Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) – A Solid Return to the Basics of “Spider-Man”

      Sony sharing custody of Spider-Man was the best thing that could have happened to the character. After they tied to go “Dark Knight” with Spidey and failed miserably as they ended up focusing more on franchise management rather than story…it is good that they let the studio who knows story shape their character’s future. This is film that isn’t great, but it is good and it is one I’d highly recommend. The villain and support characters are wonderful and there is a lot of good setup for future films. Before I get into spoilers, if you like the MCU or are a fan of Spider-Man, chances are you will enjoy this film as I did.

The film was directed by Jon Watts, who co-wrote it with 5 other people (hello Sony and Marvel Studios) and produced by Kevin Feige and Amy Pascal.

After the events of “Captain America: Civil War,” Peter Parker is given a new suit by Tony Stark but soon finds himself left behind. As he finds himself pulled into thefts of alien technology around the city he must take on the mysterious Vulture while dealing with Tony Stark wanting him to stay out of it as he tries to juggle being Spider-Man and his complex social life at school and taking on the threat of the Vulture.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World of the MCU – The MCU is a world full of consequences. SHIELD was disbanded, the Avengers fell apart, some characters have died for good (though none of the biggies yet sadly) and each of the films plays into one another while still standing strong on their own. Spider-Man is one of my favorite comic book heroes, along with Batman when I was growing up and I’m glad he is in this Universe that is so rich and full of lore that now his amazing lore can once again be apart of as well.

Vulture – Michael Keaton is one of the best MCU villains to date. This is a guy who wants to look after his family after he loses out on a government contract to clean up New York after the events of the “Avengers.” You can understand his chip on his shoulder and he has a twisted sense of honor as even after he learns Spidey’s identity, he keeps it secret. His character manages to be both empathetic and threatening making him so very human…I’m glad that Marvel didn’t kill him off and can’t wait to see him in future Spidey films.

With Great Power – One of the key traits of Spider-Man is that, “With great power comes great responsibility” and this film illustrates it really well. The main arc is Spidey wanting to join the Avengers but he continues to mess up even as he tries to do good. So many of the problems that he has to fix are ones he created and his arc is the constant struggle with this as his social and super hero life collapse around him and he has to own up for his mistakes. It is his character and what defines him and the main arc that drives the story. Tom Holland really is wonderful in this role. This is a return to the basics of the character, which we needed after all the conspiracy Oscorp crap in the “Amazing Spider-Man” films.

Changes and Avoiding Past Pitfalls – There are things in here that I really liked that exist because the writers avoided doing what had been done before. We don’t have an Uncle Ben origin story death, there is not a Goblin to be seen, Peter doesn’t mope and the finale isn’t Spider-Man saving the love interest from the baddy who wants to destroy the city. These changes were masterful and in doing so let them do knew things like his friends Ned and Michelle, Ned who finds out he is Spider-Man and Michelle who ends up being a wonderful re-imagining of M.J. Seriously, Zendaya is the best part of this film outside of Vulture.

The Cons: The Point of Aunt May – Everybody creeps on Aunt May and I hate it. If the character is a guy he will comment on how hot she is and that is all she exists as. It is objectifying and annoying as she is Peter’s guardian and mentor and they could have done so much more with that. She has one scene where she comforts him but she almost wasn’t needed in this film as Tony Stark functions as a surrogate guardian.

The Uncle Ben Shaped Hole – Aunt May has been through a lot but we never know what happened to Uncle Ben or if he is even still alive in this version of the lore. I’m glad we didn’t get his death again but he should have at least been mentioned or dealt with as he is such a huge essential part of what drives Peter Parker and his becoming Spider-Man.

This is a solidly good film and one that I will probably go back and watch as I am a fan of Spider-Man. I hope we see more done with the characters and villains that are setup throughout the film as Spider-Man has one of the best rogues galleries outside of Batman and I can’t wait to see how the reveals done in this film payoff later as Marvel and Sony further develop one of the best characters to come out of Marvel Comics in the amazing world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Final Score:  8.2 / 10 Solidly good.

Shaun of the Dead (2004): Subverting the Rom Com, Popular Culture and Zombie Films

Shaun of the Dead

      “Shaun of the Dead” is a film that does a great job satirizing modern society as well as managing to subvert some of the Rom Com tropes as Shaun is a character who most of the time manages to makes situations worse by trying to do right by his relationships. The weakest part of the film is Ed (Nick Frost) who seems to function as one big joke and in a way wasn’t needed for Shaun’s story to be told.

       The film was directed by Edgar Wright who wrote it with Simon Pegg and produced by Nira Park.

      The story involves Shaun (Nick Frost) and Ed (Nick Frost) missing the Zombie apocalypse until it is in their home forcing Shaun to reconcile with his family and ex named Liz (Kate Ashfield) as he becomes the leader of the group and plans to get them to the pub called the Winchester, believing it to be the only safe place in the city.

The Pros: The Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful (as is the editing) as the soundtrack is beautifully put into the film to reflect the characters and situations. For example when David is working the lights it is like a concert with the zombies moving to the lights and music while Liz and Shaun fight to Queen. David M. Dunlap did a great job.

The Action – The action is great in this and given that these are slow walkers that says something…the Zombies actually manage to be threatening and a force even if most of the problems that happen are caused by Shaun and his own stupidity and the stupidity of his party.

The Characters – The characters are tropes in this but they get enough development that they feel real. I know people like these characters so it manages to actually be compelling in regards to what happens to them.

Pete – Pete is a dick but he also tries to be as open and supportive as he can even though Ed is giving nothing to rent and their life and he only turns on Shaun and Ed after he is bitten and can’t get any sleep because they are drunk and mixing records as Liz had just dumped Shaun that day.

Philip – Bill Nighy plays Shaun’s step-dad who was always hard on him but finally admits he’s loved him all along before he turns. He is a great character as we we gruff man not used to showing feelings finally opening up at the end and in turn revealing Shaun’s tender side too. It was great seeing him again in this too as before I’d only seen him as Davy Jones in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” Trilogy.

Barbara – Penelope Wilton (the Prime Minister from “Doctor Who”) is great in this as the mom who doesn’t want to intrude upon Shaun’s life. She is super sweet and when she dies you feel it as she was someone doing the best she could and living the theme of survival.

David and Dianne – Dianne is an out of work actress but comes up with the brilliant idea of them pretending to be zombies to get into the Winchester. David was always crushing on Liz and Dianne helped him get over it, him ignoring and denying that hurts her a lot and she goes to protect him when he is being devoured alive by zombies leading to her implied death too.

Yvonne and her Party – Yvonne is the one who seeks out the British Army and saves Liz and Shaun who are the only ones in their party who survive the apocalypse. She is always on it and is the only one with a clear head in all the events that go down. Her boyfriend is also played by Martin Freeman and the characters in her party mirror Shaun’s party. The romantic relationship – Martin and Liz as an example.

Subverting the Rom Com – In the Rom Com the man child (Shaun) usually grows up and redeems himself showing that he is a good guy. In this he is the same guy after he just now knows he courageous and has dealt with all his repressed feelings. When he is the leader he isn’t very good at it and he brought them to the Winchester which was an open pub surrounded by Zombies…nothing he does really helps and his friend

We are the Zombies – The way this is shown best is Shaun in his retail job where everyone is repeating the same phrases again and again, his morning routine as the apocalypse unfolds and him not noticing until a zombie is in his home and the television showing the crap reality television shows before and after the apocalypse and how they were essentially still the same.

Okay: Ed – I couldn’t stand this character, which might have been part of the point. He is selfish, lazy and doesn’t do anything for anyone without first measuring how it benefits himself. I think he was meant to be a joke though as he is played as normal after he turns at the end, showing he was a Zombie in a way, all along.

I would actually rate “Hot Fuzz” higher in the Cornetto Trilogy at this point as I found Nick Frost’s Danny a much more compelling character than Ed (who exists in every film of this nature usually played by Seth Rogen or a Sandler actor) and though I consider this film a favorite and found the overall satire hilarious, “Hot Fuzz” had better payoff with the jokes and dialogue. Still, this is one of the best satires, horrors and comedies and without a doubt my favorite zombie film I have ever watched.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

The 3rd Doctor – Season 7, Episode 2 – “Doctor Who and the Silurians” – The Vices of Conflict

Doctor_Who_and_the_Silurians_DVD_US_cover

         “Doctor Who and the Silurians” is a great episode of “Classic Doctor Who” and one I’d recommend. It is good at exploring the different factions that are at play and each of the characters gets exploration in their slow descent to become the worst of themselves. This is something the current version of “Doctor Who” has never been able to do as well, partially because it doesn’t have the 7 Part format of this era that the new era lacks.

     The episode was directed by Timothy Combe, written by Malcolm Hulke and produced by Barry Letts.

     The story involves the awakening of the Silurians from their hibernation from the energy that is being used by the Wenly Moor Nuclear Research Facility. It is up to the Doctor and Liz to discover what is going on as they work with UNIT and the Brig and soon find themselves pulled into a conflict where Silurians and Humans work to destroy one another as the Doctor strives for peace and the survival of both species.

The Pros: Building Tension – This is a 7 Part story and it does a great job at building tension. We don’t see the Silurian for sometime but we do see the world through it’s eyes and the fear it feels and fear it makes other feel as it is running away wounded, this perspective lends the story power and shows the fear and confusion on both sides of the conflict while also presenting some good B Grade Horror tricks.

The Research Facility – The Wenley Moor Nuclear Research Facility is a place of drama, mysterious things keep pulling the power and making the reactor unstable which leads to the government and leader of the facility always at odds. Eventually his paranoia gets the better of him and we see just how much fear has destroyed everyone. The facility is also used to trick the Silurians who are attempting to destroy the humans after a Warmonger Silurian takes over after killing the Peaceful leader. The Doctor uses the facility to force them into hibernation and ends up preventing it from exploding.

UNIT – UNIT is on top of things this episode, for better and for worse. We see them dealing with the Silurian threat, stopping the Silurian bacteria that is infecting the population with the help of Liz and the Doctor and later they mount a counterattack and commit genocide on the Silurian population, fearing another attack after having being held hostage at the research facility.

The Brig – The Brigadier is a great character! We see him dealing with government politics and ethics as the Doctor does things like talk to the Silurians that put him in a compromised position. He trusts the Doctor up until he sees how humanity is turning on itself from Silurian threat so the Silurians must be destroyed…also after nearly being killed by the Warmonger Silurian he had had enough and decided to wipe out the population. He isn’t a good guy as we know all Silurians were not bad but all he had was his experience to go off and that was witnessing two attempts by the Silurians to wipe out the Species of humanity. Nicholas Courtney is great as always.

The Silurians – The Silurians are complicated and we see a rich culture in the times we meet them. We also see that there are those with superiority comlexes ruled by fear who want the Earth back and not to coexist. This political dilemma leads to a coup and the disposal of the peaceful Leader, which spells the end of the Silurians as the attack by Morka and K’to leads to a UNIT counterattack which leads to the wiping out of their species and any chance for peace. We know they aren’t all bad as shown by their leader it was simply the few awake were ruled by fear because every interaction with humans had been hostile…showing the tragedy of the Silurian experience after their awakening.

Liz – Liz is a great companion and Caroline John is fantastic as her! She is an active companion who doesn’t take crap from the Doctor. We see her in scientist mode and she discovers that the Silurians are reptiles and large and from their helps the Doctor discover their possible origin. She is the only one not to die of fright when she sees a Silurian and we see her on the side of peace the entire time and against the actions of fear by UNIT and the government.

The Doctor – Jon Pertwee is wonderful as the 3rd Incarnation of the Doctor! In this we see him fixing his car Bessie and later using it to get around in investigating the attacks in the mine and around the countryside. He is the only one who truly understands the Silurian experience and wants peace and coexistence. He is willing to go to any lengths to do so, showing just how alien he is…where humans react with fear he reacts with understanding and asking questions and it is at the end where the sadness of humanity wiping out an entire species is only felt by him and the failures of all his attempts to reach a peaceful solution as his last regard of reasoning with the Silurians one at at time after awakening them from hibernation was ignored as UNIT destroyed the Silurians instead. Pertwee is the gruff and gentlemenly Doctor who defines himself in how he is not like humanity, even if at times he helps them.

The Vices of War and Destruction – The reason humans die from the Silurian bacteria and the Silurian species is destroyed is because of the vices of fear, anger and greed. It is greed that makes the members of the facility want nothing to do with the Silurians or the conflict only running the machine, it is fear that leads to the peaceful Silurian leader being killed in a coup and anger and fear that lead to the bombs being placed that destroy the Silurians. In this way peace was a lost cause the moment the cycle started with the Silurian injuring the miners and being injured in turn (unknown who started it though, both were in self defense most likely)..and this fed the conflict that could only have one resolution since no one wanted to listen or understand except the Doctor and Liz. The desire for control of land by the humans and Silurians is another major problem that fed the conflict. There was no sharing involved, it was all or nothing for the war parties.

The Ending – The ending is sad and powerful. It is true to reality as well as many cultures are no longer around today because of conflict and war that was started from the need for land and the people who do work for peace in conflict today are usually on the losing side since war breeds war and hate breeds hate, resolution only happens after enough people have died to get one faction to surrender. This ending illustrated that the Doctor isn’t a superhero either. He won’t always save the day because the choices of humans and Silurians are not his to make.

Okay: The Human and Silurian Antagonists – The antagonists are alright, I would have liked more on why they felt so strongly on things though. The men at the research station wanted money and knowledge and losing that drove them mad and the Silurians wanted their old home back (a good drive) but they also never experienced harm from humans first hand. If K’to or Morka had I would have put them as a pro since their fear would have greater reason behind it and not simply look cruel or for political ends.

    This was an episode that showed that there isn’t always a happy ending and the Doctor can’t always save everyone…sometimes people will act whether he wants them to or not and they may or may not be right depending on the situation. This is something the New Series of “Doctor Who” lacks. It is still a favorite show but I think the longer format of the episodes of the past allowed for great exploration of the different factions and worlds and provided great rising tension rather than having everything at a break neck pace. Sometimes a story wants you to get to know the characters first before they are put in mortal danger. This is a huge reason this episode works and why it would not have worked if it had only had an hour to tell the story. This is also a story that is true to reality and just how difficult it is to make peace as well as showing us the Doctor is not a Superhero and he cannot always save the day since it is the choices of everyone that affect a conflict and it’s resolution, not just one person.

Final Score: 9.2 / 10

12 Days of Doctors – The 3rd Doctor – Season 7, Episode 1 – “The Spearhead From Space” – The Beginning of an Exile

Spearhead_from_Space

We continue 12 Days of Doctors with the count up to 12th’s first Adventure with the 3rd Doctor. This was the first time Doctor Who appeared in color and also the first episode that had UNIT helping the Doctor against the current threat, as well as the introduction as well as the introduction of Jon Pertwee at the Third Doctor.

“The Spearhead From Space,” was written by Robert Holmes and directed by Derek Martinus. Producer Derrick Sherman oversaw the change between Troughton to Pertwee and the new direction the show would take.

The story begins with strange meteors crashing into the Earth, one of which is the Doctor in the TARDIS. He is taken in by UNIT (United Nations Intelligence Task Force) as UNIT tries to figure out what happened as only a piece of one of the strange alien cylinders that fell is found by them and it is broken. Liz is brought onto the scene by the Brigadier to help solve things and after the Doctor is attacked by assassins from the life-form that landed he begins working with The Brig and Liz  to find out what it is…at least until Liz gets him his key to the TARDIS and he finds that the Time Lords have permanently exiled him on Earth in the time period it takes place in forcing him to help solve the crisis and accept his exile. From here the story unfolds.

Dr Who: Spearhead From Space

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The Brig – Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart is the most famous leaders of UNIT and the only person who had met the Doctor prior in this episode since he met him during the 2nd Doctor’s run. He is the prime factor helping and hindering the Doctor, as he knows he needs the Doctor but also respects the Doctor. He is the one who listens when the Doctor gives advice and acts on it. He is definitely a companion, though not in the fly around in the TARDIS way companion. In this episode we see him help focus the Doctor on the threat at hand and protect him from the threat. He makes a deal with the Doctor at an end to give him a lab and supplies to help fix the TARDIS as well as clothes and a car.

Liz – Liz is one of the famous companions during the 3rd Doctor’s run. We see her as indepdent and a skeptic when we first meet her, not wanting to be used by UNIT until her curiousity is made strong enough and we see her complex relationship with the Doctor too. She is the one who helps him fight the Nestene Consciousness (that later appears to face the 9th Doctor in his first adventure with a companion) and save the people who have been paralyzed so their Auton (plastic people) forms can reek havok. She is one of the companions I have a lot of respect for as she holds her own and her identity isn’t dependent on the Doctor.

UNIT – It is great seeing UNIT mostly competent and in action. The Brig is the leader we see be the most effective, as his superior gets captured by the Nestene’s human speaker Channing and turned into one of the first Autons to infiltrate society. They have a big battle at the end which helps limit the damage the Nestene Cons. causes.

The Nestene Consciousness – Is a great threat and an interesting looking alien. It is an alien made of pure energy that separates itself into different parts and once combined together is able to form a tentacle monster that nearly kills the Doctor. My one issue with it is we don’t know why it wants to conquer Earth. It is a great threat in the episode though.

The Use of Color – The use of color is used really well, from the Doctor’s black gentelmenlike outfit he steals from a doctor…too the dark coats with the pale faces of the Autons. You can see everything happen and it makes the story beautiful to watch.

The Third Doctor / The 3rd Doctor – Jon Pertwee is fantastic. While the First Doctor was the Professor, and the Second Doctor was the buffoon manipulator…the Third Doctor is the gentlemen. We see this in the clothes he chooses and how apologetic he is about every time he messes up. We see him try to run we when he gets the key, and that is when he discovers his punishment for getting involved with humanity and time was more than a forced regeneration…it was exile on the world he was so active in. You can see the sadness in his eyes when he realizes this and this informs his performance too. He is here on Earth because he has to be and also he is still the Doctor a protector. We see his scientific mind at work in helping defeat the Nestene Cons. and that Liz and he have great chemistry when they team up.

Okay: The Supporting Cast – The Factory owner and former factory owner who eventually turn against the Nestene Cons. are pretty one note. They aren’t bad but their roles are predictable and their performances aren’t elevated in anyway. Same goes for the poacher who finds and keeps part of the Nestene’s Cons.

Okay/Con: Channing – He isn’t all that unique as a villain. He takes control of a doll making faculty and the Nestene Cons. promises him power, but other than that he has no motivation. He has power over the Autons I guess, but what was he promised beyond survival. He does alright in the role and he’s not a bad villain, there just isn’t much there.

The 3rd Doctor’s run had a fair amount of episodes saved thankfully, and Jon Pertwee is a pleasure to watch. This episode is a good episode and a good introduction to him as the Third Doctor. It definitely gets a recommendation from me, even though the story and baddies aren’t as good as those from “The Power of the Daleks.” Jon Pertwee is one of the best, you can never go wrong with the Brigadier and Liz is a great companion.

Final score for this episode is 8.5 / 10

Spearhead from Space (3)