Balanced Web-Spinner – Spider-Man: Far From Home

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Following up the successful first collaboration between Columbia/Sony and Marvel (Spider-Man: Homecoming), the cosmic hugeness of Avengers: Endgame  and the culmination of Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe always promised to be a tricky task, but returning director Jon Watts and returning scriptwriters Chris McKenna & Eric Sommers have managed a pretty balanced movie that nicely answers all those demands.

Set eight months after half of humanity was restored to existence in Avengers: Endgame (now referred to as The Blip), the film wastes no time showing us some of the ramifications of this but also throws us headlong into a plot which, by necessity, has to stretch out more broadly than Homecoming’s friendly neighbourhood feel.

Terrifying giant creatures, Elementals, have seemingly crossed over into our world from another reality and, while attempting to enjoy a summer class vacation through Europe and engage with a blossoming relationship with MJ, Peter Parker is pulled into battling these monsters by a heroic newcomer, soon named Mysterio.

With Tony Stark no longer around, Mysterio becomes a mentor figure to Peter, but all is not quite as it first appears and events soon spiral out of our young hero’s control – both in and out of his webby mask.

Jake Gyllenhall’s Quentin Beck (a.k.a. Mysterio) works well against Tom Holland’s Peter Parker, in an arc which nicely defines Peter coming to terms with loss, while underlining his constant struggles with responsibility from a fresh angle. And while the resolution of this arc might be one of the film’s weaker moments, there is still a great deal to savour.

In terms of character development, the high-point of the film is undoubtedly Peter and MJ’s romance. Zendaya’s MJ is a real treat; snarky, goofy and vulnerable, and I could happily watch an entire movie of her and Holland just playing off against each other.

Holland is, it almost goes without saying, a pretty much perfect Peter Parker, beautifully playing the push and pull the character feels between his heroic responsibilities and his teenage life, continuing to make him highly relatable.

The actions sequences are excellent, the climax in the centre of London is one of the best Spider-man set pieces since Spider-Man 2’s train battle ( I saw the film in 3D, which really enhanced this sequence), and the film balances action, drama and (a great deal of) humour deftly, giving it a distinct feel while still integrating it firmly into the MCU.

It’s a superb summer movie, and a lot of fun (often mischievously so), even if a certain amount of Homecoming’s down to earth charm has been sacrificed.

Do make sure you stay through the end credits, as one of the two stings brings not only a wonderful cameo (particularly for long-time Spider-Man movie fans) but a pretty seismic cliffhanger for Spider-Man’s status quo.

The best thing about the film is that it makes you want to spend more time caught up in Spider-Man’s web and in the company of these characters, so bring on Spider-Man: Home From Home, Home Run, Home Sweet Home, or even Don’t Try This At Home

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Well… That’s Brave. The Doctor Sleep Trailer Is Here,

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Warner Bros. have just dropped the trailer for Doctor Sleep, the sequel to The Shining and, well, it’s quite something…

You can’t fault the studio’s bravery here, choosing to lean so much into Stanley Kubrick’s classic 1980 film by reusing footage and recreating sets. If nothing else it’s a bold statement of intent.

King’s sequel novel has proven to be highly divisive, eliciting equal amounts of love and scorn (nothing unusual there, of course, when tampering with a property so firmly lodged in the public psyche), but director Mike Flanagan has some serious scare chops as the writer/director of Netflix’s big hit series, The Haunting of Hill House (as well as the adaptation of King’s “unfilmable,” Gerald’s Game.

That’s certainly an intriguing trailer, and for those of you unfamiliar with the book, here the official synopsis for the movie:

Struggling with alcoholism, Danny Torrance remains traumatized by the sinister events that occurred at the Overlook Hotel when he was a child. He soon finds a new purpose when he forms a psychic connection with a girl who shares his shining ability.

Doctor Sleep will open on November 8th when we’ll all get the opportunity to love it or hate it. Which side do you think you’ll come down on?

For The Love Of Godzilla – King Of The Monsters Review

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There has been a great deal of bad press surrounding Godzilla – King of the Monsters. Ignore it. If you’re a Godzilla fan, ignore it more vehemently.

In 2014, Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros unleashed Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla into cinemas, to good box office and mixed reviews. Time seems to have revealed it very much as a love it or hate it affair – I fall squarely into the former camp (despite acknowledging some big issues with it).

Now comes Michael Dougherty (director of Trick ‘R’ Treat) with his sequel (and third film in Legendary’s Monsterverse, after Kong – Skull Island), and what an awesome movie he brings with him.

Unashamedly, unabashedly pulpy fun, Dougherty throws just about everything he can into the demented plot-line: secret underground bases, mad scientists, aliens, lost undersea civilizations, and moves things along at such a breathless pace that you have to submit to the gleeful, everything AND the kitchen sink approach. And that’s even before we get to the monsters!

And you’d better believe we get monsters – Mothra, Rodan, King Ghidorah (all beautifully adapted from their Japanese movie origins) and a whole slew of new beasties. Plus, the title star himself, the King of the Monsters (with a fabulous and hilarious reveal as to why we should grant him that title).

And if you’re looking for monster battles, you’ve definitely come to the right place. Toho’s Kaiju do massive battle with each other in a number of locales, from the Antarctic to Boston, and Dougherty and co. present them with the enthusiasm of someone who has all the toys to play with.

So, what haven’t we mentioned yet? The humans in this monstrous toybox. The performers (including Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Bradley Whitford, Sally Hawkins, Charles Dance, David Strathairn, Ken Watanabe, and Zhang Ziyi) give their all, and play with just the right amount of tongue in cheek, but character arcs take a firm third place to plot and action. But who cares when the action is this much fun!?

And for long-time Godzilla fans there are a ton of extra treats, Easter eggs and references both sly and unsubtle, to a treasure trove of past Godzilla movies, none of which I intend to spoil here (but do stay all the way through the titles for a lovely touch just before the obligatory post-credits scene). It’s already widely known that composer Bear McCreary has used some classic Toho monster themes, and those are the icing on the Kaiju Eiga cake.

In fact, the further you progress into this film, the more it becomes clear how much of a Godzilla and Kaiju fan Dougherty must be, his love for Japan’s biggest export shines through every frame. The whole thing has the feel of some of Toho’s maddest entries for Godzilla, with the same freewheeling approach as films such as 1972’s Godzilla vs Gigan or 1973’s Godzilla vs Megalon.

Godzilla – King of the Monsters is quite obviously Dougherty and co.’s love letter to all things Godzilla, a gift from Godzilla fans to Godzilla fans.

 

Robert Pattinson Is Officially Your New Batman

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Warner Bros. have now officially announced that Robert Pattinson will star as the Caped Crusader in Matt Reeves’ forthcoming, The Batman.

Rumours flew out earlier this week that Pattinson and Nicholas Hoult were both duking it out in final negotiations as Reeves and Warner’s final choices, and now it looks like Pattinson punched that bit harder, as Deadline have revealed him as the victor.

Little is known about Reeves’ long-in-gestation movie, except that it will focus on the early days of Bruce Wayne as Batman, highlight more of the detective angle of the character (yay!) and that the central villains could be Penguin and Catwoman (again… boo!).

While many still think of Pattinson as “the Twilight guy,” the actor has steadily been turning out a number of critically-acclaimed roles in the past few years in films such as Good Time, Cosmopolis, High Life and The Lighthouse, and has also been cast in Christopher Nolan’s new movie, Tenet.

And director Reeves certainly did sterling work revitalising Fox’s revamp of the Planet of the Apes saga, so there’s much to be intrigued by here.

Shooting is rumoured to take place in the UK this autumn but no release date has been announced for The Batman, so I’ll be sure to light the Bat-Signal as soon as Warner Bros. give the word.


Photo by Paul Archuleta

Stop Everything! It’s The Brilliant New Trailer For Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.

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First of all, stop what you’re doing and watch this wonderful new trailer for Quentin Tarantino’s new movie (debuting ahead of its premiere at Cannes)…

Regular followers of this site will already know I’m full-blown down for anything that comes from the mind of Tarantino, and that I’m super vibed for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (as we’ve been following its production here from those initial casting announcements).

And this features one heckuva cast, including  Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Kurt Russell, Timothy Olyphant, Dakota Fanning, Luke Perry, Margaret Qualley, Bruce Dern, Emile Hirsch, Lena Dunham, Damian Lewis and Al Pacino (HOO-HAH!). I mean, come on…! Who doesn’t want to watch, well… anything… that stars this bunch!?

The teaser trailer was great, but this first full trailer, in all its Neil Diamond-glory, literally makes me want to wish away the days until July 26th (but that would mean missing Godzilla: King of the Monsters, so I’ll have to curb my enthusiasm).

Featuring the first proper reveal of Charles Manson (as played by Damon Herriman) and his family on the Spahn Ranch, and the first sense of how this story might play out, it certainly seems that this will be as thrilling (and probably divisive) a ride as we might expect from one of my favourite cinematic provocateurs!

Let’s not even get started on the flame-grilled Nazis…

Avengers: Endgame Makes ALL The Money With A $1.2 Billion Weekend

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As predicted here on Out Of Dave’s Head (though I’ll grant you I didn’t really need a crystal ball), Avengers: Endgame has blasted off with a record-breaking $1.2 billion opening weekend take at the worldwide box office.

Marvel’s astonishing experiment in long-form storytelling has smashed the year-old Avengers: Infinity War records by nearly $100 million in the U.S. and a jaw-dropping $560 million worldwide.

The 22nd movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which launched in 2008 with Iron Man, has seen the linked multi-franchises bring home more than $19 billion in worldwide box office to date, and with a whole slate of films lined up for the forthcoming Phase 4, that figure seems likely to grow.

The much-discussed “superhero fatigue” that critics love to load onto these films seems to be pretty non-existent when it comes to Marvel movies, possibly because their release plans are carefully thought out and almost certainly because the films are far from the cookie-cutter exercises those same, lazy critics write them off as.

Long-form cinematic storytelling is certainly nothing new, of course, having been around since at least 1912, with Edison’s What Happened to Mary, before finding huge popularity in the 1930s and 1940s with the likes of Flash Gordon, Spy Smasher and The Adventures of Captain Marvel (or Shazam! as he’s now known). 

And movie sequels have been around forever, but were generally regarded as poor relations to the source material and usually awarded declining budgets and box office receipts (the original Planet of the Apes films, for example).

Star Wars and its subsequent offerings have done much to pave the way for this latest iteration, with the linked trilogies of the Skywalker saga we’ve had since 1977. But Marvel have taken this to a truly intriguing new level, launching a number of different franchises which link to form one longer narrative. Story strands, character arcs and thematic resolutions occur in Avengers: Endgame which have carried through from that first Iron Man movie in 2008. Carrying these elements across a franchise is one thing, but to test audiences with knowledge needed across multiple franchises really is quite brave for a studio, and something Marvel should be lauded for.

And while Spider-Man: Far From Home, released in July, sees Marvel’s Phase 3 come to a conclusion, the as-yet unannounced slate of Phase 4 films is likely to include Black Panther 2, Doctor Strange 2, Guardians of the Galaxy 3 (happily with James Gunn reinstated), the long-promised Black Widow movie, a likely return for Captain Marvel and debuts for Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu (directed by Destin Daniel Cretton) and The Eternals (helmed by The Rider‘s Chloe Zhao, and rumoured to be starring Angelina Jolie). And those are just the productions we know of, Marvel are sure to have some surprises up their sleeves.

So as Marvel sit back and prepare to work their accountants hard in the coming weeks, rest assured that we’ll likely be giving our hard-earned money to the company for some time to come.

And personally, if they continue to make films as engaging, enjoyable and emotional as these have been, I’ll be very happy to do so.

This Is The End! Avengers: Endgame* *spoiler-free review

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This is, without a doubt, the hardest review I’ve ever had to write, because in order to keep it spoiler-free, there’s really very little I can tell you.

Certainly, in terms of specifics I’m going to tell you absolutely nothing, because the film will work even more effectively if you go in cold. Suffice to say if you’ve seen any of the trailers, you know nothing, Jon Snow!

So, let’s keep this general: directors Joe and Anthony Russo, and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, left the universe in a much-reduced place this time last year – cosmic villain Thanos (father of Gamora and Nebula, from the Guardians of the Galaxy films) achieved his aim to place the Infinity Stones in his gauntlet, snapped his fingers and wiped out half the population of the universe in an instant. The Avengers, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, lost.

Avengers: Endgame picks up some twenty-plus days later, the remaining heroes split asunder in different corners of the galaxy, in bad places both geographically and emotionally.

What happens next is, quite simply, astonishing. The structure of the (three hour long and not a dull moment) film is continually surprising: the first thirty incredibly intense minutes arguably take the story where you might have expected the entire film to go, and then you’re left with two and a half hours of some of the most bravura narrative you’re likely to see in a franchise movie for a long time.

That the film acts as a total summation of Marvel Studios’ bold and innovative, ten year, interconnected, multi-franchise, long form storytelling is perhaps no surprise: this is where we, and the characters, have been heading all along. But the sheer level of smarts on display is something to be admired.

Because the story is concluded so satisfyingly should not however, lull you into thinking this is an easy ride. The fact we’ve had so long to become attached to these characters means that Marvel pull out all the stops to put the audience through an emotional wringer: I can honestly say I lost count of the amount of times I cried, but I can tell you there were tears of both sadness and joy.

I sat with a goofy grin on my face, with tears of pure happiness streaming down my face, at the audaciousness of the penultimate forty-five minutes. And in the last fifteen minutes the real tears began. To be clear, the film left me a total wreck.

This unrestrained emotional response is a testimony to the genuine skill not only of the storytellers, but also of the actors. I’m sure it would be so very easy to coast through roles like these, but there isn’t a single moment where the cast aren’t completely in the moment.

There is a strand, an emotional arc involving Thor, where the balance between comedy and pathos strains to tip too far in one direction, but Chris Hemsworth manages to keep things just in check.

There might also be an argument to be made that some of the solutions (and yes, I’ll avoid details) lead to a little head-scratching which will no doubt fuel fan arguments for months to come.

It’s also fair to say that while all previous Marvel films have strived to pay-off for both casual viewers and fans, Avengers: Endgame, rightly, is full-on about resolution, and therefore will probably leave newbies wondering what the heck is going on. But after ten years, that’s perfectly right and fair. And earned.

But these are very minor negative points in what can only really be considered as Marvel’s crowning achievement.

Avengers: Endgame not only gives you everything you could possibly have wanted from this finale, but also gives you so much more in terms of narrative twists and turns, satisfying emotional arcs, thematic pay-offs for threads linking almost every single Marvel film and genuine surprises, particularly for those of us who’ve been along for the ride for the past decade.

And while there are plenty of seeds for the next Phases of Marvel movies (interestingly, Phase 3 officially ends with Spider-Man: Far From Home, in July), you’d better believe this is the end, beautiful friend.

Want To See The Trailer For Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood…?

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…sure you do! And since I hate to disappoint, here it is! Let’s come back and rap some after…

Well, doesn’t that look like a whole bunch of fun!?

Tarantino and co. have been doing a remarkable job of keeping plot specifics on this one under wraps, but here’s what we do know (via the official synopsis):

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a story that takes place in Los Angeles in 1969, at the height of hippy Hollywood. The two lead characters are Rick Dalton (DiCaprio), former star of a western TV series, and his long-time stunt double Cliff Booth (Pitt). Both are struggling to make it in a Hollywood they don’t recognise anymore. But Rick has a very famous next-door neighbour… Sharon Tate.

Mixed into this will be a lot of famous faces of the period, including Steve McQueen, Bruce Lee and yep, Charles Manson.

The film stars… well, actually, it’s easier to ask who isn’t in it. But, sorry everyone, this won’t be Pauly Shore’s big chance at a comeback.

Look, it’s Tarantino’s 9th film. What else do you need to know!?

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood opens 26 July 2019 in the USA.

And Bond 25’s Title Is…

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…Shatterhand?

Yeah, I get that’s a little click-baity, but this comes from a piece in industry resource, Production Weekly.

The title is already well-known to 007 fans, as the name Dr. Shatterhand appeared as an alias for Bond’s nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld in Ian Fleming’s You Only Live Twice  novel.

If the title is correct, and it’s been floating around the top of the Bond 25 rumour mill for quite a while, it throws open many questions including: will Blofeld return? If so, who will he be played by? Traditionally, Blofeld has been portrayed by a different actor (including Donald Pleasance, Telly Savalas and Charles Gray) on every appearance, but would Christophe Waltz be tempted back?

This possible confirmation comes hot on the heels of the news that the film’s release date has been pushed back to April 2020, due to extensive script rewrites. Bourne Ultimatum writer Scott Z Burns will be taking a pass at the screenplay for Daniel Craig’s fifth and final outing as 007. This in itself is probably good news, given the film’s many delays at the begining of production, with original director Danny Boyle backing off, to be replaced by Cary Joji Fukunaga.

Fukunaga has previously announced he expects Bond 25 to pick up on threads from SPECTRE, lending relevance to the meaning behind that possible title.

Craig will be reuniting with Lea Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, and Naomie Harris, and we’ll be sure to bring you more Bond news as it drops.

John Wick 3 Trailer Has All The Violence

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Sometimes all a trailer needs to convince you to see the accompanying film is Keanu Reeves shooting a motorcyclist in the head at point-blank range while riding a horse. Which brings us handily to the trailer for John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum…

The first John Wick film was an almost understated gem of an action movie, so effortlessly did it walk the line between absurdity and genius, while the second leaned further into the fascinating mythology surrounding retired/not retired hitman, the eponymous Wick (Reeves, obvs).

With that last film leaving our hero in an extremely perilous situation (recapped in this trailer), this third chapter looks to carry on with the breathless shenanigans.

Frankly, any film that has Reeves alongside a cast consisting of Halle Berry, Mark Dacascos, Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, Boban Marjanović, and Laurence Fishburne would have my attention. That it happens to be the third in the series of Wick movies has me practically salivating into the very large box of popcorn I have at the ready.

Mr Wick will be doing all the violence on May 17.