"The Amazing Spider-man" (2012)

The Amazing Spider-man (2012)
Directed by: Marc Webb
Running time: 136 minutes

So here it is, the reboot of Spider-man that has had so many people either criticized or heralded. I, funnily enough, was on both sides of that debate. I initially criticized it for being unnecessary and money grabbing, but then the more I saw of it the more interested I became and was suddenly keen to check it out. And now having seen it, I can safely say that I am still on both sides of the argument.

Now Showing this week is The Amazing Spider-man, directed by Marc Webb (how many on-set jokes do you think he got?!). Peter Parker, a loner teenager living with his Aunt and Uncle following his parents disappearance/death, gets inadvertently bitten by a genetically enhanced species of spider one day when he sneaks into a laboratory run by a man (Dr. Curt Connors) who Peter knows once worked with his father. The result of this bite gives him enhanced abilities reminiscent of a spider (amazing hearing/senses, ability to climb any surface etc.) and he goes on to becoming a superhero. The journey to that end however is a long one, filled with inspiring speeches of right and wrong and whatnot. Meanwhile, Peter also inadvertently aides Dr. Connors by giving him an algorithm to help him in his research and Dr. Connors misuses it to turn himself into a giant lizard and runs amok. Cue Spider-man needing to right the wrong he has made.

To those of you who don’t know, the reason this film was given the green light (or the suspected reason I should say) is because that company that holds the film rights to Spider-man is the Sony Corporation, and they are aware of the fact that the character of Spider-man was indeed involved in the “Avengers” comic books at one point. But The Avengers was made by Disney/Marvel Studios, so they can’t use the Spider-man character in later Avengers sequels since they don’t have the rights. However, the thing about movie rights, be it for a novel, comic character or anything, is that you have a limited amount of time to use them. And if those rights aren’t used in that amount of time they revert back to the original creator, in Spider-man’s case this is Marvel Studios. So that means that if Sony did not use their rights to Spider-man soon, then the web-slinger would go back to Marvel and could feature in Avengers films, effectively handing Marvel/Disney a ba-billion-gillion dollars on a silver platter. So they had to get cracking on Spider-man movies; and since Spider-man 3 was renowned as a huge steaming pile of emo dancing crap, they had to go back to square one and make Spidey cool again.

So here we are, back with the origin story of Spider-man. And I must say that the film’s biggest fault is the fact that it is retelling a story we have already seen before. The whole tagline of it being the “untold story” is a load of crap, some of the earlier scenes are almost identical to the events of the 2002 Spider-man. Even though you’ve already seen that film I’ll say: SPOILERS! Peter selfishly goes out at night and Uncle Ben goes after him, Peter doesn’t stop a robber and that robber goes on to kill Uncle Ben in the crossfire. This scene was almost exactly the same, including Peter saying something like “I missed the part where that was my problem”. It even had a “with great power, comes great responsibility” speech! Though I must say, I enjoyed the delivery of it much more in this film. END SPOILERS!

The story of the film itself is actually OK, not brilliant but alright. But the fact that it is predictable because we’ve pretty much seen it before works to its detriment. The film’s story focuses heavily on the two lead characters, Peter Parker and love interest Gwen Stacy, and they have some really interesting moments and character development; but the supporting cast I feel suffers from this lack of screen time. The villain, The Lizard, doesn’t really have much going on for him and just seems to be there so as Spider-man has something to fight, with his motivations simply coming from being turned mad from his mad-scientist stuff. It’s not bad, it’s just cliched and simple. But majority of the film is quite entertaining, with Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker being a fun, yet dark character and his sarcastic wit translating well into the mocking Spider-man he is to become. The finale of the film is a bit naff for reasons I shan’t spoil, but I will say it just feels too convenient. Certain characters had changes that just felt way too easy and rushed etc. It just kind of failed.

I loved Andrew Garfield’s Spider-man/Peter Parker. For one, I liked how he didn’t have two separate personalities when it came to his two identities. Toby Maguire’s Peter/Spidey seemed to have a soft spoken science geek personality and a tough guy wise cracker personality in his separate character that I suppose I found hard to believe coming from the same person. It works if you’re a weakling geeky teenager who likes the fantasy of suddenly being able to be bad-ass like I did when that film came out; but the Peter side of Maguire’s role always bugged me a little. Garfield’s Peter is not so much a massive geeky weakling, he is more just a socially awkward guy due to his brash sarcasm due to his abandonment issues from his parents, and his voyeurism in photography. He still has the guts to stand up to the bigger man and even though he gets the life beaten out of him, that translates well into becoming a superhero. Garfield’s Spider-man feels very much the same as his Peter, but with much more confidence due to his new abilities. And that’s my kind of Spider-man. Plus his sarcasm was much more entertaining and clever than simple puns from Maguire.

The Amazing Spider-man may have been made for the money (and these days what movie isn’t?), but I still enjoyed it. It was in no way perfect, and thanks to it being a retelling it was predictable, but it was the smaller changes such as Spidey’s new form of sarcasm that I really enjoyed. Sure it feels like they’re trying to pull a Batman Begins on Spider-man, but it was still fun to watch. A decent film, not a great one but decent. The 3D effects are spectacular, I often didn’t feel like I was watching 3D moreover I was looking through a window; so that is a definite plus. It may have wavered occasionally in the several first person sequences but they were quick and not a huge bother. I’d recommend seeing it, for nothing more than to make up your own mind on whether this reboot was a good thing or not. I will say this, it was a lot better than Spider-man 3!

See you next time!

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"Brave" (2012)

Brave (2012)
Directed by: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman & Steve Purcell
Running time: 100 minutes

Seriously, how good has Pixar been of late? I didn’t see Cars 2, mainly because Cars 1 felt like the slow cousin the other Pixar films hate having to play with; but the last few years have really been Pixar’s finest. WALL-E, Up and Toy Story 3 were all such massive triumphs of children’s animation combined with deep adult themes, and i would consider them examples of cinema at its best. That’s not to say that the older Pixar films weren’t any good (the old Toy Story‘s and Finding Nemo were particular favourites!) but these later ones have felt more grown up, as though the people at Pixar were allowing their films to grow up alongside the people who have been watching them since Toy Story in 1995. But sadly, I cannot count Pixar’s latest achievement to be among it’s most recent siblings.

Now Showing this week is Brave, directed by Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman and Steve Purcell with Pixar Animation Studios. Brave tells the story of a Scottish princess named Merida who has never taken to the princess lifestyle. She hates the long sessions with her mother teaching her to be proper and how to behave and would much rather be roaming the wilds with her bow and arrow. But sadly, she is to be married off to one of the sons of the outlying clans, so Merida sets off to try and find a way in which to change her fate and perhaps a witch she stumbles upon in the woods might be able to help her… If I say anymore than that I shall feel like I’m spoiling the film as I was quite proud that the trailer gave away no information as to what follows from that point on and I was genuinely surprised!

As I said earlier, I don’t feel like I can count Brave to be among the recent deeper adult Pixar films. That’s not to say that it is a bad film, it most certainly isn’t; however the film never really tackles any themes or concepts beyond the conventional children’s adventure. Another reviewer described Brave in an excellent way which I tend to agree with, they said: 

“This is less a film in the lustrous Pixar tradition than a Disney fairy tale told with Pixar’s virtuosity.”
– Joel Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal

Brave does indeed feel more like one of the really good cartoon Disney movies that has been made with Pixar’s amazing visual quality. The story is fairly conventional for the genre, a princess defying what is expected of her by her parents and through attempting to change it learns her lesson, as do her parents. But again, this isn’t a bad thing! I loved those kind of stories as a child and I still enjoy them now, plus it had a few genuine surprises which is always welcomed. The story is engaging, funny, scary and thrilling; however it is still a children’s fairy tale and nothing more. Where Toy Story 3 was an enthralling tale of toys trying to return to their owner once more, it was underlain with issues such as facing one’s own mortality and giving a sea of faces to the childhoods we all have to leave behind. It’s that little extra level of depth that makes Pixar movies a cut above the rest.

Alright, OK, is the extra complexities and the visual qualities. What Brave lacks in adult themes it makes up for in the computer graphics. The film looks stunning, with bright vibrant colours and scary Scottish fog on the moors. And Merida’s hair deserves a mention. It is absolutely beautiful, with such a bright colour and each curl reacts individually to the environment. Her hair was a visual triumph (but then again, I have a thing for redheads!). 
Brave is certainly worth a look for any Pixar fan. It has majority of the things we love about their films, and is an excellent adventure to go on. And I say that the film doesn’t really have anything specially for the adults, but there was no one in my cinema under the age of twenty so Pixar is clearly still doing something right! Go and enjoy the lighter side of cinema before The Dark Knight Rises hits us with it’s gritty realism!
See you next time!

"Ted" (2012)

Ted (2012)
Directed by: Seth MacFarlane
Running time: 106 minutes

It’s amazing, go see it!

See you next time!

…ok so you actually want to know more? Who am I to say no?!

Now Showing this week is Ted, the directorial debut of Seth MacFarlane (creator of TV comedy Family Guy). Ted tells the story of a thirty-five year old man named John (Mark Wahlberg) who’s best friend is Ted (voiced by Seth MacFarlane), the teddy bear he was given for Christmas when he was a child and miraculously wished to come alive. John and Ted were wonderful friends while they were growing up, but in adulthood they have both ended up in a rut, constantly spending their days getting stoned on the couch and watching the 80s movie Flash Gordon. John has a dead-end job at a rental car business and a sexy girlfriend named Lori (Mila Kunis) who is getting fed up with John’s lack of ambition. To fix this, Lori is trying to urge John to grow up and do what every man must at some point in his life: leave his teddy bear behind.

Fans of Family Guy will know exactly the kind of humour to expect from Ted and that humour is one that is filled with pop culture references, very crass and politically incorrect comments and some moments of complete randomness. Rest assured, Ted has this in spades. Most of the Family Guy-esque humour comes from Ted himself, and he even has a voice reminiscent of Family Guy star Peter Griffin, however the film never feels like it’s “Family Guy: The Movie”. The correlations are there, but MacFarlane clearly knows that with an original work like Ted that not only must he appeal to his established fan-base, he must also appeal to the general masses who may have never heard of him before. The results are the aforementioned Family Guy style humour but with much of the outright weirdness toned right down. And by god it works! Some of the jokes come across as a little esoteric, for example I have never seen Flash Gordon but I knew enough to go along with the jokes; but nothing was so out of left field that the jokes didn’t make sense unlike some of Family Guy. Ted is completely unashamed of itself, presenting extremely out-there jokes (some of which were able to bring tears to my eyes) and it was extremely refreshing. This is an “outrageous comedy” that is thankfully not in the vein of the gross-out tactics of films such as American Pie or The Hangover Part II. Ted is an example of that type of film being done properly.

But the true highlight of Ted, the aspect of the film that elevates it (for me, at least) from a great outrageous comedy to a high quality film is the serious aspects. There is an expression I don’t like to use very often, but I will in this case as Ted is definitely worthy of it and that expression is: this film has heart. And that heart is derived predominantly from the relationship between John and Ted. This is one of the best “bromances” I have seen onscreen, as the two of them are not only so funny together but also so damn cute together! Ted is one of the cutest characters I have ever seen since that little girl from Monster Inc. To illustrate my point, here’s a picture:

TED-post-2
No one could stay mad at that face!

John and Ted have many moments in the film where the comedy takes a backseat and they bond as lifelong friends, and it is very touching. We’ve all had to “grow up” at some point in our lives, but to see it happening when your childhood is a living, breathing thing makes it all the more heartbreaking. All of this is achieved through both the talent of Mark Wahlberg and Seth MacFarlane to be able to create such a believable connection between an actor and a visual effect, and from the quality of the visual effect itself. Ted looks amazing, as the picture above can show, and he never looks like he isn’t present. He actually looks like he was there on set, and he fully interacts with his environment. Suffice to say, the special effects team were amazing.

Ted is certainly not a comedy for everyone. I don’t know if I could recommend it to my parents for example (though they have surprised me in the past!), and there are people out in the world who are genuinely offended by any kind of rude or crass humour. Some, but not many, of the jokes can be a little esoteric and there were a few poop jokes that were chuckle worthy but not tear worthy; but no comedy is tear-jerkingly hilarious one hundred percent of the time. But if you are someone who isn’t deterred by those sorts of things then Ted is compulsory viewing. It is the best comedy I have seen in a long time.
See you next time!