Month: July 2017

2017: 11 must-see films from the first six months

We are more than halfway through 2017 already. If your New Year’s resolution was to see more movies this year but you just haven’t gotten around to seeing as many as you’d hoped, don’t worry. To make things easier on you, we’ve compiled a list of the movies you really need to see (so far this year)!

*All films were released within the first six month (Jan.-Jun.).

11.) Split

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Brace yourselves, we may be in the midst of a Shyamalanaissance (you’re welcome). After the critical and financial success of The Visit, M. Night has taken an even bigger step towards reclaiming his lost title of “The Next Spielberg.” Split is a strong return to form for the writer/director. It’s a tense, deliberately paced thriller that perpetually intrigues and features a spine-tingling performance from James McAvoy as multiple personalities. The film also boats one of the most exciting reveals this year and of Shyamalan’s entire career.

10.) Colossal

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Contrary to its marketing, Colossal isn’t exactly a romantic comedy, monster movie mash-up. Though it shares similar plot points with those types of films (especially in the first act), Writer/Director Nacho Vigalondo actually explores some pretty dark, mature themes here. That said, it is one of the quirkiest, most original films this year with Anne Hathaway reminding us all why she won her Oscar. Jason Sudeikis is strong as Hathaway’s main foil and the two share a captivating dynamic that you won’t soon forget.

9.) Raw

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Word was people were fainting during festival screenings of this French horror flick. While Raw didn’t quite affect me in that way (thankfully), certain scenes still make me cringe weeks later. But this film left me with more than just a stronger gag reflex. By exploring the complicated relationship between two sisters, Raw offers unique observations on (among other things) sisterhood and its impact on certain familial structures. Simply put: it’s one of the meatiest films of the year. There’s a lot to sink your teeth into. Okay, I’ll stop.

8.) The Lego Batman Movie

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From hard-R cannibalism to animated family fun! Not enough people saw The Lego Batman Movie, which is a shame. It’s some of the most fun I’ve had in a theater this year. Director Chris McKay hysterically pokes fun at Batman and his storied silver screen history with self-referential styling’s similar to the original Lego movie. McKay simultaneously delivers the kickass action we’ve come to expect from a Batman flick. Perhaps the best thing about this film is that it offers a fresh take on the Dark Knight despite serving two of the most iconic brands in the world.

7.) Wonder Woman

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Sure it took 75 years, but it was well worth the wait. Wonder Woman is a pure delight from start to finish. Director Patty Jenkins took one of comics’ silliest, most convoluted origins and adapted it into a coherent and compelling narrative. Gal Gadot is a revelation as Diana Prince and Chris Pine is irresistibly charming as the romantic interest Steve Trevor. Their chemistry is magnetic and holds the film together throughout. Charismatic performances from the supporting cast even win out against some undercooked side character development. Wonder Woman also manages to fit visually within the context of the DC Extended Universe while incorporating some of that humor and infectious energy that make the MCU movies so much fun.

6.) Wakefield

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Wakefield is a singular experience filtered through the mind of a sincerely disturbed suburbanite who withdraws from his life and family by hiding away inside the attic of their detached garage. It’s a twisted character study that offers surprisingly frequent laughs as well as some unsettling insight into the psyche of identity and the toll of soulless routine. Bryan Cranston is hypnotic as Howard Wakefield and convincingly conveys the man’s frenzied journey to self-discovery.

5.) It Comes at Night

Stanley and Bud

If you go into It Comes at Night with the wrong set of expectations, chances are you’ll leave disappointed. I knew nothing when I sat down to screen it. Gradually, I took what Writer/Director Trey Edward Schults was offering. I encourage all of you to do the same. If you can accept It Comes at Night as a cerebral, slow-burning character study, then you may be able to enjoy the film’s narrative simplicity, haunting cinematography and nuanced performances. You may even find yourself asking “What would I do in this situation?”

4.) John Wick: Chapter 2

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Sometimes there is just no substitute for fun. That’s what the John Wick movies are. The first film gleefully embraces Keanu Reeves’s inner badass as well as an inexplicably intricate mythology and hyper-realistic violence. ‘Chapter 2′ furthers said mythology and doubles down the series’ now iconic “gun-fu.” If you loved John Wick then you’ll probably love John Wick: Chapter 2 all the same, if not more. I certainty did.

3.) Baby Driver

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Continuing the theme of fun is Baby Driver. Writer/Director Edgar Wright spins familiar elements of the crime genre in a way only he can for this analog comedy. It features Ansel Elgort as a getaway driver who continually listens to music in order to drown out the Tinnitus in his ears. The script is tight and full of snappy dialogue. The supporting cast is equally kinetic and charming, with special props to Jamie Foxx for his standout performance. Wright also makes better use of his soundtrack than any other film I’ve seen, particularly during the riveting action sequences (yes, including Guardians of the Galaxy).

2.) Get Out

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Get Out is not only one of the best movies of the year. It’s one of the most important ones too. Writer/Director Jordan Peele (one-half of Comedy Central’s sketch comedy Key & Peele) has crafted a deft social thriller akin to the likes of The Stepford Wives and Rosemary’s Baby. Here Peele observes the subversive evolution of racism in America through the lens of a young African American man who’s meeting his Caucasian girlfriend’s parents for the first time. It’s a timely, haunting film and one that’s already made a splash via multiple box office records. Look for Get Out come time for Oscar nods.

1.) Logan

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Logan is not just a great comic book movie. It’s a great movie, period. It’s also the last time Hugh Jackman will play the iconic X-Man Wolverine, after nearly twenty years. Thankfully, Logan is the perfect swan song. Director James Mangold and company have realized a poetic and exhilarating tale of redemption in a world where mutants are nearing extinction. We finally get to see Wolverine in all his raging, R-rated glory. Patrick Stewart gives arguably the best performance of his career as a broken, desperate Professor X. In fact, Logan has the potential to be the first comic book film since The Dark Knight to see an Oscar nod for performance.

There you have it! Our picks for the top 11 must-see movies of the first half of 2017. What do you think of our list? What films made it onto your list? We want to know! Hit us up in the comments section and let’s talk about it!

False advertising & ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ review

War for the Planet of the Apes rounds out one of the greatest trilogies of the 21st century. It also featured a blatantly false marketing campaign. We talk about both in our video review!

 

What do you all think? Does the new ‘Apes’ franchise belong in the discussion of one of the all-time best trilogies and did you feel lied to by the marketing campaign at all? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

The 5 Best, Most Complex Villains in the MCU

Thus far, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a super-sized success, both financially and critically. Still, that hasn’t deterred the passionate online community from ragging on Kevin Feige and company for the undercooked depictions of their big screen baddies (collectively dubbing the issue “Marvel’s Villain Problem”).

While evil-doing duds like Dormammu and Malekith (you’re looking him up, aren’t you?) leave much to be desired, Marvel Studios doesn’t get enough credit. It’s true Marvel’s villains mostly service the stories of their heroes, but by combining multilayered writing with charismatic performances, they’ve brought to life a noteworthy number of threatening, complex cads who possess just enough humanity to identify with.

With the recent release of Spider-Man: Homecoming and Michael Keaton’s apparent inauguration into the elite ranks of Marvel’s rank, now is the perfect time to shine the spotlight on the best villains that the MCU has had to offer.


*CAUTION: THE FOLLOWING LIST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR ALL DISCUSSED MOVIES.

5. Adrian Toomes/ Vulture (Spider-Man: Homecoming)

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The opening scene in Spider-Man: Homecoming is special. Not only are we introduced to Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes right off the bat, but we get a glimpse into the life of a MCU villain pre-feather jacket. Toomes was a working class hero who found himself unfairly bent over by the system. Despite his misfortune, he found a way to thrive and for the betterment of his family. It’s the MCU’s most honest origin story and one that unfortunately speaks to a desperation that’s too real for too many people.

Toomes succeeds once he embraces his inner Vulture. He channels his anger for Tony Stark and wealthy industrialists like him into becoming endlessly organized and tactful. From that, Toomes builds and runs an underground criminal organization that specializes in the obviously illegal retail of extraterrestrial WMD’s under the nose of Stark Tower for nearly a decade without so much as a word from any authority or Avenger.

Now all grown up and desperate to impress Mr. Stark in the hopes of officially becoming a member of the Avengers, fifteen-year-old Peter Parker/Spider-Man tries to put an end to Toomes’s long-running scheme. What the naïve Wall Crawler underestimates is Vulture’s loyalty. Like the fatherly fowl he is, Toomes will do whatever it takes to provide for his families.

It’s a lesson Peter learns in the hardest of ways. In a third act shocker (haha), Peter goes to the house of his biggest crush to pick her up for the school homecoming dance and who should answer the door but Toomes himself. No, he isn’t holding Liz (that’s the girl’s name) hostage. He’s her father.

Peter is suddenly hit by the realization that he and the supposed bad guy he’s been trying to stop share a common love. Here Toomes becomes an even more integral part of this Peter Parker’s origin story and all the more menacing. Michael Keaton is chilling and his performance is particularly effective in one scene just before the dance where he literally scares the color from Peter’s face.

Throughout all of this, Vulture’s Chitauri tech poses a real threat to the Web Head, who’s dealing with a reality he’d only previously read about in school. Now he’s experience the devastation of these alien devices for himself and at the near risk of countless lives, including those of the people he holds dear.

Other than his writing, Keaton’s performance, his important to Peter as a character, and the greater threat he poses, there is one more thing that makes Vulture such a great villain. Spider-Man, the hero of this story, isn’t even the one who stops Vulture in the end. It’s his own ignorance about the combustibility of his own cargo. After it explodes and takes Vulture down, Spidey just webs him up.

4. Ego the Living Planet (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2)

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The biggest question coming out of the first Guardians of the Galaxy was “Who is Star-Lord’s father?” Thankfully, the main through line of ‘Vol. 2’ offers up answers and then some (thanks, Drax). For starters, we learned that not since Darth Vader has a father been such a pain in his son’s ass.

In this case, Peter’s ass pain goes by the name Ego. He’s the smoothest sailor this side of Andromeda with a smile that could charm the stripes off an alien Zebra. He’s also a Celestial, which is a fancy name given to immortal cosmic beings in the Marvel universe. Essentially, he’s a god with a god complex who decides he wants to cover the universe in his gooey life force (not a euphemism) because nothing could ever possibly be as awesome as he is. Ever.

Unfortunately, one Celestial isn’t enough to get the job done. He needs another. So, like a self-loathing teenager with daddy issues, Ego decides to procreate a solution into existence. He hops planet to planet, knocking up exotic women only to kill his darlings (literally) once they fail to demonstrate signs of his superior genetics.

Along the way, Ego stops by Earth for some Earth poontang. Instead, he fatefully falls head over heels for a Colorado hippie chick. From their impassioned union comes Star-Lord and Ego’s realization that gals cannot come before goals. Logically, Ego ends his lover’s life to eliminate that temptation and returns home.

After years of fruitless endeavor, Ego finally finds his demigod son and invites him back to his planetary pad. Here Ego charismatically charms Peter into a trance-like submission before revealing to him the tragic truth of his lineage; however, it’s not the evil, mustache-twirling reveal you might expect from an egotistical divinity.

Instead, Kurt Russell’s rockstar persona falls away to reveal a moment of genuine vulnerability. Ego feels guilty about murdering Meredith (Pete’s mom) but at the same time insists Star-Lord not let his emotional attachments get in the way of the bigger picture (they do, after all, have a universe to perfect).

But like all great villains, Ego’s unwavering commitment to his cause ultimately leads to his downfall. While he may have felt certain feelings for Meredith Quill, he underestimated human compassion. Thus it is up to the son to atone for the sins of his father by setting off a nuclear bomb inside his celestial skull.

Ego is a villain of mythic proportions whose story resembles both the rise and fall of similar divine characters from ancient myths. He is all-powerful and endlessly in love with himself because of it. His sense of entitlement poetically drives him to destruction at the hands of his jaded brood and Kurt Russell tragically portrays this downward spiral with one of his best performances in years.

3. Ultron (The Avengers: Age of Ultron)

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Perhaps no MCU villain is more motivated by his daddy issues than Ultron. Developed by Tony Stark and Bruce Banner to help achieve “piece in our time,” Ultron ultimately decides that peace can only be achieved at the cost of organic life on Earth. “Once the dust settles, the only thing living in this world will be metal,” the mad machine exclaims as he raises an entire city into the sky.

Ultron originally claims it’s the Avengers who are standing in the way of peace, calling them “killers” and accusing them of disrupting the natural order. It’s their obsession with power that drives this and what fuels Ultron’s hate for Stark, whom he refers to as “a sickness” during his temper tantrum after Ulysses Klaue compares Ultron to one of Stark’s robots.

If Ultron’s unsound leap in logic and emotional outbursts remind you of a child, that’s because he is one. Let’s not forget, Ultron is only a few days old during the course of this movie. He just happens to have access to all the world’s recorded knowledge and history. That makes him the world’s most dangerous newborn.

It’s an interesting concept for a mecha-villain. Typically, evil movie robots are depicted as being cold and calculated, like HAL 9000 or the Terminator. Ultron is special because, while he bears similar ideologies about his supposed superiority to humans, he is as emotionally compromised as the best of them. Moreover, Ultron seemingly inherited his short fuse from assuredly the angriest being in the Marvel Universe, Bruce Banner, a.k.a. the Incredible Hulk.

These are shortcomings that Ultron strives to live above earlier on in the film. After his initial confrontation with the Avengers, he forms a sympathetic partnership with the twins Scarlett Witch and Quicksilver based on their common hatred for Stark. Ultron typically apologies for his outbursts or stops mid-sentence to keep himself in check, especially while dealing with the twins.

Of course Ultron ultimately suffers the sin of his fathers. At its core processing unit, that’s what Ultron’s story is all about. However, instead of loving himself securely as his own autonomous being, Ultron tries to get rid of everybody until he’s the last man, er, robot standing.

It’s this inconsistent worldview that makes Ultron so dangerous. He is a ticking time bomb with access to anything connected to the internet and in the modern world that’s just about everything. James Spader perfectly embodies the raw insanity of Ultron and his thunderous tones terrify even when he’s in his weakest forms.

2. Loki (The Avengers)

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Tom Hiddleston’s Loki truly earns his title God of Mischief during his many appearances in the MCU. He’s proven to be a ceaseless schemer who’s always thinking three steps ahead of everyone else and willing to do whatever it takes to whoever he must in order to get what he wants. Not even Odin, his own father, and Thor, his brother, are safe from Loki’s treachery.

Tom Hiddleston personifies the snake that Loki is. He’s handsome, charming, and charismatic. These are qualities that Loki fully embraces for himself in to lower the guards of any unsuspecting victims. And if that doesn’t work, the jerk can shape shift.

Like all memorable foils, Loki is more than just the bad guy. Like Ultron, he is wrought with fragile emotions. Unlike Ultron, however, there is a complex history to Loki that has shaped the character we know and love to hate in the Marvel movies.

For starters, Loki has always been physically inferior to his brother Thor. Despite the fact that Loki consistently demonstrated a higher intelligence than his beefy bro, Odin still looked favorably upon Thor as the next king of Asgard.

Loki was unable to reconcile his own idea of leadership with his father’s and this dilemma eventually spawned a deep hatred. This hatred only worsened when Loki discovered he was adopted from the Ice Giants, a race of beings whom the Asgardians are socialized from birth to despise. Having been lied to by those closest to him his entire life, Loki completely turns on his family.

Obviously, Loki’s thirst for having things his way comes from a deep-rooted insecurity. He’s felt lied to and never in control of his own life. This drives Loki in The Avengers to pull back the curtain on the illusion of choice to humanity. He is upfront with them and says their existence can be made much simpler by submitting to his control.

Loki’s self-assurance that he knows what’s best for everyone and his willingness to prove it is what makes him such a compelling and dangerous antagonist.

1. Helmut Zemo (Captain America: Civil War)

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At number one, this is surely a divisive pick. There seems to be just as much praise on the interwebs for Daniel Bruhl’s Zemo as there is protest. And the idea of placing him atop Loki as the best developed villain in the MCU seems ludicrous, doesn’t it? After all, Loki’s been in way more movies.

True. But Zemo has the advantage in a big, bad way. He defeated the Avengers. That’s right. Unlike any villain before him, Helmut Zemo actually accomplishes what he sets out to do: fracture the Avengers from the inside. In almost every case, the heroes topple the bad guy in the end. Here, however, even though he winds up behind bars, Zemo takes the day.

Another thing to keep in mind when talking about Zemo as the best, most complex villain in the MCU is that he is only human. He does not possess any superpowers nor a high-tech super suit. He’s not in peak physical form and he’s not specialized in combat. He’s just a dude whose world came crumbling down literally and metaphorically when Ultron dropped Sokovia from the sky.

Daniel Bruhl portrays Zemo as cold and calculated after this, which makes sense seeing is how he’s lost his family. Bruhl’s performance is realistically chilling and unexpressive. It may not be as bombastic a turn as Spader with Ultron or Hiddleston with Loki, but it’s engrossing on a more human level.

Since ‘Age of Ultron’, Zemo blames the Avengers and seeks to spare anyone else the pain of their collateral damage by riding the world of them. This is where Zemo demonstrates maniacal brilliance. Like the movie going audience, Zemo is aware that nobody has every topped the Avengers before. He thus concludes that only the Avengers can best the Avengers.

So what does Zemo do? He brings to light the fact that it was none other than Bucky who murdered Tony Stark’s parents. By planting that seed, the human side of these superhumans does the rest and consequently arises the titular Civil War.

Captain America: Civil War is not just another movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s a point of no return. It made such a splash that we have yet to see the long term effects. To this day no villain has scarred the MCU the way Zemo has.

There you have it! That’s our pick for the five best, most complex villains in the MCU. What did you think? Do you agree or disagree with our ranking? What’s yours look like? Let us know in the comments section!

Quentin Tarantino Prepping Manson Family Murders Movie

Off the hooves of Hateful Eight, Quentin Tarantino has begun preparation on his ninth feature film, sources are telling The Hollywood Reporter. The legendary filmmaker has approached some of the industry’s top talents about starring in an untitled project about the Manson Family murders. Such talents include Brad Pitt, who previously collaborated with Tarantino on Inglorious Basterds, and Jennifer Lawrence. Specific information regarding roles has not been made public, however insiders are saying that Lawrence is not considering the role of Sharon Tate.

Sharon Tate was the 26-year-old actress who was brutally murdered when Charles Manson sent his followers to the wrong house to exact revenge against a record producer who turned him away. She was the wife of filmmaker Roman Polanski and eight months pregnant at the time of her murder.

Tate was one of five victims who were bound and tortured that night. It wasn’t until 1971 that Charles Manson and family were sentenced to life in prison for those bloody executions as well as several other murders that summer.

The Manson Family murders are an interesting subject for Quentin Tarantino’s next film. He’s no stranger to tackling raw brutality on screen but at the same time the director hasn’t previously done an adaptation of a specific historic event even though his films typically take place inside historic time frames.

Long time Tarantino collaborators Harvey and Bob Weinstein are once again expected to be involved though no distributor has yet jumped on to the project. Consequently, there is no current release date set; however, the film is expected to begin principal photography summer 2018.

What do you all think of Quentin Tarantino taking on the Manson Family murders? Are you interested to see his take on history? Let us know in the comments below!

Review: ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ is (mostly) the reboot Spidey needs right now

Director: Jon Watts

Starring: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, and Donald Glover 

Synopsis: Several months after the events of Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker, with the help of his mentor Tony Stark, tries to balance his life as an ordinary high school student in Queens, New York City while fighting crime as his superhero alter ego Spider-Man as a new threat, the Vulture, emerges. 

Rating: PG-13

Years: 2017

Like their iconic heroes, there seems to be no limit to what Marvel Studios can accomplish. They’ve defied one expectation after another to craft the hottest success streak in Hollywood, including their latest, Spider-Man: Homecoming, with which they’ve largely perfected a formula for the notorious reboot. Take note, studio execs.

There are a few things that help make this new Spidey stand out from previous incarnations. The first and most obvious is his age. Tom Holland is significantly younger now than both Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield were when they filmed their outings. It was a tactical decision. Casting a teenage actor to portray a high school Peter Parker opens the door to unexplored creative territory and is a big reason why ‘Homecoming’ feels fresh despite it being the series’ third manifestation in only fifteen years.

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Of course a tactic’s merits is based on its execution and in terms of casting said teenage actor, Sony and Marvel nailed it. Holland perfectly embodies the kind-hearted, sharp witted, flamboyant adolescence of young Spider-Man/Peter Parker. It’s uncanny. If you weren’t sold on the young actor in this role in Captain America: Civil War, then ‘Homecoming’ will make you a believer.

As good as Holland is here, the film would collapse if it weren’t for his strong supporting cast (as Peter’s best friend Ned points out in the film, even Spider-Man needs help sometimes). Robert Downey Jr. again highlights every scene he’s in, tutoring the young Parker; however, despite an Iron-heavy marketing campaign, he doesn’t see much screen time. Peter actually spends most of the movie hysterically pestering Tony’s head of security, Happy Hogan, once again played by original Iron Man director Jon Favreau.

Other notable standouts include Jacob Batalon as the adorkable Ned, a scene stealing Donald Glover, and Zendaya, who makes particularly effective use of her sparse appearances as a loaner artist.

toomes

When talk about performances in a Spider-Man movie arises, so too will discussion of the villain. Since the wall crawler has built up one of the most memorable rogues galleries, heavy scrutiny always follows the live-action iterations of his big bads. especially when its’ Michael Keaton in the role. Here he plays Adrian Toomes, a.k.a. Vulture, a blue-collar scrap yard dealer contracted to help clean up New York following the events of The Avengers before he and his crew are replaced by the Stark Industries-sanctioned Damage Control.

Now bitter with a hatred for Stark, Toomes takes what alien technology he’s managed to salvage and begins life anew as an extraterrestrial arms dealer. It’s a compelling origin story but his regression into villainy woefully occurs off screen so the contrast is a bit jarring. It’s unfortunate too that Vulture’s relationships are never as realized as they could be, especially considering what they do with him towards the third act and during the mid-credits scene. I also couldn’t shake the feeling that he’s a more natural fit for another Iron Man movie than a Spider-Man one.

That said, Keaton does his best with what he’s given. If the idea alone of Batman on screen with Spider-Man doesn’t given you chills, Keaton’s menacing performance certainty will.

iron

The Iron Man influences go beyond the occasional cameo and villain. Marvel Studios has upgraded Spidey’s suit to be more in line with Iron Man’s, including countless gizmos and gadgets, different types of webbing, and even built-in A.I. (á la Jarvis). It’s an unnecessary overhaul that serves less the character and his first solo adventure and mostly serves to tie him in with the existing MCU.

Perhaps the most unfortunate comparison to Iron Man is that, through a slew of disappointingly forgettable action sequences, Spidey proves to be a bumbling menace. Yes, he’s a kid just coming into his super-self, but it’s tough to root for a supposed hero who puts just as many lives at risk as he saves, if not more.

Thankfully, Tom Holland is endlessly charming as Peter Parker and equally charismatic as the Spider. Likewise, it’s near impossible to resist the infectious performances from the rest of the cast. Together they’ve built a foundation for a special franchise that hopefully sticks to its own business down the line.

Grade: A-

What did you all think of Spider-Man: Homecoming? We want to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

‘Cult of Chucky’ Trailer #1 Reaction

Everyone’s favorite psychotic, homicidal doll is back! Watch along as we react to the first trailer for Cult of Chucky!

What do you all think of this first trailer? Are you in or are you out? Let us know in the comments below!