On this week’s show, Fernando talks about earthquake readiness in Tokyo, James reviews Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in San Andreas, before we get into a wide-ranging discussion about the disaster movie genre itself, & the cause of its enduring popularity…
00:00 – Theme Music
00:46 – Introduction
01:25 – Discussing last weekend’s tremblor in Japan & living with earthquakes
15:29 – Review Of San Andreas
30:52 – The State and hiistory of Disaster Films
58:09 – End Notes and Outro Music
Spider-Man returns in the second film of this rebooted franchise. Not so long ago, Tobey Maguire was playing Spider-Man under Sam Raimi’s direction in the first of what was supposed to be a definitive series of films, taking the arachnid-like superhero to new heights of onscreen action.
But, only 12 years later we are already into the second film of Andrew Garfield’s tenure as web-hurling vigilante, with Marc Webb again directing. Webb’s Spider-Man is darker, exploring more deeply the self-doubt and romance found in the comics. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ups the ante, trying to deliver more action, more villains, more romance, more humour and even more backstory.
The extent to which this film succeeds may, in part, depend on the expectations of the audience. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is one of the three films likely to go big at the box office this summer, along with Transformers: Age of Extinction and X-Men: Days of Future Past. All three films are attempts to breath new film into well established and one may say, tired franchises.
Achieving the kind of huge, global box-office these films aspire to demands reaching a broad audience, many of whom will be unfamiliar with the origins of the stories in question. This of course presets a challenge for films like The Amazing Spider-Man 2, since so many die hard fans of the comics will be amongst the first to see the see the film and will flood online with opinions often based on their expectations of how the film should treat the original source materials.
This, together with the short time elasped since the last Spider-Man franchise makes treating The Amazing Spider-Man 2 with any kind of objectively a real challenge. The film just begs comparison and with so many alternative versions of the story alive in people’s imaginations, one wonders how audiences will react. So much so, that one scene, which hints at other possible villains will for many film-goers, evoke immediate memories of villains from the Raimi-era Spider-Man films.
My feeling is those who go into The Amazing Spider-Man 2 with some kind of open-mind may well enjoy this film. It does groan under the weight of too many villains (at least three), too much on again, off again romance and a rather silly performance from Jamie Foxx as Max Dillon before he transforms into the much more satisfying persona of Electro, but this Spider-Man/Peter Parker is full of the self-doubt, adventure, humour and inability to get the whole romantic thing right which make the character of Spider-Man interesting.
Andrew Garlfield does at times seem ill at ease in the role and overwhelmed by sharing the screen with Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy, but that’s part of the point. Peter Parker is in over his head, he is out of his league and here, haunted by the shadow of Stacy’s father (Denis Leary) and the promise he made to not put Gwen in harm’s way, he is constantly second-guessing himself.
And, while Garfield does well, Dane DeHaan almost steals the show as Parker’s childhood friend, Harry Osborn. DeHaan was brilliant in last year’s Metallica: Through the Never and every scene as Osborn confirms his talent and promise as an actor.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 does spend too long giving us even more backstory (about Parker’s parents) and not invest enough in developing some of the characters. But, despite all the focus on action and fight sequences, we also get some compelling, well paced moments between Garfield and Stone and also, Garfield and DeHaan, which give The Amazing Spider-Man 2 a real sense of humanity and purpose.
In The Amazing Spider-Man 2, director Marc Webb has created an ambitious, exiting, tragic and largely satisfying Spider-Man experience. This might not be a film for the Comic-Book fundamentalists, but for the rest of us, it is a thrilling, enjoyable romp, that even this comic/blockbuster jaded review must admit, was very fulfilling.
Parkland is the Dallas hospital where President John F. Kennedy was treated and ultimately died after being shot in 1963. It is also, by a cruel twist of fate, the same hospital where his assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald was taken one day later.
“What a shitty place to die,” exclaims one of the President’s secret service agents during a startling early moment in the film Parkland. It’s one of a serious of astonishing scenes, immediately following the President’s death, when his staff struggle to come to grips with the tragedy and return the President’s body to Washington with some degree of decorum and dignity, in what where shocking and unprecedented circumstances.
The tone of these scenes, which culminate in officials hacking and kicking away a bulkhead on Air Force One in order to carry the President’s coffin onto the plane, signals the way Parkland stands apart from other similar historical dramas. The focus is less on the investigation, the assassin, or the President’s immediate family. We only see Jackie in speechless, often out of focus moments of extreme grief and the attention is focussed more on Oswald’s family than the killer himself. Parkland chooses to see this historic moment through the eyes of many lesser known but historically significant people who were caught up in the tragedy.
First time director Peter Landesman tells this story with a star studded cast. Zac Efron plays Dr. Charles James “Jim” Carrico, who along with Head Nurse Doris Nelson (Marcia Gay Harden) were among the first medical staff to treat J.F.K. Ron Livingston is F.B.I agent James P. Hosty, who had a lead on Lee harvey Oswald before the shooting and David Harbour brings a good deal of angst and rage to the role of Hosty’s boss, James Gordon Shanklin.
Billy Bob Thornton plays Secret Service Agent Forrest Sorrels whose shock quickly turns to steely focus when he meets Abraham Zapruder (Paul Giamatti) a local businessman who inadvertently captured the assassination on 8mm film.
Giamatti’s performance is complex and deeply moving. Zapruder was standing on a plinth only a few yards away from the motorcade as the shots where fired. His 8mm film camera was relatively new technology at the time and the scenes, where Zapruder and secret service agents lead by Sorrels try to find a lab that can develop the film is a testament to Parkland’s costume and production design.
Jeremy Strong bears a stark resemblance to Lee Harvey Oswald, but true to form, Parkland spends more time with his older brother Robert (James Badge Dale, in perhaps the best of this film’s many good performances) and his spectacularly deluded mother Marguerite (Jacki Weaver).
After the first day, whose events moved in a way famously summed up news anchor David Brinkley as “too much, too ugly, too fast,” Parkland slows down and draws breath. This not only gives us time to reflect on the story and the depth of human emotion we have seen, but also on Barry Ackroyd’s brilliantly stark cinematography and James Newton Howard’s evocative score.
However, these technical details overshadow the story-telling. Parkland never tries to be more than a straightforward and well told version of an important and familiar historical moment. Perhaps this is not surprising, given the film is a adapted from a book (Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, by Vincent Bugliosi) which tries to argue for the official version of these events.
In fact, Parkland’s commitment to playing it straight with the assassination story might be its undoing with some viewers. Fans of conspiracy theories or investigative procedurals will not be satisfied here. The focus is always squarely on the human drama rather than any abstract arguments.
Parkland is a serious, authoritative and dignified film. Assured cinematography, stirring music and award-worthy performances combine to create a deeply moving account of three days in 1963 that shook the USA and unsettled the world.
A rather baffling melange of horror, science-fiction and comedy that screams out to be embraced as a late night cult classic in the vein of Repo Man or director Don Coscarelli’s own Bubba Ho-Tep, but never quite finds its groove. It’s filled with ghoulish demons from other dimensions, wise-cracking slacker heroes and potent, power-giving soy sauce, but for most of the time, John Dies at the End feels like a deranged Buffy spin-off. No bad thing perhaps, but it feels like an integral part of its universe is missing. The film plays fine as a late night goofy ride, and perhaps deserves a second more attentive watch, but after a single, slightly bleary-eyed viewing, I am inspired to seek out the book, in the hope that somewhere between its pages there is some sense and explanation to this madness.