REVIEW: SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME (2021)

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SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME (2021)

Spider-Man: No Way Home opens immediately after the shocking mid-credits scene of the previous film with Peter being outed to the world as Spidey and accused of killing Mysterio. When Peter approaches Dr, Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to create a spell to make everyone forget he is Spider-Man, some last-minute indecision causes the spell to go awry. Instead, it starts bringing villains from other universes into Peter’s world to wreak havoc. Worse still, many of those bad guys died battling Spider-Man and returning them to their universes would sentence them to death. This puts a morally torn Peter in conflict with both friend and foe.

Sequel is again directed by Jon Watts from a script by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers. On the negative side, the film teeters on the edge of becoming a mess with so much going on and so many characters. Thankfully, it doesn’t, though the middle section drags, as Peter tries to find a way to cure the villains so they may have a second chance when they return home. It’s a bit convoluted. Finally, the whole murdering Mysterio sub-plot is brushed aside with a simple line from a surprise cameo and that is the end of it. What could have been the most interesting aspect of No Way Home—a fugitive Peter Parker trying to clear his name while battling multiple villains—is quickly discarded ten minutes into the movie. It’s simply lazy writing. On to the good stuff…

There is far more positive than negative, which makes up for a lot of the film’s flaws. The banter between Peter and his friends with Dr. Strange is a lot of fun, as are the conversations between the villains from both of the previous Spider-Man series. It’s entertaining to watch a Raimi era villain trading barbs with a Webb era villain and the dialogue is well written here. The battle scenes are also very good, such as Peter’s first introduction to Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina) who is expecting another face under the mask. The last act is a real blast, though discussing most of the reasons why would spoil some great moments. Let’s just say the battle royal at the Statue of Liberty is worth the price of admission alone. The film has a couple of scenes that have some very strong emotional resonance, too, and there is some nice closure given to a few characters’ storylines from previous films. The FX are fantastic, and the cast all perform their parts well.

Tom Holland continues to be a great Peter Parker and he handles a complex story with varying emotional requirements skillfully. He’s charming and sympathetic as a superhero still trying to find himself while in over his head with bad guys and multiverses. Zendaya is still the smart, sarcastically funny and sweet girl next door beauty that is MJ, and she gets to be involved in a little more of the action. Cumberbatch is still solid as Dr. Strange, as is Benedict Wong as the briefly seen but lovable Wong. As for the villains, Willem Dafoe returns as Norman Osborn/Green Goblin and it’s as if he never left the role. Same can be said of Alfred Molina as Otto Octavius/Doctor Octopus, who has some of the better lines. Jamie Foxx gets a second go as Max Dillon/Electro. There is a brief reappearance by his blue form from TASM2 till the energy in this world alters him to a more traditional character look. He’s a badass in this new incarnation. Sandman and The Lizard are mostly CGI with ever so brief appearances by actors Thomas Hayden Church and Rhys Ifans. The supporting cast, such as Jacob Batalon as Ned, Tony Revolori as Flash, Jon Favreau as Happy, J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson and Marisa Tomei as Aunt May, all recreate their endearing and entertaining supporting characters, and all have their moments.

No Way Home isn’t perfect, but still delivers a lot of what we expected from this venture into the multi-verse. It dispenses with some of the last film’s set-up too quickly, has some convoluted plot points and drags in the middle after an action-packed start. The film makes up for a lot of it with a great last act, some strong character interaction, some spectacular battles and some wonderful returns and cameos, not to mention a young actor really growing into the role now after multiple appearances. Stay through all the credits.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) webs!
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BARE BONES: THE UNHOLY (2021)

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THE UNHOLY (2021)

Religious themed horror finds down on his luck reporter Gerry Fenn (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), now covering Weekly World News level stories. While in the small rural town of Banfield, Massachusetts, investigating an obvious hoax, Fenn encounters young deaf/mute Alice (Cricket Brown), who can now hear and speak, and who credits The Virgin Mary herself for her miraculous healing. As Alice is now accomplishing miracles of her own, Fenn’s research uncovers that something far more malevolent may be responsible for these “divine” occurrences and Fenn himself may be the one that unleashed it.

Flick is directed in by-the-numbers fashion by Evan Spiliotopoulos, from his screenplay, based on the book Shrine by James Herbert. It is a dull and routine flick that never makes any attempt to add a little mystery as to whether these miracles are divine or demonic. We know from the first scene with Fenn that something evil has been unleashed and that religious leaders, including local priest Father Hagan (William Sadler) and the church’s Bishop Gyles (Cary Elwes) are being just as bamboozled as innocent Alice. There are no scares, the FX are obvious ho-hum CGI creations and the characters that populate this generic story are all stereotypical of such a tale…as are the events and finale just as predictable. A familiar and forgettable horror with a cast that deserved much better.

-MonsterZero NJ

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