The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – Film Review

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When I first saw The Amazing Spider-Man, as both a cinemagoer and an avid Marvel fanboy, I had but one question on my mind: ‘Didn’t I see this movie ten years ago?’. Poor Webb. When Sony approaches you to reboot Marvel’s greatest superhero that already had a perfectly suitable origin story, a memorable cast and a charismatic Asian lady playing his theme tune, it was inevitable that some toes were going to be trodden on.

Now, two years later, our toes are somewhat healed and ready for Andrew Garfield’s second entry as our friendly neighbourhood hero. Does his charisma hold together this web of ideas? Or does director Mark Webb swing in too many directions? Can I possibly make any more spider puns?

The sequel opens up in a rather dramatic fashion. A continuation of the flashbacks in the first film sees Peter Parker’s parents, Richard (Campbell Scot) and Mary (Embeth Davidtz), leaving the child with his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field). The nature of Richard’s work with Oscorp puts him in danger, leading to the couple’s inevitable death and the laying of the shady corporation’s foundations into place.

Years on, the incident, the death of Gwen’s father and the continuing responsibilities of Spider-Man put Peter, and those he loves, at risk. Can the superstar of New York possibly keep up the pace with love interest Gwen (Emma Stone), the return of old friend Harry (Dane DeHaan) and the rise of misunderstood villain, Electro (Jamie Foxx)?

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Old Friends, New Challenges

As you can see from my somewhat long-winded description, there is a lot going on here. Mark Webb, this time around, is a bit of a visionary. With plans to extend Spidey’s universe into two more films, as well as two spinoff films, The Amazing Spider Man 2 oozes continuity rumours, sub plots and the ticking of the right Spider-Man boxes.

Whilst it may feel over-stuffed with ideas, the film does right to relate it all (albeit, with some tedious links) to the film’s plot. It’s admirable, considering the franchise doesn’t have any other Marvel films to bounce off of like the rest of its cinematic universe. Taking the film in its own right, as a sequel to the first film and a middle-finger to the Sam Raimi films of old, it’s a successor in almost every single way.

Garfield is swarve, cocky and adorably awkward as both Peter Parker and Spider-Man. Whether it’s the choreographed web-swings, the humiliation of Russian mobster Aleksei Sytsevich (Paul Giamatti) or his head-over-heels moments with Gwen, the man helms this entire universe, bringing a spark of life out of its characters. As great as Tobey Maguire was, Garfield (again) just leaves him out to dry as the Spider-Man of old. And yes, for those concerned, he is just as ripped.

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Your Friendly Neighbourhood Hero

In terms of the action, comedy and romance, Webb has turned the dial up to 11 on every aspect, making them complement one another perfectly. At times, the film doesn’t take itself too seriously, with CGI boss-fights and wise-cracks galore to please the simpleton in all of us. Then, it wants to wrench your heart out in Garfield’s scenes with co-star Stone, as you remember that this superhero is just a teenager like many of us, with promises to keep and a life to lead. Particularly with Gwen’s valedictorian speech, there isn’t a dry eye in the house.

Of course, a round of applause must go to Foxx and DeHaan for their strong depictions of some of the web-head’s greatest villains and the universe’s most intriguing characters. One can hope that they return in The Sinister Six movie, but they will not be missed as much as a character who meets their end in the film. Nudge nudge!

Overall, The Amazing Spider Man 2 acts as a successor movie to its prequel, as well as a building foundation to its further movies, which creates some building tensions within the movie. Still, you can’t ignore the film’s evident charm and mass-appeal to the cinemagoer and Marvel fanboy in all of us. You may leave slightly disappointed, but you’ll be guaranteed to be quoting it and practising your wise-cracks on the way home – or is that just me?

I Need a Hero: Justice League Nominations

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At some point in time, we’ve all pictured ourselves to be the perfect choice for one superhero or another. Whether it be part of ‘The Superhero Conversation’ with your mate, or simply because you have a beard like Chris Hemsworth, the superhero ego has caught up with us occasionally. Yet with Marvel assembling a wave of superheroes in an onslaught of movies and TV series (most notably through ‘Avengers Assemble’), DC have responded like a bat-signal in the sky to form their own Justice League through Warner Bros., regardless of our egos. Already, we have our Batman, Superman, Flash and Wonder Woman – but what about the rest? Ladies and gentleman, here are my suggestions for some of the members of Super Spandex Clan (I still think that’s a better name than ‘Justice League’):

1.  Aquaman – Ryan Gosling

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ryan gosling

What Marvel have established from ‘Avengers Assemble’ is that you can have a variety of incredible leading actors that still cooperate together on screen as a team, each with equal screen time (sorry Jeremy Renner). Justice League can adopt the same ethos, instead of having a ‘Batman, Superman and The Rest’ movie. Of course, Aquaman has an infamous reputation for being one of the worst superheroes, with his main superpower being the ability to communicate with the marine life at Seaworld. What good is that? The Justice League movie has a tough job of restoring his reputation, just as ‘Injustice: Gods Among Us’ did. Gosling would be the perfect choice, as he has proved over the years that he can take to the fray as the leading man, whilst not getting too cocky. Admittedly, yes, my main basis is on the similarity of their hair!

2. Chris Pine – Green Lantern

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With the, erm… ‘underwhelming success’ of the recent rendition of Green Lantern, fans are left stunted as to whether Warner Bros. will work on the failures of the first film and keep Ryan Reynolds, reboot Hal Jordan’s story or just scrap it altogether. If they decide to keep Hal Jordan but move forward, Chris Pine would make a great choice. Hair may be a common denominator across my choice of actors, but Pine’s efforts in the recent ‘Star Trek’ franchise as Captain Kirk shows that he has a firm grasp on the sci-fi scene – he already has the Enterprise, why not give him a alien ring to add to his collection?

3. Martian Manhunter – Dwayne Johnson Martian_Manhunter_cosplay

Dwayne_Johnson_at_the_2009_Tribeca_Film_Festival “David Michael “Dave” Bautista, Jr. is a Filipino American actor, mixed martial artist, bodybuilder, and professional wrestler who is currently signed to WWE” – this is the description for the big-built Drax the Destroyer as part of Marvel’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ squad. If it’s a man-machine that DC is looking to cast, then they should look no further than The Rock himself. Whether it be the ‘Fast & Furious’ movies or ‘The Scorpion King’, Johnson has shown that he can be a lean, mean fighting machine like Manhunter. If they’re looking to cast Manhunter as the jester of the squad, then Johnson’s role in ‘The Tooth Fairy’ should, for once, come in handy. Manhunter has been described as ‘surprisingly funny and whimsical, according to Martian standards, anyway’ – perfect.

Comic fans, I understand that there are more members of Justice League than just eight, but I’m choosing to stop there as I doubt there may be more than that in the film! Also, I have an allegiance to Marvel as a fan boy, which of course I cannot break.

P.s. on a superhero note, keep an eye out for Infamous: Second Son and Captain America: The Winter Soldier in the next two weeks *snorts, pushes up spectacles*

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Special Edition – Review

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Original article at York Vision

Composer for the scores of timeless classics such as Mrs Doubtfire and The Silence of the Lambs, Howard Shore is writing in the league of musical genius. Sadly, as admirable as his efforts were, they were overshadowed by the likes of Robin Williams burning his bosoms over a kitchen stove. That certainly wasn’t the case with his soundtrack for The Lord of the Rings, giving him renowned success and nasty hobbitses everywhere music for Middle Earth. If following that up with a score for An Unexpected Journey was a brave return for Shore, continuing with The Desolation of Smaug was an even braver one.

Opening with The Quest for Erebor, I was half expecting the popular Misty Mountains Cold theme to intertwine itself with the film’s score as was previously done. However, it instead has that orchestral empowerment we were introduced to ten years ago. From the first few tracks, it begins to feel darker and gloomier than An Unexpected Journey, a fitting move by Shore as Peter Jackson’s prequel trilogy begins to change its tone. Flies and Spiders hits this perfectly, with its sharp chords and mighty crescendos, giving it that feel reminiscent of Mordor from The Lord of the Rings score.

  The Elves save not only Bilbo and company from some horrific spiders, but the soundtrack from becoming two hours of doom and gloom. Rivendell, also from the original trilogy, has always been a personal favourite piece of mine, as beautiful to me as a pint is to Pippin. Feast of Starlight provides that same gloomy but mystical coating, before the soundtrack goes on its travels down The Forest River, as fast paced as the scene in the movie itself.

From here, Shore takes inspiration from his previous Middle Earth composition. Sadly, it isn’t a cameo of The Green Dragon Song like they did with Frodo last year, but instead giving a certain ambiance to his music in order to portray different themes and concepts conveyed in the film.

For example, we have the bold and brass nature of the Dwarves, conveyed by instruments of a similar description in Girion, Lord of Dale; summing up the very personality of a city with grandiose melodies, as is done for Lake-town in Thrice Welcome; and letting you know when Hobbits are getting some worthy screen time with the famous Shire clarinet in The Courage of Hobbits. It all feels familiar, which is a wonderful thing – this is the Middle Earth you left ten years ago, which sounds as authentic as you remember.

The composer isn’t afraid to tread new ground, however. Shore uses a descending arpeggiated melody in pieces such Bard, a Man of Lake-town and Protector of the Common Folk which give the score some cohesion, whilst pushing the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra to its limits in creating an altogether sinister conclusion of tracks to scale up Smaug’s fiery (sorry) reputation, as is brilliantly presented in My Armour is Iron, with its rhythmic strings and blaring brass, building him up in a Sauron kind of way.

What’s more, Shore has created something truly beautiful in his tracks Kingsfoil and Beyond the Forest. They’re almost narcotic when they introduce a basic, elven melody that breaks away from the overall threatening tone of the film; although, they are true to this concept, and can be just as epic in their own rights as the songs progress.

Let me discuss the elephant in this soundtrack, Ed Sheeran’s I See Fire. Where does a chart-topping, acoustic-loving 22 year old have his place in a Middle Earth soundtrack? You either loathe it, for said reason, or you love it for the reason that I do. Of course he’s not singing in Elven, but that doesn’t take away from the authentic feel that he grants to The Desolation of Smaug.

The song bleeds with Thorin’s anguish for Smaug destroying his people, calling to his dwarven brothers to stand against him. ‘And if we should die tonight, then we should all die together…. watch the flames burn auburn on the mountain side. Desolation comes upon the sky.’ Ed Sheeran channels this in his tender vocals, strumming a simple rhythm on his guitar, accompanied by nothing more than a drum and cello. Its simplicity mirrors the fact that Thorin and his people have nothing. Also, he gets a folklike violin solo – any Hobbit’s dream!

To conclude, Shore does a magnificent job in capturing the essence of The Desolation of Smaug in his soundtrack. He stays comfortable in some parts, using old tricks in a new setting; in others, he experiments with what he has learnt across his time as a composer, daring to be different in some aspects, paying off entirely. Whilst it won’t go down in motion picture history as The Lord of the Rings soundtrack did, it will certainly go down in mine and any budding Tolkien fan’s history.

Bad Films – The Attraction of Repulsion

Fast food. From alarming news stories and the likes of Supersize vs Superskinny, it’s safe to say that society is informed on how it can lead to malnutrition. Yet the Big Mac will always be one of God’s most wonderful creations, what with its criminally delicious effects on our taste buds. Is it the same for bad films? Are they as bad for us as the critics deem them to be, or do they make a good substitute for a Big Mac?

For starters, what do we even consider to be a ‘bad film’? According to Rotten Tomatoes, a film review aggregator, bad films are otherwise known as ‘rotten’ if less than 60% of the films’ reviews are rated ‘positive’. It’s shallow, but it essentially gives budding cinema-goers the ‘yay or nay’ on a new movie release. A rotten habit of mine (oh stop) is searching for the latest, hoping they’ll be the greatest, and pre-imposing my opinions based on that miniature tomato or bogey green splat. Should I not watch something because of a blemish composed of the beliefs of a critic?

In all honesty, we spent the majority of December watching film after film stamped with this curse. Christmas films are as sinfully awful as that tacky, sing-along Santa that your Mum is obsessed with. Jingle All the Way is a personal favourite, where every year I chuckle at Arnold Schwarzengger running across the city to get his kid a Turbo Man doll. I think to myself, ‘This is absolute trash, when will he shout “Get to de choppa!”?’, yet I continue to watch it, just like I do any Christmas film plucked from the depths of a bargain bin.

This seems to be apparent at pretty much any time of the year. The truth is, we love our trash. Twihards together spent hundreds of millions on seeing an awkward Kristen Stewart pout at pretty boys, whilst comedy junkies flock to the new Adam Sandler flick to see his latest attempt at “acting”. We dedicate the ‘Razzies’ to mocking their efforts and attempts; yet, we still willingly empty our wallets to see some sub-standard cinema shite.

The question is – why? As much as critics slate these “bad films”, I feel they exist in their own right as an art form. Sometimes, we find that we don’t want to watch a film and be philosophically engaged, politically persuaded or culturally inspired. Sometimes, I just want to relax at the end of a long week and get a kick out of having my senses insulted with pure rubbish. Would you prefer admiring the Mona Lisa to watching a flipbook of a cartoon cop repeatedly running over a burglar (always a highlight of Hot Fuzz)?

Of course I’m not undermining the talent and genius of these creative minds. If anything, these two art forms give light to one another. We wouldn’t know what an Oscar-worthy film was without having Syfy readily on demand to scoff at Titanic 2. Society needs that counterbalance to really appreciate what taste is and I’m glad people exist who give our cultural lives a bit of perspective. As the saying goes, ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure’. Or another man’s Big Mac? I might have overdone that metaphor.