The Amazing Spider-Man

July 9, 2012 by  
Filed under Movies

I think you can mark this film as the official date when the comic book world of cinema has started to eat itself. With all of the remakes and reboots, Sony Pictures decided to join the fun because they still had the rights from the original trilogy that was directed by Sam Raimi. Instead of doing something original, though, they just re-hash the origin story and pepper in a few new details that are actually closer to the Spider-Man story. Some are interesting, some are just filler. The most disappointing part of the filler is the story of the fate of Peter Parker’s parents. It’s such a muddled story and surrounded by mystery, that it really just feels tacked on and unnecessary.

Again, we are introduced to the shy, but precocious Peter (played by Andrew Garfield), and this time we’re given his true first girlfriend from the comics, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Gwen is a bit of a science nerd like Parker, and the two develop an awkward but affectionate love story that wedges into the mad scientist monster story that gives Spider-Man his villain.

All right, must I go through the plot? Let me summarize: the mad scientist (Rhys Ilfans) wants to create re-generation in humans to make them “perfect”. He and Parker’s father worked on it until Parker’s death. Peter wants to help the scientist, Curt Connors, but inadvertently turns Connors into a giant lizard monster because he gives him an equation that can help create the syrum that is supposed to re-generate limbs. Peter’s uncle dies at the hands of a gunman just like in the movie that came out only 10 years ago, and if you’ve forgotten what happens next in Peter’s story you really should regret that lobotomy you got.

The biggest problem with this reboot is that it has none of the joy or creativity of the Raimi films. Sure, “Spider-man 3” was overstuffed. But it at least had some entertaining moments. This movie has no sense of humor about its hero, it has no real sense of place…half of it feels like you’re in “Virtual Spidey World”, where you’re just swinging along with him getting all kinds of vertigo in the process. Parker’s anguished demeanor (for good reasons) throughout is a high contrast to his bubbly Spidey alter ego, and though that can be explained by him enjoying the endorphins released when flinging himself all over NYC, it still doesn’t really add up and winds up being a bit distracting even.

We also get another New York City to the Rescue moment. This was a bit painful in the original; here it is literally a Deus Ex Machina. We are fortunately spared a love triangle, though. There is no Harry Osborn–in fact we never even see Norman Osborn (but we probably will in the sequel).

One thing that kept going through my mind while watching this film was that it made absolutely no difference who directed it. In “The Avengers”, there is a real face on the film–Joss Whedon. Why? Because he takes the time with his characters and knows how to develop a good story and flesh them out. Raimi did the same thing with this franchise only a decade ago. But this has no face, no uniqueness. It is just simply an action super hero movie. Big deal. Sure, it’ll make money because of the name, because of the franchise, because we want to see Spider-Man. And the shame is, Garfield does about a good a job as anyone could filling Tobey Maguire’s shoes. In fact, in some ways, I think he’s better equipped to play the part. But he’s given nothing to really work with, nor is Emma Stone who also delivers a fine performance.

Sally Field is wasted along with Martin Sheen, and Denis Leary is only somewhat useful as George Stacy, Gwen’s dad. The film doesn’t seem to want to be anything more than a glorified video game. It moves along very slowly at first, then when it gets to the action, we’re already unconvinced of the spectacle. It’s like watching people ride a roller coaster. Sure it looks fun for them. But you really wish you could be the one in the car, feeling the exhilaration. Instead, we’re just spectators to something that we’ve already seen before, and done better–even if the special effects are superior.

Oh, and Stan Lee delivers another cringe inducing cameo. But I hope you aren’t surprised by that.

My rating: : :?

Drag Me To Hell

June 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured Content, Movies

I didn’t know this film was done by Sam Raimi at first. I have to admit my ignorance, and I will take the beating I deserve for not staying up on a genre that I typically pride myself being a connoisseur of. So, I apologize to everyone including myself for looking at this film at first and going, “Yeah. Right.” PG-13? Strategically placed by the studio as “The Strangers” was last year to generate a mid-season sleeper buzz? No thanks.

That attitude completely changed when I read that the film was directed and co-written by Sam Raimi, and co-written with his brother, Ivan. Now, these two haven’t worked together this closely since “The Evil Dead” series, and we all know how that went. Probably 3 of the most beloved cult horror/comedy films of all time.

“Drag Me To Hell”, in time, could be headed for the same vault. It takes every good element of a horror film and stretches it to the point where you can’t see the lines in the fabric anymore. It’s ironed to perfection, and while Sam Raimi hasn’t dabbled in this genre for some time; he makes his return a triumphant one, illustrating again why he’s a master of the genre.

The story revolves around curses, and begins in 1969, in Pasadena, in which a young boy is troubled by strange voices and has with him a cursed item, a necklace that was stolen from gypsies. It’s always the gypsies, isn’t it? The boy winds up being visited by a demon, the Lamia, who literally drags him to hell–thus beginning the film.

Forty years later, we are introduced to Christine Brown (played wonderfully by Alison Lohman), and her boyfriend Clay (played by Justin Long, in a rather bland role), who are thrust into the same situation the boy suffered from when she does not allow an elderly woman, Mrs. Ganush, another extension on her loan. Mrs. Ganush angrily shouts at her, and curses a button on Christine’s jacket, and soon after, Christine starts hearing voices and seeing Mrs. Ganush visiting her in nightmares–and then, assaults her in the parking lot late one night.

Christine’s got her own share of problems, dealing with a smug and backstabbing co-worker (played deliciously by Reggie Lee), who stands in her way in getting a promotion to assistant manager. David Paymer plays her boss, and in one of the more amusing scenes, is on the wrong side of Christine as she gets one of the most obnoxious nose bleeds I’ve ever seen. When she starts losing control, she finds through a fortune teller that there may be a way to appease the demon, and she tries a few different ways (some of them are quite funny, if a bit sick) to get the demon to leave her alone.

Of course, it’s never easy getting rid of a demon, and when Christine gets downright assaulted by the gypsy Mrs. Ganush, you’ll wince in disgust while laughing hysterically at some of the hi-jinx that ensue. After all, the Fun Demon Spirit is familiar territory for Raimi, and it’s plastered all over the movie. If it hadn’t been done before, this movie would be an instant classic. But, since the best of it happened in “Evil Dead 2”, this seems more reminiscent than fresh. It is no less hilarious, though. Let me be clear on that.

All in all, this movie is a real treat for those (like me) who have lost a lot of faith in the horror genre–especially the attempts at horror comedy lately, which have mostly been a bust. Raimi still knows how to make your skin crawl while making your stomach hurt laughing so hard, and he deserves credit for that. If you’re looking for a 100 minute escape and enjoy a bit of sick humor laughing at these poor souls staving off demons and disgusting Eastern European gypsies, go see this movie. It helps to be in on the joke that this is pure camp, even if it does scare you out of your seats a few times–don’t take this film too seriously. But there is actually a quality message the film provides too if you pay close enough attention, and it’s more than just “stay away from gypsies”. That should be pretty obvious to everyone in the world.

But you may not want to buy anything to eat before or…even after.

My rating: :-)