Rie Rasmussen towers over Jamel Debbouze in Luc Besson's visually striking Angel-A
Well, it looks like Spider-Man 3 broke all sorts of box office records this past weekend—highest grossing Friday opening for a $250 million-third-installment-comic-book-movie-by-a-movie-studio-residing-
and-breakfast-cereals ever!—and somehow I still don’t give an arachnid’s ass about seeing it. Of course I eventually will see Spider-Man 3—it is a Sam Raimi movie, after all, however bloated and overstuffed with characters and plotlines it may or may not be. But the Spider-Man franchise has, with the exception of the second movie (a lithe and moving piece of heavy lifting that did just right most of the things the first movie dampened and flubbed), always been a bit of a shrug for me. I was a big fan of the comic book series when I was growing up—I came of comic-reading age just as the Spider-Man series was reaching its first crest of popularity in the mid and late ‘60s. So by all rights I should have lapped up the big screen version, and I did spend several years imagining how much fun a movie version in CGI age could be. But I’m not an obsessive fanboy either, at least to the degree that I spent hours and hours picking over what the first movie did wrong in terms of whether or not it was faithful to the comic book or not.
Indeed, Raimi’s first movie was pretty accurate to my memory of the origin story of Spider-Man. My objections to the movie derived largely from its casting choices and then what Raimi chose to do with his cast. I made very little sense to me to make the effort to astutely cast the goblin-like Willem Dafoe as the Green Goblin, and then encase him in a generic-looking outfit so that the actor is hidden during the moments when he could best pull out all the stops and enjoy his on-screen villainy. I loved J. K. Simmons as J.J. Jameson, and I even thought Tobey Maguire, though a little doughier than the way he was visualized by Steve Ditko in the original comic books, captured the essence of Peter Parker—wide-eyed nerd who cannot comfortably embrace his newfound powers—quite well. But Kirsten Dunst is not my idea of the fun-lovin’, sassy, slightly tart, more than slightly buxom, and quite redheaded Mary Jane Watson. She’s just too bland. And the new movie continues this trend of miscasting Parker’s girlfriends by introducing Bryce Dallas Howard as the comely, good-hearted Gwen Stacy. There’s barely anything that distinguishes Dunst from Howard for me. They both seem like the same nice, dull woman. And as I’m sitting here typing this now, I’m having a hard time recalling what either of them even look like. Hasn’t any of the army of casting folk on the Spider-Man movies ever heard of Rachel McAdams or Mandy Moore?
I remain unimpressed with Spider-Man 3’s numbers—there are just too many other movies I have to catch up on, like Sarah Polley’s Away from Here, Paul Verhoeven’s Black Book, Alain Resnais’ Private Fears in Public Places and even Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling in Fracture, all of which are in line to be bumped off lots of screens by the time Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (yet another shrug, I’m afraid) swallows up all the multiplex space in about three weeks.
But I’m no summer season snob. There are big summer releases I’m looking forward to. For my superhero fix, I’ll go with the underdog (and no, I’m not talking about Disney’s live-action Underdog, coming in August). I’m referring to Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. I quite liked the smaller-scaled, unpretentious Fantastic Four-- and, yes, I know, almost no one else did—so I look forward to this next chapter in the hopes that it doesn’t get infected with the same kind of elephantiasis that is so common for movies like on the second (or third) go-round.
I’ve also got very high hopes for two raucous comedies, both of them featuring Freaks and Geeks alumnus Seth Rogen—Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up and what looks to be a hilarious high school nerds out on the town farce, Superbad, co-written by Rogen and featuring the actor in a supporting role. I was also convinced by seeing its trailer that 28 Weeks Later, a sequel to Danny Boyle’s disturbing viral zombie thriller, might be more than just another Fox Atomic-Hills Have Eyes 2-type knockoff. And I’m more than a little curious (with a little of the usual suspicion mixed in, of course) about Luc Besson’s Angel A, as well as Andrew Fleming’s updating of Nancy Drew, William Friedkin’s Bug, Bruce Evans’ Mr. Brooks, Guy Maddin’s Brand Upon the Brain!, Jonathan King’s Black Sheep, John Dahl’s You Kill Me, Len Wiseman’s Live Free or Die Hard, Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Thirteen, Johnnie To’s Election and Triad Election, Brad Bird’s Ratatouille, Werner Herzog’s Rescue Dawn and, of course, David Silverman’s The Simpsons Movie. But I’m placing my biggest bet on Paul Greengrass’ third installment in the excellent Matt Damon action franchise, The Bourne Ultimatum.
So, there does happen to be plenty to look forward to as the weather heats up that doesn’t have Spider-Man or Captain Jack Sparrow front and center, even though the movies cited above make up only a small percentage of what’s actually coming in on the tidal wave soon to hit your neighborhood infinty-plex this summer.
And speaking of summer, it isn’t often I find something really fun to read in Entertainment Weekly these days—though the magazine has tens of hundreds of contributing writers, I usually only look forward to actually reading a capsule review if it has Chris Willman’s name on it. He and regular film reviewers Owen Gleiberman and Lisa Schwarzbaum are the only writers for that mag that seem to have individual voices. The snark that coats EW like a unpleasant pasting of peanut butter and jelly makes it seem as if it’s all really written by one wise-ass guy/gal-- to hell with trying to distinguish one writer from the other when they all seem to have the same trendy fixations on whatever’s hot that week. But I do also like the back-page contributions from Stephen King and EW editor Mark Harris, and this week Harris takes us on a pretty hilarious journey through his Top 10 Formative Summer Movie-going Experiences. It’s an amusing read, and it sparked some memories of my own. But I’ll wait to share them, because I thought this sounded like a good SLIFR Forum topic to kick off the week and the summer movie-going season. So the question is out there: What are some of your most memorable experiences going to the movies during the summer? What among all the studio and independent offerings are the movies you most want to see between now and Labor Day? And don’t worry-- you can always go see Spider-Man 3 right after you’ve dropped your comment!