May 02


are you the kind of person that passes by a dark, overgrown, dank, dreaery place and thinks, “there’s probably some kind of twisted psychopath lurking in that dark alley just waiting to jump some innocent, unsuspecting passerby and do unspeakable things to them”

or are you the kind that passes by that dark, smelly place, and thinks “wow. that would be a great place to hide a body”


May 02

friendly neighborhood movie review

(today’s gratuitous and self-serving movie review contains mild spoilers of the embarrasingly predictable new spider-man movie. and if you read it, and get mad that i’ve revealed something about the movie that wasn’t in the trailers… well, tough. if you don’t know the story by now, what rock did you just crawl out from under and/or get hit on the head with anyway?)

i went and saw the new spiderman movie the other day, though it’s probably proper to say spider-man since they hyphenate it, which reminds me of the “spiderman, goldman” conversation on Friends. anyhow, minutae aside, it was a good movie.

but was it $100 million in a weekend worth of good movie? yes, it even beat out harry potter for total take, and without all the ennoying little english kids.

for me, it was about 5 matinee bucks worth of movie, but i wouldn’t pay the full $8 to see it.

sure, it was fairly true to the original story, though i did notice that the boogeyman of the radioactive spider was replaced by the new evil of the genetically (intentionally!) manipulated superspider. and what ever happened to that radioactive spider in the comic? didn’t it get squished? the new (blue and red) superspider managed to escape unsquished, which begs the question, what if he bites somebody else? the original was a fluke of nuclear science gone awry (much like the Hulk, for which there was a trailer before the spiderman movie. hopefully they don’t screw around with the Big Green Guy’s origins and make him some genetic freak instead of a gamma radiated walking id)

anyhow, the original spider bite was a one-off, could never happen again, even in the comic book universe. the genetically manipulated superspider, on the other hand.. there were 15 of them

so maybe i’m not ignoring the minutae like i said i would. regardless of the spider bits, the rest was pretty much dead-on from what i’ve read. certainly, i don’t own the amazing spider-man #1 like the guys in row in front of me who were making whispered comments throughout the movie, but i do own a few issues (including the super-sized annual where peter parker and mary jane get married, not for sale). what i’m saying is that i’m not one of the card carrying comic elite, but the consistency between the story that i remember and that introduced in this first spider-man movie, of which there will be at least three if my feeling is correct, is acceptable. even the wrestling part. i was really looking forward to the wrestling, and hoped they would keep that in. the Macho Man, Randy Savage, was immaculate as “bonesaw”

i can safely say there will be two more spider-sequels, if not more, partly because there is at least one in the works already, but also because there is enough material in the comic series for at least that many. there’s the obvious track of the green goblin/hobgoblin storyline, but there’s literally decades of material to draw from since then, and something like 4 or 5 different spider-man comics in current regular publication, so it would be a little disappointing to see the movies stick strictly to that earlier era.

take the whole secret identity struggle peter parker has yet to really go through – as all good superheroes must. despite his little narration, “who am i? i’m spider-man!” and all the melodramatic stuff at the end of the movie, there’s some good strife and conflict there for a good writer to dig up. mary jane already knows, if the goofy expression on kirsten dunst’s face at the end of the movie is any indication of how the writers are leaning.

maybe it’s me, but are peter and mary jane a little young to be doing all this superhero stuff? they graduate high school and wander uneventfully into their own apartments in new york – not college, high school. it appeals to the younger audience, apparently, but i had to cringe a little at the thought of a superhero who couldn’t buy beer if he wanted to.

and they’re young, certainly, but do they have to be so blitheringly dumb? written dumb, i have to keep reminding myself (it’s not real. it’s not real…)

and that’s what i can’t really figure out. i can’t tell if it was the acting i was disappointed with or the writing. it may very well be the case that the actors (and kirsten dunst can act in a wet t-shirt as often as hollywood finds reason for her to be out in the rain, as far as i’m concerned) may have been perfectly true to the writing, and the characters were really as one dimensional as they were played. i had to chuckle at the irony of the comment in the movie that mary jane was turned down for a soap opera part because she needed “acting lessons”

in the comic realm, of course, some characters are intentionally one dimensional. J Jonah Jameson is probably the best example – the actor playing him was impeccable. but that’s an exception, and not the rule – comic releief like JJJ is best as punctuation. the only character i felt like i understood was the villain, and that’s a shame, because he’s the only one not coming back for the sequel. his brooding son is, and that makes me hopeful for another well-written tortured villain character in that movie. the writing will tell the tale, though. the actor has some growing up to do between now and then.

as i write this, i’m watching the new Superman show on TV, Smallville. the writing is about on par with what you expect from the WB (which means it appeals to the core music purchasing audience: teenage girls 13-18), but it still surprises me sometimes. not often, but it happens. Spider-man never did.

i also had the feeling there were big chunks of the movie left somewhere in the editing room. i have heard some stories that whole scenes were cut after september that were centered around the world trade center. indeed, the climactic fight scene seems to be more an anticlimax after all the aerial action leading up to it, and the fistfight felt like it was shoehorned in to take the place of something that was cut.

then there’s the effects, which are, to me, more important than all the rest when it comes to a summer movie. a movie may be incoherently written or have a plot you can drive a truck through and still not hit the point, but if it has plenty of things blowing up, it’ll get me in out of the heat. think Jurassic Park.

spidey certainly has lots of things blowing up in his face (literally! yum!) but the other effects seem a little rushed to me. the CG effects are fairly plastic, even in some of the over-the-top, otherwise finely crafted action sequences. the “flying” sequences were reminiscent of the harry potter movie for well-planned action, but poorly executed CG. the few scenes where we see the Green Goblin, he is actually rendered better and more beleivably than the hero (he’s wearing shiny, angular armor, and that’s easier to model, i suppose, than full-body spandex)

well, they at least have a nice, fat budget for the sequel.

marvel will continue to get my 8 bucks ($5 for a matinee, more likely) as long as comic books are made into movies, but they had better be more on par with X Men than Spider-Man. i may change my mind, though – ask me again after the X Men sequel comes out next year.

May 02


this morning my neighbors decided to wake me up at the ass crack of dawn by continuing their usual breakfast table discussion outside. this consisted of the teenage son stomping out the front door, slamming it and the screen door behind him, cursing the whole way. his mother then followed shortly after, doing basically the same thing, only louder and in the shrill morning croak of a 2 pack-a-day smoker before her first cigarette. the father did a good bit of stomping and shouting as well, but he stayed just inside the door.

at least this time the teenage son didn’t proceed to get on his motorcycle and rev it for five minutes before tearing out into the street – presumably the motorcycle has either gone into storage or been taken away since last summer.

well, at least my neighbors aren’t this bad yet.