“Spider-Man: Homecoming”

Spider-Man…. Spider-Man…. Does what “The Amazing Spider-Man” can’t! That’s right, “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is a return to form for the iconic Marvel character.

The self-aware titled “Spider-Man: Homecoming” takes place eight months after Peter Parker (Tom Holland) was introduced in “Civil War.” Since then, he’s hungry for more action. He’s flaking on his friends and beloved Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), he’s dropped out of various clubs, and he’s beyond high school.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) takes on a father-figure role to Peter and wants him to be patient and focus on being a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Peter ignores his advice when he crosses paths with a heavily armed thief called The Vulture (Michael Keaton); their battles cause Peter to learn some valuable lessons the hard way.

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” is a lighthearted and fun MCU movie that’s more a coming-of-age tale than standard origin story. Director Jon Watts (the solid B-movie “Cop Car”) gives Spidey the John Hughes treatment. Peter loves being Spider-Man, but often has to choose between his superhero addiction and being a kid. This sets up some comedic and dramatic moments for Peter.

The 21-year-old Holland does an amazing job playing Peter. He isn’t brooding like Maguire or arrogant like Garfield; he perfectly captures the angst, excitement, ambition, and recklessness of being a teen. Keaton and Downey both are great in their respective supporting roles. Keaton makes a menacing-albeit-sympathetic villain while Downey portrays Stark in a more humanized fashion.

The Vulture and Stark play important roles in teaching the naïve Parker the harsh ways of the world and are perfect foils to each other, despite no screen time together. “Homecoming” excels in fleshing out each character and making them grounded and empathetic. Though I was rooting for Spider-Man, I also wanted The Vulture to win occasionally.

“Homecoming” isn’t perfect due to a redundant narrative. Throughout the whole movie, Peter tends an event, conveniently notices The Vulture in action nearby, apologizes to his friends, ditches them, fights the baddy, then apologizes again. I would have preferred each action sequence setting up confrontation differently.

The redundant narrative is forgivable due to the performances and a couple of harrowing action sequences that capture both Spider-Man’s noble and destructive nature. He isn’t destructive like Zack Snyder’s Superman  and not take responsibility; he’s a powerful kid who doesn’t realize that his actions have consequences. “Homecoming” is a fun time and I’m looking forward to Spider-Man’s return in 2019.

Grade: B+

Ranking of all “Spider-Man” movies favorite-to-least:

  1. “Spider-Man 2” (2004)
  2. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (2017)
  3. “Spider-Man” (2002)
  4. “The Amazing Spider-Man” (2012)
  5. “Spider-Man 3” (2007)
  6. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” (2014)
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“The Mummy”

Studios are banking off of the MCU with their own movie universes. First, Warner Bros started the DCEU and then the Monster Universe shortly after. Now Universal has started the Dark Universe with “The Mummy” as their first installment. I’ll stick to the 1999 Brendan Fraser version, thank you.

U.S. Military officer Nick Morton (Tom Cruise), his partner Chris (Jake Johnson), and archeologist Jennifer Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) discover a secret tomb in Iraq. When they bring the mummified corpse of Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) back with them, they unintentionally unleash hell on earth as Ahmanet comes to life and goes on a rampage. Nick, however, discovers he might be the only thing that can stop Ahmanet.

I’m a Tom Cruise fan and was intrigued after learning he was starring in “The Mummy.” Partially because it’s his first horror film (if you can call it horror) and partially because I wanted to see what death-defying stunt Cruise was going to perform next. Aside from a terrific plane crash sequence and an insane bus stunt, the action is lackluster.

“The Mummy” is 107 minutes of Tom Cruise running and screaming, Jake Johnson yelling, “I’m gonna die,” Russell Crowe delivering exposition-fueled monologues, and Annabelle Wallis playing damsel-in-distress. This results in a rather dull summer movie. I wanted to like “The Mummy,” but I found it underwhelming.

Sofia Boutella is a talented actress, but she’s underused in her role as Ahmanet. She isn’t terrifying or menacing (Arnold Vosloo is superior in the 1999 “Mummy”) and has little to do, despite wearing wicked makeup. In terms of villains, Crowe’s Henry Jekyll steals a few scenes.

Watching Cruise and Crowe banter is one of the movie’s few treats. Cruise’s boyish charm perfectly matches Crowe’s stern, deadpan delivery. They both are clearly trying and easily carry the movie, despite the weak script.

The script suffers from some serious tone inconsistencies. We get some darkly hilarious hallucination sequences reminiscent of “An American Werewolf in London,” but they don’t mash well with lame jump scares or the movie’s adventure tone. Also, it’s insulting that the movie’s six screenwriters don’t trust the viewers enough to figure things out for themselves.

“I drove back to her,” Cruise says as he obviously drives back to Boutella, attempting a getaway.

I’m a fan of the classic Universal monsters, but this is a disappointing start. Hopefully they find their footing in future installments.

Grade: C-

“Baywatch”

I need to stop seeing movies just because they have Dwayne Johnson. Who am I kidding? He’s he most electrifying man in entertainment after all (WWE joke). He’s too good for “Baywatch” and this movie is just another studio cash grab.

Veteran lifeguard Mitch Buchannon (Johnson) recruits a new batch of guards to join his team. This includes the tough Summer Quinn (Alexandra Daddario), socially awkward Ronnie (Jon Bass), and the cocky former Olympian Matt Brody (Zac Efron). Mitch and Brody automatically dislike each other in buddy comedy fashion, but have to put their differences aside when they discover drugs are surfacing on the beach.

People laughed at me when I said I was seeing “Baywatch.” Besides seeing it for Johnson, I actually saw potential in this movie. The original show was a cheese fest and could easily spawn a satirical adaptation ala “21 Jump Street.” Sadly, “Baywatch” isn’t that adaptation.

“Baywatch” is directed by Seth Gordon, who made the brilliant transgressive comedy “Horrible Bosses.” “Baywatch” is rated R like “Horrible Bosses,” but Gordon and the writers do nothing with it other than show a penis and spout a few dozen F-words. It’s not transgressive, offensive, meta, and worst of all, not funny.

Johnson and Efron have good chemistry, and they’re clearly doing their best to entertain the viewers, but it’s sadly not enough to overcome the long length time, redundant narrative, and overly serious tone. Do we need a tortured soul subplot in the middle of a vomit gag?

“Baywatch” is two hours of Mitch lecturing Brody on his selfishness and calling him a boy band name, then Brody admitting he screwed up and redeeming himself. Brody’s back story of puking during a team swim meet is sad and pathetic instead of funny.

How many comedies do we need with a dead body gag? How many do we need with a guy getting his junk stuck in public? How many do we need with someone clumsily falling into a pool with their clothes on? There’s already a “Baywatch” sequel in the works, so is there room for improvement? Yes. Will it improve? Probably not.

Grade: D-

“Power Rangers”

While watching “Power Rangers,” all I wanted was Krispy Kreme. Mmmmm…. Krispy Kreme….

In Angel Grove, a Breakfast Club ensemble of high school students befriend each other and find strange coins. The students are former football star Jason (Dacre Montgomery), ostracized mean girl Kimberly (Naomi Scott), the autistic Billy (RJ Cyler), new girl Trini (Becky G), and loner Zack (Ludi Lin).

The coins empower these kids and lead them to an ancient being named Zordon (Bryan Cranston), who trains them to be the next Power Rangers, protectors of the galaxy. Meanwhile, alien invader Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) searches for the Zeo Crystal in her plot for world domination.

“Power Rangers” isn’t an original film since it borrows heavily from “Man of Steel” and “Chronicle.” While those films were overly destructive, brooding, and cynical, “Power Rangers” depicts the optimistic side of one discovering powers. Sure, there’s some cheese, but that’s part of the fun.

“The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” was always a cheesy show with mindless action, but it had heart and great messages about diversity and friendship. “Power Rangers” maintains these messages, even when it occasionally treads on the dark side.

The original series depicted the characters as these perfect, popular kids, but in “Power Rangers,” they’re far from that. Jason is an outcast for letting down Angel Grove’s football team, Kimberly is guilt-ridden over a prank, Zack ditches school to take care of his mom, Billy’s often bullied for his disability, and Trini is afraid of coming out to her parents.

Any writer could have written these sensitive arcs in a juvenile fashion, but writer John Gatins (“Kong: Skull Island”) handles them maturely and realistically. All the rangers feel like kids and not caricatures. The cast does well with their roles, especially RJ Cyler as Billy (I related to him the most).

Elizabeth Banks steals the show as Rita Rapulsa and is clearly having a blast on camera. Whether she steals gold, brag about her plan, or eats a Krispy Kreme doughnut, she rocks.

Speaking of Krispy Kreme, “Power Rangers” over kills Krispy Kreme product placement, but it weirdly suits the plot and tone of the movie. It’s more charming than annoying. I would say the only let down of “Power Rangers” was the action was lackluster (lots of slow-mo, fast-mo fight scenes). But good news is there’s an upcoming sequel, which means room for improvement.

Grade: B+

“Blair Witch”

Is September the month for “lost in the woods” movies? I just reviewed “The Sea of Trees” yesterday and now I’m reviewing “Blair Witch.” Between the two, this one’s better.

“Blair Witch” takes place twenty years after the events of “The Blair Witch Project.” James discovers found footage on Youtube and believes that his sister Heather (the predecessor’s protagonist) is in the video. He enlists his friends Lisa, Peter, and Ashley, as well as a pair of locals named Lane and Talia to explore Burkittsville. And if you’ve seen the first movie, you know what to expect.

Director Adam Wingard is a talented genre filmmaker. With the gruesomely entertaining “You’re Next” and criminally underrated “The Guest” under his belt, he’s an ideal choice for horror movies. However, “Blair Witch” demonstrates Wingard’s greatest flaw – he relies on his film’s climax as the selling point.

The first two acts of “Blair Witch” feature some innovative camera techniques, including earpiece cameras and some spooky drone shots. But the characters debate the Blair Witch’s existence, they wonder in circles around the woods, the sun never comes up, a scared character cries in front of the camera, and they end up in a house. It’s the same movie as “The Blair Witch Project.”

The final fifteen minutes are terrifying and feature some brilliant uses of lighting and sound, as well as an unsettling twist. It’s just not enough to recommend sitting through two generic acts of storytelling.

Grade: C

“Ghostbusters”

Dear haters and fanboys,

If you’ve watched various franchises, you should know very well that reboots are inevitable. You were all angry that we got a “Ghostbusters” reboot either because you weren’t open minded to recasting , or because Ivan Reitman didn’t make his third installment as promised.

Sincerely,

A confused movie lover.

That’s not my review! “Ghostbusters” needs no introduction because we all know what it is: a group of paranormal investigators discover a supernatural threat that can destroy New York City and have to save the day. This time it’s Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones as the titular characters.

“Ghostbusters” takes place in a new universe with no mention of Reitman’s classic. And while the cast and director Paul Feig deliver, the script is standard and exactly like the original “Ghostbusters.” Didn’t the writers learn that’s why no one liked “Ghostbusters 2?”

The “Ghostbusters” formula is  four disgraced scientists discover something abnormal and no one believes them, there’s a political antagonist who wants them out of the picture, they quit, and then save the world at the last minute. The 2016 reboot follows this formula without taking any risks.

The cast does their best with what they have. Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy are fine, but Kate McKinnon is the scene stealer as the eccentric and fearless, Holtzmann. Her delivery and lines are spot on and hit all the right notes. Leslie Jones is surprisingly more deadpan than the trailer let us believe (and I like my deadpan humor).

Chris Hemsworth (yep, Thor) has great comedic moments as the Ghostbusters’ incompetent receptionist and has me wondering why he doesn’t do more comedies. Andy Garcia also has his moments as an arrogant mayor (you should see how he reacts to being compared to the “Jaws” mayor).

I have to give Paul Feig and the cast credit for standing up to the angry fans and confidently holding their own throughout the movie. They take jabs at Youtube posts at least twice throughout the movie. The problem is, the movie gets lost in callbacks on the original franchise.

Whether it’s following the formula, having a cliched villain reminiscent of Peter MacNicol’s villain in “Ghostbusters 2,” or having forced cameos, we get it! This movie is better when it’s focusing on its own universe.

MINOR SPOILERS!

Most of the cameos feel forced, but the best one of the original cast is Ernie Hudson’s cameo because it feels natural unlike Bill Murray or Sigourney Weaver’s cameos. Slimer’s cameo is funnier than the other cameos in this movie.

Fans overreacted in thinking this movie was, “shitting on their childhood.” This installment might not be good, but there’s hope that the filmmakers will come into their own with the sequel.

Grade: C

“Fant4stic”

You stylize a title as cheesy as “Fant4stic”, you bet I’m going to refer the movie by that title. The one thing I learned watching “Fant4stic” is that director Josh Trank (“Chronicle” (2012)) is better with less money in his budget.

The premise of “Fant4stic” is simple; five genius kids in either high school or college are enlisted by Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey from TV’s “Oz” and “House of Cards”) to research teleportation, discovering another planet in the process. You have high school genius Reed Richards (Miles Teller), his best friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell), Storm’s rebellious son Johnny (Michael B. Jordon) and adopted daughter Sue (Kate Mara), and Storm’s eccentric and arrogant protege Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbel).

The team are all exposed to the other planet’s fuels, mutating them in the process, which leads them against Victor on Planet Zero. There’s the premise in a nutshell!

What’s irritating about the narrative in “Fant4stic” is that there’s no development or lesson learned by the end of the movie! Ben resents Reed after their mutations, Ben and Johnny form a rivalry, Reed and Sue take a romantic interest in each other, and Reed and Johnny are clearly friends, but none of this is developed or resolved. With a running time of 100 minutes, I wonder if Trank was forced to edit the film and cut out all of the development and back story.

The small amount of development is some of the most half-assed writing in recent memory. Ben and Reed are respectively the brain and heart duo trying to change the world, Victor wants to destroy Earth and go back to Planet Zero because he feels we’re killing Earth (though not wrong there, but that’s a different conversation), and the kids get their powers due to a drunken mishap? Maybe the message of the movie was don’t drink.

As far as acting goes, Miles Teller and Kate Mara both look bored, Jamie Bell overacts as the inept and street smart muscle, Michael B Jordon and Toby Kebbel are good sports on screen, and Reg E. Cathey works well with what he has.

Trank envisioned “Fant4stic” being a blend of Bryan Singer’s “X-Men” movies, Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” (2014), and David Cronenberg’s body horror classics “The Fly” (1986) and “Scanners” (1981). Ambitious idea, yeah, but like I said in my “True Detective” review, execution matters! I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’d rather rewatch the 2005 and 2007 “Fantastic 4” films before I watch “Fant4stic” again.

Grade: F