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, always at a loss to keep churning out original entertainment often likes to take characters from other shows and give them their own vehicle. Some are successful... but others, you find youself asking - what if they took THIS character and gave them a spin-off instead?
After Homicide ended its run, John Munch got to mosey his way from Baltimore to New York to join Law & Order: SVU. Richard Belzer's a fine actor, but Andre Braugher's Pembleton was the backbone of Homicide. Imagine him and Ice-T on the same set?
Laura Winslow/Family Matters
This would have been a reward for Winslow's putting up with Steve Urkel. Urkel could have been on the first episode of the new show...and had a bank safe dropped on his head. Then she could have gone on dates with real interesting people that didn't involve a nerd stepping dangerously close to the line of stalking.
Dylan McKay/Beverly Hills, 90210
Brandon Walsh: too earnest. Kelly Taylor: too annoying. David Silver: Too generic '90s. Steve Sanders: Too many shiny teeth. Donna Martin: Ha ha ha. No. So Dylan, the world-weary fellow would have been perfect for his own show.
Shawn Hunter/Boy Meets World
There's a Girl Meets World spin-off/reboot happening, but Hunter should have had his own show after Boy Meets World. Rider Strong would have had to stop looking constipated when he was supposed to be feeling moody though. He could have ditched his half-brother Jack, but Eric Matthews would need to make appearances just to keep the comedy level high.
Joey Tribbiani got the spin-off, but the witty Bing would have been the better choice. Could it BE any more obvious? Monica would have had to go, but Matthew Perry could carry the show. Perhaps this would have halted Perry's horrible post-Friends freefall.
What, you thought I would suggest Niles Crane, which would mean another show featuring a stuffy psychiatrist? They could have had Martin go to Boston to get away from everyone and find a new aide for him. Ted Danson could take a break from CSI and reprised Sam Malone.
Dr. Dick Solomon/3rd Rock From The Sun
Any show with just John Lithgow would have been awesome and I know I don't risk incurring the wrath of the Big Giant Head by saying this. Lithgow has the face and personality to carry his own just as Solomon. He coud have a fake Inception dream scene with Joseph Gordon-Leavitt.
Jazz/The Fresh Prince of Bel Air
Jazz could barely act his way out of a paper bag sometimes, but it would have been fun to see how many different ways he could get thrown out of houses in his own show. I always had a soft spot for him and his doomed courtship of Hilary Banks.
Sophia Petrillo/Golden Girls
Let's forget that Golden Palace dreck, shall we? Sophia deserved better and she could have ruled her own nursing home. Out of the four "girls," she was the most feisty, funny and quotable of them all. Forget Shady Pines - Petrillo Manor would have been infinitely better.
10. Ricardo Tubbs/Miami Vice
Tubbs was the smoother of the two on Miami Vice. I'm talking the Philip Michael Thomas Tubbs here, not Jamie Foxx. Thomas danced circles around Foxx when it came to suaveness. Tubbs could have opened up an agency in Los Angeles - that OTHER place with extremely attractive women and high style.
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While recent animated blockbusters have aimed to viewers of all ages starting with fantastical concepts and breathtaking visuals but tackling complex emotional issues along the way Ice Age: Continental Drift is crafted especially for the wee ones — and it works. Venturing back to prehistoric times once again the fourth Ice Age film paints broad strokes on the theme of familial relationships throwing in plenty of physical comedy along the way. The movie isn't that far off from one of the many Land Before Time direct-to-video sequels: not particularly innovative or necessary but harmless thrilling fun for anyone with a sense of humor. Unless they have a particular distaste for wooly mammoths the kids will love it.
Ice Age: Continental Drift continues to snowball its cartoon roster bringing back the original film's trio (Ray Romano as Manny the Mammoth Denis Leary as Diego the Sabertooth Tiger and John Leguizamo as Sid the Sloth) new faces acquired over the course of the franchise (Queen Latifah as Manny's wife Ellie) and a handful of new characters to spice things up everyone from Nicki Minaj as Manny's daughter Steffie to Wanda Sykes as Sid's wily grandma. The whole gang is living a pleasant existence as a herd with Manny's biggest problem being playing overbearing dad to the rebellious daughter. Teen mammoths they always want to go out and play by the waterfall! Whippersnappers.
The main thrust of the film comes when Scratch the Rat (whose silent comedy routines in the vein of Tex Avery/WB cartoons continue to be the series highlight) accidentally cracks the singular continent Pangea into the world we know today. Manny Diego and Sid find themselves stranded on an iceberg once again forced on a road trip journey of survival. The rest of the herd embarks to meet them giving Steffie time to realize the true meaning of friendship with help from her mole pal Louis (Josh Gad).
The ham-handed lessons may drag for those who've passed Kindergarten but Ice Age: Continental Drift is a lot of fun when the main gang crosses paths with a group of villainous pirates. (Back then monkeys rabbits and seals were hitting the high seas together pillaging via boat-shaped icebergs. Obviously.) Quickly Ice Age becomes an old school pirate adventure complete with maritime navigation buried treasure and sword fights. Gut (Peter Dinklage) an evil ape with a deadly... fingernail leads the evil-doers who pose an entertaining threat for the familiar bunch. Jennifer Lopez pops by as Gut's second-in-command Shira the White Tiger and the film's two cats have a chase scene that should rouse even the most apathetic adults. Hearing Dinklage (of Game of Thrones fame) belt out a pirate shanty may be worth the price of admission alone.
With solid action (that doesn't need the 3D addition) cartoony animation and gags out the wazoo Ice Age: Continental Drift is entertainment to enjoy with the whole family. Revelatory? Not quite. Until we get a feature length silent film of Scratch's acorn pursuit we may never see a "classic" Ice Age film but Continental Drift keeps it together long enough to tell a simple story with delightful flare that should hold attention spans of any length. Massive amounts of sugar not even required.
[Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox]