Spider-Man No Way Home


Viewed – 13 April 2022 online-rental

Where do I begin talking about one of the biggest movies of last year? This third entry in the rebooted franchise starring Tom Holland follows directly on from the last movie that ended with Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio revealing Spider-Man’s true identity to the world. Faced with being recognised and harassed everywhere he goes, Peter Parker / Spider-Man turns to Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to alter time and cause people to forget who Spider-Man is … however things don’t go according to plan.

This is up there with one of the boldest concepts for a superhero movie. Hyped leading up to its release due to the fact the movie brings back a number of classic villains from all the previous Spidy movies – including Alfred Molina’s Dr Octopus … I was nervous the wealth of ideas and characters wouldn’t come together in a coherent, easy to follow way. Thankfully, the writers did a commendable job here and deliver a fun, constantly surprising and highly entertaining ‘spectacle’. There’s room in its 2 and a half hour run time for action, comedy and some powerful character moments that definitely had my heart-strings tugged.

Effects wise, even for a Marvel movie this reaches new levels – a fight between Spider-Man and Dr Strange is simply jaw dropping. A special mention should also go to the de-ageing effects for certain returning characters which is probably the most convincing I’ve yet seen. At times there are some plot conveniences that stand out and a bit involving a ‘cure’ remedy feels a stretch – I’m also still pondering that gut-punch of an ending. Yet considering what’s going on and the fact it mostly all works – this was still a triumph. Not the masterpiece it’s been heralded as, but still a great time from start to finish.

Verdict: Recommended

Uncharted


Viewed – 16 February 2022 Cinema

I certainly consider myself a fan of the games, especially the 2nd and 4th instalments, so the prospect of a big screen adaptation seemed obvious, even though it’s taken years to get off the ground. Here petty-thief turned adventurer Nathan Drake (Tom Holland) teams up with an old friend of his brother’s, named Sully (Mark Wahlberg) who lets him in on a quest to find some long lost treasure.

Immediately the sheer likability of Holland sells the movie. I don’t consider him much like the Nathan Drake of the games, but he carries his own in a charismatic, physical turn that proves him as a credible lead. Wahlberg surprised as I also didn’t initially think he bared much resemblance of the game’s Sully … but he delivers a lovable-rogue that comes across very much like the character in the games, albeit a younger version. There’s also plenty of action with fights, chases and a few stand out set pieces including a memorable one that opens the movie.

The story for me, apart from a mystery surrounding Nathan’s missing brother, was fairly typical and not that interesting when compared to similar movies. Also, the movie trips itself up in its villain casting, with a woefully under-used Antonio Banderas. Overall, this was still fun, delivered a fairly faithful interpretation of the games and proved once again that Holland is a star. Just a shame it doesn’t have a great deal of personality to call its own.

Verdict: Good

Onward


Viewed – 03 October 2020. Disney+

Its difficult reviewing animated movies, because the quality is often so high, it’s tempting to just rate them all the same. So I tend to be a bit harder on them that some other movies. This unusual story presents an enchanted, fairy tale world that turns its back on magic, favouring technology to develop very much like the regular world. So people have jobs, there’s police, shops, fast food restaurants etc. On his 16th birthday, young elf Ian is given a present from his Dad who died of an illness before he was born, and it turns out to be a wizards staff. After reciting a spell that’s meant to bring the dad back for one day only … the spell goes wrong and only half of the dad’s body comes back – literally from the waist down. However his big brother Barley says there’s a way of completing the spell and so a quest unfolds to resurrect their dad before the sun goes down.

Like Monsters Inc and Inside Out before it, this presents a world full of character and personality. Again it’s a feast for the eyes and full of memorable side characters, pop culture gags and references – but it’s the unique idea that’s the winner; a caper comedy that’s weirdly a lot like 80s comedy Weekend at Bernies. Some moments, especially the freeway chase with the biker sprites certainly had me laughing out-loud. Yet underneath the visuals and gags lies a great deal of heart – something Pixar have always been masters of.

Tom Holland as Ian is perfect, but is overshadowed by Chris Pratt’s Barley who turns a potentially irritating loud mouth of a character into someone I really cared about. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is also good as the two brother’s Mom. The ending also turns the story on its head to deliver an emotion-heavy and wonderfully bittersweet conclusion. So there you have it – damn, another Pixar gem that shouldn’t be missed! Sigh.

Verdict: Essential

Spider-Man: Far From Home


Viewed – 12 November 2019. Online rental

In the wake of the events of Avengers: Endgame, Peter Parker / Spider-Man (Tom Holland) is on a school trip in Europe when a series of elemental beasts begin to attack various cities. When a hero from another dimension appears to battle them, Parker feels obliged to offer his help, aided by new tech left to him by the (spoiler) late Tony Stark.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of the last few Spider-Man movies but do think Holland is perfectly cast. This time around he teams up with Jake Gylkenhaal‘s Mysterio, who proves a very interesting character even if an actor of his calibre is hardly ‘stretched’. Samuel L Jackson‘s Nick Fury is also a welcome return after his absence from other movies. The story is generally teen angst complicated by an inconvenient new threat, and the shadow of Tony Stark / Iron-Man looms once again which for me spoilt the last movie. However here at least Spidy gets to do his own thing and we are treated to some great set-pieces with some very imaginative moments revolving around Mysterio’s illusion powers.

At the end of the day this hardly breaks the mould for a Spider-Man or Marvel movie and lacks the depth of a Captain America or Avengers – but when it’s all this entertaining … does that really matter? Not ‘amazing’ then, but still the best Spidy outing in quite a while.

Verdict: 3.5 /5

Spider-Man: Homecoming


Viewed – 05 December 2017  Online-rental

Of all the super-heroes, ol’ Spidy has had some trouble finding sure footing in recent years and for me, there hasn’t been a decent Spidy movie since the second Toby Maguire entry.  However after an enjoyable (if unnecessary) cameo in Captain America: Civil War, the web-slinger has returned in probably one his best received movies since the Sam Raimi directed original. 

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Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is under the watchful eye of billionaire Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) aka Iron-Man and so wants to be an official part of The Avengers, not just someone you call on when you’re in a bit of a fix.  So he’s out to prove himself after he witnesses some advanced, out of this world (literally) weapon technology being used by petty thugs.  Turns out there’s a ruthless arms dealer in town who dresses like a robotic vulture.

There’s several things that don’t sit right with me here.  Firstly the constant bumbling, representation of such a beloved character grates after a while, and then his characterisation, without an origin tale or any personal tragedy, is wafer-thin and not something to get all-that caught up in.  Same goes for Michael Keaton’s Vulture, a rather pathetic former salvage worker annoyed by being put out of work by Tony Stark’s bank-rolled clean-up crew following the events of the first Avengers movie, who decides to steal alien technology so to become an arms dealer.  There’s no personal tragedy other than the inconvenience of having to find work elsewhere, and therefore little reason behind what he’s doing other than greed and being a bit of a psychopath.  So what else do we get?  Holland is likeable and well cast as Parker/Spidy, and Keaton is also good despite limited material.  We also get some decent action, including a great sequence at the Washington Monument, and some support characters are fun.  Yet overall this greatly lacks depth and feels like a pilot for a TV show or the opening chapter of a bigger, better story.  I’m guessing that’s the idea … so bring on the inevitable, superior sequel!  After two reboots of ‘meh’ quality however, it’d take something special to get me back on-board.

Verdict:  2.5 /5