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Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

*Spoiler Alert*

*There are major spoilers in this review. Keep that in mind before continuing.*

Fun? Sure. Entertaining? Hell yeah. Sleek? Check.

But amazing? I’m not so sure.

This flick was the second big superhero blockbuster to appear in Spring (the first being Captain America: The Winter Solider) and it definitely looked the part.

The trailer was epic, in short. And not epic as in, “I can’t believe how cool the things they’re saying are” or “I can’t believe the angle that shot is at”. 

It was more like, “This movie is gonna blow my freakin’ mind!”, “Those effects look unreal!” and “Electro looks sooo badass!”. 

There are a few things the new Spider-Man movie did quite well and most of those things are exactly what you thought were going to be awesome when you saw the trailer.

The effects are fantastic. They look by far the best out of any Spider-Man film to date. Spidey never looks fake, Electro’s CGI is done very well in that one can still see Jamie Foxx’s acting through it and every single fight scene has the ability to make you grab your armrests as the Web-Head soars through New York and does mid-air gymnastics. 

The villains all look awesome. Along with Electro, the new Green Goblin (played by Dylan DeHaan) and Rhino (played by) are both amped up versions of what appears in the original comics. 

DeHaan’s goblin was especially enjoyable, since the dude looked like he wanted to rip out your throat before he was injected with the crazy spider blood stuff. It was probably those eyes.

Dehaan

The story borrows mostly from the comics and things like The Spectacular Spider-Man, a cartoon based on the comics that was cancelled a while ago. It’s done fairly well and most comic fans should enjoy it. 

It spends its entire time leading up to the death of Gwen Stacy (played by the lovely Emma Stone), which was one of the most climactic deaths in all of comics. Just like in the original, she is dropped by the Green Goblin and Spidey (Andrew Garfield) does failed to catch her.

However, instead of hitting her with a web strand and having her break her neck when it’s pulled taut, in this film he catches her with the web strand and is just barely unable to pull the line taut before the back of her head slams into the concrete floor. 

Ouch.

Despite the serious lack of blood that should be spilling out of the back of her head like a soda fountain, the scene of Spider-Man holding his dead lover is strong and Andrew Garfield’s acting in this scene is top notch.

Now.

This leads into some of the problems I had with this film.

Though the Gwen death scene was done very well, I found all of the leading up to it unnecessary. It was like Marc Webb pulled out a gigantic, invisible hammer with the words “These two REALLY love each other” stamped on it and starting bashing the audience’s skull in.

Every single time Pater Parker and Gwen Stacy are on screen together and one of them is not wearing red and blue tights, they are: breaking up, apologizing to each other, worrying for each other, being mushy with each other, kissing each other or gazing deeply into the other’s eyes and communicating via mind-link. 

In the very few scenes in which there is a bit more added to the moment, everything seems much better on account of Garfield and Stone’s on camera chemistry. The two play off of each other well and it works, with quick witted remarks being their strength. They at least look like they should be together and do act (although incredibly hyperbolized) like a realistic couple. 

Much unlike Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst in the Sam Raimi versions, who constantly looked like they were locked in a battle of trying to make the other uncomfortable by either staring too long or making supremely indifferent facial expressions. 

To sum up, Garfield and Stone were great on screen when they weren’t playing up how much Peter and Gwen loved each other. The problem is, that wasn’t very often. 

Now, other than that main issue (since it was most of the movie) there were two smaller problems I had. 

First of all, what was up with Electro’s teeth?

Before he was turned into Electro, Max Dillon has an overtly large space between his front two teeth. I suppose this was to make him look more geeky or insane? Because y’know, that’s how you tell a sane person from an insane one.

If they have a space between their teeth so large you can see their uvula, then they’re probably bat-shiz crazy.

Anyway, when Max falls into the vat full of electric eels that turns him into Electro, there is a very short (maybe two second?) shot that is just a close up of his teeth getting scrunched together so that they suddenly look perfect. 

Why?! Like, what? Why is this necessary?

I guess there goes the whole insane-teeth theory I just came up with since he certainly didn’t get any more sane when being transformed into a human subwoofer (the amount of dubstep surrounding Electro is nuts). 

There is zero point to this shot and zero point to Electro having good teeth. He’s just made of energy, right? He doesn’t need to see the dentist anyway! 

Perhaps they did it just for the scene where he’s on the giant screens in Times Square? Or because Jamie Foxx got a few scenes in and realized he looked like an add for a Chiclets commercial?

Sigh.

The second thing was the shot of the planes. 

You know, right after Electro cuts the power to the city, there’s a shot of mission control (or whatever they call them in plane terms) freaking out since all of their tech got blacked out. 

Okay, I get it. Power’s out. Emphasized this way. Cool.

But then, after the power is restored and everything comes back online, we are again taken to the mission control room where they hurriedly tell two pilots to avoid crashing into each other since they are literally headed right towards one another. The pilots listen and there’s a super neat shot of the planes just barely missing each other.

As soon as they get by one another, the hero music (that Spidey gets when he does something heroic) that’s been reserved for far more important things the entire movie is played and mission control celebrates like they just won the Super Bowl.

Again, why?! It’s not necessary! There’s no point to having the shot of these planes at all and even less point of giving them the hero music!

The only thing I can think of is that the scene is used to emphasize the power being lost and then returning, but seriously? THAT’S how you did it?

Double sigh.

Other than that, the film is fun and enjoyable but it is understandable why critics (or people who see movies like critics do) weren’t very keen on it. The story isn’t super deep and there’s a lot of “Screw this! Let’s fight!” and “I don’t know what I’d do if I lost you, Gwen” thrown around. 

But the acting is solid all around, with especially good performances by Foxx, DeHaan and Garfield. The music is well done, although some might not like hearing the thoughts in Electro’s head mixed in with dubstep and the effects are great.

So, amazing? I don’t think I can go there. But worth a watch? Certainly. Especially in Imax 3D (which is how I saw it). 

Rating out of 100: 74

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Movie Review: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

*Note: I am writing this under the impression that my readers have seen the first film/read the books

*Note: There are spoilers

Finally, a movie that lives up to its trailer.

Hold on, I’m still trying to process how unbelievably well done this film was.

Okay, I think we’re good.

I’m writing this as someone who’s read the Hunger Games trilogy and who thoroughly enjoyed the books. 

I cannot think of any other way to have done this flick with how it’s rated and how it’s trying to stay as close to the book’s storyline as possible.

The movie is 146 minutes long, or two hours and twenty-six minutes. And although I knew that time was passing merely because my body kept telling me to shift position, I was never once thinking that I was bored or wishing that the movie would just wrap up.

Jennifer Lawrence put on another fabulous acting display, pulling off Katniss even better in this movie than in the first one, and displaying her talent as an Oscar-winning actress. Josh Hutcherson put on another fine performance and Woody Harrelson was striking once more in the role of Haymitch. 

The director, Francis Lawrence, did an impeccable job with bringing to life the horrors of Suzanne Collins’ world. As I had been with the first film, my main concern going in was that it wouldn’t be dark enough to pull off what the books had done so well. 

But with what little he was able to do without an ‘R’ rating, Lawrence made unbelievable and Jennifer (Katniss) made perfection. Combining the scenes of suspense, sadness and horror with Jennifer’s flawlessly disturbing facial expressions, each scene was done correctly and so well that it instilled powerful feelings in the audience.

I’m not joking here. There were at least four girls around me (more girls, of course, came to see the movie) that jumped at almost every single jump-scare put in place by the director. They were good ones too; not always easy to see coming.

Then, perhaps only a moment later, the same girls were crying or covering their mouths when someone was killed.

There were three particular things that stood out to me in this film.

First was the sequence in which Katniss and Peeta (Hutcherson) are on their trip to the other districts and make their stop at District 11, the home of Rue. 

This entire scene was done so, so well. From the point at which Katniss takes the microphone to tell Rue’s family how sorry she is that she couldn’t save their daughter’s life, to the instant an old man in the crowd raises three fingers in salute to The Girl on Fire and is immediately taken and shot while a screaming Katniss is being yanked away, it is impossible not to feel some kind of emotion. 

That had to be the best scene from both of the films thus far, and you better believe I’ll be watching it on YouTube again when it finally appears there.

The second thing that stood out to me was the death of Cinna (Lenny Kravitz). 

When I read the books, this was the death that struck me the most out of everyone who dies. Even those who are killed in the third book. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it was because of how pure Cinna is and how he seems like the only normal person from the Capital. Perhaps it was the relationship he has with Katniss, and how much the two quietly rely on each other. Or perhaps it was because of how brilliantly and openly he defied the Capital while simultaneously giving Katniss and the rebels in the districts, hope.

But no matter what it was, when Cinna is beaten to death in front of Katniss while she’s locked in an elevator, I remember having to put the book down and just stare at Suzanne Collins’ name on the cover, wondering how in the world she managed to make me feel something for a character that was hardly vital to the overall plot. 

While Lawrence couldn’t make the death quite as brutal as the book’s, he was pretty damn close. And again, Jennifer’s performance made the scene as good as it possibly could get. I won’t be forgetting it anytime soon.

The final thing was another scene from the book that had caught me, and I had been wondering for a while how they would manage it in the movie (again, due to the rating system). 

The scene I am referring to is when the group finds themselves in the section of the arena with the Jabberjays that emit the screams of someone you love in pain. I wasn’t as impressed at first as I was with the other two scenes, but when both Katniss and Finnick (Sam Claflin) race to get out and realize they’re stuck with the birds for an hour, that’s where the feelings set in again. 

Peeta can only try and calm Katniss from the other side of a forcefield that’s separating them, and they stare into each other’s eyes, both of them helpless, as Katniss screams and claps her hands over her ears, her eyes pleading with Peeta, with anything, for help that simply cannot come. 

Shudder inducing. 

There was absolutely nothing I could find wrong with this film, or that I just didn’t like. I believe there is one tiny moment where a cut from Katniss’ face to herself again looks sort of strange, but it’s not a big deal and it doesn’t affect the film’s overall performance. 

This is the best book adaptation I’ve seen for a long while, and it’ll be tough to have the next movie be as great as this one was. The effect may not be the same if you haven’t read the books, but I implore you to check out this flick while you can. 

Trust me, the odds are in your favour in terms of you enjoying it.

Rating out of 100: 92

Movie Review: Gravity

gravity-movie-poster-closeup
Just like the title, this movie will suck you in and not let go

Alfonso Cuarón said he’s always wanted to do a movie about space. 

Well, did he ever do a movie about space.

I’m going to say, flat out, right now, that this is the best movie I’ve seen in a while. It’s visually breathtaking, mind numbingly expansive and edge of your seat intense. 

It boasts an extremely small cast for a movie nowadays, with a total of seven actors/actresses in all and only a mere three are actually seen.

This flick is all about the visual and it does it just as well as any other movie you’ve seen; yes, including Avatar. The effects are so difficult to describe as they are something that need to be seen to be fully appreciated, but when I say they are the best part of the entire thing, trust me, it’s true. 

And that’s impressive to say the least, because both Sandra Bullock as Dr. Ryan Stone and George Clooney as Matt Kowalski were brilliant. Cuarón had a lot of scenes that were single, drawn out shots; almost Kubrick-like. There is one scene where Stone is in a space shuttle, listening to a radio link to Earth, and the scene lasts a good couple minutes. Her speech and acting in general are displayed at full force in this long shot and for anyone who appreciates the highest level of acting, it’s fantastic.

Clooney too, while not in the film nearly as much as Bullock, pulled off a great performance as the confident and kind Kowalski. He made you completely believe in his character right from the get-go and somehow got the audience trapped in liking him well within the opening minutes.

The story was great, as always. No aliens. No other spaceships coming for them. Just one woman trying to survive the shards from a Russian satellite that come whizzing around Earth every 90 minutes. As expected, there are tons of trials Stone has to overcome and nearly everything that can go wrong does, bringing her to her breaking point a few times. But she preservers and shows the power human resolve can truly have.

One of the best parts of the film is how Cuarón made the entire thing so realistic. Not only were his visual effects done to a tee, but his sound effects were spectacular as well. So many movies have things exploding in space and such, with the normal sounds it would make if it occurred on Earth. 

Not in this movie.

Things are done right and there is zero sound in space; save for the music of the movie. Anything that happens in space is soundless. It’s strange too, when the characters touch a space station or try to hold onto something, because you hear a muffled sound come out of it and realize that it must be what they’re hearing inside of their spacesuits. 

It’s the first film in space where I’ve seen the sound done so well. 

Gravity will be at the Oscars, no doubt. I hope to see Bullock nominated as well because she was really that good; the peak of her acting abilities. If you’re considering see this film (I myself went and chose it over Runner Runner and Prisoners), do.

You won’t be disappointed.

Howe to Houston; take us home.

Rating out of 100: 93

Movie Review: Kick-Ass 2

The posters themselves could give seizures...
The posters themselves could give seizures…

First rule of going to see a movie like this: don’t trust the ratings system. 

When I walked to the theatre with my friends to grab tickets early, the sign outside the theatre and the rating on the ticket I bought said that Kick-Ass 2 was rated 14A. 

This is obviously laughable if you have any idea whatsoever of what the graphic novel-inspired flick is about.

I watched the original Kick-Ass about a week prior to viewing the sequel and enjoyed it much, much more than I thought I would. Before seeing it, I never had any deep desire to seek it out, knowing what little information I did about it; that it was some sort of twisted and colourful superhero parody and that the plot couldn’t be that much more complex than Kick-Ass’ costume.

IMPORTANT INFO: I have never read the graphic novels, so my opinions are solely based on the films.

I was somewhat incorrect about the first Kick-Ass. Yes, there was an extreme and unnecessary amount of swearing, there was a small bit of nudity and a fair bit (although not even close to Kill Bill level) of gore. 

But the story impressed me more than I thought it would and the characters actually were memorable. It was something new that I’d never really seen done before. The concept, “can a normal person be a superhero”, has been brought up before, but never done in quite so a way as in Kick-Ass

Also, the story is clearly aimed at teenage-early adult audiences and although crude, is disturbingly accurate in terms of how people of that age talk and act.

Anyways, moving on to the film at hand now.

Kick-Ass 2 brought back a much more jacked Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and a much older Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz), as well as Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), who’s changed his name (as he makes the swift and inevitable change from hero to villain) to something I cannot risk typing out in this review for fear of some child’s mother reading it and calling me up saying, “My daughter/son reads all of these! How DARE you write such a- blah, blah, blah”. 

Stupid lawsuits.

This flick had everything the first movie had that made it unique: ordinary people dressing up as heroes, colourful costumes, swearing, blood, lame jokes, serious content and stuff that just made you sit there with your mouth open, thinking, “Did they really just say that?”.

The thing that really set Kick-Ass 2 apart from the original for me was the fact that this one had more serious content than the first. I also think that the actors had gotten a little better at their jobs; certainly Hit-Girl. 

The movie actually made you feel attached and hurt when some of the major characters were lost. It showed a different side of the main characters as well. Kick-Ass was more grown up in this movie, and a little darker than he was in the first. 

Hit-Girl, too, showed a different side of herself; letting vulnerability take over at one point and having to try and deal with her life as a teenage girl.

Altogether, the serious and emotionally enticing scenes were what made the movie worth seeing even more so than the awesome fight scenes and smart-mouthed characters.

Personally, I wanted to see Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl succeed much more so than in the first film, because I felt more attached to them in the second go round.

Oh, and how can I forget?! You can never go wrong with a movie that has Jim Carrey in it. He played Colonel Stars and Stripes and was one of the more intriguing characters in the movie. He also looks a lot older now, like, a lot older, so thankfully I didn’t keep seeing him in my mind’s eye as Ace Ventura. 

I know there’s a funny joke I can make somewhere here about him being in both a movie about superheroes where he plays a hero and a movie about a mask where he wears a mask but … I just can’t think of one.

Oh well.

If you were into the original Kick-Ass, then you’ll love this movie. If you don’t like anything I’ve mentioned above, then seriously don’t see this movie. 

For example, if you’re my parents. They still don’t understand why I’d waste my time watching something like that…

Rating out of 100: 82

Movie Review: Pacific Rim

It's totally worth it.
It’s totally worth it.

If you like robots and monsters, then this is the movie for you.

This movie is Transformers meets Godzilla and the impressive part is that it’s better than both of those films by far (though lots of people are hoping that the new Godzilla movie scheduled for 2014 will be great).

Director Guillermo del Toro did a fantastic job creating a sci-fi flick that tons of people loved. Literally, I have heard nothing negative about this movie. 

But, I mean, when you compare this to the other sci-fi flicks people are getting… *cough*Sharknado*cough*, then, y’know, it’s not that big of a surprise that people love this.

The effects in this film are marvelous and although the movie could be a bit dark at times, it was never too difficult to understand what was going on when the giant robots called Jaegers, were fighting the enormous monsters known as Kaijus. 

There was also a bit of a different plot twist with this movie; the Kaijus were actually intelligent creatures that only appeared like stupid monsters that want to destroy mankind. Their intent was not simply to destroy the human race, but to also achieve what they wished for themselves. 

I suppose I found this interesting because there aren’t very many monsters movies where the monsters are coming out in thoughtful, planned out attack formations and no, this doesn’t count (see below).

The acting in the movie was good, with the main character Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hannam) turning out to be much better than I first expected him to be. The best acting easily came from Idris Elba, who played Stacker Pentecost. He did a fantastic job and really pulled the movie full circle. 

Raleigh’s partner, Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), also came across fairly strong. The scene where she has a staff-fight with Raleigh is by far one of the most fun and does a great job introducing her; before that scene she seems like just another wimpy girl who got saved from the horrors of war and became a mental wreck. 

However, with another Asian actor comes clichés. For example, when Mako and Raleigh are about to die entering the atmosphere with a pterodactyl-like Kaiju, she is the one who remembers that their Jaeger has a sword and uses it to save their lives and kill the Kaiju. 

But again, the reason to see this movie is the effects. The fights are huge, loud and mind-meltingly cool for not only sci-fi fans, but pretty much anyone with a level of testosterone that exceeds that of a small kitten. 

The movie is fast paced, never bores and keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat until the credits role. I myself had my eyes glued to the screen the entire time, which is something I can’t say for most films. 

This is easily, easily, one of the top five films of the summer. Definitely a must see, right up there with Star Trek: Into Darkness and Man of Steel

Take your boyfriend to see it. Take your girlfriend to see it. Take your dog to see it. 

But for the love of muffins, go see this movie.

Rating out of 100: 90