Tuesday, 29 May 2012

'Moonrise Kingdom' review:

The story of two young and "mentally disturbed" lovers who run away from home during the summer of 1965, 'Moonrise Kingdom' packs all the wit and whimsy of director Wes Anderson's other work whilst also feeling entirely fresh. Everything is in keeping with his very deliberate and composed signature style, but some of it's been tilted slightly, adjusted just enough to let some air into the room. It's the same elaborate, four-poster bed you've enjoyed sleeping in several times up to now, but he's changed the sheets (or something metaphorical like that). The cinematography here, though still by long-serving Robert Yeoman, has a washed-out, almost instagram look, though each frame still bursts with bright colours and retains that children's book illustration look.

Music also plays a slightly different role here, moving away from chic 60s/70s alt-rock tunes and towards a unifying theme which subtly likens the ensemble cast to sections of an orchestra. Though regular composer Mark Mothersbaugh and music supervisor Randall Poster are still involved, Alexandre Desplat takes on main scoring duties following his work on the animated 'Fantastic Mr. Fox'. It's also perhaps his least dialogue driven of his films to date - the screenplay once again co-written with Roman Coppola still full of memorable lines, but with the storytelling often completely visual. At no point more so than at the film's emotionally charged climax, where the shot choices and movement of the camera are sublime.

The cast too has been shaken up very slightly. Though Bill Murray (in every film since 'Rushmore') and Jason Schwartzman are still on hand in small supporting parts, this is the first Wes Anderson movie not to involve at least one Wilson brother. As a sweet-natured scout master with a note of sadness behind the eyes, Ed Norton ably takes on the role which might otherwise have gone to Anderson's former writing partner Owen Wilson. The best of the new additions to Team Anderson is undoubtedly Bruce Willis, who underplays his role wonderfully, though Bob Balaban is also very funny as a sort of meteorologist-cartographer-narrator. These changes are signposted even before you get passed the credits by the very deliberate change in font from his beloved futura to something yellow, squiggly and italicised.

All the same preoccupations and stylistic flourishes are present though, from that one moment of expertly timed slow-mo to the tale of a dysfunctional family, populated by wounded and disappointed people struggling to connect. At times the young runaways - Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward) - and their armed boy scout pursuers could be mistaken for members of the Max Fischer Players, mounting an ambitious production of 'The African Queen' by way of Lord of the Flies, as the film riffs on a 12 year-old version of pampered rich girl meets man of the earth on romantic wilderness adventure. Like all of Anderson's films to date it's earnestly kind without ever coming close to twee, and nostalgic without seeming kitsch or staid. There are moments of heart-breaking melancholy and times where the humour verges on black, but it's primarily an innocent and joyful experience.

Though I personally loved 'The Life Aquatic' and 'Darjeeling Limited', those films seemed to represent Anderson's movies becoming bigger and, to some extent, less tightly focused. The star-studded ensemble is no less eclectic here but 'Moonrise Kindom' instead feels stripped back somewhere closer to the simplicity and economy of 'Rushmore'. It's a change that's kept the director's formula from wearing thin, coming at the right moment. It's a film that makes Wes Anderson exciting again, as opposed to the master of an increasingly predictable framework (however lovely). I used to say that 'Bottle Rocket' was my favourite but conceded that 'The Royal Tenenbaums' was Anderson's most mature and accomplished film. 'Moonrise Kingdom' calls into question both ends of that statement.

'Moonrise Kingdom' is out now in the UK, rated '12A' by the BBFC.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Splendor Cinema Podcast #98: Nanni Moretti

Jon and I haven't posted a "Pantheon" podcast for a little while, but we've timed the latest one - on Italian director Nanni Moretti - quite nicely. After all, Moretti was president of the jury in Cannes this year, where he just helped award the Palme d'Or to Michael Haneke's 'Amour'. The comedy director's most recent film 'We Have A Pope' played in competition at last year's festival, but Moretti won the top prize himself in 2001 with his uncharacteristically straight drama 'The Son's Room'. Another of his films which found an audience outside of Italy was 2006's 'The Caiman' - a look at the scandal-filled political career of Silvio Berlusconi.

Those three are varying degrees of brilliant, and probably represent his most polished work to date, but my personal favourites are his two most nakedly auto-biographical: 1993's joyously whimsical 'Caro diario' and 1998's tender and ambitious 'Aprile' (also to some extent about Berlusconi). Both are episodic and very light for the most part, but seem to best represent what Moretti is all about; He plays himself in both films, ever the self-aware, cinema-obsessed, germaphobic, left-wing intellectual, though less twitchy than Woody Allen.

On the podcast we gloss over some of his earlier films, of the late-70s and 80s. In the case of the former that's down to the fact that they're (for me at least) incredibly difficult, requiring a degree of very specific contemporary Italian cultural knowledge to get the jokes and the political jibes. There are still some very funny moments but the dialogue is very quick and super-intellectual, which doesn't lend itself particularly well to sub-titled viewing. I think the relative calm of his more laid-back and urbane later stuff might be a key reason why it works better for me. In the case of his middle period - the 1980s - those are the only of his films I haven't yet managed to see. Though that's certainly something I'm going to remedy.

In any case, the Moretti Pantheon is available now to iTunes subscribers and can also be streamed in an embedded media player here.

The Pantheon series sees us look back at the entire career (or as much of it as we can get through) of a great auteur and assess the relative merits of their work, stating our favourites. Along the way we point out key themes and preoccupations of that filmmaker and try to give some sort of context as we take a chronological walk through filmography.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

'Red Tails' and 'Iron Sky' reviews:

Two kitsch, CGI-filled action films about African American heroes biffing Nazis are hitting UK cinemas today. Receiving a limited release is the Finnish comedy 'Iron Sky' - which sees a black US astronaut battle against the combined forces of Sarah Palin (in all but name) and space Nazis from the dark side of the moon. It's very, very silly indeed and a lot of the jokes fall flat - but there are a lot of jokes, so many of them do find the target. It's best described as Mel Brooks meets Dr. Strangelove... in space! I reviewed that one for What Culture when it played at this year's Berlin Film Festival and you can read about it here.

'Iron Sky' is released today in the UK and is rated '15' by the BBFC.

The second is far more earnest and, as a result, far more boring despite its good intentions: the George Lucas produced WWII flier movie 'Red Tails'. That film receives its UK premiere today before a wide release on June 6th. Based on the true story of the Tuskegee Airmen - a pioneering, ace squadron comprised of black fighter pilots - the action scenes are spectacular but the human drama is simplistic and uninspiring. It's a pity because this story clearly means a lot to Lucas and the real-life events do sound genuinely fascinating. You can read my review on What Culture, as published here.

'Red Tails' is released on June 6th and is rated '12A' by the BBFC.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

'Jeff, Who Lives at Home' review:

Following their broad mainstream ascent from indie "mumblecore" roots with the comedy 'Cyrus', the brothers Duplass taken another swing at Hollywood acceptance with 'Jeff, Who Lives at Home'. Though this time the comedy is less broad and much more slight, bordering on absent altogether. In fact it's difficult to decide whether 'Jeff' is an unfunny failure of a comedy or simply an unsatisfying attempt at nuanced character study. It's watchable, even if the co-directors insist on a determinedly lo-fi, shaky cam aesthetic with the camera zooming in and out of every shot, but that's mainly due the presence of some appealing performers in Jason Segel, Susan Sarandon and the underused Judy Greer.

The story concerns the titular Jeff (adorable, doe-eyed manchild Segel) who lives in his mother's basement at the age of 30. He's a jobless stoner who desperately wants to believe in "signs" and "destiny" but who has no clear path or lofty aspirations. He spends his days frustrating his mother by failing to perform the modest domestic tasks he is given. Meanwhile Jeff's unconscionable prick of a brother, Pat (Ed Helms), is - at least in the traditional sense - the successful one: he has a new sports car, a beautiful wife and a high-paying job. However things aren't right with his marriage to Linda (Greer), and he suspects her of having an affair. Their mother Sharon (Sarandon) feels unable to connect with either of her sons and is deeply isolated and unhappy, spending her days in a small office cubicle and her nights alone. The plot takes place over one day as all their lives intersect and Jeff discovers his destiny, re-connecting with his brother along the way.

Segel is a wonderful actor and owns the film's half-dozen funny moments, most of which are born from delivery rather than anything inherently funny in the dialogue. He is also the film's heart, creating a likable if pitiable loner - a naive but good-natured man with infinite sadness just behind the eyes. His story - a man in search of a place or purpose, for whom life has not lived up to youthful expectation - is immensely relatable, though the resolution of his arc is a deeply disappointing cop-out, with his destiny hackneyed and overblown. His situation is grounded but the climax is contrived claptrap. Sarandon's arc suffers from a similar third-act departure into movieland: enjoyable and sweet for the most part, but resolved with a cringing display of unfettered whimsy.

'Jeff, Who Lives at Home' is out now in the UK, rated '15' by the BBFC.

Trailer: Paul Thomas Anderson's 'The Master'

It's been five long years since Paul Thomas Anderson released 'There Will Be Blood', but now his long-awaited follow-up 'The Master' finally has a trailer. Fans of Anderson will immediately recognise his use of oppressive and rhythmic music which creates tension and discomfort, as best exemplified in this clip from one of my favourite all-time movies. It's also great to see the return of Jaoquin Phoenix in his first film since 2010's mockumentary 'I'm Still Here' - a film that took about four years out of his career all told. He looks great here in another wholly transformative role. What's really impressive about this trailer is that it's immediately involving. That the film looks this good before we've even seen Phoenix's co-star Phillip Seymour Hoffman is something to be very excited about!

'The Master' about a religious cult led by Hoffman, thought to be based on Scientology. It was thought cancelled a year or so ago but has reemerged and now looks set to be released in prestige season - so expect to see it December/January time.

Monday, 21 May 2012

'The Dictator' review:

'Borat' was hilarious. A much weaker follow-up, 'Bruno' still had its moments. But 'The Dictator' - the latest comedy character creation from Sacha Baron Cohen - is just dreadful from start to finish, lacking atmosphere, laughs and heart. The story concerns a North African despot who is forced to go to an emergency UN summit in New York or face war over his pursuit of weapons grade uranium. However, Admiral General Aladeen is betrayed by his scheming uncle (Ben Kingsley more or less reprising his thankless role from 'Prince of Persia') and replaced by a simple goat herder with an uncanny resemblance. He then finds himself lost in the Big Apple, plotting to sneak back into the summit in order to unmask his betrayers and take back the fictional nation of Wadiya - a plan which involves ingratiating himself with Anna Faris, the manager of a small ethical produce store improbably tasked with catering the big event.

Baron Cohen's shtick has long been divisive, since the earliest days of iconic street wigga Ali G on British television critics have been split over whether he's a genius satirist or merely a man without shame, determined to say whatever offensive thing he could in order to get a cheap laugh. I have never been in that latter camp, believing even his most extreme comic bits came from a good place, with a social conscience that enabled him to lampoon bigotry rather than simply being a bigot. For instance, the palpable respect and uncharacteristic solemnity Ali G reserved for legendary Labour MP Tony Benn during one of his comedy interviews seemed to support the belief that Baron Cohen's integrity ran deeper than the pursuit of easy giggles.

Yet the target of the satire in 'The Dictator' is hard to locate and the level of wantonly offensive humour seems unjustified as a result. I feel like an arch and humourless Daily Mail reader writing that, but (and call me a busybody, PC square) I don't get what's funny about Aladeen playing a fictional 1972 Olympics massacre video game on the Nintendo Wii, mimicking the slaying of Israeli athletes. I don't get what's supposed to be funny about a dialogue exchange in which Aladeen talks about his sexual abuse of 14 year-old boys.

I'm not offended, even if (crucially) I don't find moments like these particularly funny, imaginative or inspired - my monocle hasn't fallen into my champagne flute in disgust that he dare joke about such things - but what does trouble me is that there doesn't seem to be any intellect or conscience behind his comedy at this point. He's just a man shouting "AIDs", "look, a black man!", "look, a gay!". He's becoming the unthinking school bully or the boorish workplace loudmouth, only with a budget of millions and a great deal of acting talent. He seems locked in a battle of one-upmanship with himself, in which he now feels the need to top each "shocking" and "taboo-defying" moment with another of increased savageness.

What is the point of 'The Dictator'? Is he perhaps standing up and saying "dictators do/say/think some pretty bad things don't they?!" If this is his point then I'd question whether it's really the work of a brave and near-the-knuckle comedy pioneer to satirise the world's most loathed dictators for the exclusive benefit of pre-existing enemies. Too often Baron Cohen seems content to indulge in broad racial stereotyping, such as when he arrives in America riding a camel. Jokes like these used to be defensible as sending up our expectations and prejudices, but here it just seems to be another throwaway idea and not a particularly original one. There is one moment near the film's climax where, perhaps inspired by Chaplin's similarly earnest speech in 'The Great Dictator', an oddly neutered Baron Cohen attempts to draw parallels between his evil dictator and the government of the United States. It could have been the film's redemptive moment but there's no real venom or force behind it and instead it comes off very weak.

It's also sad that in Admiral General Aladeen we have the least interesting character created by Baron Cohen to-date, the upshot is that we don't really even get to enjoy his Peter Sellers-like chameleon powers at their fullest. Then there's the litany of tired and (already) dated cultural references that jeopardise the film's long-term relevance: a play on the title of a reality TV series here, a dig at the expense of the Kardashians there; a cameo from Megan Fox. Perhaps the one bright spot, aside from a genuinely funny if overplayed sequence on a tourist helicopter, is the presence of low-rent comedy mainstay Faris as the love interest. Like everything else in the film she is characterised broadly and her comic moments are either crass or obvious, but she rises above the material to create an appealing character nonetheless.

'The Dictator' is out now in the UK, rated '15' by the BBFC.

Friday, 18 May 2012

'Dark Shadows' review:

It's not big and it's not clever to reject the latest film from Tim Burton out of hand. Though it's fair to say that he hasn't done anything good in a while (and nothing truly great since the mid-90s) the man who brought us 'Edward Scissorhands' and 'Beetlejuice' always deserves a fair crack of the whip - even when the trailer for his most recent feature looks beyond dire. This was the case with promos for long-gestating passion project 'Dark Shadows': a broad comedy with Gothic horror trappings, loosely based on a cult late-60s soap opera series of the same name, that reunites the director with an increasingly irksome Johnny Depp. And though the film is slightly better than trailers suggest, it's still a baggy, barely cohesive mess of style over substance - a joint vanity project for a distinctive visual artist and his showboating leading man.

Where Depp was once the most exciting and unpredictable actor of his generation he is now, post his Jack Sparrow rise to pop culture ubiquity, restricting himself to the immensely lucrative "lovable oddball" side of the market. His Willy Wonka and Mad Hatter - themselves in two of Burton's most risible movies - are Halloween costumes more than characters. They are funny voices and affectations in brightly coloured hats around which Depp can construct another peculiar, pantomine creation. This time Depp inhabits the gloomy make-up and wardrobe of Barnabas Collins: an eighteenth century fishing magnate-turned-vampire who is dug up after nearly two centuries underground to discover the multi-coloured, drug-infused wackiness of the 1970s. Fish out of water hilarity ensues, ticking every box you might expect given the setting, with Barnabas encountering lava lamps, Alice Cooper and college stoners. Just what will he make of it all?!

Perhaps this is why the Depp/Burton partnership was proven so long-lasting: both men now seem unable to go below the surface of whatever weird character or world they are presenting on screen. If Depp is increasingly drawn to playing broad, wacky cartoon creations in over-designed costumes, then Burton is rapidly jettisoning what little interest he ever had in story in favour of elaborate set design and showy visual flourishes. As Barnabas first re-enters his stately mansion house after his lengthy absence, he immediately begins to describe in detail the pillars, the chandeliers, and the Florentine marble fireplace. It's as if he's breaking the fourth well to compliment the film for its art direction and set design. Which he may as well do because that is all this film is.

One genuine bright spot is a scene-stealing performance from Eva Green as the villain - the witch who turned Barnabas into a vampire for rejecting her advances and who now dominates the fishing industry of his small town (that's the story by the way). Otherwise it's populated by decent actors in thankless parts, with key characters going unaccounted for during the entire second act (Michelle Pfeifffer's matriarch and supposed central love interest Bella Heathcote) and the young Chloe Moretz overtly sexualised to no real end. Johnny Lee Miller plays an absent father to similarly little payoff, whilst Helena Bonham Carter continues her unbroken 7-film Burton streak as a live-in therapist whose every scene could be excised from the plot in a way which would only impact on the bloated running time. There are perhaps a half-dozen different versions of this film on a hard drive in an edit suite somewhere and perhaps one of them makes for a coherent movie.

I didn't hate or even strongly dislike 'Dark Shadows' (slap that on the DVD cover) and, if I've given that impression, it's only because - despite the low quality of his last decade's worth of work - Tim Burton still apparently has the capacity to disappoint. But this is certainly no worse than 'Planet of the Apes', 'Alice in Wonderland' or 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory'. It probably belongs in the next category up, alongside the instantly forgettable 'Corpse Bride' - more "Burtonesque" than Burton. Like that drab animation, 'Dark Shadows' feels less like the genuine article and more like the work of an art school student excessively influenced by the most showy aspects of his visual style.

However, there are a few nice visual touches and neat ideas, most of which benefit from the clear affection the film has for traditional vampiric tropes, as it refreshingly eschews all revisionism of monster lore prevalent since the hip and post-modern 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'. It must also be said that among the obvious gags about disco balls, automobiles and television sets, there are also a few very funny moments involving the time-displaced bloodsucker - such as when he first encounters tarmac.

'Dark Shadows' is out now and rated '12A' by the BBFC.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Marvel's Next Avengers?

Last Update: Sunday 27th May: I've been adding the latest character profiles as they've got online, so check the expanding list below. Also, here is another Marvel-based piece on five weird things from the comics the movies still wouldn't dare do.

OK, so you're all sick to your eye teeth (is that a phrase?) of 'The Avengers' by now, with its worldwide box office glory and almost unanimous critical praise meaning that we're probably right on the cusp of the backlash. However, I'm still pretty obsessed by the whole thing at the moment and - with all the films I've seen of late embargoed for a few weeks - I've been working on an ongoing feature for What Culture called "Marvel's Next Avenger".

It's pretty simple: Marvel has now confirmed that an Avengers sequel is on the cards and - with hundreds more characters in their comic books, many of whom have been members of the superhero team - it seems likely that they might try to add more characters to the roster. There are two Marvel movies currently slated for release next summer: 'Thor 2' and 'Iron Man 3', whilst only 'Captain America 2' has been confirmed for 2014. This has led many to suspect that another previously unannounced project could be sharing that summer with the returning Mr. America. But who's movie will it be?

My candidates so far? The articles are linked below:

Ms. Marvel
Doctor Strange
Luke Cage and Iron Fist
Ant-Man and Wasp
Black Panther
Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver

Several of the site's other contributors will be writing their entries and I intend to do at least two more myself, so check back soon for more of that. Also, come back soon for film reviews. I promise I've not given up this blog despite recent appearances! I also have yet to write my FilmQuest 2012 entry for 'Blue Velvet', so expect that in the next few days.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

'Damsels in Distress' review:

"It felt longer than it was" said one cinema patron, checking the time on his way out of a showing of 'Damsels in Distress'. Never a good sign. But even worse when you consider Whit Stillman's hyper-stylised indie comedy - his first film in over a decade - lasts scarcely 99 minutes. Yet it really does outstay its welcome despite a beguiling first half and another fantastic performance from mumblecore queen Greta Gerwig, as the defacto leader of a gang of female students selflessly seeking to improve those deemed below their station. It's not that 'Damsels' is without charm, wit or laughs, indeed it's easy enough to see why many cite Stillman as an influence on the likes of Wes Anderson, but it's so resolutely deadpan that it can't sustain beyond the first hour.

It's also at times difficult to locate the target of Stillman's American college satire, with many of his characters so broad and extreme that they seem to lack a clear real-world analogue. There's, for example, the American girl who has affected a British accent after a brief period of study in London and the rich fraternity boy who never learned the difference between colours. Sometimes the film seems a wholly ironic putdown leveled at the vapidity and pretension of youth, yet it could also be seen as entirely earnest and sympathetic towards its off-beat gang of co-eds: the suicidally depressed, the confused, and the tragically dim. It might be that there's something really rewarding and ingenious at the centre of 'Damsels' for those prepared to weed it out. I remain at a loss.

'Damsels in Distress' is out now in the UK, rated '12A' by the BBFC.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Superhero Trailer Special: 'The Dark Knight Rises' and 'The Amazing Spider-Man'

I haven't been updating here a lot recently, for several reasons. I've become slightly addicted to Marvel comics in the wake of 'The Avengers', for a start. Then there's the fact that Football Manager Handheld is now out on Android, which means I spend most of my time glued to my recently acquired tablet pretending to manage Portsmouth (for some reason). I've also been helping to write the programme for a European festival happening within the next two months, so that's taking all the time that isn't spent doing the other two things.

I saw George Lucas' 'Red Tails' yesterday but that's under embargo for the best part of a month. So, in lieu of anything else to talk about, I'll do what I always do when there's nothing left to say: I'll post trailers!

Below are the latest 'The Dark Knight Rises' and 'The Amazing Spider-Man' trailers followed by a bit of shallow chitchat filler. Yes, I'm obsessed with comic book superheroes at the moment, but then so is "the industry" at large. 'The Avengers' looks set to break that billion dollar mark during its run - it opens in the US today having already achieved a significant chunk of that milestone after a week playing internationally - so this summer look set to be dominated by the costumed hero more than any in memory.

Anyway, here's the third trailer for Christopher Nolan's third Batman movie: 'The Dark Knight Rises':

These Nolan Batman trailers - like anything else - lose impact viewed on a computer screen, as I found when I saw the previous trailer projected in IMAX in front of 'The Avengers'. There is an understated quiet to the way they are marketing this movie to date that benefits from the big screen treatment, pulling you into this world the way only a darkened room and a massive screen can. It's with this in mind that I say I'm not exactly over-enthused by this latest peek at the culmination of Nolan's trilogy, viewed at home and in daylight. But I'm not on the whole discouraged.

'The Dark Knight' is one of the best films of the last ten years and - prior to Marvel's latest - the last film to really excite me with its action scenes, so I'm sure 'Rises' will be (at the very least) good. But Bane as the main villain? That's not exactly inspiring, despite the presence of Tom Hardy, though Anne Hathaway is always good value which should make Catwoman interesting.

As for the trailer itself, it's hard to escape the feeling that they're now throwing all the major set pieces at us: the football field sinking into the ground, the mid-air hijack of (presumably) Wayne's plane, and the destruction of a bridge - though each of these moments looks excellent, let's hope there are some surprises left for the final film. Intriguingly, there is still nothing here overtly showing off Liam Neeson reprising his character from 'Batman Begins', so perhaps there's a whole side to this movie we still know nothing about. I hope so.

Also, the flying vehicle at the end of the trailer (as previously glimpsed in fleeting shots of the previous promo) looks decidedly un-Nolan. These Batman films have been all about stripping the series of fantasy elements (in the comics Batman has some truly weird villains) and going "real" and "gritty" with it. Yet this crazy flying car thing is clearly not of our reality. Taken along with rumours of the Lazarus Pit being used as a plot device, along with the possible resurrection of Neeson's Ra's al Ghul, could this mean Nolan's Batman is heading in a slightly less determinedly realistic direction?

Next up, Marc Webb's 'The Amazing Spider-Man' AKA 'The Pointless Reboot Nobody Asked For':

I'll lay my cards on the table from the off: I didn't like Marc Webb's last film, '(500) Days of Summer', at all. Smug, charmless, contrived, high on its own farts. Rubbish. I also don't see why 'Spider-Man', as established so well on the screen by Sam Raimi, needs a "re-boot" when it's so recent. 'Spider-Man 3' wasn't so bad that we all need to start again and find out who Peter Parker is, and see him get bitten by the spider, and see Uncle Ben get killed all over. That said, I do like Andrew Garfield and think he could do great things with the iconic role.

In this trailer we get a glimpse of Garfield as Spidey from the comic books, as the jokey, wise-ass. Him taunting the car thief about his small knife is funny and is the first real indication that this movie could work. However... everything else we've been shown so far is horrible.

Why is this movie all about Peter Parker trying to learn the truth about his parents? Since when was that a major preoccupation of Spider-Man? And his new suit looks so ugly: garish and over-designed. And, worst of all, the film's villain - the Lizard (Rhys Ifans) - looks appalling both in terms of design (where he looks more like a dinosaur than any previous incarnation of the comic book character) and in terms of the shoddy CGI. It's a far cry from the motion captured excellence of the Hulk in 'The Avengers'. And therein lies the film's biggest problem.

Nolan's Batman trilogy is its own thing, and whilst journalists will inevitably measure its success against that of Marvel's team-up monster hit, tonally and in terms of how it handles the subject matter it's likely to appeal to a different audience (albeit with a sizable overlap). Spider-Man, on the other hand, is a colourful Marvel hero and this film will (by the looks of things) suffer from comparison to either film - especially as it aims to take on an amount of Nolan-esque "gritty". It looks as though 'The Amazing Spider-Man' won't equal the escapist thrills and laughs of 'The Avengers' whilst also failing to convince those who hunger for increased realism and "darkness". In short, it'll please nobody. Then again these sub-zero expectations could see it become a very pleasant surprise.

I'll naturally still go and see it, but that's because I'm increasingly a Marvel comics fanboy. But boy do I wish Marvel owned the cinematic rights to this and several other flagship properties (Fantastic Four, X-Men, Daredevil), as they have really lead the way in terms of making book-accurate super hero movies that are neither excessively camp nor po-faced.