Film As I said last night, I've been ill this week and binged on television. Completed the horrendous third season of Veronica Mars which like Doctor Who now, Buffy in its sixth season, the even numbered seasons of Friends and season five of The West Wing demonstrates that even the best series can go off the rails through a number of unforeseeable creative problems. Thank god for the second season of The Newsroom which is as peerless as the first, even if it also Sorkin working through the same creative demons that dogged Studio 60 that spring from him not complete The West Wing himself. Time and again I applauded the screen in my lonely room, especially deep into the season when these acting giants, Fonda, Waterson and Gay Harden are supping away at this screwball dialogue, the direction buzzing, just buzzing. If Hollywood was worth a damn any more, another rom com with Fonda and Redford would be greenlit, these two old pros bringing it once again. Though not a sequel to Barefoot in the Park. Well, ok, maybe.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
The essential problem with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is that the Raimi films exist, which was also the problem with the first film of course, but here the effects are much more severe. The really iconic moments having been snaffood for those earlier works, Marc Webb and his screenwriters are stuck trying to do something else knowing full well their target audience still has that imagery knocking around in their brains which is a shame because by some measure these feel more like the comics than Raimi's films ever did. Garfield's a superior Peter. Stone's playing the perfect Gren. Paul Giamatti's a fabulous Rhino. Spidey's connection to the city is enunciated much more clearly and the pacing of the narrative, rushed through in the opening installment there is played out at a much more leisurely pace. I can take or leave some of the mythology manipulation, but it's within the DNA of the comics title for all kinds of narrative ookiness to occur, for such discoveries to be made.
The gravitational pull of Oscorp is problematic, especially as its related later in the film and how it suggests its connection to a range of other characters. There's narrative short hand at play here in setting up the moribund Sinister Six film. If only Sony and Disney could have come to some arrangement about the cinematic universe. If only. Without that backdrop, this iteration feels the need to justify why all of these superpowered beings exist in such close proximity, whereas the MCU offers the justification of just because. It's a similar issue which seems to be brewing at WB/DC were Snyder's even apparently making Wonder Woman a result of Krypton exploding for some reason, as though having her moulded from clay by a God is somehow less problematic. Either way, despite the Transformers moment, it's still a lot more watchable than Spider-Man 3 even though that at least had the unabashed lack of embarrassment about introducing the world to alien life for, you know, reasons.
The essential problem with Veronica Mars is that it ends. Having endured s3, even though this isn't a monumental return to form, probably for reasons of budget and scheduling Piz, Wallace, Mac and Weevil are short changed and the mystery isn't that surprising, but Kristen Bell is extraordinary at this, and as soon as the voiceover kicks in, there's a sense of "and we're back". All of the strengths of the series in its earlier years are here, the chemistry between Bell and Enrico Colantoni as her father, the class struggle, the corrupt police department and the sense of her investigations as a calling and addiction, not something she simply does as a lark but because she can and so therefore she has to. There are a few stunt cameos but not so many that it gets in the way of the story too. It's affectionate without being cloying. If they ever do get around to making the My So-Called Life reunion it should be just like this, though you sort of expect by now it'll be more akin to The Big Chill. Who would they bump off?
Like I said, the essential problem with Veronica Mars is that it ends. For all the way its shot, this is still television and if nothing else this feels like a pilot episode for a new series, especially at the end when Veronica marks out her territory. Don't read further if you haven't seen this yet. Still here? Gone yet? Good. Everything about it breathes set-up. Wallace is back at Neptune High. Mac's as Kane Software. Weevil's back with the gangs. The old information network's being put back in place. That doesn't feel like an ending but a beginning and there's a desperate moment right as the screen turns black when you realise that the next episode isn't on the disc. Plus it's more clearly what the show was leading up to than the silly FBI reboot which made the mistake of trying keep the spirit of Veronica Mars while removing everything which made it different to other shows. You can take the Mars out of Neptune but you can't take the Neptune out of Mars. Which probably works just as well as the moon being a giant space egg.