'Man of Steel'

Henry Cavill as Superman in Warner Bros. Pictures' "Man of Steel." (Clay Enos / August 24, 2011)

Warner Bros. invested a ton of money to revitalize the aging Superman franchise. Their new effort begins with great casting. British actor Henry Cavill has the buffed body and squared-jaw good looks to be the "Man of Steel." He also projects a genuine sensitivity that adds depth to our hero.

A serious Russell Crowe plays his Kryptonian father, Jor-El. Kevin Costner is Jonathan Kent, the Kansas farmer who becomes his earthly stepdad. Amy Adams is perfect as intrepid reporter Lois Lane. The special effects are as eye-popping and dazzling as you could expect.

The opening sequence provides a captivating study of the origin story. It jumps back and forth in time between two planets and two realities. Thoughtful dialogue and intriguing incidents portray the early days of the saga. But this very promising start gives way to complete sensory overload as the computer graphics take over all aspects of the movie.

The final 90 minutes of this overlong epic contain nothing but combat action. It's a reckless demolition derby between Superman and his equally super enemies from Krypton. The explosive battles are dense, loud and relentless. They numb the mind and make you forget the wonderful beginnings of this tale.

*

'The End'? Let's hope not

A Hollywood party of real A- and B-list celebrities turns disastrous in "This Is The End." Co-written and starring Seth Rogen, this is the raunchy, outrageous, hilarious dark comedy that "The Hangover Part III" should have been.

The winning premise is all the actors are playing what we assume to be versions of themselves — Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride and Jay Baruchel — while holed up in Franco's home after witnessing calamitous death and destruction.

Pillars of fire, beams of blue light and demonic-looking beasts abound. Could this really be Armageddon, and if so, are these guys going to heaven or hell, and why?

Egos, insecurities and lots of pot feed their stoner stupidity with wild abandon. One of the funniest, most outrageous scenes is a heated argument between Franco and McBride over a certain body function which cannot be described here.

There are many howl-out-loud moments and some crazy-good cameos here — Michael Cera and Emma Watson, to name just two. Blink and you may miss Paul Rudd, Mindy Kaling, Rihanna (still a bad actress, even when playing herself) and Channing Tatum.

"The End" has genuinely jolting moments between obscene laughs. If you hated "Pineapple Express," "Superbad" or "Knocked Up," this is not the movie for you.

But like many of Rogen's films, there's an underlying sweetness, a man-child vulnerability that makes it tough to completely write these guys off as just losers with money. The proof is in the hilariously unexpected ending that will have you beaming.

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator. SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.