Spider-Man: Homecoming Review

Spider-Man: Homecoming movie posterSynopsis
Two months after helping Iron Man in Berlin, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) tries to balance his life as a high school student and fighting crime as the masked hero Spider-Man. When he learns that the Vulture (Michael Keaton) has been stealing alien technology and re-purposing them into weapons and selling them to criminals, he tries to stop the Vulture’s operation despite his mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) telling him to let it go.

Review
Spider-Man is one of my all-time favorite characters. So of course, I am always excited to see a movie with him so I don’t exactly feel the over-saturation of the character that others might be feeling. But with that said, how does Spider-Man: Homecoming compare to the other iterations of Peter Parker we have seen since 2002? Well I’d say pretty damn good!

Each actor who has donned the red and blue tights have brought a different flavor to the character. Toby Maguire set the tone of what to expect from an on-screen Spider-Man, Andrew Garfield brought a little more humor to the character, and now it’s Tom Holland’s turn to bring his own take on the character. Holland’s Peter / Spider-Man feels like the best of both Maguire’s and Garfield’s versions, mixed with his own unique elements. His Peter is very innocent and excitable. He gets awestruck when he sees the other super humans, despite being one himself. He’s awkward around girls and gets frustrated for being treated like a kid. This might be the most accurate portrayal of Peter that has graced the silver screen yet.

As great as Holland was as Spider-Man, Michael Keaton was equally as great as The Vulture. Keaton is sinister without feeling melodramatic, yet he still has a family-man side to him. When he first confronts Peter face-to-face, his demeanor switches like that (imagine me snapping my fingers) and it’s amazing to see Keaton make that switch so seemingly effortless. His Vulture is a much more grounded villain in terms of his ambitions than other villains from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). He just wants to make money, plain and simple. Other than maybe Darren Cross in Ant-Man, most villains in the MCU have world-dominating plans. But not, here. The Vulture is much more street-level, which fits very well into the roots of the character, both the Vulture as well as Spider-Man.

I was really excited to see how many elements from the comics were brought into the film. For example, the shot where he holding the boat together with his webs has been done many times in many forms of media throughout Spider-Man’s history. Another iconic moment is when Peter is buried under rubble and has to use all of his strength to lift it up, which is taken straight from The Amazing Spider-Man issue 33. It’s the small things, too. Like running out of web fluid and changing his web cartridges mid-fight, leaving his clothes webbed against a wall when he suits up, or going to great lengths to hide his secret identity, even from his friends and family. There are many more but my point is it feels like there was more attention spent bringing more of the little things from the comics into the movie.

For me, and I’m sure many other Spider-Man fans, one of Spider-Man’s greatest draws in the comics is that, for the most part, it is very lighthearted. Every now and there may be a darker story or narrative, depending on the writer, but it usually doesn’t last long before the book is back to its bright, cheerful self. Spider-Man: Homecoming took inspiration from this and kept its story bright and cheerful, too. There were scenes were the movie became became more serious but never a point that I would call β€œdark.” Soon after these moments, the film would shift back to the fun, bouncy story.

There wasn’t much that I can complain about it this film but I did find it a little disappointing that his suit is decked out with all of the bells and whistles of Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit. It feels too good right now. I understand that it was Tony who created Peter’s suit but Peter is smart and ingenuitive and it would be cool to see him create much of that on his own at his own pace. The portion of the film when Peter was in his original homemade costume was cool because it showed he can operate on just his powers alone. Maybe this is small but I think he should have gradually gotten there amongst his movies rather than get it right off the bat.

Speaking of his powers, I was bummed that Spider-Man’s spider-sense wasn’t more prominent. His spider-sense is one of his most unique skills and it is hardly on display, at least not in an obvious way. If they make it more apparent in future films, I can see viewers who are not that familiar with the character thinking this is a feature of his suit and not part of his inherent power set.

As a long-time fan of the character, it was strange to see much of Spider-Man’s supporting cast changed in some way. MJ has a very different personality than her comic counterpart, Gwen was nowhere to be found, and Liz Allen isn’t one of Peter’s love interests. The best friend role is fulfilled by Ned Leeds instead of Harry Osborn, who is traditionally Liz’s love interest and also happens to be missing. Adrian Toomes is more like Norman Osborn, Harry’s father, than Adrian Toomes and Flash Thompson is more of a rich prick instead of a stereotypical sports jock. I have another more to say about why I don’t like this version of Flash very much but I should wrap this review up soon. In any case, there is a lot of character changes to process for die hard Spidey fans such as myself.

I thought Spider-Man: Homecoming was GREAT πŸ˜€ My pal Curt said this feels like Spider-Man: Year One rather than Spider-Man: The Beginning, which is a great way to describe this film. We don’t get another version of Peter learning with great power comes great responsibility. Instead, we get a movie where he is already embraced his role, where is is learning his place in a world already filled with superheroes rather than how his powers work or how he should use them. There have been aspects from the previous iterations of Spider-Man I have enjoyed but Spider-Man: Homecoming finally gives the most accurate and consistent version of the character yet. And personally, I cannot be happier.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Jon Watts – Director / Story
Jonathan Goldstein – Screenplay / Story
John Francis Daley – Screenplay / Story
Christopher Ford – Screenplay
Chris McKenna – Screenplay
Erik Sommers – Screenplay
Michael Giacchino – Composer

Tom Holland – Peter Parker / Spider-Man
Jacob Batalon – Ned Leeds
Laura Harrier – Liz Allen
Zendaya – Michelle
Tony Revolori – Flash Thompson
Marisa Tomei – May Parker
Robert Downey, Jr. – Tony Stark / Iron Man
Jon Favreau – Happy Hogan
Michael Keaton – Adrian Toomes / Vulture
Bokeem Woodbine – Herman Schultz / Shocker #2
Michael Chernus – Phineas Mason / The Tinkerer
Michael Mando – Mac Gargon
Donald Glover – Aaron Davis

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American Made Review

American Made movie posterSynopsis
Barry Seal (Tom Cruise), an American airline pilot, is approached by a CIA agent named Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson) who offers him a job taking covert pictures of insurgent operations in Central America for the US government. Seal is soon approached by Pablo Escobar (Mauricio Mejia) and his crew and is recruited into smuggling drugs into the US.

Review
I’ll admit, the only reason I really went to see American Made was because of Tom Cruise. Biopics aren’t normally my type of film and there haven’t been very many that I have greatly enjoyed. However, I was hoping that with Cruise at the forefront, this might actually be a biopic that I’d like. While it does contain several of the aspects of the genre I don’t care for, there was plenty more to enjoy than other biopics.

As I thought would be the case, Cruise’s charisma is one of the driving forces of the film. He plays Barry Seal in such a way that you like him, even though you know he is a terrible person and that you should detest him. It creates a very interesting experience. With Cruise’s infectious grin, you’ll be rooting for Seal all along the way.

Another actor who I thought did a great job was Domhnall Gleeson as the CIA operative Schafer. He was just as charismatic as Cruise except we don’t get much information about him. I supposed this works out alright because since he is CIA, this helps to build that air of mystery about him. I just wish I was able to see more of him and Cruise together because they both had an energy about them that was fun to watch.

The subject matter of American Made is actually pretty dark but you might have a hard time seeing that with the way it is presented. I’m sure part of it comes from Cruise’s charisma I brought up earlier but there is a lightheartedness to the film that was unexpected in a movie about a drug dealer. I think its unique tone made it more enjoyable for me because there are plenty of movies about criminals and drug dealers that are very grim and to see one that wasn’t was a breath of fresh air.

In the film Inside Man, the movie sporadically jumps into the future with interviews with the hostages to set up the upcoming scene. This film makes use of a similar technique. Throughout American Made, commentaries about what Seal was thinking and doing are interjected between scenes to prepare the audience for the scene ahead. I thought Inside Man should have made more use of this approach to telling its story, whereas here I think it is used the right amount. It never takes away from the experience too much and gives the audience a better insight into Seal’s character. Since this is a movie about Seal, it only helps better our understanding of him.

I thought American Made was GOOD πŸ™‚ Most biopics have a hard time keeping my attention it seems but I didn’t have that feeling during this movie. The lighthearted nature of such a dark movie and the energy from Tom Cruise and Domhnall Gleeson makes it enjoyable. While I don’t think I will go out of my way to see it, I won’t shy away either if I happen to come across it.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Doug Liman – Director
Gary Spinelli – Writer
Christophe Beck – Composer

Tom Cruise – Barry Seal
Domhnall Gleeson – Monty ‘Schafer’
Sarah Wright – Lucy Seal
Caleb Landry Jones – JB
Mauricio Mejia – Pablo Escobar
Alejandro Edda – Jorge Ochoa
Fredy Yate Escobar – Carlos Ledher
Jesse Plemons – Sheriff Downing
Jayma Mays – Dana Sibota
Benito Martinez – James Rangel
E. Roger Mitchell – Agent Craig McCall
Jed Rees – Louis Finkle
Robert Farrior – Oliver North
Alberto Ospino – Manuel Noriega
Daniel Lugo – Adolfo Calero
Jayson Warner Smith – Bill Cooper (Snowbird #1)
Mark McCullogh – Pete (Snowbird #2)

Wedding Crashers Review

Wedding Crashers movie posterSynopsis
John (Owen Wilson) and Jeremy (Vince Vaughn) are two best friends who look forward to one thing every year: wedding season.Β  When the pair crashes a high-profile wedding, they get more than they expected when John begins to fall for Claire (Rachel McAdams) and Clare’s sister, Gloria (Isla Fisher), falls for Jeremy.

Review
I can only vaguely recall the first time I watched Wedding Crashers but I do remember thinking that comedies like this are the reason I like the genre so much.Β  Comedies are seemingly one of the most difficult types of movies to make because humor is so subjective and there is such a high chance that if the jokes fail, the movie fails.Β  Thankfully, Wedding Crashers doesn’t have to worry about that because it is laugh-out-loud funny. A huge part comes from a memorable and witty script and great casting all around.

Sometimes a comedy duo comes along and they just click. Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn are an example of one such pairing. When the two of them are together, you can’t help but laugh.Β  Wilson’s Southern, slow and more drawn out delivery complements Vaughn’s more quick and energetic style perfectly.Β Β  It is easy to tell that they were having just as much fun playing their parts as we have watching them in the parts.Β  Their chemistry is simple electric.

Besides Wilson and Vaughn, the rest of the film’s cast was phenomenal as well.Β  Rachel McAdams has that adorable girl-next-door quality that is easy to fall in love with.Β  Isla Fisher is fantastic as always, playing the crazy side of her character believably.Β  Christopher Walken as McAdams’ and Fisher’s father works exactly as you would expect it to.Β  Bradley Cooper in one of his earlier roles is well cast as the douche bag boyfriend.Β  One of my surprise favorites was Jane Seymour as Walken’s unfaithful wife. While she doesn’t have as much screen time as the rest, she makes the best of what time she does have.

One thing Wedding Crashers does that most comedies have a hard time doing is fleshing out their characters.Β  Most often, a comedy relies on its jokes to hide the fact it hasn’t developed its characters deeply.Β  However, as this movie goes on, you learn a little bit more and more about John (Wilson) and Jeremy’s (Vaughn’s) friendship, Claire’s (McAdams) relationship wish Sack (Cooper), how Sack acts when he is away from Claire, and so much more.Β  It is rather uncommon for a comedy to develop its characters so much.

For me, two measurements of a great comedy, besides did it make me laugh, are how quotable is it after I finish watching it and do the jokes hold up after multiple viewings. This film easily fulfills both criteria.Β  At over a decade old, I still laugh at almost every joke and gag, despite knowing the punchline or what is going to happen.Β  Many of the greatest lines are regularly at the forefront of my mind, ready to be quoted at a moment’s notice.Β  You couldn’t ask for more out of a comedy.

I thought Wedding Crashers was GREAT πŸ˜€ Whenever I think of wedding movies, the first one that comes to mind is almost always this one.Β  There is just something about this film that I find to be very enjoyable.Β  Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn just click as the leading duo and the rest of the cast give fun performances as well. If I can keep laughing at a movie even after multiple viewings, then I know that it is a great comedy and I still can’t stop laughing.

Favorite Quote
Jeremy: John, I need to talk to you.
John: No, not right now.
Jeremy: What’s wrong with you? Why do you got the weird look all over your face?
John: Claire’s mom just made me grab her hooters.
Jeremy: Well, snap out of it! What? A hot, older woman made you feel her cans? Stop crying like a little girl.
John: I wasn’t crying like a little girl.
Jeremy: Why don’t you try getting jacked off under the table in front of the whole damn family and have some real problems? Jackass. What were they like, anyway? They look pretty good. Are they real? Are they built for speed or for comfort? What you do with ’em? You play the motorboat? Ppppt! Ppppt! You motorboatin’ son of a bitch. You old sailor, you! Where is she? She still in the house?

Trailer

Cast & Crew
David Dobkin – Director
Steve Faber – Writer
Bob Fisher – Writer
Rolfe Kent – Composer

Owen Wilson – John Beckwith
Vince Vaughn – Jeremy Grey
Rachel McAdams – Claire Cleary
Isla Fisher – Gloria Cleary
Christopher Walken – Secretary Bill Cleary
Jane Seymour – Kathleen Cleary
Bradley Cooper – Sack Lodge
Keir O’Donnell – Todd Cleary
Ellen Albertini Dow – Grandma Mary Cleary
Ron Canada – Randolph
Henry Gibson – Father O’Neil

Lightning Review: Home Again

Home Again movie posterSynopsis
Alice (Reese Witherpoon), a recently divorced, single mother, moves into her childhood home in Los Angeles. After meeting Harry (Pico Alexander), Teddy (Nat Wolff) and George (Jon Rudnitsky), she lets the three filmmakers live in her home while they try to get their big break, causing her life to take an unexpected turn.

Review
I don’t normally see films like Home Again in the theaters but I found myself in a theater-going dry spell of sorts and my mom was visiting and we hadn’t seen a movie together in a while so I figured why not. For a romantic comedy, this movie didn’t lean too heavily on either. There are the romance parts and there are comedy parts but neither completely overtake the film. First-time writer/director Hallie Meyers-Shyer has a story about Alice she wants to tell and she uses the romance and the comedy to tell it, however, they never become the central focus. And it never becomes over-the-top or way out-there and never resorts to a cheap laugh. Every comedy moment feels natural and genuinely funny. You might need to suspend some disbelief but this is a movie we’re talking about here! That pretty much comes with the territory, regardless of genre.

I wouldn’t call Reese Witherspoon one of my favorite actresses but I do generally enjoy her movies that I’ve seen. This seems like a very typical fair for her but she is as charming as ever. As for the rest of the cast, I am mostly unfamiliar with them, so I can’t compare their performances to what they’ve done before. Although, I can say that in Home Again, I thought they all did very well. The three filmmakers who move in with Alice, Pico Alexander, Nat Wolff, and Jon Rudnitsky, were fun and believable together. They felt like actual friends and seemed like they were having a good time together. Some of my favorite scenes were the ones with Rudnitsky and Lola Flanery, playing Alice’s oldest daughter. Together, they had many playful and heartwarming scenes.

I thought Home Again was GOOD πŸ™‚ Romantic comedies aren’t usually a type of movie I go out of my way to see so I don’t have a ton of experience with the genre. However, I did enjoy the story this film told. Reese Witherspoon and the rest of the cast gave enjoyable performances with some moving and heartfelt moments. I’m sure it’s far from the best rom-com out there but running at about one and a half hours, it never feels tedious and offers a feel-good story.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Hallie Meyers-Shyer – Director / Writer
John Debney – Composer

Reese Witherspoon – Alice Kinney
Pico Alexander – Harry
Nat Wolff – Teddy
Jon Rudnitsky – George
Lola Flanery – Isabel
Eden Grace Redfield – Rosie
Michael Sheen – Austin
Candice Bergen – Lillian Stewart

Lightning Review: Dumb and Dumber To

Dumb and Dumber To movie posterSynopsis
When Harry (Jeff Daniels) learns that he has a long lost daughter, he and Lloyd (Jim Carrey) head go on a road trip to Oxford, Maryland in search of her.

Review
Dumb and Dumber is one of my favorite road trip movies and normally I would be eager for a (actual) sequel to a film that I consider to be one of my β€œfavorites.” However, going into Dumb and Dumber To, I can’t say that I was exactly excited to see it. As a result, my expectations weren’t very high, which I supposed helped since while it didn’t reach the low of Dumb and Dumberer, it was nowhere near as enjoyable as the first film. Thankfully, this film completely ignores Dumb and Dumberer, actually completely contradicting it at times. But that’s really the most positive thing I can say about this film. Its main problem is that lacks the heart that made the first film so entertaining despite its absurd premise. Dumb and Dumber To just feels absurd for absurdity’s sake. Since it is a sequel, especially a comedy sequel, there are plenty of call backs to the original that fans will recognize. The film wasn’t entire devoid of a few good jokes and I did chuckle several times but I couldn’t tell you any of them since they weren’t that memorable.

I thought Dumb and Dumber To was OK 😐 An improvement over Dumb and Dumberer but not by much. While it has its moments and I did laugh a few times, it doesn’t have the charm or endearing qualities of the first Dumb and Dumber. What we have here is just another case of a studio trying to make a sequel to a beloved film and falling short.

Also read my reviews for Dumb and Dumber and Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd.

Favorite Quote
Harry: Wow. That is the single most boring sentence I ever heard.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Bobby Farrelly – Director / Writer
Peter Farrelly – Director / Writer
Sean Anders – Writer
John Morris – Writer
Bennett Yellin – Writer
Mike Cerrone – Writer
Empire of the Sun – Composer

Jim Carrey – Lloyd Christmas
Jeff Daniels – Harry Dunne
Rob Riggle – Travis / Captain Lippincott
Laurie Holden – Adele
Rachel Melvin – Penny
Steve Tom – Dr. Pinchelow
Kathleen Turner – Fraida
Bill Murray – Ice Pick
Brady Bluhm – Billy
Michael Yama – Harry’s Dad
Nancy Yee – Harry’s Mom
Grant James – Mr. Stainer
Taylor St. Clair – Mrs. Stainern
Eddie Shin – Gordy
Tommy Snider – Tom
Atkins Estimond – Gus
Don Lake – Dr. Meldmann
Tembi Locke – Dr. Walcott
Patricia French – Ms. Sourpuss
Lindsay Ayliffe – Professor Garabedian
Elizabeth Cooper – Mrs. Julie James
Paul Blackthorne – Emergency Room Doctor

Lightning Review: Logan Lucky

Logan Lucky movie posterSynopsis
When Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) gets let go from his job, he convinces his siblings, Clyde (Adam Driver) and Mellie (Riley Keough), to help him rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Logan and Clyde recruit experienced bank robber Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) to help them get into the vault. But first, they have to figure out a way to get Joe Bang out of jail.

Review
Part way through Logan Lucky, I thought β€œWow, this is a hillbilly Ocean’s Eleven,” which felt much more original until the movie made almost the same joke and I saw that it was directed by Steven Soderbergh (the director of Ocean’s Eleven) in the credits. In any case, it had many of the elements from Ocean’s Eleven that I enjoyed in that film. Like Ocean’s Eleven, it is a fairly slow burn for the first two-thirds of the film. Most of the run time is spent on the Logans concocting the plan / setting up all the pieces. However, also like Ocean’s Eleven, the fun characters, well-written dialogue, and great chemistry between the actors make this time enjoyable and entertaining. Once the heist actually happens, the payoff is well worth it. Keeping the film close to a formula that has worked well before and twisting it slightly was a brilliant move by Soderbergh. It keeps the film familiar yet still manages to keep it feeling new and fresh.

Having a great cast too doesn’t hurt the film either. Channing Tatum and Adam Driver as the Logan brothers are absolutely a blast to watch. On the surface, they seem like they might be a pair of dim-witted rednecks but you soon realize that’s not necessarily the case. Add in a Southern-accented Daniel Craig as Joe Bang and you know you’re going to have a good time. To my surprise, Joe Bang’s two brothers, played by Jack Quaid and Brian Gleeson, were two of my favorite characters in the film. Several of their lines had me cracking up the most. I would love to see a sequel if only to see those two characters on screen again.

I thought Logan Lucky was GOOD πŸ™‚ There is nothing original story-wise in this film but it uses what has been tried and true before and makes it work again in an unconventional way. The vibrant cast is clearly having fun, giving a fun Ocean’s Eleven vibe and keeping my attention despite not really picking up until the end. There are many better heist films out there but few of them are as whimsical or playful as Logan Lucky.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Steven Soderbergh – Director
Rebecca Blunt – Writer
David Holmes – Composer

Channing Tatum – Jimmy Logan
Adam Driver – Clyde Logan
Riley Keough – Mellie Logan
Daniel Craig – Joe Bang
Jack Quaid – Fish Bang
Brian Gleeson – Sam Bang
Farrah Mackenzie – Sadie Logan
Katie Holmes – Bobbie Jo Chapman
David Denman – Moody Chapman
Seth MacFarlane – Max Chilblain
Sebastian Stan – Dayton White
Jim O’Heir – Cal
Rebecca Koon – Purple Lady
Katherine Waterston – Slyvia Harrison
Hilary Swank – Special Agent Sarah Grayson
Macon Blair – Special Agent Brad Noonan