Movie Review – Spider-Man: Homecoming

Stay until ALL the credits are over. You wont regret it!

[SPOILER FREE]

I’m just going to say it: Aunt May can babysit me any time.

Now that I got that out of the way, “Spider-Man: Homecoming”! Wow, I can’t believe we finally got here…the beloved web-slinger is finally in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with his own movie. You all know my thoughts on past Spider-Man movies and on Tom Holland already from my previous few posts, so we can dive straight in to this review.

This was a very fun, light hearted, character focused, coming-of-age story for the character of Spider-Man. It was the type of movie that could get you to smile solely off of its charm and vibe. Admittedly I had to sleep on this one to really figure out where I stand, and I hope that my audience understands that I’m extra critical when it comes to characters like Spider-Man and Batman because of how much they’ve done for me (hell, if we EVER got a Batman-Beyond movie, that would probably be my biggest challenge as an aspiring critic). While I will NOT say this is a better movie than Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man 2”, I will say this is the best Spider-Man movie we’ve gotten in the 13 years since Raimi’s second one came out.

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Peter is actually a sophomore in high school throughout this entire movie, and its fantastic. My favorite parts about this movie were all the grounded moments between the characters that impact Peter’s life: Ned, Aunt May, Liz, Flash, and Michelle…they were all great and it really felt like “high school” to me. Peter has high school problems while trying to balance being Spider-Man, and wants to do MORE as Spider-Man so he can be over high school already, and I felt like that was a very important trait/arc that they gave his character. I’ve already mentioned that I love Holland, but this casting for the supporting characters was also fantastic. Holland’s chemistry with Jacob Batalon (Ned) was absolutely perfect, Zendaya did what she had to do well with her character of Michelle, I loved Laura Harrier as Liz, and yes…I even liked Tony Revolori as Flash. While some might see these moments as a drag in the first two acts, I thoroughly enjoyed them, as they helped establish a young Spider-Man with a bright future.

Like I mentioned, this was just a very fun movie, and despite how cliche the “MCU snark” is getting, I actually laughed a lot during this movie. It wasn’t even because Spider-Man himself was a funny character (he was, don’t worry) but it was because of the right type and amount of jokes they threw in there that were out of the ordinary and matched the setting. For example, Hannibal Buress plays a gym teacher that shows a video of Captain America talking to the kids about a fitness challenge, and he makes a side-comment saying “I’m pretty sure this guy is a war criminal but whatever I have to show this” and I lost it. Even that stupid moment of “SPIDEY, DO A FLIP!” had so much charm to it, and I like that they catered the humor to the character’s situations rather than just having people throw quip after quip at each other.

Let’s talk about Michael Keaton and his character of the Vulture…Wow. The early reviews were right, Keaton gives us one of the best MCU villains we’ve seen (not that hard to do, but still). I was a little worried because Adrian Toomes is a tough character to make impactful throughout an entire movie, but they actually made it work by making him one of the people affected by the Avenger’s shenanigans. It was a good decision because while Toomes and his operation started because of unfair treatment by the Government and the Avengers, it related to the smaller scale of New York and made sense why Spidey would deal with this instead of SHIELD or something…because we forget that when he’s doing his own thing, Spider-Man IS a street-level hero. We get a relatable hero and villain with depth, and we get a lot of insight in to their motives and what makes them tick.

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Because this is Spidey’s “Homecoming” (haaaa) to the MCU, there are MCU references everywhere. Hell, there are even Spider-Man comic references everywhere. This movie takes place a few months after Civil War and we get to see a little bit of an “aftermath”. Robert Downey Jr. is, as most of you know, in this movie..but not as much as you would think, thankfully. He has a presence as a mentor and that is it, there’s no epic showdown with villains vs Ironman and Spider-Man despite what the PR might make you believe. Despite this, Marvel Studios comes swinging with this movie to say “Hey. Guess what. We have Spider-Man now.”…which actually brings me to my cons with this movie.

While the “MCU-building” aspect is cool…at times this movie can feel more like a “Marvel movie” rather than a “Spider-Man movie”. We’re all familiar with the MCU setup movies that don’t stand alone very well, and Homecoming has slight hints of this. Spider-Man IS the Marvel Comics poster-boy, so I kind of assumed that this story would be more grounded in his reality than it already was. While the light-heartedness was great, the movie lacked a sense of intensity and subtlety when it would’ve been appropriate, and most of the events didn’t feel as consequential. This is where I veer off from what others are saying in me saying that I wanted MORE. There was one scene between Toomes and Peter without their super suits that has so much tension..but that was the most that movie went in that direction where I feel like it had more potential. Spider-Man is a great character and I feel like at some point, the decision was made to play it safe with certain parts of the story. To be honest, I’m having trouble explaining why I was so bothered at some points…but I wanted to get this review out as quickly as possible so I hope I’m making sense (edits will be marked).

Also, this isn’t really a point about the movie…more about the marketing…but DAMN, trailers really messed this one up. I can honestly say that the less of the trailers/PR you ate up will mean a better time for you when watching Homecoming.

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“Spider-Man: Homecoming” has its moments where it very much feels like a product of a cinematic universe, but more than makes up for it with moments of charm and the understanding of a different kind of hero. I’m giving Homecoming an 8.5/10.

 

Hype for Homecoming: What We’ve Seen from Tom Holland

Part 5 of 5: You have the right to remain silent!

So my first bit of exposure to Tom Holland was seeing him at the red carpet premier for “Captain America: Civil War” and I thought…wow…this guy is…straight up a kid. The dude LOOKS like he’s in high-school, he was 19 at the time.  As for his few minutes of screen-time in Civil War…he nailed it. It felt like the Peter/Spidey I remembered from “Spectacular Spider-Man” the TV show was real. I think Holland has potential to be the best Peter Parker AND Spider-Man to take the big screen.

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  • Right off the bat we see him as an awkward kid, meeting someone as iconic as Tony Stark. I always am a sucker for the little things, and what I love here is Peter eventually goes “Wait, so does this grant have like…money involved..?”. This kid is from a low-income family…and his 10 minutes of fame nails that. Not only is his suit kinda crappy when Tony finds it, but his web-shooters are really clunky too…suggesting he probably built it from dumpster parts like his other tech in his room.
  • I’m gonna just drop quotes at points because whoever wrote Peter’s dialogue understood the character SO WELL.
  • “When you can do the things I can, but you don’t…and THEN the bad things happen? They happen because of you.” Now THAT’S how you paraphrase the great power/great responsibility bit.
  • “I can’t go to Germany!…I’ve got homework!”
  • Again, small things..when Tony throws the web cartridge at Peter, he catches without looking…aka he’s already adjusting to his Spider-Sense (his most useful power, for those who don’t know).
  • So knowing that Peter is well done, now we get to the Airport Scene where SPIDEY is absolutely stellar as well. Amazing use of his wit, good fight choreography, the child-like enthusiasm…its all so perfect.
  • “You have a metal arm? That’s awesome dude!”
  • It’s all just so perfect. His lines, his reactions to everything, the subtlety of the spider-sense…even the “young-blood” attitude that Spidey would have at this point is accounted for.

Well, thank you all for sticking with me through this Homecoming series, and I hope that you (much like I am) are very HYPED FOR HOMECOMING!! My review will be up on Friday, July 7th!

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Hype for Homecoming: Spider-man

Part 1 of 5: “Booooone-Saaaaw is reaadyyyy!!!”

Welcome to the first post of my “Hype for Homecoming” series! As of this going live, we are officially just 4 weeks away from the release of “Spider-man: Homecoming”, with Tom Holland reprising his role from “Captain America: Civil War” as everyone’s favorite web-slinger.

To give a background of what Spider-man means to me…well…I was a nerdy kid that got picked on relentlessly at school…so you tell me who I looked up to. Yes, I’ve said multiple times that I watched the DC animated universe quite a bit as a kid, but really if I had to point to my childhood hero, it’d be Spidey. There’s always a soft spot in my heart for the web-head and even though I’ve grown up and have other heroes now, it doesn’t change the fact that Spidey is the Marvel poster-boy and that the first Spider-man movies, directed by Sam Raimi, were some of the few to set the stage for Comic Book Movies to take Hollywood by storm. Granted, we had to sit through a bunch of other “imitators” that ended up creating the trope of comic book movies being atrocious for most of the 2000’s…but I’m glad we’re past that now and its nice to look back and see some of the pre-MCU/DCEU original “Universes” (hell, Fox has been doing it since 2000 with the X-men, even though they don’t have as solid of a slate and flow when it comes to universe-building). So, without further ado, here’s my notes on Spider-man (2002)!

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Slide into those DMs like…

[WARNING: Posts of this nature aren’t traditional “reviews”. Expect the following: spoilers, potentially mindless ramblings, lack of proper sentence structure, and profane language. There is a summary section at the end of the bullet points that you can skip to for convenience.]

  • Holy hell, NO ONE looks like they’re in high school…thankfully they actually casted teenagers in Homecoming, but JEEZ I forgot how odd this looks. Anyway, we’re introduced to Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) and WAIT WTF, IS THAT JOHN MANGANIELLO PLAYING FLASH THOMPSON? LIKE, THE GUY PLAYING DEATHSTROKE IN AFFLECK’S BATMAN MOVIE? Sorry, got distracted. We get a scene with the Osborns aka Norman (Willem Dafoe) and Harry (James Franco) and already we see some tension here with Peter getting shit from kids at school (high schoolers are dicks, just saying) and Harry getting shit from his father, so it makes sense why the two are such good friends to our audiences who’ve never read a spiderman comic.
  • So now we’re in the museum because the class is on a field trip, and we get some juicy exposition on what spiders can do (and eventually what Peter will be able to do) and some nice little development between Peter, MJ, and Harry when OUCH, radioactive spider-bite!
  • Remember the cliches of sci-fi/superhero movies from the 2000’s? So Norman is testing a super-soldier serum (check) but his board and the military aren’t thrilled about the results so far (check), so he’s given an arbitrary deadline (check) for human testing but since he’s running out of time and funding, he’s going to test it on himself (checkarooni) and eventually become a threat to himself and others (Check, check, check). I will say that I love Willem Dafoe and his freaky looking face for the role of Norman/Green Goblin, and I think he demonstrates it well when Harry finds him passed out on the floor, just some subtle acting choices you notice here and there.
  • So Peter wakes up after being bitten and spends the entire day finding out he has weird ass spider powers…which I feel like should’ve been a bigger deal when he had a literal web coming out of his arm and punched the biggest guy in school after doing a back-flip…must be New York public school system, I guess?
  • Dear Lord I forgot how much time they actually spend on these characters and how awesome it is. This is really just a theme for the entire movie…same with the casting, its all so good.
  • Uncle Ben, I love you. This scene with Peter being a total dick to his Uncle caring about him…they get this SO RIGHT.
  • Ahahaah I could never forget that Macho Man Randy Savage is in thi-WAIT WTF IS THAT OCTAVIA SPENCER? LIKE…FROM HIDDEN FIGURES? DAMN…WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE. Anyway,  as dumb as this scene is, its kinda cool to see Peter learn how to fight and gain some confidence against a professional wrestler, of all people.
  • This confidence turns into cockiness and Peter ignores his Uncle’s advice…and in turn, we get the first truly emotional scene in this movie with Uncle Ben’s death and Peter getting his petty revenge…and with this plus the graduation scene, In my opinion, the first act is over and now we get to Peter adjusting to his new life as Spider-Man. Also, side-note: This score by Danny Elfman…wow.
  • JK Simmons…its going to take me a long time to adjust to you being Commissioner Gordon…cuz this guy is ALWAYS going to be J. Jonah Jameson to me. This is PERFECT Casting in a movie that’s already casted so well. “No Job! Freelance!”…oh look, Peter Parker is a millenial like the rest of us hahahahahahasaveushahaha.
  • So now we get this sequence at the World Unity festival and it gets….a little corny. At the risk of sounding like a douche, this is definitely 2002 CGI…and wtf is this goblin-bomb that immediately turns the Oscorp Board into skeletons? But other than that its pretty satisfying to have our first real Spidey vs Goblin battle which ends with him saving MJ and winning the day. He even saves a kid, which is textbook Spider-man and I love it…its the little things with characters like Spidey.
  • Willem Dafoe’s scene where he talks to himself in the mirror just settles it, this guy would’ve been the best comic movie villain of the 2000’s if it wasn’t for Heath Ledger’s Joker. I’d honestly be okay if they never touched Green Goblin again…but of course they will.
  • I skipped a bunch so I don’t get redundant, but this end fight between Goblin and Spidey…holy shit Spidey gets his ASS KICKED. I actually like it, it always irked me when a Superhero suddenly had mastery of their powers within a few minutes of screen-time. This is such an emotionally driven fight and these actors are really conveying that..and by the end you actually feel kinda BAD for how Norman dies because there’s a small hint of him still left as soon as he gets stabbed by the glider (because he was faking before…I think) and I didn’t realize how GOOD of a set-up this was for Harry going crazy in the next two movies. Character development, y’all…its my favorite part of any movie.
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Okay, I laughed.

During this re-watch, I realized that this movie didn’t age as well with cinematography, but it more than makes up for it with story and characters. Despite it being a little cheesy, I do admire how much heart the direction and acting had to make the overall product something unique for its time. It feels surprisingly real, and I think that’s why this movie broke box office records in 2002. “Spider-man” is a fantastic origin story for an extremely lovable character, and leaves audiences moved, charmed, and wanting to see more..and they accomplished this without jerking themselves off and setting up a universe (hold on to that, seriously…because I promise you its going to come up again in this series). Tune in next week for the next part of the series, aka one of my favorite movies ever! As for this part, “Spider-man” gets a 8/10

Doctor Strange – Movie Review

IMAX 3D almost had me actually believing in magic.

Doctor Strange is the newest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the 2nd movie of Phase 3. It tells the story of an arrogant, cocky, and egotistical Surgeon who loses the ability to use his hands, thereby making him useless at his job. To find an answer, he turns to mystical forces and ends up becoming a skilled practitioner of magic.

This actually meant a lot going forward for the MCU. For one thing, Strange is another B-list superhero (like Ironman was before 2008) to now become a huge part of this universe. The main thing was that magic was now being introduced to the MCU, which adds another layer to the scale of power among our heroes. So far, we’ve really only seen “magical” things from the Asgardians and the Infinity Stones, with most of our heroes having some connection to science instead (building suits, gamma rays, serums, genetically-altered spiders, etc). To have the kind of magic that Strange practices be introduced and to now have it there to play a big part going forward gives the storytellers another dimension (pun intended) to work with, and that’s exciting!

Now I’m not going to sit here and lie to you, despite that last paragraph…this is still your above-average introduction/set-up movie that we’ve seen in the MCU before. With all the new things we’ve been seeing recently like heroes against each other, villain team ups, the government getting involved, it was only a matter of time before we went back to formula: Dude has personality flaw, dude gets powers, dude learns something, generic villain, funny parts, entertaining scenes, set-up for next movie, done.

Fortunately…the Marvel Studios team just knows how to do this damn well by now that they could probably do it with their eyes closed at this point.

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First things first, the VISUAL EFFECTS IN THIS MOVIE ARE AMAZING. I’ve never watched a movie in IMAX in my life, and after seeing what the pre-release reviews were saying about this film, I took the recommendation and put on those 3D glasses..and I’m so happy that I did. Look, I never learned all the technical camera work and I know very little about the special effects side of a movie. What I can tell you is that the effects in this movie were jaw-dropping, and since its actually watchable unlike most movies known for great effects (looking at you, Transformers), it all adds to the cinematic experience. I HIGHLY recommend seeing this movie in 3D.

As far as the cast goes, no problems here either. Benedict Cucumber Cabbage Patch portrayed the character of Stephen Strange very well, as an asshole who isn’t exactly a charming one like Tony Stark is. Tilda Swinton* also did a great job as the Ancient One, the Sorcerer Supreme who teaches Strange and plays a large role in the story. I’d like to mention Mads Mikkelson as well, he was actually great as Kaecillius. It just sucks that we got disposable MCU villain #508789,  I wish he got a better story and was in the movie more.

*Look, I’m bummed that they didn’t cast within the ethnicity too, but she did really well and it didn’t feel like any sort of appropriation or BS at all. In fact at one point she was teaching Strange something that I recognized as the main lesson in the Bhagavad Gita (Hinduism) and she actually said it correctly…trust me, I’d know. The fact of the matter is, a Tibetan character would’ve lost Marvel and Disney millions of dollars in overseas sales and would’ve pissed off China, aka where a significant part of production is outsourced. I know I’ll probably catch heat for this but I’m just going to point out that so far the MCU has been cautious about this kind of stuff and isn’t trying to offend anyone. Examples just off the top of my head: I read that Elizabeth Olsen was promised that she would never have to wear the comic-style Scarlet Witch costume, which is basically just underwear and a cape, so that the character wouldn’t be sexualized. Plus, if you haven’t seen Luke Cage yet, Marvel definitely held it down for a huge minority group and did it really well . Look, all I’m saying is just give the movie a chance before you judge it off of ONE bad casting decision if you like the MCU, you’ll like this. Okay *sigh* moving on!

I will say that the movie is really exposition heavy, but doesn’t give too much on some of the stuff you’d want to hear more about. By the time you get to the last act, there is some stuff the audience potentially could still be fuzzy on, which I think could’ve been solved by giving more on Kaecillius as I previously mentioned. The character of Mordo is set-up very well and I’m excited to see more of them, so I will give props for that.

Lastly, I will commend the movie for doing one thing I was looking for. Obviously, Strange is very new to sorcery, talented or not. To have the villain in this film be masters and people who have done this better/earlier than he has makes it so that Strange is the inexperienced underdog. What I was worried about was that the movie would just go “Well, he’s Dr. Strange. So he’s really good. Boom. Hero. Villain down”. What actually happened was interesting, because at the end of the day Strange used his quick wit and intelligence (something he had from the start) to end up saving the day, despite still not being as powerful as his comrades and his enemies. This now gives him a few movies worth of off-screen time to master his abilities and be ready to bring the mystical hammer down in the next Avengers movie, and its cool that they didn’t just overpower him right away (well…I mean he is ridiculously powerful, but that’s just the magic. Like I said before, they’re adding a new layer to the power scaling. He will get better too, so if you watch this movie and his abilities seem to be a bit unfair, just remember that its different! And besides…just wait till we get Carol Danvers…ooh boy.)

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All in all, Doctor Strange couldn’t top the thrills we received in Civil War, but did its job well and is a great transition into the new stories we’ll see in Phase 3. Strange gets a 7.5/10

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That’s all for now,
Soggz out!