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PCR # 111 (Vol. 3, No. 19) This edition is for the week of May 6--12, 2002.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
Movie reviews by:
Nolan B. Canova
Michael A. Smith
Brandon Herring
Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars
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Columbia Pictures (with Marvel Entertainment and Sony Entertainment)    
Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Willem Dafoe, James Franco, J.K. Simmons, Rosemary Harris, Cliff Robertson, Ted Raimi, cameos by Stan Lee and Bruce Campbell
Directed by: Sam Raimi
Written by: Stan Lee and Steve Ditko (comic creators), David Koepp (screenplay)
Rated: PG-13 for "stylized" violence and action
Running Time: approximately 2 hours

three and a half stars

The voice-over narration starts something like, "This is the story about a girl.....as so many are, eh?" It's actually the story about a nerdy high-school boy and the girl next door he's in love with...but with those words, which echo those written forty years ago by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko of Marvel Comics, our story opens. The nerdy high-school kid is our hero Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) and the object of his affection Mary Jane Watson, or "MJ" (Kirsten Dunst).

Peter lives with his Aunt May (the perfectly cast Rosemary Harris) and Uncle Ben Parker (ditto Cliff Robertson). It is never explained what happened to Peter's parents.

While his science acumen is not challenged by anyone, he is still the object of bullying and disdain at school (audience identification number one). Mary Jane Watson is an unapproachable beauty who is sweet to Peter, but not necessarily sweet on Peter.

A class field trip brings all parties to some kind of spider exhibit in a museum. There, best friend Harry Osborn (James Franco) makes some subtle moves toward MJ as Peter watches, helpless to initiate any moves on his own. When he finally gets MJ alone he asks her to pose for some pictures near an exhibit. While snapping some pictures, one of the experimental spiders that had gotten loose minutes ago drops onto Peter's hand and--WOMP--bites him good and hard. This was no ordinary spider, however.

Peter begins a metamorphisis into a kind of super-athlete. His body exhibits characteristics of a spider/human hybrid including the ability to climb walls. His confidence begins to soar. He gets the notion to be famous with a little arrogance to go with it. Unfortunately, this change brings about an inadvertant catastrophe when he loses Uncle Ben.

Harry's father Norman (Willem Dafoe) is a science inventor himself with ties to the government. In some sort of mad-lab experiment gone haywire, a super-suit transforms Norman into the Green Goblin (schizophrenic personality included) with a massive power-mad chip on his shoulder. Of course, there's only one man who can stop him.

The casting in this movie is exemplary. The story sticks so close to the comic, they're practically the same experience, which is the highest compliment I can give it. J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson is particularly dead on. (He's the editor/publisher of The Bugle, where Parker gets a job as a photog.) Rosemay Harris as Aunt May couldn't be any closer. Sam Raimi's brother Ted appears in the Bugle's office as a clerk. Stan Lee appears briefly during a chaotic street scene.

Minuses? A few. To my eyes James Franco's Harry Osborne looks too much like Christian Heydensen's Anakin Skywalker. I half-expected him to whip out a light sabre at any moment. The Green Goblin's cartoony costume, long the target of derision by fans, did not improve much during the flick, despite being inhabited by Willem Dafoe. I certainly didn't mind the subtle alterations the production staff took with the Spider-suit. However, in this version, his webshooting is caused biologically instead of with the mechanical web-shooters he invented in the comics. I know many fans didn't agree with this change, but it made sense in the movie.

My biggest beef is the CGI effects in too many cases went WAAAY over the top with the characters exhibiting quick-motion cartooniness. Raimi is a huge fan of Tex Avery cartoons and The Three Stooges---and it shows here. Towards the end, the CGI-Spidey did improve. Danny Elfman's music track was great (if a little over the top), but the soundtrack itself was infested with inserted rap music at the weirdest times. Whose idea was that?

Despite those few protests, I do recommend "Spider-Man" with 3½ out of 4 stars.

three stars

After almost a steady year of hype, your friendly neighborhood web-slinger has finally arrived on the big screen...............and it is a welcome arrival indeed. I can recall discussing the possible casting of the title character in this very mag and lobbying for "American Beauty" star Wes Bentley. I felt that he would personify Spider-Man better then the other rumored actor, Maguire. But in watching this film, I realize that my conception of Spider-Man was not the same as long time fan and director Sam Raimi. Where I pictured him as some kind of "tough guy" (let me state here that I very rarely read comic books and "Spider-Man" even rarer then that), it's obvious now that Spidey is just a cooler version of Peter Parker, and the casting of Tobey Maguire now seems like a no brainer.

The story pretty much faithfully covers the origin of the character: boy nerd Parker, hiding a secret crush for the literal "girl next door" Mary Jane Watson, is bitten by a genetically altered spider, gaining the spider's abilities of crawling on walls and spinning webs. My one major complaint was that his webbing is his own............shooting out of his arms like some kind of arachnid stigmata. Why they did not follow the original story and have Parker invent his web shooters (I mean, it's been established that this kid is a scientific wiz.........did they think we wouldn't believe he could come up with them?) Following a family tragedy that he blames himself for, Peter begins his career as a crime fighter. Peter's best friend is rich kid Harry Osborn, who's father is a well known scientist. Mr. Osborn takes immediately to Peter, much to Harry's chagrin. When his government contract is put in jeopardy due to a delay in his latest invention, Osborn takes it upon himself to be the guinea pig and injects himself with the questionable substance. Bad idea. Soon, Osborn is terrorizing the town in the guise of "Green Goblin." What follows is a great mix of action, romance and special effects that are no less then amazing. If I have one complaint, it is the costume of the Goblin. I found the fact that the mask was nothing more then a plastic helmet to be a waste of Willem Dafoe's talents. Dafoe has one of the most unusual faces in Hollywood. Every role he inhibits, from Sgt. Elias in "Platoon," to Jesus Christ in "The Last Temptation of Christ" to his most recent role, Max Schreck in "Shadow of the Vampire" has gained greatly from the expressions he is able to produce. The casting of this film is the best I've seen in a "comicbook film" since 1978's "Superman the Movie." Special recognition must be given to "OZ" bad guy J.K. Simmons, who is appropriately blustery as Daily Bugle editor J.J. Jameson.

With an ending that almost screams sequel, plus an incredible 3-day take of $114 million to ensure it, we can look forward to more adventures in the future.

I give "Spider-man" 3 out of 4 stars. I highly recommend it.

three stars

At first I was very skeptical about watching this movie. Comic-book adaptations of films have been pretty good since they first started making movies out of them. Sometimes one will come along and not be good, but then another opens and we forget about it. When I first saw the trailers for 'Spider-Man' I was quite excited about seeing this film. Since I am a big fan of Sam Raimi (with the "Evil Dead" series) I figured it could not be a bad movie. Well, now 'Spider-Man' is here and believe me...you will not be disappointed.

If you do not know the story of 'Spider-Man', I will give you a brief description. Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is a young man, in High School, close to graduating. Even since before he liked girls (as he describes in the movie) he has been in love with Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), a beautiful red-headed girl who lives next door to his house. Peter lives a normal teenager's life, he is quiet, smart, sophisticated and lives with his Aunt and Uncle. On a field trip to a museum, Peter shows interest in some genetically-altered spiders after finding out what they can do. While the tour guide says there should be 15, Mary Jane notices there are only 14 left. Where has the other one gone? Well, coincidentally enough, the spider has made his way down to Peter Parker's hand, bites him and injects him with some kind of weird substance.

The next day, Peter finds he has new strengths. His body has filled out, his vision repaired and he can climb walls, and shoot web out of his inner wrist. As the film goes on, we find out that the father of a friend of Peter's has become genetically altered as well, following a freak accident. He becomes the fearless Green Goblin who swears to wreak havoc on the town of New York City. As if things could not get any worse, Peter's uncle has been killed, and as Peter becomes angrier he swears to avenge his uncle's death by becoming Spider-Man.

Surprisingly enough, "Spider-Man" has a very complex plot that dwells not just on the story but the background of the characters as well. We are introduced to our three main characters and shown who they are throughout the movie. In the script written by David Koepp (Stir of Echoes) we are given extensive background information on what to think of these characters. As for the dialogue itself, at times it seems very cheesy and comic-book-like, but in a good way. The characters all seem to carry a good head on their shoulders and as far as I can remember, I did not get tired of any of them.

As for the direction, well let's just say Sam Raimi has done it again. That's right folks, Sam Raimi hits another homerun. What makes the movie so good, is the fact that Sam Raimi includes so many homages to his older movies and with the action sequences that do not seem staged. What really got me the most in the film was some of the slower talky scenes between Mary Jane and Peter. At times it just seemed to keep going, and going and going; like it was never going to stop. Then another action sequence popped up and all was forgiven.

So the question that runs through everyone's mind is: Is Tobey Maguire a good Spider-Man? My answer to that is...he's OK. Tobey Maguire is, indeed, a good actor, but in my mind he just does not fit the Spider-Man persona. Not to be blunt, but he was kind of a sissy throughout the film and just did not seem as strong as the Spider-Man I remember from the cartoons and comic books. In the part of the love interest, Kirsten Dunst shows she is once again a great actress, turning in a great performance in the best she can. She is not only stunningly beautiful in her role but in many ways she fits the persona of Mary Jane. And last, but not least, is my favorite performance of the film. The Green Goblin (played by Willem Dafoe) is the best character in the film. His suit is so neat and his dialogue so corny that one cannot help but just love this part.

In the end, "Spider-Man" disappoints on some levels, it didn't seem to have the full-on oomph I was hoping for and some scenes seemed to drag on. At a running time of 2 hours and 5 minutes, "Spider-Man" is a perfect fit.

review by Brandon Herring
one half star

New Line Cinema    
Kane Hodder, Lexa Doig, Lisa Ryder,Todd Farmer, Jonathan Potts, Peter Mensah, and a special cameo by David Cronenberg
Directed by: James Isaac
Written by: Todd Farmer, Victor Miller
Rated: R for strong language, violence (duh), and some sexuality
Running Time: 93 mins

To start out I have never really been a HUGE fan of the "Friday the 13th series." These movies just seemed like complete rip-offs of other movies that came out several years before, that when I finally watched them, I was like "eh." Anyway, even with the not-much-love I have for the series, they all are enjoyable on their own levels. What is really sad, is that what most people consider the worst, which is Friday the 13th, is the one I consider the best.

So now it comes to the 10th entry of the series "Jason X." This is where you know that things have gone too far after trying to kill Jason nine different times, they resurrect him again from hell (yes resurrect him from hell) and cryogenically freeze him for over 400 years. After a woman, who gets in a fight with Jason and dies, gets frozen as well, a team of young students find both their bodies and bring them on board their ship. Well now, what is going to happen? Of course, Jason's body thaws and he slices and dices his way through these ambitious students.

Because Jason is trying to get them, the people must try to fight for their lives and hilarity results. When penning the script, I was hoping that writer Todd Farmer (his writing debut) was not sober, and was influences by some kind of hallucinigenic. The dialogue is so funny, so cheesy and so corny that you cannot help but laugh. For example, there is one scene where a man is impaled by a giant corkscrew type thing and when another finds him she tells her captain "He's screwed." What more could one want?

As for the movie itself, around an hour into it I was thinking to myself "Can a movie get this bad?" The answer to that question is yes, it can. But "Jason X" is not one of those movies that are so bad it's good, it's one of those movies that are so bad it's, well, bad. See it with caution and hope you don't have to pay a full admission price.

This week's movie reviews of "Spider-Man" are ©2002 by Mike Smith, Nolan B. Canova, and Brandon Herring. This week's movie review of "Jason X" is ©2002 by Brandon Herring. All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2002, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2002 by Nolan B. Canova.