Spiderman 2

  • Title:  Spider-man 2
  • Director:  Sam Raimi
  • Date:  2004
  • Studio:  Columbia (Marvel)
  • Genre:  Fantasy, Action, Drama
  • Cast:  Tobey McGuire, Kirsten Dunst, Alfred Molina, James Franco, Ted Raimi, Bruce Campbell
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Being brilliant’s not enough, young man, you have to work hard.  Intelligence is not a privilege, it’s a gift and you use it for the good of mankind.”  — Dr. Octavius

“The power of the sun in the palm of my hand.”  — Dr. Octavius

“My Rosie’s dead.  My dream is dead.  And these monstrous things should be at the bottom of  the river, along with me.” —  Doc Ock.

I preferred the title sequence to this film over the sequence for the previous one.  The sequence looks like actual comic book panels and catches the audience up on the plot from the previous film.

In Spider-man 2, Peter Parker is once again the nerdy guy with bad luck.  His commitment to being Spiderman, causes him to lose his job as a pizza delivery boy, to run into trouble at college, where he’s late or misses classes entirely, and even to be late on his rent.  He even loses the chance to impress MJ (Mary Jane Watson) by missing her performance in a play (which looks to be The Importance of Being Earnest, though it’s never mentioned by name).  To add to his troubles, Aunt May’s house is in foreclosure.

Possibly because of all this stress, Peter is beginning to have problems as Spiderman, with his web failing, and later his powers failing.  Several times in the film, Peter literally takes a fall as Spiderman.

For a college science report, Peter meets Dr. Octavius, a brilliant scientist, working on fusion power.  At the opening demo, Peter’s there to take pictures for the Bugle, but things go wrong.  The magnetic field breaks, the fusion reaction acts like a giant magnet, and chaos ensues.  Spidey arrives to try to help, but Dr. Octavius’ wife is killed by shattered glass, and his activator arms (“smart” metal arms activated by the doctor’s own brain) are fused to his spine.  Worse still, the inhibitor chip that prevents the nanotech in the arms from taking over the doctor’s brain, is damaged.  When a surgical team tries to remove the fused exoskeleton, Doc Ock attacks them, and a new supervillain is born.

Peter and Aunt May try to get a re-fi loan, but she fails due to her lack of  income.  But, while there, Doc Ock attacks the same bank, and even kidnaps May.  Peter, as Spidey, saves his Aunt, and fights Ock. The pictures from the fight make their way to the Bugle, and it’s Hoffman (Ted Raimi) who comes up with a name for the new villain – Dr. Octopus, which Jonah Jameson shortens to “Doc Ock”, blaming Spidey of course.

But Peter is still having problems balancing his life, and since his Spidey powers keep failing him at inopportune times, he gives up being Spiderman, and even throws away the suit.  A garbageman sells the suit to Jameson at the Bugle who keeps it as a trophy.  Although Peter’s life becomes simpler, crime rates skyrocket, and Peter feels guilty when he walks past crimes in progress and does nothing.

Peter tells May an edited version of the truth about the night Uncle Ben died, after May had blamed herself. At first May seems angry at Peter, but later she comes to her senses and patches things up, letting him know she loves him.

Doc Ock goes after Harry Osborn, who’s still obsessed with destroying Spiderman, whom he blames for his father’s death.  He sends Doc Ock after Peter, saying Peter will led him to Spiderman.

MJ kisses her new fiance (Jameson’s son John, an astronaut) upside down.  From the look on her face, she’s still in love with Peter or Spiderman.  Peter and MJ meet at a cafe’.  Peter tries to apologize and tell her he’s straightened out his life, but Doc Ock throws a car through the plate-glass window they are sitting near.  Peter saves MJ’s life but doesn’t get to kiss her.

Peter’s powers return, he takes back his Spidey suit, and there’s a huge F/X CGI fight between Doc Ock and Spiderman on a train.  Spidey manages to just barely stop the train full of people from falling off the track, but he’s now without his mask.  Normal people hand him hand-over-hand back into the car, when Ock threatens again, all the people stand between the villain and Spidey.  A kid gives Peter his mask back.

Ock brings Spidey to Harry, Harry gives Ock the Tridium (an ultra-rare element used in Octavius’ fusion reactor).  Harry’s about to kill Spidey, but when he pulls off  his mask, he’s shocked to discover it’s Peter. Spiderman must then rescue MJ and stop Doc Ock’s fusion reactor before he blows-up half of New York.

Spiderman and Doc Ock have their final confrontation.  Despite his plans to make it work, the fusion reactor again becomes a huge magnet, causing havoc. Doc Ock is electrocuted, and he and the reactor core are dropped in the river.  Spidey saves MJ during the battle, but she sees him without his mask. Peter explains to MJ that they can’t be together.

MJ plays the runaway bride at her own wedding, and goes to Peter to tell him they should make a go of  it anyway.  Meanwhile, Harry is hearing the voice of the Green Goblin.  He breaks a mirror and discovers a secret lab with the mask, glider, pumpkin bombs, and enhancing formula.  Will he take it?  Only the sequel can tell.

I found Doctor Octavius to be a strangely compelling and sympathetic villain.  His own personality breaks through the Doc Ock madness much more often than say, the Green Goblin’s (who’s just nuts, even when he tries to act sane).  Even after he’s become Doc Ock, he’s still trying to get his fusion reactor working – something to benefit “mankind” (well, OK, it should be “humanity” but that’s how Octavius puts it).  And he never seems to realize that it’s the lack of working magnetic containment that causes his experiment to fail.  He also loses everything:  his standing as a scientist, his wife, his sanity, and eventually his life.  At times, compared to what Doc Ock goes through, Peter Parker seems like a whiny teenager, which goes to show you just what a good actor as villain can due for a piece.

Recommendation:  See it, it’s better than the first one.
Rating:  4 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Stardust

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

  • Title:  The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
  • Director:  Jon Turteltaub
  • Date:  2010
  • Studio:  Disney
  • Genre:  Fantasy, Children’s Film
  • Cast:  Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Alfred Molina
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“You’ve heard how people use only ten percent of their brains?  Sorcerers can manipulate matter because they’re born with the capability to use the entire power of their brains.  Which also explains how molecular physics comes so easily to you.”  – Balthazar

“The truth is you have a very special gift, you need to see that.” – Balthazar

“OK, the first thing you need to know about me is I’m a sorcerer.” – Dave

Nine-year-old Dave is on a field trip to New York City when he’s separated from his classmates and ends up in a very bizarre magic store run by Balthazar (Nicholas Cage).  Balthazar tests Dave and realizes he’s the Prime Merlinean.  Balthazar has been searching for the Prime Merlinean for over a thousand years.  However, before he can start to train the young sorcerer, they are attacked by an evil sorcerer name Horvath.  Dave escapes the store, and both Horvath (Alfred Molina) and Balthazar are trapped in an urn for ten years.

Ten years later, shy, nerdy, Dave has almost out-grown the embarrassment of his experience at the magic store, and is now a physics student at NYU.  While making a presentation to a 101 class, he re-connects with Becky, a girl from his fourth grade class that due to the mess in the magic store he hadn’t managed to impress.

Dave also meets Balthazar again, who convinces him that he is a sorcerer and begins to train him. Meanwhile, Dave starts to date Becky.  He impresses her by fixing the electrical system of the college radio station where she works as a DJ, and later by treating her to a private Tesla coil concert in his private lab.  Dave’s Tesla coil project is very coil, and the scene where he plays music with the coils to Becky, complete with indoor lightning is awesome. I’ve been to a Tesla coil concert before — and they are awesome and very cool.  Becky becomes suitably impressed with her new boyfriend.

While Dave learns how to control his new-found powers, and starts his relationship with his new girlfriend, Horvath is not idle.  Also released at the same time as Balthazar, he begins to release evil sorcerers from the Grimholt a perpetual prison that resembles a Russian nesting doll.  With each sorcerer released, it becomes smaller and smaller, until finally only Morgana — the queen of evil sorcerers and nemesis of Merlin and, Veronica – Balthazar’s lover and fellow apprentice of Merlin who sacrificed herself  to capture Morgana – remain.  Horvath also finds one modern magical “soldier”, Drake Stone, a modern-day celebrity magician (think David Copperfield or Criss Angel).  But, as Horvath releases the evil sorcerers, he uses a parasite spell to take their powers.

Finally, Balthazar goes to stop Horvath and the newly-released Morgana from enacting a spell called, “The Rising”, which will raise evil sorcerers from the dead and destroy the world.  Dave and Becky also arrive at the final conflict.  I won’t spoil the finale.

Nicolas Cage makes for a great slightly scary, slightly nutty sorcerer.  Jay Baruchel comes off as slightly whiny, but considering he’s playing a self-professed “physics nerd”, it’s not that bad of  an acting job. Alfred Molina plays a fun, over-the-top bad guy.  Teresa Palmer is a surprisingly spunky, non-annoying girl-next-door type, who is surprised but non-plussed when confronted with “real magic”.  I liked that a somewhat “scientific” explanation was given for how magic works (matter isn’t created or destroyed, merely re-arranged; for example — an object is set on fire by rapidly vibrating the molecules in it).  The special effects consist of lots of computer morphing and “liquid object” effects.  However, practical in-camera gags were used at times at the beginning and end of a specific effect.  Also, real fire effects were used, for example, in the sorcerer’s training circles and spell circles.  (Obviously, “cool gel” was used for the fire).

Yes, as the title of the film suggests, this film is based on the Mickey Mouse “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” episode in Fantasia.  However, the film’s opening sequence and voice-over add an intriguing backstory and setting to the main characters, creating a fantasy world that seems new, before moving forward in time to modern-day New York.  Overall, this film has a “pilot episode of a TV series” feel to it, or opening film in a series, rather than an individual separate film, which is too bad.  I would like to see more in the series, but it appears to be the only film Disney made.  Also, I enjoyed this film the most the first time I saw it, it loses some of it’s spark when it’s re-watched.

Recommendation:  Pre-teens and Teenagers will probably enjoy this the best. Still, it’s watchable.
Rating:  3.5 Stars
Next Film:  The Sound of  Music

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark

  • Title:  Raiders of the Lost Ark  (Indiana Jones)
  • Director:  Steven Spielburg
  • Date:  1981
  • Studio:  Paramount Pictures
  • Genre:  Action, Adventure
  • Cast:  Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, John Rhys-Davies, Denholm Elliott, Alfred Molina
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format;  R1, NTSC
“Asps, very dangerous. You go first.” — Sallah
“I don’t know, I’m making this up as I go.”  — Indiana Jones
“You’re not the man I knew ten years ago.”  — Marion
“It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage.”  — Indiana Jones

One of my favorite movies from my childhood, right along side Star Wars (the original), Indiana Jones is a tour de force of  non-stop action and adventures. From the stirring music to the unforgettable characters, and stunning direction, it’s the movie that made me fascinated with movies. It should be noted that the title of the first Indiana Jones film is Raiders of  the Lost Ark, the “Indiana Jones and the…” was added to the DVD release — fortunately it’s only on the DVD case, the film itself  still has the original title in tact.

Indiana Jones, also like Star Wars, has it’s origin in the old movie serials of the 1930s — full of action and adventure, and continued from week to week with a cliffhanger at the end of each episode. And whereas Star Wars is partially based on the SF serials such as Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, Indiana Jones is based on the adventure serials in spirit but brings an original twist to the idea with it’s characters. But it does follow the tradition of keeping the audience’s interest by having brief episodic stories within the main story. That is, the settings change frequently in the movie, from the jungles of South America, to an American University, to Nepal, to Egypt, as does the action. This definitely adds to the action and adventure of the film, or as one of the promos has it — “If Adventure has a name, it must be Jones.”

The film begins in the middle of an adventure, with Indiana Jones searching a jungle in South America for a golden idol. It fact, the first shot we see of Indiana Jones is as he steps into the light after using his bullwhip to disarm a native guide who was going to shoot him. Ford, as Jones, in leather jacket and fedora, with bull whip and revolver, steps into the light — and he is the character, this is all we need to know. In fact, for the entire first scene, we don’t even know this explorer’s name. Indiana manages to get the Idol, and escape the temple, only to have the idol stolen from him by a rival French treasure hunter named Rene Belloq.

Next we see mild-mannered Jones teaching archaeology at his university. He’s tracked down by government agents and sent on a race to get the Ark of  the Covenant before the Nazis do. This is the core of the film, the race to find and take the Ark. The film includes the famous “snake” scene, as well as the ultimate torching of the Nazis by the Ark’s power.

But one of the most chilling images in the film is the Ark being boxed up by US Army Intelligence and locked away in a mysterious warehouse, filled with other wooden crates. Makes me wonder every time I re-watch Raiders of  the Lost Ark, just what else is hidden away in that warehouse.

But the film is pure fun — action, adventure, romance (in the old-fashioned sense of the word), fiery women, real men, everything a young girl could want in a film. And the magic doesn’t wear off no matter how many times one watches it. Spielburg and Lucas created a timeless classic that just never gets old or looks dated.

Recommendation:  See it!  This is especially a great film for young teens and pre-teens to adults.
Rating:  5 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom