Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

Director: Jon Watts

Cast: Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Jake Gyllenhaal, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders, Jon Favreau, J.B. Smoove, Jacob Batalon, Martin Starr, Marisa Tomei

Screenplay: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers

129 mins. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some language and brief suggestive content.

 

Well, Endgame is all done. We’ve culminated the MCU to our hearts’ content. There isn’t anything else to say, right? Oh, there’s another one already? Oh. Hey, everyone! Spider-Man is alive!

It’s been eight months since The Blip was reversed, and Peter Parker (Tom Holland, The Impossible, Pilgrimage) is still reeling from the death of his mentor and friend, Tony Stark. He’s been in the spotlight more and more since that time, scrutinized and studied, with reporters and people everywhere asking who will be the next Iron Man. Peter is more than happy to be leaving the country on a class trip to Europe for the summer, as it will give him a break from Spider-Man and allow him to have some more time with MJ (Zendaya, The Greatest Showman, Duck Duck Goose). Peter quickly discovers that he cannot escape his responsibilities as Spider-Man, though, when Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction, The Hitman’s Bodyguard) comes looking for him. Fury has a mission for him: to team up with Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler, Velvet Buzzsaw), a hero from another universe that was destroyed by the Elementals, which have now found their way to our Earth. Can Peter juggle his class trip with his duties as an Avenger?

Kevin Feige was right when he called Far From Home the finale of Phase 3. In a lot of ways, it ties up a lot of the threads hanging on from Endgame in its own interesting way. It’s a more lighthearted finale to Phase 3 while also forever changing the MCU going forward. As a coda to The Infinity Saga, it is a powerful one, and it is a more MCU-centric film than a straightforward Spider-Man adventure.

Tom Holland is amazing as ever, this being his fifth outing as the web-slinger. He truly is the best version of Peter Parker I’ve seen. He embodies all that teenage high-school Peter Parker should, and yet, he is wise in some ways beyond his years because of all the things he’s been through in his short time as Spider-Man.

Jake Gyllenhaal’s work as Mysterio didn’t completely work in the movie. There were times I liked what he was doing and times I really didn’t. I think it boils down to the way his character was written because it did jump around a bit. I liked the way Mysterio translated from the comics to the film but I would have liked to dive into his character a lot more. It would have made his arc all the more powerful.

Zendaya’s version of MJ is much more fleshed out this time around and it works really well for the film, especially with how the possible relationship elements with Peter play out. She isn’t weird and quirky for the sake of it but just she finds interest in some of the more morbid elements of history and society. It’s a nerves thing, and you could call it out if you want, but there’s enough subtlety to give her a fascinating arc.

What’s so great about the film is how each character, major and minor, seemingly gets an arc in the film. It’s not extremely fleshed out, but there’s a lot going on and many of the minor characters get some sort of growth throughout the film.

I will say this. There are two post-credits scenes in the film and you have to see both. The first one is very important to Spider-Man’s story (it just should have been the end of the film and not a post-credits scene), and the other is major in the overall MCU story. You cannot miss these scenes!

Spider-Man: Far From Home juggles a lot of elements, and it works pretty well in that way. It does feel like it is cleaning up a lot of plot threads instead of focusing on Peter as much as I would have liked, but it does a great job with the classic Peter-doesn’t-want-to-be-Spider-Man story that all of the second installment Spider-Man films have done. I would have liked a better written Mysterio and a little tighter focus on Peter and company, but overall, this was an exhilarating sendoff to Phase 3, one very worth seeing.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Joe Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger, click here.

For my review of Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck’s Captain Marvel, click here.

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, click here.

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2, click here.

For my review of Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk, click here.

For my review of Leythum’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer, click here.

For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, click here.

For my review of Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, click here.

For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Captain America: Civil War, click here.

For my review of Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, click here.

For my review of Jon Watts’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, click here.

For my review of Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok, click here.

For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Avengers: Infinity War, click here.

For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Avengers: Endgame, click here.

[Early Review] The Front Runner (2018)

Director: Jason Reitman

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Vera Farmiga, J.K. Simmons, Alfred Molina, Molly Ephraim, Kaitlyn Dever

Screenplay: Matt Bai, Jay Carson, Jason Reitman

113 mins. Rated R for language including some sexual references.

 

If you’re planning on making a political drama, ensure that it helps to shine a light on our current political system. The Front Runner does just that.

After a failed 1984 attempt at making the ballot, Gary Hart (Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables, The Greatest Showman) is making waves in 1988 as the front runner to the presidency. Everything seems to be falling perfectly in place for Hart, until reporters from The Miami Herald unveil an affair between Hart and a young woman who isn’t his wife. Now, Hart needs to save his political future without destroying his marriage to wife Lee (Vera Farmiga, The Departed, The Commuter). His campaign manager Bill Dixon (J.K. Simmons, Whiplash, Father Figures) truly believes that Hart is the savior our government needs, but he finds that he faces a mountain of problems in righting the ship for Hart, who struggles with the notion that his free time and life outside of the office is nobody’s business but his own.

There are several award-worthy performances in The Front Runner, most notably Jackman’s. It becomes difficult at times to even think of Jackman in the role. His work as Hart is so strong and well-built as he plays the flawed potential-President. His exchanges with Farmiga are incredible, and she is wonderful as Lee Hart, a wife who understands the toll of being married to one of the most talked about men in America. Her only ask? That he not embarrass her. She gets more than she bargained for. Lastly, J.K. Simmons is a revelation as Dixon, a man who knows the state of the game and is aware of it changing right in front of him.

The Front Runner has some gorgeous visuals and it convinced me that I was in 1988 experiencing all of this for the first time. Director Jason Reitman (Up in the Air, Tully) has such an incredible color palette on the screen for his audience, and it makes all the drama unfolding onscreen really POP.

The biggest flaws with the narrative is the bloated nature and some of the extra fat on the story. I didn’t need the subplot with Donna Rice and Irene Kelly (Molly Ephraim, Parked, TV’s Last Man Standing). It’s important information for its own story, but I didn’t feel like it mattered to Gary’s journey. There’s also a lot of time spent with Lee and daughter Andrea (Kaitlyn Dever, Detroit, TV’s Justified) at the house holed up hiding from reporters. Again, it doesn’t do much to Gary’s journey. Interesting though it may be, I was following Jackman’s character. Trim some of the excess from the film and it will streamline the pacing so much more.

The Front Runner is quite fascinating in the current political climate. If Hart had run today, would he have won? If he hadn’t been caught, how would the world be different? It raises a lot of questions, and director Reitman puts all the pieces in play and lets them dance around. Exactly what the statement he’s trying to make is somewhat muddled, but performances and visual flair can say quite a lot. The Front Runner will likely be snubbed for a lot of potential Oscar wins as the season goes on, but it’s worth your time when it opens on Election Day. Just make sure to vote first.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[#2018oscardeathrace] The Greatest Showman (2017)

Director: Michael Gracey

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, Michelle Williams, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya

Screenplay: Jenny Bicks, Bill Condon

105 mins. Rated PG for thematic elements including a brawl.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song) “This is Me” [Pending]

 

Musicals are getting a comeback recently thanks to La La Land. In 2017, the same lyricists contributed to The Greatest Showman, a musical biopic based on the life of P.T. Barnum. So can the film stand up to meet the music?

Phineas T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables, Logan) came from nothing. When his father died, he was forced into a life of stealing bread and selling old newspapers just to survive, but his hard work and determination to give his beloved Charity (Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea, All the Money in the World) the life she deserves brings him to the creation of P.T. Barnum’s Museum, a building of curiosities and unique people. When Barnum’s successes lead him further away from his family, he is forced to confront what is most important in his life.

Okay, so the music is incredible here. I could not stop tapping my foot all throughout the film, and I did actually enjoy myself. The best songs in the film are the opening number and, of course, “This is Me.”

The biggest problem with the movie is that the story hits familiar beats all too often. There is a lot in P.T. Barnum’s life to cover, but the screenplay focuses on some paint-by-numbers plot points like the way Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, The Snowman) influences the plot and the love story between Philip Carlyle (Zac Efron, High School Musical 3: Senior Year, The Disaster Artist) and Anne Wheeler (Zendaya, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Zapped).

Hugh Jackman is, thankfully, a tremendous force in the film. In prepping for his role as Barnum, he read over 30 books on the famous showman. His role is joyful, emotional, and full of life. The Greatest Showman has been a passion project for Jackman since 2009, and his passion shows through here.

I left the theater with a big damn grin after The Greatest Showman ended. Much like The Disaster Artist, the film is about the need to perform and create, and in that way, Jackman’s performance shines through. He and the rest of the cast give their all in their acting and singing, but the screenplay hits a few too many beats. That being said, this is still a lovely time, especially in the theater.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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[Early Review] All the Money in the World (2017)

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg, Romain Duris

Screenplay: David Scarpa

132 mins. Rated R for language, some violence, disturbing images and brief drug content.

 

I remember seeing the first trailer for All the Money in the World. It was laid out to surprise audiences with the shocking reveal that, under all the makeup, Kevin Spacey was poised for a tremendous turn as the deeply-flawed billionaire J. Paul Getty. I could already see the cogs turning in an attempt to snag a Best Supporting Actor trophy at the Academy Awards. Now, just a few short months later, the irony is not lost on me. But is the recast of Christopher Plummer (Beginners, Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom) worth it? And secondly, were the re-shoots seamless enough?

All the Money in the World sees John Paul Getty III kidnapped in Italy. His mother, Gail (Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine, The Greatest Showman), doesn’t have the ransom to free him. Her ex-husband’s father, J. Paul Getty, however, has more money than anyone ever has. Sadly, his greed keeps him from allowing any of it to be wasted in retrieving his kidnapped grandson. Instead, he asks Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg, The Departed, Daddy’s Home 2) to assist in saving the young man from his captors.

So by now we all know the story of the actor swap in All the Money in the World. This writer doesn’t have enough to go on with the Spacey performance, but what I can say is that Christopher Plummer is electric onscreen. Every scene with him oozes his greedy and selfish persona. The moments he shares with Williams are the best in the film. Unfortunately, those moments are few and far between.

The rest of the film feels like something that’s been done before. Something that was better before. I anticipated story beats long before they happened, and I didn’t even know much about this true life tale before seeing the film. Director Ridley Scott (The Martian, Alien: Covenant) creates a lovely aesthetic for the film, but overall there is just no tension until near the very end.

All the Money in the World isn’t a bad film, and I agree that in order for the film to be successful, the re-shoots were both necessary and ended up being the best parts of the film. Michelle Williams and Christopher Plummer are at the top of their game here. They alone are worth the price of admission, but sadly the rest of the film fails to match them, and it becomes all the more forgettable in the process.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

Have you seen All the Money in the World? What did you think? Was the recast the right choice? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

For my review of Ridley Scott’s The Martian, click here.

 

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