[Early Review] [31 Days of Horror Part VI: Jason Lives] Day 17 – Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)

Director: Ruben Fleischer

Cast: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Abigail Breslin, Emma Stone, Rosario Dawson, Zoey Deutch, Luke Wilson

Screenplay: Dave Callaham, Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick

99 mins. Rated R for bloody violence, language throughout, some drug and sexual content.

 

It’s been a crazy ten years, and we are finally arriving, once again, back in Zombieland.

Zombieland: Double Tap picks up some years after the first film, and our favorite zombie killers have arrived at a comfortable life in a luxurious new home. They are not without their struggles, though. Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) and Wichita (Emma Stone, La La Land, The Croods) have gotten past the honeymoon phase of their relationship, and Wichita especially is having a lot of trouble with the idea of settling down with Columbus. Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson, The Highwaymen, TV’s True Detective) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine, Freak Show) have developed a father-daughter regard for one another, but Little Rock pines to interact with someone new, to begin dating boys, whereas Tallahassee would prefer the solitude of Zombieland life. So when Little Rock runs away with a cute boy, the others must band together to save  her.

I’ll make this one super-simple. If you liked Zombieland, I think you’ll enjoy this one. It isn’t as good as the original film, but it’s very self-reflective on the time that has passed culturally and a lot of the humor comes from the idea that these characters really haven’t changed much in that time. It’s regularly poking fun at itself.

The cast does a fine job again, especially Woody Harrelson as Tallahassee. Harrelson really matures as an actor in this role, and his is the one character that seems to really evolve to something new. All that being said, though, the best parts of this film are the new additions of Zoey Deutch (Set It Up, TV’s The Politician) and Rosario Dawson (Rent, Reign of the Supermen) to the cast. Deutch’s Madison steals every scene as a clueless woo girl that’s supremely ditzy and made me question how she could even survive this long in the apocalypse. Dawson joins up as the tough-as-nails Nevada, who lives in a bar that gets a visit from the gang. Both add a lot of flavor to the film.

The film is a little too convenient at times, and the additions of new zombies (very Left 4 Dead), new rules (not just by Columbus), and new zombie kills, while fun, don’t add a level of newness to the film. If this had come out right after the first film, I think it would not be as noticeable, but given that ten-year gap, I think the similarities stand out. Still better than the Amazon pilot, though.

Zombieland: Double Tap is fun for fans of the original film, and even though it’s just more of the same, I ended up having some good laughs and entertainment. This won’t bring in a lot of new fans, and it may not win over old fans at the same rate that the first film did, but I think it’s a worthy addition to the zombie genre, and I would really like this see this team come back together for a third installment. Just make it sooner.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For Ruben Fleischer’s Zombieland, click here.

[31 Days of Horror Part VI: Jason Lives] Day 10 – Zombieland (2009)

Director: Ruben Fleischer

Cast: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin

Screenplay: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick

88 mins. Rated R.

 

It’s been a bit since I’ve watched Zombieland. I was utterly addicted to it back in 2009, but it’s been a long time. It’s been ten years since it released, so it is time to officially talk about the film that was envisioned as a TV show, then reworked into a film that was adapted into an Amazon pilot before eventually getting a sequel. Did you follow all that?

It’s been some time since the world ended, and zombies have overtaken the landscape. Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network, The Art of Self-Defense) and Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson, The Highwaymen, TV’s True Detective) have formed a shaky truce and teamed up to pursue their goals, and along the way, they befriend two young women who go by Wichita (Emma Stone, La La Land, The Croods) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine, Freak Show). Together, four of the last humans in America make an effort to get to Pacific Playland, a famous theme park that Little Rock has always wanted to see. It’s just another day in Zombieland.

Zombieland fires on all cylinders. Every element of this film works exactly as is intended. The cast is absolutely incredible. There’s a reason all four leads have been nominated for Academy Awards (Stone going as far as to win as well). Woody Harrelson finds that perfect balance of dickery and sweetness. Jesse Eisenberg could very easily become boring, but he tows the line just right. Emma Stone displays a subtlety in her distrust of the others and her love for Little Rock with such ease. Even Abigail Breslin, who has to shoulder the responsibility of being a kid growing up in a zombie wasteland. The secondary cast is terrific in what they need to accomplish.

The screenplay is smartly-written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Deadpool, G.I. Joe: Retaliation) and features solid world-building, very funny dialogue, and an elegant mix of horror in suspense in all the right doses. Their collaboration with Ruben Fleischer (Venom, Gangster Squad) creates a unique, authentic, and fun reinvention of the living dead mythos.

If there’s a flaw to Zombieland, it’s maybe that the film hasn’t aged perfectly, and it’s the realization that we should’ve gotten a sequel sooner. This is a tightly-constructed narrative, coming in under 90 minutes but bursting with flavor. If you missed Zombieland back in 2009, I highly recommend you give it a go, and if it’s been some time since you last watched, go back and revisit it. It’s a remarkable little horror/comedy.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

Battle of the Sexes (2017)

Director: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris

Cast: Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Andrea Riseborough, Sarah Silverman, Bill Pullman, Alan Cumming, Elisabeth Shue, Austin Stowell, Eric Christian Olsen

Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy

121 mins. Rated PG-13 for some sexual content and partial nudity.

 

I’d been looking forward to Battle of the Sexes ever since I heard that Emma Stone (The Help, The Croods) would be playing Billie Jean King and Steve Carell (Foxcatcher, Despicable Me 3) would be playing Bobby Riggs. The two performers worked so well together for their limited time in Crazy Stupid Love. In fact, Emma Stone also appeared in Birdman with Andrea Riseborough  and Superbad with Martha MacIsaac. She’s built quite the incredibly portfolio, but is Battle of the Sexes up to snuff?

Battle of the Sexes is more about Billie Jean King than her opponent. It covers her strained relationship with husband Larry (Austin Stowell, Whiplash, Colossal), her secret relationship with lover Marilyn (Riseborough) and her fight against Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman, Independence Day, The Equalizer) over women’s rights in professional tennis. But when she finds herself head-to-head with the showboating Riggs, a man who is about to lose his wife Priscilla (Elisabeth Shue, Leaving Las Vegas, Chasing Mavericks) due to his lies and gambling addiction, she finds herself fighting for more than just bragging rights in this film from directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine, Ruby Sparks).

Battle of the Sexes is a classic character study and a great showcase for numerous incredible performances, led by Stone and Carell. Emma Stone disappears into her role, proving that she is one of the best actresses working in the business today. Her role as King isn’t imitation or caricature but rather a true interpretation by one artist of another. Steve Carell too is tough to spot in the charismatic Riggs, a feat for the performer who could’ve turned to other comedic performances to channel. Instead, his humor is met with a nuanced characterization of a man who understands what he is doing wrong yet cannot stop himself. It’s like he is watching a car accident, unable to turn away.

The screenplay comes from Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire, Everest) and, for the most part, it is quite strong. I found the film dragging a bit in the second act, which could’ve been fixed easily in the editing bay or with a tightening of the script.

The director duo husband and wife that is Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris have delivered a film that feels like a documentary. The style and tone is something that could’ve come straight out of 1973. An event like this could very easily have turned satirical or lampoonish, and the filmmakers ride the line very well.

Battle of the Sexes is Emma Stone’s movie, and that’s a really good thing. In fact, this could be the best she’s ever been. That doesn’t excuse her costar Carell from an amazing turn as the showboating aging tennis star, but it just proves the acting caliber of the stars. If you get the chance, check out Battle of the Sexes while it’s still in theaters. This is one to watch come awards season.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[#2017oscardeathrace] La La Land (2016)

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Director: Damien Chazelle

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Rosemarie DeWitt, John Legend

Screenplay: Damien Chazelle

128 mins. Rated PG-13 for some language.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Motion Picture of the Year [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Ryan Gosling) [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Emma Stone) [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Directing [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Original Screenplay [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Cinematography [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Film Editing [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Production Design [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Costume Design [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score) [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song) “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song) “City of Stars” [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Mixing [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Editing [Pending]

IMDb Top 250: #41 (as of 2/5/2017)

 

Now we get to the biggie. La La Land matched the record at this year’s Oscar nomination celebration with 14 nominations. Now, it technically could only win 13 because of its double nomination for Original Song, but all the same, it looks to be a possible sweep of many awards on the upcoming awards night.

La La Land (2016) Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone)

Sebastian (Ryan Gosling, Drive, The Nice Guys) is a jazz musician looking to start his own club when he meets Mia (Emma Stone, The Help, Aloha), an aspiring actress currently shuffling coffee on a set while searching out her big break. The two are initially at odds, but their friendship soon blooms into romance as they discover a passion for the art within each other, but they soon find that the path of the artist is a narrow one and there isn’t always space for two to walk it together in the newest film from writer/director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash, Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench).

La La Land is a film that takes everything learned from Whiplash and uses it to push the boundaries of filmmaking, and Chazelle is an amazing artist who has crafted a modern musical masterpiece. The film also displays a common theme in Chazelle’s work, a dour but realistic representation of the costs to being an artist. It is a prevalent theme in Whiplash and only further pushes in La La Land.

Gosling and Stone have terrific chemistry, having worked previously together in Crazy Stupid Love and Gangster Squad. These two are destined to be one of the great romantic duos of our age. Their performances together are brilliant. Gosling also gives great work with John Legend (Soul Men, Loverboy) who appears in the film as colleague Keith. Gosling learned piano for the film while Legend learned guitar.

The difference here from, let’s say, Fences, is that La La Land is focused on the relationship but has the style to elevate the film to another level, whereas Fences only focuses on the relationship. Chazelle’s direction is almost another character, aided by top-notch cinematography, set design, and film editing.

Chazelle also takes the risky route with his finale, presenting a unique and interesting twist on this love story that may not win everyone over, but I love how it presents an ending that felt authentic but also hit on everything my inner romantic wanted from this film. The ending has its roots in the musical community and is nothing we haven’t seen before, but it just works so damn well here.

Lastly, I need to touch on the music, particularly “Audition (The Fools Who Dream” and “City of Stars,” both songs very worthy of their nominations. While I loved the opening number, it doesn’t have the emotional hit that these two songs have. I personally have my vote down for “Audition” but I wouldn’t mind a win for either.

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La La Land is going to take the awards this year, but I’m not certain about Best Picture just yet. Even so, it is a powerhouse film destined to be a classic for years to come. Even if you don’t love musicals, give it a try.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

So have you seen La La Land? What did you think? What was your favorite number? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

 

For my review of Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash, click here.

May 2015 Preview

 

Now, we are in the thick of it. It is almost May 2015, and with the release of April’s Furious 7, we have seen the blockbuster season begin in full force. So what else does May have to offer? Avengers: Age of Ultron opened just a couple days ago with a wide release this week.

Keep in mind that these Previews are my estimates of the hits and misses for May. These estimates are based on early buzz, history, and other info I have collected about the films in question. Let’s Begin…

 

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Far from the Madding Crowd

Carey Mulligan leads this film scripted by David Nicholls as the fourth adaptation of the novel by Thomas Hardy about a woman, Mulligan, suited by three vastly different men. I will say this. There have been good and bad adaptations of the book. Do we need another? I don’t think so. Mulligan is aided by the great Michael Sheen here and I feel like it has the chops to be well-put together, but we just don’t really need it.

 

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Welcome to Me

Welcome to Me made waves back in 2014 at the Toronto International Film Festival starring Kristen Wiig as a lottery winner who decides to start a cable access talk show in the effort to build her fame. This one seems like a real winner to me, though it is concerning that it would be dumped off when Avengers gets a full release, never a great placement. Perhaps the studio thinks it will draw in a different kind of filmgoer, I’m not so sure.

 

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Hot Pursuit

No. That is how I want to start. No. We’ve seen the “hot girl kicking ass in a buddy cop” formula and I don’t feel like this film, from the trailers and posters, is going to divert from that plan. Stay away. Shame on you, Witherspoon.

 

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Maggie

Schwarzenegger is a dad to a zombie. Sign me up! In Maggie, Ahnold plays a loving father to a young girl who is slowly becoming a bloodthirsty zombie. I’ve seen trailers and this film looks beautifully shot. I’m not expecting top acting from The Governator, but I don’t think anyone really is. I’m feeling like, either way, Maggie is going to be worth the time, adding a new storytelling layer to a genre that could use it.

 

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Mad Max: Fury Road

Now where the hell did Mad Max 4 come from? I heard virtually nothing about it until last year’s Comic-Con when a trailer was released that looked like batshit crazy action to the highest level reminiscent of the later Fast & Furious movies but in a post-apocalyptic setting. Max (now played by Tom Hardy, the actor not the writer of Far from the Madding Crowd) has been recruited to help Furiousa (played by Charlize Theron) who needs his help to cross the vast desert wasteland with some seriously important cargo that could change the future of what is left of mankind. Max looks great, Furiousa looks awesome. The villain is absolutely creepy. The action scenes are of the highest octane. This is a win, plain and simple.

 

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Pitch Perfect 2

In the directorial debut for Elizabeth Banks, Pitch Perfect 2 picks up with the cast of the highly enjoyable original film to regain their glory after mistakes cause the group to lose the respect of their adoring masses. I guess. Sorry, I’m sure I would like this movie but I never really saw the original, so that’s on me. What I can tell you is this. Early reports say that this film is very similar to the first and it sounds like if you like one, you’ll like the other. I leave it to you.

 

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Poltergeist

In this remake of the classic Tobe Hooper film, Poltergeist, is essentially a reimagined look at the same story with newer special effects. It has been brought up to present day, but I’ve heard that this film is pretty damn terrifying. I’m thinking high on the bubble here.

 

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Tomorrowland

George Clooney and Britt Robertson travel to a mysterious place that exists somewhere in time and space, a place called Tomorrowland. Not much more is known, but director Brad Bird (who previously gave us the splendid Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol) has been in the pocket of Disney for a while and continues to impress. Clooney rarely missteps so I really think we are going to get something incredible here.

 

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Aloha

From Cameron Crowe comes Aloha, starring Bradley Cooper as a contractor assigned to a weapons satellite in Hawaii. It also features Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, Alec Baldwin, and a cadre of different diversely fantastic performers. I’m on the bubble, as Crowe hasn’t blown me away in some time, but I’m leaning to the good here.

 

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San Andreas

Hey everyone, I guess they did make a sequel to 2012! Just kidding, but I might not be. In San Andreas, The Rock saves the world when the San Andreas fault line causes massive earthquakes all over the USA. This one really could go either way, as not much has been released other than a few quick teasers. I want to say good, but I don’t want to lie. I’m going to bubble this one with a drag down to skip.

 

There you have it folks, May 2015 in a nutshell. Take a look below for a final tally, and we will see you in June! Happy viewing!

 

Final Tally:

Best Bets: Welcome to Me, Maggie, Mad Max: Fury Road, Pitch Perfect 2, Tomorrowland

On the Bubble: Far from the Madding Crowd, Poltergeist, Aloha, San Andreas

Likely Misses: Hot Pursuit

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[#2015oscardeathrace] My picks!

Here we are! The Oscars are beginning! Here are my picks…

 

Best Picture

Will Win: Boyhood

Should Win: Boyhood

 

Best Director

Will Win: Richard Linklater (Boyhood)

Should Win: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Birdman)

 

Best Actor

Will Win: Michael Keaton (Birdman)

Should Win: Michael Keaton (Birdman)

 

Best Actress

Will Win: Julianne Moore (Still Alice)

Should Win: Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)

 

Best Supporting Actor

Will Win: J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)

Should Win: Edward Norton (Birdman)

 

Best Supporting Actress

Will Win: Emma Stone (Birdman)

Should Win: Emma Stone (Birdman)

 

Best Original Screenplay

Will Win: Richard Linklater (Boyhood)

Should Win: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris Jr, Armando Bo (Birdman)

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

Will Win:  Graham Moore (The Imitation Game)

Should Win: Jason Hall (American Sniper)

 

Best Animated Feature

Will Win: How to Train Your Dragon 2

Should Win: Song of the Sea

 

Best Foreign Language Film

Will Win: Leviathan

Should Win: Timbuktu

 

Best Documentary

Will Win: Citizenfour

Should Win: Finding Vivian Maier

 

Best Original Score

Will Win: Interstellar

Should Win: Interstellar

 

Best Original Song

Will Win: “Everything is Awesome” (The Lego Movie)

Should Win: The Lego Movie

 

Best Sound Editing/Mixing:

Will Win: Interstellar

Should Win: Interstellar

 

Best Production Design

Will Win: Interstellar

Should Win: The Imitation Game

 

Best Cinematography

Will Win: Interstellar

Should Win: Interstellar

 

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Will Win: Foxcatcher

Should Win: Guardians of the Galaxy

 

Best Costume Design

Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Should Win: Inherent Vice

 

Best Film Editing

Will Win: Boyhood

Should Win: Boyhood

 

Best Visual Effects

Will Win: Interstellar

Should Win: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

 

 

You can follow me for live-tweets during the event @AlmightyGoatman

What are your picks? Let me know!

[#2015oscardeathrace] Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)

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Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

Cast: Michael Keaton, Zack Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts

Screenplay: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo

119 mins. Rated R for language throughout, some sexual content and brief violence.

Academy Award Nominee: Best Picture (Awards Not Yet Announced)

Academy Award Nominee: Best Director (Awards Not Yet Announced)

Academy Award Nominee: Best Actor (Michael Keaton) (Awards Not Yet Announced)

Academy Award Nominee: Best Supporting Actor (Edward Norton) (Awards Not Yet Announced)

Academy Award Nominee: Best Supporting Actress (Emma Stone) (Awards Not Yet Announced)

Academy Award Nominee: Best Original Screenplay (Awards Not Yet Announced)

Academy Award Nominee: Best Sound Editing (Awards Not Yet Announced)

Academy Award Nominee: Best Sound Mixing (Awards Not Yet Announced)

Academy Award Nominee: Best Cinematography (Awards Not Yet Announced)

 

Wow. Birdman, like Interstellar, is a movie you just kind of have to let it settle in to get something out. This movie actually kept me in silent thought for hours after leaving the theater, but what an incredible journey.

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Riggan (Michael Keaton, Batman, Need for Speed) is an aging former star, known for his Birdman franchise of superhero films from some time ago. Now, he wants to reignite the flame of his career by writing, directing, and starring in a Broadway adaptation of Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” with the help of friend and lawyer Jake (Zach Galifianakis, The Hangover, Muppets Most Wanted). He has just fixed a casting problem by hiring wild card performer Mike (Edward Norton, Fight Club, The Grand Budapest Hotel) who has complicated production right before preview nights start. Now, Riggan’s entire world is crumbling around him as his career rides the line, his complex relationship with daughter and assistant Sam (Emma Stone, The Help, The Amazing Spider-Man 2) melts away, and his cracked relationship with actress Laura (Andrea Riseborough, Oblivion, Welcome to the Punch) takes on startling new weight, all while being egged on by his ego in the latest film from visionary storyteller Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Babel, Biutiful).

This movie just melts the mind with its constant onslaught of problems for Riggan and his production. I love the cinematography here, playing out as if the entire film is one long sequential shot. It doesn’t let you pause for a moment, and that’s just the way I like it. As Riggan runs out of time to stop, so too do the audience as Inarritu throws issues at the screen. I loved being inside Riggan’s head and what Michael Keaton was able to do with this character who I’m sure he connected with in a big way as the fictional Birdman franchise becomes a critique of the entire superhero genre (of which Keaton should be very familiar with) as well as the entire canon of pop culture franchises that are spewing out of Hollywood right now.

The screenplay, a tongue-in-cheek masterpiece of its own, presents a warped view of fame and personal acceptance (or lack thereof) and sends up a lot of current filmmaking trends while skewering itself for the very same problems. This film has more levels than an onion and I loved the smell it reeked of as I peeled each layer away.

Michael Keaton’s work here is stunningly off-putting. He is a broken man who just wants the world to see him as he does. His interactions with fellow performers Lesley (Naomi Watts, King Kong, St. Vincent) and Laura present the feeling of walking on thousands of eggshells while his confrontations with the complexly inept Mike makes one shudder.

Even the visual effects, though few, add to its own narcissism. I love what this movie says about movies and the entire performing arts as a whole. This is the best parts of Cabin in the Woods and Black Swan rolled up.

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I can’t say enough about this movie but I can say that it sends out a rhythm of sadness and absurdity that I didn’t know Inarritu was capable of. See this movie, even if you don’t believe me. You will soon enough.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

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Director: Marc Webb

Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Colm Feore, Paul Giamatti, Sally Field

Screenplay: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner

142 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action/violence.

 

After the okay-ish 2012 release of The Amazing Spider-Man, I was uncertain if the franchise had the staying power after essentially remaking the original Spider-Man. Now, with this year’s sequel, is The Amazing Spider-Man 2 further proof? Find out now.

And, I should point out, Spoilers be warned for any and all plot points of previous films. I won’t ruin this one though, so feel free to read on.

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Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield, The Social Network, Never Let Me Go), still suffering from his failure to save Captain Stacy, is forced to juggle his role as Peter with his role as Spider-Man when new villain Electro (Jamie Foxx, Django Unchained, Annie) rises to power, literally. Peter’s problems only get greater as old friends and new enemies appear, all seemingly linked to the death of Peter’s parents (Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz) and his father’s connection to Oscorp. His relationship with the captain’s daughter Gwen (Emma Stone, The Help, Birdman) has progressed to a point where he must constantly fear for her safety. Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan, Chronicle, Life After Beth), an childhood friend of Peter’s shows up, wanting to cure a disease, but to do that, he needs too much from Spider-Man. Peter is further tested when his relationship with Aunt May (Sally Field, Forrest Gump, Lincoln) is strained by his hunt for the truth in his lineage.

This film dramatically improves on many of the faults and worries I had from the previous picture, while still having issues with pacing and tone. From a visual perspective, after 5 theatrical Spider-Man films, this one has a lot of nice work going on for us to watch. The camera knows when it has to focus and when it has to move. The effects are, in a word, stunning. I love the costumes here as well. For the fact that there are a lot of villains in this movie, each one, from the new to the recognizable, is an awesome costume which breathes life (or new life, in the case of one) into the characters. Garfield’s performance has improved as well. He isn’t as confused about where his character needs to be, emotionally, in each scene. Fresh faces Jamie Foxx and Paul Giamatti (Sideways, River of Fundament) as Alexsei Sytsevich, a russian gangster, provide something fun to play with. Foxx’s performance only kicks in as he becomes Electro, but when it does, he takes off.

I have to say this, the real win of this film is the mystery surrounding the deaths of Peter’s parents. This is something that we didn’t really have in the previous series, so it is a point that we as viewers didn’t feel like we had to compare.

The music choices surrounding Electro were interesting. Webb cast a musical group specifically for Foxx’s character, called the Magnificent Six. This works at times and fails as others. See what I meant by tone issues.

The ending is where this tonal confusion really gets notable. I won’t play with any reveals for you, but strictly speaking, things get much more serious than they have the entire film previously. So many important plot points jammed in there, and it just didn’t work.

Now, the open-ended set up for sequels worked fine, setting us up for a little Spider-Man Cinematic Universe feeling, and that excites me.

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I need to day that this film definitely isn’t the Spider-Man 2 we have seen before, and it isn’t as good as we deserved, but it is a ton of fun and a big step up from its immediate predecessor. Remember that, and enjoy yourself.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

So what did you think of The Amazing Spider-Man 2? Did you feel the electricity or was this a short circuit? Let me know!

 

For my review of The Amazing Spider-Man, click here.

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

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Director: Marc Webb

Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Campbell Scott, Irrfan Khan, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Chris Zylka

Screenplay: James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, Steve Kloves

136 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence.

 

I feel like I should describe the film I’m about to review, but to streamline and simplify the process by just having you watch Spider-Man. This film is little more than a carbon copy, subbing one villain in for another and one love interest in for another. I should point out that this is mostly a well-made movie, but the pacing issues really drag it down given the fact that we had seen all of this before.

The Amazing Spider-Man tells the story of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield, The Social Network, Never Let Me Go), a loser but a smart one at that. The only thing he seems to want in life is Gwen Stacy (perfectly casted with Emma Stone, The Help, Birdman). That, and to discover the truth behind his parents’ death. Dr. Curt Conners (Rhys Ifans, Notting Hill, The Five-Year Engagement) is the man who may hold some truth, but he is a bit too preoccupied with becoming a monstrous half-man/half-lizard hybrid.

The Amazing Spider-Man

There is a lot of sameness to this film. Peter becomes Spider-Man. He fights the monster and tries to save those around him from certain doom. This plot is kind of boring for a regular superhero film at this point, but the fact that this is the second time it has been shown on film makes it all the more painful. If this first 90 minutes had been more brushed over, we could be enjoying ourselves a lot more, but this movie just drags. The subplot mystery surrounding Peter’s parents does help, but not enough.

I personally thought Andrew Garfield’s portrayal of Spidey was less likable than I would’ve hoped for. Now Emma Stone was pretty likable. She was some damn perfect casting, as with her father, played by Denis Leary (Two if by Sea, Draft Day).

Then you have Curt Connors, a character who was merely cameos in previous Spider-Man films, and here he is in all the glory. And he is friggin’ creepy as The Lizard. Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World) and Sally Field (Forrest Gump, Lincoln) are Uncle Ben and Aunt May, and give us solid performances given the unsolid scripting.

Now, from a cinematography standpoint, Marc Webb’s film has some very nice touches. The new costume for the masked hero is actually pretty nice looking. The ending was pretty awesome. I like that they are taking a page from Marvel to end on a note that not all is finished here. So the film does have some great moments, given that it is the same movie.

Now, I’m going to just state something. I hate comparing reboots and remakes to their predecessors. I don’t think it is fair as we have already had too much time to fall in love with the originals. It doesn’t offer up a fair fight, but then again, maybe that is the reason that we shouldn’t have remakes. It makes a good argument, but at the same time, I feel like some remakes are pretty damn perfect (John Carpenter’s The Thing and Peter Jackson’s King Kong to name a few). The problem with not comparing The Amazing Spider-Man to Spider-Man is that both films are so close in both exact plotting and timing that it is difficult not to. If you make a film right, it doesn’t have to be up for comparison. I never find myself comparing Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins to Tim Burton’s original Batman because both films have difficult tones and aim for different ideas.

So, when I come to a topic of comparison from a music perspective, I don’t want to compare the fun and upbeat feeling of Sam Raimi’s trilogy to the ominous toning of Marc Webb’s film. But I do, and the difference and preference keep me to the original.

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Now, this film was originally scripted as Spider-Man 4, and I don’t understand the reason to reboot. All the best parts of this film would’ve been made better by continuing the previous film. We already introduced Gwen Stacy in Spider-Man 3, so even planting Emma Stone in would’ve done fine enough. Curt Conners was already a character, so his introduction would’ve reduced the strained runtime. The mysetery around Peter’s parents would’ve injected some serious intrigue into the series. Even the open-ended finale would’ve translated perfectly. It just felt like a monetary decision (and it was) to push the reboot button, and we can tell.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

What did you think of The Amazing Spider-Man? Did this tale need retelling or where you experiencing deja vu?

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