Wednesday, 4 July 2012
'The Amazing Spider-Man', 'Snow White and the Huntsman' and 'Your Sister's Sister': review round-up
Love that scene and that movie.
Dearest readers! I have been remiss of late in providing "content" for this blog. First there was a (successful) trial with a website, who want me to write for them as an assistant editor soon. Then came a trip to a small film festival in Amsterdam. And now a painful break-up with my long-term girlfriend which has left me - for practical and emotional reasons - unable to write for this blog. It happened at the weekend, after seven deliriously happy years, and that's all I'll say about it here because this isn't and never will be that sort of blog (not that there's anything wrong with that). I just wanted to account for my tardiness.
In any case, I have been able to see a few films over the last few days and whilst I can't be bothered to give them full reviews at this time, I thought it'd be a nice distraction to come on here and summarise my thoughts.
'The Amazing Spider-Man'
With great power comes great responsibility, and Sony have abused theirs with this cynical "franchise re-boot" that re-tells the Peter Parker origin story with some 'Batman Begins' grittiness that's, like, sooo 2005. They've also recast Parker (played by The Spectacular Andrew Garfield) as an angsty emo skater kid in a move that feels even more outdated. "This is what the kids like, right?" seems to be the question on the lips of executives, who also play up the romantic aspect of Spidey's relationship with High School sweetheart Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone), presumably in an attempt to make Spider-Man the next 'Twilight'.
The cast is uniformly great, with Martin Sheen and Sally Field taking on Uncle Ben and Aunt May respectively, whilst Rhys Ifans is a good fit as Dr. Curt Connors (AKA The Lizard) even if the film doesn't know what to do with him and the script restricts him to mostly pseudo-science exposition. And though I didn't like '500 Days (of Summer)' at all, director Marc Webb - the most awesome name-related coincidence since German football club Wolfsburg were managed by Wolfgang Wolf - does a pretty decent job with both the action scenes and some of the Spider-Man as metaphor for puberty teenage growth moments. In fact the film's highlight is easily the comic sequence during which Parker first encounters his super-strength, smashing his bed-side alarm clock.
It's hokey and cheesy to an extent that will probably grate with even fans of Sam Raimi's trilogy, with some truly god awful moments whenever the dialogue reaches for profound and the action attempts to carry some kind of great weight (such as when a New York construction crew come to Spidey's aid in improbable and extremely goofy fashion) but it does feel like a comic book, particularly when it comes to the Lizard's stupid grand scheme (turn everyone into lizards for some reason) and how Spider-Man moves during fights. The animation of Spider-Man doing his thing, swinging on webs and ducking and diving during bouts, is far superior to any other filmic translation of the character to date.
'The Amazing Spider-Man' hops wildly between being terrible and pretty damn good. And it's way too long and a little too slow. But it isn't the car crash I was expecting and I certainly wouldn't mind seeing an improved sequel with the same cast and, perhaps, a different creative team behind the camera. Oh, and the 3D is terrible: neither subtly providing depth or doing much obvious, in-your-face trickery. I removed my glasses during some of the non-action scenes and - at least from what I could tell - they were just 2D. So I reluctantly find myself agreeing with the "it's just a con" brigade this time around.
If I seem to have been overly kind to the Spider-Man movie, it might have something to do that I went into it right off the back of...
'Snow White and the Huntsman'
Totally terrible and without a single redeeming quality. Except maybe some of the special effects design concerning the transformative powers of Charlize Theron's evil Queen. For one thing it's brazenly ripping off a half-dozen better movies in every frame. There's a whole sequence lifted from 'Princess Mononoke', loads and loads of people-walking-over-mountains stuff captured by the second unit which owes an obvious debt to the 'Lord of the Rings' films, Kristen Stewart's Snow White gets dressed up in battle armour in a re-imagining that recalls Tim Burton's dreadful 'Alice in Wonderland' and the staging of the climatic battle - which sees cavalry charging across a beach - is almost shot-for-shot identical to the end of Ridley Scott's 'Robin Hood'.
Chris "Thundergod" Hemsworth has nothing to do aside from a ridiculous Scottish accent as the Huntsman, whilst Stewart - obviously not an unattractive woman - is totally miscast as the "fairest of them all". Particularly as she can't smile without gurning. She pouts her way through the entire movie, her character has no personality and it's one of those horrible narratives in which she triumphs because of her superior royal blood. I actually hate this movie. This wretched, distended piece of crap movie. If I hadn't recently sat through 'Rock of Ages' this might be the worst film of the year so far that I've seen (bear in mind that I don't go see stuff like 'Think Like a Man' or 'Jack and Jill').
The audience I saw it with did genuinely seem to connect with the seven dwarves when they showed up, but that's probably because they are played by established thesps (including Toby Jones, Nick Frost, Ray Winstone, Bob Hoskins, Ian McShane) in miniature. Though this is a morally dubious move, taking away acting roles from real dwarf performers who make a living of exactly this type of film, it does work surprisingly well and they represent the only characters in the movie worth giving a damn about. Even if every joke around them is basically "aw, aren't they small!"
'Your Sister's Sister'
Unquestionably the year's biggest disappointment to-date, this one doesn't hold a candle to director Lynne Shelton's previous little indie movies: 'Humpday' and 'My Effortless Brilliance'. A miscast Emily Blunt, with a wildly varying American accent, is one of the key flaws, but mainly it fails because the little human drama just tries to go a little too big in the final third. It's the same problem with other recent "Mumblecore" forays into the mainstream - such as 'Cyrus' and 'Jeff, Who Lives at Home' - both co-directed by this film's male lead Mark Duplass.
The first half enjoys the same low-key, well-observed vibe of previous films, as an uneasy love-triangle type thing develops between those stars and Rosemarie DeWitt (who plays Blunt's drunken baby-obsessed lesbian sister). DeWitt is the best thing in it and, even as her character becomes less and less appealing, she is terrific. But when a high-stakes dramatic reveal is made the whole thing turns to shit. I don't want to spoil it so I'll just say it makes little sense (both as a real-world instance and in terms of these characters) and takes the film in a direction it didn't need to go. The smaller relationship drama was interesting without the need to inject gimmicky and contrived last-act soap opera.