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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Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.
Moore shoots back at GOP
Michael Moore got in his own two cents Wednesday, responding to Republicans' charge that the filmmaker be prosecuted for offering underwear and food to college students in exchange for their promise to vote, The Associated Press reports. "It's ironic that Republicans have no problem with allowing assault weapons out on our streets, yet they don't want to put clean underwear in the hands of our slacker youth," Moore said. "The Republicans seem more interested in locking me up for trying to encourage people to participate in our democracy than locking up bin Laden for his attacks on our democracy." AP reports the Michigan GOP on Tuesday asked four county prosecutors to file charges against Moore, citing an election law provision that prohibits a person from contracting with another for something of value in exchange for agreeing to vote. Moore is currently touring the country and imploring "slackers" who usually don't vote to head to the polls this year, saying they could make the difference in the presidential race, and offering gag prizes to incite them.
Rape charges against Anthony Anderson dismissed
On Wednesday, a judge in Memphis, Tenn., dismissed rape charges filed in July against Kangaroo Jack star Anthony Anderson and another man, Reuters reports. Judge Anthony Johnson threw out the case brought by a film extra on the set of Hustle & Flow at a preliminary hearing after calling the woman's testimony suspicious and bizarre. Charges against Witherspoon also were dropped. The woman had accused Anderson and Wayne Witherspoon, an assistant director on the Hustle, of raping her in a trailer on that film's set. "He is, of course, both relieved and delighted by the judge's decision to throw out what was so obviously a trumped-up case," Anderson's spokesman Allan Mayer said.
Actress MacDowell bids adieu to marriage
Actress Andie MacDowell and her husband, former high school classmate Rhett Hartzog, have divorced after nearly three years of marriage, People magazine reports. People quoted a source close to the couple as saying, "It's a painful and very private time." No other details about the split were available. MacDowell, 46, and Hartzog, 45, married in November 2001 with a 450-guest ceremony in Asheville, N.C. It was the actress' second marriage.
Seized Limbaugh records ruled valid
A Florida appeals court ruled on Wednesday that prosecutors acted legally when they seized Rush Limbaugh's medical records during a 2003 investigation into whether the conservative radio host misused prescription painkillers, Reuters reports. The outspoken conservative commentator had claimed his constitutional right to privacy had been violated because the search warrants were issued without giving him prior notice or a chance to challenge the seizure. Florida's 4th District Court of Appeals said the search warrant authorizing the seizure outweighed Limbaugh's right to keep his medical records private. Limbaugh, who has not been charged with a crime, admitted an addiction to prescription painkillers last year and took time off from his popular syndicated radio show for drug rehabilitation.
Judge extends restraining order against Mel Gibson stalker
During a brief hearing yesterday, Superior Court Judge Linda Lefkowitz extended a temporary restraining order to three years against a homeless man who showed up at Mel Gibson's Malibu, Calif., estate demanding they pray together. Zack Sinclair, 34, has pleaded not guilty to six misdemeanor counts that include trespassing and disorderly conduct, district attorney spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons told AP. He remained in jail Wednesday without bail pending an Oct. 12 hearing. The order bars him from coming within 100 yards of Gibson, his wife or their seven children, their home, Gibson's work, the children's school and the chapel.
PGA wants end to bogus producer credits
The Producers Guild of America is stepping up its bid to stop Hollywood studios from giving bogus credits to people as a bargaining chip. Speaking at a news press conference Wednesday, PGA President Kathleen Kennedy said the guild is asking studios to include language specifying the duties necessary to receive it into every would-be producer's contract. According to Kennedy, studios oftentimes give producer credits as a kind of low-cost compensation, which boosts an actor, agent or manager's show-business resume. If a credit is given unfairly, guild lawyers pledged to sue--not for money, but to force a studio to remove the credit.
Motley Crue guitarist gets hip replacement
Motley Crue guitarist Mick Mars is recovering from hip replacement surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, his publicist Katie McNeil said Wednesday. Mars, whose real name is Bob Allen Deal, suffers from a degenerative, rheumatic disease called ankylosing spondylitis, which causes ligaments and tendons to attach to the bone. The affected area becomes inflamed and some of the bone may erode. McNeil told the AP doctors expect Mars, 53, to walk again soon with the help of a physical therapist and is looking forward to a possible Motley Crue comeback tour. "He would do it if the tour happens," she said.
Guylaine Cadorette contributed to this report.
Top Story: Blake Loses Lawyer, Trial Postponed
Robert Blake's murder trial has been postponed indefinitely after Blake's lawyer Thomas Mesereau Jr. quit the case, citing "irreconcilable differences," AP reports. Superior Court Judge Darlene Schempp canceled the jury selection that was to begin in less than two weeks and postponed the trial indefinitely following a one-hour meeting with Blake and Mesereau. Judge Schempp set a hearing date for Feb. 23, by which time Blake should have a new lawyer. Best known for his TV role as a tough talking cop on the '70's drama, Baretta, Blake, 70, is accused of murdering wife Bonnie Lee Bakely outside a restaurant in 2001. Spokeswoman for the district attorney's office Sandi Gibbons said, "We had no idea this was coming. It's like being punched in the stomach. It's like having the rug pulled out from under us. We're a little shell-shocked right now." This is the third lawyer Blake has lost.
That '70's Show Stars To End Run Next Season
Topher Grace and Ashton Kutcher will be around a little longer than originally planned, AP reports. Though Grace, 25, had made it know that this season would be his last, he has decided to stay on for one more season. Ashton Kutcher will also remain on the show though next season. The comedy has aired on Fox since 1998.
Paris Hilton May Host Pageant
Notorious party girl and now TV star Paris Hilton may host Donald Trump's Miss USA Pageant on NBC, AP reports. Trump reportedly got the idea while Hilton's parents were visiting his estate in Palm Beach. ""I've known Paris since she was a little girl. She's a fine girl ... I think she will give the pageant its highest TV ratings," the real estate tycoon told US Weekly.
Christian Groups Behind The Passion of the Christ Opening Day
Christian groups are going so far as buying out entire theaters so people may watch Mel Gibson's controversial film The Passion of the Christ and then discuss its message in church, AP reports. Says Josh Baran, a public relations executive publicizing the film, "They're going to bus them to theater. They will give assignments in many churches--go to the movie, we're going to talk about it." Other groups are going still further, standing in line to buy people tickets to the film, free of charge. Cory Engel, pastor of Harvest Springs Community Church in Great Falls, Montana explains, "This is a window of opportunity we have. Here's a guy who's putting his money into a movie that has everything to do with what we do. Churches used to communicate by having a little lecture time on Sunday morning. People don't interact that way anymore." The Passion of the Christ will open in 2,000 theaters on Ash Wednesday, a remarkable number considering the film is self-financed by director Gibson and all the dialog is in Aramaic and Latin. Jewish and Christian groups have expressed concern that Gibson's film depicts Jews as being solely responsible for the death of Jesus. "When they attack him, they attack millions of people in middle America," said Jennifer Giroux who created a website devoted to getting people to watch the film, "We have watched films concerning the Holocaust with compassion, concern and with sorrow, and we just want to be able to watch this beautiful, beautiful movie about our faith."
Speaking of Faith...Faith Evans To Attend Rehab Clinic
As part of an agreement wherein drug charges will be dropped, Faith Evans and her husband have agreed to complete a 13-week drug-counseling program, AP reports. Evans and her husband Todd Russow were charged with marijuana and cocaine possession and having improper license plate tags after the couple was pulled over in suburban Atlanta last month. Evans is the widow of rapper Christopher Wallace, aka Notorious B.I.G, who was killed in a drive-by shooting in 1997.
Role Call: Affleck a Brat, McGraw Goes Out On Friday
Ben Affleck has signed on to star in a new adaptation of Josephine Tey's novel Brat Farrar, Variety reports. Affleck will play the eldest of sibling in a story of familial strife following the death of the patriarch. Affleck's character was thought to have died as a boy, but returns to claim a portion of the deceased wealth. The 1963 novel was adapted once before in 1993 as the film, Paranoiac. Fight Club scribe Jim Ohls' script will more closely follow the novel's plot than the previous adaptation did...
Country singer Tim McGraw will start filming this week on a film adaptation of H. G. Bissinger's Friday Night Lights also starring Billy Bob Thornton, AP reports. McGraw, who previously acted in the unreleased indie, Black Cloud, will play an alcoholic father who tries to relive his youthful football success through his son. The film takes place in a football-obsessed Odessa, Texas. McGraw's wife, Faith Hill, will be seen later this year in the remake of The Stepford Wives.
SANTA MONICA, Calif., Feb. 9, 2000 -- The infectious bug that has been plaguing TV series of late -- you know, the "I feel that my time with the show is up and I've decided to move on" epidemic -- has claimed another victim.
The latest casualty is none other than "Veronica's Closet's" Kathy Najimy. Trade papers report today that the actress, who plays Olive, Veronica's (Kirstie Alley) trusted sidekick and confidant, will bid farewell to the NBC comedy at the end of this season.
Najimy tells Variety that her decision to leave the show is based purely on personal reasons. With "Veronica's Closet" behind, Najimy reportedly plans to spend more time with her 3-year-old daughter, not to mention more of the same said time on a would-be "feature career."
Of course, the concept of "leaving" "Veronica's Closet" might become a moot point. The unbeloved comedy series, now in its third season, was already benched once this season by NBC for low ratings. It is currently mired in 85th place among all shows and is considered a long shot for fall renewal.
SUPERHERO SAVES FOX: Patrick Warburton, the guy who played Elaine's mechanic beau Dave Puddy on "Seinfeld," will return to the tube in the form of a blue superhero in the Fox comedy pilot "The Tick."
Once a Saturday morning toon on Fox, "The Tick" follows the adventures of a dim-witted crime fighter and his ex-accountant sidekick as they battle bad guys with names such as Chairface Chippendale, El Seed and Breadmaster.
The new live-action half-hour pilot will be directed by the enthusiastic Barry Sonnenfeld ("Wild Wild West").
"I've been a huge fan of 'The Tick' for years," Sonnenfeld told the Hollywood trade papers. "I like it even more than my 6-year-old daughter. It's really up my alley. It doesn't feel like anything on television today."
(Let us guess -- Mr. Sonnenfeld doesn't have cable.)
Warburton, meanwhile, has handled superhero duties prior to "The Tick." Dig this, "Seinfeld" fiends, the actor was the voice of Superman in those American Express commercials starring Jerry Seinfeld.
'LEEZA' IS DEAD: No, not Leeza Gibbons, but her fast-sinking eponymous talk show. Cause of its likely death? Ultra-bad ratings.
Word on the street is that "Leeza" will not live to see a second season in syndication.
The daytime talk show went through various transformation and network shuffles in its (technically) 7-year history. It was first conceived by NBC in 1993 as "John & Leeza," the John, of course, being Gibbons' "Entertainment Tonight" co-hort John Tesh. The show downsized to simply "Leeza" in 1994 when the above-mentioned Tesh bailed. In September, NBC decided to sell the show to non-NBC outlets, thereby banishing the show to syndication.
"LIP" SERVICE: Oscar- and Emmy-winning director-producer James L. Brooks ("Terms of Endearment," "As Good As It Gets," "Jerry Maguire") is set to endow the tube with a live-action romantic comedy series for ABC.
The comedy, still untitled, will be based on a character from the 1988 radio series "Lip Schtick." Joan Cusack, whom Brooks collaborated with on the 1987 flick "Broadcast News," will stake the title role.
Slated for a slot in ABC's 2000-2001 lineup, the show will mark Cusack's prime-time debut and Brook's first TV gig since his stint as the executive producer of the animated series "The Critic" in 1994.
RANDOM BITS: NBC has picked up a half-hour comedy pilot starring David Alan Grier ("In Living Color"). Grier is slated to play a Secret Service man in charge of protecting the first lady. ...
... CBS has greenlit a Jerry Bruckheimer-produced ("Armageddon," "Pearl Harbor") drama pilot for the new fall season. The project is said to be an hour-long drama called "CSI." Starring William Petersen, the series revolves around forensic crime-scene investigators working in Vegas. ...
THE COURT OF POPULAR OPINION: Democracy sometimes flourishes in the most unlikely places, just ask Judge Judy -- one of the many, many finalists chosen by TV viewers of America for the 2nd Annual TV Guide Awards.
More than 1.5 million viewers cast ballots to determine nominees in 22 categories. NBC led all networks in mentions with 20 finalists. Winners will be announced March 5 in a Fox broadcast.
Here's the complete list of the TV Guide Award nominees, as announced today:
Favorite Actor in a New Series David Boreanaz, "Angel" (WB) Billy Campbell, "Once and Again" (ABC) Dan Futterman, "Judging Amy" (CBS) Martin Sheen, "The West Wing" (NBC)
Favorite Actress in a New Series Amy Brenneman, "Judging Amy" (CBS) Tyne Daly, "Judging Amy" (CBS) Mariska Hargitay, "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC) Sela Ward, "Once and Again" (ABC)
Favorite Actor in a Comedy Bill Cosby, "Cosby" (CBS) Michael J. Fox, "Spin City" (ABC) David Hyde Pierce, "Frasier" (NBC) Ray Romano, "Everybody Loves Raymond" (CBS)
Favorite Actress in a Comedy Jenna Elfman, "Dharma & Greg" (ABC) Calista Flockhart, "Ally McBeal" (FOX) Lisa Kudrow, "Friends" (NBC) Phylicia Rashad, "Cosby" (CBS)
Favorite Actor in a Drama David Duchovny, "The X-Files" (FOX) David James Elliott, "JAG" (CBS) Dennis Franz, "NYPD Blue" (ABC) Sam Waterston, "Law & Order" (NBC)
Favorite Actress in a Drama Gillian Anderson, "The X-Files" (FOX) Roma Downey, "Touched by an Angel" (CBS) Melina Kanakaredes, "Providence" (NBC) Julianna Margulies, "ER" (NBC)
Favorite New Series "Judging Amy" (CBS) "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC) "Once and Again" (ABC) "The West Wing" (NBC)
Favorite Comedy Series "Ally McBeal" (FOX) "Everybody Loves Raymond" (CBS) "Frasier" (NBC) "Friends" (NBC)
Favorite Drama Series "ER" (NBC) "Providence" (NBC) "The Practice" (ABC) "Touched by an Angel" (CBS)
Favorite Soap Opera "All My Children" (ABC) "Days of Our Lives" (NBC) "General Hospital" (ABC) "The Young and the Restless" (CBS)
Favorite Sportscaster Terry Bradshaw (FOX) Bob Costas (NBC) Howie Long (FOX) John Madden (FOX)
Favorite Daytime Talk Show "Judge Judy" (Syndicated) "Live With Regis and Kathie Lee" (Syndicated) "The Oprah Winfrey Show" (Syndicated) "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" (Syndicated)
Favorite Game Show "Hollywood Squares" (Syndicated) "Jeopardy!" (Syndicated) "Wheel of Fortune" (Syndicated) "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" (ABC)
Favorite News Personality Tom Brokaw (NBC) Katie Couric (NBC) Peter Jennings (ABC) Matt Lauer (NBC)
Favorite Late Night Show "Late Show With David Letterman" (CBS) "Politically Incorrect With Bill Maher" (ABC) "Saturday Night Live" (NBC) "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" (NBC)
ONLINE NOMINEES Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy Show "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (WB) "Charmed" (WB) "The X-Files" (FOX)
Favorite Reality TV "Biography" (A&E) "Behind the Music" (VH1) "The Real World" (MTV)
Favorite TV Pet Eddie, "Frasier" (NBC) Happy, "7th Heaven" (WB) Salem, "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch" (ABC)
Favorite TV Movie or Miniseries "Annie" (ABC) "Joan of Arc" (NBC) "Tuesdays with Morrie" (ABC)
Favorite News Program "Dateline NBC" (NBC) "Entertainment Tonight" (Syndicated) "20/20" (ABC)
Favorite Music Show "Behind the Music" (VH1) "Total Request Live" (MTV) "Pop-Up Video" (VH1)
Favorite Children's Show "Blue's Clues" (Nickelodeon) "Rugrats" (Nickelodeon) "Sesame Street" (PBS)
AOL KEYWORD: TV GUIDE EXCLUSIVE CATEGORY
Favorite Teen Show "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (WB) "Dawson's Creek" (WB) "Popular" (WB)