REVIEW: Spider-Man: Homecoming

5 07 2017

The “Spider-Man” series, in both its prior cinematic incarnations this millennium, have dealt with the consequences of giving extraordinary power to ordinary men. The web-slinger’s modern persona is the product of an individualistic Bush-era America where heroes were lone actors grappling with authority and treading near the line of vigilantism. He’s a symbol of the power of the one, overcoming self-made obstacles, vanquishing doubts and conquering evil menace.

But by the time that the lifeless 2014 iteration of the character, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” arrived in theaters, actor Andrew Garfield even acknowledged the hollowness of this interpretation. “The danger of these superhero films is that they maybe propagate a lie that what’s going to change the world is one man, or one woman, just being the beacon of light,” he told The Daily Beast. “That’s not the way that it’s ever happened and it’s not going to be the way that it ever happens — I think it’s going to take every single person doing their small, massive bit to create a world, to create a society and a culture, that if we can imagine it we can do it.”

While Tom Holland’s Peter Parker in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is far from the cooperative hero of “The Avengers,” he’s a step in the correct, more honest direction. Holland actually looks like the high school-aged kid that Spider-Man is; Garfield, by contrast, was 31 when his Peter Parker accepted a high school diploma. And from that starting point, director Jon Watts and a stable of six writers craft a superhero narrative around a lesson that resonates for adolescences both radioactive and regular. (We need not discuss the ending point, yet another reminder of the endemic inability for comic book adaptations to wrap up in anything other than a mind-numbing CGI pyrotechnics demo.)

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REVIEW: Cop Car

14 08 2015

Cop CarJon Watts’ “Cop Car” opens with a familiar scene for anyone who escaped lower school: two kids tossing around swear words like a hot potato.  They do it not as an organic reaction to any sort of stimulus; they do it just to wield the power of the taboo.  This is the first of many examples that demonstrate just how well Watts and his co-writer Christopher D. Ford understand the mindset of kids.

Their two pint-sized protagonists, Travis and Harrison (James Freedson-Jackson and Hays Wellford), hardly fit the bill of the typical precocious on-screen youngster.  They are just pre-pubescent pinheads engaging in the same dumb stuff everyone does around the age of ten.  Here, they take it one step too far when they decide to go joyriding in an apparently abandoned police cruiser.

Because “Cop Car” is a movie and not the punchline of a Jeff Foxxworthy “redneck” joke, the vehicle obviously has an owner.  Unfortunately for them, that man is the crooked Sheriff Kretzer, who is played by Kevin Bacon, the prolific actor perhaps best known for the “Six Degrees of Separation” game often played with him at the center.  This is the first time Bacon has really cashed in on his iconography like Liam Neeson has in recent years, and he does it here to play gloriously against type.  This role sees him sporting a full-on porn star ‘stache and a protruding gut that undeniably comes from convenient store beer.

Sadly, Kretzer gets precious little time to menace.  At under 90 minutes, “Cop Car” never really lets him develop as a dynamic force.  The film is meant to be told from the kids’ perspective and from their eye-level, to be sure.  But that simplicity of spirit ultimately winds up working against the film as the childlike viewpoint just becomes little more than a downright childish caper.

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