The Amazing Spider-Man – Review

Forget dreary Tobey Maguire. Forget melodramatic Kirsten Dunst. Forget depressing spidey. The world’s most popular superhero is back.

The Amazing Spider-Man is more or less the same story of the first Spider-Man movie that saw light in 2002. Peter Parker, a 17 year old high school student who lost both of his parents years before, gets bitten by a spider while visiting a high-tech lab and develops spider-related abilities such as cunning senses and extra sticky digits. He is the victim of radical biological experiments involving cross species hybridization, which his father had started before his death. Soon enough, this research takes a bad turn when its power begins to be used for purposes other than the one it was intended for.

Andrew Garfield, at 28, is far more convincing as a teenager than Maguire, who was even younger when he acted in the first Spider-Man movie. You’d think Garfield just had his growth spurt and is still getting accustomed to his new self. He’s extra shy around the girl he likes: Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), he’s awkward and agitated. He’s also great to watch on screen.

Emma Stone is great as well as Spidey’s love interest in this movie. What’s interesting about her character is that it doesn’t melt in the whole love-aspect of things but stands alone as a credible female character that can surprise you, entertain you and stand up for herself when needed.

Garfield and Stone have stunning chemistry together on screen. They work so well together you can’t but wonder at times where this combo had been hiding for years. Of course, they are helped by a terrific supporting cast in the form of Sally Field and Martin Sheen as Peter’s aunt May and uncle Ben, respectively.

Director Mark Webb, yes that is his real name fitting as it is, does a great job in breathing new life into a story we all know and giving it another dimension we hadn’t been exposed to before. His previous work is the very entertaining 500 Days of Summer, an indie comedy. He pulls off the blockbuster aspect of things in a great way and even adds a little touch of the humanitarian aspect present in copious amounts in indie movies to his reboot of Spider-Man.

The story may be familiar. The last Spider-Man movie, horrible as it may have been, was only five years ago. But The Amazing Spider-Man is a more than welcome restart of a franchise I had thought is long gone by now. The movie exceeded my expectations. I never thought I’d be this entertained by it. I never thought I’d be taken in from the first frame that poped on screen and never let go until the credits started rolling. I never thought it would be this well-casted. The Amazing Spider-Man advances with great pace, works well with its buildup and even has a few tricks up its sleeve so freshen the story up. The special effects are more than well done but in an age where this is becoming easier and easier to accomplish, where The Amazing Spider-Man rises is in it having substantial amounts of heart.

Some parts of the story are left open as the movie ends, to be resolved in subsequent installments. Even the characters’ personalities are not developed until they’ve been turned dull, which makes The Amazing Spider-Man even more interesting to watch and to predict what might come next. It sure doesn’t hurt that the screenwriters are some of the best in the business such as Steve Kloves, the man who brought you Harry Potter. But this is what the original Spider-Man should have been about.

The Amazing Spider-Man is amazing, indeed. Welcome back spidey. You’ve been missed.

9/10

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X-Men: First Class – Movie Review

Ever since the first X-Men movie was released more than a decade ago, I was fascinated by the saga and the upcoming sequels did not deter me from still liking it.

X-Men: First Class is both literally and figuratively a return to basics. It is both the prologue to all X-Men movies that were released before it and it is also a return to form of a series that kinda lost its way with trying to build too much history and subplot.

Erik Lehnsherr is a teenage boy, imprisoned in German Nazi concentration camps. When Dr. Schmidt sees him move a metal gate as his parents are taken away from him, he summons Erik and asks him to move a metal coin. Erik fails, with devastating consequences that lead to great anger, launching Erik’s powers of controlling metal and killing two guards on the spot.

Fast forward twenty years and Erik (Michael Fassbender) is on a mission to find Dr. Schmidt and kill him in revenge. On the other hand, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is seeking a PhD in Genetics with his research about the upcoming mutations in the human species. Charles, along with shape-shifter Raven (later known as Mystique and played by the awesome Jennifer Lawrence *insert fanboy hearts*) are trying to find other people of their kind and help them accept their condition. That’s when they are recruited by the CIA in order to prevent a nuclear war between the US and Russia, a war that is spearheaded by the present form of Dr. Schmidt, Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), a mutant whose power is deadly and his group of mutants who will do their best to bring destruction.

James McAvoy, as young Dr. Charles Xavier, is in a role he was born to play. I couldn’t imagine a better actor in this role simply because McAvoy embodies the serenity that Xavier has in the previous movies, set in the future compared to this one, perfectly. He is wise, calm and intelligent, exactly as the future Dr. X is.

On the other hand, Fassbender is as great in portraying Erik, later known as Magneto. He sets the tone for the character we all know later on amazingly well: the many layers that shape this man and his beliefs. And he does so perfectly.

Jennifer Lawrence, who portrays a younger Mystique, is absolutely stunning both literally and figuratively in that portrayal. Mystique (or as she is known in this movie: Raven) controls her powers really well. But her weakness is acceptance. She hates her blue-scaled look and seeks out a much more “acceptable” form as a human. Her path in the movie is first and foremost one towards self-acceptance, with which she will also help Henry McCoy (later known as Beast) to accept his mutation as well.

X-Men: First Class is fueled by the directing chops of Matthew Vaughn, whose latest offering was Kick Ass, a very interesting movie if you haven’t seen it. And you need to give lots of props to this director for taking what was, according to many (I still enjoyed the movies), a sagging franchise and breathed new life into it by reinvigorating its past and reminding everyone how it all started.

Why is it that Dr. Xavier is paralyzed? How did Magneto get that weird helmet he wears to prevent Dr. X from accessing his mind? How did the term X-Men originate? How did both sides of the battle (call them good and evil) originate? X-Men: First Class answers all these questions and more. It is a movie that doesn’t pretend to be something it isn’t. X-Men has always been a saga about the fine line between good and evil and how that line gets blurred often. This one is no different. You feel that both sides of the equation have things going for them. It doesn’t show one side in a good light and the other in a bad light. Both have strong and true convictions. You get to choose the side you want to be on.

2011 is shaping up to be a great movie for superhero movies. After the highly entertaining Thor (my review), X-Men: First Class steps it up. And with more superhero movies to come, it will take a mighty effort for them to overtake the caliber that this movie presents. Go watch it now. You will be absorbed for over two hours. Your move, Captain America.

Fast Five – Movie Review

Fast Five is the latest installment in the Fast and Furious movie franchise. It stars regulars of the past four movies: Vin Diezel as Dom, Paul Walker as Brian O’Conner as well as introducing Dwayne Johnson as Luke Hobbs, a DSS agent, specialized in finding wanted criminals.

Former FBI agent Brian O’Conner, along with Mia, Dom’s sister, help Dom escape a 25 year prison sentence while being taken to jail on a prison bus. They split up and agree to meet in Rio De Janeiro. However, Mia and Brian run low on cash and agree on doing a job for their friend. The job turns out much complicated than expected, however. The train on which the cars are found are seized property by DEA agents. And among the three cars to be taken, there’s only one in which those running the operation have special interest. Why? because it contains information about the location of $100 million, drug money, that Dom and co decide to steal and use to buy their freedom. But the money belongs to the most corrupt man in Rio and they’re being haunted by Luke Hobbs.

The fact that this movie is meant to entertain more than garner awards does not excuse the horrible performances you have to bear with for about two hours. There’s a sheer amount of melodrama in the way the actors react to what they have to do that is just mind blowing. At some points, you can’t but sit and look at the screen and go: “are they kidding me?”

Moreover, the script, especially most of the dialogue, is garbage material. I cannot conceive how the actors actually agreed on uttering some of the lines that were said. Some of those include: “I like my dessert first” when asked if they wanted good news or bad news first, followed by “now give me the vegetables”, among other lines spread throughout the movie that are completely ridiculous.

And even though you’re expecting to go into a movie with lots of cars, don’t be too disappointed when you see little car action sequences. At one point, they basically set up a race and jumped into the next scene with the race already done. There is an emphasis on the “furious” part though. The characters are almost angry all the time.

The final sequence of the movie, however, was well done. Even though it defied every law of physics that I know, it was still an enjoyable watch. And the overall resolution is quite smart, even though you might have seen it coming.

Overall, the movie should have been more accurately titled “Furious Five” but I guess that would have gotten some people confused with Kung Fu Panda. Why? because the amount of anger in the movie is unbelievable and always over the top. Although the cars and women that are featured are quite awesome, the movie fails. Why? simply because it’s too indulgent. The movie makers know this will be a hit financially and that’s all they cared about: deliver action sequences that keep a viewer entertained (hate them or like them, you cannot but watch action sequences) and that viewer would forget about all the other silly and ridiculous stuff. I’m not saying you won’t enjoy it, after all, it is a movie about cars and weapons and women, but it could have been done in a much, much better way. And watch out for The Godfather reference at the end.