Sunday, July 22, 2012

In Memoriam of Aurora, Colorado

In deference to the tragic incident that occurred in Colorado last Friday which claimed the lives of 12 moviegoers and wounded 58 others, I have decided not to post a review of 'The Dark Knight Rises.'  My apologies to all, but I think this is understandable under the circumstances.  Life goes on, but sometimes it is good to take a step back in rememberance of those who have suffered from this senseless event.  Our deepest sympathies go to the families of the victims who enjoyed this great pastime.  Words simply cannot do justice to their loss.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Spiderman Redux

"Spiderman, Spiderman, does whatever a spider can."  Oh, and also set a record for the shortest period of time between 'reboots.'  When I heard last year that my favorite Marvel superhero is getting a reboot, my jaw dropped.  I mean, wasn't 'Spiderman 3' released only five years ago in 2007?  Has Hollywood no shame?!!!  Then I put it in perspective and considered the fact that only eight years separated 'Batman and Robin,' the godawful 4th and last installment of the previous Batman series (which saw no less than three actors playing the Dark Knight in Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and George Clooney) and the current one starring Christian Bale which started in 2005.  So why the hell not?  Like Batman for DC Comics, Spiderman is THE iconic superhero in the Marvel universe, and you can always count on Hollywood to green-light whatever would make them a shitload of money, right?  So sue them for having the gall to be the greedy capitalists that they are.

Being the Marvel fanboy that I am, I went to see 'The Amazing Spiderman' with the attitude that it's just more of what I wanted.  But knowing that this movie cannot escape the shadow of the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire version, I was expecting it to be something of a letdown.  And I am happy to report that it's not bad at all.  'The Amazing Spiderman' is a solid movie in its own right.  While there are elements of the story that are familiar to those of us who have seen the previous trilogy, this movie stands on its own and introduced new characters and layers to the world of Spiderman.

One of the things I liked more in this latest treatment than the previous one is Andrew Garfield, who fits my image of the Peter Parker I've read in comic books from my childhood far better than Tobey Maguire.  If the name sounded familiar, it's probably because you saw him in the movie 'The Social Network.'  Garfield was perfectly cast as Peter Parker, a bookish 'nerd' who's not really a nerd at all.  I know this sounds like a self-contradiction, but you have to be familiar with the Peter Parker portrayed in comic books to see what I mean.  His 'girlfriend' in the movie this time is not Mary Jane but Gwen Stacy, capably played by up-and-comer Emma Stone.  The relationship between Peter and his uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and aunt May (Sally Field) are also explored in greater emotional depth in this movie.  The obligatory villain in 'The Amazing Spiderman' is a comic book favorite of mine, the scientist-turned half-man-half-reptile called 'The Lizard.'  Nothing fancy here, folks, Stan Lee names them simply as they are.

The FX and action sequences are nothing to write home about and a little 'been there, done that,' but I am very forgiving and tolerant when it comes to the genre.  Given what came before not so long ago, this movie had big shoes to fill and a lot to measure up to.  And with this challenge, 'The Amazing Spiderman' didn't suck.  And that is all a fanboy can reasonably ask for.

7 out of 10


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Drop Dead Ted

'Ted' is the latest creation from the fertile but twisted imagination of Seth MacFarlane, whose subversive brand of nothing-is-sacred humor is all too familiar to legions of 'Family Guy' and 'American Dad' fans.  As we all know, the Teddy Bear can be one of the most treasured possessions of any little boy (or girl), and they often serve as the first friend with which--I mean, with whom--they form a close personal bond.  While kids often 'communicate' with their stuffed animals or rubber & plastic dolls, the premise of 'Ted' is that this teddy bear can actually talk (no shit!), and that he and his now 35-year old owner (played by 'Marky Mark' Wahlberg) are buds in their arrested adulthood.  From this preposterous premise, comedic tomfoolery ensues.

Imagine the cute Snuggles fabric softener bear with a potty mouth and you'll begin to get an idea of what 'Ted' is like.  Voiced by Seth MacFarlane himself, Ted sounds and acts just like Peter Griffin, the fat obnoxious patriarch of FOX's hit animated series 'Family Guy.'  Behaving in ways most unbecoming of teddy bears, I may never look at teddy bears the same way again thanks to Ted.  You see, Ted is a foul-mouthed, bong-smoking, whoremongering, owner-abusing sexist pig (um, bear) of the highest order.  But damn it, 'Ted' is also unapologetically and at times hysterically funny, sprinkled throughout with MacFarlane's trademark irreverent and self-deprecating humor with numerous references to popular geek-chic culture.  While 'Family Guy' gave us Star Wars parodies, 'Ted' paid homage to that '80's classic of sci-fi camp, 'Flash Gordon.'  Cue 'Queen' music please.

'Ted' is an unlikely 'odd couple' comedy, in the tradition of such movies as 'Down and Out in Beverly Hills,' 'Planes, Trains and Automobiles,' and more recent examples like 'Dinner with Schmucks' and 'Due Date.'  The story is a familiar one.  There's the more-or-less normal but down-on-his-luck joe, in this case Mark Wahlberg's manchild John Bennett.  Then there's the obnoxious person who makes his life a living hell, in this case a cute cuddly teddy bear who becomes less cute and cuddly every time he opens his mouth or does something offensive.  While John is trying to 'grow up,' become more responsible and lead a 'normal' life with his gorgeous and successful girlfriend Lori, played by That 70's Show's Mila Kunis (who's also a regular voice in 'Family Guy'), Ted somehow always manages to muck things up.  But in the end, things invariably smooth over because Ted is a lovable teddy bear with a big heart, even if he lacked the essential body part required to perform certain unmentionable acts implied in the movie.

One thing I like about movies are cameos, and in 'Ted' there are aplenty.  There's 'Flash Gordon' himself, Sam Jones, of course.  Tom Skerritt appeared in photos and at a wedding.  'Green Lantern' Ryan Reynolds is the gay partner of one of Bennett's coworkers, played by Patrick Warburton of 'Seinfeld,' 'Rules of Engagement' and 'The Tick.'  Though not a cameo per se, Giovanni Ribisi was perfectly cast as a creepy psycho teddy bear stalker who dances to the music of '80's teen icon Tiffany.  The pleasant surprise cameo award, though, has to go to jazz and blues crooner Norah Jones, who looks and sounds as fabulous as she did 10 years ago when she won over my heart with her wonderfully wistful debut album 'Come Away with Me.'  You picked a good one to duet with, Seth.  While 'Ted' isn't quite perfect, it mined enough comic gold to earn an:

8 out of 10