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‘Spider-Man 2’ electrifies, ‘Gigolo’ bores and ‘Locke’ engrosses

"The Amazing Spider-Man 2," "Fading Gigolo" and "Locke"
"The Amazing Spider-Man 2," "Fading Gigolo" and "Locke"
Columbia Pictures, Millennium Entertainment and A24 Films

Among the new movies that were released Friday, May 2 are a superhero sequel, a dramedy about a middle-aged male hustler and a dramatic thriller set within the confines of a car.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Andrew Garfield reprises his role as Peter Parker a.k.a. Spider-Man who must protect his fellow New Yorkers from the formidable villains that threaten the city - including Electro (Jamie Foxx), Rhino (Paul Giamatti) and Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan). (PG-13 - 142 minutes)

The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is electrifying entertainment, ensuring that Spidey keeps the title of most spectacular superhero firmly in his web. The complicated romance between Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker and Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy is enough to sustain the story in and of itself while Dane DeHaan’s take on the Green Goblin is truly terrifying. Moreover, a scene in which Spider-Man faces off with Electro in the middle of a busy Times Square may be the most visually stunning thing you see on the big screen this summer. Unfortunately, though, director Marc Webb overdoes it with the computer-generated special effects during the grand finale, causing it to become a blur. (Thumbs Up!)

Bad Johnson

Cam Gigandet plays a suave ladies' man who’s constant infidelities alienate each and every one of his girlfriends. After wishing he could say goodbye to his “little friend,” he awakes in horror to find that his wish has been granted and his manhood has taken human form (Nick Thune). (NR - 88 minutes)

“Bad Johnson’s” premise is so far-fetched that it is almost pure genius. I said almost. Unfortunately, it is impossible to get past the ludicrous idea of a man’s... well... manhood pulling a Pinocchio (no, I do not mean it like that so get your mind out of the gutter) and becoming a “real boy.” The new comedy is well aware of the preposterousness of its plot, even including a comment about how you “shouldn’t think about it too much.” Had star Cam Gigandet’s character’s “junk” just up and left, its message about the double-edged sword that is a man’s penis would have been brilliant. But giving said penis a mouth and mind of its own sucks any and all cleverness right out of the concept. (Thumbs Down!)

Blue Ruin

Macon Blair plays a mysterious outsider whose quiet life is turned upside down when he returns to his childhood home to carry out an act of vengeance. Proving himself an amateur assassin, he winds up in a brutal fight to protect his estranged family. (R - 90 minutes)

“Blue Ruin” is a spectacular showcase for star Macon Blair’s acting abilities. After all, his dynamic performance - which is mostly contained to facial expressions that say more than any line or dialogue ever could given this situation - is what propels this motion picture forward from its suspenseful start to its compulsory conclusion. Unfortunately, everything else about the new revenge thriller is unimpressive - particularly its predictability, its measured pace and its limited use of light. Revenge is a dish best served not only cold but also creatively, quickly and graphically. (Thumbs Down!)

Decoding Annie Parker

Helen Hunt plays a geneticist who forges a friendship with a breast-cancer patient (Samantha Morton) while searching for the link between DNA and cancer. (R - 91 minutes)

“Decoding Annie Parker” is a flawed film but its inspirational intentions carry it through to ultimately being well worth a watch as it gives hope to those that need it most. The new drama’s stellar cast contributes to this small albeit acceptable victory despite its very unbalanced vibe in which we watch a pair of women fight breast cancer from two drastically different perspectives - one personal and dramatic and the other scientific and detached. Unfortunately, the two tales never merge as much as we are led believe they will and therefore the payoff is intellectually limited while still packing an emotional punch. (Thumbs Up!)

Fading Gigolo

John Turturro plays a man who decides to become a professional Don Juan as a way of making money to help his cash-strapped friend (Woody Allen), who acts as his manager. (R - 98 minutes)

Seeing a senior citizen act as a pimp to a middle-aged male hustler should be funny, right? So long as it is treated as comedy it is. After all, it is all a little too ludicrous to be anything else. Unfortunately, writer/director John Turturro tries to make the material have a more mature meaning in “Fading Gigolo,” a film in which he also stars. Granted, the motion picture may appeal to fans of Woody Allen’s unique wit, as Turturro also tries to emulate his co-star’s cinematic style, but everyone else will likely become bored with the movie’s musings. (Thumbs Down!)

Hateship Loveship

Hailee Steinfeld plays a wild teenage girl who orchestrates a romance between her nanny (Kristen Wiig) and her father (Guy Pearce), who is a recovering addict. (R - 102 minutes)

“Hateship Loveship” seems to only exist an an excuse for star Kristen Wiig to show off two things - her dramatic acting chops and her vacuuming abilities. Hopefully all the incessant cleaning that her character does during this movie left the set spotless because her performance leaves a lot to be desired - unless, of course, its purpose was to put people to sleep. It is not entirely Wiig’s fault, though, as nothing of any significance occurs over the course of this story about a bunch of sad-sacks whose interactions resemble zombies bumping into one another. (Thumbs Down!)

Locke

Tom Hardy plays a successful construction manager whose life is drastically changed by a series of phone calls while he drives. (R - 85 minutes)

On paper, “Locke” sounds like a snoozefest: One man juggles personal and business phone calls while driving in his car. However, the execution of it proves that the concept is a genius means of portraying just one example of a situation that can easily be considered a crisis for the involved individuals. Writer/director Steven Knight’s approach may be a bit too artistic for some but it is engrossing nonetheless while star Tom Hardy’s dynamic performance, essentially contained to his unique delivery of this dialogue - which is modified for each person to whom he is speaking - is a spellbinding tour de force. (Breakthrough!)

Walk of Shame

Elizabeth Banks plays a resourceful reporter whose one-night stand with a handsome stranger (James Marsden) leaves her stranded the next morning in downtown Los Angeles without a phone, car, ID or money - and only 8 hours before the most important job interview of her career. (R - 95 minutes)

Sure “Walk of Shame” is silly, operating on a premise that could easily be resolved if even one of the comedy’s many characters were to communicate in a logical, real-life way. But what fun would that be and how ever would we have such a funny adventure during which a working woman tries to uphold her “good girl” image while walking home - through the Hood (well... more like Hood adjacent) - from a very uncharacteristic one-night stand. Star Elizabeth Banks is extremely entertaining to watch here as she navigates a yellow brick road-like journey of perpetual amusement. (Thumbs Up!)

Watermark

Filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nick de Pencier and photographer Edward Burtynsky weave together diverse stories from around the globe that detail humanity’s relationship with water through the ages - how we are drawn to it, how we use it and the magnitude of our need for this rapidly depleting resource. (PG - 100 minutes)

“Watermark” features some absolutely spectacular photography that essentially contrasts a world rich with water against one that is a dry and barren desert. The images are completely captivating and would make for a majestically moving piece in a magazine or book. However, pictures alone do not make a movie and while the alternative - a bunch of talking heads lecturing us about how much we rely on this resource and should not take its depletion for granted - would be boring, a balance between both extremes would make this motion picture as persuasive as it is poetic. (Thumbs Down!)