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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Tribeca Film via Everett Collection
For a film that involves a love triangle, mental illness, a Bohemian colony of free-spirits, an impending war and several important historical figures, the most exciting elements of Summer in February are the stunning shots of the English country and Cornish seaside. The rest of the film never quite lives up to the crashing waves and sun-dappled meadows that are used to bookend the scenes, as the entertaining opening never manages to coalesce into a story that lives up the the cinematography, let alone the lives of the people that inspired it.
Set in an Edwardian artist’s colony in Cornwall, Summer in February tells the story of A.J. Munnings (Dominic Cooper), who went on to become one of the most famous painters of his day and head of the Royal Academy of Art, his best friend, estate agent and part-time soldier Gilbert Evans (Dan Stevens), and the woman whom they both loved, aspiring artist Florence Carter-Wood (Emily Browning). Her marriage to Munnings was an extremely unhappy one, and she attempted suicide on their honeymoon, before killing herself in 1914. According to his journals, Gilbert and Florence were madly in love, although her marriage and his service in the army kept them apart.
When the film begins, Munnings is the center of attention in the Lamorna Artist's Colony, dramatically reciting poetry at parties and charming his way out of his bar tab while everyone around him proclaims him to be a genius. When he’s not drinking or painting, he’s riding horses with Gilbert, who has the relatively thankless task of keeping this group of Bohemians in line. Their idyllic existence is disrupted by the arrival of Florence, who has run away from her overbearing father and the fiancé he had picked out for her in order to become a painter.
Stevens and Browning both start the film solidly, with enough chemistry between them to make their infatuation interesting. He manages to give Gilbert enough dependable charm to win over both Florence and the audience, and she presents Florence as someone with enough spunk and self-possession to go after what she wants. Browning’s scenes with Munnings are equally entertaining in the first third of the film, as she can clearly see straight through all of his bravado and he is intrigued by her and how difficult she is to impress. Unfortunately, while the basis of the love triangle is well-established and entertaining, it takes a sudden turn into nothing with a surprise proposal from Munnings.
Neither the film nor Browning ever make it clear why Florence accepts his proposal, especially when they have both taken great pains to establish that she doesn’t care much for him. But once she does, the films stalls, and both Stevens and Browning spend the rest of the film doing little more than staring moodily and longingly at the people around them. The real-life Florence was plagued by depression and mental instability, but neither the film nor Browning’s performance ever manage to do more than give the subtlest hint at that darkness. On a few occasions, Browning does manage to portray a genuine anguish, but rather than producing any sympathy from the audience, it simply conjures up images of a different film, one that focused more on Florence, and the difficulties of being a woman with a mental illness at a time when both were ignored or misunderstood.
Stevens is fine, and Gilbert starts out with the same kind of good-guy appeal the won the heart of Mary Crawley and Downton Abbey fans the world over. However, once the film stalls, so does his performance, and he quickly drops everything that made the character attractive or interesting in favor of longing looks and long stretches of inactivity. He does portray a convincing amount of adoration for Florence, although that's about the only real emotion that Gilbert expresses for the vast majority of the film, and even during his love scene, he never manages to give him any amount of passion.
Cooper does his best with what he’s given, and tries his hardest to imbue the film with some substance and drama. His Munnings is by turns charming, brash, and brooding, the kind of person who has been told all of their life that they are special, and believes it. He even manages to give the character some depth, and even though he and Browning have very little chemistry, he manages to convey a genuine affection for her. It’s a shame that Munnings becomes such a deeply unlikable character, because Cooper is the only thing giving Summer in February a jolt of life – even if it comes via bursts of thinly-explained hostility. It's hard to watch just how hard he's working to connect with his co-stars and add some excitement to a lifeless script and not wish that he had a better film to show off his talents in.
Unfortunately, by the time Florence and Gilbert are finally spurred into activity, the film has dragged on for so long that you’re no longer invested in the characters, their pain, or their love story, even if you want to be. Which is the real disappointment of Summer in February; underneath the stalled plot and the relatively one-note acting, there are glimmers of a fascinating and compelling story that’s never allowed to come to the forefront.
Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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Horror movies both new and old provide scares and screams but there are just some scenes that, well, are ridiculously funny. Curl up with your Starbucks pumpkin latte and get ready for October with these over-the-top and crazy moments:
AntichristThis Lars von Trier film is disturbing in about every way and has often been deemed as the weirdest, creepiest horror movie of recent time. Filled with religious symbolism, it's an interesting thing to watch if you can take it. There is one scene, though, that you may laugh out loud after watching. The CGI animals that the poor married couple stumbles upon in the woods are one thing, but when the adorable little red fox starts to speak, it's just too much. "Chaos Reigns" — his famous line — is now the subject of memes everywhere. The ExorcistThis well-known 1973 horror probably provided sleepless nights and many screams when it originally came out, but if you're looking for a movie that won't keep you up in bed until the sun rises, you've found the right flick. Linda Blair's performance as Regan McNeil is spot-on but there's just something uncannily hilarious about the staircase scene. Poor Regan probably pulls ten muscles going down the stairwell in her backwards-spider position. The Blair Witch ProjectIf one scary movie sticks out from the 90s, it's the original "hand-held camera" horror film that scared most people out of going into the woods for years to come: The Blair Witch Project. Yeah, maybe those three dumb film kids knew what they were getting into, you know, tracing down a witch's legacy, but if we're being honest, most people thought it was actually 'found footage.' It was hard not to laugh — even at first watch — at Heather Donahue's snot-filled video selfie in the middle of the night.Paranormal Activity While not reigning as the most terrifying horror movie saga, Paranormal Activity does provide quite the number of jumps. One of the most appealing aspects of the movies is the complete nativity and bizarre reactions of the family involved, but if you really need a laugh, just wait until that creepy old cult woman comes barging in during one of the last scenes in the third installment. Lady comes out of nowhere (literally, this is her only scene) and wreaks havoc despite being old and frail. Maybe it’s just me, but it totally provides a few great laughs. OrphanThe main sentiment of Orphan’s ending is generally “WTF?” and it’s pretty terrifying at it’s whole, but when Esther is revealed to be a 40-something-old woman it’s pretty difficult to not let out a laugh. It makes sense, of course, but c’mon, who saw that coming? And who didn’t look around at every child on the street and wonder just...what if?
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Spanish supermodel Esther Canadas' romance with hotelier Vikram Chatwal is over, less than a month after he proposed. The couple got engaged on 3 September (13) but they have now ended the relationship by mutual consent.
Lindsay Lohan's alleged former flame, hotelier Vikram Chatwal, is off the market after proposing to Spanish model Esther Canadas. The Big Apple socialite asked the catwalk queen to marry him at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York on Tuesday (03Sep13), according to New York Post gossip column Page Six.
Lohan and millionaire Chatwal were linked in 2011 after they were spotted kissing. A representative for the actress later denied the claims, but they have remained close pals, and both recently completed rehab stints for addiction issues.
Chatwal has been married once before, and Canadas has been down the aisle twice.
Actress Teri Hatcher was involved in a terrifying mid-air drama when her mother passed out and prompted the crew to make an emergency landing. The star has revealed she was on a flight to Kentucky with her mum, Esther, who suddenly lost consciousness and sparked the crew into taking drastic action.
She tells E! Online, "(She went) unconscious... I literally yelled, 'Mom, don't die,' in the middle of the cabin. It was that dramatic."
Esther went on to make a full recovery, but Hatcher admits she felt sorry for the other passengers on the grounded flight as many were on their way to watch the famous Kentucky Derby horse race.
She adds, "You're just like, 'If I could stop the race, I would. I feel so bad.' But it was my mom!"
Michael Ansara, who portrayed a Klingon warrior in three TV versions of Star Trek, has died at the age of 91. The actor, who was married to I Dream of Jeannie's Barbara Eden, passed away on 31 July (13) at his home in California.
Born in Syria, he became a U.S. TV star in the 1950s, portraying Native American characters in hit shows Broken Arrow and Law of the Plainsman, in which his character was also a Deputy U.S. Marshal.
But he is perhaps best known as one of the seven actors who have played Klingon Kang in the original Star Trek series. He reprised the role in the sci-fi series' TV updates Deep Space Nine and Voyager.
Ansara also appeared in the movies Jupiter's Darling, opposite Esther Williams - who died in June, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Comancheros, The Greatest Story Ever Told and Guns of the Magnificent Seven.
His TV work also included appearances in cult shows The Untouchables, The Outer Limits, Lost in Space and Hawaii Five-0.
He also gave villain Mr. Freeze a voice on the animated Batman series.
He was married to Eden from 1958 to 74. Their son, actor Matthew Ansara, died in 2001 of an accidental heroin overdose, aged 35.
Scottish actor Ewan Mcgregor had a special tattoo added to his collection in honour of the birth of his fourth daughter in 2011. When the Moulin Rouge! star and his wife Eve Mavrakis welcomed Anouk he turned to celebrity tattoo artist Kat Von D for another inking.
Opening up about McGregor's project in her new book, Von D explains, "When Ewan decided to get his tattoo, the idea was to use things about him that were never going to change...
"He already had a tattoo with the names of his wife and three daughters but when they added a fourth girl to their family, he wanted to incorporate her name into the tattoo.
"The goal was to add a new banner at the top of the piece, with his youngest daughter's name spelled out."
Little Anouk joins the McGregors' two biological children, Clara Mathilde and Esther Rose, and adopted daughter Jamiyan.
Oxenford, best known as the voice of British radio show Listen With Mother, passed away on 21 December (12), according to her daughter Kate Bradley.
She tells the BBC, "We were so proud of her. She touched so many people through her life... The amount of children anywhere, everywhere, who grew up devoted to that 15 minutes of Listen With Mother."
Oxenford began her career in showbusiness by entertaining troops during World War II, and she shot to fame in 1950 as the voice of Listen With Mother, which she presented for more than 20 years until 1971.
She was also famed as one of the original castmembers of popular British soap opera Coronation Street, playing Esther Hayes from 1960-1963, but making frequent returns following her departure.
The actress also made appearances in British TV shows Heartbeat, The Sweeney, To The Manor Born and popular drama series Midsomer Murders.
She filmed her last role in a 2008 episode of Doctor Who opposite David Tennant. Her scenes were cut from the initial U.K. broadcast but later added in for the DVD release.
Oxenford previously appeared in an episode of the cult sci-fi TV show in the 1980s with Sylvester McCoy playing the Time Lord.