A fairy tale, aliens and a spider make 3 blockbusters to catch

3 of this summer’s blockbusters – The Amazing Spider-Man, Men in Black 3 and Snow White and the Huntsman – are worth catching now on the small screen.

The Amazing Spider-ManFirst up is The Amazing Spider-Man, Mark Webb’s reboot of the Marvel comics superhero that not too long ago was brilliantly portrayed by Tobey Maguire. Now the very talented Andrew Garfield (who was superb in The Social Network and is no less eye-catching here) plays the new incarnation of Peter Parker. I was a big fan of the Sam Raimi films and so did feel it was little soon to shoot off another version but hey, it’s a successful franchise that the studio wants to continue and so here you are.

The film is well handled by Webb, with the requisite mixture of action and quieter dramatic scenes – in particular, a nice relationship between Emma Stone’s effervescent Gwen Stacy and the initially introverted Peter – there’s an effectively troubled villain in Rhys Ifans’ Dr Curt Connors and the movie also has its collection of excellent character actors to give weight to the material, notably Martin Sheen now playing Uncle Ben and Denis Leary giving his usual terrific wise-cracking edge to a role, this time as Gwen’s dad Captain Stacy.

With a couple of scenes that seemed a little weakly paced, it didn’t match the best of the Maguire / Raimi films for me but nevertheless, it’s an enjoyable new take on the story that features some very good young actors in the main roles. It’ll be interesting to see them grow in the next movie that arrives in spring 2014, where we’ll witness the very smart casting of The Descendants brilliant Shailene Woodley as the new Mary Jane Watson, who I’m sure will create an intriguing little triangle between the 3 characters that’ll be good fun to watch.

Men in Black 3Next we have Men in Black 3, the long-awaited re-teaming of director Barry Sonnefeld with stars Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, as the agents of the super secret division assigned to keep an eye on alien trouble on Earth. And the first thing you notice right from the off is how Will Smith looks exactly the same as where we left Agent J in Men in Black II 10 years ago – amazing!

Anyway, here he has to journey back to 1969 to save good old Agent K (otherwise known as the incomparable Tommy Lee Jones) from meeting a rather nasty end, courtesy of an even nastier alien (played with gusto by Jermaine Clement), so that he’ll survive to meet J in the future. Got that? Basically it’s the cue for a ton of clever jokes to provide a counterpoint to an ultimately quite touching human story.

Emma Thompson provides excellent support as the new head of MIB and Josh Brolin is really just outstanding as the young Agent K, delivering a spot-on Tommy Lee Jones-esque performance. There’s also a nice supporting turn from Michael Stulbarg as a very sweet alien called Griffin, who’s so unlike the kind J and K usually run into. It can’t quite reach the heights of the first film, which dazzled us with its humour and inventiveness but it’s certainly a none too shabby way to spend a couple of hours.

Snow White and the HuntsmanFinally there’s the visually stunning Snow White and the Huntsman, that pits Kristen Stewart’s bold princess against Charlize Theron’s wicked queen in director Rupert Sanders new interpretation of the classic story. Having been imprisoned for years by her evil stepmother, Snow White escapes only to be tracked down by Chris Hemsworth’s impressive Scots-accented Huntsman under orders from the queen. But then he thinks better of the offer he’s been given if he kills the princess and so we’re off on a new journey of revolution and redemption that director Sanders makes a feast for the senses, with several stunning sequences – the battle on the beach is a real highlight.

On top of all that, the 7 dwarves turn up and when they’re played by the likes of Toby Jones, Ray Winstone, Ian McShane, Eddie Marsan and in one of his last performances before retirement Bob Hoskins, you know you’re in for a treat. I particularly enjoyed Hemsworth’s performance as the conflicted Huntsman, giving real depth to the character’s dilemma and back story.  He did the same in Thor and The Avengers and he’s no less striking here, showing a fallen man who finds faith in something again, being slowly caught up by Snow White’s beauty and spirit.

Stewart brings a lovely earnestness to the princess, that’s just occasionally let down by a script that doesn’t always allow her to articulate what she’s feeling and so at times, she comes across a little stilted. Theron gives it her all as the villainess Ravenna, creating a really dark, feminist heart to the fairy tale and she’s nicely supported by Sam Spruell as her very errant brother Finn. I’m glad Stewart has now been signed up for the sequel, following the rather hasty dropping of her when the brief on-set affair between her and Sanders became public and looked like derailing the success of the movie.

But the film went on to gross nearly $400 million worldwide and as she was I’m sure, a factor in that success, it’s good that she’ll return so we can see how they’ll develop the dynamic between Snow White, her Huntsman and her Prince (passionately played by Sam Claflin) in the next instalment. Like I said, triangles are always great to watch unfold.

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