The Amazing Spider-Man would prefer if you didn't call it the fourth Spider-Man movie. See this ain't the Spider-Man your older brother knew from ten years ago — it's a reboot. The latest adventure to feature the comic book webslinger throws three movies worth of established mythology straight out the window swapping the original cast with an ensemble of fresh faces and resetting the franchise with a spiffy new origin story. "New" in the loosest sense of the word — the highlights of ASM mainly a sleek new design and spunky reinterpretation of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and gal pal Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone) are weighed down by overpowering sense of familiarity. Nearly a beat for beat replica of the 2002 original with some irksome twists of mystery thrown in Amazing Spider-Man fails to evolve its hero or his quarrels. The film has a great sense of cinematic power but little responsibility in making it interesting.
We're first introduced to Peter Parker as a young boy watching as his parents rush out of the house in response to a hidden danger. Mr. and Mrs. Parker leave their son in the care of his Aunt May (Sally Fields) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) who raise him into Andrew Garfield's geeky cool spin on the character. Parker's a science whiz but faces the challenges of every day life — passing classes talking to girls the occasional jock with aggression issues — but all of life's woes are put on hold when the teen discovers a new clue in the mystery behind his parents' disappearance. The discovery of his dad's old briefcase and notes leads Peter to Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) a scientist working for mega-conglomerate Oscorp and his Dad's old partner. When they cross paths Connors instantly takes a liking to the wunderkind and loops him into the work he started with his father: replicating the regeneration abilities of lizards in amputee humans (Connors is driven to reform his own missing arm). But when Parker wanders into Oscorp's room full of spiders (a sloppily explained this-needs-to-be-here-for-this-to-happen device) he receives his legendary spider bite that transforms him into the hero we know.
Director Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer) desperately wants Amazing Spider-Man to work as a high school relationship movie but with the burden of massive amounts of plot and mythology to introduce the movie sags under the sheer volume of stuff. Stone turns Parker's object of affection Gwen Stacey into a three-dimensional character. Whenever they happen upon each other an awkward exchange in the hallway a flirtatious back-and-forth in the Oscorp lab (where Stacey is head…intern) or when the two finally begin a romantic relationship the two stars shine. They're vivid characters chopped to bits in the editing room diluted by boring franchise-building plot threads and routine action sequences. Seriously Amazing Spider-Man another mad scientist villain who uses himself as a test subject only to become a monster? And another bridge rescue scene? Amazing Spider-Man desperately wants to disconnect from the original trilogy but it's trapped in an inescapable shadow and does nothing radical to shake things up. Instead it settles for the same old same old while preparing for inevitable sequels instead of investing in its dynamic duo.
There's a sweet spot where the film really hits his stride. After discovering his spider-abilities Peter hits the streets for the first time. He's superhuman but still a headstrong teen full of obnoxious quips and close calls with shiv-wielding thugs. The action is slick small and playful Webb showing us something new by melding his indie sensibilities with big scale action. If only it lasted — the introduction of Ifans reptilian half The Lizard implodes Amazing Spider-Man into incomprehensible blockbuster chaos. A gargantuan beast wreaking havoc around New York City promises King Kong-like escapades for the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man but the lizard man has other plans: to rule the world! Or something. Whatever it takes to get Lizard and Spider-Man fighting on the top of a skyscraper over a doomsday machine — logic be damned.
Amazing Spider-Man peppers its banal foundation with great talent from Denis Leary as Gwen's wickedly funny dad and the police captain hunting down Spider-Man to Fields and Sheen as two loving adults in Peter's life to Garfield and Stone whose chemistry demands a follow-up for the sake of seeing them reunited. But it's all at the cost of putting on the most expensive recreation of all time with new demands imposed by the success Marvel's other properties (except that franchise teasing worked). Amazing Spider-Man introduces too many ideas that go nowhere undermining the actual threat at hand. No one wants to be unfulfilled but that's the overriding difference between the original movie and the update. You need to pay for the sequel to know what the heck is going on in this one.
Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.
E3:S1 Last night while I was watching The Real Housewives of D.C., I realized something: that Cat, the British housewife who’s married to the White House photographer and has two girls, reminds me so much of the Orbit Gum woman. Except Cat’s teeth probably aren’t real and the only thing that’d put her in a good mood isn’t gum: it’s wine, Wii tennis, and making sure white people know when they see a black person.
Cat spent the majority of this episode planning for her book, which is called “Inbox Full,” as she’s busier than the rest of us and gets so many requests from mole rats to stop wearing their skins around that she must carry around multiple mobile devices. I also realized that most of these women aren’t housewives at all! In fact, there was only one true “housewife” moment last night, and it was when Mary’s daughter told her about sexting! Can you imagine?! A woman whose nametag reads “I shared bikini bottoms with JFK” had to have her daughter explain what happens when you text a nude picture of yourself to your boyfriend!
Stacie and her husband flew to Paris to see his brother, who’s a big-time rapper in Paris, perform at a completely sold out venue. It was a little confusing, because it turned out that the Salahis were there too. It wasn’t like they traveled there together, or even for the same reason…it was more like they only met up because the recent college graduate who Bravo assigned to follow Stacie happened to text the recent college graduate that Bravo assigned to follow Michaele, and they both found out they were in Paris at the same time. So the college graduates were both promoted because the scene of them gathering to go to a wine tasting conveyed how the Salahis are inescapable, like herpes and Yorkshire Terriers.
Back in D.C., Mary was helping her friend Ted plan a party for people who were supposed to be the “most important people in D.C.” When her hairstyling and makeuping friends were helping her get ready, she revealed that the Salahis, who were supposed to pay for Paul’s birthday party (that we saw last episode) had their lawyer send Paul a note that said the Salahis were not intending to pay for anything from the birthday party, even though they were the ones that hosted it and felt compelled to use a saber to hack off the top of a champagne bottle in a crowded room. Aren’t the richest people always the cheapest?!
But that wasn’t even the most dramatic part of the party. Apparently, Cat turned to Lynda and commented how the food was terrible, which Lynda agreed and then turned to everyone and said Cat was to be their newest soul sister. Then, Lynda said Stacie could be the Diana Ross, of the group which was a reference to how she’s the only black Housewife. So I think (it’s really unclear! Where’s Andy Cohen to clear this whole thing up?) Stacie called Cat racist, but it was actually Lynda who called everyone’s attention to Stacie’s skin color, and this is the most confusing conflict ever. At least with the housewives in Atlanta and in New Jersey, we knew why these women were feuding! In D.C., every argument is founded in irrationality! Either that or the editor of this episode should go back to filming spots for his local news station about how BP gas stations are trying to come across as greener to their customers.
But I’m not finished! I know you want to stop reading about this little tiff because I want to stop writing about it, but there’s one more thing you need to know: Cat pulled Paul aside and told him what had just happened, and she rewarded him for listening to her by saying “get off me! You’re gay and you’re colored!” Yes, that’s right! Her words were more suited as the response to her orthodontist’s question of what kind of retainer she’d like!
Finally, since the topic of Michaele’s weight is meant to be a substitute for all the meals none of these housewives are preparing for their families, Tareq talked to everyone about how his wife eats more than him and that when he met her, “she gained weight in beautiful places.” There’s so much about this guy that makes me think that not even so much as the termites (who feast themselves on his house) like him.
Next week, we’re surely to get some more pointless conflicts! But hopefully, the most important pieces of film won’t be cut from the episode and turned into the used napkins from the editor’s Chipotle lunch meals.