Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)


Title: The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Release Date: April 18, 2014
Director: Marc Webb
Production Company: Columbia Pictures | Marvel Entertainment | Arad Productions, Inc. | Matt Tolmach Productions
Summary/Review:

While not quite the steep dropoff in quality of Spider-Man 3, this sequel is mediocre compared to its predecessor and for many of the same reasons.  To wit, there are too many antagonists competing for screen time and a lack of focus and pacing to deal with them.  Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) has to deal with the arrival of Max Dillon/Electro (Jamie Foxx) after yet another accident at Oscorp (this one ludicrously involving falling into a tank full of electric eels!). Meanwhile, Peter’s old friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) makes his debut in this series and immediately adopts the Green Goblin persona (instead of dragging it out over three movies like James Franco).

Max is more of a sad figure than a threat so there’s not much pleasure derived from seeing Spidey fight with him.  Meanwhile, Harry is so obviously a creepy ass villain that it seems unlikely that Peter would be friends with him.  Gwen (Emma Stone) has a good role in the movie, helping Peter as much as he helps her, but she’s [SPOILER] dead by the end of the movie [/SPOILER] which feels very fridgey to me.  Plus the finale of the film is overwhelmingly hokey.  Why do people in New York in these movies stand around watching superheroes battle supervillains with their small children anyway?

Rating: ***

Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)


Title: The Amazing Spider-Man
Release Date: June 13, 2012
Director: Marc Webb
Production Company: Columbia Pictures | Marvel Entertainment | Laura Ziskin Productions | Arad Productions, Inc. | Matt Tolmach Productions
Summary/Review:

Despite only five years passing Spider-Man was rebooted in a new franchise with Andrew Garfield taking over the lead role of Peter Parker.  This move goes even harder into the origin story by including Peter’s parents and a younger Peter in the prelude and flashbacks.  Once again, Peter’s transformation into Spider-Man and the creation of his main antagonist, Dr. Curt Connors/Lizard (Rhys Ifans), happen nearly simultaneously at Oscorp.

Despite the fact that this seems to be way too soon after the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man trilogy for a reboot AND the fact that I’m generally not interested in origin stories (AND because the Lizard is a really silly monster), I actually feel that this is a quite good Spider-Man movie.  Garfield brings a more modern feel to Peter without losing the anxious outsider feel of the character.  Luminaries like Martin Sheen and Sally Field bring more gravitas to their roles as Uncle Ben and Aunt May.  And Emma Stone, who I always like, plays a more interesting and capable female lead as Gwen Stacey.

Of the pre-Tom Holland era Spider-films, I’d say that this is the best one alongside Spider-Man 2.

Rating: ***1/2

Comics Review: Star Wars (2020- )


Title:  The Destiny Path
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date: November 10, 2020
Writer(s): Charles Soule
Penciller(s): Jesús Saiz
Letterer(s): Clayton Cowles

Star Wars comics picks up from the previous run with stories set after The Empire Strikes Back. If you always assumed that Boba Fett immediately delivered Han Solo frozen in carbonite to Jabba the Hutt, you will also surprised that there were some challenges on his journey.  Also, Luke, Leia, and Lando return to Cloud City (under Imperial control), each looking for something. I kind of felt that unlike the earlier comics series where the stories seemed to be probable adventures of our favorite Rebels between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, that this is more of an attempt to retcon Star Wars.  But we shall see where it goes next.


Title:  Operation Starlight
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date: April 6, 2021[
Writer(s): Charles Soule
Penciller(s): Ramon Rosanas, Jan Bazaldua
Letterer(s): Clayton Cowles

The Rebel Alliance is scattered across the galaxy and can’t communicate without being discovered by the Empire.  The solution may be found in an ancient droid and Lando’s henchman Lobot!  The series also introduces and interesting new antagonist in Imperial Commander Ellian Zahra, although I suppose her days are numbered since she never appears in Return of the Jedi. This is another good but not great Star Wars comics collection.


 

Title:  War of the Bounty Hunters
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date: December 28, 2021[
Writer(s): Charles Soule
Penciller(s): Ramon Rosanas,
Letterer(s): Clayton Cowles

This Star Wars story kind of feels like something I would’ve come up with my Kenner action figures as a kid.  What if frozen Han Solo is stolen and is involved a big game of keepaway among Boba Fett, the Rebel Alliance, the Hutts, Qi’ra and the Crimson Dawn, and the Imperials lead by Darth Vader himself.  It’s the ultimate ludicrous crossover story, but kind of fun in a way.

Movie Review: Spider-Man 3


Title: Spider-Man 3
Release Date: May 4, 2007
Director: Sam Raimi
Production Company: Columbia Pictures | Marvel Entertainment | Laura Ziskin Productions
Summary/Review:

Like many blockbuster franchises, Spider-Man 3 reaches the point where they need to raise the stakes while neglecting to make a good movie.  Thus we get a movie with three villains.  First, Peter Parker’s (Tobey Maguire) friend Harry Osborne (James Franco) finally takes on the mantle of his late father and becomes Goblin, Jr., deadset on gaining revenge on Spider-Man.  Next, there’s an alien symbiote that first infects Peter’s Spider-Man suit giving him both increased powers and increased assholery. Later the symbiote attaches itself to Peter’s photographer rival from The Daily Bugle, Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) who becomes Venom.  Finally, an escaped convict with a dark connection to Peter, Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church) falls into a particle accelerator which turns him into Sandman.

While Peter enjoys a newfound popularity at Spider-Man, his girlfriend Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) struggles personally and professionally.  This leads to tension in their relationship, something that’s exacerbated by the symbiote. The movie also features Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard) as a romantic alternative for Peter Parker. There’s so much going in this movie that it feels more like a clip show of a Spider-Man tv show than a cohesive story in its own right.

There are some good parts in this movie.  I especially like the effects of Marko turning into Sandman.  But overall it is meh, and a sad end to the Raimi/Maguire era of Spider-Man.

Rating: **1/2

Movie Review: Spider-Man 2 (2004)


Title: Spider-Man 2
Release Date: June 30, 2004
Director: Sam Raimi
Production Company: Columbia Pictures | Marvel Enterprises | Laura Ziskin Productions
Summary/Review:

The second installment in superhero franchises tends to be better because they’ve gotten past all the origin story and are able to focus on more of a straightforward story while ratcheting up the stakes.  This is the case with Spider-Man 2 which I think is the best of the trilogy. Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is finding that his crime-fighting activity is getting in the way of his college studies, his job, and his struggling relationships with Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) and Harry (James Franco). Soon he finds himself beginning to lose his spider-powers at inopportune times.  While not explicitly stated, it ends up being a good superhero depiction of someone dealing with depression and anxiety.

Meanwhile another scientist at Oscorp, Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), experiments on himself with disastrous results. Four mechanical tentacles are embedded in his body take control of him and becomes the mad Doctor Octopus.  Doc Oc is probably one of the best Spider-Man villains and Molina portrays his Jeckyl/Hyde personality well.  There are also some great action sequences including a fight on an elevated train hurtling through the city.

On the downside there is not much for Mary Jane to do besides scream a lot.  There is so much screaming in this film, and lot of sequences (like a failed surgery on Doc Oc) are filmed like a horror movie, perhaps betraying Raimi’s past work on the Evil Dead series. Overall though, this is a solid superhero movie with good pacing and a straightforward plot.

 

Rating: ***1/2

Movie Review: Spider-Man (2002)


TitleSpider-Man
Release Date: May 3, 2002
Director: Sam Raimi
Production Company: Columbia Pictures | Marvel Enterprises | Laura Ziskin Productions
Summary/Review:

Despite having become something of a Marvel Cinematic Universe completionist, it was not that long ago that I was someone who was “not interested in all those superhero movies.”  The turning point was watching The Avengers with my kids in 2015. Anyhow, since Spider-Man: No Way Home featured enjoyable performances by earlier actors who played Spider-Man, I figured it was worth checking out the older films.

This iteration of Spider-Man features the origin story that’s familiar even if you haven’t read any of the comics. On a school trip to the Oscorp labs, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is bitten by a genetically-modified spider giving him spider-like abilities.  Maguire’s Peter is perhaps overloaded with nerdy signifiers, but I also appreciate that he can be kind of a selfish jerk.  It feels realistic to a teenager who suddenly has “great power” and the responsibility that goes with it.

The villain in this film is scientist/businessman Norman Osborne (Willem Dafoe), the head of Oscorp, whose experiment with a performance-enhancing chemical drives him insane.  He turns into the giggling Green Goblin riding a hoverboard.  In one of the many coincidences of this movie, Peter is best friends with Osborne’s son Harry (James Franco).  Peter and Harry are also vying for the attention of their classmate Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst).

Overall this is an entertaining film with a good balance of action, character development, and heart.  I felt Maguire and Dafoe were the standouts, but the other actors aren’t given much to do.  This is especially true for Dunst whose Mary Jane just seems to need to be rescued over and over in way that was old-fashioned even in 2002.  Although probably true to their depictions in the comics, Peter’s Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) and Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) seem comically way too old.  J. K. Simmons is great though as the comically obnoxious and corrupt newspaper editor J. Jonah Jameson.

Rating: ***

Movie Review: Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)


Title: Spider-Man: No Way Home
Release Date: December 17, 2021
Director: Jon Watts
Production Company: Columbia Pictures | Marvel Studios | Pascal Pictures
Summary/Review:

Tom Holland’s Spider-Man has been one of the best parts of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so it was with great enthusiasm that I went to see the third Spider-Man movie (although it took me a while to get to theaters!).  Following up on the end of Far From Home where the Rush Limbaugh-like J. Jonah Jameson (J. K. Simmons) reveals Spider-Man’s identity as Peter Parker to the world. Naturally, the publicity has a negative effect on Peter’s life, but also on his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), girlfriend M.J. (Zendaya), and best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon).

Peter asks Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) for help casting a spell that would cause the world to forget that Spider-Man is Peter Parker.  When the spell goes wrong it draws in villains from other universes including Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), Electro (Jamie Foxx), Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina), Lizard (Rhys Ifans), and Sandman (Thomas Haden Church).  Peter, M.J., Ned, and May realize that returning them to their own dimension would cause their deaths, so they work on first curing them of the various maladies that turned them into villains in the first place.

BIG SPOILERS AFTER THE TRAILER

Continue reading “Movie Review: Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)”

TV Review: Hawkeye (2021)


Title: Hawkeye
Release Date: 2021
Creator: Jonathan Igla
Director: Rhys Thomas (episodes 1,2, & 6), Bert & Bertie (episodes 3-5)
Season: 1
Episodes: 6
Production Company: Marvel Studios
Summary/Review:

Clint Barton, a.k.a. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), is the overlooked Avenger, who not only never got his own movie, but was just kind of there when the first Avengers movie began.  So this is a belated Hawkeye story that focuses on the aging superhero/dad dealing with the trauma of losing his friend Natasha Romanov as well as hearing loss.  Enter Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld), who as a child witnessed the Battle of New York in 2012 when her house in Manhattan was damaged and her father killed. Seeing Hawkeye’s heroics, Kate dedicated her life to learning archery and martial arts skill.

This series is obviously a “passing the baton” story as Barton just wants to get home to his family for Christmas but gets caught up in a crisis that center around Kate.  They have a good chemistry and the show has a good balance of humor, action, and more reflective moments.  It also has an surplus of villains including the Tracksuit Mafia, Maya Lopez (Alaqua Cox) – a deaf leader of the Tracksuits set on vengeance against Barton’s alter-ego Ronin, and Natasha’s sister Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), who was introduced in Black Widow and once again steals scenes left and right.

I won’t go into much detail but it’s an enjoyable series and another great addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

MASTER LIST OF MCU REVIEWS

 

Book Review: The Life of Captain Marvel by Margaret Stohl, Carlos Pacheco


Author: Margaret Stohl
Title: The Life of Captain Marvel
Illustrator: Carlos Pacheco
Publication Info: Marvel,  February 19, 2019
Summary/Review:

After reading Kraven’s Last Hunt, I decided to check out another book in the Marvel Selects series. The material in this collection isn’t actually all that old, only dating to 2018.  It tells Captain Marvel’s origin story framed within a story of Carol Danvers taking a break from the Avengers to visit her family at their summer home in Maine.  (Did you know that Carol is from the Boston area, they didn’t say that in the movie?)  With flashbacks to her childhood and confrontations with her mother and brother, Carol learns secrets about her parents and the origins of her powers.  As origin stories go, it’s pretty well done.

Rating: ***

Comics Review: Star Wars: Darth Vader by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca.


Title: Book I: Vader
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Penciler & Inker: Salvador Larroca
Letter: Joe Caramagna
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Cover Artist: Adi Granov
Summary/Review:

Set after the destruction of the Death Star, Darth Vader is in hot water for allowing a Rebel victory on his watch.  The Emperor has put Vader’s rival in control, and Vader sets in motion a plot to both regain his position of influence as well as the personal goal of finding the young pilot who fired the shot that destroyed the Death Star.  To accomplish these goals he recruits archaeologist Doctor Aphra to carry out missions for him.  In turn she teams up with her assassin droid companions, 0-0-0 (Triple-Zero) and BT-1 (Beetee), kind of a perverse version of See Threepio and Artoo Detoo.  Aphra is a great character and addition to the Star Wars universe.  Kind of a morally gray person willing to do the bidding of Darth Vader more out of fear than loyalty, but also capable of doing a great job.

Rating: ****


Title: Book II: Shadows and Secrets
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Penciler & Inker: Salvador Larroca
Letter: Joe Caramagna
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Cover Artist: Adi Granov
Summary/Review:

In this volume, the Emperor’s plans to have several rivals compete for Vader’s position are revealed.  Darth Vader also works secretly with bounty hunters to carry out an attack on an Imperial ship to gain Imperial credits.  And Dr. Aphra uses the credits to track down the identity of the Rebel pilot, Luke Skywalker.  Another entertaining volume of Star Wars intrigue.

Rating: ****


Title: Vader Down
Writer: Jason Aaron and Kieron Gillen
Penciler & Inker: Mike Deodato, Jr. and Salvador Larroca
Letter: Joe Caramagna
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Cover Artist: Mark Brooks and Jordan D. White
Summary/Review:

This volume collects crossover stories with the standard Star Wars comics run. Darth Vader tracks down Luke Skywalker to a planet but finds himself in the middle of Rebel training.  The Rebel Forces are no match for Darth Vader on his own.  It’s an interesting plot that almost brings Vader and Luke together but without spoiling their first real meeting in Bespin Cloud City. It’s great to see the familiar characters – Leia, Han, Chewbacca, etc. – brought into the Vader story.

Rating: ***


Title: Book III: The Shu-Torun War
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Penciler & Inker: Salvador Larroca
Letter: Joe Caramagna
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Cover Artist: Kaare Andrews and Mark Brooks
Summary/Review:

Darth Vader is responsible for suppressing a rebellion on the mining planet of Shu-Torun. To accomplish this, he assassinates much of the ruling family and manipulates the youngest daughter, Trios, into being the puppet ruler.  He fights on two fronts against the rebellious Ore-Dukes and his rival for the Emperor’s second-in-command, Cylo.  I did not enjoy this volume as much as the others.

Rating: ***


Title: Book IV: End of Games
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Penciler & Inker: Max Fiumara and Salvador Larroca
Letter: Joe Caramagna
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Cover Artist: Mark Brooks, Juan Gimenez, and Salvador Larroca
Summary/Review:

In the culminating story of the arc, Vader battles Cylo and his other rivals that get him back into the place of power we see him in Empire Strikes Back.  Meanwhile, Dr. Aphra works on a plan to escape the servitude of Vader while still living.  A good conclusion to an entertaining addition to Star Wars lore.

Rating: ****