The Amazing Spider-Man

Columbia Pictures

Rated PG-13 for violence and intense action.

Andrew Garfield Stars In Reboot Of Marvel Comics Franchise

When Columbia Pictures first brought Spider-Man to the big screen in 2002, the Marvel Comics adaptation was such a box-office bonanza that it spawned a couple of equally-phenomenal sequels. Now, just a decade later, the studio has already seen fit to reboot the popular franchise.

Although that might strike some as too soon to attempt to replicate a winning formula, director Marc Webb (500 Days Of Summer) proves himself to be more than up to that daunting challenge. For The Amazing Spider-Man easily eclipses the earlier trilogy via a relatively sophisticated combination of shadowy cinematography, edgier dialogue, seamless special effects and palpable romantic chemistry.

The film stars Andrew Garfield as unassuming Peter Parker-turned-superhero Spider-Man, opposite Emma Stone as his love interest, Gwen Stacy. At the point of departure of this origin’s adventure, he’s still just a 98-pound weakling being bullied in school and secretly harboring a secret crush on a cute classmate (Stone).

We learn that Peter has been raised by his Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) but remains consumed with solving the mysterious disappearance of his parents (Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz) years ago. So, he pays a visit to a former colleague of his father, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), a leading research scientist at Oscorp, a biotech currently attempting to develop a revolutionary limb regeneration serum.

Connors claims to be trying to create a world without weakness by splicing human genes with those of other species. But his interest isn’t entirely altruistic, since he also happens to be missing an arm himself.

While snooping around Oscorp labs, Peter is bitten by a mutated spider which leads to him developing incredible strength as well as the ability to climb walls and spin web like an arachnid. This evolution conveniently dovetails with his need for a new physique with which to impress Gwen and to settle the score with his tormentors back at Midtown Science High.

Moreover, his uncle’s subsequent slaying by a mugger inspires the grief-stricken lad to embark on a crime-fighting campaign as a masked vigilante. That doesn’t sit well with Gwen’s dad (Denis Leary), an NYPD captain opposed to citizens taking the law into their own hands.

Nevertheless, the ante is only upped when an impatient Dr. Connors morphs into a formidable, lizard-like creature after injecting himself with an experimental elixir. Worse, the drug leaves the power-hungry madman hell-bent on hatching a plan for world domination which the cops are ill-equipped to derail, but a challenge tailor-made for your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.

A spectacular, satisfying summer blockbuster offering the perfect air-conditioned escape from the sweltering heat wave.

 

Excellent (4 stars)

Running time: 136 minutes

 

Madea’s Witness Protection

Lionsgate Films

Rated PG-13 for crude sexual remarks and brief drug references.

Tyler Perry And Eugene Levy Make For Strange Bedfellows In Fish-Out-Of-Water Comedy

George Needleman (Eugene Levy) is so naive that he has no idea that his boss, Walter (Tom Arnold), is running a Ponzi scheme right under his nose. It only dawns on the terminally-nerdy CFO that something is awry when he arrived at work one day to find all of his co-workers in the office of Lockwise Industries feverishly shredding documents.

At that point, he’s belatedly informed by Walter that the Wall Street investment firm is about to be raided by the FBI, and that the only reason he’d been paid a million-dollar salary for the past seven years was to be the fall guy in the event of just such a collapse of the business. But after being arrested, instead of participating in the cover-up, George opts to cooperate with the authorities and agrees to testify against his former employer.

However, because the company had also been laundering money for the mob, he soon finds unsavory characters hanging around his sprawling mansion. So, rather than take any risks, the prosecutors decide to hide the whistleblower in the Witness Protection Program to makes sure he survives ‘til the trial date.

In trying to decide the last place that anybody would look for a wealthy white family from Connecticut, the feds settle on a humble abode in faraway Atlanta belonging to none other than Madea Simmons (Tyler Perry). The sassy granny jumps at the $4,000 per month compensation, unaware of just how much of a challenge she’s about to take on.

For Needleman is a package deal who arrives with his family in tow, including his senile mother (Doris Roberts), a pampered trophy wife (Denise Richards) half his age, and a couple of spoiled-rotten kids (Devan Leos and Danielle Campbell). There’s friction right from the start when daughter Cindy complains “What, are we sharecroppers, now?” about living in a black community. Madea is concerned, too, asking, “How am I supposed to hide five white people in this neighborhood?”

That is the promising point of departure of Madea’s Witness Protection, a

fish-out-of-water comedy co-starring Tyler Perry and Eugene Levy. The movie makes the most of the theme, such as when the hefty heroine introduces the Needlemans to a skeptical visitor with, “These are my cousins and they done lost all their pigmentation.”

Most of the fun flows from the tension between the hostess and her uncomfortable houseguests, although the ensemble does feature a motley crew of colorful characters, including Madea’s brother, Joe, and nephew, Brian (both played by Perry), a nosy neighbor (Marla Gibbs), and an impassioned pastor (John Amos) with a prodigal son in need of redemption (Romeo Miller). It’s just too bad the laughs aren’t as frequent as your typical Tyler Perry production.

When all is said and done, the real purpose of this modern morality play is to enable Madea to right some wrongs and deliver a few well-timed sermons, whether she’s giving the Needlemans marriage counseling, teaching their offspring to appreciate their blessings, helping wimpy George develop a backbone, evening the score with a crooked corporate executive or scaring a juvenile delinquent straight.

Madea goes mainstream!

 

Good (2 stars)

Running time: 114 minutes

 

OPENING THIS WEEK

Kam’s Kapsules:

For movies opening July 6, 2012

Katy Perry: Part Of Me (PG for smoking, mature themes, mild epithets and suggestive content). Reverential biopic chronicling the trajectory of gospel singer-turned-pop icon Katy Perry’s meteoric rise via a combination of concert performances and backstage footage.

Savages (R for nudity, drug use, graphic sexuality, gruesome violence and pervasive profanity). Oliver Stone directed this grisly crime thriller about a Berkeley grad (Aaron Johnson) and a former Navy Seal (Taylor Kitsch) who join forces to rescue the girlfriend they share (Blake Lively) from the clutches of a Mexican drug cartel. Cast includes Salma Hayek, Benicio Del Toro and John Travolta.

China Heavyweight (Unrated). Two-fisted documentary revolving around the effort of boxing coach Qi Mo Xiang to turn raw teenage recruits from rural peasant villages into Olympic medal contenders. (In Mandarin with subtitles)

Crazy Eyes (Unrated). Romantic romp about a rich playboy (Lukas Haas) who seduces and abandons a string of beautiful women until he finally fixates on the first object of his affection (Madeline Zima) able to resist his charms. With Jake Busey, Ray Wise, Tania Raymonde and Regine Nehy.

The Do-Deca-Pentathlon (R for profanity). Sibling rivalry comedy about a couple of estranged brothers (Mark Kelly and Steve Zissis) who decide to settle a score by competing against each other in a 25-event Olympics featuring contests in ping-pong, laser tag and billiards. With Jennifer Lafleur, Julie Vorus and Brendan Robinson.

The Magic Of Belle Isle (PG for mature themes and suggestive language). Morgan Freeman stars in this drama about a wheelchair-bound, best-selling novelist who rents a cabin at a scenic summer retreat where he overcomes alcoholism and writer’s block with the help of a single-mom (Virginia Madsen) with several kids (Madeline Carroll, Emma Fuhrmann and Nicolette Pierini). Directed by Rob Reiner and featuring Kenan Thompson, Fred Willard and Ash Christian.

The Pact (Unrated). Haunted house horror flick about the spooky goings-on around the childhood home of a grieving woman (Caity Lotz) who has just returned to town for the funeral of her recently-deceased mother. With Casper Van Dien, Kathleen Rose Perkins and Agnes Bruckner.

Starry, Starry Night (Unrated). Coming-of-age drama about a troubled, 13-year-old girl (Xu Jiao) whose friendship with an ostracized transfer student (Lin Hui-min) blossoms into love soon after she stops cruel classmates from bullying him. With Rene Liu, Kenneth Tsang and Harlem Yu. (In Mandarin with subtitles)

United In Anger: A History Of ACT UP (Unrated). Inspirational documentary revisits the rise of the AIDS activist movement in the face of corporate greed, homophobia and government indifference.

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