Sunday, November 12, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok - The End...And Beginning

"I choose to run towards my problems, and not away from them. Because that's what heroes do." - Thor.

Last week I, alongside my girlfriend, brother and a group of our friends, sat down for a real treat. We took in a showing of the latest superhero spectacular from Marvel Studios, Thor: Ragnarok. Third film in the line of Thor movies and the 17th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this was a very different film from its previous counterparts. Not only did it have Thor take up a new character aspects different from his usual demeanor, it was also very heavy on comedy instead of lots of action.

Directed by Taika Waititi, this was a very fun movie to watch. Particularly because of the comedy that was more prevalent then in other Marvel films, but also because of its casting and script and special effects. Taika took a story that could have been serious and instead made it one that also elicited laughs from the audience. 

Chris Hemsworth is always a delight to watch as Thor. Embodying all the swagger and arrogance of the Thunder God, this time around he also brought out some of the more serious nature of the character. Thor really steps up to the plate in this movie, not just in the sense of saving the world, but also in terms of taking even more responsibility then he had in the past. Faced with insurmountable odds and without his usual method of dealing with a problem (RIP Mjolnir), he uses his mind and his abilities, not just as the Thunder God but also humility and desire to make things right. There is some major character growth throughout the movie for Thor, so that by the end Marvel-lovers see what kind of hero is truly under the hair and power. He is a hero, willing to do whatever it takes to see that things are put right. 

Returning to the character of Bruce Banner after 3 years, Mark Ruffalo did a smashing job. Like putting on an old coat or getting back on a bicycle, he gives people a Bruce Banner who has been locked inside the Hulk's rage and anger for two years. Back in reality, there's a lot of shock over missing so much, and then suddenly being thrust into a conflict that is of catastrophic proportions. Nevertheless, it is all taken in stride and Banner/Hulk is back in the fight again. There's a lot of great improvisation between Ruffalo and Hemsworth, which makes for fantastic back and forth. 

Tessa Thompson nailed it as Valkyrie. One of the great warrior women of Asgard's elite, this is a figure who has been running from her problems all her life. Shame, afraid to face down the evil of that once nearly dominated all life. Face to face with Thor and the possibility of redemption (after some soul searching and goading), she stands and fights again for Asgard and for life. May her character return for future Marvel Cinematic movies, and perhaps even get her own spin-off adventures. There is a lot of great potential, both with Valkyrie within the confines of being in more Marvel teamups, and also having her own superhero film adventures. 

Cate Blanchett was truly terrifying as Hela. Despite being a one-movie villain, her impact as a nemesis felt even found resounding then that of say Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges). The reasons for who she is (Goddess of Death) and for being the way she is, are more personal and deep then some of the usual superhero movie villains. Elder child of  Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and scored by him for being too power-mad, she is locked away for all eternity, released at last by the death of the All-Father. And with that release comes fury, rage and the desire to claim the throne of Asgard for her very own. This makes for a powerful performance with many great scenes and fabulous dialogue. Casting Cate in this role was a great decision, one worthy of an Oscar. 

It's not a Thor movie without Tom Hiddleston as Loki. There wouldn't be an sly villainy or clever witty remarks to toss at Chris without Tom. He experiences some growth as well. While it may not be as soul-wrenching powerful as Thor finally taking up the kingship of Asgard, its still deep. With high stakes at play this time around, the resentment he's always felt towards his brother finally is stripped away in some very choice words and acting between Chris and Tom. While these two brothers may not always get along, Loki may finally see how much Thor always cared for him, even when it seemed like he didn't.

For a superhero plot about the end of Asgard, there is lots of moments designed to make people laugh. But there is also a lot of seriousness underneath the funny. There's the big overarching element of Hela taking over Asgard and Ragnarok, the end of all things coming. Further inside that, is the story of Thor. Favorite son of Odin, God of Thunder, Prince of Asgard, Avenger. Thor eschewed the responsibilities of the throne for a life of adventure and daring do. Now, he must face up to all the things he pushed aside, and while ruling still means that there is adventure, it also means he has to stop running from the problem of feeling like he could never be the king Odin was.

That really says a lot for his character, and it can be seen in parallel with figures history. George Washington, after the end of the American Revolution, was ready for a quiet life of being the gentleman farmer. Living out his days with Martha at Mount Vernon. While he may not have wanted to be President, he still rose to the occasion and became the first in a long line of Presidents, and helped set the precedent for a peaceful transition of office. Another example is that of King George IV (rewatch 'The King's Speech' or early episodes of 'The Crown' to remember him). He never even truly wanted the throne of England, but in the end he accepted it. In doing so, he lead his people through some of the darkest days the nation ever saw during WWII.

The point behind these previous paragraphs, is that history and fiction alike are filled with reluctant leaders. People who do not wish to rule, but ruler-ship is handed to them no matter what. How they handle that responsibility and the duties that come with it, therein lies the true marks of what it takes to be a leader.

Other things about this movie that were great include the special effects and the additional members of the cast. Every Marvel Cinematic piece has eye-popping visuals that just blow minds and stun people. With Thor going way out to outer space, that means a whole new playing field for graphic designers and visual artists etc. Other members of the cast that did a bang-up job include Jeff Goldblum (Grandmaster), Karl Urban (Skurge) and with a fun and great extended cameo, Benedict Cumberbatch (Dr. Strange).

Thor: Ragnarok was many things. It was serious, funny, well cast, well written and very enjoyable to watch. Another stone in the bridge building up to Avengers: Infinity Wars, this not only broadens the scope of things for Marvel more, it also showed what can happen when a superhero movie doesn't try to take itself so seriously, and still can be good. It get's a five out of five stars with the hopes that for any further solo Thor films, they are just as solid as this one.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Blade Runner 2049: Solving a Long Ago Mystery

"I have memories, but I can't tell if they're real" - K.

Earlier this week I had the utter joy of sitting down with my girlfriend and a close friend to take in a highly anticipated movie. It's been 35 years in the making but at long last the dystopian world of Blade Runner returned, and things certainly did not get better in the 30 year time-span of that universe.

Denis Villeneuve may not be Ridley Scott, but he certainly dug deep into Scott's box of magic that produced the original Blade Runner and out came Blade Runner 2049. He presents many of the familiar trappings of the Los Angeles of the future, but there is a certain stronger grime to it now. The world has become a darker place, and some things are different, while some are the same. A fear and mistrust of Replicants is still present, but he adds in a wider acceptance of them as well. An entirely new plot with added twists and turns puts fuel to the fire that was started decades ago and has been fanned into a fantastic film that will hopefully have a sequel.

Ryan Gosling, cast as new character K, a Replicant Blade Runner, is painted as a different man then the character of Rick Deckard was. As a Replicant, K knows that people don't like him and trust him, yet he goes about doing his job of 'retiring' his kind. In doing so, he stumbles on a an age old secret that not only produces startling revelations about the world, but also about himself. Fans of Ryan's will love this he's cast in, because it allows them to see a different sort of persona for him to play, one that is serious, and has emotional depth, but it takes time for those emotions to come out from layers of programming.

Seeing Harrison Ford back on screen as Deckard was an absolute joy. While Deckard doesn't show up until the third act of the story, his presence and the case from the original plot are felt throughout the bulk of the film. He may be older and grayer, but underneath is still a man who believes in doing the right thing. But he is also haunted, by ghosts of his past, and now one of those ghosts turns up again, carried on wings by K and thrusting Deckard back into a world he long turned his back on. Anyone who has grown up a fan of Harrison Ford will appreciate seeing him put on the 'old coat' of Rick Deckard, especially after it having been a long gap between movies.

Ana de Armas takes an interesting part in the movie. She is Joi, K's holographic girlfriend and the only person who cares about him and loves him. While yes she is only a hologram, what makes a person? She is programmed to an extent, but its clear that interactions with K expand her digital consciousness, allowing Joi to grow beyond the original purpose she was designed for. The interactions between her and Gosling are sweet, movie-goers will clearly see the love each of them has for one another.

Jared Leto, oh what a role he is cast in. Playing corporate head Niander Wallace, he is the man who makes Replicants now, and he also has a sinister agenda at play. The character is a disturbing one, a person with zero empathy for life and willing to do whatever it takes to expand his operation. While mainly a secondary figure to Ryan Gosling and eventually Harrison Ford, Leto has some great scenes with both actors and delivers some chilling and well written dialogue. 

Robin Wright and Sylvia Hoeks have strong parts in the story. Robin plays K's superior Lt. Joshi while Sylvia is Luv, Niander Wallace's strong right hand. Both these actress's represent opposite sides of the coin of the future, Joshi is law and order, wanting to preserve peace for humans and Replicants. Luv is a sort of lawless chaos, doing whatever Wallace wants and is not afraid to get creative in the process. And both actress's fill parts laid out in the original movie by M. Emmet Walsh and Joanna Cassidy, law and crime (corporate crime). A lot can be said for these two figures, but that would give away too much plot. To put it finely, the choice of casting them was excellent, and Robin and Sylvia do well on the screen alongside Gosling, Ford, Leto etc.

Dystopian future is always painted as very bleak. A world that ought to be perfect but isn't. All the technological achievements and breakthrough's can't fix things that are broken. Confined originally to a dark and overcrowded Los Angeles, Blade Runner 2049 breaks beyond that, and goes past the city limits, showing more of the desolation that has come to what was the United States. Denis uses a lot of shadows for his movie, similar to Ridley Scott. There is light, but there is dark too, used primarily to showcase what has happened over the course of 30 years.

Sequels to science-fiction movies often fall into two categories, good and bad. Blade Runner 2049 definitely falls into the good category. This is a heavy story, one about finding oneself, freedom, a new age. While yes its a dystopian tale, it has glimmers of light underneath, and that light is what is a propellant for characters like K once the ball gets rolling. Despite some of the negative press it has received, I feel that fans of the original Blade Runner will appreciate the loose ends tied up by the sequel, as well as new questions and ideas put forth by the dialogue and story. 5 out of 5 stars for its cast, its scenes and most importantly, for being more then what was expected of a sequel movie 35 years in the making.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Kingsman: The Golden Circle- British meets American Intelligence

"Manners... maketh... man. Let me translate that for you." - Whiskey.

Several days ago alongside my girlfriend and brother, we took in a late evening show of the latest action spy film from 20th Century Fox, Kingsman: The Golden Circle

The movie was enjoyable enough, it had many of the same earmarks of the first movie, action, spy drama, and many returning characters in addition to new ones. There was sadly a lot of problems with it too, such as the newer characters not getting much in the way of backstory, plus a plot that felt a lot more loose in some respects.

Matthew Vaughn does a decent enough job as director. His forays into other comic book related properties include Kick-Ass, Kingsman and X-Men: First Class. However this time around his directing takes a different spin, going more in favor of a Michael Bay style. Meaning that while there is a story, it is pushed aside in favor of stylized action sequences that while nice to look at, don't do much in the way of advancing things. It doesn't help that this is a sequel movie based off a comic book series that for the longest time, didn't have a follow up until recent months.

Taron Egerton's return as Eggsy is very welcome however. His character has a lot of strong growth throughout the movie, both in his role as spy and on a personal level (no spoilers here). He is also sporting that spiffy orange tuxedo seen in trailers and on posters, plus a lot of new Kingsman gadgets, as well as some toys from the organization's American cousins, the Statesmen.

Statesmen, an independent American spy group that all have a heavy cowboy/rancher motif going, not to mention using six-gun, lassos, whips etc. as their main field weapons. It almost feels like Vaughn took elements from old John Wayne movies and glued them together with James Bond elements, with this being the end result. That's not to say that the group isn't bad. Jeff Bridges as the head of the team is a fun choice, plus Halle Berry as the American version of Mark Strong's character Merlin. Channing Tatum and Pedro Pascal are the two main field agents, and while both of them have cool outfits and awesome fighting styles, they don't really have anything in the way of backstories. None of the group do, which is one of the biggest things that threw me off and causes the movie to fall short of expectations.


On the other hand, both Colin Firth and Mark Strong returning to their roles of Harry and Merlin did exceptional. They are already top notch actors so coming back to roles that already have given them more acclaim, is somewhat like getting back on a bicycle, but adding new shocks to change things up. In this case the shocks being more character development for each of them, making their roles stronger.

For the villain, Julianne Moore steps into the ring as Poppy Adams, an international drug crime-lord looking to make a big splashy reveal to the world. Not unlike Samuel L. Jackson's performance of Richmond Valentine, Poppy is very thematic foe, on par with James Bond rogues of old. Her mission, a twisted agenda that includes what can be likened to a form of global control (though not in the way one would expect).

Old faces returning and new faces coming in make this a fun movie. And the fighting/spy action is great to watch. But there is still that issue of the Statesmen characters not having a very strong background or backstory, they are just the American equivalent of Kingsmen. Another big issue is that Sophie Cookson's role of Roxy Morton/Lancelot is really given next to nothing this time around. There is a lot of potential for her character and its utterly wasted. It's almost as if Matthew Vaughn cared so little for what her performance could bring to the movie, he chose to sideline her almost immediately.

Despite the action and excitement of there being a sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle doesn't totally come up to the line on the same level as its predecessor. It's a fine and dandy piece of work to be sure, but there's so much more that could have been done with it. I still encourage everyone to see it, but my rating for this one is going to have to be 3 stars out of 5 for the various detraction's I mentioned earlier. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

It Chapter 1: Pennywise Gets Inside Your Heads

"Derry is not like any town I've been in before. People die or disappear, six times the national average. And that's just grown ups. Kids are worse. Way, way worse." - Ben Hanscom. 

Last week I and my girlfriend and some of our friends, took in a late showing of the latest Stephen King film adaptation, It: Chapter 1. This is the beginning of what is now a re-surged interest in making movies out of Stephen King's books, only now also upping the intensity and violence and drama. 

Directed by Andy Muschietti, this movie is in many ways a lot of what was already seen back in the 1990s when Tim Curry played the role of Pennywise, only ten times more of everything that was seen decades ago. Andy seems to really understand that in the modern market of horror movies and films that sell scary and violence, that for an undertaking such as this there needs to be a balance of plot/character development alongside the shock value. He achieves this in two ways, the first being a highly faithful to the source material script, and a cast that really makes these characters come to life.

Stephen King's books are well known the world over. Movies like made about them like The Shining, Cujo, Shawshank Redemption etc. are excellent examples of taking his many books and having Hollywood take a crack at them. But this new adaptation of It, sticks to the book even more so then the 1990s mini-series even did. Some elements are absent (reading the book will provide an understanding of why) in order to compress for time, but this doesn't take away from the overall story. Some of the best elements are the scenes where Pennywise really scares the kids, and the scenes where the kids are themselves and also start to take the inevitable stand against that monster clown. All in all, this script is really spot on. It helps that there was amazing cast to go along with it.

Bill SkarsgĂ„rd was scary as scary can get. Where Tim Curry's portrayal of It/Pennywise was one that was approachable, Bill's was similar but also even more scary and disturbing. This was achieved partly due to stellar special effects and also Bill's abilities as an actor. He really knows how to take the disturbing nature of the character and make It even more frightening with things like the laugh, zany movements, plus that special effects budget that brings the terrors of It to life. And if you think Bill being cast as It/Pennywise was good, the kids who play the Losers are just as on par. 

One of the things that makes the movie great is the kids. This is a group of 7 different people, with different acting styles, different personalities, different everything. Each one of them gets a very equal portion of screen-time. There is quite frankly no easy way to in depth about each one, because each of them does such a fabulous job. For the newcomers to the big world of Hollywood, they are going to go far if they keep up the level of professional they brought to these roles. For already noted members of the group who are already big name stars, being a part of this movie will only serve to anchor their careers and get them attached to more great movies.

Like any movie, there is an underlying theme, sometimes it is obvious and sometimes it is not. For It: Chapter 1, that theme is fear and facing it head on. Every single one of the kids is afraid of something, and of course It/Pennywise exploits those fears and try's to take them down and feed on them like other poor victims over the years. But this time, there is resistance, due to that magical but very sincere power of friendship that binds the Losers together for making a final stand against their twisted foe. 

And with this being part 1, fans who are just discovering this movie and those who are already devoted Stephen King fans will flock to theaters all over when It: Chapter 2 makes its way onto the big screen eventually. But there's a lot of interesting questions now. Who will be cast to play the Losers all grown up? How faithful will the second part be to the book? Will there perhaps be even bigger and scarier special effects then the current movie? All of these and more will be answered when It: Chapter 2 gets made and is brought to life.

As far as modern horror/scary movies go, this one was pretty darn great. Yes there is lots of thrills and scares for a good chunk of the plot that will leave people wigging out, but there is also the faithful script and great casting to make it an enjoyable fright delight. Halloween is only weeks away, so why not get in the spirit of the season by kicking back and seeing It: Chapter 1. After all, we all float down here, and you should float down too.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Batman and Harley Quinn: When Team-Ups Get Nutty

"Harley Quinn reporting for duty sir." - Harley Quinn.

Last night was quite a fun one as my girlfriend, myself and a friend of ours took in the one time only showing of the latest DC Animated Film Batman and Harley Quinn. This was a special event between DC and Fathom Events before the film was released digitally today, and will get its actual home video release on August 29 later this month.

Before reading further everyone should know something, this movie is NOT for small children, this has adult language and implied adult themes in it, and therefore should only be viewed by age-appropriate persons.

That being said, this really was a fun animated feature, it felt like a bit of a throwback to the days when Batman the Animated Series was king of superhero cartoons (while still competing with Spider-Man and the X-Men and Superman cartoons). Seeing the movie on the big screen, there was a sense of nostalgia that made me think of what it must have been like when Batman: Mask of the Phantasm hit theaters in 1993. With Bruce Timm returning to co-write the script alongside Jim Krieg, this is something Batman fans, Harley Quinn fans and fans of DC's animated properties will all enjoy.

It's plot (without giving too much away) involves Batman and Nightwing having to team up with the Joker's former partner and girlfriend, the one and only Harley Quinn, to stop Poison Ivy and Jason Woodrue (the Floronic Man) from unleashing chaos on the world. Nothing further is going to be said, no spoilers here.

In one corner, voicing the teams heroes is the return of stars Kevin Conroy and Loren Lester as Batman and Nightwing, with The Big Bang Theory star Melissa Rauch stepping into the role of Harley Quinn. Conroy and Lester do a superb job as they have in the past. To have them step back into their two most memorable roles, its sort of a trip down memory lane, back to the days of Saturday morning cartoons and sugar cereal. It's almost like it hasn't been years since they teamed up to voice the Dynamic Duo. As for Melissa Rauch taking on the role of one of DC's most famous and quite honestly now iconic leading ladies, its different and downright awesome. This Harley is independent, she doesn't need her 'Mista J', but she's also the same firecracker spunky Harley fans have come to love over the years. On top of that, Harley doesn't take any sort of nonsense from Batman, she doesn't let the Dark Knight push her around when it comes to helping to stop Ivy and Woodrue. Rauch's banter as Harley to Conroy and Lester's Batman and Nightwing will have fans laughing themselves silly, and there's an added surprise in store in a certain scene that no one will even remotely see coming.

And in the other corner, stepping up to the plate to voice the villains of this story, is Paget Brewster as Poison Ivy and Kevin Michael Richardson as Jason Woodrue aka. The Floronic Man. Both of them kill it in their roles, Paget's Poison Ivy is dead on, exuding the same contempt for all humanity and willing to do whatever it takes to make the world safe for nature again. And her dialogue with Melissa Rauch's Harley is awesome, classic Harley and Ivy material all the way. Richardson's Jason Woodrue, now he is one bad plant man. For DC fan's who know of Woodrue and what he's capable of, the ruthless anger he has towards "meat" for poisoning the Earth will be felt through and through.

Summing it up, Batman and Harley Quinn was excellent, just excellent. To everyone who didn't get the chance to see it in theater's last night, now you can see it on your screen's digitally, or wait until August 29 to get the DVD or Blu-Ray. Either way, to Batman and Harley fans, it'll be a treat, a real treat to watch Gotham's hero team up with Harley Quinn in order to save the day. For this animated extravaganza, five out of five stars is what it gets, thanks to an astounding voice cast, great story and all in all a huge nostalgia wave to the glory days of Bruce Timm's masterpiece work.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Dark Tower: Stephen King's Novel's Brought to Life

"For centuries, the gunslingers were knights. Sworn to protect this from the coming of the dark. Now I'm the only one left" - Roland Deschain.

A few days ago with my girlfriend and some of our friends, we took in a showing of Nikolaj Arcel's film version of Stephen King's "The Dark Tower" series. Starring Idris Elba as Roland Deschain (the last of the Gunslinger's), with Tom Taylor as Jake Chambers (the boy who aids Roland in his mission to protect the Tower) and Matthew McConaughey as Walter Padick/ The Man in Black (the man who would destroy the Tower and rule over all). Despite not having read 'The Dark Tower' series myself (yet), I found the movie to be very enjoyable, with an excellent cast, story, and special effects and a strong theme of never giving up.

The story itself is a mash-up, a weaving together of elements from the first seven of the eight books in 'The Dark Tower' series. While for many fans who may take issue with this because it can lead to beloved characters being dropped and 7 whole books being put together for an 95 minute movie, this is still a very enjoyable science fantasy western. If anything, for people who haven't read the books before (like myself) it only encourages them to go out and actually read them. 

Casting wise, the three principal characters were dead on. Idris Elba IS Roland Deschain, a man of conviction and strong ideals who has been shaken by the war against Walter Padick, yet still continues on against seemingly impervious odds. Tom Taylor, who is a newcomer to the movie industry, is well cast as Jake, a boy with spirit who keeps dreaming of Roland, The Man in Black, the Tower and the destruction that will come with its fall. 

Matthew McConaughey would not have been my first choice as Walter Padick (he has never struck me as the villainous type) but after seeing his performance, that mindset has been eliminated. His smooth voice, which has aided his many roles in the past a more cheerful and heroic figures, aids him again, this time helping bring such a dark figure to life. With a honey like tone that sounds pleasing to the ear but brings with it death and the promise of chaos should he succeed in destroying the Tower.

The special effects were marvelous. Bringing to life Mid-World, a place not unlike Earth but that has fallen into decay and fractured chaos, the gates that allow travel between the various world (very excellent, makes one think of how a rip in space and time would like, but controlled). And lastly there's Walter's dark magic which he uses with such willful malice, coupled with the device with which he plans to destroy the Tower. It was all quite simply, awesome. 

With the theme of never giving up, movie goers can really latch on to the character's of Roland and Jake. Jake is set to not give up in his quest to prove that his dreams are real, and then his determination to help Roland stop Walter and save all life. Roland, his purpose and goal of not giving up is skewed at first. Initially, his mission or quest is one of vengeance against Walter, it is only after meeting Jake and seeing the boys youthful ambition and desire to help does he get out of his "funk" and knuckle down to finally bring about the end of Padick's mad campaign of destruction. This is something for people to take to heart, that even when the odds are seemingly against someone, one can still pull themselves up and make a firm stand. 

The Dark Tower was a intense, story driven and action packed summer film. Fans of both 'The Dark Tower' books and other Stephen King film adaptations will enjoy the mashing of plots into one synchronistic story. With it also brings the promise of a TV series (with Elba and Taylor slated to return to their roles of Roland and Jake. So for Even the most die hard of Dark Tower fans, this movie brings a lot with it, not just on the big screen but also with the promise of more adventure on the small screen as well. A resounding 5 out of 5 stars goes to The Dark Tower with the encouragement that anyone who has not seen it yet needs to, you won't regret it one bit.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming- Spidey Making It with Marvel Studios

Spider-Man is a well known and much beloved superhero and pop culture icon. He has been adapted numerous times for cartoons, video games, novels, audio books, toys, clothing and now for a third run of movies. Last night alongside my girlfriend and several of our friends, I settled in to watch Tom Holland's return to the big screen as the wisecracking webslinger.

Jon Watt's brought Spider-Man properly into the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a film that combines all of the best elements of the early Spider-Man comics; Peter Parker being pulled  into the life of a superhero because of a desire to make good after Uncle Ben's death; the chaotic misbalance of superhero activities taking its toll on Peter's school and home life; an excellent team-up of sorts with another leading Marvel Comics hero, and two final points, villains that are engaging and are for sure to come back at later points, and lots of great dialogue/banter from Spidey.

In short, this is a movie that defies any and all expectations, quite honestly it is practically screaming for a whole line of Spider-Man movies to be made (or as many as can be made, not counting crossovers into other Marvel Studios projects).

Tom Holland nails it again as Peter Parker, with the film taking place only a handful of months after his team-up with Tony Stark and the Avengers in Germany. Peter finds himself bitten yet again, this time by the thrill of putting on the Spider-Man suit and going out to fight crime, do good, save the day and prove himself as a potential Avenger. Along the way he learns about responsibility, stepping up and taking a stand to face the odds when no one else believes he can and doing it all while still being only a sophomore in high school.

Michael Keaton, oh wow Michael Keaton! What a performance! He took the Vulture, arguably one of Spider-Man's oldest villains (first appearing in The Amazing Spider-Man #2, May 1963), but a villain who up until now has only appeared in the various cartoon shows. That has now all changed. Marvel fans and movie lovers get a Vulture who is neither comedic or silly, but is gritty, determined to make it in a world that gave him the short end of the stick, and will kill Spider-Man in order to achieve his goals.

Rounding out is a great support cast, Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man (providing mentor-support to the fledgling Spider-Man), Jon Favreau returning as Happy Hogan (acting as a sort of handler for Peter). Marisa Tomei as Aunt May (still dotting on Peter like always), Jacob Batalon as Ned Leeds (thankfully not evil like his comic book counterpart, instead Peter's best friend), Zendaya as Michelle Jones (sassy classmate of Peter and Ned's), Laura Harrier as Liz (Peter's love interest/crush), Logan Marshall-Green as Jackson Brice (one of two men calling himself Shocker in the movie), Bokeem Woodbine as Herman Schultz (the REAL Shocker, taking up the title and providing muscle to Vulture), Michael Chernus as Tinkerer (another classic Spider-Man villain running with Vulture), Donald Glover as Aaron Davis (uncle to Miles Morales and giving a hint that he will show up later in the series), with Gwyneth Paltrow making her return as Pepper Potts and Chris Evans showing up in a very amusing Captain America cameo. And speaking of cameos, it just wouldn't be a Marvel movie without Stan Lee showing up again in another of his hilarious small roles. All in all, both the main and support cast for this movie are top notch, each character is their own personality, not just wall dressing for the story to be moved along.

Locations and special effects and music, all knocked out of the park! From the streets of Queens to Washington D.C., Peter Parker's world keep's getting bigger as he keeps suiting up. Talking about special effects, such great special effects! Spider-Man's web slinging and power's in action, Vulture's flight suit, Shocker's gauntlet's, all of these elements tying together for another superhero smash! Lastly, this is a killer soundtrack! There's songs from lots of great artists, Canned Heat, Flock of Seagulls, Icy Black, the list just goes on and on.

Spider-Man: Homecoming does well for the first installment of movies that will be under the Marvel Cinematic umbrella, much in the same way Iron Man did back in 2008, it provides a fresh take on a long-standing Marvel favorite, one finally getting to stand tall as a part of the ever-expanding Marvel franchise. It lays the groundwork for more stories featuring Tom Holland as Spider-Man, with lots of hints and references to other Marvel movies, potential characters and stories to come within the Spider-Man framework. This action-packed, story/character driven and laugh loaded hero movie gets a whooping high rating of GO SEE IT, along with a rousing THIS MOVIE IS FANTASTIC!