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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Tom Holland cements his status as the best-ever Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Far From Home, the goofiest—but still quite fun—Spider-Man movie yet.

Jon Watts once again directs as Peter Parker tries to vacation with his friends in Europe after the events of Endgame. When a strange breed of elemental monsters start striking the planet, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) interrupts Peter’s sojourn and gets him back into the swing of things. Jake Gyllenhaal enters the shenanigans as Mysterio, a crime fighter from another dimension who slides right into the Tony Stark mentor role.

Holland is good fun as Spidey, giving the character a nice, youthful effervescence to go with Holland’s great comic timing. Zendaya rules as MJ; Jon Favreau gets a lot more screen time (a good thing) as Happy; but alas, the film doesn’t have nearly enough Marisa Tomei.

Far From Home is a bit lightheaded at times, but it’s the sort of breezy affair that the Marvel Universe needed to get things revved up again. Hopefully, this is just the beginning for Holland, and he has a bunch of these in his future—because he’s perfect in the role.

Spider-Man: Far From Home is now playing at theaters across the valley, in a variety of formats.

Published in Reviews

I wish I could tell you that Captain America: Civil War is so good that it will make you forget the horror that was Batman v Superman: Dawn of Bursting Diseased Cinematic Pustules. Alas, nothing is good enough to clear that out of anyone’s brain anytime soon.

Captain America: Civil War is very good, though, a nice blast of superhero fun that finds a diplomatic way to include many Marvel favorites without feeling crowded or rushed. This is one well-oiled Marvel machine.

Front and center, there’s Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), aka Captain America, still having Brooklyn-bro issues when it comes to the Winter Soldier, Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan). Cap wants to back up his former best friend, but the guy committed some shady, hard-to-defend acts while brainwashed. Captain America has to make some extremely difficult—and potentially cataclysmic—choices.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) thought Age of Ultron sucked for more than the obvious reasons: On top of being boring, it left death and destruction in its wake, as did the far-more-exciting original The Avengers. World leaders want to put the Avengers in check, using them as a sort of alternative to nuclear weapons. Tony Stark, aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr., still owning it), in the midst of a crisis of conscience, agrees to the proposed accord. Rogers thinks it’s bullshit and won’t sign. This all works as a fine setup for an eventual battle between Iron Man and Captain America, during which both sides have compelling reasons to fight. It’s actually hard to pick a side in this movie, making the confrontation all the more fun.

The Avengers get split up between Iron Man and Captain America. Stark has Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), War Machine (Don Cheadle) and Vision (an excellent Paul Bettany), as well as new recruits Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and, yep, Spider-Man (Tom Holland, looking like he could be the best Spidey yet) in his ranks. Rogers goes into battle with the Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Bucky and new recruit Ant-Man (a funny Paul Rudd).

It’s no easy task, but directors Anthony and Joe Russo, along with their screenwriters, juggle a lot of characters and spin a lot of plates—successfully and entertainingly. No single character hogs the screen for too long; everybody gets a nice stake in the movie; and the newbies are introduced in satisfying ways. Spider-Man manages to get his setup in a solid scene with Stark and Aunt May (Marisa Tomei … hooray!). It’s a relatively quick scene, but, hey, it’s Spider-Man. He doesn’t need a long setup. Just introduce him, and let him start shooting webs and wisecracks.

The film has good performances throughout, but Downey is the true standout. He’s the anchor of the Avengers universe, and he brings true gravitas where other actors would just make things corny. Holland gets a lot of points for making the most of his screen time and slipping comfortably into the costume most recently worn by Andrew Garfield. He’s perfect for Spidey on the acting front—and, if you take a look at his Spider-Man workouts, you’ll see he doesn’t necessarily need a stuntman.

Conspicuously missing are Hulk and Thor. Something had to be left for the next Thor movie, so those two get a break here. While Age of Ultron felt like nothing but a bunch of scenes setting up the next chapter, Civil War works as a standalone action movie.

There are no clear plans for Captain America and Bucky in The Avengers saga going forward. They are great characters, but there are plenty of great characters now existing in the Marvel Comics Universe. Captain America: Civil War gets things back on track after the weak Age of Ultron, and should make people excited for next year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming.

I’ll just keep saying it: You must stay through the damn credits until that blue ratings thing shows at the end. It’s a Marvel movie! There are two extra scenes to see. Stop leaving before the screen goes dark. It’s driving me crazy!

Captain America: Civil War is playing in a variety of formats at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

Movie studios are getting ready to release big holiday products like sequels to The Hunger Games and Star Wars, as well as surefire Oscar contenders such as Spotlight and The Revenant.

Still, there will be a week or two when studios try to squeak by with meager offerings. Well, this is one of those weeks, and Love the Coopers is one of those meager offerings.

I’ll say this for the movie: It is jam-packed with talent. Diane Keaton, Marisa Tomei, John Goodman, Anthony Mackie, Alan Arkin, Amanda Seyfried, Ed Helms and even the voice of Steve Martin all show up in this holiday film. However, if you are looking for a Christmas movie to add a little joy to your holiday season, this will not do the trick. If you are looking for something weird, dark and unfunny, this one might please you.

Love the Coopers obviously has a lot of characters played by those aforementioned performers, and a lot of plot lines to go with them. It gets a bit tiresome trying to follow all that is going on.

Charlotte (Keaton) and Sam (Goodman) have been married for more than 40 years. Their marriage has hit the skids, and Christmas looks like it could totally suck. Charlotte has been refusing to travel to Africa with Sam for many years—and that’s the final straw: As the family gathers for Christmas Eve, Sam is planning to leave his wife shortly thereafter. All cups of eggnog will be tainted with that sour taste of despair.

One of the more prominent subplots involves Charlotte’s sister Emma (Tomei) being arrested for shoplifting and getting a stoic police officer (Mackie) as her escort to the police station. Of course, Emma manages to successfully decipher all of the officer’s life issues from the back seat; perhaps she learns a little about herself, too.

Another storyline has Charlotte’s wayward daughter Eleanor (Olivia Wilde) meeting some Army dude (Jake Lacy) at an airport on her way home. She invites him to be her boyfriend for the weekend to trick her mom, even though the two can’t stand each other. It’s the sort of thing that only happens in stupid movies like this. Still, Wilde and Lacy are cute enough to make their screen time almost tolerable. Will they eventually make out? I think so!

The dumbest of the subplots involves be Charlotte’s dad, Bucky (Arkin), having an odd relationship with a diner waitress (Seyfried). They aren’t screwing or anything, but he does lend her movies, and she serves him coffee with sad, forlorn eyes. Developments later in the film suggest Seyfried’s character could wind up with Bucky’s son (Helms). It’s all a little creepy and uncomfortable.

Throw in a crazy aunt who doesn’t remember anything (June Squibb) and farts a lot, and a gangly teenage boy learning to kiss his girlfriend under the mistletoe, and you have just the right ingredients to make a movie-goer violently throw up.

Director Jessie Nelson, whose last directorial effort was the assault on humanity that was I Am Sam some 14 years ago, sabotages her own movie with crazy left turns and wild moments. It’s actually a shock that Seyfried and Arkin don’t make out, because that sort of weirdness would be right at home in this flick. Nelson seems determined to make this an anti-holiday holiday movie. I can respect the effort to be different, but she messes it up—in a big way.

The final twist, involving the origin of Martin’s voice, is probably the best thing in the movie. Since that final twist is sort of lame, that does not saying much for Love the Coopers.

Love the Coopers is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews