Saturday, August 12, 2017

Atomic Blonde


















Coming to theatres with a hearty punch of style and attitude, Atomic Blonde really knocked my socks off. Fully embracing it's late 80's setting as it infuses itself in an art-deco, neon infused aesthetic, this film was a rocking blast from beginning to end with some of the best executed action sequences I've seen in awhile. 

MI-6 agent Lorraine Broughton (played by Charlize Theron) is sent to East Berlin to seek out the killer of a fellow agent and retrieve a stolen wristwatch that had a piece of microfilm inside that contained a list of all the active double agents. She is paired with undercover Berlin spy David Percival (played by James McAvoy) to try and recover the item. Almost upon arrival, Lorraine also finds herself having to dodge KGB agents that want her dead as well as the mysterious French spy Delphine Lasalle (played by Sophia Boutella). As her investigation progresses, she realizes the previous agent was betrayed by a traitor in their midst and has to smoke them out lest she wind up dead as well.

The film was directed by David Leitch from a script by Kurt Johnstad, based on the graphic novel by Antony Johnston and Sam Hart. The filmmakers of this clearly took a lot of inspiration from the graphic novel format in the way they framed their shots and the color palette of the film. It really visually recalled the style of that without going overboard. One of the biggest visual elements is the use of neon, which I noticed throughout the film in really unique ways that really brought the time period to life, as well as the stencil spraypaint aesthetic to the opening credits. 

More than anything, this film will likely be remembered for it's action sequences and it has a few great ones. There is an early one where Charlize Theron takes on five goons with a garden hose as her weapon of choice, managing to take them all out before swinging out the window on it to make her escape. There is also a much bigger fight scene towards the end as Lorraine takes on several assassins targeting her and an asset, known as Spyglass (played by Eddie Marsan) that she is trying to get out of East Berlin. The fight takes place in the stairwell of an apartment building as Lorraine takes on the assassins, using whatever she can get her hands on to fight them off. This spills over into an apartment as she goes toe to toe with one assassin that just will not die before continuing down the stairwell and out into the street in one impressively long fluid shot. The fight just goes on and on as Lorraine uses everything, including a hot plate and the barrel of an empty rifle, to try and take these guys out. It's a brutal and violent fight sequence unlike anything I've seen since Patricia Arquette went toe to toe with James Gandolfini in True Romance.    

The performances in the film are great. Charlize Theron owns the film as the fierce Lorraine who is willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. She really gives the film her all and it shows on screen. Theron also brings something new to the screen with her character. She's not just a female Bond or something, but felt very much like a genuinely unique character who you always sense is holding something back. James McAvoy is equally fantastic as Percival, a spy who has probably been operating undercover for too long in East Berlin and whose allegiances have shifted to basically whatever benefits him best. You can tell McAvoy is having a blast with the part and he's a joy to watch. 

The soundtrack to the film is impressive as well with one great 80's song after another, almost making the film a jukebox musical of sorts. The film makes some eclectic choices to set some of it's action sequences including an amusing use of "I Ran (So Far Away)" by Flock of Seagulls during a car chase. The film also includes the best use of David Bowie's "Cat People (Putting out the Fire)" since Inglorious Basterds. Bowie's collaboration with Queen, "Under Pressure" is used to great effect as well. "Blue Monday" by New Order also turns up in several forms throughout the film, making it a recurring theme of sorts.

Atomic Blonde is one of the best action movies I've seen in quite awhile. With a compelling plot, some incredible fight scenes to match and style to spare, this is also one of the more unique ones. It also has a great sense of humor that I really appreciated making sure the audience doesn't take it all too seriously, which is something I've always appreciated in a movie. 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Dunkirk
















There is always something unique about Christopher Nolan's films and his latest, Dunkirk, is no different. He takes a look at the Dunkirk evacuation from three separate parallel stories that manage to tie together in an unexpected and yet completely organic way. Beyond that, his approach to telling the story is different than most war movies in that it drops us right into the middle of the action and keeps the viewers gripped for the entirety of it's 100 minute run time. 

The story line that opens the film is one following young British soldier named Tommy (played by Fionn Whitehead) as he walks with a couple other soldiers through the town of Dunkirk, trying to salvage any supplies or water that they can when they are opened fire upon by enemy snipers. Ducking for cover, Tommy is able to escape back to the beach of Dunkirk, where he joins 300,000 other soldiers waiting to be evacuated while being picked off by German airplanes as they fly by. The Germans also drop leaflets from the sky illustrating that they surround the beach and there is no escape. Once there, Tommy meets two other young soldiers, Gibson (played by Aneurin Barnard) and Alex (played by Harry Styles) and the three of them try to figure out how to get off the beach anyway they can. Meanwhile, back in England, Mr. Dawson (played by Mark Rylance) is charged along with all the other area sailors to sail for Dunkirk to aid in the evacuation attempts. Not willing to let his boat be taken by the British Navy, Dawson sails off himself along with two young men from the village, his youngest son Peter (played by Tom Glynn-Carney) and another boy George (played by Barry Keoghan). In the air, two British fighter pilots, Farrier (played by Tom Hardy) and Collins (played by Jack Lowden), are dispatched to try and fight off the German planes bombing Dunkirk beach as well as the rescue ships in an attempt to allow the evacuation to go forth.

Christopher Nolan manages to juggle all three story lines really well and it's interesting in the way they intersect and overlap as we go from the fighter pilots duking it out into the air and then it switches to the soldiers on the ground, witnessing the same events from their perspective. This happens several times throughout the film and it was a bit jarring at first, but I was able to get into the groove of it. The film also drops us right into the action of the Dunkirk evacuation with very little pretense. The film focuses squarely on everyone trying to get the hell out of there and never once pauses for any of the usual character building scenes that can bog down films like this. Nolan keeps the film lean and forever moving forward, which I rather appreciated. I didn't need to know the life story or the hopes and dreams of Tommy or Gibson, Mr. Dawson's background or anything else with any of the other characters. I was already fully invested in these characters as we followed them through the events of the film. There are a few details here or there that come out in the course of the action, but that's it and frankly that's all we really need.

Christopher Nolan and his crew did a fantastic job recreating the Dunkirk evacuation down to the smallest of details. Everything about the film felt authentic and accurate. Granted, I am not a Dunkirk scholar but I do know a fair amount about World War II as well as Dunkirk itself (I read up on it after seeing Joe Wright's Atonement, where James McAvoy's character winds up at Dunkirk). While the main characters appear to be fictional, they do draw inspiration from real life figures, especially Mr. Dawson, who recalled real-life Dunkirk participant (and Second Officer of the Titanic) Charles Lightoller. The film strikes an interesting balance between fact and fiction where the characters are fictional but the events they interact with are actually quite accurate. It's an interesting choice by Nolan, who both wrote and directed the film, but also makes sense because it's easier to get to the emotional truth of what it felt to be there if they don't have to strictly remain true to real life figures. 

Dunkirk is a bit atypical in terms of war movies, keeping it's focus squarely on what was happening on the water, on the beach and in the air in a very straightforward way that draws in the audience in a very visceral way. With great actors, the majority of them are rather unknown makes it feel more authentic than if we were watching more well known movies stars. Overall, this is a fantastic film that was very well made with some great decisions as to how it was made and presented. I highly recommend checking it out as this could very well be one of my favorites of the year.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets














I've long been a fan of writer/director Luc Besson, especially his films Leon: The Professional and The Fifth Element. When I saw the first trailer for Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets I was immediately psyched. I knew I had to see this movie based on the stunning visuals alone. Does the finished film live up to the early promise of those trailers, along with Besson's previous films? Yes and no, sadly. There is a lot to love with this movie, but it does have a couple flaws as well. 

The City of a Thousand Planets started from humble beginnings as a Space Station of Earth, but slowly grew as more countries contributed to it until one day it had it's first alien visitors. From there, other aliens came too and station became a place for different beings to come together to share ideas and technology with one another. Eventually, the station grew too large to remain in Earth's orbit and was sent off into space, becoming it's own city known as Alpha. The city is home to thirty million residents of over a thousand different planets, each with their own specialty that contributes to the functioning of the city. Hidden among the city residents are the last surviving residents of destroyed planet Mul and they are in danger because the person responsible for the destruction of the planet is seeking to wipe them out as the last witnesses to what happened. Tasked with finding out who that is and stopping them is Major Valerian (played by Dane DeHaan) and his partner Sergeant Laureline (played by Cara Delevingne). 

Luc Besson wrote and directed the film, based on the comics by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mezieres, and brings it's universe wonderfully to life with some of the most dazzling and imaginative imagery I've seen on screen in a long, long time. It is very much in the same style as Besson's The Fifth Element in it's design, but on steroids (which makes sense since the Valerian and Laureline comics heavily influenced that film). In the well worn era of science fiction, Besson and his crew manage to come up with some genuinely imaginative visuals. There are some unique action sequences to, such as an extended action sequence where Valerian and Laureline have to infiltrate a giant marketplace, which exists in a seperate dimension, but through special glasses and trans-dimensional box, they are able to interact with the marketplace to retrieve an important object. It's a wild concept and something I greatly enjoyed seeing play out on screen. There is another sequence that is a chase through the city that really shows how this patchwork came together as Valerian is running through walls and running on top of various tunnels. Besson's unique, candy-colored style for this film more than anything is what people will remember. 

Where the film falters is the storyline. It's not overly original and not something we haven't seen before. I didn't mind it so much because the film did sweep me up into everything fairly easily. But looking back, there isn't much there that I haven't seen elsewhere. The film certainly has a great cast starting with it's two leads, Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne. There is a problem with the two of them together though as Valerian and Laureline are supposed to be a romantic couple in addition to working partners but I never once bought that they were in the slightest bit in love with one another as Dane and Cara have exactly zero chemistry with one another. Valerian states at one point in the film he is ready to settle down with Laureline but she doubts him and I did to because there was absolutely nothing between them. It wasn't enough to wreck the movie for me, but it was a decided problem. I liked Dane and Cara a lot as their characters but they just didn't seem that romantically inclined. Then again, romantic subplots were never Luc Besson's strong suit to begin with. I never really bought Bruce Willis and Milla Jovovich as a romantic couple in The Fifth Element either, aside from some initial lusting from Willis when he first meets Jovovich's character. 

The film has a rather nice supporting cast that includes Clive Owen as Valerian and Laureline's commanding officer, Rihanna as a shapeshifting alien dancer who performs a private show for Valerian that was nothing short of mind-blowing. Much to my surprise Ethan Hawke pops up as the owner of the club she performs in. The film is also populated with countless alien species, all brought wonderfully to life with by the various actors voicing them as well as the special effects pros creating the assorted creatures. More than anything, I think it's the assortment and depth of characters presented throughout the film that had me more engaged than anything. As a fan of Science Fiction and Fantasy, this was definitely well within my wheelhouse.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets disappointingly did not do well at the U.S box office, coming in at fourth place, which is a shame because despite it's faults I really did enjoy this film quite a bit. Yes, the plot may not have been the most original and the romantic chemistry between the leads was lacking but there is so much imagination on screen that despite it all this film really was breathtaking. That alone makes me want to recommend it as worth seeing on the big screen. It's a big, fun and wild Sci-Fi ride and it knows it too. It never takes itself too seriously and is content with just being great entertainment. As a summer movie, you can't ask for much more.       

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Simpsons Movie








I have been a Simpsons fan ever since the first episode aired back in Christmas 1989 and have seen almost every episode of the series at least once, many more than once for the ones in the golden age of the series with the first nine seasons. It's hard to believe then that it has now been ten years since The Simpsons Movie graced movie screens. Still going strong as it edges towards season 28 and renewed through season 30, it seems as though there is no end in sight. However, I thought it would be fun to specifically take a look back at Springfield's first family's thus far solo theatrical outing.

Homer Simpson finds himself on the outs with the entire town of Springfield when he causes an ecological disaster so severe that the EPA, led by Russ Cargill (voiced by Albert Brooks), manipulates the President into covering the entire town in a thick glass dome. The entire town riots, causing Homer and his family (wife Marge, son Bart, and daughters Lisa and Maggie) to flee the town through the one exit out of the dome, a sinkhole in their backyard. From there, they decide to flee to Alaska, but when they discover that Cargill intends to destroy Springfield once and for all, they have to race back to try and stop him and save their beloved hometown, even if everyone there hates them.

The idea of a Simpsons feature length film had been floating around with the series creators for a long time as they tried to come up with a suitably cinematic plot for the film, while still remaining true to the characters countless fans had fallen in love with. Various plotlines had been bandied about until finally they came up with the one that became the film we have. With most of the series writers contributing to the script, the film manages to capture the irreverent humor of the original series, although it falls just a smidge short of being equal to the golden age of the series. Nonetheless, it remains a very, very funny movie that at times indulges in the fact that it is free of the T.V censors without celebrating it in a way akin to South Park

The series voice actors all returned for the feature film and give great voice performances among the lot of them. The cast that includes Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer and Tress MacNeille voice hundreds of characters between them, which is all the more impressive since they are all such distinctive characters. Then they added in Simpsons guest star MVP Albert Brooks as Russ Cargill. Now, Albert Brooks (always credited as A. Brooks) has had some of the most notable roles over the course of the series. Whether it's as a bowling coach trying to seduce Marge away from Homer or as Hank Scorpio, the nicest super-villain to ever try and take over the world, Brooks' characters always made a memorable impression. Here, he's fantastic as well as the evil and conniving Russ Cargill seeking to destroy Springfield for it's heinous crimes against the environment and mad with power. The one thing that baffled me with the movie though is they have Cargill manipulating fictional President Arnold Schwarzenegger when the series has had the long established Arnold-esque Rainier Wolfcastle. It's a curious choice since the character in the film is essentially the same.

The film ups the ante in terms of animation, giving the film a suitably cinematic feel with more depth and detail to each frame, while also feeling like the series fans had known and loved. The film also opens with a special episode of the show within the show Itchy and Scratchy (about a warring cat and mouse) before revealing the Simpsons in a theater watching it as Homer mocks the other audience members (and us, in a nice meta moment) for paying to see something they could see for free at home before launching into a brand new opening in the style of the series opener. From there, both the animation and cinematography become much more ambitious than what they could pull off for a weekly television series giving the 90 minute feature a much more epic and cinematic feel. 

In the end, The Simpsons Movie is a unique and fun animated film that holds up against the series while also more or less standing on it's own. Although, how well it holds up for non-fans is difficult to answer as I have been a lifelong fan. But, as a fan I have always had a soft spot for this movie. It really worked well and was the big screen adventure I wanted for my favorite T.V family. It doesn't quite match the golden age of the series, but then again, I suppose that would have been hoping for too much. As it is though, it's still good and proper Simpsons and that's not bad.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Baby Driver
















Not too long ago, I was bemoaning to myself that there was a distinct lack of genuine, hardcore, good action movies these days. Ones that hit hard and fast and had an edge to them. Not the watered down PG-13 stuff and all the Superhero movies either. I had a craving for some good, old fashioned gun play and roaring engines. Screeching tires and intense car chases. Little did I know that Edgar Wright was driving to my rescue and delivering one of the coolest and most stylish action films I've seen in a long time. 

Baby (played by Ansel Elgort) is a highly skilled driver working for crime boss Doc (played by Kevin Spacey) as a wheel man for the daring heists Doc carefully plans. Baby also suffers from a case of tinnitus and listens to music on his iPod constantly to drown out the hum. He also records random samplings of audio around him and remixes it at home with synthesized music, creating all new songs. Dubbed Mozart in a Go Kart by Doc, Baby is an ace behind the wheel and it's attributed to the constant beats he hears through his headphones and laser focus. He works for Doc to pay off a debt he incurred when he boosted a car that belonged to Doc, filled with valuable goods Doc was unable to retrieve. Baby is a good hearted kid though and the violence incurred during these heists is starting to get to him. He wants out and to just drive away. This feeling only intensifies when he meets and starts to fall for Debora, a waitress at the local greasy spoon. He vocalizes his desire to just start driving west with her and never look back, something she is very receptive to. Before he can though, he's pulled into one last job, forced to work with the dodgy Buddy (played by Jon Hamm), Darling (played by Eiza Gonzalez), and the loose cannon Bats (played by Jamie Foxx).     

There is a lot to be impressed about with Baby Driver. The writing is fun with it's rat-a-tat-tat dialogue and a story that is not as predictable as one would think at first glance. Edgar Wright has always had a knack for subverting an audience's expectations and does it here as well, crafting a story with a few twists I did not see coming (and would not dare spoil here). Backing this up are two things the film will be known best for, I think. First, the action sequences are seriously impressive and stylish as hell. The car stunts were all done practically (none of that CGI over the top nonsense the Fast and Furious movies do) and they are stunning. The fact that everything was done for real just makes it that much more impressive. Then, Wright adds some style to it with a choice of bold colors, especially bright reds and royal blues just to make it that much more distinct. 

Then there is the soundtrack to the film. The songs are like another character in the film, masterfully synched with the action on screen. Remember that scene in Shaun of the Dead when Shaun, Liz, and Ed beat up a zombie with pool cues in sync with Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now"? That's this entire movie. From Baby dancing down the street to "Harlem Shuffle" by Bob & Earl and pausing to play air trumpet in front of a trumpet hanging in a music store window to gunshots syncing up to the beat of whichever song is playing, it is nothing short a filmmaking and editing wonder. Music also plays into the film itself with various songs becoming bonding points between Baby and various characters, "Debora" by T. Rex for Baby and Debora and "Brighton Rock" by Queen for a similar moment between Baby and Buddy. On the opposite side of the coin, the characters also at one point discuss jinx songs, such as "Knocking on Heaven's Door" by Bob Dylan as songs that if they hear before a job will make them want to call it off. The film just celebrates music and how it can make us feel right from the get go as we see Baby rocking out in his car to "Bellbottoms" by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion is a moment of pure joy right before a spectacular opening car chase sequence.

This film manages to gather an impressive cast. Ansel Elgort is great as Baby, who is of two minds of his job as a wheelman. He hates being part of a criminal enterprise and it weighs on him. In many ways, he is a very sweet and innocent person, but the violence these heists he's part of incurs weighs heavily on him and he's finding it harder and harder to ignore it. But he also loves driving and showing off what he can do behind the wheel of a car, which is what ultimately keeps bringing him back. Kevin Spacey is reliably great as Doc and gives his part the hard nosed authority to keep his gang in line, but he's also having fun with the role. He also really let's Doc's soft spot for Baby shine through, which was a plot aspect I was not expecting. Jamie Foxx was great as Bats and genuinely intense in his scenes as the loose cannon member of the group not afraid to get his hands dirty. Jon Hamm and Eiza Gonzalez made a great pair as husband and wife criminals Buddy & Darling, while also setting up what a possible future might be for Baby and Debora if he kept going down the road of a life of crime and she joined him. 

Baby Driver is not quite like any other movie I've ever seen. Some of the pieces may seem somewhat familiar, but re-assembled in new and exciting ways, set to some fantastic, deep cut music thumping on the soundtrack and all working together in wondrous harmony. I loved every minute of this from beginning to the closing credits as I danced my way out of the theatre. And then sped my car all the way home.      

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

















Every once in a great while, there will come along a movie that is so brazenly original and unlike anything else that it just takes my breath away. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World was one of those movies. With a fantastic, rapid fire sense of humor and a unique visual style makes for one of the most memorable movies I've seen in the last decade. 

Scott Pilgrim (played by Michael Cera) is a simple creature, living in a one room apartment with his gay roommate Wallace Wells (played by Kieran Culkin) and dating high school student Knives Chau (played by Ellen Wong), who he has fallen out of love with but can't bring himself to break up with her. He is also in an indie rock band, Sex Bob-Omb, with fellow band mates Stephen Stills (played by Mark Webber), Young Neil (played by Johnny Simmons) and Kim Pine (played by Allison Pill). At a party one night, Scott catches a glimpse of Ramona Flowers (played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead). He is able to work up the nerve to talk to her and get a date with her. The problem is that in dating Ramona, he has unwittingly agreed to fight Ramona's seven evil exes. As one shows up after another, Scott finds himself literally fighting for Ramona's heart while fending off opponents as varied as Chris Evans, Brandon Routh, Mae Whitman and Jason Schwartzman.

The film is based on the comic book series by Bryan Lee O'Malley and director Edgar Wright draws directly from the source material in the design of the film, recreating entire comic panels on screen complete with text sound effects. The film takes place in a hyper-reality that co-exists with a sort of video game reality (for example, the defeated exes burst into coins as a score appears in blinking numbers on screen or when Scott says he's getting a life, he grabs an extra life icon out of the air), drawing inspiration from classic 8-Bit Nintendo games. The film has a rapid fire pace that leaps from one moment to another while rarely pausing to catch it's breath, with the jokes coming fast and furious. Naturally, it's a movie that rewards re-watching as the viewer will inevitably miss stuff on the first viewing (I know I did). It's hard to really describe the film beyond that. It has a unique style all to itself that really defies definition. It can fly off into a flight of fantasy at any moment and yet the film works. It's a film that is completely unique to itself and that is part of it's charm. If you can get into it's own oddball, madcap spirit, you're almost guaranteed to have a blast with it. 

The acting in the film is great with Michael Cera making the perfect offbeat slacker hero that is Scott Pilgrim. Whether he's playing in his band, trying to dodge Knives or on a date with Ramona, there is a sense to Scott that he's a little oblivious to others around him especially people he's been in a relationship with, such as bandmate Kim. Yet, he also seems a bit lost and doesn't think that highly of himself either. Beyond all the flash and action, the film is really a coming of age tale of Scott growing up and gaining some self respect. Of course, the film could also be taken as an over the top analogy of a man-child trying to deal with the sexual history of his new girlfriend. Either way, Cera manages to capture it quite well. Likewise, we have Kieran Culkin as Scott's sidekick/roommate, who tries to help Scott the best he can but he's also more interested in hitting on other guys, especially if they wear glasses. He also gets some of the best lines of the film, which Culkin delivers masterfully. Mary Elizabeth Winstead makes a nice sense of intriguing mystery to Ramona and it's easy to see why Scott would be into her. She has a sharp wit about her as well and a real independent spirit as well that was probably developed after so many bad relationships. On the opposite side of the spectrum we have Ellen Wong as Knives Chau. Her relationship with Scott is very innocent and sweet and Ellen Wong does a great job portraying that, as well as given a lot of energy to her performance as well as she pretty much is Sex Bob-Omb's first and only groupie. 

The League of Evil Exes are a great group of extended cameos. Chris Evans shows up as Lucas Lee, a famous film star that was Ramona's second boyfriend, which leads to an amusing fight scene between Lucas and Scott on a film set, with Lucas' stunt team getting in on the action. I could tell that Evans was having a blast playing the self absorbed Lee. Likewise Brandon Routh turns up as Ramona's third ex, Todd Ingram, a bass player and super-powered vegan (because being vegan makes you better than anyone else apparently). I could tell Routh was having fun with the role as well, especially since Todd isn't exactly the sharpest tool in the shed. Mae Whitman is great fun as the one girl in the group, Roxy (Ramona had a "sexy phase," as Scott puts it). It's particularly amusing to see Whitman and Cera duking it out as they had played a couple on the show Arrested Development earlier, with Whitman playing the bland and forgettable Egg Ann to Cera's George Michael Bluth. Later in the picture, Jason Schwartzman shows up as Gideon Graves, Ramona's most recent ex and the one who put the entire league together. He's set up as the big bad for Scott to defeat, to use the video game terminology the film thrives in, and Schwartzman plays Gideon's sliminess to the nines.            

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World remains a bold breath of fresh air even seven years after it's release. It moves at a breakneck speed with rapid fire jokes and a very unique design and sense of world building. I hadn't seen a movie like it before I saw it and I still haven't. Part of me hopes I never do so it can remain the unique filmmaking treat it always has been.          

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming

















I need to start off this review with a bit of a preface. Of the pantheon of Marvel superheroes, I've probably been a fan of Spider-Man the longest. I've found something to enjoy in each of the cinematic iterations up until this point even if they are a mixed bunch of films (which I think I may revisit a little later on in this blog). But, now, with Marvel fully at the helm of the character I really feel like they finally nailed it. They really, really nailed it. I'm so jazzed about this movie, I'm not sure I can be objective. But I will try, dear reader, I promise. And I'll take it easy on the spoilers too.

The film opens with video diary footage Peter Parker (played by Tom Holland) shot while on his way to join the action we saw in Captain America: Civil War, entrusted to the care of Tony Stark's Forehead of Security personal guard, Happy Hogan (played by Jon Favreau). After that, we jump into the movie proper with Tony (played by Robert Downey Jr.) allowing Peter to keep the suit he made for him and encourage him to try and learn how to be a Superhero. Peter is enjoying being a small time hero around his Queens, NY neighborhoods, stopping bike thieves and various other small crimes. But he's hungering for something bigger, something that will prove to Tony that he deserves to be an Avenger. He gets more than he bargained for with Adrian Toomes (played by Michael Keaton) and his crew. They originally had the salvage rights to help repair the city of New York after the events of The Avengers, but got their contract revoked by the federal Government, who took over along with a company started by Tony Stark. Needing to make some money fast to keep his crew employed and support his family, Adrian and his crew start using the alien tech they salvaged to create dangerous new weapons to sell off for a tidy profit. Things are going well until Spidey stumbles onto their operation, bringing out a more dangerous side of Adrian, who is willing to do whatever it takes to keep his family safe and secure even if that means killing Spider-Man.

I feel like this iteration of Spider-Man really nailed the character as I always loved him. He isn't perfect, he messes up but still picks himself up and tries again. This is Peter Parker early in his career as a superhero and while he genuinely is enjoying it, he quickly finds it to be harder than he ever thought it would be. I liked seeing Spider-Man in over his head, trying to catch Adrian Toomes and his crew but also learning along the way how to do it right. Tony Stark has a supporting role here, acting as a bit of a father figure/mentor to Peter. I really liked their relationship and how it drove Peter to want to catch Toomes to impress Tony. That whole relationship between the two as they learned to work together and trust each other was a welcome addition to the film. 

The action sequences of the film were all well done and very well executed. It's become common for Superhero films lately to climax with a ton of overdone and poorly rendered CGI that this film wisely sidesteps, keeping things more grounded and practical, which I appreciated. I won't go into details because of spoilers, but I felt each sequence was really well handled and slickly executed. 

I loved the high school setting for the film and that they went ahead with a considerably younger Peter Parker, who is a sophomore in high school in this film. It's a welcome change from the other films that mostly skipped over Peter's high school years. This one really feels like if John Hughes made a Spider-Man movie. It really nails that time in a kid's life and feels authentic, which makes the more fantastical elements of the film work as well. The scenes between Peter and his best friend Ned (played by Jacob Batalon) were some of my favorites in the movie. I noticed there was a distinct level of diversity in the cast as well that really impressed me, whether it was casting Tovy Revolori as Flash Thompson, Zendaya as potential Peter Parker love interest Michelle, Donald Glover as Aaron Davis or Kenneth Choi as the school Principal, there is a real mix in this film that really impressed me. There's also a sweetness and almost innocence to the film that I found refreshing. This Peter just wants to do what's right and be a hero because he can and not someone bogged down by guilt and remorse by a murdered uncle. He looks up to Tony and Captain America and wants to be one of them. It's those aspirations and the stumbles he takes along the way that make the character so relatable to me. 

This film does a great job drawing it's characters and then casting actors in the roles that can really play them well. Tom Holland is now my absolute favorite Spider-Man. He captures the role perfectly in a way that I have been hungering for since the first Raimi film. This was the character I read in the comics and they really nailed it. Holland really captures not only Parker's quick wit, which he does have, but his naivete as well. They give Peter a great story arc in the film and Holland performs it wonderfully. 

But more than that, I appreciated the care they gave to the villain, Adrian Toomes. He has more depth than is usually given in these films and I couldn't help but at least kind of sympathize with him. At his core, he's just trying to provide for his family and stay afloat in tough economic times. He's a little guy trying to make it in the world, seeing himself overshadowed by the big shots like Tony Stark. I know Michael Keaton can play a great bad guy, as seen in previous films such as Pacific Heights and Desperate Measures. He brings that same level of menace to this role as well, especially in a particularly tense scene between Toombs and Peter, but tempers it because Toomes isn't naturally evil but feels forced into his place because he feels his livelihood and family are being threatened. Keaton does a great job playing this duality and it's nice to see that level of characterization given to a villain. 

Marisa Tomei also has some great scenes in the film and I really love her as Aunt May. I'm glad they went with someone younger as it never made sense to me why Aunt May would be such an older lady, as she was depicted in the comics and previous films. Tomei plays her scenes with Peter wonderfully and I really got that feeling of a bond between the two characters. As perhaps one of five people who fondly remembers the film Only You (in which Tomei co-starred with Robert Downey Jr.), I found May's vocal dislike of Tony Stark most amusing. Also, and this might be ever so slightly spoilerish, but she gets the last line in the movie and it left me busting a gut laughing.

Spider-Man: Homecoming was everything I could have hoped for and more. I loved every minute of it. It was filled with thrilling action sequences, great acting, a well developed story and some fantastic humor as well. There is a light-heartedness to this film that I really responded to and genuinely loved. This may just be my favorite Superhero movie of the summer, or at least a tie with Wonder Woman. Ugh, why am I making myself choose? Okay, it's a tie! It's a tie. Seriously though, it's pretty damn fantastic. Also, since this is a Marvel movie I should advise you that it has a mid-credits scene as well as a huge, huge, game changing end credits scene so make sure to plan accordingly. You'll want to stick around for both.