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.
The God of Legion secular Hollywood’s latest Biblically-inspired action flick is old-school an angry spiteful Almighty with a penchant for Old Testament theatrics. Fed up with humanity’s decadent warmongering ways He’s decided to pull the plug on the whole crazy experiment and start over from scratch.
Fortunately for us the God of Legion is also a rather lazy fellow. Instead of doing the apocalyptic work himself and wiping us out with a giant flood which worked perfectly well last time He opts to delegate the task to His army of angels — a questionable strategy that starts to fall apart when the archangel charged with leading the planned extermination Michael (Paul Bettany) refuses to comply.
Michael who unlike his boss still harbors affection for our sorry species abandons his post and descends to earth where inside the swollen belly of Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) an unwed mother-to-be working as a waitress in an out-of-the-way diner sits humanity’s lone hope for survival. Why is this particular baby so important? Is it the one destined to lead us to victory over Skynet? Heaven knows — Legion reveals little details its script devoid of actual scripture. What is clear is that God’s celestial hitmen want the kid whacked before it’s born.
But Michael won’t let humanity fall without a fight. Armed with a Waco-sized arsenal of assault weapons he hunkers down with the diner’s patrons a largely superfluous collection of thinly-sketched caricatures from various demographic groups led by Dennis Quaid as the diner’s grizzled owner Tyrese Gibson as a hip-hop hustler and Lucas Black as a simple-minded country boy.
Together they mount a heroic final stand against hordes of angels who’ve taken possession of “weak-willed” humans turning kindly old grandmas and mild-mannered ice cream vendors into snarling ravenous foul-mouthed beasts. They descend upon the ramshackle diner in a series of full-frontal assaults commanded by the archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) the George Pickett of End of Days generals.
Beneath its superficial religious facade Legion is really just a run-of-the-mill zombie flick a Biblical I Am Legend. Bettany an actor accustomed to smaller dramatic roles in films like A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code looks perfectly at ease in his first major action role wielding machine guns and bowie knives with equal aplomb. Conversely first-time director Scott Stewart a former visual effects artist does little to prove himself worthy of such a promotion serving up some impressive CGI work but not much else worthy of note.
Madonna and Warner Music Settle Maverick Dispute
Warner Music Group has agreed to buy Madonna out of Maverick Records, the label she co-founded 12 years ago, The Associated Press reports. The label debuted strongly with Alanis Morissette's 1995 multiplatinum debut album Jagged Little Pill and more recently scored hits with Michelle Branch, the Prodigy, the Deftones and Story of the Year. Madonna, along with partners Guy Oseary and Ronnie Dashev, owned 60 percent of the company while Warner Music held 40 percent. But the partnership turned sour in March when Maverick filed a lawsuit against WMG, claiming the company didn't adequately fund the label. WMG rejected that claim in a counter suit, referring to Maverick's $64.2 million in losses over the last six years. The label had been scheduled to dissolve in December but Maverick's investors would have had to reimburse WMG for $92.5 million in losses, loans and fees in order to buy Warner Music's 40 percent share in the label. Under the new agreement, both sides will drop their lawsuits. WMG will also keep Oseary, who will stay with Maverick as CEO. WMG said Maverick will place greater emphasis on signing and developing artists and will have the ability to draw on the parent company's resources.
Distributors Seek PG-13 Rating for Fahrenheit 9/11
Distributors Lions Gate Films and IFC Films are appealing to the Motion Picture Association of America to lessen its current R rating for Michael Moore's documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 to PG-13. Images in the film include a public beheading in Saudi Arabia, Iraqis burned by napalm and a gruesome scene of an Iraqi man dumping a dead baby into a truck bed loaded with bodies. "It is sadly very possible that many 15- and 16-year-olds will be asked and recruited to serve in Iraq in the next couple of years," Moore told the AP. "If they are old enough to be recruited and capable of being in combat and risking their lives, they certainly deserve the right to see what is going on in Iraq." A screening by the MPAA's appeals board has been set for June 22--just three days before the film's US release date.
Judge Refuses To Lower Jackson's Bail
In a ruling released Monday, Santa Barbara County Judge Rodney S. Melville has refused to lower Michael Jackson's $3 million bail in his child molestation case, saying the singer's wealth justified the higher-than-normal bail amount, the AP reports. Melville added that the bail should remain higher than what is typically imposed on defendants facing similar charges to ensure that Jackson appears at future court dates. Jackson's bail was set and uncontested when he was arrested in November, but the singer's new attorney, Thomas Mesereau Jr., requested bail be reduced to no more than $435,000 when he took over the case in April. He said there were no legal grounds for setting Jackson's bail higher than normal simply because of his wealth, but prosecutors argued the pop star was likely to flee the country if his bail was reduced.
T-Boz Files for Divorce
T-Boz of the female R&B group TLC has filed for divorce from her husband, rapper Mack 10, saying he committed adultery and threatened to kill her, the AP reports. The 34-year-old singer has also arranged for a temporary restraining order against the rapper, barring him from coming within 100 yards of her, and is seeking full custody of their 3-year-old daughter, Chase Anela. The couple married in August 2000 and is now separated. T-Boz, whose real name is Tionne Tenese Watkins Rolison, said in an affidavit that Mack 10 threatened to kill her several times, beginning in October 2002 and most recently on June 8. Mack 10, whose real name is Dedrick D-Mon Rolison, denied the allegations, saying his wife has made the claims "for the sole purpose of attempting to gain an advantage in these proceedings" and to prevent him from seeing their daughter.
Author Claims Extreme Makeover Was Her Idea
Author Diana Locke filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court late last week claiming a talent agency and a producer stole her idea for what has become the hit TV series Extreme Makeover, Reuters reports. According to the suit, Locke pitched the idea of a show focusing on the emotional and psychological aspects of plastic surgery to a producer friend in August 2001. He then discussed the idea with his agent Sean Perry. But after failing to sell the idea to a cable network, Locke's friend dropped the concept. The suit alleges Perry then presented the idea to producer, Howard Schultz, who sold it to ABC as Extreme Makeover. The suit, which claims breach of confidence, conspiracy and unjust enrichment, seeks damages of at least $10 million.
P. Diddy Hits the Road
Rap mogul Sean "P. Diddy" Combs will launch the Daddy's House Dance Party world tour this summer, along with a new album on his Bad Boy record label, the AP reports. Combs, who hasn't released an album since 2002's We Invented the Remix, will preview what's in store for fans at a party in Manhattan Thursday for Entertainment Weekly's upcoming "Must List" issue, which hits newsstands Friday. Combs, 34, has been starring as Walter Lee Younger in the Broadway revival of Raisin in the Sun and was recently named menswear designer of the year by the Council of Fashion Designers of America for his Sean John clothing line.
Charo, Flava Flav Join Surreal Life
VH1will air the third season of the former WB reality series The Surreal Life with the likes of Charo, Dave Coulier (Full House), Public Enemy's Flava Flav, New Kids on the Block alum Jordan Knight, Brigitte Nielsen (Red Sonja) and American Idol contenstant Ryan Starr. The series bows Sept. 6.
Role Call: DiCaprio's in Bear Market, Aniston Shoots War, Whitaker Brings a Gun
Leonardo DiCaprio and his production company Appian Way have teamed with Columbia Pictures to produce the biopic The Man Who Loved Grizzlies, about environmentalist Ted Treadwell. Based on Ned Zeman's article published in the May issue of Vanity Fair, the film focuses on Treadwell, a controversial and charismatic figure, the bears' self-appointed goodwill ambassador who looked like a Malibu surfer. Spending months at a time in the wilds of Alaska, he took the anti-poaching cause as his own but had no training beyond his talents as a photographer and naturalist ... Jennifer Aniston is being touted to play famed war photographer Dickey Chapelle in Warner Bros. biopic. Chapelle, a blonde, blue-eyed beauty who covered WWII for Look magazine and Reader's Digest, became a heralded photographer because of her willingness to march to the front lines. She died in Vietnam after tripping a landmine while accompanying Marines on a secret sabotage mission ... Forest Whitaker is set to star in American Gun, an ensemble drama described as "a series of interwoven story lines focusing on how the proliferation of guns in America affects and shapes lives," the filmmakers told the Hollywood Reporter. Donald Sutherland, Linda Cardellini (Scooby-Doo 2) and Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon (Barbershop 2) are in negotiations to join Whitaker, who will also serve as an executive producer.
Kit Bowen contributed to this report.