Archives for posts with tag: Andrew Garfield

Grade A

Feudal Japan: Christianity has been outlawed; priests have been expelled from the country but a few remain in hiding to keep teaching the converts.  Those who are caught are given a chance to renounce their faith; and if they don’t, torture and execution will follow.  Martin Scorsese directs and co-writes “Silence,” an emotionally powerful movie about two Jesuit priests (played by Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) who volunteer to go to Japan and risk a horrible death in order to find a missing, high-ranking Jesuit (played by Liam Neeson) who was reported as captured and tortured by the Japanese until he apostatized.

“Silence” is a complex movie because of the multiple themes running through it: what are people willing to sacrifice to hold on to their faith and religion; is it okay to renounce one’s faith, without truly meaning it in one’s heart and mind, in order to avoid torture and death; if God exists, why does God allow the suffering and deaths of those who are faithful and loyal to God; which religion is the true religion; does one religion have a right to call other religions heresy, and by doing so is it a form of self-importance and ethnocentrism; etc.  The numerous, elongated scenes of torture will also be hard to watch for most people — yes, this is a movie, but the depictions of torture and executions of the Christian Japanese and European priests are based on what happened to this group hundreds of years ago.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Silence” is the scene when **SPOILER ALERT** Neeson is brought to Garfield so Neeson can explain to Garfield why Christianity doesn’t work for most Japanese, and why Neeson renounced his religion.  While Neeson does give some valid points, the audience is left to wonder if Neeson is just playing along to protect his own life, or does he really believe in what he is saying?

“Silence” is a great piece of art that burdens the heart with sadness and horror at what people can do to others; and it also uplifts the spirit by showing the courage and sacrifice of those who will take death over renouncing their religious beliefs.  This movie is not for everyone, but for those of the Christian faith and those who love well-crafted movies, “Silence” will speak loudly to your soul.

— M

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Grade B +

 Based on the true story of Private Desmond Doss who single-handedly saved dozens of U.S. soldiers on Okinawa in a place nicknamed “Hacksaw Ridge”…all without using a weapon.

Andrew Garfield plays Doss, a Seventh Day Adventist who has made a vow not to kill nor handle a gun, yet volunteers to join the Army during WW II to serve his country in a way that doesn’t conflict with his religion, i.e. he will be a combat medic and save the lives of his fellow soldiers.  Basic training in the U.S. Army becomes a nightmare for Garfield because his Conscientious Objector status makes his unit think that he is a coward, and that Garfield will just stand by as his comrades get attacked by the enemy.  For his refusal to pick up a weapon during training, Garfield is ostracized, beaten, and court-martialed.   But with Garfield’s faith and inner strength, and the help of his fiancée and his father, Garfield’s C.O. status is upheld and allowed to finish his training.  The bloody battles in Okinawa await.

It is in combat that all soldiers are ultimately tested; and Garfield proves his worth in every way when the bullets fly, charging in when a soldier cries “medic!” despite the dangers all around.  As the men in his company fall from their wounds, Garfield is there to help save their lives; but with only a helmet for protection, how long can Garfield survive the enemy’s onslaught before he is killed?

My most memorable, movie moment of “Hacksaw Ridge” is the scene when Garfield’s Company reaches the Ridge and sees the landscape before them: torn bodies of soldiers everywhere, black sand, sharp rocks, trees splintered by the shelling, and smoke that hides the Japanese soldiers that are waiting for the Americans to walk into the killzone.

Taking second place for my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when Vince Vaughn (playing a Sergeant in Garfield’s squad/platoon) addresses the new recruits for the first time.  One recruit is completely naked, but Vaughn ignores him and instead hurls insults at other soldiers who are more presentable.  It’s a fine example of comedic writing.

Director Mel Gibson did an excellent job with “Hacksaw Ridge,” taking his time to tell the background story of Garfield’s character to show us why he believes in what he believes.   And once we are on board with what this humble, C.O. is all about, the second half of the movie throws him into the meat grinder, where the audience will see what the man is truly made of.

— M

I have one rule for re-makes: do it only if you can make it better than the original.   “The Amazing Spider-Man” passes this test with the flying colors of red and blue, my two favorites!  I like Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” very much, but I like “The Amazing Spider-Man” much more.  I guess it’s fitting that this movie has “Amazing” in it.  This second re-telling within 10 or 11 years of Peter Parker’s transformation into Spider-Man has Parker trying to find out what happened to his parents who abandoned him, leading him to Dr. Connors, who would himself transform into The Lizard.

Garfield does an excellent job playing Spider-Man/Peter Parker.  This is not Maguire’s take on a teenager, which is a dork who you pity like a sad puppy.  Garfield’s Parker comes off as a cool loner, someone with a lot of charm underneath that shyness and awkwardness.  This is a very likeable Peter Parker whom many of us would want to hang out with, even if he’s just a regular guy.   Also, Garfield is very believable as a teenager.  It’s not the words he says, but his body language.   When you watch his performance, you easily believe you’re watching a kid from High School.   Maguire’s performance as Parker feels like an adult trying to act like a teenager.  Sorry, Tobey Maguire, I like you as Spider-Man; but Garfield did a much better job.  It’s like the difference between my Genesis Coupe 2.0T and a Camaro ZL1.   The former is a very cool car that I’m very happy with; but the latter will blow my doors off as its performance capability is in another league.

Emma Stone, playing Gwen Stacy, has great chemistry with Garfield/Parker.  It’s no wonder, since Stone and Garfield are a real life couple.  Oh, for those wondering where is that gorgeous, red-head, Mary Jane Watson: in the comic books, Gwen comes first; and Mary Jane appears much later after Gwen is no longer in Spider-Man’s life.  So maybe we’ll see her in the sequels.

Did you know that Marc Webb, the director, also directed one of my favorite rom/com movies, “500 Days of Summer?”  This man knows how to get the audience to connect emotionally with the movie.   Substance over style.

This Spider-Man feels faster than the version in the previous 3 movies.  The speed at which he shoots his webs is enjoyable to watch, like a gunslinger showing off.   And he’s more of a smart-ass while in costume than in the Raimi movies.  I also like the old school, web shooters coming out of gadgets on his wrists just like in the comic books, although they didn’t go all the way and have him wear a bracelet that carried multiple cartridges for his web shooters.  This would have added more tension to the movie because you’d never know when the cartridges in use is about to run out during a fight, forcing Spider-Man to retreat as he reloads his web shooters.

Spider-Man’s main enemy is  The Lizard, a huge, half man/half lizard beast that a scientist transforms into when he takes some type of drug.  One thing I really didn’t like was the way The Lizard’s head looked.  I thought he looked like The Thing from the Fantastic Four!  What the hell!  It decreased the terrifying nature of The Lizard.   This movie should have used comic book artist/writer Todd McFarlane’s take on what the Lizard looks like.   Doing so would have us more at the edge of our seats as we wait for this creature to appear and fight Spider-Man.   This movie is darker than its predecessors, and has more of a sci-fi/horror edge to it.   A more physically frightening Lizard would have taken us several levels darker and upped the emotional stakes for the audience.

Oh, before I forget, keep watching the credits.  It stops 1/3 of the way and a bonus scene is given.

Parker’s motivations for fighting The Lizard — and fighting crime in general — is more clear-cut and logical than in the previous movies.  Parker suits up as Spider-Man to look for the man who killed his uncle, searching night after night, taking down criminals along the way.  He fights crime not for a noble purpose, not to be a hero in the eyes of his dead Uncle Ben.  He does it for revenge.   Helping society get rid of bad guys is a by-product of his anger and need to get even.  Only later in the movie does he realize he can save lives; and his reasons for suiting up as Spider-Man become more noble and heroic.

Some things I found a bit illogical in “Spider-Man” were fixed, so to speak, in “The Amazing Spider-Man.”  The first is Uncle Ben’s speech where he says to his nephew, “With great power comes great responsibility.”   This seems off considering Ben didn’t know Parker is Spider-Man.  Ben knows Parker simply as a lonely, awkward teen who is undergoing changes due to hormones; yet he gives him a speech that is fitting for a man with great power.   In “The Amazing Spider-Man,” Ben tells Parker that he has a responsibility to do what is good and right for his family.  The speech is part of a scolding Parker gets when Parker forgets to escort his Aunt May from work.  Ben tells Parker that Aunt May had to walk 12 blocks by herself at night to a deserted bus stop, implying that something terrible could have happened to her because of Parker shirking his duties.   Yes, many things can happen in those 12 blocks.   My dad was mugged years ago, on the block that he lived, coming home late one night from work.   I was so angry that I grabbed an assortment of weapons that are readily available to the masses, and took off during that cold, winter night, hoping that the muggers would still be around looking for another victim.  I was very young and more reckless than I am now and I had no clue what I was doing and I’m glad nothing more came of that night.   But I had it in me to do something like that, without super powers or formal training in martial arts.  So when I tell you that if I had super powers I will put criminals in the ICU or in body bags, you should believe me.

The second “fix” deals with Parker’s reasons not to be with the love of his life at the end of the movie.  In “The Amazing Spider-Man,” we are given a more concrete reason why; and Parker ultimately comes to a conclusion regarding that matter in a way that most of us will understand and easily accept.

What is my most memorable, movie moment of “The Amazing Spider-Man?”  When a wounded Spider-Man is helped by construction workers as he tries to get to a building where the Lizard is about to unleash a biological agent in NYC.  Spider-Man, in pain from a bullet to the leg, can barely stand up.  He knows he probably won’t reach the building in time to stop the Lizard.  But construction workers, led by a man whose son was saved by Spider-Man, move cranes and I-beams in such a way as to provide our hero with a faster means to get to the Lizard.  Spider-Man, seeing he has New Yorkers backing up his play, gathers up the strength to fight through the pain and pushes himself beyond what he thinks he can do.  It is an Amazing, hero moment.  When you remember that this character is a teenager, it amplifies the heroic moment and the emotional connection the audience has with Spider-Man.  It reminds us that we can do more than we think we can; be more than what we are.

M

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