Why The Ottawa Senators Will Win The Stanley Cup This Year

Good riddance, Dominic Hasek.  You, too, Todd Bertuzzi.  Even your absolute best efforts couldn’t help The Detroit Red Wings move any further in The 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs.  Boo hoo.  After a dismal 2006 post-season, when they were delightfully ousted by my Edmonton Oilers in the first round, Detroit redeemed themselves this year by making it to the Conference Championship Series.  In the end, it was all for naught.  Have fun crying in your beers, fellas.
 
The big reason The Wings are not in the final series is because of The Anaheim Ducks.  After a humiliating game 4, which The Ducks had already lost at the start of the second period, they bounced back in the most inspiring way imaginable by winning games 5 and 6, although they nearly blew the latter confrontation.  Detroit was able to reduce a 3-goal lead to one with just minutes left in the third.  Fortunately, Anaheim’s defence woke up and that was the end of that story.  An empty-netter sealed the deal.
 
And we shouldn’t forget what happened late in regulation during game 5.  Despite having a 1-0 lead, Detroit shot themselves in the foot when a defensive deflection in the last minute led to further action in overtime.  Teemu Selanne scored one of the prettiest goals of the post-season when he roofed it on a sprawling Hasek in the extra period.  The Dead Things never recovered after that.
 
As a result, for the second time in their short existence, The Ducks are in the Final.  Their opponents?  The red-hot Ottawa Senators.  Since The Sens were rebirthed 15 years ago, much has been expected of them.  Time and time again, though, they’ve disappointed many with their dismal playoff performances.
 
Not this year.  Starting goaltender Ray Emery has never been better.  He’s been a remarkable 12-3, thus far.  Put another way, he’s averaging one loss per series.  One.  And how about that 1.95 GAA?  And that 92% save percentage?  Not to mention his three shutouts.  Compared to last year when the team never made it beyond round 2, he has completely improved his play.  But he isn’t the only reason the team is playing so superbly. 
 
What about that Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley, Daniel Alfredsson line?  Collectively, they’ve put up 58 points.  If you add up everybody else’s point totals, that’s another 68 points.  In other words, nearly half of the assists and goals produced by the team come from these three players.  That’s significant.
 
Ottawa’s defensive play has also been outstanding.  Who knew that ditching Zdeno Chara, the Andre The Giant of hockey, would be one of the smartest decisions management ever made for this team?  He didn’t exactly help turn things around in Boston, now, did he? 
 
But what about The Anaheim Ducks?  They had a great regular season, thanks to the acquisition of that disgracefully disloyal Chris Pronger.  (I’ll never understand why you bailed on my team.  It couldn’t be because you’re pussy-whipped, could it?)  And the playoffs have been no exception.  Besides clipping The Wings in 6, The Ducks disposed of both The Vancouver Canucks and The Minnesota Wild in 5 games in each of their series.
 
Pronger, Ryan Getzlaf and Selanne have a combined 39 points this post-season.  And with the exception of some of the Detroit games, the goaltending has been excellent.  J.S. Giguere, the Conn Smythe MVP winner in 2003, has an even better GAA (1.87) and save percentage (93%) in 12 games than Ray Emery.  Ilya Bryzgalov has been no slouch, either.  3 wins and a loss, 2.25 GAA and a 92% save percentage.
 
So, with all that on the table, who is most likely to win The Stanley Cup this year?  A tough call, to be sure.  Goaltending on both sides is relatively even.  The Ducks have given up 34 goals compared to The Sens’ total of 31.  However, Ottawa does have a slight advantage in goalscoring.  48-42.  Astoundingly, we can’t go by regular season confrontations because, believe it or not, these two teams never faced each other this past year.  Not even once.
 
This series is likely to be low-scoring, tight defensively and we might even see some overtime games, as well.  In the final analysis, Ottawa has the stronger team.  Ray Emery, the Cayuga native, is playing the best hockey of his life; Daniel Alfredsson, the Swedish Captain, is playing like a Canadian with his rough-and-tumble goalscoring ways, and everybody else is pretty much pulling their weight.  They’ll face stiff competition in The Ducks but it’s long overdue for a Canadian team to win this prestigious trophy.
 
Ottawa in 7.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, May 26, 2007
12:06 a.m.
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Published in: on May 26, 2007 at 12:11 am  Comments (1)  

Red Moon

Where would I be today without my trusted PC?  I certainly wouldn’t have had a small number of articles published in my local newspaper.  I wouldn’t have been able to launch this website.  And I wouldn’t have met so many interesting women.
 
It’s amazing how easy it is to meet members of the opposite sex online.  Too easy, actually.  The possibilities are endless.  There are dating sites, profile directories for numerous instant messenger services, and of course, chatrooms.  I could fill a book with stories about my many online encounters with hundreds of different women.  In fact, I actually started one 6 years ago.  Or, at least, I tried to.  After writing 13 chapters that were all meant to be a precursor to the good stuff (real-life events that led to the purchase of my second computer), I had second thoughts.  It’s always risky to reveal too much about your personal life publicly no matter how interesting it may be.  And I felt, upon further reflection, that it would be best to drop the idea and move on to something else.  However, I did share some of the chapters with a couple of my ex-girlfriends.  Their feedback was very helpful and I was able to improve my writing.
 
Last night, I was chatting with my current girlfriend about my site.  As noted in this space, it had been freezing a lot and since The Windows Live Support Team solved the problem not too long ago, I wanted to know if she was able to see everything ok.  Thankfully, everything is fine on her end as well as mine.  She hadn’t noticed the poetry section before and was shocked with how blunt the writing was.  She’s always been very kind and supportive of my creative endeavours but was surprised how I didn’t hold anything back in my poems which she thoroughly enjoyed.  (When we chat online or talk on the phone, the conversations are almost always sweet and polite.)
 
I had mentioned how I had wanted to do some new poetry but simply never got around to doing it.  I also brought up this one poem that I’ve long resisted posting on here.
 
Back in 2001, I found this chat site called Chatspan.  One of the first women I met was this slightly older single mom from New Jersey.  We hit it off right away and ended up striking an unusual friendship.  We’d talk about our lives and we would also have cyber sex.  It ended about a year later.  After sending her numerous pics of myself, I still hadn’t received a single one in return.  I eventually realized that the relationship had run its course (she was never going to show me what she looked like and we were never going to meet in person) and I told her I didn’t want to do this anymore.  It should be noted that during this whole time she was dating guys offline and I became involved with other women online.  In fact, if memory serves, I had two short-term, long distance girlfriends (not at the same time) whose pics I did see (I was also able to talk to one of them on the phone several times) but neither relationship got to the offline stage. 
 
The New Jersey mom was furious with me.  She was incredulous that I would even consider ending it.  I was not expecting her to be so upset.  We weren’t an exclusive couple.  We weren’t in love.  But apparently, she thought our cybersexual friendship was perfectly fine.  It wasn’t.  Completely unprepared to handle her explosive response, I put her on Ignore in the chatroom.  Then, she left me a short, nasty email.  I soon put her on Block.  Eventually, I unblocked her email address and thankfully, haven’t heard from her since.  She was a very nice lady, though.  It just didn’t work out.
 
When we were talking about sexual fantasies, hers involved having sex on a beach late at night.  I remember one night during this period I was looking out the window in my bedroom and noticed a red moon.  I thought about her fantasy and decided to write an erotic poem for her with that title.  She loved it.  She thought it was very sexy and when someone pays your writing a compliment like that, it’s a huge confidence booster, let me tell ya.
 
Anyway, 5 years later when I started this website I decided to post a few examples of my poetry.  Red Moon seemed a little too racy for a site like this so it was never published here.  Last night, while talking to my girlfriend about it, she insisted I change my mind.  She buttered me up with compliments (hard to resist those from someone as sweet as her) and I took another look at it.  Although it is very sexual in nature, it’s not pornographic by any means.  Still, I’m prepared for any kind of negative feedback it might inspire.  It is not for prudes.
 
The poem ended up being transformed and expanded into the first chapter of my uncompleted book about my online sex life.  It took a couple of tries but on the advice of one of my exes, I added a lot more details to beef up the writing.  Needless to say, it’s even more sexual than the original poem.  Not even an avalanche of compliments from my special lady would ever convince me to publish it.  Why?  It would provoke a worldwide blushing epidemic.
 
 
RED MOON
By Dennis Earl
 
I lay on the beach
Paradise within reach
She lays there beside me
Eager to teach
 
It is a beautiful night
The climate just right
A quick glance around
And there is no one in sight
 
Now is the time
To commit the perfect crime
Sensuous delights
That won’t cost me a dime
 
She gently strokes me
Her touch provokes me
It all seems so fast
But she’s stroking slowly
 
Our bodies glistening
The night sky listening
And all of the while
Gradually stiffening
 
Now I see paradise
With my own 2 eyes
Mutually pleasuring
To immeasurable highs
 
She feeds the addiction
With easy persuasion
No longer caged
The result of emancipation
 
The stroking concludes
And we are wet and nude
Ready to test
What our passion exudes
 
She pins me down
Grinding me down
Always a smile
Never a frown
 
Her rhythm increases
The moment she seizes
Will I hold together
Or break into pieces?
 
It’s going so fast
How can I last?
I am new to this arena
My lonely days are vast
 
But I hold strong
The encounter is long
Both of us delighting
In our passionate song
 
And yet it ends too soon
Our collaborative tune
Until we meet again
Under the red moon
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, May 21, 2007
2:35 p.m.
Published in: on May 21, 2007 at 2:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

On The Lot Starts Tuesday

The same night that Blake Lewis and Jordin Sparks compete for America’s votes for the last time on the second-to-last episode of this season’s American Idol, a new competition begins immediately afterwards.  On The Lot, the latest Mark Burnett creation, follows a special 85-minute edition of Idol this coming Tuesday, May 22nd at 9:25 p.m. on CTV and Fox.  (Sorry, House fans.  The popular drama is not airing that night.)
 
This past winter, thousands of budding filmmakers from around the world submitted short films under 5 minutes to the producers of the show hoping to be among the 50 semi-finalists to get their mugs on the boob tube.  Canadian Press TV Critic Bill Brioux was one of the many to have their entries accepted and available for free viewings on the official On The Lot website.  However, his 1980 student film, Puck Soup, is out of the competition.  Brioux never made it to the second round.
 
Essentially a Hollywood version of American Idol, starting Monday, May 28th, surviving contestants will need to win over not only professionally accredited judges with their weekly submissions but also the viewing public who will have the opportunity to vote for their favourites.  For the two episodes airing this week – besides the hour-long debut on Tuesday, there’s a half-hour follow-up Thursday, May 24th at 9:30 p.m. – actress/author Carrie Fisher, and producer/directors Brett Ratner (Red Dragon, X-Men: The Last Stand), Garry Marshall (Happy Days, Pretty Woman) and Jon Avnet (Fried Green Tomatoes, Risky Business) will be providing feedback to the aspiring Spielbergs and have the final say on who will move on to the next round.
 
Although hyped as a global search for the next great movie director, 42 of the contestants are American.  Of the remaining 8 semi-finalists, one is from Spain, another is from South Africa, there’s an Italian competitor, 2 Englishmen and 3 Canadians (2 from Toronto and 1 from Vancouver).  Obviously, the odds are overwhelmingly in favour of an American winning a million dollar development deal with Dreamworks Studios, the big prize everybody’s competing for.
 
By the end of Thursday’s show, 18 finalists will be selected, not 16 as was previously announced.  To make the final cut, all 50 contestants will be put through a “Hollywood Boot Camp”, whatever that means, they’ll have to shoot another short film in 24 hours and shoot a one-page script in only an hour using professional crew members.  They’ll also learn why “pitch” meetings are a horrible fact of life in Hollywood. 
 
Whether this show actually discovers the next Scorsese who will then go on to have a remarkable career as a respected filmmaker, of course, remains to be seen.  One thing is for sure.  It will have a big audience Tuesday night.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, May 20, 2007
3:54 p.m.
 
UPDATE:  I was wrong.  The ratings were horrible.  According to Mediaweek, the show was unable to hang on to much of the American Idol audience that first night.  In fact, fewer people watched the second half hour than the first.  Had I somehow seen the pilot before its air date, I would not have made such a bold and stupid prediction.  Like much of the audience, I was unable to watch the whole thing myself, it was so dull.  After 10 or 15 minutes, I shut off my Television set.  (I did tune in again a little later in the broadcast but again, shut off my TV.  I checked out the second episode midway through for a second before bailing for good.)  There were too many wide-eyed contestants vying for screen time, the pacing of the program was awfully slow and the competition, what little I saw of it, was just not that interesting.  Also, CTV screwed up royally in their promotion of the show’s debut.  TV plugs said that On The Lot was supposed to start at 9 p.m., right after Idol.  According to their website, though, 9:25 p.m. was the “actual” start time.  Both were wrong.  The show didn’t actually begin until 9:09 p.m., according to this Los Angeles Times article.  Either way, Fox and CTV have a forgettable failure on their hands.  Will either network stick with the show for its entire run?  Never one to shy away from a prediction, I’m gonna bravely say no.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, May 27, 2007
1:05 p.m.
Published in: on May 20, 2007 at 3:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

3 Upcoming Albums I Want To Hear

Ahh, the spring.  Warm weather, beautiful sunshine, beautiful women wearing less clothing.  How wonderful.  Along with the summer, it’s also the time of year where a number of major musicians unveil their latest creations.  What will stick and what will miss?  Which performers will provide the soundtrack of our lives in the coming months and who will struggle to get airplay?
 
Let the professionals predict the correct answers to those burning questions.  I’m more interested in focusing on three particular bands and their latest CDs, the only new releases I’m interested in.  Let’s go through them one by one:
 
Era Vulgaris by Queens Of The Stone Age
 
The title is a Latin phrase meaning “Common Era”, the era we’re living in right now, which began in year 1, A.D, thanks to the implementation of the Gregorian calendar.  But Queens Of The Stone Age frontman Josh Homme (pronounced “Haw-mee”) selected it for his band’s fifth studio album for a very different reason as he explained in an interview with Pitchfork Media last month:
 
“It sounds like ‘the Vulgar Era’, which I like, because that sounds like something that I would like to be part of.”
 
Count me in, too.  Long before he founded Queens, Homme played killer licks for the underappreciated Kyuss.  (Check out …And The Circus Leaves Town, a terrific farewell effort from 1995.)  Sure, they would never have existed were it not for Black Sabbath but how many other hard rock bands can both imitate the sound of that pioneering British quartet while somehow creating their own original, sonic ideas simultaneously?  (Sadly, the band broke up in 1996, only a year after I became a fan of songs like Spaceship Landing and One Inch Man.)
 
Since 1998, Homme and a rotating list of musicians have put out one stellar album after another.  The self-titled independent debut, Rated R (which featured The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret and the infamous Feel Good Hit Of The Summer), Songs Of The Deaf, their commercial breakthrough (remember No One Knows and Go With The Flow?), and Lullabies To Paralyze (which spawned Little Sister and In My Head).
 
According to Homme, Era Vulgaris is less polished and more dirty than its predecessors, which sounds promising.  However, the title song (which features the great Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails) didn’t make the final cut.  Bummer.  On the plus side, you can find it online as a legal, free download. 
 
Look for the 11-song album (which features a couple of cartoonish-looking light bulbs, one a pot-smoker, the other a one-armed, eye-patched pirate, on the cover) on June 12th.
 
Our Love To Admire by Interpol
 
There’s a scene from an episode of Friends where Joey catches his friend Ross making out with Aisha Tyler, a beautiful, intelligent woman whose affections they’ve been competing for.  He soon realizes that because of this sudden turn of events, he’s free to pursue Rachel, Ross’ ex and the woman he’s most interested in.  At some point during this sequence you’ll hear the opening of Untitled, the opening track from Turn On The Bright Lights, the debut album from Interpol.  Considering how difficult it is to pick the right music to accompany a pivotal dramatic moment in any production, this was a perfect choice.  You can never go wrong with an Interpol song.
 
The New York-based group who made two of the best albums of this decade (Antics is the other) are back with Our Love To Admire, their third studio release.  Curiously, they left respected indie label Matador for Capitol to make this record.  Here’s hoping there’s no dip in quality because of the move.
 
Like their first album, the new record has 11 songs including the painfully titled, in more ways than one, The Heinrich Maneuver, which is the first single.  Expect more keyboards this time out as well as some orchestration, which scares me a little.
 
The band, which sounds like Gord Downie fronting either The Cure or Joy Division, have made tremendous progress in such a short period of time.  Turn On The Bright Lights peaked at #158 on Billboard Magazine’s Top 200 Album Chart in 2002.  Antics peaked at #15 a mere two years later.  We shall see how well Our Love To Admire performs this summer.  It’s being released on July 10th.
 
Zeitgeist by The Smashing Pumpkins
 
In a year loaded with reunions, this one might be the most anticipated.  After breaking up in late 2000, dictatorial frontman Billy Corgan tried to move on from the group that made him a star.  There was the one-hit wonder supergroup Zwan not to mention a 2005 solo album.  Speaking of TheFutureEmbrace, on the very same day the album first appeared in record stores, a full-page advertisement appeared in The Chicago Tribune where Corgan announced his intention to re-launch The Smashing Pumpkins.
 
The good news is Corgan and drummer Jimmy Chamberlain are on board.  The bad news is D’Arcy Wretzky and James Iha are not.  Neither is the lovely Melissa Auf Der Maur who filled in for Wretzky near the end of the band’s initial run after she was fired by Corgan because of her drug habit, which she has since beaten.  Nearly two years after that famous ad comes Zeitgeist, the first proper Pumpkins studio CD since 2000’s Machina: The Machine Of Gods.
 
If Wikipedia is to be trusted, most of the 12 songs on the album are in the 3- to 5-minute range with the exception of United States, which clocks in 10 seconds shy of 10 minutes.  Will this new material be welcomed with open arms by the band’s many fans?  We’ll find out July 10th.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, May 18, 2007
10:37 p.m.
Published in: on May 19, 2007 at 10:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

Explaining The New Look

I thought this day would never come.  For the past three weeks, this website had been experiencing technical problems.  Essentially, the home page had been freezing on a regular basis.  Thankfully, I was able to add content during this frustrating period.  Unfortunately, there were fewer postings than normal.  That’s about to change.
 
Late last night, Dolores of Windows Live Spaces Technical Support sent me an email that explained the mystery of my freezing home page.  She correctly noted that there were simply too many posted blog entries (25, which is the maximum) and in order to solve the problem I needed to reduce that number to either 5 or 10.  I settled on 10.  Once the change was made, my website stopped freezing.  Special thanks to Dolores and Technical Support for all their help.  It is deeply appreciated.
 
As you can imagine, when something like this happens it can throw off your rhythm.  It can also leave you perplexed.  I mean, since this website began in earnest 15 months ago, the plan was to always have as many blog entries on the home page as possible.  Until recently, this didn’t cause a single problem.  From now on, every page of this site will just have 10 pieces.  No more, no less.
 
Because of this significant change, I’ve had to do some rearranging.  Prior to today, my profile and all the lists were on the left side of the screen while the blog covered the rest of the space.  Since it’s not feasible to have 25 blog entries per page anymore, the original layout has been scrapped in favour of this new one where the blog is firmly sandwiched by lists on the left and the right.
 
If you’re looking for my 10 Best and 10 Worst movie lists, my lists of Recommended Websites, The Funniest People Alive and The Sexiest Women Alive plus my Amazon Book list, you’ll now find them on the right side of the screen.  All the others, as well as my profile, remain on the left side.
 
I very nearly made one other signficant change.  The space-themed background had been disappearing on occasion today which was very weird.  Also, with the exception of my profile pic, all my content decided to run away from home.  Imagine linking to this site only to see a very small picture floating in space.  Not good.  Thankfully, all my words got homesick and came back.  As noted before in this space, this isn’t the first time my blog has magically disappeared.
 
Moving on.  You may have noticed another change today.  Windows Live has finally introduced a Guestbook, something I’ve been wanting to have on here for quite a while now.  (You’ll find it above my Blog.)  I invite you to leave comments on there and also on my Blog writings.  You can also send email to dennischarlesearl@hotmail.com.  All your feedback is appreciated and read.
 
Windows Live has also introduced music lists and for a moment, I had decided to add some here.  But after reworking the look of my site, I’ve changed my mind.  I don’t think I can fit them in now. Unfortunately, I can’t figure out how to delete that "Music" link that you’ll see right under my email address near the top of the screen.  If you click it, you won’t find anything listed.  In fact, you’ll probably never find anything listed.  For the time being, that link will stay where it is until I learn how to remove it.
 
Finally, a word about my hit count.  Normally, this website receives between 200 and 400 hits per week.  Not great but it’s something to build on.  Since the freezing began, though, readership has dropped.  It’s a miracle if I get 100 hits or more in 7 consecutive days now.  Hopefully, with everything resolved, more visitors will check things out here as the site inches towards 10,000 page views.
 
That’s all for now.  Keep your eyes on this space for more pieces and don’t forget to check out The Fading To Black Blog which features more of my writings.  Thanks for visiting.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, May 11, 2007
11:43 p.m.
Published in: on May 11, 2007 at 11:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

Spider-Man

Comic book movies are red-hot these days.  Thanks to the success of Blade in 1998 and the first X-Men movie in 2000, Hollywood has been relying more and more on superheroes to bring in the greenbacks.  As a result, The Incredible Hulk, The Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Elektra, Ghost Rider and even old stalwarts like Batman and Superman have all been called into duty.
 
And then, there’s Spider-Man.  Spider-Man 3, which just opened this past weekend, is reportedly the most expensive movie in Hollywood history.  How expensive?  Try half a billion dollars (which includes the production and advertising budgets).  So far, it’s doing unsurprisingly well.  It’s already accumulated just over 150 million in one weekend in North America and 230 million overseas (it opened in nine foreign countries before its New York premiere on April 30th).  It wouldn’t be a surprise to me if it made a billion dollars during its entire international theatrical run. 
 
That being said, I’m in the minority when it comes to the Spider-Man franchise.  I’ve been deeply disappointed with the first two films in the series.  (I hope to see the third release when it becomes available on DVD later this year.)  For me, the casting of Tobey Maguire in the pivotal title role has been the main reason why these films haven’t connected with me.  I just can’t accept him as either Peter Parker or Spider-Man.
 
Perhaps it’s best to dust off, so to speak, my original assessment of the first Spider-Man movie in order to further explain my reservations.  Released 5 years ago this month, I screened the film with my parents and a friend from my mom’s church on May 15, 2002 at the SilverCity Cinemas over in Ancaster.  My mom and dad were in for a real shock during this rare evening out together.
 
First, there was the admission price.  My parents wanted to treat my mom’s friend since she drove us to the cinema that night.  They wanted to buy her ticket as a token of their appreciation.  Little did any of us know that the evening rate for adults was $13.50.  So, multiply that figure by 4 and it cost 54 smackers for four people to see a 2-hour movie.  Needless to say, my parents haven’t expressed any desire to see anything else at SilverCity or in any other theatre, for that matter.  (When the sequel came out in 2004, my dad decided to wait to see it on DVD.  He’s looking forward to seeing number 3 at home, as well.)
 
Then, there was the volume.  My family loves watching movies at home but they value their hearing.  There were times during the Spider-Man screening where even I thought the sound system was cranked too high.  (In fact, it’s one of the reasons I’ve stopped going to the cinema altogether.  Louder isn’t better, guys.)
 
Finally, before the film even began, there were several commercials and, if my memory is good, 10 film trailers.  That whole package had to total at least 20 minutes, possibly 25.  Call me crazy but that’s overkill.  All of us just wanted to see the movie.  (Is it any wonder why fewer people go to the movies these days?)
 
As for my review, despite a slight change in the intro and another small edit near the end, this is essentially the same critique that has been kept out of sight until now.  While the screenwriting did improve in Spider-Man 2 (which I screened on DVD), again, I was disappointed with the final result.  If only the title character was played by someone more convincing than Tobey Maguire.
 
 
 

SPIDER-MAN
A Review By Dennis Earl

 

In the comic book world, Spider-Man always came across as a brooding, tortured teenager, a self-loather with only a glimmer of hope for his future. He seemed so unsure of himself.  He was more of an unloved human than a self-assured superhero. Much of that brooding arose from the experiences of his other self, the geeky, science fanatic, and orphan, Peter Parker. A recluse who loses himself in his own theories and interests, he is not even close to being the most popular kid in school where he’s often mocked and beaten. With few friends and a gorgeous next door neighbour who always seems just out of his reach, it’s no wonder he’s always down on himself and his special powers. "It is my gift, it is my curse," he would say.
 
It’s no wonder that Mr. Excitement Tobey Maguire was cast in that role for the long-delayed, much anticipated Spider-Man feature film. Maguire often plays Peter Parker type characters. (He’s actually holding a comic book at the beginning and end of The Ice Storm.)
 
If you know even a hint about Spider-Man’s origin, whether you read the original story, the numerous reprints, or even watched the 60s cartoon version, then much of this film will be familiar to you. It certainly is a good looking film with moments of genuine excitement. What’s missing is a good human story with characters you like, characters you hate and some genuine surprises.
 
During a field trip, science student Parker gets bitten by a missing lab spider and becomes even more reclusive than normal as he tries to deal with these strange new feelings and ultimately, abilities he has accidentally obtained. His only friend is a rich kid named Harry Osborne (James Franco), whose father happens to be Dr. Norman Osborne, a self-made scientist hoping to convince the military his experimental flying gliders are worth investing in. As the story progresses, it’s clear the movie is more interested in Parker than it is in Dr. Osborne. Willem Dafoe, one of my favourite actors, is badly miscast here in a part that feels underwritten and perhaps, it was wise to limit his scenes. Dr. Osborne is given an ultimatum by the military. He better have his prototypes ready or the military is taking their business elsewhere.
 
Fearing failure, he resorts to something drastic but things go horribly wrong. He soon develops a true Jekyll & Hyde split persona. By day, he is the intelligent scientist quickly losing his control over his own corporation. By night, he is the Green Goblin, and here’s another complaint I have about this movie. When you see the Goblin, you get a cross between the Aliens Sigourney Weaver often battles and Mr. Roboto. Every time he appears on that fantastic glider of his, I kept thinking, "Dobbo origato Mr. Roboto."
 
In every comic book, there’s always a pretty girl to give the superhero some hope. In the comic version of Spider-Man, before Gwen Stacy, there was Mary Jane Watson, the fresh-faced red-head who always seemed to pick guys whose cracked personalites resembled her own verbally abusive father. In the film, once Parker realizes his powers, there’s a cute scene where MJ (played by Kirsten Dunst) slips on something in the cafeteria and Parker simultaneously catches her and her lunch.
 
Later in the same scene, he accidentally raises the ire of Dunst’s brutish boyfriend, Flash Thompson (Joe Manganiello) and that leads to an inevitable confrontation where, for once, Parker is not outmatched.
 
It’s clear that Dunst and Maguire have chemistry but the majority of their dialogue seems lifted from Days Of Our Lives. I was surprised how manipulative their scenes made me feel and yet, out of nowhere, a quick, sweet moment occurs that you wish would last longer. Take the scene where MJ and Parker are outside talking in their backyards. MJ notices in that moment that he looks taller than he usually does. "I hunch," he responds. "Don’t," she says. Sometimes, fewer words carry more meaning.
 
Much of the movie builds up to the inevitable and sometimes effective confrontations between the Goblin and Spider-Man. But one wonders how the much younger and technologically deprived web crawler could ever outwit a middle-aged scientist who could easily blow him up at any moment. In the Bond pictures, the villains always talk too much before Bond wastes them. In this one, the Goblin constantly toys with him, setting him up only to never completely destroy him. There’s a reason for this. The Goblin tries to convince Spider-Man midway through the film that they could team up and cause all kinds of havoc. He tells Spider-Man, what’s the use in saving New Yorkers? They will eventually despise you. It doesn’t help that The Daily Bugle, in particular its cranky editor, J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons) views him as a menace, not a hero, on its front page.
 
While the majority of the film is a huge disappointment, there is one scene that is terrific. Thinking that all he needs is some extra cash to buy a fancy car to impress MJ, Peter Parker enters a contest where if he lasts 3 minutes with Bonesaw (the always charismatic Randy Macho Man Savage), a seemingly unbeatable wrestler, in a steel cage he wins 3000 bucks. Parker makes a hilariously cheesy costume and tells the announcer he’s the Human Spider. "That sucks," says the announcer and he bills him, unsurprisingly, as The Amazing Spider-Man.  Despite being pummeled by a chair and enduring Bonesaw’s awesome strength, Parker dazzles the crowd and settles the match one minute sooner than expected. This leads to familiar scenes from the original comic book origin and the movie soon loses its momentary zip.
 
Good movies can be made from comic books.  Batman, Superman, The Crow and the more recent Blade all inspired engaging, atmospheric films.  But they also had characters you found interesting.  In Spider-Man, without characters to get close to, you feel even more distant that Peter Parker does in his own city.  There’s more to the story than I’ve revealed but the plot seems unnecessary to this film.  It’s more interested in fight scenes and overly sappy melodramatic moments than telling a good story.  When the inevitable sequel arrives in a couple of years, here’s hoping the screenwriting improves.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, May 8, 2007
11:52 p.m.
Published in: on May 8, 2007 at 11:53 pm  Comments (1)