Anthony LaPaglia

All-Star Superman (2011, Sam Liu)

All-Star Superman, the comic book, is maybe the best Superman comic book. Based on empirical observation (i.e. the other animated DC Comics movies from Warner Premiere), I assumed All-Star Superman, the animated movie, would be awful.

I was wrong. It’s wondrous.

It’s not without its problems, of course. The movie is based on the comic, but it feels like one of the Superman movies. It needs better music. Christopher Drake has the chops to do a video game score, not this film.

Second, the character designs are often weak. Proportions are absurd.

Third, Alexis Denisof is terrible. He doesn’t have a big part, but he opens and closes the movie. It hurts.

Now, on the good stuff. All-Star Superman is about two things–Superman and Lois and Superman and Lex Luthor. About twenty-five minutes is just Superman and Lois having a date. Sure, she’s got temporary superpowers and they’re flying around, but it’s just a date. It’s lovely.

The Lex Luthor stuff comes later and is consistently entertaining.

James Denton is great. Anthony LaPaglia gives the film’s best performance. Christina Hendricks is all right (she’s best in her scenes with Denton, which is odd, since they probably didn’t record together). Everyone else is solid–Arnold Vosloo is excellent.

The script hurries a lot, but manages to sell every sequence, even if it starts problematically.

The movie does what the comic book did–it turns the traditional Superman story into a fable of unbridled enthusiasm.

It’s great.



Directed by Sam Liu; screenplay by Dwayne McDuffie, based on a comic book by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely and a character created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; edited by Margaret Hou; music by Christopher Drake; produced by Bobbie Page and Bruce W. Timm; released by Warner Premiere.

Starring James Denton (Superman / Clark Kent), Christina Hendricks (Lois Lane), Anthony LaPaglia (Lex Luthor), Alexis Denisof (Dr. Quintum), Edward Asner (Perry White), Matthew Gray Gubler (Jimmy Olsen), Kevin Michael Richardson (Steve Lombard), Steve Blum (Atlas), John DiMaggio (Samson), Linda Cardellini (Nasthalthia), Arnold Vosloo (Bar-El), Finola Hughes (Lilo-El), Robin Atkin Downes (Solaris), Michael Gough (Parasite) and Frances Conroy (Ma Kent).

Mortal Sins (1990, Yuri Sivo)

Mortal Sins is a couple things one would think were mutually exclusive. On one hand, it’s a standard direct-to-video thriller, even if it shot on location in New York (featuring a bevy of actors who went on to β€œLaw and Order” guest spots). On the other, it’s a serious attempt at an examination of the main character, an unmarried Jewish man unable to commit to his girlfriend, who only has Italian friends. And it’s a comedy (the murder mystery is set around competing televangelists, which I’m almost positive was also the setting for one of the Perry Mason TV movies). Frighteningly, the movie almost pulls it off.

There are two rather significant problems. First, Brian Benben is terrible. Benben’s usually likable or, at least, he’s supposed to be likable, but in Mortal Sins, he’s a complete jerk. Why he’s a jerk is the second significant problem–the script is not funny. The scenes with Benben teasing and mistreating his girlfriend (who sometimes spends the nights at his parents’ house with him) are terrible. Maggie Wheeler plays the girlfriend and she gets through the bad script, which is bad in a peculiar way. It’s not funny and it’s trying to be funny, but it still somehow works in the scenes with Benben and his friends. There’s also the scenes where Benben hassles his mother. Spending a movie hoping his father takes a baseball bat to his head before the end doesn’t make for a rewarding viewing experience.

But there are some good performances in it besides Wheeler. Peter Onorati is good and so’s Anthony LaPaglia. Most of LaPaglia’s scenes are the ones where Mortal Sins appears the most like a good, low budget comedy. There aren’t enough of them. The New York locations set the film a little apart. It’s a veritable tour video of the city (I’m sixty percent sure I know the big rock they shot at in Central Park) and it lends the film an agreeable tone, even if it’s dishonest. Well, it might not be dishonest. Watching the movie, I kept thinking it was a financed by a ten years of laundry profits. There’s something–behind the camera–very amateurish about the production ad and I’ll bet it’s a more interesting story than the film itself.

For such a peculiar film, the direction’s actually quite acceptable. Sivo knows how to shoot the scenes with the friends and family–better even-and he knows how to make the rest of it look like a direct-to-video thriller.

It’s the second time I’ve seen the film and I only kept it around because I remembered it being lame, but in an intriguing way. That diagnosis has not changed.



Directed by Yuri Sivo; written and produced by Allen Blumberg; director of photography, Bobby Bukowski; edited by Dorian Harris; music by Simon Boswell; production designer, Ray Recht; released by Panorama Entertainment Group.

Starring Brian Benben (Nathan), Debrah Farentino (Laura Rollins), Anthony LaPaglia (Vito), James Harper (Malcolm Rollins), Brick Hartney (Billy Beau Backus), Maggie Wheeler (Marie), Peter Onorati (Diduch), Anna Berger (Mother Weinschank), Frank S. Palmer (Paul Martin) and Steven Marcus (Cousin Benjamin).

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