For No Good Reason
Runtime 89 minutes.
OK for children.
Fifteen years ago director Charlie Paul made a trip to Kent, England to meet one of his heroes, artist Ralph Steadman. He says that this film is “the culmination of my roots as a punk, art student, photographer and filmmaker in a multi-layered narrative, spun almost entirely from a single palette: the life and art of Ralph Steadman.”
Steadman became a buddy of “gonzo” journalist Hunter S Thompson and did all the artwork on his most famous book, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” Whether or not you are an admirer of these people and their politics, this is still a fascinating look at a bizarre artist. Paul shows him making a painting from start to finish and the way he works is almost incomprehensible. He just throws some paint on a canvas (literally) and starts from there, saying, “Consciously I don’t know what I’m doing. I start a drawing and don’t know what will come out on the other end.” And we see him doing exactly that, explaining to Johnny Depp what he is doing as he is doing it.
As to Depp, the only reason he’s in the movie is to draw people to it. He provides absolutely nothing, if that. He doesn’t even ask meaningful questions, just follows Steadman around like a four-year-old dog wagging its tail.
Steadman says, “I try to make something that’s as unexpected to me as to anyone else.” What’s amazing is that what he does, does in fact turn out to be something that looks planned, even if it isn’t.
While he looks avuncular, what he did with Thompson certainly wasn’t. In fact, Rolling Stone editor Jann Werner, who appears throughout making comments, says, “Ralph was crazier than Hunter.”
There are interesting archival films shot by Paul of Thompson and Steadman interspersed throughout the film. In short, even if you’ve never heard of Steadman and have never read anything by Thompson, this is still an interesting film.
The Amazing Spiderman 2
Runtime 140 minutes
Not for children.
Of all the superheroes, Spiderman has always seemed the most ridiculous. Even though there’s some spurious explanation for the meager “powers” he has, it defies any reasonable suspension of credulity. Just because he can spin webs which allows him to seem like he’s flying, doesn’t mean he can engage in mortal combat with the monsters he attracts, and not only survive but emerge victorious.
That said, I thought that the last iteration, The Amazing Spiderman (2012), that retold the original story but with much better actors (Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone) than in the first to be reasonably entertaining.
The same cannot be said for this sequel, which adds Jamie Foxx and Dane DeHaan as bad guys. This is a good role for Foxx because there is no range expected, so there’s nothing at which to be disappointed. All he does is look angry and emit sparks.
DeHaan, however, does give a splendid performance, probably the best in the movie, as Peter Parker’s long-lost friend who becomes one of his big foes. It’s only when he is on the screen that the movie comes alive. He brings emotion, much more than what Parker and Stone try to create as putative lovers. They impart about as much chemistry as this film imparts credibility. The love interest part of the plot falls particularly flat. Whether that’s due to the directing, the acting, or the script is difficult to determine, probably an amalgamation of all three. Whatever the reason this “romance” plays a big part in the movie and the lack of chemistry between them is deadly.
As to Stone, did she really have to be so obviously painstakingly made up in every scene? Her profuse makeup is so apparent that she almost looks like an animation instead of a real live girl.
I saw it in IMAX and 3D, neither of which adds much to the film, which is devoted in large part to special effects. Except for the opening titles, the 3D is pretty much unnoticeable except for the few times that explosions cause particles to fly out in the audience’s faces, a passé trick first foisted on audiences back at the dawn of 3D in Bwana Devil (1952), which, as I recall, was more enjoyable than this.