From the opening credits that recap the first film’s narrative with pencil drawings to the closing moments of Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) deciding to give it a go with Peter (Tobey Maguire) even though he’s Spider-Man, “Spider-Man 2” (2004) is a totally engrossing and satisfying sequel. Director Sam Raimi puts a viewer in the shoes of Peter the whole way as he hits his lowest lows – losing his powers while also feeling all alone in the world – then rises up again.
It’s accurate to call “Happy Death Day 2U” a dumb movie, and accurate to call it a smart movie. It seems as if Blumhouse studio asked writer-director Christopher Landon (who also directed the 2017 original, from Scott Lobdell’s screenplay) to go hog-wild building on the premise from the first entry, and Landon does just that. This sequel isn’t nearly as much of a straight rehash as the horrible trailers suggest.
When Robert Pattinson was recently announced as a frontrunner to be the new Batman in DC’s movie roster, people scoured his resume for something other than “Twilight” and many pointed to 2017’s “Good Time” as a prime example of his acting ability. Pattinson (also known as Cedric Diggory in “Harry Potter”) is indeed good in it, calling to mind Jared Leto and Jake Gyllenhaal as the bearded and greasy-haired Connie, who gets himself further and further into trouble with the law over the course of an insane night on the dark backstreets in New York City.
The Karate Kid Part II” (1986) is definitely a less sloppy film than the original, without its forbearer’s editing errors, but it’s also a slightly less interesting one. The sequel is often entertaining, but it’s disappointing to see that “The Karate Kid” is apparently going to be a follow-the-formula film series where Daniel (Ralph Macchio) encounters a group of bullies and ultimately defeats them with a special trick move. On the other hand, I can’t quibble about Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) being the focal point of “Part II,” as he is the saga’s best character.
The first two chapters of the “John Wick” saga — in addition to somehow making top-shelf entertainment out of a suit-wearing, dog-loving dude gun-fu-ing his way through baddies like he’s in a live-action video game — do some of the best world-building of any original franchise this decade. At the end of “Chapter 2,” John Wick (Keanu Reeves) breaks a cardinal rule of this oddly formal crime underworld by killing someone on the grounds of New York’s Continental hotel. Thus in “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum,” every assassin who loves money (all of them, in other words) aims to kill Wick and collect the $14 million bounty. Continental boss Winston (Ian McShane) gives Wick 50-50 odds of surviving.
In the early days of the “Buffy” books, the series released just a handful of Season 1-2 novels before staking out Season 3 as its primary storytelling ground. With the book series still popular enough to stay afloat after the end of the TV series, and with rumblings of Joss Whedon continuing the narrative someday in comics, the publishers made the smart decision to set most of the new books in Season 2. The first of these is “Afterimage” (January 2006), in which author Pierce Askegren walks the fine line of crafting a yarn that fits in Season 2 but keeps it small enough that we understand why the events aren’t referenced elsewhere – like “Bad Eggs” (2.12) in scope, but better in quality.
In the third film where he handles directing duties along with writing the screenplay, David Mamet strips away all but the blackest of humor for one of his bleakest tales, “Homicide” (1991). I found this film admirable and engaging without actually ever liking it all that much. The main reason I couldn’t turn away was because I didn’t know where it was going. With its title, I assumed it would be a cop-and-courts drama, but it has no courtroom component, and even though Joe Mantegna’s Bobby Gold is a homicide detective, it’s not quite a police procedural.
Ithought “Spider-Man” (2002) was run-of-the-mill when I saw it in theaters, but I got into it more on this rewatch. It’s a down-the-middle origin story for sure, but the fact that writer David Koepp and director Sam Raimi get the tone of the comic-book right (for kids, but not dumbed down; fun, but with real stakes) is nothing to sneeze at. And the casting – my god, the casting. I can see the longing in Tobey Maguire’s eyes every time Peter Parker looks at Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), and Willem Dafoe is excellent in a tricky, tragic role where he isn’t always aware he is in fact the Green Goblin.
The same thing that excites a viewer about “The Karate Kid” (1984) – the fact that it’s directed by John G. Avildsen and filled with songs by Bill Conti – also brings it crashing down, because “The Karate Kid” is no “Rocky.” It’s no fault of those “Rocky” collaborators — Avildsen gives the film a nice look and gets strong performances out of young Ralph Macchio and veteran Pat Morita, and Conti is on his game, especially with Survivor’s “Moment of Truth” – but many parts of the movie are not fully fleshed out.
Here are my 10 favorite characters from the last 12 months of television, from networks to cable to streaming, counting down from 10 to 1: