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.
UPDATE: Disney's big-budget sci-fi John Carter led the box office on Friday with an estimated $9.8 million. But...most experts agree that the movie will have a hard time hanging on to the lead. Why? Saturday and Sunday is prime movie-going time for families, who are still expected to turn out in droves to see Dr. Seuss' The Lorax.
Believe it or not, there was a time in Hollywood history where it was routine for a movie to stick around at the top of the box office charts for weeks, its theatrical running twice as long. Now, it's all about that debut weekend—is the movie a hit or a dud? Studios, and in turn, audiences, live and die by that golden opening number. So you can see why the folks over at Disney might be sweating when initial predictions for their giant sci-fi blockbuster, John Carter, peg it in the number two spot. Regardless of the gross, that's not a win.
According to Hollywood.com Box Office expert Paul Dergarabedian, John Carter will open in 3,749 theaters, from standard screens to 3-D to IMAX—but is still trailing behind last week's big winner, The Lorax. "The animated family film has been a mid-week favorite as well impressively earning around $3 million per day. The first quarter hit is now poised for a second weekend atop the chart with a potential gross in the $50 million range and a 10 day total through Sunday of over $130 million."
The Lorax hit at a particularly sweet spot in the movie landscape—up until its release, there hadn't been a family friendly film since Alvin and the Chimpmunks in December. While John Carter is the first certified blockbuster of 2012, awareness and anticipation for the film, which is based on the 100-year-old novel by Tarzan author Edgar Rice Burroughs, seems to be low and fizzling (if our off-the-cuff poll has any clout). Paul adds, "An expected debut of around $30 million will put much pressure on the overseas returns to make up the difference for the PG-13 rated release."
Adding to the underwhelming performance is a meager $500,000 midnight show box office, which signals worse things to come as the weekend progresses.
But 2012 has been an unexpectedly profitable year at the box office, and this weekend's holdover releases should have no problem continuing the success. Paul predicts teen party comedy Project X to double up for a $40 million combined gross, while Navy SEAL action flick Act of Valor adds another $7 million for a total of $60 mil. The week's other new releases should fare reasonably well, with Eddie Murphy's A Thousand Words looking at $6 - $8 million and haunted house horror Silent House scaring up $8 - $10 million.
Check back Sunday, when Paul crunches all the numbers to see who came out on top. Which movie is going to earn your hard earned cash this weekend?
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The casts of most successful television series typically operate on an eight-month schedule, spending the remaining four months of the year on "hiatus" — or what's commonly referred to by those outside of Hollywood as "vacation." More prominent TV stars, like 30 Rock's Tina Fey and The Office's Steve Carell, like to use the downtime to cash in on their small-screen notoriety with lucrative film projects. Their recent collaboration, Date Night, debuts in theaters this week, and while we can't tell you if it's good or not (yes we can: it's not), history tells us that hiatus projects invariably suck. Monumentally. Here are some of the worst hiatus hacks in recent memory:
Kutcher made the most of his hiatus time while on That ‘70s Show, churning out lowbrow titles like Dude, Where’s My Car? and My Boss’s Daughter before leaving the show in 2006 to focus on making crap full-time. To date, not one of Kutcher’s films has been certified Fresh by Rotten Tomatoes, giving him an astounding 0% rating for his big screen career. Bravo, Ashton!
As the weakest link in the Friends ensemble, LeBlanc should have spent his downtime repaying the gods for his cosmic good fortune. But instead of volunteering at homeless shelters or building houses in Ecuador, he spat in karma’s face with movies like Ed, in which he managed to get upstaged by a chimpanzee.
If Entourage has taught us anything, it’s that a little bit of the Piv goes a long way. As agent Ari Gold, Piven is the most enjoyable part of the show’s acclaimed ensemble, but his shtick quickly wears thin when translated to feature films, as the six of you who saw The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard are no doubt painfully aware.
See Piven, Jeremy.
When he isn’t thwarting terrorists on TV’s 24, Sutherland likes to terrorize moviegoers, dropping bombs like Mirrors and Taking Lives on on the multiplex.
The temperamental Grey’s Anatomy star finally parted ways with the hit medical drama last month, but she might want to avoid burning that bridge entirely, as recent hiatus projects 27 Dresses and The Ugly Truth have fueled growing suspicion that 2007's Knocked Up was merely an aberration in a string of bad movies that dates back to 1998's Bride of Chucky.
Chuck’s famously devoted fans have one more reason to pray that NBC doesn’t cancel their beloved show: Untethered to a busy sitcom shooting schedule, star Levi will have much more time on his hands for dreck like Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel.
2004’s overrated Garden State notwithstanding, Braff’s film record during his Scrubs tenure has been decidedly mediocre. His last effort, The Ex, grossed a whopping $3.1 million in 2007 — roughly equivalent to Braff's salary for nine episodes of work on his soon-to-be-canceled show.
Grammer earned five Emmies for his stellar work on TV’s Frasier, but big-screen accolades proved considerably more elusive, thanks to ill-chosen hiatus projects like Down Periscope and 15 Minutes.
When not being browbeaten by Phylicia Rashad on The Cosby Show or shilling pudding to America's youth, Cosby made a pair of monumental flops, Leonard Part 6 and Ghost Dad. The former of which scored a rare trifecta at the 1988 Razzie awards, winning for Worst Film, Worst Actor, and Worst Screenplay.