Over the past 16 years, we’ve witnessed numerous iterations of the famed web slinging superhero Spider-Man. From Tobey Maguire to Andrew Garfield to Tom Holland and two franchise reboots, the character has been omnipresent in our multiplexes. So the idea of an animated version might have seemed like overkill when Sony announced Spider–Man: IntotheSpider–Verse, which creates a world in which multiple people can be the iconic character.
Critical reaction out today suggests otherwise. Spider–Verse stands at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes with over 30 reviews in. Some write-ups claim it’s the best Spidey feature since 2004’s Spider–Man2. Select others claim it’s the best of the whole bunch (this will be seventh stand-alone entry).
Will Oscar notice? It seems highly likely. That would mean a nod in Best Animated Feature. It marks a fourth near “sure thing “ in that race, including current box office champ RalphBreakstheInternet and IsleofDogs. The raves bestowed upon this suggests it could even stand a better chance at winning than those pictures. Yet it could be a tall order to overcome the Pixar juggernaut involving other superheroes – Incredibles2.
Bottom line: Spider–Verse is into the Animated Feature mix in a major way. It’s out stateside on December 14. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
A decade into its multi-billion dollar cinematic universe, Avengers: InfinityWar invites viewers to marvel at its gathering of superhero titans to fight another – a villain from planet Titan who reverses one frequent MCU debit (a weak villain). It’s an experience that yields many positive results packed with the action and humor we’ve come to anticipate from the best of this franchise. This movie is massive and it feels that way. The 19th entry in the MCU that started with 2008’s IronMan, here we have nearly all the significant characters from its catalog banding together. If you ever wondered how Thor (Chris Hemsworth) would get along with the Guardians of the Galaxy, the answer is humorously provided. How do the egos of Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) meld? You’re about to find out. What happens when the original Avengers and others pick up their weapons alongside Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) in Wakanda? Giddyup!
All of this runs the risk of InfinityWar coming off as gimmicky, but it mostly doesn’t. That’s because directors Anthony and Joe Russo and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely do a remarkable job sticking these giants into the blender and creating something that goes down smooth. This is not necessarily a sequel to 2015’s Avengers: AgeofUltron or 2016’s CaptainAmerica: CivilWar (essentially the third Avengers flick). Rather it’s a follow-up to almost every MCU title. It’s important to know what happened in the actual Avengers pics and CivilWar, but I’d suggest having knowledge of the Guardians, Panther, and so on. Lucky for Disney and Marvel Studios, you probably do. The gathering of these comic book and box office behemoths leads InfinityWar to often feel like the continuation of a long running TV serial – albeit one with huge stars and an unlimited budget.
What brings all the characters together is Thanos (Josh Brolin). He has the proportions of the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and a similar sized ambitions of world destruction. Thanos is hell-bent on collecting the Infinity Stones, six potent gems that would render him all-powerful and capable of wiping out populations of many galaxies. After the breakup of the Avengers in CivilWar two years ago, it’s Thanos that causes Mr. Stark and Captain America (Chris Evans) to put their differences aside. Thus begins the jigsaw puzzle of matching up Guardians and Asgardian gods with Wakanda kings and mystical doctors and your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man (Tom Holland).
As you may recall, Thanos has history with one particular character – Gamora (Zoe Saldana). She’s his adopted daughter after he decimated her home planet when she was a little girl. For those who might have assumed the Guardians of the Galaxy would have a glorified cameo in this universe, that is certainly not the case. It’s Gamora’s backstory with Thanos that puts meat on his character’s bones and assists in making him one of the franchise’s best villains. Brolin, for his part, gives the performance his menacing all in crafting him.
Delving too far into what happens in InfinityWar would feel like cheating in any review. Part of the fun here is discovering just how these dozens of heroes and villains coexist. Some general observations: Thor alongside Groot and Rocket is a joy, as is witnessing Groot as a bratty teen with its attention rooted to a video game device. The return to Wakanda and its whip smart inhabitants feels welcome just weeks after Panther’s stand-alone effort. And after 10 years of Tony Stark onscreen in numerous MCU titles, Downey Jr.’s portrayal of him is still as strong as ever. There’s never been a moment in the decade where it felt like Downey was slumming it. He’s the heart of this franchise.
The conclusion of InfinityWar leaves a lot open for the sequel that will arrive next year. When the credits roll before the inevitable post-credits sequence, we witness something both powerful and perhaps not as powerful as it seems after careful thought (saying more would be a spoiler). There’s no doubt, however, that this comic book all-star game is a winner.
This weekend is all about Avengers: Infinity War at the box office as it barrels toward a potentially record-setting debut. The film looks, at the least, poised to set the all-time opening weekend record for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is the 19th picture in the MCU as the multi-billion dollar franchise is about to hit its ten-year anniversary.
Infinity will certainly make its mark financially, but could Academy voters take notice? In short – probably not. The pic stands at 85% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s a bit below the original Avengers from 2012 (92%) and a bit above 2015 sequel Age of Ultron (75%). No MCU title or any comic book adaptation has managed a Best Picture nomination and I see no reason to think this will.
Having said that, the Marvel folks stand their best opportunity yet to score a nod in the biggest category of them all. And that would be Black Panther, which was released in February. It stands a real shot. Looking through the Oscar history with this franchise, The Avengers scored a Best Visual Effects nomination in 2012 and lost to Life of Pi. No nominations were given to Ultron.
Bottom line: Infinity War could find itself in the mix for Visual Effects and possibly even the Sound categories. Yet any real MCU love from voters will go to King T’Challa.
It may feel like winter in many parts of the country even though it’s spring, but next weekend is essentially the start of the summer box office in 2018 when Avengers: Infinity War invades theaters. This is the 19th picture in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that began a decade ago with 2008’s Iron Man and the third installment of the Avengers franchise that kicked off in 2012 (an untitled fourth installment is out next summer).
After 10 years of these superheroes populating our screens in one form or another, Infinity War is the picture that brings them all together. That means we have the Avengers we’re used to seeing together: Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). They’ve got a whole lot of company this time around, including Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Bucky (Sebastian Stan), and the whole Guardians of the Galaxy gang (Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, and the vocal work of Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel). Josh Brolin is main villain Thanos. Other actors from the MCU returning include Gwyneth Paltrow, Idris Elba, Paul Bettany, Letitia Wright, Danai Gurira, Benicio del Toro, Cobie Smulders, Angela Bassett, Tessa Thompson, and Jon Favreau. Brothers Anthony and Joe Russo (who directed 2016’s Captain America: Civil War) are behind the camera. Whew…
The gathering of the entire MCU is one impressive selling point and there’s been developments that have even increased the anticipation for Infinity‘s release. Last summer’s Spider-Man: Homecoming was well-received, as were Guardians and Thor sequels. Yet perhaps more than anything else, this February’s Black Panther turned into a phenomenon – becoming the third highest grossing domestic earner of all time.
Projections have steadily increased in the past few weeks. It is not outside the realm of possibility that Infinity War could have the largest stateside opening of all time. In order to do so, it would need to surpass the $247 million achieved by 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens. To accomplish the 2nd biggest debut, it would need to exceed the $220 million of last year’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It will almost certainly achieve the record for an MCU premiere, which is currently held by the original Avengers at $207 million.
I believe this will pass Jedi and rather easily. Getting to the Awakens number is doable, but I’ll project it falls a bit under that milestone.
Avengers: Infinity War opening weekend prediction: $240.2 million
On paper, The Current War certainly looks like a potential Oscar contender. It comes from the Weinstein Company, a studio that knows how to get their pictures nominated. It’s a period piece drama featuring previous nominees Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Shannon, as well as other recognizable faces like Nicholas Hoult, Tom Holland, and Katherine Waterston. It’s director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s follow-up to his acclaimed 2015 indie dramedy Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.
War casts Cumberbatch as Thomas Edison and Shannon as George Westinghouse in their rivalry to determine whose electricity would power the world. Yet the buzz from the Toronto Film Festival over the weekend has dimmed its chances at Academy attention. There’s a small number of reviews available, but most of them have been negative and it’s at just 20% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Unless the Weinstein group figures out a way to make some nominating magic happen, it’s unlikely Current will factor into the race at all. Mr. Shannon, on the bright side, could get Supporting Actor attention for the far more well-received The Shape of Water.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is the third reiteration of the web slinger franchise that began a decade and a half ago. It arrives three years after the first reboot with Andrew Garfield sputtered in its second entry. That franchise faded away being plagued by the same issues that Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire’s trilogy suffered at its end – too many villains and generally trying to cram too much superfluous material. It’s a pleasure to report that Homecoming doesn’t suffer the same problems.
In fact, our third Spidey helping soars the most when Peter Parker stays grounded. Tom Holland is the title character, getting his stand-alone pic after a brief appearance in last summer’s Captain America: Civil War. Yes, Spidey/Peter is now part of the vast Marvel Cinematic Universe and he’s a pupil of none other than Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.). Well, sort of. After assisting in one epic battle in Civil War, Peter wrongly assumes he’s part of The Avengers. Yet Stark isn’t exactly quick to enlist him, tasking his trusty bodyguard Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) to keep tabs on him but not involve him in their day-to-day world saving activities.
That leaves Peter doing his Spidey thing on a much smaller scale, busting carjackers and ATM thieves in New York City while hiding his identity from Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) and his high school buddies. That consists mostly of just one classmate Ned (Jacob Batalon), a fellow nerd. Peter also has a serious crush on Liz (Laura Harrier), the lovely captain of the academic decathlon team. There’s another female student, played by Zendaya, that you suspect will become more important as the franchise continues. Homecoming does something that other Spidey flicks never really bothered to do. It makes Peter Parker a credible high school student. Part of the problem in the first two series was that you never bought Maguire or Garfield as underclassmen. With Holland, his youthful exuberance and awkwardness sell it. Of the trio we’ve seen thus far, he is probably the best Spider-Man. He’s definitely the best Peter Parker.
One of Spidey’s busts while waiting for Tony Stark to call with bigger projects leads him to Toomes (Michael Keaton), whose backstory is explained in the opening sequence. He’s a former small business owner gone disgruntled after more powerful interests (Mr. Stark and his empire) took his livelihood away. Toomes retaliates by using some stolen materials to develop weapons. Just as Peter is an everyday guy who becomes a superhero, Toomes is a once normal Joe who becomes a super villain. With Keaton playing him, it’s a pleasure to watch. One often deserved knock on the Marvel Cinematic Universe is that a solid villain is about as common as a Marvel Cinematic Unicorn. As with Loki, this offers an exception and Keaton is the reason why.
The scenes in the high school are handled with a often light, humorous and believable touch. Our grand action set pieces are expertly handled, but not much different than anything else we see multiple times a year (one at the Washington Monument is pretty nifty though). Homecoming does a commendable job at remembering that our hero is a neighborhood Spider-Man. Even though we know a much larger universe awaits him, it’s a treat to watch him working in relatively more grounded reality.
When Spider-Man: Homecoming swings into theaters next weekend, it will do so as one of the most critically acclaimed entries of a franchise that began 15 years ago. The superhero reboot currently stands at 92% on Rotten Tomatoes with many critics praising the work of new Spidey Tom Holland and Michael Keaton as main villain Vulture.
Homecoming is the sixth picture of the series. Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man in 2002 landed two Oscars nods – Best Visual Effects and Sound Mixing. Its 2004 sequel scored three – Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Visual Effects (for which it won). The following three efforts – 2007’s Spider-Man 3 and 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man and its 2014 sequel with Andrew Garfield – received zero nominations.
The new web slinger reboot is one of three comic book pics in 2017 that have earned rave reviews, along with Logan and Wonder Woman. I do anticipate there will be significant chatter as to whether one of them becomes the first superhero flick to get a Best Picture nomination. That said, I suspect the bulk of that speculation will center on Wonder Woman and not this. It could manage to be included in Visual Effects, but competition already appears strong with the likes of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Dunkirk, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Blade Runner 2049, War for the Planet of the Apes, and others.
It was 15 summers ago when Spider-Man scored the largest domestic opening of all time (at that juncture) and helped kick off the comic book adaptation bonanza that has yet to let up today. We are now on our third web slinger iteration as Spider-Man: Homecoming swings into theaters next weekend.
Of course, this is not our first time seeing Tom Holland as the new Spidey. He first appeared in last summer’s Captain America: Civil War. In this first solo effort, none other than Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man is appearing alongside him. Jon Watts directs with a supporting cast that includes Michael Keaton as the villainous Vulture, Marisa Tomei, Donald Glover, Jon Favreau, and Zendaya.
This co-production of Columbia Pictures and Marvel Studios comes with a reported $175 million budget and lofty expectations. The second reboot of the beloved superhero series certainly is benefited by the new Spidey’s place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and his Avenger friends.
Homecoming is the sixth overall flick headlined by Spider-Man. Let’s take a trip down franchise lane, shall we?
In looking at the opening grosses of the five previous entries, it’s a bit of a web since some opened over long holiday weekends. The 2002 original made the aforementioned record-setting sum of $114 million out of the gate and $403M overall domestically. The 2004 follow-up opened over a five-day July 4th weekend with $88 million from Friday to Sunday, $151 million from Wednesday to Sunday, and $373M when all was said and done. 2007’s Spider-Man 3 (marking the final appearance of Tobey Maguire in the title role) set the franchise record opening of $151 million, but grossed $336M in total – the lowest of the trilogy. Five years later when Andrew Garfield inherited the tights, The Amazing Spider-Man rolled out over a long six-day July 4th frame with $62 million in the traditional weekend and $137 million over the long weekend. It would go on to make $262M. 2014’s sequel made $91 million for its start and a series low $202M overall.
Got all that? OK! So where does Homecoming stand in comparison? Let’s leave its predecessors alone for just a second as it’s unlikely this will match the overall grosses of this summer’s previous comic book tentpoles Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Wonder Woman. Both of those pics look to near $400 million domestically and place first and second for the season’s top earners. At one time, projections for the new Spidey were as high as $135 million, but they’ve since steadily declined. I believe this will reach over just over what the first picture accomplished a decade and a half ago.
Spider-Man: Homecoming opening weekend prediction: $117.8 million
James Gray’s The Lost City of Z opens in semi wide release this weekend after a pretty impressive debut in very limited fashion over Easter weekend. The pic tells the true story of explorer Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) in the Amazon in the early 20th century. Costars include Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, and Tom Holland.
Z closed the New York Film Festival last fall to positive word of mouth and it stands at 88% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. It grossed over $100,000 on just 4 screens this last weekend and is slated to expand to approximately 500 on Friday.
I believe this could perform similarly to The Place Beyond the Pines four years ago. Though there’s no obvious comparison between the two titles, both appeal to a more adult audience and received encouraging critical reaction. Pines made $3.8 million when it hit around 500 theaters. If Z accomplishes the same, that means I have it out doingThe Promise, Phoenix Forgotten, and Free Fire in their debuts.
The Lost City of Z opening weekend prediction: $3.7 million
Ron Howard’s IntheHeartoftheSea is a periodically engrossing yet often curiously flat rendering of the true story that inspired Herman Melville’s famed novel MobyDick. It begins in 1850 as the author (Ben Whishaw) visits Thomas (Brendan Gleeson), the last survivor of the Essex, a ship that was destroyed by a great white whale and leaving its crew stranded at sea. Thomas isn’t anxious to regale Melville of the survival tactics used 30 years prior. Yet he relents and he’s soon playing Gloria Stuart to Melville’s Bill Paxton.
We move to Nantucket circa 1820 as the whale oil trade is at its height and Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth) is under the impression that he’ll get his first plum assignment as captain of the vessel. Politics thwarts this plan as that job goes to the more inexperienced George Pollard (Benjamin Walker), whose family are titans in the business. Speaking of politics, the screenplay occasionally (and rather needlessly) pouns the point home that the practice of slaughtering whales was a necessity 200 years ago.
Chase isn’t happy about being first mate and leaving his pregnant wife (of course she is) but he soon sets sail with Pollard and a crew that includes young Thomas (Tom Holland). There’s also a second mate portrayed by the talented Cillian Murphy, who is given incredibly little to do.
After several weeks of no luck on the mission, the Essex crew soon find themselves eye to whale eye with its pesky nemesis. Let the torment begin. IntheHeartoftheSea doesn’t bother to flesh out its characters to any real degree. Hemsworth certainly looks the leading man part here and throws spears with the grace of his Thor hammer skills. His New England accent leaves much to be desired and he’s not the only one. Walker is rather dull. The best work belongs to the always solid Gleeson, who gets the most emotional material to work with.
Compliments are owed to the makeup crew and actors themselves that convincingly convey the wear and tear of the men stranded for months at sea. Howard has clearly set out to make an old fashioned story with new style CG effects. His old school sensibilities are actually more in tune with the mid-1970s than a century plus earlier. We actually don’t see the great white whale too often here… kind of like another great white dweller in Jaws. IntheHeartoftheSea may be true and may have inspired a masterpiece work of art. However, that doesn’t mean that today it doesn’t feel pretty familiar and a bit like Jaws with less interesting people in the water.