The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

The Amazing Spider-Man 2Released: May 2, 2014. Directed by: Marc Webb. Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx. Runtime: 142 min.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 proves you can only have as many as three villains in a film to have the narrative still remain coherent. The tightly packed narrative makes the film have minor pacing issues – but this is still a heck of a lot of fun and a great follow-up to a solid introduction. It’s at least not Spider-Man 3 all over again, because at least we’re spared from unlikable stretches with the main character – but a difference is Garfield will still be mildly tolerable. I think Marc Webb is too smart to do that all over again.

The film finds Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) in his most personal battle yet. He’s still trying to find out why his parents had to leave, which is a good mystery that fits well into the narrative but packs it tighter. He sees Gwen Stacy’s (Emma Stone) father everywhere he goes, unable to shake his promise he made to stay away from Gwen to keep her out of danger. The super villain of this film is a cool villain called Electro (Jamie Foxx). His battles become more personal when Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) comes back into town after the death of his father. Peter comes to realize that a lot of things that happen in his life and that affect him enemy-wise revolve around one thing: Oscorp.

A personal battle for the characters on-screen, this is also more painful and personal for audience members, more-so fans of the franchise. The urgency audience members will feel for some character’s safety adds intensity to the film. The narrative does well with foreshadowing. Peter’s love for Gwen gives him a layer of vulnerability; you’d think he’d protect her better as Spider-Man by disguising his voice like Batman does. Andrew Garfield plays to his strengths as his character, and he gets a lot more laughs than the last film – losing himself in a Marvel-like and comedic atmosphere. (This is one of Marvel’s funnier films.) His chemistry with Emma Stone is just so easy to love. It’s a great and natural chemistry that makes you tell that the characters work better when they’re in each other’s lives. They’re allowed to play to their emotional strengths as actors, as well; Stone notably in a lovely graduation speech which is very inspiring. Sally Field also has a great scene where she shows her strengths as a dramatic actress.

One part that interests me about the plot is that Parker’s involvement with the Daily Bugle is played down; only mentioned as an income for Peter, and he only e-mails J. Jonah Jameson and never actually goes into the Bugle. I think it’s smart that Webb doesn’t cast a Jameson, because J.K. Simmons is such a great actor to portray the character. Since Peter only e-mails Jameson, which is an arc that makes sense in the digital age, it saves probably saves five minutes that would have just added to the already lengthy 142 minutes that doesn’t need anything more. I don’t like that Spider-Man is so controversial in this film; a lot of people think he should just let the cops do their jobs. He saves a lot more people than the cops ever could; and I think the controversy aspect would be better suited for the titular hero in Kick-Ass. I think the R-rated crime fighting would be a more realistic subject to criticism inside the film.

Anyway, Spidey learns the hard way that he shouldn’t save everyone by saving Max Dillon (Foxx), who later becomes Electro in a freak accident, which is the origins story based more on the one from the classic Marvel universe. I think Max’s motivations are very human, as well – he’s a mild-mannered, insecure guy who wants some attention and to be needed. Foxx gives a cool performance as Electro, with some awesome electric vocal styles. Hans Zimmer also has a lot of fun with the score, making voices in Electro’s head an electric song in its own – most notably during a critical introduction of the villain. He delivers yet another great score, but we rarely expect anything less from him.

Dane DeHaan is great as Harry Osborn. His arc in this reboot is different than the one in the original trilogy – and his human motivation of his own survival is easy to understand and well-written. DeHaan is magnetic as the character, funny at times and chilling at the end; where he receives a make-up job which makes this a physically demanding role. I’ve really liked him as an actor ever since 2012’s Chronicle, particularly his his apex predator monologue. Chris Cooper is disappointingly under-utilized as Norman Osborn, where we only see him in one measly scene on his death bed.

The film has another talented star as a villain, Paul Giamatti – but his limited role is really just a preview for the next film. I’m patient enough to see more development for him next time around, as he works perfectly as a bridge to the next film. Giamatti sports an over-the-top Russian accent and has a lot of fun as Aleksei Sytsevich. It’s funny that, in the beginning, Marc Webb decides to include two introductory action sequences. One with Peter’s father on a plane action sequence; and then it skips to the present day to a car chase with Giamatti’s Russian terrorist. I liked the performances from the antagonists in this film more than Marvel’s last outing Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I think the villain’s motivations are more realistic and easier to understand. Something that also really works for the film is its stunning CGI visual effects, beautifully filmed action sequences and a phenomenal finale in a clock tower. Those memorable scenes, and the film’s humour, make this a ride well worth taking.

Score: 83/100

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Labor Day (2013)

Labor DayReleased: January 31, 2014. Directed by: Jason Reitman. Starring: Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Gattlin Griffith. Runtime: 111 min.

Warning: If you don’t want to know a lot about the film before seeing this, there might be more minor spoilers in this review than my usual review. But I guess there’s always that spoiler risk when reading a review. Anyway, enjoy! 

Jason Reitman’s newest film “Labor Day” is set in 1987 in a town with a lot of nice landscapes. It follows Adele (Kate Winslet), a depressed single mother who has been divorced for a few years now. She’s both depressed about the divorce and about the fact that she feels as if she has lost love forever. Her depression has gotten so bad that she only goes out of the house for a monthly trip to Price Mart. Her son Henry (Gattlin Griffith) is starting 7th grade on Tuesday and he needs a new shirt, and they might as well do their supplies run. It doesn’t go as planned when Henry runs into a wounded man (Frank, portrayed by Josh Brolin) who menacingly yet not-so menacingly demands a ride to their house. He ends up being an escaped convict – ruh roh! As police search the town for him, he takes refuge in their home and the mother and son learn his story while their options become increasingly limited.

There’s tons of drama and some suspense sprinkled on each day in an attempt to keep everyone interested. The suspense is practically just a lot of people visiting (especially for someone who’s practically a recluse!) in a town where the people can be perceived as helpful or really freaking nosy. Some of them don’t even knock before they come in. That’s inconvenient for someone who has a fugitive in their home. Since the suspense is so simplistic, and the story is so simplistic and predictable (for the first two-thirds, at least), it only rarely increases the heart’s bpm. To add to the drama and the attempted suspense, this is a cheesy romantic flick, extra cheese.

The depressed Adele sees Frank as a chance to love again. You know, because it’s statistically proven that Stockholm’s syndrome is nicest on labour day. Those leaves are just so dang romantic! And don’t get me started on the peaches! Oh the peaches! A kind neighbor (J.K. Simmons) brings by a whole basket of peaches and they can’t eat them all! They’re only three people; so what do they do? They bake a peach pie! The way Jason Reitman directs the scene with Brolin directing Winslet’s shaking hands running through the peaches is horribly reminiscent of that pottery scene in 1990’s “Ghost.” When it’s with pottery it’s okay, but when you’re guiding someone’s hand mixing peaches up, it’s getting silly. It’s not as awful as the scene where Brolin feeds Winslet some beans, though. Winslet has to be fed because she is tied up, because Brolin is still a big bad kidnapper.

Come on guys, it's baking time!

Come on guys, it’s baking time!

Brolin portrays a relatively kind character, for someone who was convicted for murder. We see his crime through flashbacks that are randomly shown throughout the film; it’s not as if it’s shown and then right after he’s waking up from a nightmare, and it’s not like he’s sitting down Adele and Henry and telling them what happened.

Frank teaches Henry how to do things that a father figure teaches their son. It’s nice that Frank tries to be a father figure, but it’s just a weird situation with so much attempted sweetness shoe-horned in here. Personally, I see Frank as one of those stepfather figures I’d want the hell out of my house.

I’ve bagged on this film a lot so far, so here are some things I liked about this. I enjoyed this one incredibly random character named Evelyn (I had to look that up because I don’t think they actually say her name in the movie) looked her up; she befriends Henry, and she’s just comic relief on random days. Tobey Maguire’s narration is also good; I think he has a good, calming narrative voice. Another good thing about the film are the performances; I think the actors are talented, but just acting in a different, but very strange film where the basic emotions are anxiety and depression in the beginning, and things get more inspiring and sensitive as it goes along. It’s always welcome to have these bursts of enjoyment in a slow-moving, bland snoozefest.

You might like it, but since I am not all that familiar with Reitman’s style, I could have easily confused this for a Nicholas Sparks adaptation. Yep, it’s one of those. Since we know love is such a sweet thing, there’s not much use for a flick like this. There are a few things I took from the film, though: 1) If you go to Price Mart often enough, you’ll pick up someone who’s a pretty good handymad; and 2) You learn a tip if you ever harbour a fugitive: You should keep him inside and not play sports with him in the backyard or do chores in the front yard; because it defeats the meaning of hiding someone.

Score: 40/100

Spider-Man 3 — A film review by Daniel Prinn – Sometimes, the third time really isn’t the charm.

Spider-Man 3

Release Date: May 4, 2007

Director: Sam Raimi

Stars: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Topher Grace

Runtime: 139 min

Tagline: How long can any man fight the darkness… before he finds it in himself?

Sometimes, the third time really isn’t the charm; and apparently Parker’s charm just had to flee, too.

Peter Parker is still your always friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, well… kind of. When a mysterious black entity bonds with Peter, he must deal with relationships, numerous villains, temptations, a huge ego and revenge.

Some of the film is entertaining, but this is forgettable. It sucks that they made the worst (it isn’t retched, or anything, though) of the trilogy the longest. It’s the darkest of the series, but it doesn’t work well.

The numerous antagonists, and some subplots of revenge, make the film very crowded. There’s Harry, the New Goblin, who’s still bent on avenging his father’s death; there’s Flint Marko, Sandman, who is actually an unknown part of Peter’s past which starts yet another subplot of revenge; there’s Eddie Brock (Venom), a photographer who starts a feud with Parker at the Daily Bugle, and who eventually swears revenge on Parker (I don’t know why, but I’m just getting this odd vibe [maybe my spidey senses are tingling] that revenge plays a huge role in this film); and there’s also the usual relationship problems between Peter and M.J., and Gwen Stacy now seems to be  throwing some moves in on Spidey. [Phew!]

Peter, Peter, Peter, where in the world did your charisma go? All of the charisma of this film went to the freaking maître d’ (a cameo from Bruce Campbell, star of the Evil Dead trilogy); I know the film isn’t supposed to be very charismatic, it’s supposed to be dark, which it is, but some of it doesn’t work. The unbearable part of the film where Parker is taken completely over by the dark entity is just so annoying, it taints my view of the overall movie. I’m not usually one for cockiness or a huge ego in the first place, and Parker isn’t even good at being cocky. Whenever, or if ever, I re-watch this, I’m going to use the fast forward button with pleasure through those scenes.

The positives are fairly limited. The film has entertaining sequences, and many solid performances. Whilst the sub-plots crowd the movie, they are, admittedly, interesting. Venom is the best villain of the series, but Grace doesn’t give the best villain performance of the franchise. (Who could beat Willem Dafoe as the Green Goblin?) Venom is my favourite Spider-Man villain, and while I usually enjoy Topher Grace as an actor, he doesn’t work in this dark role. The villain does add some entertainment value to the movie.

Overall, it’s an entertaining ride with a crowded script. It’s a film that isn’t all bad, and the bad and good aspects balance out. It’s an average film, that is by no means horrid. Check it out if you like super hero films. 

60/100

Spider-Man 2 – A film review by Daniel Prinn – Spidey’s back for a winner

Spider-Man 2

Release Date: June 30, 2004

Director: Sam Raimi

Stars: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Alfred Molina

Runtime: 127 min

Tagline: This summer a man will face his destiny. A hero will be revealed.

[Spider-Man 2] is a great example of a film where sequels turn out better than the first outing.

Everyone’s friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man is back for this really sweet sequel. Peter Parker is still dealing with his powers and responsibilities and how they often intrude with things of his “normal” everyday life. Parker is also dealing with relationships, and often feels there is just about too much on his feast of a plate. Also, well of course, he has to deal with new villains: Doctor “Doc Ock” Octopus. Octopus came to be after yet another experiment gone wrong (seriously, where do they find these  stupid scientists who always find away to screw the experiment up and turn to a life of crime?!). With the mechanical tentacles that attached to his back now controlling his every move, he tries out his new abilities on the innocent citizens of New York.

The film is quite solid and has memorable action sequences and is pretty well-paced; and the film really doesn’t drag on in many areas or overstay its welcome. This flick has better action sequences than the first and Parker has grown more charismatic as his confidence has grown. In some ways I enjoyed it more than the first, and in other ways not.

I preferred the villain of the first, because the character of Doctor Octopus doesn’t overly interest me, I mean it’s interesting that he’s being controlled by the mechanical tentacles and he’s bent on revenge, I just didn’t feel he was a great villain. And people don’t really watch super hero films for the hero (on most occasions), we’re in it for the villains.

Some of the flick is quite memorable, but other scenes are a little forgettable. It’s fairly well- paced and a great action film experience.

The film stars Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Alfred Molina, Rosemary Harris and J.K. Simmons. The direction by Sam Raimi is also really good.

It’s the best film of the Spider-Man trilogy.

80/100

Spider-Man – A (short) film review by Daniel Prinn – A great start to a solid trilogy

Spider-Man

Release Date: May 3, 2002

Director: Sam Raimi

Stars: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Willem Dafoe

Release Date: 121 min

Tagline: Does whatever a spider can.

Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is an average everyday science wiz, until he goes on a field trip and gets bitten by a spider that gives him superhuman abilities. After tragedy befalls his family, Peter must use his abilities to become New York’s masked saviour.

Along the way, he deals with a number of things: coping with his newfound abilities, fight for the love of Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), and fight the evil Green Goblin.

It’s quite the action film; and it is one of my favourite super-hero films. The storyline is  well-structured, the characters are likeable, the acting is good, and the direction is great. I liked the villain in this one; but the action sequences aren’t very memorable.

The film also stars James Franco, Cliff Robertson, Rosemary Harris and J.K. Simmons.

It’s a good movie, and a great first film for a great movie trilogy.

 

75/100