Spider-Man: Far From Home

After the events of Avengers: Endgame, Peter Parker goes on a school trip to Europe with his friends, only to be recruited by Nick Fury to take on the Spider-Man mantle once again and team up with interdimensional hero Mysterio to fight new threats known as the Elementals.

Spider-Man: Far From Home marks the beginning of a new chapter for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and had a lot of expectations to fill consider it not only has to follow the grand phenomenon that was Endgame but also follow up on the story of Spider-Man: Homecoming and make a story that still feels new and exciting. Well not only does Spider-Man: Far From Home live up to the expectations for a good Homecoming sequel but it also introduces new concepts and unexpected turns even after 23 Marvel films, proving that they haven’t yet lost their steam. Tom Holland still carries the film wonderfully and continues to convince me that he’s the best Spider-Man yet. Peter is now trying to hold onto his youth and is afraid to accept new and bigger responsibilites after losing an important figure in his life. Peter must learn to mature and step up throughout the film which makes for a strong arc in the film. Also great is his chemistry with Zendaya, who is also really great in her role as MJ, who we didn’t see enough of in Homecoming but is a leading part here. Watching their connection blossom throughout the film is really sweet and was done well by the writers and actors. Also really fun parts of the film are Jacob Batalon as Peter’s hysterical best friend Ned, and Jon Favreau as Tony Stark’s assistant Happy who is still played with plenty of charm, and he and Peter once again have great scenes together.

What director Jon Watts is once again able to do with this sequel is maintain that “high school movie” tone with Peter facing issues like bullies, crushes, etc., but Watts also makes sure to bring us a high-stakes superhero movie with threats and responsibilites that Peter must face as Spider-Man. He keeps the tone light and adds plenty of humor as we’re used to seeing from Marvel, and keeps the signature Marvel hero, villain, and conflict tropes. However, one thing I was underwhelemed by was the visual look of the film. Marvel has always impressed me with the production design, cienamtography, and visuals in their films, espeically lately with the gorgeous Captain Marvel and Avengers movies, but here the movie feels very boringly shot and there is no color scheme or visual style that will keep your eyes in awe like the past Marvel movies this year have. The battles often feel well-realized but the green screen also sometimes doesn’t blend in and the design for the Elementals villains as well as the final battle are also less impressive visually. Also, the fact that Sony oversees these Spider-Man MCU films while Disney controls all the others leads to some questionable or unexplained references to the bigger universe, which are sometimes welcome but sometimes a bit much or raise unneeded questions rather than serve as world-building. While Homecoming had fun small appearances from Iron Man and Captain America, here some of the connections to the rest of the MCU feel like Sony trying to constantly remind the world that their property is part of Disney’s Marvel universe as well. Other than the obvious impact Infinity War and Endgame have on the main character, some of this world-building raises more questions than it needs to and possibly tampers with the consistency Disney has been keeping so smoothly through its MCU films. I feel like there were also some underdeveloped plot points throughout the film, and they could have extended the runtime by only 5 minutes to help establish these more, like we don’t see much of how the world is readjusting after Thanos’ actions shook the universe, and we also hear peoople repeadetly mention a large character from Endgame but I think we needed a bit more about how Peter is affected by that character’s loss. Also, the timing of the release was way too soon (only 2 months) after Endgame, which was the big conclusion to many years of MCU films — so why not wait a bit longer and let us take in the first big chapter instead of diving right into the next one? Hopefully this won’t undermine the effect of Endgame as a finale as time goes by, because both these films are still great on their own. What Spider-Man: Far From Home does best, however, is remind us why we love this incarnation of the character and why he resonates with audiences, as well as provide new challenges and growth for the character as well deliver on the tone of a film that has to feel large-scaled on small-sclaed at the same time.

Spider-Man: Far From Home is a satisfying sequel that ups the scale and stakes for Spidey with more locations and more cdhallenging foes than before, even though it’s visually dull compared to the other big Marvel movies this year, and the pacing could’ve been slightly improved. However, the performances, storyline, and humor all deliver as expected and there’s an awesome mid-credits scene that changes the game for the future of Spider-Man.

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Nocturnal Animals

ratings5

Susan (Amy Adams) is an art gallery owner who receives a book manuscript from her ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal). As she reads, she is drawn into the fictional life of Tony Hastings (also played by Gyllenhaal), a math professor whose family vacation turns violent.

Nocturnal Animals isn’t the ordinary film you’d go to the movies to watch – I knew this from the moment the film started. It’s not simply a thriller, or a drama, either. It’s hard to fit Nocturnal Animals into one genre of film – that’s why it does so well on its own. Gyllenhaal outdoes his work in this year’s Demolition as both the author of the fictional novel of which the film’s themes revolve around, as well as the novel’s protagonist, and what shocked me is that he was able to deliver two completely different performances in one film. Michael Shannon is also scene-stealing as a detective who will go far distances to see justice done, or even do it himself. Adams also delivers a strong emotional connection with the audience as we dig deeper into her character’s past and feelings, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson is unrecognizable and frightening in a role like nothing he’s played before. The cinematography is breathtaking, and the sound editing is gripping and realistic. From the film’s first act, my heart was pumping and I was always on the edge of my seat. Every scene demonstrated the cast and crew’s marvelous talents, and always brought some new feeling or reaction into the film, and in a great way. This is easily one of the most thrilling and unpredictable films of this year. The way the director combines different story-lines and beautiful visuals to create an extraordinary story is haunting but also memorable. The film may sometimes by tough to watch for some viewers, but I found myself constantly intrigued and never pulled out of the film. The ending is also something I did not see coming, leaving me still thinking about how everything so cleverly connects, with the movie’s writing, performances, visuals, and excellent execution adding up to pure cinematic brilliance.

Although I can’t say everyone will enjoy watching Nocturnal Animals, I personally found it to be an intriguing and masterfully done piece of cinema, with strong emotions that are conveyed indirectly and brilliantly to the audience, with strong imagery and fantastic acting that I think most moviegoers may appreciate and love like I did.

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Everest

ratings5

Everest is the exhilarating true story of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, in which a climbing expedition on Mt. Everest, led by Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) and Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal), was devastated by a severe storm.

After Gravity showed you the suffering of being in space, Everest demonstrates the horrors of being at the highest place in the world, at a cruising altitude of 747, in dazzling IMAX 3D. Everest is a visual spectacle, using barely any CGI or effects, and filmed beautifully, showing you the amazing but terrifying landscape of Mount Everest. Every shot is incredible and beautiful look at. I felt sucked into the movie’s setting when I saw it in IMAX 3D. The movie’s score is also very well done.

Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, and John Hawkes all did an incredible job acting as terrified climbers who have something to come back home for. Jake Gyllenhaal is also very good in his role, but he’s only likable and decently written, not amazing. Emily Watson and Keira Knightley are also good, but Robin Wright is miscast and overacted. Sam Worthington has a decent small role, and Michael Kelly is solid, too.

Everest may seem like it’s only some amazing views, but that’s not it. Once you’re an hour through the film, a storm approaches, threatening the climbers that we have related with. At this point, all the terror and amazement increases as the climbers struggle to survive. There is so much suspense that my breath was taken away from me, and I was on the very edge of my seat. It is very hard to watch what these climbers went through, but the theater experience ultimately leaves you in awe.

Everest is ultimately able to convey the beauty and horrors of the titular mountain in such a touching, amazing, and terrifying way. It is realistic, intense, wonderfully shot and directed, well-acted, and an unforgettable way too kick off the Oscar season.

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