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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Paramount Pictures via Everett Collection
Here's a feat: taking what is likely the oldest, most well-known story in the world, and making a retelling feel inventive. Over the course of its two-and-a-half-hour runtime, Darren Aronofsky's Noah takes many forms — Tolkien-esque fantasy, trippy psychological thriller, merciless dissection of the dark points of abject faith — never feeling too rigidly confined to the parameters of the familiar tale that we've all experienced in the form of bedtime stories, religious education lessons, and vegetable-laden cartoons. As many forms as the parable has taken over the past few thousand years, Aronofsky manages to find a few new takes.
The director's thumbprint is branded boldly on Russell Crowe's Noah, a man who begins his journey as a simple pawn of God and evolves into a dimensional human as tortured as Natalie Portman's ballerina or Jared Leto's smack head. Noah's obsession and crisis: his faith. The peak of the righteous descendant of Seth (that's Adam and Eve's third son — the one who didn't die or bash his brother's head in with a rock), Noah is determined to carry out the heavenly mission imparted upon him via ambiguous, psychedelic visions. God wants him to do something — spoilers: build an ark — and he will do it. No matter what.
No matter what it means to his family, to his lineage, to his fellow man, to the world. He's going to do it. No matter what. The depths to which Aronofsky explores this simple concept — the nature of unmitigated devotion — makes what we all knew as a simplistic A-to-B children's story so gripping. While the throughline is not a far cry from the themes explored in his previous works, the application of his Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, and Black Swan ideas in this movie does not feel like a rehashing. Experiencing such modern, humane ideas in biblical epic is, in fact, a thrill-ride.
Paramount Pictures via Everett Collection
Although Aronofsky accesses some highly guttural stuff inside of his title character, he lets whimsy and imagination take hold of the world outside of him. Jumping headfirst into the fantastical, the director lines his magical realm with rock monsters — "Watcher" angels encased in Earth-anchored prisons as punishment for their betrayal of God — and a variety of fauna that range in innovation from your traditional white dove to some kind of horned, scaled dog bastardization.
But the most winning elements of Noah, and easily the most surprising, come when Aronofsky goes cosmic. He jumps beyond the literal to send us coursing through eons to watch the creation of God's universe, matter exploding from oblivion, a line of creatures evolving (in earnest) into one another as the planet progresses to the point at which we meet our tortured seafarer. Aronofsky's imagination, his aptitude as a cinematic magician, peak (not just in terms of the film, but in terms of his career) in these scenes.
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With all this propped against the stark humanity of his story — not just in terms of Crowe's existential spiral, but in character beats like grandfather Methuselah's relationship with the youngsters, in little Ham's playful teasing of his new rock monster pet — Aronofsky manages something we never could have anticipated from Noah. It's scientific, cathartic, humane. Impressively, this age-old tale, here, is new. And beyond that feat, it's a pretty winning spin.
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World champion boxer Ricky Burns became a new dad on Thursday (29Aug13). The 30-year-old's wife Amanda gave birth to a baby boy almost two weeks after her due date and they have yet to name their son.
The Scottish lightweight champion's sister Bonnie tells Britain's Daily Record, "We're very happy and excited. I got a call from my mum this morning saying Ricky called her to say the baby had been born and it was a boy. Now we're just waiting to see what the plans are to go and meet him."
When you're Justin Bieber, a birthday means more than blowing out candles while your closest friends and family sing "Happy Birthday" to you. It means millions of your closest fans tweeting at you, posting on your official Facebook page, and screaming at you whenever you go out in public. It means news sites publishing articles about you (guilty!), other stars and celebrities wishing you well, and as many performances and parties you can fit into one 24-hour day.
As if that wasn't already enough, a birthday also means that you're one year older, a.k.a. you are one year wiser (hopefully). Bieber has had a crazy year at 18, filled with ups and downs, scandals and achievements, all designed to help him navigate the life of a teen superstar.
Learn from your mistakes, Bieber, and though next year will offer its own challenges, you'll know better than to fall for these again. And although 19 got off to a rough start (he tweeted "Worst birthday" on March 2 after getting kicked out of a UK nightclub), here are 19 reasons why 19 will be better than 18!
1. So you broke up with your girlfriend, Selena GomezYou're no longer a part of a teen power couple. So what?!? You're Justin Bieber! Pick any one of your million screaming fans to go on a date with you, and you'll be guarenteed to make their day/week/month/year/life. Guaranteed.
2. You didn't get a Grammy nominationWho cares? You're on a nationwide, sold out tour. You think your fans care about a trophy collecting dust on your shelf? All they want to see is you crooning all your biggest hits.
3. Someone tried to murder youAt least you lived to see 19, right? The murder plot was thwarted, so your life is currently not in jeapordy. But maybe now's the time to beef up your personal security, yeah?
4. So you got into a Twitter feud with The Black KeysWhen the drummer from The Black Keys, Patrick Carney, told TMZ that you didn't need or deserve a Grammy because you should be happy with all the money you make, you took to Twitter to suggest that somebody should slap him. At least you were wise enough to include the "haha" at the end, so instead of a nasty feud, you were just trading digs. You're learning already!
5. Your mom went on a date with Chris HarrisonApparently, "no real sparks" flew between your mom, Pattie Mallete, and the Bachelor host. But maybe have a talk with Ryan Seacrest (who set up the date at one of your own concerts!) anyway about hitting the brakes on any more setups.
6. A fan's mother sued you for her hearing lossNow that you're older and your music is more mature, your fans are growing up with you too. Soon they won't need parental supervision at your concerts at all so you can avoid issues like this one altogether. And let's be honest, the younger generation is already going to suffer major hearing loss anyway thanks to their constant headphone usage. Now you can "entice the crowd into a frenzy of screams" as much as you want!
7. You were caught smoking weed Hey, if Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson can do it and still be universally loved, then why can't you? Maybe next time make sure no one is documenting the act with photos, though. That's, like, high school 101.
8. Your new habit causes a disturbing "Cut for Bieber" trendWhen your weed scandal causes your young, impressionable fans to mimic what started out as an inappropriate joke and self-mutilate in your name, and then post photos of it on the internet, step up and speak out ASAP to put a stop this horrible, terrible, awful trend. Do not remain silent while more young fans continue to harm themselves.
9. You angered the Phillipines with a photo of Manny PacquiaoLawmakers in the Philippines filed a resolution demanding that you apologize for insulting photos you posted of boxer and congressman Manny Pacquiao on your Instagram, following Pacquiao's defeat at the hands of Juan Manuel Marquez in their Dec. 9 fight. We have to admit, though, it was a clever idea (we definitely chuckled).
10. You vomited on stage during a concertBut you handled it and kept going like a champ! You proved not only that singing while tossing your cookies was a possibility, but that it was yet another skill you possess. Plus, it was the perfect time to make an Anchorman joke. Yeah, milk probably was a bad choice. Let's try and stay away from dairy products before concerts in the future.
11. You angered the California Hamster Association (which is definitely a real thing)Though you probably thought you were doing a good deed, giving your pet hamster away to fan wasn't so good for its health. The CHA said when you handed it to a fan at the Atlanta Jingle Ball, "The moment that hamster was handed off to a screaming girl in a harsh, frenzied environment was likely the moment it gazed at the short path to its doom." Let's keep our pets from on, shall we?
12. You wore... this thingSure, taking fashion risks is a no-brainer for stars of your caliber. But this hat — the color, the spikes, everything about it — just... no. Throw it away, burn it, bury it, never let it see the light of day again, or else you'll throw Damon Lindelof into another frenzy.
13. Your bodyguard sued you for assault and batteryMoshe Benabou, a former Israeli soldier who served as your bodyguard from March 2011 through October 2012, filed a complaint alleging that you punched him multiple times on Oct. 10, immediately prior to terminating his employment. Next time a member of your entourage tries to quit, just let him go. You'll find someone else to keep the swarms of screaming tweens away from you, don't worry.
14. You were sued for tweeting an incomplete phone numberYou tried to play a joke on your fans — tweeting out a phone number you claimed was yours with the final digit missing — but two people in Texas did not appreciate it. Apparently, your Twitter followers took it upon themselves to figure out the last digit, and a woman named Dilcie and a man named Kent were the recipients of thousands of phone calls. Now, they want compensation for all the problems you caused with your “reckless” behavior. Next time, don't underestimate the power and energy your Beliebers possess.
15. A photographer was killed trying to snap photos of your carBieber fever proved to be fatal when 29-year-old Chris Guetta was killed after being hit by a car while attempting to take pics of your white Ferrari. The accident reinvigorated the debate surrounding tighter laws regarding the paparazzi's access to celebrities, which will hopefully help prevent any more tragedies from occurring.
16. Your computer was stolen... oh wait, just kidding!In order to hype the release of your new single, "Beauty and a Beat," you claimed your computer was stolen. A mysterious Twitter handle (gexwy) claimed to be the thief and started threatening to post private videos of you online. But instead of a career-killing scandal, it turned out to be a massive hoax when you released the new music video featuring Nicki Minaj. Next time, don't prank the media (you know, the people who write about you for a living and help to perpetuate your fame?).
17. You were accused of being racist by the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples in CanadaIn an interview with Rolling Stone, you said that you were, "Part Indian... I think Inuit or something? I’m enough percent that in Canada I can get free gas.” This angered the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, since they feel that you enforced a stereotype that Aboriginal Peoples in Canada get a "free ride," a stereotype that they have fought hard to dispel. Now that you've given your fair share of interviews, you should know to choose your words more carefully.
18. You were connected to an anti-abortion filmWell, your mother actually is. Pattie Mallete just signed on as the executive producer of the upcoming anti-abortion short film, Crescendo. Nothing you can learn from this or change about it, but it's good to know what your family is up to.
19. One Direction stole a bunch of your fansThose enterprising Brits are bound to lose popularity in the next year, right? Besides, "Belieber" is such a better name for a devoted fan than "Directioner."
Happy 19th birthday, Justin Bieber! We look forward to whatever crazy and scandalous antics you get into this year — but if you take our advice, there'll be less of them. That's a good thing.
Follow Sydney on Twitter: @SydneyBucksbaum
[Photo Credit: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP Images/Adriana M. Barraza/Wenn (3)/Instagram/Twitter/Mr. Blue]
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