“The Amazing Spiderman”
Yes, we know it’s only been 10 years since “Spider-Man” expertly told Peter Parker’s origin story. And we also know that the last sequel in the Tobey Maguire series was only five years ago. But if you’re going to try to fix something that isn’t broken, at least get the right crew for the job. Sony brought in aptly-named Marc Webb to direct – his anti-romantic comedy, “500 Days of Summer,” proves he’s not a hack. They enlist writer James Vanderbilt, who penned one of 2009’s best action films, “The Losers.” They hire the highly emotive Andrew Garfield to put on the red and blue tights and the too-adorable-not-to-love, Emma Stone, as his love interest. They reroute the storyline away from the Mary Jane Watson storyline and bring back Spidey’s comic book, high school sweetheart Gwen Stacy. Along with staple elements, they include Peter Parker’s parents and a classic villain. It’s a moody, coming-of-age film with awesome action and a familiar hero. And voila, Sony has spun out a new/old superhero franchise that’s worth a watch.
Filmed in dirty digital and it only gets more grimy from there. Director Oren Moverman returns from his highly emotional debut, “The Messenger,” and brought his new friends with him. Three of the actors from that movie – Woody Harrelson, Ben Foster and Steve Buscemi – can’t get enough of Moverman’s dark themes. This time it’s an unlikable, corrupt LAPD cop in 1999 – played, without looking back by Harrelson. And just for extra grit, the crime-writing novelist James Ellroy co-wrote the script with Moverman. No one writes the underside of Los Angeles like Ellroy and the content sticks on you, hammered home by Harrelson who’s in every scene of the film. Like every actor, Harrelson has made some missteps in his career, but this film proves he still has what it takes to play complex characters and deliver a great performance – worth a watch.
“Seeking a Friend for the End of the World”
What would you do if the world was ending in two weeks? This film is another story dealing with the human, emotional side of science fiction. There’s an asteroid heading for earth and the “Armageddon”-like rescue astronauts have failed…what happens next? Steve Carell steps in and mopes, of course, and we follow as he tries to make some meaning of his misdirected life – the hours tick and the world goes from insane to bat-shit crazy. Keira Knightley is the friend he makes along the way and she’s no stranger to this humanist-science-fiction – her “Never Let Me Go” role from 2010 dealt with clones coming to terms with their place in a society who treat them like second-class citizens. Knightley seems to have more fun here. Carell stays with his usual down-and-out character looking for redemption and the script has a nice mix of comedy with the end being nigh – worth a watch.
Derrick Bracey, for Weekly Surge