‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ is a Summer Vacation Worth Taking

To be totally candid here, it’s difficult to separate my thoughts on Far From Home as a film and my thoughts on it as a die-hard Spider-Man fan. Since the MCU is progressively becoming less stand-alone, I feel it is necessary to give my thoughts on previous entries. Homecoming remains my favorite Spider-Man film, and I am lukewarm at best towards Avengers: Endgame, and if you’re not a fan of either, if you dislike the MCU’s interpretation of Spider-Man, then Far From Home will do very little to change your mind. What we’re dealing with here, is a new, modernized re-interpretation of Peter Parker/Spider-Man instead of a definitive version of the character; the sooner you accept that, the better. You will also read me clarifying “live-action” when I make any bold claims because Into the Spider-Verse still remains the best Spider-Man film and possibly the best comic book film ever.

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I argue this mainly because Far From Home follows Peter Parker in a far different mindset than one would normally expect from him. This is a young, sixteen-year-old Peter that has gone through an enormous amount of trauma from the last two Avengers movies, and in the aftermath, has developed an exhaustion with superheroism; a Spider-Man that has a lot to learn about maturity, responsibility and a lot of emotional baggage to sort through. Jaded with the weight of Iron Man’s passing, Peter (Tom Holland) decides he wants to take a break; to go on his summer field trip in Europe with his classmates and pursue a romance with MJ (Zendaya). Along the way, he runs into Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) and a mysterious… Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), and the balance between being Spider-Man and being Peter Parker becomes an even more complicated weight to burden.

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‘Toy Story 4’ Finds Closure in Unexpected Places

Pixar’s sequelitis phase comes to an end with Toy Story 4, possibly the most worrisome sequel of all. Not only do you have the pressure of following up Toy Story 3, the most respected bookend to a nearly-perfect animated trilogy, but it is the newest sequel in a chain of “generally enjoyed but lacking long term impact” sequels from a studio that is lauded for its originality. It also marks the feature-length debut of director Josh Cooley. Greenlighting this film was like opening Pandora’s box, for once you create another addition to this story, the reputation and concept of creative integrity of the brand hangs in the film’s response. It’s a scary, extremely tall order to fill. Luckily, while Toy Story 4 will never quite shake off the label of “the sequel we never asked for,” it still manages to charm, delight, but most importantly, find a way to take its concept to infinity and beyond. And in this summer movie slump, I’ll gladly accept it as a knockout.

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Toy Story 4 kicks off with a cold open: the formerly off-screen separation of Woody (Tom Hanks) and Bo-Peep (Annie Potts) right before moving onto where we left off at the last film—Bonnie and the toys playing throughout the years until her student orientation at kindergarten. Woody, feeling not as relevant with his new owner as he did with Andy, decides to keep a watch on Bonnie on her first day. She creates Forky, a spork with googly eyes and a young mind haunted with existential terror, and Woody is determined to keep him safe through Bonnie’s summer road-trip. When a stop is made in a small town with a carnival and an old antique store, some old friends and flames come back to offer a new perspective of the past, of toy responsibilities, and when to move on. The Toy Story franchise has never been a stranger to themes of identity, but this is a deeper and even bigger step in interrogating what greater purpose toys (and/or, we) have in life.

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‘The Perfection’ Manipulates Audiences Into Rooting Against the Wrong Villain

Do you believe that perfection creates madness, or madness creates perfection? Time and time again, film explores the relationship between the artist and the pursuit of complete and total mastery of their craft. What will it take to be the best of the best? What will be sacrificed? In most cases, the artist pays a hefty price for the highest form of achievement, but is it all worth it in the end? All too often, the artist loses relationships, personal autonomy, and in some instances, even sanity. It’s a tightrope that many must walk for the sake of a perfect performance and the hearts of spectators. The latest film to explore this symbiotic relationship is Richard Shepherd’s The Perfection. The Perfection takes viewers in the dark recesses of the competitive world of music.

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‘Aladdin’ Flies Below Even the Lowest of Expectations

If you’ve seen the original 1992 Aladdin, which is probably most of the people who are reading this, then you know that this new remake has some big shoes to fill. Most likely, we all have the same exact reason why— the late Robin Williams simply makes Aladdin what it is. I rewatched the original just the other day, and I was only mildly enjoying it until Genie lit up the screen with his big, blue energetic personality, taking in the ‘Friend Like Me’ number in all its technicolor glory,  I fully remembered why the 2D-animated film was so cherished. Though, even in its original form, there’s a lot that is problematic with Disney’s take on Aladdin, from the ethnic hodgepodge of cultural tourism to the pop culture references that keep it from transcending the early 90s release date. But, one special quality that made the film stand out from a well-established canon of fairytales, was Williams as Genie, and his raw sincerity.

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And how could this remake ever recapture that spirit? Well, it simply doesn’t. I don’t think anyone truly expected it would. We know the story of Aladdin, the titular underdog street rat with a heart of gold, who learns the importance of staying true to oneself as he wishes on a magic lamp for a more extravagant life with Princess Jasmine. I’ll save the spiel. Although, I wish Walt Disney Studios would also give us the same amount of faith in our intelligence. Instead, we’re presented with a passionless retelling of the original Aladdin, the same, general, basic plot beats with only minor alterations (hold on, Genie fucks?!) that don’t seem to add anything besides runtime. Director Guy Ritchie does make sense for a more action/adventure based Disney story, but his directorial influence is only hinted at in small sequences of spectacle. So, we’re left with a question often raised whenever a new one of these remakes release, but seriously, what’s the point?

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‘Where Hands Touch’ Doesn’t Quite Embrace the History of Black Germans

For decades, filmmakers have been endlessly fascinated with telling the stories behind World War II, one of the darkest and tumultuous periods in history. Since the war’s conclusion, many stories emerged beyond the remains. However, there are still many aspects of history that were lost over time. There’s still so much we don’t know, and may never know. Despite the hundreds of films, documentaries, and books, some important parts of history fall between the cracks. In her latest film, director/writer Amma Asante aims to showcase a different perspective of Nazi Germany in Where Hands Touch.

Inspired by the hidden history of the cruelly-named Rheinlandbastarde, Where Hands Touch centers the story around a mixed-race German girl by the name of Leyna (Amandla Stenberg). Born of a French-Senegalese father and German mother (Abbie Cornish), Leyna struggles to find her place in an increasingly hostile Nazi Germany. Leyna loves her country, yet her own country demonstrates it doesn’t love her back. Believing herself to be a true German, Leyna initially believes she is safe from the wrath of the Third Reich.

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‘Santa Clarita Diet’ Season Three Perfects The Genre of Comedy

This is a largely spoiler free review.

Nothing about Santa Clarita Diet is supposed to work out logically on television. It is absolutely ludicrous, absurd, and simply downright unbelievable. A woman turns into a cannibal and is worshipped as the messenger of God. Organs grow their own legs and murder people. Somewhere along the way in this season, we have ancient knights fitting in perfectly in a white, suburban, and soccer-mom-dominated neighbourhood. We have characters questioning the point of existence, as if that even matters when cannibals are accepted as the de facto state of affairs in the show. However, not only does Santa Clarita Diet manage to find a coherent logic amidst the chaos, it also shows us that the comedic medium does not need to thrive on bigotry in order to question what it means to live in a world so horribly broken. Continue reading “‘Santa Clarita Diet’ Season Three Perfects The Genre of Comedy”

‘The Lego Movie 2’ is Built With Fewer Complex Pieces But is Awesome All the Same

No one, absolutely no one, could have ever suspected that The Lego Movie would be as good as it was. Boasting a stop-motion inspired, completely-made-out-of-bricks animation style, countless different franchises and IPs, and a loud, catchy pop song in “Everything is Awesome,” it was evident that it would look and sound the part at the very least. In a Hollywood landscape where it seemed that just about every movie was a reboot, a sequel, or an adaptation of some obscure toy, imagine how audiences and critics alike were caught off guard when The Lego Movie itself directly knew all of our anxieties and used them to its advantage. Stealthily, we got a movie that used one of the biggest toy brands and some of the biggest franchises to create a narrative about the beauty of individuality and creative self-expression, a heartwarming tale about a father and son reconnecting, and the dangers of conformity under a capitalist society (no, seriously).

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In short, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the directors of the first film (and most recently Into the Spider-Verse), know what the hell they’re doing. There have been a few Lego spin-offs in the meantime since 2014, but here we finally are with a sequel to the original The Lego Movie. This time around, Lord and Miller have producing credits, with director Mike Mitchell (Trolls) taking the reigns. But, rest assured, their under-99-layers-of-irony-but-still-as-genuine-as-can-be essence is still everywhere. The result is a sequel that is a lot less subtle about its meta-narratives and has fewer moving parts in its plot structure, but still understands everything that made the original great while excelling at being just as emotionally satisfying.

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