The Amazing Spider-Man
NEW YORK (CNS) — The legendary web-swinger is back, battling teen angst by day and catching crooks at night in The Amazing Spider-Man (Columbia), a 3D reboot of the classic Marvel comic book character.
While the bones of the familiar story remain intact, the style and vision of this version, directed by Marc Webb ((500) Days of Summer), are darker, bordering at times on horror and lacking the charm and fun of the recent Spider-Man film trilogy. Still, amid the action and thrills lies an inspirational tale about accepting responsibility and using one’s gifts for the greater good.
Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is your basic science geek, trying to avoid the bullies in high school and wondering h ow to catch the eye of his comely classmate, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). He lives with his kindly Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field), who took him in as a toddler when his scientist parents, Richard and Mary Parker (Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz), mysteriously disappeared.
Foraging in the basement, Peter discovers his father’s briefcase, put there for safekeeping. Inside are clues to his father’s top-secret work at OsCorp, a genetic engineering laboratory. Desperate for answers regarding his parents’ fate, Peter looks up dad’s former partner, the brilliant Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans).
The one-armed scientist is obsessed with “cross-species genetics,” combining human and animal DNA to regrow tissue; in his case, an entire arm. Connors has no qualms about playing God. “I long to fix myself,” he says. “Imagine a world without deformities, without weakness. Why be human at all when we can be so much more?”
Poking around in Connors’ lab amid genetically engineered critters, Peter gets bitten by a spider, and before long is crawling up walls and tingling with “spider-sense.”
As Peter gains confidence — and arrogance — from his new powers, he neglects his family and schoolwork. When Uncle Ben is killed by a gunman Peter could have stopped, Peter becomes a vigilante in search of the killer. Along the way, he embraces Uncle Ben’s advice to do good — and help others in need.
Meanwhile, Connors decides to test his new reptile-based serum on himself. Poof! He grows a new arm — as well as a whole lot of scales in a transformation straight out of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Clearly, it’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature, and Connors — a.k.a. The Lizard — goes on a rampage, chewing up the sewers and suspension bridges of Manhattan. Peter, now sporting the moniker “Spider-Man,” finds his inner hero as catastrophe looms.
At times The Amazing Spider-Man takes itself too seriously, feeling like a Shakespearian drama on steroids. Fortunately, however, there’s enough levity on hand to bring it back down to size.
“What am I, the mayor of Tokyo?” cries Gwen’s father, the chief of police (Denis Leary), as The Lizard stomps its way through the city like the petulant son of Godzilla.
The film contains intense action violence, including gunplay, and some
rough language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults.
The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents
strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under
Tyler Perry’s Madea’s
NEW YORK (CNS) — Madea, the familiar, frequently mixed-up, but mostly moral force of nature in a muumuu, has one of her weaker outings in the labouriously titled Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection (Lionsgate).
This time around, the set-up is that Madea is sheltering a white family
because her nephew Brian (also Perry), an Atlanta district attorney,
has asked her to help them.
George Needleman (Eugene Levy), it seems, has for years been the innocent
front man for a corporate Ponzi scheme connected to organized crime.
Facing fraud charges on a Bernard Madoff scale and threatened by the
mobsters as well, George needs a place to hide. What better spot, thinks
Brian, than the house of his Aunt Madea?
There, George is joined in seclusion by wife Kate (Denise Richards),
batty mother Barbara (Doris Roberts) and disrespectful son and daughter
Howie (Devan Leos) and Cindy (Danielle Campbell).
Madea’s initial reluctance in the face of Joe’s
plan is tempered by the $4,000 a month she will receive for her hospitality.
The massive crime, we learn, has even touched nearby, since
Jake (Romeo Miller), the son of Pastor Nelson (John Amos), invested the
mortgage fund in one of the scheme’s front companies, losing it
all in the fallout.
Perry doesn’t traffic in the tasteless racial humour his scenario
might suggest. Instead, he sticks to the broader — and well-worn — theme
of the cultural shock that ensues when stuffy Caucasians mingle with
earthy black folks.
Madea, as always, sums up the obvious: “How do you expect me to
hide five white people in a neighbourhood that don’t even have
white cats or white cars? They’ll stick out like me at a Republican
convention. Do I look like I likes Newt Ginger?”
Trademark Perry themes of respect for parents, adherence
religious beliefs and self-confidence carry the day. Madea advises the
terrified Needleman, “I don’t let no one feel sorry for themselves
in this house.” And the happy ending rushes in before you (or Madea)
can proclaim, “Hallelujer!”
The film contains occasional slapstick violence as well
as fleeting crass language and drug references. The Catholic News Service
classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating
is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate
for children under 13.
People Like Us
NEW YORK (CNS) — Based on real events and aimed at intelligent, mature audiences, People Like Us (Disney) can, refreshingly, be read as emphasizing the first word in its title.
We can see some of the results of that blighted heritage
in the behaviour of fast-talking, 20-something businessman Sam (Chris
Pine) to whom early scenes introduce us. Basically good-hearted, but
less than scrupulous, Sam specializes in wholesale barter, and is under
investigation by the feds for his fast-and-loose flouting of various
also up against significant financial reversals.
In the midst of all that, Sam’s live-in girlfriend
Hannah (Olivia Wilde) passes on the news that his father, from whom Sam
has long been estranged, has died. Traveling back to his hometown with
Hannah in tow, emotionally conflicted Sam uses underhanded means to avoid
having to attend the funeral. In return for this slight, his tardy arrival
is greeted by a slap in the face from his understandably irritated mom,
Lillian (Michelle Pfeiffer).
Something more akin to a sucker punch awaits Sam as he
gradually discovers, in the wake of a one-on-one meeting with his dad’s
lawyer, that he has a 30-year-old half-sister named Frankie (Elizabeth
Banks), and that two-timing Pa, a successful but self-absorbed music
producer, left secret instructions for Sam to convey a large cash bequest
Given how much he could use the money himself, this sets
up quite the moral dilemma for Sam. But as he gets to know his struggling
sibling — Sam
contrives to cross her path as though he were a chance acquaintance — less
selfish considerations come to the fore. All the more so, because Sam
begins to bond with Frankie’s troubled preteen son Josh (Michael
Conceived while his mom, a recovering alcoholic, was in
the midst of a binge of drinking and anonymous sex, Josh doesn’t know who his
father is because Frankie can’t say for sure herself. So his need
for a male mentor to guide him back to the straight-and-narrow is patent.
Scarred by his own dad’s parental deficiencies, Sam willingly plays
the role of big brother/father figure to the lad.
Since Sam keeps delaying the big reveal, and persists in posing as nothing
more than a would-be friend, Frankie, not surprisingly, starts to imagine
an entirely different role for him in her life. This needlessly prolonged
case of mistaken identity comes across as increasingly unrealistic on
one level and as at least notionally icky on another.
But, of course, things get wrapped up without anything remotely untoward
While certainly not fit fare for youngsters, this generally warm offering
will likely win over those adult viewers not deterred by the elements
The film contains cohabitation, brief semi-graphic sexual
activity, drug use, an addiction theme, a few instances of profanity,
at least one rough term and considerable crude and crass language. The
Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association
of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material
may be inappropriate for children under 13.