Pacific Rim: A Channing Tatum Shy of Greatness




by Nicholas Benson

Monsters, giant robots, Ron Perlman in gold-plated dress shoes, and as if that weren’t enough, the story’s not half bad either. The visionary director of Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro returns to directing for the first time since 2008’s Hellboy II: The Golden Army and churns out a science fantasy epic with visuals that make Avatar look like a cheap Saturday morning cartoon.

Pacific Rim takes place in a world where a portal to another dimension has opened up beneath the ocean and randomly unleashes giant monsters nicknamed Kaiju. Much like hurricanes, these monsters are named and categorized and devastate the coastal cities of the world. In order to fight this threat the nations of the world unite to build massive robots called Jaegers to fight the Kaiju in hand to hand combat. However, in order to control the Jaegers, two trained pilots must merge their brains and fight together.

Our story takes place in the year 2025, when the Jaeger project is being shut down in favor of a giant wall to be built around coastal regions that are frequently in threat of Kaiju attacks. In a last-ditch effort to save the Jaeger project and humanity, Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), the military leader in charge of the program, rounds up the remaining Jaegers and pilots to make one final effort to shut the portal for good.

We follow washed up pilot Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) and his untested copilot Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) as they pilot Jaeger Gypsie Diver to lead the final fight against the Kaiju.

Pacific Rim is not without flaws. I think a lot of people will walk out of this movie thinking that something just didn’t feel right. The story was fine, the action was amazing, but there just was not the spark that the buildup to this movie promised. I think the reason for that is simple: it was poorly casted. Much like that awkward footage of Back to the Future with Eric Stolts as Marty Mcfly, Charlie Hunnam is perfectly fine, but misses all the hero beats and really is not the character that the script calls for. This movie needed a Michael J. Fox or a Will Smith to really tie the cast together, and honestly Channing Tatum would have been perfect.

Take the scenes with Ron Perlman and Charlie Day as proof. They were acting in the movie that this was supposed to be, a fun fantasy film. Even if their characters were mostly irrelevant, I loved their chemistry and wanted more. On the other hand, every time it cut to Hunnam, no matter how magnificent the set pieces around him, I felt like I was in a present-day run-of-the-mill military film.   

But why am I talking about actors? That’s not why anyone is paying to see this particular movie. We’re paying to see breathtaking fight sequences, which is exactly where this movie shines. The fight scenes play really well. There is something inexplicably exciting about watching a Jaguer put a Kaiju into a headlock. Each action sequence is more breathtaking than the last and really, even if you hate the movie, these parts are well worth the price of an IMAX ticket.  

With Pacific Rim, Del Toro and the writers have created an incredibly unique and interesting universe that you just want to immerse yourself in. The attention to detail is staggering. Beyond the incredible set pieces, every Kaiju and Jaeger has a unique history, a cool name, and vastly different design. Even though this movie stands firmly on its own two robot feet, it’s ripe for franchising. Kids are going to want to buy their favorite Jaeger or Kaiju action figure, fans of all ages are going to probably go out and buy the prequel graphic novel Tales from Year Zero, and I predict that we are going to see a Pacific Rim cartoon series sooner rather than later (possibly competing with Star Wars Rebels set to premiere on Disney XD next year). Even those who have reservations about the movie will admit they want to see more movies made to this scale and within this incredible universe. 

Overall, Pacific Rim is loud and clunky, but it’s loaded with heart and, simply put, it’s by far the coolest movie of the summer. I have a feeling that a lot of reviews are going to say something like, “If I were nine years old I would love this movie.” I’m not 9 years old and I loved this movie. However, if you have a nine year old, do not let them miss this. Just be prepared to stop at the toy store on your way home.



Man of Steel Review


By Nicholas Benson

Like a Terrence Malick movie (but with a plot), through beautiful cinematography and moody voiceovers director Zach Snyder (300, Watchman) attempts to bring us a more accessible side of a classic superhero. Although the execution is far from perfect, it’s mostly a good time. 

The movie opens on Krypton, Superman’s home world. The planet is in crisis because its core is imploding. Jo-El (Russell Crowe) sends his son Kal-El to earth in hope that he will ensure the survival of their race. I’m pretty sure anyone going to see this movie already knew that much about Superman, so why we wasted ten minutes and millions of dollars on a prologue, I don’t know. (I really hate prologues.) What you might not have known is that military leader General Zod (Michael Shannon) attempted a coup of the government before the planet is destroyed, killed Jo El, and vowed to find and murder his son. 

Flash forward 33 years and we meet Clark Kent on a fishing boat. The story wastes no time letting us know this is Superman. Within 3 minutes he is saving a group of blue collar workers from on oil rig explosion in the middle of the ocean. For me, this is where the movie starts.  We then get a flashback with a young Clark Kent in a classroom. He’s overwhelmed by his heightened senses, has a breakdown, and hides in a closet. His mother, played perfectly by Diane Lane, comes to his rescue. “The world’s too big, Mom,” says Clark. “Then make it small.”

The movie continues in this fashion, mixing flashbacks with present Clark, as he finds out who he is and why he’s here. Eventually, Zod comes to earth and threatens to destroy the world if Kal-El (Let’s just call him Superman from now on) doesn’t turn himself over. Superman must choose to align with Zod and the remaining members of his race or defend Earth.   

The flashbacks are the best part of Man of Steel. We pull away from the cliché superhero action and focus on these small moments about a boy growing up and trying to decide how to live as a god on Earth. At its heart, this is what the movie is about, the duality of Superman. He is human, but he is also more than that. He has the power to do both wonderful and terrible things and must choose what kind of man to be. Although I think every actor in this movie did fantastic, Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent, Superman’s adopted father, pulls the whole movie together with a performance worthy of an Academy nod. He acts as Superman’s moral compass, connecting Clark to his humanity. If the movie was nothing but interaction between Jonathan and Clark Kent I would have been perfectly happy.

 The moments between Jonathan and Clark are powerful and efficient, but their brevity leaves you wanting more. It doesn’t help that the action sequences that come between them are repetitive and boring, saved only in part by Hans Zimmer’s slow burning score, which is sure to become one of the most iconic of his career. By putting these excellent scenes side by side with mindless action sequences, the filmmakers draw attention to their pointlessness and ultimately bore the audience.

Even with the many flaws, between what it offers in terms of emotional depth and breathtaking visuals, Man of Steel reaches new heights in the superhero genre, and at moments represents the peak of what modern cinema has to offer. 

Netflix Instant Round Up 5/18/2013

By Nicholas Benson


John Dies at the End (2013)

John Dies at the End is a weird mix of a horror, comedy, and fantasy and it’s a pretty fun ride. It’s like Ghostbusters on acid. Based on the popular book from editor David Wong, the story follows the main character, David, as he suffers from the side effects of a strange new drug called Soy Sauce which opens his mind to another world. There’s a lot to like about this movie. Even if the plot is a little uneven, the story feels unique and the characters are completely fun and charming. The movie goes for comedy over gore, and that plays to its favor.

Bottom Line: Add it to your instant queue


Witness (1985)

If it weren’t for that one space movie or those other movies about an archeologist in a fedora, Witness would be the Harrison Ford movie. Peter Weir (The Truman Show (1998), The Dead Poet Society (1989)) delivers a really well-made thriller that only feels like a thriller when it absolutely has to. The story revolves around an Amish boy who witnesses a murder. Ford plays Books, a Philadelphia cop who is trying to get the Amish kid to tell him what he saw. It’s a beautifully shot, well-crafted story with just enough action and boobs to please the meat heads. If it’s not considered a classic, it should be.

Bottom Line: Add it


Comedy Bang Bang – Season 1 (2012)

Comedy Bang Bang is a spoof on the talk show format. The IFC show is hosted by comedian Scott Aukerman and based on his popular podcast of the same name. Each episode, Aukerman and a celebrity guest engage in awkward conversations. With the help of alternative comic Reggie Watts the humor is off kilter and completely smart.  The jokes don’t always hit, but when they do it’s gold.

Bottom Line: Add it


TRON: Uprising – Season 1 (2012)

TRON: Uprising takes place between the movies TRON and TRON: Legacy.  It briefly aired on Disney XD last winter, but the current state of the she show’s second season is in question. However, this collection of episodes actually tells a much more compelling story than both the films. The main character, a program named Beck (Elijah Wood), is being trained by Tron (Bruce Boxleitner) to lead an uprising against the evil program Clu.  Even if you are not a TRON fan, the show is worth checking out if only for the top notch animation and some quality voice acting.

Bottom Line: Add it

Good News?


By Nicholas Benson

The news is all over the internet: Harrison Ford is most likely returning to Star Wars as the wisecracking intergalactic smuggler with a heart of gold. People seem to be universally excited about this. Though on one hand it would obviously be nice to see that character brought to life in in a new adventure, I think we should consider a few reasons why this could actually be a bad thing.

I know. Blasphemous, right?  But before you give me a list of uncomfortable places to stick my opinion, let me give you three reasons why you should be a little cautious about this casting news:

1)      Nostalgia – Nostalgia is a very powerful feeling. It can make us have a soft spot for a really bad movie, make us cry when returning home for the first time in a while, or heck, it has become one of the main marketing strategies for a lot of new franchises (TRON?) . The most important thing to remember about nostalgia is that it’s not real.  By definition, nostalgia means a longing for something that never existed. We build things up in our head and they become something so much more powerful than they ever were. Does that mean I am saying Harrison Ford’s portrayal of Han Solo is not actually that good? Absolutely not. What I’m saying is that because it was so unique and fantastic, over the years it has come to mean a lot to so many people. It’s a standard that every hero has been judged by. The problem is that even if somehow, all these years later, Ford gives a performance of the same quality, it will feel like it’s not as good. Something will feel off. Because even though it’s good, it’s not what we have built up in our heads. We are setting ourselves up to be disappointed and putting a lot of unnecessary pressure on Harrison Ford and the writers.

2)      A Good Day to Die Hard. If you’re living under a rock, maybe you haven’t heard: no one liked this movie. A lot of that has to do with the fact that it was just plain bad. But there is something else going on with the Die Hard franchise that even good writing can’t hide. Bruce Willis is not the same Bruce Willis he was 25 years ago. He is older, more successful, and balder. All of these things seep into the movie and turn John McClain into a very different character. In the case of Die Hard, it was a character we barely recognized and one I don’t accept as a suitable version of the original.  It is possible to take an actor and a character far into the future and still have the audience accept this new version of them as a more evolved form of the original.  Sylvester Stallone does this very well. Rocky Balboa is a movie that takes the character’s and the actor’s history into account and carefully considers the arc of Rocky bringing the saga to a satisfactory and cathartic conclusion. (I would argue he did the same thing with the Rambo character.) But this process takes time and careful consideration. The writers and actors have to collaborate and imagine the history of the character as it relates to the history of the actor and ensure that it all makes sense within the story. With Star Wars VII, I don’t think they will take that time to develop an old Captain Solo character, nor should they. My guess is he will be a glorified cameo at best and it just doesn’t make sense to take that time with a small role when you should concentrate on making a great Star Wars movie for new characters. If you’re not going to take that time, then don’t bother.

3)      Crutches – Finally, if a new trilogy is going to succeed, it has to stand on its own two legs. It can’t rely on anything from the past films. I should be able to bring a friend who has never seen a Star Wars film to see this new movie in the theater.   I should never once have to explain to him an inside joke, a piece of history, a character’s importance, or even what a lightsaber is. This new movie needs to start its own adventure and it has to keep us an arm’s length from the other movies. Think about it. The prequels completely relied on those loose connections to the original films: R2, C3PO, Obi Wan, and Jabba. They were just cheesy gestures aimed at older fans to distract them from an otherwise less-than-quality Star Wars film. The only reason anyone was interested in Anakin was because we knew he would become Darth Vader.  Other than that, he is completely uninteresting and unlikable. The sequels can’t do that. That means they can’t lean on Han Solo to bring in old fans.

Really, the key here is just make a good Star Wars movie and we will all show up, I promise. I would love some more Han Solo, but no matter what he will always be in the original trilogy. No one wants to see him reduced to a fraction of his former self and reduced to a marketing tool.  That being said, I do believe there should be a link to the originals. However, I think it should be a looser connection and a smaller character.  Let me know when Billy Dee Williams signs up.

Epic Snub


“Snubbed” is the “fact checker” of 2013. Everyone feels smart for using the word in conversation but no one has any idea what it means.

The word, for me, evokes an image of an 18th century aristocrat turning his nose up at a Big Mac. If I had to define it as it relates to the Academy Awards I would say it means deliberately overlooking someone in a category for political reasons. The reason the word is so popular this year is because Ben Affleck not getting nominated for Best Director is the most blatant snub in recent history. Even if you don’t follow the movie industry, something just feels wrong about it. Audiences and critics agree that Agro was one of the best movies of the year. Affleck is favored to win the Golden Globe for Best Director, and he has been nominated by the Directors Guild of America for his achievements (which kind of undermines Kevin Smith’s argument that it wasn’t the academy that snubbed Affleck but the directors), AND he recently won the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Director. Besides that, within the academy itself Argo was nominated in the categories of best adapted screenplay, best picture, and best supporting actor. With all this information in mind, Affleck’s absence from the Best Director category nominations doesn’t sit well with a lot of people.

Essentially it seems what the academy is saying is “Yes, Argo is good, but we are not sure we’re ready to admit it’s because Ben Affleck is talented.” It makes sense.  The last time Affleck won an Academy Award, it was for Best Screenplay with Matt Damon and it was turned into a joke. Hell, Mindy Kaling got famous for making fun of Ben Affleck in a stage play. The accepted story of Good Will Hunting is that Matt Damon wrote it while Ben Affleck just sat back and took credit for it.  If you need evidence against that, I would offer this: Ben Affleck co-wrote The Town and Gone and Baby Gone, both critically-acclaimed screenplays. Matt Damon co-wrote Promised Land, which it seems most critics didn’t care for. Not that public or critical opinion means much but if we’re being petty, Affleck has the upper hand.

However, I think there is a simpler answer to why Affleck didn’t get the head nod from the Academy. Just look at who he was replaced by. The director of Beasts of the Southern Wild, a movie that very few people saw or even heard of, but is still on VOD and coming to Netflix this Sunday. I’m sure it will get a second run in the theaters in the next few weeks. Everyone’s talking about it now, so why not? Is it  a good movie? It’s good enough. What’s important is it’s an underdog and the academy loves an underdog. It’s why every time Spielberg makes a movie he gets nominated and rarely wins. He gets to be the Goliath to that years David.

There is also the fact that Argo is the only movie in the list of Academy Award worthy films that made serious money and probably doesn’t need help in the home entertainment market. Beasts of the Southern Wild on the other hand needed a boost.

The Bottom Line: Who cares?  I can assure you that Ben Affleck doesn’t. Argo made good money and he is already working on his next project. The takeaway from this is that a lot of people are learning for the first time that the Academy Awards have less to do with quality and a whole lot more to do with politics and money. If the Academy Awards were fair, Dredd would have been nominated in every category.

That is not a joke… go buy it.


By Nicholas Benson

If you’ve been paying attention, Ben Affleck’s most recent attempt in the director’s chair shouldn’t surprise you. His previous two movies Gone Baby Gone and The Town were gripping, well-crafted films worthy of more recognition than they received at the time. With Argo, Affleck is simply taking his proven formula and introducing himself to a wider audience.

Argo is a historical thriller based on the extraction of six U.S. embassy employees from Iran during the 1980s hostage crisis. Affleck provides audiences with a clear sense of time and place using an extremely well put-together prologue that explains the circumstances of the Iranian Hostage crisis using actual footage and story boards. You are then eased from the reality of the situation into the movie. It’s as if you fell asleep in history class and were inserted into a dream that took place in Iran five minutes before the embassy got overtaken. During the fray a group of employees sneak out and seek refuge in the Canadian embassy. The rest of the movie revolves around organizing a plan to extract those six Americans from Iran without raising suspicion from the Iranian government.

The plan is that the Americans will pretend to be a Canadian film crew on a location scout who will then need to fly out of the international airport.  Affleck plays Toney Mendez, the CIA agent that comes up with the film crew idea.  Affleck delivers an excellent performance as Mendez, who is both unsure of the plan he has concocted and confident in his ability when necessary.

Argo is a rare film that takes a complex situation and presents the audience with all the relevant information and players without ever losing sight of the fact that its main goal is to entertain people, not inform them.  Every single actor is on top of their game and every single scene is perfectly constructed to push the plot even closer to its heart-pounding conclusion. From the opening credits though the ending credits, the movie draws you into a situation and doesn’t let you go. The tension and the urgency this film conveys, without utilizing common techniques like fast cuts and loud explosions, is incredible.

Bottom line: Argo is an extremely entertaining and intelligently-crafted thriller, worth both your time and money. If this is your first experience with Ben Affleck’s directing, shame on you, but welcome to the party, it just keeps getting better.


By Nicholas Benson

Dredd and Looper have so much in common that I am convinced they were both conceived in the same board meeting.  They are both high-concept action movies that take place in a dystopian future. You can watch one movie and fully believe that the events of the other are taking place down the street. That being said, these movies are actually not the same at all.

Whereas Looper feels more like an abstract concept that never quite solidifies its genre or motives, Dredd plays like a well-oiled machine that fully understands its function.  It’s unfortunate for Looper that these movies came out side by side and have to be compared. I think Looper is a fine movie, just like I think a Honda Civic is a fine car. However, if you drive a Ferrari around for day and then get into a Honda Civic, you’re going to be a little more critical of that Civic.

Dredd is indeed the Ferrari of recent action movies; I think it competes with the holy grails like Die Hard and Rambo. It’s a tightly-told story delivering on the promise of undiluted action. Dredd’s version of the future is simple: an event caused a large portion of the world to become radioactive. The remaining population must crowd in the safe areas known as Mega-Cities. In these Mega Cities, people called “Judges” take the law completely in their hands; they are law, order, and when necessary, executioner. The story follows Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) in Mega City-One as he takes a rookie (Olivia Thirlby) through the typical day of a Judge. Much like the eponymous character, the movie wastes nothing. Every scene, every character, every line, and every bullet is used to its fullest potential. The movie is a complete rush of pure fun and the 3D is incredibly immersive.  This is the kind of movie from which you want to see sequels, not because of some half assed cliff hanger ending, but because we genuinely enjoy these characters and want to see them in this world.

Looper, on the other hand, seems to waste a lot of scenes on things that never pay off. We are introduced to characters that have no purpose, and concepts that aren’t tightly blended into the script, but are instead quickly explained or in some cases brushed off as too confusing to explain. It follows Joe, who is a Looper. Loopers live in the “present” time and kill people from the future who are sent back by the future-mob. Eventually, Joe ends up in a situation in which he must “close his loop.” This means he must kill the future version of himself, aka Bruce Willis*, but then some things occur that would be spoilers if I told you about them. The movie has some really top-notch action scenes, and a few of the best performances I’ve seen in an action movie in quite some time (Jeff Daniels kills it). Unfortunately, the script doesn’t give the characters room to breathe, leaving them all just mildly interesting and underdeveloped.

Bottom line: Both these movies are pure entertainment. However, Looper attempts to give you a little more. If you want to see a movie with loftier goals and some really great acting, go see Looper, if you’re in the mood for a solid, straight-forward action movie, no strings attached, Dredd is the ticket.

*(NOTE: If I ever had to kill my future self and found out my future self was Bruce Willis, I would kill my current self before my future self-killed me)

I Think I Smell a Rat

By Nicholas Benson

On Saturday, September 29th at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, Jack White played a brief 40-minute set and walked offstage without explanation leaving the crowd dumbfounded. Now, less than 24 hours later, the incident has caused a stir in the Twittersphere and worked its way into the headlines of some major music publications.

What bothers me about the show has very little to do with the short setlist and everything to do with the fact that Jack White didn’t see it fit to offer his audience an explanation. Even the infamous Axl Rose never walked off a stage without the audience knowing the exact reasoning. From chucking a dude out of a show for being a dick to jumping headfirst onto a man with a video camera, Axl always voiced his concerns.

The point isn’t that Axl Rose was justified. The point is that even Axl Rose and his bag of craziness always gave fair warning before he abandoned an audience. It was never done casually.

In the case of Jack White, he walked off the stage like he planned it. He didn’t even think the crowd deserved a reason. This resulted in some idiots online suggesting that the reason was that the crowd hadn’t been supportive enough.

I was in that crowd. The applause was so explosive that at times it drowned out the band. But no one cared because the energy was palpable and the music was loud. I have seen living legends like Prince and Dylan perform. What I was witnessing in Jack White was a legend in the making. He played a jaw-dropping version of The White Stripes’ Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground.  He was mesmerizing to watch. Even the angriest fan from the show can’t deny that. However, talent isn’t everything.

The week before the Jack White incident, I saw Bruce Springsteen play a four-hour set at Giants Stadium. Going into the show, I was actually not a huge fan of Springsteen. I liked his stuff, but I wasn’t head over heels. I left with an incredible amount of respect for the man. It was clear to me that Springsteen appreciated every single person in that sold-out stadium.

I went into the Jack White show with the same level of enthusiasm. The tickets were a birthday gift for my girlfriend. I recognized his talent, but wouldn’t really consider myself a fan. After the show it was obvious to me that he didn’t have anywhere near the same level of appreciation for his fans that Springsteen did.

If you think I’m overreacting, let me tell you what my experience was that night:

After 45 minutes of what was some of the best music I’ve heard played on a stage in my life, Jack White mumbled something, said “thank you” several times, and walked off the stage. The crowd expected that there would be a short break and White would return. The house lights came on right away though, and I immediately knew something was wrong.

But we all cheered and clapped and chanted, anticipating the encore. Not one person left their seat. After 10 minutes, the crowd just chanted louder and even burst into a spontaneous hum of the legendary Seven Nation Army riff.  After 20 minutes though, it became obvious that Jack White was not coming back on stage.

In the seats behind me, there was a kid there with his dad. The kid was maybe 15 years old, his eyes locked on the empty stage and a smile on his face ear to ear. With not an ounce of doubt in his voice he said to his dad, “It’s not over yet.” His dad quietly agreed, not having the heart to tell his son his idol was a douchebag. The kid’s enthusiasm gave me hope because I didn’t want to believe that Jack White would be that cold to his fans. So I waited a few more minutes.

Eventually I turned around and the kid and his dad were gone. I left soon after.

When I am reading articles suggesting that lackluster fan participation was the reason Jack White didn’t finish his set, I imagine that kid reading those words and blaming himself. Then I think… fuck that.

The fact is that I’m sure 99% of that crowd did nothing wrong. It’s ridiculous that anyone would even consider blaming the audience.

My theory about what happened is actually really simple. For one reason or another, Jack White felt it was cool to walk offstage after 40 short minutes of performing in a world-famous music hall. I would go so far as to say that he might have planned to do this all along. From what I could tell, his band didn’t seem surprised. His lighting tech brought the lights up right away, and his crew started cleaning the stage almost before his guitar hit the floor.

My theory is that White was using this moment to improve his image by manufacturing some lore. That’s fine, but don’t you think the kid with his dad deserves an excuse, even if it’s bullshit?


The Aftermath

By Nicholas Benson

Since September 11th, I have never looked at an airplane and not thought, I wonder if it will crash into to something. I have never seen the New York skyline and not thought something’s missing. It’s not something I focus on, but it’s always there. That day changed me forever; just like I’m sure it changed everyone. I’m sure by now you have heard about the Dark Knight Rises massacre and those poor people in Denver.

This incident, like all tragedies, is a horrible senseless act and our thoughts are with the victims and their families. However, this is the first incident, as far as I am aware, that has taken place in a movie theater. Because of that, I think it’s one of the most heinous acts of terrorism in recent American history.

Movies have historically been a place of refuge, a place to escape. No matter your race, class, or gender, movies have been one of the great American experiences. In a lot of my posts I suggest that movies could be more fun, less dark, and overall more whimsical. One of the reasons I push for that is because that is what movies are to me. They are the opposite of the real world. I tend to disagree with people who push for movies to be “more believable” or “grounded in reality.” Why? We live in a world where there are no superheroes, the bad guys usually succeed with their plan, innocent people die, and the nice guy rarely gets the girl. Movies let us glimpse into a world where these things happen all the time. We need that world to be there. Even if it’s for a brief moment, we need to believe that everything is possible.  That’s not just why I love the movies; it’s why we all do, and some people are just too jaded or cynical to admit it.

The people who were in the theater that night gathered with youthful anticipation to see a movie they had been awaiting for years. They gave themselves fully to a world where good triumphs evil. Unfortunately, in the real world, villains don’t reveal their plan at the last minute, allowing them to be stopped. The villain in the theater was so cowardly that he killed people when they were deep in the cocoon of their imagination; a place where you let your guard completely down, where you feel safe.

Now when something terrible happens, where will we turn, if not the movies? Like taking a book from a prisoner, this man took our one “escape.” The only way we will feel safe now is in our homes with the doors locked and windows barred. Of course we will still go to the movies, just like we still get on airplanes, but now somewhere in the reaches of our mind we will be thinking, I wonder if someone is going to try to shoot us. All the 3D in the world won’t be enough to push that thought from our brains.

I haven’t seen The Dark Knight Rises as of writing this, but there were rumors that Batman dies in the end and I really hope that’s not the case. I hope Batman kicks Bane’s ass, because the good guys need a win right now.

The Amazing Spider-Man

By Nicholas Benson

I have fond memories of seeing the 2002 Spider-Man in the theaters. I remember my uncle laughing hysterically as Peter Parker tried to get the hang of web slinging. Mostly I remember being awed by the fact that we live in a time where a movie like this was possible. It ushered in a new generation of comic book movies and it’s still one of the best.  Flash forward 10 years and here we are again with The Amazing Spider-Man, but this time the tricks are old and the story is still fresh in our collective conscious. Director Marc Webb puts forth a good effort but falls short of the bar set by Sam Raimi a decade ago.

The Amazing Spiderman starts off with a young Peter Parker playing hide-and-seek with his father and discovering that someone broke into his father’s office to find a file. Luckily, the file was hidden, but this rendered the scene useless. Everything in the scene is established again at some point, and it introduces a subplot with Parker’s parents that is kept in the back of our minds for the whole movie but is never resolved or even used.

After the first scene, we meet Aunt May and Uncle Ben, well played by two highly competent actors (Sally Fields and Martin Sheen). The movie then quickly flashes to Parker as an adult played by Andrew Garfield, who is nowhere near as relatable as Toby Maguire. For a little while you have a hard time trying to figure out whether he is supposed to be cool or a nerd. He rides a line somewhere between the two, but leaning heavily toward cool. This choice makes for a less compelling character arch when he finally gets the girl and the superpowers.

The villain in The Amazing Spider-Man is almost identical to Willem Defoe’s Green Goblin from 2002, except for the fact that it’s not the Green Goblin. It’s the green lizard, or The Lizard. (How did they come up with that name? Must have taken months.) This is where the gritty reality that the movie has tried to paint up until this point clashes with the innate comic-bookness of the Spider-Man universe. The movie is so serious and dramatic, and then we see a giant lizard running around Manhattan. (Also, there are two Godzilla jokes made within five minutes of each other by the same person, WTF is up with that?)  The Lizard is actually a scientist named Dr. Connors (Rhys Ifans) who really wants to create super humans with this new formula he has been working on. However, his back’s against the wall and he is forced to test the product on himself. This backfires and… wait isn’t… that… the same… as… I mean seriously, did they just take the old script and add some lines and change some names?

Visually, the movie is stunning, and all the actors perform their roles as expected. (Although, it could have used a whole lot more Denis Leary.)  Mainly, The Amazing Spider-Man suffers from the same thing that a lot of comic book movies seem to be suffering from: guaranteed sequel syndrome. It is so confident in its ability to have a sequel that it just plays like an episode to a television show.  In the end, you just feel like the movie is a big joke you’re not “in” on because you weren’t “cool” enough to read the comic books. However, it becomes tiring to nit-pick this trend as it seems to be sticking around. So letting all that go, I understand why the movie was made (Sony needs to keep the franchise active so it doesn’t lose the movie rights to Disney, who now owns Marvel). However, this version offers nothing new over the 2002 version and therefore just feels completely unnecessary.

In short: If you want to see a fun movie about a man in a spider suit it might be easier to stay in and just watch the Sam Raimi version.