Monday, July 9, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man

Ladies and gentlemen, the amazing Spider-Man! – Mark II. Due to many complications and problems typical of Hollywood, after three movies and ten years, Sam Raimi, Tobey Maguire, and Kristen Dunst and her bright hair are being tossed to the wind. They had a good run, but now it time for the new; two of the hottest young actors (in both appearance and skill) Andrew Garfield, and Emma Stone, and the director with the perfect name, Marc Webb, are all set for an at least equally long, probably better reboot of everyone’s favorite web-crawling franchise.

For my sanity, I’m going to try my best not to directly compare this movie to the 2002 version, but I’m afraid it might be hard, though not quite as hard as it is to not judge people who say “The reboot is actually a better film, but since I enjoyed the ’02 version just fine, I’m going to say I didn’t like it at all!” Ahem.

Andrew Garfield is Peter Parker, a smart, slightly geeky, and more than slightly troubled, but still hip high school student. He lives with his Aunt and Uncle ever since his parents unexpectedly left him with them, and disappeared. His dad was a scientist, who was working on something very secret. One day, when cleaning out the basement, Peter finds his dad’s old briefcase, and inside, some equations he doesn’t understand, and a picture of his dad and a co-worker; Dr. Curt Connors, played by Rhys Ifans. Peter goes to talk to Dr. Connors, but ends up doing more sneaking around than talking. He ends up in a strange room full of spiders, where one bites him. No way.

Getting used to his new super powers proves to be hard for Peter, and while funny, it was a little unbelievable… even for a comic hero. After that awkward first day though, things start to pick up for Peter. He first uses his power as we could all assume; to make his own life easier, but it doesn’t exactly work, and after a tragedy we all knew was coming, he puts himself toward a more noble cause, more noble, but still his own cause. You get the super part overnight, but the hero part takes some work. The spider didn’t make Peter good, but it does jump-start his journey toward heroism, a journey that takes a long time, and involves the audience in a way only a modern super hero pic could.
Peter has a crush on a pretty, popular girl at school named Gwen Stacy played pleasingly by the lovely Emma Stone. Gwen apparently likes him too, because when Peter finally – and awkwardly – talks to her and asks her out, things get moving along pretty fast. They have a cute, hilariously awkward relationship, (and you should know, I don’t often think awkward movie moments are actually funny, I usually just laugh to keep from crying… not in this case) and before you know it, he admits to being the “masked vigilante” her police captain dad has been trying to catch and arrest, immediately eliminating at least half of the unnecessary melodrama classic to the genre. Another thing I enjoyed was that Gwen never requires rescuing through the entire film, another refreshing change from the usual super hero fare, which will also remove that drag-y repetitive feeling when it inevitably happens in the next film.

This web-slinger is flying in 3D, and if you’re pulling out the extra money for that ticket, I will not say ye nay. The 3D is quality, and shows off the action sequences very well. But this action would look good without it as well, in fact, it would look good anywhere – it is some of the most stylish and exciting action I’ve ever seen. It has a certain crisp, clean feeling that really brings out that fun thrill that should be in a comic hero film, while never throwing away the gravity that makes Spidey’s situations worth investing in.

I would tell you, as a general rule, to never, ever, ever, ever put slow motion in a movie unless it was absolutely necessary to show what happened, or if you were making a ridiculous, stylized movie. I have now changed my mind. Marc Webb did a great job knowing exactly where to put the slow-mo to perfectly enhance the visual appeal, and the intensity, and I now believe he should be the only person ever allowed to use that dreaded gimmick.

Webb also did wonders in the character department. I have never felt so invested in Spidey’s story before, whether when he was sad and bitter from being abandoned by his parents, or his sense of duty when it came to saving the city, his slow journey to being a true hero, to his sweet nervousness around Gwen, it was all great. (Things totally missing or done painfully wrong in the ’02 Spidey! (Sorry, I compared them… but I couldn’t help myself, and hey, I lasted a pretty long time!))

So now we come to the conclusion, and what is there to say? Which Spidey is better in my opinion? Is it finally time for the comparison? Well, I say no, because both movies are perfectly good stories of the Spider’s origin on their own merit, and this review is on The Amazing Spider-Man, so that’s where I’ll stay.  This movie is a high-flying good time with pizzazz that gives The Avengers a run for its money in visual flair, but delves in deep, and is emotionally resonant, just how we like our heroes these days. We all basically knew what the plot for this film was going to be; there’s only so many ways to do an origin story, so there's nothing really surprising, but it promises there will be more - much more - and I for one, can hardly wait.

- 4/5 stars

Friday, July 6, 2012


You know what I love?  I love when I watch a movie with the wrong expectations.  You know, when you make assumptions based on nothing  like humans love to do, and write something off as silly or clichéd for no good reason except maybe a movie trailer, which we all know can be very misleading. It doesn’t help, of course, when said movie trailer reveals all of the major plot points of said movie. But anyway, I love it when that happens because I tend to underestimate the movie and get a wonderful surprise.

I’ll give you an example; this movie called Warrior. And if you haven’t seen it, be warned that there are spoilers up ahead. My thoughts after seeing the Warrior trailer were mostly wondering if they’d really just told us basically the entire movie leaving off the end. This led to me deciding that the movie makers were stupid, and the movie, therefore, must be just another mediocre, melodramatic “sports movie.” You know what I’m talking about. Nevertheless, I decided I wanted to see it, because Tom Hardy stars in it, and I wanted to make sure he would win in the end like I predicted based on the trailer, and because I’m not against seeing clichéd sports movies, especially if they promise good action.

Tom Hardy plays Tommy, an ex-marine and former wrestler gets his estranged dad (Nick Nolte) to train him for SPARTA, a tournament referred to as the super bowl for mixed martial arts. If he wins, he has a very noble plan for the five million dollar prize. Meanwhile, Joel Edgerton plays Brendan, an ex-fighter, now a high school physics teacher who gets back into fighting for the money, to keep his house from foreclosing. He tries to stick to small events, but eventually enters SPARTA too, when a contestant breaks his leg, leaving Brendan’s trainer with no one else to enter. Tommy and Brendan are brothers of course, but haven’t seen each other for fourteen years, and are bitter about their past, especially Tommy, who always appears to be ready to explode at any moment. Can the brothers fix their broken relationship, with each other, and their recovering alcoholic dad? Who will win the tournament and five million dollars? And will I ever learn my lesson, and quit judging great movies before I see them?

Like I said, I first wanted to see this movie because of Tom Hardy, and I went into it already having decided to cheer for him. But this fine film wants us to cheer for Brendan. Not that we shouldn’t cheer for Tommy too, they're both sympathetic characters in two very different ways. But Brendan is the hero here, the one with heart, and I got sucked into liking him amazingly fast, and practically forgot Hardy was even in the movie, which is a credit to the filmmakers and the acting. Joel Edgerton immediately shot up from vaguely-familiar, oh-yeah-didn’t-he-have-a-bit-part-in-Star-Wars, to an actor who would make me want to watch his movies just because he’s in it, like Hardy and this movie. I’d only seen him as a young Uncle Owen before, and wrongly judged him to be a small-part actor, incapable of carrying a film, but he does carry this one, with a likeable ease. I should have known; you never judge someone’s acting on their performance in a prequel Star Wars movie, unless that person happened to play Anakin.

The acting all around, in fact, was quite good. Jennifer Morrison who plays Tess, Brendan’s wife, was a pleasant surprise. I couldn’t believe it was the same person who stars in that Once Upon a Time show. I almost couldn’t take her seriously. If I’d first recognized her as Kirk's mom in Star Trek reboot it would’ve been a lot easier. And Nick Nolte plays his sad, lonely character with just the right amount of pathetic likeability.

I love it when you can tell what a character is thinking without the script making it obvious. You have to pay attention, and maybe even work to understand it, but it makes you more invested. And this is an involving, character driven movie anyway. The fight scenes aren't just great action sequences; they're also an amazingly real and involving part of the development. Every epic, or unbelievable moment was still believable, and even the classic clichés of the genre were totally enjoyable. Everything works together wonderfully to build up tension towards climax, where I found myself wondering who was going to win, and surprising myself by hoping it would be Brendan, against my original hopes and predictions. And that final moment couldn’t have been better, astonishing me with its powerful simplicity.

Even though the trailer gave away a lot of the movie, it really didn’t matter. I knew by watching it that Tommy and Brendan would fight for the championship in the end, but you can assume that would happen anyway, right? This is a "sports drama" after all. In a way, they were actually smart to make the trailer how they did, because I was never really worried about what would happen, but how it would happen. And that’s what resonates in the end. There’s nothing wrong with this movie in the first place, but it’s not the plot, but the deeper, emotional side, planted between the lines, and woven silently into the action that makes a powerful impact, and makes the movie great.

This is that sort of movie that is so detailed, so involving, and so devoid of slow spots, you'll want to make sure you're set to stay planted in front of the TV for the entire duration of the film; you'll not want to miss a single thing.

-5/5 stars