Chitika Ad

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises Review.

Cartoon by Christopher McElfresh
The Dark Knight Rises is the highly-anticipated finale to the massively successful and critically-acclaimed Christopher Nolan Dark Knight Trilogy.  So, how does this one stack up in the trilogy?  Well the best thing I can say is it is my second favorite film in the trilogy, after the Dark Knight, if only because it is a pretty intense, dark story with great set pieces, not because it is a great film.  The events that occur in this film line up nicely to a (somewhat) probable, violent, tragic and truly frightening series of events, culminating in an army of maniacal zealots and violent criminals keeping the good citizens of the city of Gotham in their homes, in fear for their very lives.

Initially, while I watched the film, I was utterly pissed off by just how broken this film really is.  There are so many problems with this movie, it may take a two-parter to really, honestly provide the necessary information as to why I did not thoroughly enjoy this movie.  Still, I’m going to keep this brief and start with this very important note:  If you take this as a dumb Summer action blockbuster, it is good by comparison.  However, if expectations are set for an intense, powerful, psychological drama with action, like the Dark Knight, then you will be entirely disappointed.


I’ll start with the acting.  First off, the best performances in the movie.  For me it goes to Michael Caine (no duh?!) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  The latter is essential to the plot, while Cain’s Alfred is there when the plot needs some drama and then he disappears, ultimately getting thrown out entirely until the very, VERY end of the movie.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the principal connection of the idea of Batman to the average citizen and the downtrodden.  He is the embodiment of the idea of a hero and how heroes inspire the best in us.  His character really drives this movie, as he is the actually conscience of the City of Gotham and he takes up the mantle during a large chunk of the movie where the Bat is out of the picture.  

Now, the worst acting comes from the two main sources of conflict in the most of the movie, Tom Hardy as Bane, and Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle (she is never actually referred to as “Catwoman”).  Starting with Bane, Tom Hardy’s accent is simultaneously unintentionally-hilarious and incomprehensible.  Probably about a third of his lines are actually coherent, the rest sound like a jumbled mess of digital filters and some really bad ADR that sounds like it was recorded clear on the other side of the world and sent to the editing booth via the worst possible mail service in the world on a dirty old audio cassette tape.  Now, my understanding is that test screenings had people saying they couldn’t understand ANYTHING that was said by Bane so they redid the whole of his lines and added them back in.  Note, this is third-hand information that I have not fully verified.  

The Dark Knight Rises Batman Logo Flat-Brim Baseball Cap

Now, I’m devoting a whole paragraph to Anne Hathaway because her character represents a principal issue with this whole film.  Catwoman had no reason to be in this movie.  Those who know me know that I have no love for Anne Hathaway.  Oscar aside, I find her exceptionally annoying and her expressions and vocal gymnastics she goes through in the Dark Knight Rises only further affirm my dislike of her as an actress.  I don’t know how she is personally, but as a talent, she is greatly lacking.  In DKR she is lost in how to carry Ms. Kyle.  She bounces between voices and demeanors and even goes so far as to mimic Eartha Kitt, Michelle Pfeiffer and Halle Berry (WHY!?) all in a single brief scene.  This is not a good performance and it hurts the movie, not only because it was bad, but because it was completely unnecessary.  As I mentioned, she bears none of the weight of the plot and it is entirely obvious that she was written into a final draft of the script to throw in another female lead that wasn’t kidnapping fodder.  This is ultimately my big issue with this movie.  The Dark Knight Rises has studio stink all over it.  

You can make a freaking drinking game out of the elements that are obviously marketing decisions, not artistic ones.  A few other examples of this include the return of Cillian Murphy as Dr. Jonathan Crane as an evil judge and the last-minute reference to Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character name change from “Robin”.  Both of these were eye-rolling and unnecessary and were obviously meant to quell speculation and ensure they can make the same little Scarecrow action figures, this time with a Dark Knight Rises graphic on the cardboard packaging instead of Batman Begins.

The Dark Knight Rises Bane Tee

DKR is really just a poor Batman Movie.  Batman is barely in it and when he is he is thoroughly getting his ass kicked.  I do like it when the movies makes their heroes breakable and human, but this is excessive.  The first time he doesn’t make the climb out of the pit I said “Man, you’ll get there.  I know you can do it Bruce!”, the second time I said “Oh, come on!” and when he finally makes it out I thought “About freaking time!”  The scenes with him in prison are some of the most boooooring parts of any movie I’ve seen all Summer, bringing the intense events we see in Gotham to a grinding halt so we can watch Christian Bale work out.

Now, I’ll offer few more positives before I seem like too much of a hater.  The action is good.  Like, really, really good.  This makes the Dark Knight Rises a fun sit, if you fast forward through the dragged-out prison scenes.  I did not completely hate DKR, and I was thoroughly entertained throughout most of this film.  The exciting action is sort of what pushes this one just a little higher than Batman Begins for me.  The climax is tense and well-done despite them going for the lowest-common-denominator in the obligatory “bomb diffused in the last second” cliche.  I do, however, like how the various citizens of Gotham work together to stop Bane’s boss, Bane himself and their army instead of just having Batman do all of the heavy lifting.

All in all, as a Summer blockbuster, DKR is not a bad movie.  It is a solid film with lots of good action and some great tension.  Still, it is not a great film.  It is not going to be a game changer and it certainly feels like a massive step backwards from the Dark Knight.  It will continue to make a ton of money through its run and through merchandise, but at this point, the Avengers remains my favorite blockbuster of this Summer so far.  I haven’t seen a single film yet in 2012 that can come close to the fun I had while watching that movie.

Our Top 40 Favorite Anime Openings - The Top Ten!

Cartoon by Christopher McElfresh

10 - Happy Lesson (TV)

Sleepin' Johnny Fish
I just adore the song Telescopes.  It is a song that is full of life and the images in the intro are a perfect match for the song’s lively and cheery tone.  The very first image shows Chitose and his younger sister sharing a bike ride along to the music as the vocalizations smoothly chant over the guitar and synth, the drums and bass.  It’s a perfect shot for a breezy song.  Overall, this is a very well-composed opening from start to finish and the intro animations share with us the personalities of the various characters in the story.  This is another one of my favorites.

09 - R.O.D. the TV
"Theme of Read or Die"
Yet another instrumental opening.  The intro for Read or Die’s TV outing (another one of my all time favorite anime) is a jazzy series of animations cut between random pictures of a naked chick, carefully posed not to expose anything, covered with kanji which are (I’m sure though I haven’t confirmed this) the opening credits.  The song is memorable and funky, with lots of slick drum fills, bass lines and an awesome little brass riff.  The scenes that show characters from the show occasionally use camera tricks like Dutch Angles and tilting left and right that come together to give this intro an interesting feel a film noir in full color.  This one is great!

08 - K-on!
Cagayake! Girls"
Aki Toyosaki
The Opening K-on! establishes its show very well.  The girls are in a band.  Yep.  That’s the show.  The cheery pop song and images share with us the Light Music Club’s camaraderie.  Few intros present a friendship as well as this one.  This is also a very, very well-animated opening scene.  With characters playing their instruments convincingly, instead of just bouncing while swinging their arms randomly,making it easier to suspend disbelief that this is a story about a band and not just a piece of animation.  This is good stuff, even if you hate J-pop.

07 - Higurashi no Naka Koro ni
"Higurashi no Naka Koro ni (When the Cicadas Cry)"
Eiko Shimamiya
For sheer intensity, I cannot think of an anime theme that compares to When the Cicadas Cry (or When They Cry, or whatever you might call it).  This is a truly, TRULY dark and gruesome show that is, itself, very intense and this intro creates a tension and sets a chilling tone very well.  The imagery is simple yet striking, mixing colorful kaleidoscope images with cuts that include a girl in a Kitsune mask and one covered in what is presumed to be someone else’s blood.  The song is haunting, filled with chants and a chord that is both disturbing and powerful.  The chord in question is the first one you hear in the song, and repeats with each refrain.  It conjures images of the traditional horror soundtracks that arguably started with Hitchcock’s screeching stabbing song from Psycho.  The bass line is fast, chaotic and powerful, setting the pace for the rest of the song.  The vocals are chilling and distorted with reverberation, delay and other filters that sound distant and almost ghost-like.

06 - Toradora!

"Pre-Parade"Rie Kugimiya, Eri Kitamura, and Yui Horie
The opening song for Toradora!, Pre-Parade, is about as close to a millennial Euro-American club hit as I think anime music can really get, I think.  The intro is laced with mixed-messages.  The opening shot of the girl pulling up her stockings and then glaring at the camera makes me think of traditional spy films, or maybe stories of female assassins, but then we get all of these other queues to the show being a rom-com.  I have never seen Toradora! and when this was requested for the shortlist, I was surprised by how much I liked the intro, given my taste in music, which usually leans more towards the technical, imaginative, emotional or powerful.  This song really is none of those things.  It’s a pretty traditional club song, still the mix of character images, the song’s tone and the quality of the animation in the scene makes me love this one.

05 - Cowboy Bebop
The Seatbelts
TANK!  Okay.  So this show kicks ass.  Oh, yeah!  The intro... right.  There’s definitely some tribute paid to the cheesy and fun openings of the 007 films mixed with a slick jazz tune that gives this intro a slight 70’s vibe.  The editing is spot on, the animation is stunning and the whole thing is just fun to watch.  This short musical montague may just be one of the single greatest pieces of animation of all time.

04 - Eden of the East
"Falling Down"
This is another anime I just adore.  The show explores what happens when someone is given virtually unlimited power, and what they become after they explore their limits (or lack there of).
The intro is a great song by talented British rockers Oasis that flows with intro animations, matching the tech-obsessed plot of the show.  The characters are lost in a splash of synthetic nonsense, appearing as sort of a digital wasteland. I would also add that I do know there's a Japanese opening but the song is nowhere near as good, nor does it flow with the animation as well as this version.

03 - Cromartie High School
Takuro Yoshida
Define weird.  I mean... Really, really weird.  There are a lot of anime that have a... strangeness to them, but few come close to Cromartie High School.  This show is odd and the intro does the job of letting you know this right from the start.  Everything up to and including the kitchen sink is thrown on screen.  We see forty-year-old men in animal costumes, robots, gorillas and Freddie Mercury, all of which are prominently featured in the show at some point, some even have entire episodes devoted to them.  The song is perfectly out of place, sounding just right in a strange way.  This is another of my favorites.

02 - Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu
"Sore ga, Ai Deshou? (Isn't That Love?)"
Mikuni Shimokawa
This intro ranks as my number one pick.  Sore ga ie Deshou? is such a beautiful song.  There are certain songs that just hit me the right way, and this one is one of them.  I don’t usually fall for the poppy, love song type but this song’s mood and chords just work for me.  The intro is full of fluid animation displaying essential characters as they prepare for their day and the soft light is that glimmers in various scenes is absolutely perfect for this song.  The last shot of a narrowly-framed Bonta-kun doll on a chest with a soft glow is both lonely and inviting.  This single still piece of art just may be my favorite single frame from any anime (EVAR!) and the song’s final few seconds begin this kinetic show with a scratch over a soft piano, the perfect blend of hyperactivity and a gentle touch of emotion, just like Full Metal Panic!

01 - Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad
"Hit in the U.S.A."
Beat Crusaders
An intro is supposed to introduce you to a world and a small cast of characters quickly and there is arguably no intro that does it better than that of Beck.  The rock music, the band meeting, the tour bus, the sweeping American vistas blended with the comically-bad English of the lyrics.  Despite the funny Engrish in the song, it works and it sets the stage (so to speak) for a rocking character drama that is actually one of my all-time favorite Anime... ever.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Our 40 Favorite Anime Openings - 15-11

Cartoon by Christopher McElfresh

15 - Baccano!

"Guns and Roses"
Paradise Lunch
Another instrumental opening, Baccano’s intro is smooth, stylized and tongue-in-cheek and has a nice, old-school TV intro with the character names popping up over their faces as they pose for stills cut during the action.  This is one of my personal favorites, and definitely stands out as one of the more unique intros on this list.

14 - Working!!
"Someone Else"

 Kana Asumi, Saki Fujita, and Eri Kitamura
The theme song for Working!! is a funny one for me, as I am not really a fan of the whole squeaking J-Pop genre about 95% of the time but there’s something about the blend of J-Pop, Ska and an anthemic pre-chorus that makes this one irresistible for me.  Working!! is a great show and this intro does it justice with its energetic and brilliantly-simple opening.

13 - Full Metal Panic!

Mikuni Shimokawa
This is another one of my favorites.  FMP!’s opening promises an adventure and the possibility of a romance to come.  The show’s bright, colorful art displays joyfully, despite the story’s dark turn and the flowing mix of original animation and the occasional piece of show footage moves with the music (most of the time).  In my humble opinion, Full Metal Panic! is one of the most well-animated anime out there and this intro shows off every second of its fluidity.  

12 - Paranoia Agent
"Dream Island Obsessional Park"
Susumu Hirasawa

Perfection.  This is another one of my all-time favorites.  If you have never seen at least the majority of Paranoia Agent, this intro probably means little to nothing to you.  The striking vocals are ear-catching, but the imagery and characters just standing around in random locations laughing has to just come off as... strange.  That said, knowing WHAT this show is and what these characters go through (and what these characters do to themselves, each other, or have done to them), this is the epitome of dark.  It brings to mind, to me, images of the music video for Soundgarden’s Black Hole Sun, with a powerful song with incredibly dark undertones playing over images of a very twisted version of suburban Americana. This juxtaposition is the perfect way to present dark images to the uninitiated.  Oh!  Right!  And I freaking LOVE PARANOIA AGENT!

11 - Ouran High School Host Club
"Sakura Kiss"

Ouran High School Host ClubAnother intro that works perfectly.  OHSHC is a show that mocks the very effeminate, androgynous nature of some anime in an overt, hilarious way and it is easily a strong candidate for funniest anime.  It may not top the list, but it would be up there.  The intro mimics the style of the show, where characters are suddenly, for comedic effect, surrounded by a border of roses with a twinkle in their eye, or sent into poses for no real reason.  The lead character, Haruhi, is prominent throughout the intro in all of her gender-bending glory and the song fits nicely too.  The 90’s-style rock blaring over the opening is both fitting and contrasting.  This show definitely does not take itself seriously and the intro sets the stage for a fun, crazy comedy that also has a fair amount of warmth.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Our Top 40 Favorite Anime Openings - 20 - 16

Cartoon by Christopher McElfresh

20 - Happy Lesson (OVA)

Hikari Okamoto
Thundering music stings and crazy-looking characters are prologue to a poppy, squeaky, almost choral J-Pop anthem to a show that is both insane and endearing.  We see our lead character Chitose constantly abused (mostly accidentally) by his overbearing but well-meaning teachers all while the perky song bounces in the background.  Happy Lessons’ intros tend to show all of the story characters in flashes and stances, sometimes so frantically that if you don’t know who to look for, you just might miss them.  This is a fun intro, but hardly ranks among my all-time favorites.  Still, it rated high between us, so somebody loves it.

NOTE: I was having trouble finding a copy of the opening I could embed, I embedded the song instead. The original intro (low quality) can be found here.

19 - The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
"Boken Desho Desho? (It's an Adventure Right, Right?)"
Aya Hirano
For a show about a girl who has no time for “normal human beings”, this intro is pretty pedestrian stuff.  That said, I cannot think of a better way to present this show.  It starts with the title character approaching school, where she then becomes the very center of everything, a position she asserts herself to in the show.  Running through a tunnel of stars, she is orbited and surrounded by friends and acquaintances.  The biggest strength of the intro is just how well the animation flows with the song.  The rhythm is almost seamless.

18 - Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu
"Perfect Area Complete!"
Natsuko Aso
This intro is another one of those that shows a lot of bare backdrops, introducing characters one at a time.  This show, about a school of magic users that comes under siege by its underachievers through a series of challenges to their upperclassmen, is a little weird, and structured a lot like a video game.  This intro, though, is all anime, and is really only okay to me.  Though, I do kind of like the song okay.

17 - Neon Genesis Evangelion
"Zankoku na Tenshi no Tēze (A Cruel Angel's Thesis)"
Neko Oikawa
The classic anime powerhouse lands at number 17 on our list.  I am honestly surprised it was so low, as it is considered by some to be the greatest anime opening of all time, however, I have to admit, it is not hard to see a little fandom in that assertion.  Still, this is a great intro, flowing with the music and full of original animations as the various characters are presented.  I do get a little tripped out by this intro though, considering what these characters go through throughout the course of the story.  The famous song, A Cruel Angel’s Thesis, has become somewhat of an anime anthem as Evangelion is considered one of the all-time greatest anime and ranks very, very high on my list of favorites.

16 - Chobits
"Let Me Be With You"
Round Table feat. Nino
How do you introduce a show that overtly sexualizes an android?  With a romantic opening styled as a traditional television show credits scene, that’s how!  Chobits is one odd show but it also has some good-natured qualities that are present in this opening scene.  Despite the slight repetitiveness of the song, this is still one of the better intros out there and an obvious fan-favorite.

Our 40 Favorite Anime Openings - 25 - 21

Cartoon by Christopher McElfresh

25 - Maburaho
Koi no Mahou (Magic of Love)
Another good intro for an anime I do not much care for.  The opening animation features the male lead running from a lovely but obviously obsessed girl (reiterating I do not know much about the premise, only the little I saw) who remains in pursuit.  He finds himself under siege by every anime cliche on the books and ultimately is saved by the girl he fled from the start.  The song is really the winner for me.  It’s just bright and cheery in the right way.  I do have odd taste, but this song is one of my favorite anime themes... for some inexplicable reason.  

24 - Midori Days

This is a charming intro with some nice animation which is an interesting contrast to what just may be the single most bizarre anime I’ve ever seen.  Midori Days is the story of a street-fighting high school brute who just wants a girlfriend and then one day wakes up with the tiny body of a girl attached where his right hand used to be, a girl who is in actuality comatose at home.  This freaky, slightly perverse premise does make for some great comedy and a few surprisingly tender moments, despite how insane the plot is.  The intro paints a nice picture and gives us a hint of what’s to come in this odd show.

23 - Fate/Zero (2nd Opening)
"To The Beginning:

This anthemic opening features some of the best artwork on this list.  The stunning background art sets the stage along with a delightfully-composed orchestral rock theme that is both energetic and mournful.  One of the stronger, more serious intros in the list, this is good stuff, full of jaw-dropping lighting effects in the animation.

NOTE: I was not able to find a YouTube version of the opening with the song, I did embed a cut of the song with some animation in its stead.

22 - .Hack//Roots

FictionJunction Yuuka
Another fairly simple, yet beautifully-animated opening, this one, like our number 23-scoring opening features a nice anthemic song with great artwork and animation.  There is definitely an air of adventure coming off of this introduction.  I love how everything moves, it is a nice work and sets the stage for the show well.

21 - Vandread (1st Season)

From another one of my personally favorite anime, Vandread’s first opening starts with a fairly traditional J-Rock piece until the wailing guitar takes over, sustained by heavy feedback and distortion.  From here the song picks up and becomes one of my favorites.  The animation introduces this huge cast of characters (most of which are very important to the plot in some way) well, present them and their traits and often their relationships with each other.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Our 40 Favorite Anime Openings - 30-26

Cartoon by Christopher McElfresh

30 - Sword Art Online

"Crossing Field"
LiSAOne of the more rockin’ intros of the list, Sword Art Online’s gives a nice mix of electronic and fantastic elements, and considering this is what the MMO world is all about (usually), this fits nicely.  In what may be the newest anime in this countdown, Sword Art Online is the story of gamers who are trapped in a digital world that is fed to them through VR helmets that uses thought control.  This intro feels like being dragged into a world and also does a good job of introducing the two leads.

29 - To Aru Kagaku no Railgun
"My Only Railgun"
Another anime I have not seen, this intro, featuring artwork from Yuichi Tanaka (who did animation for Last Exile, X, Neon Genesis Evangelion and FREAKING Spirited Away!) looks amazing.  The flow of the characters’ hair, the expression, the flow with the music, everything looks stunning.  The song is pretty much anime J-Pop but is still pretty catchy, with a nice melody and a pretty heavy pace.

28 - Ai Yori Aoshi
"Towa no Hana (Eternal Flower)"
Yoko Ishida
I have not seen this anime, but I must say, the intro is quite beautiful.  Presenting a very traditional-looking Japanese setting Ai Yori Aoshi softly introduces the characters with a charming song that rings of romance and a pleasant Asian sound.  This is one of the simpler intros of the bunch yet it really does have a soft touch that conveys a sense of calm.  I do not know, honestly, how this relates to the show, but the intro is quite nice.

This one I’ve read the manga for, but haven’t gotten around to seeing the anime. The intro is quite nice, it introduces the characters very well, which is what an opening should strive to do in some way. The less time it takes to introduce the characters the more you can spend really digging into the core of the plot.. which in this case is “I’m your childhood friend, Marry me.” to put it simply. Both are the children of rich families and it was intended for them to marry but “things happened”. Watch it if you want to know what kind of “things” occur.

27 - Excel Saga
"Love (Loyalty)"
So.  This exists...  Excel Saga is a psychotic, irreverent, fourth-wall-breaking bizarro fest and this intro is absolutely perfect.  It is just as crazy, weird, and shameless as the show.  The intro song is performed by the voice actors who voice the leads, as they are singing their intro song that is... well... odd.  It works perfectly for this show though, and Excel Saga is one of my favorite openings of any anime for this very reason.

Christ if I had a nickel for every batshit crazy anime out there that turns an anime intro into a comedy I’d have... .25 cents.  This is one of those intros. Excel Saga is nuts. Completely, batshit crazy. If you want a laugh, this is your choice. Each episode has a theme, and that theme comes in the form of the artist of the anime “selling out” his anime. That, coupled with the fact that Excel, during a flood finds a dog, and names it menchi (Emergency Rations), and Pedro, who has everything that could go bad, happen to him, insure that this anime will keep you laughing for a while.

26 - Ranma ½
"Don't Make Me a Shrew"
Jajauma Ni Sasenaide
Gender-bending, unhindged and always funny, Ranma ½ is a classic anime referencing aspects of Asian culture that are often left untouched by modern fare, though now they do seem a little cliche in the grand schem of things.  Thie intro though is a fun, traditional romp and takes us back to a different time in anime, where things were still as crazy as they are today, but with just a little more heart.  It could be argued that this anime’s opening helped to set the stage for the style of anime openings we see today as well.

Boy oh boy.. Wow. What isn’t there that I can say about Ranma.. Its a great anime about a guy who fell into the Cursed Jusenkyo springs, in the spring of drowned woman, while training martial arts. Now whenever he gets splashed with cold water or wet, he turns into a girl. This is a Kung-fu anime / romantic comedy at its core. It contains lots of chinese culture, and its definitely worth a watch. The opening is addictive in its style, as the song is catchy, and matches the art really well for the majority of the song. It slows down as it goes towards the end, but its very good stuff.

A Little-Late Film Review - The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Cartoon by Christopher McElfresh
More than a decade ago Evil Dead begetter Sam Raimi launched a rebirth for Spider-Man, who had been mostly neglected by the studios, and turned it into a Hollywood cash cow.  A few years later, the first sequel to the series became one of the very few sequels in film history that were actually BETTER than their predecessor.  And then he broke it.  Spider-Man 3 was such a tremendous pile of FAIL that the series subsequently died.  Now, five years after we saw an emo Tobey Maguire slide not-so-gracefully across a dance floor causing a synonymous groan amidst the isles of theatres across America, (500) Days of Summer-director Mark Webb takes up the reins of the beloved franchise to redefine, revitalize, and make Columbia Pictures a shitload of money.

I’m not going to spend too much time on the story as, since this review is a little late, I’m sure anyone reading this has either seen it, or has already read up on the film.  Still, I wanted my piece to be out there, for the twelve people that will actually read this.  I’ll start by saying that this film is definitely a different take on the story.  

Batman Begins made it cool to have a darker tone in your comic book movies and, because it worked in that film, Hollywood once again misses the point entirely (it’s par for the course, really) and assumes the dark tone was precisely why those movies were pretty good.  Well, they were wrong.  We’ve seen a number of comic book franchises completely slaughtered on screen over the last few years and, with the exception of the Dark Knight and the Avengers, it has been brutal.  The Amazing Spider-Man is another film that tries to go this route, and the “dark” tone does not really seem to fit in this universe.

The premise takes Peter Parker all the way back to High School where he struggles with bullies and with his crush for the out-of-his-league-obligatory-female-co-star Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), who was one of three lovely ladies whom Peter Parker courted over the years in the comics.  Many of these high school scenes are really just set up so we can see him master his powers and fight the film’s villain along the walls and ceilings of its corridors.  It also provides some lead in to the romance between Parker and Stacy but is not the location at which their real character interactions and arcs occur.  What I’m basically saying here is most of the high school scenes are pointless, really.  I do, however, appreciate the inclusion of legacy Spider-Man jock Flash Thompson in the story, though he really only exists as a thin point of conflict, and the most pedestrian of villains, the bully.  His character is never even fully realized.  He gets his ass handed to him at basketball in a scene that is kind of entertaining but is really just trailer-bait and then his attitude and role changes entirely when Peter’s Uncle Ben is killed, at which he is pretty much dropped from the film entirely.

The scenes leading up to Peter obtaining his abilities can only be described by the most dreadful of film descriptors: Boring.  It’s hard to really care about the characters as many of them are barely flashed over (the same mistake the X-Men movies made) and after Peter becomes Spidey we really couldn’t care less about most of them, mainly because the film doesn’t.  Aunt Mae just exists to worry about Peter and the few relevant scenes she has are wasted.  They cast Sally Field and Martin Sheen as Mae and Ben, which I speculate was an attempt to make the older audience and film nerds go “Ohhhhhh!” but is really just kind of distracting, and is sort of a waste.  Still, the intimate scenes with Ben reaching out to Peter are some of the best in the movie, and thanks to the caliber of talent behind the roles, we do get a sense that these characters really do care about their nephew and the path he is traveling.

The point where the film really falls apart is when we are first introduced to the villain, the Lizard.  This is an odd choice to me as it sort of defeats the purpose that (I think) they were trying to achieve: bringing Spider-Man into the real world.  If it were the doctor just slightly deformed, or maybe a different villain entirely (preferably), it wouldn’t have been so bad.  But the dumb-looking CGI villain is such a out of place and really killed much of the tension for me.  He just looks so... bad!  What’s worse is the actor they chose to play him is really only okay and his performance has about as much subtlety as an in-costume Cirque-Du-Soleil performer riding an LED-lit unicycle through Times Square while blowing a flaming vuvuzela.

The action scenes are where this movie really shows its mettle, as they are well-directed and paced.  Little moments of tension and heavy scenes of pounding action flood the screen.  However, much of the tension is lost when we realize that these two characters are virtually indestructible.  They’re thrown through walls, blown up, slashed and shot and yet they remain unphased.  It sort of kills the tension when your hero is Reb Brown-level bulletproof and is seemingly fully invincible.  Yet, the way they flow, and the way the camera is used makes these gladiatorial bouts look good.

Now, a note on performances.  This is one of the Amazing Spider-Man’s biggest strengths over the original trilogy in my opinion.  Andrew Garfield is a much better actor than Tobey Maguire and the same applies to Emma Stone versus Kirsten Dunst, despite the fact that they are playing different characters.  The scene stealer, however, has to be Captain Stacy, Gwen’s father, the loud-mouthed, gung-ho leader we’d expect from a character played by the talented Dennis Leary.  The only performance I really didn’t like was Rhys Ifans’ villain.  I just found him too cartoonish and hammy for this film’s tone.  I also would like to point out a good performance from E.T.’s C.Thomas Howell in a small part as a construction worker and devoted father.

All that said, as negative as this review may sound, I would actually recommend this film.  It is not some great achievement, but compared to most comic book movies, it is not all that bad.  There is enough enjoyment to be had in this film to warrant a recommendation.  It just requires the viewer to put aside pretension and maybe just a little expectation to find entertainment in some of the film’s action scenes and the occasional bouts of humor.  The things that drag this one down is the endless melodrama, the lame villain and the idea that there really wasn’t any reason for this film to be made in 2012 (Besides making a ton of money, of course).

Our Top 40 Favorite Anime Openings - 35-31

Cartoon by Christopher McElfresh

35 - Upotte!!

 Iori Nomizu and Misuzu Togashi
Upotte is a pretty crazy show and this opening just may be perfect for it.  It is certainly average in its content considering how crazy the show is, but it is well-composed.  The scene where the lead girls are presented in front of their guns the embody.. or represent... or whatever and the flag of the nation the gun originates from.  The song is typical J-pop fare but it’s fun enough and fits the tone well.  All-in-all, I like this intro.  It’s odd but lively.

Sooo.. Upotte.. Its an anime.. where the girls are like.. guns.. or something? Eh.. It’s alright I suppose.. for an opening. The song is memorable enough. It tells you the gist of what you’re going to see by outlining the guns as they show the characters.

34 - Sayonara Zetsuobu-Sensei
"Hito Toshite Jiku ga Bureteiru"
 Kenji Ohtsuki
This may be one of the... odder anime intros out there.  Unlike a lot of the more conventional openings, that of Sayonara Zetsuoby-Sensei is a blend of free-association imagery and overt sexuality.  The images of girls with their faces missing, replaced with Kanji are... kind of disturbing and the overall pace of the opening is truly frantic which works quite well with the hyperactive rock song that is the perfect contrast to the muted color palette.

This was a good one. It will get stuck in your head as its quite memorable. The anime itself is about a teacher who frequently caves into despair and tries to kill himself because of it, and a student of his who can only see things positively, and has no pessimistic qualities at all. The opening has a very unorthodox choice of art, as it shows all kinds of shibari ( japanese rope bondage ), among other things. Strange, but definitely memorable.
- Craig

33 - This Ugly Yet Beautiful World
Yoko Takahashi
The striking strings chorus saves, for me, what would have otherwise been a pretty mediocre opening.  The characters pose and flaunt their roles in the story in a very traditional way.  Still, the overall flow of each scene, the character design and the haunting orchestral rock theme work very well together.  This is a great way to start off any show. 

32 - Lucky Star
"Take It! Sailor Uniform"
Aya Hirano, Emiri Katō, Kaori Fukuhara, and Aya Endo
Ho-boy.  Okay.  So this is one of those anime that just hit me the wrong way when I watched (some) of it.  It isn’t my favorite.  The opening, while well-animated is a little too weird for me.  The fourth-wall breaking music video style is certainly funny in context, but the rapid, very wordy theme song is a little too much for me.

This was one I liked more than Chris and Bryan did myself. The first episode of Lucky Star is sort of insufferable, but the anime itself is packed with obscure references to many things. The art style is very crisp and clean, and consistently shows just how good an anime can look when it isn’t dumbed down by the production process. It almost seems cell-shaded in a way, if you understand the meaning of the words.

31 - Air
"Tori no Uta (Bird's Poem)"
Lia of I've Sound
This is one of the many anime I have not seen but the intro is a clean, simple display of good artwork and a haunting melody that is somewhat soothing despite the techno beat.  I cannot reiterate enough how good the background art looks here.  The intro to Air paints a picturesque precursor.