Far From Home Becomes First Spider-Man Film to Hit Billion-Dollar Club

Spider-Man: Far From Home is officially the first and only Spider-Man film to earn a billion dollars at the worldwide box office. This is a major achievement for Sony, as Spider-Man is really its biggest franchise, and it’s also further proof of the power of this cinematic friendship between Sony and Marvel.

If I’m correct, Far From Home marks the end of the Sony/Marvel deal that started a few years ago, and renegotiations are probably underway already or have been discussed. I’m guessing that once a deal is struck (and I would assume a deal will be struck after the successes of Far From Home and Avengers: Endgame), we will likely see a Spider-Man 3 in Phase 4. Sony will not want to sit on this, and it would make sense not to see anything of a third Spider-Man film mentioned at the Comic-Con panel until all the signatures are in place.

There’s a couple reasons this Spider-Man was finally the one to do it. First, the Tom Holland Spider-Man has been very popular, and Far From Home is his fifth appearance in the MCU, so we’ve been with him awhile. The reviews for Far From Home have been quite good, and are coming off a successful Homecoming and a Best Animated Feature Oscar for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, so the brand name is strong.

Then there’s the Avengers: Endgame hanging over it all. A film like Endgame left us wanting to know what comes next, and it was handled quite well in Far From Home.

So yes, here’s hoping that we will see more Spider-Man in the MCU after this major achievement. So what do you think? Have you seen Spider-Man: Far From Home? What did you think? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Early TV Review] The Hot Zone: Episodes 1 & 2 (2019)

Director: Michael Uppendahl

Cast: Julianna Margulies, Noah Emmerich, Liam Cunningham, Topher Grace, Paul James, Nick Searcy, Robert Wisdom, Robert Sean Leonard

Screenplay: James V. Hart, Brian Peterson, Kelly Soulders, Jeff Vintar

96 mins. Rated TV-14.

 

I had the pleasure of viewing a press screening for the premiere episodes of The Hot Zone, a new miniseries based on the book by Richard Preston. My wife loves the book and has read it a few times, but I knew very little about the story save that it was based on true events. Nevertheless, I was probably more excited because of how little I knew, and upon seeing the first two episodes, I really want to see the conclusion.

The year is 1989. The Ebola virus appears on U.S. soil, in close proximity to the White House, in a group of chimpanzees in a research lab. There is no known cure. Dr. Nancy Jaax (Julianna Margulies, The Upside, TV’s ER), a U.S. Army scientist, puts herself in danger in order to try and cut off the potential outbreak before it reaches the general population.

The first thing I can say about the episodes I watched is that they are generally not for the faint of heart. If you know anything about the viruses depicted in the show, then you know that there are a lot of nasty things happening to its victims. It’s not a joy to watch, but it looks incredibly real and detailed, and the mystery and danger around it is quite exciting.

For the most part, the acting works. It’s a good crew of principal performers, and Margulies does a capable job of believably keeping the focus on a threat, but there are time when she and Noah Emmerich (Super 8, Jane Got a Gun), who plays husband Jerry, feel like they missed the chemistry and, in doing so, the performances get a little wooden. It doesn’t happen a lot, but when it does, it kind of takes you out of the story.

Everyone else is mostly on par with things here, with specific attention thrown to Liam Cunningham (Hunger, TV’s Game of Thrones). Cunningham plays Wade Carter, former mentor to Nancy, who has secluded himself from this kind of work but now finds himself back in the game. Cunningham gives an intense and powerful turn as Carter, something not so surprising after his great performance in Game of Thrones.

Director Michael Uppendahl, known for his work on TV’s The Walking Dead, directs all six episodes in the miniseries, and his work in the first two is quite good. I was pretty enthralled and interested in seeing where it leads. It’s tough to see his follow-through on only a third of the work, but most of the audience at our screening was pretty captivated by his storytelling on display.

The screenplay is written with good pacing, but there are questionable choices made on the writing of Peter Jahrling’s character. Jahrling, played by Topher Grace (Spider-Man 3, Breakthrough), should be a smart man, and he is portrayed as a rather cocky man, but he does some stupid things out of fear, and I would need to find out if what happened in the miniseries with his character is completely truthful, but I feel like it was written in a way that didn’t make is arc completely believable in the series, and something should have been done to elevate it.

The Hot Zone has an engaging and exciting opening pair of episodes that should keep viewers enthralled to see its conclusion. It always feels like TV, but it’s pretty solid TV overall. The performances are mostly good most of the time, the standout being Cunningham as well as the always entertaining Nick Searcy (The Shape of Water, The Best of Enemies). It’s a gruesome story at times, but always for the sake of realism and never to extreme excess to shock the viewership. I’ll be looking forward to its conclusion. You should be looking forward, too.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Early Review] Breakthrough (2019)

or “Not a Great Remake of The Dead Zone”

Director: Roxann Dawson

Cast: Chrissy Metz, Josh Lucas, Topher Grace, Mike Colter, Marcel Ruiz, Dennis Haysbert, Sam Trammell

Screenplay: Grant Nieporte

116 mins. Rated PG for thematic content including peril.

 

Breakthrough holds the historical distinction of being the first 20th Century Fox film released under Disney’s ownership. Fun factoid for you.

Breakthrough is based on the true story of John Smith (Marcel Ruiz, TV’s One Day at a Time), a teenager who fell through the icy lake and was without oxygen for an extended period of time. After being brought to the hospital, he was pronounced dead. His mother, Joyce (Chrissy Metz, Sierra Burgess is a Loser, TV’s This is Us) prays to God to help bring back her son, and miraculously, her son’s heart starts beating again, but John is still fighting for his life, and as the community rallies around Joyce and her family, prayer and hope become a fighting force.

I have gotten a lot of flak for my reviews of faith-based films in the past. I go into every film hoping for it to be a winner and I tend to put myself in the mindset of the film, asking “What does this film intend to accomplish?” For horror films, it’s usually to scare the pants off the audience. For comedies, it’s often to brighten someone’s day. It’s important to know a film’s intention before going in. When I see a faith-based film, I expect to have something inspirational or uplifting or at least something that challenges my beliefs to strengthen them. Most of the time, I don’t get that, and a lot of the time, it’s because the film doesn’t pull me in.

Breakthrough is one of the stronger faith-based films in recent years. It didn’t feel, to me, like the first feature film for a director, but it is. Director Roxann Dawson, a veteran of television directing for many years, tackles the subject material rather nicely.

The film’s biggest blunders come from its screenplay from Grant Nieporte (Seven Pounds). The script has some of the cringiest dialogue of the year, but there’s such a well-rounded cast performing that it isn’t as noticeable as often. That being said, there’s only so much that can be done with Chrissy Metz’s dialogue. She often has to deliver some really cheesy work and it falls flat at times and pulls you right out of the film.

The screenplay’s structure works pretty well in that it establishes our emotional conflicts in the film early on and plays with the relationships of the various characters as they maneuver in and out of the film. I respected the fact that Joyce doesn’t get along well with the new Pastor in town, played by Topher Grace (Spider-Man 3, TV’s The Hot Zone). Their conflict is a little goofier than I would have liked, but I still see the attempt. I also liked that the story attempts to tackle the idea that some people are saved by faith while others are not. It doesn’t wholly accomplish this, but again, it’s an area these films tend not to tread.

Perhaps the area where the film struggles in its overall narrative is placing Joyce at the center. I was much more engaged with her husband Brian (Josh Lucas, Sweet Home Alabama, Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House) and his struggle to accept that his son is fighting for his life. I would have liked to see his journey to faith be reclaimed). I also liked Tommy (Mike Colter, Men in Black 3, Extinction), the firefighter who saves John because he hears a voice telling him to keep looking. His problem is that he thinks God was talking to him, but he doesn’t believe in God. Either of these characters would have been stronger to place the load of the film on because they both have journeys to go on. We never see Joyce truly struggle in a realistic way and that makes her less of a dynamic character who is believable. Her struggle is not identifiable.

Breakthrough is altogether not a great film, but as far as films of this type go, I think this one is worth catching if you need a pick-me-up. It’s rather glossy and the dialogue needed a miracle at times, but it also made me feel good at times and inspired me in little doses. Breakthrough is not for everyone, but it will satisfy its core audience.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

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Director: Marc Webb

Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Campbell Scott, Irrfan Khan, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Chris Zylka

Screenplay: James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, Steve Kloves

136 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence.

 

I feel like I should describe the film I’m about to review, but to streamline and simplify the process by just having you watch Spider-Man. This film is little more than a carbon copy, subbing one villain in for another and one love interest in for another. I should point out that this is mostly a well-made movie, but the pacing issues really drag it down given the fact that we had seen all of this before.

The Amazing Spider-Man tells the story of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield, The Social Network, Never Let Me Go), a loser but a smart one at that. The only thing he seems to want in life is Gwen Stacy (perfectly casted with Emma Stone, The Help, Birdman). That, and to discover the truth behind his parents’ death. Dr. Curt Conners (Rhys Ifans, Notting Hill, The Five-Year Engagement) is the man who may hold some truth, but he is a bit too preoccupied with becoming a monstrous half-man/half-lizard hybrid.

The Amazing Spider-Man

There is a lot of sameness to this film. Peter becomes Spider-Man. He fights the monster and tries to save those around him from certain doom. This plot is kind of boring for a regular superhero film at this point, but the fact that this is the second time it has been shown on film makes it all the more painful. If this first 90 minutes had been more brushed over, we could be enjoying ourselves a lot more, but this movie just drags. The subplot mystery surrounding Peter’s parents does help, but not enough.

I personally thought Andrew Garfield’s portrayal of Spidey was less likable than I would’ve hoped for. Now Emma Stone was pretty likable. She was some damn perfect casting, as with her father, played by Denis Leary (Two if by Sea, Draft Day).

Then you have Curt Connors, a character who was merely cameos in previous Spider-Man films, and here he is in all the glory. And he is friggin’ creepy as The Lizard. Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World) and Sally Field (Forrest Gump, Lincoln) are Uncle Ben and Aunt May, and give us solid performances given the unsolid scripting.

Now, from a cinematography standpoint, Marc Webb’s film has some very nice touches. The new costume for the masked hero is actually pretty nice looking. The ending was pretty awesome. I like that they are taking a page from Marvel to end on a note that not all is finished here. So the film does have some great moments, given that it is the same movie.

Now, I’m going to just state something. I hate comparing reboots and remakes to their predecessors. I don’t think it is fair as we have already had too much time to fall in love with the originals. It doesn’t offer up a fair fight, but then again, maybe that is the reason that we shouldn’t have remakes. It makes a good argument, but at the same time, I feel like some remakes are pretty damn perfect (John Carpenter’s The Thing and Peter Jackson’s King Kong to name a few). The problem with not comparing The Amazing Spider-Man to Spider-Man is that both films are so close in both exact plotting and timing that it is difficult not to. If you make a film right, it doesn’t have to be up for comparison. I never find myself comparing Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins to Tim Burton’s original Batman because both films have difficult tones and aim for different ideas.

So, when I come to a topic of comparison from a music perspective, I don’t want to compare the fun and upbeat feeling of Sam Raimi’s trilogy to the ominous toning of Marc Webb’s film. But I do, and the difference and preference keep me to the original.

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Now, this film was originally scripted as Spider-Man 4, and I don’t understand the reason to reboot. All the best parts of this film would’ve been made better by continuing the previous film. We already introduced Gwen Stacy in Spider-Man 3, so even planting Emma Stone in would’ve done fine enough. Curt Conners was already a character, so his introduction would’ve reduced the strained runtime. The mysetery around Peter’s parents would’ve injected some serious intrigue into the series. Even the open-ended finale would’ve translated perfectly. It just felt like a monetary decision (and it was) to push the reboot button, and we can tell.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

What did you think of The Amazing Spider-Man? Did this tale need retelling or where you experiencing deja vu?

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