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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Over the next few months, we’ll see new series soar, old series sour, and so much Jersey Shore madness, we’ll want to shower. Let’s face it: The Fall TV season is intimidating. With dozens of new and returning shows hitting our small screens, we know we have some big choices to make. So, to help you determine what to watch, we’re digging deep into the most notable series premiering this season. Where did each show leave off? Where is it headed? And who should you watch it with? Today, we're checking out the return of Glee, which has all the mystery of a giant sparkling question mark. Where will Ryan Murphy’s darling go now that its beloved singers are scattered all over the country?
Series Name: Glee
Premiere Date: Thursday, Sept. 13 at 9:00 PM ET
Number of Seasons: Three down, heading into the fourth.
You’ll Like It If: You’ve never seen Glee before and love show choirs (hello, one person in the entire United States) or you’ve continued to watch Glee despite being disappointed are you still hold out hope that the series will redeem itself. (Hi, my name is Kelsea and I have a hard time accepting that Glee is not going to return to its glory days. Hi, Kelsea.)
You won’t like it if: You get uncomfortable when characters break out into song and even more uncomfortable when they tell you why they’re about to break out into song.
Best Piece of Merchandise: In case the pillows, iPhone covers, clothing lines, buttons, nail polish, etc. aren’t enough, there’s an Archie Comic/Glee crossover coming. No word on whether Rachel is the Betty or the Veronica.
Best government-funded school common area: That quad. I mean. There are no words. What high school has a full set of steps to nowhere opening up to the general lunching area for the entire student body, practically begging for 12-14 talented teenagers to dance and sing all over them? Seriously. I need to know. That high school sounds awesome.
Cast: Everyone who isn’t tied up over at The New Normal and American Horror Story. Ryan Murphy attracts big names like bowties attract Blaine Anderson. And if you’ve been living under a rock, here’s an exhaustive (and I mean, man am I tired from memorizing all these names) list of the friendly faces of McKinley High and beyond: Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Naya Rivera, Jane Lynch, Jenna Ushkowitz, Darren Criss, Kevin McHale, Chris Colfer, Heather Morris, Chord Overstreet, Amber Riley, Harry Shum Jr., Mark Salling, and (just accept it) Matthew Morrison. And those are only the returning cast members. The five newbies include romantic comedy heroine extraordinaire Kate Hudson and youngsters Dean Geyer, Melissa Benoist, and Jacob Artist and Becca Tobin as mini-Puck and mini-Quinn. See, don’t you need a little cat nap now?
Synopsis: Set partially in Lima, Ohio and partially in New York City (and probably partially in a few other places), Glee is about a growing roster of characters trying desperately to take part in relevant storylines without being overshadowed by Sue Sylvester and Blaine. This is nearly impossible. Also, everyone can sing. Even Jayma Mays.
Where we left off last season: Rachel and Finn graduated, and he joined the army, White Fanged her (as in “go on, git,” not whatever you perverts were thinking), and sent her off to New York, where she promptly behaved like Barbra Streisand in the fictional ‘60s movie Rachel created in a dream. Kurt is also preparing to go to New York. This makes his papa cry and Kurt and Blaine decide they will end up like the couple from The Notebook, minus the dementia. Mike is headed to a Chicago Dance school, Santana is also (probably) headed to New York, Brittany flunked and is going to be a Super Senior, Quinn is off to Yale, and Mercedes is hoofing it to Los Angeles to be a star. Schue is no longer trying to move his wedding so the glee club will be there. Sue is still pregnant with a real baby and NeNe Leakes is trying to take over the school (but she’s on The New Normal now so that’ll probably work itself out). There’s probably more, but my brain is sparking and sputtering, so I’m going to give it a rest.
Character to avoid modeling your own wardrobe off of: Will Schuester (sweater vests affect 3 out of four History teachers every year*), Kurt Hummel (sorry, my friend, you are fabulous, but you don’t look it), and (duh) Rachel Berry’s school girl chic.
*Statistics are not based on any real calculation, but rather a fuzzy memory of all my past History teachers.
Required reading: Stephen Sondheim’s Wikipedia page. The references are rampant and now that they’re in New York… oh boy.
Relevant YouTube clip: Lord Tubbington’s Household Chores How-To (because any excuse for a cat video is welcome).
Don’t do this while watching: Hold anything sharp. As much as we keep coming back to this show, hoping it will wash away its past sins, there have been at least a handful of actual facepalm moments in each episode, so that would be bad. Think about it.
Who to watch it with: Someone who isn’t going to insist that you sing along with every musical number. There are way too many per episode for that nonsense. Also, someone who isn’t easily shocked by dramatic and comedic ploys (think, “Oh my GOSH. Did Sue really say that really mean thing?! No. Way.”) There are also far too many of these per episode.
Suggested viewing party refreshments: Carrot sticks (there are some seriously skinny ladies prancing around on screen and you totally skipped the gym to watch this show, so you’d better make up for it somehow. Plus, it will really help offset the calories in all that red wine).
Emmy Wins: Best Comedy Series (2010), Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series (Neil Patrick Harris, 2010), Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series (Gwyneth Paltrow, 2010), Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (Jane Lynch, 2010)
Ratings last season: Season low was 6.01 million, Season high was 9.21 million
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
[Photo Credit: Fox]
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
Pop star Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz have ended their relationship, according to media reports.
The singer spent the Christmas season at home in Tennessee surrounded by his close-knit family, while Diaz went skiing with girlfriends in Vail, Colorado.
Sources tell Star magazine that the couple, who have dated since 2003, decided to go their separate ways in early December.
The source says, "They had been planning to be together in Tennessee with his folks, but he came out alone and she stayed in L.A."
On Dec. 23, Timberlake was seen out with friends at Senses nightclub in Memphis, where he reportedly confirmed the split to fellow revelers, saying, "Me and Cameron? We're done."
And Timberlake isn't wasting any time finding love again--pals claim the pop superstar met up with ex Veronica Finn, in his hometown of Millington.
Ironically, Finn, a real estate agent now living in Tampa, Florida, was the girl picked to replace another of Timberlake's ex-loves, Britney Spears, when she departed all-girl group Innosense for a solo career.
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