Monday, May 07, 2007

Bryce Dallas Howard (and other reviews)

As I sat in the theater, watching Spiderman 3 at midnight on Thursday night, my emotions went from happiness to frustration to bewilderment, and back again. And, at 245am, I strode out of The Rave Motion Picture Theater at Lee Branch with only one thought on my mind... I wanted it to be better.

Before we get going, let me answer two questions that will pop up... yes, I am a comic book geek, which includes several Spiderman titles. And no, I don't get angry when movies stray from the comic book vision of a character, as long as it makes sense.

I've been trying for several days to pinpoint exactly what it was that made me not go crazy over this film much as I had after Spiderman 2 and the original. Maybe its a "3" thing... X-Men: The Last Stand, Superman III, Lethal Weapon 3, Police Academy 3, all inferior to the first two that make the series so great... I paid 8 bucks for it, and yeah, I'm okay with the fact that I did, but I wouldn't see it a second time.

The easiest way to do this is just list it... here's what I didn't like:
--It took forever to get to Venom. This was proably the most anticipated villian in a comic book movie in a long, long time, and though the payoff was great, the wait was maddening.
--Kirsten Dunst looks... well, crappy. Playing the gorgeous Mary Jane Watson, she comes across as someone who always has just rolled out of bed. She's sad, she's angry, she's impatient (yes, rightly so, but still). I file Kirsten under "The Angelina Jolie Memorial Chicks Who the Whole World Thinks Is So Hot But I Just Don't Get It Club"
--Harry Osborne is a dork. Plain and simple. The set-up from the last movie is that Harry wants to kill Spiderman for the murder of his father (who was also the Green Goblin). The payoff is like being teased with a steak from Outback and getting a hot dog from Sneaky Pete's.
--Another part that had the potential for being out of this world was Venom taking over Peter Parker. Venom, really an alien symbiote, is aggressive, and makes its host just as aggressive. Peter could have been vicious, crazy, out of control, almost like the Bad Superman vs Clark Kent kind of battle in Superman III (about the only decent part of that wretched piece of bile). What happens is he turns into a joke. Watch the dance scene, tell me I'm wrong.
--Emo Peter Parker. Read the above paragraph.
--Can we have one bad guy who isn't a result of an alien or an experiment gone wrong? Anyone?
--How 'bout they crammed what seemed like 1,633 subplots into this movie... you had Uncle Ben's death revisited, Flint Marko's dilemma, Eddie Brock, Peter loves Mary Jane, Peter likes Gwen, Harry is ticked off, Spidey vs. Venom, Spidey vs. Sandman, Spidey vs whatever Harry Osborne was calling himself (cause it sho' wasnt something cool like the Hobgoblin). I kept wondering if this is secretly a Robert Altman film and no one wanted to admit it.

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Oh look, its an excuse to post a picture of Bryce Dallas Howard.

That being said, here's what is right about the film:
--Topher Grace, leaving all shades of Eric Forman behind, as Eddie Brock. Eddie is a journalist who is humiliated, and seeks revenge on Spiderman, and Topher plays him to the hilt. Even when he becomes Venom, Topher is totally cool and mean in the character. --Bryce Dallas Howard as Gwen Stacy. She wasn't really given enough to do in this movie, but she was... uh... well, she's quite the attractive young lady there.
--The effects were astounding. I mean, just simply great. The final battle is pretty wicked-bad too.
--Character actor JK Simmons is perfect as J. Jonah Jameson, and I now cannot imagine anyone else playing the part. (speaking of JK, its surprising how much stuff you'll see him in... Steph and I watched the last 30 minutes of a underrated Kevin Costner movie, "For Love of the Game", only to see JK onscreen as the manager)
--Thomas Haden Church was also perfect as Flint Marko, who ends up being The Sandman. I kinda like how he wasn't played evil, just forced to do bad things to help his family. Reminded me of Ahnold as Mr. Freeze in Batman & Robin. Okay, well, anything that reminds me of Batman & Robin probably isn't that good.
--Bruce Campbell plays yet another small cameo part. Bruce, a buddy of Raimi's, starred in Sam Raimi's classic Evil Dead series, and pops up here and there in various flicks. How can you not like a guy who is starring in a movie called "Bubba Nosferatu and the Curse of the She Vampires", and its not even a porn flick?

Should you go see it? Yeah, probably. I'm not telling you the movie is terrible, because it's not. It's actually pretty good. Not great, not very good, not amazing, just... pretty good. And that hurts me to say it, because when I come out of "Bug", the new Goddess & Global Ambassador Ashley Judd film, "pretty good" is a very good thing to say about it. For something like Spiderman 3, "pretty good" is a disappointment. I hope Harry Potter fares better.

By the way, it might have been only the midnight showing special, but we saw trailers for "Pirates of the Carribean: At World's End" (there's that "3" thing again), Live Free or Die Hard, Transformers, the new Harry Potter flick (you were right, Nikki), and The Bourne Ultimatum. All look great.
Just finished a book called "Cell" by Stephen King. Now, you may not know I used to be an absolute Stephen King Junkie... I joined the "Stephen King Book Club" when I was a junior in high school, and every six weeks, I'd get a new book in the mail. By the time I left the club some five or six years later, I had about 30 of his books, and had actually read several of them... I enjoyed the heck out of "Pet Semetary", "Cujo" and "Christine", all keenly superb to the movies that tried model them. "The Shining" is perhaps the scariest book I've ever read, and my favorite turned out to be "It". Don't judge book by the silly miniseries.
The reason I say "had" 30 of his books is that I put them in The Deuce storage unit, and the Honorable Rev'rn Ty Coffey put two plastic bins of clothes atop of my book boxes, causing the closed box to rip and open... thus a year later, I've got 30 books covered in funk and mold. Thanks Senator.
I have yet to tackle the Dark Tower Series... frankly, it intimidates me. If I have trouble starting "The Stand", I know all seven volumes of The Dark Tower will kick my buttocks. And the only movies I can say are better than the stories that tell them are "Stand By Me" based on "The Body", and of coure "The Shawshank Redemption", based on "Rita Hayworth & the Shawshank Redemption". Both are from the King book "Different Seasons". Close, however, is "Misery".
Anyway, "Cell" tells the story of a man named Clay, who is estranged from his wife, but has good news to tell her--he just signed a comic book deal with Dark Horse Comics, and on his way to tell her the good news, stops off at an ice cream truck in Boston's Common area for a tasty treat.
A few minutes later, a "pulse" happens, though you don't know that's what it is at that second. Everyone who is or was on their cell phones at the time of the pulse goes crazy... they start killing people, biting into necks, running around grumbling gibberish. All this part I knew going into the story... I was not expecting the story that came to be after it, however.
Clay joins forces with a stranger named Tom, and together they work their way to the safety of a locked up hotel. Along the way, they meet and grab Alice, a 15 year old who had seen her mother get "pulsed" and go crazy, trying to kill her.
Clay's main concern is his son, Johnny G, who happens to own a cell phone, and the group sets off to work ther way up to New Hampshire, where Clay's residence is. Along the way, they make some startling discoveries... for one, the Phone-Crazies, as they are soon to be called, don't come out at night, only during the day time. Early in the morning and late in the evening, they are seen "flocking" in the same direction, all in lockstep with each other, all clearly moving with a common purpose. Another thing Alice picks up is that the Phone-Crazies are getting smarter.
Though never fully explained in detail, the cause of the pulse isn't as supernatural as you might think, and overall, the book is a fantastic story. There is an "out of the blue" death in the last 1/3 that left me rather empty, but after all their travels and meetings with strangers that become instrumental in what they are doing, the book draws to a satisfactory end.
It's classic Stephen King, with words written in such a manner that you can not just picture every character, but also the details of their face, the body langauge they give off and the personalities that you begin to either loath or enjoy, but at least you care one way or another.
I've just started reading "The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon", and it's not bad so far either... but I can definately recommend "Cell" to anyone who's thought about buying it. Go for it.


Watched a great flick called "The Holiday" last night as well... I've heard alot about this, reviews were pretty good, word of mouth has been good--and after seeing it, I can say it earned its praise.

Iris (the wonderful Kate Winslet) is an editor at a magazine, and she's been in love with her ex, Jasper, for three years. He has just become engaged to the girl he cheated on Iris with, and didn't even bother to tell Iris, even though they work in the same building.

Five thousand miles away, we meet movie trailer editor Amanda (a surprisingly cute Cameron Diaz), who is throwing her shoes at her boyfriend Ethan (Edward Burns). It seems Ethan has been out until 3 in the morning frolicking with his secretary. Amanda kicks him out, and now we have two miserable girls.

So Amanda gets online, discovers this "Exchange-a-Home" program, where you change homes (this type of program actually exists, by the way), cars and lives for 2 weeks with someone... and the house she finds is owned by Iris in England. They agree, they swap houses, and we watch two stories unfold... Amanda meets Graham, an charming Englishman played by Jude Law, and they begin a whirlwind romance, while Iris is trying to over Jasper (who keeps calling anyway), and ends up meeting Arthur (Eli Wallach), an elderly legendary movie director, and strikes up a meaningful friendship... then she meets Miles, a movie score composer, played by... Jack Black.

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Kate Winslet was my excuse to watch this movie, and lo and behold, I enjoyed it

I really liked this film. It was fun, it was funny and it was sweet in all the right places. All four leads--Winslet, Diaz, Law and Black--were perfect in their roles. The romance between Amanda and Graham is believable, and honestly, I haven't seen Cameron Diaz really attractive in a role since she was Kimmy in "My Best Friends Wedding". The romance between Miles and Iris is more subtle, and for good reason... who wants to see a love
scene involving Jack Black?

Anyone who reads this knows I hold Kate Winslet with high regard, and it was awesome to see her play a modern day Englishwoman... no corsets, no American accents, no sinking ships, just... her character was just average, which made her gorgeous.


The Amazing Race ended on Sunday night, with a whimper really. It's been an awesome season, mostly because of the teams that annoy everyone, that being Rob & Amber (who were booted in episode 5) and of course, Mirna and Charla, also known as Team Bats***.

Remaining was the aforementioned batty team, Eric and Danielle, and my reality show hall of famers, Dustin and Kandice. A few weeks ago, I was reading the review of the episode on Entertainment Weekly's site (one of many tv and movie sites you can find by going to the side links on the right -->) and for whatever reason, scrolled down to read some comments. There was some jerk who said something like "I read that Eric and Danielle win, D&K come in 2nd, and Mirna and Charla are in 3rd".

So with this in the back of my mind, I kept waiting for Team Bats*** or Eric and the Boobs to get eliminated (but of course, not Dustin & Kandice) just to prove the poster wrong, but when these made it to the final three, I knew who would win. Darn it. Darn it darn it darn it. I am the guy who actually will read the last chapter of a book before I start the whole thing, and sometimes will find out how a movie will end before I watch it, but darn it, let my Amazing Race unfold.

I wasn't alone though... here's what EW's Josh Wolk said to open his review: So the insistently rude spoiler posting on this site was right: Eric and Danielle won. Somewhere out there, our little suspense obliterator was grinning happily as the platonic duo hit the mat first, pleased with himself that this was no surprise to anyone. Now that it's over, how will he spend his summer? Attending birthday parties and shouting out what's in each present just as children are about to unwrap them?

Anyway, I almost felt bad for Team Bats*** in the end, because two of the last three challenges were so physically exhausting, there's almost no way to beat Eric & The Boobs, and even Dustin & Kandice. And they didn't, the poster was right, and I was left feeling let down, after all the good build up, I wanted a better finish, and I felt... well, like I was walking out of Spiderman 3 all over again.

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