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Rating History

The Amazing Spider-Man 2
2 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

There's one term that comes to mind when working out The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in my head: Shaggy Dog Story. A Shaggy Dog Story is one which builds up over time, becoming more and more complicated, until ultimately having a completely disappointing or underwhelming conclusion. That is The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in a nutshell.

Don't get me wrong though, there are a lot of things I really enjoyed in this film, and I'll address those later. First, I want to try and explain all of the many MANY plotlines present in this film.

For starters, we are reintroduced to Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). It's been a year since the events of the first film, and Peter and Gwen have been in an off-and-on-again relationship ever since. Peter is still distraught by the final words of Gwen's father, who told him to "leave her out of it" in regards to Spider-Man. Peter has been avoiding Gwen in order to protect her, but it's torturing them both. It's nice to see them continuing this from the last film, but it becomes about as frustrating as a real on/off relationship watching it play out on screen. They rarely make any progress other than feeling more and more sorry for themselves, until the ultimate conclusion of the story, which is why I brought up that phrase before.

There are two main villains in the film, the first and most prominent of which is Max Dillon, aka Electro (Jamie Foxx). After being saved by Spider-Man, Max's lonely life is revealed as we see him delude himself into thinking he and Spider-Man are friends. After an accident, he becomes infused with electricity, and Spider-Man tries to stop him. Feeling betrayed by Spider-Man, Dillon sets out to take revenge. This guy is all kinds of messed up, and Jamie Foxx sold it more than I expected him to. I like that they took a really silly premise for a villain, just being a loser who wants to force everybody to be his friend, and made it work in a balanced way. They took one of Spider-Man's least-interesting villains and made him funny and sympathetic, but also extremely threatening.

The other villain is Harry Osbourne (Dane DeHaan), more well known as the Green Goblin. This one is handled pretty poorly. Harry was sent to boarding school at an early age, but before then he and Peter were friends. When he returns, he finds out that he's dying and tries to get Peter to help him cure his illness. I don't hate this version of Harry, but the guy they got to play him just isn't right for the role. This becomes very apparent when he becomes the Goblin, because he cannot be taken seriously. In fairness, directing most likely was a huge factor in what they did, but everything about the presentation is ludicrous. It doesn't help that the build-up is so contrived. They came up with this completely unnecessary disease that makes Gobby's origins far more complicated than they need to be. There is no reason for Harry to be in this film, other than to build ground for the next one.

And that's where the problem lies. A lot of middle movies in trilogies have been bashed in the past for feeling as if they only existed to set up the third movie. This is the most blatant example of that I have ever seen. There is nothing that happens in this movie that needed to happen, other than in the last two or three minutes. They spent two-and-a-half hours building motivations and storylines without actually ever saying anything. Peter's relationship with Gwen is static throughout the film, and the payoff for everything they go put themselves through is an incredible waste of a great concept. After the brilliant characterizations and storytelling of the first film, I honestly feel a little betrayed by the scatterbrained pointlessness of this screenplay.

But like I said, it isn't all bad. I got my venting out. I can say that this movie has the best action in a Spider-Man movie since Spider-Man 3. The sequences are huge in scope, and the cinematography captures them gorgeously. Watching Spidey fly around skyscrapers is always great, but here they exploit it to the nth degree. This film is the reason the Academy Awards needs to bring in the choreography category.

The humor is also just as great, if not better, than in the first. They go super-camp in a couple action scenes and it works on the same level as most of Spider-Man 3. Apparently they actually called in a bunch of comedy writers to help them write Spidey's quips, and it paid off. If you hated Spider-Man 3, though, you're probably going to hate these things here even more.

I enjoyed watching The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but also spent a lot of time bored and frustrated. I can't say the film literally "goes nowhere," but I left the theater asking myself, "What was the point?" And I just can't think of one.

Oh, and the most bizarre thing about the film is actually in the ending credits. About halfway through the film, there's a clip from X-Men: Days of Future Past, which releases later this summer. It's extremely misleading, seeing the X-Men logo pop up in a Spider-Man movie. For one, it makes you think there's going to be a crossover when there isn't, and more importantly, X-Men is owned by Fox while Spider-Man is owned by Sony. Apparently the reason for this is because Marc Webb is still under contract to do one more film for Fox, but didn't do one in order to direct The Amazing Spider-Man 2. This was their compromise. It's a terrible idea, and it's the worst stunt I've ever seen in a mid-credits clip.

More Reviews at Sploich.com | Fervent Film Flak

Rio
Rio (2011)
2 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

Rio is not a movie I expected to enjoy when it was originally released. This is never a good mindset to have when viewing a film for the first time. If you go into a movie with the idea in your head that you will not like it, it's very hard to shake yourself out of that. Sure enough, when I first saw Rio, I let every little thing get to me. It didn't help that, on top of my already sour attitude, I saw the film front row, surrounded by loud children. Normally none of these things would bother me, but all together on a day where I was already not having it made the whole experience unwanted.

My point in telling you this is that I love Rio. Before writing this review, I watched the movie for maybe the fourth or fifth time, on 3D Blu-ray I might add, and it's still an incredibly enjoyable film. That second viewing, on video months after the first, was an eye-opener. I went in the second time knowing how poorly I treated the film the first time, and swore I would have an open mind. No anticipation. I also made sure I'd have a few distractions as possible, which always helps. I found myself engulfed in the movie, having a blast the whole way through.

The story finds flightless, domesticated Blu (Jesse Eisenberg), an endangered (for the purposes of the story, anyway) blue macaw, making his way from Minnesota to Rio de Jinero with his owner, Linda (Leslie Mann), to take part in a repopulation project. After meeting his lab partner, Jewel (Anne Hathaway), the two are kidnapped and chained together by a group of poachers and their maniacal cockatoo, Nigel (Jemaine Clement). They have to find an escape and make their way back to the lab through the bright, musical festivity of Carnival.

This movie has everything. Blu is a lovable, relatable lead. Jewel is strong-willed, determined, but also feminine and caring. There's a plethora of sidekicks, all of which have purpose to the story as well as provide some great laughs. Nigel is a fun villain that you love to hate. The visuals of Rio and Carnival are rich and breathtaking. But the biggest draw of the film is definitely its music. The songs are all well written and super catchy. Jamie Foxx and Will i Am, who play Nico and Pedro, two easy-going Rio birds, provide most of the singing, and do an excellent job. Clement also has a great villain song that perfectly captures Nigel's insane, narcissistic nature.

The lesson here is that telling yourself that you're not going to enjoy something, without actually experiencing it first to know if you do, can lead to a lot of missed opportunities. Don't miss your opportunity to see Rio. If you don't like it, that's fine, because at least you saw it before coming to that conclusion.

Find more reviews at Sploich.com | Fervent Film Flak

Rio 2
Rio 2 (2014)
2 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

When I first heard Blue Sky was going to make a sequel to Rio, I was a bit skeptical. I supposed I am, to varying degrees, skeptical about most sequels. I never really felt like Rio needed more story, though I can see how the original was left open for another. Ultimately, the new film doesn't prove me wrong, but it does stand as a decently enjoyable film, albeit with plenty of flaws.

It's a short while after the events of the first film, and Blu (Jessie Eisenberg), Jewel (Anne Hathaway) and their flock find themselves traveling across South America after more blue macaws are discovered in the Amazon. While making new friends, and discovering old ones, the love birds are hunted down by a vengeful Nigel (Jemaine Clement), along with the poisonous (and amorous) dart frog, Gabi (Kristin Chenoweth). On the other side of the forest, Linda (Leslie Mann) and Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) discover an illegal deforestation plot that threatens not only the macaws, but the entire habitat.

If that sounds like a lot, it is. The film is ambitious and can at times feel rushed in order to fit in all of the different character motivations. For the most part though, the film is balanced well. The biggest problem is the deforestation story, which feels tacked on. It doesn't even make a statement about deforestation in real life, it just exists to create an antagonist. But the movie already had two antagonizing forces, one in Nigel, the other in Jewel's long-lost father, and Blu's reluctant father-in-law, Eduardo (Andy Garcia). They didn't need to cram in another.

As in the first, there are plenty of colorful songs throughout, and the quality stays about on par. The context, however, is a little off-key. Chenoweth is given a fantastic musical number called Poisonous Love, but it's a showtune and not at all fitting to the atmosphere of the rest of the film. The rest of the music is more inspired by the songs of the Amazon region, and shine just as brightly as the Rio-based music of the original.

The visuals also lend to enhance the music and the story, far surpassing the already beautiful scenery and animation of its predecessor. I dare say I prefer this type of animation to what Pixar has been messing around with the last couple years. The detail is vivid and lush, with each movement carefully designed for aesthetic pleasure.

Sadly, in their ambition, Blue Sky was unable to surpass Rio in charm and delight, but that ambition paid off at least to an extent. The sights and sounds are worth the price of admission, but the overloaded plot leads to a sacrifice in quality. It's been perfectly acceptable for a long while now for family films to be as long as two hours. If they really wanted to tell this story, all of it, they should have just added that extra half hour. It would have saved this from being just an okay film.

Find more reviews at Sploich.com | Fervent Film Flak

Captain America: The Winter Soldier
2 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

The Cap is back! Now, I make it no secret that Captain America: The First Avenger is not only my favorite of the Marvel series, and not only my favorite superhero movie, but it's one of my favorite movies of all time. Everything about it speaks to me on a number of levels. The movie is about as perfect as it could possibly get. So how do you follow up perfection? Apparently with a terrible summer blockbuster that everyone loves for the same reasons I think it's terrible. But enough about The Avengers, we're here to talk about Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Does it measure up to the first? Is it a welcome addition to the Marvel Universe?

On the latter, most definitely. The Winter Soldier is a brilliantly devised film, able to stand on its own as a political action-thriller. The added bonus of Captain America and everything that comes along with that makes it all the better.

As for the former, it's actually kind of difficult to say. The First Avenger and The Winter Soldier are definitively different films, with completely different tones and objectives. If I had to choose, I'd say The First Avenger is still my favorite, but that's not to take anything away from The Winter Soldier.

With Cap unfrozen, having taken down The Red Skull seventy years prior, and having stopped an alien invasion two years ago, he now works for S.H.I.E.L.D. as a special covert ops agent under the leadership of Director Nick Fury. However, Steve Rogers soon finds himself in the middle of an infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D. as ghosts from his past pose an immediate threat to the security of not only America, but the world.

If Captain America is great at one thing (he is, of course, great at many things), it's his ability to assemble a team to help him battle the forces of evil. This outing is no exception, as Cap recruits a few old friends, as well as a couple new ones. Returning from The Avengers are Maria Hill and Black Widow, S.H.I.E.L.D.'s leading femme fatales. Also along for the ride is Sam Wilson, better known in the comics as Falcon, an Air Force veteran with a snappy flight suit, and Agent 13, who some comic fans may know as the niece of Peggy Carter.

Each member is a vital asset of Rogers' team, and represents a stake he has in this new world. The ensemble adds a personal touch to an already emotional story. The politics surrounding Captain America are intentionally indicative of the Obama and (both) Bush Administrations. It's about the way the military has been run for years now, being used essentially as an assassination squad in the name of protection, using fear and anger to promote an agenda of destruction and counterproductivity. Of course I'm not saying that's all the military does, nor does the film say anything of the sort. It's poignant on an issue few really want to talk about, and it's great seeing something like that handled in a setting that allows for that type of commentary while also detaching it enough to not seem heavy-handed.

I don't think there's anything necessarily bad to say about Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but I do have a personal bias for The First Avenger. It's great to see the Cap back on the big screen, but it's just missing that nostalgic, patriotic tone from the original. I guess you could say this one is an update in style to a more modern idea of true patriotism, and there's nothing wrong with that. I think I'm mostly just happy that I didn't have to put up with any more of Joss Whedon's insultingly misguided take on the character in his movie.

Find more reviews at http://Sploich.com | Fervent Film Flak