The Amazing Spider-Man 2 | Review | Film

Andrew GarfieldWeb-slinging isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The struggles of being a teenager (played by 30-year-old Andrew Garfield) are bad enough without evil villains turning up to mess with your on again, off again relationship.
Spider-Man isn’t having an easy time of it either, with many in New York City, including the conspicuously absent J. Jonah Jameson, Editor of the Daily Bugle, calling for his arrest as a vigilante.

Swinging into action

The Amazing Spider-Man 2The thing which sets this series of films apart from the memorable Toby Maguire trilogy, has always been depth of character, and every big-hitter here takes things up a notch from the previous film.

Garfield is excellent at playing a teen, and puts across Peter Parker’s internal conflicts about right and wrong expertly – though possibly the run time didn’t quite give him a chance to really develop things due to the sheer amount going on in the film as a whole.

Therein lies the first issue with the film: it is full to bursting. Whether it’s villains (technically three-ish, but really only two a bother), subplots (numerous) or supporting cast (who all do a great job), you have to stay on your toes not to miss anything.

A big part of the plot is Peter’s quest to find out what happened to his parents, as hinted in the trailer, but sadly it feels too rushed to feel genuinely resolved. Those expecting a long voyage through Richard Parker’s mysterious research and fantastical revelations will be left disappointed.

The trailer was borderline misleading in some areas as a number of lines you’ll remember from it didn’t make the final cut of the film, causing you to question where they would have fitted and it really begins to take you out of the film.

That said, the casting makes the more surreal aspects of the film, such as the creation of Jamie Foxx’s Electro, believeable, and Dane DeHaan (of Chronicle fame) in particular is an outstanding portrayal of Harry Osborn.

Harry isn’t having a great time of it either, since he is suffering from a degenerative, fatal, hereditary disease and is convinced only Spider-Man’s blood can help him overcome it. As you might expect, things quickly escalate.

Fight the power

Electro (Jamie Foxx)In fact, Electro is the big bad for the most part of the film, and Foxx makes you really identify with him as a misunderstood victim (up to a point anyway) which really gives gravitas to what could easily have just been a CGI showoff piece.

The story begins with us meeting Electro when he is just an electrical engineer at Oscorp, unappreciated and unnoticed, until his life is saved by our favourite swinging hero and he quickly develops an obsession.

When he gets into an accident, which anyone could see coming a mile off, he becomes Electro, a being seemingly made of energy with a strangely familiar to look to those who’ve seen Watchmen.

Emma Stone as Gwen does well with the comparatively little screen time she has, and even moves the character on, but the romance feels sidelined in favor of action. In fact the action even has it’s own tiny-version-of-hero-fights-evil á la Iron Man, but it’s slightly less cheesy.

Peter Parker and Harry Osborn in The Amazing Spider-Man 2The film then, is altogether a good superhero flick. There’s lots of action and excitement and strong characters, but in the end the frantic nature of the films plot and trying to do too much means there is no slow build for the characters, no time for the villains to grow naturally before they are just destroying everything in sight just because.

The final coda is a thinly veiled trailer for the next film rather than something designed to wrap things up which is also a shame as it cheapens the film slightly as a result. That said there is undoubtedly some exciting and interesting things on the horizon, whether that’s in Spider-Man films themselves of spin-offs.

It’s an enjoyable film to occupy for the Easter break, and probably will sit nicely between parts one and three, but on its own it dangles slightly and doesn’t quite go as deep as you might have hoped.

Rating: 3/5

James Michael Parry

For a slightly different, and altogether more disappointed take on the film, see Andy Hemphill’s review

Internet security: Are your passwords good enough? | Opinion | Cyberculture

HeartbleedEvery other day you’re told to change your password, and now the internet comes along and says that almost every major website has been compromised by a crippling security flaw – you just can’t win.

Of course, there’s an element of overreaction and drama to things like this. Websites are hacked what seems like all the time, but the Heartbleed bug has hit more than most. Mashable puts across what you should do more eloquently than I can (short version, there’s a few you’ve heard of, but in the UK it’s only a couple), but the bottom line is it’s always good to have a think about your password security.

Think secure

A password is a simple concept. Think of a word which means something to you but no one else would guess. Of course in the good old days you could (almost) get away with ‘Password’ or ‘Password1’, but these days you need to be a little more savvy, and, frankly, unpredictable.

How many of you are using passwords right now which are based around your pets name? Your child’s name? Your birthday? Or even you’re mother’s maiden name? Now think about how easily someone could get hold of this info…plus, if you have a public Facebook account then you’re basically doing their work for them.

It’s an easy trap to fall into, because people choose ‘memorable’ words and phrases as secure answers, but in fact it might be more sensible to choose something completely random and unrelated to you instead.

Passwords

How strong is a ‘strong’ password?

You can go too far the other way, meaning your password is impossible to remember and therefore you end up resetting it every time you try to log on. If you think you have the memory for it, you could try a strong password generator, which then you remember with a handy mnemonic.

For example, a strong password might be: Iow2ts2b18!bop, which as a sentence could be: I once went 2 the shops 2 buy 18! bags of peas. This is a random example (please don’t use this password!) but you get the idea. A really strong password would have more punctuation and more capital letters in it of course, if in doubt, add a few numbers in the middle of the word for good measure.

Another alternative is take a word you know well and reverse it to turn that into a mnemonic, of course that is less secure than a completely random word or name, but it might be easier to remember.

The key really is to be sensible, there’s no point in coming up with an incredibly elaborate password if you can’t remember it. I remember I changed some passwords recently and quickly lost track of which was for which site.

Two-step verification from Google AuthenticatorTwo-step verification

In terms of the Heartbleed sites, many of them offer two-step verification. What this does is asks you to log in with a password and a security code which is created by an app on your smartphone or tablet.

You can have the website remember a specific device so you don’t need to use the log-in process from you’re phone every five minutes, but the benefit is if someone does hack your account information then tries to log on as you somewhere else then they won’t be able to (in theory at least, there are some determined people out there).

It’s a fairly simple process, in that the likes of Google, Microsoft and Apple (for example) have their own two-step process in place, go to your security settings on your account for those sites to find out more. If you ever wondered what ‘Google Authenticator’ is, then that’s what it’s for (see the video below for a quick guide), personally I would recommend it.

As a disclaimer, I would not claim to be a password or security expert, and if you have genuine concerns that your account on any site has been compromised, contact that site immediately. In all likelihood though, you are very unlikely to be targeted specifically, it’s more likely that your data gets scooped up by a targeted attack on a high profile site, and keeping your passwords fresh eliminates the security risk from that.

It might not be very exciting, but would you really want someone logging on to your email and sending malware to you entire address book? It isn’t likely, but it’s the sort of thing which could happen if you don’t do something about it.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to change my password and promptly forget it.

James Michael Parry

Captain America: The Winter Soldier | Review | Film

Captain America: The Winter SoldierPatriotism is a tough label to get around. For Captain America the character is forever typecast by his very name. Lucky then that the character Chris Evans portrays as the Captain has far more depth than it should.

Captain America: The Winter SoldierSince the first Captain America, the world has changed. The idealistic beginning of this symbol of hope and courage have become all too real as the aftermath of Avengers Assemble have taken their toll. Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D (so, SHIELD…) are pre-preemptively taking out terrorist targets, which cause the Captain to have something of a morality crisis.

Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is much happier not following the rules, and spends much of the film learning why they can, in fact, be some use after all. Fury himself even gets some time to develop as a character, at last becoming more than just a cool guy with an eye patch.

Newcomer The Winter Soldier, whose origins you either suspect or may already know, gets no such luxury however and sadly suffers for it, impressing on skill but not substance. Whether his character will grow in a future iteration of the franchise remains to be seen.


The stakes are higher this time around, thanks to a relic of the past coming back to haunt in true comicbook style, and the action rises to the occasion well. The drama shys away from the likes of romance for the most part, instead pushing ahead with the subject of morality, and plays the hand strongly, but still with a healthy dose of care from the audience about the characters.

There’s no magic or alien involvement in this Marvel story (though the technological accomplishments possible in 1945 seem a tad unlikely) so it’s up to the Cap to take on his enemies with nothing but his iron will and his insanely indestructible shield.

Captain America: The Winter SoldierThe story might be a stretch, but you can’t deny it is simplicity at its heart and this works in the film’s favor for the most part – there’s little risk of scenes dragging on too long and you losing interest.

News that Evans won’t be continuing, while not a complete shock, does surprise when you consider how naturally he falls into this role – especially after already playing a well-known Marvel character only a few years before.

Since then Evans, like his choice of characters, have come of age and taken on more responsibility as an actor. He brings a subtle physicality to the role, not wearing it on his sleeve like Hugh Jackman but undeniably well built, so much so that you can almost believe his opening mammoth sprint.

In all there’s a lot to enjoy about this film so long as you can immerse yourself in Marvel’s increasingly complex world, but at the same time resist the urge to ask questions like ‘So, where’s Iron Man while this is going on?’ and ‘No way The Hulk would sit around and let that happen’.

Whether the character has the mileage for the third film, after the difficult second compilation album that is The Avengers: Age of Ultron remains to be seen. For now, it’s a fun and enjoyable film which hits the tone just right to move things on, and leave you wanting more.

Rating: 4/5

James Michael Parry