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Friday movie roundup: Spidey spins into summer
The summer movie season officially starts today, and it can only get better from here.
The summer's first blockbuster, "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," is a mess — too many villains, too much hackneyed dialogue and too many abrupt tonal changes. This time, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) contends with the power-charged villain Electro (Jamie Foxx), his frenemy Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), and his pledge to keep his lady love Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) out of danger. The result is an overlong, occasionally dull movie that feels like everything we've seen before.
The other Hollywood studios are giving "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" a wide berth. So let's go to the art-house slate.
The week's best movie is "Blue Ruin," a tight, suspenseful revenge thriller that played at this year's Sundance Film Festival. It follows Dwight (Macon Blair), a homeless guy who learns that the man jailed for killing his parents is getting out of prison. With determination but no plan, Dwight decides to get his revenge — but soon learns that the man's family won't let it go. Writer-director Jeremy Saulnier builds the tension quietly, almost organically, to a riveting finish.
Another thriller, the French "Stranger by the Lake," is shocking for another reason: The explicit gay sex scenes. This brooding, but uneven, mystery follows a gay man, Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps), cruising for hook-ups, and finding a hot guy, Michel (Christophe Pauo), he's attracted to. Then Franck sees Michel drown his past lover — which isn't exactly a dealbreaker for Franck. The tension and atmosphere are intense, but the sex scenes are very adult and not for the squeamish.
Equally brooding, but less interesting, is the drama "Breathe In." This holdover from Sundance '13 stars Guy Pearce as a married music teacher who welcomes a lovely foreign exchange student (Felicity Jones) and is drawn to her. Director-writer Drake Doremus ("Like Crazy") moves maddeningly slow toward the movie's predictable conclusion.
One more new title this week: "Farmland," an industry-funded documentary about farming. (It's playing at the Megaplex at Jordan Commons, Sandy.) The movie's profiles of six new-generation farmers are interesting, but the soft-pedaling of several contentious issues in agriculture robs the film of some of its credibility.