Monday, Apr 23, 2018
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'Spider-man' reboot is subtle in its retooling

LOS ANGELES -- Hollywood learned a long time ago you can never tell the same story too many times -- but even Shakespeare and Homer knew that. It's all in the telling, after all.

So it's no surprise that a mere decade after Sam Raimi's Spider-Man and five years since his Spider-Man 3, we have a reboot of sorts of the enormously successful franchise.

The Amazing Spider-Man has a new lead in Andrew Garfield as Spidey/Peter Parker, a new girl in Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, and Martin Sheen and Sally Field as the dependable Uncle Ben and Aunt May. The villain is a green Lizard (Rhys Ifans as the unbalanced scientist Dr. Curt Connors) instead of the Green Goblin. And Peter's crazy newspaper editor who thought the superhero was a menace is gone, replaced by a police captain (Denis Leary) who believes Spidey is a menace despite his good deeds.

Other than that, it's like apples and apples, really. The new leads are cute and likable. Peter's change from geek to super-geek is interesting as he explores his new physical possibilities.

Smartly, director Marc Webb didn't go overboard on the computer-generated images; so there is more of an immediacy and less cartoonish feeling to the action sequences.

And the relationship between Peter and Gwen seems more filled out. Maybe that's because Webb made the bittersweet comedy (500) Days of Summer and didn't come on board with a Michael Bay over-the-top effects agenda.

There is nothing wrong with The Amazing Spider-Man and a lot of things right. But for whatever reasons (perhaps studio dictates), the filmmakers didn't try to do something more radical like Chris Nolan's reimagining of Batman in The Dark Knight.

Keeping it in the family

Lynn Shelton's Your Sister's Sister is a three-character dramedy with both charm and pathos.

Mark Duplass plays thirtysomething Jack, who for years has been in love with his best friend, Iris (Emily Blunt). However, her ex-boyfriend was his dead brother; so he has not made a move.

At Iris' father's vacation home he meets her sister, Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt), who is recovering after ending a seven-year lesbian relationship. And both are looking for solace.

The film is a talker, as you might expect, but it's engaging.

Pinto shines

Freida Pinto gives a compelling performance in Michael Winterbottom's Trishna, a loose adaptation of Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles set in India.

It's told in an improvised, somewhat documentary style, and Winterbottom has deftly telescoped and adapted the story to fit the Indian landscape.

Warmth amid heartbreak

Set in the late 1950s in the poor East End of London, the miniseries Call the Midwife, which is airing on PBS, often deals with death, difficult births, incest, violence, lack of birth control, and venereal disease.

As downbeat as that might sound, there is an unexpected warmth to the stories that are told through the eyes of Jennifer Lee (Jessica Raine) and narrated by Vanessa Redgrave.

In 1957, the real Lee worked as a midwife with a group of Anglican nuns in the slum-ridden area of the city.

And keep in mind

All eight seasons of the HBO comedy series about movie star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) and his posse are available in Entourage: The Complete Series.

Over the years Rashomon has come to refer to a situation where people tell differing stories about a single event. The great 1950 film from Akira Kurosawa is out in a special Criterion edition.

On the holiday beat, for those who fondly remember those old variety show specials, there are A Carol Burnett Christmas and The Dean Martin Christmas Show.

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