‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ Review: The Wall-Crawler Returns in Fine Form

✯✯✯✯½

It’s pretty great to be a Spider-Man fan. The character has had several high quality cartoons, a number of good video games, a fairly consistent level of quality in the comics as long as we ignore the Clone Saga, and of course multiple good to great movies. Sure there have been misfires but honestly I’d only really call The Amazing Spider-Man 2 outright awful. Overall the character is remarkable in his consistency.

Thus my expectations were quite high for Spider-Man: Far From Home, his second starring role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While his handling in the MCU has been rather divisive, I’ve honestly enjoyed it. I’m kinda happy to have an angst-light take after The Amazing Spider-Man duology drowned in sadness. This is a different, more upbeat take and I’m for it. Add in Mysterio, one of my favorite villains, and I was ready. Was I let down?

In the aftermath of the “blip,” life is slowly returning to normal. Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is back at school alongside his friends, all of whom also fell prey to Thanos’ snap and the subsequent unsnap. While he’s under pressure as one of the few living Avengers, all he wants is to unwind and relax on a school trip to Europe where he hopes to tell MJ (Zendaya) how he feels about her. Of course that’s not going to happen. A series of element monsters are ravaging the continent and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) taps Peter to help stop them. Fortunately, help comes in the form of otherworldly warrior Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) who might just be the key to everything provided you know nothing about the character.

This movie is an unadorned blast. I want to get that out of the way fast. This is one of the most unrelentingly entertaining comic book movies in a while. Unlike the epic scale of Avengers: Endgame or the dour tone of Captain Marvel, this is an old fashioned stop the bad guy slugfest like Shazam was earlier this year. It’s constantly laugh out loud hilarious with a cast of talented comedic actors crushing every line.

That light tone doesn’t erase the thrills though. I really love how strongly the film puts the focus on heroism. Peter wants to have fun and be a normal teenager but he still stands up at every moment to save the day. A sequence in Venice where he has to protect his friends unmasked is a delight while the film delivers one epic climax in London that gave my fanboy heart a rush.

What helps is the fun of for once having an outright evil villain in a Spider-Man movie. I’m not going to pretend that Mysterio is in fact a hero. Of course he’s not. He’s not a victim like The Vulture or Doctor Octopus. He’s a greedy supervillain without any complexity and Gyllenhaal is having so much fun here it’s infectious. His particular power set is brilliantly executed on screen and cleverly connects to things we’ve seen earlier in universe.

The returning cast is great. Holland continues to be a different yet identifiable take on Spider-Man. Zendaya’s MJ gets an upgrade to love interest but none of her darkly comical snark has been muted. The supporting cast gets more to do this time with Jacob Batalon’s Ned and Angourie Rice’s Betty getting a hysterical romantic subplot while Tony Revolori’s Flash Thompson gets to be more of the bully from the (early) comics.

It’s not perfect though. For one thing, it’s pretty clear this started life long before the effects of Infinity War/Endgame were known and no amount of retrofitting can mask that. It’s a bit hard to swallow high schoolers would just be sent to Europe after half of all life was wiped out and reemerged 5 years later. Also, yes, it would be nice to just once hear the name Ben Parker while Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) continues to largely be played as eye candy.  And no, I didn’t need the “Peter Tingle” running gag.

But I’m a fan at heart and more than any time in the last 15 years, this gave me the rush of Spider-Man in live action. Is it the fidelity of Raimi or the emotional core of TASM? No. It’s a lighter, individual take. But it still understands that Peter Parker is the guy rushing into danger when he’d rather be having fun. Forget anything else. That’s my Spider-Man. Far From Home nailed him.

And oh that mid credits scene. More than ever, stay seated because this one is the best credits scene yet. It sets up the next film in a way that will blow your mind.

The Sisters Brothers Review: Fun Western That Doesn’t Quite Boast the Most of Its Talent

✯✯✯½

I’ve always found it difficult to get into the films of Jacques Audiard which is one among many reasons I was unsure of what to expect from The Sisters Brothers. But this being so different from his past films already had me wondering if this could be an instance where he would click with me, because his films have always remained distinctive for being so unflinching – if also quite emotionally hollow. So how exactly was this sort of style supposed to work not only for a western film in the English language, but also a dark comedy? I think it’d only be fair to say that maybe it opened my eyes to see Audiard’s sensibilities working better as Hollywood productions than they do outside, because The Sisters Brothers only ever made itself out to be an entertaining ride.

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Okja – Review

✯✯✯✯

Netflix’s feature films have never been particularly great ones at that but the idea that Bong Joon-ho was directing one to be distributed under their name only left me feeling optimistic. Bong Joon-ho only left behind a sign of promise when he transitioned towards directing English-language films with Snowpiercer and with his second Korean-American production, what has come by goes beyond just being exciting. It only wears that on the outside, but then comes by something far more thoughtful almost akin to the early work of Steven Spielberg, drawing upon something far more impactful. And as far as Netflix-distributed original features have gone, Okja is not only the most exciting one of the bunch but it also might very well be the best one by far. And by the standards of their original features, it says a lot for what Bong Joon-ho provided in Okja is a fantastic film as expected of him.

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Life (2017) – Review

✯✯

Trying to come up with an original description to capture how much Life feels in terms of its lack of originality is already difficult because at the hands of other innovative science fiction films it feels absolutely worthless. Daniel Espinosa’s Life is another space-set horror film akin to Ridley Scott’s Alien but in the light of a new Alien film coming out later this year, what exactly are we to expect of a film supposedly taking its inspiration from those roots? Life feels like it’s eager to show how inspired by films of the sort but it has trouble even trying to stand out on its own. Inspired by Alien it may be, but that doesn’t change a distinctive feeling that it carries where it feels derivative, hindering it from leaving any sort of real impact afterwards. This isn’t the entertaining sort of Alien knockoff that anyone would have wanted to expect in this day and age, rather instead it’s just a boring experience if you already know its roots to the bone.

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Nocturnal Animals – Review

✯✯

It’s frustrating enough when one of the films you anticipate most turns out to be an underwhelming treat. Fashion designer Tom Ford’s sophomore feature takes a different route from his brilliant debut, A Single Man, and now in a means of broadening his stroke he takes Austin Wright’s novel Tony and Susan and adapts it to the screen as Nocturnal Animals. I really hate being that person again but even though I know this has captured nothing but great admiration from fans of Ford’s previous effort but I ended up finding this to be such a disappointing follow-up. With so much that could so easily catch admiration even on my own end, it’s shocking how so little feels delivered.

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