TBT – Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)

Emma Stone, Kevin Bacon, love, meh, rom-com, romance, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell, TBT

It’s been a few days since I watched La La Land and I’m still obsessed. I’ve been singing that bloody “City of Stars” song non-stop and listening to the soundtrack on my way to work. I’ve shocked a lot of the people I work with by enjoying the film. I guess because I’m such a seemingly heartless and cynical person. I mean I am a cynical person but I get swept away with a good love story as much as the next person. I say this as someone who, admittedly in a state of exhaustion after 3 days back at work, was crying at footage of Kiss Cams earlier tonight. Yep, I am, underneath it all, just as sentimental and lovey dovey as the rest of the world. And Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling’s romance in the film is made more adorable thanks to their fantastic chemistry. This is their 3rd film together so they’ve clearly become quite comfortable. So, in order to keep this feeling going, I decided to go back to where it all started way back in 2011.

Crazy, Stupid, Love is the romantic comedy about a recently divorced man (Steve Carrell) trying to get back his masculinity with the help of a Lothario he meets in a bar (Ryan Gosling). Cal Weaver is caught off guard when his highschool sweetheart, Emily (Julianne Moore), tells him she wants a divorce after she slept with her coworker, David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon). He moves out of the family home and starts frequenting a bar where he tells anyone who will listen about this infidelity. Unable to allow Cal to wallow in self-pity any longer, womaniser Jacob (Ryan Gosling) takes pity on him and offers to help him get his life back on track. With an updated wardrobe and new techniques for talking to women, Cal discovers a new side to dating and becomes a new man. His new lifestyle only reiterates his love for wife, however, and Cal must attempt to win her back. Meanwhile, Jacob’s wild lifestyle stalls when he meets Hannah (Emma Stone) a law student who rejects his advances. Finally getting bored of her dull boyfriend, Hannah tracks Jacob down to accept his offer. Things don’t go to plan and the pair end up bonding and eventually start dating.

Then, because it’s a romantic comedy, some awful shit comes out to stop both couples enjoying happiness for a bit before the inevitable happy ending. It’s standard stuff that riffs on aspects of midlife crises and questions of what it means to be a man. To be honest, the narrative itself isn’t exactly original or exciting. Nor is is as “crazy” or as “stupid” as the title promises. For a comedy starring someone as talent as Steve Carrell, it’s kind of lacking on humour and plays more towards the sentimental angle. Something that doesn’t really work with this story. We see Cal being moulded into the perfect ladies man where he is kitted out with the right fashion accessories and the key phrases needed to get a woman back to his pathetic bachelor pad. It’s an area that should be easy comedy gold but, in reality, is only able to bring up some mild titters.

This film’s major problem is that it takes itself way too seriously. There are far too many subplots and ideas thrown together that it can’t control them. At nearly 2 hours long, it is in dire need of some editing because it drags during the middle. It strives to be a jack of all trades but, as the saying goes, manages to be a master of none. It needed to be funnier or more sincere instead of wavering between the two. It’s a confusing pot of so many ideas and plot strands that it’s just lost it’s whole identity. That’s not to say that there aren’t some good ideas there. It’s just that it needed a lot of work. I mean the big twist near the end is, when you really think about it, both incredibly stupid and completely meanigingless. It doesn’t add anything to plot and doesn’t make any sense. It’s clearly just been included to make the narrative seem more intelligent than it actually is.

What makes Crazy, Stupid, Love work is the cast. They may not have the right stuff to work with but they all put everything into it.However, each actor has done way better things than this since so it’s difficult to be kind about it knowing that they can do so much more. Ryan Gosling may not have been known for his comedy skills back in 2011 but, with his more recent films, we know that he is more than suited to the funny stuff. It’s awful to see how uncomfortable he looks in certain scenes here. Still, it is undeniable that Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling really do gel well on screen and the first evening that Hannah and Jacob spend together is utterly charming. Steve Carrell and Julianne Moore are equally charming and, despite the dire circumstances that their characters find themselves, the actors always manage to keep you onside. You might not completely care about their tale but you always want Cal and Emily to be happy. Basically, this is the not incredibly funny or exciting story of good people who are trying to find love. It’s not the worst thing you’ll ever see but it’s not the best either. It’s perfectly watchable… and that’s probably the nicest thing I’m going to be able to say about it.

Tuesday’s Reviews – La La Land (2016)

Emma Stone, films, fucking beautiful, fucking sweet, music, musical, review, Ryan Gosling

After La La Land started being nominated and, subsequently, winning a shitload of awards there were plenty of articles suggesting that actors Emma Watson and Miles Teller were livid that they had turned down the chance to be in the film. But it’s just nonsense. The film has achieved such success because Emma Watson and Miles Teller didn’t end up playing the roles. No offence to either of them, and ignoring any rumours of them both being too demanding, but it’s surely the chemistry between Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling that made the film. What is a love story without the love, after all? I know I’m not the biggest fan of Emma Watson as an actor anyway but you can’t pretend that La La Land wouldn’t have been a completely different film without it’s two stars. They can regret giving up on the role now that Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are being recognised but who can honestly say that it would have received so many nominations with a different line-up? Nobody. It always strikes me as super bitchy when actor’s talk about giving up on a role. Like they’re just trying to take ownership of something that isn’t theirs and, probably, shouldn’t ever have been. If Emma Watson preferred to be auto-tuned in the remake of Beauty and the Beast instead of the being in this original piece of musical cinema then she has to accept that and let Emma Stone have her moment of glory. It’s just selfish bringing attention to yourself to try and overshadow someone else’s achievements.

If I’m honest, I wasn’t ever sure that I was going to see La La Land. I loved how quirky and retro it looked but I was also incredibly worried about how quirky and retro it looked. I mean I love oddities and quirks. I like to consider myself to be vaguely quirky but, have to admit, that it’s mostly wishful thinking and I’m probably fairly normal. What I do find annoying is quirk for quirk’s sake. You know weirdness that doesn’t belong or is misplaced. Like those super irritating girls who describe themselves as “random” because they like doing incredibly normal things. It’s the Zooey Deschanel thing. I’ve always loved her but found New Girl to be a step too far. As if she’s taken the image she’d created and then turned it up to 11 because that’s what she thought people liked about her. Or Noel Fielding. A guy who was beloved for his weird sense of humour on The Mighty Boosh but who went over the edge in his shitty solo offering Luxury Comedy.

When people go out of their way to highlight the things that make them different it can so easily slide into something that feels more like parody or farce. I worried that La La Land would go off the rails. It looked too good to be true so I was too scared to find out for sure. Thankfully, I was wrong and it’s exactly as good as it looks. It puts me in mind of so many classic films but, more importantly for awards season, also The Artist. Both films have taken inspiration from the Golden Age of Hollywood and have received critical acclaim and countless awards nominations. However, La La Land managed to do what The Artist wasn’t fully able to. It has won around audiences too. People may not be willing to accept a silent movie in the 21st century but they’re more than okay with people singing and dancing in the middle of LA.

Musicals are always going to be accessible and the story is so well-written that it’s impossible not to go along for the ride. The film charts the journey of it’s couple through the changes of the season starting and ending in Winter. We meet Mia (Emma Stone) a struggling actor who, between auditions, works at the coffee shop on the Warner Bros. lot. She has a couple of not so pleasant run-ins with wannabe Jazz pianist Seb (Ryan Gosling) before meeting him at a party. Seb, who has only ever been rude and brusque up to Mia at this point, is humiliated to be seen playing synth for a shitty electro outfit. Naturally, when the pair spend time together they come to realise that, despite her hatred of Jazz, they belong together. Their love is pure and childish and delightful to behold. However, the pair are also battling with ambition and must decide what is more important to them: their relationship or their dreams?

It might seem like an age old story that Hollywood has been tackling for year but La La Land keeps it fresh. It is the chemistry between the two actors that makes their love story so tender and sweet. Every part of the film comes together to create something that is truly beautiful and full of joy. The use of colour, the choreography, the music, and the characters are all so perfect. It is a story that so obviously fits into a contemporary setting thanks to observations regarding the Prius fad and YouTube. However, it is also a story that could fit into any time. It is a basic and honest story of two people caught between their dreams and their love. It’s heartbreaking and incredibly heartwarming in equal measures.

There have, of course, been comments regarding the suitability of the film’s stars in terms of musical performers. It’s to be expected but, really, is complete bollocks. Gosling and Stone aren’t the most seasoned of singers but they do an incredibly good job at holding a tune. If anything the lack of polish just makes their story seem more real and captivating. It’s as if, instead of contrived situations in which singers start singing in the street, we are seeing two people with emotions so strong and pure that they can’t help themselves. And the two actors do stupendous jobs in the roles that it would be a crime to have someone else play them so the songs sound better. Emma Stone is just perfect in this film. She is elegant, witty, charming, and slightly beaten down. She is exactly the type of star that Mia has revered all of her life and hopes to become. Ryan Gosling shows great depth here. Seb is someone who is so lost in the past that he is unwilling to accept anything new. He is holding back from himself and from Mia. Gosling plays Seb in a subtle and lovable way so the character never feels too alienating. He’s passionate instead of pretentious and intense. It’s no wonder these two are getting so much attention.

I’ve never been more glad that I ignored my initial thoughts about a film than I have with this. My first instincts told me I’d love this film and it is definitely one of the greatest things I’ve seen in a long time. I instantly wanted to re-watch it and I’ve been listening to the soundtrack on repeat. I realise, as the Oscars get closer, that people will criticise it for not seeming important enough to be put in the running for Best Picture. It’s true that La La Land isn’t trying to change the world or change people’s attitudes. It’s not giving a voice to people that don’t have one or trying to right wrongs. But, you know what, who gives a fuck? Things don’t always need to be important. Sometimes joy is enough of a reason. I can’t think of a single film that has given me as much sheer joy as this one in a long time. If that doesn’t make it a worthy nominee then I don’t know what does.

TBT – Zombieland (2009)

Emma Stone, films, fucking funny, Jesse Eisenberg, TBT, zombies

On Sunday the new series of Top Gear started and, without getting into my feelings on the new format, I was glad to see Jesse Eisenberg as the star guest. Despite how awful his interviews inevitably are, I love Eisenberg and thought he was super funny when faced with Chris Evans and Gordon Ramsay. Eisenberg has made a career out of playing the awkward, geeky loner and it is something that filters out into his personal appearances. Something that has made him seem stand-offish and rude. Still, I count Eisenberg as one of my favourite actors and am convinced that, when I eventually see it, he’ll be my favourite thing about Batman vs Superman. Although, I’m still not ready to see just how bad that film is yet so I decided to revisit classic Eisenberg.

Zombieland picks up the thread laid down by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright with Shaun of the Dead: taking a comic approach to Zombie apocalypses. Hollywood had become so saturated with Zombie films that people needed to take a different approach. Zombieland is less of a Zombie-horror film than it is a romantic-comedy that happens to contain the walking dead. It doesn’t proclaim to be scary or chilling but it does have an unashamedly jolly good time. Something I think allows it to trump the earlier British work. I know I know. It’s unpatriotic or something but Shaun of the Dead gets so bogged down in parody that it never lets itself go quite as much as this film.

This is all about the four actors having fun with guns, zombies and theme parks. In fact, Zombieland has more in common with another Eisenberg film, Adventureland, than it does with Night of the Living Dead. Eisenberg plays an unnamed man who, by strictly adhering to his own set of rules, survives alone in a world riddled with zombies. After a chance encounter with a fellow unnamed survivor (Woody Harrelson), the pair join up and make their way across the country to find some sort of life.

The two men are set up by two sisters (Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin) and lose their car, guns and supplies. Thankfully, there are plenty of abandoned cars around and the boys are quickly pursuing the sisters. After a few ups and downs, the group join together and make their way to Pacific Playland, an amusement park in Los Angeles. The four begin to bond with each other and find that being alone in an undead world isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Zombieland doesn’t really make much of the whole zombie thing which, for someone who has grown so tired of the z-word, I’m thankful for. This isn’t about watching scared people running from weird looking dead people. This is about four people having fun whilst also fighting for their lives. There are way more jokes here than there are frights but it is something that it gets so right. The script is strong and the jokes are on point. It’s a wacky film that gets away with some absurd ideas but they all work. Much has been made of Billy fucking Murray’s cameo and it is certainly one of the films greatest moments featuring some great work by Murray and Woody Harrelson.

In fact, Harrelson’s role is the stand-out of the entire thing. His crazed zombie killer is deadly, skilled and, when he wants to be, emotional. His one-man assault against a mass of zombies during the films final act is just mesmerising. Compared to Harrelson’s brash character, the rest of the cast do, sort of, fade into the backgroud. Not that the cast don’t do a good job but they have more traditional roles than Harrelson. Eisenberg and Stone are once again cast in their traditional roles of geeky loner and the independent, strong woman respectively. They do it well but we’ve been here time and time again. Their frosty relationship will quickly thaw and the pair will be locking lips well before the credits roll.

Zombieland doesn’t succeed by being completely original or new. It works because everything it does is done with enough humour. It doesn’t take itself as seriously as Shaun of the Dead did and is even more willing than its predecessor to drop some pop culture knowledge whenever it can. Zombieland is fun and that’s what counts. It breaths life into a long dead genre and, thanks to a cast that gels really well, manages to feel fresh.

Birdman (2014)

Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Michael Keaton, review, superhero, Zach Galifianakis
I have to be honest with you, Michael Keaton is my favourite incarnation of Batman. No offence to Adam West or Christian Bale but there’s something about those two Tim Burton films that just gives me so much joy. Quite simply, I love Michael Keaton and no amount of shitty Christmas films is ever going to stop that. So I couldn’t imagine anything better than hearing Keaton was set to star in a life-mirroring film about the washed-up star of a Superhero franchise. Michael Keaton going all Being John Malkovich on us and get super meta? Jesus, I was excited. I have to admit that I spent a lot the film wondering whether I still would and, despite seeing the now 60+ year old running around in his grungy tighty whities, I probably would. After Edward Norton, of course.

I’ve seen a number of people referring to Birdmanas a superhero film, which seems like dodgy marketing to me. Yes, the fictional alter ego of actor Riggan Thompson (Michael Keaton) keeps a pretty strong presence throughout the film but those turning up expecting to see the ex-Batman star parading around in a leather jumpsuit are going to be pretty fucking disappointed. The latest film from director Alejandro González Iñárritu has so much more to offer than any of the latest releases from Marvel and DC (and I say that as a life-long fan of grown-ups pretending to hunt super-villains and aliens).
The film actually deals with actor Riggan’s Broadway debut as writer, director and star of an adaptation of the Raymond Carver short story ‘What We Mean When We Talk About Love’. Having never found the kind of fame that he experienced during his Birdman glory days, Riggan is desperate to both prove himself as an actor. Unfortunately, his past continues to haunt his inner thoughts, complete with Christian Bale style gravelly voice, by adding bitchy commentary to every situation. Birdman becomes the voice of Riggan’s fears and self-doubt. When several disasters arise before opening night, the unbalanced actor must avoid falling into complete emotional instability.
The script, written by Iñárritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo, is playfully meta and up-to-date with its pop culture references. The script doesn’t pull any punches and ensures that nobody is safe. It plays with Hollywood vanities whilst showing that theatre actors are just as fucked up. Taking equal jabs at high brow and populist culture, the writers make sure that egotistical New York critics don’t get off scot free. The script is unashamedly current and self-aware without ever feeling smug. For the first time, the director of hard-hitting dramas like 21 Grams, Babel and Biutifulwalks the comic path and gets the chance to have a bit of fun.
Something that is made most clear in the technical side of the film. Birdmanhas been created in such a way that it feels like one continuous take. Aided by Emmanuel Lubezki, who’s fucking insane cinematography for Gravitywon him an Oscar last year, Iñárritu puts you at the heart of the story. Through long, careful tracking shots the camera winds its way through busy corridors and narrow stairways, moves in close for private conversations and soars high over New York city. For a film dealing with the competition between film and stage acting, Iñárritu’s use of the camera blurs the lines between the two: offering the sustained intensity of the stage with the intimacy of the cinema. If you’re worried it all sounds a bit too gimmicky, then don’t . It’s fucking mesmerising.
The non-stop and energetic nature that this camera work suggests is only aided by Antonio Sanchez’s fantastic score. His jazzy soundtrack, featuring an abundance of drum and cymbal, adds to the comic tone and offers an edgy and frantic vibe to the action on screen. It holds together the director’s continuous shot effect and gives the actors plenty of room to play with pace. Sanchez has created a very complex and accomplished score that lifts the already fruitful narrative and great performances.
Performances that don’t get much better than Michael Keaton as Riggan Thompson. A lot has been made about the connection between Keaton and Thompson and there is no doubt that their similarities add a great deal. You can’t imagine anyone else approaching this role and succeeding in quite the same way. Keaton is on fucking amazing form; he is playful, funny, cutting and has no problem with the verbal intensity of the role. Riggan is at times ridiculous and incomprehensible but Keaton plays everything with a wistfulness and desperation that warms you to him. It is a fucking brilliant performance that will rightly receive attention in award season.
Keaton only gets better when he comes face-to-face with his fantastic co-stars; none more so than Edward Norton as narcissistic stage actor, Mike Shiner. Norton is also facing a fictional version of himself as he portrays Shiner. Confronting the reputation he has for being difficult to work with, Norton fucking kills as the egomaniac brought in the day before the show previews. Thankfully, Norton manages to find the perfect balance between arrogance and sincerity so Shiner still has a shred of humanity beneath all the ego. There are so many moments, in both fiction and reality, when Norton steals the show.
Most often during his quieter scenes with Emma Stone. Stone is a genuinely fantastic performer in all her roles but she brings even more to the part of Riggan’s ex-drug addict daughter, Sam. Successfully ensuring that there is still a lovable edge to the damaged, cynical young woman who is fresh out of rehab. Working as Riggan’s PA, Sam is desperately trying to connect with her father and bring him up-to-date with the current climate of social media and trending topics. Although, it’s Stone’s sizzling chemistry with Norton than really sticks out and the two rooftop scenes they share are some of the best on show.
There is less work for the remaining supporting cast but they still get enough of a time to shine. Top amongst them is the incredible Lindsay Duncan who is fucking unforgettable as the icy, unflinching theatre critic set to destroy Riggan’s last chance. Playing amazingly against type is Zach Galifianakis who presents the voice of reason amongst all the crazy as Riggan’s friend and producer. Amy Ryan, only allowed a short time on screen, plays Riggan’s ex-wife in a calm and collected manner that helps bring out his emotional side. The final two women fair the worst and are all but forgotten. However, Naomi Watts and Andrea Riseborough offer sterling work as the play’s leading ladies.

Birdmanis one of those films that demands your attention. It is made with great care by a bunch of talented people and you can’t help but lap it all up. Of course, there are moments when it kind of feels like a young child playing up in front of an audience; perhaps showing off just a little too much. Also, there are plot-lines that feel too open-ended and unresolved. As though in the rush to create tension and chaos, the writers added one too many things to the pot. The end result is by no means inedible but it’s just a little less satisfying than you thought it might have been. Still, a must-see film if ever there was one.

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Andrew Garfield, comic book, Emma Stone, Marvel, origin story, reboot, review, Spider-Man

2012 was, without a doubt, the year of the comic book movie. Back in April Avengers Assemble brought together some of Marvel’s biggest names in a fantastic (though not without its flaws) group effort that paves the way for a potentially epic franchise. It was the year that Christopher Nolan fanboys had been waiting for with the release of The Dark Knight Rises, the disappointing end to his Dark Knight trilogy. In between these two highly anticipated releases came the reboot of Spider-Man. After three increasingly terrible Toby Maguire fronted films it was down to Marc Webb (who I assume was approached mainly based on the suitability of his name) to try and breathe new life into the well-known origin story of everyone’s favourite web-slinging geek. Considering it had only been five years since Spider-Man 3 brought an end to the Maguire/Sam Raimi relationship, the question on many people’s lips was “is this really necessary?” From the initial announcement of the reboot back in 2010 the internet came together to denounce the film with the expected mix of hyperbole, hysteria and CAPS LOCK. It’s safe to say, there was an awful lot at stake here.

The end result? Marc Webb’s follow-up film to his hugely successful (500) Days of Summer is in no way close to the painful travesty that the internet feared but neither does it seem like a totally fresh reboot to a dwindling franchise. Thankfully, in my opinion at least, it stays away from the exceedingly dark and complex style of Nolan’s Batman Begins. We are instead faced with scenes very familiar to anyone who watched Raimi’s film but with another of Peter Parker’s leading ladies and a different green villain. The film is neither a stand-out nor an utter abomination. The plot doesn’t quite hold up and the action sequences are not the slickest we’ve ever been treated to but, it is important to remember, Webb’s focus for his opening is the characters themselves. The only reason this film doesn’t fall apart under the weight of its own insignificance is the incredibly strong performances on display, especially from the likeable leads Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone.

Since the release of Spider-Man in 2002 the role of geeks in popular culture has changed somewhat. It is computer programmers that run the world and the science nerds of The Big Bang Theory who get all the women. Garfield’s Parker is an updated and slightly cooler young man than Toby Maguire’s version of our hero. He understands science, has epic skateboard skillz and has enough of a badass attitude to skate through the halls of his High School after being told not to. Oooh. The Peter Parker for the 2010s is basically a mix of The Big Bang Theory’s Leonard and Seth Cohen from The OCbut with Andrew Garfield’s charm and great hair. Don’t let the hair fool you though, Peter is still as much of an outsider as he ever was. Although, not enough of an outsider that the stunning Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone) never notices him. It doesn’t completely add up to the person we are used to seeing. He isn’t the socially awkward, science-loving loner. He is confident enough to step in to help another kid being bullied at the hands of Flash and openly flirt with Gwen. As much as it may pain me to type it, I have to admit that Toby Maguire was actually a more convincing portrayal of this character. Although it is still not that simple because I find that Garfield is a more likeable character. He is cheeky, sarcastic and just enough of a dick. No matter how awful and bratty our hero got during the course of this film I found that I liked him. The only reason for this I can see is Garfield’s talented performance.

Garfield is helped along the way thanks to a superb supporting cast and his new leading lady. Stone’s Gwen Stacey is a great improvement on Kirsten Dunst’s bland Mary-Jane. She is feisty and intelligent and, like all good crime-fighting widows, doesn’t hesitate to get stuck in when it comes to stopping evil. There is no doubt that the chemistry between Garfield and Stone is outstanding. The two leads tiptoe into their romance brilliantly and, despite a few moments where it looks like Garfield has descended into Hugh Grant-esque bumbling, it is lovely to watch them nervously pursue each other. My only concern stems from the fact that both Stone and Garfield are pushing the limits of the acceptable age limit for actors to be able to play teenagers. Perhaps it would have been better if this film had not been a reboot but simply a new direction? 

After all, there really is no getting away from the fact that this film is an origin story. There is very little room to manoeuvre with the story of how Parker becomes super: geeky guy, spider, bite, bingo. Therefore, this all seems a little bit too familiar and tired. That isn’t to say that Webb doesn’t pull it off well. There are some enjoyable scenes where we see Spidey getting to grips with his powers through several moments of slapstick comedy. We also have a fairly satisfying, if slightly aggressive, Revenge of the Nerdsstyle humiliation of bully Flash. Parker isn’t infallible and makes mistakes. It’s refreshing to have a superhero origin story that takes a more comic and laid-back approach and doesn’t give our new hero some kind of autopilot when it comes to crime fighting. Although this would have meant we could avoid the ridiculous rehash of Uncle Ben’s “with great power” speech. Is it just me that can hear the writers madly searching for a synonym for ‘responsibility’?  

In a decidedly Nolan-esque turn, family skeletons are brought out of the closet thanks to the brief inclusion of Peter’s parents; most importantly his father, acclaimed scientist Richard Parker. Young Petey is packed up in the middle of the night and left with his aunt and uncle (played by the wonderful but criminally underused Sally Fields and Martin Sheen). It is the discovery of his father’s briefcase and hidden research notes years later that leads him to the laboratory of Dr Curt Connors, Richard’s one-armed ex-research partner. Here he is exposed to a whole new world of scientific experimentation and that life-changing bite. After a few teenage strops and door slamming, Peter is faced with the death of his beloved Uncle Ben and the guilt of deciding not to act to prevent it. The loss is the push needed to start his second-life and attempt to track down all criminals with a similar description to his uncle’s killer. I know there are people who criticised this plot strand but I enjoyed it. It would have been nice if it hadn’t been dropped half-way through the film and just forgotten about. In an ideal world Spidey would have continued to track down his nemesis only to discover that his future lay in heroics rather than revenge.

Of course, the more exciting route is, in a weird nod to Frankenstein, to give Peter the information that inadvertently gives life to his first supervillain, the Lizard, and feel compelled to destroy his monstrous creation. Rhys Ifans’ Curt Connors is a man who dreams of gaining the reptilian ability to regrow his lost limb. His obsession drives his research and his untested serum brings forth a horrific mutant who quickly becomes distracted by his sudden, desperate need to bring forth a new superhuman race. Ifans is a wonderful actor but the character of Dr Connors doesn’t give him enough room to bring his own personality to the table. Any depth that there could have been in the character is removed given his straight change from desperate scientist to a giant lizard out to cause some havoc. The whole plot is rushed and the character remains pretty 2-dimensional. He is used, along with Parker’s parents, to allow the writers to start to create an air of mystery and darkness around the Oscorp Corporation and the unseen Norman Osborn. Like so many bland origin stories, The Amazing Spider-Man was created to open the way for the franchise’s future.

This film had a great amount of potential with a top quality cast and an incredibly likeable leading man. However, it was simply going over much travelled ground and lazily preparing for future films. It is by no means the terrible film that most of the internet community would have you believe but nor is it the great film it deserved to be. It is a stepping stone for the future but was rushed and unconsidered.  The plot is sloppy and there are several glaring holes in the plot. The characters are not given the introduction that they deserve or are utterly wasted. I, for one, would have liked to see a more fleshed out Captain Stacy and a much more satisfactory death (if that was even necessary in the opening film). It was an unavoidable fact that the internet was never going to approve of this film no matter what the final piece looked like but don’t believe the naysayers completely. This film is good. It is by no means amazing but still a very enjoyable ride. My overall message to Marc Webb then: (in the words of Gwen Stacy herself) “I thought it was great what you did out there. Stupid, but great.”

Easy A (2010)

comedy, Emma Stone, review, teen movie
I have to admit that I really do enjoy a good teen movie more than I probably should. (I also enjoy a bad teen movie more than I should but for incredibly different reasons. I’ve lost count of the number of Hilary Duff/Chad Michael Murray films I’ve drunkenly laughed my way through over the years.) I grew up on the films of John Hughes wishing I could be Molly Ringwald (only with less painfully 80s clothes) and hoping John Cusack would one day wind up outside my window playing something by the Spice Girls on a boombox. Alas, I never became Miss Ringwald and, to this day, I have never run to my window after hearing the opening bars of ‘2 Become 1’ to find John waiting for me. However, I remained true to the world of teen movies: despite the fact that teen movies became much worse than the masterpieces created during the 80s. (I so very nearly wrote “despite the fact that teen movies never remained true to me” but felt that would probably be a tad too melodramatic.)

Of course there are some that have stood out from the crowd and every once in a while along comes a truly inspired teen movie. The 90s had classics such as Clueless and 10 Things I Hate About You and the 00s had Mean Girls. Easy A is another of those witty female-focused teen films, like Clueless and Mean Girls before it, which concerns itself with that most important high school issue: popularity. It tells the story of Olive Penderghast, a supposedly invisible social outcast, who gets caught up in a lie that quickly escalates and turns her reputation on its head. It all begins when Olive’s best friend pushes her to lie about losing her virginity to a college student. This lie is overheard by an extremely pious classmate who quickly spreads the scandalous gossip around her fellow students. Olive’s altruistic side sets in and she attempts to use her new found position as school hussy to help her fellow outcasts to find their way whilst further sullying her reputation.

The film takes a certain amount of inspiration from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter which, coincidentally, Olive and her classmates are studying in school. Whilst the likes of Clueless and 10 Things are modern adaptations of classic pieces of literature (Emma and Taming of the Shrew respectively), Easy A merely plays with similar themes to Hawthorne’s novel: namely hypocrisy, humiliation, conformity, social cowardice and individual goodness. In accepting her position as the school’s most talked about, Olive sews a red letter A onto her new stripper wardrobe and struts around school wearing it as a badge of honour. The literary reference is really neither here nor there but it does add an extra something to the staple teen comedy. The comparison between the literary figure of  Hester Prynne and Olive takes the script from American Pie territory to something more akin to Mean Girls or Juno.

Without a shadow of a doubt, the greatest thing about Easy A is Olive herself. Following in the footsteps of Alicia Silverstone in Clueless, Emma Stone elevates this potentially forgettable comedy into something amazing. We have a film that captures John Hughes’ ability to showcase characters who you either want to be or be friends with. I spent a lot of this film wishing that, when I was her age, I had been in possession of even a tiny amount of Olive’s quick wittedness, self-awareness and confidence. She is the type of intelligent and strong female character that quickly brought Stone from supporting cast to major player, thanks to some memorable roles in the likes of Superbad and Zombieland. It is very difficult to dislike Stone as everything she does seems so wonderfully effortless. There can be no doubt that within this movie she is the true star.

Alongside her we are treated to incredibly performances by Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson who play Olive’s equally hilarious and incredibly laid-back parents. The scenes that take place within the Penderghast home are delightful and refreshing in the midst of all of the high school gossip and scandal. These are the moments that provide the audience with the majority of laugh out loud moments and Tucci, in particular, is a great companion to Stone’s uber cool heroine.

Easy A is not perfect (fought the temptation to make a reference to A grade there but I’m not one to fall for such awful clichés and uninspired writing) and falls down thanks to its several lackluster subplots. I can forgive the romance between Olive and Lobster Todd (Penn Badgley) as it plays out to become a lovely homage to Hughesian teen romance and I’m always up for any casual reference to that scene in Say Anything. However, the story revolving around the stale marriage of two members of staff proves to be incredibly dull and doesn’t sit well within the tone and pace of the main narrative. It is shoehorned in to provide more interaction with adult figures but doesn’t serve much of a purpose and has little to add to the overall message. There was some hope in the fundamentalist Christian group headed up by teen movie regular Amanda Bynes but, again, I found this added little to the overall feel of the film. Admittedly it created another link to the source material at the heart of this tale but there was a distinct lack of social commentary to make it relevant. Alongside the infinitely cool Stone, Bynes’ strained and desperate portrayal of the tightly wound Marianne looks like something that has been copied and pasted from a lesser teen movie.

Whilst it doesn’t quite reach the heady heights that ultimate teen movie Clueless once did (OK I’m biased. I love Clueless. I’ll be forever jealous of Cher’s wardrobe database and uncanny knack of setting people up. That doesn’t mean it’s not a great teen movie.) but Easy A provides us with a well above average teen comedy. With its inspiring female lead and overall non-judgemental message about sex, we have a film that, despite all of the bitching and fast-spreading gossip, actually has a pretty positive message. It’s something that I missed on its initial release after mistakenly taking it to be a fairly standard affair but it’s definitely worth a watch. That is if you can actually suspend your disbelief enough to accept that a bunch of high school students could fail to notice Emma Stone (oh, hello there new and obsessive girl crush).