Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection
As grand as the themes of good and evil, needs and deservings, power and responsibility and such forth are, superhero movies are generally pretty straightforward in premise: hero stops villain from wreaking havoc. As off-putting as this kind of simplicity might sound, it's usually the right way to go. If you pack enough substance into your characters and adhere your plot to these linear margins, you can actually wind up saying a healthy amount (and having a lot of fun). The Amazing Spider-Man 2 gets half of this formula down pat. Although Andrew Garfield's Peter Parker is still a moreover undistinguished identity, his emotional magnitude (re: his relationship with Gwen Stacy) is enough to keep him valid through the storm of lunacy that is his second feature. And it's not even that lunacy that holds him back. The problem isn't how wild his conquests are, how silly some of the action sequences feel, or how absolutely bonkers his villains turn out to be. It's all the other stuff (and yes, if you can believe it, there's a ton more going on in this movie than what I've already mentioned — that's the issue). All the plot twists, tertiary mysteries, ominous flashbacks, abject reveals, and weightlessly sinister pawns in this brooding game that, save for its fun with the baddies, takes itself way too seriously. All that stuff that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 thinks is necessary to make Peter Parker matter? It actually does just the opposite.
Peter is at his best when he's playing Tracy and Hepburn with the girlfriend he's perpetually disappointing (the eternally charming Emma Stone), or trying to win back the favor of the only remaining parental figure from whom he's rapidly slipping away (Sally Field, reminding us why she's a household name), or angling to connect with the mentally unstable engineer who just wants people to notice him (Jamie Foxx working his comic shtick with a frightening zest). We have the most fun with Peter when he's playing the simplest games, and we connect best with him on similar ground. But Peter and company, at the behest of The Amazing Spider-Man franchise's Sandman-sized aspirations, spend so much time exploring new avenues: the secrets surrounding the death and work of Richard Parker, the behind-the-curtains operations of OsCorp, the nefarious goings on in the waterside penitentiary Ravencroft.
Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection
As a result of the grand stab at world building, there is just so much stuff that Peter has to wade through in this movie, dragging the likes of Gwen and his boyhood friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan, mastering angst, menace, and upper-class privilege all at once) into the dark crevasses of narrative waste. With so many diversions into the emotionally vacant, deliberately joyless explorations of Parker family origin stories, secret brief cases, and underground subways — The Amazing Spider-Man 2 rivals Captain America: The Winter Soldier in complexity, but forgets the necessary ingredient of fun — we barely have enough energy left when the good stuff hits.
And in truth, the good stuff isn't really good enough to sustain us through all the duller periods. Garfield and Stone do have laudable chemistry. Foxx is a hoot as Peter's maniacal new foe, especially when paired with the grimacing DeHaan. And the action, while often straying from any aesthetic authenticity, is nothing shy of neat-o. It's all passable, occasionally worthy of a hearty smile, but rarely anything you'll be definitively pleased you took the time to see.
But beyond coming up short in the micro, the film's regal downfall is its scope. With so much to do, both in accomplishing its own necessary plot points and setting up for those to come in future films, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 doesn't seem to take time to make sure it's having fun with its own premise. And if it isn't having fun, we won't be either.
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The Sopranos star Louis Gross will dodge a criminal mischief charge if he avoids arrest for the next six months.
The actor, who played Tony Soprano's bodyguard in the latest season of the hit series, was arrested in April after a woman claimed he broke into her home.
Gross has protested his innocence throughout, insisting he was staying with a friend and was locked out before the "misunderstanding" occurred.
His lawyer Samuel Bernstein says, "He didn't steal anything. He just got his own stuff, and he's offered to pay for the door."
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Grammy Award-winning artist Eminem was sentenced to two years' probation Tuesday for carrying a concealed weapon.
The rapper had entered a guilty plea with prosecutors in February after he pistol-whipped a man he saw kissing his wife, Kimberly, outside a Detroit-area nightclub called Hot Rocks in June.
Macomb County Prosecutor Carl Marlinga said earlier that he would seek no more than six months because Eminem, whose real name is Marshall Bruce Mathers III, "has no record and there was no serious injury," The Associated Press reported.
Circuit Judge Antonio Viviano also fined Eminem $2,500 and ordered him to undergo counseling and submit to drug testing. The rapper also must ask the court for permission to travel overseas.
Eminem already has reached a preliminary divorce agreement with his wife that gives him joint custody of their 5-year-old daughter.
On the advice of his attorneys, Eminem made no statement in court. He stood silent between his attorneys in a dark suit and tie.
The rapper's mother, Debbie Mathers-Briggs, was at court Tuesday to see her son's sentencing.
"It was just basically to make sure he was OK," she told Reuters. "I didn't want my son to get jail time. You may have differences, but you never stop loving a child," she told Reuters.
Eminem said after his sentence that he was looking forward to putting the case behind him.
"The judge treated me fair, like any other human being," he said, AP reported. "I just want to get it behind me and get back to spending time with my little girl and making music."
Springsteen shows who the "Boss" is
New Jersey rock star Bruce Springsteen won his legal battle Tuesday to block Masquerade Music Ltd. from releasing 19 songs he recorded before he became famous.
The London Court of Appeal dismissed Masquerade's challenge of a December 1998 decision preventing the release of an unauthorized album featuring Springsteen's early work. The London-based Masquerade had imported about 75 copies of the album, Before the Fame, and had "threatened to release many further copies," said High Court Justice Francis Ferris, according to the BBC News.
The songs were recorded in the early 1970s, several years before Springsteen's hit "Born to Run." The album would feature the "Boss" accompanying himself with guitar and piano, material that was never meant for release.
Springsteen felt that Masquerade's attempt to claim ownership of the songs' copyright was an attack on his artistic integrity
"The music you release is the way you shape your career, and I have always believed you have to do all you can do to protect your work," Springsteen told Reuters.
The singer received an award of $725,000 in legal costs and the cost of the appeal, still to be determined.
Strike Waivers OK'd by SAG president
Strike waivers for individual filmmakers have received the approval of Screen Actors Guild president William Daniels. He will support granting the waivers if the qualifiers accept the guild's labor demands during a work hiatus, but he stressed the ultimate decision will be made by SAG's negotiating committee.
"I want to keep actors working," Daniels said Monday following a news conference about the announcement of legislative hearings on agent issues.
Some more stringent guild members believe this move may take away leveraging power at the negotiation table, while others see it as a tactic to bring out the benefits of the guild contract.
SAG has received hundred of requests from filmmakers seeking waivers in the last few months. The SAG contract is due to expire June 30. Negotiation talks have not yet been set.
Castro attends "Thirteen Days" screening
Producers of Thirteen Days, including star Kevin Costner, Peter Almond and Armyan Bernstein, spent many hours Monday viewing the film and discussing its historical significance with Cuban president Fidel Castro -seven hours, to be exact, lasting until 2 a.m. The actor was very appreciative of the president's time and that Castro responded very favorably to the film, Costner's spokesman Stephen Rivers told Reuters.
The film's ending has Moscow agreeing to withdraw the missiles from Cuba to the annoyance of Castro, who resented the deal being cut over his head. The U.S. delegation explained to Castro before the screening that the film represented "one perspective on the crisis from one side" and encouraged the Cubans to make their own version.
Not surprisingly, the Cuban news agency, the Presna Latina, felt the film displayed a superficial vision, typical of Hollywood.
"The North Americans are presented yet again as the saviors of the world, while Cuba appears in the film, according to some critics, as mere decoration in a sugary film of pure Hollywood style," the agency said. "With more dialogue than action, the film tends to send the spectator to sleep," it added. The film is set to be screened Wednesday in Moscow for Russian dignitaries and former U.S. cabinet members who were involved in the Missile Crisis, including former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.
Napster continues to filter music files
Napster filed a third compliance report on Tuesday with the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, saying it has blocked more than 1.7 million files from its service, substantially improving its filtering technology.
The online song-swap service reported that its has reduced in half the average number of music files shared by users.
Napster has spent $750,000 for six-month's worth of access to the song database of the Internet music company Gracenote and hired 15 staffers to increase its efforts.
In March, Napster disputed claims filed by the Recording Industry Association, which blamed the Web site of inadequate filtering efforts.
In opposition, Napster said the RIAA's complaint dealt with parameters of injunction and not the file sharer's effort to comply with it.
Both companies will have a chance to reconcile their differences on Tuesday at a hearing before District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel to discuss compliance issues.
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Andrew Morton to write unauthorized Madonna biography
Andrew Morton, the author of such celebrity biographies as Princess Diana and Monica Lewinsky, has a new subject: pop star Madonna.
St. Martin's Press purchased the North American rights to Morton's unauthorized Madonna biography, in which he will "disclose the unknown Madonna," St. Martin's president and publisher, Sally Richardson, said Tuesday in a statement.
"Andrew loves complicated women and has a genius for getting into their psyche and telling the world what makes them tick," Richardson added.
A 500,000-copy first printing is planned. The book is scheduled for release in November.
Morton wrote 1992's Diana: Her True Story and 1999's Monica's Story, both New York Times No. 1 bestsellers.
Queen tune makes a comeback
British pop singer Robbie Williams will work with Queen to record a new version of the rock band's 1977 hit "We Are the Champions." The song will be included on the soundtrack for A Knight's Tale, the upcoming film starring Aussie hunk Heath Ledger, according to Reuters.
A spokesman for Williams emphasized that this was a onetime collaboration.
"There are no plans to release it as a single here or in the U.S. It's for a film, so it will just be part of a soundtrack," he said.
Williams recorded the track with Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon from Queen, which originally sold more than 100 million records. Lead singer Freddie Mercury died in 1991 of AIDS.
"Captain Corelli" to receive London premiere
The highly anticipated love story Captain Corelli's Mandolin will receive its world premiere in London on Thursday, April 19, according to Reuters.
The film, starring Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz, is based on the bestseller by British novelist Louis de Bernieres. It details a love affair between an Italian officer, Corelli, and a local girl on the Greek island of Cephallonia during World War II. This leads up to the events of September 1943, when, after the Italians declared an armistice with Allies, the Italian soldiers left on the island refuse to surrender to the Germans and fought in vain for 10 days.
The premiere will benefit the British Red Cross.
Paul McCartney's daughter getting into the act
Fashion designer Stella McCartney, the daughter of former Beatle Paul McCartney, wants Beatles documentary filmmaker Geoff Wonfer to film her as she sets up her own fashion label, according to Reuters. Wonfer produced The Beatles Anthology and has made films about McCartney's late photographer mother, Linda.
The documentary would chronicle McCartney's departure from the French fashion label Chloe to create her own Gucci-backed designer label.
Several television stations are bidding for the rights to air the documentary.
"Ab Fab" is back
The British cult hit comedy Absolutely Fabulous will return to television after a five-year absence, with the original cast in place, according to USA Today. The BBC and Comedy Central will produce six new episodes to air in November.
Known affectionately among fans as Ab Fab, the sitcom follows the misadventures of two boozy, sex-starved, fashion-crazed friends played by Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley.
Rosie goes home after stint in hospital
Talk-show host Rosie O'Donnell was sent home from a New York hospital Monday afternoon, after she was admitted for a staph infection in her hand, according to USA Today. She will not return to her show this week as she is still recovering and on antibiotics.
O'Donnell went to the emergency room on April 3 complaining of excruciating pain in her hand after she had surgery to repair a tendon from a fishing accident last year. Barbara Walters and other members of the show The View are filling in this week for O'Donnell. She will return to her duties behind the desk on Monday.
Actor and activist Graf dies
David Graf, a character actor who starred in all seven Police Academy films, died Saturday of a heart attack in Arizona. He was 50.
Best known for his role as Eugene Tackleberry in the Police Academy series, and for his recurring role as Col. Chase on NBC's hit drama The West Wing, Graf also was very active with the Screen Actors Guild. He served on the national board as a Hollywood representative, the TV-theatrical steering committee, the new technologies caucus and the national disciplinary review committee.
"His kindness, generosity of spirit and ability to tirelessly work for the better of actors will be missed," SAG President William Daniels told Variety.
His other credits includeRules of Engagement, Citizen Ruth and Guarding Tess.
He is survived by his wife, Kathy, and two children.