Critical Beat: The Amazing Spider-Man

July 13, 2012 Leave a comment

Before I started I wanted to lay out the foundation of what I think about as I walk away from the theater.  The first question I ask myself (and therefore the first question I will answer here) is whether or not I was entertained.  Simple, right?  That’s the primary reason one goes to the movies.  After that I ask myself what I liked, what I didn’t like, and what I thought the purpose of this movie even was (beyond making money).  Anytime I review anything from here on out, it’s going to have that basic structure.  Also, I hate spoilers and will try my best to avoid them.  Unless it’s something obvious, like what happens to Uncle Ben in Spider-Man.

With that being said, here’s my review of The Amazing Spider-Man.


Was I entertained:  Absolutely

What I liked:

This movie was really about Peter Parker and his evolution into a hero.  This goes way beyond him being bitten by a spider and gaining super powers.  It even goes beyond the death of Uncle Ben (which still gets me every time).  It takes nearly the entire first half of the movie for Peter to accept what it means to be a hero and actually become Spider-Man.  It explores his motivations and how the father figures in his life impact the choices he makes as a hero.  By placing Captain Stacy in the story as a figure for Peter to learn from, it really cemented the idea of heroism for Peter.  In fact, Denis Leary as Captain Stacy was one of the high points of the movie.  Here we have a man who has dedicated his life to helping others and provided a living role model for Peter.

The Peter/Gwen relationship in the movie was fantastic.  Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone were superb on screen.  There is particular scene with the two of them that is so awkward that it works.  This is why Marc Webb was a great choice as director, he was able to humanize the relationships in the movie.  Specifically, he fleshed out the Peter/Gwen story and made it feel like a real love story between awkward teens. One of my gripes about Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies was that it was MJ and not Gwen Stacy who was Peter’s first love.  Gwen Stacy has a huge impact on the formative years of Spider-Man, and I was glad to see her used in such a way in this movie.  Also, the character is not just there to scream and be saved by Spider-Man (sorry Kirsten).

The Lizard.  I am very glad that he was the primary villain in this movie.  Not only is he a physical match for Spider-Man (which made for some great fight scenes), but Peter relates to Dr. Connors because he was involved in the process that made him into a monster.  This connection between Peter and Dr. Connors added depth to their struggle.  Peter has to stop him not just because he can, but because he has a responsibility to do so.

The final thing that I liked, and once you see the movie you’l better understand this, but there is an overarching presence to the movie.  Without spoiling it too much, it’s like the Emperor being mentioned in Star War for the first time (and all the smart people just figured it out).
What I didn’t like:

You know that awkward Peter/Gwen scene I mentioned earlier that was so awkward it worked.  It only works once.  The second time they try to keep the awkward going just feels forced.  Minor complaint, I know, but it’s still there.

There is an inconsistency throughout the movie with Peter spider-sense.  It was portrayed well, but it wasn’t always there.  And the time(s) it wasn’t there it was specifically missing to make things more difficult for Peter.  One such instance was the beginning to a scene that I didn’t really feel belonged in the movie.  At one point Spider-Man receives some help from a few civilians, and it just felt forced and unnecessary.  Sam Raimi did the same thing in his first Spider-Man.  Why?  Our hero had enough mentors and allies throughout the movie, he didn’t need the “People of New York” as well.

My final gripe is that I wish there had been more scenes with Peter and Dr. Connors.  I mentioned that there relationship was one of the better things about the movie, but it did leave me wanting more.  Really, I wanted one scene where they talk about how having foreign DNA would affect a person.  Are they a man, or a monster?  We know the answer to this in the case of the Lizard, but what about Spider-Man.  Peter sees Dr. Connors become this monster, but he never asks the question of himself.  And it’s something that really should be explored since the processes that made Dr. Connors the Lizards are directly to those that made Peter into Spider-Man.

What was the purpose of this movie:

I really believe the filmmakers were trying to explore what makes a hero a hero.  They wanted to explore what a person who had no power would do once given that power, and then demonstrate the consequences of those actions.  By not jumping straight to Peter being a hero, they were better able to ground him as a character.  After all, he is just a teenager.  To think he would go straight to being a hero and not want revenger after his uncle’s death is naive, and he needed to be called out on that.  In doing so I think the filmmaker’s hit the points that make Spider-Man real and relatable to all generations.

Overall this was a good movie and I highly recommend it.

J.

My Reading List

July 13, 2012 Leave a comment

I’ve added a new page to the blog titled “My Reading List”.  You can fin it in the menu bar at the top of the page.  On that page you can see the book I’m currently reading, what I last read, the books I have in my Kindle right now (“on deck”), and a list of books that I plan to purchase and are “in the hole”.

Right now I am reading Stephen Pressfield’s Gates of Fire.  It is based on the battle of Thermopylae between the Spartan and Persian armies.  If you have any questions/comments let me know.

J.

“Boy you ain’t a poet, just a drunk with a pen.”

July 12, 2012 Leave a comment

The above quote is from singer/songwriter Hayes Carll’s “Hard Out Here” aptly describes why I am here.

This is my attempt to rejuvenate this blog.  I wouldn’t say this blog was failing, but it felt too much like work.  I was putting too much effort into writing a blog consisting of top 5 lists and movie reviews that I believed people would want to read.  Don’t get me wrong, these are articles that I enjoy reading and may even end up writing from time to time, but I wasn’t being me.  I was trying to be the writer I thought readers wanted me to be instead of writing what I know.

WIth this new attempt I promise to be true to the story teller that is me. It may not be groundbreaking.  Hell, it may not even consist of linear thinking.  But it will be me. Because at the end of the day, I am nothing more than just a geek with a keyboard.

Thanks for playing along.

J.

Categories: Uncategorized

Critical Beat: The Avengers

May 6, 2012 2 comments

Like just about everyone and their mother this weekend, I went and saw The Avengers.  With an estimated $200 million opening weekend haul, I find it hard to believe that most people didn’t see this movie.  That being said, I’m still going to take the time to give my two cents.  And no worries, if you happen to be one of the few who haven’t seen it yet I will keep this review spoiler free.

Immediately after the movie ended, a friend of mine turned to me and said it was mediocre.  I can see where he’s coming from.  This movie is far from exceptional.  But it is also far from bad.  It is a good movie.  Not great, but good.  Yet at the same time I can say I thoroughly enjoyed my experience, and isn’t that what it’s all about?

THE GOOD parts about the movie were the moments when the team was together.  The final act is one large “splash page” scene from the comics.  Watching the team do battle under the leadership of Captain America was a childhood dream of mine.  And it couldn’t have been executed any better.  There is actually a specific scene during the final battle that pans through the action and perfectly depicts this.  You’ll have to watch it to see what I mean.

The movie was also rife with classic Joss Whedon style.  I didn’t expect this movie to be as funny as it was, but it was chock full of great blink and you’ll miss it moments and lines.  One reason to see the movie twice in theaters is because the entire audience will erupt in laughter and you will miss the next line.  You can tell that Joss Whedon was trying to place the family relationship of the team in the forefront, because they fight and bicker like siblings.  And it works.  The old adage “No one picks on my little brother but me” seems to be the backbone of the movie.

And then there is the Hulk.  One of the reasons I felt that a Hulk solo movie never really succeeded (though I do like The Incredible Hulk) is that the Hulk is a supporting character at best.  It is hard for him to carry a solo movie, because at some point it will be just “Hulk smash!”  That is the same reason he is perfect for the Avenger’s movies.  Bruce Banner’s struggles parallel that of the team.   Just like the team, he is a combination of opposing ideas.  He is trying to bring two opposing sides of himself into harmony.  He shouldn’t be able to function, yet he does.  And since he doesn’t have to carry the story, he can be used to emphasize this struggle within the team.  He is very much the voice of the audience, because he sees and points out why the team shouldn’t work.  Yet they do, just like the movie.  And then when push comes to shove, the Hulk is allowed to just smash.

The final act was absolutely stunning, as I mentioned before.  After a year of “who are the aliens?” debate, it turns out it didn’t matter.  Loki was the villain, and he was perfect.  The aliens were simply his army, and nothing else.  It was really Loki and his manipulation of the team that caused the true struggle.

THE BAD has to be the first 20-30 minutes of the movie.  It takes a little while to get going.  The team has to assemble and in order to do so some things need to be set up.  The villains plot, bringing Dr. Banner in to S.H.I.E.L.D. and Thor returning to Midgard are just a few examples.  All of these things take time.  I think this is what really keeps the movie from being outstanding.  And it was something that couldn’t really be avoided.  But once they do get together, that’s when the fun begins.

I could go on about the little things in this movie that expand upon the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and probably will in a later post, but that is not the point here.  Overall this was definitely the movie we had been waiting for.  It may have not been as thought provoking as Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies that it is being compared to, but it is an exciting thrill ride that provides the goods.  So if you’re one of those few who haven’t seen it yet, find the time to.  You’ll thank me later.

4/5

J.

Categories: Movies Tags: ,

The Cabin in the Woods: Why all the hate?

April 21, 2012 Leave a comment

Last week I had the pleasure of catching a late night screening of The Cabin in the Woods .  The theater was packed and full of screams and laughs.  The crowd was generally pleased.  And so was I.  This was a movie I’d been looking forward to for about two years now.  Ever since I heard that Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard were teaming up to make a horror movie that would be a new twist on horror movies, well needless to say I was hooked.

And the movie delivered everything it promised.  It was funny.  It was scary.  It was something new.  And it got people talking.  Boy did it get people talking.

Usually when a movie comes out there are three categories you can put a person into.  Those who didn’t like it.  Those who thought it was alright.  And those who thought it was great.  The Cabin in the Woods is one of the rare exceptions that creates two new categories.  Those who absolutely hated it and those who loved it more than life itself.  And it’s this dichotomy that brought me to writing today.

I went on the message boards on IMDB as I often do after seeing a movie and saw many comments along the line of “If you didn’t like the movie then you must be stupid because you missed the point” or “I can’t believe people actually like this movie, they’re f-cking retarded”.  Of course I’m paraphrasing.

My question is this:  Why all the hate?  It seems that when people of these two love/hate categories get together to discuss a movie, they never really talk about the movie.  It’s always personal attacks aimed at the other party.  I know the internet has made sharing ones thoughts very easy (i.e. this very blog), but why does every discussion have to turn into an argument?  And why does every argument have to be personal?

The fact of the matter is not everyone will like every movie.  We all have different tastes.  But you don’t have to attack another person because of it.  If you find that you can’t properly defend your stance on a subject without resorting to such low blows, well then maybe you should take the time to reconsider your stance.  And in the end you might realize, it’s just a movie.

J.

Perfect Summer Glau Roles

April 7, 2012 Leave a comment

Summer Glau.  I’ve been a fan since Firefly, as I believe a great deal of us have been.  It was because of her that I watched Terminator:  The Sarah Connor Chronicles  and The Cape.  It’s because of her that I eagerly await the day when I can get my hands on a copy of Knights of Badassdom (check this one out here).  There is just something about her.  She’s got this cute innocence on the outside.  But at the same time you know she could kick your ass.  She says so much by saying so little (seriously, go back and watch Firefly if just to watch her facial expressions).  At the end of the day she deserves to be a star, and here are a few roles where I think she could really shine.

Lara Croft

I know this was a role defined by Angelina Jolie in 2001.  Bu that was over ten years ago.  With the newest installment of the video game franchise to be released later this year, talk of a new movie is inevitable.  I’ve heard many names thrown around from the good (Olivia Wilde) to the horrible (Megan Fox).  But when the name Lara Croft speaks for itself, why not go with a fairly lesser known actress who could actually bring a sense of realism to the role?  That is what the new game is going for, also.  Bringing the character back to her roots and showing us just how she became the Tomb Raider we all know and love.  The casting of Ms. Glau would allow the studio to have the movie centered around the story and not the star.

Spider-woman

If Ms. Glau would like to stick to her television roots, then one need look no further than Jessica Drew a.k.a. Spider-woman.  Though I would prefer to see this character in a feature film (maybe the S.H.I.E.L.D. movie I recommended in a previous post?) this character could also appear in the rumored ABC drama AKA Jessica Jones, a television series that is set to take place within the Marvel cinematic universe.

Jessica Drew is a tortured soul whose parents turned her into an experiment.  This is familiar territory for Ms. Glau and I have no doubt that she could easily slip into this role and steal the spotlight.

X-23

Almost straight from an X-Men comic

Originally I thought this would be a perfect role for Ms. Glau a few years ago.  If the studio wanted to focus on the early teenage years of X-23, well Ms. Glau is pushing just how much she could pass for a teenager.  But if they were to go a different route and focus on the character after she escaped from the Weapon X project, well than we have our lead actress right here.

Ms. Glau easily has the physicality to go up against (hopefully?) Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine.  An on screen fight between the two of them would be a fanboy’s dream.  The pure epicness of this thought is enough for me to suggest her for this role.

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Let me know in the comments below if you agree/disagree or if you have any more recommendations.

J.

Kickstarter of the Month: Best Friends Forever

April 7, 2012 Leave a comment

Well, I may have taken a month off but now I’m back with a vengeance for the latest installment of Kickstarter of the Month.  After doing a little searching on the site I came up with this gem:  Best Friends Forever.

Written by  Brea Grant and Vera Miao, this film is a story about friendship.  And road trips.  Oh, and an apocalypse.  Based on that simple premise alone I couldn’t help but look into it more.

From their Kickstarter page:  “BEST FRIENDS FOREVER is a dark comedy and sci-fi horror film, combining equal parts buddy film, road trip and nuclear apocalypse story, but with girls. Harriet, the perpetual but unsuccessful optimist, has finally figured out how to take her passion for comics and turn it into a responsible life. But when she and Reba, her seemingly devil-may-care best friend, hit the road to Austin, TX, an impending nuclear apocalypse endangers the best-laid plans and even the best of friendships.”

You may remember Ms. Grant from her stint on Heroes (a fact which originally drew me to this project), but she is much more than that.  I spent a good deal of time watching the videos on their Kickstarter page (which can be found here) and I have to admit that this woman has a bit of spunk that only her partner Ms. Miao can match.  If this is the kind of energy they put in to promoting their project, than one can only imagine how much passion they put into the actual final product.

I don’t normally get into the male vs. female debate (I prefer to let the end product speak for itself), but I do appreciate when others have a stance that they defend adamantly.  That is something the Ms. Grant and Ms Miao are doing here with their movie.  It is fairly well documented that there are few female directors/producers/screenwriters who are successful in the business right now. But that landscape is changing, especially when you look at the success of Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) and Kristin Wiig (Bridesmaids).  The success of those films and others like it in recent years is opening the door for movies like Best Friends Forever so that the end product is allowed to speak for itself and we are not robbed of great filmmaking.

For more information check out their website (http://bestfriendsforeverfilm.com/) or their Facebook Page (here)

J.