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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For the bulk of every Rocky and Bullwinkle episode, moose and squirrel would engage in high concept escapades that satirized geopolitics, contemporary cinema, and the very fabrics of the human condition. With all of that to work with, there's no excuse for why the pair and their Soviet nemeses haven't gotten a decent movie adaptation. But the ingenious Mr. Peabody and his faithful boy Sherman are another story, intercut between Rocky and Bullwinkle segments to teach kids brief history lessons and toss in a nearly lethal dose of puns. Their stories and relationship were much simpler, which means that bringing their shtick to the big screen would entail a lot more invention — always risky when you're dealing with precious material.
For the most part, Mr. Peabody & Sherman handles the regeneration of its heroes aptly, allowing for emotionally substance in their unique father-son relationship and all the difficulties inherent therein. The story is no subtle metaphor for the difficulties surrounding gay adoption, with society decreeing that a dog, no matter how hyper-intelligent, cannot be a suitable father. The central plot has Peabody hosting a party for a disapproving child services agent and the parents of a young girl with whom 7-year-old Sherman had a schoolyard spat, all in order to prove himself a suitable dad. Of course, the WABAC comes into play when the tots take it for a spin, forcing Peabody to rush to their rescue.
Getting down to personals, we also see the left brain-heavy Peabody struggle with being father Sherman deserves. The bulk of the emotional marks are hit as we learn just how much Peabody cares for Sherman, and just how hard it has been to accept that his only family is growing up and changing.
But more successful than the new is the film's handling of the old — the material that Peabody and Sherman purists will adore. They travel back in time via the WABAC Machine to Ancient Egypt, the Renaissance, and the Trojan War, and 18th Century France, explaining the cultural backdrop and historical significance of the settings and characters they happen upon, all with that irreverent (but no longer racist) flare that the old cartoons enjoyed. And oh... the puns.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman is a f**king treasure trove of some of the most amazingly bad puns in recent cinema. This effort alone will leave you in awe.
The film does unravel in its final act, bringing the science-fiction of time travel a little too close to the forefront and dropping the ball on a good deal of its emotional groundwork. What seemed to be substantial building blocks do not pay off in the way we might, as scholars of animated family cinema, have anticipated, leaving the movie with an unfinished feeling.
But all in all, it's a bright, compassionate, reasonably educational, and occasionally funny if not altogether worthy tribute to an old favorite. And since we don't have our own WABAC machine to return to a time of regularly scheduled Peabody and Sherman cartoons, this will do okay for now.
If nothing else, it's worth your time for the puns.
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Singer Johnny Gill has launched legal action against bosses at a luxury Beverly Hills hotel over allegations he was attacked at the venue in 2011. The New Edition star is suing executives at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills over claims he was the victim of racially aggravated assault.
In the suit, filed earlier this month (Aug13) at Los Angeles Superior Court, Gill alleges he was enjoying a night out with friends in the patio area of the hotel in August, 2011 when a drunk man started hurling racist abuse at him.
He was then allegedly pushed by the man into a heating lamp, resulting in injuries so serious he was unable to perform onstage.
In the documents, Gill's lawyers write, "At no time did (the) defendant's security employees, staff or representative offer any assistance to (the) plaintiff nor did any such intervene to protect (the) plaintiff, prevent the individual from becoming inebriated and thus behaving in an unruly manner the result of which was the assault that was committed on (the) plaintiff and the resulting injuries to (the) plaintiff."
Gill wants $1 million (£666,000) in damages for negligence, failure to intervene, failure to exercise reasonable care, pain and suffering and medical expenses.
Top Story: Oscar Organizers Say Show Will Go On
The Oscars show producer Gil Cates told nominees at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' annual luncheon in Beverly Hills Monday that the show will go on--whether or not there is a war, Reuters reports. As the United States prepares for a possible invasion of Iraq, many nominees wondered whether discussing war at the March 23 awards ceremony would be appropriate. "If we go to war," Cates cautioned, "the telecast will reflect that reality both in those parts of the show that we can control and those parts that we can't control--your acceptance speeches."
Broadway No Longer Dark
Striking musicians settled a contract dispute with theater producers Tuesday to end a walkout that shut down 18 musicals since Friday, Reuters reports. The dispute that led to Friday's strike was over minimums, the smallest number of musicians required for a Broadway orchestra. After 12 hours of talks the union agreed to a smaller number of musicians in the largest Broadway theaters and both sides said that the theaters would reopen Tuesday night.
Brits Invade Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted the Clash, the Police, and Elvis Costello and the Attractions on an emotional night at the Waldorf Hotel in New York Monday night, Reuters reports. British influence dominated the ceremony, as did antiwar sentiments expressed by a number of star musicians--a contrast to the recent Grammy Awards. "When people take to the streets to stop the war, the spirit of the Clash is there," Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello said. The Clash accepted their honors without vocalist-guitarist Joe Strummer, who died of heart failure last December at age 50.
Minnelli's Lawyers Call It Quits
Two lawyers for actress Liza Minnelli quit Monday, saying their relationship "has completely broken down" over a civil suit involving the aborted sale of her Beverly Hills home, claimed by Minnelli stepmother, and a couple who tried to buy it last year. Reuters reports that a Los Angeles Superior Court judge was scheduled to decide whether to allow lawyers Arthur Barens and Robert Kaufman to bow out of the case but Minnelli hired a new attorney, making a court ruling unnecessary. Last August Merhdad Saghian and Stephanie Jarin claimed Minnelli backed out of her agreement to sell the home to them for $2.75 million.
Erotic Mag Loses Suit Against Oprah
The publisher of a magazine of erotica and sadomasochism who claimed Oprah Winfrey's magazine of the same name was tarnishing his trademark lost a court battle yesterday, Reuters reports. U.S. District Judge John Koeltl threw out the lawsuit filed by Ronald Brockmeyer, who bought the trademark--a stylized letter "O" in large type enclosed in double arrow marks--in 1996. Koetl said readers could not confuse Brockmeyer's magazine containing photos of "whip-bearing, naked women engaged in sadomasochistic and lesbian acts" with Winfrey's publication, which is aimed at helping women improve their lives guided by the performer's values.
Dion Promises Family-Oriented Show in Las Vegas
Singer Celine Dion, who launches her three-year stint in Las Vegas on March 25, promises to keep the show family-oriented. According to Reuters, Dion tells Time magazine that people think her husband-manager, Rene Angelil, is going to gamble away all their money and their son is going to be raised by strangers. "We don't live in a casino, and I'm not going to change diapers on a craps table," Dion tells the magazine. Dion says she will leave home at 4:30 in the afternoon and be home by 10:30 at night. According to the singer, the casino doesn't want the show to go any longer than 90 minutes because "they want people to go back and lose money" at the slot machines.
Variety reports: Universal Pictures is remaking its classic monster film The Creature From the Black Lagoon, developed by a producer Gary Ross, whose father, Arthur Ross, wrote the original 1954 screenplay. The original Creature, which became a camp classic, featured the Gill Man terrorizing archaeologists in the Amazon while falling in love with a beautiful girl played by Julia Adams... Disney meanwhile has bought remake rights to the 1937 film Topper as a vehicle for director Adam Shankman and star Steve Martin. The original picture starred Cary Grant as a man haunted by a married pair of madcap ghosts... DreamWorks has bought the rights to Action News, which will feature Will Ferrell as a pompous newscaster in the 1970s who is matched with an ambitious and talented female journalist.