Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

NO. SPOILERS.

THE-AMAZING-SPIDER-MAN-2

To say I’ve been excited about The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (TASM2) for a little while now would be an understatement.

Back in July 2012, I signed off my review for the first film saying -

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“Here’s hoping future installments deliver on the early promise [that at least some of] the cast have shown.”
-

Well, did it?

Max Dillon

No. It didn’t.

And I’ll get to why shortly. But first, the good stuff.

The Cast

TASM2′s main players are perfect (it’s the secondary characters that make you cringe*). Andrew Garfield is Peter Parker just as much as he is Spider-Man. The latter of the two, especially in the earlier action scenes, never better in fact. Funny, fast-talking, and clearly very much at ease with who he is, Spider-Man of 2014 is pretty darn spot on.

On a related note, much has been said about the outstanding chemistry between Garfield and his leading lady, Emma Stone. This, again, is a definite highlight and the screen sparkles and shines whenever the two of them are together throughout. In fact, some of the film’s best laugh out loud moments come from their quick-fire back-and-forths; their relationship has never been more believable.

Jamie Foxx, as new villain Max Dillon – aka Electro – is actually really good too. His journey from ignored nobody through to genuinely messed-up-in-the-head super-villain is superb and in all honesty, probably deserved more screen time than he actually got (but we’ll come back to that).

Dane Dehaan is a great Harry Osborn but again, not for very long. I haven’t seen Dehaan in anything since the seminal super-powers flick, Chronicle, so it’s good to see him bringing the gravitas and pain to the always conflicted character that is the heir to Oscorp.

Finally, on the casting front, it must be said that Sally Field is without doubt one of the best things in the entire film. Her screentime can only add up to something around 15mins in total, but the emotional punch her Aunt May delivers in one particular scene (as well as others) makes her stand head and shoulders above all else and the film is much better for it.

Thank you, Sally Field.

Sally Field Aunt May

All those great actors, all those great performances – what could possible go wrong?

The Script

It’s terrible. I mean, really really terrible. There were rumours of multiple rewrites and myriad changes constantly throughout the making of this film (an entire character, in the shape of Shailene Woodley’s Mary-Jane Watson was written, shot, and then later edited out of the final cut) and the script has clearly suffered for it. Admittedly Jamie Foxx is a great actor, but he’s worthy of an Oscar nod for pulling off this line with a straight face -

“Soon, everyone in the city will know how it feels to live in a world without power, without mercy, without Spider-Man”

If TASM2 had an honest movie poster it would read:

‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Great actors do their best with terrible lines.’


The Plot

To say the plot [and pacing for that matter] of TASM2 is ‘convoluted and messy’ would be an understatement. In the original Spider-Man trilogy, it is universally accepted that Spider-Man 3 is the worst of the three. With the blame, amongst other things, being placed firmly on there being too many villains and not enough time. Sadly, you can say the exact same thing about TASM2.

The Goblin’s arrival seems unnecessary and rushed, especially as Dehaan was doing such a great job as Osborn (and moreso when you remember it took James Franco’s Harry Osborn a full two-and-a-half-films before he finally turned), and the appearance of the mechanised Rhino later on in the film is almost laughable in its whole only-reason-to-exist-is-so-that-we-can-sell-more-toys cheek.

It’s a joke.

Spider-Man 2 poster

Thing is, it’s not only that TASM2 tries to cram in as many references as humanly possible, but its also Sony’s whole ‘we’re building a world/platform for sequels’ thing.

The problem here is twofold. First, the story loses focus and feels bloated. Second, and this is the major deal-breaker, as a result of this ‘sequel-itis’ Spider-Man never really goes through any real sense of surprise or peril.

Don’t get me wrong, while more bad things happen in this film than the first one, there isn’t any real point throughout that you think ‘Oh no! How will Spider-Man get out of it this time?’

I get it. He’s a super-hero. But still. Even his lowest ever low point doesn’t actually feel that low, and that’s a really bad thing.

In Closing

As I’ve already said, TASM2′s casting is [almost] perfect and the film gets away with a lot because of it. However, more time should’ve been spent on the story at hand, not on the wider sequel-set-ups and, as a result, the end result lacks any real emotional impact.

What this franchise needs is a change of director.

Yes, my main points of contention have been about story, pace and scripting, however, perhaps a new/decent director wouldn’t let those things through the net. Marc Webb has already been signed up for TASM3, and I really don’t hold out much hope for it to be much better than this.

Which is a real shame, because he makes a darn good trailer.

Two supporting characters in particular really SUCKED for me.

First: Paul Giamatti. It’s clear PG is meant for bigger things to come in [the already planned/announced] TASM3 however, as Russian gangster Aleksei Sytsevich – aka The Rhino, I can’t work out if he’s woefully miscast or utterly wasted. Whichever one it is, he brings the film down.

Second, Marton Csokas turns up in a random cameo as Ravenscroft Institute’s Dr Ashley Kafka and, when that happens; the whole film takes a swerve into Batman Forever territory. Every time I saw him, it was as though the director had just stepped out for lunch or something. I wanted to throw popcorn at the screen it was that bad.

For the uber-geeks out there, wondering if there’s any kind of post-credits sting similar to the first one (with Dr Connors getting a visit from a mysterious inquisitor) you’ll be sadly disappointed. That being said, many publications are reporting that there’s an X-Men: Days of Future Past scene midway through TASM2’s credits.

But this is not the case at the IMAX.

But it is happening at other, regular cinemas. FYI and all that.
——

Final words -

DO see this film if you’re a comic book / Spider-Man geek and you want to make your mind up about it yourself.

DO NOT see this film if you thought the first TASM was a bit lacklustre. TASM2 will only let you down further.

 

Whatley out.

 

 

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Five things on Friday #68

Things of note for the week ending April 18th, 2014.

crisis

1. BFI Player
Not sure if this is available outside of the UK but the British Film Institute launched their own web-based content player recently. If you like bloody good film, it’s not a bad place to rent stuff from (and there’s 15% off if you’re a member, obvs).

BFI Player

2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
This has got car crash written all over it BUT wild horses won’t keep me from seeing it at the cinema.

Yes, Michael Bay is rebooting the Turtles.
No, it doesn’t seem like they’ll be keeping to their origin stories.
Yes, the trailer looks terrible / typically Michael Bay.
No, there’s no sign of Krang.
Yes, Megan Fox is playing April O’Neil.
No, the Turtles aren’t as small as they’re supposed to be.
Yes, Splinter will be in it.

Oh, and I really like the posters  -

TMNT_UK_Teaser_Donatello

3. Coconut Crabs (and Amelia Earheart)
Potentially a bit of nightmare fuel, so no image – you can click through yourself.

4. One Positive Thing. Everyday.

Sing In The Shower

I like these set of illustrations. A lot. You might too.

Good job they’re available to buy as well, eh?

5. Computerising the Human Experience
The image at the top of this post was created by Victoria Siemer.

Her work is amazing, if a little heart-breaking.

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Full set available via Beautiful Decay.

Have a great weekend.

 

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Five things on Friday #67

Things of note for the week ending April 11th, 2014.

egg

1. Useful [and timely] Social Media Tips
The Easter break is coming up and, one week out, if you’ve not made the right prep for your social channels, now might be a good time to sort that out. This post, from the endlessly-knowledgeable Stephen Waddington, is a good place to start (and bookmark for future use).

2. A 9hr trip into SNES history
Did you ever own a Super Nintendo? Then you need to [at least attempt to] watch this nine hour epic, showcasing ALL OF THE START SCREENS FROM EVERY SNES GAME EVER.

ZOMG.

Yes, they’re in alphabetical order. My personal favourite, Streetfighter II is at 06:45:50 and if, like me, nearly all your old games started with ‘SUPER’ (Super Bomberman, Super Mario World, Super Street Fighter II etc) well they all start at 06:52:45 – enjoy!

3. Sony ad of colour
I’m in the final throes of completely Sony-fying my life (a new TV, amp, and console, with the matching phone arriving next week), so it seems only fitting that we celebrate this gorgeous ad -

4. RANKING EVERY WWF/WWE WRESTLEMANIA MATCH EVER
You need a day to read this.

EDIT: I wrote this list of five things at the start of the week. Between then and now however, it was announced that just days after being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, The Ultimate Warrior had sadly passed away.

In the list linked above, the first match I ever saw comes in at No. 33. That was Hulk Hogan vs The Ultimate Warrior at Wrestlemania 6 (World Championship vs Intercontinental Championship), it was an amazing match and the image of Warrior Gorilla Pressing Hulkster up above his head became seared on my mind forever.

RIP Warrior.

Your fans thought you were the best thing in the world.

5. Good list of interesting upcoming films
I like films. If you read my blog, there’s a good chance you do too. iO9 has put together a list of upcoming genre movies that aren’t sequels, remakes, or reboots. Stuff to get excited about.

Go read it.

 

 

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Five things on Friday #66

Things of note for the week ending April 4th, 2014

Moped . Christian Ward

1. Christian Ward
Good art, yo.

2. Gravity Deleted Scene
This is great (watch ’til the end)

3. Die Hard
I was watched Channel 5 last Sunday, and [the original] Die Hard was voted ‘The Best Action Film Ever Made’. I find it hard to disagree (it really is fantastic). To celebrate, here’s a picture of Bruce Willis.

Die Hard

4. Captain America: Old Shool
Last weekend I saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier (and wrote you a spoiler-free review too), I spotted this awesome old school poster for it not shortly after and just had to share it. It’s super cool.

cap-2-old-skool

Side note: I also caught The Grand Budapest Hotel and Under the Skin. You should see all three.

5. The Photography of Stanley Kubrick
Before Stanley Kubrick began to make his name in film, he tinkered around in the related medium of photography.

During the 1940s, Kubrick was employed as a photographer at Look Magazine in New York. It was during this time that he started studying film at the Museum of Modern Art. Fortunately for us, he also took a lot of photos and 1940s New York, through Kubrick’s eye, is fantastic.

kubrick bw

The whole set is amazing.

Go check it out.

________

Bonus items this week -

  • 80s New York is gritty, strange, and moving.
  • This guy is too cool for school.
  • What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen this week? Do me a favour and tell me in the comments. Go on.

Until next time, stay frosty…

spidey

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Review: Under the Skin

Lost for words.

Scarjo

Dark.

Twisted.

Unnerving.

Disturbing.

I left the cinema feeling sick to the pit of my stomach.

Under the Skin is magnificent.

scarjo2

There is much to say, but also too much.

Many other reviews give you tip offs, things like which characters are driven by what motivations, or where certain characters have come from and where they’re headed. I can’t do that. I can’t. I want you to see this knowing as little as possible.

In fact, I can’t recommend enough that you go into this completely cold (even if you can’t, even if you’ve seen a review that says ‘This is terrible!’ or if you’ve heard from someone that it’s completely rubbish. Ignore that person. Do not listen to their advice).

Just make sure you do go into it.

Go into it at the cinema.

Go into it alone.

Or with friends.

Just go into it.

And don’t look away.

Don’t look back.

Follow her in.

And let her under your skin.

 

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Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Just beautiful.

The grand budapest hotel wallpaper

I think I am growing tired of the advice of ‘if you like things by X, then you’ll like the new thing from X’, never more do I see this offered when it comes to the films of Wes Anderson.

Some people enjoy his films, some people simply cannot stand them. But look, this isn’t going to be one of those reviews because, to put it simply, if you’re a Wes Anderson fan, you don’t need me to tell you to see this already.

For what it’s worth, I like most of his films. My favourite, to date, is The Royal Tenenbaums, however The Grand Budapest Hotel (TGBH) comes extremely close to knocking it from its perch and is quite easily , Anderson’s most accomplished film to date.

It is immediately Anderson, yet understated. It is symmetrical, yet imperfect. Anderson’s usual tricks and flares shine here, in this long-forgotten world and, most importantly, do not get in the way of  the story (which he has been guilty of in the past).

And that story, it is both at once absurd and sublime.

Gustave M

Ralph Fiennes is magnificent, as Gustave M, the prolific fancier of women, old and older. An appreciation of good manners, charm, and delightfully chosen swearing, he holds the film together wonderfully.

It would be prudent at this point to dive into a list of notable actors/characters from the film and reel off why it is they’re so good (or so bad) but there are two reasons why this will not be happening. First off, the cast for TGBH is incredible (and to list them all would take far too long).

Grand Budapest Hotel Cast

Second, I keep coming back to the story. It is not that it has texture, or that it shows such depth, nor even is it the wonderful characters that show up en route, it is simply in the telling that makes it such a fantastical journey. And the story has stayed with me.

This is the most heartfelt Anderson film since Tenenbaums, and it is a delight. Crafted with inception levels of story telling, ghastly creatures worthy of their own horror film, and locations suited to something from from a comic book, TGBH is superb.

I recommend it, heartily. I laughed, a lot. And, between you and me, I very nearly cried.

In short:

If you like ice cream, you should eat ice cream. If you like Wes Anderson, you should go see TGBH. If you like amusing and oddly romantic stories, soaked in whimsy and exquisitely told, then you should book your ticket now.

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Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Probably one of the best Marvel films ever made.

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Let’s get one thing absolutely clear: The Winter Soldier is a great film.

Yes, it’s Captain America film in title, but it’s more of a mini Avengers to be honest. Avengers 1.5, if you will. The most Avengers-like film you’ll see between 2012′s Avengers Assemble and next year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. With, Nick Fury, Black Widow, Maria Hill, Falcon (team newbie), and of course, the Cap himself, Steve Rogers, they give you quite a line up. This is very much an ensemble piece.

A lot of what I had read leading up to seeing TWS had many saying that what happens in this particular Marvel adventure has (or will have) a lasting effect on the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and they’re not wrong. Big changes are afoot. And SHIELD is at the heart of it all.

Cap 2

First thing you notice about TWS however, is that Captain America is a more of a badass than ever before. The opening sequence, a rescue mission aboard a pirated ship somewhere in the Indian Ocean, felt like something straight out of a James Bond pre credits mission (and is something I’d like to see more of in the future).

You know that Cap has been on these kinds of missions before and, when he hits the ground running, you know that this is not his first rodeo. And of course, Chris Evans owns this role now and even though he’ll be hanging up the shield (no pun intended) by the end of Phase 3, in this, his third outing in the blue uniform, has got Rogers down. Seriously, he’s perfect.

Which is handy really, because the rest of the cast are pretty darn fantastic too, Scarlett Johansson leaves you wanting a Black Widow film more than an ever before (or maybe even a two-hander with Hawkeye), Samuel L Jackson is Nick Fury, and Antony Mackie, joining the team as Falcon, shows what it really means to be a valuable sidekick.

Captain-America-2-Falcon-Movie-Costume-Wings

Hurrah for team players.

If I could make one criticism it would be to have more of the heavily-billed baddie himself, the Winter Soldier. That said, I don’t want to go into it, or him, too much in fear of giving away any spoilers (some people know about him and who he is, some people don’t – so I’ll leave it there).

Screen Shot 2014-03-30 at 22.53.12

The thing that makes Cap 2 really sing though is that, while there obviously huge links to the rest of the MCU throughout, it works really well as a standalone film. It’s confident, smart, and grounded in a realism that has seemed missing from both Iron Man 3 and Thor 2. Yes, I know we’re dealing with superheroes here, but see the film and you’ll get my point.

That said, there’s no harm in, ahem, re-capping with The First Avenger and The Avengers before you go see it though; you’ll be rewarded for it. On a related note, there are a gazillion bunch of hidden nods in the film (and I’m half tempted to do another post later to cover them all off, but we’ll see on that one), so marvel fans will be pleased too.

Like I said at the start, The Winter Soldier really is a great film. I didn’t bother seeing it in 3D as I didn’t think it’d be worth it – I stand by that. However I do think it’s worth seeing in the cinema.

In closing, The last time we (officially) saw Cap he was a bit part player in Avengers Assemble, this time round he gets to show us what he’s really made of.

It’s simple -

  • Cap 1: intro story.
  • Avengers: bit part player.
  • Cap 2: BAMF.

And so you know, there are TWO post credits sequences. The first is a teaser for Avengers: Age of Ultron. And the second, I’d guess is a nod of things to come in the already announced Captain America 3.

Go see it.

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Five things on Friday #65

Things of note for the week ending March 28th, 2014.

Kuratas

1. Kuratas is coming to get you
This is nuts.

Above photo via The Verge.

2. 8 bit Fight Club
Remarkably well done.

3. The Seven Best Games for Non-Gamers
I’m a gamer. I make no secret of that. From original Super Mario Bros on my NES, to games on my phone to my PlayStation 4, I’ve been a gamer for as long as I can remember. But not everyone else has. So, in fear of being told they’re ‘like a dog at the controls of a helicopter‘ what can those people play? Well, fortunately enough, Kotaku has put such a list together. Worth reading.

4. The second best Lorde cover EVER  [CLOWN KLAXON]
Last month I showed off a video of Puddles the Clown covering the Lorde hit ‘Royals’. And it was spectacular. Well, he’s back. This time covering ‘Team’ and it too is bloody fantastic.

5. The Instagram Bazaar
While we’re on a ‘Five things rewind!’ trip, back in Five things #56, I mentioned a nifty little trend in Middle Eastern e-commerce in the shape of using Instagram to sell sheep. Well, it would seem that this trend has gone global. Not the sheep-selling aspect, but the small-business-using-Instagram-as-a-shop-window element is taking off stateside, as this article from the New York Times reports -

Beverly Hames, owner of the shop [Fox & Fawn], said she began posting items on Instagram as an experiment a year and a half ago. Now, sales deriving from those postings make up 20 to 40 percent of the store’s daily revenue, she said, and they come from all over the country and occasionally from overseas.

Markets in everything indeed. When all the talk is about how the lack of paid budget will slowly push the little guy out, there are small businesses all across the world cutting corners and capitalising on any and every opportunity possible.

Fair play to them.

 

 

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