Tag Archive: Sam Raimi


Greetings folks! My blogging has taken a slump as of late, due to University Work… and just generally forgetting really. A lot of big films have come out over the past three months that I just haven’t had time to cover on this blog, slipped beneath the radar as it were, to the point where it seemed too much time had passed to warrant a full review. So, just before I dive in to another batch of essays, I thought I would deliver a quick round up of films I have seen over these first few months of the year, following up with a full review of a new film that sees nationwide release this Friday (check back soon for that). Well then, lets not beat around the bush, lets do this thing!

DjangoUnchainedPosterDjango Unchained

A new Quentin Tarantino movie is always something to get excited about, and Django Unchained was no different. With impressive buzz, both critically and box-office wise States-side, the tale of Jamie Foxx’s vengeance seeking free slave seemed to be shaping up to be another Tarantino genre-blending classic. And lo and behold, he has certainly pulled off that trick again. Although still hyper-kinetic in its style and editing, there is the sense with this picture (and his last, and arguably best, Inglorious Basterds) that he is becoming a more assured, controlled director. He no longer needs to prove he is the new kid on the block. He now completely owns the block. Sure, he’s hardly a reserved director in the Malick vein, there is just much more of a sense that he is a director whose style and talent has been confirmed, and there is no need for him to show off anymore (hence the abandonment of a non-linear narrative). He can simply make the movies and tell the stories that his soul desires. And while his story of a freed slave joining forces with a bounty hunter to save his wife from an evil plantation owner has received somewhat of a negative reaction from certain people (*cough*spikelee*cough*), Tarantino still crafts a highly entertaining, at times very mature, and exhilarating tribute to all things Spaghetti Western, Grind-house and the wonder of B-movie logic.  Filled with quick-witted dialogue, unforgettable scene after unforgettable scene, all played along to the tune of a cracking soundtrack, supported by a barrage of exceptional performances (I’ll never understand why both DiCaprio and Jackson weren’t nominated), Django Unchained is most certainly in the same league as Tarantino’s classics and will surely go down as one of his best.  5/5 

LincolnLincoln-Poster

The other Awards-Season movie concerned with slavery. Albeit with much less gore. Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln may have only won two of its 12 nominated awards on Oscar night; but that does not stop it from being one of the impressive pieces of cinema to come out this season. Sensibly deciding to focus on a landmark moment of Old Abe’s presidency, Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner manage to craft a tense, witty and suitably emotional account of the President’s struggles to pass the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery in the United States. With Daniel Day-Lewis in the main role, you already know that you are going to be in for a film with a high caliber of acting class. And while Day-Lewis vanishes completely into the iconic mold of America’s perhaps most cherished President, it is the supporting players who perhaps stop the film from being simply a misty-eyed love letter to the 16th President. While the first hour is bogged down by a seemingly endless string of anecdotes, the film gets a good old kick up the arse in the shape of Tommy Lee Jones and the shift to focusing on the intricate details that led to the passing of the Amendment. Quite how Spielberg managed to construct such a level of tension around a subject in which we know the outcome is still beyond me, but darn nabbit, the master does! With sumptuous cinematography from Janusz Kaminski, Spielberg demonstrates once again quite why he is the master of iconography; constructing a great sense of grander around the legend of Lincoln, whilst also allowing for a very human portrayal to shine through the long stature and shadow of Abraham. Pacing issues aside, Lincoln stands as Spielberg’s best film since Munich, a film of masterful strokes, powerhouse acting and pure Spielberg-emotion. 5/5

HitchcockHitchcock  

Hitchcock received somewhat of a lukewarm reception from critics upon its release. Which somewhat puzzles me. Yes, it is a little too light and frothy, and yes it barely scratches the service of why Hitchcock was regarded as the master of suspense, as well as being rather slap dash with the rather darker sides to his personality. But is it fun and wonderfully entertaining? You’re damn right it is. Using the making of Psycho as the central plot device, Hitchcock‘s main focus is upon the relationship between the titular Alfred Hitchcock (a heavily prosthetic-clad Anthony Hopkins) and his wife and editor Alma (Helen Mirren), who long had to deal with living in the great shadow of her famous husband. A film with these two talents as the leads says something for the quality of the performances on show; from the undeniably impressive Hopkins, to the stunning Mirren to the little character performances from the likes of Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Biel, Danny Huston, James D’Arcy (uncanny as Anthony Perkins) and Toni Collette. While there certainly isn’t too much meat on its very glossy bones, the charms of Hopkins and Mirren engage effortlessly, providing an insight into a relationship of Hitchcock’s life that many people may not know much about. The period detail is also incredibly impressive, particularly in relation to its recreation of scenes from Psycho; the attention to detail is second to none. I am sure there is a much better film to be made of the genius that was Hitchcock, but for now, you could certainly do a hell of a lot worse. 4/5

Wreck-It RalphWreckItRalph

The favourite to win the Best Animated Feature Oscar (perhaps unfairly losing out to Brave), Wreck-It Ralph certainly was another film that had a high degree of critical buzz surrounding it, some critics even claiming it to be up there in the league of the Toy Story trilogy. This was somewhat of a big statement to make, and I never believed it would live up to that hype. And it didn’t. But that is not to dis-credit the film, Wreck-It Ralph is one of the most original Disney hits of recent years, and it is most certainly much better then the last two Pixar efforts. The tale of Arcade bad guy Wreck-It Ralph’s quest to be the hero for once is filled with brilliant video game references throughout its glorious first hour, set within the realms of game central before Ralph begins to game hop in order to earn a Hero’s Medal. This is by far the film’s best segment; smart, witty and filled to the brim with nostalgia. Once Ralph beings game-hopping, the concept loses a great deal of its creativity in the world of Sugar Rush. Sarah Silverman is adorable as Vanelloppe Von Schweetz, and the world of that game is still rich with wondrous design, stunning animation and inventive action, but you cannot shake the feeling that a Disney executive may have popped his head round the door and asked Rich Moore’s creative team to ‘Stop right there, gives us something more conventional and child-friendly.’ The older audience such as myself would have been perfectly happy to continue reveling in the joy of spotting all the references, but I suppose there is another demographic to please. There is certainly plenty to explore in this rich and vast world and I for one happily welcome a sequel on the strength of this installment. 4/5

mama-poster1Mama

The last time I watched a Guillermo Del Toro produced horror movie, it was the incredibly silly, stupidly entertaining Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark. While I had fun with that movie, it was hardly what I’d call scary. It seemed like the sort of film that kids would have loved if it had been released in the 80’s (Gremlins-esque in a way). With Mama, I was expecting much of the same thing, and while it certainly does share an old school spirit with Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark, it shook me up much more. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself with a roller-coaster of a horror movie; one minute me and my friends were jumping out of our skins before quickly laughing to ourselves at the ridiculousness of our behavior. Jessica Chastain seemed to be having funny letting her hair down (well, cutting it and dying it black) as the girlfriend of a man who after five years of searching finds his long lost nieces, who have grown up in the wild, seemingly alone. When the pair bring the two back home with them, the girls appear to have bought something back from the forest with them in the form of a jealous evil specter known only as Mama. With assured CGI creature design and assured direction in the staging of its jumps and scares. The ending is horribly contrived, with a strong sense that the writers simply did not know how to round off proceedings. Despite this, Mama is one of the more enjoyable horror experiences I have had at the cinema in quite sometime. I know deep down that I really should not have enjoyed it as much as I did, but hell, sometimes you’re just in the mood for a creepy gothic elongated limbed crazy ghost type thing. 3/5

Oz: The Great and PowerfulOz_-_The_Great_and_Powerful_Poster

I was very nearly tempted to write a full review of this film, but I think a lot of the buzz concerning this film has certainly died down very quickly, so a few hundred words should be more than enough to justify my opinion of this latest dive into the wonderful world of L. Frank Baum’s Oz. James Franco is Oscar Diggs, a travelling circus magician/con-man who is magically transported from 1900’s black and white Kansas to the bright and colourful Oz. The inhabitants of Oz soon begin to believe that Oscar is the prophesied Wizard who shall bring peace to the land of Oz. He soon gets in too deep and finds himself tasked with killing the Wicked Witch. Sam Raimi appears to direct this film within a very confined space. This being a Disney movie, Raimi was most definitely working within certain confinements. Yet within these confinements, he does what he can to throw in certain techniques and camera angles to remind the cinema-savvy audience that they are still watching a Sam Raimi movie. This was incredibly refreshing, as I was incredibly worried that Raimi was going to become yet another cog in the Disney machine, but his Oz surprised me. It is neither absolutely spectacular, nor is it a train-wreck like a certain Mr. Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. It is simply a bright, simple, innocent and very sweet yarn with a refreshing old-fashion spirit mixed in with some very impressive (but heavy-handed) CGI work. The cast are also incredibly game, with Franco proving to be a charismatic leading man in a rather unlikeable role. The three witches consisting of Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams all turn in a mixture of charming and deliciously wicked performances (extra points particularly go to Kunis) while Zach Braff and Joey King are very sweet in their respective sidekick roles (a cute flying monkey and a brilliantly animated China doll girl). The only thing that stops Oz from being truly great is its scripts apparent lack of being able to construct a truly memorable spectacle. The plot moves along at a steady and brisk pace, you’re never particularly bored, but you can see everything that is coming your way. The world however, is lavishly designed and the 3-D is definitely worth the extra ticket price, bringing the world to vibrant life, while Raimi is not adverse to throwing many an object at his audience. A fun, good-natured ride with an unmistakeable Disney spirit mixed in with a good dose of Raimi darkness. 3/5

If you remember back to the days of late June/ early July, you may recall that I wrote a Gaudion Spotlight on the Sam Raimi-run of Spider-Man movies in anticipation of the release of the franchise reboot; The Amazing Spider-Man. After a good two months, the film made its way to Alderney (actually rather quick for over here) and now I can finally present my views on the reboot that we probably didn’t need. Spider-Man 3 is much maligned, but is by no means terrible, and I still attest that a fourth film would have redeemed its short-comings. Now we’ll never know, so I guess we’ll have to make do with a new franchise. I have to say, I was perhaps more welcome to this than most; as a comic-book fan, I was with the opinion that comic-books reboot their characters all the time, so why can’t their film counter-parts do the same? But as a film fan and student, it did not make a great deal of sense, as Spider-Man 3 was far from a failure commercially, and there seemed to be plenty to mine within their universe. With that in mind, The Amazing Spider-Man had a lot to prove, and God bless him, Marc Webb tries his best, and thankfully it does impress more often than not. You just can’t shake the feeling that we have been here before.

In an attempt to present a new take on the origins tale, The Amazing Spider-Man initially involves the mystery behind the disappearance of Peter Parker’s parents, leaving him orphaned with his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field). This abandonment has led Peter (Andrew Garfield) to grow up into a socially awkward, yet brilliantly smart, teenager (despite having super-stylish hair and being totally rad on a skateboard). Soon enough, he discovers a briefcase that used to belong to his father, which leads him to seek out his father’s old partner, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), in the hope of finding some answers. However, once he goes to Oscorp Industries, he gets more than he bargained for, as an encounter with a radioactive spider leaves him with arachnid-like abilities.  All the while, Peter begins to strike a relationship with the beautiful Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), as he soon develops his powers to become a vigilante crime-fighter. With the police on his tail, Peter must also contend with the danger of a monster he unwittingly created in the form of The Lizard, who once used to be a certain Dr. Connors. 

Spoilers ahead. But lets face it, if you’re reading this, you’ve probably already seen it. As much as the film may try, it cannot escape certain familiarities with its 2001 counter-part. The introduction of the mystery concerning Peter’s parents, although not taken from any comic-book narrative, is an intriguing enough premise, but one that seems to disappear come around the latter part of the second act. We can safely assume that it will continue to play a part in the inevitable sequel, but it is rather strange that it seems to serve quite a large purpose to begin with, but then rather suddenly doesn’t seem to play into proceedings at all. The death of Uncle Ben is very much a point of concern; it happens rather hastily and is forgotten about just as quickly. It has similar beats to the 2001 incarnation, but Raimi’s movie certainly dealt more with the repercussions and guilt that fell onto Peter (a theme which lasted throughout the trilogy in fact). It is a waste of a very pivotal moment in the Spider-Man mythology and of Martin Sheen. Aside from that, narrative-wise, Peter discovering his powers is displayed in a much more progressive fashion, as it does seem to have a conscious sense of not repeating the same discoveries as the first movie.

Another weaker area of the movie, before I delve into the positives, is the villain. The Lizard is a very famous and well-known character within the comic-books, and I was very disappointed that we never got to see what Raimi would have done with the character, as Curt Connors did feature rather significantly in the last two installments (poor Dylan Baker). Rhys Ifans is perfectly fine in the role, it is just that the way the character is written is nowhere near as satisfying as Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man 2. Connors himself seems to change from a very reasoned scientist, to a power-mad monster determined to rid the human race of imperfection. The CGI work on The Lizard is impressive enough, but the Jykell and Hyde aspect is too shoe-horned in and fails to make an impact within the running time, and reflects Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin far too much. A much better interpretation of The Lizard can be found in the Spider-Man Animated Series from the 90’s. This film certainly borrowed a lot of imagery from that incarnation, namely the base within the sewers, which evoked a certain degree of nostalgia, but ultimately reminded me of a better version of the character.

Now on to the positive remarks. Despite taking liberties with the mythology in some areas (namely the tip-toeing around the immortal line of ‘With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility’, they should have just bloody said it), the film is clearly made by a director and written by a group of people who do love the source material. The film seems to blend elements from the Original Ditko/Lee run (mechanical web-shooters) and the most recent Ultimate series (which I read religiously as a kid), with certain moments and touches putting a smile on my face. This can be put down to the portrayal of Peter Parker. He isn’t perhaps as much as an outcast as he should be, but Garfield evokes a genuinely awkward teenage spirit that reflects the Ultimate series, especially in terms of his cockiness and wise-cracking. Garfield makes for a much more convincing Parker, both out of and in the tights. You full-heartedly believe that he is in the costume, thanks in due part to more practical web-swinging effects. He brings a believable athleticism and poise to the role, as well as inhabiting his Parker with a strong sense of intelligence. And he has some great support. Webb evidently uses his skills with actors that he employed so well in (500) Days of Summer when it comes to the relationship between Peter and Gwen. It also helps that Garfield and Stone have absolutely perfect chemistry. Their flirting and playfulness feel entirely genuine (it probably was, considering that the two are in fact a couple), and the film is at its strongest when the two are together. The film as a whole is much better when dealing with character then it is action. This Parker is given much more of a chance to show how much of a genius he is, and the corny dialogue this time is replaced by much more natural conversation.

Raimi’s movies had a very definite style; cartoon-esque, energetic and quite deliberately corny. It worked, particularly for capturing the atmosphere of the 1960’s comic books. Webb isn’t as energetic, nor is he quite as inventive in the action sequences (to give him his due, this is his first action picture). The P.O.V. shots are well conceived and his sense of movement manages to stand out from the Raimi crowd. Spidey’s movements have a more gymnastic sense of energy to them, a movement all their own, and great it would seem that a great deal of attention has gone in to recreating poses from the comic-books. Webb does display a deft hand with the action, but it is his deftness with character that shines through in the scenes between Garfield and Stone, which makes it shame that most of these scenes are interrupted by the action sequences. I’d never thought I’d say that about a comic-book movie. Webb has to be commended for making the atmosphere of the film feel somewhat different to the Raimi run, despite the glaring similarities. Webb evokes a similar spirit to the animated series and Ultimate comic-book series, which provoked a wonderful sense of nostalgia within me, and has the courage to give the film somewhat more of an edge where needed. It remains fun, largely thanks to the cast and enthusiastic direction. It does fill me with hope for this new franchise, now that the origins is out-of-the-way, it paves the way for this new interpretation to further evolve into its own identity. Spider-Man 2 remains the best Spider-Man movie, and Raimi’s first installment wins points for having done everything first. But it is easily an improvement on number 3. I hope that Webb continues to make this franchise his own; as with a great property, comes great responsibility. I more than look forward to the next spin.

3/5- It suffers greatly from re-visiting plot points from the original movie, particularly when those points were done better the first time round. But it shows great promise for the future of the franchise, thanks in large part to the spot-on casting and fresh direction. The wall-crawler is back, so we might as well enjoy it!

The San Diego Comic-Con took place over the course of this weekend, and of course, like every year, it was rich for film news! Comic-Con has become an important marketing event for big Hollywood movies, not only catering for Comic-Book movies, but any major Hollywood picture on the horizon. this year was no different, featuring the first footage from the likes of next year’s Man of Steel and the upcoming The Expendables 2. Rather than report on every little detail, I thought I would take a blog post to focus on some of the highlights of the Convention this year, which does pretty much cover every major aspect and highlights seen this year. One day, I hope to be reporting live to you from San Diego, as the Comic-Con is definitely on my lift of things to do before I die. Some people have ‘visit the Great Wall of China’, I have the Comic-Con. Well, it makes sense to me. So, without further ado, what news is there from the land of San Diego (a Whale’s Vagina to some)?

1. The Return to Oz with Sam Raimi looks to be a colourful affair…

One of the first panels at the Con was for Sam Raimi’s much-anticipated prequel to the 1939 classic, The Wizard Of Oz, which is entitled Oz: The Great and Powerful. The upcoming Spring release has been rather scarce in terms of promotional material, with the Poster having been released a week ago, and the trailer (more on that in a sec) being unveiled at the Con. But, truthfully, there isn’t a much better place in which to kick-off your film’s marketing than the San Diego Comic-Con. Raimi was reportedly in high spirits, enthusiastically talking about his next Blockbuster project. Points he stressed were that this is not a prequel in the traditional sense(mostly due to the fact that Disney do not have the rights to certain specific imagery from the 1939 original), it instead draws most of it inspiration from the original series of books by L. Frank Baum, a series that is still rich in un-mined imagery and imagination. Raimi simply stressed how this is very much a self-contained story, with elements that will be recognizable, as we follow James Franco’s Oscar Diggs, a small-town Magician, who wishes for something more. After a certain incident involving a tornado, Oscar finds himself in the magical land of Oz. There he embarks on an epic, Technicolor adventure in which he finally finds a chance to prove himself. Raimi then treated the convention patrons to the first footage from the movie, in the form of its first trailer, which you may have seen over the weekend (if not, you can find it below, aren’t I good to you?). It looks as you might come to expect, a bit too similar to the production design of Alice In Wonderland (granted, they share the same production designer), but thankfully it does seem to have much more vibrancy and visual flair, more than likely due to the fact that it is Raimi in the director’s chair. And a film with Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams and Mila Kunis in it can’t be too bad to look at. Raimi also confirmed that his regular collaborator Bruce Campbell shall indeed have a trademark cameo, as will his famous recognizable car, although not in the way that you might expect. And now, as promised, here is that trailer once again:

2. We can expect some more politically infused Sci-Fi from Neill Blomkamp with Elysium… 

Neill Blomkamp, the man behind the fantastic Sci-Fi action drama District 9, has been busy at work on his follow-up picture, Elysium, and aside from this image of a gun-wielding bald Matt Damon, we have seen or know next to nothing about the promising director’s next directorial effort. Well, if you were at Comic-Con, you certainly will have seen a lot more now. Blomkamp, along with his cast members, Damon, Jodie Foster and District 9‘s Sharlto Copley, screened some exclusive footage. The film is set in a dystopian future (is there any other kind?) in which Earth is a wasteland, and the rich and the wealthy live on board a giant luxurious space-station, where all medical concerns are a thing of the past, including cancer. Damon plays Max, a working man who is one of the many less-privileged folk who continue to live on Earth. However, Max’s depressing life becomes even worse after he is exposed to radiation poisoning following an incident at work. With five days to live, Max must do all he can to make it to Elysium in order to cure himself of his poisoning. Although, that is a task which is easier said then done. The crowds were reportedly very impressed with the footage, which demonstrated the world and style of Blomkamp’s film. Not a stone throw away from District 9, the film is said to gritty, tough and featuring some quite literal bone-crunching violence, all infused with another political allegory, in this case representing the struggle of the 99-ers; albeit in a ultra-violent sci-fi action fashion.  I am a huge fan of District 9, and I simply cannot wait to see someone of this footage, as the prospect of Blomkamp working with a big budget and a big star is a very tantalizing prospect. Here’s hoping we’ll see a trailer sometime in the near future.

3. Dredd impressed

Preview screenings are not a rare occurance at Comic-Con, but you are never too sure what movies shall grace the fans with their advance screening presence. This year, it was the reboot of the 2000Ad character, Dredd. Judge Dredd was last seen on-screen in the 1995 Sly Stallone picture, and that film was not very well received. Panned by critics, despised by fans, Danny Cannon’s adaptation may have had the style, but it certainly did not have the story, and it was not the Dredd that fans of the British comics had grown to love (mainly because Stallone took the helmet off). It was a complete waste of promising potential, and now screenwriter Alex Garland and director Pete Travis are having a shot. And from the sounds of it, they have fully delivered. The buzz around Dredd has been pleasingly positive and everything that I had hoped. It has been described as an inventive, gritty, insanely violent and highly stylish affair with a commanding lead performance from Karl Urban. I did read somewhere (for the life of me I cannot remember where) that it evoked the spirit of a hardcore 80’s action-er, and that fills me with fan-boy joy. Dredd is mean. Brutal and unforgiving. And so is the world of Mega-City. A film of this world should be violent and nasty, and from the sounds of it, Travis and Garland have not skimped out on the ultra-violent goodness (as a clip below shall demonstrate). Concerns with the film have been aimed towards the premise, which has some rather unfortunate similarities to this year’s The Raid, and there have been some grumblings concerning the scale of the picture, although that can easily be attributed to its rather small independently funded budget. But the buzz coming out from this film is certainly enough to get me excited, and it certainly pleased the 2000AD fan’s who were present at Comic-Con. Now, feast your eye’s on this glorious violent clip:

4. Iron Man’s got a new foe, and a new suit in which to face him with… 

Marvel made their presence known well and truly at the Con this year, as they do every year really, with Iron Man 3 representing merely the tip of the iceberg concerning what Marvel had to announce this year. But that is a bloody big tip. The Shane Black written and directed movie has only been filming for a good month, but that didn’t stop Marvel from presenting a few sequences from the movie, involving some banter between Robert Downey Jnr.’s Tony Stark and Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan. But the real money shots came from seeing the destruction of Stark’s Malibu home and the reveal of the main villain of the movie. And after months of internet rumors, I can happily announce that Ben Kingsley shall indeed be playing The Mandarin; arguably Iron Man’s most famous and formidable foe. Marvel’s Phase 2 has certainly begun. The prospect of The Mandarin is something incredibly promising. He is a villain with great intelligence to match his highly tuned martial arts skills, and the power of his 10 mysterious rings. I’m sure they will try to ground The Mandarin much more in reality, but the threat he possesses should take Stark down a peg or two and give one hell of a reality check. The next big piece of Iron Man related news was the reveal of his new suit for the movie, as pictured. Ditching the Red and Gold combo, this suit is much more in keeping with the Extremis design of the suit, the Extremis being  recent arc in the comic books that saw Stark developing the means of having the suit appear out of his skin (there is a lot more to this arc, it is very complicated, I recommend researching it if you’re interested). It has been rumored that the Extremis arc would be featured in this sequel, however I would not take this suit as confirmation, as I will only believe it when I see it, as I think the Extremis arc would be far too hard to develop in the course of one film. I guess we shall discover soon enough, come May of next year!

5. Thor 2 and Captain America 2 have new titles…

Another piece of Marvel news (there are still two more to go) concerned other elements of Marvel’s Phase 2, namely the follow-ups to Thor and Captain America. Unlike the Iron Man franchise, these two heroes are dropping the numerical label, and are instead given subtitles. Not only does it create a much better sense of a continuing world, filled with episodes (much like a comic book universe), it also offers some intriguing speculation as to what these certain sequels may focus on. First up is the sequel to Thor, out on November 8th 2013, which is now titled Thor: The Dark World. Now this seems to have confirmed the early notions that the Thor sequel shall explore the darker under-belly of the pristine Asgard. Which would also seem to suggest a rather drastic change of tone from the first movie. Kenneth Branagh’s first installment was a grand and highly daft affair; fun, slightly camp, an all out romp. Branagh is not directing this installment, that role is now being filled by Alan Taylor, a regular director on the rather dark fantasy series, Game of Thrones. His employment alone suggest a much darker take on the character, and this title certainly confirms that we are going to see a much darker take on the God of Thunder. Now onto the Star-Spangled Man with a plan. Captain America 2, out on April 4th 2014, shall now be called Captain America: The Winter Soldier. And if you’re familiar with the comic-books, then that title needs no elaboration. But if you aren’t well versed in the Marvel Universe, allow me to enlighten you. The Winter Soldier was the name given to Cap’s supposedly dead best friend Bucky, who in the comics, returned as a Brainwashed Russian Assassin, out to kill Captain America. First things first, yes, Bucky did appear to die, however, we never saw a body, and as soon as his death occurred, I for one certainly thought that we could easily see Bucky return in future installments. And that certainly seems to be the case. Yet, the idea of a Russian Assassin  is certainly out-dated, so it remains to be seen if the directing pair of the Russo Brothers will develop the Winter Soldier in any way. Either way, it is a title which has certainly got me excited.

6. It’s time to meet the Guardians Of The Galaxy…  

Possibly the worst kept secret concerning a Marvel movie, as internet rumors have been around for quite some time concerning their ‘mysterious’ August 2014 release. The Guardians Of The Galaxy is not a well-known Marvel title, in fact it was cancelled after 25-issues. It is a huge risk in terms of both money investment and in further expanding the Marvel Universe. I do believe that this is not in the same Universe as The Avengers (don’t quote me on that) as last I heard the intention was to produce this as an animated movie. It would make, considering the characters that make up the Guardians Of The Galaxy; a powerful alien by the name of Drax The Destroyer, a super-smart living plant named Groot, a space Raccoon called Rocket Raccoon and Star Lord who is a Galactic Super Cop. Yeah. Rather diverse characters. The concept art of the characters is certainly interesting and the scope of the film could be something that we have never seen before in a comic-book movie. There is still no director attached, but I shall keep a curious eye on this movie, as the choice of director should say a lot in terms of what the tone of the movie shall turn out to be. Now, here’s that concept art for you to gaze upon. Pretty bad-ass Raccoon, right?

7. Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man may finally happen…

The last bit of Marvel related goodness from the Con comes in the form of news concerning Edgar Wright’s long-gestating movie of Ant-Man, the superhero who can change his size at will. Ant-Man was one of the original members of The Avengers, yet Marvel decided to focus on the more popular heroes for the first big-screen outing of the assembled team, and rightly so. But now that Phase One was so successful, Marvel are prepared to take more risks, and an Ant-Man movie could be such a way of doing so. It must be said that this film is still not yet officially confirmed, but this is an indication that things are happening to see an Ant-Man movie. Edgar Wright, the maestro behind Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, surprised everyone in San Diego when he turned up to present the test-footage that he shot about two weeks ago. The footage was not finished at all, and the man playing the title character was merely a stuntman, but in terms of showcasing what Wright intends to do in terms of the action, it apparently did not disappoint. What the fans were treated to was trademark Wright; zippy, brilliantly paced and inventive action with a great sense of humor to boot as Ant-Man used his powers to take out a couple of guards guarding an elevator. And the costume is supposedly very much in keeping with the look of the Kirby artwork. Which is bound to please fans. So, still no release date, but I’m sure we can expect Ant-Man to become a reality in the very near future.

8. We can expect to see a very different kind of Superman…

Probably one of the most anticipated movies at the Con this year, Zack Snyder’s upcoming Superman movie Man Of Steel certainly has provoked intrigue following a screening of a teaser trailer at this years convention, a teaser trailer said to be in front of The Dark Knight Rises come Friday. Warner Bros. certainly has a lot riding on this movie, considering Batman shall be done and dusted, at least for now, come the end of the summer, and I’d imagine that they were rather happy with how the footage was received. The footage firmly established this Superman as a much more dramatic, somber and of course darker origins tale, with Henry Cavill’s Clark Kent finding it somewhat hard to find his place in the modern world. A shot that got many people talking was of Super being escorted down a corridor by a league of armed guards. Do the Earthlings not take too kindly to the last son of Krypton? The audience was also pleased to see that Man of Steel may feature a more reserved and mature film-making style from Snyder, following his adolescent, video-game of a movie Sucker Punch. I’m all for a more mature approach from Snyder, but I do hope Supes isn’t all gloomy drama, he needs to have a sense of glee and good-will spirit that the Superman image embodies. Either way, I am more than excited for a new Superman movie, being a big fan of the character’s cinematic past. Man of Steel hits cinemas on June 14th, but be sure to track down the trailer when The Dark Knight Rises is released on Friday.

9. Might we be seeing THREE Hobbit movies?

Peter Jackson is somewhat royalty at Comic-Con, and he certainly didn’t disappoint his many fans this year, bringing with him plenty of footage from his upcoming Lord of The Rings prequels The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and There and Back Again. The footage he displayed showed a very humorous scene at Bag-End during Bilbo’s first encounter with the Dwarves, Gandalf being attacked by some feral looking creature, Gollum playing riddles with Bilbo as part of the Riddles in the Dark sequence, along with some snippets of Evangeline Lilly kicking some Goblin ass, and Legolas preparing to fire his bow at an unseen antagonist.  But what perhaps got people talking was Jackson’s speculation at the possibility of a third Hobbit movie. Jackson has said how much material they could still mine, in light of the appendices that Tolkien wrote, filling in certain plot points and bridging the gap between The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings; “There’s the novel, but then we also have the rights to use the 125 pages of additional notes where Tolkien expanded the world of The Hobbit. I’ve been talking to the studio about other things that we haven’t been able to shoot and seeing if we could possibly persuade them to do a few more weeks of shooting.” Personally, I think that The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings are very different books, they tell very different stories, therefore the films should reflect that as well, rather than squeeze everything that they can out of the material available to them. Not that any more time spent in Middle Earth is a bad thing, it is just I would rather see a focused adaptation rather than a sprawling trilogy trying to make more of a connection with LOTR. That’s not what I want, and I’m sure fans don’t necessarily want to see an over-loaded trilogy expanded far too much for its own good. Two films are more than enough P.J.

10. Skyfall looks to be a classic, kick-ass Bond movie…

Bond made an appearance at the Con this year, not something a Bond movie usually does, but I’m sure the fans didn’t complain. The Bond Brigade charged at the Con with a brand new exclusive I-MAX trailer, displaying how this Bond is going to be bigger than the rest, quite literally. The trailer also filled in more details as to what the plot may be. It seems that Judi Dench’s M loses possession of a data drive, which contains the identities of every British Intelligence Agent – and soon enough they begin to get assassinated one by one. Therefore, Bond must act fast, to stay one step ahead and find out who is killing the Country’s spies. It sounds similar to the ‘Smert Spionam’ (Death to Spies) plot of The Living Daylights, but much more personal as Bond’s loyalties to M are truly tested. Fans cheered at the inclusion of Craig uttering ‘Bond, James Bond’ and they were also treated to the world’s first look at Ben Whishaw’s Q, a casting decision that I think is truly excellent. Hopefully we’ll all set our eyes upon this new I-MAX trailer in the near future, as a new Bond movie is always something to get excited about. Now, here is that first image of Whishaw looking all geeky, and Q-like.

11. Guillermo Del Toro aim to inspire awe with Pacific Rim…  

Del Toro hasn’t made movie since Hellboy 2 way back in 2008, so it is about time that he should be getting back behind the camera’s to present us with his unique vision once again. Pacific Rim marks his return as a director after producing many a mediocre horror (here’s looking at you Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark) but the reaction he got from the footage screened at Comic-Con certainly seems to suggest that has been worth the wait. The basic premise of Pacific Rim is fairly simple. Set in the distant future, Earth has been over-run by Giant Monsters who have awoken from a rift within the Pacific Rim (so, that’s why it’s called that). This prompts the human race to build giant Robots, known as Jaegers, to battle these destructive Beasties who are laying waste to mankind. These Jaegers are piloted human operators, who bond telepathically with their respective Robot, to face monsters head on in battle. The footage screened aimed to give an impression of the scale of the movie, and one word seems to describe it rather fittingly; epic. The Robots and Monsters are on a huge scale, with impressive FX works and practical effects. It’s as high concept as you can get, and Del Toro’s visual flair and creativity should be fantastic in this kind of arena. And it has Idris Elba screaming such lines as “Today, we are cancelling the apocalypse!” Epic indeed. Pacific Rim hits cinemas on July 15th 2013, but Del Toro has said a trailer won’t hit for at least 6 months. The tease.

12. Godzilla shall rampage once again…

My last highlight from the con comes in the form of another Monster movie, this time it is Legendary Pictures new take on the iconic Giant Lizard, Godzilla. It has been a while since we heard any news come out concerning this movie, Gareth Edwards (behind the small indie pic Monsters) was announced as director quite a while ago, and after that it went rather quiet. But now, the big fiery beast has let his presence be known, with a new poster and some teaser footage, screened exclusively in San Diego. The teaser stunned unsuspecting audiences, with no one knowing what it was that was being screened, as the camera panned over a brutally destroyed city, smoke bellowing among-st the destruction. As the camera continues along, the audience catches a glimpse of a monster, a dead monster, but not Mr. Zilla. All of a sudden the iconic roar is heard and the title graces the screen. But that’s not all. They were then given the big hero shot, as Godzilla himself turning side on and roaring in all his glory. He reportedly matched the classic look, albeit with a modern makeover. Supposedly nothing like the Roland Emmerich version from 1998. Reports called it intense, spine-tingling and incredibly convincing. Still no release date, but I think we can expect to see this version of Godzilla around 2014.

Spider-Man has had many incarnations over his 50 years of existence, from cartoons, to video-games, to an ill-fated Broadway musical with music by Bono and The Edge. Today has seen the worldwide release of the latest interpretation of the Marvel Comics superhero in the form of his fourth motion-picture, The Amazing Spider-Man. This is the fourth film featuring the character to be released in the space of 10 years, but it is not a sequel. It is a reboot. Reboot. A word which is not unheard of within the bizarre world of Hollywood, particularly within the realms of the comic-book movie. Batman did rather well from it. The Hulk made his way to The Avengers because of it. And Superman, well, it remains to be seen, but Spider-Man is a much more interesting case. Love it or loath it, Spider-Man 3 was the most successful of the original trilogy, and was by no means a disaster on the same level of Joel Schumacher’s 1997 Batman & Robin. So, why the need to reboot? I certainly had faith that Raimi and Maguire could atone for the mistakes of the third movie with a bound-to-be-better fourth installment. But, due to a clash of visions between Raimi and Sony (one of the main reasons Spider-Man 3 became so muddled) Sony decided to pull the plug and start from scratch. Marc Webb (pun intended?) signed on to direct, Andrew Garfield was chosen to don the tights, and Emma Stone became the object of his affections, this time in the blonde-guise of my personal favourite Spidey-love interest, Gwen Stacy. With the film now out, and with me probably not being able to watch it for sometime due to being back in Alderney, I thought I’d write a retrospective feature, discussing how well the original Raimi trilogy has held up, and what this means for The Amazing Spider-Man. So, let’s travel back in time to the simpler times of 2002.

Spider-Man (2002)

This is easily the movie of the previous three that most people will compare The Amazing Spider-Man to, as it is, indeed, the ‘original’ origins tale. Yet, it is also the movie that Webb’s Spider-Man has to remove itself from in order to justify its existence. The origins here take place rather quickly; we meet Peter Parker (the rather brilliantly cast Tobey Maguire) in High-School, living with his Aunt and Uncle, harboring a crush for the girl-next-door Mary-Jane Watson (the endearing Kirsten Dunst). Then, on a High School field trip, he is bitten by a Genetically enhanced super-spider, and sooner or later develops arachnid-type abilities. After the fateful murder of his beloved Uncle Ben, Peter devotes his life to fighting crime with his new-found abilities, as with great power, comes great responsibility. Re-watching this movie, I never quite realized, until now, how rushed the actually genesis of both Spider-Man and his nemesis The Green Goblin are, for the sake of getting to the action quicker. We do get some rather nice character beats, particularly between Maguire and Dunst, however the overall result is much more action focused, which is too its disadvantage, and the CGI of the Spidey character has not aged too well. From the sound of early reviews, Webb’s version seems to be much more character based, and endorses both the use of real stunt-work and CGI trickery to, supposedly, a much more impressive effect, perhaps displaying that it has improved upon the weaker elements of Sam Raimi’s original. However, Raimi’s energy as a director and fluid-ness of camerawork injects the film with an undeniable comic-book energy, style and charm that still impresses and entertains me as much today as it did when I was 9 years-old, craving to see my favourite superhero up on the big screen for the first time. That is where The Amazing Spider-Man is going to have its work cut out; can it be as fresh and as exciting as Spidey’s first-outing? Having made over $800 million in the worldwide box-office, there was no doubt Raimi had a franchise on his hands, so lets fast forward to 2004…

 Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Now that the origins were out-of-the-way, Raimi could really go for gold second time round, and that he did. Easily the best of the original trilogy, Spider-Man 2 takes what worked so well with the first movie, amplifies it and corrects its mistakes (namely by having a down-to-Earth, un-hammy villain in the form of Alfred Molina’s brilliantly written Doctor Octopus). It also features the franchises best action sequences; from the Evil Dead inspired awakening of Doc Ock, to the adrenalin pumping train face-off. But what is even more impressive about Spider-Man 2 is in its characterization of Parker and how he copes with his abilities. Raimi does the very bold move of presenting  the life of a superhero as a far from idyllic lifestyle. He can’t have what he wants, he can’t achieve all the things he wants to achieve and he can’t devote his life to the people he cares about most due to the responsibility he believes he has towards the people of New York City. His powers, rather than expanding the possibilities of his life, restricts them. And Raimi allows the film to effectively display this, with Parker basically living in poverty, making  his decision to leave his life of crime-fighting behind rather understandable. It should also be noted that out of all three of the movies, this is one that pays most respect to its comic-book origins, lifting direct narrative developments and shots from the ‘Spider-Man No-More’ story line from 1967 (I seriously suggest checking out the fantastic artwork from John Romita Snr. on that issue). This is the benchmark that The Amazing Spider-Man has to match  up in terms of the best Spidey-movie to date. With a further $780 million at the box-office, Sony and Raimi  moved on to develop what would turn into the final installment in their collaborative franchise…

 Spider-Man 3 (2007)

What to say about Spider-Man 3? There is no denying that it is a big reason (perhaps THE reason) as to why Sony decided to reboot the franchise. But, as I stated earlier, this is not a disastrous movie, granted, it is the worst of the trilogy, but in my eyes it is still a solid three star movie. Yes, there are too many villains.  Yes, these is too much eyebrow acting. And, yes, the black symbiote should have turned Peter into a malicious bad-ass, not a Jazz loving Emo prick. But, the action is still as inventive as ever, Raimi knows how to create a comic-book spirit, and the film certainly knows that it is being ridiculous when Peter goes all Emo and what not. Maguire clearly has fun playing a less timid, more spontaneous and edgy Parker, and not all the villains are lost in the mix. Thomas Haden Church impresses as Flint Marko a.k.a. Sandman, who is a well-rounded and sympathetically written villain. The one that does suffer is Topher Grace as Eddie Brock/Venom. Grace was an interesting piece of casting, and I would have loved to have seen a film with him as the main antagonist. However, here, Venom, one of the greatest villains of Spider-Man’s 50 year history, is treated as a third act after-thought. What Raimi should have done was end the movie at a point in which Venom was born, paving the way for the fourth movie to be centered around the waging battle and feud between old web-head and Venom. It could have led to some dark and emotionally affecting developments in the franchise, particularly concerning its characters (killing off M.J. for one?). Yet, it wasn’t meant to be. This is where I have hope with the franchise being rebooted, perhaps now villains like Venom, and to a lesser extent The Green Goblin, can be portrayed in a more satisfying and respectful manner. In that respect, I hope Webb and Garfield are on to a winner.

At the time of writing, The Amazing Spider-Man stands at a 72% Certified Fresh Approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes (compared to the first’s 89%, the second’s 93% and the third’s 63%, making it the third best, at least). I sincerely do hope that it is a movie that I will enjoy, as I do have a lot of love for the character and his origins. Perhaps it is too soon, perhaps it is a cash-in, but at the end of the day it is still a Spider-Man movie, and that’s good enough for me. Hopefully you can expect a review in the near future, sooner rather later (I hope) depending on when I can get away to see it. But for now, I hope you’ve enjoyed this retrospective glance over the Raimi Run of the Spider-Man franchise, and be sure to check out the wall-crawler back at the cinema’s this weekend.

Courtesy of Your Friendly Neighborhood Gaudion.