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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Forget actors for once. Sunday night marked the night of awards season when we got to focus on the best musical artists of the year. That's right — it was the 55th annual Grammy Awards! And it was one hell of a show. From Adele to Mumford & Sons to Frank Ocean, the best of the best in the industry walked away with awards.
Check out the full list of winners below!
RELATED: Kim Kashkashian Wins A Grammy?!
Winners Announced Live:
1. Best Pop Solo Performance: "Set Fire To The Rain [Live]," Track from: Live At The Royal Albert Hall, Adele
2. Best Country Solo Performance: "Blown Away," Track from: Blown Away, Carrie Underwood
3. Song Of The Year: "We Are Young," Track from: Some Nights, Jack Antonoff, Jeff Bhasker, Andrew Dost, and Nate Ruess, songwriters (Fun. Featuring Janelle Monáe)
4. Best Urban Contemporary Album: Channel Orange, Frank Ocean
5. Best Rock Performance: "Lonely Boy," Track from: El Camino, The Black Keys
6. Best Pop Vocal Album: Stronger, Kelly Clarkson
7. Best Rap/Sung Collabortion: "No Church In The Wild," Track from: Watch The Throne, Jay-Z and Kanye West Featuring Frank Ocean and The-Dream
8. Best Country Album: Uncaged, Zac Brown Band
9. Best New Artist: fun.
10. Record Of The Year: "Somebody That I Used To Know," Track from: Making Mirrors, Gotye Featuring Kimbra
11. Album Of The Year: Babel, Mumford & Sons
1. Best Pop Duo/Group Performance: Gotye Featuring Kimbra, Track from: Making Mirrors
2. Best Pop Instrumental Album: Impressions, Chris Botti
3. Best Dance Recording: "Bangarang," Track from: Bangarang, Skrillrex Featuring Sirah
4. Best Dance/Electric Album: Bangarang, Skrillex
5. Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album: Kisses On The Bottom, Paul McCartney
6. Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance: "Love Bites (So Do I)," Track from: The Strange Case Of..., Halestorm
7. Best Rock Song: "Lonely Boy," Track from: El Camino, Dan Auerbach, Brian Burton, and Patrick Carney, songwriters (The Black Keys)
8. Best Rock Album: El Camino, The Black Keys
9. Best Alternative Music Album: Making Mirrors, Gotye
10. Best R&B Performance: "Climax," Track from: Looking 4 Myself, Usher
11. Best Traditional R&B Performance: "Love On Top," Track from: 4, Beyonce
12. Best R&B Song: "Adorn," Miguel Pimentel
13. Best R&B Album: Black Radio, Robert Glasper Experiment
14. Best Rap Performance: "N****s In Paris," Track from: Watch The Throne, Jay-Z and Kanye West
15. Best Rap Song: "N****s In Paris," Track from: Watch The Throne, Shawn Carter, Mike Dean, Chauncey Hollis, and Kanye West, songwriters (W.A. Donaldson, songwriter) (Jay-Z & Kanye West)
16. Best Rap Album: Take Care, Drake
17. Best Country Duo/Group Performance: "Pontoon," Little Big Town
18. Best Country Song: "Blown Away," Blown Away, Josh Kear and Chris Tompkins, songwriters (Carrie Underwood)
19. Best New Age Album: Echoes Of Love, Omar Akram
20. Best Improvised Jazz Solo: "Hot House," Track from: Hot House, Gary Burton and Chick Corea
21. Best Jazz Vocal Album: Radio Music Society, Esperanza Spalding
22. Best Jazz Instrumental Album: Unity Band, Pat Metheny Unity Band
23. Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album: Dear Diz (Everyday I Think Of You), Arturo Sandoval
24. Best Latin Jazz Album: ¡Ritmo!, The Clare Fischer Latin Jazz Big Band
25. Best Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music Performance: "10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord," Track from: 10,000 Reasons, Matt Redman
26. Best Gospel Song: "Go Get It," Erica Campbell, Tina Campbell, and Warryn Campbell, songwriters (Mary Mary)
27. Best Contemporary Christian Music Song: "10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord)," Track from: 10,000 Reasons, Jonas Myrin and Matt Redman, songwriters (Matt Redman)
28. Best Gospel Album: Gravity, Lecrae
29. Best Contemporary Christian Music Album: Eye On It, TobyMac
30. Best Latin Pop Album: MTV Unplugged Deluxe Edition, Juanes
31. Best Latin Album, Urban Or Alternative Album: Imaginaries, Quetzal
32. Best Regional Mexican Music Album (Including Tejano): Pecados Y Milagros, Lila Downs
33. Best Tropical Latin Album: Retro, Marlow Rosado Y La Riquena
34. Best Americana Album: Slipstream, Bonnie Raitt
35. Best Bluegrass Album: Nobody Knows You, Steep Canyon Rangers
36. Best Blues Album: Locked Down, Dr. John
37. Best Folk Album: The Goat Rodeo Sessions, Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, and Chris Thile
38. Best Regional Roots Music Album: The Band Courtbouillon, Wayne Toups, Steve Riley, and Wilson Savoy
39. Best Reggae Album: Rebirth, Jimmy Cliff
40. Best World Music Album: The Living Room Sessions Part 1, Ravi Shankar
41. Best Children's Album: Can You Canoe?, The Okee Dokee Brothers
42. Best Spoken World Album: Society's Child: My Autobiography, Janis Ian
43. Best Comedy Album: Blow Your Pants Off, Jimmy Fallon
44. Best Musical Theater Album: Once: A New Musical, Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti, principal soloists; Steven Epstein and Martin Lowe, producers (Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, composers/lyricists) (Original Broadway Cast With Steve Kazee, Cristin Milioti, and Others)
45. Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual Media: Midnight In Paris, Various Artists
46. Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, composers
47. Best Song Written For Visual Media: Safe & Sound (From The Hunger Games), T Bone Burnett, Taylor Swift, John Paul White, and Joy Williams, songwriters (Taylor Swift Featuring The Civil Wars)
48. Best Instrumental Composition: "Mozart Goes Dancing," Track from: Hot House, Chick Corea
49. Best Instrumental Arrangement: "How About You," Track from: Centennial - Newly Discovered Works Of Gil Evans, Gil Evans, arranger (Gil Evans Project)
50. Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s): "City Of Roses," Track from: Radio Music Society, Thara Memory and Esperanza Spalding, arrangers (Esperanza Spalding)
51. Best Recording Package: Biophilia, Michael Amzalag and Mathias Augustyniak, art directors (Björk)
52. Best Boxed Or Special Limited Edition Package: Woody At 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection, Fritz Klaetke, art director (Woody Guthrie)
53. Best Album Notes: Singular Genius: The Complete ABC Singles, Billy Vera, album notes writer (Ray Charles)
54. Best Historical Album: The Smile Sessions (Deluxe Box Set), Alan Boyd, Mark Linett, Brian Wilson, and Dennis Wolfe, compilation producers; Mark Linett, mastering engineer (The Beach Boys)
55. Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical: The Goat Rodeo Sessions, Richard King, engineer; Richard King, mastering engineer (Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer & Chris Thile)
56. Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical: Dan Auerbach, El Camino (The Black Keys), Locked Down (Dr. John), Savage (Hacienda), Shakedown (Hacienda)
57. Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical: "Promises (Skrillex & Nero Remix)," Skrillex, remixer (Nero), Joseph Ray, Skrillex, and Daniel Stephens, remixers
58. Best Surround Soung Album: Modern Cool, Jim Anderson, surround mix engineer; Darcy Proper, surround mastering engineer; Michael Friedman, surround producer (Patricia Barber)
59. Best Engineered Album, Classical: Life & Breath - Choral Works By René Clausen, Tom Caulfield and John Newton, engineers; Mark Donahue, mastering engineer (Charles Bruffy and Kansas City Chorale)
60. Producer Of The Year: Blanton Alspaugh, Chamber Symphonies (Gregory Wolynec & Gateway Chamber Orchestra), Davis: Río De Sangre (Joseph Rescigno, Vale Rideout, Ava Pine, John Duykers, Kerry Walsh, Guido LeBron, The Florentine Opera Company & Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra), Gjeilo: Northern Lights (Charles Bruffy & Phoenix Chorale), In Paradisum (Brian A. Schmidt & South Dakota Chorale), Life & Breath - Choral Works By René Clausen (Charles Bruffy & Kansas City Chorale), Music For A Time Of War (Carlos Kalmar & The Oregon Symphony, Musto: The Inspector (Glen Cortese & Wolf Trap Opera Company)
61. Best Orchestral Performance: "Adams: Harmonielehre & Short Ride In A Fast Machine," Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor (San Francisco Symphony)
62. Best Opera Recording: "Wagner: Der Ring Des Nibelungen," James Levine and Fabio Luisi, conductors; Hans-Peter König, Jay Hunter Morris, Bryn Terfel and Deborah Voigt; Jay David Saks, producer (The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; The Metropolitan Opera Chorus)
63. Best Choral Performance: "Life & Breath - Choral Works By René Clausen," Charles Bruffy, conductor (Matthew Gladden, Lindsey Lang, Rebecca Lloyd, Sarah Tannehill, and Pamela Williamson; Kansas City Chorale)
64. Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance: "Meanwhile," Eighth Blackbird
65. Best Classical Instrumental Solo: "Kurtág & Ligeti: Music For Viola," Kim Kashkashian
66. Best Classical Vocal Solo: "Poèmes," Renée Fleming (Alan Gilbert and Seiji Ozawa; Orchestre National De France & Orchestre Philharmonique De Radio France)
67. Best Classical Compendium: "Penderecki: Fonogrammi; Horn Concerto; Partita; The Awakening Of Jacob; Anaklasis," Antoni Wit, conductor; Aleksandra Nagórko and Andrzej Sasin, producers
68. Best Contemporary Classical Composition: "Hartke, Stephen: Meanwhile - Incidental Music To Imaginary Puppet Plays," Track from: Meanwhile, Stephen Hartke, composer (Eighth Blackbird)
69. Best Short Form Music Video: "We Found Love," Rihanna Featuring Calvin Harris
70. Best Long Form Music Video: "Big Easy Express," Mumford & Sons
Follow Lindsey on Twitter @LDiMat.
[Photo Credit: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images]
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In This Means War – a stylish action/rom-com hybrid from director McG – Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises) and Chris Pine (Star Trek) star as CIA operatives whose close friendship is strained by the fires of romantic rivalry. Best pals FDR (Pine) and Tuck (Hardy) are equally accomplished at the spy game but their fortunes diverge dramatically in the dating realm: FDR (so nicknamed for his obvious resemblance to our 32nd president) is a smooth-talking player with an endless string of conquests while Tuck is a straight-laced introvert whose love life has stalled since his divorce. Enter Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) a pretty plucky consumer-products evaluator who piques both their interests in separate unrelated encounters. Tuck meets her via an online-dating site FDR at a video-rental store. (That Lauren is tech-savvy enough to date online but still rents movies in video stores is either a testament to her fascinating mix of contradictions or more likely an example of lazy screenwriting.)
When Tuck and FDR realize they’re pursuing the same girl it sparks their respective competitive natures and they decide to make a friendly game of it. But what begins as a good-natured rivalry swiftly devolves into romantic bloodsport with both men using the vast array of espionage tools at their disposal – from digital surveillance to poison darts – to gain an edge in the battle for Lauren’s affections. If her constitutional rights happen to be violated repeatedly in the process then so be it.
Lauren for her part remains oblivious to the clandestine machinations of her dueling suitors and happily basks in the sudden attention from two gorgeous men. Herein we find the Reese Witherspoon Dilemma: While certainly desirable Lauren is far from the irresistible Helen of Troy type that would inspire the likes of Tuck and FDR to risk their friendship their careers and potential incarceration for. At several points in This Means War I found myself wondering if there were no other peppy blondes in Los Angeles (where the film is primarily set) for these men to pursue. Then again this is a film that wishes us to believe that Tom Hardy would have trouble finding a date so perhaps plausibility is not its strong point.
When Lauren needs advice she looks to her boozy foul-mouthed best friend Trish (Chelsea Handler). Essentially an extension of Handler’s talk-show persona – an acquired taste if there ever was one – Trish’s dialogue consists almost exclusively of filthy one-liners delivered in rapid-fire succession. Handler does have some choice lines – indeed they’re practically the centerpiece of This Means War’s ad campaign – but the film derives the bulk of its humor from the outrageous lengths Tuck and FDR go to sabotage each others’ efforts a raucous game of spy-versus-spy that carries the film long after Handler’s shtick has grown stale.
Business occasionally intrudes upon matters in the guise of Heinrich (Til Schweiger) a Teutonic arms dealer bent on revenge for the death of his brother. The subplot is largely an afterthought existing primarily as a means to provide third-act fireworks – and to allow McGenius an outlet for his ADD-inspired aesthetic proclivities. The film’s action scenes are edited in such a manic quick-cut fashion that they become almost laughably incoherent. In fairness to McG he does stage a rather marvelous sequence in the middle of the film in which Tuck and FDR surreptitiously skulk about Lauren's apartment unaware of each other's presence carefully avoiding detection by Lauren who grooves absentmindedly to Montel Jordan's "This Is How We Do It." The whole scene unfolds in one continuous take – or is at least craftily constructed to appear as such – captured by one very agile steadicam operator.
Whatever his flaws as a director McG is at least smart enough to know how much a witty script and appealing leads can compensate for a film’s structural and logical deficiencies. He proved as much with Charlie’s Angels a film that enjoys a permanent spot on many a critic’s Guilty Pleasures list and does so again with This Means War. The film coasts on the chemistry of its three co-stars and only runs into trouble when the time comes to resolve its romantic competition which by the end has driven its male protagonists to engage in all manner of underhanded and duplicitous activities. This Means War being a commercial film – and likely an expensive one at that – Witherspoon's heroine is mandated to make a choice and McG all but sidesteps the whole thorny matter of Tuck and FDR’s unwavering dishonesty not to mention their craven disregard for her privacy. (They regularly eavesdrop on her activities.) For all their obvious charms the truth is that neither deserves Lauren – or anything other than a lengthy jail sentence for that matter.
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