The Amazing Spider-Man would prefer if you didn't call it the fourth Spider-Man movie. See this ain't the Spider-Man your older brother knew from ten years ago — it's a reboot. The latest adventure to feature the comic book webslinger throws three movies worth of established mythology straight out the window swapping the original cast with an ensemble of fresh faces and resetting the franchise with a spiffy new origin story. "New" in the loosest sense of the word — the highlights of ASM mainly a sleek new design and spunky reinterpretation of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and gal pal Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone) are weighed down by overpowering sense of familiarity. Nearly a beat for beat replica of the 2002 original with some irksome twists of mystery thrown in Amazing Spider-Man fails to evolve its hero or his quarrels. The film has a great sense of cinematic power but little responsibility in making it interesting.
We're first introduced to Peter Parker as a young boy watching as his parents rush out of the house in response to a hidden danger. Mr. and Mrs. Parker leave their son in the care of his Aunt May (Sally Fields) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) who raise him into Andrew Garfield's geeky cool spin on the character. Parker's a science whiz but faces the challenges of every day life — passing classes talking to girls the occasional jock with aggression issues — but all of life's woes are put on hold when the teen discovers a new clue in the mystery behind his parents' disappearance. The discovery of his dad's old briefcase and notes leads Peter to Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) a scientist working for mega-conglomerate Oscorp and his Dad's old partner. When they cross paths Connors instantly takes a liking to the wunderkind and loops him into the work he started with his father: replicating the regeneration abilities of lizards in amputee humans (Connors is driven to reform his own missing arm). But when Parker wanders into Oscorp's room full of spiders (a sloppily explained this-needs-to-be-here-for-this-to-happen device) he receives his legendary spider bite that transforms him into the hero we know.
Director Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer) desperately wants Amazing Spider-Man to work as a high school relationship movie but with the burden of massive amounts of plot and mythology to introduce the movie sags under the sheer volume of stuff. Stone turns Parker's object of affection Gwen Stacey into a three-dimensional character. Whenever they happen upon each other an awkward exchange in the hallway a flirtatious back-and-forth in the Oscorp lab (where Stacey is head…intern) or when the two finally begin a romantic relationship the two stars shine. They're vivid characters chopped to bits in the editing room diluted by boring franchise-building plot threads and routine action sequences. Seriously Amazing Spider-Man another mad scientist villain who uses himself as a test subject only to become a monster? And another bridge rescue scene? Amazing Spider-Man desperately wants to disconnect from the original trilogy but it's trapped in an inescapable shadow and does nothing radical to shake things up. Instead it settles for the same old same old while preparing for inevitable sequels instead of investing in its dynamic duo.
There's a sweet spot where the film really hits his stride. After discovering his spider-abilities Peter hits the streets for the first time. He's superhuman but still a headstrong teen full of obnoxious quips and close calls with shiv-wielding thugs. The action is slick small and playful Webb showing us something new by melding his indie sensibilities with big scale action. If only it lasted — the introduction of Ifans reptilian half The Lizard implodes Amazing Spider-Man into incomprehensible blockbuster chaos. A gargantuan beast wreaking havoc around New York City promises King Kong-like escapades for the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man but the lizard man has other plans: to rule the world! Or something. Whatever it takes to get Lizard and Spider-Man fighting on the top of a skyscraper over a doomsday machine — logic be damned.
Amazing Spider-Man peppers its banal foundation with great talent from Denis Leary as Gwen's wickedly funny dad and the police captain hunting down Spider-Man to Fields and Sheen as two loving adults in Peter's life to Garfield and Stone whose chemistry demands a follow-up for the sake of seeing them reunited. But it's all at the cost of putting on the most expensive recreation of all time with new demands imposed by the success Marvel's other properties (except that franchise teasing worked). Amazing Spider-Man introduces too many ideas that go nowhere undermining the actual threat at hand. No one wants to be unfulfilled but that's the overriding difference between the original movie and the update. You need to pay for the sequel to know what the heck is going on in this one.
Michael Moore has always been a polarizing figure, but he is increasingly being targeted by critics for the messages of his movies via a cottage industry of filmmakers striking out with videos of their own, The Wall Street Journal reports.
"There's been almost a dozen films that have been made against me," Moore recently told the Journal. "There's actually more films made attacking me than films I've made."
Among the films that have taken shots at Moore are Michael Moore Hates America, Fahrenhype 9/11, Celsius 41.11, Michael & Me and Me & Michael.
But, in the growing anti-Moore library, there is nothing quite like Shooting Michael Moore, made by Kevin Leffler, a 52-year-old certified public accountant who also teaches at a college in Flint, Michigan.
That film has similarities to the others, but a big exception is that Leffler grew up in Davison, Mich., with Moore, attended the same high school, the same Catholic church, and both of their fathers worked at General Motors.
"I am doing exactly what Mike would do, except I am doing it to him," Leffler told the paper. "And I'm doing it as a guy who knows him."
Leffler's movie had a limited run in Detroit and Miami late last year. He's spent more than $200,000 of his own money on it.
In the film, Leffler revisits some stars of Roger & Me who say Moore exploited them to paint Flint in an unfair hue.
Leffler's quest also gets personal, digging into Moore's tax statements and past stock holdings of his charitable foundation. He finds what he believes to be indications that a foundation Moore started once owned shares of companies he takes aim at, such as Halliburton and Tenet Healthcare. Public documents, reviewed by the Journal, show the foundation, the Center for Alternative Media & Culture, which listed Moore as president, held shares in Halliburton in 2000 and in Tenet in 2002, along with many other stocks.
In an email, Moore told the WSJ: "I have never owned a share of stock in my life."
He also noted, "I've made a lot of enemies in all the right places and there aren't enough hours in the day to respond to either the well-financed corporate hacks or the lowly stalkers who seek to libel me or make a buck off the fact that I'm a well-known person."
Since 2004, Leffler has poured time and funds into his movie, to the point where he says "my credit cards are melting."
Moore expressed outrage at the movie's title and isn't interested in talking with its maker, the Journal reports. "Anyone who suggests violence doesn't get the olive branch," Moore said.
Leffler also says he goes way back with Jeff Gibbs, who works with Moore and whom Leffler accuses of applying pressure to Carmike Cinemas to retreat on showing Shooting Michael Moore, even after Leffler offered to change the title to Exposing Michael Moore.
A marketing official for Carmike says the company had scheduled to show the movie, but pulled it. He declined to give a reason.
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Annette Bening SANTA MONICA, Calif., April 26, 2000 -- Ding, ding, ding went Annette? Annette Bening might follow up her self-absorbed "American Beauty" housewife by playing an even more self-absorbed, complex and pathos-ridden woman.
Word comes today, via Variety's Army Archerd, that Bening is the No. 1 candidate to play Judy Garland in "Rainbow's End," a biopic in development at Fox Searchlight.
The movie, to be based on a new book by another Variety scribe, will be no "Wizard of Oz." It's about Garland's over-the-hill days in the early 1960s, when she hosted "The Judy Garland Show," a weekly primetime series. The movie will be executive produced by (get this) Oliver Stone and Garland's ex, Sid Luft.
One question, though: Who's gonna play Liza?
DON'T DO IT! How do you follow up an Oscar for Best Actor? You make an Inspector Clouseau movie, dummy. According to Variety, Kevin Spacey is talking to MGM about stepping into the late Peter Sellers' shoes and reviving the "Pink Panther" movie franchise. Spacey, not exactly known for his slapstick comedy skills, would be treading on shaky ground -- several other actors have tried and failed to resuscitate the character, or a facsimile of it (Alan Arkin, Ted Wass, Roberto Benigni).
OFF-KEY: "American Psycho" star Christian Bale will star with Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz in a WWII romantic drama, "Captain Corelli's Mandolin," Variety reports today. Bale plays a Greek fisherman engaged to Cruz. When he goes off to war, she jilts him and falls in love with Cage, who plays an Italian soldier.
DON'T FORGET YOUR PILLS: "Dawson's Creek's" Michelle Williams and Ellen Degeneres' Anne Heche have joined the cast of "Prozac Nation," the big-screen version of Elizabeth Wurtzel's autobiographical novel about depression, which was hot about two years ago. According to Variety, the cast already includes Christina Ricci, who'll play Wurtzel.
IN LIKE FLINT: In an apparent attempt to make Rob Lowe seem cool again, producer Joel Silver has cast the immortal James Coburn opposite the erstwhile 1980s icon in a low-budget ($6 million) action film. In "Proximity," Coburn will play a mob figurehead who puts a contract on Lowe's life.