The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – (2014)

the amazing spider man 2 (5)

Original Theatrical Release: May 02, 2014
Director: Marc Webb

Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) enjoys the freedoms of being Spider-Man – slinging webs through the city and showing off for the crowds. He tries to balance his two lives, with some success, as he forges a stronger relationship with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) and a childhood friend, Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan). However, when the villain known as Electro (Jamie Foxx) appears – someone so powerful that he’s made out of energy – Spidey realizes that he may not be able to protect everyone and that even when you have superpowers, it might not be enough.

Being a Spidey fan is a roller coaster ride in this day and age. Marvel is making cinematic gold with films like Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy – with more on the way. Spider-Man is pretty much the mascot of Marvel Comics. Well, at least he is to me, so I’d like to see him represented better in his film incarnations.

Sam Raimi had a decent run with his own trilogy back in the early 2000’s, starting with Spider-Man back in 2002, which was decent. Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 was even better. Spider-Man 3 was pretty terrible. Webb’s first film in this new reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man, was actually pretty good – although I had problems with it being a reboot so soon after the original trilogy. I wish they’d gone in a different direction rather than re-hash the origin story yet again. Still, the dark qualities of the film drew me in and Andrew Garfield was the only thing I really didn’t like about it (because Peter Parker isn’t supposed to be a “hot” semi-popular hipster/skater kid. He’s supposed to be awkward and picked on). I was willing to give Fox (the studio which owns the film rights for Spider-Man) a chance on the second film.

That being said – The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was a huge disappointment.

First off, the script was a chaotic mess. There were some redeeming qualities but ultimately the story felt fractured and disjointed and by the time the movie actually ended I felt nothing and I just wanted it to be over with, I wanted the movie to have ended an hour before it did – which is never a good thing. The movie felt like part rom-com, part action flick and part advertisement for Oscorp Industries. Peter’s relationship with Harry seemed solid enough at first, but it wasn’t focused on long enough to make much sense later in the film, with how their dynamics changed. Some of the character motivations were just flat-out unbelievable, especially Foxx’s nervous and emotionally unstable Max Dillon/Electro.

Andrew Garfield did a better job at being Spider-Man this time around, but did an even worse job of being Peter Parker. Emma Stone was decent as Gwen Stacy in the first film, but became an annoying, nagging foil to Spider-Man’s every move in this sequel. Dane DeHaan did a great job as Harry, at first, but the manic side of him just wasn’t believable in the film itself (though this wasn’t necessarily the actor’s fault). Jamie Foxx can act but he basically played one of his bumbling characters from the old comedy sketch show he used to be in called In Living Color – which isn’t a good thing for the character of Electro. And Paul Giamatti makes absolutely no sense whatsoever as the villain Rhino. I have no idea how that casting choice happened. I love Paul but he basically just screams into the camera for a half hour and spouts Slavic-sounding gibberish.

The fight scenes are pretty much the only saving grace this film has, aside from a switch to a more classic-looking costume (thank you!). The rest of the film is really underwhelming. I honestly hope that Marvel can somehow get back the film rights to Spider-Man so they can do it some justice, because if not – Fox Studios is going to run this character into the ground, which stinks for those of us who have been longtime fans of the character and want to see him treated well.

JOE Rating: ★★

Movie Trailer For The Amazing Spider-Man 2

 

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Shanna, The She-Devil (2006)

Shanna, The She-Devil (2006)

Shanna, The She-Devil collects issues #1-7 of the series of the same name by Marvel Comics, with art and writing by Frank Cho and colors by Jason Keith and Dave Stewart.

Shanna is a Nazi science experiment in the form of an Amazonian jungle girl with a killer body and killer instinct, living on an island teeming with prehistoric horrors. When a paramilitary group becomes stranded on the island after crash-landing, they discover Shanna and quickly learn that she is a genetically-engineered super-weapon. Luckily she is, because she’s the only one who can help defend them against T-Rexes and massive hordes of Velociraptors, among other things.

Frank Cho is one of the best artists around and I checked out the book primarily to see his work. I honestly didn’t know what to expect from the writing side of things, but the seven issues included in this trade has a pretty decent story arc and plays out like an action film.

Some may be turned off by the titillation, but Cho is a master at rendering women who aren’t just waify, sexy supermodel-types who just happen to have super-strength spouting from some unseen source – Shanna actually looks the part. Her thighs are dense and her arms and back muscular, and when she impales a dinosaur with a massive tree trunk, you believe that she did it. When you see her knocked into a car by a T-Rex and still manages to get up, you believe it. Shanna is also not stupid and while different men try to take advantage of her in the book, she sets them straight pretty fast.

The colors only add to the visuals, and the dinosaurs are all very nicely-rendered as well as backgrounds, vehicles….everything. Nothing is forgotten and everything stands out in an exceptional way.

This is worth a read if you like adventure stories, dinosaur tales and books like Red Sonja or Vampirella. You may come for the titillation and gorgeous art but you’ll stay for the substance. Give it a try.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Gravity (2013)

Gravity (2013)

A medical engineer, Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), is on her first space mission with experienced astronaut Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) on his last flight before retirement. When a Russian satellite is destroyed, the debris field hurls across the atmosphere with deadly speed, destroying everything in its path. Kowalsky and Stone must find a way to survive in order to make it back to Earth in one piece.

The only thing I had read previously about this film were notable astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson’s tweets about the movie. He said that he enjoyed the movie very much but he was tweeting about the scientific inaccuracies, which made me second-guess going to see it. I’m glad I did give in and go see it, however.

First off, the film looks and sounds (when there is sound) amazing. I didn’t see it in IMAX but I now want to after seeing the regular film. There were only a couple of spots where the CGI didn’t keep the realistic quality and it bumped me out of make-believe-land but overall, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you whether some of it was actual space footage or if it was CGI.

There were only a couple of annoyances, mostly having to do with Bullock’s character (not her acting, her character). Clooney was decent, but aside from those two there weren’t really many other actors aside from Ed Harris and Clooney didn’t really act too differently in this film from any of his other films.

Gravity had me on the edge of my seat a few times in exasperation and stress, so I take that as a sign of a good film if it can get me that worked up.

Go see this, preferably in IMAX and preferably in the dark. By yourself.

JOE Review: ★★★★

The Man From Earth (2007)

The Man From Earth (2007)

Professor John Oldman (David Lee Smith) is moving away from everything he knows after ten years or so. He says that he just has the itch to leave and get out, to go somewhere new…but his friends are skeptical and after interrogating him, John reveals to them a secret that he’s been holding on to for 14,000 years: He’s a cro-magnon man who has never aged past 35.

A friend recommended this film to me and I watched it the other night on Netflix. It was pretty enjoyable for the most part.

The movie was probably better off as being a play, It was lots of sedentary characters sitting around talking and not doing much, so it’s kind of hard to watch it as a straight movie probably, for people who wouldn’t normally have the patience for stage plays.

However, the writing was very good so every conversation led to some new revelation that made me say “what’s next?” I didn’t get bored much at all. It was maybe a teensy bit too long. Other than that, the acting could have used a touch-up, too.

Overall, this is pretty entertaining. It has the feeling of one of those late-night conversations you have with your friends around a bonfire.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Wet Hot American Summer (2001)

Wet Hot American Summer (2001)Original Theatrical Release: July 27, 2001
Director: David Wain

It’s 1981 at Camp Firewood in Maine, and it’s the last day of camp. Beth (Janeane Garofalo) has a crush on the nerdy astrophysics professor, Henry Newman (David Hyde Pierce), who is trying to save the camp from a piece of Skylab. Meanwhile, other campers and counselors all have their own piece of drama to play out in the camp’s microcosm before the big talent show that will wrap up the summer.

When I first watched Wet Hot American Summer, I only caught the end of it, and I was really confused. For one, I had never heard of it. Second, I thought it was a real 80’s movie and I was trying to do the math in my head because I saw that Paul Rudd was in it. Obviously, I figured it out and then watched the film in its entirety but they did such a great job making it feel vintage that it felt less like a spoof on those classic 80’s flicks and more like it was one of them.

This film showcases a lot of talent; The aforementioned Paul Rudd, David Hyde Pierce, Janeane Garofalo, Joe Lo Truglio, Michael Ian Black, Amy Poehler, A.D. Miles, Christopher Meloni, Molly Shannon, Ken Marino, Bradley Cooper and others. Most of these actors work well off each other, and you can see many of them together in other films like Role Models.

David Wain did an overall good job on directing this, but the story was sort of all over the place. For what it is, it does well, however disjointed some may find it. As a Mainer, it was a delight to see all this quirky action taking place, seemingly at random, in Maine. There is a scene where the characters “go into town” and end up in Waterville, Maine…and it’s just so ridiculous that it had me cackling.

If you like silliness, partake in this film. If silly is not your thing, then you should probably stay away. Rumor has it, by the way, that Wain is working on Wet Hot American Summer 2. Can’t wait!

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Wet Hot American Summer

Iron Man 3 (2013)

Iron Man 3 (2013)

Original Theatrical Release: May 3, 2013
Director: Shane Black

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), aka Iron Man, hasn’t been the same since the events in The Avengers. After somehow surviving the wormhole and helping to mop up the invading aliens, he has developed post traumatic stress disorder, unable to sleep and letting his tinkering get in the way of his relationship with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). When a terrorist calling himself the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) starts to attack America with a series of explosive attacks and inadvertantly puts Pepper’s bodyguard Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) into a coma, Stark issues a challenge to the terrorist, resulting in a chain of events that will force Tony to confront his issues with himself and with his creation Iron Man, as well.

While not my favorite of the three Iron Man movies, this one was decent and I don’t really have much in the way of complaints, aside from a few sequences that could have been more exciting and the ending being wrapped up too neatly.

The film is much darker in tone than the previous movies, and it also deals much more with Tony Stark than it does with Iron Man. He must decide if it’s Tony that’s in control or if it’s  the armor that dictates who he is. It’s a journey of self-discovery for Stark, and Shane Black seemed to be able to capture the inner struggles that Tony is facing since the insane events taking place in The Avengers.

Robert Downey Jr. was amazing, as always, and likewise for the rest of the cast. We got to see more of Don Cheadle as Rhodes, and his character was developed a bit more in this film than in previous entries into the franchise. Likewise for Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts. She wasn’t just cast to banter back and forth with Tony like in the first and second films. Here we got to see her as more of an independent character with her own motivations and goals.

It was neat to see all the different armors, and the special effects were pretty great as usual.

Don’t go into this film expecting straight-on Marvel canon. The storyline for this film, at least part of it, was taken from the Extremis storyline by Warren Ellis….but it has its own spin, as is usually the case with film versions of comic book properties.

Like The Dark Knight Rises, this film was more about the man than the superhero. Keep that in mind, because some people are bound to be disappointed with the lack of actual Iron Man screen time as compared to Tony Stark screen time. However, the journey is worth it. Go see it. It’s a nice cap to the trilogy and should make things more interesting once Avengers 2 rolls around.

JOE Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Movie Trailer For Iron Man 3

Fantastic Four (2005)

Fantastic Four (2005)

Original Theatrical Release: July 8, 2005
Director: Tim Story

Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd), brilliant scientist, has a theory that there are clouds of cosmic energy that move through space which can trigger evolution. Convinced that one of these clouds will come close enough to Earth to observe and analyze from a relatively short distance away in space, he enlists the help of his longtime friend Benjamin Grimm (Michael Chiklis) to help him convince billionaire Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon) to let them use his private space station. He allows it, but only if the research is under his control. Doom then brings aboard his own genetics researcher Susan Storm (Jessica Alba) and her younger brother Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) who complete the team. When something goes unaccording to plan, everyone aboard the space station aside from Doom is hit directly with the cosmic energy cloud, granting them amazing abilities and altering their DNA structures. Becoming media darlings after a rescue, the four researchers must struggle with their newfound abilities and fame as the Fantastic Four.

Being a Marvel movie, I was pretty excited for this film when it came out. Up until then, we’d had a pretty decent Spider-Man movie as well as Blade and X-Men. I thought the Thing looked a little cheesy, but figured it’d be okay up on the big screen because he was being played by Michael Chiklis. Chris Evans seemed perfect for the character of Johnny Storm/The Human Torch. Jessica Alba didn’t initially sell me on being Susan Storm, but she’s hot so I figured I’d give it a chance. The guy who played Reed looked like he’d do well enough.

I was right about most of those initial thoughts. Michael Chiklis DID play Ben Grimm exactly how I’d want him to be played, but regardless of how well he acted…I have to say, that rubber suit was kind of atrocious. Not saying I wouldn’t love to wear it as a cosplay or something like that. It’s made really well but for the big screen in a movie that SHOULDN’T be full of camp, it added a sort of cheese factor that carried through to the rest of the film. Chris Evans was perfect for the role of Johnny Storm. Jessica Alba was hot, but was not Susan Storm (and there was some controversy because of her being cast as Susan Storm and the fact that she’s not mixed-race in the comic books). Ioan Gruffudd (crazy name!) was just okay as Reed Richards.

I loved Julian McMahon’s acting and presence in the show Nip/Tuck, but as Victor Von Doom…not so much. I never really thought of Doom as a whiny socialite, like Tony Stark from Iron Man without the class. It didn’t work.

On top of that, we had a story that while initially starting out not that bad meandered all over the place and didn’t really provide much in the way of action for an action film. The end battle with Doom was extremely anti-climactic and I didn’t feel like I’d used my time well by watching the film, aside from my unhealthy obsession with Jessica Alba.

I mean, how can you go wrong with this?

I mean, how can you go wrong with this?

Give it a watch if you haven’t….see how it is compared to the upcoming 2015 reboot by Seth Grahame-Smith and Josh Trank. It’s still Marvel, after all. (Just don’t watch the second one with Silver Surfer…Jesus, that was bad).

JOE Rating: ★★

Movie Trailer For Fantastic Four