Kiefer Sutherland's 24 character Jack Bauer has topped a new poll to find U.S. TV's Greatest Action Hero. The tough guy has beaten out Sarah Michelle Gellar's Buffy Summers and Adam West's Batman in the new TV Guide magazine survey.
Richard Dean Anderson's MacGyver and Diana Rigg's Avengers character Emma Peel round out the top five, while The Six Million Dollar Man's Steve Austin (Lee Majors), Alias' Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) and The Man From U.N.C.L.E.'s Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) make the top 10.
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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As you scan through the various titles available on Netflix’s Watch Instantly service, you may find yourself in an age-old conflict. Do you watch a classic action film or a gut-busting comedy? Thankfully, a recently added title makes it possible for you to avoid this conundrum all together.
For your consideration, we highly suggest you check out Hot Shots! Part Deux.
Who Made It:Hot Shots! Part Deux was directed and co-written by Jim Abrahams. If the name sounds vaguely familiar on its own, it will probably prove far more recognizable in conjunction with his usual creative team: Abrahams, Zucker, and Zucker. That’s right, the mad geniuses behind Airplane, Top Secret, and The Naked Gun. These guys obviously know how to create great parody films and Abrahams proves he can recreate this on his own as the Hot Shots! sequel is fantastic.
Who’s In It: Just as in the first film, the star of Hot Shots! Part Deux is Charlie Sheen. Bear in mind, this is not completely bonkers Two and a Half Men era Charlie Sheen who became a sad parody of himself. This is the late 80s/early 90s prime version of Charlie Sheen whose offscreen exploits were still secondary to his onscreen persona. Between the Hot Shots movies, the Major League movies, and Young Guns, Sheen was positioning himself as one of the funniest, coolest actors in Hollywood.
What’s It About: The U.S. government launches a covert mission into Baghdad to rescue Desert Storm prisoners of war. This special ops team is also secretly tasked with assassinating Saddam Hussein. Things go terribly wrong and the team is captured. Now, the government scrambles to put together a rescue team to rescue their rescue team. They can think of only one man capable of leading such a rescue mission: Topper Harley. Now, if they can only find him.
Why You Should Watch It:
Much of the formulaic Abrahams and Zucker(s) comedy is alive and well in Hot Shots! Part Deux. There is no shortage of goofy physical humor and you can’t swing your arms, or throw a banana peel, without hitting a pratfall. The sequel also carries the tradition of the first film in its merciless skewering of various films. The first Hot Shots was primarily a send-up of Top Gun, hence the name bestowed upon Sheen’s character, but the sequel does far more branching out; mocking several films within the action genre. Everything fromRambo to Terminator 2 to Star Wars gets the Abrahams treatment.
But in addition to the obvious, overt humor, Hot Shots! Part Duex shines in its more subtle jokes. There are little touches sewn into the fabric of silliness so understated as to almost be Easter eggs, and often communicated without words. I think my favorite of these has to be the moment between the two operatives on the airplane just before they parachute behind enemy lines. As one operative covers his face in camo paint, he hands the applicator to his comrade, an African-American. The look on the second operative’s face as he is handed the paint is absolute genius; a mix of disbelief and utter disappointment. There’s also the scene at the press conference where, in the background, the accident-prone current president manages to take out all the living (at the time) former presidents except for Gerald Ford, who just falls down on his own.
Hot Shots! Part Deux features one hell of a cast. Beyond Sheen, the roster boasts comedy legend, and frequent Abrahams/Zucke/Zucker collaborator, Lloyd Bridges as clueless President Tug Benson. He is as quick with the one-liners as he is with the slapstick. Whose Line Is It Anyway’s Ryan Stiles shows up as a loony demolitions expert and is absolutely incredible. But the most meta piece of casting in the film is the inclusion of Richard Crenna. Crenna played Rambo’s commanding officer Col. Trautman in theFirst Blood franchise, which serves as the film’s chief source of comedic inspiration. For his part, his timing is quite adept. I also love the cameo by Martin Sheen, Charlie Sheen’s father, who is coming up the river narrating his mission as Topper narrates his; a stellar reference to Apocalypse Now.
When you bundle all of these things up with some charmingly dated references,Hot Shots! Part Deux becomes the perfect 90s comedy. I know what you’re thinking, and yes, dated pop culture references are usually cancer for comedies, which is why every film by Friedberg and Seltzer is a travesty. But Hot Shots! Part Deux incorporates these elements into a timeless action movie plot. The First Blood movies will always be classics, so we can enjoy a satire of them even if it features the occasional jab at American Gladiators, President Bush throwing up on a Japanese diplomat, or…well, Saddam Hussein.