The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has got a lot to live up to. For starters, it follows Sam Raimi's Spider-Man franchise, which only really ran out of web in Spider-Man 3. Second, it's a sequel following a strong series reboot. Thirdly, the title The Amazing Spider-Man 2 puts a bit of pressure to keep it well, amazing. More to the point, it's hitting the big screen in an age where only the best superhero blockbusters rule the box office.
Marc Webb did a fantastic job of reinventing Spider-Man, despite having Tobey Maguire still firmly planted in our collective psyche. Turning to a fresh villain in The Lizard forThe Amazing Spider-Man made it a reboot that functioned like an unofficial sequel. We got to relive the novelty of meeting Peter Parker meeting his alter-ego and all the comedy that went with it.
The sequel has a much tougher job. Spider-Man now realises he's "that Spider guy", he's grown accustomed to his neighbourhood duties and the city are used to his web-slinging vigilante heroics. It's routine to see the skintight red-and-blue guy tying up New York's criminals just in time for the city's red-and-blue light brigade to take over. So how do you keep things fresh?
As with most sequels, going bigger and deeper seems to be the only answer. Marc Webb re-introduces Peter Parker's parents and their tragic ending to frame the story. This one is all about Parker confronting his fear of loss - his parents, his Uncle... he's haunted by the past and struggling to invest in his on-and-off relationship with Gwen Stacy. At the same time, he's working overtime as saviour of the city people, protecting the public, who seem to have become naive spectators to "The Spidey Show".
Webb drills down into the emotion of Peter's budding romance with Gwen. Parker's trying to sever ties with her, afraid to get close, yet finding it difficult to stay away. It's an uncomfortable gray area for the relationship, keeping it taut as they find the magnetic pull drawing them together more often than pushing them apart. The focus is so strong, it sometimes feels as though the superheroes and villains are just padding for a next generation Nicolas Sparks romance.
The languishing romantic overtures take away from the fast-forward/slow-mo superhero actioner desperately trying to be taken seriously. Spider-Man gets a chance to be Spidey, but for all intents and purposes Peter and Spidey may as well be in their own movies. Spidey's taking hits from a celebrity-obsessed fan (who becomes Electro) and rekindling an uneasy friendship with new-rich-kid-on-the-block, Harry Obsorn. While Peter's doing all the sweet-talking, "Spider-who?" and playing the "it's complicated" card.
"Unlike you, my mother encouraged me to play with electricity."
On paper, the cast is impressive. Andrew Garfield is more human than Tobey Maguire, Jamie Foxx has the potential for greatness, young Dane DeHaan stole the show in the dark found footage superhero thriller Chronicle, Paul Giamatti is always a welcome addition to any movie and Emma Stone's got that twinkle in her eye that makes her gravelly voice and pixie charms on-screen dynamite.
Andrew Garfield is still a great Spider-Man, blending his very human and likable Parker with the funny, fun-lovin', no sweat attitude of Spidey. Jamie Foxx is a good comic book actor, adding his presence to a difficult and problematic CGI-intensive role as Electro. Dane DeHaan comes across like an evil version of a young Leonardo DiCaprio. He suits the role more than James Franco did, but doesn't have the same intensity as he did in Chronicle. Paul Giamatti's over-the-top Russian role is comical and deserves further exploration, and Emma Stone, is well... a blonde Emma Stone.
Each of these characters is dying to tell their story and with so many different platforms in the mix, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, seems to be driving from the backseat. We're trying to connect with the "high school" romance, intermittently being wowed by the video game action and then finding everyone wants a piece: Spidey's elastic costume can only stretch so far.
We accommodate the static moments that border on the superhero soap opera of Smallville. The variety of larger-than-life characters, the swirling blend of villain origin stories and the sometimes exhilarating action sequences smooth over the Twilight hemming-and-hawing between Peter and Gwen. While the overriding production values and superhero elements give The Amazing Spider-Man 2 enough entertainment value to keep us locked in.
Unfortunately, you can't help but feel a creeping disappointment. Electro isn't a strong villain. He's erratic, unhinged and just looking for attention. Worse still, the rules governing his power aren't laid out, making his wardrobe changes and movement even more perplexing than The Hulk's stretchy pants. Jamie Foxx is a nice psycho and while the inner voices certainly help, he lacks motivation and is about as intimidating as the Duracell bunny.
All in all, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 isn't all that amazing. It's an over-inflated superhero sequel that's trying to snareTwilight audiences, whilst retaining its traditional fan base. The film has many positive qualities and is street smart enough to keep this sequel thrill ride enjoyable and entertaining, but in trying to be everything to everyone, it fumbles and doesn't continue the same trajectory as its solid predecessor.
Brandon Auret is a South African actor, who is quickly becoming a household name thanks to a series of supporting roles in Neill Blomkamp's Elysium, District 9 and Chappie, a film scheduled for 2015. Auret started taking drama classes at the age of 9 and has always wanted to be a film actor since he can remember. Before he started his feature film career with Catch a Fire, he played a number of roles on television including a long-running starring role as Leon du Plessis on the TV series, Isidingo.
When Brandon made the switch from TV to film, he did everything in his power to ensure he was available to focus on film. After playing a small role in Catch a Fire, he landed the part of Hansie Cronje's brother Frans in the Hansie biopic. Auret's burgeoning filmography continued to grow on the back of his international breakthrough in District 9 and a starring role in Night Drive, which enabled him to rack up over 14 feature films over a six year period.
More recently, Auret starred in iNumber Number, a South African crime drama directed by Donovan Marsh and featuring Presley Chweneyagae (Tstotsi) and Brendon Daniels (Four Corners). The film opens in South Africa shortly and has already been optioned for a remake by a major Hollywood studio. The rising star has continued his trajectory with parts in home invasion thriller Tiger House and the sci-fi thriller, Outpost 37. With so much passion, flair and tenacity for the craft, Auret's living his dream. We managed to find out, which movies have inspired him and made his Top Ten over the years.
"I still want to be a Jedi."
I can't watch movies without...
- Popcorn, smarties and a cherry slush puppy.
Which famous people share your birthday?
- Louis Pasteur, Masi Oka, Marlene Dietrich and Gérard Depardieu. (27 December)
What is the first film you remember watching?
- Star Wars: Return of the Jedi - it's what made me want to become an actor.
What's the worst movie you've ever seen?
- Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, it's one of those movies that people tell you you've got to watch because it's so bad.
Which movies have made you tearful?
- I cried in The Notebook like a little b*tch. Also any movie with Justin Timberlake in it makes me cry.
Who is the most famous movie star you've ever met?
- I don't know who's more famous. I met Tim Robbins on set of Catch a Fire, the first feature I ever did. Then, I worked closely with Matt Damon and Jodie Foster on Elysium.
What's your favourite movie line?
- "They drew first blood, not me." ~ Rambo: First Blood
Who would you choose to play you in your biopic?
- Robert Downey Jnr. Right?
If you could produce a movie, what would it be about?
- My company, A Breed Apart Pictures is busy producing two films at the moment. One is a war story called, Making a Killing and the other is a thriller called, The Shadow Boxer which we start filming in 2014.
Finally, your top ten movies of all-time...
- Star Wars: Return of the Jedi ...as I said, it's the movie that made me want to act and I still want to be a Jedi.
- Platoon ...best war movie ever made.
- Rambo: First Blood ...I was obsessed with Vietnam as a kid and this was just a kick-ass movie. The score is just perfect.
- Full Metal Jacket ...it's one of the most epic movies ever shot. Also the camera work and characters in the movie are amazing.
- Scent of a Woman ...Pacino at his very best.
- District 9 ...it's pure genius, loved this movie.
- Night Drive ...still one of the best horror movies to come from South Africa. Directed by one of my favorites, Justin Head.
- The Mask ...it's my feel good movie. When I'm down that's what I watch.
- The Count of Monte Cristo ...best revenge movie with some of the greatest characters I've ever watched.
- Elysium ...I get to kick Matt Damon's ass in this movie.
Top Ten Movies with... is a people series on SPL!NG, featuring a host of celebrities ranging from up-and-coming to established personalities from all industries including, but not limited to: Internet, Radio, TV, Film, Music, Art and Entrepreneurs. It's a chance to discover who they are, find out where they're at and to get a fun inside look at their taste in movies.
It's funny how some movie titles seem to become self-fulfilling prophecies, allowing their overriding meaning to seep into the film. On the surface, Sabotage is a dark, trashy and intense Arnold Schwarzenegger action thriller with a couple of name stars thrown in for good measure. However, as it builds to a crescendo, it seems as though it's actually working to sabotage itself.
The story follows a special DEA operations task team, who penetrate a drug cartel's lair to steal and split $10 million. When the money goes missing, the authorities start to clamp down on "Breacher" (Schwarzenegger) and his team begin to crack as the circle of trust gets smaller as each member gets picked off.
Sabotage is like a trashier version of SWAT. The tactical team isn't as clean-cut, acting like a band of surly pirates in all their skull tattoo and army regalia. Their crass sense of humour, constant cursing, blood lust and devil-may-care attitude makes them seem like bad guys, but they're killing for the good guys in a similar vent to Elite Squad.
Sabotage has also been influence by End of Watch, which is not surprising since both films come from the mind of David Ayer, the same writer-director, who wrote Training Day. The grisly kills, blood-splattered action set pieces and loose, experimental camerawork hint at this, but the team chemistry isn't as convincing.
"I used to watch The A-Team... a lot."
The Ten Little Indians style mystery propels this clunky actioner, unfortunately the only real sabotage that's happening is self-sabotage. Just as Ayer reels us in for what has to be an interesting outcome, the cards all get dumped on the table and the film devolves into one character's obscured agenda, which could have been a more interesting perspective to start with.
Then it seems unsure how to end... opting to transplant the story into an almost entirely new scenario. Along the way, this trashy action mystery thriller holds suspense, but drifts into stagnant waters as it tries to make some awkward gear shifts. Having names like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sam Worthington, Terrence Howard, Mireille Enos and Olivia Williams adds considerable weight to the film, yet they don't seem to add up to the sum of their muscle.
Schwarzenegger's more serious than usual and doesn't have that much of his typical wink-wink magic going on. Sam Worthington and his facial hair works surprisingly well in this film, although he seems underplayed. Terrence Howard seems to be out-of-place and throws in a by-the-way token performance. Ironically, the real machismo and tenacity comes from Mireille Enos as the no make up bad-ass of the team and Olivia Williams as a no-frills, married-to-the-job detective.
Sabotage isn't a terrible film - it's laden with great ideas, some serious star power, a compelling bent copper story and is purposefully trashy. The genre mash-up makes for compelling viewing and there's enough dumb fun in the way of dopamine-inducing gore, violence and derogatory humour to appeal to our base instincts. It starts with promise, but the process just doesn't amount to much, making for a disappointing ending.
Rodriguez was and is a household name in South Africa, a performer whose enigmatic persona brought with it a collection of music to rival the likes of Bob Dylan. The man’s disappearing act became something of a legend, until two intrepid South Africans decided to find what became of “Sugarman”.
This documentary is part mystery, part fairy tale and flows like a detective story. Rodriguez’s hauntingly beautiful music lights the way as we learn how one man’s musical talent inspired a nation yet somehow failed to pay the bills. It’s inspiring; it’s deeply moving and will sink into your bones.
It will change the way you support artists.
God Grew Tired of Us
In 1987, 27,000 boys fled from Sudan to Ethiopia on foot, after their Muslim government pronounced death to all males in the Christian South. Of these, 12,000 survived to find themselves in a U.N. camp in Kakuma, Kenya in 1991. God Grew Tired of Us documents the journey of three ‘Lost Boys’, who are repatriated to the United States.
From their humble integration, we discover refreshing innocence as the young men take their first flight out of Africa and try to acclimatize to Western culture. From a seemingly desperate situation, we learn that modern society presents its own equally detrimental challenges.
It will change the way you view modern society.
This documentary deals with corporate America’s control over the food industry and explains how international agribusinesses are trying to monopolise food production. The world’s food chain is subsidised by and relies heavily on cheap corn. We eat corn in many forms, it’s a primary source of food for animals and as such, many companies are trying to figure out how to manufacture it more efficiently.
Food, Inc. gives us an eye-opening and unflattering behind-the-scenes on America’s food industry, from patenting genetically engineered seed, and corrupt government officials, to the severe effects this over-reliance on corn has on our health and environment.
It will change your perspective on food.
Exit through the Gift Shop
Banksy is a street artist turned global phenomenon. In his documentary, Exit through the Gift Shop, we discover how the eccentric Thierry Guetta, a former shop keeper and amateur film-maker, tried to locate and befriend the infamous Banksy, before inadvertently becoming the subject of the film.
This funny, thought-provoking documentary gives us an inside look at Invader, Shepard Fairey and Banksy in action. It embodies the cheekiness of its central character, a Frenchman whose underground graffiti quest turned him into Mr. Brainwash. It’s got an Andy Warhol temperament - challenging, subversive and pushing the bounds of what constitutes art and fame.
It will change the way you think about originality, ownership and passion.
Following The Cove’s harrowing revelation in Taijii, Blackfish seeks to expose a chain of marine theme parks. Tilikum is SeaWorld’s notorious Orca bull that killed three people, while in captivity. Blackfish builds a case against keeping creatures in captivity for human entertainment, arguing its point through shocking footage and a series of emotional interviews.
While truly horrific, Blackfish is an important documentary from writer, director and producer, Gabriela Cowperthwaite. She spends some time showing just how emotional and intelligent Orcas are, demonstrating the sometimes devastating effects of keeping them in captivity, and exposing SeaWorld’s desperate attempts to cover this up.
It will change your views on entertainment involving animal captivity.
This article originally featured in the April 2014 edition of TechSmart magazine.