Tobey Maguire

Spider-Man 2

Year: 2004
Directed By: Sam Raimi
Written By: Four different writers, based on characters created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko

RYAN’S REVIEW

This has always been acclaimed as a really exceptional sequel but I have always thought it was overrated. It’s a cool movie but it has too much story and not enough action. It does a great job of character development and takes us deeper with all the main characters but that’s never been what I wanted. It makes for a great story but I always want more excitement in a sequel. I want any sequel to equal more of everything you loved about the first. I have simply never felt like this movie capitalized on that opportunity.

In the world of sequels this movie is much more Godfather II and not enough Terminator 2. By that I mean that it’s boring, at times in this case at least. This is a long superhero movie and there is not nearly enough action to break up the long retarding points. The Godfather II is impossibly long and devoid of action whereas I have no idea how long Terminator 2 is. Nobody knows how long it is without checking the runtime because it’s so exciting the time flies by.

This movie has some really fantastic fight scenes but there just weren’t enough of them. I criticize this movie but that’s not meant to suggest I don’t respect it. This movie has some seriously awesome Spidey action. You just have to sit through all his internal struggles in order to see them and that takes forever.

I know that it came straight out of the comic but I have always hated the segment when Peter quits being Spider-Man. It’s great for Peter to get his life in order and it makes for a nice story but it only gets in the way of Spider-Man time. I don’t care if Peter meets his personal obligations. I want to see Spider-Man swinging through the street and webbing up bad guys.

I think one of the most important themes in Spider-Man has always been that it’s hard to be a superhero. It takes sacrifice to do what’s right and an honorable character to make the decision to do it. This movie really captures that quality of the character. Not only is it hard to be a superhero but nothing ever goes Peter’s way. Poor Peter, the love of his life is marrying someone else, his best friend is mad at him, people can’t walk by without bumping into him or knocking his stuff to the ground. Big deal, you have to counterbalance all that stuff that sucks with the fact that you get to be Spider-Man.

While everybody else was beaming over this movie I was twitching with growing frustration because I just wanted to see Spider-Man doing his thing. However, when the movie finally does get to the action it does not disappoint. When I was in college I would sometimes pop in the DVD of this film and just skip to the fight scenes. I would watch the battles between Spidey and Doc Ock over and over again because they were awesome. As frustrated as I have been with this movie I still deny it nothing. It was better than the first one and when it got going it went somewhere exciting.

This movie was just as impressive as its predecessor when it came to box office returns and that was an exciting thing to watch. The first film had set records and this one broke them as Spider-Man proved to be the most lucrative franchise since Star Wars. I have always had an interest in box office statistics and that interest made this movie even more exciting for me as a fan.

While my overall tone here has been disappointment that isn’t altogether accurate. Do I wish the movie had more action? Yes, but I think the action that is on the table lived up to my expectations as a fan. This wasn’t my favorite Spider-Man film but it was a good movie nonetheless.

Alfred Molina made for a great Doctor Octopus and it was awesome to see the character on screen. The effects used to make his tentacles move were very well done and he looked fantastic in fight scenes with Spider-Man. I do wish they had given the character a different ending because it would have been great for him to have the potential to return. It sucks seeing the same thing done again but I would still love to see a new version of Doc Ock eventually. He’s just too cool a villain to sit on the sidelines forever. It would be great for him to be a new villain introduced into the MCU.

Aside from the lack of action the only problem I had with this movie was Spider-Man takes his mask off far too much. Spidey was unmasked frequently in the comics but everyone always assumed he was an impostor when they saw Peter Parker. This would explain to them how Spider-Man was defeated at all because it wasn’t the real Spider-Man. In this movie he is just taking that mask off far too much. Spider-Man’s secret identity is one of the most important aspects of his character because his villains are always after Aunt May or one of his girlfriends.

For most people this sequel outshined the original and they loved it. I like it but do not agree. That isn’t to say it’s not a good movie though, I personally just wanted something different. Nevertheless this is a movie that is worth your time to see if for no other reason than to see some really awesome fight scenes.

NEXT MOVIE: Spider-Man 3 (2007)

 

Spider-Man

Year: 2002
Directed By: Sam Raimi
Written By: David Koepp, based on character created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko

RYAN’S REVIEW

This movie changed everything. Not only in the movie industry itself but for me personally as well. It’s arguably one of the most influential movies of the new century because everything we see today started here. I was working at the movie theater part time when this movie came out doing my Tyler Durden impression and it was a very exciting time. It meant more to me because at that time and place I felt very involved in the experience. As an avid observer I got to see it all unfold and the aftermath has been nothing short of spectacular.

When I was 18 I had a very unique job at the movie theater in which I showed up once a week and built the movies for play in the theater. In a story for another time I actually inherited this job and wasn’t even officially on payroll. It was so cool because I would simply walk into the theater once a week, bypass all the real employees and go straight upstairs. There I would chat with management and then get to work splicing movies together in the projection booth. This allowed me access to screening the movies before hand as well as free entry to any movie I wanted to see which I took advantage of fervently in my teenage years.  It was a fun time in life and I watched a lot of movies. The reason I bring it up now is because throughout that time the most significant movie I built and watched was Spider-Man. I used to save a frame from each movie I built and the frame for Spider-Man was one I actually carried around in my wallet for years. I must have watched this movie in the theater eight times and I eagerly watched the box office returns everyday as it rose to one of the then highest grossing movies of all time.

I grew up as an X-Men fan. Since as far back as I can remember I was watching the cartoon, playing with the action figures, and reading the comics when I was allowed. I had somehow never really been exposed to Spider-Man though. I was aware of him but I had never really gotten into the character. Somewhere along the line as I grew out of being a kid and into a teenager I grew out of my beloved childhood comic characters as well. I was older and too cool for such things as I entered the rigorous social hierarchy of High School. Nevertheless I was really pumped when the X-Men came out and I loved it, but I have always admitted and known it was nothing next to this movie.  This movie was different, and the audience responded in turn. It changed everything for me as the fanboy within was woken and emerged full on in my late teens. I, like many people, became a Spider-Man fanatic. Suddenly it was cool to be into comic book characters again. I ended up reading like the first nine volumes of the original running of Spider-Man in the aftermath of this movie. It gave me a juvenile taste for what would eventually become a healthy appetite in reading comics as an adult.

Would there be a Marvel Cinematic Universe if this movie hadn’t been so successful? I don’t think so and I’d point to that as the number one reason that makes this one of, if not the, most influential movies of the century. This movie seems like an afterthought fifteen years, two reboots, and six movies later but that doesn’t change what it meant for movies going forward back in 2002. Technically X-Men really started the trend a couple years prior but it wasn’t nearly the success Spider-Man was. That X-Men franchise may have had more longevity but it didn’t start the noise about how much money could be made with comic book films. There were more than 400 million reasons to keep banking on superheroes after Spider-Man and in 2002 that was good for fourth highest grossing film of all time domestically if I’m not mistaken. Also important to understand about this movie was that Kevin Feige was an uncredited executive producer on the film. Six years later he would spearhead and oversee the creation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe one movie at a time. Now Marvel is putting out about four movies a year with no end in sight to success or the creative crossovers that fans have come to love.

It was a wild idea that nobody thought would work but it has worked beautifully. So much so that other studios are scrambling to create their own cinematic universes. Be it with DC superheroes, Transformers, or even classic monsters. All of which have trouble finding similar success but trying nonetheless and too far past the point of no return to stop. Nobody has been able to do what Kevin Feige has done, and would any of it have been possible without the success of this movie? I don’t think so and I think for that reason this has to be considered as one of the most influential movies of the 21st century.

As of this moment we are a couple of weeks away from the newest version of Spider-Man. Spider-Man: Homecoming will be the third version of the character we have had in the last 15 years. It seems like too much even for one of the most popular characters ever but this time will be different. This first franchise has always been my favorite of the Spider-Man films but I’m wildly optimistic about the new film. The main reason being that this film will fully immerse Spidey within the MCU where he belongs. Sony seriously damaged the image of Spider-Man when they rebooted the character but were at least wise enough to throw in the towel before it was too late. They now have a shared interest in the character with Marvel and at least for now we can all sit back and enjoy the magic they make together. We have character after character coming out with his own film and everything working toward one common goal, Avengers: Infinity War. It’s the most ambitious effort to date by the MCU and thanks to this new rendition of the character Spider-Man gets to be part of that party. In a perfect world the same thing would happen with X-Men and Fantastic Four but sadly that is just wishful thinking.

I have always thought Tobey Maguire was the perfect actor to play Peter Parker. His frame and demeanor have always had him cast as kind of a dork and that’s what made him perfect for the part. Peter Parker was a dork, he was the guy who got picked on in school by everybody. That’s what makes him such a great superhero because as a victim of bullying he is out to protect everyone selflessly. The jury is still out on Tom Holland but he is playing a much different Spider-Man. I couldn’t stand the hipster cool guy portrayed by Andrew Garfield in the short lived Amazing Spider-Man franchise. Just like Michael Keaton will always be Batman, Tobey Maguire will always be Spider-Man. I think Tom Holland will be awesome as Spider-Man and I look forward to seeing it, but Christian Bale was a cool Batman too and that still couldn’t take the title away from Keaton, in my opinion anyway. I would have loved to see Tobey Maguire don the suit for a fourth time and was really disappointed when that fell through.

I didn’t hate the overloaded third film like everyone else did and would have easily shown up for a fourth film but studio plans got in the way. The MCU was not only in full swing at the time but it was flourishing as The Avengers was huge. Sony wanted their own universe and they were showing up late to the game. They had plans to make like 6 movies or something like that and build their own universe centered around Spider-Man. There was a really cool idea about making a Sinister Six movie. I was so disappointed in the quick reboot that I was never too interested in what they were doing. I thought it was ridiculous to retell the origin story in the reboot. Had they started this franchise with him already being Spider-Man that would have made more sense. Expecting the audience to watch a rehashed version of the same thing that came before was ridiculous. I don’t even think I saw the second one in the theater, but not many people did.  I quietly relished in the failure of this franchise as an angry fan who still hadn’t gotten over his woes. I feel differently this time around because at least the character is in good hands. I have no doubt the new film will be very good and I can’t wait to see it. I like Tom Holland as a younger Spider-Man, I think it’s awesome they got Michael Keaton to play the villain, and I love that Iron Man is in the film and it’s so immersed in the MCU.

To get back to this movie specifically I think the rest of the cast outside of Maguire deserves a lot of recognition. While there are many great performances to consider you simply can’t top J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson. He was perfect with everything from his performance to his look as the character. He was so good in fact that there hasn’t even been an effort to recast the character in any of the new renditions.  I am a big fan of J.K. Simmons and I like him in everything he is in. I am also a big fan of some of the other actors in this movie. I have loved Kirsten Dunst since her amazing performance as a child in Interview with a Vampire. I don’t think she ever quite topped that performance or lived up to the expectations it started but I have always liked her nonetheless. I thought she was a great Mary Jane Watson. I have also been a long time fan of Willem Dafoe who was not the first, second, or even third choice for the part. He has such a menacing and goblin like face already that it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role. When he smiles he can look so sinister and his voice is laced with intimidation. A great actor who always delivers.

Writing about this movie has been like a trip down memory lane for me and I have really enjoyed it. Making the experience even more exciting was that when I sat down to watch the movie I had my kids watch it with me. After a lot of initial protest from my eight year old daughter the movie won her over quickly. That says everything you need to know about this movie. It will win you over. It’s an awesome movie that still stands up to the next generation fifteen years later. No matter how good Spiderman: Homecoming turns out to be there will always be a place for this first film. A film that changed so much and opened the door for an entire genre of films, and ultimately a universe of them.

Before anyone gets the wrong idea I haven’t forgotten that Superman and Batman came first, but they simply didn’t change things the way Spider-Man did. If you haven’t seen this then you have missed out. It’s worth your time to watch what started it all. I love this movie and think it should be appreciated by everyone. Even if you don’t appreciate the super hero genre you have to at least respect what this film was able to accomplish.

NEXT MOVIE: Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Pleasantville

Year: 1998
Directed By: Gary Ross
Written By: Gary Ross

RYAN’S REVIEW

This was a recent addition to the collection and didn’t happen until after we had started this blog. I always liked and appreciated this movie but never liked it enough to add it into the collection. Though, given an opportunity to write my thoughts about it, Pleasantville suddenly had a significant reason to be part of our collection. I think the problem with this movie is that it is incomplete. It’s a movie that I think could have been so much better. I think it’s a great idea and great concept trapped between the bookends of a bad story. I think the beginning and end is where this movie fails. Had it been written differently it may have been great as opposed to being somewhere between good and just alright.

This is such an interesting movie. I like to think of it as a representation of the simplicity of innocence. In this society where everyone is completely innocent of the world we see that ignorance really is bliss. In Pleasantville everything is pleasant because the citizens are completely and hopelessly unaware of anything beyond their normal routine. They go about their days as complacent as cattle chewing grass in the pasture unknowingly waiting for their inevitable slaughter. Not that these people are heading to the slaughter, this isn’t a horror movie. However, the people in this movie are just as empty headed as those cows. Completely innocent of knowledge, curiosity, sexuality, and even the basic elements in some cases. It’s so perfect in Pleasantville they’ve never even had a fire, or rain for that matter. Everything in Pleasantville is pleasant until real life people come into the little town and put ideas in the heads of those complacent cows. It starts with something as simple as sex and moves on to the much more dangerous threats to pleasantness, knowledge and awareness.

I love the scene when the dashing young Paul Walker drops off Reese Witherspoon after she just blew his mind on their first trip to Lover’s Lane. The chain reaction that is started can be seen coming by that dopey look on his face as he drives away. Lost in the magic of first time experience he comes to a stop sign and notices a rose that is no longer black and white but suddenly brightly colored. Something new has been introduced into the world of Pleasantville and change has already started on some levels. When Tobey Maguire’s character shows up to basketball practice the next day the whole team is getting the scoop from Walker and there is a terrific scene where suddenly they can’t play basketball very well anymore. Before learning about sex the boys on the Pleasantville basketball team had not only never lost a game but they had never even missed a shot. The natural order of things in the town was immediately disrupted by carnal knowledge. In fact when the mother, played by Joan Allen, touches herself for the first time she not only turns from black and white to color but when she has an orgasm the tree outside her home bursts into flames. For the first time in the history of the town there was a fire. The firemen literally have to be called to action by “cat!” and then have to be shown how to operate the firehose to put out the blaze.

It’s not long after the people of Pleasantville become aware of themselves that they begin to ask questions about everything else. They start to wonder about the world beyond Pleasantville which until this point had never even existed (geography classes consisted of lessons on Main street). They open their minds with books and begin broadening their horizons on many different levels. As the characters change emotionally so do they physically because when they awaken new things within themselves they turn from black and white into color. As the people begin to change so does the world around them. Now, there is nothing pleasant about this change to the black and white folks of Pleasantville. The men that hold dear the never changing status of the town as a representation of innocence and values do not take kindly to seeing their young people walking around in live action colors and filling their heads with new ideas. It was bad enough when these kids were screwing around with one another on Lover’s Lane but when they start going there just to read to one another things progress to a new level. There is a scene where Tobey Maguire takes his girlfriend to Lover’s Lane and the kids there aren’t screwing around anymore but simply reading from the newly available books in the library. As they further broaden their minds the innocence they had in them dwindle more. There is an obvious allusion in this scene to Eve and the Serpeant when Maguire’s girlfriend offers him a red apple as they read together. It represents the loss of innocence and the end of paradise.

When the characters change from black and white into color they have become enlightened to something. Something inside of them has awaken for the first time and it manifests in their change to color. It can be different for all of them. For some of them it’s as simple as becoming sexually aware but that’s not the case for everyone. Reese Witherspoon’s character doesn’t change into color until she begins to learn and experience new things through reading. Tobey Maguire changes when his character finds his courage and stands up to some black and white boys harassing his “colored” mother. The Mayor of Pleasantville, played well by J.T. Walsh, is forced into change when he breaks his pleasant demeanor and exhibits actual anger in front of everyone.

I feel like it’s in the climax, after the Mayor turns to color, when everything in this movie had built up to something but it just didn’t deliver, or simply missed its mark. This is a fascinating movie with awesome ideas but they don’t deliver when they need to. I like how the change resonates with society as a whole in this movie and what that says about society in general. For example, as more people become “colored” the town finds itself divided almost as if in a race war. I like watching the effects of sexuality being introduced into an innocent society and the change that awareness creates. The problem is it all goes nowhere. After the entire town fulfills the change from black and white to color the story stumbles to an ending. It’s vaguely suggested that Pleasantville is no longer an isolated town but now part of the world as a whole, which makes no sense at all. Tobey Maguire goes back to reality, without his sister, and then understands how to help his mother deal with the disappointments of life. It concludes a separate story from the beginning of the film and has no real barring on what went on through the majority of the film, which hadn’t properly been concluded already. The conclusion doesn’t make sense in so many ways, it isn’t even mentioned in reality that Reese Witherspoon’s character is practically gone forever. Not only that but what difference does it make how the story concludes in the real world? The story is about Pleasantville, it’s a waste to end a movie like this with son and irrelevant mother bonding in reality. What happens in reality seems insignificant to all of the themes presented while the movie is taking place in Pleasantville. That’s why we never owned this movie before and what makes this movie a miss when it could have been a hit.

Despite the problems I see in the beginning and end of the movie I still like the film. I grew up watching shows just like Pleasantville because that was what my dad was into. Before the days of TVLand and the streaming opportunities of the internet I remember when shows like Pleasantville were seen regularly because they were the shows played in syndication much like more current shows are now. The Andy Griffith Show, Leave it to Beaver, Happy Daysand the list goes on and on. These shows were the background noise of my life as I grew from a child into a small person. Some of them I couldn’t stand but there are a few classic shows I really do hold dear. The Andy Griffith Show and The Honeymooners are two that I specifically love. So the fact the Don Knotts has a part in this movie makes it especially endearing to me. Knotts was an incredibly funny man and I grew up laughing at his antics. He continued to act in some capacity for the entirety of his life working both in voice and stand in acting up till 2005, only a year before his death in 2006 at the age of 81.

This movie has a terrific cast. The leading duo of Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon are good enough and supported by a great group of actors. The Pleasantville parents are played by Joan Allen and William H. Macy. The late Paul Walker played the popular jock in the Pleasantville high school. Jeff Daniels gives a great performance as the soda shop owner who finds new meaning to life in making art. I have always specifically liked J.T. Walsh as the town mayor and antagonist in the film. Walsh was any many movies I grew up watching throughout the 90s and this was one of his larger roles. Unfortunately Walsh died nearly right after making this movie in 1998 of a sudden heart attack. It’s a shame because he may have just been hitting his stride as an actor but we will never know now.

There is plenty more to say about this movie but I have said enough already. I like Pleasantville despite how I feel about the beginning and end. If I were to consider this movie by listing pros and cons it would be an easy decision because no matter how it tallied up the side that counts Don Knotts is gonna win. I’m glad we own this movie if for no other reason than he makes his last appearance on screen in it. When it comes to whether or not this movie is worth your time I’m iffy. I like it but I’m excusing plenty of problems for various reasons. Despite that I think there is enough in this movie to more than make it worth your time. It’s interesting and offers plenty to think about with a few laughs thrown in the mix.

NEXT MOVIE: Poltergeist (1982)

The Amazing Spiderman

I will start by saying that I really did enjoy this film and there is plenty to like about it.  However, at the same time there are plenty of fundamental problems with it and I think the original was the better film.  I have been following the development of this movie for some time and had mixed feeling throughout.  My opinion of the movie swayed into its favor when the previews began coming because it did look awesome.  When we went to see it today I tried to approach it with an open mind and surprisingly walked away both delighted and disappointed.

I think the biggest problem with this film is that it was too much too soon.  A reboot wasn’t necessary for the highest grossing franchise of all time and I was really interested in everything I was reading about Spiderman 4.  All the main people had come back; they had John Malkovich in talks to play the villain, presumably the Vulture.  It all seemed gravy until suddenly the whole thing came crashing down like a house of cards.  The studio pulled the plug and decided to start from scratch. The problem had to do with the studio forcing the hand of Sam Raimi if I remember correctly. The reboot had worked in spades with the Batman franchise so why not try it with Spiderman?  Well the problem is an origin story for Spiderman had already been done and everyone loved it.  With Batman they had never done that.  Tim Burton’s Batman started with Bruce Wayne already doing his thing as Batman so when they made Batman Begins  it was a new and fresh idea.  For those of us that already loved the first Spiderman franchise it is nearly impossible to sit through a movie like this without comparing and contrasting.  This wasn’t a bad movie but it was an inappropriate movie, and I think its box office results reflect that because it has been a big disappointment.

Excuse this quick tangent about box office statistics but it is a hobby of mine.  This movie, as far as I’m concerned, bombed despite netting $140 million in its opening week ($140 was the estimate I remember and not the actual number).  That may be a lot of money, but it was not enough.  Not only did it fail to outmatch any of its predecessors but it had an entire holiday week and it couldn’t even come close to what The Avengers did in only three days. I think by and large these kinds of results prove that it was a horrible decision to reboot this very successful franchise.  As I said before though, this box office performance does not reflect the value of the movie, I did enjoy it.

This movie may not be as good as the original but it doesn’t have to be.  It is a completely different retelling and had to do things differently to set it apart from the others.  I think the story would have been considerably better if we didn’t revisit his origin story.  Had the movie started with him already into his Spiderman adventure as a teenager and the origin simply been conveyed through flashbacks I think the story would have been much better.  Andrew Garfield did a great job and I really like his different approach to the character.  I have to go with Tobey Maguire being a better fit though and I’ll explain why.  Tobey is just so much more the hopeless loser and that is what Peter Parker really was. Garfield is much too hipster cool to be considered a lonely loser.  Skateboarding in his free time and getting the attention of hot girls by standing up to bullies isn’t the Peter I remember. I liked Garfield a lot though; he really captured the witty aspect of the Spiderman character. Although he does come across as a douche from time to time.

Emma Stone looked incredible in those knee high stockings she kept wearing.  When she is the unlikely 17 year old high school girl high up in a mega company I thought it was really interesting how she had the shortest lab coat in the room.  Stone has been building a great career and I think she was a really bright spot in this movie.  Rhys Ifans was great as the Dr. Curt Connors but I think his descent into madness was a bit too quick.  I thought Martin Sheen was great as Uncle Ben but his part was much too large.  I think the movie was a little heavy on the sentimental moments at times. I think Sally Field is great but I have to say she is miscast in this movie and underutilized to boot.  She just doesn’t look the part, and she should when following in the footsteps of Rosemary Parker. I think Denis Leary brought a lot to the movie; I grew to love him during his time on Rescue Me and just like seeing him in something now. Especially when he plays such an endearing character.  As Captain Stacy he showed good judgment and heroism in the face of danger.

I don’t think this movie was “Amazing” but I did like it and would recommend anybody on the fence give it a shot.  I think the movie will really relate to younger generations and serve in bonding them to the character.  That’s a smart move too. Spiderman will live on forever no matter what happens because he is awesome but it can’t hurt to get proactive in making teenagers today love him. I don’t love this movie but I don’t regret taking my time to see it either.  Personally, part of me hopes this movie fails miserably so studios get a message about why it is a bad idea to jump right into a reboot.  I am really afraid that Warner Bros will immediately reboot the Batman franchise before the dust settles on The Dark Knight.  In fact I have already heard talk of that happening and that they already have an actor in mind to play the part.  It was Ryan Reynolds specifically, which has to be simply a rumor because that would be the biggest mistake of all time, he is already the Green Lantern and not so great at that.