REVIEW: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2

CAST

Andrew Garfield (The Social Network)
Emma Stone (Easy A)
Jamie Foxx (Ray)
Dane DeHaan (Life After beth)
Colm Feore (Thor)
Felicity Jones (Rogue One)
Paul Giamatti (Sideways)
Sally Field (Lincoln)
Embeth Davidtz (Army of Darkness)
Campbell Scott (The Exorcism of Emily Rose)
Marton Csokas (The Equalizer)
Sarah Gadon (Dracula Untold)
Skyler Gisondo (Vacation)
Stan Lee (Guardians of The Galaxy Vol 2)
Chris Cooper (The Bourne Identity)
Denis Leary (Rescue Me)
Martin Sheen (The West Wing)
Michael Massee (Flashforward)

In 2000, Oscorp scientist Richard Parker records a video message to explain his disappearance. Later, he and his wife, Mary, are aboard a private jet hijacked by a man sent to assassinate Richard. The plane crashes, killing both Richard and Mary, after he uploads the video.Fourteen years later, Richard’s son Peter continues to fight crime as Spider-Man. He pursues and apprehends Aleksei Sytsevich. Later, Peter meets with Gwen at their high school graduation ceremony and, insisting he keep his vow to her father, ends their relationship. Peter’s childhood friend, Harry Osborn, returns to Manhattan to see his terminally-ill father, Norman, CEO of OsCorp. Norman explains his illness is genetic, and Harry is at the age where it first develops. Norman gives Harry a small device he claims contains his life’s work. The next day, Norman dies and Harry is appointed the new OsCorp CEO.While working in an OsCorp laboratory, electrical engineer Max Dillon shocks himself by accident and falls into a tank of genetically-engineered electric eels. They attack him, and he mutates into a living electric generator. Meanwhile, Peter attempts to maintain a friendship with Gwen, but she reveals that she may move to England for schooling. Before they can discuss it, Dillon wanders into Times Square, accidentally causing a blackout, and is stopped by Peter after a battle. Dillon is taken to Ravencroft Institute, where he is studied by German scientist Dr. Kafka. Meanwhile, the first symptoms of Harry’s illness are showing, and he uses the device Norman gave him to deduce that Spider-Man’s blood could help save him. He asks Peter, who has been selling photos of Spider-Man to the Daily Bugle, to aid him in finding Spider-Man. Peter refuses, unsure of what effects the transfusion would have. Although he later comes to Harry as Spider-Man, he still refuses, and Harry develops an intense hatred towards Spider-Man. The OsCorp board-members, in particular the vice-president, Donald Menken, frame Harry for covering up Dillon’s accident, remove him as CEO, overthrow him and take control of Oscorp. Harry’s assistant, Felicia Hardy, informs him of equipment that could help him, so he makes a deal with Dillon, who now calls himself “Electro,” to get him back inside the OsCorp building. There he finds a suit of armour and other equipment made by Norman, as well as venom from the now-destroyed genetically-altered spiders. The venom accelerates Harry’s illness and transforms him into a goblin-like creature, but the suit’s built-in emergency protocol restores his health and cures his disease.Peter uses information left by his father to locate the video message in an abandoned subway station’s hidden lab. Richard explains he had to leave because he refused to cooperate with Norman’s biogenetic weaponization plans. Peter then hears a voicemail from Gwen, telling him she was offered the British scholarship and is heading to the airport earlier than expected. He manages to catch her and professes his love for her, and, vowing to go wherever she goes, they agree to go to England together. Electro causes another blackout, and Peter heads off to fight him as Spider-Man. Gwen follows, and together they restore power and overload Electro’s body, killing him.The transformed Harry, who now calls himself “Green Goblin”, arrives equipped with Norman’s armor and weaponry. Upon seeing Gwen, he deduces Spider-Man’s secret identity and, swearing revenge for being refused the blood transfusion, kidnaps her and takes her to the top of a clock tower. Peter manages to defeat the Green Goblin, but his webbing breaks during the battle and Gwen falls to her death. Peter, depressed and distraught, mourns over Gwen’s death and ends his career as Spider-Man. Five months later, Harry is coping with the aftereffects of his transformation while incarcerated at Ravencroft. His associate, Gustav Fiers, visits Harry and the pair discuss forming their own team. Harry orders Fiers to start with Sytsevich. Later an unknown team of men break Sytsevich out of prison. Equipped with electromechanical suit armor, Sytsevich calls himself the Rhino and rampages through the streets. Peter, inspired by Gwen’s graduation speech, resumes his role as Spider-Man and confronts him.The Amazing Spider-Man 2 nearly earns an honest emotional response over this pairing. The writing could be better, but Garfield and Stone do an excellent job selling their roles and this movie. I am a big fan of Stone, and she elevates Garfield’s already solid performance. Webb does not quite find the balance between this drama and spectacle, and the film understandably includes a number of rollicking action sequences. The visual effects are strong, but the bullet-time slow motion feels a bit stale. There is a lot of flash to these bits, but not much substance. This is an entertaining film that could be better.

REVIEW: THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS

CAST

Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)
Lily Cole (Snow White and The Huntsman)
Johnny Depp (Public Enemies)
Colin Farrell (Intermission)
Jude Law (Spy)
Christopher Plummer (The Last Station)
Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Verne Troyer (Austin Powers 2 & 3)
Tom Waits (Mystery Men)

Doctor Parnassus’ theater troupe, which includes sleight of hand expert Anton, confidant Percy, and Parnassus’ daughter Valentina, performs outside a London pub. The troupe’s main attraction is a magical “Imaginarium”, which offers whoever enters it a choice between difficult self-fulfillment or easy ignorance. After a drunkard is swayed to the latter, Parnassus says he has lost another one to Mr. Nick, a suave personification of the Devil. Mr. Nick reminds Parnassus that in three days Valentina turns 16, and her soul will be his. Hundreds of years ago Mr. Nick tricked Parnassus into gaining immortality, after making a wager similar to his current predicament.As the troupe crosses a bridge, Anton spies someone hanging beneath it. They rescue the man, who spits out a golden pipe when revived. Claiming to have amnesia, he joins the troupe as a barker. Parnassus becomes despondent over the impending loss of his daughter. Mr. Nick visits Parnassus, revealing the hanging man is a disgraced philanthropist named “Tony”. He offers Parnassus a wager: Valentina can stay with whoever wins five souls first.Tony convinces the troupe to remodel the show into a more modern act. While performing, Tony lures a posh woman into the Imaginarium and follows her, where they enter a pastel-coloured dream-world representing the woman’s imagination. The woman’s imagination also changes Tony’s face; upon discovering this, he dances elegantly with her, and they spy a motel run by Mr. Nick. Tony convinces the woman to take a gondola toward a pyramid alone, winning a soul for Parnassus. Tony falls back out of the Imaginarium, returning his face to normal; the woman exits shortly after and gives the troupe a vast sum of money. When three other women enter, each emerges elated; and thus Parnassus wins three more souls. Four Russian gangsters, to whom Tony owes money, are taken by Mr. Nick when they chase Tony into the Imaginarium. The score becomes four souls apiece.With the bet nearing its end, Parnassus reveals Valentina’s conception to her: after ageing from immortality, Parnassus made a new pact with Mr. Nick to be youthful again, in order to win the heart of a woman he loved. In exchange, any child he fathered would become Mr. Nick’s property at age 16. Valentina attempts to run away, but Tony enters the Imaginarium to give his soul to Parnassus; in exchange, Parnassus must teach him the trance that powers the dream world. Valentina returns as he tries to enter the mirror, but Anton blocks them, having discovered that Tony is a fraudulent charity scammer.Tony fights off Anton, pushes Valentina into the Imaginarium and joins her. Influenced by Valentina’s desires, Tony’s face changes again, and they float along a beautiful river in a gondola. After an impoverished child disrupts their boat trip, Tony transforms into a philanthropist speaking at a fundraiser. Anton, following the pair into the Imaginarium, appears as an outspoken child and exposes Tony as a fraud. A mob pursues Tony as the landscape disintegrates, causing Anton to fall into a void. Distraught and angry over her father’s bargain and a lifetime of hiding of the truth from her, Valentina gives her soul to Mr. Nick. Disillusioned by the easy victory, Mr. Nick offers Parnassus to trade Valentina for Tony. Chased by the mob, Tony flees to a gallows, but Parnassus confronts him, holding Tony’s pipe and a copy. Parnassus challenges Tony to choose which pipe is genuine. He chooses wrongly, inserts the copy in his windpipe, and is hanged. Mr. Nick keeps his word and Valentina is freed, but Parnassus is not told where she is, and is abandoned to wander in the Imaginarium.Parnassus emerges years later, finding Valentina is married to Anton and they have a daughter. He watches them from outside a restaurant window, but when tempted to join them, he is stopped by Percy. Teaming up once more, Parnassus and Percy sell toy theatre replicas of the Imaginarium and the troupe on a street corner. Mr. Nick invites Parnassus over to him, but Percy puts an end to the temptation.The acting is good, with Lily Cole surprisingly impressive and old hands Christopher Plummer and Tom Waits leading by example. Terry Gilliam direction combines the fantastical and the ordinary in a way that only he can. It is the first time he has participated in the writing process for two decades and this film has an autobiographical feel as Doctor Parnassus tries to entice with stories and the imagination only to be met by cynical crowds. This effort to wow the public may not move them away from CGI and is short of his best, but it is still entertaining and favourable over films which lack charm, imagination and storytelling.

REVIEW: THE SOCIAL NETWORK

 

CAST

Jesse Eisenberg (Batman v Superman)
Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Armie Hammer (The Lone Ranger)
Justin Timberlake (Friends With Benefits)
Rooney Mara (Her)
Rashia Jones (I Love You, Man)
Josh Pence (The Dark Knight Rises)
Malese Jow (The Vampire Diaries)
Lacey Beeman (Power Rangers Time Force)
Jason Flemyng (Snatch)
Jessie Heiman (Chuck)
Riley Voelkel (The Originals)

David Fincher’s The Social Network is a business procedural played with the intensity of a thriller and the ingenuity of a screwball comedy. It’s something of a departure for the filmmaker, whose pictures lean toward visual pyrotechnics and darker, more disturbing themes. Handling a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin that consists primarily of people in rooms talking, and in which the violence is purely psychological, he curbs his occasional excesses and cooks up his most satisfying film to date. Though mining (with some significant departures from the official record) the origin story of Facebook, a presumably of-the-moment phenomenon, Fincher and Sorkin have made a movie that is about more than its ostensible subject. Yes, The Social Network examines, at least implicitly, the cultural moment that precipitates the explosion of a site that aims specifically to make the social experience a virtual construct. But where the film strikes oil is in understanding the kind of guy who would want to create that experience.

His name is Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), and the opening scene that introduces him is a whiz-bang Sorkin special–a flurry of rat-tat-tat dialogue and cranked-up interplay in which characters talk non-stop while revealing themselves only accidentally. Zuckerberg, a smug Harvard sophomore obsessed with the university social hierarchy that he cannot penetrate, is out with his girlfriend Erica (Rooney Mara); he clearly sees himself as smarter than her (she attends lowly Boston University), but she’s so adroit at conversational maneuvers that before he realizes it, she’s broken up with him. Depressed and half-drunk, he goes back to his dorm, blogs some hurtful things about her, and concocts a website called “facemash” that pulls pictures from campus sites and lets students rank the women against each other. Fincher gives this embryonic sequence the finesse and energy of an action scene–particularly as he intercuts the rich and powerful “club” kids living the life Mark longs for, the velvety seductiveness of the haves in sharp contrast to the laptop tappings of the have-nots.

The program crashes Harvard’s server and gets him called on the university carpet, but it also catches the attention of would-be power broker Divya Narenda (Max Minghella) and irritatingly entitled rich twins Tyler and Cameron Winlevoss (both played by Armie Hammer). The trio approaches Mark with an idea for a new networking site–“The Harvard Connection,” a school-wide apparatus for profiles, pictures, and so on. Mark jumps in, but decides almost immediately that he can do this thing better than they can; he builds on the concept, hits up his best friend–and occasional conscience–Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) for a grand or so in start-up funds, and launches his version, “the facebook.”

The complex saga of the rise of Facebook (and of Zuckerberg) is told in interlocking depositions (“I’m currently in the middle of two lawsuits,” Mark explains, somewhat impatiently), which sounds like the dullest imaginable framework for a narrative. But the picture gets a kick from Sorkin’s distinctive conversational rhythms and considerable skills as a wordsmith. The Social Network is a whirlwind of talk–invigorating, intelligent, fast-paced dialogue, from the throwaway lines to the occasional loquacious show-stopper. Every Sorkin script has one (Nicholson’s “You can’t handle the truth” bit in A Few Good Men is the obvious example, though Baldwin’s “I am God” speech in Malice is nearly as quotable); here, it comes when the Winlevosses’ lawyer asks Mark, “Do I have your full attention?,” unleashing a perfect storm of Sorkinian attitude, snark, and barely-contained impatience. “You have part of my attention–you have the minimum amount,” Mark snaps. “The rest of my attention is back at the offices of Facebook, where my colleagues and I are doing things that no one in this room, including and especially your clients, are intellectually or creatively capable of doing. Did I adequately answer your condescending question?”

Performances are universally strong–Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spiderman) is immensely likable and marginally heartbreaking, Hammer’s double-playing is simple but effective, and Timberlake, as the well-connected but semi-flaky Parker, handily sells his multi-layered portrait of the guy who knows all the angles but can’t quite hide his own rough edges. But Eisenberg’s is the breakthrough performance; as good as he’s been as shy, stuttering, would-be intellectuals in Adventureland and Zomiebland, this is a darker and more complicated piece of work. His performance here is somehow both showy and deftly underplayed–you get the sense, from that very first scene, that he’s already tired of always being the smartest guy in the room.

When The Social Network was announced, it seemed such an oddball project that snickers and jeers were the prevailing response (. But from the unveiling of its mesmerizing trailer, it was clear that this wasn’t just “the Facebook movie,” any more than Citizen Kane was a film about newspapers.

REVIEW: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN

CAST

Andrew Garfield (The Social Network)
Emma Stone (Birdman)
Rhys Ifans (Alice Through The Looking Glass)
Denis Leary (Rescue Me)
Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now)
Sally Field (Lincoln)
Irrfan Khan (Jurassic World)
Campbell Scott (Royal Pains)
Embeth Davidtz (Army of Darkness)
Chris Zylka (The Secret Circle)
C. Thomas Howell (E.T.)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Jennifer Lyons (That 70s Show)
Michael Massee (Flashforward)
Zoey Deutch (Ringer)

A young Peter Parker discovers his father Richard Parker’s study has been burgled. Peter’s parents gather hidden documents and take Peter to the home of his Aunt May and Uncle Ben, then mysteriously depart.Years later, a teenaged Peter attends Midtown Science High School, where he is bullied by Flash Thompson and has caught the eye of Gwen Stacy. At home, Peter finds his father’s papers and learns his father worked with fellow scientist Dr. Curt Connors at Oscorp. Sneaking into Oscorp, Peter enters a lab where a “biocable” is under development from genetically modified spiders, one of which bites him. He later discovers he has developed spider-like abilities, such as sharp senses, reflexes and speed.After studying Richard’s papers, Peter visits the one-armed Connors, reveals he is Richard’s son and gives Connors his father’s “decay rate algorithm”, the missing piece in Connors’ experiments on regenerating limbs. Connors is being pressed by his superior, Dr. Ratha, to devise a cure for the dying (but unseen) head of Oscorp, Norman Osborn. In school, Peter gets into trouble after a basketball challenge with Flash in which Peter accidentally shatters the backboard glass. His uncle changes work shifts to meet with the principal and asks Peter to walk May home for him that night. Peter forgets to do so, distracted while at Oscorp helping Connors regenerate the limb of a laboratory mouse. At home, he and Ben argue and Peter leaves. At a nearby deli, a cashier refuses to let Peter buy milk when Peter is two cents short; when a thief suddenly raids the store, Peter indifferently observes. While searching for Peter, Ben attempts to stop the thief and is killed. The thief escapes as Peter finds Ben dead on the sidewalk.Afterward, Peter uses his new abilities to hunt criminals matching the killer’s description. After a fall lands him inside an abandoned gym, a luchador-wrestling poster inspires him to create a mask to hide his identity. He adds a spandex suit and builds mechanical devices to attach to his wrists to shoot a biocable “web”. Later, at dinner with Gwen’s family, he has a tense conversation with her father, police captain George Stacy, over the new masked vigilante’s motives. After dinner, Peter reveals his identity to Gwen and they kiss.After seeing success with the mouse using lizard DNA, Ratha demands Connors begin human trials immediately. Connors refuses to rush the drug-testing procedure and put innocent people at risk. Ratha fires Connors and decides to test Connors’ serum at a Veterans Administration hospital under the guise of a flu shot. In an act of desperation, Connors tries the formula on himself. After passing out, he awakens to find his missing arm has regenerated. Discovering that Ratha is on his way to the VA hospital, Connors, whose skin is turning green and scaly, goes to intercept him. By the time he gets to the Williamsburg Bridge, Connors has become a violent hybrid of lizard and man, tossing cars, including Ratha’s, over the side. Peter, now calling himself Spider-Man, snatches each falling car with his web-lines.Spider-Man suspects Connors is the Lizard and unsuccessfully confronts the creature in the sewers. The Lizard learns Spider-Man’s real identity via the name on an abandoned camera and follows Peter to school, where they fight. Police start a manhunt for both Spider-Man and the Lizard. Captain Stacy discovers that Spider-Man is really Peter. The Lizard plans to make all humans lizard-like by releasing a chemical cloud from Oscorp’s tower, to eliminate the weaknesses he believes plague humanity. Spider-Man eventually disperses an antidote cloud instead, restoring Connors and earlier victims to normal, but not before the Lizard mortally wounds Captain Stacy. Before his death, Captain Stacy requests Peter avoid Gwen, in order to keep her safe. Peter initially does so, but later at school suggests to Gwen he may see her after all. In a mid-credits scene, Connors, in a prison cell, speaks with a man in the shadows who asks if Peter knows the truth about his father. Connors replies, “No”, and demands Peter to be left alone before the man disappears.I began watching The Amazing Spider-Man with muted expectations, and without anticipation. I walked out of my experience feeling as though the film was actually good not amazing.I think this franchise was too soon for a reboot.