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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Hollywood veteran Mickey Rooney has died, aged 93. The actor passed away on Sunday (06Apr14). The cause of his death has not been released.
Rooney's career spanned over nine decades. He started acting as a child and accumulated over 300 credits, including a series of films he made as America's boy next door, Andy Hardy.
In the 1938 film Love Finds Andy Hardy, he appeared opposite Judy Garland, who went on to become his frequent co-star. The following year they appeared in the movie musical Babes in Arms, which earned Rooney an Oscar nomination.
He accumulated three more Academy Award nominations for his roles in The Human Comedy (1943), The Bold and the Brave (1956) and The Black Stallion (1979).
His other film credits include A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, National Velvet, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and Requiem for a Heavyweight.
Rooney also racked up a number of television appearances over the years, and fronted The Mickey Rooney Show in the 1950s and Mickey in the 1960s.
In 1981, he won his first Emmy Award for his portrayal of a mentally ill man in TV movie Bill.
He also was handed two honorary Oscars in 1938 and 1983, and two Golden Globe Awards.
One of the first tributes posted on Twitter.com on Sunday night (06Apr14) came from Alec Baldwin, who wrote, "An old pal of mine is gone. One of Hollywood's rare gentlemen and a bientot (see you later) to Mickey Rooney."
The veteran's final years were marred by ill health and family squabbles over his fortune - in 2011 he was granted a temporary restraining order against his stepson Christopher Aber, amid claims he was being financially abused by unnamed family members.
Rooney's financial affairs were handed over to lawyers following the legal drama, which inspired the actor to champion legislation to protect the elderly.
Last year (13), the veteran star sold his house of many years and separated from his eighth wife Jan. He leaves behind his last wife and eight children.
After The X Factor gained a little more limelight from its newest judge, Miss Britney Spears, it makes sense that the Fox synergy would keep spinning. Spears will also lend her legendary tunes to a second Britney tribute on Fox's musical romp, Glee.
For the moment, Spears isn't signed to sing any of those tunes herself (in a anesthesia dream or in the halls of a McKinley) after her performance on the first Britney episode, but considering her boss' boss happens to run the network both X Factor and Glee air on, it shouldn't be too hard to get BritBrit to come back. But Spears or no Spears, there will be lots and lots of Britney. Now the only question is: Which songs will our happy group perform? Keep in mind that Rachel, Kurt, and Finn will be in New York while the high school kids are jazz-handing their way around Lima.
In an effort to avoid the major problem with the Whitney Houston tribute episode (where are all my favorite Whitney ballads, Ryan Murphy?), we've done the work for Glee. And the writers the show knows what's good for them, they will absolutely include these Britney classics. This is what second chances are for, people.
Pivotal line: "She's so lucky, she's a star / But she cry-cry-cries in her lonely heart, thinking/ If there's nothing missing in my life / Why do these tears come at night?"
Character born to sing this: Rachel. When they get to New York, she's bound to screw things up with Finn somehow. And because (fake) life isn't fair, she will achieve a meteoric rise to fame on Broadway.
Staging: Rachel, in a robe with feather trim and tiny high-heeled slippers using her ugly cry face and waltzing with her team of make-up artists in her dressing room. The gold star on dressing room door is a given.
"Oops... I Did It Again"*
Pivotal line: "Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah."
Character born to sing this: Santana. Although, if she's probably not coming back next season and if she's singing this, that means she broke Brittany's heart. Then again, Glee writers have fantastical imaginations so it could happen in some sort of sideways/flashback/bizarro world scenario.
Staging: Red leather body suit. Smoke machine. Also, Santana might punch that ditzy astronaut boy in the face after she breaks his heart.
*How, how, how was this not a part of the last BritBrit tribute?
Pivotal line: "Let's turn this dance floor into our little nasty world."
Character born to sing this: Brittany. She's bisexual and she's dating a lady, so we might need a lyric change, but the main point is that this girl needs to dance to this song. But as is the case with Santana, we're not sure she's coming back.
Staging: Brittany in a black body suit dancing with the phantom cheerios who show up every time she feels like dancing in a formation around the McKinley pool where Schue proposed to Emma.
Pivotal line: "Sometimes I run / Sometimes I hide / Sometimes I'm scared of you"
Character born to sing this: Rory. Let's face it, with most of the interesting people graduating, kids like Rory and his lady Sugar Motta (because they dated once and never had a massive onscreen breakup, they must still be together) are about all we have left. Sugar is also terrifying. Run and hide, Rory. Run and hide.
Staging: Rory dons a sequined McKinley gym outfit and sings from the inside of a giant replica of his locker.
"You Drive Me Crazy"
Pivotal line: "You drive me crazy / I just can't sleep / I'm so excited / I'm in too deep."
Character born to sing this: The audience. Glee, we fell deeply in love with you and you burned us. You done burned us bad. And yet, devoted fans like myself keep coming back to cherish the memory of what you once were and simultaneously pull our hair out in frustration, all in the hopes of just one time not wanting to sing-scream in your general direction. That is the definition of insanity and last time I checked, insanity is a synonym of crazy.
Staging: Me in my favorite Mickey Mouse sweatshirt, with a hairbrush microphone and a glass of Pinot Noir. My dog, Albus, will be rolling his eyes and sighing in exasperation in the corner.
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler.
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As with seemingly every other tentpole release to hit the multiplex this summer the action thriller Cowboys & Aliens is based on a comic book – albeit a lesser-known one. It’s directed by Jon Favreau whose previous comic-book adaptations Iron Man and Iron Man 2 proved how much better those films can be when they’re grounded in character. Unfortunately his latest effort is grounded not in character but a hook an alt-history scenario best expressed in the language of the average twelve-year-old: “Like wouldn’t it be awesome if like a bunch of 1870s cowboys had to fight a bunch of crazy aliens with exoskeletons and spaceships and super-advanced weapons?”
Like perhaps. The hook was compelling enough to get someone to pony up a reported $160 million to find out and the result is a film in which the western and science-fiction genres don’t so much blend as violently collide. After the wreckage is cleared both emerge worse for wear.
Daniel Craig stars as Jake Lonergan a stranger who awakens in the New Mexico Territory with a case of amnesia a wound in his side and a strange contraption strapped to his wrist. After dispatching a trio of bandits with Bourne-like efficiency he rides to the nearby town of Absolution where he stumbles on what appears to be an elaborate Western Iconography exhibit presented by the local historical preservation society. There’s the well-meaning town Sheriff Taggart (Keith Carradine) struggling to enforce order amidst lawlessness; the greedy rancher Colonel Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) who really runs things; his debaucherous cowardly son Percy (Paul Dano); the timid saloonkeeper Doc (Sam Rockwell) who’s going to stand up for himself one of these days; the humble preacher Meacham (Clancy Brown) dispensing homespun spiritual advice; et al.
Jake of course has his own part to play – the fugitive train-robber – as we discover when his face shows up on a wanted poster and a sneering Dolarhyde fingers him for the theft of his gold. The only character who doesn’t quite conform to type is Ella (Olivia Wilde) who as neither a prostitute nor some man’s wife – the traditional female occupations in westerns – immediately arouses suspicion.
Jake is arrested and ordered to stand trial in Federal court but before he can be shipped off a squadron of alien planes appears in the sky besieging Absolution and making off with several of its terrified citizenry. In the course of the melee Jake’s wrist contraption wherever it came from reveals itself to be quite useful in defense against the alien invaders. Thrown by circumstances into an uneasy alliance with Dolarhyde he helps organize a posse to counter the otherworldly threat – and bring back the abductees if possible.
Cowboys & Aliens has many of the ingredients of a solid summer blockbuster but none in sufficient amounts to rate in a summer season crowded with bigger-budget (and better-crafted) spectacle. For a film with five credited screenwriters Cowboys & Aliens’ script is sorely lacking for verve or imagination. And what happened to the Favreau of Iron Man? The playful cheekiness that made those films so much fun is all but absent in this film which takes itself much more seriously than any film called Cowboys & Aliens has a right to. Dude you’ve got men on horses with six-shooters battling laser-powered alien crab people. Lighten up.
Craig certainly looks the part of the western anti-hero – his only rival in the area of rugged handsomeness is Viggo Mortensen – but his character is reduced to little more than an angry glare. And Wilde the poor girl is burdened with loads of clunky exposition. The two show promising glimpses of a romantic spark but their relationship remains woefully underdeveloped. Faring far better is Ford who gets not only the bulk of the film’s choicest lines but also its only touching subplot in which his character’s adopted Indian son played by Adam Beach quietly coaxes the humanity out of the grizzled old man.
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.
Hollywood legend Mickey Rooney was listed in good condition Thursday following open heart surgery the day before to clear two artery blockages, Reuters reports.
An angiogram test Wednesday at Los Robles Regional Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, Calif., confirmed the blockages, and physicians performed a double coronary bypass operation on the 80-year-old actor, a hospital spokeswoman said.
Rooney is the star of films such as "Boys Town," "The Black Stallion," "Babes in Arms," "National Velvet" and "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn."
GLOVER OK AFTER ACCIDENT: "Lethal Weapon" actor Danny Glover escaped injury Wednesday night after his car was struck by a pizza delivery vehicle.
According to police spokesman Don Cox, no one was injured in the accident, and no one was arrested or cited.
TAKE THAT! Actor-comedian Chris Rock is countersuing Z.com, an online entertainment studio that is suing him for failing to deliver content it had paid him for.
In the countersuit, Rock cites intentional misrepresentation, breach of a written contract, negligence and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing.
Z.com is seeking interest in addition to repayment of the original $1.075 million it says it paid Rock on April 10.