Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Double

Netflix has completely lost their edge and most of their movies are now B level or old- no new hot summer blockbusters.  While this is disappointing and a lot of the movies are horrible, every once in a while you find a gem- one that almost everyone overlooked.

The Double seems to be a 2011 straight to dvd or limited release movie.  On the outside it looks good- spy thriller starring Richard Gere, Topher Grace, and Martin Sheen.  As Hollywood shovels out more remakes, sequels, and CGI infested blockbusters, movies with a small budget but great story are getting overlooked.  This is one of those films.

Richard Gere plays an ex-CIA agent whose career was chasing down a international assassin who has fallen off the map and seemingly quit his calling card killings.  When the assassin returns and kills a US Senator, Richard Gere gets called back in to help the CIA catch him and put an end to the killings once and for all.  FBI profile specialist, Topher Grace, gets called over to assist in the investigation.  Topher made it into the FBI due to a phenomenal dissertation on the killer and has become obsessed with catching him.

This movie has some great acting, solid script, great twists and turns as a spy thriller.  Even with a low budget, the final car chase scene is really impressive.  I recommend checking this movie out.  It may have not been worth a whole $15 in theaters, but its definitely worth an hour and a half of your time on Netflix.  I give it 3 out of 5 stars.


Prometheus is the "unofficial" prequel to Aliens.  Ridley Scott, who started off the whole franchise in 1979 has made claims that this is not really a prequel just a different story.

The movie is breathtaking visually.  While, even in 3D, it does not create the entire environment to experience like Avatar did, its similar in the sense, you really feel transformed to a whole new world.  The set pieces were breathtaking and the overall feel of the movie was great.  In line with the other Alien movies, this one is not really a horror movie.  There are a few intense scenes that cause you to flinch or clench up, but its overall just an intense thriller about these unfortunate people.

Prometheus begins with scientists on Earth making cave drawing discoveries.  They believe the drawings prove that man did not descend from apes, but rather from aliens.  The two scientists use a private corporation, The Weyland Corporation (same from previous movies) to fund a search mission to a moon they believe these aliens are on.  Once they arrive they see that all (or most) of the aliens they believe to be mankind's ancestors, are dead.  Horror ensues as other aliens infect the bodies of the scientists and security team and they learn their ancestors dark secrets.

My problem with this movie is that everything sets up to be a sequel in Alien.  Without giving anything away, much of the last 30 minutes of the movie looks eerily familiar, and then they mess it all up.  Things are not where they are supposed to be anymore.  The ship that they find in Alien is the same one they explore in Prometheus.  It is in the exact same location, but there is something missing.  Its hard to describe without spoiling anything, but it just does not make sense.  The director dismisses this with the simple claim, "this is not a prequel", but clearly it is.  Too much matches up, for it not to be a prequel.  I think this was rushed through pre-production or for whatever reason they thought this would be sufficient.  But fans of the Alien stories will be disappointed.  Regular movie goers will probably be entertained.  As a stand alone movie, it was pretty good.

I give this film just 2.5 stars.  As a fan of the original Alien trilogy, I found this to be promising but overall a let down.  Watch it in 3D if you are a visual person, otherwise a rental would do.

Spider-Man versus The Amazing Spider-man

There are no spoilers in this review that were not shown in previews. The only spoiler is in the final point and there is a large warning before it- so read only if you dare!! I will compare 6 different categories and announce my pick for winner between Spider-Man (2002) and The Amazing Spider-Man (2012):

1) Spider-Man- While the Raimi Spider-Man's suit was more traditional, the Amazing Spider-Man utilized web-shooters which was more true to the comics. While at the time the organic web shooters was something many fans were able to swallow as a necessity to main stream the movie, this proved equally effective and believable. The Amazing Spider-Man spent less time showcasing his powers and more time having them actually use them. Raimi's Spider-Man was very corny. Webb's Spider-Man was darker and had more issues, but still made wise-cracks while attacking the bad guys. Winner- The Amazing Spider-Man

2) Peter Parker- Maguire's Peter Parker was much dorkier than Garfields. Maguire portrayed Parker as a true nerd- one that liked science and was picked on at school. Garfield was less nerdy, more emo-Twilight-esque. He had problems, he wasn't popular, Flash Thompson still picked on him, but it wasn't the same. He had a certain ease talking to Gwen Stacy that lacked the awkwardness you felt when Maguire talked to Mary Jane (Dunst). Garfield was just not as dorky as Maguire was. Winner- Spider-Man (minus the 3rd one, "Dancing Maguire"

3) Relationships- Gwen Stacy or Mary Jane? Emma Stone or Kirsten Dunst? Kirsten annoyed a lot of people and most did not like her. I felt like her portrayal of Mary Jane was great. Was she the best actress for the part? Maybe, maybe not. But I thought she really looked the part. What's interesting is both of these on screen couples were also behind the scenes in relationships. Emma Stone had less screen time, but the relationship is a more interesting one. Mary Jane's story in the comics is more of a supportive character for Spider-Man. Whereas Gwen Stacy drives story development. Her father is the chief of police hunting Spider-Man. Her story in the comics is one of legend and one that is much more interesting than Mary Janes. Hopefully they will stay loyal to that storyline and explore it through to the end. Winner- The Amazing Spider-Man

4) Web Slinging- When Spider-Man came out in 2002, everyone fell in love with the idea of swinging about in New York City. The scenes were beautiful and breathtaking and looked very realistic. Spider-Man 2 added a lot of high flying action which combine the beauty of web-slinging with Spider-Man's ability to use it as a tactical advantage fighting Doc Ock on the metro rail or the top of buildings. But nothing compares to seeing the Amazing Spider-Man in IMAX 3D. The web-slinging looks even more realistic now and this movie really captures the beauty from the comics. Its one thing to draw a person all contorted flying over NYC- its another thing to put it on screen. The final shot of Spider-Man web slinging in Amazing, was breathtaking and reminiscent of many comic book shots. Winner- Easy- The Amazing Spider-Man

5) The Villian- In Spider-Man, the villan was the Green Goblin which offered a story arc that would carry through to the end of the trilogy with the son taking over the fathers secret identity. The Green Goblin was crazy, but had many dimensions as a character and adding the vengeance of his son, best friends with Parker and soon to be arch-nemesis of Spider-Man, he was a very complex and interesting character. The Lizard was less so. Rhys Ifans did a great job of Dr. Connors, but the Lizard just did not seem as sinister as the Green Goblin. The Lizard was done very well and the action scenes were great, but the character just did not seem as evil and dangerous to Spider-Man's very existence as the Green Goblin did. There is also a scene where the Lizard has an inner monologue fight with the Connors alter ego. This was annoyingly reminiscent of both the Green Goblin and Dr. Octopus's inner dialogue. Sony- Take note- not every villan has an evil inner voice! Winner- Spider-Man


6) The End- The end of Spider-Man alluded to Mary Jane being in danger again due to her relationship with Spider-Man. Harry Osborn vows vengeance on Spider-Man for his fathers death. In Spider-Man 2, Harry Osborn discovers the Green Goblin's toys behind his fathers office alluding to the final chapter where Harry would finally attack Spider-Man. These were great and subtle preludes to the next movie. This movie did not have that. There was no clear picture of who the Lizard was talking to at the end. And even the most loyal comic book fans cannot figure out who it was. There are allegations to Norman Osborn, Mysterio, or just Lizards evil inner voice. In order for the director to excite fans with these post-credit clips- you have to give just enough to get the fan boys to know whats happening and then educate the rest of the theater. This was just a waste of time. Winner- Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-Man

With only a ten year gap between the Raimi/Maguire Spider-Man, the Amazing Spider-Man seemed like a redundant mistake by Sony Pictures. Retelling an origin story that most people have already seen is risky. I went into the movie with low expectations. I expected to be bored by the retelling of a story I had already seen more than a dozen times. However the Amazing Spider-Man was an amazing movie and a great retelling of the Spider-Man story. It does not take away from the long-awaited first appearance made by Toby Maguire but it allows us to enjoy a different vision.
Since there was such a minimal timeframe between the original and remake, I thought I would take the approach of comparing the two to review what was better and what was worse than the original in a separate post. Here, I will give my overall review here to avoid any spoilers in the comparison. The Amazing Spider-Man is a great movie and especially in 3D at the IMAX. The action scenes are much more complex and the web-swinging looks incredible. The chemistry between all the characters is spot on. And the cast was well chosen- everyone excels at playing their part within the Spider-Man mythos. There were several changes in this movie from both comic book history and the original Spider-Man movie, but there were also somethings that brought Spider-Man's true story back from some liberties in the Raimi series. While there were some things done better in the original, this movie stands on its own and offers a great parallel vision so that both movies can still be enjoyed for what they are. I give it 4.5 stars.