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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Heavy rockers Metallica have confirmed reports suggesting they're heading off to Antarctica for a historic gig at the bottom of the world The Enter Sandman band will perform near the heliport of the continent's Carlini Argentine Base on 8 December (13) and fans from Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica and Mexico will sail in on a cruise ship as part of a Coca-Cola Zero contest.
The cruise will set sail from Tierra del Fuego, the southernmost tip of South America, on 3 December (13).
Announcing the news officially online on Thursday (24Oct13), the rockers write, "After 30 years as a band, we have been unbelievably fortunate to visit just about every corner of the earth... except for one. That is all about to change as we are set to travel to Antarctica.
"We'll be playing inside a dome on the base and in another twist, the show will be transmitted to the audience via headphones with no amplification... a real first for us."
The concert will also stream live for the band's Latin American fans and will be filmed for audiences elsewhere to watch at an unspecified later date.
It's only the second concert to take place in Antarctica - Nunatak, an indie-rock quintet comprised of members of a science team investigating climate change, performed in front of 17 people in 2007, according to RollingStone.com.
Heavy metal legends Metallica performed at the New York Yankees' stadium on Sunday (22Sep13) in honour of retiring baseball star Mariano Rivera. The sportsman was feted in a special presentation prior to a game against the San Francisco Giants at the Yankee Stadium, and Metallica were there to serenade him with their hit Enter Sandman, which became Rivera's theme tune in recent years and has marked his entrance onto the pitch since 1999.
The rockers played with special guitar picks designed in the style of the Yankees' kit, and presented Rivera with gifts including a giant amp emblazoned with the world 'Sandman' and his kit number, as well as the rockers' autographs.
Sunday was also declared Mariano Rivera Day by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Rivera says of the tribute, "The whole thing was special. I wasn't expecting something like that... (There were) a lot of emotions. It was more than what I was thinking," while a post on Metallica's Twitter.com page adds, "Exit Sandman! Thank you Mariano!"
Rockers Metallica delighted fans by playing a secret show in San Diego, California on Friday (19Jul13) as part of the city's Comic-Con festivities. The group was at the convention to promote new 3D IMAX film Metallica Through the Never, and frontman James Hetfield and his bandmates performed some of their classic hits, including Seek and Destroy and Enter Sandman and well as the Star Wars theme and Darth Vader's Imperial March to a sold out crowd of 1,500 people.
Many famous faces joined the audience of fans at the intimate show, including Olivia Munn and her boyfriend Joel Kinnaman, Judas Priest star Rob Halford and Bradley Cooper, who was spotted playing air guitar, reports New York Post.
No one is more surprised than I am that I liked Dark Skies, only because when the trailers are inscrutable and studios keep it away from critics, well, we can connect the dots. This isn't the case. Dark Skies is well written and executed, with effective sound design, good performances from the cast, and eerie creatures that are left mostly to our imagination. Frankly, it's baffling.
Keri Russell (The Americans) and Josh Hamilton (The House of Yes, Kicking and Screaming) play the believable, likable Barretts, a couple that's hit a rough patch in their marriage. Daniel lost his job, Lacy's struggling as a real estate agent, and the marriage bed is a little chilly. Their two kids Jesse (Dakota Goyo) and Sammy (Kadan Rockett) are smart, sweet kids who are the first witnesses to the weirdness happening at their house. Jesse and Sammy have a cute bedtime ritual where Jesse reads Sammy scary stories before they fall asleep using walkie-talkies. Their latest scary story is about the Sandman, whom Sammy blames for the pranks that the Barretts begin finding in the morning. As these occurrences escalate, it's clear there's no way that Sammy could be the perp.
Like most good supernatural thrillers, the weird things happening can be ascribed to stress or nightmares or overactive imaginations. The Barretts become increasingly isolated from their friends and neighbors, which only adds to their stress. The way the Barretts experience this internal/external strife can be read as an interesting bit of social commentary; the family unit that stays together and remains strong is the only thing that can defeat whatever threatens them. Daniel is upset and ashamed he can't take care of his family, either financially or from whatever is stalking them. Jesse is mad at his parents for fighting and acting weird and making being a teen even more awkward than usual. Lacy thinks something out of this world is terrorizing them — or maybe it's her husband. This theory about the strength of the family unit is made even clearer later in the film when they meet with a sort of specialist in extraterrestrial phenomena.
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This specialist, Edwin Pollard, is played by J.K. Simmons, who brings a gentle intelligence and mellow resignation that works really well. He could be a wild-eyed kook who wears X-Files shirts and "wants to believe," but he's not. He's just a bachelor with a bunch of cats who has given up fighting. (He has cats because dogs can sense, yes, aliens, and the barking used to keep Edwin up at night.) His performance is a good example of what makes Dark Skies a surprisingly solid sci-fi film.
The premise is straightforward and simple, even though we're trained to expect all sorts of twists. It's not that the Barretts are dumb or exasperating, it's that they don't want to believe it's possible for aliens to exist or be interested in them. They don't want to be those people, the kind of people like Edwin who have totally isolated themselves from society because of what they've seen and experienced, even though they are quickly becoming exactly that. The weakest character is Jesse's putzy friend Ratner, the kind of obnoxious teen boy who talks about "bitches" and encourages his shy friend to be a little bit naughtier, but he has his place in the story as well. If the performances had been a little more exaggerated or the music a touch more dramatic, Dark Skies could have easily tipped into silly territory, but it very carefully walks that line. It takes these possibilities seriously and earnestly, which convinces the audience to do the same. There's a groundedness to the whole enterprise that's satisfying.
There are one or two scenes that are simply jump scares or perhaps a little silly, but they're not so egregious that they take you out of the movie. (And, I'll be honest, jump scares work on me.) In the end, Dark Skies is a wholly enjoyable film that genre fans will enjoy.
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Bella, Edward and Jacob take on a host of wide release newcomers this weekend including Paramount’s release of Dreamworks Animation’s Rise of the Guardians in 3-D, Ang Lee’s acclaimed Life of Pi in 3-D, and FilmDistrict’s re-make of Red Dawn.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2 from Summit Entertainment (a Lionsgate company) will top the Friday through Sunday portion of Thanksgiving weekend with a likely gross in the mid-$40 million range and around $65 million for Wednesday through Sunday. Breaking Dawn, Part 1 dropped 70% in its second weekend at the same time last year(earning $41.7M for 3 days & $61.8M for 5), but based on stronger word-of-mouth this latest installment will likely show greater stamina. With solid mid-week grosses ($10.1 million on Monday alone), the film could finish the Thanksgiving holiday weekend with a massive $220 million in North America and well over $400 million worldwide!
This will put the vampires and werewolves tale well ahead of the new Thanksgiving releases. First up is Rise of the Guardians which is looking at a fairly modest Wednesday through Sunday opening frame of around $40 million and a possible low $20 million gross for the weekend portion alone. This “all-star” movie brings together classic and iconic childhood characters Jack Frost (Chris Pine), Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), The Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), The Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman) and the Sandman in an epic battle to protect the children of the world from The Boogeyman (Jude Law). This will be the last DreamWorks Animation film to be distributed by Paramount Pictures, with the next film to be distributed by 20th Century Fox.
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Next up for the holiday movie feast is 20th Century Fox’s Life of Pi based on Yann Martel's bestselling 2001 book about a teenage boy set adrift in the middle of the ocean on a raft with four animals as his only companions. This fantastical adventure has been winning praise for its stunning 3-D visuals and is gaining Oscar buzz. Directed by Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), this epic film with a reported $120 million budget will have to bank on solid word-of-mouth in the coming weeks to keep it afloat. This weekend a 5-day gross of around $20 million (and low to mid-teens for F-S-S) is expected for its debut in around 2,900 theaters.
FilmDistrict will release the re-make of Red Dawn in 2,678 theaters in North America on Wednesday (expanding to 2,724 theatres on Friday). This time Thor-Hunk Chris Hemsworth, Hunger-Gamer Josh Hutcherson, Adrianne Palicki and Jeffrey Dean Morgan star as American citizens protecting their small town from a North Korean invasion. The original film released in 1984 featured small-towners Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell and Charlie Sheen battling Russian military forces. According to the press release, pre-release tracking indicates that the film could post a five-day gross in the very high teens with a three day (F-S-S) in the low teens. This should be a fine result for FilmDistrict which did not produce the film rather only acquired distribution rights.
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Of course Bond, James Bond will continue to make his formidable presence known in the well-reviewed and highly successful Skyfall. The highest grossing Bond film to date as it closes in on $700 million globally, this is also the most universally-praised Bond film in years. An expected weekend gross in the high teen range will put the film within shooting distance of $200 million in North America alone, by the end of the long holiday period.
This will also be a great Thanksgiving weekend for those who have been chomping at the bit to see the much talked about films Silver Linings Playbook from The Weinstein Co. (which expands into about 420 theaters on Friday) and Anthony Hopkins in Fox Searchlight's Hitchcock which opens on Friday in limited release in 17 theaters.
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The Titanic star will make his debut in the cartoon world with The Guardians, about a group of superheros who join forces to fight an evil spirit called Pitch.
The DreamWorks venture will see popular childhood characters Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and the Sandman transformed alongside Frost into an elite power squad.
Castmembers for other roles have yet to be announced, reports trade paper Daily Variety.
It’s not as if Spider-Man and his neurotic alter ego Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) haven’t seen a fair share of gloomy corners in the first two films but the third installment wisely – and literally – darkens his life with a new black costume and a bad attitude to go with it. OK much of our hero’s turn in temperament comes courtesy of said black threads--which are in reality a malevolent force from outer space. But like all of Spidey’s greatest Marvel Comics melodramas his always-problematic personal life delivers some curveballs to sharpen his edge. Even as the public embraces Spider-Man Peter has to deal with: The splintering romance with his lady love Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst); a smarmy rival photographer Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) who threatens to snatch his job at the Daily Bugle; the true killer of his beloved Uncle Ben revealed to be an escaped ex-con (Thomas Haden Church) who via a scientific mishap turns into the shape-shifting Sandman; and oh yeah his best friend Harry Osborne (James Franco) who is trying to kill Peter believing Spider-Man responsible for the death of his evil dad the original Green Goblin. Vengeance blood feuds broken hearts and an alien symbiote feeding on anger--dark enough for you? Don’t worry. The film deftly mixes the pathos with plenty of action adventure and some of the funniest moments yet in the superhero saga. Maguire in particular really lets himself go this time around and embraces everything the story provides him to play with aplomb. The actor plays everything from angst-driven avenger to wounded romantic to cocky tango partner in perfect pitch. Among Maguire’s fellow returnees Dunst is less well-served by the ambitious story but makes the most of her emotional beats when not pressed to play MJ Girl Hostage. Franco’s turn is his most nuanced in the trilogy yet. And Rosemary Harris as Aunt May and J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson deliver ably as always on sage wisdom and blowhard buffoonery respectively. Church demonstrates that the dramatic range he evinced in Sideways was no fluke adding dimensional shades to his monstrous Sandman without the benefit of much dialogue. Grace with his snarky Eddie Haskell-on-crack riffs specializes in stealing scenes though he might have upped the menace when the plot goes pitch-black. And as the dishy girl-next-door-ish Gwen Stacy Bryce Dallas Howard not only captures the iconic look of the iconic ice cream blonde she makes her a genuinely appealing alternative to MJ in Peter’s love life Simply put Sam Raimi knows how to make Spider-Man movies. As a student of the Stan Lee-Steve Ditko-John Romita school of storytelling which helped revolutionize comic book superheroes four decades ago Raimi continues to understand that unlike Superman’s awesome powers or Batman’s intense obsession it’s Spidey’s Everyman humanity underneath his mask that makes him an engrossing character. And Raimi not only extends his reach beyond the ‘60s-‘70s era he grew up on to include more contemporary characters like Venom he – along with brother/writing partner Ivan and acclaimed screenwriter Alvin Sargent – does it in ways that cleverly serve the story advance the themes and broaden the relationships. Here’s hoping this isn’t Raimi ’s final outing as his is one web to enjoy being ensnared in. Even with its lengthy running time and packed-to-the-gills story the film is certainly a webbed wonder to behold.