verbenski (“The Ring”, “The Mexican”, “Mousehunt”) Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Bill Nighy, Stellan Skarsgård, Jack Davenport, Kevin R. McNally, Naomie Harris, Jonathan Pryce.

PG-13 for intense sequences of adventure violence, including frightening images/151 min.

Superman Returns

Superman returns to Earth after a mysterious absence of several years, only to find that the woman he loves, Lois Lane, has moved on with her life. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor has a plan that could kill billions of people. Directed by Bryan Singer (“X-Men”, “X-2”, “The Usual Suspects”) Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey, James Marsden, Frank Langella, Eva Marie Saint, Parker Posey.

PG-13 for some intense action violence/157 min.

Click

A workaholic architect, who has been favoring work over family, comes across a universal remote that allows him to perform functions on his life, such as pausing events or fast-forwarding over them. Adam Sandler, Kate Beckinsale, Christopher Walken Henry Winkler, David Hasselhoff, Julie Kavner, Sean Astin

PG-13 for language, crude and sex related humor and some drug references/107 min.

Cars

From Disney and Pixar comes the animated story of a hotshot rookie racecar who finds himself unexpectedly detoured. With the help of some new friends he discovers that life is all about the journey, not the finish line. Directed by John Lasseter (“Toy Story”, “A Bug’s Life”) Voice talents of Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, Larry the Cable Guy, Cheech Marin, George Carlin.

G/122 min. (includes 4.5 min. short subject “One Man Band”/S/Buena Vista