Monthly Archives: July 2012

A Freaking Skateboard?!?!: The Amazing Spider-Man

As you may or may not recall from my Avengers (2012) review, I’m not the most knowledgeable person ever when it comes to comic books. The most exposure I got to comics was through my older brother, who was a mild collector. He only followed a couple comics, and as a result, those were the only franchises to which I got any exposure. There were two big ones that I can remember. One was X-Men, which remains my all time favorite comic property. The other though, was Spider-Man. And he’s a close second.

I have no small amount of love for Spider-Man, even if I don’t know his every story arc. He certainly gets an honorable mention in the award ceremony of my childhood.

Even if I don’t know Peter Parker and Spider-Man intimately, with the amount of love that I have for them, chances are I know his origin story, having seen it in comic form, cartoon form, and movie form. In fact, I’m willing to bet that every single person that has even heard of Spider-Man knows his origin story. Everyone. So with that in mind, let me ask one simple question.

Is there any reason why we would need to hear it again?

Oh… Apparently so.

When I first heard that a new Spider-Man movie was in the works, I got cautiously excited. Even though Spider-Man 3 (2007) was a total disaster, Spider-Man still had a lot of great stories and villains that could be adapted easily to film. The past three movies had been building up Curt Connors/The Lizard as a character. Heck, maybe they could even find a way to un-ruin Venom (my favorite comic book character ever. So as you may imagine, I’m a little bitter about how Spider-Man 3 ended). And with a new cast and director, perhaps the franchise could be saved.

And then I heard that they were just doing the origin story again…

After hearing that, I had honestly, 100% lost interest in seeing The Amazing Spider-Man. I didn’t necessarily think the movie would be bad, but again, it was a story that everyone knows front to back, so really, why do I need to see it again? But then, my older brother wanted to see it for his birthday, and I wasn’t going to say no to that.

Sadly, I was not amazed by The Amazing Spider-Man. But let’s start with what I did like.

When the movie started, I was actually optimistic. I knew Emma Stone was going to be playing Gwen Stacy, and I think Ms. Stone is a respectable actress, despite some poor choices in roles. Plus, she’s very attractive without striking me as slutty or bitchy, like most famous Hollywood actresses. I also discovered as I watched that Sally Field was playing Aunt May, which I initially thought was awesome. Also, Denis Leary was in there, and I can’t help but like him, despite not actually being able to remember seeing him act in anything before. But the perfect casting decision came with the character of Uncle Ben being portrayed by Martin Sheen. That was a fantastic choice, and he plays the part exactly as I would imagine Uncle Ben to be. I also knew that The Lizard was going to be the main villain, which is cool, since he kind of got gypped in Sam Raimi’s films.

Not all of the casting was so spot-on however. Rhys Ifans plays an acceptable Curt Connors, but it’s nothing noteworthy. I certainly didn’t care for Andrew Garfield as the titular character and by the end, I hated him. And it also turns out that, though Sally Field is an exceptional actress, she couldn’t play Aunt May for shit.

A few of the action sequences were pretty cool, and the cinematics are definitely ahead of Raimi’s films. I was really glad to see Spider-Man using his web shooters more aggressively in this one. I feel like that was more Spider-Man’s style than the more martial way he fought in the Raimi trilogy.

There was also one really cool scene where Spider-Man is down in the sewer searching for The Lizard. You’ll know which one it is if you see it. This scene would turn out to be my favorite part of the whole movie and one of the few moments that I genuinely enjoyed.

So yeah, I begrudgingly admit that there are a couple things to like about this movie. But in this humble blogger’s opinion, despite a few good things, everything else is a mess.

Despite some very solid choices in the casting, the actual script was so poorly written that it’s hard to tell that these were actually really good casting choices. The dialogue is so corny and even downright bad that it made Sally Field, an Academy Award winner, look like that guy from Troll 2 (1990) acting-wise.

This guy.

There were so many terribly cheesy lines that I couldn’t help but roll my eyes and groan. It’s like the screenwriters really had no idea how a real human boy might talk. But, what really gets me is that, amid all of the turbo-cheese that was being spewed all over the place, the filmmakers decided to take out the most important corny sentence in all of the Spider-Man universe. You know, “With great power comes great responsibility”. Nope, nowhere to be seen (or heard, as it were). I wouldn’t have such a problem with it if the rest of the dialogue was at least believable. But since they relied so heavily upon really corny dialogue, why would they take out the line that basically makes Peter Parker decide to become Spider-Man? Sure, Uncle Ben says something similar, but it’s not as direct or poignant or effective.

Speaking of Uncle Ben, remember how I said Martin Sheen was the perfect choice for the role? Well, he still is. But too bad he’s only in the film for about a frame and a half! Peter’s aunt and uncle are barely in the movie. It spends so much more time on the relationship between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy that Aunt May and Uncle Ben hardly even get to appear. And that’s not the way it should be! Not in Spider-Man’s origin story! Uncle Ben should have more screentime than even a costumed Spider-Man, he’s that important to the origin! Yes, Gwen Stacy should be a big part of the movie, but not a bigger part than Uncle Ben. The way they did it, Ben’s whole part in the story comes out, in chronological order, to this: “Okay, Peter’s dad, I’ll take care of Peter”. “I don’t like Aunt May’s meatloaf”. “Be a good person, Peter”. “Oh, shit I’m dead”. And though his part was acted very well, that kind of makes the crime of minimizing his screentime worse.

What’s really fucked up though, is that after only a few scenes of Spider-Man chasing after guys that look like Uncle Ben’s killer, he seems to forget that Uncle Ben even existed. It’s like his death is completely brushed off and Peter becomes happy and flirty again, which completely obliterates any effect that Uncle Ben’s death had not only on Peter, but on the audience.

I have one or two big problems with The Lizard as well. One, whenever he was in Lizard form, he went out of his way to be nude. Just as a point of reference, here’s what The Lizard looks like in the comics:

It may not be the most impressive outfit ever, but my point is, he’s not naked. I’m not asking for any weird, purple pants, but I would’ve liked to see his iconic lab coat for more than a couple seconds. That’s more of a personal nitpick, though. Honestly, I think The Lizard in the film, from the neck down, actually looked pretty cool. Though why he has retractable claws is a mystery to me.

But then, you look at his head and it ruins everything cool about The Lizard. It’s like they tried to make his face a little more human, but in the process, they made him look more like the Goombas from the Super Mario Bros. movie (1993). What, do you think I’m kidding? Here, I’ll show you.

It’s kind of uncanny, isn’t it? The shape of the eyes, nose, and mouth are all nearly identical. Even the teeth are pretty similar. The Lizard just looked so stupid! How am I supposed to feel any menace from that? I couldn’t take him seriously for even a second.

There are honestly a great deal of little problems in the way that the story is told, the way that characters act, and even in some of the special effects that really hurt the movie, but for fear of having this review get too long, I’m not going to list them. If I talked in detail about everything in this film that I dislike, we’d be here forever. But there’s one more humongous problem that I’ve been saving for last.

You may have noticed that, thus far, I have mentioned the title character very little. That’s because I hate what they did to him so much, that it had to be saved for last.

They completely ruined the character of Peter Parker and by association, that of Spider-Man. Peter has always been one of the most relatable characters ever. An outcast, timid, and awkward nerd, tormented or ignored by his peers. He was also a scientific genius, which is a trait that both this movie and the Sam Raimi movies seem to forget. And when he became Spider-Man, he was snide and sarcastic, but was ultimately a good, moral person. In The Amazing Spider-Man, the only way that I can describe Peter is as a hipster-douche. It’s kind of hard to describe without seeing it. He kept doing things that Peter Parker would never do! He would never pick a fight with Flash just because he knew he had super powers or beat the shit out of a subway full of innocent civilians. Things like that. And when he became Spider-Man, his hipster-douchiness transferred over. Spider-Man might make a sarcastic comment about a villain’s costume or a carjacker’s lack of hand-eye coodination. You know, silly things like that. What he wouldn’t do, however, is shoot a guy in the nads with his web or scream, “CROTCH!” as he did a silly wrestling move where he shoves his junk into a guy’s face. Those kinds of things are idiotic, and even cruel. And that’s not Spider-Man.

Also, why the fuck is Peter Parker riding around on a goddamn skateboard? Maybe it’s just me, but I was so fucking bugged by this fact. They made him ride a skateboard!

But by far the biggest problem I had with this new Spider-Man was the fact that he kept revealing his fucking identity! Seriously, over the course of this one film, he willingly reveals his identity to three separate people (unless I’m forgetting one). Three! Only one of which made any sense to me. He didn’t reveal his identity to that many people in the three movies before this one. He tells Gwen Stacy after knowing her for only a couple days, and for the life of me, I cannot figure out why! Why would he fucking do that? Especially considering her dad is pretty much the guy in charge of catching him? What reason could he possibly have to trust her with something like that so soon? And he keeps taking off his mask! And running around unmasked! He puts on his mask only to have it taken off again a minute later. He does it so much, that there’s pretty much no point to wearing the mask in the first place. Logic to Peter Parker, a secret identity isn’t really secret if everyone knows your identity!

I honestly feel like I’m not conveying my full chagrin here. I highly dislike this movie. And I’m clearly not in the majority here. I’ve seen a couple reviews really praising this crap. All of the people that I saw the movie with, with the exception of my older brother, really enjoyed it. Someone even said that the argument could be made to call The Amazing Spider-Man the greatest superhero movie ever made. And I just don’t see it. I thought it was shit. In fact, I’m going to say something that I know will earn me some nasty looks. I liked this movie less than Spider-Man 3. And that’s really saying something.

Story: 3/10: It’s a story that’s been told a million times, but with less likable characters.

Acting: 4/10: Martin Sheen’s brief performance does bring the score up a bit, but the dialogue and overall poor delivery of said dialogue hurts it.

Cinematics: 6/10: There were one or two cool action sequences. Aside from that, there wasn’t anything that stood out as good.

Total: 4/10: As much as I personally want to rate it lower, I think this is fair.


A Horror Movie With Just a Dash Of Whedon: The Cabin in the Woods

I’m somewhat of a horror movie buff. At least, I was. In recent years, I’ve been considerably less inclined to see any movies, horror movies even less so. And that’s kind of sad, really. I have some vivid and very pleasant memories of going to see just about every horror movie that came out with my dad, from being awed by 28 Days Later (2002) to walking out of FeardotCom (2002) to seeing the remake of The Omen (2006) on the night that I graduated high school to laughing my ass off when Paris Hilton got impaled through the head with a pipe in House of Wax (2005). Hell, I pretty much grew up with the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise (Freddy Krueger is still my favorite slasher villain of all time). So, the horror genre will always have a very special place in my heart.

But lately, I’ve found it very difficult to get excited about new horror movies, partly because my dad and I live in different states now, but mostly because it’s become near impossible to find a new horror movie with even a drop of creativity to it. Everything that comes out only seems to be a remake or just drivel. When the best horror movie that you’ve seen in the last, let’s say five years, is Scream 4 (2011), there’s clearly a problem. Perhaps I’ll review Scream 4 at a later date. But anyway, it seems the well has run dry for this particular genre.

Recently, however, I went to visit my father, and during that time, we decided to see a couple movies. One was Lockout (2012), and you already know my thoughts on that pile of creative fecal matter. The other was, if you haven’t guessed by the title of this review, was The Cabin in the Woods.

I remember not hearing too much about this film before seeing it, only that Joss Whedon was involved in some way (he was one of the writers). But that was enough to get me curious enough to see it in theaters (in case you didn’t notice in my Avengers review, I think rather highly of Mr. Whedon).

“My silly ginger beard gets more action than any of you.” – Joss Whedon

Even had I not known that Joss Whedon was involved, my dad and I had looked up some reviews before deciding to go, and they were all around pretty good. Four and five stars and 8s and 9s pretty much across the board. After seeing that, there was pretty much no way that we were going to miss it.

The film starts out like pretty much any horror movie ever, complete with Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth playing the stereotypical jock character. There’s also a stoner, a slut, a virgin, and a black guy. You know, the makings of every great horror movie. They all decide to take a road trip out to a creepy cabin in the woods (hey, that’s the name of the movie!) where horrible things are destined to happen to them. Seeing this, I was already disappointed. Joss Whedon is usually pretty good about avoiding the clichés. But there was something different and interesting going on behind the horror fodder. Richard Jenkins (the father from Step Brothers (2008)), and Bradley Whitford (the villain from Billy Madison (1998)) are working in some kind of studio where they seem to be influencing the environment around our favorite victims.  That alone made it different enough for me to continue watching.

And it turns out, I made a good choice there. For the first long while, The Cabin in the Woods continues like your general horror flick with a couple gruesome and comical deaths, all while the people in the studio are abuzz with activity, keeping up with the action. It’s hard to tell exactly what’s going on back there until they come out and explain it, but it was fun trying to come up with my own theories.

It was a good time. It had been awhile since I had just sat down with the old man and enjoyed a cliché horror film.

But then, near the end of the movie, the whole thing decides to just go bat shit insane! They reveal the big plot twist and the movie just loses its fucking mind. And that’s when the movie goes from good to great. You can tell that, during this part, every single person involved in the production of the movie was just having a blast. And I had a blast as a result. It’s so much fun and filled with all sorts of violence and ridiculousness and ridiculous violence and explosions and Richard Jenkins. Ah, it was a breath of fresh, gore and satisfaction-filled air.

Sadly though, the ending is kind of ehhhh. I don’t know. When it came around, the movie just kind of lost all of the momentum that it had built up over the last ten or so minutes and left a sour taste in my metaphorical mouth (while the Sour Patch Kids left a sour taste in my literal mouth. Ba-dum chh… Nothing? Aw, you’re no fun). It wasn’t a horrible ending, and it didn’t retroactively ruin the rest of the film or anything like that. And I’m not even sure how they could have ended it in a more satisfying way. But still, I have to subtract a point there.

As for the technical stuff, there’s nothing truly noteworthy to say. The acting was satisfactory, with a couple notable performances, mostly by Richard Jenkins and the stoner guy. But none of it was bad.

“My male-pattern baldness gets more action than any of you.” – Joss Whedon impersonating Richard Jenkins

The same can be said for the effects. The make-up was good and the CG was passable. And the average CG did kind of give it a cartoony kind of charm, even if it wasn’t great.

All-in-all, The Cabin in the Woods is a pretty wonderful movie experience, even if its score isn’t the highest that I’ve ever given. While the acting and cinematics are maybe just a little above average with some standout points, the plot and the psychotic episode the film suffers at the end make it absolutely nothing but enjoyable. Give it a watch some time, I say.

Story: 8/10

Acting: 7/10

Cinematics6/10

Total: 7/10: In my head, this movie got a higher score, but the math don’t lie.

Note to Hollywood: More Richard Jenkins!