Mini-Reviews – Justice League, Lady Bird, Coco & Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Hey everybody!

Welcome to another edition of Mini-Reviews. It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. I know I’ve been slacking on my movie reviews, so please forgive me for that, I have been watching movies but I haven’t had a real chance to sit down and write full reviews. So this is going to make up for it, with some of the big movies I’ve watched. Movies not included are Daddy’s Home 2, Roman J. Israel Esq., Murder on the Orient Express.

 

Been a while since I’ve done one of these, so please, bare with me. So let’s get to it, shall we?

 

*As always, these will be spoiler free reviews*

 

Lady Bird

Director: Greta Gerwig

Writer: Greta Gerwig

Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Beanie Feldstein, Lucas Hedges, Odeya Rush, Timothee Chalamet, Jordan Rodrigues, Marielle Scott and Tracy Letts.

Synopsis: In the early 2000s, an artistically-inclined seventeen year-old comes of age in Sacramento, California.

 

Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial effort, Lady Bird is a great coming-of-age story following Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), who wants out of her town but is not financially able to go to a big college. It also doesn’t help that her mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf) is working non-stop and thinks she should think more logically about college. During all of this, we follow Lady Bird, which is what she wants to be called, go through her final year at school, love and thinking what her future holds for her.

I had heard a lot about Lady Bird during its film festival run, and when I finally got the chance to see it, I can see why people really loved it. Gerwig’s writing was fantastical, nothing ever felt forced and Ronan is simply amazing as Lady Bird. The main thing for me about the movie is, despite the movie being set in 2002, it doesn’t really feel that way. Sure we have flip-phones and the whole, “the government is going to put trackers on us” mentally by one of the characters Lady Bird interacts with, and the news of attacks overseas by our government, but the time period isn’t really that important – at least from my point of view of watching.

The thing that makes Lady Bird work for me is the chemistry between Ronan and Metcalf. Any time they are on the screen together it makes the film pop, and it’s both fun and hard to watch as you see them argue and fight one minute and then suddenly have a heart-to-heart the next. It would be really hard to imagine if none of these ladies including Gerwig, are not nominated for the major award shows.

All in all, Lady Bird is a greatly acted film with top notch writing and humor that feels real. While I did feel it loses only a slightly bit of steam near the end, the cast and the script really make Lady Bird worth the while.

Lady Bird

4 out of 5

 

 

Justice League

Director: Zack Snyder

Writers: Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon

Cast: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ray Fisher, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, Joe Morton, Connie Nielsen, Amber Heard, J.K. Simmons, Diane Lane, Henry Cavill and Ciaran Hinds

Synopsis: Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy.

 

Justice League has had a long and hard road to get to the big screen. From the scarped George Miller-directed movie, to the DCEU’s battle to get fans and critics to go all in for their movies, the movie has finally arrived and it’s just okay. If you didn’t know, Zack Snyder directed the movie at first, but had to step down for the reshoots because of the death of a loved, and Joss Whedon – who had done some script work – came in to take over.

To be honest, I didn’t have a lot of hopes for this. I still had the bad taste of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice with me, but I was willing to really give Justice League a chance. Unfortunately, Justice League was a huge misstep for me. The CGI was really off in places – I’m looking at you Henry Cavill mustache removal!

Justice League has a rather simple plot; Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) gathers together the team of the Amazon, Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), the speedster Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), the loner Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and the cybernetically enhanced Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher) to stop the threat of Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciaran Hinds), an intergalactic threat that comes to Earth to find the Mother Boxes, cubes with massive power. It’s up to them to stop him and save the world.

The problem with Justice League is, besides some of the terrible CGI, is it doesn’t really take the time to get to know the new characters. We know Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman, but we get the cliff notes of Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg, which doesn’t help considering we’re suppose to care for these characters, and they’re the new big characters we’re going to follow. Miller’s Barry is too jokey; Stone’s Cyborg is a bit too stoic – although he does loosen up at the end – and Momoa’s Curry/Aquaman is a bit too “bro” for me, which is fine for a new approach, but I didn’t really get into it.

All in all, despite all that, yes, Justice League does have some fun and cool moments, but a lot of the negatives and drawbacks of the movie – some I didn’t even mention – really make it hard to enjoy the moments entirely. Justice League does take the DCEU into the right direction of more hopeful and fun, instead dark gritty. Hopefully, the DCEU continues down this route, otherwise the franchise is in a lot of trouble.

Justice League

2.5 out of 5

 

 

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 

Director: Martin McDonagh

Writer: Martin McDonagh

Cast: Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Lucas Hedges, Caleb Landry Jones, John Hawkes, Amanda Warren, Samara Weaving, Kerry Condon, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Clarke Peters, Sandy Martin, Zeljko Ivanek, Abbie Cornish, and Peter Dinklage

Synopsis: In this darkly comic drama, a mother personally challenges the local authorities to solve her daughter’s murder, when they fail to catch the culprit.

 

Martin McDonagh, who directed In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, is a director that I will also keep a look out for now. When I found out about Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and the cast, it immediately jumped into my “Must Watch” list, and I’m glad I did, because this was a film that really stuck with me.

The film follows Mildred (Frances McDormand), who has recently lost her daughter in a brutal way, and after the police have seemed to give up on the case, she decides to buy three billboards that target the police for not doing their jobs. The billboards get the attention of the police, more specifically Sheriff Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) and Officer Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell), and the townspeople who are heavily against them. The film then follows Mildred as she deals with everyone seemingly against her, and Dixon and Willoughby trying to finally figure out the case.

There is a lot more going on in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri that I won’t even hint at here, mainly because this film really does lend itself on knowing the least amount of information possible to thoroughly enjoy it and really get into the world that this movie takes place in. I will say it’s a dark comedy, so prepare yourself for that, and if you seen McDonagh’s other films, then you’d know what to expect.

I will say Frances McDormand is great as always, but I’d argue that this movie belongs to Sam Rockwell. He’s absolutely fantastic in this, and dare I say, this is one of his best performances he’s ever done.

All in all, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a wonderfully entertaining dark comedy with great performances by Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell. Seriously do yourself a favor and try to avoid anything about the movie, and go watch it.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

4.5 out of 5

 

 

Coco

Director: Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina

Writers: Adrian Molina and Matthew Aldrich

Voice Cast: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael Garcia Bernal, Alanna Ubach, Renee Victor, Edward James Olmos and Benjamin Bratt

Synopsis: Aspiring musician Miguel, confronted with his family’s ancestral ban on music, enters the Land of the Dead to work out the mystery.

 

I am willing to admit that I had serious doubts about Coco. I knew that Pixar had been working on a Dia de los Muertos movie for a while now, but I was a huge fan of another Dia de los Muertos film called The Book of Life. However, Coco completely blew me away. The movie follows Miguel, who is banned from playing, listening or even thinking about music, but like all kids, he doesn’t follow his family’s rule. Miguel is inspired by a deceased musician from the town, Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), and through magic, enters the Land of the Dead on The Day of the Dead to find de la Cruz and find his place in the world.

Along his journey there, he meets his deceased family and a con man named Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal). But, Miguel finds out that he has to get back to the living world before he’s stuck in the Land in the Dead forever.

Like any Pixar movie, the movie has a great story, great characters and amazing visuals. The beautiful and bright colors of The Land of the Dead really pop and I kind of wish we could see more of it as a whole, and not just sections. I also liked that they really dug into the actual culture of everything, and it’s cool to see that represented in a movie like this.

More importantly, and the thing that will put any movie on my list of anything, this tugged on every emotional string that I had. I’ll admit, I was on the verge of tears A LOT. The characters actions and even some of the music, more specifically “Remember Me” started up the waterworks.

All in all, Coco is a great film with eye-popping visuals and an amazing soundtrack. I will admit, something in the final act was a little jarring, especially for a kids and Pixar movie but I guess it worked out at the end of it all.

Coco

4.5 out of 5

 

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‘It’ Review

Director: Andy Muschietti

Writers: Gary Dauberman, Chase Palmer and Cary Fukunaga

Cast: Jaeden Lieberher, Sophia Lillis, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Finn Wolfhard, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, Nicholas Hamilton, Stephen Bogaert, Jackson Robert Scott and Bill Skarsgard

Synopsis: A group of bullied kids band together when a monster, taking the appearance of a clown, begins hunting children.

 

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

 

Based off the novel by Stephen King, at least the first half, Pennywise the Clown is back to make us afraid of clowns again. Of course, most of us know the two-part TV movie with Tim Curry playing Pennywise, but while that version may have scared us with some uneasy visuals and Curry’s performances, this new version of It is here to be a little more faithful to the original source material. and add the real horror that was written by Stephen King himself.

To be fair, I hadn’t watched the TV movie in a long time, and I ended up watching some clips online. While some of it sticks, for the most part I didn’t end up remembering half of the things in it. Seeing that – and that this film was going to be more faithful – my judgment and now broken bias was going to be left at home. Granted, the trailers proved this version of It was going to crack up the horror to eleven, and this was going to have a movie budget, against a early 90s TV movie budget. Either way, do yourself the favor, and try not to compare the two versions since they are very, very different, but more importantly, you’ll miss out on a great movie.

Set in Derry, Maine in 1989, people – most kids – have gone missing by the dozens. The film starts off by showing us the much promoted disappearance of Georgie Denbrough (Jackson Robert Scott), the younger brother of Bill (Jaeden Lieberher). It is also were we are introduced to Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgard) for the first time. We then jump forward a year, Bill holds on to hope that his younger brother is still alive, but we are now introduced to his closest friends; the always joking Richie (Finn Wolfhard), the germophobe Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer) and Stan (Wyatt Oleff). The three eventually become friends with the new kid, whose obsessed with Derry’s history, Ben (Ray Taylor), the home-schooled Mike (Chosen Jacobs), and Beverly (Sophia Lillis).

They forge a friendship and call themselves The Losers Club. However, before they can try to enjoy their summer, they deal with bullies, lead by Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton), but also have to face their fears when Pennywise puts all of them on his radar. It then becomes a race against time for The Losers Club to defeat “It” before one of them disappears. Because everyone floats down there.

Like I mentioned earlier, I’m sure we all know someone that has seen the original It, or maybe even read the novel. Either way, Pennywise and The Losers Club have a following so this new version of It had a lot of eyes on it. Thankfully, it turned out great, because not only is It a great horror movie, it’s a great coming-of-age story with humor and heart to back it all up. That said, I applaud director Andy Muschietti and the writers in Gary Dauberman and Chase Palmer – Cary Fukunaga is also credited, since he was the original director and writer of the film, but dropped out due to creative difference – for being able to balance all the tones in the film and make it work for the film instead of making them work against it.

Next to the balancing act working, it’s the young cast that really makes It shine. Each of them having their moments to shine, and face their respected fears, but it’s the fact that we get to know them that makes us not only root for them, but also worry for them. Lieberher gets to shine the most as Bill, who is determined to find out what happened to Georgie and holding on faith that he’s still alive despite what people think. Lillis’ Beverly, personally, gets the more complicated and emotional arc as she seen as the town’s slut, but also the fact that she has to deal with her father, played by Stephen Bogaert, who makes uncomfortable advances toward her. Jeremy Ray Taylor’s Ben has probably one of the most realest arcs for a kid his age that involves Beverly.

Not everyone has the opportunity of being fleshed out unfortunately. Wyatt Oleff’s Stanley doesn’t really have too much going on other than being the Jewish kid who is about to have his bar mitzvah and wants to ignore everything. Finn Wolfhard’s Richie can sometimes come off as annoying and has a fear of clowns, but that fear doesn’t come up until after the group acknowledges that Pennywise exists. Jacobs’ Mike, obviously the only person of color, has his own problems especially with bully Henry Bowers. Finally, Jack Dylan Grazer does have his moments, but for me, his big moment comes near the end and has nothing to do with Pennywise.

However, the biggest drawn here is Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise. Bill, the youngest of the Skarsgard family, will probably become a household name with his performance here. We don’t see a hell of a lot of Pennywise, but just enough to know when he pops up, you better be scared – or at least unnerved. His introduction scenes with Georgie is disturbing from the get go as we can see him salivating which just adds that creepy layer to Pennywise that was, arguably missing from the previous version. Yes, Tim Curry’s Pennywise was creepy, but he was creepy when the character had to be, Skarsgard’s version is always creepy.

All in all, It is like I noted earlier, not only a great horror movie, but a great coming-of-age film. The young cast is great, and the best part is they actually act like kids, so when they’re put into a fearful and dangerous situation we want them to make it through and we see can the genuine fear they have. Not only that, their chemistry is top notch, I can believe they’re friends and they have a bond, and when they face Pennywise, it is something special.

Whether you prefer the 90s It or this version of It, there is no denying that Stephen King’s story has touched everyone. Everyone has their fears, and the question becomes will you face them head-on yourself? Or have someone there to face them down with you? This version does lend itself to be horror especially considering this has a movie budget opposed to a TV movie budget – and R-rating which they take full advantage of. Whatever the case, the cast – including Skarsgard’s Pennywise – and their chemistry together make It not only a worthy adaptation of Stephen King’s stories, but a great film.

It

4.5 out of 5

‘Dunkirk’ Review

Director: Christopher Nolan

Writer: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Fionn Whitehead, Aneurin Barnard, Barry Keoghan, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Cillian Murphy, James D’Arcy, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance and Kenneth Branagh

Synopsis: Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire and France are surrounded by the German army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II.

 

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

 

Based on the real event during World War II, and one of the most disastrous military missions in British history, Dunkirk is told through the perspective of three different viewpoints with imagined characters director Christopher Nolan made up, and a few characters that were based off real people. However, that doesn’t make Dunkirk any less of an important history film. I personally didn’t know anything about the real event at Dunkirk, and held off reading anything about the event until after the movie. This isn’t also your typical Nolan movie either, which makes the experience so much better. So let’s not waste any more space and get to what makes Dunkirk so damn good.

Nolan does do some experimenting with this film as it jumps across three different timelines that weave together in a slow fashion – all of them dealing with the British evacuation of Dunkirk. There’s the shoreline nicknamed The Mole, which takes place over the course of a week and follows British soldier Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) and a fellow soldier he comes across played by Damien Bonnard, as they try to get out of Dunkirk. There’s “The Sea” that takes place over a day and follows Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance), his son Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney), and George (Barry Keoghan) who sail to Dunkirk as a rescue party and pick up a soldier (Cillian Murphy) along the way. Finally, “The Air” which takes place over the course of an hour and follows British pilots Collins (Jack Lowden) and Farrier (Tom Hardy) who provide air support for the ships.

One of the things you obviously notice right away about the film, despite big names like Hardy, Murphy, Rylance, James D’Arcy and Kenneth Branagh appearing, they are nothing more than supporting roles. Although, I’d make the argument that Rylance is one of the leads of the film, but I’ll leave that up to you. Also, considering this is a war film, you’re probably expecting buckets of blood and a hardcore brutal look at war like Saving Pirate Ryan right? Well, you don’t get that. However, you did get something better, for the lack of a better word – a cold, relentless and unforgiving look at war.

There never is a real safe place in their film, which adds to the tension every time we get what could be a moment of peace. Combine that with Hans Zimmer’s amazing score with a ticking clock that is both unnerving, but blends right into the scenes perfectly. Considering that, I was surprised like most people were that Dunkirk’s runtime is only an hour and forty-six minutes. Not that war films have to be long, but even with that “short” runtime, Dunkirk tells the story it is trying to tell.

I don’t know if people will see this as a negative, but Nolan doesn’t really get into any back stories of the characters. Everything is very in the moment, despite the non-linear narrative Nolan is putting on. You get a sense on who the characters might be by their actions, but Nolan doesn’t really give anyone an exposition dump to tell their story. The only real person that gets a ton of dialogue is Branagh’s Commander Bolton who is trying to get everyone out of Dunkirk. The other characters like Whitehead’s Tommy, who opens the film, can be seen as the lead of the film, but since the film jumps around I was okay that he wasn’t the central focus – but again that could be me

That said, the cast is great with everyone holding their own and not stealing the spotlight from anyone. Whitehead spends the majority of the film with Harry Styles, who surprisingly is not that bad. This could easily be seen as stunt casting, but the singer isn’t bad in his acting debut. Cillian Murphy is terrific as the soldier pleading with Mark Rylance’s character to turn back and go home. Speaking of Rylance, he does fine job as Mr. Dawson and his two main co-stars Barry Keoghan as George and Tom Glynn-Carney’s Peter. Jack Lowden and Tom Hardy as the pilots are only involved in the dogfights, which are great and enthralling to watch.

Even with the great cast, this movie belongs to Nolan and the crew. Specifically, the already mentioned Hans Zimmer and cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema, who gives us the massive scope, but captures the intense dread and desperation of the characters, especially the ones on The Mole as they hear the German planes fly over them dropping bombs on them.

All in all, Dunkirk is an intense film that doesn’t let you go until the very end. Christopher Nolan was able to do something different in the war genre that I hope people appreciate and find the nuances with the great cinematography and score.

Dunkirk

4.5 out of 5

‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ Review

Director: Matt Reeves

Writers: Matt Reeves and Mark Bomback

Cast: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval, Terry Notary, Ty Olsson, Michael Adamthwaite, Gabriel Chavarria and Amiah Miller

Synopsis: After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mystic quest to avenge his kind.

 

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

 

Planet of the Apes was a movie that changed the movie scene due to its amazing practical effects, visual storytelling – apes of horses! – and vision of the future. Sure the series went to some crazy places and out there ideas. No serious watch them or look it up, but the series always had a special place in people’s hearts, and after a lackluster attempt with Tim Burton’s version – although credit where credit is due with those practical effects – the series got a much needed shot-in-the-arm with the reboot back in 2011 in Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Lead by motion-capture pioneer Andy Serkis with WETA Digital helping with the groundbreaking special effects, Rise became an instant hit with fans and nonfans alike. Serkis’ Caesar was a compelling character that made us feel and root for him to win, which meant yes, humans are the bad guys and had to be stopped. We then got Dawn of the Planet of the Apes which added an extra layer, it wasn’t humans vs. apes, it was humans vs. apes vs. apes, thanks to Toby Kebbell’s Koba, who hated what humans did to apes, and Caesar, who saw the good in humans once and believes that there could be peace. Now, of course, we get War for the Planet of the Apes, a great end to a great trilogy.

War picks up a couple years after the events of Dawn, and we now sees Caesar (Andy Serkis) with the remaining apes living in hiding in the woods from a group of soldiers lead by The Colonel (Woody Harrelson). After two attacks on their home, Caesar has had enough and decides to get revenge. Breaking away from the apes, and sending them to a new promised home, Caesar is followed by his trusted and closest friends in Maurice (Karin Konoval), Rocket (Terry Notary) and Luca (Michael Adamthwaite). Eventually they come across a young girl, played by Amiah Miller, who has lost the ability to speak, and Bad Ape (Steve Zahn), an ape that has learned to talk just be being around humans. What follows is Caesar struggling with his darker side to get revenge, but also still trying to remain the leader to his people

Despite the summer releases of all the films, and the massive – and impressive –special effects, this Apes franchise never really feels like a summer movie. They could have easily turned this into a full-fledged apes vs. humans series, but instead they made every film about making Caesar a fully fleshed out and complex character. The film could be looked at as character study on both sides. Are the apes the heroes, or are the humans. Yes, there are good humans like James Franco’s Will or Jason Clarke’s Malcolm, but for every good few humans, there are extremely bad humans like Harrelson’s The Colonel, who take the extreme.

Caesar fights for his people and to keep them safe, but so do the humans, and in this case Woody Harrelson’s The Colonel has a reasonable case for his actions. Although anyone in that kind of position will probably say their position is right, but in this case, he’s somewhat right. That said, that is another reason why I love this rebooted trilogy. It gives you both sides of the argument and lets you choose, but Caesar is such a great character and seeing his journey for three films now, you have to root for him.

Of course, some of that goes to Andy Serkis. Serkis’ subtle nuances always made Caesar feel more human, if that makes some sense. Here it’s the same, Caesar is still conflicted, but still has his purpose but is stuck figuring out if he wants to continue doing things his way or if he falls for the darkness that Koba told him he would and should do. That’s why his advisory here in Harrelson’s The Colonel is a great one. Like Caesar, The Colonel only has one purpose and will do whatever it takes to complete it.

When it comes to the rest of the cast, it’s hard to really judge all of them considering they are mostly all motion-capture. When it comes to the new characters in Bad Ape, he brings some humor to the otherwise dark toned film, and all of it works and is not forced. Then there’s Amiah Miller’s character who is a huge homage and Easter Egg to the original series that ties in where the future of the series can go, but also do their own version. Also, credit to Miller, who’s still relativity new to Hollywood, on what she was able to pull off here given that she doesn’t talk at all.

Speaking of homage and Easter Eggs, War does have a few more besides Miller’s character, but there is something that I really liked that they added that connects to the original. It was something that feels small, but when you look at past films, and potentially future films, it completely works and makes sense – although part of me kind of wishes they don’t make any more after this.

All in all, War for the Planet of the Apes has it all; action, drama, humor, beautiful cinematography by Michael Seresin and score by Michael Giacchino. More importantly, War is a fitting end to a near perfect trilogy that gave us a great character in Caesar played by Andy Serkis. While part of me would somewhat like to see where this franchise goes from here, the other part of me hopes they leave it at that.

War for the Planet of the Apes

4.5 out of 5

Spider-Man: Homecoming Spoiler Review

The spoiler-filled review of Spider-Man: Homecoming is up!

Give it a listen, and if Youtube is too inconvenient for you, the podcast is up on ITunes now right here (id1249582608?mt=2)

‘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

 

‘Cars 3’ Review

Director: Brian Fee

Writers: Kiel Murray, Bob Peterson and Mike Rich

Voice Cast: Owen Wilson, Cristela Alonzo, Armie Hammer, Larry the Cable Guy, Bonnie Hunt, Nathan Fillion, Margo Martindale, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Kerry Washington and Chris Cooper

Synopsis: Lighting McQueen sets out to prove to a new generation of racers that he’s still the best race car in the world.

 

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

 

The Cars series is arguably the one series that isn’t beloved by fans. Whatever reason you have, Cars didn’t click with many and maybe it was because some knew the series was a lovechild of Pixar head John Lasseter. Personally, I didn’t mind the first Cars, but it definitely isn’t one of favorites, and Cars 2 was panned by not only critics but by fans as well – I didn’t see it. So I’ll admit that was a little reluctant to even watch Cars 3, but the first teaser that teased a potential darker film, of course not too dark since it’s a kids movie, peaked my curiosity. So, is Cars 3 worth driving out to see? Let’s dive in and find out.

Cars 3 follows Lighting McQueen (Owen Wilson) who is happily winning race after race and becoming a champion. However, when a new, and a more technologically advanced, racer in Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) comes into the scene and beats him in a race, everyone starts to question McQueen’s capability to be the star he once was. McQueen defiant in that idea pushes himself too far and crashes leaving his future in question, leaving Storm to take in all the glory. Lighting recovers and wants to get back into the scene leading him to trainer Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo). Together they train to find Lighting’s confidence back, and even teach Cruz a thing or two as well.

Again, not having seen Cars 2, but knowing the film followed Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) rather than Lighting, it’s nice to see Lighting get the spotlight since he’s was the main character in the first film. Also, the story itself leads to a story we’ve seen before. It’s not just redemption that Lighting is looking for, but also where his legacy will leave him. Will he be the old timer among the technologically advanced race cars? Or will he overcome and show them that the old car still has some tricks?

Of course this leads to one of the other themes of the film that working together can lead to potentially great things. It doesn’t matter that technology can improve your performance – which Storm represents – and give you an edge, leaving the old ways behind isn’t always best thing to do, and doesn’t mean you’ll always win. It’s a nice message for a kids movie, especially nowadays, but it’s pretty safe messaged compared to other Pixar films. I’m not saying it doesn’t work, but again, it’s something that Pixar has somewhat touched on before.

The voice cast is fine, it’s hard to judge voice casting for me to be honest, but Armie Hammer does bring the passive-aggressive Jackson Storm to life. But the highlight could be Cristela Alonzo’s Cruz Ramirez. She brings a certain life to it all with her perky but tough attitude when she’s training other racers and then solely Lighting. However, her story does get fleshed out as the film goes on and for the better. One more voice casting I want to point out is Chris Cooper as Smokey, someone Lighting looks for since he trained his mentor Doc Hudson (Paul Newman). Cooper fills the void of the wise mentor well. Of course, Paul Newman sadly passed away, but his character plays an important role in Lighting’s journey in this film making the scene where people are talking about him resonate even more because it makes you think about Newman himself. Those scenes are probably my favorite because they are so touching.

All in all, I didn’t mind Cars 3 and was somewhat surprised especially since I’m not the biggest fan of the first film. Is the movie trying to sell toys? Yeah, probably, but some of the bigger and touching scenes do work very well. Lighting and Cruz’s story is what keeps the film driving – no pun intended – forward and it is something you are invested in until the end. Will Cars 3 change your mind about the series, I don’t know, but it is something you should be willing to try.

Cars 3

3.5 out of 5