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Shorts and Superheroes at TIFF Kids Day 3: Flack’s Report

Posted on | April 24, 2014 | Add Comments

In Amar, audiences get a slice of a hard-working Iranian boy's lifeTwo shorts programs and a kid superhero rounded out another incredible year at TIFF Kids. Without further ado, here’s my opinions on our last day at TIFF (April 21)…

What do the daily lives of children look like? That’s the theme of the “Slice of Life” shorts program, a continent-spanning collection of four very different, very interesting documentaries. Jamey’s Fight tells the story of an aspiring soccer player with a serious stammer and uses traditional documentary techniques (talking-heads interviews mixed with clips). On the other end of the spectrum, Amar examines a day in the life of a  hard-working Indian boy with a unique, if confusing, interview-free style that puts us right into Amar’s life. Meanwhile, in Youseff, Please Say No!, an over-busy teenager is forced to reconsider his hectic schedule. The highlight here is To Be a B-Girl, an inspiring look at a German break-dancing girl that discusses gender stereotypes and the culture of this interesting sport.

Chikara-The Sumo Wrester's Son tells the true-life tale of sports, determination, and parental pressureAnother group of short documentaries, Strength Through Struggle focuses on children and their courage, resourcefulness, and wit during times of hardship. In Chikara- The Sumo Wrestler’s Son, a Japanese ten-year old trains to be a winning sumo wrestler, like his over-enthusiastic father. The question is, does Chikara want this future for himself? With haunting cinematography, thrilling editing, and narration from Chikara, director Simon Lereng Wilmont  creates a captivating portrait of childhood and one of the best short films I’ve ever seen. Two more moving tales of kids struggling with parental issues finished the program: Layla’s Melody, about a girl’s uncertain life in Afghanistan, and Hear This!, about a Danish kid-soccer player and his deaf dad.

Antboy isn't your average superhero (he's a kid!)The only feature film I saw this day was Antboy, a superhero hero adventure starring (refreshingly) a kid. Pelle is just a regular kid living a regular life until he gets bitten by an ant (sound familiar?) and receives incredible powers. Before long, Pelle is Antboy, a crime-fighting superhero. But does Pelle just want to be the “popular kid” or will he take advantage of his gifts? Parents looking for a safe alternative to the dark, brooding state of comic-book cinema will love taking their kids to this entertaining, kid-friendly superhero comedy.

From a jazz prodigy and flying meatballs, to engrossing true-life tales and a comic-book super-kid, TIFF Kids 2014 was filled with wondeeful movies of every variety. Another memorable year at TIFF is over but I have some unforgettable movie-going experiences to remember!

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Flick’s Review)

Posted on | April 5, 2014 | Add Comments

2 1/2 stars

Think back to 2008, long before Marvel Studios was at it’s current world dominating state, when the first Iron Man film came out. It was a witty, fun film that had a hero who wasn’t as perfect or brave as Superman, nor as dark and brooding as Batman. He was somewhere in between, with added parts wit, snark, and humor. Now skip ahead six years, to 2014. Not only have two more Iron Man films been made, but Thor and Captain America films have also been added to the mix. They have all had a couple of sequels, and as if that wasn’t enough, they’ve been thrown together along with other heroes in The Avengers. And now, here we are, in 2014 with Captain America returning to the big screen.

This time around, brothers Anthony and Joe Russo are squeezing into the director’s chair, taking over after Joe Johnston directed the first installment, The First Avenger, but they unfortunately lack any artistic flair that you can tell is theirs. With Thor, Kenneth Branagh put his Shakespearean stamp on the caped demigod and in Iron Man, Jon Favreau mixed witty humor with frightening realism. Here, the Russos don’t seem to know where they want to head with the film, other than follow the lead of Kevin Feige, the mastermind president of Marvel, who has schemingly connected all of these superheroes into one, big money-sucking giant. I’m pretty sure I would have liked the film a good deal more if there was less of the Marvel universe setting-up and more of a down-to-earth superhero story.

Captain America (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) are back in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

That being said, once I realized that the film wasn’t going for superheroism told through poetic direction, I did manage to sit back and enjoy the never-ending twists and turns of the film. And boy, are they fun. Every scene involves some new character being either thrown into the mix, being reintroduced, or dying, to the point that that the film reaches beyond exhaustion and into guilty, giddy fun. The film is part sci-fi, part paranoia, part mystery-thriller, part action caper, part rogue-on-the-lose…and that’s much of what makes it enjoyable. The fact that the film isn’t going for an obvious tone (i.e. Shakespearean or witty-dark) gives it an all-over-the-map aspect that is ridiculous, but also crazy fun in it’s own right.

That brings me to one last point and that is the fun. If you were asked what a superhero film was ten years ago, you might have answered “a fun, enjoyable adventure”. But today, that is becoming less and less true. Superhero reimaginings almost always seem to go darker and more violent and that is certainly true here with The Winter Soldier. The fun of the ’40s shtick in the first film gives way to the “Don’t trust anyone!” tone that is evident from the beginning. Early on in the film, Captain America is tasked with rescuing captive members of the S.H.I.E.L.D. organization who are being held by pirates. When Cap lands on the ship, I expected him to heroically maneuver his way past the pirate guards. But, I was shocked to see that he instead went straight for the kill, knocking them off in different, equally violent ways. As I watched the film develop, I yearned for the excitement and adventure of not only the first film, but other earlier superhero flicks. Unfortunately, the way Marvel is heading, the chances of an honest-to-goodness adventure, are becoming slimmer and slimmer.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Flack’s Review)

Posted on | April 5, 2014 | Add Comments

Captain America (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) are back in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Captain America: The Winter Soldier 2 Stars

Everyone’s second favorite red and blue Spandex-clad superhero is back…but not exactly better. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is longer, louder, and more violent than it’s predecessor, 2011′s The First Avenger, and that’s not a good thing.

In his first big-screen adventure, a scrawny Steve Rogers became the Captain America, and fought World-War II bad guys and Hugo Weaving’s super-villain The Red Skull. As the film ended, he was resurrected to the modern day, after sleeping for 70 years. Now, after saving the world in The Avengers, Cap struggles to come to terms with an increasingly scary world. Chief among his worries is who to trust: Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and newbie Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford, looking kind of unsure what he’s doing in a superhero movie) all want the titular hero on their side, whether for good or evil. Speaking of good, Cap gets a new sidekick, named Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie). And speaking of bad, The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) wants to kill everyone, even if he may or may not have been Captain America’s best friend long ago. As S.H.I.E.L.D. (the good guy one) and HYDRA (the bad guy one) fight for world domination, things get dark, apocalyptic, and very, very unpatriotic.

As you can tell, there’s a lot going on in this movie. Read: too much. For 2 hours and 15 minutes, directors Anthony and Joe Russo tediously manufacture another boring blockbuster about the end of everything. The major problem is obvious: the Russo brothers are less interested in the personalized flair of past Marvel hits then they are in in low-lit, mopey-faced spectacle. The tone from the get-go is calamitously violent, with only the occasional one-liner.

There's action abound in Captain America (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) are back in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)If there’s one thing  you can never fault Marvel for it’s that they manage to find a different genre for each movie. Last time Cap fought his way around, director Joe Johnston found a delicate balance of serious war-movie patriotism and tongue-in cheek cartoon goofiness that managed to set his film apart. The Iron Man movies are smart comedy-thrillers, while the Thor franchise is a galactic fantasy on a grand scale. The Winter Soldier fits into the “Generic 2014 Action-Movie” genre and the results are what you’d expect.

Starkly contrasting it’s precursor, the film’s script is sometimes hilariously inconsistent with the Captain America myth we know and love. I mean really, why is a flag-waving comic-book icon running around dispatching terrorists like he got mixed up with the latest Iron Man movie? Worse, the film tries to justify this by being “topical” i.e. mentioning present-day issues like national security and global war, while cartoon characters run around shooting each other.

Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackosn) and Alexander pierce (Robert Redford) are old friends and potential enemies in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)The problems don’t stop there; the two villains of the film are both monotonous retreads of other superhero nemeses. In a coulda-been-great performance, Robert Redford plays Alexander Pierce as just another shady government official without much to do. The Winter Soldier fares a little better, but not much. Despite a killer backstory, he mostly just gets to blow things up while looking sad and confused behind a mask. And what about our hero? Chris Evans has none of the relatable do-gooder charisma we saw last time; instead he plays Cap as a frustrated myth with more biceps than brains.

The Winter Soldier is one of the worst superhero films I’ve ever seen but there are a few upsides. Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson actually look alive, while Anthony Mackie has the makings of a real star. Like The Avengers, there’s also fleeting sight-gags and in-jokes (the War Games reference and an inspired use of Marvin Gaye were bonuses). The one thing that really stood out to me, however, will surprise you: some of the time, the film actually surprised me with shocking twists I didn’t see coming.

If you didn’t get the memo, I was pretty disappointed by this film. I could go on about the film’s repetitive action sequences, predictable narrative arc, and ridiculous amount of product placement (really Marvel, you don’t have enough money already?) but if you want to know more, go see the movie. Just know: you’ll be marveling at what a bad decision you made.

The Summer So Far (Flack’s Review)

Posted on | June 21, 2013 | Add Comments

Summer Movie Season 2013Summer Movie Season 2013 has seen spectacular highs and shattering lows, even though it’s only half way over! I’ve seen three summer blockbusters already, but haven’t written a review of any of them. So here’s a triple review comparing the disappointing but original Iron Man 3, the thrillingly wonderful Star Trek Into Darkness, and the letdown epic Man of Steel.

Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3
Rating: 3 Reels

Let’s start off with Iron Man 3, Marvel’s latest attempt at a mega-hit superhero flick (don’t worry they succeeded). Shane Black replaces Jon Favereau as director which was NOT a good idea. The movie has less laughs than we’ve come accustomed to and it’s by far the darkest of the Iron Man trilogy with onscreen deaths, disturbing fight scenes, and massive explosions. Robert Downey Jr. plays Tony Stark with the usual mix of hilarity, sarcasm, and witty one liners. He’s fantastic, as is the rest of the cast. But it’s basically a one man show with Tony traveling from point A to point B and killing bad guy one and bad guy two, etc. The movie is uneven, over violent, and poorly executed. The plot is mediocre and though we do get the bang for our buck (or something like 14 bucks if you see it in IMAX 3-D) we don’t get much story. But three quarters into the film something crazy happens. A twist. Out of the blue, the film turns a corner and shocks us with it’s best moment. It defies the advertisements that have had us thinking one way and…Well I won’t spoil it but I’ll just say this; it’s SHOCKING. And in this world of trailers that give everything away, that means awesome.

Chris Pine and Karl Urban in Star Trek Into DarknessStar Trek Into Darkness
Rating: 4 1/4 Reels

J. J. Abram’s latest installment in his reboot of the Star Trek series, titled Star Trek Into Darkness, is a whirlwind moviegoing roller coaster. After a chase scene on another planet, we’re thrust into the latest Trek adventure: a one man war against the entire U.S.S. Enterprise crew (Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, and more) led by James T. Kirk (Chris Pine). The “one man” in question is John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), a mysterious evildoer with suspicious morale. The cast is phenomenal because they’re more comfortable with their roles; sure some supporting characters are a bit too, er, supporting but everyone gets their moment. And the leads are incredible: Saldana and Pine are well cast but it’s Zachary Quinto as Spock who really steals the show. He’s essentially as central a character as Kirk, plus he gets all of the best wisecracks and fight scenes. Cumberbatch is also amazing thanks to an intensity that’s plain undescribable. The story is simple but effective and occasionally touching. The best thing about it is that it’s entertaining: exhilarating, yes but also hilarious and fun. But the film’s not perfect. The previously mentioned opening chase scene comes to mind: instead of starting where Kirk and fellow crew member Bones are about to steal the map they’re looking for, Abrams begins when they’re already running from baddies. However movies such as Raiders of the Lost Ark take their time to set the stage before the action. Abrams, meanwhile, is all payoff. He directs with a sharp intensity and a knack for elaborate spectacle.  Sure all the action sequences are pulse poundingly sweat inducing (especially in IMAX 3-D where I saw it) and this is all well and good but sometimes he could have paused for a conversation scene that’s not right in the middle of a battle. Sure it’s flawed, but this is nearly everything you could want in a summer popcorn action flick.

 

Superman flies in Man of SteelMan of Steel
Rating: 2 Reels

Man of Steel, the latest Superman movie, has a lot going for it. The film has a likable star in Henry Cavill, some thrilling trailers, an excellent supporting cast, and the producer of what many call the greatest superhero film of all time. However I’m sorry to report that they’ve failed. Badly. It opens with with an incredibly realized Krypton sequence which is way too long. Do we really need two intense fight scenes before Superman/Clark Kent is even out of the crib? No, but we get them, all right. And despite a few expertly crafted moments, the only scenes that have much impact are the flashbacks to Clark’s early life. And then, BACK TO THINGS BLOWING UP ALOT, ALOT, ALOT!!! The film is dragged on for almost an hour too long, thanks to overblown battle sequences that are cut between different shots so fast you can’t even tell what’s going on. Director Zack Snyder would probably be a master at making video games but that skill set really doesn’t work here. In fact, the whole movie feels like a video game that you don’t control: dead characters guide living ones around, there’s objects that must be found, there are flashbacks to explain what’s going on, and, most of all, there are pretentious combat scenes that go on like the film makers just needed to fill up the running time. The performances are decent and likable but Henry Cavill (who’s okay but a bit bland) and Amy Adams have neither much chemistry nor time to develop their characters. Kevin Costner was the perfect choice for Pa Kent but again all he gets are flashback sequences that suggest of a much greater film. Less than halfway through the movie, I started not care what happened to these characters: it just got uninteresting. Man of Steel sadly goes where every violent video game has gone before.

 

Last but not least I have a few concluding statements:

1. Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel are racking up billions of dollars despite being much lesser films than the underperforming Star Trek Into Darkness. What does this tell us about the film industry?

2. If there are three films that represent the state of modern blockbusters it’s these three. However I’d like to say this: sure, all action movies have to include explosions but please Hollywood: dial it down. J.J. Abrams was on the right track with Into Darkness and I’m confident about his new Star Wars.

3. With so many big budget blockbusters being released each year where is this all headed. Steven Spielberg and George Lucas have some ideas. In fact, Spielberg may be right: if five of these summer epics flop something is going to change. Take 2015. What films are going to be released? The Fantastic Four, Pirates of the Caribbean 5, Avengers 2, Justice League, The Smurfs 3, Hotel Transylvania 2, Ant-Man, The Peanuts, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2, Finding Dory, Alvin and the Chipmunks 4, and Kung Fu Panda 3. Woops, forgot to mention a little indie film titled Star Wars: Episode 7. Okay, is your headache over? Many of the films mentioned will flop, so could that signal the death of the blockbuster? No. Star Wars and Avengers 2 are as close to a sure thing as you can get and even if critics and audiences despise them, people will keep coming back to the multiplex. But someday (probably in an estimated 100 years) people will get back to making small, personal films. Until then, there will be terrific action films and wonderful art house pictures. So perhaps, they could both survive together.

Behind the Scenes Of A New Spidey (Flack’s Article)

Posted on | July 7, 2012 | 1 Comment

On July 3rd The Amazing Spider-Man web slings into theaters! However before we get started on the new one here’s a little history. In August, 1962 the first Spider-Man comic was published by Marvel Comics. Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko collaborated on the comic.The comic Amazing Adult Fantasy was canceled  and was renamed Amazing Fantasy for one issue. It was then called The Amazing Spider-Man and has been ever since, though different writers have done their versions of the characters over the years and spinoffs have been published. There were many failed attempts to make a movies involving directors such as James Cameron, David Fincher, and Tim Burton. But in summer 2002 Spider-Man (directed by Sam Raimi and starring Tobey Maguire as the hero himself as well as his alter ego Peter Parker) was released. The movie also starred James Franco and Kirsten Dunst. It was a smash success and became (at the time) the 6th highest grossing movie ever (unadjusted for inflation) though it is now 13th unadjusted. Spider-Man 2 and  Spider-Man 3  were released in 2004 and 2007, respectively. While the former was a success with critics and box office alike Spider-Man 3 made lots of money but was disliked by critics and fans. Or in other words it was time for a reboot. Just so you know I have know reviewed the movie but the following article contains predictions from before July 3rd that I had before I saw the movie.

The Amazing Spider-ManThe look for both a new director and a new Spider-Man was on. Most people thought it was too soon but some people were intrigued. The only remaining people from the first three films are producers Avi Arad and the late Laura Ziskin as well as Sony Pictures Studios. The search for a new Spidey included actors such as Aaron Johnson, Logan Lerman, Anton Yelchin, and Jamie Bell auditioning but in the end the role went to the Golden Globe nominated Brit Andrew Garfield. Though a somewhat unknown Garfield had been in romance drama Never Let Me Go, Oscar drama The Social Network, and fantasy adventure The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. The director Marc Webb has only one other feature to his name: the indie romantic comedy 500 Days Of Summer. But jumping from a budget of $7.5 million to a more Hollywood sized one of $215 million was no small task. There has been tons of advertising for the film: four trailers, an eight minute extended look, two featurettes, and numerous commercials. At first with lots of fans of the Tobey Maguire trilogy unhappy about the remake people had said the trailer made the film look like a Twilight superhero movie (which makes no sense). But as the movie was continually promoted the dust mostly settled.

Last summer was a great one for movies and 3 of my top 5 movies of the year were released in the May-August time frame (Super 8, The Help, and Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2, although Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes was pretty good as well). So far this summer this year I’ve seen a couple of films and none of them have been terrible (Moonrise Kingdom is the only one that may make it to my end of the year list). Can The Amazing Spider-Man be one of the best movies of the year? Probably not. But can it be the best action movie of the summer? Maybe. I thought The Avengers was great entertainment and it was a spectacularly fun way to kick off the summer movies season, even if it could have used an emotional story and better character development. I hope The Amazing Spider-Man mixes awesome action and a great story. I am also seeing this movie in 3-D and I am very excited about that because I hope Spider-Man flies into my face.

In 2002 Spider-Man made $114 million on it’s opening weekend and got an 89% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Spider-Man 2 was released for the 4th of July and made $152 million on the holiday weekend and $88 million on the regular weekend. It also got a 93% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Spider-Man 3 broke box office records with $151 million and got a 63% fresh. My prediction was that The Amazing Spider-Man would tie the original and get an 89% fresh. But many reviews are in and it currently has a 72% with the critic’s consensus being: A well-chosen cast and sure-handed direction allows The Amazing Spider-Man to thrill despite revisiting many of the same plot points from 2002′s Spider-Man. But what about the box office? The 3-D and 4th of July weekend should help bring in money but the studio is saying they hope for $125 million over the 6 day holiday weekend. My response to that? What????? Spider-Man made $114 million and that was in half the time with out added 3-D ticket prices. While June 29th big grossers Ted and Magic Mike may hold over Spidey will be king of the weekend. I think over the 6 day period it may get $155 million and over the three day period I predict it will make $89 million. It will probably have a domestic total of $289 million while worldwide $730 would be great and possible. Now for the other two wide releases this weekend: Katy Perry:Part of Me OWG 4 days: $13 million OWG 3 days: $9 million DTG: $37 million ITG: $80 million Savages: DTG 3 days: $26 million DTG: $56 million ITG: $95 million My RT guess for the former is 75% and for the latter 90% fresh. Savages has a star studded cast and is directed by Oliver Stone and will likely beat Katy Perry: Part of Me, a musical 3-D doccumentary. It should be a great weekend for critics and box office.

In the comments don’t forget to say what you think of the new movie if you’ve seen it or if you want to see it as well as your Rotten Tomatoes and box office predictions! Plus what you think of the previous Spider-Man trilogy! Hope you enjoyed my post! Now enjoy The Amazing Spider-Man!!!!!

The Amazing Spider-Man (Flack’s Review)

Posted on | July 5, 2012 | Add Comments

The Amazing Spider-Man

4 1/2 Stars

The Amazing Spider-Man is about how Peter Parker became Spider-Man. His parents mysteriously left him when he was just 4 years old but he now lives with his aunt and uncle and goes to a science high school in New York City. He is bullied by other kids and then falls in love with a girl named Gwen Stacy. To stop evil criminals because of a personal tragedy he decides to put on a suit and call himself Spider-Man. Peter also helps Dr. Curt Conors who works at Oscorp (the science company Gwen is working at). But then an evil monster called The Lizard tries to wreak havoc in the city. Gwen’s dad is a police captain and he thinks Spider-Man is bad so he tries to arrest him. Will Peter stop being bullied? Will Captain Stacy help Spidey? Will Peter find out the truth about his parents? Will The Lizard be stopped? Find out in The Amazing Spider-Man!!!!!!!

From the second it was announced that there was to be a new Spider-Man film about the origin story of the character people kept saying that it was too soon. After all it was May 2007 when Spider-Man 3 was released? So there were 2 options: ignore all the backlash from fans and critics and continue onto Spider-Man 4 or redo the origin story with a new cast and crew. They picked the second choice.  But is the new movie a moneymaking excuse or a lesson in great reboots? Worse than the 2002 original or way better? The new movie is both a lesson in great reboots and way better than the 2002 original.

The Amazing Spider-ManAll of the performances are strong and actually stronger. Andrew Garfield is great as both Spider-Man and Peter Parker. As Spidey he switches from sarcastic avenger to justice hero  and as Peter he brings depth, humanity, and a  good sense of the character. While Tobey Maguire was good he was a bit silly in the suit and a little ridiculous at times when out of it. However in this version Garfield owns the role. He makes Peter Parker more lonely yet tougher at the same time. The rest of the cast is also terrific. Emma Stone is better than Kirsten Dunst and her character (Gwen rather than MJ) is more developed. Dennis Leary plays Gwen’s father who is a police and his conflicts with Spider-Man make for one of the most interesting strands of the story. Rhys Ifans (like Emma Stone) takes a character from the original and adds more emotion and a new spin to it, resulting in a strong performance as the Norman Osbourney Dr. Curt Conors. As Uncle Ben and Aunt May, Martin Sheen and Sally Field are terrific choices and a bit more serious than Cliff Robertson and Rosemarie Harris were in their parts, respectively. In super small roles Irrfan Khan, Campbell Scott, Chris Zylka, and others are solid.

Marc Webb, who’s only films were music videos and indie romantic comedy (500) Days Of Summer, directs with a superbly smart knack for mixing spectacle with script and action with story. When he’s done with the Spider-Man franchise it will be interesting to see what he decides to do next. The script by James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, and Steve Kloves is great and sometimes witty. Steve Kloves wrote all the Harry Potter movies (except the 5th which was the least faithful) and does a comparably great job here. The movie is perfectly lengthed. At 136 minutes it not too long nor too short. Peter Parker doesn’t put on his mask, let alone call himself Spider-Man for a long time which is perfect because we get to know the character a lot better. And when it does get to the big action scenes where the city is being destroyed the personal scenes never lose their footing. In fact the more humane scenes aren’t so much as messily thrown in with the battles more nicely  put in with them.

The Amazing Spider-ManI saw the film in 3-D and it uses the technique better than the two other 3-D films I saw this year, John Carter, The Pirates In An Adventure With Scientists!, and The Avengers. The movie was shot in 3-D rather than being hastily later converted to 3-D. Along with Hugo this uses 3-D better than any other film I’ve seen (I didn’t see Avatar in 3-D) though if you saw The Amazing Spider-Man in 2-D you could still enjoy it, even if  the action scenes weren’t as mind boggilingly awesome as they are with the added dimension. That said I still have not seen a movie where there is perfectly flawless 3-D and you couldn’t enjoy the movie without it. Nonetheless this is likely to be the 3-D movie of the year. Meanwhile an obvious advantage this film has over the 2002 Spider-Man is that 10 years later special effects have vastly improved. Out is silly computer effects, in are terrific ones. It’s awesome that with 3-D Spider-Man swings at you but the seamless blend of a CG Spidey, a stuntman one, and probably best of all the Andrew Garfield one certainly helps make that happen. Overall the special effects, 3-D, and stunts are amazing.

Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone have great chemistry as do all the actors and it helps that they have a great script to work with. The music by James Horner, known for working with James Cameron on Titanic, Avatar, and Aliens, does a nice job here although either the original Spider-Man theme or a new one might have added some extra, fun excitement. The music is on par with Danny Elfman’s work for the previous trilogy. The color palette consisting mainly of blues and blacks creates a nice tone for a movie that is a bit darker than Sam Raimi’s more candy colored films.

The story is almost the same as the original though some characters have been replaced by similar, more developed ones. Though some iconic parts have been left out such as the line “With great power comes great responsibility” or the rainy upside down kiss but except for just maybe the former immortal line nothing feels missed. In fact overall this was a story completely worth re-telling.

And now for the ultimate answer. Is it better than the other Spider-Man movies? Well,  the producers said that it matters about the content of the film not how soon it comes. That’s mostly true but if this movie came out one year after Raimi’s first Spidey picture it would feel too soon. A decade later however, The Amazing Spider-Man is being released and it is better than Spider-Man (2002) because for one it tells the same story in a better different way. It’s also way greater than Spider-Man 3 (2007) because it’s not as confused or ridiculous. But does it beat Spider-Man 2 (2004) the film I recently called the best based on a comic book movie of all time. I think it’s as good which is certainly saying a lot. However there is one flaw that bugged me in this new version. When Peter gets his powers after being bitten by a spider he starts getting much stronger.  He breaks lots of things and then we see those objects later on perfectly fixed. Sure this won’t make you dislike the film too much but it is something that could have been cleaned up with just a couple of explanatory lines of dialogue. And the ending gets me excited for the sequel with lots of questions unanswered.

My favorite character is Peter Parker aka Spider-Man because while he is sometimes forgetful and does make mistakes he also saves the day, has awesome superpowers, is a good person, and is played nicely by Andrew Garfield (and CGI and stuntmen).

My favorite scene is the climax because the special effects, 3-D, script, story, actors, direction, music, and everything else come together perfectly. It’s also very exciting and suspenseful plus there’s a massive surprise that will make you sad.

The Amazing Spier-Man is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for sequences of action and violence. I agree but I would add that there are sad deaths, mild language, frightening images, and teenage romance.

The Amazing Spider-Man is better than Spider-Man (2002), Spider-Man 3 (2007), and maybe even the great Spider-Man 2 (2004). It cost an estimated $215 million to make and it was worth it. Whether you’re a comic book lover, or a movie buff, or someone just looking for a good time at the cinema you’ll love this movie. Andrew Garfield and the rest of the cast are great as is the direction by Marc Webb and everything else. It’s at times exciting, creepy, funny, and suspenseful but in one word it’s…….. amazing.

The Amazing Spider Man (Flick’s Review)

Posted on | July 4, 2012 | 3 Comments

4 stars

After his parents abandon him, Peter Parker is left with his aunt and uncle. He is then bitten by a spider and decides to be a superhero: Spider Man. He has powers of a spider, like climbing up walls and making webs. Along the way he must stop the Lizard from wrecking havoc on all of NYC and deal with his love for Gwen Stacy.

Everybody has their own opinion. Some people (most critics, like me), think that the world doesn’t need a new Spidey, when it’s only been five years since his last big screen adventure. Others (fans), don’t care if it’s been five years or a day since any superhero last swung or flew or hurtled in the dark. At least we are left with a good Spidey.

Andrew Garfield takes the role this time, after Tobey Maguire left the shoes (and “skin tie red and blue suit”) of Peter Parker/Spider Man. I prefer Garfield over Maguire, because of Garfield’s ability to play Peter and Spidey, both with equal verve. At times, though, Garfield plays the lonely side of the character. He does this with the same amount of talent. As far as Garfield’s acting goes, rest assured: a star is born.

What about the film as a whole? For a summer blockbuster with a brand new star, this goes beyond expectations. The CGI is really cool, a term that can’t be applied enough in today’s films because of the lack of plot development. (While I’m talking about effects, I might as well add the 3-D is certainly worth the extra money.) Since (for me), plot comes first, I won’t be looking to see if the effects are cool unless the story is working. And fortunately here it does. Keeping with the style of the Sam Raimi trilogy, The Amazing Spider Man is very dark. But the tone suits the film well, giving it a vibe that allows the story to make sense. Unlike The Avengers and some other recent superhero films, this film gets it right. It has the giddy, childish fun that you’re looking for, but it also has great chemistry with Garfield and Emma Stone (she is great in the role of Gwen Stacy, previously played by Bryce Dallas Howard, Ron Howard’s daughter).

The effects are good… well mostly. Whenever Spider Man gets flung through midair his hands are shown in front of the camera, in slow-motion. This gives us the feeling that we’re watching a video game and that’s not what I want. Those few times, we feel as if we are Spidey, but in the weirdest of all ways. The effect is trying to make you feel like you’re behind the camera, reaching your hands out, in front of the camera. The feeling is very bizarre. Out of all the times the audience may have wanted to feel as if they’re Spider Man, I don’t think when he’s falling to his possible death is their number one option.

In the rest of the film though, we feel like we are Spidey, but more importantly Peter, all because of Garfield. Rhys Ifans, Dennis Leary, Martin Sheen, and for the most part Sally Field (she has a twinkle in her eye when she’s not sure if her nephew is dead) do a great job as the supporting cast: whenever the film runs out of gas (it does a few times), it has this great collection of actors to bring it right back up to the top. Fortunately, for the most part, The Amazing Spider Man stays at the top.

My favorite character is Peter Parker/Spider Man because even though he is repeatedly beat up in school and he has no parents, he still manages to make the best of it all.

My favorite scene is the climax because it sets a lot up for the (that’s right) 2014 sequel, while also showcasing the talented animators jaw dropping CGI and dishing out some emotional notes.

The Amazing Spider Man is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action violence and I agree.

The Amazing Spider Man is finally here and it doesn’t disappoint. Okay, okay it does sometimes, for example at the beginning I kept thinking, “did they have to do the exact same thing they did in the Sam Raimi version?” (the truth is they kind of did have to), it’s a bit confusing at times, and at it feels like it ends three times (fortunately each time was a good ending). But still, Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone lead an “amazing” cast and the story is substantial. I think this is understandable for a film about high school teens: high marks.

Spider-Man Trilogy (Flack’s Triple Review)

Posted on | July 1, 2012 | 1 Comment

Spider-Man

In the following article I will review the Spider-Man trilogy. This includes Spider-Man (2002) Spider-Man 2 (2004), and Spider Man 3 (2007). Sam Raimi directed all the films and Tobey Maguire plays Peter Parker aka Spider-Man along with Kirsten Dunst as his love interest, Mary Jane Watson also known as MJ. Let the  superhero triple review begin!

The first Spider-Man film tells the origin story of the hero: how Peter Parker got bitten by a spider, put on a costume, had his friend Harry Osbourne get mad at him, fell in love with Mary Jane Watson, and battled the Green Goblin. In Spider-Man 2 MJ is now going to marry an astronaut while Peter now has more trouble as Spider-Man with Dock-Ock trying to ruin the city. Harry is meanwhile out for vengeance. Peter being Spider-Man is also distracting him from his personal life as he tries to get MJ to love him again. In the final film, Spider-Man 3 Peter faces more romantic troubles, a demon creature called Venom living within him, and an addictive but evil black Spidey suit plus new villains the Sandman, rival photographer Eddie Brock as Venom, and Harry as the New Green Goblin.

Spider-ManThe overall tone for Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy is entertainment. Yes at times the films are dark and brooding (but never too much and there’s no blood) and at others silly and ridiculous (but always after a supposed to be silly scene the bad guy comes in and havoc ensues). The first Spider-Man movie was  released on May 3rd, 2002 (a decade ago) and it broke Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone‘s opening weekend box office record of $90 million by bringing in $114 million in just three days. It went on to make $403 million in the USA making it (unadjusted for inflation) the 6th highest grossing movie of all time. It also cost $139 million to make, made $821 million in it’s worldwide total, and was the highest grossing movie of 2002.  It also received generally favorable reviews from critics and was applauded by fans. So what’s my take? An exciting superhero action picture with bad CGI and emotional scenes that try and sometimes fail but nonetheless a suspenseful, action packed thrill ride. Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, and Willem Dafoe among others are good and fit their roles. Maguire and Dunst have so-so chemistry and Cliff Robertson and Rosemarie Harris are enjoyable as Peter’s Uncle Ben and Aunt May.  However, it definitely did not deserve it’s 89% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. For a movie only ten years old some of the effects are pretty cheap! I mean even some of the stuff from 1977′s Star Wars holds up a little bit better and that movie came out 35 years ago! One of the main problems with the film is the Green Goblin. Because he is stuck in a suit Willem Dafoe is not able to move around his body to make the fight scenes more exciting, or show any expression on his face thereby restricting him to a one note, cheesy bad guy. Luckily Dafoe is pretty strong as the Goblin’s alter ego Norman Osbourne though it’s not an amazing performance or anything like that. The emotional stuff works occasionally but magically the origin story is just so watchable and all the elements come together to create an entertaining ride.

Spider-Man 2Spider-Man 2Spider-Man 2Spider Man 2 was released June 30th, 2002 just in time for the 4th of July. It cost $200 million to make, opened to $88 million, had a domestic total of $373 million, a worldwide total of $783 million, and became the second highest grossing movie of the 2004. It got a 93% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and Roger Ebert gave it 4 out of 4 stars (he gave the first one 2 1/2 stars and the third one 2 stars) and called it the best superhero movie ever. The only problem I have with this film is that there is one silly scene where they play bad music as Peter Parker walks down the street (I guess they were just preparing you for Spider-Man 3). Other than this minor complaint, Spider-Man 2 is basically perfect. It’s filled with interesting characters, awesome action, a great story, and terrific special effects. For every astonishing fight on top of a train set piece there’s a sad moment when two people talk. Dock-Ock could have used some more emotion but Alfred Molina is fantastic and the villain is wwwwaaaaaaayyyyy better than the Green Goblin. This is the only sequel I have seen that I would call an actual improvement over the original. Not only is the Spidey series back, bigger, and better it’s also more humane. Maguire and Dunst as well as James Franco have gotten heavily better in their roles and now feel more comfortable. This is not just a great Spider-Man movie, it’s not just a great superhero movie. It’s a truly great movie. And for all the great dialogue and fantastic screenwriting, this is an action movie. And it’s a cool one. Unlike a lot of  action movies there are more great battles than just the climax in this. There is a spectacular set piece where Dock-Ock and Spidey battle. After so many emotional scenes this  battle sequence really gets your blood pounding. And of course then there’s the inevitably awesome climax with thrills, chills, and spills all it’s own. The film takes big steps forward but stays true to the characters. An amazing movie.

Spider-Man 3Spider-Man 3Spider-Man 3 was released May 4th, 2007 and was immediately disliked by fans. Critics had mixed feelings about it too, rewarding it a 63% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. It made $151 million on it’s opening weekend setting a new record, made $336 million domestically which was worse than all the others, made $890 million worldwide which as the best for the trilogy, and became the highest grossing movie of the year.  While there are some absolutely ridiculous dance numbers, a convoluted plot, and a disappointing ending there is still real emotion, surprising revelations, and okay special effects. And then there are the often discussed villains. Three of them. Flint Marko aka The Sandman is portrayed fairly lifelessly yet just okay by Thomas Haden Church for most of the film until the last scene he is in where he does a good job. The CGI Sandman is inhumane and a boring bunch of goop. Performance capture would have been helpful. Luckily Marko’s back story is interesting enough. Another villain Venom is basically three villains. At first he is a slimy black blob, then he turns (most interestingly) Peter bad, and later on gets into rival photographer Eddie Broch (Eddie wants to take Peter’s photography job at the newspaper business The Daily Bugle) who tries to kill MJ by hanging her from a building (strange, that never happened before) The story gets very interesting when Peter becomes evil but a more sure and consistent director than Sam Raimi maybe would have helped. Topher Grace is annoying as Eddie and doesn’t have realistically evil motivations. Just because SPOILER ALERT: Peter made him lose his job doesn’t mean he has to try to kill him at all costs. SPOILER ALERT IS OVER NOW! As for the third and possibly best villain is the New Green Goblin aka Harry Osborne played by James Franco. Franco is terrific as the troubled Harry but at times too smiley and often dry as always but during key scenes late in the film you feel for him. However with so many villains it would have been nice to see more variety with the baddies. In fact all three of them are good guys turned bad who have one person they love (Flint’s daughter, Norman Osbourne for Harry, and Gwen Stacy for Eddie). None of them are as good as Dock-Ock who yes used to be good but felt menacing and you wanted them to be good at the end (although you didn’t feel for him when he was bad too much). The baddies however are not the only problem with the movie.  The tone is very unbalanced and the mix of comedy, humor, and emotion mostly fails here. Also: did we really need to see Spidey dance like a weirdo? I don’t think so! The climax is also the same as what we have seen before, though exciting nonetheless. The other non evil characters (Elizabeth Banks as Miss Brant, Bryce Dallas Howard as Gwen Stacy, James Cromwell as her father, Captain Stacy, J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson, Bill Nunn as Joseph ‘Robbie’ Robertson, Dylan Baker as Dr. Curt Conors, and Rosemary Harris as Aunt May Parker) are okay but with so much else going on it’s hard for them to be as developed as they could be. The dialogue and script are also not well done. One last note: This year the day The Avengers came out celebrated half a decade (5 years) of this film. Sadly there isn’t enough to celebrate other than disappointment.

Spider-Man 3There are many great scenes in the trilogy. The “With great power comes great responsibility” line from the first one is classic, the climaxes are all exciting and there are numerous emotional scenes that made me attached to Peter Parker. But my two favorites scenes are two astonishing set pieces from Spider-Man 2: the train fight battle and the pier exploding climax. They have great CGI, amazing stunts, and awesome action. They also combine visual wonder with character development and have a great but not the best score from Danny Elfman. These are some of the greatest action scenes of superhero movies and movies, themselves.

Spider-Man 2My favorite character of the trilogy is a no brainer: Spider Man aka Peter Parker. How could you not love the superpowers, acting, and webslinging jumping. The charater is also a good person and learns not to want revenge in the third film. Tobey Maguire does a terrific job especially in the second one.

All three films are rated PG-13 by the MPAA for action violence. I agree but there is also some romance.

Spider-Man 2And what do I give the three films out of  5 stars? Well I’ll tell you!

Spider-Man 121 minutes, 3 stars

Spider-Man 2 127 minutes, 4 1/2 stars

Spider-Man 3 140 minutes, 2 1/2 stars

Out of 15 stars added up the movies gets 10 stars. But out of 5 stars I would give them an overall 3 1/2 stars, almost 4 stars. Though at times disappointing the Spider-Man trilogy is in parts genius. If you’re willing to have a great time watch all three films. Spider-Man 2 is the best, Spider-Man is not bad, and Spider-Man 3 is the worst. Yes the first one is simply enjoyable and the third one is just disappointing, although it has it’s moments but the second one is well, amazing. Overall though this is 388 minutes of superhero entertainment worth watching.

 

A Nolan Groundbreaker

Posted on | July 1, 2012 | Add Comments

One of the most anticipated films of the summer will be hitting theaters in nineteen days. That film is Christopher Nolan’s epic final installment in his Batman trilogy: The Dark Knight Rises. Yes, it sounds ominous, yes it will break opening weekend records, yes it is a Best Picture contender. All those yeses and more will be discussed if you do one simple task that will change your life forever: read on.

Christopher Nolan has become a director that will most likely be remembered for the ages. He is known for helming Memento, The Prestige, Inception, and of course The Dark Knight trilogy. The Batman finale will certainly be his most successful and popular film to date. My prediction for it’s opening weekend gross is $217.4 million. Currently Nolan’s most successful (and popular) film is The Dark Knight. The Avengers has now shattered all records by not only earning the highest opening weekend gross, but also being the first film to earn over $200 million on it’s opening weekend. It’s total opening weekend gross  was $207.4 million.  If my prediction for The Dark Knight Rises is correct, then The Avengers record will be beaten.

Asides from moneymaking, the film has a good chance of being nominated for Best Picture. It’s competition in terms of winning is is Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Lincoln, The Great Gatsby, and more. Arguably the reason the Academy Awards have changed their Best Picture nominations from five to ten is to let more popular films in like The Dark Knight, a film that wasn’t nominated, but according to many, deserved to be nominated. Now that there will be five to ten nominees this year (unless the rules are changed again), The Dark Knight Rises has a very good chance of being nominated.

The movie will certainly be action packed, but according to the trailer the movie will follow in the footsteps of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight: it will be macabre. Yet that won’t stop half of the world from seeing it. After all, it is one of the most anticipated films of the summer.

Spider Man 2 (Flick’s Review)

Posted on | June 20, 2012 | Add Comments

4 stars

Peter Parker/Spider Man is having a tough time deciding whether or not to be a hero or to be with the woman he loves, Mary Jane Watson. There’s also a new villain, Doctor Octopus who was formerly a scientist. But when his project got out of hand, he became a six armed “octopus” (four mechanical arms, two human arms). Spider Man must decide what is most important to him: crime  fighting or being with MJ.

Spider Man 2 is not your average superhero movie. It’s focused more on relationships and human feelings than mind blowing action. The villain in the film is not as key to the plot as Mary Jane is. And Spider Man is questioning whether or not he wants to be Spider Man. This makes for an interesting plot, that could end up feeling like a soap opera, but doesn’t. Instead it feels like the characters are having real conversations, and not just carelessly throwing lines of dialogue out of the window. Unlike in Spider Man (the first installment), Spider Man (the character) doesn’t run off doing things, making up his mind on the way. Here he struggles with maintaining friendships with the people he has been friends with forever.All of these elements are significant, but the love interest between Peter and MJ is the heart of the film. Everything else happens because of it. I’m worrying about Spider Man 3 (which I haven’t seen yet). Will the love story continue with the same interesting what’s-gonna-happen-next intensity? I sure hope. If the love story hadn’t worked the film would have failed. So for a superhero film revolved around a love story, this is great.

My favorite character is Peter Parker/Spider Man because it’s interesting to see what decisions he makes in tough situations. I think he makes the right decisions.

My favorite scene is when Peter Parker and Mary Jane are walking together (in the second half of the film) because it has real emotion, it’s key to the story, and both actors acting are decent (they’re not great).

Spider Man 2 is a rare superhero treat: it has fast paced action but it also has emotional aspects and characters complicated enough to latch onto. Go Spidey!

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