Archives for the month of: May, 2014

If you did not read the comics “The Amazing Spider-Man” in the 1980s and 1990s, this review may contain spoilers. (And if you didn’t read them, what were you doing?!)

“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is directed by Marc Webb, screenplay by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Jeff Pinkner, screen story by  Alex Kurtzman , Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner and James Vanderbilt, based on the Marvel comic book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.

So. Yeah.

I have to tell you that I found this movie kinda…Boring.

Like. I find Spider-Man to be a bit of limited character, the main thing about Spider-Man is that he is a smarter-than-average but mostly ordinary guy, who struggles with his family, friends and other relationships, attending school and finds himself living a vigilante/hero life after a fluke accidental bite from a radioactive spider that fails to give him cancer…

He is charming young man and requires an actor who is likeable – we like Peter Parker because he is mostly average and has problems that we can easily relate to. Luckily for the filmmakers, they have Andrew Garfield, who is charming and likable and physically is perfect for the alter-ego of Spider-Man – long limbs, loose gait and lithe.

The support characters need to be equally charming and likable and in this series, they are! Emma Stone is endlessly charming and lovely in everything she does and here as Gwen Stacey is pretty much more the same – love Emma, love Gwen. And Sally Field – yes, we still really, really like you. We do!

So yeah, the casting of the main characters is pretty much perfect. Actually I found this was true about the first movie in this version of the Spider-Man franchise. Whoever is doing casting for them – thank you so much!

One of the things about Spider-Man, which was once again clear in this movie, is that his rogues (the baddies, the villains) are kinda lame. They are extremely flat and are often just nasty, mean and either out for themselves or seeking to harm people for the fun of it or to do things to correct perceived slights against them. Jamie Foxx is wonderfully over the top, chewing the scenery in his every scene and Dane DeHann is completely dislikable as Harry Osburn/Green Goblin.

Well, the most interesting thing is how our Peter/Spider-Man struggles to balance the different aspects of his life and in the comic the character is at his best when he is either dealing with this personal struggle or when is paired up with another vigilante that contrasts and compares how they deal with leading double lives and unusual powers. (I’m looking at you Wolverine!) This film doesn’t provide this insight and doesn’t give a sense of this struggle becuz it is a visual and auditory story, not a story that is read – the feelings and thoughts of the character are expressed in a different way and loses a sense of this most interesting aspect of the character.

We opted to give 3D a pass this time round the action sequences are classic Spider-Man, but, once again, filmed too close to get a sense of the overall fight and the physicality of the actors. I’m also sick and tired of the “Matrix-like” stop action and slow-mo in fight scenes – isn’t it time to figure out a better way of showing super speed and underlining the danger of a given situation. Very happy we saw it in 2D, the 3D would not have added anything to the film – I didn’t miss being able to reserve seats though…

Even though I found the movie a bit boring, I have to tell you I also thought it was saved by the incredible natural chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone – they are fascinating to watch onscreen together and are believable as a couple (which is good, as they are – at time of writing – a couple). They show how wonderful and challenging this relationship is and do the comic justice with their interpretation of their roles the relationship between them. I have to tell you that, even though I knew it was coming since the first movie, I was upset when Gwen died (the disclaimer was at the top of the page), if only becuz it means that Emma Stone will have a smaller part in the final film of this trilogy (I’m guessing flashbacks.).

Should you see this?

Probably not, there is nothing new going on here and the movie is pretty much the same stuff from the first movie.

But, see it anyway.

I suggest that you do, if only to show your support for how fascinating the casting and chemistry between actors is in this movie.

The thing that I find most upsetting is that, as much we want it, we will never see Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man team up with any of the other teams or “heros” from the Marvel Universe. And for that, we are the biggest losers.

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“Jodorowsky’s Dune” is directed byFrank Pavich and features interviews with Alejandro Jodorowsky,Michel Seydoux, H.R. Giger, Chris Foss, Dan O’Bannon (recording) and storyboards by Jean “Moebius” Giraud.

This is it – the best doc of 2014. If you don’t see any other doc this year, this is the one to see. Especially if you love sci-fi. Or the creative process.

Once again, I seem to have returned to docs that have a theme – artists, artistic process and discovery of abandoned or “unfinished” artist projects.

This doc, explores the “failed” film adaptation of the sci-fi classic (which I have not read) “Dune” by Frank Herbert by the surrealist filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky and the creative team he put together.

Disclaimer – if you are thinking right now that there was a film adaptation of “Dune” made back in 1984 and it was horrible, you are totally right. That adaptation was by David Lynch, also a surrealist filmmaker, had starred Sting. And everyone hated it.

Totally different adaptations, same source material.

The Director deftly weaves together interviews, audio recordings, film clips from earlier works, storyboards, designs and other visual art to explain the story of how the project was conceived, the artistic goal and the interesting way in which the creative team and cast were assembled. Jodorowsky had the modest goal of changing the way we view films and elevating the collective consciousness of the world through the creation and viewing of this film.

Ok, so I’m being a bit of jerk about his goal, becuz I think of the films that I tend to watch and yes, I make it a point to see a variety of films – except no rom coms or gross out comedies – and mostly, mostly these films are about seeing a story or being entertained. Very few films are about elevating my consciousness.

But. I also have to admit that yes, I want my worldview to be shaken up and challenged and I want my consciousness to be elevated and expanded. But, I usually don’t find films that want to do these things, for these goals I read, look at paintings or photographs, talk to people, visit places of calm or spend time in nature, climb a wall or maybe sit and enjoy the silence and breathe deeply.

Somewhere along the line, film is mostly entertainment and profit and not art. Not these things.

I loved this movie becuz Jodorowsky is explicit in his belief that film is art and he wants his audience to be active in participating, this isn’t passive stuff he is talking about, the audience has to think and be challenged and be active.

This is what I want my art to do.

And at this point, I must pause. I have something of a reputation at work and among my friends as a “film lover” or “film buff” becuz I see a lot of films and I love to tell people about what I’m watching, mostly becuz many people I’m around see films as entertainment. I believe film to be art and I have to see a lot of films to find the ones that I would consider beyond mere entertainment and business and are really art. When I do find a film that is “art” then I’m excited. But mostly, mostly, the films that are accessible are about entertainment, escape and making a profit. And I will go a long way out of my way to see a film that doesn’t have wide release or is about a topic that interests me or catches my eye or someone suggests I see. Or the critics hate…I’m willing to work for my film viewing.

The interviews are incredible.

I had this moment when H.R. Giger appeared and he is just this normal looking-guy, with a bit of scratchy voice and I thought “Wow! This guy is the dude who designed those super scary monsters from Alien.” It was like seeing a hero in person. And to hear him talk about his art and designs and then about hearing a metal band with Jodorowsky was hilarious and wonderful.

The recordings from Dan O’Bannon are pretty incredible too – he is insightful, funny and interesting.

As a subject, Jodorowsky is engaging and human – I loved the way he talked about meeting people, problem-solving and convincing the likes of Salvador Dali, Orson Wells and Mick Jagger to work on the film. His story about Pink Floyd is highly entertaining.

The film uses the storyboard to great effect, showing the drawings, the script, moving in ways that mimic how the shots would have worked in the film.

The coolest about this film is, that is you are someone who loves sci-fi (or has a seen a lot of sci-fi with the sci-fi lover in your life) you know a lot of the creative team. You’ve seen the influences of this project over and over, probably without realizing the roots of the art and design. For example, Giger, for sci-fi lovers, is known for his design of Aliens – but this project was the first time he ever worked on a film and his designs on this film gave him the opportunity to work on Alien with Ridley Scott, the film Prometheus (review by me here) actually uses at least one of the designs originally from this project.

It is a funny, engaging and human look at the artistic process and the process of making a movie. It is an incredibly insightful and thoughtful look into sci-fi as a serious genre and films as art and not just entertainment, escapism or profit.

In this film not being made we lost something, but what we gained by this film not being realized is pretty substantial. We gained so many other films that we love and enjoy and are now considered classics or part of the lexicon.

So treat yourself. See this movie and let the story and art just wash over you. Laugh and be amazed by the stories and feel the pain of a creative process derailed by lack of funds.

And hope that, someday, maybe this film will be made.

Addendum: I used the word “human” a few times in this review. The only explanation that I can offer is that the film made me think of the word “alien” so much that I had to make a distinction between “alien” and “human”…