The Amazing Spider-Man

Posted on July 2, 2012 at 8:00 pm

B+
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence
Profanity: Mild language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Some social drinking
Violence/ Scariness: Extended superhero fantasy peril and violence, some teen bullying, sad loss of four parents/parent figures, some disturbing mutation images
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: July 3, 2012
Date Released to DVD: November 5, 2012
Amazon.com ASIN: B008QZ5PY2

One thing I love about comics is that they are the only form of story-telling, with the possible exception of soap operas, where so many different people tell open-ended stories about the adventures of the same characters through a period that stretches over decades.  The Wikipedia entry on Spider-Man’s “multiverse” includes more than 30 different versions, from the comic strip, cartoon, mutant, and zombie to the spectacular, amazing, noir, hulk, and kid-friendly “Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane.”  So, much as I enjoyed the Tobey Maguire trilogy (well, the first two) directed by Sam Raimi, I was looking forward to this reboot.

It does not bother me that 28-year-old Andrew Garfield, who has already played a college student (“The Social Network”) and an adult (“Red Riding”) is playing a high school student.  It does not bother me that we have to go through the whole origin story all over again — spider bite, having fun trying out the new powers, death of kindly Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen taking over from Cliff Robertson), though it really should not take up nearly an hour, and much as I love her, Sally Field can’t match Rosemary Harris’ iconic Aunt May.  The efforts to tie Peter Parker’s parents (briefly glimpsed Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz) in with the shenanigans going on at Oscorp feel cluttered, and Rhys Ifans as the scientist who lost an arm in his experiments and wants to find a way for humans to regrow limbs the way some animals do does not make a strong impression either as human or as the Godzilla-like creature he becomes.  The problem may be that if Sony does not keep up its schedule of Spider-Man movies, the rights revert to Disney, which bought Marvel.  So at times it feels like a place-holder for the franchise.

But there are a couple of things that work very well and make this an entertaining entry in the superhero canon.  First, and let’s face it, this is what we want from Spider-Man movies, it is a blast to see your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man swing his webby way through the city.  In crystal clear IMAX 3D and with true mechanical effects — that is Garfield’s real weight swinging on real strings, not CGI — it is exhilaratingly vertiginous.

Garfield is less soulful and broody than Maguire, more athletic and witty.  Peter Parker’s hipster signifiers include a skateboard, a hoodie, and a Mark Gonzales poster.  And the heavenly Emma Stone plays beautiful science nerd Gwen Stacey, a more interesting character than would-be actress Mary Jane.  There is genuine electricity between Peter and Gwen and director Marc Webb brings the same feel for young love he displayed in “(500) Days of Summer.”  This unexpected tenderness gives heft to the story that in its own way is exhilaratingly vertiginous, too, and gave my Spidey sense a bit of a tingle.

Parents should know that this film has extended super-hero action-style violence, not very graphic but with some disturbing images of mutation and peril, and four sad deaths of parents or parent figures.

Family discussion: How does this compare to the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man series?  Why didn’t Peter try to stop the robbery when he first got his spider-powers?  What made Connors and Chief Stacy change their minds about Spider-Man?

If you like this, try: the first and second of the Tobey Maguire “Spider-Man” films and the Essential Amazing Spider-Man by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, and Jack Kirby

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Action/Adventure Comic book/Comic Strip/Graphic Novel Crime DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Fantasy High School Series/Sequel Superhero

Enjoy Some of This Year’s Best Indies On Demand

Posted on July 2, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Some of the best movies of the summer will not play in theaters in most areas but you do not have to wait for them to be available on DVD or cable to see them.  Increasingly, video on demand is the distribution channel of choice for lower budget films.  Be on the lookout for these films, which come with especially good word of mouth from showings at festivals.

Man in the Glass: The Dale Brown Story

 

Mansome

 

2 Days in New York

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jl-fZ6ZhYI
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Independent

Tribute: Nora Ephron

Posted on July 2, 2012 at 8:00 am

We all mourn the loss of the warm, wise, and witty writer/director Nora Ephron.  As Adam Bernstein noted in his perceptive obituary for the Washington Post, she was always guided by the advice of her screenwriter parents to “take notes — everything is copy.”  Bernstein describes her

razor-sharp self-awareness and the ambition to transform workaday absurdities, cultural idiosyncrasies, romantic foibles and even marital calamity into essays, novels and films brimming with invitingly mordant wit. She credited her mother with bestowing “this kind of terrific ability, not to avoid pain but to turn it over and recycle it as soon as possible.”

I first became of fan of Ephron through the columns she wrote about journalism (collected in Scribble Scribble) and women (collected in Crazy Salad: Some Things About Women), which were enormously influential for me in both form and voice.  Slate Magazine’s wonderful “Dear Prudence” columnist, Emily Yoffe, wrote about how she was inspired and influenced by Ephron‘s “inimitable voice: sly, dry, witty, devastating, personal, hilarious.”

She is remembered for her romantic comedies, especially the classics “When Harry Met Sally….,” which she wrote, and “Sleepless in Seattle” and “You’ve Got Mail,” which she wrote and directed.  But she also co-wrote the powerful and evocative drama, Silkwood. She took the most painful experience of her life, discovering that her husband was unfaithful to her when she was seven months pregnant with their second child, and followed her parents advice, turning it into the trenchantly funny novel and then movie Heartburn. Two of her films that I especially love are My Blue Heaven (I think it is adorable that she wrote a witty witness protection program romantic comedy as her husband’s non-fiction book was being turned in to the witness protection program drama “Goodfellas”) and “This is My Life,” with Julie Kavner as a single mother and stand-up comic struggling with life/work balance.  She loved food (even included recipes in Heartburn), not surprising as her work was just plain tasty.

She has inspired some magnificent tributes, including Indiwire’s list of 10 of her best lines and this gorgeous piece by Lena Dunham of “Girls” that says so much about her wisdom and generosity — and the legacy of writers she inspired to find and own their voices.  I loved the echo of “take notes” in her comforting response to Dunham’s failed brownies.  Tom Hanks, who starred in her two best-loved films, wrote a warm and perceptive appreciation in Time Magazine, noting her insistance on telling details and distinctive voice. The producers of Ephron’s forthcoming Broadway show have promised the show will open, so we all have one more treat to look forward to. Celebrate Nora Ephron by sharing your favorite Ephron book or movie with someone you love. May her memory be a blessing.

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Directors Tribute Writers

EW’s 50 Must-See Movies You’ve Never Heard Of

Posted on July 1, 2012 at 4:11 pm

I love Entertainment Weekly‘s lists of under-appreciated films and the current issue’s list includes some of my favorites, the movies I am constantly begging people to try.  It is a great chance to see some wonderful films, and in may you will also have the pleasure of seeing some of today’s most accomplished performers in their early years.Some I was especially excited to see included:

Happy Accidents Marisa Tomei has not had much luck with guys, until this new man (Vincent D’Onofrio), who seems great except for this one small problem — he says he is from the future.

Next Stop Wonderland Like “Happy Accidents,” directed by Brad Anderson, this one stars a radiant Hope Davis. We know long before she does that she is destined to fall in love with a man she won’t meet until the very end of the film.

Backbeat Once upon a time, five boys from Liverpool left England to play at a club in Germany. This is the story of the earliest days of the Beatles, from the perspective of Stu Sutcliffe, an integral part of the beginning of the group (though he was more interested in art than music).

The Daytrippers Hope Davis plays a woman who discovers that her husband (Stanley Tucci) may be unfaithful. So she and her whole family get into her parents’ car to drive to his office and find out. Co-starring Parker Posey, Liev Schreiber, and Anne Meara, with a small gem of a very brief performance by Marcia Gay Harden.

Fly Away Home Before she was hanging out with vampires in “True Blood” and speaking with an American accent, Anna Paquin starred in this exquisite fact-based film about a girl who is adopted by a flock of baby geese and has to teach them to fly to safety.

The Iron Giant Before he made “The Incredibles” and “Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol” director Brad Bird made this marvelous animated film about a boy who befriends a robot.

Love and Basketball About eighty percent love and twenty percent basketball, this is a romance about two basketball-loving kids (Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps) who go one-on-one in both games for almost twenty years before they get it right.

 

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