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)
Max Charles (American Sniper)
Kari Coleman (Multiplicity)
Hannah Marks (After Everything)
Barbara Eve Harris (Prison Break)
Skyler Gisondo (Santa Clarita Diet)
Vincent Laresca (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang)
Amber Stevens West (22 Jump Street)
Michael Papajohn (Spider-Man)

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.

 

REVIEW: THE 51st STATE

CAST
Samuel L. Jackson (Black Snake Moan)
Robert Carlyle (Stargate Universe)
Emily Mortimer (Lars and The Real Girl)
Meat Loaf (Fight Club)
Sean Pertwee (Gotham)
Ricky Tomlinson (Mike Bassett: England Manager)
Rhys Ifans (The Amazing Spider-Man)
In 1971, a policeman catches Elmo McElroy, a recent college graduate with a degree in pharmacology, smoking marijuana. Because of his arrest and conviction, he is unable to find work as a pharmacologist. In the present day, a drug lord called “the Lizard” calls a meeting of his organisation, hoping to sell a brand new substance invented by Elmo. The meeting goes badly when Elmo, in a bid to escape from the Lizard’s control, blows up the building, killing everyone but the Lizard. Vengeful, the Lizard contacts Dakota, a contract killer, who previously killed the only witness in a case against the Lizard. Dakota initially refuses the hit, but accepts when the Lizard offers to clear her gambling debts and give her a $250,000 bonus. Elmo leaves for Liverpool, England, where he meets Felix DeSouza, a local “fixer” who has been sent by Leopold Durant, head of a local criminal organisation, in exchange for two football tickets to a sold-out game. At the meeting, Elmo pitches POS 51, a synthetic drug that can be produced with minimal facilities and is 51 times as potent as other drugs. A second opinion from Pudsey, Durant’s chemist, confirms Elmo’s claims, and Durant gives him over a million dollars in bonds. Since it is $18 million short of the agreed payment, Elmo threatens to leave.
In a room across the street, Dakota is about to take a shot at Elmo’s head when the Lizard calls cancelling the hit; not wanting to kill Elmo until he has the formula. Instead of killing Elmo, she is to kill anyone who meets with him. She switches rifles to an automatic weapon and kills everyone but Elmo and Felix, who is shot in the buttocks. As Elmo and Felix leave the hotel, a gang of skinheads who seek the drug attack them. Elmo protects them with a golf club. Detective Virgil Kane arrives on the scene and gives a chase. He is soon lured into a game of chicken by Elmo, who escapes. Kane returns to the crime scene and demands 50% of Durant’s deal with McElroy. A miscommunication leads to Durant’s death.
 Felix contacts a gun dealing club owner and drug distributor named Iki, promising him the formula for £20 million. As Elmo and Felix acquire the ingredients necessary for the drug’s manufacture, all of which are over-the-counter products, the now-armed skinheads capture them. Elmo is unflustered, as the skinheads claim they have a lab, though it turns out to be a broken-into animal testing facility. Elmo makes two batches of the drug; one blue and one red. He claims that the red pill is the stronger version, and after he takes one, the skinheads try it. While they are partying, waiting for the effect of the drug, in the next room Elmo spits out his red pill. He tells Felix it is a powerful laxative; Elmo and Felix leave after throwing rolls of toilet paper to the incapacitated skinheads.
At Iki’s rave club, Elmo initiates his deal and delivers the drug to the waiting crowd. Kane and the police interrupt the deal and arrest Felix. When Dakota appears, she reveals that her real name is Dawn and that she and Felix were romantically involved. She captures Elmo and leaves with him via the roof. Elmo gets the upper hand, suspending her over the edge of the roof. Having no choice, she strikes a deal with him and they escape from Kane. Meanwhile, Kane blackmails Felix during a police interrogation and forces himself into the deal with Iki, which Felix sets up for him.
 Felix, Elmo and Dawn meet Iki in a private viewing box at the football game at Anfield. This time, the deal is interrupted by the Lizard, who shoots Iki and demands the formula to POS 51. The Lizard celebrates with a drink, as Elmo reveals that the drug is a placebo and POS stands for Power of Suggestion. Kane interrupts them as Elmo’s cocktail, an explosive ingested by the Lizard, takes effect. Kane is knocked unconscious and arrested, and the others escape. Dawn and Felix give their relationship another chance, and Elmo purchases a castle once owned by the man who owned his ancestors.
 I’m not surprised this film did a whole lot better this side of the Atlantic than it did back in the USA. With the majority of the action based in England, Jackson and Meat Load being the only Americans and a whole plethora of wonderful British character actors that are a complete joy it’s small wonder it was lapped up by British audiences

REVIEW: THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT

CAST
Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother)
Emily Blunt (Looper)
Chris Pratt (Jurassic World)
Alison Brie (Scream 4)
Lauren Weedman (Date Night)
Mimi Kennedy (Mom)
David Paymer (Drag Me To Hell)
Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook)
Jim Piddock (Austin Powers 3)
Jane Carr (Treasure Planet)
Kevin Hart (Ride Along)
Molly Shannon (Never Been Kissed)
Dakota Johnson (Fifty Shades of Grey)
Rhys Ifans (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Mindy Kaling (Inside Out)
Randall Park (Aquaman)
Brian Posehn (The Big Bang Theory)
Tom Solomon (Jason Segel), a sous chef at a fancy restaurant, and Violet Barnes (Emily Blunt), a psychology PhD graduate, are a happy couple in San Francisco who get engaged a year after they began dating. Their nuptials get interrupted when Tom’s best friend Alex Eilhauer (Chris Pratt) gets Violet’s sister Suzie (Alison Brie) pregnant at Tom and Violet’s engagement party and the two marry before Tom and Violet. Their nuptials get further delayed when Violet gets accepted into the University of Michigan’s post-doctorate in psychology program which lasts two years. Tom agrees to move with her and delay their wedding until then. However, when he tells his boss, he becomes disheartened when she states she was planning on making him head chef at a new restaurant in town.
In Michigan, Violet settles into her new job nicely under her professor Winton Childs (Rhys Ifans). She bases her main thesis on people opting to eat stale donuts versus waiting for fresh donuts, associating impulse-control problems with personal and professional instability. However, Tom, unable to find a suitable chef’s position, ends up working at Zingerman’s and taking up hunting. Tom and Violet’s nuptials get delayed even further when Winton receives NIH funding with Violet’s help, enabling him to extend her program. In the meantime, grandparents of Violet start to die.
As years pass, Tom becomes increasingly disillusioned with his life, which becomes evident to Violet when she sees him eat a stale donut. While at a bar with colleagues, a drunken Violet and Winton kiss each other which Violet immediately regrets. She then visits Tom at work and tells him she wants to plan their wedding now, to which Tom happily agrees. Tom cleans himself up and they make arrangements together. Everything goes well until Violet decides to confess to Tom about kissing Winton. Tom gets disillusioned about their relationship, which reaches a climax when Winton comes to Tom and Violet’s rehearsal dinner to try to apologize. Tom rejects his apology and starts chasing Winton away, with Violet trying to catch up, but Winton gets away after Tom insists that he run or fight him. A drunken Tom then runs into Margaret, one of his Zingerman’s co-workers and has the chance to have sex with her, but opts out. He wakes up half-naked in the snow with a frostbitten toe, and he is taken to the hospital where the toe is amputated. Violet visits Tom at the hospital, before they call off their engagement once they arrive home.
Tom moves back to San Francisco and becomes a sous-chef under Alex at the new restaurant, while also starting a relationship with the hostess Audrey (Dakota Johnson). However, Tom’s parents and Alex see that Tom is dissatisfied with his new life and motivate him to act upon this. Alex fires him, telling Tom that he is the better chef and should open his own franchise. Tom launches a specialty taco truck. Meanwhile, Violet starts a relationship with Winton and receives an assistant professorship at the university, but becomes upset when she learns she got the job because she was dating Winton rather than her abilities as a researcher and breaks up with Winton.
When Violet’s last grandparent dies during the summer, Tom, having broken up with Audrey, shows up at the funeral in England and rekindles his relationship with Violet. They agree to spend the remainder of the summer together in San Francisco, and they begin to reconnect while sharing an apartment and working side-by-side in the taco truck. While driving Violet to the airport, Tom says he can take his food truck to where she is and continue their relationship. Violet then proposes to Tom, stating they’ll always have problems together, but that it shouldn’t stop them from getting married. Tom reveals the engagement ring he gave her initially, stating he was planning on proposing to her at the airport. They both agree and head to Alamo Square Park where Violet has organized for their family and friends to be waiting for an impromptu wedding. Violet allows Tom to choose between various options for the officiant, clothing and music, and they finally get married.
A film from a male perspective analyses relationships effectively for the modern era. For all the people who have been in love, this film will have loads to relate to.

REVIEW: HANNIBAL RISING

CAST

Gaspard Ulliel  (Saint Laurent)
Li Gong (Curse of The Golden Flower)
Dominic West (300)
Rhys Ifans (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Helena-Lia Tachovská (Divnovlasky)
Kevin McKidd (Dog Soldiers)
Richard Brake (Halloween II)
Stephen Walters (Outlander)
Robbie Kay (Heroes Reborn)

In 1941, an eight-year-old Hannibal Lecter lives in Lecter Castle in Lithuania. Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union turns the Baltic region into part of the bloodiest front line of World War II. Lecter, his younger sister Mischa, and their parents travel to the family’s hunting lodge in the woods to elude the advancing German troops. After three years, the Nazis are finally driven out of the countries soon to be occupied by the Soviet Union. During their retreat, however, they destroy a Soviet tank that had stopped at the Lecter family’s lodge looking for water. The explosion kills everyone but Lecter and Mischa. They survive in the cottage until six former Lithuanian militiamen, led by a Nazi collaborator named Vladis Grutas, storm and loot it. Finding no other food in the bitterly cold Baltic winter, the men look menacingly at Lecter and Mischa. By 1949, Lecter Castle has been turned into a Soviet orphanage and is ironically housing the interned orphan Hannibal Lecter. After dealing violently with a bully, Lecter escapes from the castle orphanage to Paris to live with his widowed aunt, the Lady Murasaki. While in France, Lecter flourishes as a student. He commits his first murder as a teenager, killing a local butcher who insults his aunt. He is suspected of the murder by Inspector Popil, a French detective who also lost his family in the war. Thanks in part to his aunt’s intervention, Lecter escapes responsibility for the crime.Eventually, Lecter becomes the youngest person ever admitted to medical school in France. He receives a working scholarship at a hospital in Paris, where he is given a job preparing cadavers. One day, Lecter witnesses a condemned war criminal receiving a sodium thiopental injection, allowing him to recall details about his war crimes. Consequently, in an attempt to recall the names of those responsible for his sister’s death, Lecter injects himself with the solution. His subsequent flashback reveals to the viewers the men who had killed Mischa, had also cannibalized her as well. Lecter returns to Lithuania in search of his sister’s remains. He excavates the ruins of the lodge where his family died, and upon finding Mischa’s remains, he gives her a proper burial. He also unearths the dog-tags of the deserters who killed his sister. One of them, Dortlich, attempts to kill him but is incapitated by Lecter. After he buries Mischa’s remains, Lecter forces Dortlich to reveal the whereabouts of the rest of his gang, then decapitates Dortlich with a horse-drawn pulley. Dortlich’s blood splashes on Lecter’s face, and he licks it off.Lecter then visits Kolnas’ restaurant in Fontainbleau. He finds his young daughter and notices Mischa’s bracelet on her. He gives her Kolnas’ dogtag. Dortlich’s murder puts the rest of the group on alert and, because of the similarity to the first murder, places Lecter under renewed suspicion from Popil. Grutas, now a sex trafficker, dispatches a second member of the group, Zigmas Milko, to kill him. Lecter kills Milko instead, drowning him in formaldehyde inside his laboratory. Popil then tries to dissuade him from hunting the gang. During a confrontation with Lady Murasaki, Lecter almost has sex with her, but relents after Lady Murasaki begs him not to get revenge, claiming that he made a promise to Mischa. He attacks Grutas in his home but Grutas is rescued by his bodyguards.

Grutas kidnaps Lady Murasaki and calls Lecter, using her as bait. Lecter recognizes the sounds of Kolnas’ birds from his restaurant in the background. Lecter goes there and plays on Kolnas’ emotions by threatening his children. Kolnas gives up the location of Grutas’ boat, but Lecter kills him when Kolnas goes for Lecter’s gun. Lecter goes to the houseboat. In a final confrontation, Grutas claims that Lecter too had consumed his sister in broth fed to him by the soldiers, and he was killing them to keep this fact secret. Enraged, Lecter eviscerates him by carving his sister’s initial into his body. Lady Murasaki, finally disturbed by his behavior, flees from him even after he tells her that he loves her. The houseboat is incinerated, but Lecter, assumed to be dead, emerges from the woods. Lecter hunts down the last member of the group, Grentz, in Canada.MV5BZmRkNTZjN2EtZGVmYi00YTE3LTliMzgtODE5MjU5NzI3NzZiL2ltYWdlL2ltYWdlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTEwNDYyNzk@._V1_Well, no Anthony Hopkins so I didn’t expect greatness, but was pleasantly surprised. Gaspard Ulliel did a very good job. I was caught up in the story about how Hannibal got started.  The movie was done very professionally. A good prequel to a great franchise.

REVIEW: SERENA

 

CAST

Jennifer Lawrence (Joy)
Bradley Cooper (Silver Lingings Playbook)
Toby Jones (The Hunger Games)
Rhys Ifans (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Sean Harris (Prometheus)
Conleth Hill (Game of Thrones)

This interesting, flawed film was completed more than two years ago, then shelved while its distributors wondered what to do with it. Despite offering what is arguably Jennifer Lawrence’s most ambitious and grownup performance so far.Its director is Susanne Bier, the Danish film-maker responsible for the challenging drama In a Better World, and who also gained a commercial track record with English-language movies such as Love is All You Need and Things We Lost in the Fire. Bier is an interesting person to take charge of this big emotional spectacle, set in depression-era America in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina. It is clotted with its own atmosphere of tragic gloom and erotic doom.SerenaCooper plays George Pemberton, a young entrepreneur with an irresponsible, romantic streak, who owns a logging business in the forest. His business is precarious and unsafe – the employees are always getting injured or killed – but there is so much unemployment that he can always find willing replacements from the dirt-poor menfolk. His loyal business partner, Buchanan (David Dencik) tries to keep the financial plates spinning by raising a bank loan secured against Pemberton’s highly speculative ownership of forest land in Brazil. Meanwhile, the sheriff (Toby Jones) resents their destructive swagger and wants to save the forests for a federally protected national park. At this knife-edge moment, Pemberton falls passionately in love with Serena (Lawrence), a staggeringly beautiful and proud woman from a poor background. Impulsively, he proposes marriage, and after their honeymoon the couple return to their tough frontier kingdom in feudal triumph, George announces to his cowed workers that his headstrong, imperious bride Serena must be treated as his equal and they must take orders from her as willingly as from him. It all leads to disaster.Lawrence brings her A-game. She is passionate, impetuous and confident, with a tough determination to grab the brass ring that has been presented to her. I loved her insistence that the company must bring in an eagle to keep down the population of venomous snakes, which are endangering the workforce, and that only she can be allowed to train the eagle. It is a gloriously queenly, almost Tudor moment for Lawrence, who has a glimmer of Cate Blanchett’s Elizabethan hauteur. Serena had surrendered eagerly, almost ecstatically, to the socio-erotic excitement of getting a marriage proposal from a handsome, wealthy man, and then she dominates him sensually in their married life, spurring him to greater achievements, and inspiring ruthlessness against those who get in his way.I wonder if Bier has brought a distinctively European, non-Hollywood manner to some of this. There is a scene in which Serena gets uncharacteristically sloppy drunk at a grand dinner and deliberately excites and annoys her husband by dancing with another man. This is followed by angry, jealous, complicated marital sex. There is a gamey flavour here: it doesn’t quite fit into the star brand identity Lawrence has cultivated, and this might account for the film’s relatively low profile. Then there’s the fact that her character is unsympathetic, which is still considered a mortal sin by many film producers of movies and book publishers.