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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Gun to my head, I might be able to say something positive about 300: Rise of an Empire. In a vacuum, I suppose I'd call its aesthetic appealing, its production value impressive, or its giant rhinos kind of cool. But these elements cannot be taken alone, embroidered on a gigantic patch of joyless pain that infests your conscious mind from its inceptive moments on.
It's not so much that the 300 sequel fails at its desired conceit — it gives you exactly what it promises: gore, swordplay, angry sex, halfwit maxims about honor and manliness and the love of the fight. It's simply that its desired conceit is dehumanizing agony. Holding too hard and too long to its mission statement to top its Zack Snyder-helmed predecessor in scope, scale, and spilled pints of blood, Noam Murro's Rise of an Empire doesn't put any energy into filtering its spectacular mayhem through whatever semblance of a humanistic touch made the first one feel like a comprehensive movie.
Now, it's been a good eight years since I've seen 300, and I can't say that I was particularly fond of it. But beneath its own eye-widening layer of violence, there was a tangible idea of who King Leonidas was, what this war meant, and why Sparta mattered. No matter how much clumsy exposition is hurled our way, all we really know here is that there are two sides and they hate each other.
When Rise of an Empire asks us to engage on a more intimate level, which it does — the personal warfare between Sullivan Stapleton (whose name, I guess, is Themistokles) and Bad Guy Captain Eva Green (a.k.a. Artemisia) is founded on the idea that she likes him, and he kind of digs her (re: angry sex), and they want to rule together, but a rose by any other name and all that — we're effectively lost. With characters who don't matter in the slightest, material like this is just filler between the practically striking battle sequences.
But when the "in-between material" is as meaningless as it is in Rise of an Empire, the battles can't function as much more than filler themselves. Filler between the opening titles and closing credits. A game of Candy Crush you play on the subway. Contemptfully insubstantial and not particularly fun, but taking place nonetheless.
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Without even a remote layer of camp — too palpably absent as Rise of an Empire splashes its screen with so much human fluid that "The End" by The Doors will start to play in your head — there's no victory in a movie like this. No characters to latch onto, no story to follow, no joy to be derived. Yes, it might be aesthetically stunning (and really, that's where the one star comes in... well, half a star for that and half for the giant rhinos), but the marvel of its look shrinks under the shadow of the painful vacancy of anything tolerable.
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After garnering widespread praise (and an Oscar nomination for screenwriting) for his 2000 directorial debut You Can Count on Me Kenneth Lonergan was in-demand. In September 2005 the writer/director began production on a follow-up feature: Margaret which touted Anna Paquin Matt Damon Mark Ruffalo Matthew Broderick Allison Janney as well as legendary filmmakers Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella (The English Patient) as producers. The movie wrapped production in a few months time. The buzz was already growing.
Now six years later the movie is finally hitting theaters. So…what took so long?
The journey to this point hasn't been an easy one and it shows. If a film's shot footage is a block of granite and the editing process is the careful carving that turns it into a statuesque work of art Margaret feels like it was attacked by a blind man with a jackhammer. The film is a cinematic disaster a mishmash of shallow characters overwrought politics and sporadic tones. The story follows Lisa Coen (Paquin) a New York teenager who finds herself drowning in chaos after distracting a bus driver (Ruffalo) causing him to hit and kill a pedestrian (Janney). Initially Lisa tells the police it was all an accident but as time passes regret takes hold and the girl embarks on a mission to take down the man she now regards as a culprit. That's just the tip of the iceberg–along the way Lisa deals with everyday teen stuff: falling for her geometry teacher (Damon) combating her anxiety-ridden actress mother losing her virginity dabbling in drugs debating 9/11 and the Iraq War cultivating a relationship with her father in LA and more. There are about eight seasons of television stuffed into Margaret but even a two and a half hour run time can't make it all click.
For more on Margaret check out Indie Seen: Margaret the Long Lost Anna Paquin/Matt Damon Movie
The comedy, about a group of high school students in a choir club, will fight for the Outstanding TV Comedy prize against Curb Your Enthusiasm, Modern Family, Nurse Jackie, The Office and 30 Rock, which has taken home the title for the last three years.
Glee's leading stars Matthew Morrison and Lea Michele have been nominated in the male and female categories for the outstanding comedy actor awards, while their co-star Chris Colfer has received a best supporting actor nomination.
Morrison faces competition from Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Jim Parson (The Big Bang Theory), Tony Shalhoub (Monk), Steve Carell (The Office) and last year's winner Alec Baldwin (30 Rock).
Meanwhile Michele will face off with Julia Louis-Dreyfus (The New Adventures of Old Christine), Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie), Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation), Tina Fey (30 Rock) and Toni Collette (The United States of Tara), who took home the statue last year (09).
Producers of cable network HBO's gritty World War II drama The Pacific will also hope for a triumphant night after receiving 24 nominations, including Outstanding Miniseries.
The 62nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be handed out on 29 August (10) at a ceremony in Los Angeles' Nokia Theatre and will be presented by comedian Jimmy Fallon.
The main list of nominees is as follows:
Outstanding Drama Series: Breaking Bad, Dexter, The Good Wife, Lost, Mad Men, True Blood.
Outstanding Comedy Series: Curb Your Enthusiasm, Glee, Modern Family, Nurse Jackie, The Office, 30 Rock.
Outstanding Lead Actor, Drama: Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Michael C. Hall (Dexter), Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights), Hugh Laurie (House), Matthew Fox (Lost), Jon Hamm (Mad Men).
Outstanding Lead Actress, Drama: Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer), Glenn Close (Damages), Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights), Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife), Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit), January Jones (Mad Men).
Outstanding Lead Actor, Comedy: Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory), Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Matthew Morrison (Glee), Tony Shalhoub (Monk), Steve Carell (The Office), Alec Baldwin (30 Rock).
Outstanding Lead Actress, Comedy: Lea Michele (Glee), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (The New Adventures of Old Christine), Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie), Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation), Tina Fey (30 Rock), Toni Collette (The United States of Tara).
Supporting Actor In A Drama Series: John Slattery (Mad Men), Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad), Martin Short (Damages), Terry O'Quinn (Lost), Andre Braugher (Men of a Certain Age), Michael Emerson (Lost).
Supporting Actress In A Drama Series: Rose Byrne (Damages), Christina Hendricks (Mad Men), Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife), Sharon Gless (Burn Notice), Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men), Christine Baranski (The Good Wife).
Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series: Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family), Chris Colfer (Glee), Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men), Ty Burrell (Modern Family), Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family), Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother).
Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series: Jane Lynch (Glee), Jane Krakowski (30 Rock), Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live), Sofia Vergara (Modern Family), Julie Bowen (Modern Family), Holland Taylor (Two and a Half Men).
Guest Actor In A Drama Series: Robert Morse (Mad Men), Alan Cumming (The Good Wife), John Lithgow (Dexter), Ted Danson (Damages), Gregory Itzin (24), Dylan Baker (The Good Wife), Beau Bridges (The Closer)
Guest Actress In A Drama Series: Mary Kay Place (Big Love), Lily Tomlin (Damages), Sissy Spacek (Big Love), Elizabeth Mitchell (Lost), Ann-Margret (Law & Order: SVU), Shirley Jones (The Cleaner).
Guest Actor In A Comedy Series: Mike O'Malley (Glee), Fred Willard (Modern Family), Eli Wallach (Nurse Jackie), Jon Hamm (30 Rock), Neil Patrick Harris (Glee), Will Arnett (30 Rock).
Guest Actress In A Comedy Series: Kristin Chenoweth (Glee), Tina Fey (Saturday Night Live), Jane Lynch (Two And A Half Men), Kathryn Joosten (Desperate Housewives), Christine Baranski (The Big Bang Theory), Betty White (Saturday Night Live), Elaine Stritch (30 Rock).
Reality Series: Antiques Roadshow, MythBusters, Undercover Boss, Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List, Dirty Jobs, Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution.