Spider-Man: Far from Home (2019)

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Jon Watts returns to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and proves he still has a Peter Tingle for knowing how best to capture the youthful verve and escalating responsibilities for Spider-Man. ‘Far From Home’ is a joyous ride from start to finish that feels like the ideal tonic to drink up after what went down in ‘Avengers: Endgame’.

Peter Parker (Tom Holland) and his science study classmates are off on an educational tour around Europe, but with gigantic element monsters causing havoc and only a figure named Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) to help, it isn’t long until Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) calls on the assistance of Parker to try and prevent city-wide carnage.

What stands out as the finest component of ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ is the chemistry between the science group and teachers. ‘Homecoming’ did deliver comic touches mostly thanks to Ned, but this time around the laughs are amped up and all the school teens get more to do and say. During their globe-trotting adventure the comedy is almost consistently perfect and Peter gets chances to try and be a kid, after the heavy toil of losing Tony Stark.

Spider-Man develops more heart and more growth due to the Iron Man shaped hole in his life and though we see the web-slinger doing more nifty flips and leaps, his drive to keep his friends safe and also just be Peter and tell MJ (Zendaya) how he feels are wonderfully balanced. It could be a lot for him to have on his shoulders but Holland juggles the emotions well and you can’t help but connect to him; he’s super but human and awkward through and through which has you rooting for him.

As we zoom from Venice to London with spots in between, the film racks up impressive action sequences but you never lose character. There’s enough breathing room to let the superhero antics play out but also and more importantly it gives necessary space to have the likes of Peter, MJ, Mysterio, Ned and Betty get fleshed out. It’s a film with a whistle-stop feel outlined further by Michael Giacchino’s marvellous score; that fills the ears with a roaring sound of playful dramatics and whip fast cool.

As the film enters its last third there comes some exciting visuals; sequences stitched into the fabric of the plot like some trippy drug leaking into the drama. Mysterio’s abilities make for some flashy moments, almost like a live-action burst of the Spider-Verse. It’s rooted within this unknown character that the idea of our modern day culture and how we’re so susceptible to trickery and fake news is cleverly written and enthusiastically played by Gyllenhaal. The actor has great presence and he steps into the MCU with confidence and electrically charged vigour like an engrossing loose wire.

‘Far From Home’ could easily be viewed as zany filler to close Phase 3 with little to zero impact after the Thanos narrative in ‘Endgame’ but even if it can feel like this at times, there is plenty to progress the characteristics of Parker, the folk around him and best of all it’s an energetic film that has you sitting up and taking interest more than the likes of ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ did after ‘Infinity War’. 

8/10

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The Greatest Showman (2017)

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Pulling out all the stops, this movie tries shooting for the ol’ razzle dazzle and though there is a definite amount of flair and showbiz style through transitions and musical numbers, it all feels empty and try hard. The story of the man himself; Mr. P.T Barnum is glossed over to make way for a post Christmas family feature that requires no smarts.

As a child, Phineas Barnum was less well off but a dreamer and he finally got the girl he’d loved. Now residing in New York with their two daughters, Barnum (Hugh Jackman) and Charity (Michelle Williams) seem happier than ever, but Barnum wants more and he eventually creates a ‘circus’ of sideshows and freaks to sell tickets and give his family all they could ever wish.

Riding on the success of Academy darling and theatrical luvvie of late 2016/early 2017 ‘La La Land’, this musical drama employs the writing talents of Pasek and Paul to conjure up a bunch of songs. They certainly come under the ear-worm label as I’m still annoyingly humming them as I write this. Saying that, they’re nowhere near as close as subtle or stylishly cool as the songs in the Gosling/Stone led runaway hit. To be honest, there came a time when a character began to sing that I audibly groaned because they just appear almost consistently. I know it’s a musical but they are irritating hokey songs that strive for the stars but end up somewhere amongst bland superficial lyrics of being special – whoever you are – yeah that old chestnut.

Certain elements in this just stood out like cheap distractions at a local funfair. The alarming dubbing of an older man speaking for the clunky walking dwarf. The ‘Siamese Act’ who were clearly two performers standing side by side and the ‘Bearded Lady’ who’s facial fuzz looked like glued on hair a couple of times. I know Barnum revelled in fooling audiences and providing fake attractions but this film doesn’t even show us this as it makes him seem like an idol of blossoming variety entertainment.

Hugh Jackman is a charismatic actor and he certainly helps this film from totally falling flat but I feel he’s too much of a nice guy to play the role of someone who hoaxed the public. Michelle Williams is a glamorous wife and mother and gets to showcase some singing prowess and dancing ability but she has little to do, other than stand by and watch Jackman parade as the enigmatic showman he is. Rebecca Ferguson plays opera singer Jenny Lind but doesn’t even wow because she’s there as a cheap sideline narrative and her song is sung by someone else, plus she’s meant to be a pro opera performer but her song sounds like the typical X Factor winners track. Zendaya carries a believable amount of emotion in her role as acrobat and racially shunned figure for Zac Efron to fall in love with. For me, I found her to be the most engaging and interesting character to follow, with Efron close behind.

All the lights and stage magic never lit a spark in me and it just became a tiresome boringly told story, filled by ever irritating songs. It’s a mess of a musical but one that has just enough charm in places to keep the circus tent from falling down.

4.5/10