5 Things Spiderman 3 Got Pretty RIGHT/5 Things It Got Drastically WRONG

Tommy (Michael Bowen): “Is this movie in 3-D?”
Randy (Nicholas Cage): “No, but your face is!”
VALLEY GIRL (Dir. Martha Coolidge, 1983)

While I’m still tallying up the answers from the big 80th post pop-quiz last time out I thought I’d get right on back to what this blog is all about – movie review babble. So yeah, I saw SPIDERMAN 3 (Dir. Sam Raimi, 2007). It’s been getting tremendous backlash – disses right and left – the New York Times calls it “aesthetically and conceptually wrung out” (Manohla Dargis 5/4/07) and many lament that the fun has gone out of the series and while I wouldn’t say that I do agree that it is indeed a mixed bag so here are:

5 Things SPIDERMAN 3 Got Pretty RIGHT:

1. Much better special effects: In 1 & 2 Spiderman (Tobey Maquire) web-slinging his way from building to building through the city looked video gamey and at times borderline absurd but now has a fluid graceful believability. Nice to see that the reportedely most expensive movie ever has its money up there on the screen.

2. The Sandman: Thomas Haden Church is beautifully cast as escaped felon Flint Marco who because he accidentally fell into an experimental particle physics site that molecularly binds him with sand he gets fantastical shape-shifting powers (though it’s not widely reported that kind of thing happens everyday y’know). Like all the villains in the franchise he’s really not evil deep down in his heart – he’s just computer generated that way.

3. The Black Suit: Yep shiny goth Spidey looks pretty cool. That was evident in the trailers from a year ago though – sorry I’ll save the cons for now. And no – I’m not gonna copy ‘n paste that same ole brooding SPIDERMAN in “the thinker” pose picture and post it here.

4. Venom: Though only named in the credits – a satisfyingly scary villain (especially when he grits his teeth) albeit in a movie with one villain too many – damn I said I’d save the cons and there I went again. Anyway since the other half of this element is covered in the cons I’ll just say this – Venom has bite.

5. The obligatory yet hugely satisfying Stan Lee and Bruce Campbell cameos: Appropriately cheesy Spiderman creator Stan Lee’s quick pep-talk appearance to a battered soul-fried Parker hits the spot – “You know, I guess one person really can make a difference…”. You tell him Marvel Man! And wouldn’t we all feel cheated if we didn’t get Bruce Campbell for the third time to cameo? His pretentious French Maitre d’ may not have anything on John Cleese in MONTY PYTHON’S THE MEANING OF LIFE but in this film it’s one of the only bits of comedy that worked – “I love romance. I am French.” Now to let the disses truly fly:

5 Things SPIDERMAN 3 Got Drastically WRONG :

1. J.K. Simmons : As newspaper editor J. Jonah Jameson Simmons was dead on in the first 2 installments but here his fast talking manipulative schtick is tired, unfunny and most sadly he only annoys the audience every time he appears. Maybe it was that Simpsons appearance from last season – “stop the presses, send my wife some flowers, get me an Advil – what do you mean you don’t work for me? You’re hired! Now that you’re hired you’re fired. Now that you don’t work here we can be friends – now that we’re friends how come you don’t call? Some friend you are!” I guess once the Simpsons has got you down your gig is up.

2. The Harry Osbourn(James Franco) Amnesia Plot : As a writer I always dislike the “he lost his memory” plotline that has been a longtime cheat of sitcoms, – Hell it made me swear off the show 24 forever. It’s such lazy screenwriting to have Harry conveniently have his recent revenge fueled memory erased after such an unimpressive alleyway tussle with our hero.

3. Kirsten Dunst Sings 2 Songs – Yes, I know it’s from the original comic that Mary Jane Watson is an aspiring actress – a wannabe Broadway singing star but nobody and I mean nobody was buying a ticket to see her warble through 2 complete numbers. Show stoppers in the worst way.

4. The Extended Black Gunk From Outer Space Turns Peter Parker Into An Asshole Sequence. Yes the black suit looks cool as I noted above but the gunk which is an alien symbiote coming from a small meteorite that attaches itself to Spidey’s suit just brings out the jerk in Parker. Looking like strands of Twistler’s candy dipped in tar – the ooze infiltrates Peter’s nice guy mentality and promptly makes him strut around Manhattan with an entitled atitude like Jim Carrey from BRUCE ALMIGHTY. This whole bit should have been a deleted scene.

5. Topher Grace/ The Overall Bloat : I loop these together because as scary cool as Venom was and maybe that was because it’s the only less-is-more element here – the entire Topher Grace origins of the character are lame, it comes in way too late in the story to have proper impact and Grace’s overall smarm kill his time on screen. The 2 and a half hour flick is crammed with too many incidental characters and go nowhere plot threads as it is – I mean do we seriously need a scene of Franco and Dunst making an omelet and repeated appearances by Peter’s landlord and daughter Ursula? I mean do we really?! And did I mention Kirsten Dunst sings 2 songs?!!?

Okay good to get that out of my system. Now on with another movie I saw on the big screen since my last post:

BLACK BOOK (Dir. Paul Verhoven, 2007) Verhoven’s first movie in 6 years is a far cry from the glib futuristic satire of ROBOCOP (1987) and definitely more than just timezones away from the glib psycho sexual trash thriller BASIC INSTINCT (1992). Rachel Stein (Carice Van Houten) hides from Nazi’s in 1944 Netherlands hiding her Jewish-ness under a blond curly dye-job and behind her charm which is the sole saving grace of this tedious over-stated film.

Van Houten is a former singer (and she does sing beautifully in the only scenes that register emotion) who becomes embroiled in a plot by the resistance to infiltrate the SD (Sicherheitsdienst-Security Service) office run by officer Ludwig Mntze (Sebastian Koch) who is apparently a lovable Nazi (one that the movie stresses isn’t as bad as the other cold blooded less attractive Nazis)therefore she falls for him. The plot thickens when members of the resistance may be as untrustworthy as their enemy. After one wades through all the supposedely purposeful unpleasantness symbolized by the bucket of shit (yes I do mean an actual bucket of shit) that’s poured on top of Stein and all the close calls and near-scrapes with Nazis it’s hard to care who double crossed who and for what purpose. With an almost complete lack of directorial style and affecting acting edge in an almost CATCH 22 way – it’s impressive at how unimpressive BLACK BOOK is.

More later…

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