Friday, August 31, 2012

CBS's Big Brother 14 - TV Review

Wow.  It's been a pretty good season so far, but Wednesday night's episode may have been one of the greatest performances ever on that show.  Ever.  You can argue who the best player is in BB history.  They had the All-Stars season, and they've had past guests creep back in for this reason or that.  Some winners lucked into it; some earned it big time.  Dan earned his the first time around when he won it.  And what Dan did this week put him at the top of the pantheon of BB players.

Dan and three other past players (Mike Boogie, Janelle, Britney) came in as coaches, picking a team from the houseguests and helping them get to the end.  Dan's team was narrowed quickly to just Danielle, but then a twist came where the coaches were allowed to join as players.  Dan was in an alliance of five on one level (Britney, Shane, Ian) and an alliance of six on another.  Janelle was blindsided.  After the alliance of six blew up to send Mike Boogie home, the next target was Frank, but Frank won HoH.  He nominates Dan and Danielle.

There are two vetoes available, and Ian won the first one.  So if Britney or Shane can win the veto, both alliance members can be pulled off.  Trouble is, Frank's ally Jenn won the veto.  Dan's toast.

The veto competition had punishments tied to points.  Frank racked up a lot, but one of Dan's was to be in solitary confinement for 24 hours.  Dan had a full day to be by himself and plot.

When Dan came out, he dressed in black, and he welcomed everyone to Dan's funeral.  He generated tears from a few people, as Dan's a very likeable guy.  He said he knew he was going home but had nice things to say about everyone.  He left Frank and Danielle for last. He said he'd said some things about Frank he wasn't proud of and he wanted to explain and apologize in private later.  For Danielle, he said he knew she betrayed him and she was dead to him.  Dan and Frank left, and Danielle sobbed.  If Dan had kicked a puppy, it would have come off as less cruel.

Dan confesses everything about the alliance of five to Frank, and he makes sure Frank knows that Ian is the one who betrayed him last week.  He gets Frank to agree to a new alliance of four if Jenn would use her veto to save Dan and vote out Britney.  Michael Corleone and Walter White would marvel. Machiavelli would make some new notes to the special edition of The Prince.

Now Dan pulls Danielle aside.  She says "You broke my heart" but he explains it was all an act.  He lets her know the plan, and that Britney has to be the new target.  Instead of an alliance of five, he saved them both and now has them in an alliance of four.  "Couldn't you give me a heads-up?" "No because the tears had to be real."  "You would use my emotions to advance in this game?" "To get you to the end of this game, yes." And you could see the newfound respect for his means-justified ends wash across her face.  It took a few minutes, but in the end, Danielle was smiles.

And so, Ian didn't use his veto, but Jenn did, and now Britney's on the block with Danielle, her spirit broken.  Britney is the casualty, and as nice as Dan can be...

...don't ever back Dan into a corner.

Thursday's live show was almost anticlimactic.  We got to see Ian not fold at all but be determined and angry.  We saw Danielle doing a good job of pretending she and Dan were still on the outs.  And we saw Britney get in her digs before she was voted out.  And at this point, I don't think it matters who wins HoH.  I know Dan will always find a way to survive.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Newsroom, Game of Thrones, Hell on Wheels, Breaking Bad - TV Reviews

Got HBO Go for a month.  Wahoo!

Season 1 Episode 2 - I've heard more bad than good in general about this show.  I saw the first episode a while back and found it to be what Aaron Sorkin figures he was born to write.  Grandstanding, speechifying, etc., etc., but hey, SorkinLand can be a fun place to play.  The email gag was too obvious. (How do you accidentally type an asterisk in front of an email address twice?)  The relationshippy stuff was very Jim/Pam/Roy, and I expect it to remain like that.  The actual broadcast part of the show was hilarious, centering on Jan Brewer's signing into law the new immigration bill but them scrambling to find a pro-bill guest at the last second and failing miserably.

Season 2 Episode 2 - Love it love it love it.  Except for the gratuitous nudity.  We get it; you're HBO.  The TV show has added a little more humanity to some of the characters that come off as more two-dimensionally evil in the books.  I'm really liking the new cast additions.  Brienne, Stannis, Davos, Margary

Also this week:

AMC's HELL ON WHEELS - When the episode started with pigs being fed entrails, I knew at some point, we were going to see a human wind up as pig food.  That's another parallel to Deadwood, and it's not really a good idea for this show to keep reminding us of that better show.  But it was a model of building dread and suspense.  Every time the butcher wipes a bloody weapon, we know that might be the tool that does the deed.

AMC's BREAKING BAD - Walter White's descent continues.  There was something particularly boss about the way he handled the rival meth gang and managed to get them to work for him.  Then his weaselly approach with Jesse reminds how manipulative and petty he can be.  Walt's welching Jesse out of his $5 million?  I caught part of the Dean Norris (Hank) interview on Conan where he said a fan told him, 'It's hard to know who to root for." And Norris said, "Are you kidding?  Here's Walter White; I'll root for anyone else on the planet."

Monday, August 27, 2012

Expendables 2 is #1 again

For the weekend of August 24-26.

1.  The Expendables 2 - $13.5 million ($52.31) - 2 wks (LG) -52.8%
 . . . 3355 screens / $4024 per screen
2.  The Bourne Legacy - $9.3 ($85.5) - 3 wks (U) -45.5%
 . . . 3654 / $2545
3.  ParaNorman - $8.55 ($28.27) - 2 wks (Foc) -39.3%
 . . . 3455 / $2474
4.  The Campaign - $7.44 ($64.54) - 3 wks (WB) -43.3%
 . . . 3302 / $2253
5.  The Dark Knight Rises - $7.15 ($422.19) - 6 wks (WB) -35.1%
 . . . 2606 / $2744
6.  The Odd Life of Timothy Green - $7.13 ($27.08) - 2 wks (BV) -34.2%
 . . . 2598 / $2742
7.  Premium Rush - $6.3 - 1 wk (Sony)
 . . . 2255 / $2794
8.  2016 Obama's America - $6.24 ($9.08) - 7 wks (RM) +401.2%
 . . . 1091 / $5718
9.  Hope Springs - $6 ($45) - 3 wks (Sony) -34.1%
 . . . 2402 / $2498
10. Hit & Run - $4.68 ($5.87) - 1 wk (OR)
 . . . 2870 / $1629
11. Sparkle - $4.2 ($18.9) - 2 wks (Tri) -63.9%
 . . . 2244 / $1872
12. The Apparition - $2.96 - 1 wk (WB)
 . . . 810 / $3648

The end-of-August slump has kicked into full gear.  Premium Rush, Hit & Run and The Apparition were the three big releases, and they'll all disappear quickly.  The best per-screen average of the Top 12 goes to the conservative documentary 2016 Obama's America, which expanded this week.  As far as political documentaries go, it's on pace to be the most successful non-Michael Moore doc in history.  Well, it'll be close to see if it passed An Inconvenient PowerPoint.

The Bourne Legacy is going to be the last summer movie to cross the $100 million mark.  The Expendables 2 won't quite pull off what the first one did, despite Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis having bigger roles, and Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris being added to the cast. (I picture Mickey Rourke and Steve Austin saying, "It's because we're not in it!")  If the overseas haul is big enough, I guess Expendables 3 is justified, with word floating around they want to add The Rock and Wesley Snipes. (Dang, it sucks that Patrick Swayze is dead.)

Friday, August 24, 2012

NBC's Rock Center- Mormon in America

9:02 - After a good intro, Brian Williams plays a clip from a Mitt Romney interview.

9:04 - Weird to see Harry Smith on NBC.

9:05 - Interview with JetBlue founder. "Why are Mormons so good at business?"  That segueways into how missionary service helps them plan their future.

9:08 - Williams to Smith: "How is this brotherhood and sisterhood different than firefighters, people who were in the service together?" Smith mentions how missionaries and their families pay for the mission themselves.


9:12 - The history part.  You know the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Osmonds, but now there's South Park and Broadway's Book of Mormon. Cut to a professor who calls it the most successful religion created in America.

9:13 - Nitpick. They said the angel Moroni first appeared to Joseph Smith, but it was the Father and the Son first.  No biggie.  Otherwise, great job nutshelling LDS history into three minutes.

9:15 - Steven R. Snow is interviewed, so it's cool they got a General Authority.  They touch on polygamy and differences between LDS and other Christians.

9:17 - Abby Huntsman, Jon Huntsman's daughter, is interviewed.  She left the church but is there to give insights.  They wonder why non-Mormons can't get into the temple.  She says it's a sacred thing, but hopes in the future that'll change.

9:19 - (Eww. They show undergarment models.)

9:21 - Going into baptism for the dead, the priesthood ban on blacks until 1978, this is really speeding along.


9:25 - 77% of Mormons say they go to church every week, which makes me wonder how many of the 6 million Mormns in the US still consider themselves Mormon.

9:26 - Cool, a feature on an active interracial couple.  Wow, more garment questions. "Tell me more about your underwear."

9:29 - Cut to Joanna Brooks, author of The Book of Mormon Girl. Raised to believe men and women are equal but they have clearly delineated roles.

9:31 - Mitch Mayne sighting!  Gay Mormon serving in San Francisco ward.  This is doing a good job offering diverse insights into the church.

9:35 - Abby Huntsman again.  Was offended by something her bishop said about her dating a non-member and left the church.  The bishop's either feeling bad right now or saying to the TV, "That's not what I said!"


9:39 - 13,628 bishops in the US. Mitt Romney used to be one.  Back to Harry Smith and the church welfare system.  Really goes into it in depth.  A walk-thru the bishop's storehouse.  I've needed to use such a warehouse on more than one occasion.  It's a blessing.


9:51 - The Book of Mormon on Broadway.  Clark Johnson, gay, ex-Mormon, cast member.  Still touched by his experiences on his mission.  Doubts his parents will catch the play when they get back from their own mission in Palau. :)

Overall, good one-hour snapshot.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Safe House - DVD Review

Starring Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Vera Farmiga, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Shepard, Robert Patrick, Ruben Blades and Joel Kinnaman.
Directed by Daniel Espinosa.


A Denzel Washington action film is like comfort food.  We know what we're going to get. And sadly I saw this before Tony Scott's death, and I thought the whole time it was directed by him until I looked it up. Which is to say Espinosa does a pretty good job in the Bruckheimer-aping department.

Washington plays Tobin Frost, a rogue agent and wanted man. He's captured and brought to a rarely-used CIA bunker run by young Matt Weston (Reynolds).  We know Frost is going to turn out to be a good guy, so that must mean one of Matt's superiors is the real bad guy, and there's a fine supporting cast playing our suspects.

The action's solid, the depth is non-existant, but it's entertaining for what it is.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Cinematically Speaking - 8/21/12

- An autopsy has been ordered for director Tony Scott, 68, who killed himself Sunday by jumping off a 200-foot bridge. There have been conflicting reports about his health.

My take: It doesn't make sense to me. I don't understand why someone who was still on top of their game, directing hit movies and producing hit TV shows, someone with a family, why he would just suddenly end it.  Tony was never going to get an Oscar, but his movies (Top Gun, Crimson Tide, True Romance, Enemy of the State, Man on Fire, Unstoppable) were successful and usually well-liked.


- Samuel L. Jackson has joined the cast of Spike Lee's remake of Old Boy, about a man who's kidnapped and held hostage for 15 years with no outside communication, and then one day is set free with no explanation.  Josh Brolin and Sharlto Copley co-star.

My take: Nice to see Jackson reunite with Lee. Jackson was a Lee staple for many films (Mo Better Blues, Do the Right Thing, Jungle Fever) and Lee's had success whenever he tries the mainstream thing (Inside Man).


- Kevin Costner is going to star in two movies based on Tom Clancy properties.  He'll star as Jack Kelly in Without Remorse (directed by Christopher McQuarrie), and he'll play a different character in the new Jack Ryan movie (directed by Kenneth Branagh) starring Chris Pine and Keira Knightley.

My take: Nice to see Costner get some projects lined up after the success of The Hatfields & McCoys miniseries.  I don't know what was behind his dropping out of Django Unchained, but he'll appear as Pa Kent in next year's Superman movie.


- Todd Phillips, director of The Hangover movies, will direct a remake of 1974's The Gambler, which starred James Caan as a man who keeps losing in betting and winds up $40,000 in debt with the mob.

My take: It'll be good to see how Phillips can do with more dramatic fare, though I must admit I don't know if he can pull it off. William Monahan (The Departed) is writing the script, and I imagine they'll be able to get an A-lister to star.


- Abby Elliott is joining Kristen Wiig and Andy Samberg as a departing Saturday Night Live cast member.  She's been there for four years and was known for her impressions of Angelina Jolie, Rachel Maddow, Anna Faris and Zooey Deschanel.  Jason Sudeikis's contract is up and he's still undecided as to whether or not he'll return.

My take: She was poised to be SNL's Alpha Female with Wiig leaving.  Sad to see Abby go, but maybe she and Fred Armisen broke up and she needs space, who knows. She's sure to get some sitcom deals.  I'd be surprised if Sudeikis sticks around. He's having a successful movie career (Hall Pass, Horrible Bosses, The Campaign) and he has We're the Millers with Jennifer Aniston and Ed Helms, and This Is Where I Leave You with Jason Bateman and Goldie Hawn coming up.  SNL needs some new blood because Sudeikis, Armisen, Kenan Thompson, Seth Meyers and Bill Hader all will likely be gone in a year or two.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom - Movie Review

Introducing Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward.
Starring Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Harvey Keitel and Bob Balaban. Directed by Wes Anderson.


Wes Anderson, God bless him, is a quirky director with a distinct style that puts his stories on a tightrope.  His movies can suffer from an overload of whimsy.  As long as human emotion can still break through, that's when he succeeds best.  I loved The Royal Tenenbaums, partly because the three genius kids still felt the pain of having such an unbearably dysfunctional dad.  I felt like The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou didn't quite work because the quirky overwhelmed the humanity.

Moonrise Kingdom succeeds largely because the emotions are real.  Granted, he still has that puppet-show style where most frames are set up like you're in the front row watching something unfold on stage, but the offbeat delivery doesn't hide or blur the humanity.  It centers on Sam, a resourceful khaki scout, and Suzy, an angry girl with binoculars.  They are 12 years old in 1965, and if Stephen King's taught me anything, it's that being 12 is a magical time, when girls aren't just those creatures with cooties who stand on the other side of class.  Sam and Suzy both feel like outcasts and are therefore drawn to each other.  They've hatched a plan, you see.

Edward Norton is Scout Master Ward, in charge of his troop and alarmed when he sees Sam has run away. He notifies Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), the law enforcement in these parts.  They come to learn Suzy's gone too and must notify her parents (Bill Murray, Frances McDormand).  We go back and forth watching the adults frantically, fruitlessly try to find the two lovebirds, and we watch Sam and Suzy survive in the wilderness, for Sam has been training for this.

Jared Gilman (Sam) and Kara Hayward (Suzy) have made their film debuts here, and they simply are their characters. The relationship and chemistry between them is sweet, unforced and natural.  Even in stylized Anderson-ville, everything works.  We want these two crazy kids to be together, even though there's no possible way they can just live in the woods forever.  Gilman has this straightforward nerdiness, and Hayward is like a rebellious Emma Watson.

We caught this at the $3 theater, so I imagine it'll be on DVD in a couple months. It's worth hunting down. Wouldn't surprise me if it gets a couple Academy Award nominations when the time comes.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

NBC's Stars Earn Stripes - TV Review

The latest network reality show has a hook I enjoy.  These "celebrities" will be training with real servicemen (a Marine, a Navy SEAL, a Delta Force guy, a SWAT team sniper, etc.) to go through different exercises and missions.  It was like a cross between Celebrity Boot Camp and Top Shot.

General Wesley Clark hosted (along with ex-Dancing with the Stars host Samantha Harris), and the show had an aura of respect throughout.  Respect for the trainers, respect for those who sacrifice to serve their country in various ways.

It's interesting to see who excels and who falters.  I figured Todd Palin ("4-time Iron Dog champion" is the reason given for his celeb status) would be good with anything gun-related, but who knew The Expendables' Terry Crews would sink in the swimming portion of the competition?

For what it is, it's decent, and I'm glad it beat ABC's Bachelor Pad, that hive of scum and villainy, in the ratings.

P.S. Speaking of Dancing with the Stars, some of the former contestants from that show are on this show, like Laila Ali and Nick Lachey.  Did Dean Cain ever do it? Well, he's here too.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Bourne Legacy - Movie Review

Starring Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Stacy Keach, Dennis Boutsikaris, Oscar Isaac, Donna Murphy, Zjelko Ivanek, David Strathairn, Scott Glenn, Joan Allen and Albert Finney.  Directed by Tony Gilroy.


At its worst, it comes off as fan fiction of the Bourne universe, with side characters and a side project that is linked but in a way that we don't need to actually see Jason Bourne.  Picture a Star Wars movie that takes place between Empire and Jedi with just the bounty hunters and maybe a Darth Vader cameo.

But if you ignore all the explanations and rehashes and spelling-out the villains do about Bourne and Treadstone and so forth, you have a good chase thriller with Renner as Aaron Cross, a guy in the program who has his memory and has a bit of a sense of humor about himself.  But when his handlers try to kill him, well, this will not do.

I enjoyed it, and yet, it did feel like a hammock movie.  Norton and Keach and Murphy and Boutsakiris are the technocrats who spend the second half of the movie looking at monitors and reminding us of the stakes, the plot points, what this means, Bourne, Treadstone, motivations, implications... Hey, he's on the move!

I think the point was to show an agent who wanted to do the program, who liked it, who didn't have a memory lapse, but who was going to go Flowers for Algernon unless he flew to the Philippines and got the virus.

I liked the Alaska stuff, I liked the lab shoot-out, I liked the showdown in the house that eventually burned down.  The Philippines stuff got long, and the ending was a fizzle, but it seemed it was really just setting up Cross and Bourne to team up for Part 5.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Bourne #1, Campaign #2, Dark Knight #3

Box-office numbers for the weekend of August 10-12.

1.  The Bourne Legacy - $40.26 million - 1 wk (U)
 . . . 3745 screens / $10,752 per screen
2.  The Campaign - $27.44 - 1 wk (WB)
 . . . 3205 / $8562
3.  The Dark Knight Rises - $19.54 ($390.15) - 4 wks (WB) -45.3%
 . . . 3690 / $5295
4.  Hope Springs - $15.6 ($20.05) - 1 wk (Sony)
 . . . 2361 / $6607
5.  Dairy of a Wimpy Kid 3 - $8.2 ($30.55) - 2 wks (Fox) -43.9%
 . . . 3398 / $2413
6.  Total Recall - $8.1 ($44.19) - 2 wks (Sony) -68.3%
 . . . 3601 / $2249
7.  Ice Age: Continental Drift - $6.75 ($144.06) - 5 wks (Fox) -21.6%
 . . . 3102 / $2176
8.  Ted - $3.29 ($209.92) - 7 wks (U) -41.7%
 . . . 2208 / $1490
9.  Step Up Revolution - $2.85 ($30.17) - 3 wks (Sum) -51.9%
 . . . 1898 / $1502
10. The Amazing Spider-Man - $2.2 ($255.54) - 6 wks (Sony) -50%
 . . . 1585 / $1388
11. The Watch - $2.2 ($31.37) - 3 wks (Fox) -66.3%
 . . . 2461 / $894
12. Brave - $1.87 ($227.32) - 8 wks (BV) -37.4%
 . . . 1259 / $1485

The Damon-free Bourne movie was able to do respectable business with the less-bankable Jeremy Renner as its lead.

One thing that surprised me in looking it up: Bourne's on pace to be only the 12th title of the summer to pass the $100 million mark.  Expendables 2 might get there as well; that'd bring the total to 13.  Now The Avengers has passed $600 million, and TDKR will pass $400 million, and no movie did that in Summer 2011, but it had 18 million pass $100 million.

The Campaign, I believe, is leaving money on the table by going the R-rated route.  August has been a good month for Ferrell (The Other Guys, Talladega Nights) but those are PG-13 efforts.

Hope Springs did fine, I guess, for a Meryl Streep film, but watching two people go through couples therapy is not exactly an inspiring plot for date night.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Dark Knight still #1, Total Recall #2

For the weekend of Aug 3-5.

1.  The Dark Knight Rises - $36.44 million ($354.64) - 3 wks (WB) -41.3%
 . . . 4242 screens / $8590 per screen
2.  Total Recall - $26 - 1 wk (Sony)
 . . . 3601 / $7220
3.  Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days - $14.7 - 1 wk (Fox)
 . . . 3391 / $4335
4.  Ice Age: Continental Drift - $8.4 ($131.86) - 4 wks (Fox)
 . . . 3542 / $2372
5.  The Watch - $6.35 ($25.36) - 2 wks (Fox) -50.2%
 . . . 3168 / $2004
6.  Ted - $5.48 ($203.41) - 6 wks (U) -25.5%
 . . . 2767 / $1980
7.  Step Up Revolution - $5.3 ($23.1) - 2 wks (Sum) -54.8%
 . . . 2606 / $2034
8.  The Amazing Spider-Man - $4.3 ($250.64) - 5 wks (Sony) -35.8%
 . . . 2425 / $1773
9.  Brave - $2.89 ($223.32) - 7 wks (BV) -32.9%
 . . . 2110 / $1370
10. Magic Mike - $1.38 ($110.89) - 6 wks (WB) -47.3%
 . . . 1202 / $1148

When you add up production and marketing costs, Total Recall cost Sony about $200 million.  A special-effects heavy actioner like this might do well overseas, but it can only be chalked up as a disappointment for the studio.  Word-of-mouth will likely be poor (31% rating on and next week has three potential hits opening, so Total Recall should quickly drop and end with a domestic haul around $65-70 million.

It was a big risk by the studio to give the lead role to Colin Farrell. He's been involved in successful movies (Horrible Bosses, Minority Report), but the highest-grossing movie where he's been top-billed is 2003's Phone Booth, at $46 million.  Farrell isn't much better than Taylor Kitsch when it comes to casting in a big-budget film.

So The Dark Knight Rises still likely won't catch The Dark Knight in box-office, but it's still on course to pass $400 million and be one of the top fifteen highest-grossing movies in history.

God Bless America - DVD Review

Starring Joel Murray and Tara Lynne Barr.
Directed by Bobcat Goldthwait.


This movie felt like Bobcat Goldthwait cranked out the screenplay on a bender of rum and coke while watching reality TV.  It's about a working stiff named Frank with a crappy life, bad job, rude neighbors, who just hates what American society has devolved into.  People are too rude now.  Crassness is rewarded.  He watches reality TV and is disgusted.

We know he's disgusted because he has a few monologues where he just lists everything that's wrong with society.  And when Bobcat wants to rant more, about pettier things, he introduces teenage girl Roxanne, who joins Frank in his bloody quest.  See, Frank has a brain tumor and thinks he's dying, so he decides to kill some people that deserve it first.  His victims start with a spoiled girl on a Sweet 16 type show, and then her parents, and then he shoots a Bill O'Reilly stand-in, and on and on.  Roxanne would like to expand the list of possible victims from anyone who gives a high-five to people who use "literally" in conversation.

There are anti-social people out there who may find this a carthartic experience.  And there is something fantasy-fulfilling when he shoots people who talk on their cellphones in theaters, or Westboro Baptist stand-ins, but there's only so far this premise can go.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man - Movie Review

Starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Sally Field, Martin Sheen, Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz.  Directed by Marc Webb.


This was a reboot I didn't think I wanted, but now I know I did.  Of course we don't "need" a Spider-Man reboot, but if Sam Raimi had done a Part 4, as he planned, with John Malkovich as Vulture, well, based on the drop-off of quality between the first two and Part 3, he was venturing dangerously close to Schumacher territory.

Now Webb has re-established the character and put a new twist on it, and it's refreshing, just like it was refreshing to have Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk in The Avengers instead of Edward Norton.

We go back to high school for the origin of Peter Parker, played with gawky energy by Andrew Garfield, and one element I appreciated that this film re-introduced was Peter's intelligence.  Gone are the organic webshooters out of his wrist.  We see Peter invent his webslingers, just like in the comic book.  We also get a real romance between Peter and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), and it's where I recognized Webb's touch most.  Webb directed 500 Days of Summer, so he knows how to make a boy and a girl talk to each other.

Norman Osbourne is spoken of but not seen.  Instead our villain is Dr. Chuck Conners, an Oscorp employee who becomes the Lizard. (I am sad Dylan Baker played the one-armed doc for three films but never got to become the green guy himself.)  I like that there's only one villain.  In a way it follows the Batman Begins or Superman origin stories, in that the title character really is the main character.

This is a superhero movie I walk out of with my mind racing about what they'll do for the sequel.  They could revisit Green Goblin or Venom if they wanted to, or bring to life some of the other big baddies we haven't seen in live-action yet, like Mysterio or Electro.  The groundwork's been laid.  I look forward to seeing Peter and Gwen's relationship progress, seeing more of Sally Field as Aunt Mae, hopefully meeting J. Jonah Jameson next time.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Cinematically Speaking - 8/3/12

- Matthew McConaughey has joined the cast of Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort.  Belfort once owned Stratton Oakmont, a billion-dollar brokerage firm.  Belfort was arrested for securities fraud and served 22 months in jail.  McConaughey will play Mark Hanna, an early mentor to Belfort. The film's cast also includes Jonah Hill (Moneyball), Jean Dujardin (The Artist), Kyle Chandler (Super 8) and Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead).

- Christopher Eccleston (G.I. Joe) will play the villain in Thor: The Dark World.  He's Malekith the Accursed, the leader of the Dark Elves of Svartalfheim.  The Thor sequel will bring back Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hiddleston and Stellan Skarsgard.

- The Dark Tower movies may be back on track.  Javier Bardem has dropped out to play the Gunslinger, but director Ron Howard is talking to his buddy Russell Crowe about taking the role.

- Jennifer Ehle (Contagion) is the latest name in talks to join the RoboCop remake.  It stars Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Hugh Laurie, Abbie Cornish, Jackie Earle Haley and Samuel L. Jackson.  Ehle will also appear in Kathryn Bigelow's upcoming Zero Dark Thirty, about the SEAL team that killed Osama Bin Laden.  It stars Jessica Chastain, Chris Pratt and Jason Clarke.

I caught a couple movies that have been on DVD for a while and have made it to Netflix Instant.  First there was 2011's MELANCHOLIA (★★½), starring Kirsten Dunst as a depressed bride.  How can she be depressed when she's marrying a great guy (Alexander Skarsgard)? Well, there are other issues, but mainly the end of the world is near.  A recently-discovered planet is on a collision course for Earth and there's no way to stop it.  It's from Lars Von Trier (Breaking the Waves, Dogville), and at times this is like The Tree of Life with slightly more plot, a slideshow of pretension with far less optimism about the universe than TTOL expressed.  I liked it in spurts, but as a whole, I'm not big on movies that want me to meditate in the middle of the show.

I also watched 2009's THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL (★★★), an old-school homage to early 1980's horror.  It's patiently plotted, centering on a young woman who takes a job babysitting in a creepy house.  The lighting, the acting style, all of it felt like those B-flick drive-in movies with a central damsel in distress being chased by a masked killer or a malevolent ghost or creepy cultists.  Writer/director Ti Wang has a real eye and affection for the style.