Friday, July 28, 2017

“FINALLY FOUND SOMEONE” Proves Sarah-John Lloyd Deserves More than Just Three Movies

Star Cinema isn’t quite through with their annual quota of delicious romantic comedies featuring today’s hottest stars for this year. Their latest feature in collaboration with Viva Films, “Finally Found Someone”, runs on a general plot narrative that is not exactly new or groundbreaking, but still rises above what has come before thanks to superb scriptwriting and premium acting on the part of its stars and the rest of the cast. The heady, giggly combination of hilarious humor and warm and fuzzy feelings, with just the right touch of soul-baring drama, will have audiences feeling all the corresponding emotions at the most appropriate times, making them not just root for the main characters but to feel as they feel too.
“Finally Found Someone” starts with an anticlimactic abortive wedding ceremony. The bride, preschool teacher April (Sarah Geronimo), has been waiting for that day to be married to her “Future Husband”. The problem is, said future husband has skipped town, the country even. What ensues is perhaps one of the most side-splitting slapstick sequences committed to film in recent years, as Sarah G exerts her comedic muscles in order to portray a love-spoony jilted bride in an emotional meltdown that makes her character a viral sensation.
That causes a problem. April’s groom is the son of the local mayor, who has been grooming him to be his successor. But abandoning his bride has got social media sinking his political prospects while supporting April the “#ChosBride”. So the mayor engages the services of Raffy Sandoval (John Lloyd Cruz), a veteran PR executive, in order to salvage the situation by cajoling April to forgive his son Randy  (brief appearance by Enchong Dee) and try to renew their engagement. Raffy is a no-nonsense team leader with a solid grasp of how to get people to follow his PR scripts and handling social media, but he has no idea what he’s going to deal with here.
Going into April’s case, Raffy has just been transferred from a political PR job gone awry, so he’s going into this with a sense of keeping his job secure since he is supporting his siblings (one of them with kids) along with his dementia-ridden mother. When he meets April, Raffy is taken off-guard by her attitude about the whole being left by her “future husband”. As it turns out she has been writing letters to Randy about her hopes and dreams about married life and thus scared him off with the pressure.
While Raffy and his team work to control the social media storm surrounding April’s public abandonment, he himself tries to better understand why she professes to be so “in love with being in love”. April in return is intrigued by Raffy’s personality and takes her own steps towards uncovering what makes him, a workaholic who decided to forgo starting a family for the sake of career, tick. Even as the PR guy coaxes the bride into a mindset to take her runaway groom back, something else begins to develop between them. April finds herself questioning her ideals of a “future husband” while Raffy finds himself wondering if it’s not too late to have a family of his own.
Director Theodore Boborol has done a marvelous work with this latest romantic team-up between John Lloyd Cruz and Sarah G, making “Finally Found Someone” their fourth major movie as a couple. Fans have already gotten plenty of tastes of the “AshLloyd” pairing from “A Very Special Love” (2008), “You Change My Life” (2009) and “It Takes a Man and a Woman” (2013), so they’ll be plenty eager to see the latest character portrayal of the two falling in love.
And they do not disappoint. Sarah is superb in playing a super-hopeless romantic who is pretty much brought up on telling the truth all her life. This had the side effect of her confiding her dreams of marriage to the point that they come across as to heavy. Lloyd in turn shows his dynamic acting muscles with the way he portrays a savvy and unflappable PR spin doctor, who turns out to be a fun-loving cool big bro and uncle, who at his very core is also an emotionally troubled soul who has suffered much for not being able to speak what is really on his mind ad in his heart.
The romantic relationship that blossoms between the stars’ respective characters makes for some of the most intriguing script plotting done yet by Star Cinema and Viva, once again cementing their respective names as some of the be-all and end-all of mainstream Philippine cinema. Their supporting cast ensemble helps to flesh out the story of the two at the center of it all, thanks to some genuine yet natural performances from veterans like Joey Marquez and Tetchie Agbayani and the newer generation such as Christian Bables who plays Raffy’s loyal understudy.
A beautiful soundtrack headlined by the song "I Just Fall in Love Again" as performed by Sarah G. is the delicate frosting over the whole filling cinematic cake that is “Finally Found Someone”. I could not recommend it enough to fans of AshLloyd and the powerhouse production tandem of Star Cinema and Viva Films. This is a sublime ode to loving the concept of love, telling the honest truth, and family, that everyone will enjoy.

Photo courtesy of Star Cinema

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


Just over a year has passed since Rodrigo Duterte assumed office as the 16th President of the Philippines following a landslide victory in the 2016 Elections on a populist platform. It has also been roughly a year since he first faced the country on his inaugural State of the Nation Address, laying out his general policy towards taking on the pressing concerns and problems of the state and its people. His direction led to a vigorous anti-drug campaign that was lambasted by local and international critics, the pursuit of a new foreign policy turning away from the United States towards Russia and China, as well as overtures of peace towards the Communist insurgency. Last Monday President Duterte faced the country again for his second SONA, and the problems he brought up were much the same, with more besides.
As CNN Philippines tells it, President Duterte allotted a portion of his entire two-hour  State of the Nation Address on July 24 to defending certain decisions and courses of actions he had undertaken both in the previous year 2016 and earlier in 2017. This includes the ongoing lethal drug war; Duterte had one boasted being able to cow the drug trade into submission six months after the start of his term through the liberal application of lethal force on those resisting arrest. He eventually admitted in his SONA that putting such a deadline on his campaign was too optimistic to be realistic, but that he will stay the course regarding the war on drugs.
Another policy that Duterte had to put his foot down on is the extension of martial law in Mindanao for the rest of the year, in the wake of the ISIS-backed Maute uprising in Marawi since May that has seen the Islamic city being bombed into a ghost town. He also felt the need to slam the concept of human rights whenever it was called upon by critics to moderate either the anti-drug campaign or the martial law and prevention of Marawi residents from returning to their homes at this time. In his opinion, “human rights” enabled crimes to be trivialized and are therefore unhelpful in upholding law.
His next major target during his speech was his steps towards taking down the Philippines’ major multi-million mining concerns down by a few pegs, with proposed heavy taxation on the companies for environmental damage wrought by their operations. Speaking of taxation, Duterte also set forth a number of reforms in that front, with bills set to both reduce the income tax and crank up taxation on new automobiles, vehicle fuel and beverages with sugar sweeteners. His idea is that the burden of heavy tax rates will be lessened on the poor and financially vulnerable.
Other issues brought up by the President on his SONA, which was under the general theme of “A Better Life for All”, were his decision to cut talks with the Communists after their continuing belligerent activities, preparations for a potential “Big One” earthquake in Metro Manila, pushing for the Reproductive Health Law, more OFW assistance, red tape reduction, and an exhortation against the US to return the rest of the church bells stolen by American forces during the Balangiga massacre of 1901.
Since his first SONA back in 2016, several of Duterte’s programs have been achieved which he then recalled during his Monday address. These include changing the national emergency hotline from 117 to 911, the national public smoking ban, the extensive installation of public-use Wi-Fi, and the launch of Muslim-catering broadcast television channel “Salaam TV” under the PTV government network umbrella.
Photo courtesy of ABSCBN News

Monday, July 24, 2017

DUNKIRK: Less Dialogue and Characterization More Focus on Event Itself

The genre of war films, in particular those which are set in World War II, has undergone quite the evolution of its own in the several decades it has been shown on the big screen. First there was the propaganda-geared war flicks produced during the timeframe of the war itself. Then came the post-war WWII films which tried to add any or all of the following: dramatic elements (“The Longest Day”, 1962), balanced characterization with the antagonist forces (“Tora! Tora! Tora!”, 1970), and moral complexities (“The Bridge on the River Kwai”, 1957). Then Steven Spielberg added bloody realism to the mix with his “Saving Private Ryan” in 1998. After that, WWII-set war films seem to have reached its pinnacle of development, until British auteur Christopher Nolan hit upon the idea that led to this year’s definitive war epic “Dunkirk”.
And what an idea it turned out to be. Perhaps taking from the criticism of his past works such as “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012) for being too dialogue-laden, Nolan has decided to skew in the opposite direction in developing “Dunkirk”: there would be minimal dialogue from the characters depicted on-screen, with the weight of the film’s narrative being carried by the establishing shots and action sequences instead. As a result the people depicted in the movie will have minimal characterization, instead being carried by the events of the plot like they are being washed away by a strong current. This happens to them figuratively (they are British soldiers trapped by the enemy with difficulties getting home) and literally (some scenes show them being trapped in sinking ships.
For those who need a refresher course in World War II history, “Dunkirk” takes place in the French port city of the same name in 1940, when British and French forces are surrounded there after being forced to flight by the unstoppable German blitzkrieg attack on France. The only chance they have is to be evacuated by ship from Dunkirk and cross the English Channel to England. With the port facilities destroyed by enemy attack, and the evacuees harassed by fighter strafing runs and bombing attacks on evacuation ships, the soldiers look to be in a pickle trying to get home.
To effectively cover all possible viewpoints of the events in Dunkirk, director Nolan decided to follow three storylines that interweave with each other in an ingeniously structured non-linear narrative. The main part is the plight of the soldiers in Dunkirk over the span of a week; other parts include the adventure of one sailing boat that was part of the flotilla of civilian volunteer vessels that bravely crossed the channel to help carry the troops home (spanning a day), and lastly the potentially suicidal mission of a squadron of three British Spitfires trying to fly air cover at Dunkirk with limited fuel flying there and back.
The focus character of the soldier arc is a British private appropriately named Tommy (Fionn Whitehead). The only survivor of his infantry section, he tries to find a way aboard one of the evacuation ships with the help of some fellow privates, the silent Gibson (Aneurin Barnard) and the Scottish Highlander Alex (One Direction’s Harry Styles, proving he has acting potential). Overseeing the evacuation on the beach is Naval Commander Bolton (Kenneth Branagh). That’s pretty much all we know about their characters because characterization is not essential in “Dunkirk”.
As Nolan puts it in an interview, “The problem is not who they are, who they pretend to be or where they come from. The only question I was interested in was: Will they get out of it?” So they carry their roles in the film not by what they say, but in what they do (pretending to be stretcher-bearers to board a ship, stealing an abandoned trawler) and what happens to them (twice they get their ships sunk from under them). It is a magnificent method of motion picture storytelling all in all.
As for the other two arcs, the sea one follows boat owner Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance) who sails his vessel the Moonstone to aid in the evacuation, accompanied by his son Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney) and their teenaged boat-hand George (Barry Keoghan). The meat of their one-day arc is the conflict that erupts when they rescue a shell-shocked soldier (Cillian Murphy, his character is ever named) from a sunken ship, who then tries to seize control of the Moonstone upon learning that they are still headed for Dunkirk where he barely escaped. The third arc in the air, spanning only one hour in-universe, sees Spitfire pilots Farrier (Tom Hardy) and Collins (Jack Lowden) try their utmost to provide assistance to friendly ships by attacking the pursuing German planes, and the risk they face in running out of fuel before they can return.
These separate storylines end up crisscrossing one another in a way that might get viewers lost in some manner when watching “Dunkirk” for the first time. For instance, one “Air” scene shows Farrier and Collins flying over a sinking trawler in the middle of the English Channel with soldier evacuees. A few scenes later we see the same trawler on the Dunkirk beach, being commandeered by a Scottish Highlander section with Alex, Gibson and Tommy. And then later we see the same characters – though not all of them – being fished out of the water by Mr. Dawson’s boat. Even I was thrown off a bit by the jumping of viewpoints (1 week to 1 day to 1 hour, remember?), but if you’re just observant enough you can connect the dots.
Christopher Nolan definitely wet the extra mile to put some authenticity in the film’s production. World War II-era ships were found and dressed up to look like the same vessels present in the actual event. They even managed to round up several original civilian boats (many were kept preserved and restored over the decades) that participated in the evacuation. All these went into the location shooting at Dunkirk itself. And it would be set to music from longtime Nolan collaborator Hans Zimmer, who composed a starkly distinctive soundtrack, all of it being variations of tunes set to the rhythm of a ticking stopwatch – the director’s own – to underscore the urgency underlying the whole incident.
In a way, Nolan may well have conceptualized his own new development to the creation of the war movie, in which the film encourages the audience to look past the conversation of the actors and instead pay attention to the grand events happening around them, and how they are symbolically and literally affected by it. There are some early reviews now calling “Dunkirk” Nolan’s best movie ever as well as one of the finest in the war genre yet. I still think it’s too early to tell, but these opinions may be on to something. Never has a movie showing only a wartime evacuation been so utterly epic.

Photo courtesy of

Thursday, July 13, 2017

“WILDFLOWER” Keeps Audience Hooked with Latest Twists

Be it before or during primetime hours, ABS-CBN continues to always be ahead of its competition from the other networks. Perhaps the most significantly successful programming they have in the late afternoon would be the revenge-theme drama series “Wildflower”, delivering a heady blend of heartwarming love, sinister plotting, classical villainy and even heated action sequences. In five months’ worth of weekdays the show has racked up an audience share that would be the equal of the best teleseryes the network has fielded in the evening primetime. Stellar writing and incredible acting from stars both contemporary and legendary has provided home audiences with one of the best soaps ever aired by ABS-CBN.
Kantar Media, the audience measurement arm of the UK-based Kantar Group, has noted this month perhaps the highest record for audience share of “Wildflower” since its debut last February. A 25.8 percent national television rating is nothing to sneeze at, after all. So many people are tuning in before the evening newscast to see the continuing struggles of Lily Cruz in her personal crusade against the tyrannical and dysfunctional Ardiente political clan, while trying to reconcile her feelings for one of them who was her childhood friend, even as she lives under an assumed identity to carry out her plan.
Sounds like the stuff of supreme melodrama, but the cast of “Wildflower” have transformed it into something so much more. Headlining it all is the lead, Maja Salvador. In her role of Lily Cruz, under the assumed name of Ivy Aguas, she works to covertly destroy all traces of unity and reputation in the Ardiente family, whom she holds responsible for the tragic loss of her family. While she is expected to carry out her vengeance through plotting and honey traps, she also gets to display a physically fierce side. Having been taught martial arts by her adoptive mother in the backstory, Ivy gets to show her skills (and Salvador gets to demonstrate her training) by taking on a group of assailants in a June episode, which has become a trending topic for the scene in question depicting her in high heels throughout the fight.
But “Wildflower” isn’t a one-woman show, and the other principal cast members elevate the narrative to some truly emotional levels. Veteran actress Aiko Melendez gleefully shows showbiz world that she still has it as the splendidly bitchy Emilia Ardiente-Torillo, one of the primary antagonists in Lily/Ivy’s life. Her character’s eldest son Arnaldo, played by R.K. Bagatsing, is also effective in his bad guy role. In fact, the show’s villains are just so memorable in their all-too human vileness, as shown by Wendell Ramos portraying Emilia’s husband Raul Torillo, with the intimidating moniker of “Jaguar”.

The series has only gone up ad up in storytelling quality, especially with the latest plot developments that have drawn audiences in. If the revelation that Ivy’s mother Camia Cruz (Sunshine Cruz) was still alive, just when Emilia has finally sussed out her true identity as Lily, another woman (Yen Santos) appears claiming to be Lily Cruz. Who knows where this new bent in the narrative will go? You’ll just have to keep watching “Wildflower”, every weekday afternoon before “TV Patrol World” on ABS-CBN.
Photo courtesy of ABSCBN

“LA LUNA SANGRE” Dominates Filipino Primetime

Last month on June 19, ABS-CBN unleashed their latest drama series in the form of “La Luna Sangre”, after teasing it on their November 2016 trade launch. This is the latest chapter in their multi-installment saga of the horror and urban fantasy bent that began in 2008 with “Lobo”, and continued in 2010 with “Imortal”. In order to hype the launch of what could be the third corner of a series trilogy, the network has gone so far as to upload the entire episode runs of the previous two shows on their official YouTube channel. But as soon as “La Luna Sangre” started airing on air, everything was all about them on TV and online.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that ABS-CBN’s new show will rule the roost in the primetime slot. Looking at numerical statistics courtesy of Kantar Media, the June 19 pilot episode had a national TV rating that was over twice its timeslot counterpart on GMA7. Nor was social media immune from the highly positive buzz generated by the series, with the pilot’s official hashtag hitting number one of Twitter’s Philippine trending list. Needless to say, ABS-CBN keeps on cementing its superior program lineup compared to its longtime rival network.
The factors that have contributed to the runaway ratings success of “La Luna Sangre” can be attributed to the people at work both in front of and behind the camera. While the initial trailers made a great deal over the reprising of roles by John Lloyd Cruz and Angel Locsin from “Imortal” (and the latter all the way from “Lobo”), the real stars of the show would turn out to be the Kathniel love team. After a year’s break from TV dramas following the remake of “Pangako sa ‘Yo”, the first ABS-CBN “teleserye”, Daniel Padilla and Kathryn Bernardo are back to the delight of their many fans.
“La Luna Sangre”, which picks up from its predecessor “Imortal” chronicles a new conflict in the supernatural world of werewolves, vampires and men. The malevolent vampire Sandrino (Richard Gutierrez in his first major ABS-CBN soap) usurps the vampire race to hold a secret dominion over the world, after murdering the previous heroes Mateo (Cruz) and Lea (Locsin). But their daughter Malea (Bernardo) survives; half-vampire and half-werewolf but with no noticeable powers (at first). Her paths cross with Tristan (Padilla), son of a Luna (human hunter of the supernatural). Together they must rally werewolves, sympathetic vampires and men against the Supremo Sandrino and his dark designs.
The first week episodes of “La Luna Sangre” were overseen by celebrated director Cathy Garcia-Molina, who is heartily approved of by ABS-CBN viewers for her work I “Got to Believe”. Though she has since left the production to work on a new Star Cinema film, her succesors Richard I. Arellano and GB San Pedro have kept the level of quality consistent, ensuring that the series will continue to reign supreme in Filipino primetime TV. “La Luna Sangre” airs weekdays on ABS-CBN following “FPJ’s ‘Ang Probinsyano’”.
Photo courtesy of ABSCBN News

Glorious MAYWARD Tandem Feature in “YES!” MAGAZINE

It’s no common occurrence that a famous pairing could ever arise from a reality television show, but when it does happen then it becomes a thing of showbiz magic. The inaugural season of ABS-CBN’s “Pinoy Big Brother: Teen Edition” did give us – for a time – the memorable “Kimerald” tandem of Kim Chiu (the winner) and Filipino-American heartthrob Gerald Anderson. Now we’re seeing the Filipino-foreign pair phenomenon happening again with Maymay Entrata, winner of “Pinoy Big Brother: Lucky Season 7”, and Fil-Brit hottie Edward Barber who got 4th place. The chemistry that formed between them while in Big Brother’s house was so intense that it has since carried on after they got out at the end of the show last March.
Now Maymay and Edward are getting all the mileage they could out of their fans’ “Mayward” fever to launch their careers in showbiz, both as individuals and as one of the hottest new love teams in the Philippines today. And there can be no better way to celebrate their combined star power by having them included on the “100 Most Beautiful Stars 2017” issue of “Yes!” magazine. Not only that, they only just happen to be gracing the cover for that. Big props must be given to their stylists and photographer too.
Maymay Entrata has certainly found herself busy ever since being named Grand Winner of “Pinoy Big Brother: Lucky Season 7”. With that out of the way she threw herself into launching her singing career. Last month her debut album was introduced to the general public at an event at the SM North EDSA Skydome. For a singer-songwriter of her age, it’s a dream that has come true far beyond her greatest expectations. She even got a product endorsement from Bench (and a “MMK” episode) on top of it all.
Edward Barber is sailing the hype and momentum really well himself. He had the honor of serving as a presenter for the first ever Entertainment Editors’ Awards for Movies (Eddys for short) given out last month by the Society of Philippine Entertainment Editors (SPEEd). Another occasion that he graced with his presence was “Mega” magazine’s Mega Millennial Ball 2017, which was also the launch of that publication’s “New PH” showbiz campaign.
But really, Edward and Maymay get maximum fandom whenever they appear together. Whether it’s their exchange of “I do’s” in a wedding skit done in the June 25 “ASAP” show, or the fact that they are appearing as supporting stars in the bloody awesome horror-fantasy drama series “La Luna Sangre” on ABS-CBN, the power of “Mayward” is just so appealing to people who have seen them in tandem. Speaking of that word, their upcoming film “Loving in Tandem” will be something else to look forward to in the future.
Photo courtesy of Maymay Entrata’s IG

DARREN ESPANTO – Evolving with Style

On Tuesday of last week, July 4, when Jollibee opened its milestone 1,000th branch in Taguig City’s BGC Triangle Drive, the occasion was graced by the stellar song performances of Morissette Amon and Darren Espanto, singing in duet for the large excited crowd the “Ang Sarap, Ang Saya Maging Pilipino” anthem of the great Filipino fast-food chain. This was but one of the latest public engagements of the Filipino-Canadian singing sensation, who has wowed squealing girls and impressed music critics for years with his unbelievable vocal range.
That voice has helped 16-year-old Darren become a favorite nominee and awardee in some of the country’s most prestigious music and entertainment awards, especially the MYX Music Awards. This year he did win Fave Artist and Fave Male Artist, while his song “7 Minutes” got two nominations for Fave Song and Music Video.
And Darren’s popularity isn’t confined in the Philippines either. One of the latest posts on his official Facebook page is a screenshot he has taken from the “Top 10 of Asia” web magazine of RHA Media Sdn Bhd. in Malaysia. Their feature on the “New Asian Singers Making Waves in the Music Industry”, dated June 2 this year, would have Filipinos bursting with pride at Darren Espanto being ranked first in that Top 10 listing. He (and fellow Filipino artist Jason Dy at Number 2) beat out crooners from our neighbors near and far like South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and India. Mention was made of Darren being the youngest idol singer to perform solo at a sold-out event during his May 29 birthday concert at the Mall of Asia Arena.
During his early days of fame ad stardom, Darren has been guaranteed to wow audiences and listeners with his voice reaching to high registers. It has served him well when covering high-pitched hits like Rihanna’s “Only Girl (in the World)” during his time in Canadian YTV’s “The Next Star” back in 2012-13, or Whitney Houston’s “One Moment in Time” at the semi-finals of ABS-CBN’s “The Voice Kids” in 2014. But as he transitions into the latter half of his teens, even Darren is well aware that adolescence will mature his vocals away from those sorts of big-belting tunes.
How he has coped with this eventuality is a sure mark of his singing abilities and star power. It was a simple matter for Darren to begin exploring other song genres that cater to his vocal evolution. The best example for this would be his upcoming cover of the hot Latino tune today, “Despacito” by Luis Fonse and Daddy Yankee (with a Justin Bieber remix). Just to hear Darren’s version is so awesome. You’ll be sure to hear it sometime on his performances in ABS-CBN’s “ASAP” in the coming Sundays.
Keep up with the latest happenings for Darren Espanto at his FB page (@Darren Espanto Authentic) and Instagram account (darrenespanto1).
Photo courtesy of Darren Espanto’s IG

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING – Third Time’s an Epic Charm

For those who were old enough to keep track, there have been six major live-action films (in the 21st Century) adapting the iconic Marvel character Spider-Man. Of these movies, the story of the wall-crawling and web-swinging superhero has already been revisited three times, with three different actors to boot. The first was a trilogy with Tobey Maguire that started strong but fizzled out on its second sequel. The second with British-American Andrew Garfield had decent characterization but a weak story. With Spider-Man film rights holder Sony deciding to come to agreement with Marvel Studios, the web-head gets another shot at a story, this time as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. At long last, Spider-Man has come home.
That last sentence was on purpose, calling to mind the new film’s title – “Spider-Man: Homecoming”. It is the 16th feature film installment of the now-massive MCU, and does double-duty of establishing one of Marvel’s powerhouse characters as part of the sprawling film franchise and giving a quick once-over of his own background amidst the universe he is now included in. Part of the work was already done by introducing the character in advance during 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War”, and this standalone adventure for him completes his fleshing out.
Portraying Spider-Man and his civilian alter ego Peter Parker is British stage and film actor Tom Holland. His casting is one of the most brilliant moves in both the MCU and in Spider-films in general. Maguire and Garfield were both twenty-something during their times in the red-and-blue costume, but their takes on Parker saw him spend very little time in high school (when his adventures started back in the comics) before transitioning into young adulthood (when his comic stories started getting meatier). Holland was 19-20 when he played the part during “Civil War”. Come “Homecoming” he is 21, but he pulls the teenager thing really flawlessly. Holland makes you believe he is Peter Parker in high school.
“Homecoming” picks up where “Civil War” left off where Spider-Man is concerned. Having been drafted as a “child soldier” in a war between superheroes, Peter Parker – whose prior experience in hero work was stopping street crime in Queens, NYC using a homemade costume – is now owner of a high-tech suit and possessed with a wanderlust to take on even bigger threats. His benefactor Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) however is aware that he had crossed a line in getting Parker involved in the Civil War, so he tries to dial down Peter back to being a “Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man” again like before. Good luck with that.
While Parker returns to his home life and school, he is putting himself in a holding pattern, just waiting for a heavyweight crime to stop. This comes in the form of Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton). Toomes is a salvage contractor who was going to strike it rich cleaning up debris from superhero battles like in “Avengers” which left New York littered with alien junk. Unfortunately Stark and the federal government create a new department that takes away his line of work. Pissed at the people above and trying to make work for his crew, he turns to using salvaged alien and super-tech to craft super-weapons to sell on the black market. His personal gadget is a wicked winged flight pack that looks both feasible and fantastic at the same time.
It’s not very long until Spider-Man encounters this illegal super-arms dealership, but Iron Man deigns it above Peter’s weight class and tries to dissuade him from investigating further. This only spurs him, in typical teen fashion, to keep digging up the dirt with the help of a new confidante in classmate Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon). He also has other concerns; the school homecoming dance is approaching and he would like to try his luck asking out his scholastic decathlon leader Liz (Laura Harrier) to be his date, all while another classmate Michelle (Zendaya) snarks at his lame-seeming life. Things come to a head, secrets are suddenly revealed, and it’s all high-flying high-swinging action in between, and it works so brilliantly like you wouldn’t believe.
Sony has got to be counting their blessings at having allowed Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios to handle the actual movie-making for “Spider-Man: Homecoming” this time around, rather than make another attempt wholly in-house. And Marvel itself is so over the moon at getting creative control over Peter Parker back that they pretty much snuck in a lot of shout-outs in the film, from the orchestrated thme music of the 60s cartoon (during the studio IDs), to tie-ins with past MCU installments, to hints of possible future storylines (a crook played by Donald Glover is the uncle of another teen who takes up the mantle of Spider-Man in the comics), to “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (not kidding!), plus one epic scene that is lifted from one of the most famous issues (#33) of the classic prints. No doubt about it, “Homecoming” is packed to the brim.
Welcome home indeed, Spider-Man. Here’s hoping your next MCU adventure fares just as well.
Photo courtesy of