Film Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

When The Amazing Spider-Man 2 works, it works well. When it doesn’t, however, the film disappoints.

Peter Parker is enjoying his role as Spider-Man, although the impact this has on his relationship with girlfriend Gwen Stacey is taking its toll. As Peter hopes to find out more about his parents, he has new antagonists to contend with…

With The Amazing Spider-Man 2, director Marc Webb attempts to blend a journey of discovery with a cartoonish comic book romp. There are parts of both aspects that are effective, but as an overall product the film is a letdown.

The narrative and pacing are a bit of a mess. The main focus of the plot appears to be Peter’s desire to discover more about his father, yet this is picked up and dropped without much thought throughout the film. The forward and back relationship with Gwen is highly reminiscent of the first franchise’s dynamic with Mary Jane. Nevertheless, there are some lovely scenes between Peter and Gwen.

Antagonists in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 are less well developed. The motivations attributed to these characters are dubious at best. There seems to be no genuine reason for a lot of what happens in the film. Given the genre, viewers will expect to suspend disbelief for the more fantastic elements of the movie. However, the antagonists here are given the flimsiest reason to carry out their actions.

This is what makes the film cartoonish. This is further compounded with the heavy use of CGI. Although the effects are good, it is inescapable that the images are computer-generated rather than live action. Camera work in the aerial shots are great, but a showdown between Spider-Man and Electro is pretty much all CGI.

Visuals are strong overall, and the soundtrack is superb. Chemistry between Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker and Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacey is a highlight of the film. Elsewhere, Dane DeHaan is not used effectively as Harry Osborn, while Jamie Foxx exhibits a limited range.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has some strong points, but the issues with its narrative are insurmountable. Hopefully the third instalment will be stronger in this respect.

Film Review: G.B.F.

G.B.F.

Director Darren Stein’s satire G.B.F. is certainly entertaining viewing. Nevertheless, sharper wit and more subtlety in the messaging would have made G.B.F. a more satisfying film.

Quiet and unassuming student Tanner is unwittingly outed at his high school. To his surprise, he is suddenly sought after by the three queens of the high school cliques. But his new-found popularity has an impact on old friendships…

Darren Stein effectively satirises the concept of the gay best friend as a must-have accessory to females. G.B.F. combines the frivolity of a high school comedy with a slightly more important message. There are amusing lines throughout, and a moral that appears genuine.

G.B.F. does falter however, in spite of its merits. A sharper wit would have been welcome in this satire. Furthermore, the admirable message that is pushed by the film is delivered in a brash manner. A degree of subtlety here would have worked wonders.

There are plenty of pop culture references here that will amuse tuned-in viewers. The influence of iconic teen movies is abundantly clear, although G.B.F. is a better film for acknowledging these in its own way.  The film presents stereotypical characters of this genre and subverts some of them, in-keeping with the nature of the satire. G.B.F. delivers a narrative that is rather predictable. Thankfully, this does not diminish overall enjoyment.

Art direction in G.B.F. exhibits good attention to detail. Likewise, costumes are an important feature. Michael J. Willett and Sasha Pieterse are decent as Tanner and Fawcett. Paul Iacono shows good comedy chops as Brent, delivering most of the films best lines. Megan Mullally amuses in a small role, although there are distinct elements of her most famous character.

G.B.F. is frivolous teen movie fun. Although it is unlikely to be considered a classic, the film does a good job of entertaining its viewers.

G.B.F. is out from Peccadillo Pictures on UK exclusive Blu-ray and DVD. It can be ordered from Amazon and Play.

Film Review: Half of a Yellow Sun

Half of a Yellow Sun

Based on the best-selling novel, Biyi Bandele’s Half of a Yellow Sun is set against a rich historical background. The events of the narrative, however, do not quite match the seriousness of the setting.

Twin sisters Olanna and Kainene are the daughters of  a high ranking Nigerian government official. On the eve of independence, the pair decide to forge their own paths away from the comfort of their parents’ home. The tensions in Nigeria, however, greatly impact their choices…

Bandele’s adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun is a curious piece. From the very beginning, the film is situation within a genuine historical context. The archive footage is effective at setting the scene. However, the tone of the action and the plot twists mark a departure from this meaty setting.

Simply put, Half of a Yellow Sun is a melodrama. Some of the incidents that occur would not seem out of place in a television soap opera. As a result, the plot is farcical at times. In the second half of the film, the story takes a more serious turn as the political instability comes further into play. This feels at odds with some of the relationship developments that occur; having a jarring effect of attempting to set a sombre tone when what has come before is rather vacuous. Writer-director Bandele does not marry these distinct aspects smoothly enough.

Frequently during Half of a Yellow Sun, the protagonists are embroiled in real events that occurred in Nigeria in the 1960s. The use of archive news reels and maps of the region emphasise unrest at this time. It is a little strange, however, how the film appears to suggest that its protagonists were real with the end titles.

Thandie Newton is almost applaudingly over the top as Olanna. Newton really buys into the melodrama of the plot. Chiwetel Ejiofor is more restrained as the politically active professor.

Half of a Yellow Sun is mostly certainly watchable, yet does not satisfy in a way that audiences may want.

Film Review: Pioneer

Pioneer

Erik Skjoldbjærg’s mystery thriller Pioneer has a strong start, but falters in the second half of the film. Pioneer certainly stretches the ‘based on true events’ inscription.

With Norway keen to capitalise on the oil beneath their waters, the help of the Americans is enlisted to excavate the precious resource. A small team is sent on a deep sea dive, but when tragedy strikes it is up to one of the divers to uncover the truth…

Pioneer is based around real events that occurred in the 1980s when oil was discovered in the North Sea. Viewers will realise, however, to take this tag of realism with a healthy dose of skepticism as the film twists and turns.

There is a level of intrigue to the plot that keeps viewers engaged. The effects of decompression and the conditions of the divers is emphasised effectively in order for the audience to question the events following the accident, for a certain time at least.

Pioneer‘s story is plausible enough to begin with. The action unfolds in a way which does not contradict the film’s true events credentials. As the narrative progresses, incidents increasingly surprise with their implausibility. The lack of authority involvement, for example, when things take a dangerous turn is never explained.

The ending of the film feels protracted. A natural and more climactic ending should have occurred about twenty minutes earlier than the actual ending. When the climax arrives, theatrics appear over blown. Whilst the titles before the end credits fill in some of detail of what happened next on a wider scale, this once again reinforces the true events tag. In which case, the lack of repercussions for such a notable incident seems bizarre.

Cinematography in Pioneer is good. The camera work effectively conveys the claustrophobia of the unusual setting. Colour and composition work well in the diving sequences. Performances in the film are decent, with Aksel Hennie offering a solid portrayal as Petter.

Pioneer is disappointing for the fact that the initial set up could have delivered a compelling thriller, instead of one that makes viewers question its plausibility.

Extended Godzilla Trailer: First Thoughts

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The extended Godzilla trailer was released yesterday, and it looks pretty amazing. Here are some initial thoughts after viewing the it. Trailer-related spoilers ahead…

Is Godzilla part of a Government cover-up?

The thoughts of Bryan Cranston’s character, indicate that this might be the case. The size of the creature, however suggest a cover up would be tricky to manoeuvre.

Will the film have more depth than other disaster movie blockbusters?

The beginning of this Godzilla trailer, with the focus on Bryan Cranston’s character, suggests more emotion than the average disaster/monster movie blockbuster. Sadness makes way to anger, with Cranston convincing even in these brief segments. After his successful run as Walter White in Breaking Bad, Cranston is a smart casting choice to give this version of Godzilla a dramatic edge.

Are there other creatures in the Godzilla trailer?

On close inspection, Godzilla does not appear to be the only creature in Gareth Edwards’ film. Does Godzilla have henchmen? Or does he have enemies?

What happens to that dog?

Seriously, things do not look good for the dog running from the tsunami. Does it survive? Does it face off to Godzilla and live to tell the tale?

Godzilla is released in UK cinemas on 15th May 2014.

Stuff To Look At

Apes! Turtles! Sheep! And, erm, Godzilla! Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Godzilla, Lucy and more besides feature this week…

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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Here is the latest TV spot for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. No wonder the apes took over the Earth, given their superlative horse-riding skills. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes hits UK screens on 17th July 2014.

Godzilla

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Here is Godzilla director Gareth Edwards discussing his career and working on the upcoming blockbuster. You can view the Godzilla trailer here. I was sort of hoping that it would feature Puff Daddy’s ‘Come With Me’ for old times sake. Nevertheless, I can’t wait to see Godzilla smash up and eat everything. Godzilla is released in UK cinemas on 15th May 2014.

Lucy

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Lucy is the new sci-fi thriller from Luc Besson. The trailer suggests the film transcends from horror to Limitless-style thriller to something like a superhero movie. Starring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman, Lucy is set for release on 22nd August 2014.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

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In this incarnation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the protagonists were created to be heroes for New York apparently. Like many, my knowledge of the franchise springs from the popular television cartoon of the late 1980s. So I am really hoping Krang features. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will be released in UK cinemas on 17th October 2014.

Shaun the Sheep the Movie

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Here is the teaser trailer for Shaun the Sheep the Movie, which features the Aardman character in his big screen debut. The teaser reveals little about the plot, but the humour seems to be in the style that Wallace and Gromit fans will have been accustomed to. Shaun the Sheep the Movie is scheduled for release in Spring 2015.

Into The Storm

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Into The Storm looks pretty nightmarish from this teaser trailer. Why are planes flying during a catastrophic storm? That doesn’t seem like a sound idea. Into The Storm hits UK screens on 22nd August 2014.

The Other Woman

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Here is a new clip from the upcoming comedy The Other Woman. The clip perfectly illustrates the reason Kate Upton is starring in the film. Featuring Cameron Diaz and Leslie Mann, The Other Woman is out in UK cinemas on 23rd April 2014.

Film Review: Noah

Noah

Darren Aronofsky’s Noah is an aesthetically pleasing film, that works on a certain level. Overall, hover, it is not fully satisfying.

When he receives apocalyptic visions from The Creator, Noah knows he must act. With the help of his family, Noah begins on a quest to rescue the world’s animals before the floods come…

The idea of director Darren Aronofsky helming a biblical epic is a fascinating concept. From the trailers and clips, it was not clear whether Aronofsky would deliver a traditional retelling of the tale, or offer something more complex. The finished article falls somewhere between the two.

Noah seems to be reaching for something profound, but it never quite gets there. There is a great emphasis on Noah’s struggle, which works to a certain extent. It can be difficult to identify with a protagonist in a situation so far removed from any sense of reality. The film would perhaps have benefitted from subtle shadings in the character earlier on to make the later struggle as weighty as it could be.

The story feels padded out at times, as is necessary to fill the run time and embellish the biblical tale. Some of these aspects do not gel with the story that most will be familiar with. Although the film never claims to be realistic, it would have been nice to have a few of the elements explained.

Noah‘s commentary on humanity and choice is the most fascinating aspect of the film. There is certainly an allegorical element that most will recognise. It would have been more satisfying for Aronofsky to explore these themes further.

The cinematography in Noah is excellent. The time-lapse sequences in particular are superb. Special effects are great, and the sound is also an effective accompaniment. Russell Crowe delivers a competent performance in the title role. Jennifer Connelly is not given too much to do, while Emma Watson is decent. Ray Winstone is well cast as Tubal-cain.

As a cinematic retelling of the biblical tale, Noah is certainly successful. Those hoping that Aronofsky would weave through some innovation or variance, or that it would be provocative, may be disappointed with the end product.

Film Review: Honour

Honour

Shan Khan’s Honour has a promising start, which makes way for an ill thought-out middle section and a risible conclusion.

Young Muslim Mona is targeted by her family after she plans to run away with her non-Muslim boyfriend. When matters get out of hand, the family enlist the services of a bounty hunter…

The subject of honour killings is an interesting one to tackle. It is a contemporary issue that has evaded the cinematic glare. Honour begins well enough. The initial set up grabs the audience’s attention as it is unclear where the film will go from there. The non-linear structure of Honour makes the timeline unclear, and offers a number of outcomes as a result.

With a fairly strong start, Honour could have built on this and offered a competent and socially aware thriller. However, writer-director Shan Khan eschews more plausible routes to take the film into the realms of the unconvincing. It is a shame, as the beginning of the film showed suitable potential.

Exactly what the film hoped to achieve is intangible. Given the subject area, it is suggestible that Khan should have dealt with it with a sense of brevity. Honour could have been a meaty investigative drama, but instead chooses a less believable chain of events. Paddy Considine’s character is unconvincing in his transformation. Meanwhile, there seems to be a number of more plausible routes that Mona would have taken given the dilemma of her situation. The final line in the film is truly terrible, given the weight it is supposed to carry.

Paddy Considine delivers a suitable enough performance, but his range deserves more than what he is given to work with. Aiysha Hart is also adequate, with none of the cast really shining in this production.

The serious facts before the end credits belie the fact that Honour is an overreaching thriller that misses its opportunity.

Muppets Most Wanted Press Conference

MUPPETS MOST WANTED UK PRESS CONFERENCE

Kermit, Miss Piggy and Constantine (as well as Ricky Gervais and director James Bobin) were in London to talk about The Muppets sequel Muppets Most Wanted. Here are some of the highlights…

On Kermit’s role in Muppets Most Wanted

Kermit: I think of myself as getting to do a little bit of an action role in this, it’s something I haven’t done before. In order to prepare for that role I watched all of Bruce Willis’ movies, and when that didn’t work I just went to his hairdresser.

On Ricky Gervais landing a role in the film

Ricky Gervais: It’s not a job, is it? This is like fun. I’m a big kid and I can’t believe my luck. I’ve been a fan of the Muppets for thirty years, I used to watch them on Sundays with my family. So yeah, this was a good call to get. I didn’t know this guy[Constantine] before, but now he’s one of my best pals.

Constantine: Yes. We are buddies. You will give me your email address right? I keep asking for it, but he does not give it. How are we supposed to stay in touch?

Ricky Gervais: I think about him a lot. And I say to my girlfriend: “I wonder where Constantine is today?”. Usually in a bag.

Constantine: This is correct.

MUPPETS MOST WANTED UK PRESS CONFERENCE

On Constantine being the bad guy

Constantine: There is part of me that kind of enjoys being the bad guy, and enjoys being hated. I was written that way, so what can I say?

Kermit: We don’t hate him. It’s just a story of the movie. He’s actually an old pal from the swamp. Ricky’s he’s best friend now, he’s a good guy.

Ricky Gervais: In the movie he’s evil. But I think doing this movie and meeting me has thawed his little heart of stone. SHowing him love has made him quite a cuddly little thing.

On the cameos in Muppets Most Wanted

James Bobin: Largely we write those roles in the script, and often we write the name of the particular person. What we find is because there is a great love for the Muppets, the people we ask tend to say yes. Which is really rare.

On Miss Piggy’s beauty

Miss Piggy: I’m so distracting, I’m distracting here at the press conference. They can’t take their eyes off me.

Ricky Gervais: You had to pretend to love her in the movie, didn’t you?

Constantine: Yes. It was my best acting.

Ricky Gervais: She’s a bigger diva [than the actresses he has worked with], and she won’t mind me saying that because she is sort of proud of it.

Miss Piggy: Mmm, it’s a compliment.

On childhood idols

Kermit: For me it was probably Walter Brennan. A great American actor. Nobody has a clue who I’m talking about, do they? I don’t know, I was inspired by so many people. I had great grandparents, old frogs. Old frogs are great inspirations.

Constantine: There is a great safecracker named Thomas Demato, there is an explosives expert, Tommy ‘The Toenail’ Lewis, Al Pacino in The Godfather Part III

MUPPETS MOST WANTED UK PRESS CONFERENCE

On filming Muppets Most Wanted in the Tower of London

James Bobin: Famously you’re not allowed to film there pretty much ever. And they have turned down everyone who has asked before, but somehow when you have the Muppets with you and you ask for favours, people tend to change their minds.

On deleted scenes

Ricky Gervais: They filmed about four hours of this that they had to cut down.

James Bobin: We had a lot of material in that film.

Kermit: The great thing about James is he tells you that before you shoot the scene.

Muppets Most Wanted is released in UK cinemas on 28th March 2014.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Press Conference

Captain America: The Winter Soldier UK Press Conference

Last week the directors and stars of Captain America: The Winter Solider were in London to promote the film. Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, and directors Anthony and Joe Russo were on good form for the film’s London press conference. Here are some of the highlights…

On what Steve Rogers should catch up on

Anthony Russo: I would recommend he check out Captain America: The Winter Solider!

Joe Russo: Four words. Fifty Shades of Grey.

Scarlett Johansson: Umm, cakepops!

Samuel L. Jackson: Red 2

Sebastian Stan: The Godfather for sure, right? And maybe cronuts.

Anthony Mackie: Any Eddie Murphy movie before The Golden Child.

On putting other characters they have played into the Marvel world

Chris Evans: Oh my movies are terrible, I don’t want to do this!

Samuel L. Jackson: I’d put Mitch Henessey from The Long Kiss Goodnight into the Marvel universe.

Scarlett Johansson: If I could do the voice from Her that would avoid the early morning gym hours so I’m going to choose that one!

Sebastian Stan: Looking at my brilliant filmography outside of the Captain America movies, I’m not even going to speak right now…

Anthony Mackie: I would say Nate Ruffin from We Are Marshall because he was such a cool, hip cat.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier UK Press Conference

On Captain America: The Winter Soldier deleted scenes

Samuel L. Jackson: As usual Nick is always trying to be three steps ahead. All of a sudden when he finds out that he’s been used it becomes incumbent on him to find out why, and use all the tools he has at his disposal to make that happen. And, as usual, part of it has to do with subterfuge and diversion, even down to fooling and his most trusted compatriot. We actually shot a scene that where that’s explained but I’ve been told it slows the film down in a significant way, and they didn’t want to slow it down. But, when you get the DVD and you click on my face there’s a hidden feature that will allow you to access that scene!

Joe Russo: I think there are about six or seven minutes of deleted scenes.

On stunts and injuries

Chris Evans: Doing stunt work, it’s physical stuff and even when you block a punch, that punch lands somewhere. Any fight with Frank Grillo – he doesn’t know how to pull his punches!

Anthony Mackie: Yeah, we were hitting each other for real.

Chris Evans: If you don’t block Frank Grillo’s punch, you’re going to get knocked out. He’s a boxer, he doesn’t know anything but 100%.

Anthony Mackie: No, that’s because he is a mean person.

Scarlett Johansson: Frank Grillo beat the shit out of me! I like to be able to do as much of the stunt work as possible. As capable and amazing as the stunt team are, I would rather do some of it and have some battle wounds.

Samuel L. Jackson: I used my stuntman extensively. I have no issues with him being hurt, that’s what he’s paid to do, and he loves it, he’s from a stunt family. His father was a stuntman, all his brothers are stuntmen. Before they could eat breakfast in the morning their father kicked them down the stairs or made them jump out of a window to come downstairs to get their breakfast. I used Kiante [Elam] more than… my god, he works more than I do sometimes.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier UK Press Conference

On musical talents

Anthony Mackie: I deal with the trumpet a little bit; growing up in New Orleans you have to learn an instrument. I’m nice on the spoons, I can do a funky beat, you know, slip some turntables…

Samuel L. Jackson: So in other words, no!

On Sebastian Stan’s nine-picture Marvel contract

Anthony Mackie: Damn kid!

Samuel L. Jackson: That’s what happened to the rest of my deal!

Sebastian Stan: I have no idea [what will happen with the character]. I’m still trying to realise that I’m sitting up here with these guys. Wherever [Anthony and Joe Russo] want to take the stories, that’s where I’m going.

Anthony Russo: We were going to use this press conference to announce than Anthony Mackie will no longer be with us. Falcon was a one-off!

Captain America: The Winter Soldier UK Press Conference

On Captain America 3 going head to head with Superman vs. Batman

Anthony Russo: When two cars are speeding at each other, one of them has to veer out of the way at some point.

Anthony Mackie: Hell yeah! Put it out there, baby! Tell them, tell them!

Anthony Russo: I think Marvel announced that date originally. Marvel was trading off that May date for a long time, and I think when Warner Brothers decided to move that film they moved it to the May date. I can see why Kevin [Feige] wasn’t moving from that date.

Anthony Mackie: Boom. Deal with that!

Chris Evans: All we can do is focus on making the best movie that we can make. Depending on how it gets releases, well there are other forces at work.

Anthony Mackie: In other words, punks step up to get beat down. Know about that!

Samuel L. Jackson: There’s Marvel where you have heroes, and DC where you have interesting bad guys.

On their heroes

Chris Evans: My parents.

Scarlett Johansson: David Bowie!

Samuel L. Jackson: The young people who put their lives on the line for us.

Sebastian Stan: My mum definitely, and I guess probably Jim Carrey.

Anthony Mackie: My two brothers.

Joe Russo: I can’t decide whether it’s Superman or Batman.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is released in UK cinemas on 26th March 2014.