Thursday, May 03, 2007
Tribeca Reviews: the fifth batch
The two superduper galas have taken place, they open tomarrow.
Written and directed
by Sam Raimi
Superhero movies are always to some extent absurd. This doesn’t make them bad, per se, It’s just that there are different goals for shoot for and heavy psychological drama isn’t one of them, that’s where this thing fails. A film like this should be intelligent enough not to be a total joke, and concentrate on the animated action sequences. After all, this is a live-action cartoon, and one-note characters are perfectly acceptable.
Yeah, I know, Spider-Man’s angst was one of the comic’s selling points, I read it as a kid just like everyone else. However, the attempt to take it to a more adult level just doesn’t work all that well. Not that it’s BAD, however…
Okay, Peter(Tobey Maguire) and Mary Jane’s(Kirsten Dunst) relationship is beginning to mature a bit, but Petey’s with Harry Osborn(James Franco) is not. In the first big action scene, Harry gratuitously attacks Pete on the way back from MJ’s opening night musical debut, and that’s really good. It’s fast paced and violent, giving Harry a slight case of amnesia and making everyone friends again. So far so good.
Everybody who’s supposed to be back is. Aunt May(Rosemary Harris) and J. Jonah Jameson(J.K. Simmons) return entirely intact, and it gives a homey feeling to it all. Even the introduction of the secondary villain, Flint Marko/Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) is done well. However, it’s the primary villain, Eddie Brock/Venom (Topher Grace), and the romantic polygon over MJ and Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard), which make the whole thing stumble a bit.
Back in the early days of the original comic book, Spider-Man was a cross between “Superman” and “Archie.” Sure, Spidy would fight the likes of Doc Ock and the Kingpin, but when he was in “Clark Kent mode” it was as a slightly geeky Archie Andrews with MJ and Gwen being the equivalent of Betty and Veronica, and Harry taking the Jughead part. As far as it went, it was pure genius, but then Pete went to college and the whole thing began to go down hill. This is kind of what’s happening here as well.
Then comes Venom. Venom was introduced into the comic book by a dues-ex-machina in a Marvel-wide plot arc, and the original black suit wasn’t that popular on Spidy so it got a book of it’s own. The introduction of the suit in the movie is the best they could do, I guess, but the whole thing is kind of lame, and it nearly ruins the film in the middle, when Peter starts acting like John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever” The musical sequence there stops the film dead in it’s tracks, and it almost doesn’t manage to regain it’s momentum. The final deneument is also lame, especially after the nifty final battle between the bad guys and Spidey.
It’s a huge budget Hollywood comic book blockbuster, you’re going to see it anyway, and I’m not going to try to stop you. So go.
Morons can be very intelligent people. Curtis Hanson, who wrote and directed one of the great movies of all time [LA Confidential], has decided to explore this phenomenon in what might be his weakest film in years.
Huck Cheever (Eric Bana) and Billie Offer (Drew Barrymore) are both very intelligent morons. He is a professional gambler and she a lounge singer. He burns though money like there’s no tomarrow, and she’s got lousy taste in men and knows it.
They meet cute, Huck “saves” Billie from a guy at a party, and despite the fact that her sister Suzanne(Debra Messing) knows our hero very well, she goes with him anyway. They have cute conversation and after they screw, he steals her money. She gets mad, but not that mad. Then Huck tries to get the ten grand to get into the World Series of Poker. He has an offer from a big shot gambler(Charles Martin Smith) in exchange for a 60/40 split [in the other guy’s favor], but he doesn’t want to be beholden to anyone, especially his hated father L.C.(Robert Duvall), who is also a gambler, but relents and then blows it all. Moron. He knows that he should have paid the entry fee immediately, but no. Then there’s a really stupid scene where our hero tries to get the money via a weird bet with another gambler(Horatio Sanz). Billie is back, and how they part is moralistic tripe.
The problem with this film is the writing. The whole thing is based on idiot plotting. Yeah, the acting is good, [Bana’s the weakest of the bunch, and Duval and Barrymore do their shticks with the professionalism that we’ve come to expect] but the characters aren’t well drawn, Hanson’s usually sharp dialogue is rather blunted here, and the world of the film seems emotionless and remote.
This is all the more disappointing because Hansen’s films of the past decade, and this includes “In Her Shoes”, have been wildly entertaining. But mediocre Hanson is better than good almost anyone else…no it isn’t. Bargain matinee or cable material only. Darn! I was sooooooo looking forward to this one…