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

 

Kick Ass 2 (2013)

Kick Ass 2 (2013)

Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), aka the crime-fighting everyman named Kick-Ass who inspired many people to take arms and assume the role of city protectors is looking to form a superhero team with none other than Hit Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) – the closest thing to a real superhero that Dave has ever seen. However, Hit Girl has her own problems with the “Queen Bee” of the school, Brooke (Claudia Lee), who’s raining on her parade and her new adoptive father-figure Detective Marcus Williams (Morris Chestnut) who forbids her from participating in antics as Hit Girl. This leaves Dave to look elsewhere, which leads him to Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey) and his ragtag group of superhero hopefuls. As Dave tries to continue on his path as defender of the innocent, he must contend with the likes of The Motherfucker (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) – formerly Red Mist, who has gone insane with revenge bloodlust resulting from Kick-Ass killing his crime-kingpin father, Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong)….as well as all of the hired killers that money can buy.

In my opinion, this film was much more enjoyable than Kick-Ass, the previous entry. While I love both movies, this one kept my interest the entire time and it did not waver. The characters, especially Colonel Stars and Stripes and Mother Russia (Olga Kurkulina) really jumped out and distinguished themselves within the context of the film.

The action was fast-paced, there weren’t a lot of slogging story problems and the special effects were decent. There were a couple of silly elements which almost ruined some of the movie for me, but other than that the only thing I can really complain about is Hit Girl and her dealings with high school students and high school life: Nobody really cares. We spent far too much time dealing with the likes of Brooke, and exposing ourselves to Hit Girl’s vulnerable side…but Hit Girl doesn’t NEED a vulnerable side. I wanted to see more of her, well…hitting stuff.

So, if you liked the first one or other films in this genre (Super, Defendor) then you’re sure to love Kick-Ass 2.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Super (2010)

Super (2010)

Frank Darbo (Rainn Wilson) is the world’s most average husband. When his recovering-addict wife, Sarah (Liv Tyler) is seduced back to the dark side and leaves him for the sleazy, drug-dealing Jacques (Kevin Bacon) he loses control of himself, until he has a vision from God telling him that he has to become a superhero and bring Jacques to justice as a new, costumed vigilante calling himself The Crimson Bolt.

I had seen Kick-Ass, which I love, before this…so I thought this would be really similar. In some ways it is, but in a lot of ways it isn’t. This is a good thing, because some of the ways in which it’s different makes it a better film.

Rainn Wilson breathes a lot of life into his character, and even though he’s a bit insane and neurotic, you begin to feel for him. Ellen Page co-stars as his kinetic and sometimes too-energetic sidekick, Boltie. Kevin Bacon is amazing as the sleazy drug dealer and arch-nemesis of The Crimson Bolt, too.

The reason this is mostly a better film than Kick-Ass is because of how dark it gets. You think, at first, that it will be a campy, funny action-comedy. It does that, but it also goes deep into our psyches and makes us confront the worst parts of ourselves. In the end, you’ll find yourself foaming at the mouth as the violence, and body count, ramps up. The film’s mood split also serves as a reminder that being a hero doesn’t go unpunished.

You need to see this film, especially if you liked Kick-Ass. Both of them are very different movies, though.

JOE Review: ★★★★★

Man of Steel (2013)

Man of Steel (2013)

Original Theatrical Release Date: June 14, 2013
Director: Zack Snyder

Kal-El was sent from his dying planet, Krypton,  as an infant by his father Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and his mother Faora-Ul (Ayelet Zurer). With him, they sent the hopes and wishes of their entire Kryptonian race. Raised by human parents after crash-landing on Earth, Kal-El was renamed Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) and eventually had to come to terms with his extraordinary and god-like abilities, using those abilities to help others though they didn’t always realize it. However, when another survivor from Krypton – Zod (Michael Shannon) shows up and demands that Earth give up this “Superman” or face dire consequences, Clark/Kal must choose a side. The Kryptonians or the Earthlings.

Now, before I get down to brass tacks, I need to say something: I am not the biggest Superman fan in the world. Don’t get me wrong. I love the basic idea of his character, and his abilities are cool for the most part…but the dude is just too invulnerable. Sure, he’s got his weaknesses but they sort of change over time depending on the needs of the story line (in the comics, anyway). Plus, they’re really specific weaknesses – like Kryptonite, a rare green rock from space – really?! Also, Superman is an alien and it’s hard to identify with him already on account of his insane god-like abilities – but when you also throw in the fact that he’s not even human, then there is definitely a disconnect.

With that said, I don’t think this was the worst Superman movie I’ve ever seen.

I came into this film with no real expectations other than to be entertained for a while. I was entertained for the most part, for sure. Zack Snyder’s direction was the usual fare of fight sequences and thoughtful, introspective scenes. The writing by David Goyer was decent, but some of the elements were too clearly designed to be almost like a parable. The acting was decent by Henry Cavill and the rest of the cast, and it was nice to see Russell Crowe back in shape a little bit. He’d been looking a little chubby the past few years. However, some of the special effects were wonky and some of the story elements had me going “really?”, and that’s all on top of the movie being way too long. Two and a half hours with not much really to show for it.

Now, I had been entertaining the idea that this would be sort of a darker version of Superman, sort of how Christopher Nolan brought Batman back to his gothic roots. I was right in a way, but wow…I was not expecting the level of wanton destruction Superman caused during the fighting with Zod. In other incarnations of Superman, Supes would have tried to direct the fight to the countryside or somewhere uninhabited….but in the film, Superman uppercuts his opponents through skyscrapers, toppling the buildings, and he doesn’t have time to save anyone. Crazy. My other gripe was the way in which Jonathan Kent’s (Kevin Costner) character was handled. The writers wanted him to be “Uncle Ben” to Clark but it didn’t translate nearly in the same way as the poignant character of Uncle Ben did to Marvel’s Spider-Man.

All in all, it was decent as an action flick. I wouldn’t go in thinking much more than that, even if you’re a Superman fan. I am interested to see if they change anything up during the sequel. Guess we’ll find out! (EDIT: I’m feeling like the upcoming sequel will be a shit show, but I hope they prove me wrong. They are CRAMMING IN so many characters. It’s crazy.)

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Man Of Steel

Spider-Man (2002)

Spider-Man (2002)

Original Theatrical Release: May 3, 2002
Director: Sam Raimi

Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is your average high school student from New York who has a lot of troubles in his young life. Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) is the girl of his dreams but doesn’t really give him the time of day. He gets bullied, and doesn’t even live with his real parents – instead living with his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) and Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson). Next to his rich best friend, Harry Osborn (James Franco), Peter’s life looks pretty lame. Well, until he is bitten by a radioactive spider and is granted great powers. As young Peter finds out in a very hard and tragic way with the murder of his Uncle Ben, with great power must also come great responsibility. Peter dons the identity of Spider-Man and fights crime, and the menace of the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), in New York City.

When this movie first came out, I was ecstatic. I never thought I would see a Spider-Man movie on the big screen. Not only that, but it was being directed by Sam Raimi, the same guy who made those Evil Dead movies that I loved so much.

The film mostly lived up to my expectations. Tobey Maguire has always been questionable to me as a good Peter/Spider-Man, but I think he pulled it off (quite a bit better than James Garfield, I’m sorry to say….but I’ll tell you why in my review of the newer Spider-Man movie when I finally do it) for the most part. I always thought of Peter as really dorky and Maguire can certainly pull off dorky.

I know a lot of folks had a problem with Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson, but I enjoyed her in that role. It’s probably the only role of hers I actually like. (Not sure on that, yet)

James Franco was okay as Harry Osborn, but he wasn’t amazing. In fact, I like him in almost any other movie. I felt like he was hamming it up too much in this film. I dunno why. Maybe just because it was a comic book movie and he felt he had to be Shakespearian?

Willem Dafoe was AMAZING as Norman Osborn, but the choice to put him behind a metal mask as the Green Goblin was atrocious. We could have had some really demented scenes with Dafoe, especially if he wore prosthetics or a different mask, but instead we got fights that were reminiscent of Power Rangers….where you hear the voice of the villain but if the sound were off you would just see him shaking his head around a lot when he’s “talking”. I know it’s possible to do this with some range, just like in V For Vendetta, (the link to my review for that film) but whatever their technique…it didn’t work.

Almost everything else was great, though. I didn’t like the organic webshooters, though it DOES make sense…that’s not who Spider-Man is. I wanted to see him create the web shooter devices as he does in the newer movie (and they do it quite well) because that was integral to his character in the comics. I feel like he was dumbed down a lot in the film.

So, overall, it was a decent movie (the second one was much better) but due to a lot of weird problems, I didn’t think it was as amazing as it should have been.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Spider-Man

Kick-Ass (2010)

Kick Ass (2010)

Original Theatrical Release: April 16, 2010
Director: Matthew Vaughn

Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is a high school kid with lots of problems; Girls, unpopularity and no real talents to call his own. One day, after being robbed by some street thugs, Dave decides he’s had enough and creates the superhero persona of Kick Ass. Despite not having any powers or training, he becomes involved in a web of crime and punishment, teaming up with other ACTUAL vigilante heroes like Big Daddy (Nicholas Cage) and his daughter, Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) to take down evil crime lord Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong) and his loyal son, Chris D’Amico/Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse).

Kick Ass is, of course, based on the Marvel/Icon comic written by Mark Millar and drawn by John Romita Jr. of the same name. The comic book differs a lot with major plot points but generally has the same feel, and both can be enjoyed as separate entities. I loved Kick Ass when it first came out, and I hadn’t read the comic before seeing the movie so I didn’t have trouble separating them from each other.

I have been getting a little bit of Nicholas Cage fatigue with all the films he’s been in lately, but this is one of his better roles. He totally nails Big Daddy, and it’s fun to see him on the screen as a cross between The Punisher and Batman. Chloe Grace-Moretz is one of the best characters in the movie as Hit Girl, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Christopher Mintz-Plasse both do a great job as nerdy guys trying to be heroes.

There is lots of action, very gratuitous violence and some great scenes. Kick Ass’ character is very reminiscent of Spider-Man’s early years, so it was fun seeing a “more” realistic take on a boy just buying a costume and putting it on to fight crime.

See this film, read the comic book. Enjoy both. The sequel is coming out soon.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Kick-Ass

The Punisher (2004)

The Punisher (2004)

Original Theatrical Release: April 16, 2004
Director: Jonathan Hensleigh

Frank Castle (Thomas Jane) is an FBI agent who foils a drug deal in which Howard Saint’s (John Travolta) son is killed. Saint is a crime lord of the highest caliber and sets out to punish everyone involved. He discovers that Castle and his family are getting together for a reunion and decides to kill them all. With his wife, son and entire family dead, Castle re-groups and goes on a vengeance-fueled murder rampage against the Saint family in an all out war as the Marvel Comics character, The Punisher.

I was never really sold on Thomas Jane as Frank Castle. I don’t fully know why, but I just wasn’t. I thought Dolph Lundgren looked the part back in The Punisher (1989) but that movie had about as much to do with the actual Punisher franchise as Mickey Mouse. Ray Stevenson, from Punisher: War Zone (2008) was a perfect casting for Castle, in my opinion, but that movie also suffered from severe story problems.

What I wish could have happened was that they took Ray and put him in this movie and then amped up the story and it could have been amazing. Really, it could have!

As it is, we get a glimpse of emotion when Frank’s wife and kid are running from the mobsters but then, after they kill Frank about 80 different ways (beating him senseless, shooting him point blank multiple times and then blowing him up) he is transformed to The Punisher but we don’t really transform with him. He is living in an apartment building with some wacky-yet-lovable neighbors (and also Rebecca Romijn Stamos, because she’s TOTALLY believable as the ‘girl next door’) who are constantly wondering about him.

My favorite parts about this movie were his fight with The Russian and the encounter with the singing assassin, Harry Heck, who sounds and looks a lot like Johnny Cash. Those guys were both taken from story runs that Garth Ennis did in the comic books, so I guess you could say I like the books more than the movie.

Jane’s Punisher is just never quite badass enough, which kind of ruined it for me. Travolta wasn’t too bad, but that’s the problem. We needed more time with Castle’s family so that we cared about them and THEN they should have killed them all off so we wanted to see them avenged. As it was, I just thought they all did incredibly idiotic things while they were being fired at by the mob.

In any case, it’s not the worst Punisher movie I’ve seen and certainly not one of the worst movies I’ve seen in general, but I felt kind of let down. I hope they re-boot this series someday, but I hope they stick with the emotional side of his loss because that’s what’s most effective in the comics and why he’s an enduring character. STORY FIRST, PEOPLE!

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For The Punisher