THE GLASS CASTLE (quick) review

Not much of a story for how I know about this one. I’ve seen the trailer maybe once, and the movie’s cast alone has me hooked. It’s based on a book of the same name, a memoir to be precise. It looks like it’s about this young, upscale woman with a serious stick up her ass and reflects on her childhood living on the move with her family, but eventually leaves them behind and makes her own way and holds some sort of grudge against her father, specifically. I think I have this story pegged, but it could be good.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Brie Larson (KONG: SKULL ISLAND [2017], ROOM [2015], 21 JUMP STREET [2012], and Marvel’s upcoming CAPTAIN MARVEL [2019]) and Woody Harrelson (WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES [2017], THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN [2016], NATURAL BORN KILLERS [1994], and the upcoming Star Wars Han Solo film [2018]). In support, we have Naomi Watts (THE BOOK OF HENRY [2017], DEMOLITION [2016], KING KONG [2005], and the upcoming straight-to-TV Divergent conclusion ASCENDANT, no release date announced) and Max Greenfield (ICE AGE: COLLISION COURSE [2016], HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS [2016], and TV show NEW GIRL [2011 – ongoing]).

Now for the crew. Directing and co-writing is Destin Daniel Cretton, known for a bunch of short films. Cretton’s partner-in-pen is Andrew Lanham, known for THE SHACK (2017). Composing the score is Joel P. West, known for GRANDMA (2015). Finally, the cinematographer is Brett Pawlak, known for MAX STEEL (2016), THE MEDDLER (2016), and TV show HALO 4: FORWARD UNTO DAWN (2012).

Overall, I’m pretty excited for this, but I’m pretty bias toward the cast.

This is my honest opinion of: THE GLASS CASTLE

(SUMMARY)

Based on true events, set in 1989. Jeanette (Brie Larson) is an accomplished and talented writer, happily about to get married to her fiancé David (Max Greenfield). However, her life wasn’t so glitzy and glamorous because as a child, she grew up with her siblings in a harsh environment. Though their father Rex (Woody Harrelson) was a loving and well-meaning dad and husband to his wife Rose Mary (Naomi Watts), he was also a drunk, had a great capacity for cruelty. As an adult, her relationship with her parents is complex and uncertain as she struggles with accepting her family into the life she’s built for herself.

(QUICK REVIEW)

I really liked this movie.

First and foremost, Larson brings her A-game, as per usual. She’s a woman trying to come to grips with her family and how different they are from her, and just how much she herself evolved from when she was a child. A kid growing up with imagination and an enthusiasm for the future, but also never staying in one place and always finding ways to take care of her drunken father. Even the younger versions of Jeanette, young Ella Anderson and younger Chandler Head do fantastic jobs at showing love toward and fear of their father over the years. Harrelson also once again proves his gravity on screen as we see a complicated man who loves his family, but seems to love making promises that he’ll never be able to keep. He’s always on the move, refusing to conform to society’s rules and wants to blaze his own trails. When he’s sober, he’s loving, playful, and full of bizarre-yet-sensible wisdom. When he’s drunk, he’s careless, destructive, abusive, even violent. Even when his children want him to stop drinking, he’ll put himself through the grind to better himself. But when he does, he isn’t sober long before something pushes him back over that ledge. Again, I’m nominating Harrelson as a national treasure.

The story does remind me a little bit of CAPTAIN FANTASTIC (2016), in the respect of a father who tries to take care of his family without doing it by the rules of what is considered “normal,” so there is a lot of bias that I have toward this film for its bold statements. Beyond that, I do love how this film does explores the complexities of generational gaps of thinking and ways of life, the difference between imparting wisdom and intelligence and the consequences of not knowing the difference. It’s a very fascinating film full of emotion, subtle and not-so-subtle intensity. Sure, there’s a few moments that seem a little too far-fetched to be taken seriously, but this movie is very good and I highly recommend it.

My honest rating for THE GLASS CASTLE: a strong 4/5

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THE DARK TOWER review

Stephen King certainly is a hit or miss for a lot of people, isn’t he? At least, as far as his film adaptations are concerned. It seems like his most celebrated films are his non-horror films, like THE GREEN MILE (1999), STAND BY ME (1986), and my personal favorite film of all time, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994). That’s not to say there aren’t some standout horror films that are considered great, like THE SHINING (1980), CARRIE (1976), and MISERY (1990). Personally, I love THE MIST (2007), but most everything else is either ridiculed, or entertainingly bad, like CHILDREN OF THE CORN (1984), MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE (1986), and DREAMCATCHER (2003), to name a few.

Of course, I’ve never read any of his books. Not much of a reader. But that’s not to say that anything with King’s name on it isn’t going to pique my interest. It’s so fascinating to see his on-screen adaptations be so diverse in quality. To my understanding, his novel series, The Dark Tower, is what he himself considers to be his magnum opus. A series that links many of his past novels together into a multiverse type deal. I admit, that’s pretty interesting, and I’m curious to see just how much of that will be translated to the film.

So how do I feel about this movie? It looks… basic. Don’t hang me! But it kind of does. Maybe it’s because it reminds me of a darker, more serious version of LAST ACTION HERO (1993), a campy classic of the 90’s if you ask me. I can’t claim for certainty if the Schwarzenegger action romp is technically inspired by the novel series, but the similarities are there. A kid is an adventurer of sorts, one is an action movie junkie (ACTION HERO), the other is described as an adventure seeker (TOWER), and both get whisked away into a world not like his own, and meets up with a bad-ass mutha who’s at war with an asshole, and their conflict eventually carries them back to the real world of the kid, who probably gets himself into trouble more times than he really should. Hello!?I’m sure this movie is wildly different, but it might be a little too easy to make comparisons.

Well, here’s the on-screen talent. Starring, we have young Tom Taylor (known for TV shows I’ve never heard of), Idris Elba (THE JUNGLE BOOK [2016], PACIFIC RIM [2014], THOR [2011], and upcoming films THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US [2017] and Marvel’s THOR: RAGNAROK [2017]), and Matthew McConaughey (GOLD [2017], KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS [2016], and REIGN OF FIRE [2002]). In support, we have Jackie Earle Haley (THE BIRTH OF A NATION [2016], SHUTTER ISLAND [2010], WATCHMEN [2009], and the upcoming Robert Rodriguez film ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL [2018]), Abbey Lee (THE NEON DEMON [2016], GODS OF EGYPT [2016], and MAD MAX: FURY ROAD [2015]), and Katheryn Winnick (KILLERS [2010], and TV shows VIKINGS and BONES).

Now for the talent behind the scenes. Directing and co-writing is Nikolaj Arcel, known for A ROYAL AFFAIR (2012). Co-writing the script, making for a red flag total of four writers, we have Akiva Goldsman (RINGS [2017], THE 5TH WAVE [2016], I AM LEGEND [2007], and the upcoming DC film TITANS [2018]), Jeff Pinkner (THE 5TH WAVE, TV shows ZOO and FRINGE, and upcoming films JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE [2017] and Sony’s Marvel Spider-Man spin-off VENOM [2018]), and Anders Thomas Jensen (BROTHERS [2009]). Composing the score is Junkie XL, known for BATMAN V SUPERMAN (2016), DEADPOOL (2016), DIVERGENT (2014), and upcoming video game adaptations SONIC THE HEDGEHOG (2018) and TOMB RAIDER (2018). Finally, the cinematographer is Rasmus Videbæk, known for THE ROYAL AFFAIR.

Overall, I can’t say I’m super stoked, but I’m curious enough to want to see it.

This is my honest opinion of: THE DARK TOWER

(SUMMARY)

Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) is a young boy who experiences visions of a man in black (Matthew McConaughey) who is trying to bring down a dark tower and destroy the world. Thing is, no one believes him and has been seeing therapists. But after his mother Laurie (Katheryn Winnick) feels that she has exhausted all of her options, she contacts a pair of people that will take him somewhere to get better. Believing these people, who bare striking similarities to those he’s seen in his visions, runs away to seek answers. He eventually comes to a house with a mysterious key code, punches in a set of numbers he’s been seeing and finds himself teleported to a world known as Mid-World, the world where the Dark Tower resides and has been terrorized by the man in black. His only protection: Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), who is the only one that Jake believes that can stop the man in black from destroying the tower.

(REVIEW)

For such hype, this movie is a letdown, but I’m not entirely sure if I was expecting anything amazing to begin with.

The setup is already confusing on its own. A series of opening text states that the Dark Tower is so powerful that it protects all the dimensions from the forces of darkness, but there’s a… what I can only assume to be a prophecy that states that there’s one child who’s mind can destroy it. That seems like a lame weakness, if you ask me. I mean, why? First off, why aren’t we done with this cliché of “chosen ones?” If a movie can start off drawing comparisons to STAR WARS: THE PHANTOM MENACE (1999), then it’s not a great start to a film. This is only the first thirty seconds of the movie, mind you.

Then we jump to our Earth, Keystone Earth, as the film likes to call it for some reason, and we see that Jake has been drawing these visions that he’s been having for quite possibly quite some time because he has a therapist and his older brother is commenting that the therapy isn’t helping. And this is another big problem I have with movies like this: the victim of visions that goes around telling people the crazy things that he sees and expects them to believe him. This is such a tired trope too because no story that has ever existed with characters like this has ever had anyone believe them. Why would they? This is reality. We chock these things up to chemical imbalance for adults and bad dreams for kids. If Jake was in his single digit years, I might be more lenient toward his lack of common sense and understanding of human nature, but Jake is probably closer to being a teenager than a child. He’s gotta be able to distinguish what an adult would believe and not believe by now, and visions of a “man in black” and “people with fake skin,” that’s a hard pass on reality. Even the kids from the TV show STRANGER THINGS (2016 – ongoing) knew what to keep to themselves and they were definitely younger than Jake.

Even once things start coming to a head and the people with the fake skin enter his world and hunt him down at his home, he’s outrunning a grown-ass adult. A grown-ass adult that’s not even human and the punishment for failing the Man in Black is quite possibly death, so they’ve got all the motivation in the world to keep chasing him. But they don’t. He gets away. And to make matters even more outlandish, he manages to travel an unknown distance to a house that serves as a portal to Mid-World and this entire time, I’m wondering where the hell the police are. Surely the mother would have called the cops and there’d be an army of cops pulling over public transport after public transport looking for the squirt. He’s not a ninja. This shouldn’t have taken so long.

That’s probably the most obvious problem with the movie. It’s horribly written and we’re expected to suspend too much disbelief. But see, if this was taking place in the fictional fantasy world, this could make all the kind of sense it wants. But Keystone Earth is supposed to be our Earth. Physics, plausibility, you can’t chuck that into the wood-chipper with a cackling evil laugh. You have to ground these aspects in reality. Also, the villain. While I’ll go into the

But fine, you could argue this is nitpicking. Does the rest of the film hold up when Jake gets to Mid-World?

Nope! It does not! First of all, those people with the fake skin, they wear that shit even in Mid-World. Um… why? It makes sense in Keystone, obviously, but… why in Mid-World? Are these beings so ugly that even in a world where ugly is the norm they have to cover up? Seemed kinda silly to me. There’s also a scene, a little after Jake’s met Roland for the first time, and in their traveling, Jake references the Man in Black, to which Roland immediately grabs Jake by his shirt and threatens to drop him off a cliff if he’s a spy for him. Note, it’s literally just the name that sets him off. Not a prolonged conversation about him and Jake says something stupid and Roland takes it the wrong way, no, the mere mention of the name “man in black” throws him through the ringer. There’s even some weird shots too. Like, this movie was desperate to show that it’s connected to all of Stephen King’s stories. For example, Jake stumbles upon a ruin of some kind and he’s standing on a submerged-in-the-ground statue of a hand holding up balloons and a sign reading “Pennywise” from his story “It.” It’s like the cameraman and the editor knew that the sign was hard to read in pitch black lighting, so they held on to the shot for dear life. There’s even a demon that makes it’s way to our heroes and it really reminded me of that alien from STAR WARS: ATTACK OF THE CLONES (2002) that slashed Padmé’s back in the Geonosian arena scene.

And really? Walter? “The Man in Black” … the name that strikes fear into the hearts of all in the known realms… the man who killed all but one Gunslinger, a legendary order of warriors that numbered in the legions, and literally has the power to command people to die and they fall down dead… his real name… is Walter?

Walter.

SO SCARY!!!

Honestly, the rest of the film is uninteresting and almost boring because Mid-Guard doesn’t look all that spectacular. I’m sure the idea is to make it look like an apocalyptic wasteland, but it’s way too visually boring. The forest scene is about the closest we get, but everything else makes you wonder how this takes place in a fantasy land instead of Earth.

***SPOILERS***

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And even when it gets to Earth, almost nothing stands out either. In fact, I’m having a hard time recollecting what even happened. I know Jake finds out that his mom dies and he is eventually kidnapped by… Walter… which leads to a shootout to save Jake’s life.

Which now brings me to my final complaint. Why does Walter want to destroy the realms? Okay, some people are psychotic and seriously should have had a loving mommy to hold them, I get that. But if I understand the movie correctly, the forces of darkness sound like demons that aren’t even of the realms of the established universes. These forces are outside of what’s known. Is Walter one of these forces? Does he somehow think he can control these forces, or think he can survive their coming destruction? For that matter, who ever created this Dark Tower, what was it’s intention? It’s primary function is to protect the realms from each other and from these forces of darkness. So why have a weakness built into it that could destroy the thing completely?

So many questions, so little care.

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***END SPOILERS***

Is there anything redeemable about the movie?

Not… especially. Some of the action is ridiculous that it got a chuckle out of me, but I have no idea if I was giggling because of how stupid it was or… nah, it was pretty stupid. I suppose the actors aren’t all that bad all things considered and I do think Taylor was serviceable enough. He sure wouldn’t have been able to carry the film without Elba around, but he wasn’t bad. And up until learning that the Man in Black’s name was Walter, I thought McConaughey was decent. He had an intimidation about him that I enjoyed watching.

Overall, though, I think this movie is a dud. By no means the worst I’ve ever seen, but for a movie with such a background, a story that intersects all of King’s stories in some fashion and it doesn’t culminate into anything of any real substance. It’s like a perfectly crafted bullet trying to be shoved into a toy shotgun; it just doesn’t work on so many levels. The actors are trying and I hope this doesn’t ruin anyone’s careers, especially the younger actors, but if this was supposed to be a introduction to this universe, the access isn’t very universal. Hell, I’d be shocked if fans of the novels would get anything out of it. I don’t recommend this in theaters and I don’t really recommend it as a rental. It’s not overly long, not even two hours, but it might feel longer for some audiences.

My honest rating for THE DARK TOWER: a weak 3/5

 

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Quick Netflix review: HUGO (2011)

Starring: Asa Butterfield (THE SPACE BETWEEN US [2017], MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN [2016], and THE BOY IN THE STRIPPED PAJAMAS [2008]), Chloë Grace Moretz (NEIGHBORS 2 [2016], CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA [2014], and KICK-ASS [2010]), and Ben Kingsley (COLLIDE [2017], THE JUNGLE BOOK [2016], and SPECIES [1995]).

In support: Sacha Baron Cohen (ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS [2016], LES MISÉRABLES [2012], and BORAT [2006]), Helen McCrory (THEIR FINEST [2017], 007 SKYFALL [2012], and HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE [2009]), Emily Mortimer (THE SENSE OF AN ENDING [2017], SHUTTER ISLAND [2010], SCREAM 3 [2000], and the upcoming Disney revival, MARY POPPINS RETURNS [2018]), Christopher Lee (THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES [2014], STAR WARS EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH [2005], and GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH [1990]), and Jude Law (KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD [2017], SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW [2004], GATTACA [1997], and upcoming films FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM 2 [2018] and SHERLOCK HOLMES 3, no release date announced).

Director: Martin Scorsese (SILENCE [2016], THE DEPARTED [2006], GOODFELLAS [1990], and the upcoming THE IRISHMAN [2018]). Screenwriter: John Logan (ALIEN: COVENANT [2017], THE LAST SAMURAI [2003], and GLADIATOR [2000]). Composer: Howard Shore (DENIAL [2016], THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING [2001], and SE7EN [1995]). Cinematographer: Robert Richardson (LIVE BY NIGHT [2016], A FEW GOOD MEN [1992], and PLATOON [1986])

(SUMMARY)

Set in the 1930s, Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) is an orphan in Paris after his father (Jude Law) tragically perished in a fire. He lives in a local train station’s clockworks, repairs and modifying it to keep himself busy. But his real goal is repairing the broken automaton that his father had found, but never finished, so Hugo runs around the station looking for the necessary gears to fix the machine, all while avoiding the station’s stalwart limp-legged inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen). However, after he attempts to steal a piece from the station’s toy store and it’s owner Georges (Ben Kingsley), and Georges steals Hugo’s notebook of necessary tools and parts to repair the automaton. Following the older man home, Hugo eventually meets Georges’ goddaughter Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz), and the two strike up a friendship as she helps Hugo repair his machine and the two discover a love for films and fate of one of the most celebrated film-makers of a bygone era.

(REVIEW)

Jumped from one Paris-set film to another. Shocking how it took me this long to see this movie. I guess I was in denial that a borderline kids flick was a product of a director who has made some of the most violent films in cinema. The idea that he was even capable of doing whimsy and innocence, you’d think this was a Spielberg film than Scorsese. But no, it’s a Scorsese film and… honestly, it’s brilliant. Despite the story being about a pair of kids, the movie doesn’t talk down to it’s younger audience. Both characters, Hugo and Isabella, barely resemble kids, but more like young adults and both Butterfield and Moretz carry the film beautifully, making this movie their best roles that I’ve seen them in, and that’s saying something because it’s hard to top Hit-Girl. But everyone’s fantastic: Kingsley, McCrory, and yes, even one of my least favorite actors of all time, Cohen, was really good. Eh, he got a little too goofy in some parts, like when he’s talking to his romantic interest Lisette (Emily Mortimer). But you know what? A little goofy is infinitely more preferable than disgustingly unbearable, like I usually associate him as. If you’re a lover of film like I am, then this movie will leave you sitting, staring wide-eyed like a kid when you see the magic of watching A TRIP TO THE MOON (1902) and how those old-time silent films were made. It’s, for a lack of a better word, magical and I say if you haven’t seen this movie, then you’re doing yourself a huge disservice.

My honest rating for HUGO: 5/5

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Quick Netflix review: THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951)

Starring: Michael Rennie (THE LOST WORLD [1960], and TV shows: 1 episode of THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. [1967] and 2 episodes of BATMAN [1966]), Patricia Neal (FLYING BY [2009], COOKIE’S FORTUNE [1999], and BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S [1961]), and Billy Gray (TV shows I SPY and FATHER KNOWS BEST).

Support: Sam Jaffe (BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS [1971], BEN-HUR [1959], and TV show BEN CASEY) and Hugh Marlowe (ALL ABOUT EVE [1950], TWELVE O’CLOCK HIGH [1949], and TV show ANOTHER WORLD)

Director: Robert Wise (STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE [1979], THE SOUND OF MUSIC [1965], and THE HAUNTING [1963]). Screenwriter: Edmund H. North (PATTON [1970] and SINK THE BISMARCK! [1960]). Composer: Bernard Herrmann (PSYCHO [1998 / 1960], TAXI DRIVER [1976], and CITIZEN KANE [1941]). Cinematographer: Leo Tover (JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH [1959] and THE GREAT GATSBY [1926]).

(SUMMARY)

Klaatu (Michael Rennie) is an alien humanoid visitor that mysteriously arrives on Earth with his intimidating guardian robot, Gort. When Klaatu disembarks his space ship, he’s met with hostility from the American soldiers. His injuries are minor, but wastes no time in mentioning that he’s on Earth with a specific purpose: to talk to every world leader. However, the politics are too complicated and it’s not immediately possible. In order to understand the world he’s arrived in, he escapes confinement, and finds shelter in a boarding house and befriends Helen (Patricia Neal) and her young son, Bobby (Billy Gray), who think he’s a government agent.

(REVIEW)

Sometimes, I really hate how my primitive teen and child mind was so averted to black and white films because there a wealth of great films to witness.

Before you ask, yes, I saw the remake well before I saw the original. I don’t remember whether or not I liked it. I just knew I liked Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connelly, but I can’t say anything about the movie itself. I know everyone says it sucked, but I haven’t revisited the film since 2008.

But enough about the remake no one cares about. Let’s talk about the original! It’s so super… fantastically… not bad. I can see why this is a sci-fi classic and I agree. It’s a good movie and it’s worth checking out. There’s great atmosphere, a thick sense of ominous mystery. Because Klaatu never reveals his intentions for being on Earth until the end of the film, so you never what’s going on in his mind the entire time. He’s written so well and Rennie’s performance is so pitch perfect, that you never truly believe that he means harm, but his agenda is never far from our minds. And plus that ambiguous ending? Probably one of the most effective that I’ve seen in a very long time.

Some things don’t work for me. Obviously, it’s the 50’s, so Klaatu’s space suit looks cheap as hell, but that’s a just a product of the time, so I can’t complain too badly. I do complain about some of the writing, which wasn’t thought through very well. Like, Klaatu’s very arrival. I don’t know, maybe this was just the mindset at the time, but if you’re an alien suddenly arriving at another planet without either an invitation or some kind of heads up, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that humans would have reacted as they did: by shooting him out of fear. What the hell did he think was going to happen?!

***SPOILERS***

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And why does he think that this world was that politically united? Here’s what I mean, he’s here to talk to all the world about their atomic bombs and progress in space ships of their own. Klaatu’s people’s math is that we humans will take our bombs to space and bomb other planets. We’re a hostile race, after all. The point I’m trying to make is that he thinks it’s that easy to talk to the entire planet at once. Once realizing that it’s not that easy, why not just talk to the world leaders individually? He’s been traveling for light years. It’s a safe bet that he’s got some time on his hands to tell Earth to shape up and grow up.

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***END SPOILERS***

All in all, as much as I prattle on about my issues with the story, they’re pretty minuscule by comparison to how well executed the rest of the film is. I may not be on the band wagon that claims it to be one of the greatest science fiction films of all time. It doesn’t have the excitement of Star Wars or the unbelievable sets of METROPOLIS (1927), but it’s got great commentary, especially for the time period (Cold War), fantastic acting and character relationships, it’s a definite joy if you’re a sci-fi junkie like myself.

My honest rating for THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951): a strong 4/5

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When did Gort carry a hot blond anywhere? Patricia Neal is brunette! :/

VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS review

Well this looks like a visual spectacle. Sci-fi is a wonderful way to guarantee my ass in a seat, but heavy CGI epics like this looks like… well, let’s just say the taste of JUPITER ASCENDING (2015) hasn’t completely washed out. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty easy to please. I love CGI and this film looks gorgeous, but it runs a dangerous gamble of making the effects the star, rather than the actors and story. Won’t matter much to me so long as it’s fun and exciting.

Well, a little history before I get to my initial impressions to set some records straight before, God forbid, another overly sanctimonious nerd gets mad at me. As some of you may know, I’m a casual gamer, and one of my favorite video game franchises is BioWare’s Mass Effect games. Been a fan of them since its initial release in 2008 on the Xbox 360. So when this movie was announced, my first thought was that this movie was ripping off Mass Effect because the armor design for the main characters was incredibly similar to Mass Effect’s armor design for its main character. Turns out, it’s the other way around. This movie is actually based on a French comic book series called Valérian and Laureline, originally published in 1967 and ran for several decades. To the best of my knowledge, they have stopped getting made, but it’s pretty inconsistent when they stopped. Some time in the 2010s, I think. The comic company that made the comics went bankrupt. In any case, these comics have been influential in many sci-fi films, including Star Wars and Luc Besson’s THE FIFTH ELEMENT (1997), and by extension, heavily influenced Mass Effect. I had it backwards. So now anyone who thought the same as me, now you know too. Although, question mark, why did the filmmakers change the title to just “Valerian” instead of “Valerian and Loreline”? I understand it would have made the title longer, but long titles aren’t new to movie-goers. LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING (2003), DOCTOR STRANGELOVE OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB (1964)? Just saying, throwing in “and Loreline” wouldn’t throw audiences off too much.

So what’s this story about? Actually, the story presented in the trailer is pretty vague. It just seems like it’s about a couple of space-faring… mercenaries? They go around a giant city with a thousand different cultures that’s about to be threatened by a mysterious dark force. I don’t know, but it looks pretty to look at.

Well, here’s the cast.  The starring duo are Dane Dehaan (THE CURE FOR WELLNESS [2017], THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 [2014], and CHRONICLE [2012]) and Cara Delevingne (SUICIDE SQUAD [2016], PAPER TOWNS [2015], and ANNA KARENINA [2012]). In support, we have Clive Owen (KILLER ELITE [2011], SHOOT ‘EM UP [2007], and CHILDREN OF MEN [2006]), Rihanna (HOME [2015], THIS IS THE END [2013], and BATTLESHIP [2012]), Ethan Hawke (MAUDIE [2017], THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN [2016], BOYHOOD [2014]), Rutger Hauer (THE RITE [2011], HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN [2011], and BATMAN BEGINS [2005]), and director-going-actor this time around, Louis Leterrier (CLASH OF THE TITANS [2010]).

Now for the crew. Writing and directing, we have famed French filmmaker Luc Besson, known for LUCY (2015), THE FIFTH ELEMENT, and LÉON: THE PROFESSIONAL (1994). Composing the score is Alexandre Desplat, known for THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS (2016), THE DANISH GIRL (2015), THE QUEEN (2006), and the upcoming Guillermo del Toro flick, THE SHAPE OF WATER (2017). Finally, the cinematographer is Thierry Arbogast, known for LUCY, FEMME FATALE (2002), and THE MESSENGER: THE STORY OF JOAN OF ARC (1999).

Overall, this will certainly be a hit or miss. My guess, I’ll like it enough for it’s special effects and cinematography. Can’t speak for the story, so I should probably keep my expectations moderate on that front.

This is my honest opinion of: VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS

(SUMMARY)

Valerian (Dane Dehaan), a cocky and arrogant space soldier, and his partner, the more professional Loreline (Cara Delevingne), his romance interest, are sent on a mission to bring back an alien creature to be the last of its kind, which is being hunted by factions all across space.

(REVIEW)

As feared, it’s this year’s JUPITER ASCENDING. And I had such high hopes, man.

The first and foremost thing that I have to say… this movie is BORING!!! Holy shit is it boring! This movie is two hours and fifteen minutes long, but its plot never takes off until the final twenty minutes. But I’m jumping ahead of myself a bit. It starts off promising enough. Some gorgeous visuals, which is all that saves this movie, impressive CGI, and an ominous tone by the end of the sequence. In fact, there’s a really neat idea in the prologue where the human race has created this space station that houses all the many cultures of the planet. Then aliens come along and the station is constantly expanded as more aliens join in until the station is so big that it has voyage into deep space. I thought that was really cool, making the subtitle, “City of a Thousand Planets” make much more sense.

But then the first red flags crop up.

We’re introduced to our titular character, Valerian. He’s supposed to be the Han Solo of the movie. He’s arrogant, yet suave and charming with a hint of self-absorption. Except that’s not what he is. He’s arrogant, oh yeah, but he lacks any semblance of legit charm and he’s completely self-absorbed, making him a character that I just couldn’t care about. Like, at all. Throughout the film. I get what they were trying to do with him. He’s supposed to be a womanizer who decides that Loreline is going to be who he decides to commit to. Thing is, this is horribly told to us via clumsy exposition. From the beginning of his character’s introduction to the end of the movie, you would never guess that he was a skirt-chaser. So why is this detail so necessary? To narrate that he has commitment issues? That’s already demolished early on because he proposes to her and commits to his suggestion throughout the movie without ever being tempted to be with another woman. And Bubble (Rihanna) doesn’t count. He never truly has a character arch that even gets you to empathize with him. This is obviously no fault on Dehaan’s part. He’s a fine enough actor who gets all the emotions down to a tee, but the way his character is written… it would have been merciful if he died in this movie.

Then the “plot” gets underway and Valerian and Loreline, who are space soldiers of sorts, and have to retrieve something that their higher-ups want. Again, the visuals are breath-taking. We’re introduced to what looks like a hilariously empty desert, but then the extras are given some goofy goggles and then we see an enormous holographic marketplace city. The movie cleverly shows that even though the city is holographic in the point of view from the tourists, we’re shown that the city Alpha, the space station that I mentioned earlier, is the real location and the tourists are holograms on the station. It’s actually really damn cool how that set-up is. In fact, one of the better aspects of this movie is how creative the technology can be. You have these boxes that act like little worm holes where if you stick your hand in them, your hands appear in the real location where your holographic image is. It’s beyond awesome.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t last long as the tech soon dives into the realm of fantasy. What do I mean? There seems to be a piece of tech for any given situation in this movie and even the established tech gets utterly confusing. Remember the goggles that make you a hologram in the marketplace? There’s a chase scene with Valerian and he gets shot at with these sticky and heavy balls on his arms that are supposed to weigh him down. In order to escape, he slams the bunched up orbs on a… sewer manhole, I think and… falls several dozen stories down… as a holographic image where he’s grunting as he’s falling through floor after floor. Um… so many questions! First off, fine, he could be grunting because his arms are getting yanked as he’s falling, but how are his arms still attached?! For someone falling several stories at the velocity he’s going, you’d think his arms would get ripped off of their sockets before long. There’s another bit where a holographic goon has his guns out in the real location, ready to shoot someone. But there’s this vicious alien dog that somehow manages to tackle the man down despite that he’s a holographic image, even though it would make more sense for it to attack the man’s hands. Also, both Valerian and Loreline have this armor, right? It’s all over the advertising and trailers. There’s a bit where the armor is basically superpowered and Valerian can run through solid steel walls at double the speed of a normal human. Thing is, Loreline gets kidnapped later on and she’s locked in a wooden basket. Um… hello?! Super suit! Use it! Or is wood the supersuits weakness?! Freakin’ blow me!

There’s a lot of that in this movie too. Both characters find themselves in situations where they need each other’s help, but those situations are either anti-climactic, or unbelievably senseless. Like when Loreline get captured, her capture is a dim-witted alien that looks like it could put up a fight on par with a kitten. So why isn’t she just blazing through the guy and taking her payload to where it needs to go? If Valerian can single-handedly fight a legion of those things, Loreline should easily be able to fight against a fraction of those numbers. It’s total crap.

And like I said, the plot makes no sense. The two are supposed to be protecting this one-of-a-kind creature that makes valuable minerals and there’s a shit ton of people who want it, including their superiors. The problem is that neither character is on a journey to figure out who wants it for what reason, but rather just going from point A to point B just to either recover the creature from someone else’s clutches, or to keep it away from everyone. At no point does the story truly further itself along, which is where the “Jupiter Ascending” effect comes in: the effects and visuals are the stars, not the actors or the story, as previously mentioned.

So with all that being said, is there anything worth complimenting? Well, I’ve mentioned the visuals plenty of times, so that goes without saying. Also, Besson is a great director, so when an action sequence is happening, you do get to see the action as opposed to a Michael Bay film where there’s way too much shaky cam and you can’t make out what’s going on, so his vision is always appreciated. And as for the characters, Loreline is a much better written character as opposed to Valerian. She and him never truly hook up by the end of the movie. Their feelings are always addressed, even in inappropriate moments, but she’s at least grounded enough to tell him off when he’s not being professional and has a much better sense of right and wrong than Valerian does, making her much more likable. It’s just a shame that she’s relegated to being a dame in distress one too many times.

Overall, I can’t say this is a good movie. By any stretch. But there’s enough visuals for me to say that it is worth the time of day to ogle over, but that’s not enough to make a good story, which is the crux of any movie worth a damn. And because this movie is impossible to connect with, it’s ultimately boring, which is so disappointing for how interesting it looks. I may not recommend it for anyone expecting the next Star Wars, and I certainly don’t recommend it at the theaters. It might be worth a rental though. Just be ready to kill off two hours and fifteen minutes out of your day. So viewer beware.

My honest rating for VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS: a weak 3/5

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LADY MACBETH review

So I’ve been seeing this trailer pop up every so often, and it’s really pushing how the audience should be paying attention to its lead actress. Can’t speak for her myself, but the movie does, admittedly, look pretty intense for a period drama. From what I can gather, it’s about this housewife, married to a wealthy man she doesn’t love, and is constantly mistreated by the men surrounding her. She winds up falling for a stable-boy and their affair becomes the subject of a lot suspicion that ultimately leads to a dramatic confrontation. Hmm… now that I’ve written that out, it sounds pretty cliché and the one trailer probably gave away way too much. Here’s to hoping that the details are what will make the movie good.

Well, here’s the cast. Starring, we have the “star in-the-making” herself, Florence Pugh, a fresh-faced English actress known for roles that I’ve never heard of, making this her big break. Congrats, miss. We also have Cosmo Jarvis and Paul Hilton, both known for unknown roles, Naomi Ackie was in an episode of TV show DOCTOR WHO, and frequent video game voice actor Christopher Fairbank, known for GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014), ALIEN 3 (1992), and Tim Burton’s BATMAN (1989).

Now for the crew. Directing is William Oldroyd, known for unknown projects. Penning the screenplay is Alice Birch, making her writing feature debut. Congrats, miss. Composing the score is Dan Jones, known for SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE (2000). Finally, the cinematographer is Ari Wegner, known for short films and documentaries.

By the way… is this movie based on a novel? Hmm. Overall, this might be alright. Probably won’t be up my alley, being an English period film, but I’m always down for a good story to make up for uninteresting subject matter.

This is my honest opinion of: LADY MACBETH

(SUMMARY)

Set in England, circa 1865. Katherine (Florence Pugh) is bought into a loveless marriage to a wealthy family, her older husband Alexander (Paul Hilton) and his equally unbearable father, Boris (Christopher Fairbank). She is to maintain certain unreasonable duties as a wife, which makes her feel trapped and repressed, and the constant verbal and emotional abuse doesn’t help. Thankfully, both Alexander and Boris leave the estate for business reasons, leaving Katherine to her own devices. She eventually strikes up a sexual relationship with one of the workers on the land, Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis). Soon begins a complex romance to maintain their relationship while dealing with the men who are above her.

(REVIEW)

Oh my god! Yes! Yes, a thousand kinds of yes! Don’t let those trailers fool you. This is a delightfully twisted little movie.

Before I get into the review itself, it might be a good point to mention that this movie has nothing to do with William Shakespeare. It’s based on a Russian novel called Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District by Nikolai Lenskov in 1865. It’s not even some kind of origin story or anything. As I’ve not actually read the book, I can’t comment on the… comment that I’m about to make, nor am I overly familiar with Macbeth as a story, but if I were to guess, it incorporates themes from the character in the play and makes it his own character. Or maybe that’s not it at all and I have no idea what I’m talking about. It’s probably that.

This might end up being a fairly short review as there isn’t that much to say about it. But what there is to say, anyone can rave and rave. So that’s exactly what I’m going to do! This movie is basically about this woman who is in a loveless marriage, becomes sexually repressed, and starts fucking one dude relentlessly and spends the rest of the movie manipulating and killing people so she can keep fucking her boy toy. From the opening scene, you wouldn’t guess the movie would be that awesome. In fact, it kind of starts off… maybe “boring” isn’t the right word, but the tone definitely takes a shift at some point in the story.

It starts off about how you’d expect this movie to start off. She’s in her loveless marriage, forced to strip so her disinterested older husband can literally just jerk off to her while she’s facing the wall and told to act in a certain way by her father-in-law, who is equally disinterested in her. So then they both leave on business and Katherine finds her Alexander’s employees suspending Anna (Naomi Ackie), her closest housemaid, in an outhouse, getting… I’m not entirely sure… sexually assaulted? She’s naked and all, but no one’s raping her. They’re just… treating her like an animal. She demands Anna be let down but… for some reason finds the leader of this barbaric group attractive, even when he’s incredibly shameless toward her about it and she’s supposed to be treated as their master. Then, get this, later that night, he practically stalks her outside of her bedroom and forces his way into her room, despite resistance. You can probably guess what happens next. She totally goes for it and they have sex.

“Wait, what?” You may ask. This guy makes an obvious attempt to rape her… but it’s not a rape scene. She just accepts the situation and the two have consensual sex. Yeah, it’s that kind of movie. Totally bonkers.

Oh my god, it gets even worse. So Alexander suddenly comes home, hides Sebastian in her closet, and Alexander suspects that Katherine has been cheating on him, calling her names and all that abusive jazz. Finally at her breaking point of the belittlement, she nonchalantly and quietly walks toward that closet, pulls out Sebastian, throws him onto the bed, mounts him, and starts riding him right in front of Alexander without saying a word.

***SPOILERS***

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After Alexander watches this insanity unfold in front of him, this naturally results in a fist fight between him and Sebastian… resulting in Katherine knocking Alexander to the ground and beating the shit out of his head with a statue. Obviously, this kills him. By this point, Katherine’s also murdered her father-in-law via poison, which traumatized poor Anna into becoming a mute, and Katherine uses that to her advantage to have her affair with Sebastian in front of her and she won’t say a single thing about it.

And it doesn’t stop. In a blatantly obvious ploy to hurl an extra forty minutes into the movie, we learn that Alexander had an affair and conceived a child with her, and then comes under Katherine’s care. At first, you think, “Aww, she’s bonding with him.” But then, not only do we learn that Katherine is preggers with Sebastian’s baby, but… details barely important, she realizes that in order for their affair to continue, they need to get rid of the boy, Teddy (Anton Palmer), and his grandmother. Yes, in order for Katherine to get porked by her man, she needs to kill a five year old kid. Which she does.

But wait! The depravity doesn’t end there! Sebastian hides in the nearby woods to wait for Katherine to spin a story. However, the doctor who checks up on Teddy doesn’t believe her cover story. As if on cue, Sebastian comes in racked with guilt and confesses everything to everyone in the room. But then… it happens. Katherine turns his truth against him and claims that all the deaths were Sebastian’s fault and he had help from Anna, who is still mute from trauma. But because Anna can’t speak up, and Katherine is the official “lady of the house” and therefore has status above her victims, her word is taken over his, and both Sebastian and Anna get hauled away, presumably to get executed for their “crimes.” The final shot is just a close-up of Katherine, alone in her house… with her unborn baby.

Fuck, that’s going to be a messed up kid.

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***END SPOILERS***

Okay, so it wasn’t that short a review.

Lesson for the day kiddies, do not underestimate the power of lady-boners! The high praise for this flick is warranted, but I do recommend going in with a certain mindset. If you go into this with the expectation of watching some sort of high-society story full of hoity toity sophisticated storytelling, ehhh dial it down a few notches. This is a trashy flick, but it’s such delightful trash. Is all the hype for miss Pugh warranted? Oh, shit yeah. Usually, I get annoyed with roles like this: debuts featuring gratuitous nudity and sex to show how brave and edgy the actress can be. Having said that, this was a fun role that had a lot of sick bad-assery thrown in. She’s great and I look forward to seeing her in more pictures in the future. I do recommend this movie purely for the “what the fuck” factor. If that sounds like your thing, you’ll have a blast watching this.

My honest rating for LADY MACBETH: 5/5

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SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING review

It’s about time.

Spider-Man has certainly had his ups and downs when it came to his cinematic adaptations, huh? Might as well talk about ’em, but since there’s so many, I’ll just talk about the respective franchises.

Obviously, like many in my age range, the Sam Raimi films were practically landmarks in superhero history. They were fun, light, funny, but still bad-ass. At least, up until the third one, which… yeah, let’s not get into. Tobey Maguire was a new millennium icon and everyone loved him.

But then the dawn of taking comic book movies seriously took a serious turn (pun intended) and it seemed like Spider-Man wanted to go that route too. Enter the Marc Webb/Andrew Garfield Spider-Man movies and personally… I prefer them. Oh sure, the conclusion of that series ended in much the same way as the Raimi films, but everything was so much better in my opinion. It took the character in a new direction and I loved them.

But Sony’s hold over Spider-Man must have been pretty weak by that point because they just allowed this movie to be made under Marvel Studio’s banner, rebooting the webslinger once more. And before seeing this movie, yeah, I had some high hopes. Spider-Man had a pretty fun, albeit forced, introduction in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (2016), and now we’ve officially got his stand-alone outing. It looked funny, it looked intense, I was looking forward to it.

Well, here’s the on screen star power. Starring as the titular superhero is Tom Holland (THE LOST CITY OF Z [2017], CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR,  THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY [2010], and upcoming Marvel films AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR [2018] and the as-of-yet-titled Spider-Man sequel [2019]), and his villain, the legendary Michael Keaton (THE FOUNDER [2017], WHITE NOISE [2005], MR. MOM [1983], and upcoming films AMERICAN ASSASSIN [2017], and Disney’s live-action remake DUMBO, due out… who knows when). In support, we have newcomers Jacob Batalon (the upcoming as-of-yet-titled Spider-Man sequel), Zendaya (known for a ton of Disney channel stuff), and Laura Harrier (TV show ONE LIFE TO LIVE), and returning veterans Robert Downey Jr. (CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, TROPIC THUNDER [2008], A SCANNER DARKLY [2006], and upcoming films AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR and THE VOYAGE OF DOCTOR DOLITTLE [2019]), Marisa Tomei (CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, THE WRESTLER [2008], and MY COUSIN VINNY [1992]), and Jon Favreau (CHEF [2014], IRON MAN [2008], and DAREDEVIL [2003]).

Now for the talent behind the scenes. Directing and co-writing is Jon Watts, known for COP CAR (2015). MAJOR RED FLAG ALERT!!! A grand total of FOUR other writers: duos John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (VACATION [2015], CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2 [2013], and HORRIBLE BOSSES [2011]) and Christopher Ford (COP CAR) and Chris McKenna (COP CAR and the upcoming JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE [2017]). Composing the score is the ever-amazing Michael Giacchino, known for THE BOOK OF HENRY (2017), DOCTOR STRANGE (2016), DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2014), and upcoming films JURASSIC WORLD: FORGOTTEN KINGDOM (2018) and Pixar’s THE INCREDIBLES 2 (2018). Finally, the cinematographer is Salvatore Totino, known for INFERNO (2016), FROST/NIXON (2008), and CINDERELLA MAN (2005).

Overall, yeah, I was pretty stoked for this. Bought a case of caramel corn for the occasion because a Marvel movie is always a caramel corn occasion.

This is my honest opinion of: SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING

(SUMMARY)

Several months after the events of CIVIL WAR, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is trying to simultaneously readjust to his normal life at home with his aunt May (Marisa Tomei) and school, while also trying to prove his worth as a superhero to Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and his right-hand man Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau). Soon, he happens upon what seems to be a like a run-of-the-mill bank robbery. However, the robbers are armed with high tech weaponry that nearly kills him. Despite Stark’s insistence that Peter stay away from them, Peter believes that the inactions of everyone more qualified to handle it aren’t doing enough to stop them and takes it upon himself to do it himself, even if it costs him the chance to become an Avenger.

(REVIEW)

While I hesitate to call it the best Spider-Man movie, nor do I consider it even one of the better Marvel Cinematic Universe installments, but it’s still a good film and a worthy entry to both the MCU and the Spider-Man franchise as a whole.

I guess maybe it’s best if I started with the things I didn’t like so much as there isn’t… much, but they’re worth addressing. I’ll go off on a tangent later about how much I adore Holland as an actor, but as much fun as he is, he unfortunately has a few too many whining scenes. In fact, the first red flag was during the trailer when Ned hacks into his suit and finds the “training wheels protocol” and Holland hops onto the bed saying that he’s sick of being treated “like a kid.” I disagreed when Ned said, “But you are a kid.” Heavily. First off, I’m a big fan of “teenager” is not a kid. By this point in a person’s life, they’re able to comprehend choices and consequences, start making more adult decisions. Peter is fifteen years old. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I sure wasn’t whining and jumping on a bed when I didn’t get my way. That’s how a child would act, not a teenager who’s been through enough adult situations with high stakes to act so… kindergarten. Some things make sense, like when Toomes (Michael Keaton) figures out Peter’s identity, Peter’s so paralyzed with fear and uncertainty, that he’s bowing his head like a punished dog and quiet the entire time. He’s not exactly the most established superhero with years of experience under his belt. He’s still young and doesn’t have everything figured out either as Peter Parker or as Spider-Man, so his brain isn’t constantly thinking of ways to stop Toomes. I enjoy that idea that he’s just afraid and realizing that he’s in over his head. But more often than not, he’s complaining how he’s not given a chance to prove himself and rushes into a situation half-cocked and yeah, it sours the character a bit.

And there is a big problem that I had with Stark and Happy in general. So when Peter figures out where these high tech weapons will be sold to next; on the ferry that gets torn in half and put back together with Iron Man’s help. Before Stark takes the Spidey suit away, Peter says that he tried to tell him and Happy that this was happening and they didn’t listen. But Stark goes off and says that he believed in Peter, in the context that he could be an Avenger. First off, that line is incredibly preachy and made me cringe a little bit. Second, no, I’m siding with Peter on this one. Both Happy and Stark should be painfully aware of Peter’s desires to prove that he’s the hero that Stark believes him to be. By all accounts, Stark does know that, as he has a tracker in the Spidey suit. But teenager who is that gung-ho about this superhero thing, how could either of the adults supervising him not see this brazen act of lone-wolfing coming from a hundred miles away? You’d think, if only to shut him up, they’d look into it. But no, Happy’s concerned with moving and Stark’s… well, who knows what Stark is actually doing. I do feel like many of the problems that Peter was trying to fix could have been if Stark contributed to the solution. But no, his job seems to be more of a disappointed surrogate father and chastise him the entire time. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I agreed with Peter’s complaints.

***SPOILERS***

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This isn’t a complaint toward the movie itself, but there is something that I didn’t think was very smart for Kevin Feige to say. For those of you that don’t know, Feige is the President of Marvel Studios and has produced every single MCU-related film and been an associate/executive/co-producer (whatever they mean) for several film adaptations of Marvel Comics properties since BLADE (1998). He’s a respected driving force behind the MCU and is arguably the reason why they’ve been so good, outside of solid writers. He recently stated that Michelle is not intended to be Mary Jane Watson, despite the character saying, “My friends call me MJ.” Um… then who is she supposed to be then, Kevin? Quite literally, this “MJ” nod is supposed to be a quirky “hehe” moment. But… no, Kevin, audiences who aren’t reading up on these interviews, will be treating Michelle like she will be. Personally, I don’t care that she’s a different race, nor a traditionally labeled “bombshell” like she’s depicted in everything else, but… yeah, no, she’s our new Mary Jane, just without the name… or really the personality. Honestly, the writers could have just said, “Screw it, she’s a new character and we’re going to roll with it. No Mary Jane, no Gwen Stacey, just… a new character.” The whole MJ thing could be taken out and no one would be the wiser. Throwing it in there doesn’t make the movie any better. It just makes it a pointless detail.

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***END SPOILERS***

For all intents and purposes, those are my only complaints. They may not be the most major complaints, but they hampered it a bit.

But enough of the bad, time to rave about the good. First off, despite his complaining out of the Spidey suit, I love this take on Spidey. I feel like each Spidey film has led up to this performance and this movie’s tone. While Maguire’s Spider-Man movies are their own classics for that generation of superhero lovers, the movie as a whole, while tonally appropriate for the character, wasn’t very funny. At least, not compared to Andrew Garfield’s Spidey, or certainly Holland’s. Nor could you take the movies very seriously. By today’s standards and the dawn of the MCU, superhero movies can be light in tone; funny and occasionally goofy, but still have a perfect balance of drama that anyone can relate to and be taken seriously. Maguire’s Spider-Man films were pretty campy and even cartoonish at times, and I’m not just talking about the dated CG. You couldn’t take it very seriously. Then Garfield’s Spidey films went maybe a little too dark for the character, despite them being, in my opinion, better movies with more intriguing ideas. The way Holland’s Spidey is written takes everything that made the character great from the previous films, the light-hearted nerdy character from Maguire’s and the legit humorous Spidey from the Garfield’s, and yet still makes it his own. Peter is still socially awkward, but doesn’t seem to be too affected by his bullies. He’s a smart-ass, but he takes things seriously when he needs to. He loves being a hero and his intelligence is showcased a lot more than I expected.

Now let’s talk about Keaton as Vulture. I feel like I’ve seen one too many opinions circling around claiming that he’s still not one of the better villains. I might disagree with that, actually. Okay, he’s not as entertaining as Loki, but I think he’s given more screen time and development than most villains. He’s not at strong as Loki, but he’s given just as much development as Zimos from CIVIL WAR, and everyone was saying that he broke the streak of bad villains in the MCU. He starts off as a normal construction, demolitions guy and because of red tape, he’s forced to surrender alien debris that could help him take care of his family and the families of everyone that he’s in charge of. I do think it’s a weakness that we don’t actually see his personal struggles, hence why he’s not exactly breaking the bad streak. In all actuality, I may just be bias because I think Keaton’s performance elevates the role quite a bit because we see his desperation and defiance and why he steals the tech to make the weapons he does. Keaton knows how to act and Vulture and how good or not good he is as a villain probably depends entirely on how much of a fan you might be of Keaton. Since I am, I enjoyed his performance more than many other villains.

Even though this Spider-Man isn’t the best of the six that now exist, I do have to say that it’s the one that I appreciate more. Holland is more age appropriate to play a fifteen year old Peter Parker (he’s twenty-one years old), whereas Maguire was twenty-seven, and Garfield was twenty-nine, both unconvincingly playing high-schoolers. Holland both looks and sounds like a teenager. And I know that this was showcased in CIVIL WAR, but I love how expressive the Spidey mask is. Maybe it doesn’t express sadness or anything, but the eyes glare when angry, or widen when frightened. By the way, did anyone else catch this? The voice in Spidey’s suit, “Karen,” is Jennifer Connelly’s voice! Dude! I wish I hadn’t missed that as the credits rolled by! I also enjoy that this movie teases that the technology that Toomes takes and modifies to create weapons are also meant to create future villains, like Scorpion. Mac Gargan is teased. There’s little things like Spider-Man in a suburban neighborhood struggling to web-sling around because there’s no tall buildings to swing from, so he has to comically run across neighborhoods. Heh, hey, friendly “neighborhood” Spider-Man! Did I just get it? And the movie does get creative with how Spidey uses his webshooters. Making a hammock, a timed web-mine thing that explodes a web when a bad guy passes by… so I guess that’d be “proximity,” not timed. In any case, it gets pretty creative and I hope to see more of that in future installments. Donald Glover plays a character named Aaron Davis, a petty criminal who helps Spider-Man in the movie, but refuses to take the weapons that Toomes offers him, later on commenting that he, “has a nephew that lives here,” referencing the now popular comic character Miles Morales, a half black, half Puerto Rican kid who eventually becomes another incarnation of Spider-Man. I doubt the MCU will be around long enough to take this character in that direction, but it’s a nice little easter egg for comic book fans.

The supporting cast is also really good. Batalon as Peter’s best friend Ned is really funny and they have incredibly enjoyable banter and scenes together. I especially enjoyed the montage-y scene where… actually, I forget the particulars, but I think Ned and Peter were waiting on a hacking that Ned was doing on the Spidey suit and they’re so bored out of their minds that they’re constantly cut to a new bored position around the room, resulting in Ned in the Spidey mask. No explanation, no rhyme or reason, no comment from the characters, he’s just in the mask. I cracked up, I won’t lie. Zendaya as Michelle is also pretty compelling, being this character that has a seriously sarcastic and sharp whit when interacting with Peter, but still has an unflinching care for those around her as well. She’s definitely a compelling character that I’d like to see return in the sequel.

*** SPOILERS***

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While Tomei’s Aunt May was a little underdeveloped in my opinion, it’s hard not to talk about her big reveal in the end when she discovers that Peter is Spider-Man. First of all, her reaction is freakin’ hilarious when she screams, “WHAT THE FU-” and the end credits cut her off. But more than that, this is a new dynamic that fans of the films have never seen before and I’m really looking forward to seeing that develop in the sequel and how this affects their relationship.

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***END SPOILERS***

Overall, I think this is definitely worth the time of day. It’s fun, energized, hilarious, great performances all around, it’s great time. It’s got some weaknesses plot and character-wise here and there, but they’re not enough to prevent the movie from being good. Is it the “best” Spider-Man movie? No, I don’t think I agree with that one. SPIDER-MAN 2 (2004) and THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2012) are better in my opinion, but this is one that should be appreciated in its own right for how it will affect the future of this character and taking a few risks that pay off for the most part. Just nick “Whiny-Spidey” for any future appearances and I’ll be a happy camper. If you’ve been a fan of the MCU, this film is for you.

My honest rating for SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING: 4/5

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