The many flaws of Spider-Man 3 have been well-documented: The elevated cheese factor, the overabundance of baddies, that absurd 10-minute stretch of song, dance and unsightliness where it suddenly feels like we're watching some strange mash-up of Willard vs. The Mask... But it's not like this is a bad movie. Underwhelming compared to its pair of astonishing predecessors? Sure, but still entertaining enough for a Sunday afternoon slouchfest. Yes, a movie that costs $250 million (or more?) should make our eyes pop and our remaining senses tingle (and possibly even leave us a craving a cigarette and a shower afterward), and Spidey 3 has moments of such bliss. Its single biggest flaw is that when it needs to get really dark, it gets really hokey -- perhaps catering to a younger audience, but losing a whole lot of credibility in the process.
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About a month back we ran a feature speculating (guestimating, too) over early Oscar contenders, and a few of our readers astutely inquired, "Where the f*** is Don Cheadle?" Our bad. Cheadle does indeed deserve to be part of the discussion in the Best Actor race, as crowded a field as it looks this year. Shoot, even Cate Blanchett wants in. Cheadle begins chewing the scenery faster than you can say Chiwetel Ejiofor as Civil Rights-era radio talk show host Ralph "Petey" Greene in this honest and engaging portrayal. Also thoroughly impressive -- and who I wish would also get mentioned in awards chatter -- is Taraji P. Henson. The Hustle & Flow breakout has a vibrancy about her to match Cheadle at every turn, AND she's got a killer Afro to boot. Though unexpectedly conventional at times, the film is a rare treat for folks who appreciate thoughtful yet feel-good, socially relevant entertainment.