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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Czech-born actor Herbert Lom, who appeared in over 100 films but is best known for his portrayal of Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus in the Pink Panther films, passed away on Thursday in his sleep, Deadline.com reports. He was 95.
Lom was born Herbert Karel Angelo Kuchacevic ze Schluderpacheru in Prague in 1917, but changed his last name to Lom when he began appearing in films in the 1930s. Lom escaped Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia for England in 1939, and began appearing in small roles in British films in the 1940s. His breakthrough role came in 1942 when he was cast as Napoleon Bonaparte in The Young Mr. Pitt.
In 1955, Lom starred opposite Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers in The Ladykillers. Lom would go on to form a great friendship with Sellers by appearing in the Pink Panther films together, in which Sellers played the bumbling French detective Inspector Jacques Clouseau and Lom played his Chief Inspector, Charles Dreyfus. Lom's son Alec Lom spoke to the Associated Press of his father's friendship with Sellers. “He had many funny stories about the antics that he and Peter Sellers got up to on the set," he said. "It was a nightmare working with Peter because he was a terrible giggler and, between my father and Peter’s laughter, they ruined dozens and dozens of takes.”
Lom's other notable credits include the King of Siam in the original London production of The King and I (in 1953), and film adaptations of The Phantom of the Opera (1962), and two versions of Agatha Christie's mystery And Then There Were None (in 1975 and 1989).
Lom is survived by his sons, Alec and Nick, and his daughter Josephine.
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[Photo Credit: WENN]
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A decade-long gap between sequels could leave a franchise stale but in the case of Men in Black 3 it's the launch pad for an unexpectedly great blockbuster. The kooky antics of Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) don't stray far from their 1997 and 2002 adventures but without a bombardment of follow-ups to keep the series in mind the wonderfully weird sensibilities of Men in Black feel fresh Smith's natural charisma once again on full display. Barry Sonnenfeld returns for the threequel another space alien romp with a time travel twist — which turns out to be Pandora's Box for the director's deranged imagination.
As time passed in the real world so did it for the timeline in the world of Men in Black. Picking up ten years after MIB 2 J and K are continuing to protect the Earth from alien threats and enforce the law on those who live incognito. While dealing with their own personal issues — K is at his all-time crabbiest for seemingly no reason — the suited duo encounter an old enemy Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) a prickly assassin seeking revenge on K who blew his arm off back in the '60s. Their street fight is more of a warning; Boris' real plan is to head back in time to save his arm and kill off K. He's successful prompting J to take his own leap through the time-space continuum — and team up with a younger K (Josh Brolin) to put an end to Boris plans for world domination.
Men in Black 3 is the Will Smith show. Splitting his time between the brick personalities of Jones and Brolin's K Smith struts his stuff with all the fast-talking comedic style that made him a star in yesteryears. In present day he's still the laid back normal guy in a world of oddities — J raises an eyebrow as new head honcho O (Emma Thompson) delivers a eulogy in a screeching alien tongue but coming up with real world explanations for flying saucer crashes comes a little easier. But back in 1969 he's an even bigger fish out water. Surprisingly director Barry Sonnenfeld and writer Etan Cohen dabble in the inherent issues that would spring up if a black gentlemen decked out in a slick suit paraded around New York in the late '60s. A star of Smith's caliber may stray away from that type of racy humor but the hook of Men in Black 3 is the actor's readiness for anything. He turns J's jokey anachronisms into genuine laughs and doesn't mind letting the special effect artists stretch him into an unrecognizable Twizzler for the movie's epic time jump sequence.
Unlike other summer blockbusters Men in Black 3 is light on the action Sonnenfeld utilizing his effects budget and dazzling creature work (by the legendary Rick Baker) to push the comedy forward. J's fight with an oversized extraterrestrial fish won't keep you on the edge of your seat but his slapstick escape and the marine animal's eventual demise are genuinely amusing. Sonnenfeld carries over the twisted sensibilities he displayed in small screen work like Pushing Daisies favoring bizarre banter and elaborating on the kookiness of the alien underworld than battle scenes. MIB3's chase scene is passable but the movie in its prime when Smith is sparring with Brolin and newcomer Michael Stuhlbarg who steals the show as a being capable of seeing the future. His twitchy character keeps Smith and the audience on their toes.
Men in Black 3 digs up nostalgia I wasn't aware I had. Smith's the golden boy of summer and even with modern ingenuity keeping it fresh — Sonnenfeld uses the mandatory 3D to full and fun effect — there's an element to the film that feels plucked from another era. The movie is economical and slight with plenty of lapses in logic that will provoke head scratching on the walk out of the theater but it's also perfectly executed. After ten years of cinematic neutralizing the folks behind Men in Black haven't forgotten what made the first movie work so well. After al these years Smith continues to make the goofy plot wild spectacle and crazed alien antics look good.
Go ahead and throw logic out the window on this one folks. A mysterious Tibetan monk with no name (Chow Yun-Fat) has spent a lifetime protecting an ancient document known as the Scroll of the Ultimate--a parchment that will yield unlimited power to anyone who reads it. After running around the globe for 60 years the Monk knows it's time to hang up his robes and find a new guardian but spotting a successor isn't easy in the hustle bustle of the 21st century where Tibetan traditions and rituals are almost non-existent. Maybe the next protector should be the crafty rebellious pickpocket Kar (Seann William Scott) who learned martial arts from watching kung-fu movies; after all Kar helps the Monk escape from the scroll's most avid pursuer Strucker (Karel Roden) a sadistic old Nazi who wants to use the its power to rid the planet of inferior races. Or maybe the Monk's successor is the elusive but beautiful bad girl Jade (James King) whose skills are numerous and who seems to pop up to help Kar whenever he gets in a jam. Whomever the Monk eventually chooses they must first unite to battle the ultimate enemy--and keep the scroll safe.
If it weren't for Yun-Fat Bulletproof Monk would be pretty hopeless. The charismatic actor finds a nice balance no matter what he does and in this case he resists the obvious temptation to play the Monk as a fish out of water in the big city. Since he's long been one of Chinese cinema's most well-known action heroes he's definitely in his element in Monk standing on top of a car with guns blazing and the Zen master persona he discovered in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon serves him well here too. The script requires him to spout off fortune-cookie mumbo jumbo but he manages to do it without sounding ridiculous. The petite King actually holds her own as the brawny-yet-brainy tough chick but the wisecracking Scott is completely out of his element for the first time in his career. He handles the little comedic tidbits well but in no way is it possible to believe that the "Dude" who couldn't find his car and the jackass who drank someone else's bodily fluids in American Pie can be a martial arts hero who saves the planet. It just isn't going to happen.
Bulletproof Monk relies on the ghosts of movies past including Crouching Tiger and the 1986 Eddie Murphy stinker The Golden Child for its plot which results in a film that's chock full of cliches especially the evil Nazi who has spent 60 years chasing after the scroll using his tow-headed granddaughter whose cover is an organization for human rights to do the dirty work. A few bright moments with Yun-Fat coupled with director Paul Hunter's good use of fast-paced martial arts action make the rest of this unimaginative movie somewhat palatable--even novices Williams and King look good doing the moves--but all in all Bulletproof Monk is shooting blanks.
According to Reuters, the Backstreet Boys have filed a $100 million lawsuit against Zomba Music Group, claiming the record label misused the group's trademark by using it to send traffic to other Web sites and effectively barred the boy band from recording a new album while Zomba merged with German media giant Bertelsmann AG. The group's lawyer, Carla Christofferson, told Reuters the suit was asking for $75 million for the trademark violation, $5 million for the lost advance on the album and $20 million in punitive damages.
Michael Jackson sure is getting a lot of press in Berlin lately. Last week, he dangled his infant son from a hotel room balcony, causing an uproar with child advocates. This week, Reuters reports, he told the German magazine Bunte he doesn't like pop music. He was seen in a music store in Berlin, without a bodyguard, buying two CDs of classical music. And he's the king of what?
Online magazine Film Threat has come up with the polar opposite version of the ever-popular Hollywood hot list. Called the "Frigid 50," it's a tally of Hollywood's coldest celebrities--and Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe tops it. The Associated Press reports Film Threat calls Crowe "our favorite wild boor, whose bad-boy big mouth and Redwood-sized chip-on-the-shoulder easily cost him an Oscar for A Beautiful Mind." Others on the list include Winona Ryder, Barbra Streisand and Anna Nicole Smith.
Czech film director Karel Reisz, best known for helming the 1981 The French Lieutenant's Woman starring Jeremy Irons and Meryl Streep, died in London Monday. He was 76. Cause of death was not immediately available according to Variety.
Fox is having to do some schedule shuffling to prepare for the second season of its monster hit American Idol. The one-hour audition/performance special will air at 8:00 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 21, with the subsequent half-hour shows airing Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. To make room, Fox is moving That '70s Show to Wednesdays at 8:00 p.m. and pushing The Bernie Mac Show and Cedric The Entertainer Presents to the 9:00 and 10:00 p.m. slots, respectively.
The British Broadcast Advertising Clearance Center has banned a commercial for a new animated series called 2DTV because it pokes fun at President Bush. The British show mocks celebrities and politicians regularly, and is currently running ads where a cartoon Bush inserts a DVD into a toaster and burns it. The BACC's rules states that living people cannot be caricatured without their permission.
A woman who sued Limp Bizkit's frontman Fred Durst for $5 million, claiming he threw a microphone at her during the band's Anger Management tour, has settled for an undisclosed sum, Reuters reports. Lighting technician Connie Paulson claims Durst hurled the microphone at her "with no provocation," knocking out a tooth and breaking her nose while she was dismantling lights at the end of a show in Birmingham, Ala.