‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ Review

Director: Jon Watts

Writers: Jon Watts, Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, and Erik Sommers

Cast: Tom Holland, Robert Downey Jr., Michael Keaton, Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Tony Revolori, Bokeem Woodbine, Donald Glover and Marisa Tomei

Synopsis: Several months after the events of Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker, with the help of his mentor Tony Stark, tries to balance his life as an ordinary high school student in Queens, New York City while fighting as his superhero alter ego Spider-Man as a new threat, the Vulture, emerges.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: There are two post-credit scenes.*

 

The second reboot of Spider-Man in the last 15 years is here, and dare I say, it might be the best one yet. Jon Watts has bought the real teenage aspect of Peter Parker which not only makes him a desperate young hero trying to prove himself, but also trying make it through the difficulties of high school. There other nice thing, there’s no origin story. Although the film does act as a pseudo-origin story given that Peter is finally becoming the Spider-Man we all know and love from the comics.

The film begins with, surprisingly, Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes with his clean-up crew after what looks like the Battle of New York from The Avengers, and suddenly getting kicked out, but not before taking some alien technology with them. We then jump forward to Peter Parker (Tom Holland) in a home movie-like video recapping the events of Captain America: Civil War, including some shots from the airport battle. After getting to keep the suit, we cut forward yet again a few months with Peter feeling left out and antsy to get back into the real action. That comes to fruition when he discovers a gang selling alien tech weapons lead by Adrian aka The Vulture. Peter then tries to take down Adrian and his crew, while also dealing with his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) who knows his secret, dealing with his crush from afar in Liz (Laura Harrier) and keeping his identity from his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei).

While on paper, Spider-Man: Homecoming sounds like it has a lot going on, but what Jon Watts and the writers were able to do here is nothing short of great. The film is actually over two hours along, but it never feels long. Homecoming moves at a brisk pace, all while being enjoyable and fun, but more importantly, it’s funny. The humor is top notch and while the film never goes full comedy, the humor is one of the many things that makes the film great.

The other nice thing about Homecoming is that it’s small stakes movie. There’s no end of the world or portal opening in the middle of the sky scenario. It’s Peter trying to stop a gang from selling alien tech weapons. Sure he fights a guy in an alien tech suit, with his super-suit and superpowers but it’s not like he’s a demigod or Iron Man. We see Peter as Spider-Man swinging around the city doing some things like stopping a guy from stealing a bike or even when he’s just being Peter, we see him go to a bodega to get a bite to eat. He really is, as cheesy as it sounds, a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.

The reason why this works is simply because of Tom Holland. Holland is great as Peter and Spider-Man. He has the sensibility and humor a Peter Parker/Spider-Man needs and makes the role his own. Nothing against Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield, but Holland is of the right age for the character and has a personality that we can easily follow and root for. He’s also still learning everything as he goes, and we see him fail, which is what we’ve been really missing from the previous installments. Sure he has the heart of a hero and is always trying to do the right thing, but he still doesn’t know when to step in and when to step away.

The rest of the cast is pretty great too. Let’s start off with the obvious – Robert Downey Jr. once again playing Tony Stark/Iron Man. While he’s in almost every promotion spot we’ve seen, he’s actually not in the movie that much, so if you had the fear that Iron Man/Stark would take over the film, he doesn’t. Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes, since they never actually call him the Vulture, is okay as the villain. His reasoning does leave something to be desired, but you can see where he’s coming from, but I think it helps that he’s damn terrifying when he needs to be.

Jacob Batalon as Ned, Peter’s best friend and the only friend that knows he’s Spider-Man, is great here and his chemistry with Holland is fantastic. Zendaya as the deadpan schoolmate Michelle has her moments that are welcomed humorous moments. Laura Harrier as Peter’s love interest, Liz, doesn’t have much to do other than be something Peter can’t really have because of his alter-ego Jon Favreau once again plays Happy Hogan, who acts like a watch dog to Peter, although he struggles him off every chance he gets. Tony Revolori plays Flash Thompson, a high school rival/bully to Peter, and Bokeem Woodbine plays Shocker, the secondary villain that Peter/Spider-Man has to deal with.

Donald Glover appears as Aaron Davis, someone Spider-Man comes across for help. Unfortunately, Marisa Tomei as Aunt May is a little underwritten for me. Yes, the fact that she’s younger does play a funny little role in the film, but she doesn’t really give Peter a wise speech about being a kid or anything like that, she does have one moment like that, but I kind of wish they played her up more. Instead she is played as an over-protective aunt who tells Peter to run the other way when danger is put in front of him. However, this new attitude does get a nice payoff, but I still would have loved to see more of her.

Of course, there are many Easter Eggs for fans to fine, some are right in your face, while others fans may need to keep an eye out for it. Thankfully, Sony doesn’t overstuff the movie with them or try to force the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the film itself keeping everything Spider-Man related and watching him grow as the character that we all love and know.

All in all, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a hell of a lot of fun. From start to finish you are bound to love this movie. Tom Holland has solidified himself as Peter Parker/Spider-Man and I for one can’t wait to see where he takes the character next. The Easter Eggs to the history of the character do make the film all the more great consider where the potential can go, and I’m sure one particular one will get fans talking. However, I would highly recommend everyone to go watch Homecoming. It’s not a reboot for reboot stake or for Sony to make more money, it’s a Spider-Man movie that we’ve been waiting for.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

4.5 out of 5

 

New Podcast Episode: Oscar Picks, Nightwing Film Being Developed, Matt Reeves Directing The Batman & More

It’s been a while since I’ve posted the podcast up here, but here’s a new episode of the podcast with a guest.

New Podcast: Helen Mirren Joins Fast 8, Donald Glover Joins Spider-Man: Homecoming & Much More

Hello everybody!
I  didn’t do a podcast last week, as something came up, but I’m back this week with a more relaxed news podcast. But there is still some great news items this week.

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‘The Martian’ Review

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Director: Ridley Scott

Writer(s): Drew Goddard

Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Sean Bean, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Askel Hennie, Mackenzie Davis, Donald Glover, Benedict Wong, and Chiwetel Ejifor

Synopsis: During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit, and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Andy Weir, director Ridley Scott takes the helm of telling a story of probably someone’s worst fear: being left behind alone on a different planet. Scott has been on slump lately, but The Martian is the film that may get him back on track.

 

The film really jumps right into the action and story. The film take place on Sol 18 (“Sol” is a Martian day) of a 31-Sol mission on Mars. Astronaut Mark Watney (Damon) and his fellow Ares III crewmembers are hit by a storm sooner than they anticipated. Seeing that they are left with no choice, Commander Lewis (Chastain) orders the crew to leave Mars, but while the crew attempts to escape, the storm hits and Watney is struck by debris and vanishes into the storm. Lewis stays back a bit to search for him, but the crew eventually assumes he’s dead and leaves. Of course, Watney survives – not without getting impaled in the stomach – and makes his way back to their base of operations known as The Hab.

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There Watney realizes besides his biggest problem of being left behind on an isolated planet has to deal with other problems. He has no way to communicate with NASA, he doesn’t have enough food and the food he does have only will only last a few weeks, and finally, the next mission to Mars won’t arrive for four years. So left on the planet with nothing but wits and need to survive, he’s going to, as he puts it, “science the shit out of this.”

I actually read Andy Weir’s book prior to watching the film and Ridley Scott and writer Drew Goddard keep the spirit of the novel intact, and while changes were made The Martian is a pretty faithful adaptation. The film leaves out a good chuck of the science that Watney talks and does about his time on Mars, and what he does to make sure he doesn’t run oxygen, water, or food. Instead, Scott focuses more on the immediacy of the issue that Watney faces, and while some of the science is there, it’s scattered throughout, and the focus becomes how Watney will survive on Mars and what NASA is doing to save him. It’s really a bad move really, even though the film marks in at about two and half hours.

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Despite this, a film like this lives and dies with the lead, and Matt Damon’s Mark Watney is great. Damon may have not been on everyone’s wish list to play Watney, but Damon brings everything to the character that he can and that task is not easy. Damon is pretty much alone for the whole film and thanks to Damon’s always reliable acting chops. We feel for Watney and want to root for him. The other thing that Damon brings to Watney, and the film that will surprise some people, is humor. The Martian is surprisingly funny and filled with humor throughout. If you’re wondering how Watney doesn’t go crazy – and how the humor comes into play – Watney video records everything for NASA’s log and much like a scientist, he is documenting everything he does taking us along for the ride.

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While The Martian is on Damon’s shoulders to carry, a lead is only as good as their supporting characters, and the film has great supporting characters and actors. The Ares III crew chemistry is solid and you believe that these people have been together for months with the banter being fresh and quick. Jessica Chastain’s Commander Lewis is the stern and no-nonsense leader, Michael Pena’s Martinez, the pilot, shares most if not all the banter between Watney and its pretty damn great to hear and watch. Sebastian Stan’s Beck, the doctor, and Askel Hennie’s Vogel, the chemist get lost in the shuffle a bit, but have their moments. Finally, Kate Mara’s Johanssen, the tech, gets her moment to shine too, but with Pena and Chastain getting more of the attention, she also gets lost.

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The NASA and Earth characters are as great as Damon. Jeff Daniels plays Teddy Sanders, the head of NASA, and is looking out the agency as a whole and while his decisions may look like he’s being a hard-ass or the suit bad guy, Daniels gives Sander a special feel. Chiwetel Ejifor’s Vincent Kapoor plays the Mars Missions supervisor and has some great moments especially when he’s across Daniels and Sean Bean’s Mitch Henderson, who is the Ares III’s supervisor. Anytime the three characters are together, the scenes pop because everyone is trying to pull the power away from each other. The scenes also bring the two different sides of the argument that people would face if this ever happened.

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Kristen Wiig plays NASA spokesperson Annie Montrose who has some funny scenes and honestly, I thought was great casting, although I wished they kept more of her lines from the book. Mackenzie Davis plays Mindy Park, who is the first to discover that Watney is alive on Mars and keeps track on him through satellites. Finally Donald Glover and Benedict Wong plays an astrodynamics engineer that tries to figure out a way to bring Watney home and an engineer that works at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory that tries to communicate with Watney on Mars and brings up an idea that could get Watney more food.

The Martian won’t be for everyone. The film does follow Watney as he’s on Mars and tries to survive, and while it’s great to see how he does it and not go crazy, the film is a slow burn and moves at pace that could make people lose focus. However, the pacing and the editing between Earth and Mars should make the film go by fasting that it really is.

All in all, The Martian is a great human story about survival. What helps the film is the great cast, especially Matt Damon who carries the film with ease, and director Ridley Scott who shots the film in such a way that it does make you think they shot the film on Mars. The Martian is definitely one of the best films of the year.

 

The Martian

5 out of 5

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‘The Lazarus Effect’ Review

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Dir: David Gelb

Writer(s): Luke Dawson and Jeremy Slater

Cast: Mark Duplass, Olivia Wilde, Sarah Bolger, Evan Peters, and Donald Glover

Synopsis: A group of medical students discover a way to bring dead patients back to life.

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

 

If you could bring someone back from the dead? What if you knew they wouldn’t be the same? Would you? That’s what The Lazarus Effect tries to ask its audience. That is until it becomes a run-of-the-mill pseudo-supernatural slasher horror film. While the film does address these issues early on, it completely ignores them in the end of cheap scares and an ending that leaves you wondering, and not in the way you think.

 

The film follows Zoe (Wilde) and Frank (Duplass), leaders of a project trying to give people a second chance with something called the Lazarus Serum. The serum will bring the subject back to life – in this case, the subject we see at the start of the story is a dog – and after an accident in the lab, Frank and the team, Clay (Peters), Niko (Glover) and Eva (Bolger), duplicate the experiment to bring Zoe back from the dead. When Zoe comes back, everyone starts to suspect that Zoe isn’t acting like herself and maybe something could truly be wrong with her.

 

Surprisingly – or thankfully – The Lazarus Effect is just eighty-three minutes long, so everything moves incredibly fast and takes place majorly in the lab. The other thing is the film is low budget as it comes from one of Hollywood’s best micro-budget companies, Blumhouse Productions. Not saying the micro-budget hurts the film, director David Gelb does the best he can with what he has in terms of lighting and the cast.

 

Speaking of the cast, they are all pretty much likeable with the little time we have with them. We actually get to spend time with them before everything goes to wrong. Zoe and Frank were actually going to get married three years prior to the events of the film before they got a grant to start experimenting with the Lazarus Serum. Zoe is religious and Frank is a man of science, so the two do get into a conversation what happens when you die with Eva (Bolger), which brings up some of the questions of science vs. religion, but also the question of morality about brining someone back from the dead.

 

Evan Peters plays Clay, who is the comic relief of the film and plays the smart stoner of the group. Donald Glover plays Niko, who is never fully developed other than he has a crush on Zoe and has known her for a while. Sarah Bolger’s Eva is the outsider of the group as she comes in to document the group, and when everything goes wrong she starts to develop a little more as a character.

 

Like I mentioned, the film itself asks the question, what happens when you bring someone back to life? Will they be the same person or different? Better yet, what happens scientifically to the body? The Lazarus Effect does delve into these issues a bit for the first half of the film and even makes few solid points, but Zoe becomes Evil Zoe, it forgets all the science and becomes less interesting. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a slasher film, but when a movie introduces some actual questions about morals or anything that’s worthwhile to ask, and then avoids it, I lose interest.

 

Since we spend some time with these characters we understand why Frank decides to use the Lazarus Serum on Zoe. He loves her and doesn’t want to lose her, so when he knows the Serum works at least for bringing someone back – after testing it on the dog we see early in the film and ads – we get it. Of course the question we the audience ask ourselves is, should he do it?

 

Again, the film balances itself on science, supernatural, religion – only briefly – and trope-filled horror elements. Sadly, by the end it follows more of the latter. Not saying it isn’t good, but after everything they set up at the beginning, it was a bit disheartening to see it go into what it became.

 

All in all, The Lazarus Effect asks some big questions, but doesn’t really answer them in a good way, if at all. The performances helps the film be more than other films about the same subject out there, it just sucks that it didn’t really reach its full potential.

 

 

The Lazarus Effect

3 out of 5