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Stewart Smith

The Amazing Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-Man posterI will admit – I have not seen any of the original Spider-Man films. It was a while ago that the last film was made – 2007 to be precise. I was eight years old at the time, and that really wasn’t the time to get into a franchise.

To be completely honest, I never really got into the whole superhero genre until I saw the recent and acclaimed The Avengers. So, with a reboot of the Spider-Man series on the verge of release, I figured: “Why not?”

The Amazing Spider-Man opens in the USA on July 3rd. I was lucky enough to see an advance press screening, and it is safe to say, that I do not regret this spontaneity.

Being a Spider-Man virgin I didn’t dwell on story comparison while seeing this film and I will not in this review.

The Amazing Spider-Man follows Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), abandoned by his parents and sent to live with his aunt and uncle. He finds a clue to his father’s work that will take him on the adventure of his lifetime, becoming the elusive vigilante known as Spider-Man. Along the way, he has many encounters, including an electric sexual chemistry with teenage classmate Gwen (Emma Stone), who just happens to be the daughter of chief of police Captain Stacy (Dennis Leary).

Now the big question on everybody’s mind is, “Why do a reboot of a film that came out so recently? Was it worth it?”  Well, believe me, it was, and let me tell you why.

Peter Parker is the tech-savvy, nerdy type. The main appeal of the films lay in the idea that that even if you are a social outcast, you can still succeed by using your intellect. But this is a new age for computer geeks. They are being included more and have actually risen to a pretty high status. As Sherlock put it, “Smart is the new sexy.”  So Marvel adapted, and now Spider-Man is more relatable than ever.

Looking at the few superhero films I’ve seen thus far, this one is… different. It does things in an alternative way. Firstly, it’s a lot darker, and yet doesn’t verge into the blackness of the latest Batman films. Secondly, there’s less action, which actually lets the story flow more smoothly and vastly improves the film. Unlike The Avengers, this movie has a bit more depth to it.

Speaking of depth, I was lucky enough to see the movie presented in IMAX 3D, and let me tell you, the 3D work on that film was rather impressive, especially on the gargantuan IMAX screen.

Although this is a PG-13 film which contains blood and violence, the lighter parts of the film have certainly received a Disney-style treatment, as there is a certain atmosphere that can be felt in various live action Disney hits, especially those with kids going through the high school system. Yes, I just compared The Amazing Spider-Man to High School Musical. Please don’t send too much hate mail.

Age Recommendation: The Amazing Spider-Man is a serious film, with some dramatic moments. All in all, I would take an 11 year-old to this, maybe even a 10 year-old.

Final Verdict: A fine example of threading story and action together. As an unbiased viewer, I’ll give it 9/10.

Check out the pictures from the red carpet at the world premiere of The Amazing Spider-Man.

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Stewart Smith

Indie Game: The Movie

Indie Game: The Movie posterYes, I am a gamer. A gamer and a nerd. And you may find that odd or different, but when you think about it, it really isn’t. A great many of my generation spend considerable time playing games. The thing is, they play games in a different way than those that grew up in, say, the 1980s. Those kids took an interest in the way things worked, how the technology changed, how things progressed. Nowadays, children just try to shoot the head off of Nazis and monsters, sometimes even as the Nazis or monsters themselves!

Games are an art form, or rather, they can be. This is why I spend much of my time occupied with a completely different gaming community – the indie gamers. Indie games are, as their name suggests, games produced by an independent publisher. Independent games, much like independent films, are made completely separate from any kind of gigantic corporation – although they often rely on the large corporations’ platforms for distribution.

Usually indie games are the efforts of just a few people, and can be incredibly time consuming. When the creation of a game takes away years of your life, and becomes the single thing that an entire career is balanced upon, a lot more heart goes into it. Therefore, we revisit the idea of games as an art form.

Indie Game: The Movie is a documentary film that was released on June 12. Much in the spirit of its content, it is an independent film that relied on online sources such as crowd-sourced investment giant Kickstarter.com for funding. Following the long and endearing process of making indie games, this film focuses on the experiences of developers Edmund McMullen/Tommy Refenes (Super Meat Boy), Phil Fish (Fez), and Jonathan Blow (Braid).

These developers – nay, these artists – meet some tough times and some rough patches as they attempt to not only provide a wholesome gaming experience, but to tell a story directly from the heart.

The documentary has been met with overwhelming success, and sports a “100% Fresh” ranking on Rotten Tomatoes. As an indie gamer myself, I can safely say that the documentary not only excelled at capturing the medium, but also at capturing the very spirit of those involved. And it isn’t a movie made for gamers exclusively. Ordinary people may benefit from these stories as well. There are morals to be taken from the way that each character deals with hardship and even success, morals which can be applied to everyday life.


Age Recommendation: There is some swearing and some intense scenes – of course, programmers are like that. With puberty looming and the dawn of a new age, I recommend this film to anyone about my age and above. (13+)

Final Verdict: Indie Game: The Movie is an incredible documentary which demonstrates lessons that everyone should learn. I strongly urge anyone who can do so to watch it. 10/10

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Stewart Smith

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

Hey guys! I know that I haven’t done a review in a while – mostly because I’ve been working on my independent film of EPIC proportions! – but I’ve taken a little time to write a small review to remind you that I haven’t forgotten about the site. Anyway, it’s good to be back.

To spark my resurgence, I’m doing something we haven’t done in a while and reviewing an older movie. Well, it’s technically because the sequel is coming out next year, but you can sustain your nostalgia.

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy is a comedy that was released in mid 2004. The movie has some big comedy names in its cast, such as Will Ferrell, Steve Carrel, and cameo appearances from Jack Black and Ben Stiller. But did it succeed at entertaining a general audience?

It’s the 1970s, and Ron Burgundy (Ferrell) is the lead anchorman for the Channel 4 San Diego news. He does his job well, and the people love him. But when Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), an up-and-coming female anchor who is dead set on Ron’s job comes on the scene, it’s a love/hate relationship between the two. How delightfully ironic  – now critics have a love/hate relationship with this film.

I have to admit, it’s an interesting take on a romantic comedy, having a sexist as the lead. The idea was used in a creative way and that was something that gave a spin to the whole film. It was a childish feud among adults.

And yet a prospect does not make a movie. You need to use the prospect correctly for that. And while it had funny ideas, it held the burden of a single flaw: It tried too hard.

There are two overall views on comedy. There are slapstick comedies, which use random jokes and changes in behavior to make us laugh, and there are the other comedies which use a clever story which has jokes along the way. Basically, it’s the difference between jokes with story and story with jokes. Both of these kinds of films can be good – I cite Airplane as a fine example – but it’s when you mix the two too much that we get a problem.

Anchorman attempts to hold a solid plot with continuing events together while introducing completely spontaneous elements to the picture. This is where the word “corny” comes from. It’s a disaster! The concept was good, but the movie itself didn’t do it justice.


Age Recommendation: Not a good film for children, boasting an “R” rating. One of the leads is a gigantic pervert (He played “Todd Packer” in The Office) and another is stupid, which would be okay had they not actually called him mentally retarded during the film, which changes it from “Silly Brick” to “That poor Brick”.

Final Verdict: Okay, but not okay enough. 4/10

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Stewart Smith


Moneyball posterNerds like me are usually turned off by movies like this, because they appear to be entirely sports based. I mean, I personally show little interest in basketball or football, so I always tend to avoid these sorts of films. I realized from watching this, however, that there are several quite important sports movies out there including Field of Dreams, Pride of the Yankees and Rocky.

Why? Because a lot of these movies have an inspirational story of determination, victory and defeat with highly powerful emotion that is quite often true to life. In fact, many sports movies don’t necessarily require more than a basic knowledge of the sport to enjoy.

Director Bennett Miller’s Moneyball is no different. It tells the true story of Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), General Manager for the 2001 Oakland Athletics, a failing Major League Baseball team on a low budget. In a last ditch attempt to regain status, he hires fresh-out-of-Yale graduate Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), who uses a statistical formula to assess players instead of basing choice on popularity or other forms of bias.

Although Moneyball is a “sports movie,” the players themselves are considered minor, and the primary focus is on the general manager and the economics of the game. Speaking of which, I also considered this a learning opportunity as to the way the sports business is run.

I considered the acting to be an emotional masterpiece. Brad Pitt portrays Billy as a desperate man with a regretful past who tries to place his feelings last – a situation unhealthy both physically and socially. Jonah Hill plays a serious role as Peter Brand, a character who lacks confidence throughout the beginning of the film, but gains it over time and becomes a sort of advisor to Billy during tough times.

All in all, this movie was a worthwhile experience. It is essentially a baseball movie, but it is less about baseball than business. And for that, I give it a far more positive review.

Age Recommendation: 12+. There is some intense language, but I think the larger issue is whether or not a child will understand it.

Final Verdict: Drags on a little at parts, but kept me content throughout most of the film anyway. 8/10

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Stewart Smith


Hugo posterWhen I was much smaller, I had a really good school librarian. She worked hard on her library, and you could tell that she loved her job. She would always be ready to give out book recommendations to her students, young and old, and would oversee weekly trips to the library for all classes, as well as watching over it during breaks and after school. Sadly, the year after I left the school, she was laid off. But I hear she is happy with her new school, so I wish her well.

One of her best book recommendations was The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick. This book became the basis of the Oscar-nominated Hugo, directed by Martin Scorsese. The film adaptation was actually the most Academy Award-nominated film of 2011, with a total of 11 including Best Picture and Best Director.

The story revolves around a boy named Hugo (Asa Butterfield) who lives alone in a Paris train station. After his father dies in a fire, he is taken in by his uncle to help maintain the station clocks. After his uncle disappears, Hugo makes his living by winding the clocks, and stealing food and parts to help him finish a secret project that he and his father had worked on. Threatened with being sent to the orphanage by the Station Inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen), he is caught stealing by shopkeeper (Ben Kingsley) and his daughter (Chloë Grace Moretz).

When I saw that this piece of my childhood was being made into a film, I was, as would be expected, scared to death. When a book is made into a movie, especially those made for children, the quality often suffers. An example is The Tale of Despereaux, which changed the book to suit a terrible movie, an absolutely horrendous decision.

What worried me the most was the prospect of losing the book’s artwork. The book is famous because it is told almost entirely through a storyboard-like series of black & white sketches. What movie could replace such beautiful drawings?

Our librarian was equally worried. So much so that she called up the studio to request they make it in black & white. They disagreed. After all, who could make a successful movie like that?

However, the book’s artwork seemed to greatly influence the cinematography. Although not in black & white, the film makes creative use of the camera and of CGI to create incredible landscape shots of scenes like the train station. This was absolutely wonderful for me, because instead of cringing while watching a movie based on a book, I actually felt nostalgic.

I won’t give away what then happens, but the film is a tribute to French filmmaker Georges Méliès and his special effects. Speaking of special effects, the movie was filmed in 3D, which was surprisingly immersive.

Hugo‘s director is the legendary Martin Scorsese, who is known for usually making much darker and violent movies such as Goodfellas, Raging Bull, Shutter IslandGangs of New York and The Departed – for which he won the Oscar for Best Director in 2007. He said that he was inspired to make Hugo by his 12 year-old daughter and his desire to see the world through “the imagination and Creativity of a child.”

Age Recommendation: There’s no bad language or graphic violence in the movie, so I would let kids of all ages see it, if they want to. Of course, do have them read the book, too, will you?

Final Verdict: The plot was a bit weak, and felt a little kiddish. The 3D visuals were excellent. But the movie faces a lot of competition at the Oscars this year. Still, I’m giving it 8/10, which isn’t bad.

Hugo a received Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Achievement in Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing, Adapted Screenplay, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Original Score, and of course, Visual Effects.

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Stewart Smith

The Artist

The Artist posterThe Artist is one of the nine movies in line for the Academy Award for Best Picture. It is also in the race for Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Directing, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, and Best Original Screenplay…  And it’s silent!

You heard me right. Apart from the excellent music score, the movie is silent throughout…  Oh, and it’s in black & white!

I bet some of you out there are saying, “So why does it deserve all these nominations? Surely the 1920s’ format is just some sort of gimmick!”

Well, as a matter of fact, it isn’t.

Let’s look at a few of these nominations individually. First up is Best Original Screenplay. The story starts out in the middle of a silent movie theater. From there we watch an actor in a torture scene. This displays the idea of a silent theater’s appeal to the common audience. As the movie within a movie progresses, we see the reactions of the crowd as the prisoner tries to make his escape. We then cut behind the scenes, watching the actors and producers all hanging around on the other side of the screen.

When the film ends, the lead actor, George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) walks out onto the stage. He is supposed to bow and make way for the leading actress, but instead he hogs the spotlight and displays tricks with his trained stage dog, Uggie. (Who is, by the way, a giant hit with the real life press.)  This shows how much George adores his job, and how much he loves to be the center of attention.

George has a chance meeting with a young would-be actress and dancer Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) and helps her get a part in his new film.

A few years later, sound in movies is invented, unwilling to make the leap to the “talkies,” George is fired and Peppy takes over the spotlight. Faced with a crisis of purpose, we follow George’s desperate attempts to cling to his old life as he falls into a spiral of depression. Certainly a movie with such deep emotion hand-carved into its surface must receive due recognition.

The movie may be in a silent format, but being in such a form allows the audience to focus on some things more frequently put on secondary priority, including cinematography and music. The camerawork in The Artist is exquisite. It both captures the feel of an old-time movie, and uses modern technology to create a sharper picture and more dynamic transitions. Although a French production, the movie was shot on location here in Los Angeles and is a real homage to old Hollywood.

The music in The Artist is absolutely riveting. Because movies lacked sound in the 1920s, they often provided music from an orchestra stationed below the stage. This means that the clearest way filmmakers had to display emotion was through a good score. And this one takes the cake. I am certain that this will win the Oscar for Best Original Score for its powerful and beautiful masterpiece of a soundtrack by composer Ludovic Bource.

Now let’s look at the Lead Actor and Supporting Actress. Another thing that a lack of talking requires is emotion. This is what all the cameras and composers worked so hard to supplement. The difference between a “talkie’s” emotion and that of a silent movie is that in a “talkie” a sad man can just say, “I am feeling sad,” and that is the end of it. With a silent movie, you don’t have speech to make life easier. Everything has to be conveyed through emotion. And with these two performers, I felt extremely impacted in this beautiful way.

All these incredible, magical things, are what make The Artist so great. It can take music, emotion, and cinematography and blend them together to make a fantastic work of art – all without the aid of sound or color. And this is why it deserves its nomination for Best Picture of 2012.

Age Recommendation: It can be dramatically distressing at times. There isn’t really any profanity or violence otherwise, so I guess I would say 11 and up, a MATURE 11 and up.

Final Verdict: A thrilling performance. I loved it. 10/10

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