Man of steel on TV Land

The Baltimore Sun

Of all the Superman films to date, 1980's Superman II (10 p.m. on TV Land, repeats at 12:30 a.m.) stands out as the best. It's got a strong, charismatic performance from Christopher Reeve (who never got his due as an actor in this role). It's got wonderful villains in both Gene Hackman's Lex Luthor (who was so good that Kevin Spacey was left with nothing to do but imitate him in 2006's Superman Returns) and Terence Stamp's General Zod. It's got a touching storyline (Superman reveals his secret identity to Lois) that proved the filmmakers didn't have to practice absolute fealty to the Superman mythology. And it's got two wonderfully engaging directors working on it - the credited Richard Lester and the uncredited Richard Donner, who was fired after having finished much of the film while simultaneously shooting the first Superman two years earlier.

The result of all this is a ceaselessly entertaining and in-all-ways satisfying visit with characters we may have thought were old hat, but clearly retained appeal that had yet to be tapped. It was the first two Superman films that made it OK for adults to like movies based on comic books, meaning that, without them, Batman, Spider-Man, X-Men and all the rest might never have happened.

Also tonight, 1991's JFK (8 p.m., AMC) shows director Oliver Stone at the peak of his power. You may think his conspiracy theories are a bunch of hooey, but it's impossible to deny the narrative power and storytelling force of this film. Kevin Costner stars as real-life New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, who believed he had uncovered the real forces behind President John F. Kennedy's assassination and actually brought his case to trial. The tremendous supporting cast includes Gary Oldman (as Lee Harvey Oswald), Tommy Lee Jones, Sissy Spacek, Joe Pesci, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Donald Sutherland, John Candy, Kevin Bacon, Vincent D'Onofrio and Brian Doyle-Murray.

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