Review of “Spider-Man: Homecoming”

Peter Parker (Tom Holland) has experienced a great deal in his 15 years: He lost his parents and lives with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), he was bitten by a radioactive spider that gave him super strength and the ability to climb up walls, and he briefly joined the Avengers at the request of Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) during the battle in Berlin. Stark is letting Peter keep the high-tech Spider-Man suit Stark gave him for that battle. Peter wants to be an Avenger but Stark thinks its best if Peter is just your friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man and deal with mundane street crime in New York City. Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) is not your average street criminal. He was once a salvager working to clean up the mess left after the Battle of New York between the Avengers and Chitauri but he was shut down by a government agency taking over the clean-up, ruining him financially. Toomes kept some of the salvaged alien tech and began making very powerful weapons he sells on the black market. Peter, patrolling as Spider-Man, comes across a gang breaking into an ATM using some of Toomes tech and in the fight a corner store across the street from the bank is destroyed. Peter makes it his mission to find out where these weapons are coming from and follows a van containing some of the weapons when he is attacked by a man wearing jet-powered wings and with hydraulic claws on his feet. Toomes has made a flying suit with the alien tech and attacks Peter, nearly killing him. Peter is persistent and tries to capture Toomes and his gang during a weapons deal on the Staten Island Ferry that nearly leads to mass casualties. Stark, angry Peter is taking on missions that are above his experience, takes back the high tech spider suit leaving Peter feeling like a failure and unworthy of being an Avenger.

The cynical among us would look at “Spider-Man: Homecoming” as a blatant cash grab in the third version in 15 years of the character on the big screen. The hopeful among us would look at it, as the title suggests, as a homecoming of sorts for the character as Marvel Studios (owned by Disney) was directly involved in the creation of the story and allowed Tony Stark/Iron Man and Captain America to be used in this film made by Sony/Columbia Pictures. Everyone that enjoys superhero films was just hoping it would at least be an improvement over the Andrew Garfield version of the web-slinging teenager or the third Sam Raimi film. I am happy to report all is looking good in the Spider-verse.

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” feels like a more hopeful and positive version of Spider-Man. Perhaps not completely rebooting the character back to the death of Uncle Ben (again) allows this version of Peter Parker to be more positive and less mired in the guilt of that character’s death. That’s not to say Peter doesn’t take the role of being a superhero seriously: If anything he takes it too seriously and devotes all his free time to waiting for a call from Stark to go on another Avengers adventure. This Peter Parker is shown living a dual existence between being a high school student with the responsibilities that entails and being a superhero looking for trouble in his neighborhood. Several times he decides he has to don his suit and face the dangers of his job while letting down his friends and classmates. He leaves a party, leaves an academic decathlon and leaves his date at the homecoming dance and most of the time despite the sacrifice of his personal life; he fails at being a hero. Even when he loses his Stark-tech-enhanced suit, he still feels the obligation to wear his amateurish homemade version and fight the bad guys. It’s his willingness to fail and not give up that makes this Spider-Man especially appealing.

Tom Holland makes a great Peter Parker and Spider-Man. He is obviously enthusiastic about the part, being quoted in interviews saying he’d like to be the web-slinger for the next 30 years. While that’s unlikely he is contracted for a total of six films and it should be fun seeing Holland and the character grow up over time as long as the scripts and stories are good.

Michael Keaton plays perhaps the best villain in any Marvel movie. Adrian Toomes is a menacing figure with a hair-trigger temper but Keaton has the talent and intelligence to play him with a quiet menace and makes his volatility that much more frightening. A scene late in the film could be used as a convincing argument for a best supporting actor Oscar for Keaton. There’s a chance we’ll see him again in future Spider-Man films and I fear Peter Parker is in for a rough time should the Vulture be freed to fly again.

The rest of the cast is strong and provides terrific supporting performances for the leads. Zendaya is especially good as Michelle, a bookish, oddly turned classmate of Peter’s. She is always close by to provide an ego deflating comment or dose of reality for Peter and his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon).

Marisa Tomei’s version of Aunt May is the most modern and certainly the youngest in the character’s movie history. This Aunt May is a force to be reckoned with for Peter as she isn’t easily put off or deceived. It’s also a source of humor as more than Tony Stark is shown flirting with her or expressing interest in her. There is a great deal of potential in this version of Peter’s guardian including future scenes where she is able to extract herself from trouble without the assistance of her super powered nephew.

While the film is a good mix of humor, character development and action, there are times when the action looks muddy. The CGI battles frequently occur at night, making the fast movements nearly impossible to see. While the special effects are very good during the daylight scenes the nighttime set pieces tend to get lost in the darkness.

There’s also another little thing that bothered me about “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” Peter’s friend Ned discovers his secret identity (not a spoiler as it’s in the trailer) but then he can’t stop talking to Peter about it in school, constantly asking him questions even when they are surrounded by other students. If I had a secret of that size I certainly wouldn’t want my friend chatting about it out loud around other people. There are numerous situations where Ned is asking question but he isn’t being subtle and there are always people standing or sitting nearby. It is a recipe for having your secret spread all over school in no time and inevitably discovered by the super villains you fight. That really stuck out to me.

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, brief suggestive comments and some language. There are numerous fights but no gore. One person is turned into a pile of ash by an alien weapon. Spider-Man is shown being dragged behind a van and thrown into trash cans and mailboxes. There is a plane crash and other mayhem caused by the weapons. I do not remember anything that could be considered suggestive other than some very mild comments about Aunt May. Foul language is mild and scattered.

At the end of the film we are promised Spider-Man will return. We know he’s in “Avengers: Infinity War” as well as its sequel and two more scheduled solo movies. That, along with his appearance in “Captain America: Civil War,” would total Tom Holland’s six contracted films as the web slinger. While it is difficult for any series of films to maintain the quality of the original, Marvel seems to be more successful at it than most. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll have this Spider-Man for a while and not need to reboot the franchise for quite some time. As long as the future films are as good as “Spider-Man: Homecoming” I’m perfectly happy with that.

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” gets five stars.

Three new movies open in wide release this week. I’ll see and review at least one of the following:

The Big Sick—

War for the Planet of the Apes—

Wish Upon—

Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman@comcast.net.

Review of “Hello, My Name is Doris”

Doris (Sally Field) has recently lost her mother after many years of caring for her. This meant Doris put her own life on hold as her brother Todd (Stephen Root) went to college and started a business and a family with wife Cynthia (Wendi McLendon-Covey). Doris has a job in accounting at a clothing company. She runs into John Fremont (Max Greenfield), a new employee, on the elevator ride up to the office and is instantly smitten with him. Doris knows their age and experience difference makes a relationship with John impossible but she cannot get him off her mind. While attending a talk by motivational speaker Willy Williams (Peter Gallagher) with her best friend Roz (Tyne Daly), Doris decides to take his advice and turn “impossible” into “I’m possible” and approach John. Not knowing exactly how, Doris gets advice from Roz’s 13-year old granddaughter and sets up a fake Facebook profile and asks to be friends with John. He accepts giving Doris full access to his information including what music he listens to and the places he’s been. Doris uses this information to become closer with John including showing up at a concert of electronica artist Baby Goya and the Nuclear Winters (Jack Antonoff). Not only is Doris spending more time with John but she’s also discovering a whole new world of people and ideas she never knew existed. Doris feels more alive than she has in years; but this newfound life is putting a wedge between her and Roz as well as causing Doris to ignore the cluttered state of her home and the hording tendencies of her late mother that she is continuing.

“Hello, My Name is Doris” is both uproariously funny and emotionally devastating. It takes a look at a largely ignored section of the US population, those over 60, and shines a light on how society and pop culture views this massive segment of American life is irrelevant. The film’s main protagonist eventually learns to stand up for herself and say “Look at me! I matter!” despite what her co-workers and the rest of life might think. It also flips on its head the common trope of an older man becoming involved with a younger woman and makes us reconsider how we react to that pairing. The movie is somewhat subversive in that way and I really liked it.

Sally Field will probably be ignored for an acting Oscar when awards time rolls around again but she shouldn’t. This is an amazing performance from an actress that has won two Oscars for her work in “Norma Rae” and “Places in the Heart.” Had the film been released later in the year, Ms. Field might need to clean off a place on her mantle for a third. Field is mesmerizing as Doris. Part of the performance is the wardrobe choices made for the character. Wearing clothes that look 40 years out of date, with her hair piled on top of her head (including a wig) and kitty-eye glasses, Field embodies what looks to be a stereotypical cat lady (the character does have one cat). Meek and timid, sometimes living in a fantasy world where John sweeps Doris off her feet, Field wrings every bit of life and emotion she can out of a character that might have very easily been two-dimensional caricature. Field makes Doris a worthy underdog that the audience roots for. I sat in my seat in the theatre trying to figure out a way Doris and John could be together that would work emotionally for the audience and make some kind of sense for the characters. I wanted them to live happily ever after and that much personal investment by me can be fully credited to Sally Field’s performance.

Max Greenfield is also excellent as John. While annoyed and confused at first by Doris’ attentions, John begins to see more in his co-worker than an eccentric old woman. Greenfield is a flexible actor that can mold himself to fit the character he plays. Whether it is Schmit on “New Girl,” Nick on “Ugly Betty” or Gabriel on the latest season of “American Horror Story,” Greenfield is able to modify himself to fit what the character needs. That may sound like acting 101 but not all actors are able to fully immerse themselves in a character like Greenfield. His performance as John is a perfect everyman. John is not spectacular in any way and yet Greenfield makes him a character I wanted to know more about.

The rest of the supporting cast, Kumail Nanjiani, Rich Sommer, Natasha Lyonne, Elizabeth Reaser, Beth Behrs and those previously mentioned, round out Doris’ world in a full and believable way. Not everyone is terribly likable with her co-workers barely knowing anything about Doris and hardly considering her worth the effort to get to know, her brother and sister-in-law considering her more of a nuisance than a family member and the rest of the world largely being unaware of her existence. While many of the supporting cast gets only minimal screen time they do the most with their performances with a particular standout being Kumail Nanjiani who turns his character Nasir into one that usually has a shining bit of dialog.

“Hello, My Name is Doris” turns the May-December romance on its head with the older woman perusing the younger man. For some reason we believe there’s no way a young man would be the least bit interested in an older woman. While society doesn’t seem to have the same issue with an older man chasing a younger woman the reverse is almost seen as more shocking or taboo and I don’t get it since I think both are gross. While I enjoyed the movie a great deal the idea of such a large age difference in a romantic couple (between the actors it is 34 years) kind of gives me the willies. I personally would much rather be with someone romantically near my own age as that person would have similar life experiences. Dating someone much younger, while it might be exciting in the short term, would probably mean having a huge difference in life references like Paul McCartney being in a couple of bands that formed, were hugely successful and broke up before this relative child was born. Dating someone significantly older might mean having only a few years of good health before the aged partner might need long term health care. It doesn’t seem fair to the younger partner to be saddled with something as demanding as caring for a sickly mate.

Another thing the movie explores is how those entering their “Golden Years” are often ignored and forgotten about. That is especially damning for Hollywood since most actors, once they reach a certain age, are relegated to supporting roles. There aren’t many movies starring an identifiably older actor. Those that do are usually surrounded by a much younger cast as is the case in “Hello, My Name is Doris.” What this movie does to counteract that is to make most of the younger characters vacuous and self-centered. During the post-concert party Doris attends with John, she encounters several people who share with her their love of making their own chocolate and other pursuits that sound so hipster you expect to see a beard and fedora magically appear on their faces and heads. Her co-workers are equally clueless to the point of being unaware Doris’ mother had recently died. They are so wrapped up in their own lives and keeping up with the latest trends they have no time or interest in Doris. It takes John asking questions about her for the rest of the staff to realize she is a person. It is quite an indictment on the self-absorbed nature of our social media-obsessed culture.

“Hello, My Name is Doris” is rated R for language. The F-Bomb gets dropped enough to turn a PG-13 movie into an R; however, the majority of the language is concentrated in two scenes.

I really needed to see “Hello, My Name is Doris” after the cacophonous disaster that was “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” It is a simple movie about people with exaggerated but believable problems that don’t need to punch someone or blowup a building to tell a story. It is the perfect antidote to blockbuster fatigue. It may wrap up a little too neatly; but “Hello, My Name is Doris” is still a mature look at modern love complicated by time and a little mental illness. I’d take a little film like this over a dozen polished Hollywood epics.

“Hello, My Name is Doris” gets five stars.

A comedy and a first-person action flick open this week. I’ll be on vacation but I just might drop in to a nearby multiplex to watch and then review one of the following:

The Boss—

Hardcore Henry—

Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan, on Anchor search for Stan the Movie Man and send email to stanthemovieman@comcast.net.