I’m so very happy that this marvelous, flawless series of movies could go out on such a high note, uniting fans and critics, worldwide, into a consensus that the Spider-Man trilogy only got better with every movie and is one of the best trilogies of all time. (Comes down from absinthe high, realizes the horror of the situation, opts to drink more absinthe). 

Spider-Man 3 sees Peter Parker living the good life: the public has embraced Spider-Man as a hero and he’s finally got the girl, who he now intends to propose to. But a big clusterfuck of trouble is brewing. His friend Harry is gunning for him, using his father’s Goblin gear and a strange black, alien goo has attached itself to him, enhancing his powers and rage. Which is convenient since he’s going through some personal issues after finding out Flint Marko a.k.a Sandman is the real killer of his uncle Ben. If I listed the billion other things that happen, this synopsis would be as long as the movie.
Two things need to be made clear before we proceed:

  1. This is not a good movie
  2. I know it’s not the popular thing, but I don’t really hate Spider-Man 3

People tend to act like Spider-Man 3 is some crazy curveball out of left field. It’s not. Spider-Man 3 is the natural progression of all the bad things established in the original Spider-Man come to a head, almost as if Spider-Man 2 was the fluke. Ridiculously corny lines, camera shots and music montages involving pelvic thrusts. Characters bursting into ugly crying every twenty minutes for no believable reason. Lack of general narrative focus. They all peeked through in the first two movies and have overtaken part 3 like a virus, and are ultimately what people will remember most about this movie.

Spider-Man 3 crams so much frickin’ material in that it reaches the point where everything becomes diluted and unsatisfying.

Their biggest mistake was to introduce the black suit and Venom. Let it be known that I’ve never joined the Venom fanboy train. That character is essentially a bigger, badder version of Spider-Man and not much more; not very innovative and not a terribly creative final threat to introduce at the very end of your trilogy.

In all the history of overlong, indulgent and baggage carrying comic book stories, the Symbiote/Venom storyline is one that belongs in a museum for people to ogle at and wonder. So, even with the revision that the goo just happened to land in meteor nearby Peter and MJ, as opposed to getting the black suit in this crazy-ass superhero war in outer space, there’s still too much to cover (satisfyingly) in one movie.

Complicating matters is the inclusion of Sandman. With Doc Ock, it was ok to create some back story that gives Peter a personal connection to him because he was one of about three things that was happening in Spider-Man 2. With Sandman, it’s another forced layer of complexity and the revelation that he only does bad because his little daughter is dying comes off as just one more cheap ploy. With two villains that already share a major personal connection with Spider-Man, it wouldn’t have been a bad idea to have Sandman be a minor villain who just does villainous shit.

The love triangle, or hexagon, or whatever the fuck it is, paints the characters, especially Mary Jane, in a really unflattering light. If these dummies would just talk to each other and not act like pouty children there wouldn’t be all this unnecessary conflict. Gwen Stacy is introduced for no real reason other than to be another arguing point for Peter and MJ, while tying her to Eddie Brock doesn’t succeed in making her any more relevant.

The only storyline that reaches satisfying(ish) levels is Harry’s. They finally came to the conclusion they meant for at the end of the saga, but not without its bumps and bruises. Having Harry get amnesia for a good hour of the movie is just a little too convenient of a way to shift the focus away from him, while showing his happy-go-lucky side in order to re-endear us to him. And throwing him into the love traingle shape(?) lion pit again, brief as it may be, is too familiar and taxing. But, I will dole out some respect for Raimi and co. for deciding to send him out in the way that makes the most sense and delivers (what should have been) the biggest emotional impact.

Spider-Man stands in awe of the massive problems 

The reason this movie isn’t a complete loss for me is the action set pieces. Much of my enjoyment of these movies rests on them and this is one of few things Spider-Man 3 delivers on. The visual effects are finally up to a point where I still think they look good by today’s standards. The Sandman opened the door for some unique effects (along with physics quandaries) and the symbiote looked and felt legitimately alive.  Likewise, all the fights are staged to perfection, giving us the most adrenaline-fueled climax of all three.

As weird as it sounds, I dug the atmosphere of 3. The cinematography, music and editing all made it feel like a Spider-Man movie should. I felt they gave it a distinctive identity this time around. It’s just a shame these great visual assets came with a movie so flawed in content.

I can stomach this movie more than others, it would seem, but it doesn’t change the fact that Spider-Man 3 is a cautionary tale. Beware of studios influence, trying to cram in extra villains. Beware of over reaching with your story-telling capabilities. Beware of going overboard on your directorial quirks. And most of all, beware of fucking up on the third entry and inciting the ire of fans everywhere. God, I don’t know how long I could go on in this world if The Dark Knight Rises submits to the threequel curse.



Expectations can be a weird thing when it comes to movies: they can either serve you from being mostly absent or betray you from being too present. Incidentally, they played a role in this week’s two biggest releases, both of which combine to make one of the strangest, most entertaining double features I’ve ever seen.

Pixar has become known, especially in these past few years, for delivering sophisticated, beautifully animated movies that appeal not only to kids, but almost every demographic that sees them. The original title of Brave was The Bear and The Bow. While Brave is a blunt title that hints at some kind of complexity under the surface, The Bear and the Bow would have been a more suitable title that gives a more honest idea of how simple this movie really is.

Yes, most of Brave‘s story is focused around a plot twist that made me go, “That’s all there is to it, huh.” I knew from the trailers that the main character, Merida, would ask for a spell that would change her fate but I was sort of assuming it would lead to history being re-written in some way, and all of them ending up in “the darkest timeline”. Yeah, shame on me to try and expect where the plot is going.

(SPOILER ALERT) As it turns out, the witch she goes to gives her a cake that transforms her demanding, traditional mother, the queen, into a bear. Now Merida and her mother must go to get the spell removed, tiptoe around her father, who is obsessed with killing bears after one devoured his leg and repair their rocky bond as mother and daughter.

That’s the kind of movie this is. It wants to feature a big dose of slapstick comedy over subtlety or a strong message throughout. And that’s fine. I can’t say I was never amused by the humor; I found myself chuckling a lot at the queen acting out her proper mannerisms in bear form, and the mischief of the triplet brothers. But that sort of thing is not what Pixar has been known to rely on and makes it seem like a lesser movie. Worse, the first half hour of introducing the characters and situations sets it up as what we’ve come to expect from the better of previous Pixar movies, making the switch more jarring and unwanted.

But this is, indeed, a Disney/Pixar movie we’re talking about. Even on efforts that don’t knock it out of the park, they feature some of the most swooningly gorgeous animation ever seen, reaching almost photo-realistic levels. The vocal performances remain great and help to enhance already likable, interesting characters. And Brave continues the trend of great music in Pixar films. Patrick Doyle’s score, along with Julie Fowlis’ songs, gives the movie its heart and the requisite amount of Scottish flavor (Not like haggis, though. That would be terrible).

It’s interesting to point out that not only does this Disney movie feature the first examining of a mother-daughter relationship, the sweetest and most resonant aspect of the movie, but has both parents alive and well in the first place! Ah, progress.

Maybe it’s me, but I like my movies to have antagonists. Brave could have used one instead of just a big obstacle at the end.

Brave is a sweet, funny, family tale wrapped in the wonderful sights and sounds of Scotland. But with Pixar, you come to expect something that isn’t quite as juvenile in its focus. As is, it’s a completely acceptable and heartfelt, if weightless, romp.


Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
The POTUS is a complete badass, and the South is a land full of soulless bloodsuckers, slowly draining the life out of everything in their path. Also, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is out this week.
I kid, and so does Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, albeit with a straighter face. With such a blatantly silly concept, I was a little surprised/concerned when I saw the first footage and realized how serious they were taking the material. It seemed like clear enough evidence that this movie would be a chore to stomach. I was wrong.
AL: VH is the best of what B-movies have to offer. It’s sleek, stylish, violent, tongue-in-cheek, and fun. More importantly, it’s entirely watchable, which, for a while there, is more than I was expecting.
Through some strange twist of fate, the seriousness with which this is all treated makes it even more silly and amusing. I cannot properly describe the utter glee I found watching the actors go from reciting their terrible dialogue with a straight face to butchering vampires in slow and fast motion set to Henry Jackman’s pounding score in the background.
Now, keep in mind this is clearly a B-movie. Translation: hokey premise, terrible dialogue, one note characters, bad special effects, plot holes and inconsistencies, and possible self-important lines that have no business here. But that much should have been obvious just from the title.
Surprisingly, none of the actors are “stand out” bad or hamming it up. Usually there’s at least one who goes all out Nic Cage, but everyone present keeps it in line.
I’m not a huge fan of gratuitous slow-mo but I can accept it here because director Timur Bekmambetov crafts some slick and entertaining set pieces that don’t rely entirely on it because they are generally well staged. Lincoln’s axe-fu brings some impressive kills and the horse stampede scene, despite the CGI looking like ass, is a blast.
More-so than a period piece, this looks and feels even more like a genuine vampire movie. The look of the un-dead is pale, veiny, vicious, nasty and all around menacing. The white house is often immersed in thick fog, with moonlight and candles shining through the haze. A flock of bats swoop overhead while our heroes try to escape a horde of vamps in the Louisiana baillou. Stuff like this is what gives AL: VH its flavor.
The movie incorporates much of the real life story of Lincoln and that’s when parts of the 1hr 45min runtime can stretch on, but throughout most of it they do a good job of interspersing historical drama with vampiric dismemberment equally. Only in the second half is there a prolonged break.
It would be so easy for them to slip up with this movie and make it dull, but goddamn if I didn’t have a lot of fun with it. It was never going to shoot for high marks on story or characters, but it’s got such a great visual style and cool action bits that it became so much more fun and enjoyable than what I was expecting. And that’s what kitschy, silly movies with names like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter need to be.



This is more like it. One of the ultimate examples of a sequel being better than the original, Spider-Man 2 is leaps and bounds more enjoyable than its predecessor.
The central installment sees Peter Parker contemplating giving up being Spider-Man in order to live a normal life with Mary Jane and maybe reconnect with his best friend, Harry, who blames Spider-Man for the death of his father. But after Dr. Otto Octavius, a father figure of sorts for Peter, is transformed after a freak accident into Dr. Octopus and recklessly plans to recreate his dangerous experiment, the world may need Spider-Man more than ever.
Whereas Spider-Man came and went, Spider-Man 2 is the film a young adolescent version of myself revisited time and time again. It came so close to my ideal vision of Spider-Man and had a story that was so much more engaging, that for a long while it became comparable for me to what Star Wars is for others.
Most of Spider-Man 2‘s greatness comes from the story. Admittedly, it’s not the first superhero movie to tell the “hero gives up his powers” story; that would be Superman 2. But one could make a convincing argument that Supes borrowed that concept from the “Spider-Man No More” story-line, originally published in the comics in the ’60s, which this movie borrows directly from. It’s a quintessential part of the character’s journey and provides a good narrative focus that the first movie didn’t really have. Many comic book sequels that followed have focused on the main character wanting to give up his responsibility (The Incredible Hulk, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, and even The Dark Knight, briefly) but I don’t think any of them reached the bar this one set.  
The other element that set 2 above and beyond is its villain. Doctor Octopus was never really an uber-complex villain that drastically changed Peter Parker/ Spider-Man’s life like the Goblin did, but he is one of the earliest and most well known adversaries of the wall crawler. And without all the baggage that came with a character like the Green Goblin (and another later villain) they were able to take a few liberties and craft one of the best comic villains on screen. Alfred Molina delivers a subtly menacing, yet sympathetic performance. Watching him go from an enthusiastic physicist giving advice involving poetry to a deranged freak, snarling threats of mutilation is what I like to see in my bad guys. The practical work with the tentacles is impressive and makes for some fascinating choreography and brutally intense action scenes.

The melodrama that occasionally seeps into the series seems the most at home in this movie. Sequels are supposed to be either darker &/or more emotionally charged than their predecessors and I never felt any big emotional moment here that was overdone or unearned. The material this time naturally lends itself to more of a sentimental slant.

The CGI is still not up to snuff, but at least some progress was shown. Web swinging scenes make the character feel too weightless and parts of the action scenes on the clock tower and train are reminiscent of the rubber-people of the last movie.

However, some select shots look great, case in point, the ending where Octavius and his reactor are sinking into the water. That’s another thing that is done so right this time; the movie is chalked full of images that are practically iconic like Peter walking away after leaving his costume in the trash, Harry talking to Norman in the mirror and discovering his secret room, Peter and Mary Jane in the giant web, and the previously listed scene, to name a few.

Some of the few gripes I have with the movie are small things that carry over from last time: a few too many campy scenes that it feels like the movie stops entirely for, Kirsten Dunst is still flat, James Franco … whatever, the already mentioned CGI, and now a few weird plot gaffes (what part of “don’t hurt Peter” translates to “launch a fucking car at him”?).

My feelings about the entire trilogy have rusted away some of the high enthusiasm I used to have for this one, but I still hold it high regard as the best of the Raimi movies. Adding a well crafted villain and telling a story that made the character legendary makes for a thoroughly entertaining movie and a great reminder of why Spider-Man resonates with audiences.

And, yes, he stole that guy’s pizza.



X-Men may have been the first major superhero movie in the Superhero Renaissance we’ve been experiencing for the last decade, but 2002’s Spider-Man was the one to kick it into high gear. In fact we probably owe it thanks for being the reason a majority of superhero movies since have gotten green lit. But that in no way means it’s the standard for all other superhero films to follow.

Part 1 of the original trilogy sees dorky high school student Peter Parker gaining super powers after being bitten by a genetically enhanced spider. After using his abilities to earn a quick buck at Macho Man Randy Savage’s expense, Peter’s uncle Ben is killed by the criminal he let go from an earlier robbery. Learning that great power comes with great responsibility, Peter becomes Spider-Man, and uses his gifts to help others. Suddenly he’s on the radar of his high school crush Mary Jane Watson, who is going out with Peter’s best friend Harry Osborn. Meanwhile, Harry’s dad Norman Osborn is going through a bit of a change himself, using an experimental performance enhancement drug and military tech to become the Green Goblin, leading the two into an inevitable showdown.

I’m aware that I’m the minority on this one, but I really don’t care for this movie. I knew there was a problem when I was a ten year old Spider-Man fan and never had the urge to re-watch this movie time and time again.

The beginning of the end

I will continue to elaborate on this throughout my further reviews, but most of the problems of the entire trilogy stem from the vision of Sam Raimi and company. They approach the material on all three with this doughy sentimentality that, while certainly appropriate and welcome in some select areas of the universe, becomes so overdone that it reaches the point of almost being a fake, cynical, insincere and misunderstanding ploy to get a reaction. It doesn’t quite reach that crescendo in the first movie but the seeds were definitely planted with this one.

Tobey Maguire is an acceptable Peter Parker/ Spider-Man. He’s got the tongue-tied loverboy angle of Peter Parker in the bag, but it doesn’t feel like a whole lot more of the character is explored (properly). The wisecracks are largely gone, and as a result, so is most of the charisma of the Spider-Man character.

Kirsten Dunst is kind of bland as Mary Jane. Yes, I understand the irony of someone named Mary Jane being relaxed and mellow, but that’s not her character. They play her as the every-woman, and there needed to be more spunk in order to not just look at her as “the girl”.

I still, to this day, absolutely hate how they used the Green Goblin in the movie. That character has so much weight and complexity that to compress him into the second half of the movie is a huge misfire. To start, they flubbed it early in the process with that damn, butt ugly costume. Green Goblin is a character that needs eccentricity but without a costume that allows facial expressions, Willem DaFoe is left to pantomime everything and over-vocalize without any real restraint.  Oh, and did I mention that costume is an eye sore? I’m going to have to go against my better judgement and say that I feel the Green Goblin needs to be revisited in this likely new trilogy, only this time with proper build up and impact.

Speaking of compressing into halves, there is a sizable divide in between the beginning when Parker gets his powers and learns responsibility and the appearance of the Goblin in the second half, so much so that it feels like two different movies have been glued webbed together. Being that both of them are only an hour, neither ends up being very satisfying.

Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle

Even by the standards of 2002, Spider-Man has some astonishingly sub-par visual effects. Whenever the scene requires some practical impossibility, mainly many clunky action scenes, everyone becomes a glossy rubber-person and starts flopping about. It happens too many times to ignore.

Another Raimi-ism is the completely cheese-ball moments. Some are simply face-palm worthy (“It’s you who’s out, Gobby. Out of your mind!”) while some are so out of place that they ruin important scenes, such as cutting to a goofy reaction shot right before Goblin gets stabbed to death by his glider. It’s a little too Army of Darkness and not enough… any movie that takes itself seriously. The schlock is just one more thing that is going to come back to haunt them in the future.

One of the aspects that remains untainted by time is J.K. Simmons as J.Jonah Jameson. He nails that character in a way no other cast member (in this movie) does; I honestly have a hard time seeing that part be recast. Likewise, Danny Elfman turns in a score that screams memorable.

Spider-Man is just kind of there. It covers a lot of the “need to know” Spider-Man mythology, but doesn’t spend much time on anything in particular and doesn’t put it together very cohesively. I don’t hate it and it’s certainly not un-watchable but after a while, it just becomes too tedious and disappointing.



Green Lantern
Let’s face it, when it comes to getting their comic book properties on to the silver screen, Marvel has been kicking DC’s ass. DC suddenly realized that they had more than Batman and Superman at their disposal and put Green Lantern on the fast track for production, with release in 2011. To help better understand how the finished product turned out, here is this visual comparison.  Enjoy.

Green Lantern follows cocky test pilot Hal Jordan as he is recruited by an intergalactic peace-keeping group called the Lantern Corp. The gig involves wearing a power ring that manifests energy projections limited only by the wearer’s imagination and willpower.  But he’d better hurry up on embracing his destiny and all that jazz because there’s an oh so “fearsome” giant space cloud with a grudge coming to destroy the earth.

The superhero films that came out in 2011 were actually really good. That is, up until this one came out. Green Lantern comes off as such a banal, passionless product that its infinite other faults scream for attention. All of the space material on the lantern training planet and elsewhere in space could provide a less mediocre focus for the movie, seeing how all the scenes that take place there are the closest thing to what could be described as interesting.

“It should be set it mostly on Earth in order to show the main character’s humanity” – some test audience member that probably fucked the movie up in some way. Or some Warner Bros. executive early in the planning stages. Either way, bad call.

So instead, our story occurs mostly here on our big blue planet, and comes complete with thinly written characters with non-existent motivations, slapdash editing, one ridiculous villain and another utterly pointless one, bland action scenes, some genuinely stupid parts (an elaborate racetrack projection? Really?), an out of place and overbearing score, and the overall scope and feel of an early ’90s TV movie.

The only feasible excuse this movie could have for being so messy is that, because the movie did in fact run over budget, not all of the extensive effects shots could be finished by the release date, and therefore the movie needed to be re-cut to be more Earth-centric. But that theory only accounts for a portion of the awfulness at hand, and it is, after all, just a theory. Green Lantern is a missed opportunity, and one that Warner and DC will suffer because of for some time to come.

Green Lantern debuted this weekend in 2011 to a $53 mill opening weekend, but poor word of mouth saw to its rapid decline afterwards and while the movie made back its budget, it did little more at the box office.

Toy Story 3

I have to begin this selection with a short disclaimer: PIXAR movies don’t do as much for me as they do for others. Something about the computer animated romps doesn’t stick in my memory as strongly as a traditional, hand-drawn animated movie. But that’s not to say the movies are bad; usually they’re the opposite. In fact, it’s hard to make a case that Toy Story 3 isn’t a good, if not great movie.
Andy is going off to college and Woody, Buzz and rest of the gang of toys are more than a little concerned about their fate post Andy. Through a series of events, they all end up at a seemingly utopian day care center. Only Woody is suspicious and eventually realizes the center is quite distopian. Thus, the greatest animated adaption of The Great Escape is born.

It’s actually pretty impressive how dark and heavy Toy Story 3 is considering its status as something kids will enjoy. Yeah, it does have its fair share of juvenile humor (one of the few detractors the film has), but that’s not the majority. I mean, the biggest theme in the movie is what happens to a toy after their owner is done with them. They really drove home the idea that the garbage is the saddest, loneliest, most disturbing end a toy can have.

When I read early on that this would be a weeper, I just assumed they would use the sappy, manipulative, War Horse strategy to get audiences bawling. Luckily, it was not the case. The reason people got misty-eyed (including, possibly, myself) was because you still cared for the characters and seeing them given such a warm, caring goodbye hit all the right notes.

Toy Story 3 opened this weekend in 2010 to a mighty fine $110 mill and went on to be the highest grossing film, domestically and globally, in 2010.

The Incredible Hulk
People apparently weren’t too ecstatic about Ang Lee’s Hulk in 2003 and neither was Universal Pictures. The film rights reverted back to Marvel Studios after Universal waited too long for a sequel. Now, just by nature it’s tricky to make a good movie around a character like the Hulk, but I’m of the mind that they did that with The Incredible Hulk. Or, if not a good one, a fun one.
The sort of re-boot, sort of sequel picks up after summarizing the origin in the opening credits with Bruce Banner worker at a bottling plant in Rio de Janeiro, trying to cure his disease on the side. After possibly finding a way out through a mysterious benefactor back home, Banner returns to the U.S.A, but not before a brush with his pursuer Gen. Thunderbolt Ross. Ross and his agent, Emil Blonsky, have been tampering with the super-soldier serum, and the Hulk may be needed when things get out of hand.
The thing I think this movie has that the previous one didn’t is balance. Not only balance between the story and the action but balance between the comic book mythology of The Hulk and the television series from the ’70s, with Banner on the run, that many people find instantly recognizable. Edward Norton delivers a really grounded performance and is clearly interested in making sure the movie is good (which, incidentally, is why Marvel fired him; talk about backwards). I also found the villain this time around, Tim Roth, to be much more menacing and formidable, which is definitely what the movie needed.
Liv Tyler and William Hurt are just kind of there, there’s a lag a little after and hour in and the CGI has become a bit dated by today’s standards. The final battle turns into a CGI creature cluster-fuck but I don’t really see any scenario where it happens any other way and why should it? All three action sequences are unique and exciting in their own way and keep things fun at just the right point when they’re needed.
The Incredible Hulk isn’t a highly ambitious movie, but it is an incredibly fun one and provides a more entertaining, well rounded look at the one who smashes.
The Incredible Hulk opened this weekend in 2008 to $55 mill, compared to the original Hulk’s $62 mill opening (but the latter experienced a steeper drop afterwards). Incredible Hulk ended up making roughly the same amount of money and close to the same Tomato-meter rating as the original Hulk (around $263 mill worldwide and close to 66%, respectively), which was not enough to warrant a direct sequel. However, the positive attention given to the Hulk in The Avengers has stirred rumors of another stand alone Hulk movie in the future starring Mark Ruffalo.

Batman Begins
The movie that started the notion of a re-boot (not to mention a trilogy (fingers crossed) of badass movies) landed in 2005. From the beginning it was apparent that from now on Batman was going to be taken far more seriously than before and the fearsome predator of Gotham’s underworld was to be featured instead of the nippled cracker of quips.

Bruce Wayne has disappeared off the face of the Earth after the death of his parents. In reality, he has been around the world learning about criminality and training with a secret organization of assassins. After a falling out with them, he returns to Gotham City to find it more corrupt than ever. With the help of his trusted butler Alfred, scientist Lucias Fox, lieutenant Jim Gordon and assistant district attorney Rachel Dawes, he becomes the symbol the city needs to shake it out of apathy. As the Batman, his resolve will be tested against the secret forces out to destroy Gotham.

To make a confession, I wasn’t originally crazy about the movie the first time I saw it. It was too dark, mature, and complex for my stupid, 13 year old brain to comprehend. I didn’t read any of the comics, the animated series had ended and opted to go with the flashier The Batman, and the final note of the previous film franchise had been not particularly cerebral. It was only on repeat viewings that I discovered all the joys this movie had to unfurl. Seriously, it completely went over my head the first time that Liam Neeson was Ra’s al Ghul.

Now it stands as one of the greatest comic book movies ever. Putting the focus back on Batman and all his psychological complexities and not letting any of the villains get in the way of this untold story that was about him was essential. Director Christopher Nolan does a masterful job of telling a masterful script, brought to life by a mostly masterful cast. Aside from Katie Holmes and not quite enough Scarecrow for my tastes, the movie would probably be flawless. As is, it’s a superb, memorable turning point for modern film adaptions.

Batman Begins opened this weekend in 2005 to $48 mill. It was dubbed a strong but unimpressive opening by the blockbuster standards of the time. Grossing $205 mill in the U.S. and $372 worldwide, Begins sits as the eighth highest grossing movie of 2005. Its modest success didn’t foretell what was to come for the Batman franchise’s next installment. 


The Amazing Spider-Man opens in less than three weeks and I have absolutely no emotions over it, at all.

To show my apathy towards it (sarcasm), I am going to be looking back and reviewing Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2 and, everyone’s favorite, Spider-Man 3 and most likely the two animated series, Spider-Man: The Animated Series and The Spectacular Spider-Man, that were just as influential in my exposure and appreciation of the character.

All this will lead up to the July 3 release of The Amazing Spider-Man, for which I will no doubt be writing a review of, in addition to James Horner’s score.

The countdown is on.


Now on to the other gorgeous looking blockbuster with Charlize Theron coming out this month. The decidedly more anticipated one, especially among those who know its origins and what movie it shares a universe with. But can anyone really know what to expect going in to Prometheus?

Prometheus deals with a team of scientists, funded by a shady corporation (is there any other kind?), who make an expedition to a distant planet after discovering cave paintings that may reveal a type of being, dubbed “Engineers” by the explorers, who may have been instrumental in creating humanity. Once there, everything is not quite as harmonious as they were hoping and things quickly escalate into a menace that may spell doom for us all.

First of all, kudos to director Ridley Scott and writers Damon Lindelof and John Spaihts for choosing to do a movie that touches upon such big questions. Asking about things like the supposed truth behind the creation of life, what that means for someone’s faith and how an artificial human/cyborg would look at this are all really interesting story concepts and provide some brain food in addition to the regular fare.

Granted, it is a summer blockbuster first and foremost (the story plays closer to a regularly trope-ish horror movie than anything brazenly new) and I meant it literally when I said it just “touches upon” them. But that’s far more than I can say for most movies coming out in this time-frame.

Such a daring story means there can also be some stronger graphic content, and while the movie isn’t a straight gorefest, to say it has its moments would be a disservice. There were certainly a few wince scenes here and there in the first half, but there comes a specific moment in the second half where I found myself genuinely overcome with a mix of anxiety and disgust. The scene in question is just such a concoction of several different phobias and is meant to hearken back to the chestburster scene in the original Alien. I honestly felt this scene was worse. Seriously, your heart will drop.

This guy. He’s really good.

But that is a testament to the strength of the cast that I was still so invested at that point. I’m pretty sure by now Michael “I know we’ve had our differences” Fassbender can do no wrong. Just trying to get a lock on what his maliciously (or is he?) youthful android, David, is thinking could suck you in and keep you guessing for hours.

In the beginning, I was just accepting of Noomi Rapace’s lead character of Dr. Shaw. But as shit started to go down, and her character started to suffer more, she really sold it and you started to root for her. It’s probably good that she got Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows out of the way first, to let this be her real feature.

Likewise, Charlize Theron plays a tough but understandable executive, a subdued performance on the opposite end of the spectrum from her recent Evil Queen role and Idris Elba continues to stand out in the supporting roles he’s given.

The only cast member that didn’t do it for me was Logan Marshall-Green, or as I’ve heard him referred to as, the 99 cent Tom Hardy. He’s supposed to be one of the more important characters, but he isn’t given much more to do than be a dick to David, get excited, then depressed. For being someone who is supposed to be integral to the story, they don’t really differentiate him enough from the other cannon fodder on the ship.

To make another comparison to Snow White and the Huntsman, Prometheus is also eye candy. Whereas Huntsman seemed to flourish on broad strokes, Prometheus is very detail oriented, but just as visually appealing. It’s a signature of Ridley Scott’s films and what makes this movie so haunting.

Whereas I praised the story before, it is also the film’s biggest weakness. The problem comes in when the writers have to make sure their origin of life picture is also an Alien prequel. Actions and motivations start to blur and many questions don’t get answered when the two have to be combined.

The absolute biggest problem with Prometheus is plot points that don’t make sense. One character does something significant; it is never explained whether it is by mistake or on purpose. If it was on accident, they don’t do enough to show that it was, indeed, not intentional. If it was on purpose, it is never explained why that character would do that in the first place. It feels like they forgot to leave out that last puzzle piece for us to put in place. That is, until we see what this action leads to in the end. Then it becomes clear it needed to happen so the filmmakers could fulfill their contractual obligations.

Many people are expecting this to be of the caliber of Alien. Such expectations probably won’t do anyone much good. Alien is a slow build whereas Prometheus dives right in (surprised as I am to say it, I thought it actually could have used a bit more breathing room between certain scenes). In fact, objectivity is the best way to go with this one. Watch the movie and then see what it’s similar to, instead of the other way around.

Despite voicing some of my displeasure at certain story elements, I much rather prefer a movie in which the story issues stem from overreaching rather than not doing enough. Prometheus has its share of flaws, but is still visually beautiful with great performances and thrilling sci-fi elements that work. Most importantly, it sticks with you after you’ve left the theater.

By nature, not everyone is going to have a similar reaction to it, but I really dug Prometheus, enough so that I look forward to watching it again in theaters. It’s one of this summer’s must sees.



X-Men: First Class

By 2011, the X-Men franchise was running out of steam after two disappointing entries and what looked to be a third on the way. The marketing for First Class did a great job of making the film look awful. As it turns out, marketing can sometimes suck balls.

X-Men: First Class is a prequel/reboot set in the mid ’60s. Ex-Nazi, mutant Kevin Bacon (thank god that’s a thing) is setting in motion a plan to exterminate the human race to pave the way for mutants to rise up to rule. Once mutants are exposed, the CIA reaches out to Prof. Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr (a past victim of Bacon’s) to gather more wayward mutants to stand against the upcoming coup. But our two protagonists have very different ideals concerning right and wrong and the relations between man and mutant, and events are already in motion that will move them closer to their destinies as Prof. X and Magneto.

This is still my favorite movie from last year. I was completely expecting to be underwhelmed but me my expectations were blown away. Everything positive about it stems from its cool period piece, CHARACTER DRIVEN script. The dynamic between Xavier and Magneto is perfect, down to Jane Goldman’s script, Matthew Vaughn’s superb directing throughout, and James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender’s stellar performances. Add in some almost as good back-stories for other characters like Mystique and Beast, some surprisingly excellent action set pieces, a strong villain and you’ve got yourself a layer cake of awesomeness.

My complaints are few and far in between. Only nitpick material, such as the casting of January Jones, some less than perfect special effects, and a few lines of dialogue that could have been clipped here and there. All of these were symptoms of a rushed production schedule. With more time on their hands, I dare say this movie would have been perfect.

Unfortunately, the law of diminishing returns caught up at the wrong time. People starting tuning out after being disappointed by The Last Stand and Wolverine, so First Class ended up bringing in $55 million opening weekend, with around $130 mill total. Not a bad number, but not quite up to par for an X-Men movie, much less a really good one.

A sequel to First Class is set to hit in July 2014. Here’s hoping next year’s The Wolverine doesn’t fuck things up again.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Panic in the street erupted when Chris Columbus chose not to return for a third Harry Potter movie and the series switched from a twelve month cycle to eighteen. Not to worry; by the time summer 2004 rolled around, we found out everything would fall nicely into place.
Is there anyone out there that doesn’t know or have a general idea of what each of the Harry Potter movies are about at this point? For those cave dwellers, Prisoner of Azkaban focuses on the escape of Sirius Black from the titular wizard prison. Unfortunately for Harry, Black is a convicted murderer who betrayed Harry’s parents, leading to their deaths, and is gunning for him now.

When people are asked what their favorite entry in the Potter franchise is, Azkaban is frequently listed. The story this time around is of a refreshingly different structure than Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets (which are exactly the same, structure-wise) and provides the first real growth and advancement of the franchise, not to mention depth.

This is the movie where the three main actors finally begin to feel comfortable in their roles. A little time to age and some more complex material sure does wonders. And as always the cast continued to grow with some of Britain’s finest. Michael Gambon is an equally charming Dumbledore and fucking Gary Oldman is in this movie. Nothing more needs to be said.

Alfonso Cuaron’s direction is the biggest bonus the movie could have gotten. Instead of just being a straight adaption of the book like the first two were, Cuaron delivers a dark, quirky, engrossing version of the story, told through his personal vision. He understood that not every snippet of the book needed to appear in the movie because a great book doesn’t automatically make a great movie. Having the technical (pardon the pun) wizardry required, clear vision of the story he wanted to tell, and ability to get more heartfelt performances out of his young actors (as well as your old ones) makes a great movie.

I’m kind of bummed Cuaron didn’t get the offer to direct Catching Fire like it was rumored. The Hunger Games suffered in some places from the dull, objective adaption syndrome that plagued the first two Potters and who better to fix that than the doctor who basically pioneered the cure?

Preceding X-Men’s example of how unfair the world is, Azkaban is the lowest grossing Potter out of all eight; but  $249 mill domestically and $795 mill worldwide isn’t exactly pocket change either.


There’s a reason they were called the Brothers Grimm. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up with happy, singing animals and dwarfs and a spacey, oblivious Snow White like most people, but the material does lend itself to go to some much darker areas. That’s exactly what Snow White and the Huntsman does and is ultimately better off for it.

Snow White and the Huntsman isn’t anywhere close to being a flawless movie, but it does excel because of its strong visual style and solid cast (even that one person).

The story is the tale we’ve known for ages but with a few added elements and slight twists concerning certain characters. Admittedly, when you retell an iconic fairy tale, there aren’t many surprises to be found in the story. But if a story is good enough to become iconic, then why bother changing things up too much?

Dynamic, indeed

As was apparent from the trailers, Snow White and the Huntsman is really gorgeous to look at. The creatures have some very fascinating, naturally beautiful designs, the scenery is breathtaking, and the costumes stand out, but not ridiculously so. Watching people hallucinate on nightmare fungus in the dark forest, vast shots of characters travelling on the landscape, and the two scenes involving the queen covered in some form or another of liquid are all some of the most dynamic images in the movie.

It seems fair to say a lot of time and effort was put into making the film so visually strong, and so I think it also seems fair to say that it paid off quite well.

This is director Rupert Sanders very first film after working only in commercials (a business that clearly favors attention grabbing visual styles). Luckily, a great cast was assembled for him to work with.

Between Tom Hiddleston and Charlize Theron, there is going to be a memorable line up of villains this summer if they continue to be this good. Theron is the show stealer here, going all out wicked, sometimes over the top, but always engaging. Interestingly enough, she’s also given a good deal of back-story and pathos, making her the most developed character in the movie.

I am officially on board with having Chris Hemsworth be in many more movies. Not only does he have presence, he’s got charisma and always comes off as likable.

It was a nice surprise having such an awesome line-up of British acting royalty to play the dwarfs, including Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Toby Jones, and Ray Winstone. Their appearance about an hour in is a shot of thematic brightness in what was an otherwise gloomy movie.

Now to the cast member that’ll make or break it for some: Kristen Stewart. She was originally the reason I wrote this movie off when it was first announced. She’s got such a stigma that comes with her because of that damn Twilight role that it’s impossible to look at her objectively anymore.

That said, I found her mostly tolerable here. She’s still doing those character ticks she’s now known for, but I suppose watching both your parents die and then being locked in a tower for almost a decade is a good enough excuse for acting all stoic and mopey. And for what they have her do for most of the movie, that performance fits right in. She’s almost more of an item that influences everyone else’s actions rather than a substantial player in the overall game.

I also really enjoyed this idea they played upon about how Snow White is basically life force and The Evil Queen is death incarnate. It set up for a very nice duality.

The problem comes when she has to get all energetic to lead the army against the queen and all you can do is sigh and wish for her to put down the sword before she hurts herself. It’s the exact same problem I had with Alice in Wonderland when she also put on the Joan of Arc armor. It’s just too hokey and unearned.

It should also be noted that the mirror that proclaims Kristen Stewart “fairer” than Charlize Theron doesn’t actually have any eyes. Suspension of disbelief is required and I eventually just had to interpret “fairest” as “has the ability to rule a kingdom without being a total bitch.”

Casting decisions aren’t the only shortcoming Huntsman has, however. The movie is also in league with Alice in that it too has a generic fantasy-quest, Narnia ripoff script that includes the standard lines and speeches that could be lifted straight from any other movie of its ilk.

I know the movie prides itself in its imagery, but sometimes it’s best for an editor to swoop in and tidy things up. There are more than a few instances where shots go on too long on something that isn’t significant (especially in the first 20 minutes). The movie isn’t necessarily a slow burn, but some touch up work here and there would have helped it be more fluid and less sluggish.

Huntsman falters by borrowing newer story elements from weaker material but gets a boost from aesthetically being more along the lines of LOTR or Pan’s Labyrinth. The visuals and the score are engrossing, the cast is reliable, and this interpretation of the story works, minus a few quibbles.

It’s not a great movie (and I’m sure it wasn’t meant to be) but if you can sift through certain parts involving our main heroine, the standard script, and the pacing, it can certainly be a fun one.