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Film Review: Spider-Man: Far From Home

“I Don’t Think Tony Would’ve Done What He Did, If He Didn’t Know That You Were Going To Be Here After He Was Gone…”

With Avengers: Endgame managing to tie up a decade’s worth of multi-layered storytelling with enormous success, with the recent re-release clearly a marketing tool to make sure Marvel’s gargantuan epic finally knocks Avatar off the top spot for highest grossing film of all time, the release of Spider-Man: Far From Home this week is arguably one of the first MCU films to carry with it a heavy sense of superhero fatigue, particularly with Endgame still taking up cinema screens across the globe, and one which follows on from the high watermark of what audiences now come to expect from releases within its’ respective cinematic universe. Acting as a sequel to both 2017’s Homecoming and Endgame, Far From Home sees Jon Watts return to direct Tom Holland’s portrayal of the friendly neighbourhood wall crawler for a film which although feels very familiar, is a sweet, thoroughly entertaining and highly comedic chapter in the Marvel universe, a move which sees young Peter Parker attempt to come to terms with the loss of Tony Stark/Iron Man by venturing upon a school trip in which his only goal is to build up the nerve to finally unleash his feelings on the zany MJ. Whilst a road trip without the sight of digitally designed mayhem would have been a bold choice indeed to follow on from Endgame, Far From Home of course features enough web-slinging and superhero goodness to make every MCU fan more than happy, and with such a likeable cast and sharp, clever dialogue, Watts’ movie shows there is still an abundance of life in the old Marvel movie making machine yet.

With an opening act which attempts in a hilarious cliff notes format to present the aftershocks of the events of Endgame, where those not affected by the so called “blip” have of course moved up in years whilst the returned have stayed the same, Far From Home successfully manages to blend the “Spidey” sensibility of Peter Parker attempting to balance the responsibility of a superhero with the wishes of a teenager as seen before in the likes of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, a movie which still remains top of most people’s favourite wall crawling live-action feature, and thanks to a deliciously engaging script, Holland’s performance is a tornado of teenage angst as he is constantly interrupted by Samuel L. Jackson’s returning Nick Fury and co. in order to aid Jake Gyllenhaal’s (Nocturnal Animals) Quentin Beck against the forces of “The Eternals”, even when asking out Zendaya’s (The Greatest Showman) MJ is the most important task in his life. As for Gyllenhaal, the multi-talented cinematic legend does begin somewhat awkward in a role of which an actor of his pedigree tends to avoid, particularly after the non-existent success of Prince of Persia, but as the movie’s central, and somewhat expected for those familiar with the Quentin Beck/Mysterio character, twist finally arrives, the American is allowed to breathe, turning a somewhat ordinary antagonist into one of the more memorable MCU villains, one which taps into previous Gyllenhaal roles, particularly his full-on level of unhinged madness within the superb Nightcrawler. With a runtime slightly too long and a concluding act which is hard to distinguish between other MCU chapter conclusions, Far From Home is an excellent Spider-Man film and a very good MCU story which takes on the heavy task of following on from Endgame and passes with just enough success.

Overall Score: 7/10

Film Review: The First Purge

“If We Want To Save Our Country, We Must Release All Our Anger In One Night…”

With The Purge: Election Year correctly signalling the conclusion of a trilogy which had already outstayed its’ welcome after a triage of films which never really managed to balance the interesting socio-political ideas at the heart of the series with effective elements of horror, even if some of the genre-inspired masks were actually quite creepy, for reasons which can only be regarded as monetary, here we are once again with The First Purge, an unwarranted series prequel which showcases the events of the first ever Purge-related experiment as the idea is authorised for testing within the area of Staten Island, New York City. Written and produced by series stalwart James DeMonaco, who this time takes a backseat from directorial duties and instead hands the reigns to Fruitvale Station producer, Gerard McMurray, The First Purge is a languid, pointless and utterly worthless work of gratuitous nonsense which falls into the trap of its’ predecessors by simply exploiting its’ fundamental notional cornerstone in favour of graphic violence which is eagerly presented without any real sense of meaningful purpose, and even when the same can be said at times for the preceding three movies, McMurray’s take is the first entry to miss the mark in astronomical fashion.

With newcomer Y’Lan Noel’s Dmitri portrayed as the central hero of the piece, a character who earns his money through exploiting a poverty stricken community via drug dealing and murder, it’s fair to say that in terms of the movie’s sense of peril or threat, the radar lands on a resounding zilch, and even with the inclusion of Lex Scott Davis’ morally central, Nya, and brother Isaiah, as played by Joivan Wade (Doctor Who), the chance to break away from the two-dimensional characters in which the actors represent is never offered, resulting in a movie which is tonally cold and utterly un-engaging. With the movie also struggling to contain a lid on the various tonal strands it embarks on, with elements of horror, action and unwarranted comedy all jumbled together like a cinematic equivalent of spin art, the constant and untimely gags end up feeling jarring, with a scene of a sexual assault in particular concluding in a chuckle-some Trump-targeted pop which literally had my mind exercising somersaults of disbelief. With Marisa Tomei (Spider-Man: Homecoming) being criminally underused in favour of happy-go-lucky drug dealers and endless cheap jump scares, The First Purge is a wasted opportunity to represent the series with a new, interesting light, the type of movie which ironically enough, should be purged from our cinema screens as violently and quickly as possible.

Overall Score: 3/10

Film Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming

“Can’t You Just Be A Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man..?”

As we all are well aware, with great power comes great responsibility, and although it only seems like yesterday when the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire led Spider-Man films graced the big screen, here we are this week with the release of Spider-Man: Homecoming, the sixteenth film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, starring Tom Holland in a leading role which swiftly follows on from the likes of Maguire and Andrew Garfield after his cameo appearance within the superbly entertaining Captain America: Civil War. Perhaps not holding as much expectation as other MCU entries, Homecoming’s main reason for existence arguably rests on the shoulders of young Holland, with his own feature film giving him utmost freedom to exact his own take on the character of Peter Parker to a larger extent than was offered back in Civil War, and with the rather unknown figure of director Jon Watts at the helm, Homecoming could be regarded as a much more experimental MCU than one might first expect. With a charming lead performance from Tom Holland, an excellent villainous turn from Michael Keaton and enough jokes to poke fun at so many so-called contemporary comedies, I’m happy to report that Homecoming is a crowd-pleasing success, if suffering from a slight linger of cliche and a strain of superhero fatigue.

Forgetting any means of backstory and heading straight into a mildly trained Peter Parker, Homecoming mixes the 80’s sensibility of movies such as The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, with the latter making a brief appearance halfway through the action, with the flashy, sharp-witted action that has come to encompass many Marvel releases, and with Tom Holland, his youth and puppy-esque, wide-eyed curiosity is arguably the most definitive version of Peter Parker to date. Although sometimes the performance does become slightly grating, with the Aaron Sorkin-esque way in which his lines are spoken come across too fast at times to keep up, the innocence of youth is effectively balanced by the faux leather wearing Vulture, a villain who not only is one of the more memorable of the entire MCU, actually has a deep sense of characterisation and is welded effectively into the narrative enough to feel for for both his actions and the actions of the titular hero. Whilst the overall narrative is somewhat disposable and highly obvious at times, the array of side-splitting jokes and flashy secondary characters keep the film entertaining enough to just deserve its’ two hour plus runtime and with a sequel destined to arrive in the near future, Homecoming is indeed an effective reboot of the Spider-Man franchise.

Overall Score: 7/10