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

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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.

‘Dark Phoenix’ Review: A Sour Final Note for the X-Men Series

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Following Hugh Jackman’s final tenure as the Wolverine in Logan, the X-Men series finally comes to its own end by directly adapting the Dark Phoenix Saga – if the title wouldn’t already give that away. But even as a story of this sort would have had so much potential given what the X-Men have always stood for in their long run on the big screen, Dark Phoenix doesn’t even feel engaged with its own story to feel like there’s any sense of closure coming about. It doesn’t even feel like it was made to be a proper ending to this series with Disney having acquired Fox as a means of getting the rights to include the X-Men into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. For his directorial debut, it doesn’t even seem Simon Kinberg was even prepared to give this an ending and thus he tried to make Dark Phoenix too many things all at once but there was never a point in time when it ever felt like it were on its way to adding up properly. It doesn’t have anything to answer now that it’s all come to a finish, but it’s not quite the disaster it could have been with all the constant reshoots pushing the film back over and over again.

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‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ Review: Kaiju Ridiculousness Cranked Up a Notch

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If you’ve left Gareth Edwards’s Godzilla feeling like there wasn’t enough monster action to eat up, Michael Dougherty provides so much more of that in Godzilla: King of the Monsters (fittingly enough, whose name is taken from Terry Morse’s American bastardization of Ishirô Honda’s film). But decidedly, you’re also left wondering how much of this feels exciting especially when you’re in the face of nonstop monster action from beginning to end and in that same sense, Godzilla: King of the Monster can be equal parts exhilarating or just overall exhausting. But for longtime fans of the series who were eagerly awaiting to see Mothra or King Ghidorah coming to the screen in an Americanized format, there’s a whole lot that one can eat up at in Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Putting it lightly, it’s a film that took notes from the fan reaction to Gareth Edwards’s take but everything that Michael Dougherty does worse in King of the Monsters might also give you a lot more to appreciate about how Edwards approached the start of the MonsterVerse.

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‘Godzilla’ Review: Living Underneath the Trauma of Post-WWII Japan

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Ishirô Honda’s Godzilla is the start of what would become a huge cinematic phenomenon, going far beyond the realms of Japanese cinema but remaining so hugely influential on monster films from its own time and far beyond. But even with the many films inside its huge franchise that have come forth and even the numerous imitators that have followed (including Roland Emmerich’s 1998 disaster), Honda’s film still reigns supreme atop all the rest. But Honda’s film doesn’t ever feel bogged down by the campiness of other monster films of the era for it can only ever get so far away from that and still remains every bit as terrifying as it is melancholic. Godzilla is not any other monster movie like you’ll ever see them, it’s one that still stands the test of time for remaining every bit as wonderful a cautionary tale as they get, but one whose warnings one would only wonder if they have gotten through to generations of viewers. For every bit as iconic as the series has grown to become, there’s something so beautifully resonant in the lurking terror of Godzilla’s presence and far beyond too – something that only Ishirô Honda had ever managed to capture so gracefully. It’s easy to see why the character has left such a huge impact on popular culture, but it never feels without good reason at that.

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“Pokémon: Detective Pikachu” Review: Bizarre Charms Don’t Reach Their Peak But Remain Entertaining

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It’s only fitting enough for me to preface this review by stating this, I have been a lifelong Pokémon fan since childhood. But the old animated films have never aged well, which always disappointed me as someone who had been sticking so closely with the series with every new game that were to come out, so it always left me wondering how these films could fare if they were to be done in live action. With a universe of this scope having so much potential for so many more stories to be done based around the wonders of the Pokémon themselves, a comedic noir made to show its inspiration from films like Who Framed Roger Rabbit wouldn’t even be a bad start. To say the least, they’ve already managed to get everything about what made a world uniting humans and Pokémon so wonderful right from the surface, but there’s nothing about the story being told in Pokémon: Detective Pikachu that really feels as if it’s using up all the most of what this world can offer. It’s certainly not a bad way to start, because watching this as someone who has been a lifelong fan of the games it already gave me the urge to find my old games once again – though something still feels missing elsewhere.

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“Avengers: Endgame” Review: Achieving a Sense of Finality Within the Marvel Cinematic Universe

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**SPOILER WARNING: This review does not spoil Endgame, but spoilers for Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp, and Captain Marvel are also brought up. If you have not seen the aforementioned films, read this review at your own risk.**

Although I’ve never loved any of the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe I’ve always admired the impact that they left behind on modern culture and with the latest Avengers film there’s already a sense of finality to the first phase as these films continue coming out over the years. But the biggest challenge that Infinity War had already faced was how it could still manage to mix the stories of nearly twenty films to come together for one big face-off, and with two more films having followed since, Endgame already has us awaiting something even grander now that the second Ant-Man film and Captain Marvel have already gotten out of the way. At a running time of a little bit over three hours, Marvel already promises something of such a grand scale and to say the least, they’ve accomplished a task that almost seemed near impossible. For Endgame isn’t only the best of the four Avengers films but it’s also a film that utilizes the legacy that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has accomplished in a little over ten years in order to give viewers who have followed suit for the longest time more than what would already make a memorable closer. It’s a film that was made out of love for everything that made the Marvel Cinematic Universe so grand, and the results may not be perfect but also provide a satisfying climax.

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‘Glass’ Review: M. Night Shyamalan’s Belated Sequel Fulfills its Shattered Potential

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M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass is a film that seems to feel like in its own sort of league from the many other superhero films that also come out over the years, and that’s one among a few things that I find to be most welcoming about it. Nearly twenty years after the release of Unbreakable came out and offered a refreshing perspective on the superhero genre, with its deconstruction of the general structure, Shyamalan’s many ideas continued flowing with the potential of reaching a greater stature. When Split came out in 2017, there was that reminder Shyamalan has yet to lose his touch – because of the bridge presented between the two films. So with bringing both films together in Glass, one would only be left wondering how much further can we bring these ideas to come together in order to create a different sort of superhero film by bridging the gaps between both films. For a while, I’ve been wondering about how exactly everything would be culminating in the end, and though I didn’t quite get the answers that I was hoping for, there’s still a lot to be admired about what how the threads come together in Glass.

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The Growing Potential within ‘Alita: Battle Angel’: A Review

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A combination of the creative forces of Robert Rodriguez and James Cameron already sounds like it could be odd enough as is – considering we’re also looking at a filmmaker known for making stylized B-movies working together with someone who tries to make the most out of what he can with massive budgets. It’s a pairing that already sounds odd enough as is on paper, yet the actual results already leave me wanting more. Many films have also tried and unsuccessfully adapted anime to the big screen for English-language viewers, with films like 2017’s Ghost in the Shell or Death Note being the biggest culprits, yet what Robert Rodriguez and James Cameron bring you in Alita: Battle Angel is something that feels almost like it could easily have been something out of the ordinary. But I already see great potential arising out of this story having come to the screen, with having found its footing – but only time will tell if we’ll ever get a chance to see this story reaching greater lengths. It’s a blockbuster that would without doubt benefit from having a sequel coming along the way, because there’s a lot to admire about the world building present in here – and even allowing its own ideas to resonate and grow into something greater.

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The Matrix Review: How the Wachowskis’ 1999 Science Fiction Film Continues to Inspire Generations to Come

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In spite of wearing its own influences on its sleeve and many countless imitators that have followed, the Wachowskis’ The Matrix is truly a film of its own kind – one that has went on to define its own era and not without good reason. Blending the cyberpunk aesthetic with Hong Kong-inspired action set pieces, what the Wachowskis have managed to create was no ordinary action film but a film that stretches even beyond the set expectations for the genre. Yet its long-lasting appeal doesn’t ever feel limited, and it’s easy to see why because the Wachowskis also became a household name ever since this. It’s a film that bridges the gap between blockbuster cinema and philosophical cinema, from its weighty thematic content to the stunning action choreography and in the twenty years that have followed ever since it has only ever remained talked about in extensive detail. To take Morpheus’s own words, “The Matrix is everywhere” and for all I know its influence will only continue spreading because it still finds a way into the changing cultural landscape as if there were truly any other sign that the film has only aged like fine wine.

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High Life, a Contemplative, Tragic Tale Made Haunting by Director Claire Denis’s Thoughtfulness: TIFF Review

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Claire Denis is without a doubt one of the most fascinating filmmakers working today, but one can only find it so difficult where exactly to place expectations for what could turn out from a film set in deep space written and directed by her. There’s no exact way for one to define the sort of films that she makes, but that’s part of the reason she has remained one to keep my own eyes peeled out for. Yet I don’t think even having loved so many of Claire Denis’s past films can prepare me for what was set to come forth with High Life, because there’s another door she’s opening with this film that I don’t even know if many other filmmakers would ever dare to approach. But I think that’s why I know for a fact that I love what she does behind the camera, because I know that with films like this she’ll truly remain one of cinema’s greatest miracles, especially if we are going to speak those who are still working today. High Life is a difficult film to describe, but that’s one among many reasons I still find it to be so infinitely fascinating too, because it’s almost like Claire Denis is making a film all about what’s set up for humanity’s own future too, and it also makes me look forward to more English-language features from her.

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