‚ÄúThe Amazing Spider-Man‚ÄĚ (PG-13) ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ
Here we go again. Same plot, different actors, different villain.
In fact, one of the problems with this version is that there is only one villain, and Peter Parker is blamed ‚ÄĒ and blames himself ‚ÄĒ for creating him. He did that by being precocious. A nerdy high school student who eschews contact lenses for his late father‚Äôs glasses, Parker is bullied and suffers pangs of love for Gwen Stacy (not Mary Jane). But Gwen or Mary Jane, we know that he will somehow defeat the villain and gain her devotion while saving her from a dire fate at least once.
And that‚Äôs the problem with this reboot of Spider-Man: We‚Äôve seen it all before so it boils down to which version has the cooler special effects. This version starts with a ho-hum 3-D but beyond that, there isn‚Äôt much to recommend it.
Spidey is darker than usual in the hands of British actor Andrew Garfield, but Gwen is magnificent. Emma Stone as a blond? Who would have imagined it? She steals every scene she‚Äôs in just by looking as if she could be in high school though better looking than all her classmates.
Rhys Ifans is the villain but a sympathetic one since he‚Äôs made into a lizard through misapplication of a formula designed to grow back his missing right arm. When it turns him instead into a rampaging, super-strong lizard, how can you blame him? Especially since he got the formula from Spidey?
Spider-Man on film, as on Broadway, has always been about the special effects, and this version is as well. The flying scenes are predictably spectacular, and the seemingly endless supply of ‚Äúweb‚ÄĚ is effective. But the whole is affected negatively by the fact that we‚Äôve seen it all so many times before. That forces one to focus on the plot, and that ain‚Äôt much. The question remains: Why did anyone think another version of the same story was necessary now?
The film‚Äôs most notorious footnote is that the comic book genius Stan Lee gets a cameo role as a befuddled librarian in a fight scene. The other is that Emma Stone is stone-cold stunning.
A wasted scene after the initial credits hints at a sequel, but, again, why?
‚ÄúSavages‚ÄĚ (R) ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ
This is one violent film, as you might expect. Oliver Stone, whose predilection for pot is infamous, lets his fantasies loose in a complicated plot involving a m√©nage between Ben and Chon (Aaron Johnson and Taylor Kitsch) and O (Blake Lively), who are quality pot-growers with their own comfortable network, and Elena (Salma Hayek), who is the head of a rival cartel in Mexico. She wants to force Ben and Chon out of business and take over their network because their pot is better. Her chief associate in crime is Lado (Benicio Del Toro). No end of murder, decapitation and mayhem ensues.
The opening scene, not 10 minutes in, includes drugs, sex and the beheading of five Mexicans. That‚Äôs for starters. Then there is a brutal assassination in the streets of Laguna set to the Brahms 1st Symphony ‚ÄĒ a bizarre choice, but making bizarre choices is why Oliver Stone makes the big bucks.
The premise of this film is solid for a thriller: Set perfectly horrible villains (Hayek‚Äôs mob) against the innocence of Ben and the violence of ex-soldier Chon; throw in a tall, vacuous blond; add some military operations out of the Iraqi playbook; add a few more villains and a supporting force for the good guys; and let ‚Äėer rip. Chon warns all of us that ‚ÄúSavages don‚Äôt make deals,‚ÄĚ then makes a deal with the savages. By then, everybody is a savage so it doesn‚Äôt make much difference. Throw a corrupt federal agent named Dennis (John Travolta) into the mix and add lots of blood and exploding body parts and you have a modern thriller.
To be honest, Hayek, Del Toro and Travolta steal this picture. Lively is handicapped by such stupid lines as: ‚ÄúI have orgasms. He has wargasms.‚ÄĚ But then again, that‚Äôs in character for her. She admits she‚Äôs been on pot since she was 9. Nevertheless, she seldom rises above mere furniture that could have been played by almost anyone.
There is not much of moral value here at all, and the several endings may make you gnash your teeth in frustration. If you like violence, though, it‚Äôs here. And the Brahms is a nice touch, if totally inappropriate for assassinations.
‚ÄúIce Age‚ÄĚ (PG) ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ
Strictly for the under-12 set, and it had them rocking with gales of laughter at the constant slapstick mayhem, pratfalls and collisions that dominate its thin plot.
Briefly, a cataclysmic shift in the continents leaves a mammoth family headed by Manny (Ray Romano) and Ellie (Queen Latifah) split, with Manny promising to find his family somehow sometime. Daughter Peaches, who looks like Cameron Diaz but is voiced by Keke Palmer, is in rebellion (teens, you know, dangerous even for mammoths) and, with her friend mole Louis (Wiener), voiced by Josh Gad, wanders off and gets in trouble. Enter Capt. Gutt, a fierce chimp (Peter Dunklage); a saber-toothed tiger named Diego (Dennis Leary); a sultry female tiger, Shira, (Jennifer Lopez); various other animals from meerkats to squirrels; and a Granny Slug (Wanda Sykes), who steals the picture. Thus you have a recipe for a whippy, dippy 90 minutes.
There are odd moments in this film. For example, why did John Powell, who did the score, rely so heavily on the ‚ÄúOde to Joy‚ÄĚ from Beethoven‚Äôs Ninth when original music would do just as well? Why does Scrat, the acorn-mad squirrel whose scene from the film has been used as a teaser for over a year, have to be in the film? His greedy chase after acorns could be a cartoon or a series, but it just gets in the way here.
The kids loved the movie and could care less about the plot, so relax and let them enjoy it. Why it is a ‚ÄúPG,‚ÄĚ I have no idea. The ‚Äúviolence‚ÄĚ is pure comic stuff. And did I tell you that Wanda Sykes‚Äô Granny has a whale of a time?
‚ÄúKaty Perry: Part of Me‚ÄĚ (PG) ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ
Katy Perry represents a triumph of fantasy and romanticism over reality ‚ÄĒ for a while. Predictably, because we know the facts, reality intrudes three-quarters of the way through her concert film as the impossible demands of a yearlong tour shred her marriage to comedian Russell Brand.
This older male, accompanied by at least 10 teen females, watched and sympathized, but I was left with a question: Why was it necessary to plan a year-long tour just after getting married? She says it was because she had a new CD coming out and ‚Äúyou have to tour.‚ÄĚ But she clearly exhausted herself with attempts to keep the marriage going by jetting off on her break-days to find Brand, wherever he was.
With perhaps intentional parallels with Justin Bieber‚Äôs concert tour on film, the narrative arc here includes a religious background, early success as a performer and songwriter, and a crisis in the tour. Bieber‚Äôs was a throat condition. Perry‚Äôs is the divorce. Perry is 27. Rumors were that Brand wanted a family. Perry says: ‚ÄúA baby can‚Äôt have a baby, and I‚Äôm still a baby.‚ÄĚ Maybe that‚Äôs why she booked the world tour.
Perry also admits that: ‚ÄúSince I was 9 years old, I wanted to be on stage, having audiences sing along with me.‚ÄĚ This film and her career is not really about the music. It‚Äôs about the crowds, the costume changes, the legs, the figure, the fireworks ‚ÄĒ like Bieber except with him it‚Äôs the hair, not the legs. The film does a good job of explaining, through loyal friends, relatives and crew members, Perry‚Äôs early failures to catch on with a record label and her eventual success at Capitol, made possible by a Columbia staffer who stole all Perry‚Äôs material from Columbia when she switched jobs. As is pointed out, Perry was not an overnight sensation, though her ‚ÄúI Kissed a Girl‚ÄĚ was a crucial choice for her breakout recording.
Perry is an engaging young woman, whose endurance is explained by a rigorous workout schedule and her youth; but one fears for her career if she does another tour like this one. But she may be cursed with what she has. As one fan wisely points out: ‚ÄúYou can‚Äôt be anyone else because everyone else is already taken.‚ÄĚ
For what it‚Äôs worth, I like the Perry who sings ballads. The audience shuts up and lets her be heard. The rest is a long shriek. For girls of a certain age and their tolerant mothers.
Enjoy more of Mike’s reviews at www.towncourier.com.