Soul to Soul (Fallen, 1998)

Fallen_PosterHomicide Detective John Hobbs is witnessing the execution of serial killer Edgar Reese. Reese goes from mocking everyone to terror, claiming innocence as he dies. Not long after, killings bearing the mark of Reese begin to occur.  Is it a copycat? Something more sinister?

In fact, as Hobbs tries to put all the pieces together, he finds himself pulled into a world of angels and demons and possession. He discovers that Reese was a host to an ancient evil that has survived…and can be anyone…and it seems to have a fondness for torturing Hobbs.

The film is directed by Gregory Hoblit, who had directed the film Primal Fear just two years.  Like that film, this one works within a clever conceit to surprise the viewer in the end.

It is full of terrific actors to support Washington, including John Goodman and late James Gandolfini.  The conceit of the story allows for a lot of suspense throughout, as Washington is never sure who he is dealing with. The audience is never left in the dark, as the film has Demon Vision, where we can see things through the eyes of the demonic entity.

I really enjoy Fallen and feel it is a bit underrated. It works effective as a thriller with a solid creepy vibe.

The Second Most Amazing Spider-Man (the Amazing Spider-Man 2, 2014)

spider-man-amazing-2-poster-imax1The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was pretty much greenlit before the previous film was released.  Sony has been trying to make their Spider-Verse work…and to date they just cannot seem to find the footing.  Spider-Man 2 was not just a sequel, it was meant to set up other films, such as a Sinister Six film.Which means the film is packed with villains.

We meet the Rhino, though he is only in the film for a few minutes, setting him up for a Sinister Six film.  We also meet the Green Goblin and Electro.  The film wastes Chris Cooper, who plays Norman Osborne.  In the previous film we barely met Osborne.  We were told he had a debilitating disease, and was eager for Dr. Conner’s work to have results.  The disease apparently gnarls the body and turns flesh a greenish tint.  Harry is brought home to see his father.  His father tells him about the disease and how it is genetic.  This sets up Harry to become obsessed with a cure as well.  And he believes Spider-Man’s blood contains that cure.  He and Peter re-kindle their friendship and when he finds out Peter “knows” Spider-Man, he begs him for help.

Meanwhile, Peter is constantly dating and then breaking up with Gwen.  He is haunted by the “ghost” of Captain Stacy.  So, they are together, then he gets emo and pushes Gwen away.  It becomes frustrating.

Peter and Spider-Man deny Harry’s request causing a strain in the friendship.  Jamie Fox plays Max Dillon as a nebbish but smart electrician.  He fancies himself as Spider-Man’s friend after Spider-Man saves him and calls him his buddy.  After a freak accident with a tank of electric eels, Max is  given the power to generate and manipulate electricity.  When Spider-Man cannot quite recognize him he becomes enraged.  After Spider-Man takes him down, his anger only grows.

Of course, Harry becomes Green Goblin to gain revenge on Spider-Man and teams up with Electro to take Spidey down.  In some ways, the Amazing Spider-Man 2 is better than the previous film.  Spider-Man is a bit more Spider-Man.  But they still have him mopey about his dad.  In a flashback, we see where he and Peter’s mother went after dropping Peter off with Aunt May and Uncle Ben.  The problem with this is that Uncle Ben is the catalyst for Peter Becoming Spider-Man and yet he seems to not spend much time dwelling on Ben, he is more driven to find out more about his dad.

The film recreates one of the comic books most tragic moments for Peter.  And this results in Spider-Man disappearing for awhile.  But, of course he comes back.  The sequence where he returns to action is nicely done, involving a kid in a Spider-Man costume standing up to Rhino.

The biggest problem with this film is that it feels like a massive setup for other films.  We even see a sequence where different costumes of future villains are on display cases.  Tying all of Spider-Man’s rogues gallery makes for some lazy storytelling.  The film is still entertaining, but not in a way that it would ever be seen as a classic.  A third Amazing Spider-Man had been announced, but it was put on the back-burner.  Eventually, it was scrapped all together and Sony partnered with Marvel Studios to bring Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The Ah-Mahzing Spider-Man (Amazing Spider-Man, 2012)

spider-man-amazing-movie-posterAfter Spider-Man 3 had it’s tepid response, Sony tried to cover it’s butt.  They had Raimi developing a fourth Spider-Man film…and 500 Days of Summer Director Marc Webb (the humor there was not lost on anybody) was developing another Spider-Film.  Sony decided to go with Marc Webb’s version and dumped the entire Raimi version.  Webb promised this would not be a reboot, even though it would have an entirely new cast.  In the end, we definitely got a reboot.

And the film has a focus that Raimi’s series never thought of.  Peter is really upset about his parents disappearing.  There is a big conspiracy based subplot where Richard Parker was actually involved with  the experiments that result in Peter getting bit by the spider.  And instead of the spider being some random research lab, Peter is bitten at Oscorp.  On the other hand, it is nice to see this film not seeing how many villains that they can pack in.  Instead, we are offered one new villain.  And he was not featured in Raimi’s trilogy.  He was set up, as Rhys Ifans is playing Doctor Curt Conners, who was played by Dylan Baker in the previous set of films.  But we never met his alter-ego the lizard.  And they make Peter part of his creation, because Everything Must Be Tied Together.

Really, there is plenty to like here.  Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield have a wonderful chemistry.  They were dating at the time, but that is never a guarantee of onscreen chemistry.  Emma is great in the role of Gwen Stacy, while Denis Leary is her Police Chief father.  Leary brings his working class everyman persona to the role and it is quite effective here.  Sally Field and Martin Sheen make for a fine Aunt May and Uncle Ben.  Andrew Garfield is likeable, and his Spider-Man is a wise cracker…but..Peter is excessively morose.  He is constantly in a state of passive rage.  And while there is comic book precedence for this in the early years, it feels out of place here.

Uncle Ben’s death seems…lacking.  Peter storms out after an argument.  Peter does not prevent a robbery at a convenience store, but it does not seem as effective as the comics version or Raimi’s first Spider-Man.  Peter’s darkness, especially in relationship to his missing father (and it is really his father, Peter seems to not feel the same emptiness in regards to his mother).  Peter has never been that haunted by the loss of his parents, he saw Aunt May and Uncle Ben as his parental figures.

One the biggest holes is…there is no J. Jonah Jameson.  And it makes the film feel not quite like a Spider-Man story.

The Peter and Gwen story is compelling and the relationship between Peter And Captain Stacy make for great tension.  At the same time, Peter makes a promise to Captain Stacy that he almost immediately breaks…and Peter is flat out unkind to Gwen in a moment where she really needs his support.  He of all people should understand her loss, and he is pretty much a jerk.

The whole conspiracy aspect feels unnecessary and worse, drags the film down, even though it hinges on the conspiracy to make sense.

The effects are good, and they have improved a lot since 2002. The Spider-Man models and the Lizard look great, and are very slick.  In the overall design, I appreciated the look of the new Spider-Man costume.  It is colorful and stays faithful to the traditional costume of the comics.

There is plenty to like, some things that improve on the last incarnation and yet…where it fails, it fails pretty big.  It is entertaining, but still does not reach…great.


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