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.
S11:W6 This week on Dancing with the Stars, the theme was Rock N’ Roll. Each couple performed two dances: one of the regular ones that are always the same, like the tango and the paso doble, and a second one, which was either the jive, swing, or the “lindy hop” (which was the dance that was performed in ANTZ, where all the ants are socializing together and drinking out of the anuses of even tinier bugs). Let’s start out with the first round of regular dances, WHICH SOMEHOW, BRISTOL PALIN SUCCEEDED AT.
Bristol and her partner Mark Ballas dressed up as marching band rejects and danced a tango, that for some reason had an air guitar solo in it. Oh, right. Rock week. But, considering that last week she danced in a gorilla suit and completely forgot her steps, it seems she's always throwing things into her routine to make up for how she isn't Jennifer Grey. The judges were shocked with Bristol’s progress, and the feathers she wore in her hair went home and talked a big game to their friends. Bristol and Mark got 23 points, which is the highest score they’ve ever gotten, and our Chinese food cooled down about 10 degrees because we were all busy all thinking what it would be like if she won this competition.
Rick Fox and Cheryl Burke also danced the tango. He spent this week working on becoming sexier and analyzing every single one of his steps, which proves the theory that basketball players aren’t good in bed because they’ve never had to be. Which also means they never had to be ready to employ the tango, either. The judges gave them 24 points.
Kyle Massey and Lacey Schwimmer danced the tango TO A GREAT ADAM LAMBERT SONG, but the dance itself got messy a few times (which they rectified by making sure the cameras captured how their lips were actually touching). Kyle got 23 points for saving it with the chemistry that his brother helped him practice.
Audrina Patridge and Tony Dovolani performed the paso doble. After she exclaimed that her breasts were in the way of her performing a step, Tony took Audrina to a mixed martial arts facility so she could get more aggressive and complain less about the body part she had paid to enhance. But when it was time to dance for the judges, she seemed limp. They, yet again, told her she had no personality, and it was pretty great. They got 24 points.
Kurt Warner and Anna Trebunskaya also danced the paso doble. To get Kurt’s inner rock n’ roll out, Anna invited Bret Michaels to their rehearsal to coach him on how to say goodbye to a woman, while making sure she doesn’t hear the soft utterance that she’s only the best part of some street in Ohio. They danced to “The Final Countdown” as gladiators or something, and they scored a sad 18 points.
Jennifer Grey and Derek Hough danced the paso doble, too. This girl wants to go home so badly! She is “taking walks” during rehearsals, saying her neck hurts to play a joke on Derek and make it seem like he hurt her because she's old and he's young, and waving her dress around like it’s an “oh, it’s not used! I swear!” white hanky! This girl wants to go back to knocking back the chardonnay at Jamie Lee Curtis’ house and using Christie Brinkley’s Total Gym machine! She is done with this! The judges said her dancewas out of control and they didn’t know what was happening to her. But they need to be careful, because when this girl gets upset, she takes it out on her face. They got 20 points for their dance. And finally, Brandy and Maksim Chmerkovskiy danced the tango. She wore a Lady Gaga inspired outfit, and danced to one of my favorite songs to play during a game of chicken with tractors. And,I’d be kidding myself AND all the Footloose DVDs that Netflix never got back if I said she wasn’t my favorite of the night. The judges gave them 26 points, which put them in the top spot on the leader board for the second week in a row. And now, on to the dance marathon! Who was able to dance for a BEHEMOTH four minutes?
A billionaire TV producer (Robert Mammone) has a great idea for a reality show that he wants to put on the Internet and his goal is to beat the 40 million Super Bowl audience. He has compiled a crack team of young hip and immoral tech geeks directed by Goldman (Rick Hoffman) and puts cameras throughout a remote island where former prisoners are going to kill each other while audiences watch after shelling out the pay-per-view fee. The location is done on a remote secret island and the death row prisoners are bought from prisons around the world with the promise that the survivor gets to walk free. Among the contestants are a rogue Aussie named McStarley (Vinnie Jones) a martial arts expert (Masa Yamaguchi) a husband-and-wife team (Manu Bennett and Dasi Ruz) a monstrous killer who doesn't do much more than grunt (Nathan Jones) and others known only as The Italian The German and other monikers quickly forgotten. Enter the sole American Jack Conrad (Steve Austin) who's in a South American prison for some obscure reason and is recognized on TV by his wife (Madeleine West) who tries to save him. However it looks like Conrad is pretty good at helping himself. Don't expect the acting to be much more evolved than what could be seen among the World Wrestling Entertainment superstars especially since many of them were plucked from the ring to star in this morality tale. But Austin (who had in a strong cameo in Adam Sandler's Longest Yard) proves he has a sense of humor as well as strength. Vinnie Jones is ridiculously over-the-top as the Aussie who's the hand-picked winner of this game shown setting up alliances Survivor style only to turn on them later. The supporting cast are refreshingly entertaining but one-note caricatures both in the contest and running the contest. It's obvious that they aren't going to be around long but the actors do milk their tiny roles for every bit of attention they can get. Rick Hoffman as the brilliant camera mastermind of the project is both whiny sniveling and mean-spirited so when he joins some of the rest of the crew and suddenly develops a backbone and a conscience he ends up stealing the movie with his acerbic humor. But it's the understated American hero Conrad who holds a mirror up to the people who like to watch this stuff. Director Scott Wiper who co-wrote this story has also acted in similar movies like this (A Better Way to Die). It’s obvious he knows what he’s doing with The Condemned and develops a sense of voyeuristic angst like those of us who can't keep our eyes off a train wreck. Like the darkly subversive Belgian film Man Bites Dog the camera crew remains safely distant and remote until the reality directly involves them. Then the crew wonders "What the hell are we doing?" while the audience might be thinking "What the hell are we watching?" Much like Series 7: The Contenders Rollerball and other movies which show a dark and bloody near future this kind of reality doesn't seem too far away and maybe proves that movies which provide this type of gladiator spectacle target a certain segment of the human population who need to blow off steam.