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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With The Hunger Games: Catching Fire being released today, there is no better time to check out all the amazing films this talented cast has previous appeared in, including the first Hunger Games . Luckily, it's now easier than ever to watch these movies instantly! With Redbox Instant by Verizon, members can enjoy all the instant streaming they can handle as well as four DVD Redbox kiosk rentals per month, and the best part? The first month is free. So, in honor of Catching Fire and Redbox, we've compiled a list of films available that all you Hunger Games fans must see.
Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss Everdeen)Silver Linings Playbook (kiosk)– Check out the role that won Lawrence her first Oscar! In Silver Linings Playbook, Lawrence brings out her funny, kooky, and super talented side when she takes on the role of Tiffany, a young woman grieving the recent death of her husband. When Tiffany meets Pat (Bradley Cooper) they duo find ways to help each other overcome their mental, physical, and emotional ailments, typically to the delight of audiences as Cooper and Lawrence are hilariously sweet in this must see film.
Like Crazy (streaming)– Before Lawrence moved into the blockbuster arena, she started out with roles in indie films such as this critically acclaimed gem. In Like Crazy, Lawrence plays Sam, the breezy on and off girlfriend of Jacob (Anton Yelchin), an introspective man who is struggling to decided if he should stay in his long-distance relationship.
Liam Hemsworth (Gale Hawthorne)Empire State (kiosk)– Between filming The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, Hemsworth took on the role of Chris in Empire State. Based on a true story, the film follows Chris and his best friend Eddie (Michael Angarano) as they rob an armored truck, and the trouble they get in when a veteran NYPD detective (Dwayne Johnson) becomes suspicious of them.
The Expendables 2 (streaming)– In this big-budget Hollywood blockbuster, Hemsworth takes on the role of Billy the Kid, an ex-military sniper who joins Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and Jason Statham's characters on their quest for revenge.
Josh Hutcherson (Peeta Mellark)Epic (kiosk)– In this delightful animated film, Hutcherson voices Nod, a rookie warrior who falls in love with the main character, M.K. (Amanda Seyfried) on her journey through the Bomba forest.
Fragments (streaming)– A unique ensamble drama, the film centers on a group of strangers who form a bond after they all survive a random diner shooting. A young Hutcherson takes on the role of Jimmy Jaspersen, a boy who is present during the shooting and becomes reclusive after seeing a man die.
Elizabeth Banks (Effie Trinket)The 40 Year Old Virgin (kiosk)– In this hit comedy, Steve Carell stars as Andy, a 40 year old man who has never had sex. When he meets Banks' character Beth, Andy tries to seduce her with hilarious and awkward outcomes.
What to Expect When You're Expecting (streaming)– This comedic film adaption of the best-selling pregnancy guide follows many different women who face the typical pitfalls the come with having babies. Banks plays Wendy, a woman who has tried to get pregnant for years, and when she finally does, absolutely hates all the painful, gross, and unexpected things that happen when you're nurturing a baby.
Woody Harrelson (Haymitch Abernathy)
Seven Psychopaths (at kiosk)– In this British comedy, Harrelson plays Charlie Costello a.k.a. Psychopath No. 3, who is basically the bad guy in a film about bad guys. However, this film is exceptional due to the wonderful cast and Harrelson's typical sarcastic wit.
Rampart (at kiosk)– In this drama, Harrelson takes on the role of David Brown, a dirty LAPD veteran who must face the consequences of his professionally inappropriate actions that have caused trouble for his department and his family.
Donald Sutherland (President Snow)Panic (streaming)– This eerie film focuses on Alex (William H. Macy), a hit-man who is slowly becoming uncomfortable with his line of work. As a result, he begins attending therapy where Alex discovers the his traumatic childhood relationship wit his father (Sutherland), a dominating and threatening man who steered Alex into the "family business."
Fierce People (streaming)– In this quirky drama, Sutherland plays an aging billionaire who introduces a young man into the life of the ultra-rich, and shows him just how steep a price it costs to live in the upper-crust world.
Stanley Tucci (Caesar Flickerman)Jack the Giant Slayer (kiosk)– Based on the English fairytales "Jack the Giant Killer" and "Jack and the Beanstalk," the film follows Jack, a young farmhand that must save the kingdom's Princess after he accidentally opens a portal to a world of giants. Tucci plays Lord Roderick, the King's advisor who has evil plans of taking over the kingdom.
Big Night (streaming)- This critically acclaimed film, which Tucci directed and starred in, follows the tale of two immigrant brothers' struggles on the New Jersey shore in the 1950s.
And, of course, you can see all these actors in The Hunger Games, which is available via instant streaming (oh, go ahead, watch it over and over, we won't judge). Plus, make sure you check out the thousands of other instant movies available with your free Redbox trial.
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'Twas the month before Christmas When all through the studios Execs were stirring, with high hopes and fear, Giant posters were hung and trailers rolled out All in hopes that the public would soon be in the movie houses.
Come this December moviegoers can expect Flicks from Kevin Costner, as well as from Mel, But let's not forget there're also Meg and Russell Plus other big names like Hanks and Cage.
So without further ado Here's our list Of all the high-profile films that are coming To accompany you through the month of December.
DEC. 1 No major releases are coming out on the first Friday of the month.
"Proof of Life": From the set of this movie came the romance between Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe. If that's not enough to go see the film, it's about an American hostage negotiator (Crowe) who falls in love with the wife (Ryan) of the man he's trying to rescue.
"Vertical Limit": But didn't Sylvester Stallone already do this in "Cliffhanger"? Oh well. In this mountain-climbing flick, Chris O'Donnell plays a retired climber who's sucked back to the sport after his sister becomes trapped on K-2, the world's second-highest mountain.
"Dungeons and Dragons": Geeks rejoice. The live-action adaptation of the role-playing game stars Jeremy Irons as the evil wizard who's trying to dethrone the young empress played by "American Beauty's Thora Birch.
Also look for in limited release: Director Ang Lee's Chinese swordsmen pic with Chow Yun-Fat and Michelle Yeoh -- "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." It was an audience favorite at this year's Cannes Film Festival.
"What Women Want": No, it doesn't star Christina Aguilera (she's a girl, after all), but it does have Mel Gibson, Helen Hunt, Bette Midler and Lauren Holly in a comedy wherein an ad exec (Gibson) gains the ability to hear what women are thinking.
"Dude, Where's My Car?": It's "Beavis and Butthead" meets "Road Trip." After a late night of heavy partying, two stoners (Ashton Kutcher and "Road Trip" alumnus Seann William Scott) realize that they have forgotten where they parked their car.
"The Emperor's New Groove": Featuring the voices of David Spade and John Goodman, Disney's 39th full-length animated feature follows a ruthless emperor who's been transformed into a llama. Go figure.
Also look for in limited release: "Chocolat" starring Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche and directed by "The Cider House Rules'" Lasse Hallstrom.
"Thirteen Days": Rusty on the history of U.S.-Cuban relations? The Kevin Costner starrer is an intense look at the two-week Cuban Missile Crisis that took place in October 1962.
Also look for in limited release: "Finding Forrester" with Sean Connery playing mentor to an aspiring writer, and "The Gift", which marks the return of Oscar winner Hilary Swank ... and Keanu Reeves as a wife beater.
"Cast Away": Tom Hanks plays a FedEx worker stranded on a deserted island after a plane crash, and Helen Hunt plays his fiancee. Hanks lost weight for this role, which is likely to draw audiences still keen on CBS' summer phenomenon "Survivor."
"Wes Craven Presents: Dracula 2000: Director Wes Craven would like you to know that Christmas inspires horror. His Y2K Dracula reinterpretation has Christopher Plummer tangling with the bloodsucking one over his kidnapped daughter.
"Family Man": Sounds like an "It's a Wonderful Life" redux. In this "what if" flick, Nicolas Cage plays a man who gets the chance to see what his life would have been like had he married his college sweetheart, as played by Mrs. David Duchovny, Tea Leoni.
"Miss Congeniality": She's baaack! After taking on a dramatic role in the alcohol rehab film "28 Days," Sandra Bullock returns to comedy by playing an FBI agent who goes undercover in a beauty pageant to thwart a terrorist attack. Guess the real acting stretch will be transforming cutesy Bullock into an ugly duckling.
Also look for in limited release: The Coen Brothers' "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" with George Clooney and renowned playwright-director David Mamet's new comedy State and Main with Alec Baldwin, Sarah Jessica Parker and William H Macy.
"All the Pretty Horses": Directed by Billy Bob Thornton," this cowboy tale stars Matt Damon (in a role passed on by Leonardo DiCaprio) as a young, rebellious youth who falls in love with the daughter of a wealthy Mexican rancher (Penelope Cruz), but with not so happy results.
Also look for in limited release: "Erin Brockovich" helmer Steven Soderbergh's new drug trade flick "Traffic" with newlyweds Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones and the Oscar buzz gothic "Shadow of the Vampire" with John Malkovich and Willem Dafoe.