Saturday, July 6, 2019

Spider-Man: Far From Home


I think Far From Home is supposed to be the last MCU movie of the current phase, but after Endgame, it feels like starting the cycle all over again. All Endgame changed was the change implemented by Infinity War, and now we're back to our regularly scheduled MCU programming. Here come the Marvel jokes, the wasted potential, the overused CGI, and worst of all, the obligation to make the sequel "bigger."

5 years later, and still waiting on a movie worthy of this guy.

So, we get an enhanced rehash of the first movie that lacks the grounding that the Queens neighborhood provided before. Spider-Man (Tom Holland) goes international when Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) hijacks Peter's class trip to Europe so he can help Jake Gyllenhaal fight elemental monsters from an alternate universe. With a little doing from the writers, Peter's class country-hops along with him, getting into danger with every fight so he has something real to worry about. That, and whether he's ever going to find a moment to tell MJ (Zendaya) that he likes her. 

Though the last movie's romance was much more integrated in the story, at least we get to be invested in Peter's crush on MJ because she comes with the promise of a future built in. Tom and Zendaya are a great paring. Very cute; lots of chemistry. I would've happily watched a whole movie about them. But no such luck. The movie does what all MCU movies do and gives us the bare minimum of relationship progress and just enough cute moments to keep people like me from rioting. MJ shares the "sidekick" slot with Jacob Batalon's Ned, and they both play second fiddle to Mysterio and Nick (and even Jon Favreau's Happy Hogan) and the threat that's at hand.

Instead of Peter having to figure out how to superhero during the tour, the tour is catered to his superheroing.

The threat is handled well with only a few corners cut, which is nice since it takes so much precedence. There was one scene of blatantly unnecessary exposition that, as far as I was concerned, didn't do a good enough job conveying motivation to justify the length and detail it goes into. Props to the writers for trying to think so deeply, but it wasn't worth all the trouble. Then the monsters are ho-hum; merely functional as things to fight. There are also some Mysterio-style psychedelic moments that are cool, if overly CGI. One was exactly like the title sequence of a Daniel Craig James Bond movie. As far as classic Spidey-style fight choreography, not much to speak of. The scene where Peter fights in his street clothes was probably the best.

As objectively fine as all this big, expanding stuff is, I couldn't help but miss the down-to-earth quality that Homecoming strove hard to maintain while the franchise breathed down its neck. Now the franchise has taken over, and even threatens to make Pete the next "Iron Man" -- having him use Stark tech for all his superhero needs, and even imitate Tony's style of interacting with the smart computer. At one point he gets stranded, but Happy and a Stark plane is only a phone call away. I missed the moments where he has to work out the problem on his own, without anyone to call or tell him what to do. Because that's what's compelling about Spider-Man.

(They trashed Karen without a word of explanation, but even she is preferable to humans trying to dictate his every move.)

Those are the times you see how smart, capable, and determined he can be, even though he's just a scared teen. Sans those moments, this Spidey is dumber than ever, and hardly seems capable of doing anything that isn't either a giant mistake or cringe-worthy. And in one unnecessary sequence that made me want to die, he does both. He also runs out of webbing for no reason so that the final battle would be an even match. The real-life stunts are severely lacking, the CGI'd suit more distracting than ever, and Tony Stark's name is defamed for the sake of plot; the whole movie is just a mess. Homecoming was a mess too, yes, but smaller and more personalized. 

Far From Home is exactly what you'd expect a more-of-the-same sequel to Homecoming to be, except in one important aspect: Because Homecoming won me over by making his fight personal, and making him face the villain alone and downgraded. There was no such winning hero-moment in this. They rehashed everything but failed to recreate the magic of that film's third act. This one's third act is good; fine. The MCU formula assures that. But it lacks grounding, personality; heart. The movie is bigger, and the winning moments are smaller. They're contained to fleeting moments and occasional one-on-one, CGI-free scenes of dialogue. Peter and MJ. Peter and Happy. Peter and Mysterio. 

Of course it breezes by all the moments that I wanted to linger.

The Peter/Mysterio scenes are quite good. I forgot to mention but Jake Gyllenhaal is dynamic and compelling and an extremely welcome presence here. A little more romance, a little more overall focus, and just one more moment for a little heart, and I may have been won over instead of frustrated. If it seems a small thing; yes. That's exactly my point. Far From Home is too big, too formulated, and too distracted from what matters; missing too many of the small, little, lovable pieces that make Spider-Man great.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Upcoming Movie Roundup - July

In June I saw Godzilla: King of Monsters as a roll-over from May. It wasn't good but I wasn't super disappointed either. (Review here!) Then I saw The Dead Don't Die and that one wasn't awesome either... same kind of deal. But in this case I'm at least glad I saw it! (Review here!) We talked about going to Dark Phoenix but it never happened and I'd still like to see Yesterday. It'll probably be streaming for them both.

This month I'm definitely going to one, but otherwise it seems like a kinda slow month, especially for July. I guess a lot of the movies just aren't my cup of tea. As you will see, there's one in particular that I wouldn't go see even if I was paid, and no, it's not the terrifying horror film.

What looks good to y'all this summer?

Spider-Man: Far From Home
In theaters July 2nd; PG-13
I already have my tickets and I love me some Spider-Man, but at the same time, after Endgame I've been enjoying feeling free of the MCU, and I'm more than a little worried that this one will attempt to draw me back in for the next thing and the next thing. I just want to enjoy some Spidey stuff with Tom Holland, Zendaya, and Jake Gyllenhaal, and have a good self-contained time like I do with non-franchise movies. I know that's too much to ask for, but I'll do my best to enjoy everything I possibly can!

In theaters July 3rd; R
After my experience with Hereditary, this new one from the same director just gonna be a plain, flat no for me. Even if it does have Will Poulter in it. And even if it does look pretty. And even if I do have a slight affinity for cults in horror movies. It's just not worth the risk...

In theaters July 12th; R
Wow my brother's gonna be so excited to hear about this movie! (The one who isn't a Marvel fan for anyone who's keeping track.) This movie is a disaster pic, AND a monster flick AND a kinda-sorta horror-thriller, all smashed into one! And it promises to be wonderfully unrealistic and over the top. How nice of them. Starring Kaya Scodelario and Barry Pepper, too! I love Barry Pepper.

The Art of Self-Defense
Limited release on July 12th; R
A strange looking movie in which Jesse Eisenberg is a wimp and decides to learn karate for self-defense. Then things go a little too far? Also with Imogen Poots. The trailer makes me laugh. It kinda makes me think of a more hardcore Napoleon Dynamite with the class Kip takes in that movie -- except way less clean content-wise. I'll probably wait for streaming, but look forward to the day.

The Lion King
In theaters July 19th; PG
A big, fat NO. An even bigger no than Midsommar is. I don't care how nice it looks, or how real it looks, or how great at singing Beyoncé and Donald Glover are, or that James Earl Jones is back. The Lion King was a favorite of mine as a kid. I still love the movie and it's my favorite Broadway show. There is no way on Earth that I'm watching this film. I saw The Jungle Book remake and it made me want to die. I'm not doing it. I've already run out of the theater to avoid watching the trailer again and I will continue to avoid every glimpse of it until the day it's dated and forgotten. I doubt it'll be a long wait.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
In theaters July 26th; NR
Looks like a fun time but I've never really loved any of Quentin Tarantino's films so I can't say I'm super excited. I don't know much about film during the late 60's either, so it being about real people probably won't land as well with me as with others, though it does make for a very appealing tone! I'm sure it's very good, just not sure it'll be worth a theater trip for me. (Language warning for the trailer.)

Limited release July 26th; R
I think this could be a good film if it accurately shows what life is like for white supremacists. Culturally they're kind of this disembodied thing, and movies don't help much by simplifying and Hollywood-izing them as just people who have beer bellies and wear red hats. In reality it's a scary ideology, and the first step to combating it is to understand it. Know your enemy and stuff. This is a true story about a neo-nazi who tried to get out of the life. Jamie Bell and A24. Sounds serious, but promising.

The Mountian
Limited release on July 26th; NR
This looks like such a strange movie, and I have no idea if I want to watch it or not, but it does have Jeff Goldblum and Tye Sheridan in it, so I'll definitely consider it should it even cross my path on a streaming service. It's set in the 50's in a mental asylum.