FS, Contributing Writer
“The Amazing Spider-Man 2”
The deluge of superhero movies continues with “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” (wide release), the second picture in the reboot of the web-slinging Marvel character that replaced Tobey Maguire with Andrew Garfield.
This time around, Peter Parker faces off against both Electro (Jamie Foxx), who can gobble up electrical current and use it as a weapon, and his own childhood friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), who turns into the murderous Green Goblin. As if that weren’t enough villainy, Paul Giamatti turns up as a Russian terrorist who becomes Rhino, another one of Spidey’s opponents.
In addition to dealing with this trio of bad guys, Parker has to confront his simmering angst over being abandoned by his parents and his guilt over continuing to romance Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) despite a promise he made to her late father.
The cluttered plot is one of the movie’s problems; another is the underuse of the talents of Foxx, DeHaan, Stone and Giamatti, none of whom are well served by the script.
Still, the movie gets a low pass on the basis of the action scenes, which are better choreographed than those in the first installment, and of improved special effects that are only partially ruined by some cheesy 3-D moments.
The adjective in the title goes way too far, but although this “Spider-Man” is hardly amazing, it’s reasonably entertaining.
Tom Hardy, who played the masked Bane in “The Dark Knight Rises,” gets to show his face as the star of “Locke” (Magnolia). In fact, that’s about all you see in this verbose piece about a man driving from Birmingham to London, trying to deal by phone with a series of crises in both his personal and professional lives. He’s suddenly abandoned the most important job of his career in order to deal with an indiscretion that might very well destroy his marriage.
Hardy, onscreen constantly except for brief cutaways to the road outside, gives a performance that’s truly a tour de force, but in the end, the picture feels like a one-man play that’s simply been transferred to the screen. And while the direction and editing are imaginative, they can’t entirely hide the movie’s essential staginess.
The premise of “Fading Gigolo” (Magnolia) isn’t promising: a failed New York bookseller persuades his florist friend to become a paid escort for lonely women, with the two splitting the profits.
But the script by John Turturro — who also plays the florist — is surprisingly tender, particularly when the reluctant lothario gently connects with a beautiful, Hasidic widow longing for human contact who doesn’t notice a community cop’s infatuation with her.
And a substantial number of chuckles are provided by Woody Allen, who puts his usual stammering shtick to good use as the bookseller-turned-hustler.
The result is a cinematic high-wire act that constantly threatens to fall into tastelessness but manages to keep its footing.
In the 19th century, the only categories that existed were childhood and adulthood, and a person passed directly from one to the other. It was the 20th century that created the concept of adolescence. At least, that’s the argument of “Teenage” (Angelika), an intriguing but flawed documentary.
Matt Wolf’s film persuasively presents the idea that child labor laws, the rise of public education and programs such as the Boy Scouts and the experience of two world wars and a terrible economic depression were all instrumental in the development of the notion of an “in-between” age. And it makes excellent use of archival material and voiceover readings from period memoirs to explain how.
However, Wolf also makes extensive use of modern recreations distressed to look like old footage, which he arbitrarily inserts into the authentically vintage stuff, blurring the line between fiction and nonfiction.
And so, while “Teenage” is informative and entertaining, it’s also more than a little deceptive from a cinematic standpoint.