SpiderMan Far From Home Review

I’m Back and so is Marvel, just a few short months after they released the mammoth that was Avengers: Endgame we have the return of Spiderman. Fresh from his exploits there, he is back and desperate to go on a school trip and have a break from the superhero life for his summer vacation with his school friends. What could possibly go wrong?

Well it turns out that quite a lot could go awry for Tony Stark’s protege, and indeed it does. The events that we see are hard to go into without spoilers, but I found the movie compelling throughout the whole run time, although there is a clear point in the film where things kick up a gear. This film is half about Peter Parker, half about Spiderman, but instead of feeling disjointed, i felt it really worked well showing the two sides of Peters life that he struggles to balance in every incarnation of the character.

I will start with the obvious for a Marvel flick now, the action. They nail it again, and even though the earlier fights feel a bit odd and Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio is given a number of cooler moments than Spidey. I didn’t mind too much, as I enjoyed everything about Mysterio in this film (more on that in a sec), but I did feel Spiderman felt a little under-powered. It is explained through the film why he might seem that way, but I wanted more from the early scenes.

In the latter part of the film the action picks up and goes to another level. Peaking at the end of the second act. I have loved these two characters, Spiderman and Mysterio, for a long time, and seeing them playing out the scene they do genuinely had my jaw dropped in disbelief. The film sets everything up in such a way that everything that happens feels feasible, something I never thought I would say about Mysterio. He has always been the one Spiderman villain i couldn’t see how they would ever get him into a movie. But my god did they nail it.

The look and the skill set of Mysterio is one thing, but getting an actor as talented as Jake Gyllenhaal to portray Quentin Beck is a masterstroke. The character’s arc is surprising, and I loved the way the film played him. It was a departure from what I expected in many ways, whilst also being exactly what I wanted. I will say no more as I can only imagine how fun this film is if you have no idea what to expect from Mysterio.

Now that the action and spectacular stuff has been talked about, I can get into the real shining light in this film. Tom Holland is unequivocally the greatest Peter Parker we have ever had on the silver screen, but a big part of that is the chemistry he shares with his supporting cast. Jacob Batalon as Ned, Zendaya as MJ, Tony Revolori as Flash all return from Homecoming, with a few new members of the group, most notably Angourie Rice as Betty Brant. They all really sell the idea of them being a group of friends, and provide some amazing comedic moments alongside their teacher Mr.Harrington played by Martin Starr.

The stars though are Tom Holland and Zendaya, who share chemistry that neither of their characters know quite how to deal with. This leads to some really genuine feeling moments of awkwardness that we can all relate to when we think back on our teenage years. I really hope as the franchise continues we see these characters grow together and deliver on the potential they have to replace, and arguably outshine, Tony Stark and Pepper Potts as the power couple of the MCU.

Those two are absent from the movie, but playing a key role is Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan. He was there, acting and directing at the start of the Marvel Universe in Phase 1, and here he is at the end of phase 3. How they managed to film his parts in this film whilst he is also busy directing the Lion King, which comes out in two weeks time is an absolute marvel in scheduling. He was a distant contact for Peter in Homecoming, but now he has stepped up to be much more of a caring Uncle to peter, perhaps too caring in some ways. He and Peter share a scene which should have felt like a cheesy, too obvious wink at the camera, but the pair act the hell out of the scene and it earns it place as one of my favourite quiet moments in the entire MCU.

So there we have it, every MCU film we know of has now been released, and for the first time ever, we don’t know what lies ahead. The 2 after credits scenes hint at some things, but nothing obvious. Spiderman Far From Home feels like Marvel showboating. Showing off their Cinematic Universe with a wink and a nod, whilst also giving us a really fun teen comedy and delivering some of the most memorable moments we have had so far. Marvel is a movie machine, and Far From Home is another great film to add to the list.

Good: Spiderman, Peter Parker, Chemistry with the entire cast, an astounding action sequence, and two great after credits scenes.

Bad: Well at this point if the MCU isn’t for you, steer well clear. Also you will need to do your homework and see Endgame and probably Captain Marvel to understand everything in this film. Although you don’t have to see Endgame 5 times over like I did.

9/10 – Mysterio is in this film. Go see it.

Velvet Buzzsaw Review

Last week I watched Nightcrawler, the first time director Dan Gilroy and star Jake Gyllenhaal combined, and I really enjoyed it. It gave me a lot of hope for Velvet Buzzsaw which is their second time teaming up. Could it live up to the excellent Nightcrawler?

I went into Velvet Buzzsaw knowing very little about the film. I knew it was a satire of the art world, and that something odd goes on, but beyond that I had no idea. The film starts out towards being a satire on the art world and the pretentious nature of some of the people the world contains. I have met some people in the art world who I could see in parts of the characters in this film.

Those characters are all played by some really talented actors, led by the enigmatic Gyllenhaal. Rene Russo, Zawe Ashton (from Fresh Meat), Toni Collette and Natalia Dyer (Stranger Things) are all really solid. I am happy for Ashton and Dyer as they both have shown some talent before, and this feels like a good next step for them. John Malkovich is John Malkovich, and he’s always entertaining but does seem a bit underused in a film I think he was perfect for.

These solid performers inhabiting quite interest characters sets up a thoroughly intriguing film. For the first half I was very in, and was interested in seeing where the plot went. What happens from around halfway into the movie I have to say really did not work for me. The attempt at satirising the culture of the art world is nearly brilliant, but the script largely disregards this and steadily falls into an odd, nonsensical slasher film. It’s not a spoiler, but the final third of this film is basically a horror movie with no real explanation to what is happening. Things just go wrong, people die, and the way everyone dies is just put down to “It’s a curse”.

I did think the film was going to reveal something in the third act that would have really been an interesting twist and I think this needed that kind of momentum shift towards the end. Things ramp up in a way, but for me it’s all just gore porn and the characters introduced in the first act melt away and become generic victims. This really detracted from the movie for me.

I was a big fan of director/writer Dan Gilroy’s work in Nightcrawler, and whilst the direction in this film is really good, the script starts so high, and deteriorates into a generic horror film. Fans of that genre may find it works well, but as excellently shot and executed as the death scenes are, they just aren’t what I look for in a film. They aren’t predictable deaths, as in the way people go out is very different. One in particular, the “Paint” death is probably the best way to describe it, is very artistic and really beautiful to look at from a cinematic standpoint.

The way the films shot is truly great, and the cinematography, particularly a couple of the landscape shots at night, are up there with the hyperspace crash scene from Star Wars in that they are like pieces of art on their own. However, the fact that my favourite part of the 2nd and 3rd acts is a couple of landscape shots really shows my level of enjoyment for this film.

Velvet Buzzsaw flirts with being a really engaging, intelligent film, then wastes its solid start on an unexplained phenomenon that takes over. I really hope slasher fans find this film entertaining, as I really struggled to past about the 60 minute mark.

Good: Excellent cinematography,  solid performances and next steps for some young actresses, Gyllenhaal does his best.

Bad: Satire morphing into slasher could be done very well, it isn’t here, and it ruined the film for me.

4/10 – Promising start wasted.

 

Nightcrawler (2014) Review

Nightcrawler was a film I missed back in 2014, despite it looking like a film I would really enjoy. Jake Gyllenhaal received heaps of praise for his role as Lou Bloom, but no Oscar nomination which many saw as a snub. Would his performance live up to my expectations?

The short answer to that question is Yes. What’s more, he was definitely snubbed an Oscar nomination. In a year when Christian Bale received one for American Hustle, I think Gyllenhaal more than deserved a place on the list of five for that year. He disappears into the character of Lou Bloom and the intensity he brings draws you into the film.

The character himself is unneringly creepy and yet somehow you’re complete with him on the journey. You don’t quite route for him on the level of Joe from Netflix series You, but it’s a similar feeling of cheering for a bad guy at times. Lou is very clearly, from the first moments of the film, a bad guy. He’s out for personal gain, and that’s it. He’s close to being comic booky in his motivation being so self-centred and his lack of empathy towards others is shocking. Gyllenhaal plays him so well, that what seems like vulnerable moments you realise are calculated moves to manipulate people.

His employee for the duration of the film is played by Riz Ahmed, who shows more talent in this performance than I have seen from him on any other film. He’s not given a very well.developed character, but he is entertaining and makes the most of playing off Gyllenhaal’s performance. I think the sidekick role suits his mannerisms and he’s much more at home here than he was in Venom.

First time director Dan Gilroy begins his directorial career with a brilliant effort. He gets the best out of Jake Gyllenhaal, and one of the main parts of a directors job is pulling the best from his cast. His direction combined with some good editing make this feel like a well put together film made by a seasoned pro, not a first time effort. He also directs Gyllenhaal in Netflix’s Velvet Buzzsaw, which is next on my queue to watch so I hope he’s continued his solid start.

The films story is kind of paper-thin in a way, it’s all about Lou Bloom, and that’s the crux of the entire film. As such there’s no real story to be engaged with, just the question of what the manical character is going to do next. This kind of took away from the film for me, as there is no plot to keep you engaged. It’s as good a film could be without a decent plot though, with the performances really coming through to make this a very enjoyable film.

Nightcrawler is a film I think a lot of people will enjoy. It’s got one of the best acting shows of the decade for me, and that alone makes it worth 2 hours of your time. We often see Director/Actor partnerships develop in the industry, most famously Scorsese and Dicaprio. It’s given me a lot of hope for Velvet Buzzsaw, as the duo of Director Dan Gilroy and Gyllenhaal clearly enjoy working together. Hopefully there is a bit more to chew on in the story department, but Nightcrawler is a great start to the duo’s creative relationship.

Good: Acting, Cinematography and all round good film-making techniques on show. Character driven film.

Bad: Story is thin, and no real lessons learned by the characters by the end of the film.

8/10 – Worth it for Jake on his own.