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24 April 2015
Our Love-Hate Relationship with Spidey - Movie Reviews for Kids

"Spider-Man" was the highest-grossing film of 2002 and is still considered to be one of the best comic book to big screen adaptations of all-time. "Spider-Man 2" (2004) won critics and audiences over and took home the Visual Effects Oscar. Director Sam Raimi's third and final chapter, 2007's "Spider-Man 3", was part of that year's blockbuster May, but wasn't a critical success.

Many questioned why Sony would reboot the franchise a mere five years later, with a completely new cast, led by "The Social Network"'s Andrew Garfield as Spidey. Most liked 2012's "The Amazing Spider-Man", though I thought it didn't live up to that title. The exact opposite can be said for "The Amazing Spider-Man 2": Most diehard fans found it underwhelming, while I really enjoyed the villain-heavy, emotional sequel, which featured much more convincing performances from Garfield and Emma Stone.

But those two "Spideys" grossed far less than their predecessors - one of the main reasons Sony cancelled plans for two more "Amazing Spider-Man" films they were planning. And yet, Spidey is now becoming part of Disney's Marvel Cinematic Universe, with an untitled 2017 live-action film in pre-production. This is another reboot, with Hollywood currently on the lookout for a younger actor to revise the role of Peter Parker.

AND, if that wasn't enough, it's been announced that "The LEGO Movie" and "22 Jump Street" directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have signed-on to produce an "Animated Spider-Man" (that'd actually be a cool title) for Sony. It's a standalone film (for now) and will hit theaters in July 2018.

Here's the Multi-Million Dollar question: Is the demand really that strong for this character and his well-told story that we need two, new versions of this franchise? The domestic box office results have gone down for each and every installment since the 2002 original. The animated film must have a compelling and unique script or the talented Lord and Miller will be wasting their time. Clearly, Spider-Man, as a cinematic superhero, has received more of a mixed to negative reaction from fans worldwide than any of his peers. And yet he keeps coming back for more.

He can take the heat, I'll give him that. I'm just not sure I want to watch it happen too many more times.

In Theaters

The Age of Adaline (PG-13) B

The Age of Adaline (PG-13) B - Movie Reviews for Kids

Just as "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" explored the unusual concept of someone aging in reverse, a new cinematic fable, "The Age of Adaline", centers around another unique variation of the aging process - or more specifically - the non-aging process.

Blake Lively, in her first film in nearly three years, delivers a standout performance as Adaline Bowman. Born in San Francisco on New Year's Day, 1908, Adaline lives a normal life until, in 1935, while driving on a rare cold night, she's involved in a car accident and ends-up underwater in a river. Unconscious and close to death, a bolt of lightnight strikes the car, bringing Adaline back to life.

But the incident also gives her an amazing power: from that moment on she would never age another day. And she spends her life avoiding the police, hospitals, and having her photo taken, so that her identity won't be discovered and she won't become a medical test subject. After spending the next eight decades traveling the world, constantly changing her name and avoiding relationships, she returns to San Fran to be near her daughter, who's now a senior citizen. But on New Year's Eve, Adaline meets a man who will change the course of her life once again.

"The Age of Adaline" is a delicate film with an effective story. The pacing is purposely slow - but at no time do you lose interest. I was invested in this character and her complicated and quite sad situation from the start. And there are some emotional scenes involving Lively and her latest in a long line of cocker spaniels, her daughter (played by Ellen Burstyn), new boyfriend (Michiel Huisman) and his father (the incomparable Harrison Ford).

Some scientific reasoning for Adaline's immortal existence is presented to us through on-again, off-again narration, though not in a loud or distracting way. And while all of the plot elements don't make perfect sense, this is one of those films where it's best to just go with it and enjoy the results.

On The Official LCJ Report Card, "The Age of Adaline" gets a B.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 (PG) D+

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 (PG) D+ - Movie Reviews for Kids

"Paul Blart: Mall Cop" was one of the first and funniest films of 2009. As a New Jersey mall security guard who had one epic Black Friday, Kevin James proved to be an unlikely likable hero and established a modern classic comedy character. It took James more than six years to get back into the uniform and on the Segway for "Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2". Clearly he didn't spend much of that time coming-up with a script, as this sequel is as bland and basic as you can get - with the clever and unpredictable mall setting of the original being replaced by tired and overdone Las Vegas.

Halfway through "PB:MC2", while my mind was wandering, I realized that this has become the family film franchise version of the "Taken" series, with James as the comedic Liam Neeson - who, once again, has to get back his kidnapped daughter. If only those behind this film realized the potential of a "Taken" parody, the result would've been a lot more interesting.

Blart and his daughter are staying at Vegas' Wynn hotel for a Security Officers Training Association convention. And it just so happens a group of art thieves are planning to steal all of the hotel's priceless paintings and sculptures. (Same weekend - what are the odds?) Once Blart finds-out what's going on (and it does take a while), he springs - sort of - into action, because as he states, "Safety is a mission - not an intermission."

The charm of the original, which most critics ignored, though it did well at the box office, is nowhere to be found in this sequel - in favor of a dumbed-down, utterly predictable script. There are three or four funny situations, and a few good jokes, including a hilarious one during Blart's convention speech (a rare highlight of the film). But I can "safely" state, overall, this is a missed opportunity.

But we can't be too surprised. If James and Adam Sandler's Happy Madison team really cared about creating a hit, they would've put more effort into this production and made it a lot sooner (a 2011 release). Instead, this is simply an attempted money grab, and that probably won't work, either.

On The Official LCJ Report Card, "Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2" gets a D+.

The Longest Ride (PG-13) C

The Longest Ride (PG-13) C - Movie Reviews for Kids

“The Longest Ride” is the tenth film adapted from a novel written by romance king Nicholas Sparks. His previous movies have been called sappy, simple and full of coincidences. The same can be said for half of “The Longest Ride”, which lives-up to its title in that, for more than two hours, you basically sit through two movies for the price of one.

The more appealing storyline, commercially, is about two young lovers in present day trying to make their relationship work. Sophia (played by Britt Robertson) is a college senior at a North Carolina university who’s looking forward to her art world internship in NYC beginning in just two months. She meets professional bull rider Luke (played by Scott Eastwood, who does have some resemblance to his famous father, Clint) at a competition, and there's an immediate attraction.

At the end of their first date, Sophia and Luke rescue an older man from his burning car and take him to the hospital. Alan Alda, the biggest name in the cast, plays Ira, who asks Sophia to read him old letters he keeps with him, which he wrote to his wife, Ruth, decades ago.

This flashback device allows us to learn the story of young Ira and Ruth as they were falling in love in the 1940s. Their relationship quickly became complicated, and unlike the story of Luke and Sophia, Ira and Ruth’s journey together is genuinely interesting and emotional, with several powerful moments. Oona Chaplin, as Ruth, gives a deep and convincing performance, with some of the best dialogue and standout scenes.

“The Longest Ride” follows these two parallel stories, with the intersection being Alda, who, at nearly 80, is still as good as ever. Robertson and Eastwood aren’t very strong here, and their scenes are packed with clichés, tons of facial-expression-acting and clumsy circumstances that move this typical Sparks story along. It’s the older and more meaningful romance that saves this film from being a sentimental disaster.

On The Official LCJ Report Card, “The Longest Ride” gets a C. If the final five minutes weren’t so flat-out ridiculous, that grade might've been higher.

Furious 7 (PG-13) B-

Furious 7 (PG-13) B- - Movie Reviews for Kids

"Furious 7" is not nearly as much fun as 2013's "Fast & Furious 6". And star Vin Diesel's prediction of a Best Picture Oscar win will not be coming true. However, it's still good enough, and a fitting farewell to the late Paul Walker.

This seventh edition in the blockbuster franchise is surprisingly serious, with the cloud Walker's November 2013 death as only one of the reasons. The main villain this time is the mysterious man who appeared at the end of "6", Deckard Shaw (played by Jason Statham). He's the brother of Owen Shaw, who was killed by the F&F gang last time. Deckard is out for revenge.

His first target is Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson's screen time is cut in half, but he still brings some much-needed humor). They duke it out in an office, and afterwards, Deckard escapes and Hobbs goes to the hospital. It's there that Hobbs tells Dom (Diesel) about the new Shaw, who is targeting the entire crew.

New to the cast is Kurt Russell as Mr. Nobody, who's looking to help Dom, Brian (Walker) and the others track and take down Shaw in exchange for assistance in finding a computer hacker and her ultimate GPS device. This is only Russell's third movie in eight years and he gives a solid performance as a genuinely interesting character.

"Furious 7" is relentless with the action. There are twenty-minute chunks of shootings, car chases and fist fights. The only two scenes that feature "wow" moments were unfortunately showcased in the trailers, but they still provide some thrills. The story really takes a backseat, though two elements still shine through. They are the evolving relationship between Dom and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), and Brian trying to adjust to family life with his wife and young son.

Walker's passing hit the cast and crew of "Furious 7" quite hard, particularly longtime friend Diesel, who just named his new daughter, Pauline. I do question director James Wan's decision of leaving-in a brief scene in which Roman (Tyrese Gibson) talks directly to Walker's Brian and says "No more funerals." However, the final five minutes of the film are handled quite well, with a moving tribute to their colleague and friend.

On The Official LCJ Report Card, "Furious 7" gets a B-.

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"Furious 7" review

What's Next?
Best @ the Box Office
  1. Furious 7  $29M
  2. Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2  $24.0
  3. Unfriended  $16.0
  4. Home  $10.3
  5. The Longest Ride  $6.9
  6. Get Hard  $4.8
  7. Monkey Kingdom  $4.7
  8. Woman in Gold  $4.6
  9. Insurgent  $4.2
  10. Cinderella  $3.9
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