The Amazing Spider-Man

With the surprise additions of Little Miss who decided to extend her “world’s latest bedtime” record until after 11pm, we opted for cheap-o-vision rather an IMAX to see the umpteenth version of the Webbed Wonder. Astoundingly, there were more 2D than 3D performances at the local Cineworld so we didn’t have a problem getting tickets.

The Amazing Spider-Man

“You seriously think I’m a cop in a skintight red and blue suit?”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Seriously? OK… boy gets bitten by spider, gets spider powers, faces big nasty bad guy. Happy?

See it if you like: Comic book adaptations with a very strong story, which don’t stay as close to the version you’re used to as you may expect

First things first – did they deliberately hunt out a director called Marc Webb purely for this film or did he change his name for publicity reasons? Either way, he’s done a good job and even turned a doubting Thomas like me into a believer. I simply couldn’t believe they were “rebooting” a franchise that was barely ten years old, with the last instalment not even five years ago.

Reboot they did, though, and relative unknown Andrew Garfield was cast in the Peter Parker role. A part, incidentally, he’s very good in. He has all of the confused teenagery-ness that Maguire had… and then some. Parker’s “proper” girlfriend as per the older comic history, Gwen Stacey, is drafted back in in the form of Emma Stone. Pretty, yes, but definitely doesn’t pass for a high school pupil. At all. Denis Leary is superb as her dad, Captain Stacey, and it’s great to see him in a film role for the first time in ages (not counting voicing animated sabre-toothed tigers).

There are many other differences between this and the last series, which is a good thing. I really enjoyed the previous trilogy, and it’s a welcome thing to see that they’re not effectively being remade. The basic story is still there (MINOR SPOILER: orphan who lives with aunt and uncle is bitten by spider, develops powers, has fight with uncle, uncle dies, boy tries to hunt down killer) but beyond that we’re in fairly new territory.

Despite appearing in the previous films, Dr Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) never actually featured as a villain. In this, he’s the central one and a great character with two very interesting sides to his story. There are many nods to other parts of Spidey-history that fans may be familiar with, but they are really just on the periphery – The Bugle, OsCorp and so on.

Oh, and of course the obligatory (in fact, I believe contractual) Stan Lee cameo. This is the best one he’s done so far. Even better than that from Thor (which was, let’s face it, the only good bit in that film).

If there’s a problem with the film it’s that it’s a bit too drawn out and slow to get going. Gillian and I felt it, but it didn’t bother us too much. Little Miss, on the other hand, definitely needed the action to kick in a little earlier. At 137 minutes long, it’s a long time to wait to see some ass-whupping. Having said that, once it gets going the action sequences are superb. Not too fast, while still being clear and imaginative. Much use was made of acrobats and actors rather than CGI and it shows in the character movement making them all the more realistic and enjoyable to watch.

Would this have been worth the extra cash to see in 3D at the IMAX? Yes, I think it would. There are enough huge scenes that I think it would benefit. However, there’s nothing wrong with seeing it in good old-fashioned 2D.

A cracking film, and a good take on what’s becoming a very familiar story.

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Ice Age 4

Time to take the kids to the cinema for a change, and with the holidays here (or “coming soon” if you’re south of the border) we’ll shortly be inundated with choice. Right now the big release is:

Ice Age 4: Continental Drift

“Holy crab!”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: as the earth starts to reshape itself, Manny and his crew become separated from the herd

See it if you like: the other films in the series

And the ongoing saga of the mammoth, sloth and sabre-tooth continues in this fourth instalment. After a disappointing and mawkish sequel, things perked up with the third film. So how does episode four match up?

The first point to note is that it held Little Mister’s attention for pretty much the entire duration. This is a Good Thing. Even around the hour mark when he informed me that he needed to go to the toilet, I had to walk him out backwards so that he could keep watching the screen until we got through the doors! Little Miss seemed to enjoy it, too.

Like more animations these days, the story and humour are on several levels and IA4 does manage to appeal across the board. The animation is bold and impressive. The geek in me is still impressed with realistic hair (Manny’s daughter Peaches is the great example of this) and the movement of the characters is a joy to watch.

Thankfully there’s only one song in the movie with the exception of the awful mess in the end credits, so the story doesn’t really slow down too much. Of course, being a kids’ film there’s a lot of focus on not being mean to people, family being important and all that. Getting past that, though, there’s enough other stuff going on to distract adults from the forced moral issues.

Star of the series, if course, is Scrat the squirrel-like creature in constant search of the perfect acorn. He doesn’t disappoint during his sequences here and – as ever – is by far and away the highlight.

Oh, as a bonus there’s a Maggie Simpson short before the main feature that is well worth catching. With no speech at all, it’s a bit of a novelty as far as Simpsons episodes go, but it’s cute and clever at the same time.

I’m sure Ice Age 4 will be decreed as “unsuitable” by the more extreme Christian web pages as it deals with evolution and continental separation. From the point of view of a non-idiot, it’s a fun film for kids with enough going on to keep their accompanying parent-folk happy.

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