Monthly Archives: January 2015

Rental Corner: “The Amazing” underwhelming, overstuffed “Spider-Man 2”

They said it was big...we expected better....it was a lie just like this poster

They said it was big…we expected better….it was a lie just like this poster

There has never been a movie that had such a diverse audience than “Amazing Spider-Man 2.” When ever it came up in conversations, many were willing to praise it while others dismiss it as a fluke. This entry in the web-head franchise got such a huge backlash on its reception, that even the studio Sony is second thinking about the future entries. However, between the leaked plans that were revealed in December and after seeing this entry that my thoughts on this one didn’t surprise me. I actually felt that is worse than the first one. At least the first “Amazing Spider-Man” was a footstep into a new franchise and while I wasn’t all for the new directions, it was establishing itself. A sequel should have a chance to mend those problems behind from the first one. “Muppets Most Wanted” still shared most of the flaws of its predecessor but at least made up for it but focusing it story and humor on the Muppet characters. “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” blew my socks off with its complex characters and smart storytelling that made Rise look soft in comparison. Even “X-Men: Days of Future Past” felt like a breath of fresh air after the lame and mediocre entries. The only thing “Amazing Spider-Man 2” proves is that its own studio doesn’t know how to grasp the idea of a franchise and not only repeats similar mistakes but (what I also feel) make bigger ones.

Andrew Garfield returns as the gawky Peter Parker whose alter-ego is a web shooting and wall crawling superhero named Spider-Man. I didn’t think Andrew was a good pick and this sequel doesn’t convince me other wise. He’s just doing what the script is telling him to do without giving air for him to establish an identity. When he’s Peter, he’s obnoxious when it comes to feuding over his Aunt May (Sally Fields) in order to avoid spilling his identity and even uninteresting. I feel that so much story is rushed that we don’t get a good understanding of his portrayal of Peter Parker. And don’t get me started about what happens when he is Spider-Man. Not only do they push the limits of his powers, but his wise-cracks and sarcasm get so old to the point I’m grinding my teeth to dust. Even a scene when he helps a kid fend off bullies feels like it was taken out of cheap PSA. Moments like that come off as forced even considering they do it again at the tail end to establish Spidy as a hero and not a menace. It just got old for me even considering this was already done in the first film.

Worse of all is when Peter is interacting with his friends and loved ones. At least give Sam Raimi some credit for developing the relationship of Peter and Harry Osborn. Here, Harry just appears out of the blue like he was meant to be established in the first film. The relationship is developed at a rush pace that we don’t even give two cents. They keep adding in exposition and talks about how they used to be best friends but I don’t feel that. We never see them do things together as friends other than share one scene and that’s it. Even later when Harry tries to get Spider-Man’s blood for some bizarre disease he has, there is no feeling of tragedy to the character. Dane DeHaan’s performance comes off as so cold that we get no human factor. He’s like a cross between a stingy Richie Rich and Donald Trump. His line delivery is some of the worse I have ever heard in a movie for a long time. Dane says his lines in a way that shows he doesn’t care. There’s no emotion or even a bit of weight. Even worse is his transformation into the Green Goblin for the end. Couldn’t do something better with the make-up? He looks like Evil Ed from Fright Night melted in the microwave with a Beavis doll. Its such a horrible design that I ended up laughing at it whenever he was on screen for the “big finale.”

Speaking of which, Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacey is a good writing 101 on how not to make a romance. Most of the critics who saw this, and viewers alike who liked or disliked, praised the romantic chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. To which I ask, what chemistry? For a good portion of the movie, they keep breaking up and making up to the point it becomes a drinking game. It also doesn’t help they give Peter Parker this guilt factor by having him see Gwen’s dead father every time he’s around her. Why doesn’t he talk about this to her or consult someone? No, Gwen has enough and dumps. Then reconciles just to tell Peter that she’s going to Oxford, England to a university. Then break up again and then have her help Peter stop a madman just so they have this big moment (which I can’t spoil…crud) but I get no feeling when that moment does happen. Most of their scenes are just romantic fluff that I’ve seen before to the point I could give two cents. There’s only one time Gwen helps Peter out and that’s it. Other than that, I feel nothing for the both of them.

And the best saved for last is Jamie Foxx as Electro. Oh man, did this character irritate me. Taken from Batman Forever, they pull the old nerdy and creepy engineer that gets so obsessed with his idol that it somehow causes him to get a causality and use it against the one he used to worship. Blah, blah blah. Been there, done that and smoked it. This is the man who did an great potrayle of the late Ray Charles and he is wasting his efforts going from an unfunny and (again) surprisingly creepy geek that gets turned into a blue-skinned, auto tuned villain that is dull and shows no menace. Even when they attempt to raise the stakes, it doesn’t come off as feeling threatening but rather cartoony. And while we are on the subject, what is the with the property damage in this movie? Every time Spider-Man goes against a villain, there’s so many car crashes and building damage to the point it feels like New York is getting torn to shreds. What kind of budget does this city have to fix itself over a night?

The rest of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” I personally care for less. Its such a weightless entry that barley has a driving motive or even a solid story to go with it. I didn’t even talk about Paul Giamatti’s throwaway cameo as the Rhino, the most pointless Stan Less cameo in existence, the heavy foreshadowing and painful irony of Gewn Stacey’s big scene at the end or even one of the biggest plot holes in the movie. If Peter’s parents wanted to hide somewhere from Oscorp, why couldn’t do they it in the secret, abandoned subway tunnel instead of getting axed off in a jumbo jet? Wouldn’t it be better if they stayed there and hid among society? How hard is that when you have so much equipment to live and work off of? Stuff like that is never covered up or even given an inkling to explain. All this movie is doing is throwing so much stuff at you just to get to a bigger and explosive movie. That’s really all I get.

At least sequels like Back to the Future Part II and The Matrix Reloaded had a story and at least enough solid reasons for a third entry to exist. “Amazing Spider-Man 2” just feels like filler. And not even the enjoyable kind. Instead of focusing on expanding on Peter’s character, making a unique and tragic villain and having proper build up to what could have been a grand finale leaving for the need of a third film, all they do is use this one for their needs to build toward another one without the care that was shown in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That took time and care to make such a grand entry who know today as “The Avengers.” Here, they are obviously rushing it to make that explosive entry than let time and care be the essence resulting in us getting a sequel that gives nothing in return. Oh, right there was something! A never-ending plug at Sony computers and products throughout the whole movie. From laptops to even a flipping Walkman, this is more of a commercial for Sony than it is for Spider-Man. This is not a sequel. This is a sell out.

Rental Corner: “Into the Storm” so bad it’s almost entertaining…and I wish it was

It sucks on so many levels....its not even funny

It sucks on so many levels….its not even funny

“Into the Storm” has the makings of a movie so bad, it’s good. The formula is there. The characters are stock, the science is ludicrous and out there with one or two scenes of over the top action that almost made me consider recommending it just for its stupidity. However, “Storm” has some strikes riding against this factor as it tires to be an emotionally gripping story admits an absurd premise as the biggest storm of the century rips through Oklahoma in the most bizarre way possible.

We are talking about a storm so ridiculous that not one, not two but six funnels can appear at the tip of the hat and tear through a small city. A school is attacked once and left standing so it can be swept away by a tornado the size of Texas which doesn’t make sense seeing the building was able to take so much damage compared to a paper mill that is demolished to nothing but rubble. Even more strange is how two southern hicks can get sucked up into a twister and yet come out alive before the end credits roll. There’s even a moment when a tornado is set on fire thanks to a gasoline spill. The laws of psychics are pushed too much here.

Matt Walsh plays Peter Moore, the leader of a gang of storm-chasers as all the statistics just so happen to point to one small town just as a high school graduation is going on. Most of the time, we see him ride around in an armored “Tornado Intercept Vehicle” that looks like it was taken from the set of a Mad Max sequel. His wish is to somehow get up and close to a tornado just to get footage of the inside of the storm. Never has there been such a self pretentious motivation other than study the massive story or at least see how these giant weather monsters act. Its just get good footage and become famous.

If the movie was about him, I would be fine. But apparently some human drama is mixed in as Richard Armitage is the Vice Principal to a high school and fathering two sons who get trapped in the windy mayhem. Its cliched and unneeded with the mopey dad trying to get over the past while the sons play off of something like a Disney sitcom with the quiet shy brother and the other one who is loud and obnoxious. For the time there were on screen, I could care less for how underdeveloped and poorly written they were. They only exist to add drama and it backfires considering the uneven mix of over the top destruction and melodrama.

But the biggest nail in the coffin is the way this movie was filmed. “Into the Storm” tries to pass itself as a found footage movie with people running around with jittery cameras and security footage added in to show the environment. But its done wrong when we cut to some wide shots in certain points when we know there is nobody in that area to film such an angle. A good example is when one of the sons is in the paper mill trying to film a video and it would cut to a camera from a far distance to show what the place looks like without any indication that it was security footage. Every thing is framed neatly so you can see everything that goes on without implication or ambiguity.

In fact, there is no need for this to be a found footage movie. Its already too polished to be considered a found footage movie as we cut to cameras that have the same clear quality. Nothing about it feels amateurish or even gritty. And don’t even get me started about the “Jackass” wannabes that try to get in on the stormchasing action. While I’m glad they don’t appear as much and they are not in the movie for much long, their scenes can be described as pointless annoying comic relief that doesn’t amount to squat. If “Into the Storm” was just about the self absorbed Peter, I would have considered it at least a decent movie with some promise. But with a film that is trapped between serviceable popcorn entertainment and cliched melodrama, it gets so overstuffed to the point it just plain sucks.

Rental Corner: “Edge of Tomorrow” silly sci-fi taken serious

Watch. Suffer. Critique.

Watch. Suffer. Critique.

The current DVD and Blu-ray cover of “Edge of Tomorrow” has done something rather strange lately. Instead of posting the title of the movie in its glory, the tagline “Live. Die. Repeat.” appears to be centered as the focus. Almost like they wanted that to be the title of the film while its real one is down in the far bottom in tiny lettering. After seeing this movie, I can imagine why Warner Bros would try to “re-title” its film by means of addressing the tagline more than the real title. It even appears on the disc label almost in a way its trying to cover up just unbelievable bad this film gets. Which is sad because it has a good idea in place but only if it was executed right.

Tom Cruise is  Major Cage, a public relations officer living in a post-apocalyptic Eurpoe where aliens have crash landed and consumed a good portion of the Earth. The human armies are trying all they can to prevent total extintction by somehow the aliens creatures called “Mimics” seem to be one step ahead of them. Cage somehow gets recruited under force to fight among the soldiers but when killing an alien, it somehow causes a time loop.

The gimmick is that each time Cage dies, he keeps repeating the same day and going through the same things from waking up in a military base to finding that alien race is far more advanced. This is sort of a science fiction version of Groundhog Day that has some promise but I couldn’t help but laugh a little every time Cage repeats a day. Maybe its the unintentional nature but something is just funny about how a man keeps reliving the same day under different casualties. And there are times when his multiple deaths feel like something out of a Looney Tunes cartoon but more head scratching is how many times this character has to keep track of the different outcomes in order to stay alive. Its like he needs a pen and pad of paper to keep track of the actions.

Honestly, I would be fine with this if they didn’t give an explanation for the time loop. Cage later meets up with a Sergeant played by Emily Blunt who experienced the same problem he did. Apparently, one of the “mimics” he kills was an alpha and after being hit with its blood has to experience the same day again and again with the only option is to kill the Omega Mimic to ensure humanity is saved. Again, I address this. The blood of an alien is the reason for these time loops as these creatures are one step ahead of the human race and constantly use time to know when they will attack and be ahead. Even reading this on paper, I can’t believe how silly it sounds. Even the aliens are uninspired as they look like leftovers from the Matrix as a batch of mechanical tentacles and bizarre metal bone structure that looks to over used.

“Edge of Tomorrow” has some decent performances but I still can’t get over just how silly the execution is. From what I head, this was based on a Japanese light novel called All You Need Is Kill and from what I read up on it, sounds a tad more interesting than its live-action counterpart here. Perhaps somethings got lost in translation but “Edge” just feels like a video game that keeps getting reset. And when you repeat a level on a video game, you grow tired of the repetition playing that difficult level to the point you abandon it for something else. That’s the feeling I get from this movie. It doesn’t take many risks as Cage walks through the danger knowing if harm comes, he can always relive it. And again, you really have to be so smart to remember EVERYTHING in order to end the time loop. Without giving too much away, there is a risk factor at the end when he losses his time loop power knowing if he dies for real then humanity is doom but I already feel exhausted at this point. Somewhere there is a good movie here but with all the repeated deaths and dull “end of the world” dystopia theme that has been exploited over these years, the final product is more laughable than something thought provoking.