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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Robert De Niro had to convince fellow veteran actor Sylvester Stallone to sign on for their new boxing movie Grudge Match as the Hollywood hardman feared the comedy would be mocking his Oscar-winning classic Rocky. Stallone climbs back into the ring yet again in the new film, and he faces off with De Niro as rival fighters who come out of retirement to go toe-to-toe one last time.
De Niro relished the chance to play a boxer again following his Oscar-winning turn as Jake La Motta in 1980's Raging Bull, but Stallone was reluctant to join him as he suspected the movie would spoof his breakthrough film.
Stallone tells U.K. talk show host Graham Norton, "I was worried because it might have come out as unintentional comedy but the way they worked it and with the other cast it started to get good so I stopped being foolish, precious and protective of Rocky and let it go."
De Niro adds, "When I heard about it I always knew it had to be Sylvester to do it. I had to talk him into it - he had reservations, he was worried about it being a comedy but I said, 'Don't worry, we'll do it together and it will be okay'."
It's Christmas and the only thing shining brighter than the tree at 30 Rock is SNL alum Jimmy Fallon. He didn't waste any time, appearing with Justin Timberlake in the cold open. It's like the show knew that the audience couldn't wait to see these two together. Before the monologue, Timberlake appears alongside Fallon as rapping and dancing presents alongside Aidy Bryant in Timberlake's signature "Bring it on down to _________-ville!" sketch. This high-energy opener set up expectations for Fallon and Timberlake to collaborate and SNL more than delivered. Unbelievably Fallon sang more than his musical guest, meriting consistent squeals of delight from the audience he got his start in front of.
This music-heavy episode, though centered around giving the crowd what they want (Fallon and Timberlake) also allowed the women of the cast to show off. The catchy and hilarious song "(Do It On My) Twin Bed" features the female cast killing it as they attempt to get laid in their childhood rooms, an all too familiar scenario during the holiday season. The sketch features expert rapping from Fallon, who "can't fully undress in case your parents come through. Just shirt, no pants like Winnie the Pooh."
Not to be outdone by last week's cameos from Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro, Fallon and Timberlake reprised their best Bee Gees impressions for "The Barry Gibb Talk Show," featuring appearances from Madonna and Barry Gibb himself. The singing, outfits, and Gibb fits are endlessly amusing, but unfortunately Madonna and Gibb's cameos did not add as much comedy as excitement from just seeing them. Fallon and Timberlake continued to commit but because the content had little to do with Christmas, revisiting this recurring sketch felt forced. (Not to mention that reprising the sketch after Robin Gibb's death seems a bit tacky.)
Weekend Update as usual showcased expert topical joke writing, going after Duck Dynasty, Kathie Lee and Hoda, and Kate McKinnon as tennis champion Billie Jean King, the newly-announced official U.S. delegate to the Sochi Olympics, . McKinnon's earnest intensity is what comedy is made of, especially lines like "There's no demographic in this world that gives less of a flip than 70 year-old lesbians. All I need to survive is a clean canteen and a sweater." Her air tennis swings don't hurt the hilarity either.
Prior to the episode, Late Night heir apparent Seth Meyers tweeted that this would not be his last SNL. Weekend Update still confirmed that there would be constant reminders of his departure, this week with Fallon and Mayor Bloomberg. The men in transition spoke of what's next, while there were few hints as to what is ahead for the Update desk. Having served as SNL's head-writer since 2006, Meyers has contributed to the show in ways the audience doesn't always see. Tina Fey credited him with writing the hit Palin sketches she starred in during the 2008 election. His success moving on from the show is no surprise, but his sharp news and political writing will be missed.
The show returned its focus to the holiday spirit with a Christmas-themed "Waking Up with Kimye," complete with a "Bound 2" parody. Fallon later appeared as a gay Ebenezer Scrooge who discovers his sexuality with the Ghost of Christmas Present. But SNL came festively full circle with a clingy counterpoint to the song "Baby It's Cold Outside," reversing the song's gender roles to explore what happens when the woman doesn't want to leave. Cecily Strong held her own as a performer next to Fallon in this episode favorite, a clever and sweet finale to a classic Christmas show.
Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone fought for real in their new boxing movie Grudge Match. The actors play ageing boxers who come out of retirement for a final showdown, and Stallone, 67, admits his 70-year-old sparring partner packed real punches and took genuine hits while they were in the ring together.
He says, "Once he commits, he goes all the way. He took some serious hits and falls. He won't admit it, but he did... He was on the East Coast and I'm training on the West Coast. It's the equivalent of having a ballet recital and you don't meet your partner till the curtain goes up and you hope it all works out and it did."
Director Peter Segal adds, "I wanted the reality and those guys, unfortunately, weren't able to do perfect movie punches every time. They connected quite a bit. You can see their backs and shoulders got scarred up by the ropes."
Both stars have previously taken real punches while playing boxers onscreen - De Niro won an Oscar for his role as fighter Jake La Motta in 1980's Raging Bull, while Stallone has starred in six Rocky films.
Hollywood action man Sylvester Stallone was "embarrassed" when he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame back in 2011, because he didn't feel worthy enough beside fellow honouree Mike Tyson. The actor was celebrated at the Canastota, New York venue for turning the spotlight on the sport in his Rocky film franchise, but he felt out of place next to real boxing icons Tyson and former World Boxing Council Middleweight Champion Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr.
Stallone says, "I was actually embarrassed by it (Hall of Fame honour) because I'm not a fighter, but they look at it like someone who helps promote boxing (sic). Mike Tyson and Cesar Chavez, Jr. is (sic) amazing so it was another validation that I'm here promoting the sport.
"But I've always loved the sport even when I was a kid, seven or eight years old, just fascinated with this idea of two men just showing their hearts and going for it."
Stallone steps back into the ring for new release Grudge Match, co-starring Robert De Niro, and director Peter Segal admits he was a little intimidated at the prospect of working with the movie hardman on the new boxing comedy.
He explains, "I was both elated and scared. I had watched (director) John Avildsen's commentary on Rocky and how meticulously Sly had gone through a beat by beat choreograph of 'left, left, right, right, left, right,' everything. And so I realised there is no person on the planet earth who has choreographed more cinematic boxing matches than this guy.
"But then there was a story that I had laid out and one that I had to convince him would be the right story to tell. I had to convince Sly that this was a way to do an interesting story without holding a gun and killing someone. We worked together but I didn't know how that was gonna go at first."
With all the press this week about SNL casting, it seemed like the big reveal would be that the new black female cast member is John Goodman. Instead SNL did not let headlines dictate the show, and opted for a more classic holiday episode. Hosting with musical guest Kings of Leon, Goodman proved that 13 times on the show is definitely the charm. The show took off with the help of Kenan Thompson, first as the criticized interpreter at Nelson Mandela's funeral, then bringing it home with Goodman in the the soulful song "All I Want for Christmas is Booty." The memorable monologue foreshadowed the kind of episode that is SNL's forte: festive and really funny.
The momentum at the start was maintained throughout the show with strong sketches and cameo appearances from Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro. They joined Goodman as the "3 Wise Guys," a biblical sketch about a journey to see Baby Jesus from Long Island and New Jersey. With strong writing ("I hear the kid might not be his!") and a combination of characters that we could happily watch for hours, this piece was an instant holiday hit.
Weekend Update more than held up to the rest of this week's killer episode. The topical segment addressed this week's Santa controversy with Megyn Kelly's inappropriate references to a white Christmas. Thompson took this on as Santa saying, "Here's a secret for you. I'm black as hell." The laughs keep coming with a reprisal of Bobby Moynihan favorite Drunk Uncle, and just when his performance seems like it can't get better, Goodman joins in as Drunker Uncle. Their belligerent rendition of the Billy Ocean '80s classic "Get out of my glass, and into my mouth," was enjoyable enough to stomach yet another reminder that Seth Meyers will be leaving soon.
While this is not the last new episode before Christmas, SNL took this week to produce a show heavy on the holiday content. With the exception of the cold open, only two other sketches did not reference Christmas. One of the funniest of these had Goodman playing a 23-year-old woman, claiming she was fired for being too sexy. The sketch was anchored by Thompson's performance as a flirty judge and Taran Killam's deadpan delivery as a lawyer, but Goodman in drag stole the show. The simple and silly piece utilized Goodman's physical comedy and his overall gift of not taking himself too seriously.
Amid rumors of her leaving the cast, Nasim Pedrad returned as Shallon, a character that seems to be part kid, part hype-man with the sole purpose of frustrating adults. The sketch worked with support of Thompson, Moynihan and Aidy Bryant, but did not capitalize on Goodman's presence the way the rest of the episode did. Cast favorite Kate McKinnon returned at the end for one of the most bizzare yet funny make-out sessions ever seen covered in whipped cream. These moments helped to add variety and absurdity to this otherwise timeless episode of SNL that should go down in holiday history. John Goodman is the host equivalent of a Christmas miracle.
Grudge Match co-stars Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone made a surprise appearance on U.S. comedy show Saturday Night Live this weekend (14Dec13) when they took part in a parody of the story of the Three Wise Men with host John Goodman.
Director Peter Segal has filmed multiple endings for his new boxing movie with Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone in a bid to keep the movie's conclusion under wraps ahead of its release. De Niro, who famously portrayed fighter Jake LaMotta in cult classic Raging Bull, goes head to head with Rocky star Stallone for the new action film, about a pair of ageing sports rivals who are coaxed out of retirement for one last match, and the veteran actor reveals they had to slug it out for several rounds for the shoot so no one onset could leak the ending and spoil the picture for fans.
During an interview on U.S. breakfast show Today, De Niro explained, "Pete Segal, the director, shot the ending three ways, where I win, or he wins, or we both win or lose, I forget that, but because there were so many extras around, he didn't want anyone to give it away."
Grudge Match will open across America on Christmas Day (25Dec13) and elsewhere in January (13).
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Once an actor reaches a certain age, they tend to slow down a bit. After a while, it becomes time to leave the physical roles to the young whippersnappers and ease into more sedentary characters, like say a snarky grandpa, or disgruntled police chief that constantly threatens to take away everyones badge. This might make sense for most actors, but don't tell any of that to Robert De Niro or Sylvester Stallone. Both actors, no doubt with unopened applications for the AARP piling up on their front porches, have decided to keep doing demanding roles. This trend continues with their newest comedy Grudge Match.
In the upcoming film, Billy "The Kid" McDonnen (De Niro) and Henry "Razor" Sharp (Stallone) are retired boxers well past their prime, fitness and popularity wise. The men harbor a deep-seated hatred for one another since their careers ended 30 years ago. When the boxers are asked to participate in a video game, the two get into a hard hitting knock-down drag-out that goes viral and has fans clamoring for the two to step into the ring for a one time rematch.
Stallone has been doing steady work in the action genre with films like Bullet to the Head, Rambo, and The Expendables series filling up the "achievements after 60” section of his résumé, while Robert De Niro taking on physical roles in films like Killing Season. With this role and his role in the recently released Luc Besson film The Family, De Niro seems to be revisiting his most iconic characters and giving them a comedy twist. In The Family, he played a aging mobster akin to his work in Goodfellas while in this film, he's channeling his Raging Bull character, Jake LaMotta for laughs.
De Niro and Stallone have both played the most iconic boxers in cinematic history, so it's fitting that they are coming together for one rinal round in the ring. It's like all your fantasies for the Rocky/Jake LaMotta match up have finally come to fruition.
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Over the decades, sports movies have been either hit or miss, with a good portion of them missing. What makes it so tough is that the rhythms and nuances of sports is hard to capture on film without seeming contrived. These movies did that.
Sylvester Stallone's tale of an underdog boxer still rings triumphant even years later.
2. Bull Durham
The best movie about baseball, with some of the best lines about the sport in any movie ever. "I'm the player to be named later," indeed.
3. Raging Bull
Robert De Niro is a tour de force as Jake La Motta - and it's also amazing how committed he was to the role with his weight gain at the end.
4. Field of Dreams
This is a great film despute Ray Liotta's unwillness to even fake hitting lefthanded like Shoeless Joe Jackson did in real life.
5. Chariots of Fire
Admit it: the theme song makes you want to run barefoot on the beach.
6. A League of Their Own
Yes, even Madonna did a more than passable job of acting in this movie about women playing in their own professional baseball league.
Most movies with this kind of ending would be ridiculed for being too hokey. Funny thing is that's it's from real life. I'm also biased since some members of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team went to my alma mater, Boston University.
Gene Hackman gives the performance of a career in this movie. A must-see if you're a basketball fan.
9. Any Given Sunday
C'mon... Football? Al Pacino? Sold!
10. Slap Shot
Another great hockey movie - and one of the most wickedly funny ones too.
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