The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – Review

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) Rating 7/10

Directed by : Marc Webb. Cast: Andrew GarfieldEmma StoneJamie FoxxDane DeHaanFelicity JonesPaul GiamattiSally Field.

Let’s be honest, I’ve always been a sucker for Spiderman. So you may feel this review is a little bit biased by my love for the character. When I was a little skinny 5 years old boy I used to dress up in a Spidey costume and I remember feeling invincible (despite the fact that I looked even skinnier and more feeble than ever with those red and blue tights on).

When the first Amazing Spider-Man was released back in 2012 I was there on opening night, on the biggest IMAX screen Britain has ever seen (or so the slogan says), dragging my pregnant wife (Little Jr. inside the belly wasn’t too pleased about the loud subwoofer apparently), filled with excitement, despite fearing the worse (early trailers didn’t look that good) and hating the idea of a new reboot so soon after Raimi’s trilogy. In the end Andrew Garfiled managed to win me over and I was probably one of the few bloggers out there completely satisfied with the Marc Webb‘s reboot (You can still read my review for the first film here).

The Amazing Spiderm-man 2 swings into our screens followed by an overwhelming number of trailers and teasers. So many in fact that I walked into the theatre feeling that I had already seen most of the film. Luckily, there were enough surprises throughout to keep it all fresh, including the biggest surprise of them all which obviously I am not going to reveal (but which will be the one that you’ll be dying to talk to somebody about, after you’ve seen this film).

Well, let me tell you straight away: I loved this movie! This is my idea of a perfect Comic adaptation: a mix of humour, action, over-the-top baddies, and some emotionally charged scenes. And once again, just like in the previous instalment, this is where director Marc Webb shines: the relationship with between Andrew Garfiled and Emma Stone is almost tangible and it’s definitely one of the strong cards; credit to the director of course, but also and especially to the actors).  Garfiled, first and foremost, doesn’t just inhabits the character to perfection (Tobey Maguire is now completely gone from my memory) but he also manages to make him relatable, funny and bizarrely… real! I must confess he even managed to bring a few tears into my eyes a couple of times.

The pace, the action and the special effects, all seem to have gone up a couple of gears too. Right from the bright and energetic beginning as the camera swoops through the skyscrapers of Manhattan, this feels straight away a much more confident film than the first. There’s no more comparisons to draw with an already told story and the ghost of Raimi is nowhere to be seen despite the fact that his previous “2nd SpiderMan” is possibly known as one of the best superhero movie ever (I can hear a lot of Avengers fans screaming with rage… hahaha).

Manhattan itself takes centre stage like only the big Apple can do, while a series of perfectly cast characters enhance every moment in the film: from the forever-reliable Sally Field and the surely future Oscar winner Dane DeHaan (I don’t think you can argue with this premonition), to the deliriously over-the-top Paul Giamatti and the electrically charged Jamie Foxx who manages be sad and terrifying at the same time.

If there is one criticism to make is probably that the film tries to do too much, as it handles too many threads and character and runs for a bit too long (what film doesn’t these days?), but I would be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy every single moment and I did not look at my watch once.

Yes, the editing is a bit choppy and the order of some of the scenes sometimes feels a bit arbitrary (clearly they must have left a fair bit in the editing room), but it’s all entertaining enough and it all runs along at a brisk pace that you hardly notice it.

Call it what you want, escapism, pop-corn film-making, Hollywood money-sucking machine… but when I go and see a movie called Spider-Man, this is exactly what I want to see.

7 Stars (out of 10)

The Amazing Spider-Man – Review

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)  4.0_MG_SMALL

Directed by Marc Webb. Starring Andrew GarfieldEmma StoneRhys IfansDenis LearyMartin SheenSally FieldIrrfan Khan.

When the news of a reboot for the Raimi-Maguire Spiderman was first announced (and not just a reboot, but another ‘origin’ story, only 10 years after the first one), the obvious question on anybody’s lips was “Why on earth?”. What followed was a sort of anti-campaign from fans and critics alike: we all seemed to have decided we were going to hate this film, at all costs. When eventually first teaser was released in 2011, with all that badly CGIed, cartoony, extended point of view shot, looking more like a video-game than anything resembling a real film, we had already made up our minds that new incarnation of Spiderman was going to be not just redundant, but the final nail in the coffin for possibly the most beloved superhero of them all.

Well, I am happy to eat all my words back and say that I could not have been more wrong: The Amazing Spider-man is possibly the best Spiderman movie we’ve ever seen (I would have to watch the second one by Raimi again to really work out which one is now my favourite), but more importantly Andrew Garfield is the absolute ultimate Spiderman.

The line that everybody has been saying over and over again to describe this film is that it is a more realistic version of Spiderman (if you can call realistic the story of a man in spandex swinging through the skyscrapers of New York); what director Mark Webb has managed to infuse in it, is not the usual gritty and dark realism we’ve come to expect from those Nolan-directed Batman movies, but one steeped in real characters and real feelings, where people can be hurt both in a physical and emotional sense. And if you thought the Raimi-directed films were love stories first and foremost, and ain’t seen nothing yet!

The comparison with the previous incarnation of your friendly neighbour,  given the fact that we are meant to buy into another origin story so soon after the first one, it’s not just unavoidable but also quite fair. The ghost of Raimi is constantly behind the corner, but cleverly Mark Webb (who has obviously studied his source deeply and intensely) has manage to avoid most of the obvious comparison by giving the story a completely new spin (you will forgive me the pun), steering away from anything which could give us any sense of Déjà vu, making the story and the characters different enough at each opportunity, giving us a new baddie and a new girlfriend too.

While I was watching it, the only thing I felt I was missing from this version, was that sense of wonder and excitement that came with the first one, when Peter was swinging across NY for the first time. But having now seen it all, I am willing to admit that the film is keeping all that for the end and I was just waiting for it because of my knowledge of the 2002 version.

And of course on this one we get the added dimension given by the 3D technology, which seems to be have been created for this kind of films: I’m not your number 1 fan of 3D, but seeing this in an IMAX Theatre, I have have to tell you I found myself flinching from time to time and having a sense of vertigo that I am sure it would not have been so strong if it had been in 2D. So for once, kudos to the gimmick!

The final result is a film that manages to be just as fresh and exiting as if it was a completely new story, and it still manages to keep us guessing, thrilled and entertained throughout.

Somebody may argue that, clocking at around 136 minutes, it is all probably too long, but not me. Never once I felt anything was superfluous or in need of a trim. Andrew Garfield is so good and likeable in the main role and the chemistry with his co-star Emma Stone so sweet and believable (Yes, I know those 2 are together in real life too, and it shows) that I was just happy to be in their company. And even if Mark Webb took his time before the new Spidey costume made its first appearance, I would have been absolutely fine without seeing it for even longer. And if the film works as it does it’s because we do actually spend some proper time with these characters. It’s crucial that those scenes don’t feel rushed.

Rhys Ifans as the one-armed scientist/lizard, has enough screen-time  to flesh out his character into not just your stereotypical baddie, but a proper two-dimentional persona, making that extra twist at the end even more believable  (and giving Alfred Molina from Spiderman2 a run for his money for the top spot on Spidey’s best enemy list).

One the downside, James Horner‘s music, while one one hand was nicely judged on some of the more intimate and poignant moments, felt too saccharin and sweepy in what should have been much quieter scenes, but more crucially, it seemed to lack that Hero-theme which this type of films require. The kind of theme you can still hum by the time you leave the theatre, just like in Superman or Indiana Jones or even Harry Potter  (God, is John Williams really the only composer who’s able to do that?).

I’m also in two minds about the costume itself (I know, now we are on geeky-territory, but what do you expect from a moviegeek writing on his blog?!): though it look cool from far away and even on the poster, more often than not it seemed to fit awkwardly on Garfield’s body, creating strange creases and looking more like plastic than anything else…

The CGI work though has still a few cartoony moments is pretty good, and certainly the best we’ve seen so far in any Spiderman movie. I was pleased to see how little of that video-game-like point of view from that first trailer was actually left into the film. It must have been a case of listening to what the fans had to say and acting consequently.

Three editors are officially credited in the film and that’s always a sign of a film going that’s gone through several permutations. As someone very close to the art of editing I could see that despite those 136 minutes some of the transitions were a tiny bit too quick: the explanation of how Parker was able to make his web seems to be the sequence that suffered more than any other.

But I know, I am really picking needles here! It might not be the most original story you’ve ever seen (well, it not!), but it’s a thrilling romp and thoroughly enjoyable. And yet, despite all the action, the spinning, the spectacle (and the film has a lot of that!) what really shines at the heart of The Amazing Spiderman it’s the relationship between Garfield and Stone: it might be just marketing campaign to draw in the female audience as well as the the comic fans and the geeks, but it also gave the film such an emotional depth that I completely won me over. In fact in a way it’s the simplicity of the story itself that makes this such a pleasure to watch (I did enjoy the Avengers, but I still have trouble at explaining some of that story…).

If you add to all this, Andrew Garfield‘s spotless performance (in fact in a couple of moment really Oscar-worthy! If only Hollywood was brave enough to allow those types of performances in the Oscar race…) the perfectly balanced and well calibrated direction, and some wonderful supporting cast (Martin Sheen, I love you!) and some thrilling visuals, what you get is one my favourite superhero movie ever.

4 Stars (out of 5)

BAFTA AWARDS 2011

BAFTA AWARDS 2011 – RESULTS & COMMENTS

The BAFTA Awards for 2011 have just been given out. Once again it proved how biased these awards are towards British Films. The King’s Speech was the big winner of the evening (no surprise there), grabbing all sorts of awards (7 in all). Here’s the list of all the winners and some quick comments from me.

Best Film – The King’s Speech

Like it was predicted. I wonder if in a few years time we’ll be remembering this film, or Inception and Toy Story 3. Oh well, it was so predictable.

Leading Actor – Colin Firth – The King’s Speech

Well deserved I supposed, but my votes would have gone to James Franco, especially since Colin had won it last year.

Leading Actress – Natalie Portman – Black Swan

She was pretty amazing in that film, so totally deserved. And I am so happy that annoying  HAILEE STEINFELD didn’t get it for True Grit

Director – The Social Network – David Fincher

Well, I am happy it wasn’t Tom Hooper.. but it should have gone to Nolan for INCEPTION

Cinematography – True Grit – Roger Deakins

Totally deserved, though it was a hard choice, Matthew Libatique did a great job for BLACK SWAN and INCPETION (Wally Pfister) looked amazing!

Adapted Screenplay – The Social Network – Aaron Sorkin

Well, there was no other choice for this, was there? He should get an Award every year just for his West Wing!!

Orange Wednesdays Rising Star Award – Tom Hardy

Well deserved. He stole every scene in Inception and he’s going to be huge with the next Batman movie. Let’s face it ANDREW GARFIELD was Ok on the Social Network, but very transparent on Never Let Me Go

Animated Film – Toy Story 3

Well, of course. What else was there?

Original Screenplay – The King’s Speech – David Seidler

This was to be expected, but it’s a shame Inception couldn’t make it.I can see this might be one of those differences at the Oscars.

Supporting Actor – Geoffrey Rush – The King’s Speech

One of the most controversial win, not because Geoffrey Rush didn’t deserve it, but because we all thought it was going to go to Christian Bale. I guess it was probably a way to punish Bale for his recent behavior. Anyway, his Oscar is coming soon…

Outstanding British Film – The King’s Speech

All pretty predictable of course, however since it got the Best film, this award should have really gone to somebody else. Mike Leigh’s Another Year for example was left empty-handed.

Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer – Four Lions – Director/Writer – Chris Morris

This was also pretty predictable, but a lot of people though THE ARBRO  was a better film. My vote would have gone to EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP , a documentary which I really enjoyed, but also I would have loved to see Banksy collecting the award… hehehe.

Supporting Actress – Helena Bonham Carter – The King’s Speech

A bit of a travesty in my view. This performance was a real caricature and pretty one-dimensional. Brits love Helena, so it was all rather predictable. It’s a pity for LESLEY MANVILLE or ANY ADAMS

Special Visual Effects – Inception – Chris Corbould, Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Peter Bebb

Well deserved.

Production Design – Inception – Guy Hendrix Dyas, Larry Dias, Doug Mowat

As Above

Costume Design – Alice in Wonderland – Colleen Atwood

A pretty obvious choice considering the nominees.

Film Not in the English Language – The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Søren Stærmose, Niels Arden Oplev

I don’t really get this. I never really understood the success of this film, especially in a year when you have films like THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES, and OF GODS AND MEN. However I’m happy BIUTIFUL didn’t get it, since it was the most depressing film of the year!

Make Up & Hair – Alice in Wonderland – Valli O’Reilly, Paul Gooch

Well, the only other choice was HARRY POTTER, but then again, they’re probably waiting for the next one.

Editing – The Social Network – Angus Wall, Kirk Baxter

Following the rule that the best editing is the invisible one, then this is probably a deserved award. However it should have gone to Lee Smith for INCEPTION

Sound – Inception – Richard King, Lora Hirschberg, Gary A Rizzo, Ed Novick

Well deserved, but the sound on 127 HOURS was truly amazing.

Original Music – The King’s Speech – Alexandre Desplat

It was the obvious choice, but INCEPTION‘s music by Hans Zimmer was almost revolutionary and it is still the most memorable.

Short Animation – The Eagleman Stag – Michael Please

Short Film – Until the River Runs Red – Paul Wright, Poss Kondeatis

After writing this list, I wrote to the Evening Standards the following email, an extract of which, once again, got published on the 15th of February. (It’s the second one they publish, the first  one was for Harry Potter)

After 63 years of BAFTA and 82 years of Oscars (and everything else in between), It must be really hard for these poor people to come up with an acceptance speech that is original, succinct, sharp, witty, but most importantly memorable.
Sam Leiht’s hit the nail right on the head: “better embarrassed than forgotten”. Last thing you want to do is to give a lousy speech: and yet there are still those who end up just making long list of boring names nobody knows anything about, or those who read from cue-cards!
For crying out-loud people: you’re actors!! Act! Remember your lines!! And perform for your audience!
I am not necessarily saying you have to do what Roberto Benigni did at the Oscars in ’99 (though that was pretty awesome.. and definitely memorable!), jumping up and down and shouting “I want to make love with all of you”, but I’m sure you could do better than just thanking your mom and your agent or your beautiful husband/wife.
That Bafta show last night was on the whole pretty lame, in my view, and the only real memorable speech was the one from Helena Bonham Carter (mainly because for some reason she was allowed to break the rule and to go on for a lot longer than she was allowed to).
In their defense, it must be said that nowadays there are too many Movie Awards around and, if you are Colin Firth, from the King’s Speech, you know you’re going to have speak more than once: so what do you do in that case? Do you give the same one over and over again, do you give your best earlier on (maybe at the Golden Globes), or do you hold out for the Oscars (because let’s face it, that’s the one that gets remembered).
I really hope Colin Firth opted for the latter as the one from last night was pretty forgettable… in fact I can’t even remember what he said.
It’s all probably part of a bigger discussion on whether we really need all these awards…
Warren Beatty was right on his acceptance speech in ’76 when he said “We want to thank all of you for watching us congratulate ourselves tonight”, because that’s essentially what they all do. C’mon guys, be a bit more creative!

Never Let Me Go – Review

Never Let Me Go (2010)

Directed by Mark Romanek. Starring Carey MulliganAndrew GarfieldKeira Knightley

Finally Never Let Me Go gets released in the UK (more than 5 months after its premiere): maybe there were hoping for a few Oscar nominations to get more exposure. Instead they’ve got none… And you know why? I think it’s because actually the film is not that good.

If you haven’t seen it and you still want go spend some money for a ticket, then you should probably stay away from this review as it will contain some spoilers and as always a film is better enjoyed when you know as little as possible. I came to it knowing absolutely nothing, so you can imagine my surprise when I realized that it was actually a sort of a sci-fi story!

In a way I like I was watching an extended episode of “The Twilight Zone”: it had the same feel of impending doom that some of those best episodes seemed to have, but also I couldn’t help thinking that it all could have worked better as a short story/film, instead of the long drawn-out experience that “Never Let me Go” is.

First of all let me just say that I really want to applaud the original concept: I like the actual and the whole message  behind it all. The film has been adapted by Alex Garland (who’d written The Beach, 28 Days Later among the others) from a novel by Japanese-English Novelist Kazuo Ishiguro (who gave us things like The Remains of the Day).

Alex Garland does deserve some credit for sticking to the restraints of the novel, but also director Mark Romanek deserves some credit too for the intense mood he managed to create: however all that gray from the sky and the landscape and in the characters’ clothes after a while does spill into my feeling about the film. It’s neither black nor white… just a middle dull gray that failed to engage me as much as it probably should have.

The founding premise, must be said,  has already been explored in several novels and film within the sci-fi genre many time before (see Michael Bay’s The Island, for example… Obviously that is on the complete opposite side of the spectrum), but at least here it’s good to see them avoiding the clichés of the typical futuristic-looking-city with people dressed up in translucent lycra and flying cars… Instead we have a sort of alternate reality looking like 60s or 70s.

I haven’t read the original, but I hear it has some of the same issues (or faults in my view) that the film has. You can probably got away with on the written page, but up there, on the screen, my patience run out pretty soon as the story became too mechanical and the plot holes became more and more apparent. There’s something literally “vital” missing. It just didn’t ring true!

So much so, that after a while the film completely stopped working for me, especially on an emotional level. And it’s not because the whole thing is sparse and slow and muted, but mainly because the story became so unreal and contrived that after a while I stopped believing in the characters and eventually stopped caring for them.

It’s strange to be put off by the feeling on “unreal” in what’s essentially a sci-fi, but when that gets in the way of the emotional response one should have towards the characters, then something is wrong with it.

For a start I just could not  believe that these people would do nothing to try to question their fate that’s been set up for them. I also myself not really buying into the fact that Andrew Garfield’s character was in love with Carey Mulligan. I can’t quite figure out if it’s again a problem with the script itself or with Garfield’s acting: I prefer to go for the first option, since I’ve already stated my problems with the story anyway and I want to believe Garfield is actually a better actor than he was allowed to be here.

Carey Mulligan is probably the best of the three actors, but even poor Carey’s doomed face became a bit tiresome after a while.

Finally Keira Knightley, even though she pulls off one of her best performances she’s ever displayed, still manages to annoy the hell out of me, even though, as it’s been noted before, she overcomes the implausibility of being donor of organs: where would she actually keep them?

In short, there wasn’t enough to fill a whole movie… and for me to care.

6.0

The Social Network – Review

The Social Nework (7.5/10)

Directed by David Fincher. With Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Rooney Mara, Joseph Mazzello

I know, this film has now been out for weeks, but I’ve only just managed to catch it on the big screen and since I can tell this is one of those we are going to be talking about in the coming Awards season, I thought I should probably spend a couple of words discussing it.

Easily the starting point has got to be the script. Aaron Sorkin is the real star of the film. The fast, sharp and witty dialogue, the same we all fell in love with on the West Wing is Sorkin’s trade mark and it is apparent on pretty much every single line in “The Social Network”. At the end of the day it’s what really makes it work.

David Fincher’s direction this time seems invisible to the untrained eye, but obviously to be able to make a bunch of nerds sitting by a computer interesting and compelling, as this film is,  must have been not an easy task.

The entire cast is faultless, lead by Jesse Eisenberg who is absolutely perfect in his portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg. Even Justin Timberlake, however hateful and annoyingly disgusting he is in the movie,  is actually very good as Sean Parker, the inventor of napster, as we learn from his first scene in the film.

From the start the film  quite clearly does not want to take sides and decides to avoid lawsuites by drawing its dialogue from the various transcripts from the various procedural meetings with the various sides’ lawyers.

And if there is a problem with the film, this is maybe it: there’s a certain detachment throughout, from the way it’s filmed (Ficher’s direction is often quite cold and calculated), to the way it’s written (typical of Sorkin), and edited (the constant cutting backwards and forwards from the procedural meetings to the real story), basically from the way it’s conceived right from the start. All of which prevents you from having a real emotional attachment to any of the character on the screen.

You never really care about any of them in particular. Each of the actors does absolutely their best with what they are given, but clearly that’s not enough.

We almost want to feel bad for Andrew Garfield’s character (who plays Zuckeberg’s best friend Eduardo Saverin), but we are never given the chance to get too close to him, to fully care and really share his feeling of betrayal. In fact his character disappears half way through the film (he goes to New York) and when he comes back towards the end, are we supposed to reconnect straight away and feel for him? I don’t think so.

The film is so careful about not taking sides and sticking to the truth that it ends up being too clinical, cold and makes you feel really detached from it. I am sure that was probably the way all those people are in real life, but if you have to watch them for 2 hours you really need someone to care about.a

Towards the end (SPOILER ALERT… but not really…), we’re almost given a glimpse of a moment where we are meant to feel sorry for Mark Zuckerberg (a person so incapable to connect with real people, just as he was so good in making them connect with the internet), but it’s too little, too late. It’s really not enough and actually, that’s not how the film has been up until that point.

I really wanted to love this movie, I wanted it to become my favorite film of the year and instead, I just thought it was all right.. but not more than that. And I am almost angry with myself for saying that!

With all the will in the world, I don’t think I can give it more than 7.5/10. Still a very good film, but not the masterpiece I was hoping.

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