The Amazing Spider-Man

I wrote in a post recently that I was not overly impressed with this reboot of the Spider-Man movie series. Despite liking it better then Sam Raimi’s trilogy I found that I was a little bored by it. After having seen the origin story for Spider-Man so recently I found it boring. There were good points. Andrew Garfield looks very natural as Peter Parker and Emma Stone is really captivating as Gwen Stacey. Sally Field and Martin Sheen were awesome as Aunt May and Uncle Ben, their chemistry together is priceless and they look and act like a couple who have been together for a long time.

I’ve recently brought and re-watched it after I went and saw its sequel. I wanted to give it another chance because I liked the sequel (Mostly, but that’s another blog post) and I’m going through a stage in life where I’m feeling like I’ve been too critical with some things and movies are a big part of this.

On my first and only viewing when it came out there were a number of things which didn’t sell me on it. Like I said the origin of how Peter Parker became Spider-Man, been there and done that. I think they put it in to remind us all and to set up the story arc of Peter’s parents and the mystery around them. I really wasn’t sold on Rhys Ifans as Dr. Curt Connors either, but on watching it again he has won me over a little. I do like it when actors break from the characters that people typecast them as. In this case I think I was as guilty of that as the next person. Ifans is a very talented actor but normally in slightly odd, out there and louder then life roles. So I think that played too much on my mind at the time but give the man some serious credit for taking such a big jump away from what he normally does.

As for the storyline, there were times when I found myself looking at my iPad and seeing what was happening on Facebook and Twitter, but I did not find it as boring as I recalled it to be. I think the cast did a lot to keep my eyes on the screen. I’ve mentioned some of them above, but I’ll elaborate a little more here.

Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-Man looks right at home here. He’s got that quick wit that is needed and easily comes cross as someone who is highly intelligent. I heard a Spider-Man fan saying that Peter Parker is a genius and Garfield plays that side of Peter Parker well. I felt he also pulled off the awkward teen that Peter Parker is early in the film well. Tobey Maguire always felt more creepy then awkward in Raimi’s trilogy. Overall Andrew Garfield seemed to live the character very well and was very convincing. He held the screen, had a fair bit of charisma and pulled off the range of emotions that was needed.

Emma Stone as Gwen Stacey is just perfect. Let’s get the male oriented aspect out of the way, Emma Stone is a strikingly beautiful women, but instead of being there just to look sexy and supply someone for Spider-Man to save so serves a part in the conclusion of the film. She is just adorable, as well as being strong. That can be hard to pull off but Emma Stone does it really well. I’d not seen her in anything before this and she all but stole the scene each time she was on screen. She has a lot of charm and strength and isn’t scared of getting stuck in despite any threats that may be coming. Emma Stone looks very natural on screen, some actors look like they are trying too hard but Stone seems to be very at ease on camera.

The chemistry between Garfield and Stone is amazing and believable, to the point where they are in a relationship in real life. This just strengthens their on screen relationship.

The director, Marc Webb, does do a very good job with steering the film. It’s pretty well written and is not over inflated or trying to do too much, it’s very straight forward. I think having the villain be The Lizard was a good idea, although from my small knowledge of the Spider-Man universe it felt a little like the character was a little misinterpreted, but I’m willing to let artistic license be used here. The story isn’t about the Lizard, it’s about Peter Parker becoming Spider-Man and the Lizard is just a bad guy thrown into the mix so there is a conflict and threat that Spider-Man has to stop.

The performances, style and tone saved this movie for me. It’s not a bad film in any way shape or form but its core story has been done before. Webb has a great eye and gets the best out of the actors. he also made a fun film, Spider-Man had that smart arse wit that never felt quite genuine in Raimi’s trilogy.

This film is setting up a bigger story arc and I think it does that while also being a stand alone film. The sequel does step it up a notch and it felt like they let loose a little more, but I’ll talk further about it in another post.

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Looking At Dredd: Part 2

Here is Part 2 of my look at the movie Dredd.

Wood Harris pays Kay, one of Ma-Ma’s lieutenants who is arrested early on in a drug den that Dredd and Anderson raid. It’s his arrest that leads to Ma-Ma locking down Peach Trees and sending her gang out after Dredd and Anderson. I liked Harris’ performance here. He plays a man with little or no conscience who enjoys what he does. Throughout most of the movie he has Anderson pushing him around and on the occasions when Dredd leaves them he tries to unsettle the rookie Judge. Kay is kind of the opposite to Dredd in what he stands for.

Ma-Ma is played chillingly by the amazing Lena Heady. The more I’ve seen of Headey the more I’m liking her as an actress. As Ma-Ma she shows her range as Ma-Ma is a very disturbed, vicious character who has no morals and no conscience. She is a junkie who seems to be constantly on the edge of not only sanity but of staying alive. The fact that she aggressively controls a gang like she does is testament to the person she is. I got the impression from this character that she is not only smart and ruthless but also someone that is neither happy nor concerned that what she is doing causes as much harm as it does. All this we get from Headey, she pulls a stunning performance out for this movie that is disturbing to watch.

Visually Dredd is stunning. This is the first film where I found the 3D didn’t bother me. It was there and added to the cinematic experience well but it’s not something that the film depends on. I’ve lost count of the times that I have watched this movie on DVD and Blu-Ray and it still looks as beautiful as it did in the cinema. The word beautiful can be a little misleading, I use it in the sense that Mega City 1 looks horrid, but in a visually stunning way. It looks like a third world city. The streets are full of rubbish and graffiti, the vehicles look like they are only just operating. Buildings look old and like they have no one maintaining them. Basically everything you would expect to see in a third world city. Even Dredd looks like he’s been on the streets a long time. His uniform is worn and tired looking. His helmet especially looks like its well worn. Peach Trees, where the majority of the movie takes place looks dull and uninspiring. Few people look like they are flourishing in this world, it looks very desolate.

The soundtrack matches this feeling of desolation. The score which was composed by Paul Leonard-Morgan feels dirty and made me feel like there was a heart beating in my ear throughout the movie. Picking up just at the most tense moments and dropping off to let the viewer breath for a moment. I actually liked the soundtrack so much that I brought it and listen to it frequently.

Director Peter Travis and all of the production team and the writers and everyone behind the scenes have worked hard to make this a very believable movie. The storyline is something that is just a little more extreme then the everyday events that a Judge in this world has to deal with, which I preferred seeing than if it was a Judge Dredd saves the world storyline. The settings look amazing and very authentic. This world is not the same as the comic book but I think its a very realistic evolution from comic to screen, a lot of thought has been put  into making that evolution. The judges uniforms are a good example. In the comic they are skin tight with a belt, the helmet and big shoulder pads. In the movie the uniforms are more tactical; heavy, dark leather with more subtle shoulder pads. The helmets are almost the same but the weapons look more realistic. They take a normal pistol and modify it. Any action movie fan knows what a pistol looks like and these are different but look similar enough that its recognisable.

Overall Dredd is in my top five favourite movies of all time, and not just for the fact that it is a film that has a lot of skill and heart in it but also because this world that Dredd is set in, I can see it becoming a reality. This is well directed, well acted and has a lot of heart and belief by those that got it to the big screen.

Yes I want to see a sequel.

Looking At Dredd: Part 1

Dredd is a movie directed by Pete Travis and set in an America where most of the country is a wasteland and the population is crammed in like sardines into giant Mega Cities. With all these people squeezed in crime has gotten out of control and the traditional judiciary system cannot cope so a new way of enforcing the law was needed, so the Judges were born. These judges are judge, jury and executioner all in one and Judge Dredd is one of these judges, He’s ‘The Judge Dredd’ as one of the characters refer to him in this movie.

The synopsis is a simple one; the experienced Judge Dredd is given a rookie Judge, Cassandra Anderson, who has only just failed the training to become a judge, but she’s a psychic and is being treated as a special case because of her special abilities so she is given one last chance to gain her passage to becoming a Judge by being given a day in the field with Dredd to see if she has the ability to handle being a Judge.
They respond to a triple homicide in a mega tower called Peach Trees. These are massive buildings that house a huge amount of people and are all but a small city on their own. These towering buildings dominate the skyline of Mega City 1 where this story takes place.
Once they are inside their actions in investigating this crime, in particular arresting someone in a drug den,  lead to a gang lord called Ma-Ma taking control and  locking the tower down, these towers can shield themselves in the event of a nuclear attack, and has her gang hunting the two judges down.

This movie is so much more then the synopsis  I’ve written above. This is a movie about The Judge Dredd. A judge who has no price, a judge who obeys the word of the law to the word, although he does give a little, there’s a good example of this early on. Dredd is not afraid to pull the trigger when he needs to. He is confident in himself and believes in what he is doing to uphold the law. Throw in a rookie judge who he has to assess, in what turns out to be an extreme situation, he has someone with him who is not as sure of herself, but she wants to make a difference and it is mainly through her eyes that we see this movie through. She is new to all of this as we, the viewer, are.

Dredd is played superbly by Karl Urban, who apparently sought out the producers when he heard they were making a Judge Dredd movie. I’ve only just started to read the collections of the Judge Dredd comics but something I knew  before I started reading them was that Dredd never takes his helmet off, ever. So for Urban to pull off the performance as Dredd that he did is very impressive. All you see of Urban is his mouth and chin, and that’s it but he still becomes the no nonsense lawman that Dredd is. He is able to pull off a huge array of emotions just with his mouth. Urban has a decent build which he uses to add to making Dredd come to life, and then there is his voice. Urban gives Dredd a very gravelly voice that works so well is almost chilling. I cannot think of a better actor then Karl Urban to play Judge Dredd and when I heard he was playing him I was very happy, and even happier when he pulled this performance out of the hat for Dredd.

Anderson is played by the lovely Olivia Thirlby. This is the first time I have encountered Thirlby and I was very impressed. She has to give a faultless performance as Anderson as she goes through a lot of different emotions through out the movie and she seemed to carry it off. There are times when she needs to hold her own against the violent men around her. The chemistry between Urban and Thirlby seems pretty good on screen. This movie is about Dredd but it wouldn’t work without Anderson’s journey through the movie.

Please return for the second part of this blog post tomorrow.

Movie Monday: RoboCop

We all know what the general synopsis of RoboCop is, but if you don’t it’s about a police office who, after he receives wounds which have left him all but dead, gets made into a cyborg and goes on to try to rediscover his humanity and who he was before he became RoboCop.

I’ve said in other posts about how anxious I was about this when it was announced they were rebooting one of my favourite movies, and that fear was firmly installed in me until I saw the first trailer. That first trailer blew my mind away, one line that RoboCop says actually made me jump out of my seat! So going into this remake my expectations had gone from all but nothing to incredibly high, and the movie pretty much fulfilled those high expectations.

Joel Kinnerman was pretty good as Alex Murphy/RoboCop. He did have a good charm and looked conflicted as he’s trying to come to terms with what has been done to him.
The new suit looks good, although I think the black and silver of the original is better, in this movie RoboCop is silver and black to start off with but the big boss man (Michael Keaton) feels black would be better, more tactical.
Speaking of Mr.Keaton, he is very good here. I’ve been a fan of Michael Keaton since I saw Batman, Batman returns and then Beetlejuice. I think he holds the viewers attention well and here he plays the role of CEO of Omnicorp very well, he looked natural.
Gary Oldman was really good in the role of Dr. Dennett Norton who creates the technology behind RoboCop and later goes on to be the main human point of contact once RoboCop is awakened.
Abbie Cornish is sweet and lovable as Clara Murphy and I think she really sells the distress of having her husband on deaths door then made into this cyborg.

The storyline is, in my opinion, better then the original movie. It addresses the strain it puts on Alex Murphy and his family as well as solving the crime of who tried to kill Murphy, as well as dealing with the corporate side to the storyline.

Something that is not in this movie from the original is a stand out villain. In the original Kurtwood Smith gives us such a nasty piece of work character, Clarence Boddicker, that is the polar opposite of Murphy/RoboCop and almost steals the show with his performance.
What I did not miss was the over the top violence, there is still a high body count but we don’t see all the blood and gore of the original. I’ve read various articles that have said that Paul Verhoeven  wanted to make a comment about American cinema but I’m glad it wasn’t brought into the remake

The satire is in the remake as it was in the original, mainly from Samuel L. Jackson’s Pat Novak who hosts a current events show and isn’t afraid to show who he’s rooting for. It looked like Jackson had a lot of fun with this character.

Overall I really enjoyed this movie and I’d like to see where it goes if a sequel is made. Is it better then the original? That’s not a fair question I don’t think as the original was a great representation of its time and I think this remake stays loyal to that. I will just add that if Hollywood continues on this course of remaking these iconic movies then this is an excellent example of how it should be done. With RoboCop they haven’t tried to copy the film scene for scene, they’ve made a movie that  is respectful of the original whilst making this movie its creature.

 

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Movie Monday: Battleship

Battleship is a film that I dismissed when I first watched it. I’d listened to a lot of people basically saying it was a bad film so when I watched it I only saw the negatives, but it’s been a movie that has kept popping into my mind from time to time and I knew I needed to watch it again. So when I saw it on offer at my local HMV I grabbed it.

The basic story is a screwball guy is forced to take responsibility and joins the U.S. Navy where his brother is a commanding officer of a Destroyer. While out on a joint international war games near Hawaii aliens come down, engulf a huge area in a big bubble and try to phone home. There are only three navy ships in this bubble and they have to fight the aliens and try to stop them phoning home.

That’s the gist of it, what annoys me is the daft Hollywood stuff in the film, mainly the screw up who has to step up and be the man he needs to be. There is also a scene where the protagonist has his face grabbed by an alien and has a psychic experience where he sees what the aliens are planning, I’ve seen this done a few times in movies now and aside from Pacific Rim it just feels like a cheat. The characters in the film need to know this is a hostile race of aliens and they will kill us all etc. They did this in Independence Day and I’d like to see some more thought put into how the aliens motives are revealed. I do wonder if it’s done to save time though, studios want movies to be a certain length so maybe that’s the reason. In Pacific Rim it was part of the story line and I liked how they done it.

There are some bits which you’d expect to see in a Hollywood movie which are not in there. We have the singer Rihanna and the model and actress Brooklyn Decker in this movie and at no time do I remember either having to wear something that is just there to get some flesh on show, this I applaud the makers for. Rihanna is kitted out in navy gear throughout the film and Decker is wearing shorts and a vest top. Neither are sexualised just for the sake of it and they are more characters then eye candy.

Taylor Kitsch is quite likable as Alex Hopper, our protagonist and seems to bounce off of Tadanobu Asano very well. Their two characters have a hostile beginning to the movie. I found Kitsch quite believable in the role and he didn’t seem scared to make himself look a fool.

I would have liked to of seen more of the aliens in the movie. We only really seem them from a human point of view, which is okay but the writer inside of me is keen to know more about them. Their technology is better then that of mankind’s but not to the point where they severely dominate the battle.

There is a lot of CGI in Battleship but it  looks very well done, I can’t recall any time in the movie where I was pulled out of it because of the CGI.

Overall on a second viewing I did really enjoy Battleship. Yes there are some clichés in it but it was a fun film to watch. Visually it was beautiful, the characters are pretty straightforward and the storyline is a little on the direct side but I didn’t find that a negative here. The Director, Peter Berg put together a very nice and tidy film that is entertaining, funny and easy to watch.

 

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Movie Monday: Elysium

Set in the year 2154 Elysium is a space station where the rich live in as close to a perfect world as its possible. they live in harmony and have a medical system in each home that cures all known illnesses. The poor have to tolerate a hopeless life on earth where there are no jobs, no money and no healthcare. Those on earth have to also put up with bureaucratic robots who run everything.

Earth is where our protagonist max, played superbly by Matt Damon, Is trying to keep himself on the straight and narrow and away from his previous life of crime. Max has a bit of a quick mouth and is searched by two robot police officers who break his arm. At hospital he meets his childhood friend Frey (Alice Braga). She has a sick daughter that comes into play later.

At work Max gets a nasty dose of radiation and has five days to live, and this is when he decides he needs to force his way onto Elysium to use the medical systems they have that will cure him.

 

I really enjoyed this movie. It gives a look at what a future earth could very possibly come true and it does not feel too much of a push for the rich to isolate themselves further then they already are. There is the odd issue I have with it, I’d imagine this medical system they have would be on earth as well, maybe not as prevalent but I do believe there would be a few of these machines on earth. Law enforcement is done by robots, that look awesome by the way. The people have to deal with automated systems that are not anywhere near understanding or even co-operative.

Los Angeles looks like a slum from any number of third world countries. Buildings look like they are on the verge of collapsing despite being inhabited. The vehicles look rusted and the whole world just looks like its decaying.

 

The acting is amazing. We all know Jodie Foster, she pulls in a very dark performance as Elysium’s Secretary Of Defence. Matt Damon pulls out a breathtakingly performance here. I like Matt Damon, I think he is a very gifted actor and this is one of my favourite performances from him. We know about Damon and Foster though, its the other main actors here that impressed me a lot. Sharlto Copely as the vicious Kruger is amazing. I’ve seen him play a bungling bureaucrat in District 9, a fruit loop in The A-Team and now a seriously sinister killer who does not care about anybody or thing except himself. Alice Braga as Frey also impressed me, she made me believe she was devoted mother who is struggling to make life as good as possible for her severely ill daughter. I’ve seen Braga in a few films now and her range is impressing me. Diego Luna as Julio, Max’s best friend caught my eye also. I’m not really aware of this actor but after this I’ll be keeping an eye out for him. Wagner Moura as Spider and the awesomeness that is William Fichtner both give solid performances as well.

 

What I’ve taken away mostly from this movie is its look at humanity. This is an incredibly good movie, but as a look at what may become of us, as a species it is one of the best movies I have seen. The desolation the director Neill Bloomkamp envisages for our future feels eerily real. He has dismantled society and taken the rich and powerful out of it, which leaves the rest of us to try and survive. This is what life is today.

 

On a personal note, not only do I love this movie I love the inspiration aspect of it. As a science fiction writer it is full of great visuals and gives the mind a lot to play with.

 

I just also want to mention briefly the shaky camera footage in this one. I don’t mind a bit of this method of filming but here it was too much and if I’m honest I actually want to see the action and not always feel like I’m in the middle of it.

 

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Movie Monday: The Conjuring

The Conjuring tells the story of Ed and Lorraine Warren as they investigate a demonic haunting of a house in Rhode Island and the family of seven who have recently brought the house. Carolyn and Roger Perron and their five daughters notice a few odd occurrences, a nasty odour, framed pitures falling off the walls and Carolyn has bruises appear on her body. They are slowly more and more harassed by unknown elements which culminate in Carolyn being locked in a previous boarded off basement and their eldest daughter being attacked by an unseen force as she is trying to help one of her sisters who was sleep walking. It is at this point where Carolyn asks the Warren’s to come and help them, this is when it all kicks off…

I really enjoyed this movie, so much that me and my friend Stefan saw it twice (Stefan is a huge fan of this sort of movie, and the subject source). It has the heart stopping moments and the shock moments as well as the tender moments. I liked that there didn’t seem to be many CGI effects, this gave it a more raw feeling.

This is based on actual events, the people involved here went through all of these things and I know people are sceptical about it but I’m of the mindset that unless science has proved something exists or does not then it could be possible.
The script is very tidy and I did not notice any plot holes or inconsistencies any where and I am really liking James Wan as a director. The last few films of his I’ve seen have been good and each one seems to be getting stronger and stronger as he has built his portfolio.

The cast is really strong as well, each of the four main actors will probably be recognised by any movie fan out there. None of them are what I think of as superstars which I think helps make the movie feel more humble.
Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga play Ed and Lorraine Warren and they play a couple really well, they look very natural together. As do Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor who play Roger and Carolyn Perron, they look very natural together and like Wilson and Farmiga you feel the devotion to each other.
This movie would not be as good without these four actors, but the rest of the cast do an incredible job as well. Shannon Kook is smooth and capable as the Warren’s assistant and John Brotherton plays a police officer (not sure why a police officer is needed but I’m sure there’s a good reason) who is very sceptical but also adds a little comic relief and has some good banter with Kook’s character.
I also need to mention Shanley Caswell, Hayley McFarland, Joey King, Mackenzie Foy and Kyla Deaver who play the Perron’s daughters. Each of these girls are good and make it believable that they are sisters.

This film made me feel like I was there and part of what the characters were going through, not many films have had this effect on me. Not many films get so many things right but this one does, it feels like everything came together very well and we, the movie fans, reap the rewards.

One of my favourite movies of the year.

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