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Movie Reviews: ‘The Amazing Spider-Man,’ ‘Ted’ and ‘Moonrise Kingdom’
BY ROB HEDELT
THE FREE LANCE-STAR
“THE AMAZING SPIDER–MAN” (PG–13)
3 of 4 Stars
ANDREW GARFIELD, EMMA STONE, RHYS IFANS, DENIS LEARY, MARTIN SHEEN, SALLY FIELD
I’m still not sure why the story of this comic-book hero needed a restart, but, by design, it’s a departure from the slick 2002 version that preceded it.
Though it takes a while to gain momentum, what with the whole retelling of how Peter Parker was bitten and became a superhero, I think time will prove this one to be better than its predecessor.
Lead actor Andrew Garfield may be a tad skinny and may lack built-in Hollywood dazzle, but like this film, he feels more plausible as a half-man-half-spider. He just seems real, if that can be said of a fantasy.
We buy him as a typical kid, although one who is emotionally scarred by the deaths of both parents. Those old feelings resurface after he finds some of his scientist father’s old papers. You know, the ones that explain how to make super-people from the DNA of other species.
That information, along with the help of a spider bite, gives Parker his super strength and sharpened senses. But it also creates the lizard monster that becomes his foe for the film.
Once we get to the action, things pick up and the Marvel comics folks and their dynamic special effects don’t disappoint.
Garfield is helped by a strong cast that includes Martin Sheen and Sally Field as his adoptive uncle and aunt, Emma Stone as the girl who falls for him and Denis Leary as her father, who also happens to be the chief of police.
While the beginning feels a bit slow, this rebooted franchise also feels darker, edgier and a bit grittier than the movie from a decade ago. It’s a welcome contrast to the earlier version, which felt too slick to have real emotional heft.
Here, when Parker gets tossed around the sewer by his reptilian foe, he bleeds and bounces off walls in sympathy-generating ways.
Though I’m a big Emma Stone fan, there’s not instant chemistry between her Gwen and our superhero. That’s partly by design, and by film’s end, there’s a little something cooking.
Mainly, this one’s about seeing a scrawny little kid go from victim to big-time hero. He just happens to swing on webs that shoot out of his wrists.
It all leaves you wanting more, which I’m sure was also by design. How long until “The Amazing Spider–man 2?”
Rated PG–13 for stylized violence and action. 136 min. [MC, PV, RA]
3 of 4 Stars
MARK WAHLBERG, MILA KUNIS, SETH MACFARLANE
It’s a little embarrassing to admit that I laughed at this film. A lot. Hard.
Sure, it has stupid, raunchy moments. How can it not? It’s about a guy who wishes a Teddy bear to life, then lives with him, gets high with him and shares his slacker lifestyle.
But with Seth MacFarlane writing, directing and voicing the animated bear that is Ted, this thing is flat-out funny.
Well, unless you think politically incorrect and occasionally raunchy jokes are never funny.
But if you think a little of that can go a long way—and thankfully, MacFarlane doesn’t spread it on too thick—it can make for a mirth-filled movie experience.
It helps that Mark Wahlberg plays the man who wished Ted to life as a boy, and that Mila Kunis is the girl who is pushing him to move beyond his childhood and leave Ted behind.
Wahlberg is a strong actor who goes out on a limb to dance, sing badly and engage in a funny fight with the little bundle of stuffing and synthetic fur.
It also helps that the creator of “Family Guy” underpins the sometimes raunchy humor with a sweetness that makes it easier to embrace.
Another big plus—the way MacFarlane sprinkles in zings at questionable pop culture figures.
There are moments when it gets a little overwhelming and forced, like the car chase or the party gone wild or the focus on ’80s B-movie actor Sam Jones.
But those moments are usually followed by a joke that will make the audience explode with laughter.
Rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, and some drug use. 115 min. [MC, RA, RF]
“MOONRISE KINGDOM” (PG–13)
3 of 4 Stars
BRUCE WILLIS, EDWARD NORTON, BILL MURRAY, KARA HAYWARD, FRANCES McDORMAND
It’s hard to explain the comic approach of director Wes Anderson, especially in this sweet, highly calculated tale that finds humor by making characters who are offbeat and then some.
From a Khaki Scout leader who starts his day with a tour of his camp with a cigarette in his mouth to a mom who calls her kids with a bullhorn to an island sheriff who’s scared to ask people questions, it’s a world where nothing is quite right.
Luckily, the odd things are what make each new character endearing.
The sweetness comes from the tale at the heart of the film—two youngsters who don’t quite fit into the regular world seek each other out, and decide to run away and get married.
That’s not easy when you’re still a few years shy of 16, but they pull it off, with young Sam organizing all the equipment they need to camp and young Suzy bringing along a record player and extra batteries for entertainment as they meander across the island.
Their flight brings the story to life, inspiring a wonderfully unorthodox search party that includes Suzy’s odd parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand), the police chief (a nicely offbeat Bruce Willis) and the Scoutmaster (a hilariously quirky performance by Ed Norton). A slew of funny, comic young Scouts also get involved, and eventually struggle with the young couple in a way that entertains until the end.
The details and settings are where Anderson really shines, from Sam’s little pipe to the brightly painted and obviously fake canoes to Suzy’s overdone eye makeup. Everything adds to the silly visual swirl.
But by film’s end, you’re not looking down your nose at this odd cast of characters, you’re wondering where they’ll turn next.
It’s a Moonrise that won’t appeal to everyone, especially those who don’t enjoy the slightly offbeat.
But for those who do, it’s an act of nature you won’t want to miss.
Rated PG–13 for sexual content and smoking. 94 min. [RF]