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!

Inception – Review

INCEPTION 

Directed by Christopher Nolan. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen PageTom HardyKen WatanabeCillian MurphyTom BerengerMarion CotillardPete PostlethwaiteMichael CaineLukas Haas

THIS REVIEW ASSUMES THAT YOU HAVE SEEN THE FILM AND IT’S FILLED WITH SPOILERS. IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE FILM YOU SHOULD NOT READ IT, BUT YOU SHOULD GO OUT RIGHT NOW AND BUY YOURSELF A COPY ON DVD OR BLURAY !!

So much has been written and talked about this movie that it’s hard to say anything new about it. However I didn’t want to miss my chance to talk about what I thought was one of the most inventive and challenging blockbuster of the last few years (and the top film of the year in my view), and with its release on DVD and BluRay (I guess the first of many), to the risk of repeating what’s already been said, I’ll just add my voice to the many others among the people who loved this film.

I have already seen it three times and I guess I am now fully comfortable with its story and structure, but also I did notice the few cracks here and there.

However, it is so refreshing to finally see a big budget Hollywood movie that doesn’t treat its audience like a band of lobotomized idiots but actually attempts to do something a bit more challenging, beyond the silly Pirates of the Caribbean or the awful Transformers movies, but it seems to me that this is what blockbusters have become in the last few years. I honestly cannot remember what’s the last big Pop Corn summer movie I have enjoyed. Can anyone help?

This film makes no apologies for its labyrinthine structure and it’s as if  you could almost hear Nolan saying to me “c’mon, keep up! Keep up!”. It is a mentally draining experience (I don’t think I have been so exhausted since Nolan’s Memento, which I loved, or even Mullholland Drive, which I’m still trying to work out… ). Basically in this film if you miss even 5 minutes, you’re screwed! And I love it for it!

But the most interesting thing I noticed this time is that the film is actually made in such a way that even if you don’t completely understand it, you’ll understand it enough to be able to appreciate the action and the basic plot with its intricate layers of dreams.

You’re supposed to get lost in the beginning, but never lost enough to lose your patience… and then slowly you start to understand just enough to be able to cope with it… So basically, the film makes you believe that you are pretty clever in being able to work it out by yourself, while in fact the huge amount of exposition helps you immensely.

People have been criticizing the fact that half of the movie is essentially exposition, where the characters are telling you what’s going on and what they are going to do and how… Well, funnily enough I though that was part of the fun. I don’t mind exposition, if it’s done in a clever, fast and intriguing way like in Inception.

People have been criticize it for its cool and clinical approach to characters. I have been hearing people complaining about not feeling anything for Di Caprio’s internal  pain. Well, I don’t know what to tell them about that, but I thought the scene where Marion Cotillard commits suicide was actually emotionally incredibly strong and Di Caprio’s performance was pretty faultless. Yes, maybe Ellen Page’s character was just a functional piece of the puzzle but actually pretty two-dimensional, but hey, does it really matter? Was I sitting there thinking “Oh My God, what is she feeling? I want to know more about her?” No!! I was completely unwrapped in the story to notice any of that and it didn’t matter to me. Marion Cottilard is utterly terrifying as the ever-present ex-wife. Just her presence is enough for me to give me a great sense of unease. She’s perfect in it and she’s quickly becoming my favorite French actress. Cillian Murphy in his character manages to convey both strength and weakness: at the beginning you think he’s got the world in his hands and at the end you almost feel pity for him and you understand his pain. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is incredibly watchable. Surely it must not be too easy to be next to Di Caprio and come out just as strong and sympathetic as he does. We’ll be hearing a lot about him (but then again, I was already a fan from the time he did “Mysterious Skin”). Tom Hardy is the surprise of the film. I knew what to expect by all the other ones, but Hardy really took me by surprise and did so much with what was quite an underdeveloped character, making him likable, sharp and witty. Finally I should probably mention Michael Caine, who does almost nothing in this film, and yet, just by the fact that he’s there he gives me a sense of security and serenity that it’s un-replaceable.

Also the visuals obviously are so stunning that you sort of want to forgive even any little character development. The CGI effects in Paris are some of the best ones and most inventive I have seen in recent times. It is so hard nowadays to still be able to amaze us with any Visual Effects and yet Nolan has been able to do it over and over again in this film. It’s the combination of clever Production Design, imaginative Visual (and most of the time Practical) Effects that make it work seamlessly.

The corridor sequences are just a joy to watch and the cross-cutting between the van falling off the bridge in slow motion and all the other levels is just so pleasing and works so well: it’s intricate and yet so simple at the same time, so much so that you wonder why hasn’t anyone done it before?

Where the film falls a bit is in the final act, the so-called “James Bond moment”, that is when we get to the level with all the snow. Maybe because at that point it becomes in part almost like a normal action film, and actually not a very good one either. The staging of the shootout and the chase sequences on the snow are all pretty average and slightly drawn out. Mind you at that point there are so many other things going on and you’ve been so bombarded by so much that you don’t really mind it too much, but it is the weakest part of the film in my view. Also in a way, since you are in a dream, they should have probably pushed it a bit further. But hey, I’m really picking needles here.

I wish all the blockbusters were just 20% as inventive, challenging and beautiful to look at as Inception was. I can’t wait to see what Nolan does next (well of course, Batman 3… but I mean beyond that).

9/10


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