For Reel

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
August 14, 2017, 3:00 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Jon Watts
4 Stars
Spider-Man HomecomingSpider-Man has always seemed to be the best example of a comic book fan’s superhero. Whereas Batman’s wealth or the Avengers’ larger-than-life personas put them firmly in the camp of otherworldly escapism, Peter Parker is relatable enough to bridge the gap between an awkward teenager’s reality with the universe of superhuman abilities. It is fitting, then, that Spider-Man: Homecoming feels more grounded than any other superhero film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The stakes are low by comparison to the grander efforts—Michael Keaton’s Vulture is not deadset on world domination, but rather on making a few bucks. But the real achievement of the film is that it foregrounds Parker’s own insecurities and contradictions as he explores a new side of himself. His lack of social confidence keeps him from speaking to his crush, but his overconfidence in his abilities could lead to his death. Jon Watts (and the myriad of screenwriters) imagines a high school setting populated with John Hughes’ social hierarchies, and the sense of growth and self-discovery is foregrounded in the same way as The Breakfast Club or Sixteen Candles. Homecoming‘s biggest problems tend to involve the fetishism of the new Spidey suit’s technological features, but even those montages suggest that Parker is in danger of becoming Tony Stark. To Stark, and to the audience watching the film, that is a fate that a humble kid like Parker best avoid.


Cop Car (2015)
September 3, 2015, 1:55 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Jon Watts
3.5 Stars
Cop CarCop Car is an economical thriller with a terrific sense of when to pause. There is nary a wasted shot and yet director Jon Watts has the sense to take a few minutes to create a micro-drama out of Kevin Bacon unlocking a car using only a shoelace. If the film doesn’t have quite the personality of the Coen Brothers, it certainly has its head in the right place. When two boys are playing with a gun, nothing in the score, editing, or the framing distracts from the simple drama of the scenario. The audience waits for the gun to fire. And they wait. Finally, when the gun goes go off, it does so in an unexpected way, the sense of timing playing like a well-executed punchline. As the corrupt sheriff, Bacon’s performance is cartoonish in his wiriness–the image of the man hustling through a desert is more comical than threatening. But just as the audience gets comfortable with the man (or at least as comfortable as one can be with a man who has been digging shallow graves), he shows flashes of menace. Even more stripped down that last year’s darkly humorous Blue Ruin, Cop Car shows flashes of brilliance in its unwastefulness, its dramatic irony.