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.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
Warner Bros Pictures via Everett Collection
Even without having read Mark Helprin's novel Winter's Tale, I have the unshakable feeling that Akiva Goldsman's film adaptation does not do the story justice. Speckled throughout the moreover colorless movie are hints of an intriguing idea — a fantasy epic about an angel-demon bureaucracy coexisting with the human race throughout the span of 20th century New York City, operating within the parameters of a didactic miracle-granting system — an idea that doesn't come close to its full potential. In 118 minutes, we barely scratch the surface of the world in which an apparently immortal Colin Farrell finds himself. We see him cavort with Russell Crowe, a malicious gang-leader with netherworld origins, seek guidance from a mystical Pegasus, and carry out his destiny as the savior to a mysterious red-haired girl. But we never truly understand why any of this is happening. Not that it gets particularly confusing; on a plot level, it's all quite simple. But that's the problem — it shouldn't be.
The central conceit of the film is that everyone is put on this Earth with a divine "mission" to uphold. Farrell's gives us the narrative of Winter's Tale, introducing the various rules and officers of the supernatural regime along the way. Abandoned as a baby and brought up under the criminal regime of a Manhattanite from Hell (Crowe), Farrell ascends from orphan to petty thief to horse whispering renegade to whimsical lover of a dying Jessica Brown Findlay to ageless messiah... all without much clarity on the nature of the story (or stories) he's occupying, save for two ham-fisted scenes of exposition — one with Graham Greene (not the dead author) and one with Jennifer Connelly, who shows up halfway through the movie for some reason.
Warner Bros Pictures via Everett Collection
The world that Farrell is woven into has so many bright spots: we're on board for miracle quests, a magic-laden New York City, flying horses, and one of the biggest stars in Hollywood giving a cameo as the epitome of evil. Everything we see is fun, but it all flutters away as quickly as it arrives. We don't want quick bites of the way angels and demons do business with one another on the streets of Manhattan, we want the whole meal. A more thorough exploration of Helprin's world wouldn't just be doubly as interesting as the thin alternative we're offered in Goldsman's adaptation, it'd also fill in all the comprehensive gaps in Farrell's emotional throughline
We don't really understand so much of what happens to Farrell. Even when we're offered tangible explanations, we have no reason to understand why the Winter's Tale world works in such a way that Farrell might survive a 300-foot fall, develop amnesia, or sustain youth for a full century. What's more, we don't understand why Farrell's tale as a cog in this mystical machine is any more important than anyone else's. Or, if it's not, and we're simply asked to watch him carry out his quest as a glimpse into the vast, enigmatic system that Winter's Tale is ostensibly founded upon, we ... we don't understand enough of that world itself.
Warner Bros Pictures via Everett Collection
We're never invited close enough to any of the movie's attractive features for them to matter. So even when the movie does offer entertaining bits — in its fantastical elements, its detail of New Yorks old and new, or Farrell's admittedly charming romance with Findlay — we're not engaged enough to really connect with any of them.
The best player in the World for movie trailers, Hollywood interviews and movie clips.
Still, the flying horse is pretty cool.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
Vampires and zombies seem to get all the guts and glory these days, but we're waiting for another supernatural archetype to take the TV reigns, as American Horror Story: Coven brings back the season of the witch. As the grand supreme witch, Jessica Lange and her finishing school for badass witches in training looks promising already. If anybody can pull off an entire wardrobe of black and skillfully killing people, it's Lange. Not since the 90s did we have a steady stock of magical entertainment, from the fluffy humor of Sabrina to full-on b**h mode with Shannen Doherty in Charmed. So in honor of a new coven in the oven, here's a look back at some of our favorite broom-riding broads.
Anjelica Huston — Witches
Some say La Mer, we say magic is responsible for Anjelica Huston's preternatural complexion. Leave it to Angie to go from glam dominatrix to full on gnarled wicked witch face with ease. Based on the beloved Roald Dahl book, this movie seriously convinced us at one point that all our teachers in school were secretly ghoulish witches underneath those sweater sets.
Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy — Hocus Pocus
Some people like to watch The Shining every Halloween, others prefer the timeless appeal of projectile vomit of The Exorcist, but will always make time for Hocus Pocus. Considering that Bette Midler has stated that Winifred Sanderson has been her favorite role to date sums up the campy and bawdy appeal of this film. You have SJP hitting on everything in sight, Bette being Bette and Kathy Najimy making the whole thing feel like the best SNL skit you've ever seen.
Robin Tunney, Fairuza Balk, Neve Campbell, Rachel True — The Craft
With their dog-collared chokers, plaid minis and ripped up school uniforms, The Craft set the bar on all other witch films that followed. If Fairuza Balk's portrayal of Nancy seemed like a deep, dark descent into method acting, just remember that Balk also owned an occult pagan marketplace and has appeared on Celebrity Ghost Stories — the girl is legit. Also for the record, Skeet Ulrich is still looking pretty, pretty, pretty good.
Cher, Susan Sarandon, Michelle Pfeiffer — The Witches of Eastwick
You know how it is, one day you're just shooting the breeze with your gal pals over a couple glasses of White Zin bemoaning the men in the life then POOF...magical powers emerge and Jack Nicholson is on your doorstep. Cast this trio of ladies in anything and you're bound to end up with cinematic gold. The whole film is like a walking advertisement for perms, and we're okay with that.
Nicole Kidman — Practical Magic
We know this whole movie is about the magical powers of sisterhood and tequila, but there's a reason we left Sandra Bullock off the list. If you knew you possessed great powers at a young age but decided to only use them to run some wiccan cum artisanal bath and body works store, then you do not deserve to be called witch. On the other hand, Practical Magic featured the Nicole Kidman at her peak ginger levels and being generally irresistible.
Do you confuse your Romulans with Risians? Would you need a Trekker's Dictionary to decode the action in Star Trek: Into Darkness? If you're not totally up to speed on your Klingon and don't yet know the full history of the classic 47-year-old series, check out this fun video from our friend Kerri Doherty over at Geeking Out, who breaks down the whole series.
And after you see the movie, dive even deeper into Trek geekdom with Christian Blauvelt's awesome guide to the many Easter Eggs and wink-wink nods to the Star Trek of yesteryear in the new J. J. Abrams film.
Follow Hollywood.Com On Twitter @Hollywood_Com
From Our PartnersStars Pose Naked for 'Allure' (Celebuzz)Which Game of Thrones Actor Looks Least Like His Character? (Vulture)
Starting in 1993, American became obsessed with the stories of Corey Matthews (Ben Savage) and Topanga Lawrence (Danielle Fishel) on the hit teen dramatic comedy series, Boy Meets World. We followed these characters from adolescence to adulthood and experienced every up and down along the way — and when the series finale aired in 2000, marking the end of a seven-season run, our worlds came crashing down around us. But it was announced recently that the TV gods of America decided to create a spin-off series, Girl Meets World, and both Savage and Fishel will be reprising their roles. While it's too early to say if the show will be a hit or a flop, recent evidence shows us that one thing is for certain: Topanga has gotten even hotter!
Fishel strips down on the cover of the April 2013 issues of Maxim magazine, proving that she is one of those '90s stars who still has it. Here's a look at six other stars from the '90s that are hotter than ever.
RELATED: Topanga Gets A Son
90210 star Shannen Doherty: Details magazine, 2008
Clueless star Stacey Dash: KING magazine, 2008
The Wonder Years star Danica McKellar: Maxim magazine, 2010
Saved by the Bell star Tiffani Thiessen: MeinMyPlace.com, 2013
Buffy the Vampire Slayer star Sarah Michelle Gellar: Maxim, 2007
Party of Five star Jennifer Love Hewitt: Maxim, 2012
Follow Lindsey on Twitter @LDiMat.
[Photo Credit: Maxim (4), MeinMyPlace.com, King, Details]
From Our Partners:40 Most Revealing See-Through Red Carpet Looks (Vh1)15 Stars Share Secrets of their Sex Lives (Celebuzz)
Rock and roll veteran John Phillips of the '60s group The Mamas and the Papas died of heart failure Sunday morning at UCLA Medical Center, his spokeswoman Elizabeth Freund told Reuters. The singer was 65.
Born in Parris Island, SC, on Aug. 30, 1935, he became an active participant in the New York folk community in the 1950s. He formed a band called the Journeymen, which included Michelle Phillips, whom he married in 1962.
Phillips then founded and became the main songwriter for the popular California quartet The Mamas and The Papas, whose most well-known tunes included "California Dreamin'," "Monday, Monday" and "Creeque Alley." The rest of the band included Michelle Phillips (they were divorced in 1970), Denny Doherty and "Mama" Cass Elliot, who died in 1974.
The Mamas and the Papas only played for three years, until 1968, but managed to have six top-five hits within that time. Although clearly of the hippie era, their soulful folk sounds were a testament to Phillips' creative influences. The group was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.
His friend and producer Harvey Goldberg told Reuters, "There was a sophistication to the style of the melody and lyrics he wrote that almost approaches poetry." Phillips also has written songs for other artists, including the No. 1 hit "Kokomo" for the Beach Boys in 1988.
Ironically, Phillips was on a strong creative streak recently. He had recently completed an album of new material tentatively titled "Slow Starter," and he completed a record he started over 25 years ago with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones called "Pay Pack and Follow." It is set for release in May on Eagle Records in the U.K.
Phillips had received a liver transplant from his years of alcohol and drug abuse. But some tabloid reports suggested Phillips was waiting for another one. Phillips' eldest daughter, Mackenzie Phillips, was with him when he died and said he went peacefully. She said in a statement, "We are all mourning the loss of my Dad. He was a genius and a good man and will be missed. I spent the morning with my sisters Chynna and Bijou. We are all on our way to the beach where we will walk and swim and celebrate our father's life."
The singer/songwriter is survived by his wife, Farnaz, three daughters, Mackenzie, Chynna and Bijou, and two sons, Jeffrey and Tamerlane. His daughter Mackenzie is best known for her stint on the TV sitcom One Day At A Timeand can currently be seen in the Disney Channel's series So Weird. Chynna, another famous daughter, is a member of the reunited trio Wilson Phillips with Carnie and Wendy Wilson, daughters of Beach Boy Brian Wilson.