FlixChatter Review: Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)

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Let me preface this by saying that I wasn’t initially super excited for this movie. I felt that it was overhyped and I remember limiting my time on social media due to the fatigue of the relentless promos for this. But days before its release, my hubby and I rewatched the previous movie, Spider-Man: Far From Home, which got me excited to see this one. Well, this movie picked up where it left off when Peter’s identity was revealed by Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) and he’s deemed Public Enemy #1 by Daily Bugle (JK Simmons).

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The first 15 minutes dealt with the ramifications of that big reveal. The whole world’s attention is on poor Peter Parker–some are cheering for him, but given he’s been framed as Mysterio’s killer, some are castrating him too. Peter is now a high school senior who’s looking forward to college. He and his buddy Ned (Jacob Batalon) & new girlfriend MJ (Zendaya) hope to go to MIT, but their hopes are dashed with this new revelations that he’s been accused as a criminal. Peter is devastated that his friends also bear the brunt of his actions, that they too are found guilty by associations which cost them their college dreams.

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If you’ve seen at least one trailer then you likely know Peter enlists his fellow Avenger Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to help reverse time to where people would forget he is Spider-man. Despite Wong’s (Benedict Wong) warning not to cast that time-altering spell, Strange ends up help him out anyway, but Peter’s constant interruptions messes up the spell. ‘We tampered with the stability of spacetime. The multiverse is a concept about which we know frighteningly little,’ Strange said to Peter as they brace for what’s going to come next.

Director John Watts and screenwriters Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers has come up with the boldest and most ambitious movie of the franchise. Instead of coming up with a new villain, Peter now has to deal with Spider-man’s enemies from outside his own universe. One of my faves of the franchise is Spider-man 2, so it’s fun to see Doc Ock (Alfred Molina) shows up with his giant mechanical tentacles. The action sequences on the freeway overpass is pretty wild and filled with the humor we’ve come to expect.

The first villain from the franchise directed by Sam Raimi, Norman Osborne aka Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe) is also back terrorizing Spidey once again. I have to say I was in awe of Mr. Dafoe’s commitment to the role, the acclaimed thespian never phones it in which big stars often do in franchises like this. In fact, his performance in the third act alone makes me think he’s one of the strongest baddies of the MCU. There are previous villains from Maguire’s and Garfield’s Spidey movies as well, but none of them are really that memorable by comparison.

Tom Holland proves once again he’s a terrific Spider-man who can balance the action, humor as well as emotional beats. The fact that he was cast when he was a teenager makes him the most age-appropriate for the character. I enjoy the effortless chemistry between the trio of friends, it helps that the actors are actually good friends in real life. Both Batalon and Zendaya have more screen time in this adventure that feel organic and not at all forced.

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Now, I’m going to talk about my favorite moments and it’s be impossible not to discuss important plot points, so consider this a spoiler warning.

Spoiler Alert (proceed with caution):

The long-rumored reunion of Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield as the previous Spideys indeed materialize. As is the appearance of Charlie Cox as Peter’s attorney, Matt Murdock. The entire theater erupted every time each of them showed up, and the filmmakers engineered each of the Spidey appearance in a delightful and hilarious fashion. Inclusivity brownie points for including Tagalok language in the scene involving Ned’s grandma.

The fight scene in the third act is definitely the highlight with a trio of Spideys fighting multiple villains from the multiverse. Filled with witty one liners, dynamic action, hilarious as well as moments up until the end. The final action sequence is loud, chaotic and cgi-filled that often plagued superhero movies, but this one has plenty of humor and surprises that made it more palatable. That bit where the other two Spideys were making fun of Tobey’s version for having organic web-shooters is a hoot! Garfield undoubtedly steals the show with his funniest comments… that ‘cool youth pastor’ quip still made me laugh. Having seen him as Spidey again, I feel like he was unfairly maligned. He’s the Timothy Dalton of the Spidey franchise and now fans want to see him reprise his role in a third film. Count me in!! 

I love how each Spidey got to atone for the mistake they made in their own film. When Peter say goodbye to his beloved aunt, there were few dry eyes in the theater. I remember tearing up towards the end as well as Tobey’s Spidey prevented Holland’s version from making the same mistake he did, that is killing his enemy. This is the first superhero film that actually try to save the villains instead of getting rid of them, even at a high personal cost… that altruistic quality makes it even more perfect that it’s released during the Christmas season.

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I’m glad I got to see this in IMAX to enjoy the dazzling visuals that one would expect from Marvel. Be sure to stay for the mid and post-credit sequences. I wasn’t really clamoring to see Doctor Strange sequel, but now I’m excited to seeDoctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness next Spring. How interesting that Raimi is directing that one, good to see him joining the MCU fifteen years after he did Spider-man 3.

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No Way Home is a great example of ‘fan service’ done right that make people fall in love with the characters all over again. The writers did a good job raising the stakes for Parker involving those he holds dear and devised an ending that’s quite a game changer for the character. It’s the kind of blockbuster crowd pleaser with redemptive qualities and genuine emotional resonance that can break through even the most bombastic action sequences.


What are YOUR thoughts about Spider-man: No WayHome

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FlixChatter Review: Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

Can’t believe it’s been seven years ago that I reviewed the Andrew Garfield‘s The Amazing Spider-man, which I barely even remember now so clearly it wasn’t all that amazing. I think I was mostly sentimental as I was at Comic-Con Hall H when Garfield first revealed that he was playing the role (those with eagle eyes might notice me hyperventilating just inches away behind him 😉 ) but since Tom Holland took over the role in Spider-Man: Homecoming in 2017, he’s now become my favorite Spider-man. He’s a proper kid after all, while Garfield was a decade older when he was cast to play a teenager.

I’m treading as carefully as I can with this review as not to tread into spoiler territory. It is safe to say that the film takes place after the events of Avengers: Endgame, which if you still haven’t seen it by now, well this entire movie IS a huge spoiler. While Endgame has fixed Thanos’ snap in which he wiped off half the universe, those who had been gone for five years now co-exist with those who remained, the effect coined as ‘the Blip.’ The opening sequence addresses that in hilarious way (using a famous 90s power ballad) as Peter is reunited with his BFF Ned (Jacob Batalon) and they’re preparing on a school trip to Europe.

The heroic ending of Tony Stark weighed heavily on everyone, most of all Peter Parker who still misses his former mentor/father figure. Not only that, he also carries the burden of people’s expectations that he’d become the next Iron Man, which honestly, is too much for any capable man, let alone a 16-year-old boy! Yes he’s an Avenger, and at such a tender age, he’s had more than his fair share of battles. ‘Please! You’ve been to space!’ as Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) argued, but the most important thing in Peter’s world at the moment is to declare his love to his school crush. I appreciate that this movie allows Peter be a regular boy, dealing with the angst of teen angst like any other, while juggling the huge expectations of  living up to the ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ mantra.

Just like its titular hero, director Jon Watts also has a huge responsibility on his shoulder the fact that Far From Home is the last movie of Phase Three of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) while no new movie has been officially announced for Phase Four yet. I think Marvel boss Kevin Feige said Endgame and Far From Home is ‘essentially two pieces of the same story’ which has to be quite challenging to do when you’ve got two different set of directors for each film. Yet Watts managed to pull it off marvelously, keeping the tone of this movie lighthearted, humorous and fun but not without its poignant emotional moments. The fact that he has worked with Holland in Spider-man: Homecoming, they surely have a good rapport. The returning cast such as Batalon and Zendaya as MJ have a bit more to do here as well. I have to say some of my fave scenes involve Peter and MJ, who refreshingly is much more than a damsel in distress.

Jake Gyllenhaal in his MCU debut as Mysterio couldn’t be more perfectly-cast. The less said about his character the better but I could say that he and Holland have a good chemistry together. I also like that the plot deals with the themes of trust, as any good superhero would have to quickly learn, similar to the themes in Captain America: Winter Soldier in many ways. I also love that the movie deconstructed the whole superhero myth as one character said something about how people only listen to you if you wear a cape.

Clocking in at 2 hours 9 minutes, the movie didn’t have many slow moments. The action sequences are terrific. All the perilous scenarios really puts Spidey’s power to the test. The fact that Peter now has access to Stark’s state-of-the-art technology is both a blessing and a curse, which you’ll find out why when you see the movie. I still do have issues with some of the more bombastic action sequences (just way too many explosions!) but the clever plot makes it bearable. Plus I love the European locations… Venice, Vienna, Prague… oh my! There’s also a hilarious bit of Peter in the Netherlands! It certainly helps when the script is as nimble and spry as the protagonist. Screenwriters Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers turned the whole ‘saving the world from an Avengers-level threat’ upside down where nothing is what it seems. Now, my favorite Spider-man movie up until now was Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 with Doc Ock as a fantastic adversary, but I think this one now stands as my new favorite Spidey movie.

Tom Holland is the true star here who absolutely rocks as both Spider-man AND his alter ego Peter Parker. He’s got the nimble physicality that makes him credible as a web slinger, but what I love most is how he wears his heart on his sleeve. He’s not afraid to show his feelings, be it his deep admiration for Tony Stark or his love for MJ. I have to admit that whole ‘Peter Tingle’ phrase (thanks Aunt May!) in reference to his Spider-sense is silly and cringe-inducing, but it’s a cute scene the first time it’s introduced. Marisa Tomei is wonderful as Aunt May and nice to see Jon Favreau back as Happy who now gets to look after Iron Man’s young protégé. I already mentioned about Zendaya above but I’ll say it again, I adore her MJ and I hope she gets to do more in the future Spider-man movies!

Lastly, while I can’t talk about the ending of this movie, one thing I can say is that it’s unpredictable. That is always quite a feat for any movie, let alone one of this magnitude where there’ve been so many versions in the franchise. Oh and DO stay for the end credits scenes! Believe the hype, they’re both great and the first part actually makes you wonder just what it all means for Peter Parker in MCU Phase Four. Man, we don’t even know when the next Marvel movie comes out but I’m already looking forward to it. Bring. It. On!


What are YOUR thoughts about Spider-man: Far From Home

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FlixChatter Review – Captain America: Civil War (2016)

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The buzz over the latest Marvel blockbuster has been through the roof. It’s already made over $200 mil internationally before it even opened here in the US, so no doubt it will wipe out any competition here this weekend.

I have to say that despite my increasing superhero fatigue, I was still looking forward to this one mostly because I love the first two Captain America films, and I have faith in the Russo brothers’ direction. Like Zack Snyder with Batman V Superman, Anthony & Joe Russo had the tricky task of not only continuing the thread of the Avenger story, pulling off a large ensemble cast AND help launch/introduce individual standalone films (Black Panther, Spider-man). Suffice to say the Russos did a much, much better job than Snyder in delivering an entertaining Summer blockbuster that’s actually has depth and thought-provoking ideas. Interesting that The Avengers and Superman share a similar predicament in their effort to safeguard humanity, and how the DC and Marvel tentpole movies are dealing with the issue of accountability.

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The ‘Civil War’ in the title stems from an ideological conflict about what should be done in that issue of accountability and collateral damage, and whether a governing body (in this case the UN) should oversee them. Now, the fact that the perceived common enemy happens to be Steve Rogers’ (Chris Evans) BFF Bucky a.k.a. The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), it’s easy to see which side the Cap is on. The events in The Winter Soldier has undoubtedly made Cap wary of big government and how a centralized power could be manipulative and corrupt. So it makes sense that he won’t be so easily persuaded to sign something like The Sokovia Accords that’d essentially put the Avengers under UN control.

Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow: Just because it’s the path of least resistance doesn’t mean it’s the wrong path. Staying together is more important than how we stay together.

Steve Rogers/Captain America: What are we giving up to do it?


Whilst the motive behind Captain firmly believing in self-regulation is more clear cut, I’m not as convinced why Tony Stark would support it with little resistance. A cameo by Alfre Woodard briefly reveals the burden of guilt on Tony’s part as the Stark companies supplies most of the weaponry (including Captain himself who was created in the lab of his dad Howard), but still I’d think he’d be more apprehensive about government interference in the Avengers.

I have to say that the film has a pretty slow start. I understand they’d have to establish the conflict and a reason for all the fighting, but it went on a bit too long for my liking and frankly, it all feels a bit tedious. Thankfully, things do pick up as soon as an incident happens at the UN meeting and before you know it, Captain becomes a hunted man wanted by the government along with Bucky. It’s there that we meet new Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)’s member Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and he certainly looks the part. This is perhaps one of the most diverse cast in a Marvel film aside from the X-Men franchise.

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I think the fact that the same writers, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, are involved in the Captain America trilogy so far makes the film flow nicely and has a cohesive storyline. They also did a decent job showing the events in previous films to viewers who might not be familiar with the Avengers story, i.e. the battle in the fictional Eastern European country Sokovia in Avenger: Age of Ultron that caused massive collateral damage. Marvel fans would especially enjoy the references and inside jokes, especially during the actual civil war battle involving a dozen MCU superheroes. This is also the first time we see the new Spider-man (Tom Holland) as part of MCU and he’s definitely a highlight. Spidey is supposed to be a wisecrackin’ teenager and Holland’s captured that. All his comments as he’s fighting the other heroes, like referencing Empire Strikes Back and saluting Cap before he fights him, are a hoot.

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Spider-Man (to Bucky): You have a metal arm? That is awesome, dude.

The intro to the appropriately-aged character is full of good humor as he’s fanboying over Iron Man, who somehow still has time to flirt with aunt May (Marisa Tomei, Robert Downey Jr’s co-star in the rom-com Only You) despite a brief 36-hour deadline to arrest Cap. There’s a lot of fanboy-ing going on in this movie that’s so hilarious. My fave part is when Ant-Man (the immensely affable Paul Rudd) meets Cap which got one of the biggest laughs in the theater.

Scott Lang/Ant-Man: Look, man, I know you know a lot of super people so… thinks for thanking of me.

Captain America: Civil War is commendable for having the right balance of story, character, emotion, humor AND high-octane action. The fight scenes are well-choreographed that you can actually see the action despite the sheer number of people fighting. It wasn’t so bombastic that it’s headache-inducing. The story never feels cartoonish even with SO many characters involved and the battles feel sprightly and fun without being frivolous or silly. When one character is injured, we feel the emotion of fellow team members and the sense of solidarity is definitely there. The Captain America trilogy benefits from the strong base of Steve/Bucky relationship established in the first film. I totally believe why Cap would go to such length to protect his best friend and stand by his side regardless of what he’s done, and I think Bucky would’ve done the same if the situation were reversed. I love Evans and Stan even more as they become more at ease in their respective roles, and Anthony Mackie is always so charming and fun as Falcon. I also have to mention how I appreciate Scarlett Johansson‘s Black Widow more and more, and the fact that she’s undeniably torn between the two sides is a testament to her intriguing character arc.

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The key in making a huge ensemble cast work is they have to have a reason for us to care for the characters. It’s getting immensely tricky here but I think keeping the focus on just a small group helps. The final battle between Cap, Iron Man & Winter Soldier is not only cool to watch but it also carries a certain emotional weight because there’s something personal that affects the three of them. It’s perhaps one of the most compelling dramatic moments from RDJ that I’ve seen in all the Iron Man & Avengers movies so far.

That said, I don’t think this film is perfect and I don’t think it’s the greatest MCU film so far, as many critics have said. I’ve mentioned about the rather sluggish start, but there are also moments that don’t really work. Daniel Brühl is a perfectly capable actor but he barely makes a dent here amongst an ocean of characters, though I think the character’s motive is a pretty decent one. The romance between Cap and Sharon Carter also feels so obligatory and the lack of chemistry between Evans and Emily VanCamp doesn’t help. Oh how I miss Hayley Atwell‘s Agent Carter who’s such a strong female character who doesn’t need any superpowers to make a difference. I also find the music unmemorable as I barely remember any of it, which is odd given I LOVE what Henry Jackman did with The Winter Soldier.

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All in all, it’s a VERY good film that ties all three Captain American movies superbly well and would rank amongst the best film trilogies. After this, I’m even more confident in the Russo brothers’ directing talent and MCU is definitely in capable hands if they continue to make Marvel movies. I love the end credits of the first two Captain America movies and they did an excellent job here as well. In terms of replay-ability value, this one ranks third after The Winter Soldier and The First Avenger, both of which I actually just re-watched last night and I still enjoyed them immensely!

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So have you seen ‘Captain America: Civil War’? Let me know what you think!