Movie Review: Spider-Man (2002)

With “Spider-Man: Far From Home” getting released in July, I thought I would give the Raimi-directed “Spider-Man” movies a little rewatch/review. I mean, it’s been years since the last time I saw them, so now is a good a time as any to see if they hold up. So here we go with part 1.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Spider-Man”.

After he gets bitten by a genetically modified spider, high school student Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) starts developing spider-like powers. And he soon has to put them to good use when a crazed villain (Willem Dafoe) starts terrorizing New York. We had gotten a few superhero origins before this, but this really set the standard for how it’s done. Even in movies later on, let’s say “Iron Man” as an example, trace amounts of this movie can be found in the way the origin is done there. So yeah, the plot here is handled well. Not saying it’s perfect. It does have a few minor pacing issues at points, but there’s nothing that completely ruins the experience for me. It is still mostly well paced, with plenty of nuance and a decent exploration of the “Great power, great responsibility” theme. It’s fun, it’s clever, it’s emotional, it’s a good “Spider-Man” origin.

The characters in this are colorful, charming, layered, and overall interesting. Tobey Maguire plays Peter Parker/Spider-Man. He’s a little shy, a little awkward, but also clever, good-hearted, and a fairly relatable character. Seeing his journey from that dork that everyone picks on to a hero is quite fascinating. And Maguire is really good in the role. Kirsten Dunst plays Mary-Jane Watson, Peter’s neighbor and crush. A beautiful young woman with a bad home life, but a good heart. Seeing her and how she is affected by Peter’s life/she affects him is an interesting part of the whole story. And Dunst is really good in the role. Next we have Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn/The Green Goblin. He’s something of a scientist and tries to develop tech that can help the military… but things go a little… awry. Seeing his duality throughout the movie is endlessly entertaining, and Dafoe is the perfect blend of intimidating, emotionally investing, and hammy in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Rosemary Harris, Cliff Robertson, James Franco, J.K. Simmons (the best), and more, all doing well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Danny Elfman, and I have nothing bad to say about it. It’s epic, emotional, sweeping, and balances heroics with smaller stuff, making for one of the most iconic and enjoyable scores in the last 20 years. Seriously still great.

As mentioned in the opening of this review, “Spider-Man” (based on the Marvel character created by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko) was directed by Sam Raimi, and I think he did a great job with it. He has a unique sort of energy that makes the movie a whole lot of fun to watch. He also uses a lot of fun camera movements to give the movie a unique look that feels very much in line with the character of Spider-Man. This also translates to the action scenes, which are a lot of fun and are even surprisingly brutal at times. However, to add a negative into all this positivity, there are a lot of effects that don’t hold up. Those are CGI stuff that very much haven’t aged well. It’s not a total deal-breaker, but it is distracting enough to bring the score down a little bit.

This movie has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 90% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 73/100. Roger Ebert gave it 2,5/4 stars. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,3/10. It got 2 Oscar nominations in the categories of Best Sound and Best Visual Effects.

While there are aspects of it that has aged a fair bit, “Spider-Man” is still a damn fine superhero movie. It has a good plot, good characters, great performances, great music, and great directing/action. What brings it down a bit for me are the occasional pacing issues and often wonky CGI effects. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Spider-Man” is an 8,89/10. So while flawed, it’s still worth buying.

My review of “Spider-Man” is now completed.

Two more to go. *thwip*.

Movie Review: Blaze (2018)

Biopics are fascinating. They give us a glimpse into a real life individual’s personal life, while also trying to provide a couple hours of entertainment. And striking the right balance between fact and compelling drama can be tough. But some people manage it.

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a movie… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Blaze”.

The story follows the life and times of Blaze Foley (Ben Dickey), a raggedy man with a talent for music. From his humble beginnings, and through the highs and lows, including his marriage to Sybil Rosen (Alia Shawkat), we get a good glimpse into Foley’s life. And I think that the plot here is really good. There are elements that we recognize from other biopics, but the way they’re used throughout “Blaze” feels fresh, due to the gentle and nuanced writing. It creates a fascinating tale that can be as heartbreaking as it is warmly nostalgic. The deliberately slow pace might prove a bit frustrating for some, but I thought it worked very well for the story here.

The characters here are flawed, nuanced, charming, and overall feel very real. Ben Dickey plays the titular musician. A likable man with a lot of tragic flaws. Seeing his journey as a character here is really fascinating, and I really grew to care about him. And Dickey is great in the role. Alia Shawkat plays Sybil Rosen, a woman and aspiring actress/writer that Blaze has a committed relationship with. The journey she has here, which really are the ups and downs of being with Blaze, is really interesting, and makes her an interesting and sympathetic character. And Shawkat is really good in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Charlie Sexton, Josh Hamilton, Wyatt Russell, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

As this is a biopic about a musician, it should be expected that one would hear a lot of songs from said artist throughout. You’d be correct in that assumption, you do hear a lot of Foley’s music here… and I love it. Not only because the music is incredibly well written, but also because the way it’s implemented in the storytelling is absolutely wonderful. So yeah, the music here is great.

Based on “Living in the Woods in a Tree: Remembering Blaze Foley” (bit of a mouthful) by Sybil Rosen, this movie was written by Ethan Hawke & Sybil Rosen, with Hawke also handling directing. And the craft here is wonderful. It has a warmness to it, and a willingness to just sit down and really get to know these characters, not always feeling the need to get to the next “big event”. Like I said in the story bit, the pacing is deliberately slow, and the direction embraces that and turns it into some truly compelling stuff. And the cinematography by Steve Cosens helps kind of give it all a nostalgic storybook feeling that really adds to the experience.

This movie has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 95% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 75/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6,7/10.

“Blaze” is a wonderful movie about a very interesting man. It has a really good plot, good characters, great performances, great music, and great writing/directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *AHEM*. My final score for “Blaze” is a 9,77/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Blaze” is now completed.

That was a nice experience.

Movie Review: Leaving Las Vegas (1996)

I don’t have anything clever to say here. Sometimes a movie just breaks you. And that’s what happened to me here. So let’s just get into the review itself.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Leaving Las Vegas”.

After he loses everything due to his alcoholism, screenwriter Ben Sanderson (Nicolas Cage) moves to Las Vegas to try to drink himself to death. But those plans get a little halted when he meets and forms a bond with a prostitute named Sera (Elisabeth Shue). But don’t think that this is some happy redemption story, because it fucking isn’t. It’s a tragic and depressing character study about a very self-destructive man. And god damn, it is incredibly well handled. It deals with its subjects with a lot of subtlety and nuance, making it feel very grounded. There are moments throughout where it looks up for a bit, but for the most part it’s a heartbreaking story that honestly made me tear up at multiple times throughout. So while the story made me feel like shit, I still found it to be pretty fucking great.

The characters in this are flawed, layered, nuanced, and just overall feel fairly realistic. First up we have Nicolas Cage as Ben Sanderson, a screenwriter who gets the boot due to his devotion to the bottle. He is a surprisingly self-aware man, he knows that what he’s doing is bad for him, but he’s just kind of accepted it as his reality, fully embracing the self-destructiveness of his behavior. Not saying it justifies it all, but it makes him quite an interesting figure within the whole “characters who are alcoholics” spectrum. And Nicolas Cage is fantastic in the role. Yeah, you read that right. There is some of his quirky expressionism sprinkled in throughout, but for the most part this is a relatively subdued and almost haunting performance. Next we have Elisabeth Shue as Sera, the prostitute that Ben meets forms a bit of a bond with. She of course already has a bit of a tragic existence, involving the life she’s been leading. And seeing how it alters when she meets Ben makes her quite an interesting character too. And Elisabeth Shue is great in the role. She doesn’t always show it in big, loud scenes, but you can read every emotion she has to portray in her eyes. We also get supporting work from people like Julian Sands, Graham Beckel, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Mike Figgis and Anthony Marinelli, who I think did a brilliant job with it, weaving sad and tragic piano pieces with some chaotic jazz and haunting blues to create a vibe that suits the story of a man’s downfall, while also kind of fitting the Las Vegas environment. There are also a few licensed tracks used throughout that work very well in their respective scenes.

Based on a novel by John O’Brien, this movie was written and directed by Mike Figgis, who I think did a brilliant job with it. He gives the movie a very unpredictable vibe that both made me feel relaxed and uneasy. Relaxed in the sense that it’s not too chaotic in camerawork, and uneasy because it doesn’t really pull punches with this tale of self-destruction. While there is some style to it all, Figgis still presents everything in an honest, exposed way that makes it feel real.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 90% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 82/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,5/10. The movie won 1 Oscar in the category of Best actor (Cage). It was also nominated for an additional 3 Oscars in the categories of Best actress (Shue), Best director, and Best adapted screenplay.

While it’s far from an easy watch, I still think “Leaving Las Vegas” is an absolutely fantastic film. It has a great plot, really good characters, great performances, great music, and great writing/directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Leaving Las Vegas” is a 9,89/10. Which means it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Leaving Las Vegas” is now completed.

Usually Cage makes me laugh or at least feel entertained… but today he made me cry.

Movie Review: The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018)

Can people just stop being cockwaffles? Not saying that you reading this specifically are one, but this movie did remind me that true cockwaffles exist, and I don’t like that.

Ladies and gentlemen… “The Miseducation of Cameron Post”.

When she is caught getting intimate with another girl, high school student Cameron (Chloë Grace Moretz) gets sent to a gay conversion therapy center to “get fixed”. So then we follow her as she tries to get through each day while also befriending some of the other youths who live at the center. And I kinda loved the plot here. It’s a nuanced and well written story of someone coming to terms with who she is while others try to change her because she’s different. But what really surprised me about the plot here is just how restrained it ends up being. It doesn’t show the center as this hellhole like some other pieces of media might. It’s shown in a way that takes a stance, while not portraying any of the people working there as absolute monsters. It kinda makes it feels a bit more realistic and nuanced in a way. And it really helped in making this quite an engaging plot.

The characters in this are layered, flawed, interesting, and fairly realistic. Chloë Grace Moretz plays Cameron, the titular girl who gets sent to this center. And what I like about her performance is that she is kind of conflicted in the movie. She does believe that she did nothing wrong, but the councilors at the center also do kind of get a bit to her, making her question herself a bit, and it makes for some interesting character development. And Moretz is great in the role. Next we have Sasha Lane as Jane, another girl at the center that Cameron starts to befriend. She’s more of the rebellious type who bides her time at the center, but secretly smokes pot and is very much against the center. And she’s quite an interesting part of the cast for some of that. And Lane is great in the role. Next we have John Gallagher Jr. as Rick, one of the councilors at the center trying to convert these kids. And like I said in the plot section, he’s not exactly portrayed as evil, per se. Yes, the whole gay conversion thing is fucking dumb, but he’s portrayed more as this kind-hearted and charming guy who just wants what’s best for these kids, and he’s just an interesting contrast to the many “BEING GAY IS NOT GOOD!” characters we’ve seen over the years. And Gallagher is great in the role. We also get supporting performances from people like Dalton Harrod, Emily Skeggs, Quinn Shepherd, Forrest Goodluck, Marin Ireland, and many more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Julian Wass, and I thought it was pretty great. It uses a fair bit of synth, but does also dip in with the occasional stringed instrument. It has a way of sounding dreamlike while also kind of real and grounded. I don’t know how to fully explain it really, it just works incredibly well for the movie. There are also a few licensed tracks used throughout the movie, and they work well in their respective scenes.

Based on a novel by Emily M. Danforth, the movie was writen by Desiree Akhavan & Cecilia Frugiuele. And it was also directed by Akhavan, who I think did a great job with it. From a visual standpoint the movie is fairly standard, but the control that Akhavan has over each scene, guiding us through every moment with a very confident yet delicate hand.

This movie has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 86% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 69/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6,7/10.

“The Miseducation of Cameron Post” deals with a lot of sensitive themes, and handles them beautifully. It has a great plot, good characters, great performances, really good music, and really good directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” is a 9,71/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” is now completed.

Just to remind y’all… don’t be a homophobic cockwaffle.

Movie Review: The Godfather Part II (1974)

I recently ran a poll on my twitter page where I asked which of four classics that I hadn’t seen yet people waned to see a review of. And at the end of it, this movie came out victorious. So let’s get into it.

Ladies and gentlemen… “The Godfather Part II”.

We follow Michael (Al Pacino), the new head of the Corleone family as he ascends within the crime world, trying to hold on to his empire and his family. And throughout the movie we also get flashbacks to a young Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro), from his arrival in New York during his childhood, to him rising in the mob world as an adult. What I liked about the first “Godfather” movie, and also this is that while it has this sweeping and epic gangster story, it also focuses on the smaller family drama, which gives it a lot more nuance. Yes, it is a very long movie (3 hours, 10 minutes), but it needs that runtime to be able to tell this big and impressive story. Emotional, suspenseful, intriguing, and well written, the plot in this movie is great.

The characters in this are layered and interesting. First up we have Al Pacino reprising his role as Michael Corleone, the current head of the Corleone family. In this movie we see a very conflicted Michael as he has to become the new Godfather, while being pulled in the “legitimate” direction by his wife. And it makes for an interesting character study. And Pacino is fantastic in the role. Then we have Robert De Niro as the young Vito Corleone. He’s a quiet man with a lot of emotion built up inside of him after some stuff that happened in his past. And it’s interesting to see him go through everything he goes through. And De Niro is fantastic in the role. Diane Keaton returns as Kay, the wife of Michael. She goes through some stuff in this movie, and seeing her try to deal with the shit that comes from her husband’s mob-life is quite fascinating and heartbreaking. And Keaton is of course great in the role. Then we have John Cazale (R.I.P) as Fredo, Michael’s older brother. In this movie you see that he’s a bit of a spineless man who does love his family, but some of his own agendas seem to come first, and it makes him an interesting foil for the other characters. And Cazale is great in the role. And in further returning roles we see people like Talia Shire, Robert Duvall, Richard Bright, Gianni Russo, and Morgana King (among others), all doing very well in their roles. Then we also got some new comers like Lee Strasberg, Michael V. Gazzo, G.D. Spradlin, Bruno Kirby, and many more. They also do very well in their respective roles. ’tis a very well acted movie.

The music for the movie was composed by Nino Rota & Carmine Coppola, and it’s fantastic. It’s a sweeping and emotional score that fits the world perfectly and helps elevate the scenes to the next level. What I also liked is that it’s not just super serious string tracks, but there are also a couple of more fun tracks for a few moments throughout the movie, and I think that works quite well. Yeah, the music’s great.

Like with the first movie, “Part II” was written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola (with some writing help from Mario Puzo), and once again he knocked it out of the park. His direction captures the sweeping nature of the crime syndicate plot, while also managing to really elevate and engage during the smaller family drama scenes. I really don’t think anyone could have captured it as well as Coppola.

This movie has been incredibly well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 97% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 85/100. Roger Ebert gave it 4/4 stars and put it on his “Great Movies” list. And on imdb.com it has a score of 9,0/10 and is ranked #3 on the “Top 250” list. The movie also won 6 Oscars in the categories of Best picture, Best supporting actor (De Niro), Best director, Best adapted screenplay, Best set decoration, and Best original score. The movie was also nominated for an additional 5 Oscars in the categories of Best actor (Pacino), Best supporting actor (Gazzo), Best supporting actor (Strasberg), Best supporting actress (Shire), and Best costume design. Fuck, that’s a lot of awards and nominations.

Does “The Godfather Part II” live up to the hype? For me, it does. It has a great story, really good characters, fantastic performances, great music, and great writing/directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Godfather Part II” is a 9,85/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Godfather Part II” is now completed.

And for those wondering, I do prefer the first one.

Movie Review: Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Bank robbery. Doesn’t matter what cause you are doing it for, it’s always a bad idea. No matter how desperately a person might need the money, he or she should not attempt to rob a bank… EVER! It’s a bad idea that has so much more risk than reward.

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a movie… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Dog Day Afternoon”.

Sonny (Al Pacino) and Sal (John Cazale, RIP) and two men who walk into a bank during a hot summer afternoon to rob it. And what was supposed to be a simple bank robbery soon turns into a tense and complicated hostage situation. The plot in “Dog Day Afternoon” is pretty great, not just because of my love for heist films, but because it doesn’t just present it in the typical black and white cops vs. robbers way. The situation and the motivations behind it are much more grey than in other movies, and that’s what I loved about the plot. You see every little angle of it. It’s rare to see such a nuanced plot in bank robbery/heist movies that I found it quite refreshing. The plotis really a tense drama that managed to hold my interest from start to finish.

The characters, like the plot, are very layered and have plenty of nuance to them which makes them really interesting to watch. Al Pacino is fantastic as Sonny. And what I really like about his character is that he osn’t jsut your typical asshole bank robber, he’s just a man who does this for “good reasons”. By “good reasons” I don’t mean that bank robbery is okay (read the intro again), but that his motivations isn’t just to get rich, but he has a clear motivation that I can understand/get behind. John Cazale is great as Sal, the man that is helping Pacino rob the bank. We also get James Broderick (RIP) as an FBI agent that is there to negotiate with Pacino/Cazale, and he’s great. We have Chalres Durning (RIP) as a cop that tries to negotiate with Pacino/Cazale, and he’s great. We get Chris Sarandon as someone that is close to Pacino’s character, and he’s great. We even get a brief, but still welcome, appearance from Lance Henriksen who plays anotehr FBI agent and he is really good here. The entire cast is great in this movie, and all the characters are great.

What is interesting about the music in this movie is that there is none. Okay, I kind of lied there, there is a song at the beginning of the movie to sort of establish the city and such. But other than that there is nothing. No score, no other licensed tracks… jack fucking shit. And while I do love me some good music in a movie, I think that the lack of it here actually kind of works to it’s advantage. I try to imagine the scenes in my head with music, and I can’t… does not compute. This movie has no music in it, and I really liked that about it.

This movie was directed by Sidney Lumet (RIP) and I think he did a pretty damn great job. The framing is great and his direction here is very tense and engaging.  I felt like I was stuck in this shitshow with the characters, and that is proof of great directing. What makes that even mroe interesting is that there is barely any violence in the movie. As a matter of fact, there is almost no violence in it at all. Kind of refreshing to see that in a crime movie for once.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 95% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it doesn’t even exist (how dareth thou, Metacritic?). Roger Ebert gave it 4/4 stars and put it on his “Great Movies” list. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,0/10 and is ranked #243 on the “Top 250” list. The movie also won 1 Oscar in the category of Best original screenplay. It also got an additional 5 nominations in the categories of Best picture, Best actor (Pacino), Best supporting actor (Sarandon), Best director, and Best film editing. 

“Dog Day Afternoon” is an incredibly nuanced bank robber drama that engaged me from start to finish. It has a great plot, great performances, no music (which works for the movie), and great directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Dog Day Afternoon” is a 9,89/10. This means that is gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Dog Day Afternoon” is now completed.

They don’t make movies like this anymore… quite sad, really.