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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Mr Nice / The Social Network

Just for a change, I headed into the Glasgow city centre Cineworld as I had most of Sunday to kill before Bowling For Soup came on stage.

By some bizarre coincidence, both films I saw today were “true stories” based on biographies.

Mr. Nice

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Smart Welsh boy goes to Oxford, figures out that dealing drugs is far more profitable than teaching and ends up living the life of crime.

I’ve seen the book Mr. Nice kicking around so much recently, mainly in hostels. It seems that pretty much every 20-something thinks Howards Marks was the coolest guy ever because he sold shitloads of dope and stood up for the whole “it’s a silly law so it doesn’t count” school of thought.

Either way, the story is well known. I even vaguely remember bits of it from when I was a kid and the story appearing on the news – but I won’t go into detail for those of you who are trying to avoid any spoilers!

It’s a good story, too, although given it’s based on Marks’ own viewpoint it’s obvious that there may be a little bit of embellishment somewhere along the lines. Rhys Ifans is perfectly cast and bears more than just a passing resemblance to Marks himself.

From his early beginnings as the school nerd right up to the current day, Marks is played by Ifans. It seems a bit unusual putting him into a school uniform, but it works given that those early years are just brushed over in about ten minutes.

Marks ran the rocky road from college boy to kingpin, dealt with the IRA, arms suppliers, and MI6. Regardless of your moral views on what he did, he led one hell of an interesting life. Shoehorned into 120 minutes, it never gets a chance to get boring.

The Social Network

“The internet’s not written in pencil, Mark. It’s written in ink.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Harvard Freshman comes up with an idea for a website (or steals it) called “The Facebook“. Legal action ensues.

What happens when you mix the verbal genius of The West Wing with the world of computer geekery? The answer is contained in this two-hour internet-driven legal office drama.

In short – Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) is a freshman at Harvard, one of the US “Ivy League” universities. That is, all the “best” students go there. Zuckerberg is, shall we say, a little socially awkward. He has a couple of friends, an immense intellect and really can’t handle other people at all. The view we get in the film is that he finds them of little consequence, perhaps not worthy of his time. Eisenberg plays this part perfectly.

After crashing the school’s network as part of a revenge plot against a recent girlfriend who just dumped him, he is invited to help program a website by two brothers and their business partner. He agrees, but instead spends his time on “The Facebook”. It may have escaped your attention, but the resulting website is slightly popular and was recently valued at around $25 billion.

Needless to say, as soon as money of those amounts is bandied around, people get lawyers involved.

The film is roughly split into three parts, all of which play over each other as the viewpoint jumps around. There are two legal cases plus the back story upon which they are both based. This can make it a little hard to follow in places, but not too much so.

Even if you don’t have an interest in the internet and computers, if you remotely enjoyed The West Wing for its dialogue – and let’s face it, that was a thing of utter beauty – you’ll love this film. Aaron Sorkin‘s work on the script shines as brightly as it did for 154 episodes of the TV show and there’s barely a minute or two without some gem or other being uttered.

The Social Network is a clever, witty, fast-paced legal drama which is hugely enjoyable. If David Fincher ever needed to redeem himself for Alien3, this wipes the slate clean. You know, just in case Se7en, Fight Club and Zodiac don’t prove that the studio execs who kicked him off the third Alien film didn’t have a clue what they were doing.

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Angels, artists, adultery and (secret) agents

From Paris with Love (film)
From Paris with Love

A busy day at the cinema today as I played catchup on some films. Four in all – Legion, Exit Through the Gift Shop, Chloe and From Paris With Love. Three more tomorrow if I can fit them all in, too.


“Don’t be afraid. I just want to play with the baby.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: God’s a bit bored with humanity so decides to wipe it out – but one angel stands in his way.

Legion is fine a simple B-movie kind of way. Paul Bettany is about as far away from his verbose Chaucer (A Knight’s Tale) as could be while still managing to be cool and rather scary as a fallen Michael.

The entire film, near as dammit, takes place in a diner in the middle of nowhere where a pregnant woman holds the fate of humanity in her womb. Why, we don’t know. Just that if her child survives then God is a bit screwed in his attempts to wipe our humanity.

Actually, virtually nothing is made clear over the length of the film. If God sent a flood the last time he got pissed off, why is he sticking to vulnerable possessed human bodies this time?

Basically, the whole film makes about as much sense as the British legal system. Luckily it manages to be slightly more entertaining. Not bad if you switch your brain into neutral.

Exit Through the Gift Shop

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Mad video cameraman becomes mad artist

Rhys Ifans narrates this rather unusual documentary about a documentary about street art. The central character is one Thierry Guetta – who goes on to become Mr Brainwash, an artist who takes his inspiration from street art and makes a mint. He did the cover art for Madonna’s Great Hits a couple of years ago, doncha know.

Guetta begins as a compulsive cameraman with thousands of hours of footage of street artists at work. This he gains by telling them he’s filming a documentary. Which never existed. Frankly, the guy’s a nutter – but one who takes gambles that seem to pay off.

The film follows his adventures in getting this footage and then his own leap into the world of art.

Star of the show, though, is Banksy who Guetta befriended. As well as being quite a talented and controversial artist, the man has the most perfect comic timing. I think pretty much every one of his lines raised a laugh in the audience.

Not your normal cinema fare, but a very watchable documentary on a fairly contentious subject.


Plot-in-a-nutshell: A woman suspects her husband of infidelity and hires a prostitute to see if he really is straying. With disastrous consequences.

I’ve never seen Fatal Attraction but I have a feeling this has pinched a bit from the basic plotline. Catherine (Julianne Moore) has an inkling that that her hubby (Liam Neeson) is cheating on her when he “misses a flight” home from work one weekend. In a bid to test him she hires a prostitute, Chloe (a very hot Amanda Seyfried), to approach him and see if he is prepared to stray.

Of course, it gets complicated.

Now it’s fairly predictable even if the acting’s OK. And the ending is a little bit of an “easy out”. But at least there’s a rather hot sex scene which did keep me awake for a minute or two. Hey, I have two little dogs sleeping in my bedroom at the minute. One of them snores and they both wake up at 6:30am.

This isn’t a classic but I’ve seen worse films of this type.

From Paris With Love

“Now tell me that’s not some impressive ****.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: government worker gets dragged into “proper” secret agent work with his new less-than-mild-mannered partner.

Remember when you first saw Lethal Weapon? They way your straight-laced police officer partnered so well with a psycho? That magic is actually back (unlike the attempt they made with LW4) with John Travolta‘s latest effort.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers is James Reece, a diplomatic aide with aspirations to become a “proper” agent. His chance comes with the arrival of Wax (Travolta) on the trail of some drug pedlars and terrorists. Oh, and it’s set in Paris hence the title. And the nice scenery. And the excellent car chases.

Yes, I have decided that the best car chase scenes all seem to be in European films. Sure, the American ones are bigger but can you top the class of the likes of The Transporter, Ronin or The Italian Job (original version)? Trust me, you can’t. It’s my blog and I’m right.

Travolta is both utterly mad and incredibly cool. He swears a lot. He fires big guns. A lot. And he kicks much ass. While swearing. Profusely.

From Paris is the best kind of buddy/buddy action film. Utterly over the top, pretty violent, action packed, stereotype bad guys, throwaway lines and cracking dialogue. Oh, and a great reference to Pulp Fiction. Just as an extra.

Perfect popcorn viewing.

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The Boat That Rocked

I saw this one on the Etihad flight from Abu Dhabi to Heathrow and it deserves a review all of its own. The Boat That Rocked is a typical UK ensemble comedy with a great cast. A couple of free white wines may have helped, but I was snorting away and laughing out loud at some points; almost in tears at others.

What makes this such a good film – aside from the wealth of acting talent – is the fact that the central plot revolves around something I care about. Freedom of choice, a fight against censorship and the underdog having a good go at an overbearing authority. It’s also got a superb soundtrack, several plot threads and some great segments in the end credits.

Plot in a nutshell: It’s 1966 and rock’n’roll is booming. Except in the UK where the only radio – BBC – plays about 40 minutes per week of popular music. Feeding off the demand, pirate radio stations start up and are an instant hit with the masses… and reviled by the authorities who do all they can to shut them down. The film follows the adventures of the staff on one ship over the course of a year or so until the final closedown of pirate radio by the British government.

Bill Nighy plays Bill Nighy (as he always does) with aplomb, running the ship and the station. Philip Seymor Hoffman is The Count, the headlining American DJ. Nick Frost is the disgusting Dave, Rhys Darby the Kiwi Angus, Rhys Ifans the self-proclaimed king of the airwaves Gavin… and so on. Not a bad actor amongst them. Despite the large number of main parts, nobody gets lost and each character has their own personality.

On the other side of the fence, Kenneth Branagh is nicely slimy minister Dormandy with assistant Twatt (Jack Davenport) toadying to him.

As well as the Good Morning, Vietnam-esque DJ segments and good guy v bad guy plot, there is a lot of romance and bawdy sex (nothing too offensive, though not 100% family friendly by any shot). Nighy’s character has a godson who ends up on the ship after being thrown out of school. He’s our entry into the world of Radio Rock and introduction to the aforementioned characters and lifestyle.

The following two hours are a wonderful mix of highs and lows. Characters don’t always get on – who would living in such cramped quarters? – creating some great conflicts which go right over the top at times.

Of course, the soundtrack is superb being based on the music of the late 60s. The closing montage mentions that “rock and roll had a pretty good 40-or-so-years” flashing up more and more recent album sleeves. However, who on earth decided to include Take That And Party as on a par with the likes of BloodSugarSexMagic and Rattle & Hum needs shot.

Definitely catch this one.

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