Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spider-Man: Homecoming, rated PG-13
*** ½  

Spider-Man Homecoming is an action-packed, humor-filled Marvel film with a new Spider-Man that is enjoyable.
After two films in which Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge, Silence) played Spider-Man, we were introduced to the high-school age Spider-Man/Peter Parker (Tom Holland) in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. Tony Stark/Iron Man, played by two-time Oscar nominee Robert Downey Jr. (Tropic Thunder, Chaplin), had recruited him to help stop Captain America. This film picks up eight months after the action in that film.
Peter Parker is a 15-year old high school student from Queens. In addition to fighting minor crime in his neighborhood, he’s dealing with the usual high school issues. His best friend is the likeable Ned (Jacob Batalon), and he has a crush on Liz (Laura Harrier), a senior who is the captain of the High School Academic Decathlon. Peter lives with his Aunt May, played by Oscar winner Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny), from whom he hides his after-school Spider-Man activities. He tells her, and others, that he has an internship for Stark Industries.
The young Parker is a somewhat awkward superhero in training, and wears a suit that his mentor and father-figure Tony Stark has designed for him. He is in the process of figuring out his powers. He waits for a call from Happy Hogan, (Jon Lavreau, Chef), who plays Stark’s assistant, to take on the type of criminals that the Avengers do battle with.
The villain in the film is Adrian Toomes, played by Oscar nominated Michael Keaton (Birdman). Toomes is a disgruntled city contractor, who decides to sell stolen alien weapons on the black market. As a villain, he goes by the name of Vulture, and wears a costume with large wings. Peter encounters him and tells Tony Stark about him and is told not to get involved with the Vulture, but to concentrate on smaller crimes in his neighborhood. In other words, he is to be your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. But Peter doesn’t follow that direction.
The film is directed by Jon Watts, who also writes the film with five others (Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers). The film has an estimated budget of $175 million budget.
I enjoyed the humor in the film and thought Holland was excellent as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Downey Jr. was good in a small role and Keaton was good as the film’s villain.
The film has less violence than the usual Marvel film as it focuses just as much on Parker’s high school life as it does on him as a super hero. There is also a twist in the film that I didn’t see coming. In addition, the film includes some good music, both original score and other songs.
Unfortunately, the film includes some adult language that is completely unnecessary, in addition to some abuses of God’s name. Scenes that took place at the Washington Monument and on the Staten Island Ferry were excellent. I also enjoyed Spider-Man getting to know all of the features of the suit that Stark had made for him.
And of course, being a Marvel film, don’t forget to sit all the way through the ending credits.

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My Movie Reviews ~ ‘The Big Short’ and ‘Joy’

The Big ShortThe Big Short, rated R
****

This superb film is based on Michael Lewis’ (Moneyball) 2010 book and it is directed by Adam McKay, who usually directs comedies starring Will Ferrell (Anchorman, Anchorman 2, Talladega Nights, The Other Guys, etc.). The story is adapted for the screen by McKay and his co-screenwriter Charles Randolph. They could get an Oscar nomination for the script, which includes a good amount of humor in this otherwise serious, stressful and angry film.

The strong cast includes four Oscar winners: Christian Bale, Melissa Leo, Marisa Tomei and Brad Pitt, and two Oscar nominees Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling.

The film looks at the 2008 financial crisis which had a $5 trillion impact in the U.S. alone, through the lens of four unorthodox moneymen or Wall Street outsiders – or weirdos as they are referred to – who predicted the consequences of the fraudulent mortgage-lending practices of large banks on Wall Street and made millions as a result. It uses three storylines, starting with Christian Bale, who stars as the socially uncomfortable Michael Burry M.D. (who listens to rock and roll music and goes barefoot in his office) who was one of the first to forecast the collapse of the credit bubble due to excessive subprime lending.

Steve Carell plays Mark Baum (based on Steve Eisman), a money manager who rose to fame after successfully betting against subprime mortgages. He wants to teach the banks and government a lesson. Marisa Tomei plays his wife Cynthia. Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock) and Charlie Geller (John Magaro) are two young investors who are mentored by Ben Rickert, played by Brad Pitt.

The soundtrack includes rocks songs by (Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, Guns N’ Roses). The score is by Nicholas Britell. The characters have hairstyles and clothes that attempt to match the period.

The film aims to show viewers that major banks (aided by the media and government), engaged in fraudulent activity and were bailed out by the U.S. government at the expense of the average citizen – and that it could happen again. You won’t find likeable characters in the film or anyone to cheer for as you will in most films. I can’t attest to the accuracy of the film, or how close it was to Lewis’ book, but the acting was superb and this is an overall excellent film, one of my favorites of the year.

The film earns it’s “R” rating for a significant amount of adult language, including several unfortunate abuses of God’s and Jesus’ names along with lots of f bombs, as well as nudity in a scene in a strip club.

The movie uses a lot of financial terminology that I wasn’t familiar with. To help us understand them, the film uses a few cameos (Margot Robbie, Selena Gomez and Anthony Bourdain), to address the audience with explanations of the terms. The article “5 Things You Should Know Before You See The Big Short by Ethan Wolff-Mann may also be helpful in explaining the terms.

JoyJoy, rated PG-13
***

This film, loosely based on the life of Long Island mother Joy Mangano (who is listed as an Executive Producer), stars 25 year-old actress, three time Oscar nominee and winner of Best Actress for Silver Linings Playbook, Jennifer Lawrence as Joy. It is directed by five-time Academy Award nominee David O. Russell (The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle), who co-wrote the story with Annie Mumolo. Lawrence joins two-time Oscar winner Robert DeNiro and four-time Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper, who worked with Russell in Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. The film begins with a dedication, a claim that it has been inspired “by stories of daring women everywhere”.

When Joy was a child she was very creative, and loved to make things. Her beloved grandmother Mimi (Diane Ladd) told her that she was going to have a great future. Indeed, as a teenager she created a fluorescent flea collar to keep pets safe. Joy would go on to become the valedictorian at her high school and was headed to college. That’s when life took a turn for the worse for Joy.

Her parents – Rudy (Robert DeNiro) and Terry (Virginia Madsen) – divorce, and Joy doesn’t go to college, instead staying home to care for her mother and do bookkeeping for her dad’s business. Joy gets married to Tony, who wants to be “the next Tom Jones”, played by Edgar Ramirez. They have two children but then divorce. They are better as friends than they were married, and Tom lives in Joy’s basement, while Terry pretty much stays in her room watching soap operas all day.

Joy works for an airline as a counter agent, and can’t quite make ends meet, as we see their phone service being turned off due to lack of payment. On top of that, Rudy is kicked out by his second wife and takes up residence in the basement, sharing the confined space with Tony, who he has despised since before he and Joy married. Joy also has a troubled relationships with half-sister Peggy (Elisabeth Röhm, who also appeared in American Hustle). Talk about a depressing dysfunction junction!

After Rudy meets Trudy (Isabella Rosselini) on a dating site for widows and widowers (he is neither), she takes him and the rest of the family on her husband’s sailboat. When red wine is spilled on the wood deck due to the high waves, Joy tries to clean up the spill amid the broken glass, cutting her hands. This gives her an idea, and leads her back to being the creative little girl, eventually creating a self-wringing mop (Miracle Mop).

Tony uses a past relationship to put her in connection with Neil (Bradley Cooper), an executive producer at QVC, a home shopping TV channel, which is Joy’s big break. But financial trouble and family and business relationships get even more difficult from here on. We see Joy’s perseverance, despite Rudy and Trudy telling her to just pack it in and give up on her dreams.  So did going from rags to riches give her joy? No, we won’t spoil it for you!

The film is rated PG-13 for one word uttered by Rudy. It also includes several unfortunate misuses of God’s name.

My wife Tammy really disliked this film, calling it long, plodding and boring. She said it had about enough material for a 30-minute Lifetime movie. She thought good acting and a good real-life story couldn’t ‘clean up’ how poorly this story was portrayed on film. I disagree. The film (as well as Lawrence), has been nominated for Best Film by the Golden Globes in the “Musical or Comedy” category (it is neither). The film isn’t great (as attested to the current Rotten Tomatoes ratings – 58% critics, 61% viewers), but I thought Lawrence’s performance and the incredible true story of Joy Mangano was worth the price of admission. If you see the film, please let us know what you think.