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Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Before I get into how much of a letdown Spider Man 3 is, let's talk about the first two. Spider Man was a light, entertaining action film with likable characters that were fairly well developed. It was very well made, and though it had fantasy elements, it stayed grounded in reality. Spider Man 2 was even better. The characters were more fleshed out, the special effects and action scenes improved, and the writing was tremendous (probably thanks to Michael Chabon).
Then along came Spider Man 3 (no pun intended). This was the movie that I was most looking forward to this summer, and it was a huge letdown. There are numerous problems with the film: 1) Too many villains. While I'm sure many comic book fans (I'm not one of them) were enthused about the New Goblin, Venom, and Sandman being in the third film, it's just too much.
2) Too much fantasy. Like I mentioned before, the first two films had fantasy elements, but remained grounded in reality. But when Sandman becomes this enormous mass of sand (with tires and other debris thrown in) it just crosses the line and is, again, too much. In fact, too much could sum up the whole movie. It tries for so much and utterly fails.
3) Ridiculous plot elements. So a meteorite crashes, out comes this black goo, it latches onto Peter, and it makes him emo. Meteorite goo makes him emo. Does that make sense to anyone? 4) Lack of character development. Too much action (there we go again with "too much") and not enough character elements. Aunt May seemed to have a smaller part than usual, and the attempts by the writers to flesh out the new characters (like Sandman) just fall flat.
5) Plot holes. Why did the butler keep his mouth shut for so long? Why did Peter want Gwen to kiss him, when it is obvious it would make MJ jealous? Why didn't MJ tell Peter about the play? 6) It's not even fun to watch. The action gets tiring, and all the joy is sucked out.
Go see the movie as a continuation of the series, but go in with low expectations. If you're expecting a film on the level of Spider Man 2, you're going to be let down.
P.S. Bruce Campbell is the best thing about this film.
Agatha Christie's Poirot (1989)
Classy and classic
British mysteries don't get any better than this. Poirot is a wonderful series that shows the pure dedication of the cast and crew. Each episode has 1) a baffling mystery, 2) great performances from the cast, 3) gorgeous production values, and much more. David Suchet is the quintessential Poirot, hands down. He studied every single Poirot book or short story in minute detail, and gets every trait of Poirot's down perfectly. He even pays attention to how many sugar cubes Poirot puts in his tea (it's three, by the way). If that isn't dedication, I don't know what is.
The rest of the cast supports Suchet ably. Hugh Fraser as Captain Hastings, Philip Jackson as Inspector Japp, and Pauline Moran as Miss Lemon lend a sense of humor, comradery, and fun to the series. They are sorely missed in the most recent feature-length episodes, and I hope they will return. Speaking of, the newer episodes are slightly disappointing in that they stray from Agatha Christie's plots and lack the feel of the earlier episodes. But Suchet is superb as always, and they are entertaining mysteries in their own right.
You really owe it to yourself to watch this fantastic mystery series, even if you are not naturally drawn to that sort of thing. Believe me, you won't regret it.
Strong with the force is this one
It's true. "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" redeems the saga and justifies the very existence of the first two prequels. George Lucas has made, if not the best, then the most emotional "Star Wars" film of them all.
"Revenge of the Sith" opens with a sprawling space battle. Anakin and Obi-Wan navigate through the Battle of Coruscant to rescue the kidnapped Chancellor Palpatine, and eventually board the ship that he is being held captive on. When I first saw this scene, I didn't like it, thinking that R2-D2 has far more gadgets and functions than he does in the original trilogy (a plot inconsistency, that, alas, I am willing to forgive) and that it was too comical. But when I watched the film again, I realized that it is the perfect beginning: "Sith" is for the most part, extremely dark, so we needed at least a little light-hearted fun in the tradition of the original "Star Wars."
From there the film really takes off. Well, mostly. There are some cringe-inducing love scenes and terrible dialogue. However, these moments are mercifully few, and Christensen and all the other actors improve over their work in "Attack of the Clones."
But let's get back onto why this film is good, shall we? Well, the plot is much more believable than in "Menace" and "Clones". As I mentioned earlier, the acting is for the most part well done. Ian McDiarmid almost "steals the show." He does a great job slowly manipulating Anakin's mind and turning him to the dark side. The special effects dazzle, though unlike "Clones" the whole film is not centered around them.
I also found this the first film since "Return of the Jedi" where Lucas has been able to convey some emotion on the screen. I was extremely saddened when Palpatine tells the Clones to "Execute Order 66" and one by one the Jedi die. My heart ached when Anakin finally succumbed to the dark side. My bone was chilled when Anakin took his first breath as Vader and when Palpatine announces that the Republic will become The Empire.
But most of all, I was impressed by the conclusion to the Mustafar lighstaber duel. This film did a good job establishing the close friendship between Obi-Wan and Anakin. In the second film they are just master and apprentice, but in "Sith" their relationship has grown. And when Obi-Wan is forced to chop off all of Anakin's limbs except his mechanical arm I truly felt sorry. Obi-Wan declares that "we were like brothers" and that he loved Anakin. This is by far the most emotional part of the film.
All in all, "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" is a great conclusion to the "Star Wars" saga. I will definitely be buying this on DVD and adding it to my collection the first day it comes out.
Worth the wait
Death on the Nile, one of Agatha Christie's best Poirot stories, finally gets the David Suchet treatment. And contrary to what others say, it's been worth the wait.
The plot involves Jaqueline de Bellefort's fiancée, Simon Doyle . When he leaves her for the rich, beautiful Linnet Ridgeway, Jackie follows them around wherever they go. Soon, Linnet is murdered on board a boat while honeymooning in Egypt. But Jackie has an alibi. Leave it to Poirot to discover the truth.
The mood for this film is darker than many other episodes of the series, and that is a good thing for this story. The writing is terrific (especially Colonel Race's entrance), and the cast is wonderful (with the exception of Emily Blunt as Linnet Doyle.) It's also refreshing to not have Hastings, Japp, and Miss Lemon in the story, and let Poirot work with someone else (in this case, Colonel Race.) This episode also explores another aspect of Poirot: less the comical side, and more the serious side. You feel truly sorry for him when he mentions to Jackie "all that I have missed in life", referring to love.
Altogether, Death on the Nile has great writing, acting, and costume and set design. And it surpasses the 1978 Peter Ustinov version.