Movies: Spider-Man: Homecoming Review

July 21, 2017

I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to comic book characters, so I’ll hold my hands up and say that when it became obvious in the pre-credits sequence of Spider-Man: Homecoming that the Vulture would just be Michael Keaton in a some alien tech wing suit, I was disappointed.

I wanted an old bald bloke in a green leotard with wings.

But hey, you can’t have everything, and as it turned out, Keaton made it work, although that shouldn’t come as too much of a shock considering he’s been good in everything he’s appeared in since his career revival. For me, he was one of the best parts about the movie, along with Jacob Batalon as Peter Parker’s always-amusing best friend, Ned.

And it was a good movie.

Rebooting the Spiderman series yet again in such a short space of time was a risk, and thankfully they took a different approach, casting and writing him as a younger man living in a world not populated by the same school-friends as we’ve seen in previous films. It was fresh.

It also felt a little less CGI/action-scene heavy compared to most other Marvel efforts, which is no bad thing.

In fact, unlike most superhero movies, this felt like a story from start to finish, including a terrific twist towards the end that I didn’t see coming.

If I was to criticise it for anything, it would be that it presumes knowledge of the existing Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, so f you’re coming in with a fresh pair of eyes, it might be a little confusing.

That though wasn’t a major issue for me, and so on the whole I enjoyed it.

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Movies: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Review (or “I Must Be Getting Old”)

April 25, 2014

Having arrived early enough to watch all the trailers before seeing The Amazing Spider-Man 2, it seems as though this spring & summer will host a series of what is basically the same film done over and over again.

Whether it’s Pompeii (which comes with the tagline that it was the jewel of an empire, which is nonsense), the new X-Men film, Transcendence or Godzilla, they appear to be identical; big budget movies where cities are destroyed, probably at Amazing-Spider-Man-Posterthe expense of plot.

Is that what Hollywood is nowadays?

And is it bad that I’m actually looking forward to seeing most of them?

Anyway, on to the Spider-Man Review.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Review: What’s This One About?

Peter Parker struggles in his relationship with Gwen Stacy while having to fend off Electro and one or two other famous Marvel Supervillains.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Review: Who’s In It?

Andrew Garfield (he of Daleks in Manhattan “fame”) stars as everyone’s favourite webslinger, while Emma Stone resumes the role of his girlfriend, Gwen Stacy. The likes of Sally Field, Jamie Foxx and Dane Dehaan co-star.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Review: How Highly Is It Rated?

7.7/10 on imdb from around 21,000 votes, 76% on Rotten Tomatoes and a mere 58% on Metacritic.

Most press reviews hover in and around the 3 star mark.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Review: Was It Any Good?

There’s something about Spider-Man that I find more interesting than all of the other comic book superheroes.

He just feels more down to Earth.

While the Marvel Universe in which the Avengers operate seems to be full of danger, ruined cities and near cataclysmic events, Spider-Man still  happily lives his life in an undisturbed New York.

So it’s more grounded, but it also has – I think – better characters. Peter Parker/Spider-Man has more depth than the likes of Thor, Captain America or Iron Man, and the villains he faces off against tend to be more fun as well.

But then that’s true of all Spider-Man movies. The question is whether or not this one is good?

And I would say that it is.

Oh sure, there are problems with it, but there’s also plenty to enjoy as well.

In terms of the problems, I’d say that the whole character of Electro seemed poorly executed. It might be a bit over the top to have him dress like he does in the comics, but something close to the original subject matter would have been good. Also, aside from appearance issues, the reason for how his character came about was a bit odd and – spoiler alert – when he suddenly became non-corporeal it just got a bit stupid. Oh, and when he became this non-corporeal character, how come he was wearing boxer shorts? I mean, I didn’t want to see Jamie Foxx’s knob or anything, but it seemed stupid.

That side of things was a bit of a let-down, and the stuff with Harry Osbourne wasn’t great either. The Osbourne characters were done far better in the Toby Maguire films and maybe should have been left there.

On that note, there were perhaps too many characters written into the script to do them all justice. I’m not sure why Oscorp hired so many lunatics, and there was no attempt to explain it.

Where the movie excelled though was in the performances of Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. By a long way, the most interesting aspect of it was the relationship between Parker & Stacy, and though anyone with a background knowledge of the Spider-Man comics knew how it would end, it didn’t spoil it at all. As a real life couple, the two of them managed to bring a real chemistry and charisma to their roles.

Christ, to come away from a Superhero Action Movie and remark that the best thing about it is the chemistry between the romantic leads makes me feel old.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Review: Should You Go To See It?

Anyway, on the whole it was an enjoyable film, and though it might also have been a little bit too reliant upon special effects at times, I found myself interested throughout. I’d say it was worth your time. And it’s good that they’ve also now set up the next instalment in the series too.

But to discuss that in too much detail might be getting ahead of myself.

 

 


Stuart Reviews Stuff’s TV, Film & Game Awards 2012

January 4, 2013

So 2012 has come and gone and so it’s time for that yearly tradition of the Award Ceremony.

It must be said that the overall standard of new media, whether it’s film, games or TV has been fairly uninspiring.

I used my Cineworld Unlimited Card a grand total of 14 times last year, which is down from 28 the year before. So I literally got half the value from the same product.

When I criticise TV, I don’t mean to say that there haven’t been any good TV shows, because there have. The problem has been that there haven’t been many good new shows that debuted in 2012.

And as for games? Well these days it’s all just sequels isn’t it? And it doesn’t show much sign of stopping either, with a list of ’25 Games To Look Out For in 2013′ containing as few as 4 original titles.

So that leaves me with less to work with when I do the awards, but I’ll give it my best shot, starting with films.

Films

So by my reckoning, I saw 14 films last year. The Artist, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, War Horse, Chronicle, The Muppets, Marvel’s Avengers: Assemble, American Reunion, The Raid, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Dark Knight Rises, Ted, Looper, Skyfall and Argo.

None of them were awful, and on the same score I doubt there will be many that I’ll want to watch again, although plenty of them were good enough.

Best Film: Argo 

Once I’d seen Argo, I knew instantly that it was the best film I’d seen in 2012, and since I didn’t go to anything after it, that didn’t change.

Film of the Year

Film of the Year

What was good about Argo was the authenticity, the genuinely dramatic story and the standard of acting.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.

You can read my review of Argo here

Runner Up: The Artist – Highly enjoyable and a daring departure from the norm.

Worst Film: Looper

Looper wasn’t a terrible film, but it was pretty rubbish.

The storyline was all over the place, and it seemed to think that they could get away with that by saying ‘Ach it’s time travel; it isn’t meant to make sense’. And that, dear readers, is bollocks.

Looper Review here

Runner Up: The Raid – It wasn’t so much a film than a martial arts exhibition, and not a particularly believable one at that.

Television

I watch a lot of television, and 2012 was no exception. I saw a load of great ‘new’ TV, but discovering shows like Castle, Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads, The Walking Dead, Entourage, Friday Night Lights or Sherlock doesn’t really apply to these awards because they weren’t new last  year.

Usually the new US Television Season brings at least a few new shows worth watching, but in terms shows that started around September, I haven’t been swayed by a single one, hence my disappointment.

Best New TV Show: The Newsroom

By default then, the winner of this award is The Newsroom. I can’t honestly think of any other new show I saw, unless you count Revenge (even though it technically started in 2011 it was still new in 2012). Oh actually, there was Adam

Is it good or is it shite? I've not decided. But it's a guilty pleasure.

Is it amazing or is it shite? I’ve not decided. But it’s a guilty pleasure.

Richman’s ‘America’s Greatest Sandwich’. Awesome…

But that’s not to say that The Newsroom is not a worthy winner, because I really enjoyed it.

Well acted, dramatic and engrossing, and very well-directed into the bargain (the episode that ends with the video montage with Fix You by Coldplay playing over it was just fantastic).

My only problem with it remains that by basing it on news events that actually happened in reality means that the show’s dramatic content entirely depends on there being something bad happening in real life. If nothing does, we’re out of luck.

Runner Up: Revenge: Well, it has to be, doesn’t it. I’ve yet to make my mind up as to whether it’s amazing or shit, but whatever it is, it remains a guilty pleasure.

Most Consistent TV Show of 2012

There are a few options here, with shows like Breaking Bad, Dexter, Happy Endings all being of a consistent quality.

I’ve read it said that the newest season of the Walking Dead has been amazing, but so far I actually prefer the second one. That might not be a popular opinion, but it is mine.

For me, the most consistent of them all has been The Big Bang Theory.

It’s a show that seems to be loved and hated in equal measures, and I’m not sure why that is. Is it that some people automatically dislike a show on the basis of there being a laughter track? Is it because these people think that the show is making fun of them? Who knows, but I love it and so do all of my family (and it’s not often that can be said).

Yes, there have been better shows in terms of thrilling content, but every week, The Big Bang Theory is funny. The cast are all fantastic and the writers have yet to run out of ideas.

Let’s hope the quality keeps up in 2012.

Runner Up: Dexter – the series has progressed at last, and I honestly can’t remember being as pumped about an episode as I was the season finale. Great stuff.

The ‘Oh For Christ Sake, Give It Up’ Award

This could be given to a fair few shows.

You know my thoughts on How I Met Your Mother, because I wrote an entire article on its decline here

But there are actually quite a few shows that have gone into a decline over the last year.

You’ve got shows that looks like they might be on a shallow decline, but a decline nevertheless. I’d say those shows include Homeland (running out of believable plot), Parks & Recreation (the characters are turning into caricatures) and Grey’s Anatomy (it just feels empty now that they’ve killed off yet more of the cast).

Misfits declined the year before to the point where I just didn’t bother with it in 2012.

A more serious decline in 2012 was Peepshow, which still had its moment but was pretty poor. Again, they are doing that thing of making a character act stupidly for comedy effect, like the scenes with Mark releasing his book with the charlatan

Let this show die. Please.

Let this show die. Please.

publisher. That just wouldn’t have happened in the past.

I think it’s on a terminal decline.

I even stopped watching Neighbours last year despite being a viewer since 1987. It just turned into rubbish.

But for me the hands down winner for this award goes to Outnumbered.

It only had a 45 minute episode on Christmas Eve, but it was that bad. The kids that made the show funny with their off-the-cuff childish innocence have grown up and turned into the sort of obnoxious teenagers you’d cross the street to avoid.

Just terrible.

And the attempts of the writers to compensate with a ‘funny’ script would have missed the mark if that mark was the Moon.

Runner Up: How I Met Your Mother – You know why.

Biggest Television Disappointment of 2012: Asylum of the Daleks

“We’re going to include every Dalek ever in this episode”, trumpeted Steven Moffat and the Doctor Who PR Machine.

What a load of rubbish.

Let’s hope they don’t screw up the 50th Anniversary.

Video Games

Most Overrated Game: Spelunky (Xbox 360)

10/10 on Eurogamer, 9 on IGN, 8.5 on GameSpot and Five Stars on Escapist Magazine to name but four of the reviews this game got.

Basically it’s an old-fashioned 2d game about a miner who explores caves.

And I played it for about two hours before giving up.

There’s no way this game deserves the hype it gets as far as I’m concerned. I don’t care if it has old school charm and is a throwback to the halcyon days where games weren’t able to be saved. It doesn’t offer that much that you would want to repeat the same levels (even if they do randomise) over and over again without being able to progress, and it doesn’t have the pick up and play value of games like Super Tank Run, Pac Man, Pinball FX or Geometry Wars.

The answer is: Overrated.

The answer is: Overrated.

So sorry, Gaming Establishment, this wins the most Overrated award because of how you’ve rated it.

Runner Up: Rayman Origins (Xbox 360): I’m not sure why this unchallenging, by-the-numbers side scrolling platformer is as highly regarded as it is. It’s the epitome of ‘meh’ as far as I’m concerned. Oh but doesn’t it look lovely…

Best Handheld Game: Kingdom Rush HD (iPad)

I had never really ‘got’ Tower Defence strategy games until giving this a try.

Easy to pick up, challenging and addictive…you just won’t know where the hours have gone after giving this a chance.

Runner Up: New Star Soccer (iPad) – You’ll play it non stop for about a week and then never want to play it again, but based on the cost, it’ll be worth it.

Biggest Waste of Money: Guild Wars 2 (PC)

This year I’ve spunked a load of money down the drain on ‘taking a punt’ style game purchases in the Steam Sale. Games like the Kings Ransom series or Space Pirates & Zombies that were available for pennies, I bought, I played and I disposed of because they were just not my cup of tea.

Similarly there are games from that Steam Sale that I haven’t even played yet, like Payday: The Heist, Galactic Civilisations and Torchlight II.

It’s alright though, because these purchases have been relatively inexpensive, even if they have added up.

But the one game I bought at full price and instantly regretted buying was Guild Wars 2. My friends kept telling me that it was going to be an amazing experience, but with its terrible controls and uninspiring quest system, I just couldn’t be arsed. £40 down the drain.

Runner Up: Total War: Shogun 2 – Got it on the Steam Sale but it still cost about £15. I tried to get into it but just couldn’t

Best Offline Multiplayer: Hidden in Plain Sight (Xbox 360)

A simple and effective game. It wouldn’t work as well online, as disappointing as that might be.

I'll say again - buy this game

I’ll say again – buy this game

But when I have friends round and we want to play a game all at the same time, this is the one. Read my review here

Best Xbox Live Arcade Game: Quarrel Deluxe

This gets the Xbox Live Award rather than the Handheld one because it has online multiplayer on it.

Quarrel is a fantastic game to play on your own, which means the iOS version is still a worthy purchase, but it’s great fun to play with friends too. Read my review here

Best Game: Call of Duty: Black Ops 2

Sorry if I’m being too commercial for your tastes, but there’s nothing better than playing an online game of Call of Duty with your mates.

While I played Modern Warfare 3 a hell of a lot in the summer of 2012, and it probably has a better and wider selection of maps, Black Ops 2 wins because you can add in bots to play with your party to make up the numbers.

Soif there are only 3 or 4 of our group playing at one time, we can add the AI controlled characters in to pad things out and ensure we don’t have to go into an annoying public game with campers and sniper spammers.

A superb game if you’ve got mates to play it with.

Honourable Mentions: I can’t think of a specific runner-up, so honourable mentions go to Borderlands 2, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, FIFA 13, Saints Row: The Third and of course Football Manager 2013.

Agree of Disagree? Let me know what you think.


Film Review: The Amazing Spider-Man (and Is It Different Enough From the 2002 Version)

July 14, 2012

Well I got my money’s-worth with my Unlimited Cinema ticket in June didn’t I? Not one sodding film was worth going to see over the course of the entire month.

But now we’re into the official ‘Summer Blockbuster’ Season, and that starts off with The Amazing Spider-Man

What’s This Film About?

It’s a retelling of the origins of Spider-Man. I assume you know the basic story, and if you don’t, I’m not really sure why you’re reading this review…

Thoughts – Have We Not Been Here Before?

The big worry for me – and I’m sure everyone else – going into this film was whether or not it would be pretty much the same film as the brilliant Tobey Maguire/Kirsten Dunst effort from 2002. Thankfully, the answer to that was no.

Ok, there is the same skeleton structure of the weak schoolboy with an interest in photography – Peter Parker – who gets bitten by a radioactive spider and gains superpowers. And its also got the bit where he indirectly causes his Uncle Ben to be killed by a burglar, as well as the thread in the story where he gets the idea for the mask and costume thanks to wrestling, but beyond that it’s a different film.

I’d heard it was ‘darker’ in the same way as the newer Batman films are considered more grim than the originals, but I don’t necessarily agree with that at all. It was just a different take on things, although perhaps a take that is slightly more adult and serious. But that doesn’t mean ‘darker’.

In this version, instead of Mary-Jane being the female lead, it’s Gwen Stacey (which is actually more accurate because Stacey appeared in the comics long before Mary-Jane), instead of J. Jonah Jameson leading the charge against Spider-Man, it’s Chief of Police (who also happens to be Stacey’s father), and instead of The Green Goblin, it’s The Lizard (who, again to be fair, appeared in the comics first).

There are other little things too like the circumstances surrounding how he was bitten by a spider and how he came to get his projectile webs, and so what we’ve ended up with is a markedly different film to the one from 10 years ago.

So What Have We Got?

Thankfully, despite those differences, The Amazing Spiderman is still a good film.

Certainly Andrew Garfield – who I was surprised to find out is actually English – is a better actor than Tobey Maguire and the rest of the supporting cast is probably better too (it has Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben, so that’s likely to be an improvement by default). And while in the 2002 Spider-Man film, the character of J. Jonah Jameson was played well, it was still a bit corny, and perhaps anachronistic. In the modern world in which we live – and in which this film is set – the idea of Spider-man only getting captured on film by one single photographer just doesn’t work, and it doesn’t follow either that JJJ would be so against him either. A police chief not being too keen on him is a different matter entirely.

Essentially, as a story, it flows nicely and is a bit more ‘realistic’ – in terms of the science behind both Spider-Man and the Lizard – than the previous one; although considering it’s a film about a comic book superhero, I’m not sure that’s all that important.

If I was to have a problem with it, it would be that it suffers from the same issues that I’m beginning to find a helluva lot of 3D films are suffering from; that being that three-quarters of the way through, the film stops advancing as a plot and just becomes a CGI special effects festival for the last part.

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t as bad for it as some films I’ve seen – like The Avengers from earlier this year – but the action sequences still went on a little bit too long for my liking.

I suppose as well another issue would be that if I hadn’t known about Spider-Man and his origins going in, I might find the leap from him being bitten by a spider to becoming Spider-Man a little bit much. It’s difficult to know how much the film explains it clearly and how much I filled in the blanks myself considering I know the story so well. But I did note that it maybe relied upon the audience knowing the story in advance a little bit beforehand. I guess I’d have to ask someone who’d never seen or heard of Spider-Man before what they thought, to be sure.

Oh, and one other thing; there’s no way a school girl would find herself in a position of such power within a science facility like Gwen Stacey did, but that’s a minor issue.

Should You Go And See The Amazing Spider-Man?

The origin of Spider-Man is a classic story, and so as long as they stuck to that, this was always going to be a good film. And it was; despite some of the problems I’ve outlined above it was great.

It mostly flowed well, it was well acted, it had a strong plot and crucially it was different to the 2002 version.

So even if you’ve seen that version go to this one and enjoy it, but be prepared for the action to take over a little bit much towards the end.