THREE FILMS TACKLE TORRID TOPICS
THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN
I wasn’t fully amazed, but I was definitely amused and engaged beyond what I expected. It’s not so strange why a studio (Sony/Columbia) considers a reboot of a movie franchise that’s barely ten years old, and only five years since Spidey’s last outing: when potential money looms on the box office horizon, all caution is thrown to the wind. Oddly, this nice-looking, somewhat padded version is much more a rehash than a reboot. Marc Webb – what a great name for this project, huh? — directs with a fine eye for clearly establishing the flow and location of the action. But we’ve seen much of this material before as if in a parallel cinematic universe. Andrew Garfield is in the zone as a mature high school student (is he in his 30s?). I missed the change from ordinary kid to super hero that Tobey Maguire so nicely conveyed in Sam Raimi’s versions. Emma Stone looks great on screen and her acting chops are not in question, but I didn’t see much opportunity for any real chemistry between Stone’s Gwen Stacey and Garfield’s Peter Parker(even though they are now a couple off-screen). On the other hand, I believed something was going on between Maguire and Kirsten Dunst. And the metamorphosis of the giant lizard villain in the new version is almost laughable – it looks like the runt of the litter from that odd Godzilla movie with Matthew Broderick. But here’s the thing that really bothers me: the big questions raised and voiced in the trailer about discovering what happened to Peter Parker’s parents are nowhere to be found in the movie. That’s an insult to the audience that reminds one how little the studio and filmmakers really care about the audience.
Old School Oliver Stone resurfaces in this stylish and very brutal adaptation of Don Winslow’s intense and crazy novel. The story is about two small-time dope growing and dealing guys (Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson) in Laguna Beach who share a girlfriend (Blake Lively) and then inadvertently get involved with a violent Baja drug cartel that wants their primo hybrid dope. The movie jumps off the screen in bold sundrenched hues. The blistering, bloody action shifts into overdrive when the cartel, in an effort to further negotiations, kidnaps Lively.
Amazingly, little–known TV actor Taylor Kitsch toplines yet another prominent summer movie after starring in the monumental fails of JOHN CARTER and BATTLESHIP! If this movie tanks, which I doubt, he will get a lot of the blame. Salma Hayek is a fiercely wicked cartel queen, Benicio Del Toro is her stateside muscle and John Travolta butches it up as a seemingly amiable but crooked DEA agent who is evil incarnate.
I liked the look of this film that captures the exaggerated feel of the OC locale and I appreciated the relationship between volatile ex SEAL Johnson and laid-back, peace-loving Kitsch. But I never really believed their attraction to Lively who seemed out of her element and not, well, lively enough. This film is a great argument for the decriminalization of marijuana. It’s also a hallucinatory, grisly, hard R exercise of the kind of character shifting and revealing stories that are part of director Stone’s DNA. (He wrote and directed PLATOON, NATURAL and BORN KILLERS and wrote SCARFACE and MIDNIGHT EXPRESS among others.) Stone’s an accomplished dramatist, but his special fascination and skill seems to thrive on stories about people who become what they never expected — and redemption may or may not be part of the journey. But here, Stone’s redemption is on the screen.
To see or not to see is always the question. If you’ve exhausted the current big screen choices and sidestepped a foul-mouthed teddy bear (yes, it’s funny) and Tyler Perry in drag (not so much), consider this for the home theater.
There’s no real point to this exercise in teen mayhem. It works best as a kind of toxic purge for any latent secret wish to be part of an unhinged, unfiltered party that plays out like a dry run for Armageddon. There’s no real plot, or story, and not much of a payoff. Here’s the set-up: When a nice kid’s parents leave for the weekend, three Pasadena teen dorks create a massive birthday party bash at the otherwise empty home in which one of them lives. The idea is that it will attract babes and booze and they can get laid. There’s no character development or much sympathy for the kids and it’s never heartfelt, erotic or especially funny. It’s all about the destruction that ensues as the party attracts what seems to be thousands of kids – and some adults — who are soon drunk and doped to the gills. The whole thing is shot as if by a shaky hand-held video camera operated by a mysterious kid (who may have murdered his own parents!). This movie is what it is: a virtual blowout that does not require any dope, booze, pain, parents or attorneys to “enjoy” – or from which to recover.
Listen for my movie updates on Michael Knight’s KNWZ 94.3 Friday am show. Comments? RobinESimmons@aol.com