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Movie Review: Spider-Man - Homecoming


"Spider-Man, Spider-Man, Spider-Man..." no, this isn't the theme tune. It's how you'd sound counting the number of Spider-Man franchises over the last 15 years. While this superhero has had as many actors don the web-tangled red-and-blue as there have been Hulks in as many years, it's starting to get ridiculous. No one ever thought they'd see Garfield and Spider-Man in the same movie, let alone the same sentence, and yet it happened with The Amazing Spider-Man. Andrew Garfield is a terrific actor and did a great job, picking up from where Tobey Maguire and Sam Raimi left off, teaming up with Marc Webb (yes, Webb) to reboot a franchise that self-imploded in the sandblasted Spider-Man 3.

While The Amazing Spider-Man was actually fresh, it also struggled with an "electrifying" sequel that tried to capture the Twilight audience at the behest of its fan boy populace. As peppy as Emma Stone was, the sequel was overcooked like Spider-Man 3 and left audiences bewildered. If you want a superhero movie done right, leave it to Marvel, which is probably why they swooped in like a valkyrie to pick up the troubled franchise for yet another reboot. To get things started, Spidey was introduced in Captain America: Civil War, giving Tom Holland a chance to dip his toe in the superhero hot tub. The cameo was most welcome, injecting the Marvel machismo with a bit of goofy youth and cuing the tone of Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Homecoming was also a big clue. Much like Edgar Wright re-imagined the heist caper as a superhero movie with Ant-Man, we're dealing with a high school comedy romance retooled as a superhero flick with Spidey. In an age where superhero movies are spawning quicker than well... spawn, filmmakers are trying to keep things zippy and fresh. This can be said for Spider-Man: Homecoming, which is enthralling and full of zest thanks to its youthful energy and playful tone.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

"I wear this mask because... you know, stranger danger!"

Tom Holland is an unassumingly likable go-getter, who will inevitably play Bond when he comes of age. His British-ness makes him a bit more reserved than the recent spate of superheroes and this works magically for the awkward teen comedy. Homecoming is reminiscent of films like Superbad in terms of offbeat comedy and great chemistry between Peter and his best friend, Ned. While the language and dick jokes are thankfully retired, Holland and Batalon have got a super vibe that borrows a bit of The Big Bang Theory's charm to spice up their underdog bromance and girlfriend troubles.

The clumsy teen comedy and full-tilt action fit together quite masterfully as director Jon Watts steers a screenplay with six writing credits. While the action sequences are fresh and well-choreographed, the real strength of Spider-Man: Homecoming is in the characters. Sporting an ensemble including: Michael Keaton, Marisa Tomei, Robert Downey Jr., Jon Favreau, Gwyneth Paltrow and Zendaya, they've brought some strong acting talent to support Holland. Michael Keaton gets a chance to expel some of that Birdman energy, Robert Downey Jr. is enjoyable albeit purposefully awkward in a father role, Jon Favreau is funny as Happy, the dog's body, Zendaya is a blast as a quirky high schooler and it would have been good to see more of Marisa Tomei and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Every actor pulls their weight and shares the screen like a team, maintaining the dramatic integrity of each scene whilst keeping the audience invested in Peter's coming-of-age journey. Watts maintains visual integrity too, seamlessly integrating some thrilling stunts and visual effects into the action. The mentor/father figure relationship between Peter and Tony is a bit awkward, even if purposefully so, and there are question marks hanging over Stark's domination of the Marvel universe. Then, there are one or two crucial moments that don't make complete sense, but these are little hiccups in the big picture.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is an all-rounder: packing a punch, activating a belly laugh, jam-packing surprises while keeping us in suspense. The characters are delightful, lovable and easy to get behind thanks to full performances. The visual effects are ever-present and yet ever-invisible, while the film-makers keep things upbeat, fun, well-balanced and entertaining. Spider-Man: Homecoming is a blast and for the most part, manages to duck under falling debris. It may not be the best Spider-Man, but it's right up there with the best of them!

 
Neill Blomkamp's Changing the Game with Oats Studios


Neill Blomkamp is the director who brought us District 9, Elysium and Chappie. After racking up a strong collection of sci-fi films, he's decided to take his film talent to new levels of creativity, passion and independence with Oats Studios, a film collective that is creating short films that give Blomkamp a chance to extrapolate his ideas by fleshing them out. By releasing short films, he's getting a chance to garner feedback and financial support from fans around the world.

The broader idea is that these shorts will eventually become films or TV series, making Oats Studios a fan-funded idea incubator in action. So far, he's released Rakka Vol. 1, Firebase Vol. 1 and Zygote Vol. 1, which you can watch below. Rakka takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where an alien race is using mind control to suppress the surviving human race and Firebase is set in 1970s Vietnam as strange forces create havoc among the stationed troops. Zygote echoes the frozen facility horror of The Thing with spine-chilling style. Be warned, viewer discretion is advised as these films are graphic and not for sensitive viewers.

 
Talking Movies with Spling - The Promise, Their Finest and Collide


Spling reviews The Promise, Their Finest and Collide as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Catch Talking Movies on Fridays at 8:20am and Saturdays at 8:15am every week on Fine Music Radio.

 
Movie Review: The Promise


The Promise is a film by Terry George, the same writer-director who brought us the terrifying vision of genocide in Africa, Hotel Rwanda. He's covering an epic romance drama in the same sweeping fashion as David Lean's Doctor Zhivago set against the last days of the Ottoman Empire. The Promise hinges on a love triangle between Mikael, a gifted apothecary turned medical student, Ana, a budding artist and her partner, Chris, an American journalist. While the windswept romance remains centre stage, George keeps the Armenian genocide as the backdrop, encountering some similar issues to Sean Penn's well-meaning yet fundamentally-flawed, The Last Face.

We're whisked from a small town to the ornate churches and architecture of Constantinople, Turkey, where our young Mikael enrolls at a medical academy in 1914. Being betrothed to a woman from his community, things become more complicated when he's introduced to the beautiful Ana and her stoic partner, Chris. The wartime situation aggravates matters of the heart as Mikael, Ana and Chris are subject to the chaos of hostile powers, intercepted by soldiers and fall in the path of an ever-encroaching army.

Oscar Isaac is a fine actor, who demonstrates his versatility in The Promise, managing to keep the thread of the film almost based on his performance alone. Charlotte Le Bon is given a chance to stretch her wings in a role that could've been based on Princess Diana, while Christian Bale delves into another serious role that recalls his performances in films like The Flowers of War and Empire of the Sun. The Flowers of War serves as a reasonable litmus test to decide whether you should see The Promise, since both films have a similar balance of drama, war, ethical, melodrama and symbolic power.

The Promise

"It's safe as houses, not safe as horses..."

Part history, part drama, The Promise plays out like a sprawling Biblical epic with a soaring score to match the vivid visuals. Journeying through parts of Armenia on donkey, gathering with crowds and weaving between churches and pastors, there's a spiritual dimension to the film as the story of Moses reverberates. While the Biblical element is mostly experienced in the scope of The Promise, rather than the dialogue, the sheer weight of the drama threatens its foundations. The net result is an unwieldy multi-genre film that moves from sweeping romance to dusty survival to harrowing historical war film. These transitions make the continual evolution entertaining, yet keep one on the periphery.

The central concept could have used more gravity and time in setting the scene and loses some power into the third act. Much like Australia, the quality of the ingredients make some moments heartbreaking and powerful, yet the overall impression is a bit shaky as they reinvent the film halfway in. Then, while the intentions are noble, it's difficult to side with the lead whose dubious and shadowy decision-making alienates despite Isaac's inviting performance. George tries to elevate the love triangle but this jars with the overpowering history of the environment, making it seem at odds.

While it has its struggles, George delivers some beautifully understated scenes and mines some heartbreaking and powerful moments. The talented trio give their all, despite the off-key casting of Christian Bale... and make it easier to simply accept the overarching story and plight of the characters. It's pleasing to see that sprawling epics like The Promise are still being made and while it lacks storytelling focus, the finesse of the visuals, score, history and performances make it admirable and important.

The bottom line: Evocative


 
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