10. Free Fire
Ben Wheatley’s 90 min shootout flick was a blood-splashing blast! Funny, violent and moving in spades!
9. Get Out
Deliciously dry, racially themed horror satire. Laughs, scares and brains in abundance!
8. I Am Not Your Negro
Thought-provoking, insightful and gripping documentary; detailing the history of racism in America.
As much a skin-chewing fleshfest as a tender tale of adolescence, ‘Raw’ really roared!
5. 20th Century Women
Wondrous coming-of-age drama. A winning mix of feminity, nostalgia and maternal love.
4. The Handmaiden
Explicitly exquisite costume drama. Stylish, sexy and swooning, this was a cinematic beauty to behold!
3. Baby Driver
Edgar Wright’s motorheaded musical of mad surrealism. I’ve rarely enjoyed the multiplex more!
2. The Levelling
A haunting British youth drama set in the Somerset Levels. Surreal and sincere in equal measure.
1. The Red Turtle
A silent movie masterpiece from those geniuses at Studio Ghibli. A poetic painting of life, love and loneliness!
TURKEY OF THE YEAR (SO FAR)...
12A, 133 Mins
Ironic given it’s been a mere 3 years since over-obsessive Spidermaniacs asked that very same question about ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ (2014). A film which felt less like a movie than a feature-length trailer for future Sony instalments.
Boy, believe me! That flawed sequel felt like ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ compared to this lumpen exercise in materialistic movie marketing.
Despite their increasing over-reliance on franchise-building, it’s rare a Marvel movie has felt this lacking in heart, brains or soul.
Hiring newcomer film-maker Jon Watts (director of indie hit ‘Cop Car’ (2015)), the studio have created a saggy Spider-Man strenuously stranded between dingy ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ and aggressive ‘Avengers’ advert.
Skipping over Spidey’s radioactive origins, 20 year old Tom Holland is the latest “geeky” incarnation of Peter Parker.
As established in last year’s ‘Captain America: Civil War’ (2016), he’s a prodigy of Robert Downey Jr.’s smoothly smarmy Tony Stark (little more than a creepy CEO uncle here!).
By night, he may behave like a cocky brat disarming Hulk-faced bank robbers. Yet only after silencing pervy shop owners swooning over “smokin’ hot” aunt May (Marisa Tomei), going girl-spotting with “obese” best mate Ned (Jacob Batalon) and getting aroused by “girl next door” Liz Allen (Laura Harrier).
All within the comforts of retina-scorching school corridors; populated in all corners by caricatured stereotypes of Italians, Indians and Chinese.
In one scene, Downey’s Stark phones our titular hero from an Indian palace featuring no one, but turbaned princes and sari-dressed princesses dancing jolly to Bhangra!
“Pray to Ganesh for that!” he quips when handing a “servant” his empty shot of Scotch!
At the risk of being branded a PC addict gone mad, I struggled to not be minutely offended. Being half-Indian myself and all!
Frankly I’d be willing to overlook that “accidentally racist” remark if the rest of the film wasn’t such a damp squib.
Playing the web-slinger like a 14 year old fussing over his cheap Christmas gizmos, Holland’s Spidey sets new records for irritation. Lacking the minimum requirements for a 0.5 dimensional character, there’s an agonizing arrogance pouring from this Mr. Parker’s mouth.
One yearned for the angst, anxiety and awkwardness of Andrew Garfield’s amazing rendition.
Perhaps that is what Director Watts intended for this re-imagining. The film’s retro cinematography and hormonal oglings give an 80s teen movie vibe in vein of ‘The Breakfast Club (1985).
Too bad there’s no depth here! Any attempt at adolescence coming off like a cringey ‘Simpsons’ parody. Minus “SPIDER PIG, SPIDER PIG”!
Of course, this takes back-stage to the excessive franchising at work.
If you downed a Jagerbomb over every product placed snap of Doritos, Pizza Hut and Coca Cola clogging the production, no doubt you’d be bladdered!
Though you’d be paralytic if the same test was to be performed with the biggest brand on display – the Marvel Cinematic Universe!
From the heights of Stark Tower to Thor’s hammer, you might as well have carved a mammoth Marvel sculpture from every frame. Virtually every aspect appears crafted by a commercialistic committee of a corporation; in hunt of every last cent from your bankrupt wallets!
There’s nothing that remotely stands alone. Nothing outside of an ongoing continuum. Not even routinely fantastic Michael Keaton’s receding-haired, villainous Vulture!
A late-in the-game cameo from Captain America delivers a life-affirming message...
"Makes you wonder why you waited so long for something so disappointing. How many more of these?” the Cap preaches.
What a perfect metaphor for Marvel’s declining superhero state! Not that we needed explaining!
Indeed, it did. Being only aged 5 at the time, I unsurprisingly never caught it in cinemas! Though in the 15 years since, it was impossible not to be up-to-speed with the Spidey phenomenon!
Despite never being the most passionate comic-book aficionado, I couldn’t help, but feel rather agnostic about Raimi’s action-packed vision of the character.
No doubt I was fighting against the tides. The world’s dedicated fanbase lapped up the original film!
It was every kid’s wildest dream! And kickstarted a now rather tired catalogue of yearly summer superhero flicks!
Too bad Tobey Maguire couldn’t act and Kirsten Dunst’s teeth-grating Mary-Jane Watson was a death sentence for me!
The sequel ‘Spiderman 2’ (2004) was spiders ahead! A surreal spin on the superheroic saga, the film was deliciously notable for Alfred Molina’s slimy yet Shakespearian supervillain Dr. Octopus. More importantly, however, it asked grander questions than its slightly empty predecessor ever pondered. What does it mean to be a hero? What’s more important? Love or saving the world?
Sadly such stellar work was grossly undone by the ramshackle that was ‘Spiderman 3’ (2007). Perhaps the less said about that cataclysmic mess of cluttered storylines, overpopulated antagonists and toe-curling attempts at humour the better. Was there really any excuse for Maguire’s Peter dancing though?
Given the disaster of the third effort, you can’t blame Sony for cancelling any further productions! Ironic given their rampant studio interference was the core blame for Spidey 3’s downfall!
Nonetheless, Director Raimi was out and a reboot was on the cards.
Naturally, geeky superfans were fuming! No Raimi?! No Maguire?! No Dunst?! What a travesty!
It’s no surprise therefore that when ‘The Amazing Spiderman’ (2012) – directed by ‘(500) Days of Summer’s Marc Webb – finally emerged, the reception was, let’s just say, sniffy.
“It’s too soon”, “it’s too similar, “they’re doing it all over again!” they all said.
I admit, I myself initially fell somewhat into that category. While not abysmal, I struggled to shrug off a sense of “why?”.
Why were they treading lines so familiar so soon after?
It’s touching then that – in the years since – I have grown fonder and fonder of that much-maligned Spidey retread.
I don’t doubt this has something to do with my affection for Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone!
One of the major criticisms of ‘The Amazing Spiderman’ has been towards it’s overemphasis on indie quirks and ‘Twilight’-style moping.
On that second point, I am inclined to respectfully disagree. Whereas ‘Twilight’s teen vampire wimps were more miserable than a wet week in Wales, ‘The Amazing Spiderman’ wringed a light, breezy charm.
As far as the indie issue is concerned, however, it couldn’t be more tailored to my tastes!
Whereas Maguire’s caricatured excuse for a ninth grade nerd and Dunst’s whiney brat lover had less chemistry than 2 planks snogging, I could watch Garfield and Stone in the worst movie ever made and still have moved tears streaming down my face!
Recently, a friend of mine claimed Garfield’s pale Peter Parker was “too hot” and “too cool” to be believed as a socially inept outcast.
Really? Can’t a loner be handsome and quippy?
Frankly Garfield played Peter to perfection. Despite being at least 20 years older than Spidey’s adolescent origins, the British-born actor seemed indistinguishable from an awkward teen outsider. His sheepish face itself conveyed a mousy mix of shyness, anxiety and insecurity. Ideal for a story that is essentially an allegory of adolescent angst.
As for Emma Stone, what more can one say? Without descending into a fan rhapsody that is!
Her Gwen Stacy was a pretty love interest refreshingly concerned with more than the straightness of her hair!
The fact that Garfield and Stone were so sublimely screen suited for each other allowed me to overlook the lesser sequel’s rhino-in the-room problems.
Perhaps expectedly, fans lambasted ‘The Amazing Spiderman 2’ (2014) for its overstuffed plotting and committee-like agenda for setting up future instalments (none of which – as we now know – would ever happen!).
And so Summer 2017 welcomes ‘Spiderman: Homecoming’. A film which Spidermaniacs are excitedly counting the days for!
I myself, however, feel unusually uninspired by the prospect.
When Sony announced the scrapping of their planned ‘Spiderman’ universe, Marvel Studios brashly bought the rights to their original property.
This new, upcoming Spidey will finally take place within the gigantic Marvel Cinematic Universe. 20 year old Tom Holland is the youngest ever performer to take on the Peter Parker part (the text character was 15!).
Should be a recipe for success, right?!
Not in my book!
While I can completely understand fandom demand for a faithful adaptation, the trailers preceding ‘Homecoming’ reek of a corny ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ vibe!
Undoubtedly, this might be essential to Marvel mythology, but does it suit the silver screen?
Where’s the awkwardness? The angst? The anxiety?
What concerns one most though are the corporate fantasies that appear to coat the production.
For the first time in years, Marvel’s ever-expanding empire feels saggy and slogging. Can’t we simply have a solo super saga?
For all their bursts of balletic colours, the studio lacks depth. Every spin on their creations feel episodic and fast food-like; providing temporary escapism yet only to establish further franchise material. And thus milk the cash cow!
Most of all, the latest re-imagining features Robert Downey Jr. cracking his sardonic wit as Tony Stark/Iron Man!
He’s hilarious too, but we want Spiderman! And Spiderman only!
Of course, an open mind is a must for every release, but I’m going to miss Andrew and Emma!
12A, 97 Mins
Like a cheap crossing point between ‘Good Will Hunting’ (1997) and ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’ (1979), the film centres around the clichéd uncle-niece chemistry of Chris “Captain America” Evan’s hunky lumberjack and “gifted” 12 year old Mary (McKenna Grace).
As with so many Americanized spins on hard-hitting subjects, this young soul’s so-called “giftedness” is never clarified in meaning – suggesting everything about the film-maker’s narrow-minded view of child development.
In the most horrendously hackneyed of manners, young Mary is also disruptive, difficult and down-right “disrespectful”.
Not only does she scratch, scream and snarl. Unsurprisingly she can also solve every Einsteinian Maths equation on her thumbs!
Thought events couldn’t get more catastrophically contrived? Let’s add that Mary’s grandmother (Lindsay Duncan) is a cynical curmudgeon; hoping to gain legal guardianship of her brilliant granddaughter and is – criminally in this case – “very British”.
Though the film has the naivity to vocally assume British = English!
In fact, the individual who makes such a bland assumption is a kooky teacher (Jenny Slate) dressed in unusually high-waisted skirts and sporting a baby voice to scrape the eardrums!
A strong contender for most teeth-grating professional ever to place nails on a blackboard!
Inevitably Slate’s queen of annoying whimsy ends up awkwardly making out with “Cap America” (no complaining for her!). The downer is us audience being tortured with sitting through what can only be described as snoozefest courtrooms for politically over-correct bozos!
Despite the globules of Maple syrup drooling down our throats, there’s something extremely nauseating about ‘Gifted’s misguided box-tickings.
Take Octavia Spencer’s miniscule supporting role as a depressing example. Shoe-horned into another patronizing part as a submissive nanny, the film utterly wastes a talented actress. Her near-identical role in ‘The Help’ (2011) seems empowering in comparison!
I found myself my face physically scrunching in disbelief!
Forgive me for sounding like a pompous snob, but this is the kind of sentimental clap-trap that exists purely to yank the heartstrings of awards voters (most of whose usual soppy schmaltz will be sorely tested and stony-faced!).
More bothersome, however, is how vapidly unaware Director Webb seems of the film’s insufferableness.
What a shame too. Especially given how much I loved his beautifully sincere ‘(500) Days of Summer’ (2009) and delightful indie spin on ‘The Amazing Spiderman’ (2012). Where're Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone when you need em’?!
Meet Roshan Chandy
Freelance Film Critic and Writer based in Nottingham, UK. Specialises in Science Fiction cinema.
Follow Me on Twitter
***** 2 Thumbs Up
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