X-Men: Days of Future Past (Movie Review)

Personally, I just really wanna see more of this guy. What a boss.

Let’s face it folks: We live in an age of film where the only two superhero franchises that are really causing widespread debate are Marvel Studio’s Marvel Cinematic Universe, for all the right reasons, and Warner Bros. ‘ DC Cinematic Universe for, let’s say, less commendable reasons.

“Dawn of Justice”? Holy God.

Often lost in the discussion, however, is the X-Men film series from 20th Century Fox, especially after it faded from the public’s collective memory after the massive turd that was The Last Stand and the final nail in the coffin that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The series has been reestablishing itself, though, with a great origin story in X-Men: First Class and the likeable action movie that was The Wolverine. In 2013, a massive publicity campaign was launched for the next movie in the series, the $225 million dollar budgeted X-Men: Days of Future Past, which incorporates the original actors from the original trilogy and the newbies from First ClassHow did it work out? Well, at the very least, it ensured that Shawn Ashmore and Halle Berry remained employed for a bit.

 X-Men: Days of Future Past

Directed by: Bryan Singer

Produced by: Lauren Shuler Donner, Bryan Singer, Simon Kinberg, Hutch Parker

Screenplay by: Simon Kinberg

Story by: Simon Kinberg, Matthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman

Based on: Days of Future Past by Chris Claremont and Josh Byrne

Sequel to: X-Men: First Class, X-Men: The Last Stand, The Wolverine

Series: X-Men (Seventh installment)

Genre: Superhero

Starring: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas  Hoult, Peter Dinklage, Evan Peters, Ellen Page, Halle Berry, Shawn Ashmore, Omar Sy,  Daniel Cudmore, Fan Bingbing, Booboo Stewart, Adam Canto, Josh Helman, Mark Camacho,                                                                                  Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen

Plot: The year: 2023. In this dystopian future, the mutants have been all but wiped out by murderous robots known as Sentinels, who were created in 1973 by a military scientist named Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), whose Sentinel program was largely criticized by the American government until his assassination by rogue mutant insurgent Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), which convinced the people of the world to adopt it. After Mystique’s capture, her DNA was replicated for use by the Sentinels, who gained Mystique’s shape-shifting powers, making them into essentially the perfect mutant-hunting killers. After years of resistance , the only mutants left include Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellen), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), who has the power to send another person’s consciousness back in time to deliver warnings.

Realizing that it’s not long before the Sentinels find their hideout in China and extinguish the mutants once and for all, he decides to send Wolverine back to 1973 in order to stop the assassination of Bolivar Trask from ever happening. In order to do so, Wolverine must team up with the younger version of the deceased Beast (Nicholas Hoult), the younger version of Magneto (Michael Fassbender) who has been incarcerated in the Pentagon as the suspected murder of President Kennedy, and the younger version of Charles Xavier, who, now jaded and cynical,  has shut down his X-Men and regained the use of his legs through the use of a serum, at the expense of his telekinetic powers.

I’ve gone on and on about how recent superhero movies have seemed to commit the same error of making themselves much more convoluted then they really need to be. Both of the superhero movies released this year prior to Days of Future Past (Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Amazing Spider-Man 2) , while both at least enjoyable, suffered from this problem, although one of them definitely handled this problem a bit better than the other.

Can you guess which one?

And you’d assume that a movie like this one, involving time travel, of all things, would be no different. However you would be wrong. Stop being so presumptuous.

At no point did the film ever lose me through convoluted dialogue or sloppy editing. Nor was it full of elaborate, pretentious dialogue that requires constant hand-holding (Cough-cough. House of Cards). When you’re making a movie that features Wolverine beating the shit out of a bunch of dickheads, you don’t need to mix in a bunch of convoluted crap in to make it feel like the Dark Knight. This movie holds off on that, which is greatly appreciated. All you need to know about the rules of time travel in this universe is neatly explained right from the get-go.

The movie also maintains a crisp pace throughout its’ relatively short run-time of 130 minutes (Ten minutes shorter than the new Spider-man). I never got bored, or felt my mind wander as boring dialogue took over. The movie finds a nice balance between witty dialogue, dramatic exposition and kick-ass action scenes. Sure, it had the minimal amounts of superhero cheese, but hey, you’re not watching Dark Knight. A little bit of cheese every now and then isn’t going to kill you.

Well, not right away, anyways.

Speaking of the dialogue, the movie hits the perfect balance between dark and funny, with most of the humor being provided by Hugh Jackman (Once again excellent as everyone’s favourite Canadian rage-monster), who provides surprisingly well-done quips and banter. and Evan Peters, who easily steals the show as everyone’s favourite new  X-Man, Quicksilver. Peters, otherwise known for his roles in American Horror Story  and Kick-Ass (Before he wisely jumped the ship of the latter franchise) brings his knack for comic timing to the table, which works all too well with the character of Peter Maximoff, who ends up having what could possibly be one o the best scenes in the entire movie.

My one problem with the character of Quickilver is the way that he is left behind by Wolverine and his berry band o’ mutants once they’re done using him. Couldn’t they have used somebody who can move at light-speed? I feel like that would’ve been extremely useful.

As for the rest of the giant cast, there isn’t really a weak link among the bunch. Jackman and Peters are great before, as mentioned, and Booboo Stewart, Shawn Ashmore, Halle Berry, Ellen Page, Fan Bingbing and Omar Sy and company, while they may not have all that much lines, do what is required of them, which is, look cool in action scenes, and stand around stoically.  Patrick Stewart an Ian McKellen (Old Xavier and old Magneto) are great in their limited scenes in this movie, and Peter Dinklage does good work as Bolivr Trask even if I was a bit shaken by him using his natural American accent instead of the English one he uses in Game of Thrones.

The best performances in the movie, however, clearly belong to the characters returning from First Class. James McAvoy is downright fantastic as the cynical younger version of Charles Xavier, as is Michael Fassbender as the radical mutant idealist known as Magneto. The scenes between the two can be downright heartbreaking, as the two old friends continuously butt heads over their extreme ideological differences, but remain painfully aware of the bond they share as former brothers in arms.

Nicholas Hoult (Beast) is good as well, but his real-life girlfriend, Jennifer Lawrence is pretty damn great. Nobody’s gonna scream “Oscar” this time around, but she did a fine job considering that a) I didn’t find her too be that good in First Class and b) Her character, Mystique, is disappointingly one-note this time around, and basically serves as a plot device to move the story forward.

And hey, when it comes to one-note characters, you could do a lot worse than casting the most bankable movie star on planet Earth right now.

 

Overall: Side-stepping the many dangers that come with making a large-scale superhero movie like this, Days of Future Past is an action-packed, dark, and surprisingly funny film, and is comparable to The Avengers when it comes to sheer enjoyment level. It’s not exactly Dark Knight (The best superhero movie ever), and The Avengers is still superior in my mind, but hey, when Wolverine is tearing a bunch of punk-ass motherfuckers to shreds, who needs that “Why so serious” bullshit?

Rating: 9.5/10

And, for what it’s worth,  the Sentinels now top my list of movie robots to be fucking terrified of.

 

 

 

 

 

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Blue Jasmine (Movie Review)

All right Woody, that’s close enough.

So, as you all may know, I’m still working through my backlog of Oscar reviews that I didn’t get around to finishing before the actual ceremony and have been procrastinating about ever since. Well, the end is in sight. After finishing Blue Jasmine today, I will only need to watch Frozen, Her, Philomena and um, The Great Beauty.

Yeah, about that last one…

I actually did start watching The Great Beauty yesterday, and I was fully prepared to see it through till the end… Until I looked at my alarm clock and realized that it was three in the morning, and I still had an hour to go of watching some old Italian guy moping around Rome. I decided to remove The Great Beauty from my Oscar queue, because life is just too damn short. Oh boy, do I ever love shirking responsibility!

Anyways, the following movie is the latest one from Woody Allen,who enjoyed a good year in 2013, which entailed this movie becoming a critical and commercial success, being honoured with the prestigious Cecil B. DeMille award at the Golden Globes, and definitely not becoming embroiled in a sexual assault scandal with his daughter in law.

Which is odd, because it’s not like the guy’s a total weirdo or anything.

Anyways, this movie was nominated for three Academy Awards, netting Cate Blanchett the Oscar for best actress. However, some people with a little bit too much time on their hands were unhappy with it’s exclusion from the Best Picture nominees list in 2013. Were they right to think this? Well, I guess it mounts a better case for inclusion than Wolf of Wall Street , but then again, fucking August: Osage County mounted a better case than Wolf of Wall Street. And I wanted every character in that movie to die a slow, painful death!

  Blue Jasmine 

Directed by: Woody Allen

Produced by: Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum, Edward Walson

Written by: Woody Allen

Genre: Drama

Starring: Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins, Peter Sarsgaard,  Bobby Cannavale, Louis C.K., Andrew Dice Clay, Michael Stuhlbarg

Oscar nominations (Wins in Bold): Best Actress (Cate Blanchett), Best Supporting Actress (Sally Hawkins), Best Original Screenplay (Woody Allen)

Plot: Jasmine Francis (Cate Blanchett) has it all. Despite being a college dropout (Normally a risky venture for anybody not named Mark Zuckerberg), she has lucked out in marrying Hal Francis (Alec Baldwin), an extremely wealthy New York businessman and lives with him and her Harvard-bound step-son (Alden Ehrenreich) in a colossal house in Brooklyn. Everything seems to be going really well for her until Hal turns out to be a fraudster, is incarcerated and commits suicide.

Which seems kinda like  overkill when you realize that his prison cell probably looked like this.

Her life in tatters, Jasmine suffers a nervous breakdown and decides to move from New York to her sisters’ apartment in San Francisco. Speaking of her lower-class sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins) and her ex-husband Augie (Andrew Dice Clay) were two of the people who lost everything when Hal’s business ventures blew up in his face. Jasmine’s moving in has forced Ginger to postpone her marriage to Chili (Bobby Cannavale), a mildly dimwitted, if dedicated, working class auto mechanic, which leads to tension between Chili and Jasmine, as Jasmine tries to figure out what exactly she’s going to do with herself.

Any discussion about the good parts of this movie has to begin and end with the cast, especially the leading lady, Cate Blanchett, who is fantastic in the role of Jasmine Francis. In lesser hands, the character would’ve been a total disaster, but it is a credit to Blanchett and Woody Allen that they were able to develop a character that, while she may not amount to much more than a narcissistic bitch, really, is still very sympathetic and who can make the audience feel bad for her, even when the poor situations she finds herself in are more her doing than anybody else. I know that, before seeing this movie, I had rooted for Sandra Bullock to win Best Actress, but I see know that I know nothing about anything. Cate Blanchett is fucking amazing.

Oscar nominated supporting actress is also very good as Ginger, who is another interesting character, who is just trying to get on with her life and trying to raise her kids with as little drama as possible. I didn’t feel that her character was quite as deep as Jasmine, but I enjoyed following her arc, and she kept me guessing, so good for her. Bobby Cannavale is also great as Ginger’s fiancee, Chili. Chili could have easily been written as a complete and total douche, because, well, just look at the guy.

“How youze doin’?”

But, thankfully, Cannavale adds another layer to the character, making him, and I realize that I’m starting to sound like a broken record here, a flawed, yet sympathetic character that the audience can get behind. Sure, he’s loud, kinda boisterous and a bit of a dummy, but he also seems like a sweet guy who, deep down, really loves Ginger, even if he can be a bit of a loser.

Alec Baldwin knows how to play a slimy douche like he knows the back of his hand, and he delivers here. As for Clay, C.K., and Sarsgaar, they all do very well in their respective roles, but it’s very clear that the sole purpose for their characters is to move the plot along so that we can see more of Cate Blanchett being crazy. I suppose I can’t complain too mmuch about that, but I can’t help feeling like some serious talent was wasted here, especially in the case of Louis C.K., the funniest man alive, who damn near steals the show every time he appears.

I’m not very sure how I feel about Woody Allen personally, but speaking purely from a cinematic viewpoint, he did a damn fine job writing this script. The interactions feel real and are smartly written, and when he wants his comedic side to rear its neurotic head, he does so very well. The only problem with that is that it can occasionally feel like the movie doesn’t really know where it wants to be in terms of tone. At times, it can feel like a dark comedy that occasionally satirizes the absurdities of yuppie-dom, but other times, it can feel like it’s more of a character study, and I, personally, would have liked to see a little more of the former, but hey, I’m also the guy who gave Man of Steel a 7.5/10, so fuck me, right?

What nominations/wins did it deserve? 

  • Best Actress (Blanchett): Now that I’ve actually seen this movie, I can say for certain that Cate Blachett blew the other candidates out of the water.
  • Best Supporting Actress (Hawkins): Don’t get me wrong, Sally Hawkins was great, but she had no hope of beating out Lupita Nyong’o or Jennifer Lawrence.
  • Best Original Screenplay (Woody Allen): Yes to the nod, no to the win.

Overall: Sure, it’s got some flaws, but Blue Jasmine  is a smart, occasionally funny look at a life gone astray that demands your respect even if the writer/director doesn’t, really.

Overall Rating: 8.5/10

The Great Gatsby (Movie Review)

Well, that’s creepy.

Pop quiz: What do the following movies have in common?

  • The Iron Lady
  • The Wolfman (The 2010 remake)
  • Alice in Wonderland (The 2010 Johnny Depp version)
  • Elizabeth: The Golden Age
  • The Golden Compass

If you guessed either of the following, then congratulations, you win!

  1. They were critically disliked, posting a score of under 60 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
  2. They have all won at least one Academy Award.

Yes, it seems that during the vast majority of Oscar ceremonies (Or, at least, every Oscar ceremony that I researched until I got bored), there always seems to be one movie among the winners that should just count itself extremely lucky to be enshrined alongside true legends of cinema like No Country for Old MenArgo and Gravity. Very rarely, however, do these movies take home a major award though (Although Meryl Streep did win Best Actress for The Iron Lady). More often than not, they win things like Best Makeup or Best Visual Effects. You know, semi-important awards, but not important enough to prevent movies like Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa from being nominated.

A movie brought to you by the same  grown men who allowed their puppet-garbed penises to be bitten by snakes.

Which reminds me, I need to watch Bad Grandpa.

Anyway, in the last Academy Awards, the movie that joined this mediocre group of unlikely legends ended up winning two Oscars for Best Costume Design and Best Production Design, despite receiving paltry critical reviews. Did the critics blow it in their evaluation of this film, maligning it because of a brutish lack of understanding of Baz Luhrmann’s vision? I’ll let you decide, dear readers…

… But the answer is no.

Fun fact for all you Mumford & Sons fans out there: Carey Mulligan (The adorable blonde in the pink dress) is a former pen pal and current wife of M&S lead singer Marcus Mumford.

The Great Gatsby

Directed by: Baz Luhrmann

Produced by: Douglas Wick, Lucy Fisher, Catherine Martin, Catherine Knapman,  Baz Luhrmann, Anton Monsted

Written by: Craig Pearce, Baz Luhrmann

Based on: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Genre: Drama

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton,  Elizabeth Debicki, Isla Fisher, Jason Clarke, Amitabh Bachchan

Oscar nominations (Wins in bold): Best Production Design, Best Costume Design

Plot: The movie is told through flashback by Nick Carraway (Maguire), a Yale University alumni and World War I veteran who has admitted himself to rehab in order to deal with his alcoholism. At the suggestion of his doctor, he starts chronicling his experiences in New York, where he lived when he was pursuing a career as a stockbroker in 1922.

We are then taken back to the Roaring Twenties, when jazz was all the rage, Wall Street was booming, and toothbrush mustaches weren’t automatically associated with Adolf Hitler.

Like so.

Nick moves into the fictional Long Island village of West Egg, across the bay from his cousin, Daisy (Mulligan) and her disgustingly rich, cheating white supremacist husband, Tom (Edgerton), who Nick knows from their college days. While dining with his cousin and her husband, he also meets a friend of their’s, cynical young professional golfer Jordan Baker (Debicki), whom Daisy is trying to set up with Nick.

Nick also runs into some drama when he is invited to one of the many overly extravagant parties that are thrown by his next-door neighbour, a filthy rich business man by the name of Jay Gatsby, a man rumoured to be, among other things,an assasin, a bootleggr and a German spy. Nick befriends Gatsby, who, as it turns out, knows Nick from the war and takes an interest in him, as he is madly in love with Nick’s cousin Daisy, whom he courted before the war until they fell out of touch.

To date, I have seen two Baz Luhrmann movies, and I’ve gotta hand it to the man, he’s pretty damn unique with his filmmaking technique. There doesn’t seem to be another director alive who takes quite as much joy in trying to dazzle the audience not with special effects, but in using his eye for great cinematography, music and vibrant imagery to try to make his films look as much like an Italian-style opera as possible. There are times when it works out quite well, as in the case of critically acclaimed movies like Moulin Rouge! and Strictly Ballroom (Neither of which I have seen, admittedly) and other times when it feels… Out of place, to say the least, like in Romeo & Juliet, which I did see.

Unfortunately, The Great Gatsby falls into the latter category.

The Great Gatsby is one of the few classic novels that I’ve actually read  for pleasure, and, while I did enjoy it, not once did I think that I wanted to see a film adaptation that featured as much flashing, overwhelming lights, contemporary hip-hop and R&B soundtrack, and Tobey Maguire as this one did. The Great Gatsby was written by Fitzgerald as a period piece about the extravagance and excess of the Roaring Twenties as well as a character study about Jay Gatsby and his relationships with Nick, Daisy and the other people surrounding him. Sure, a good deal of the book was centered on his flashy parties, but the glitz and glamour wasn’t at the forefront of it all, which, unfortunately, isn’t how Baz likes to do things. Throughout the first and second acts of the movie, the audience is simply bombarded with colours, flashing lights, and misplaced music, all of which don’t really serve any purpose other than to exhaust the audience.

As for the soundtrack, I kind of hated it. For all the hoopla about Jay-Z being an executive producer and working on the soundtrack, I only heard one or two songs by the man formerly known as Shawn Carter, and I wasn’t all that impressed. This is by no means a diss, because I love me some good rap music, but wouldn’t it have been better to use  soundtrack of mostly jazz music or something? You know, because it’s set in the Twenties, which were jazz’s Golden Age?

Honestly, I do get what Baz is trying to do here: create a spectacle that can dazzle the audience with it’s beautiful cinematography. I’ll be the first to admit that that kind of thing has its time and place. Hell, there’s even a few moments in this movie where Baz’s vision pays off, especially some of the gorgeous shots of the bright lights and bustling streets of New York City. Unfortunately, it gets excessive and overwhelming, and misses much more than it hits. I feel like this movie would’ve been done better in the hands of somebody like Martin Scorsese. I would’ve much rather seen a movie centered around Gatsby (Instead of shoehorning him in at the 30-minute mark) and shot in the style of Scorsese’s masterful 2003 film, The Aviator.

Piss bottles optional.

Speaking of Scorsese, his frequent collaborator (And my favourite actor), Leonardo DiCaprio, is the star of this film and, fortunately, does a great job as the eccentric millionaire Jay Gatsby. My favourite scenes in the movie don’t involve the ridiculous party scenes, but rather the dialogue between Gatsby and Nick and/or Daisy. The characters in this movie aren’t very well defined, but Leo takes what he’s got and manipulates the audience into feeling for Jay Gatsby, even if the rest of the movie kinda blows.

As for the rest of the actors, well, I guess they get a A for effort. Tobey Maguire (My childhood hero) isn’t bad, per se, as Nick Carraway, but he’s pretty nondescript, as his character pretty much just serves as an object that Leo can spout expository dialogue to. Carey Mulligan is fine, albeit somewhat dissapointing as Daisy Buchanan, who is apparently the 20’s equivalent of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Joel Edgerton is also okay as Tom Buchanan, but he doesn’t do much more than some scenery chewing as the mustache twirling villain.

Holy shit! H even has a Hitler mustache (Kind of)!

Australian newcomer Elizabeth Debicki makes her debut in this movie as Jordan Baker, and she’s, well, okay I guess, but come to think of it, her character was kind of unnecessary.  I guess she did tell Nick about Tom’s affair, but we learned that later on anyways. Leo really does carry this cast, and this movie, in fact, from badness to mere mediocrity.

Kind of like his other big 2013 movie, except at least this one had the decency  to end at a reasonable fucking time.

What nominations/wins did it deserve?: 

  • Best Production design: Okay, I can see the nomination, but choosing this movie over 12 Years a Slave or Gravity is a crock.
  • Best Costume design: Again, I get the nomination, but I still think 12 Years a Slave deserved to win.

Conclusion: It may boast some intriguing sceness and yet another great performance from Leonardo DiCaprio, but overall, The Great Gatsby is mostly style, little actual substance.

Overall Rating: 6/10

 

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Movie Review)

Aww… I think somebody needs a hug!

It should come as no surprise to anybody who reads my blog semi-regularly (All three of you) that superheroes play an important part in my creative process. Hell, the second movie review I ever posted was a review of  Tim Burton’s Batman (Which is kinda dated, but still pretty good)and since then, I’ve reviewed Man of Steel (Which I regret giving a 7.5 to), the second Thor movie (Flawed and convoluted, but fun) and the new Captain America movie (Which is the best superhero movie since The Avengers). However, even with the release of those movies, and the upcoming releases later this year of the new X-Men movie and Guardians of the Galaxy, the superhero movie I’ve been most anxious to watch has been as you’ve probably guessed, because you’re obviously literate, The Amazing Spider-Man 2. 

Why, you ask? Because Spider-Man is my jam. I love Spider-Man.

When I was a little kid, my second-favourite movie after Lion King was Spider-Man 2. I watched the animated series religiously on DVD’s, and I still have my Spider-Man action figures (Read: Toys) and Spider-Man encyclopedia. When my friends graduated to Batman and Deadpool, I, well, I joined them, I guess, but I still see  Spider-Man as being my favourite superhero, and being my gateway into geekdom in general.

And into social awkwardness. Can’t forget that.

So, one week after its release, a friend and I muscled our way into a movie theater that was lousy with little  kids (A drawback to enjoying superhero movies) to watch the new Spidey flick. Admittedly, my expectations were considerably lower after glancing at the movie’s Rotten Tomatoes page, but I was at least expecting an improvement over the first Amazing Spider-Man (Which I liked, except for the Lizard), and most certainly an improvement over the steaming pile of shit that was Spider-Man 3.

It’s not exactly setting the bar high, but whatever.

  The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Directed by: Marc Webb

Produced by: Avi Arad, Matt Tolmach

Screenplay by: Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner, Alex Kurtzman

Story by: Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner, Alex Kurtzman, Jeff Vanderbilt

Based on: Spider-Man by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko

Genre: Superhero, Teen Drama

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Colm Feore, Paul Giamatti, Sally     Field, Campbell Scott

  Plot: Taking place after the events of The Amazing Spider-Man, high school graduate Peter Parker (Garfield) is continuing to fight crime as Spider-Man,   New York’s often under-appreciated super-powered protector.  While he protects the citizens of the Big Apple from schmucks like Russian mobster Aleksei Sytsevich (Giamatti), Peter also tries to maintain his relationship with the lovely valedictorian, Gwen Stacy (Stone), whose father (Denis Leary, who is seen and not heard, thankfully) was killed in a fight between Spider-Man and the Lizard in the first movie. Unfortunately, by dating Gwen, Peter is breaking the promise made to her father that he wouldn’t involve her in his life, as being Spider-Man endangers those he loves. Oops.

Although anybody who says they wouldn’t do the same thing in the same situation is a goddamn liar.

Not only that, but Peter also has to deal with Harry Osborn (DeHaan), a childhood friend of his who inherits the powerful pharmaceutical company OsCorp after his creepy, neglectful father Norman (Chris Cooper) is killed by the same terminal genetic disease that is starting to plague Harry. Further drama occurs when Spidey saves a poor, unfortunate soul by the name of Max Dillon (Foxx), an under-appreciated OsCorp engineer who becomes obsessed with Spider-Man, which is too bad for the web-head, as Dillon is involved in an accident that turns him into a being of electricity, which also apparently gives him schizophrenia.

Yeah, that hug I was offering earlier? Not gonna happen.

Most of the problems I have with this movie have to do with the way the plot is laid out. In fact, I’m noticing that ever since The Dark Knight changed up the game, some superhero movies that have no business being complicated are becoming convoluted and overblown for the sake of being convoluted and overblown. Dark Knight RisesMan of Steel, The Wolverine, Thor: The Dark World and, to a lesser extent, Iron Man 3, Amazing Spider-Man and Captain America: The Winter Soldier all suffered from a plot that wandered all over the damn place and lost me for a bit. Unfortunately, Amazing Spider-Man 2 is no exception.

SPOILER ALERT

 The story-line that centers around Peter trying to discover the reason why his parents (Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz) left him with his aunt May (Field) and late uncle Ben (Martin Sheen in the previous movie) when he was little, takes up a ton of the film’s run-time, and is also the least important part of the movie. We get all this emotional buildup towards some huge revelation about the secrets that Peter’s father was trying to hide from OsCorp only to learn that, what, the huge pharmaceutical company led by the creepy guy did some shady dealings, so Parker Sr. left the country with his wife? Gee, thanks for telling us something we didn’t already know from the opening scene of the movie.

SPOILER END

I guess the revelations about the Parker family didn’t ruin the movie, though. I’ll give the filmmakers the benefit of the doubt though, because I feel like they’re building up to something more in the upcoming movies. It’s hard not to feel cheated thoough, considering the large emphasis that the first movie placed on the truth about Peter’s father. Kind of makes you miss Sam Raimi’s trilogy, honestly.

…Oh…Never mind…

I also felt that the editing and pacing were kind of off balance, especially near the end. The ending goes on for about ten minutes longer than the point where it should’ve ended, which really threw me off. I guess the closing scene isn’t so bad on its’ own, and it did serve to deliver a message of hope or whatever, and as a set-up for the Sinister Six movie, but it could’ve been handled a bit better.

The big worry that most people had about this movie, however, was the fact that there are a whole bunch of villains in it, which many point to as the reason that Spider-Man 3 was such an atrocity. What I say to that is that while it’s done a lot better than that terrible, terrible movie, it still feels quite off. I dunno, I can’t really put my finger on it, but at least none of the characters felt shoehorned in like Venom was in SM3.

Though it ain’t no Dark Knight, that’s for sure.

Speaking of the villains, I’m pleased to announce that the two main villains in this movie, Electro and Harry Osborn, are both well portrayed by their respective actors (Veteran actor Jamie Foxx and up-and-comer Dane DeHaan, respectively). True, the characters themselves aren’t as smartly written as some of the other villains in the Spider-Man franchise (Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock, Willem DeFoe’s Green Goblin), but at least they’re better than Rhys Ifan’s Lizard (Who started off strong until he became a blob of CGI) and, again, miles better than any of the storied villains unfortunate enough to appear in Spider-Man 3.

Speaking of the actors, I already mentioned Foxx, who did a great job, and DeHaan, who appears to be reaching at times. Paul Giamatti is also in this movie, but he is barely used and mostly wasted as the Rhino. Sally Field is given a little bit more to do this time around as aunt May, which I approve of, and Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy continues to blow Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane out of the water. She and Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker save many of the romantic scenes (Of which there are about two to many), which tend to veer into eye-rollingly cheesy territory and which would be total disasters in the hands of actors with lesser chemistry then the real life couple of Garfield and Stone.

As for the whole “Andrew Garfield vs. Tobey Maguire” debate, I don’t really give a shit. Both are excellent Spider-Men, even if they have different takes on the character.

When it comes solely to the visual effects, this is the best Spidey movie to date. Instead of cluttering the movie and creating what feels like an artificial environment, the CGI really enhances the action scenes, and even more so with Hans Zimmer’s score playing in the background. There was some back-and-forth going on when the trailer was released about whether it looked too much like a Saturday morning cartoon, FX-wise, but Spider-Man stories have never been, nor should they ever look dark and moody like a neo-noir movie or whatever, so I’m really not bothered by it. I know these reboots are supposed to be a “darker and grittier” retelling of the Spider-Man story, but let’s face it, some things really don’t need to be Batman to be good.

Take note, Zach Snyder.

Conclusion: It’s disappointingly flawed and uneven, it wastes its villains, it’s too cheesy and it spends a bit too much time setting up the upcoming movies in the franchise, but The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is still a really damn enjoyable movie, thanks mainly to the fine performances and the great visual effects. They don’t make up for the convoluted plot and the other aforementioned drawbacks, but it’s still a really fun ride that is worth at least a rental.

Rating: 7/10

(Also, try to avoid seeing it when little kids are in the theatre. They’re just the worst in action movies.)

 

 

The New Star Wars Cast: Part 2 of 5: The Unknowns

The original Star Wars cast was comprised mostly of unknown actors. That is, actors that, while they may have had bit parts in other films or TV shows, were far from recognizable and would’ve faded away into obscurity if they hadn’t got their big break.

Sometimes, though, even that doesn’t help.

Mark Hamill was just another aspiring actor making his way in Hollywood with small gigs here and there when his friend, fellow actor Robert Englund, suggested that he try out for a part in Star Wars. Hamill, who was already fighting for a role in Apocalypse Now, ended up heeding his terrifying friend’s advice and nailed the audition, landing him the role of the most recognizable hero in movie history. Just one of the many things we have Freddy Krueger to thank for.

I’ve found that Luke Skywalker kind of makes up for the incessant night terrors.

Harrison Ford was getting semi-steady work in TV movies, but he was mostly working as a carpenter and was initially hired by George Lucas to read lines for the actors who were actually auditioning for parts. Lucas was so impressed by his reading of the lines that he offered him, the part of Han Solo. Carrie Fisher’s grip on “unknown” status is a little bit more tenuous, as she was born into a celebrity family, but her only role before Star Wars was a small part in a romantic comedy that no one remembers, so I’ll give it to her.

I was pleased to see that the new movies are going by more or less the same route as the original trilogy. The actors chosen to play (What I assume to be) the roles of leading actor, leading lady and lead villain all have ages in the 20-30 year range who haven’t had a very large body of work. Let’s take a look at them, shall we?

(All biographical and filmographical  info can be found on their respective Wikipedia pages.)

John Boyega

Dude looks like a young Denzel Washington. But also terrifying.

Born: 17 March 1992 in Peckham, London, England

Nationality: English (Nigerian parents)

Notable role: Moses in Attack the Block.

After appearing in several plays, John Boyega first broke out in the British 2011 sci-fi comedy Attack the Block, in which he plays a street tough named Moses who must lead his gang of young, drug-dealing hoodlums in the fight against an invasive species of aliens that take over his neighborhood in Brixton (Which is to London what Harlem is to New York City, from what I’ve heard from British movies and Clash songs.

While the movie was pretty great as a whole, I found that Boyega’s performance was one of, if not the best part of the movie. Indeed, he was widely acclaimed for the film, which netted him a Black Reel Award for Best Actor (The Black Reel Awards are awards dedicated to celebrating the best black filmmakers. Kind of like the BET Awards, except not a total joke). He kind of struck the balance between being a total hardass and thug…

Can I still say “thug”? I meant “disenfranchised urban youth”.

… who can slice up a motherfucker, and being a sympathetic character. Which makes me excited about his role in the upcoming Star Wars movie, in which I’m guessing he’s going to be the lead actor. See, I really don’t want to see a movie centered around the Skywalkers and Han Solo, or their stupid children. I want to see a story about an unlikely, relatable hero saving the day, and John Boyega seems like the type of actor who could deliver in that regard. He has real potential to make a very good first impression, as he’s a better actor than Mark Hamill was in the first Star Wars movie (Call it Episode IV, I dare you) and  miles better than whoever the fuck the protagonist was supposed to be in The Phantom Menace.

Catch him next in: Half of a Yellow Sun 

Daisy Ridley

Purrty.

Born: 1992

Nationality: English

Notable role: ….

Man, does anybody know anything about Daisy Ridley? She is pretty much the textbook definition of an unknown actress. The most I know is that she’s had a few minuscule roles in BBC shows and a small upcoming role in a British comedy film named The Inbetweeners 2. Speaking of which, has anyone actually watched the original British Inbetweeners show? I’ve heard it’s good.

Anyways, I’m guessing that Ridley is going to have the leading female role in the movie, although they’re not done casting female roles, apparently. I guess it speaks volumes that she apparently beat out 12 Years a Slave star and Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, so I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt.

Also, she’s insanely hot. Just saying.

Catch her next in: The Inbetweeners 2

Adam Driver

What are you doing, buddy?

Born: November 19, 1983 in San Diego, California

Nationality: American

Notable role: Adam Sackler in Girls

Now that I think about it, Adam Driver might not be able to be considered an unknown anymore, since he’s won a damn Emmy for his supporting role in the HBO comedy Girls, and he’s had some supporting roles in movies. Matbe I should have gone  with Domhnall Gleeson- ah, screw it.

Driver is widely rumoured to be playing the villain in the new Star Wars and, well, offhand, I can’t think of a reason why he shouldn’t play the part. I’d need to check out Girls though (The TV show, not.. Okay, well that too, I guess). Maybe after I finish this new Game of Thrones season.

Oh fuck! I’ve still gotta finish that Game of Thrones series! Shit!

Catch him next in: Girlsor the upcoming 2015 sci-fi movie, Midnight Special.

To be continued…

The New Star Wars Cast: Part 1 of 5: The Introduction to this Thing I’m Doing

“Black man, white woman, white man! Alright, the diversity quota’s been filled, let’s shoot this son of a bitch.” -J.J. Abrams

Well, I can’t very well pretend this shit didn’t happen, can I?

First, a little backstory: Shortly after filming the wildly successful 60’s period piece/coming of age movie,  1973’s American Grafitti, young writer and director George Lucas started filming his next project, an epic science fiction adventure movie known only as Star Wars, starring up-and-comers Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Lucas’s carpenter, Harrison Ford.

Filming the movie was a total  goddamn mess. The actors, especially Ford and veteran supporting actor Alec Guinness, thought the film was a total joke,with Carrie Fisher being the only one with any faith in it.  The whole cast didn’t really get along, and George Lucas was extremely frustrated, sinking into depression, with the cast teasing him about it and his relatively limited directing ability. Anthony Daniels, who played a robot, suffered a nasty leg injury when he wore the suit for the first time, and even Mother Nature didn’t cooperate, blessing the set with a heavy rainstorm… In Tunisia.

Fucking TUNISIA.

But the movie, which went $3 million over budget and was thought by the actors and studio executives to be a surefire bomb, was released on May 25, 1977 and instantly became not only the third highest-grossing movie of all time, but also a worldwide pop culture phenomenon. As it turned out, the constant on-set adversity helped Lucas and his peons churn out a damn near perfect adventure movie. The success of the film prompted two sequels (Both written, but not directed by Lucas), 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back (Which is wildly considered to be one of the greatest movie of all time along with it’s predecessor) and 1983’s Return of the Jedi (Which could’ve done without the Ewoks, but is still pretty great). which ended up inspiring potential directors, actors and writers the world over. Even today the impact of the trilogy can still be felt. And the movies still hold up as well. I was born thirteen years after Jedi came out, and all three of these movies are among my top 20 favourites, with Star Wars and Empire easily ranking in the top 5.

However. things started to fall apart after that.

After finishing off the wonderful Indiana Jones franchise, Lucas started penning the infamous script to what was to be the first in a prequel trilogy to the story of Star Wars. Titled The Phantom Menace, Lucas, forsaking his original strategy of casting whichever actor, unknown or famous, that gave the best performance,  immediately started casting big-name actors that would guarantee big box office draws. Liam Neeson! Samuel L. Jackson! Ewan MacGregor!

This fucking kid!

Long story short, apart from a few visual effect, Natalie Portman’s glorious midriff and Mr. Plinkett’s best reviews,  the prequels are more or less universally regarded as some of the biggest missed opportunities in cinematic history. Sure, they made George Lucas a shitload of money, but millions of fans around the world felt betrayed that such a beloved series could be do mercilessly tarnished.

And then, Disney happened.

In 2012, Disney bought Lucasfilm, which meant two things: Kingdom Heart’s roster is going to be increased tenfold and b) another Star Wars trilogy was going to be made, stat.

After a director was announced (Disney wisely went with the popular choice of “Not George Lucas”) we didn’t hear anything about the casting except that Hamill, Fisher, Ford, Daniels, Peter Mayhew and Kenny Baker were set to reprise their roles from the original movies. Then, on April 29th, the cast was revealed. And boy, is it ever a doozy.

Now, if you want a list of the cast, I’m sure you can find one at a Reputable News Source. However, over the next week or so, I’m going to take time out of my busy schedule of  listening to Blink-182 and weeping to offer a profile on each of the actors and my opinions on their casting. Since I’m not doing a fucking 5000 review post. I split the actors into four categories:

  1. The Unknowns
  2. The Somewhat/Very Established Newcomers
  3. The Original Sidekicks 
  4. The OG3 

So stay tuned, dear readers. I’m putting on my Nerd hat and doing a thorough analysis of each of these thespians.

Or typing a few paragraphs until I see a shiny object. Whichever.