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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The When Harry Met Sally... writer, who passed away in June (12) aged 71 after battling acute myeloid leukaemia, left her estate to her husband Nicholas Pileggi, and her two sons from her previous marriage to Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein.
The fortune will be divided up and left in trust funds for Jacob and Max Bernstein, while Goodfellas writer Pileggi will get a cash bequest of $500,000 (£312,500) and enough money to sustain the family's living standards.
Speculation about Ephron's ill health hit the Internet on Tuesday (26Jun12), with some reports suggesting she had been battling cancer, and Hollywood gossip columnist Liz Smith revealed her family members were planning her funeral.
And now, Ephron has lost her fight for life. No further details were known as WENN went to press.
Ephron, the eldest of four sisters, was born in New York City to screenwriter parents, who moved the family to Beverly Hills in California when she was four.
Despite her love of film, Ephron majored in political science at Wellesley College in Massachusetts and briefly worked as an intern in the White House during President John F. Kennedy's term in the early 1960s. She also served as a reporter at the New York Post and wrote for publications including Esquire and The New York Times Magazine.
Her film career took off in the 1980s when her second husband Carl Bernstein's affair with Margaret Jay, the daughter of British Prime Minister James Callaghan, inspired her to write the novel Heartburn, which she adapted for the big screen in 1986.
She went on to write the BAFTA-winning screenplay for beloved romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally, which became a hit film starring Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal. The film also earned Ephron Academy Award and Writers Guild of America nominations.
She made her directorial debut in 1992 with This Is My Life and reteamed with Ryan a year later for her first big success as a moviemaker, Sleepless in Seattle. Director and star worked together again in 1998 on the movie You've Got Mail.
Ephron was awarded the Women in Film Crystal Award in 1994, and branched into theatre in the 2000s - her play Imaginary Friends, which explored the rivalry between writers Lillian Hellman and Mary McCarthy, was a hit in 2002 and her co-authored production Love, Loss, and What I Wore was a sell-out in Canada, New York and California following its debut in 2008.
Ephron's film projects in more recent years have included 2005's Bewitched and Julie & Julia in 2009.
She is survived by her third husband, screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi, who she married in 1987, and sons Jacob and Max.
Nora Ephron is notoriously responsible for that most famous of fake orgasm scenes, where Meg Ryan oohs and ahhs to the crowd's delight in When Harry Met Sally. There was often the same response to the movies Ephron wrote and directed, but the difference is that the admiration was never fake. Today that famous feminist voice was silenced. Ephron passed away today from cancer, Hollywood.com has confirmed. She was 71.
Ephron started her career as a journalist and comedic essayist, contributing essays to a number of prominent publications such as New York, Esquire, and the New York Times Magazine. She was writing about women during a time when their voices were being heard for the first time, and brought humor and insight to to a difficult situation. These essays were collected in a number of popular books, starting with Wallflower at the Orgy. In 2006 her last collection, I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Reflections on Being a Woman, debuted at the top of the New York Times bestseller list.
In 1976 she married Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein, but she divorced him three years later. Ephron began writing for television in the late '70s then movies in the early '80s, starting with the acclaimed drama Silkwood, which earned Ephron her first Academy Award nomination.
What followed was a surprisingly diverse and fantastic career, with nary a creative miss on her IMDb page (well, except for maybe Bewitched). She wrote and directed romantic comedy classics like Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail, and Julie & Julia, and wrote When Harry Met Sally, Heartburn (based on her marriage to Bernstein), and Silkwood. What separated Ephron from her counterparts was not only her distinct sense of humor, but the way that she could create original, complex female characters and put them in traditional movies without making them seem simple or pandering. In the process she became one of the most powerful women in Hollywood, working with only the best actresses. Her name on a project was a hallmark of the quality that she brought to all of her work.
Everyone who has longed for lost love, fallen in love with her best friend, or reached for a Kleenex during the climax of a romantic movie loves Nora Ephron, and with very good reason. The saddest part of her illness is that it cut short a career that was vital and interesting up until the very end.
She is survived by her husband of 20 years — writer Nicholas Pileggi — and her two sons. Ephron's distinct point of view will definitely be missed. Plenty of people will be missing her, our collective lost love.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
[PHOTO CREDIT: AP Images] More: Celebs React to Nora Ephron's Death 15 Qs With Meryl Streep, Amy Adams and Nora Ephron of 'Julie & Julia'
A kids’ movie without the cheeky jokes for adults is like a big juicy BLT without the B… or the T. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted may have a title that sounds like it was made up in a cartoon sequel laboratory but when it comes to serving up laughs just think of the film as a BLT with enough extra bacon to satisfy even the wildest of animals — or even a parent with a gaggle of tots in tow. Yes even with that whole "Afro Circus" nonsense.
It’s not often that we find exhaustively franchised films like the Madagascar set that still work after almost seven years. Despite being spun off into TV shows and Christmas specials in addition to its big screen adventures the series has not only maintained its momentum it has maintained the part we were pleasantly surprised by the first time around: great jokes.
In this third installment of the series – the trilogy-maker if you will – directing duo Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath add Conrad Vernon (director Monsters Vs. Aliens) to the helm as our trusty gang swings back into action. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) are stuck in Africa after the hullaballoo of Madagascar 2 and they’ll do anything to get back to their beloved New York. Just a hop skip and a jump away in Monte Carlo the penguins are doing their usual greedy schtick but the zoo animals catch up with them just in time to catch the eye of the sinister animal control stickler Captain Dubois (Frances McDormand). And just like that the practically super human captain is chasing them through Monte Carlo and the rest of Europe in hopes of planting Alex’s perfectly coifed lion head on her wall of prized animals.
Luckily for pint-sized viewers Dubois’ terrifying presence is balanced out by her sheer inhuman strength uncanny guiles and Stretch Armstrong flexibility (ah the wonder of cartoons) as well as Alex’s escape plan: the New Yorkers run away with the European circus. While Dubois’ terrifying Doberman-like presence looms over the entire film a sense of levity (which is a word the kiddies might learn from Stiller’s eloquent lion) comes from the plan for salvation in which the circus animals and the zoo animals band together to revamp the circus and catch the eye of a big-time American agent. Sure the pacing throughout the first act is practically nonexistent running like a stampede through the jungle but by the time we're palling around under the big top the film finds its footing.
The visual splendor of the film (and man is there a champion size serving of it) the magnificent danger and suspense is enhanced to great effect by the addition of 3D technology – and not once is there a gratuitous beverage or desperate Crocodile Dundee knife waved in our faces to prove its worth. The caveat is that the soundtrack employs a certain infectious Katy Perry ditty at the height of the 3D spectacular so parents get ready to hear that on repeat until the leaves turn yellow.
But visual delights and adventurous zoo animals aside Madagascar 3’s real strength is in its script. With the addition of Noah Baumbach (Greenberg The Squid and the Whale) to the screenwriting team the script is infused with a heightened level of almost sarcastic gravitas – a welcome addition to the characteristically adult-friendly reference-heavy humor of the other Madagascar films. To bring the script to life Paramount enlisted three more than able actors: Vitaly the Siberian tiger (Bryan Cranston) Gia the Leopard (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the Italian Sealion (Martin Short). With all three actors draped in European accents it might take viewers a minute to realize that the cantankerous tiger is one and the same as the man who plays an Albuquerque drug lord on Breaking Bad but that makes it that much sweeter to hear him utter slant-curse words like “Bolshevik” with his usual gusto.
Between the laughs the terror of McDormand’s Captain Dubois and the breathtaking virtual European tour the Zoosters’ accidental vacation is one worth taking. Madagascar 3 is by no means an insta-classic but it’s a perfectly suited for your Summer-at-the-movies oasis.