Friday, May 04, 2007

Movie Review | Spiderman 3 sucks!

Well, it was bound to happen. After the first two movies made over 1.6 billion dollars at the box office, one would expect that the egos of the director, the stars, and even the writers would spin out of control. It did and it resulted in a sub-standard movie that seems to have been created by committee.

I am big fan of the Spiderman comic books and really like the way the characters are presented, especially the protagonist. He is nerdy, dorky and with awesome super-powers, but with a biting sarcasm which he uses really well to frustrate his opponents as well as a defense mechanism when things start to go wrong - both in his "professional" as well as personal life. That sarcasm and humour, the quintessential traits that sets Spiderman apart from the rest of the comic universe is completely lacking in the movie versions - all three of them. And that tarnishes the character quite a bit. But to be completely honest, its just as well. Considering the acting abilities (or lack of it thereof) of Toby Maguire, one must understand that there is no way that he can carry of a "funny" Spiderman.

Anyways, that apart, I went into the movie with a lot of expectations. I even believed that I will go back and watch it in a day or two at the local IMAX theater, simply, to see the obvious, awesome graphics. Yes, that's right obvious! In a world where CGI has progressed to being indistinguishable from reality, one can see what is real and what isn't in this movie. Sometimes the graphics are tardy and overdone. The action sequences are too fast and all over the place for ordinary humans to follow, make sense, or even be in awe. Things rush by so fast that one can easily get bored. Hey, if I can't follow what's going on with the fast blurry stuff zig-zagging on screen, then I might as well concentrate on the pop-corn at hand and the pretty girl sitting next to me.

And to think that they spent close to a half a billion dollars on this movie! Most expensive movie on the planet and all of it down the drain. Well if they spent even a small fraction of that money and expensive graphics to fix Tobey Maguire's complete lack of talent at emoting, then well, this movie would have been ten times as good. Let's get this straight - the only expression he can put on is one of a dopey, goofy character. Anything more complicated seems to be well out of his bag of tricks. By the way, there are two attributes that he should never attempt and he seems to overdose on them in this movie - one is trying to be emotional/sad while the other is trying to be "cool"/suave. And not surprisingly, he fails miserably on both counts.

We see a sad Peter Parker on two occasions : first, when Mary Jane claims to break up with him and again when his friend Harry Osborne has been critically injured. On both occasions he is in tears and let me warn you - it is not a pretty sight. Its like watching something horrible but being unable to turn your eyes away. In fact the audience was gasping in horror at the pathetic exhibition of emotion from Tobey Maguire.

The other disturbing aspect of the movie is when Venom takes over Peter Parker/Spiderman. Venom, an alien parasite, is supposed to bring out the worst characteristics in its host with the dark side taking over the host's personality. In Peter Parker it is supposed to make him more angry, more of a womaniser, more deadly, more powerful, less moral, etc. Well the problem is that in this movie, the character of Peter Parker is played by Tobey Maguire and angry, immoral and suave he is not. He is supposed to walk with an air about himself, make random passes at women, dress in a more dark, more stylish way, wear his hair differently and cut the rug in a mean way with some stylish dance moves at a jazz club. To be very polite, Tobey Maguire is not a John Travolta or a Patrick Swayze. He completely lacks the panache required to exhibit a "dark side" and it comes off as being extremely funny and comical. Unfortunately that effect was not intentional.

Topher Grace (of "The 70s show" fame) plays his rival for a job at the Daily Bugle and subsequently becomes infected by Venom. Suffice to say that acting was never his strong point. He seems to be just another Tobey Maguire - able to play the dorky goof-off in the sitcom but not quite making the cut for the big screen especially in action flicks. Well, at least he is better at humour that Tobey Maguire. Hmmm...maybe Topher Grace as Spiderman would have been an interesting experiment - at least he can carry off that sarcasm part well.

Of course, my biggest gripe with any big-screen adaptation (which wasn't as evident in the first two movies) is a distinct divergence from the comic book (Spiderman universe) storyline. For example, the reason Peter Parker meets Gwen Stacy (in the books at least) is because she studies with him and then is taken in my Aunt May when her father is killed in the line of duty. Both Gwen Stacy and her father receive about 5 minutes of footage and might as well have never been in the movie to begin with - their roles are pointless as far as Spiderman 3 goes.

Of yeah, I almost forgot - the overdose of drama and soap-opera'ish storylines. This movie has just too much of it, and considering that this is an action movie that is unacceptable. In fact, if someone had walked in to the movie about 15 minutes of its start and then watched the next half an hour, he would be puzzled and would think, "did I walk into the the wrong movie? I thought this was an action blockbuster. This looks and feels like a chick flick?" This is especially relevant, because as I mentioned above, most of the actors in the movie fell flat while trying to carry off the serious "acting" stuff that they're supposed to do when they are in front of a camera.

One other big problem with this movie - the direction and screenplay. There is no flow between the various events and scenes. A lot of unrelated and unnecessary parts made the cut. It seems like the entire package was put together in a hurry. Not hard to believe considering the enormous budget - I guess it must have been ballooning at an alarming rate and the studio must have put its foot down and forced Sam Raimi's hand to finish it in a hurry. Or, perhaps he was just bored with the entire thing. As a friend put it - maybe the actors, the director and crew were so tired of the entire thing that they decided to kill the movie franchise by doing a bad job!

Perhaps the guy who made (and markets) the Dyson vacuum cleaners might sell more of them if he changed his tagline to - "Dyson: sucks as much as Spiderman 3"!


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Book Review | The Red Anthology

The cover immediately appeals to me. Being a cricket fan, the sight of teenagers playing cricket by the roadside brings back fond memories. Memories of growing up, of playing the game on various grounds, fields and the roadside even. It is no stretch of imagination that the picture was taken in a South Asian country - probably India (the motorcycle in the background is suspiciously similar to the one I owned through my high school and undergrad years).

I am also a fan of short stories, having devoured Roald Dahl, Jeffrey Archer, Guy de Mauppasant, Chekov, Saki, O. Henry, Gerald Durrell, Ruskin Bond, and a whole host of others all through my life. I occasionally dabble in writing short stories myself.

Hence, it is with nostalgia and fond memories that I pick up "The Red Anthology of hitherto unpublished writers".  Everything led me to believe that this book would be a worthwhile read, and it did not disappoint.

Ok. This is a book of short stories. If you are not a fan of short stories or anthologies of short stories, well, then you should be. Given that an idea, a storyline, a feeling a, an emotion, a chill or a philosophy must be presented to the audience without the luxury of length or the chance to have an intricate build up of events that usually surrounds novels, the short story brings out the best in an author. While almost all of the above authors have written excellent novels and longer books, their real skill and craft is evident in their short stories.

This anthology starts well - the first story is titled "A Christmas Letter" and it is written by one J T Townley. It is a humourous, well-written satirical take on Christmas letters that families usually send out to their family and friends. Written by a suburban housewife who suspects her husband to be cheating on her and who wins a contest for a date with a soap-opera heartthrob, it manages to make you chuckle as you read her machinations and schemes to get her husband to admit to cheating.

From Christmas letters to train rides in a snow-covered countryside, from death, self doubt and suicide to a grown woman trying to revisit her childhood, from lakes in the head to farmers growing muscles (yes, that's right, muscles!), and many many more places and ideas, the stories abound with imagination, crazy ideas, self-pity, sadness, delight and even fantasy. We are taken through a roller-coaster ride which sometimes dips into slaughter houses, sometimes into an Orwellian future, while sometimes showing you how someone can calculate and plan to fall in love.

"Organ Donation" by Miles Newbold Clark is an interesting story that has a first-person narrative from organs harvested from an accident victim. It intertwines storylines and has an way of surprising you - if organs could think, perhaps this might be how they do it. Andy Darley's "I'm here to make you smile" shows an English suburban newspaper columnist trying to come to terms with the sordid nature of youngsters and what might be the future of humanity. Most of the stories make you reflect, at least a little bit.

One interesting feature of the book is the imagery. The book is filled with images and photographs that may or may not have anything to do with the story at hand, but it does change the way you read the story. In a subliminal way, the images seem to fashion your responses to the stories that you read. This is the first short-story anthology that I have read which uses seemingly unrelated images to shape your moods while the text does its work at furthering the event-line.

Commendable of course, is the attempt to present unpublished authors a chance at breaking into the mysterious world of publishing. Hopefully this will inspire them and bring them into the limelight and they will go on to great success in the publishing world.

A good read, all round.


  1. A Christmas Letter by J T Townley
  2. The Brevity of Snow by Jared Roscoe
  3. From the Fear of Contagion by Carl James Grindley
  4. Helen and the Wolf by Ross Lehman
  5. Seventy-Eight Days in the City by Sarah Todd
  6. The Farmer's Story by Abby McMillen
  7. Flesh by Christopher ole
  8. Organ Donation by Miles Newbold Clark
  9. Snow by Emily Isovitsch
  10. From Song Book by Richard Tock
  11. A Piece of Mind by Cassandra Taylor
  12. Love by the Numbers by Cynthia Closkey
  13. From I'm Here to Make You Smile by Andy Darley
  14. Contingency-Design Part B by Charlotte Paladine

Update: I just received word that the version of this review posted on blogcritics has been selected for syndication! It will be a part of syndication in and