Spider-Man: Far From Home Is Where The Heart Is

Spider-Man: Far From Home Trailer – Nick Fury, Mysterio Invade Peter Parker’s Holiday in Europe

There is no better live action Spider-Man than Tom Holland. He’s so good at everything: his physicality, his look, his age, how he plays Peter, how he acts as Spider-Man. He’s perfect.

High school Spider-Man is so much fun. High school hijinks and comedy are great because everyone can relate. Everyone remembers having those awkward moments as a teenager. It’s so entirely different to follow a kid around in a “serious” super hero movie and that’s the key reason that you’d go see a film like Spider-Man: Far From Home. Having a kid involved in these big conflicts while he’s also worried about how he’ll handle his first kiss and how he finds both of them as difficult and stressful. It is a refreshing side to the big story.

It’s an excellent wrap up to the Infinity Stone/Thanos saga. It doesn’t quite tap into all the depth there like overpopulation, how the revived people reintegrated and relationship dynamics that would be fundamentally altered between people.

But it does give you get enough of a taste for what the new post-Thanos RIP-Iron Man world is like that you feel like you can move on. It provides enough answers to the surface level questions about what happened when people came back, how they aged, how relationships are affected, etc.  It even gives you a taste of what the response is now for an Avengers level threat without the world having their big hero six Avengers.

Also, the movie is about Spider-Man and how he’s getting on in this world without his father figure and all the newfound responsibility and infamy he’s webbed up in while still trying to figure out how to navigate high school and nabbing that first kiss from his crush.

Like the first film, Iron Man/Tony Stark plays a role but he isn’t a shadow over the film. Not to say the presence of Iron Man is minimal or passed off. It isn’t. But it is no different than the Uncle Ben Guilt cloud that usually hangs over Spider-Man films. Tony Stark dying is this Peter’s “Uncle Ben” moment and subsequent arc.

We’ve seen Uncle Ben die in 2 films, like 143 times in the comics and 69 times in cartoons. While Uncle Ben existed and passed, or has at least been alluded to in these movies, this is a new grief. And it’s handled really well. Handled exactly how I probably would have handled this if I was a 16-17 year old who just wanted to date a pretty girl and not fail my classes. I could barely manage school, a personal life and sports in high school.

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John Watts is back as director and did a really good job with a really tricky spot. He’s got to develop the overarching MCU in the dust of Thanos. But also tell a silly high school kids story where horny teenagers just want to make out. And then also show how a teenager is handling the grief of losing his surrogate father and the boatload of great power and responsibility that’s been thrust on him.

The movie is at its best when it is being most personal. The high school kid moments are great. Supporting characters playing off each other is great. Characters bouncing dialogue and chewing scenery is great. Peter having one on one chats with people is great. When it’s him 1v1 against the villain it’s great. The movie loses some steam when it gets a bit too big and loud.

In a way you can say that the big noise action being distracting is the point, if you want to get all meta about what’s at the middle of motivation for the villains.

The real world themes are played with humour, but do well to accurately capture and comment on modern society from how the news cycle is handled/vetted to people risking their lives so they have the best viral Instagram video. Playing a very modern perception vs reality debate and how people believe what they want these days is pretty fun without getting too preachy, though if you’re the kind of person who might get mad at this then maybe you’re the kind of person who needs a bit of introspection as to why that is.

The realization of Mysterio as a character is excellent and so is the execution of his abilities. Whoever it was that concepted and coordinated this needs to be involved in any future Doctor Strange movies. The personal action scenes with him are full of thrill and wonder and suspense all at once.

The action does grow and get big and loud, but it sticks to what is within his character. There isn’t some random turn where he decides to shoot a blue laser into the sky or unleash a gas to turn people into obedient creatures.

I really appreciate that they’ve kept Spider-Man villains to what non-symbiote Spider-Man villains mostly are: dudes or ladies who want to rob banks or steal technology to become rich and villainously famous. Captain America fights the dudes who want world domination. Thor stops aliens who want to destroy planets. Spider-Man tries to keep the neighbourhood friendly.

The cast is great. I’ve gone on enough about Tom Holland, but Zendaya and Jacob Batalon nail it. They’re the two characters closest to Peter and help represent two of the three ways he’s pulled, with Nick Fury representing the third way.

Zendaya is a treat as MJ. Her chemistry with Peter is wicked and the twist on her being a bit of a “darker” take on MJ’s personality is refreshing. Hopefully we get that red hair soon. Batalon as Ned is lit. Dude’s such a full on shlub with a heart of gold.

John Favreau and Marisa Tomei are great as well. Watching them awkwardly adult flirt is a great foil to Peter and how he navigates his relationship with MJ. The smaller roles of the other students and teachers are well done too. They all feel like people despite being relatively one-note.

Jake Gyllenhaal has a blast playing Quintin Beck aka Mysterio and it radiates through. You can always tell when an actor is on board and all in with what they’re doing and it makes things that much better. He’s chewing it up, being a little hammy, but is able to pull that serious side out. I get a warm feeling when memed actors pull their careers back around and whip ass.

There’s so much potential with this Spider-Man and the stories they’ve crafted around him. There could be a full on Spider-Family movie at some point. Marvel is able to keep pulling off live action versions of things I thought could never exist beyond a cartoon as a kid. This movie is a great ride.

The mid-credits scene is an absolute thriller and makes sure that you want more Spider-Man even after you’ve just sat through his 5th appearance in 4 years. That’s quite something when the exposure has reached the levels it has.

Unfortunately, there may not be a MCU Spider-Man much longer (LINK). So enjoy this while you can before the guy who thought Deadpool was a bad idea gets his hands on another beloved property.

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The Lion King: Its The Lion King ft. Real* Lions

I love The Lion King. It is my favourite Disney animated movie. It’s a masterpiece and I’ll fight anyone who wants to talk trash about it. There’s so much art and craft in it that I’m willing to bet often gets dismissed because its an 88-minute long hand drawn Disney flick. It is an amazing story with memorable characters, excellent direction, animation and cinematography, beautiful visuals. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it (unless you want to discuss the problems of a monarchy, arranged weddings,  a ruling class that literally eats its servants and stuff but please just shhh and let me enjoy what I like).

The biggest fear when remaking something so damn good is screwing it up. Bright side: They didn’t screw it up. Down side: I don’t think this one is better.

It was a bit of a difficult time titling this review. I didn’t want to say it was bad. I can’t really say it’s better. It is prettier, but it’s less imaginative as a result. It pretty much just is The Lion King remade with real* lions.

I can’t say for sure if that’s been the case in previous iterations of the Disney live action remakes. I’ve actually seen remarkably few animated Disney classics and even less of the modern live action remakes in recent years.

For reference:

  • The Jungle Book: saw live action, never the animated version
  • Beauty and the Beast: never the animated, lasted about 20 minutes into the Emma Watson version
  • Dumbo: didn’t see either
  • Aladdin: see above

The biggest change is that this movie traded the fantasy elements of the original for realism in the portrayals, as if this could actually be happening or did happen over in Africa.

For every amazing visual of the landscape or close up on the animals or amazing tracking shots of the lions running that look straight out of a documentary, you lose some whimsy and fantasy that came with the musical numbers or interpretations of certain conversations. I was really hoping to see what director John Favreau and cinematographer Caleb Deschanel would come up with for those more fantastical scenes, but they kept it “realistic” throughout the film. It isn’t a bad choice, just a slight bummer.

One thing you really miss with the realistic animals is elements of character design. Scar in the animated is very wiry and thin; his claws are always out, vibrant green eyes, black mane and he almost has an “evil beard” in his mane.

Same goes Mufasa. In the original, while a lion, he’s shaped like a body builder and has a silhouette as if Superman was there. Big shoulders, chest out, glorious mane and a broad face similar to the square jaw you’d see on Batman or Captain America in a cartoon. Simba looks like a young boy animorphed into a lion. Same with Nala and Sarabi. They look feminine through their eyes and slight difference in head shape far more than the “real” lions in the movie. Timon doesn’t quite seem like the used car salesman as his mannerisms aren’t the same now that he’s an accurate meerkat.

It’s those elements of personification that allow for just that extra bit of connection and storytelling to the characters and thus the story. You might not have noticed those things, but your brain did.  Simba looking like a boy makes you feel like he’s you as a kid or your son. The look of Mufasa really gives him the look of a protector and king. That little bit of a human look to the animals makes their actions and voice work feel more personal.

While that is lost, the look is still a treat as the designs are now more subtle. The photorealistc animals are great to look at and tell their story in a more subtle way. There is more emphasis on colour palette and using natural proportions to their physical best. The animals are adorable and imposing. Child Simba moving around on his little legs helps make him feel like he’s just that much more of a child.

The story is still excellent, and the few additional scenes and beats are improvements. The voice cast is great.

James Earl Jones is back as Mufasa and his performance is as strong as it was 25 years ago. Child Simba and Nala are great. Timon, Pumba, Zazu, and the Hyena’s are great. It’s a coin flip on who does a better job. I prefer Donald Glover’s adult Simba to Mathew Broderick’s. Beyonce isn’t quite as good as Nala as Moira Kelly.

The biggest change comes in the form of Scar. In the original, voiced by Jeremy Irons, the character is more of a conniving trickster and betrayer. A character not unlike Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. He’s more cheeky and campy. He desires the throne and wants to scheme his way to the top. Every word was dripping in contempt for Simba and Mufasa.

While both are characters who have been passed over for not being “good” enough, Chiwetel Ejiofor’s is more terrifying. He really comes across as if he’s brooded on the shortcomings that have kept him from the throne far more than Irons’. You don’t really sympathize with him, possibly empathize as he’s less cartoonishly evil, but you get a bit more of a feel for how a life of being #2 when he believes he should be #1 has poisoned him.

Ejiofor is more menacing as Scar. He’s angry and hate-filled. There is a lot more raw power to his voice that comes across as hatred. He’s a far more evil character, and that makes the stakes feel higher in the darker moments of the film as he seems like a bigger threat. He truly covets power and seems as if his hunger will never be sated. You get more of a feeling that he has planned and made contingencies to protect him akin to James Spader’s Raymond Reddington. There’s more of an imposing danger to the modern version.

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The movie doesn’t transform the source material, but I don’t know why you would want it to. The Lion King is a perfect movie. Call me a fool for supporting the laziness of Big Hollywood, but a visually refreshed version of this is all I wanted. It’s what I got. It’s what you’ll get.

I expect at some point, maybe 10 years from now, where this version is the definitive The Lion King for a whole new generation and that people will judge it more on its own merits. I just hope that this one doesn’t come to replace the 1994 version and a masterpiece is lost.

One question I’m left with though: why are the gazelles and giraffes and all them showing up at the baby shower? If my boss also ate me to stay alive there isn’t a chance in hell I’m showing up to watch him parade around his kid who will grow to be my boss by birthright and possibly eat me. Maybe I’m taking it all a bit literally.

Yesterday: Music, Love and Happiness

Yesterday is a really nice movie. It is nice to mix in a light, cheeky film amongst the serious dramas, R rated films and big ass action movies. There will always be a place for lighthearted fun and it will always be a bonus when it comes as an enjoyable celebration of music, happiness and love.

The premise is a great one, and your fulfillment on the execution will vary. I can see how someone would be underwhelmed by it. It doesn’t dive too deep into the butterfly effect of what would happen, hypothetically, if The Beatles never existed and how that would play out in a larger pop culture sense. It isn’t like without The Beatles that hair metal, grunge and nu-metal never existed. Jack isn’t going to be dying under the weight of guilt for plagiarizing these songs to the point he ends the film dying of a heroin overdose in a motel bathtub. It’s just a world without The Beatles. Maybe they got erased by Thanos. Who knows?

It’s a light fun rom-com that is funny and touching, so your execution of the premise is going to be in alignment with that or you get left with a mess tonally.

That isn’t to say the movie is empty calories. They do well on the premise. They take it seriously without it being too serious and having the whole movie be cotton candy and rainbows.

A nice directorial style gives it some extra flavour. Definitely some of those kinds of scenes where you can tell Danny Boyle meticulously planned from the second he thought of it to getting it to execution and to the edit. Its nice to see directors be able to flex their creativity with style and meaning. Its important to the art of directing to get those flexes. A nice eye-gasm.

The movie delivers on a few nice alternate universe shenanigans. If The Beatles are gone, then what else is missing? Did Pokemon ever exist? Did The Rock stick in the CFL and never become a pro wrestling icon and mega movie star? Did politicians find some morality? Makes you wonder what else is missing.

The story is basic but that isn’t a problem. I can’t emphasize this enough. It’s a benefit in my eyes. It’s a feel good movie. It doesn’t do anything dumb. It’s a bit silly, and it’s meant to be. It’s a rom-com, but it doesn’t make you want to gag. It tells a simple story but an effective one that has a lesson to it. When a simple message is told effectively it is nevertheless uplifting anyway.

Without the cast however, this movie probably would come up short. The cast is great and you find yourself engaged by their chemistry. When characters work so well together and give such strong performances it raises the material. Himesh Patel is excellent as the lead, Jack, and his chemistry with Lily James as Ellie is so charming that it feels real.

It was also nice to see someone of a different race and “normal looking” in the lead. He does a great job being a schlub and you’re rooting for him. Just adds a bit of spice to the story so it isn’t just another “white guy with an acoustic guitar wants to get famous” thing as everyone I think knows that guy and wants to vomit when they think of him.

Himesh Patel is also actually singing the songs. He’s actually the one playing the guitar. And he’s actually the one playing piano. No trickery involved. Give the man a standing ovation.

The supporting cast does their job well. Joel Fry is a fun burnout friend, Jack’s other friends feel like real people, and his parents are cute and hilarious. Ed Sheeran isn’t obnoxious as celebrities playing themselves can often be.

The comedy in the movie is great and feels a lot like how friends rib each other. Jokes are best in these situations when they feel like the real kind of barbs you toss between friends. While some of the satire is clearly satire, at the same time it also clearly isn’t satire. Or at the least, probably not quite as satirical as someone more naïve to the corporate workings of the entertainment industry would believe.

Kate McKinnon is probably the most “unrealistic” character in the film and comes across as if a parody cranked up to 11. But I wouldn’t be surprised if she isn’t as much a parody as she seems. The corporate management and marketing side of the music industry is pretty ruthless and gross. Underneath all the humour paint is undoubtedly how every musician feels they are valued and treated by the suits and ties up in the board room.

The movie itself is pretty much the perfect length as well. It is paced well so it doesn’t drag. Good music in a film makes things good too, and none of the songs last too long. The pops of music always do a good job to pick you up, and when at the climax it gives it and goes. Boom done, here’s your 2 minute epilogue. Bravo.

More movies need to learn the lessons of brevity.

Its so weird how everyone can acknowledge how great the songs of The Beatles are, but for most people you can fall off and forget about them without something to jog your memory and stick them back in.

Yesterday is a charming movie. It isn’t an all-time classic, but not everything has to be. That’s something nice about films like this and Stuber. They’re great ways to spend a down evening that don’t require much/any knowledge prior, keep you engaged through their story, and then leave you in a good place to have some fun conversations about the film. That’s fun.

Samurai Cop: Glorious Mess From Start to Finish

I don’t know where to begin, and I feel that’s incredibly appropriate when you’re talking about a movie as notorious as Samurai Cop. This is one of the worst movies ever made. It’s terrible. It is so bad. And it goes so far below a zero it falls of the scale. But then it somehow comes around to be a ten.

Bad knock-off movies of popular movies were popular as all heck in the heyday of VHS during the 80s and 90s. Heck, the concept is still popular today if you fall down the right hole on your Netflix subscription.

But simply being a Lethal Weapon knock off isn’t what makes Samurai Cop. It’s the sheer incompetence behind it at every level: editing, filming, directing, acting, writing, lighting. You name it, it’s done poorly.

The director has done decent bad movies before, but this is a new level. You watch a film of his like Killing American Style and you’re just left like “well, that was bad and dumb. kinda funny. kinda uncomfortable.” but it doesn’t stick with you.

When you watch Samurai Cop, it hits and sticks with you like The Room. What is going on? Why did that happen? Who is that? Where are they? When is this? How does that work?

I’m not even sure there was a final edit of the film. Actually, I’m positive there isn’t. It seems like they had a work edit and did what they could for a day to finish the film with no proper post production. Just ship it, make what you can make off it and move on like it never happened.

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The wig. Wow. So the director told Samurai Cop, Matt Hannon, he was done filming. Everything is wrapped. Samurai Cop goes and cuts his hair. Director calls him to the studio, Samurai Cop thinks this is to get his reel that he can drop off for casting elsewhere. Nope. The director still needs to shoot a some scenes. He freaks out and they drive down to a prop shop and buy a woman’s wig hoping it can pass as Samurai Cop’s glorious hair. The director says it’ll be okay.

“Don’t worry. It’s only from far away. No one will notice”

Except it was like half the movie. The wig comes off multiple times. It doesn’t look like real hair. It has volume and curls. Heck, the first scene of our titular Samurai Cop is in his hilarious wig.

There is just so much that doesn’t make sense. It almost feels like an alien algorithm watched every action cop movie from the 80’s and early 90’s and spat out a film.

 

The horny nurse. I don’t know what to say. This scene does nothing. There’s no narrative point to this scene. But it’s in the movie. And it’s great.

The mistakes and weird nonsense is endless:

  • The lion. What is that?
  • The FFWx2 Speed action scenes. The cast were all using their own cars and doing their own stunts and fight choreography. None of them were trained stunt drivers or fighters. So they just slap the x2 speed on the action so that it becomes exciting.
  • Half the dudes get shot without squibs so they just do a little Ants In Their Pants dance.
  • Beardy Chin man somehow survives a broken neck to commit sudoku. Sepultura. Whatever!
  • You can see the film crew in the reflection of surfaces in the movie. There are shadows of the boom mic.
  • There are no establishing shots. Not for scenes, and barely even for characters.

Editing is a mess. There are edit’s that follow no continuity. People are holding a black glock in one scene and then a silver revolver in others. Clothing appears and disappears in the same scene. There is some of the most “we can edit around it” action as well, but they didn’t have enough footage to edit around the mistakes in the action!

They couldn’t afford proper lighting rigs so they only shot during the day which is why the shots never line up. The colour temperature loses alignment inside the same scene. There is awful ADR that doesn’t sync up with the lips during dialogue scenes. The director does the “UGH!” and “ARGH!” voices of all the dying goons. All of them.

It is almost The Room-like in it’s nonsense. Plot lines are brought up and dropped. Characters have moments that aren’t set up. Characters just disappear. The same extras are killed multiple times.

It is 55% of a “competent” movie. One that could have been just long and forgotten in the VHS mass production boom and never seen again. But the 45% left being as bad as it is makes this movie a classic.

And it rules. Find a copy. I’ll lend you mine. And watch this bad masterpiece.

The Room Tribute: A Great Tribute to Your Favourite Alien in Human Skin

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When you’re watching The Room, have you ever thought about what the rest of this world is like? A place where people walk in and out of Really Great Guy’s condo without knocking? A place where Tommy Wiseau Johnny is seemingly an incredible banker? How Johnny and Mark can subdue a violent drug dealer and enact a successful citizens arrest of a man with no evidence? Well, The Room Tribute does it’s absolute best to answer almost every single question.

It really tries to make the story more coherent and fill in the plot holes, back story and missing elements that led to the comedy of errors in the film. The game takes some of the “lore” of The Room from post popularity interviews and fan theories to just kick things up a notch. There is a lot of effort to answer a lot of the “Wait… why is ___?” or “Hold on a minute, what about ____?” questions the film leaves you with. Yet, it doesn’t make The Room any less fun as it captures the silly spirit of it all.

It probably won’t even take you a couple hours to play. It’s largely a pretty basic point and click game. I managed a thorough play-through in about 2 hours, give or take, and that was exploring everything fully, getting all the collectibles and side secrets. If you want to power through you can finish it in around half the time.

You play only as Tommy Johnny and you only experience things from Johnny’s perspective. You take Johnny to work at the bank, you shake Johnny’s ass in the shower, you have Johnny make sandwiches for his friends and have awkward interactions with store owners.

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Johnny is such a great guy.

The game opens with an earthquake that traps Johnny’s condo building and the surrounding three blocks in each direction off on their own island. Well, that explains why the world is so weird and small. They somehow managed to make sense of the layout in Johnny’s condo so that it seems like a real room and not just an Ikea demo set.

The sprite work is great. The digital sprites are all instantly recognizable. They capture the caricature of the characters well. Me UnderPants Mike is dopey looking. Denny has a pervy grin. Lisa somehow has resting bitch face in an 8-bit style game. Mark is all handsome. Tommy looks like the weird human alien we’ve all come to love. The environments all have an impressive amount of detail.

The gameplay and interaction is great. You’re given a bit of agency in the story which is really impressive when you consider you’re playing an incomprehensible film in a browser window. The game has a lot of interaction with the environment and characters. Different mini-games populate the story. From battle scenes to foot chases to sandwich making. There is a little achievement list put into the game to give you some extra incentive to explore all the areas, find all the spoons, read all the diaries, see all there is to see and talk to all the characters every chance you get.

The music and sound is great. There are a handful of themes that play throughout the game. The main piano riff is digitized. Denny has his own awkward song. The different gameplay elements all get their own songs whether it’s an original beat or a remix of the digitized piano riff.

Isn’t that the face of an All American Good Guy?

It’s great fun to read all the dialogue as it comes on screen and do your best impression of each character. Maybe that’s just me, but give it a try if you dare. When you see the exact dialogue from the game being put in front of you in script it makes it even more hilarious. Whether it’s from having to actively read the lines or just how many of them contain random collections of words.

  • “Rice, that was good.”
  • “You’re the sparkle in my life.”
  • “You don’t understand anything, man. Leave your stupid comments in your pocket!”
  • “The bank saves money and they are using me and I am the fool.”
  • Anyway, how is your sex life?”

When I was talking about the detail and passion by the creators, this comes through in the effort put into the mini games and the behind the scenes to make sense of this version of San Francisco.

The battle sequences are straight out of Pokemon. The foot race is like a basic Mario level. RAGE mode Johnny feels like you punched in IDDQD to get your godmode on. You even get to play the crappy game of catch they portray in the film when you chuck a football around.

Spoon collecting is rewarding as not only are they a bit tricky to see, but they’re all named with a chuckle in mind. They camouflage them well into the environment but if you look for a spoon shaped texture, like really look, most of them become relatively obvious. There is a secret ending to the game for your favourite human alien if you collect all the spoons so keep your eyes peeled.

Focusing solely on Johnny in game creates a much stronger narrative than the film. In the film, Tommy Johnny is a bit of a doormat, but once you focus only on Johnny’s scenes then it makes the twists and turns less obvious and more sympathetic.

The game is a great piece of work. It follows the movie beat by beat, note by note, word by word. The details are meticulously recreated. The plot and story of the game MAKES SENSE of The Room. That is not small feat. An exceptional amount of work went into this game and it really shows how much care there is amongst the fanbase of this film. You’re not going to get a better The Room experience on your own than this.

The Room Tribute is a game made by programmer Tom Phulp, artist Jeff Bandelin and composer Chris O’Neil. It is hosted and published by Newgrounds.com here.