Blu Tuesday: Superheroes and Street Fights

It’s been a little busy around the office this week with my wedding fast approaching, so I haven’t had the chance to review everything that I would have liked. But don’t let that stand in the way of you enjoying all the fantastic new releases, because in addition to the films featured below, there are a handful of other titles worth checking out, like Criterion’s “Rashomon,” “Your Sister’s Sister” and “Entourage: The Complete Series.”

“The Amazing Spider-Man”

There was a lot of criticism regarding Sony’s decision to reboot the Spider-Man franchise only a decade after Sam Raimi’s first film was released, but it was time for a change. Though Peter Parker’s origin story feels a bit repetitive to sit through all over again, once the movie frees itself from those chains, it never looks back. The action scenes are entertaining if not exactly memorable, and the campier aspects of Raimi’s trilogy have been removed. Director Marc Webb does a really good job of juggling the action, comedy and drama, but his most important contribution to the movie is providing more emotional depth to the characters, which makes Peter’s various relationships a lot more interesting. It certainly helps that Webb has rounded up such an impressive cast of actors to fill every major role, and that begins with his two leads. Emma Stone is perfectly cast as the smart and sexy Gwen Stacy, while Andrew Garfield easily outshines Tobey Maguire’s geeky portrayal of the wall-crawler. Though “The Amazing Spider-Man” isn’t quite the radical reboot that “Batman Begins” proved to be, it’s not that kind of film. It’s a little darker and more grounded in reality, but for the most part, it’s the same Spider-Man that everyone knows and loves.

Blu-ray Highlight: Sony has assembled an impressive collection of bonus material for the Blu-ray release, including a nearly two hour making-of featurette called “Rite of Passage: The Amazing Spider-Man Reborn” that covers a variety of topics like casting, creating the Spidey costume, the Lizard’s creature design, visual effects and more.

“They Live”

While not as popular as “Halloween” or “The Thing,” John Carpenter’s “They Live” remains as timely and relevant today as it was back in 1988, especially when viewed in the context of social movements like Occupy Wall Street. It’s actually really surprising that Hollywood hasn’t tried remaking the film, because although the original is entertaining as a B-movie guilty pleasure with some hilarious quotes (“I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass… and I’m all out of bubblegum.”) and one of the best knock-down-drag-out fight sequences in history, there’s plenty of room for improvement. The first act is painfully slow as it builds to the reveal of the aliens, the effects haven’t aged particularly well, and though Roddy Piper is good in the more physical aspects of the role, he leaves a lot to be desired in the acting department. Still, the movie is a cult classic for a reason, and Shout! Factory has done a great job with the new video transfer, making this a must-buy for fans of ‘80s cinema.

Blu-ray Highlight: In addition to the old commentary with director John Carpenter and star Roddy Piper, there’s also a new interview with Carpenter where he discusses the idea behind the film, casting his leads, and filming the infamous alley fight sequence.

  

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Emma Stone hits the ‘Spiderman’ red carpet

We have another Spider-Man movie . . . already?

Hollywood is all about the Benjamins (what’s new?) so we shouldn’t be surprised, and the studios are eager to make anything that will highlights CGI effects in order to capitalize on the foreign box office.

Fortunately, “The Amazing Spider-Man” is a worthy reboot of the franchise according to Jason Zingale in his Bullz-Eye.com movie review. The cast is excellent, and we have a clip of the lovely Emma Stone above discussing her role on the red carpet.

  

Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to July

You’ll probably notice that there aren’t very many movies receiving wide releases this month, and that partly has to do with the return of a certain wise-cracking web-slinger to the big screen, but it’s mostly because every studio is terrified of “The Dark Knight Rises,” and they should be. Christopher Nolan’s last Batman film absolutely dominated the box office, eventually grossing just over a billion dollars worldwide, and if the business that “The Avengers” has been doing is any indication, the third installment is going to easily exceed that. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other movies worth checking out, because just about every title on this list should be considered must-see.

“THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN”

Who: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Martin Sheen and Sally Field
What: Peter Parker finds a clue that might help explain why his parents disappeared years earlier, leading him to his father’s former partner, Dr. Curt Connors.
When: July 3rd
Why: Sony’s decision to reboot the Spider-Man series only a decade after Sam Raimi’s first movie was released has earned its share of naysayers, but having already seen director Marc Webb’s new version, most people are going to be happy with the direction the series is headed. Though it’s a bit of a pain to have to sit through Peter Parker’s origin story all over again, Webb makes it just different enough that it’s never boring. The action scenes are also well-staged, and Spider-Man’s wise-cracking humor remains intact, but the best part about the movie is the characters themselves. Not only are the actors perfectly cast in their respective roles (especially Andrew Garfield, who embodies everything that’s great about Spider-Man), but the relationships are actually interesting, and you can’t say that about every superhero film, Raimi’s trilogy included.

“SAVAGES”

Who: Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Johnson, Blake Lively, Salma Hayek and Benicio del Toro
What: Marijuana growers Ben and Chon face off against the Mexican drug cartel that kidnapped their shared girlfriend.
When: July 6th
Why: It’s been awhile since Oliver Stone made a movie worth caring about, but this big screen adaptation of Don Wilson’s bestseller has certainly piqued my interest. A drug-fueled crime thriller that looks like something the director would have made back in the 90s, “Savages” has a cool premise and a great cast to boot. Okay, so maybe Taylor Kitsch hasn’t had the best year between “John Carter” flopping and “Battleship” failing to find its sea legs at the domestic box office, but Aaron Johnson has impressed with his career choices lately, and the idea of Salma Hayek playing the big bad is oozing with potential. Though it’s unclear whether the film is supposed to have that grindhouse feel on purpose, if Stone can pull it off, he might just have another cult hit on his hands.

“EASY MONEY”

Who: Joel Kinnaman, Matias Varela, Dragomir Mrsic and Mahmut Suvacki
What: A three-tiered story centered on drugs and organized crime, focusing on a young man who becomes a runner for a cocaine dealer.
When: July 13th
Why: I don’t know a whole lot about Daniel Espinosa’s “Easy Money” (originally titled “Snabba Cash” in its native country) other than it stars Joel Kinnaman of AMC’s “The Killing” and was a near-universal hit on the festival circuit, but quite frankly, that’s enough for me. The Swedish film industry has gotten a huge boost thanks to the “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” series in recent years, and “Easy Money” reportedly follows in the same footsteps. Though I wasn’t crazy about Espinosa’s U.S. debut, “Safe House,” it had enough good moments (especially the fight scenes) to suggest he’s a promising talent. Plus, I’d see anything Kinnaman does these days, because his work on “The Killing” is so amazing that it’s no wonder he’s been tapped as Hollywood’s new It guy.

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